2012
08.02

Just about the time M2M, IoT (Internet of Things), and connected-devices strategies are moving toward the center of more business plans, product roadmaps and IT budgets, the ‘luddite’ argument against screen time moves toward one of the centers of the technology universe.

Last week a number of tech cognoscenti offered their opinions on ‘unintended consequences’ of too much time spent with our smartphones. The primary thesis: Too much screen time with little or nothing of value to show for it. In other words, we might be wasting a lot of precious time.

I agree. So I will cut to the chase so you can get in and out of this article.

The prevailing path to success in dot.com, social media, and mobile has been:
1. Attract as many users as possible, often with freeware
2. Keep those users engaged for as long as possible with additional services
3. If those additional services are for-fee, and you can cross that chasm, you have a business
4. If those additional services are free, because of your design, or market rejection, you go the ad model route
5. Revenue is tied to the amount of time people are staring at your site on their screen

This is especially true in business-to-consumer markets; business-to-business … that’s a different story for a different post.

And … slowly, some – including many who had a lot to do with creating and profiting from these strategies—are starting to realize that one of the negative unintended consequences of our screen lives is that it is occupying too much of our time, effort, and energy. And with that lost time goes lost potential.

We need our digital connections to CREATE time not CONSUME it. 

All of us dependent on making a living – in whole or part – from connected devices need to pay very close attention to this moment. It is the key to unlocking the potential in our businesses. It is the key to unlocking more (hidden) potential in our lives. 

We must emphasize the creation of time away from technology even as we connect people to it. You read that correctly. At INEX ADVISORS, we believe that the most successful M2M, IoT, and connected-devices solutions will be connecting more people to more unattended devices – largely through their personal attended devices (smartphones) – AND enabling people to spend less time on screens, with those devices, and the processes they address. 

The goal for every M2M developer should be to roll out new solutions that free people from the lesser technologies or manual processes encumbering them today.

Let me offer a couple of examples, one from the consumer/ commercial space and another from the opposite end of the spectrum, the public safety space.

Example 1:  Nest. The next generation smart, connected thermostat ultimately saves energy, money, and the planet by tying human location and movement habits in their dwelling(s) to demand for thermal management. Not in the room on a hot day, for instance? Then do not cool it. Are you going to bed at 9 p.m.? Then lower the heat outside the bedroom. This is just a sample. 

Save energy, save money, save the planet. Brilliant. Love it.

But most importantly, I am looking at how Nest can save time. How about all that time that some invest in temperature management at home today? Thinking about it, worrying about it, adjusting it, looking at the bill, and arguing with your mate about sweaters and blankets and all that: Nest can do away with it.   

I have a few numbers to help prove the point. I live in a home with four temperature zones. My family lives most of our lives in three of them. Each zone has its own thermostat. Each gets adjusted at least twice per day. Even if it only takes me three minutes per day (90 seconds per set/ re-set), that is 21 minutes per week. Almost 19 hours a year ‘wasted on thermostat control’ – and that is without factoring in the ‘oh !@#$’ moments when I am in the car remembering that I missed a reset. The total could be 24 hours a year!

And this just on thermostats in the home.

If/when I deploy Nest I believe I will create one more day per year in my life. And with a gift of a wife, and two precocious children, a new business with brilliant, demanding clients … and all that … I will take every additional day I can get. 

Example 2:  ACME. This is a fictional name for a real company. It is developing the next generation of motion prediction and sensor control algorithms for insertion into high performance digital video cameras deployed in a wide range of mobile and remote surveillance applications. 

These tools are addressing one of the negative unintended consequences of the latest generation of digital video surveillance technologies. That is, well, that these systems are not all that smart, really. One of the negative unintended consequences –suspending the privacy issue for a moment – is that these systems require significant amounts of investment and human capital to process and create valuable intelligence products from the millions of hours of video they are capturing.

Most of these systems – whether stop-light mounted or UAV; whether supporting hiker search and rescue or terrorist tracking – require too many talented people to stare at too many screens for far too long.

With ACME’s tools, we will be able to automate some of the preliminary analysis of this video, and in some cases materially increase the value of these feeds BEFORE they reach a screen. This would go a long way to arriving us at a new model of operating video surveillance solutions known as activity-based intelligence.

Activity-based intelligence models can bring material increases in accuracy and value, with myriad decreases in risk, cost and ultimately, operator time per unit of value.

If and when we deploy more unmanned vehicles in support of public safety and first responder missions, I hope that we mandate the kinds of tools that can bring all the value, at a fraction of the human capital cost. I hope we mandate certain activity-based intelligence principles and capabilities. For I would rather have my first responders out in the world interfacing with citizens, than in a dark room starting at screens.   

Summary
We talked about unintended consequences during our talks at the Connected World Conference. We agreed we have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of so many brilliant, well-intentioned people before us – such as those in social media and mobility. 

They are starting to realize that perhaps one of the unintended consequences of too much time in social and mobile is that some of that time is … not very productive, or fulfilling. 

We need our digital connections to CREATE time not CONSUME it.

2012
08.02

Metawatch is at it again. Following in the footsteps of Metawatch’s 2011 development models, the company last week announced its first consumer smartwatch: The Strata. Like the first Metawatch, Strata provides “hands freedom” by delivering vibrating alerts about activity on your smartphone to a handsome sports watch. This lets users choose at a glance whether they need to pull their smartphone out of their pocket to accept a call or reply to a text or wait until later, which saves time, conserves the phone’s battery, and eliminates much of the interruptive hassle smartphones can create.

Metawatch stepped up the Strata’s game with new features, including making the watch water-resistant enough to be worn while swimming, included running and cycling apps, Twitter integration, music controls, and configurable alerts for appointments, stock prices, weather, and more. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 to communicate with the smartphone and supports the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) standard as well, presumably for future integration to BLE-enabled fitness and health sensors.

The smartwatch arena heated up big-time this year, with Pebble’s record-breaking $10 million Kickstarter fundraise, Sony Ericsson’s SmartWatch, Motorola’s MOTOACTIV fitness tracker, and the WIMM One.  “We are well past the stage of wondering if there’s a market for smartwatches,” says Bill Geiser, Metawatch CEO.  “MetaWatch, Pebble, and others are all enjoying some degree of success. This category will see substantial growth in 2013, and we certainly hope to be among the leaders.”

Like Pebble, Metawatch announced the Strata with a Kickstarter project. As of Thursday, August 1, the Strata project had raised $197,614 against a goal of $100,000. With 18 days to go, total pledges could reach a quarter million dollars, or more, with the funding to be used to finish the software, field testing, regulatory certifications, and initial inventory build. (Disclaimer:  I’m backing the Strata project on Kickstarter to the tune of $159 for a “black and Olympic blue” model, due to be shipped in September.)

It’s great to see smartwatches coming to market that ordinary people can use and enjoy. After all, many of us have been wishing for a smartwatch ever since we saw the comic-book detective Dick Tracy using one when we were kids. I can’t wait for my Strata to arrive. Review promised.