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Today’s Luxury – Tomorrow’s Essential?

Who’d have thought that everyone needs a computer?  Leading thinkers in the 1940’s thought the market for digital computers was a handful of machines worldwide!  Today, many of us have a desktop, laptop and home computer.  We also have digital cameras, smart phones and an ever evolving slew of personal (even ‘wearable’) devices.

Let My Toaster Know You’re a Bagel!

Who’d have thought that lights need an Internet address?  Today, there are more IP addresses than there are people!  As devices get ‘intelligence’, it makes sense to give them the ability communicate – with people, or with other devices.  For example, the new Philips Hue “Personal Wireless Lighting” system lets you not only control your lights from any smart device, it lets you change the color of the light – you can even set your personal palette of colors via your camera!

DSC01178-645x250Today, home appliances are becoming smart and Internet connectable.  Soon, your milk bottle, with an embedded sensor, will be able to tell your fridge it’s past its sell-by date, so your fridge can remind you to buy new milk.  Although some of these gizmos are currently priced at the luxury end of the scale, prices are coming down, and what seems like an extravagance today, will be commonplace tomorrow.

Try Buying Low Tech!

Recently, my mother-in-law’s 5-year old cell phone died.  She doesn’t text, email, or web-surf so I just needed to get her a basic mobile phone.  Not so fast!  The plainest phone I could find had way more features than high-end phones of a few years ago – including a decent camera!  Smart phones are becoming the norm – soon you won’t be able to buy a dumb phone!

Tech Essential – a Sense of Architecture!

As tech becomes smarter, we face challenges of redundancy and interoperability.  If you want to take a photo or a movie, you can use your smart phone, digital camera, or camcorder.  If I want to place a phone call, you can use your smart phone or computer.  Redundancy grows as devices add functionality and morph towards other devices.  And we pay a price for this redundancy – more tech to pay for, more features to learn, more to go wrong and become obsolescent.  So, you have to think carefully about tech architecture – what functionality do you need and how should you spread that functionality across devices?

Architecture also means thinking about standards and the age-old choice between best of breed versus integration and the pros and cons inherent in this choice.  For example, my desktop, laptop and MP3 player are all Apple products.  This provides a high degree of integration, a consistent user interface (relatively!) and interoperability (e.g., accessing music on my iTunes library from my desktop, laptop and iPod is trivially simple.)

Earlier this year, I deviated from my Apple ‘standard’ with an Android-based smart phone.  I knew I’d lose some benefits of integration, but I loved the size of the Samsung Galaxy SIII screen and wanted the flexibility of the Android platform.  And I paid a price for my choice!  Connecting to my iTunes library and moving files between my iMac and smart phone was maddeningly complex!  There were several different ways to do it, and no clear advice on the best way.

As an Apple user, I don’t regret my Android choice – but it does reinforce the fact that as tech consumers, we need to be aware of the whole landscape of devices and competing platforms – and make informed architectural decisions.  We won’t insulate ourselves entirely from inter-device problems, but at least we won’t be blindsided by them!

Title graphic courtesy of Key Risk

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