Archive for the ‘Digital Home’ Category

How Will We Live in 30 Years?

Pieter Ardinois visited NextUp today and, as I always do, I went to his blog to check it out.   He has some really great posts about imagination, creativity and new media and I recommend that you read some of them.  He also pointed me to a short film that was made in 1967 by PhilCo-Ford simply entitled “1999 AD”.  It provided an imaginative view of how the “instant society of tomorrow” would live.  They got the basic concepts right: e-commerce, e-mail, e-banking; but some of the tools used are based on the way things were done at the time (letters were generally handwritten so no QWERTY keyboard, just knobs and a handwriting digitizer). Interesting that they did envision flat panel monitors and fast personal printers.  

What stikes me the most about this film is the realization that people in 1999 would be connected and that connectivity would be a major factor in how we would live our lives.  Pieter makes this great observation about the implications for today:

To understand where we’re heading to, it’s really important not to focus on the techniques. We can’t get past short term imagination. It’s important to abstract the possibilities and imagine the impact those possibilities could have on our lives. Imagine that people back in 1967 started to think what impact the global connectivity could have on their daily lives. Not the fact that they could pay bills online, not the fact that they could by a nice shirt, but the abstraction of that all: the fact that they could share knowledge.  When we’re trying to get a grip on the future, I think we need to abstract the habits from their material context and focus on the possibilities. When using those possibilities to design a solution instead of creating a product to a known solution, we’re creating the future.

How will we live in 30 years?? Given my age, I only hope to be living comfortably and healthy with my mind still sharp.  But what about my daughter and her children?  In a world of rapidly accelerating, discontinuous change, we are so busy trying to keep up that we can hardly image what things will be like in 30 years.  How will we live, work, get from place to place, be entertained, conduct commerce, communicate?  How will “local” be defined (actually, thats a good question for today). 

What are your abstract ideas on what the future will look like in 30 years???

Bonus trivia question: do you know who is playing the part of the dad??

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Samsung Doesn’t Get It

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During my trip to NYC this week, I spent a day visiting a number of retail “flagship”and concept stores. Obviously the Apple store on 5th Ave was on the list and it was everything the hype promised. The last “store” that I visited, was the Samsung Experience located in the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle. In today’s rant, I want to share some thoughts on how these two companies approach customers.

I am a tourist’s tourist with the camera always on (and flash off so that I don’t annoy others). I like to capture my trips so that I can share with others. As we all know from the exploding growth of social media, I am not alone here. Walking through the Apple store, I took over 100 photographs and recorded videos of their digital signage. I was approached by several Apple employees, each asking me if I had any questions or if I needed help with anything. Not once was I asked to stop taking pictures. The store actively promotes hands-on interaction. Apple clearly understands that the customer is in control and they are there to help them achieve the things they want to do, including taking photographs. They know those photos will likely end up on the net, and they don’t see that as a problem. For Apple, the store belongs to the customer and when I was there, the customers were having lots of fun!

I should point out that I also had free reign at the Nokia store, which was by far the most engaging experience of the trip. I’ll save the details for a later post, but the people that worked there were actually assisting me in getting som of the shots that I wanted!

The Samsung Experience was something completely different. An absolutely beautiful space, the Samsung experience draws you in with a giant touch sensitive table in the atrium outside the doors, which displays interactive maps, RSS feeds, and videos of New York neighborhoods. From the outside, you can tell that Samsung has spared no expense on this venue. They have the latest in technology that the average consumer hasn’t even dreamed of and it’s designed to be interactive with audio walking tours. Its a museum for high tech consumer electronics, and when I go to museums, I take my camera.

Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t want you to capture digital memories of their “experience”. I was able to capture only one picture before I was quitely, but firmly told that picture taking was not allowed. I wasn’t greeted or asked if I could be helped; I was just told to stop.  I explained that I worked for Circuit City (a very big customer of Samsung’s products) and that I wanted to share their concept store with my co-workers. To that, I was handed a business card that gave the URL for the store’s website.  I was told that there were pictures there, but a subsequent check of the site proved that statement to be false. Great “Experience”.  After this encounter, the biggest thing that I noticed (besides the 80″plasma) was that the “Experience” had all this technology in it, but very few people.

The Samsung Experience clearly operates on a different business model than Apple or Nokia. Their focus is on their products (look at us, aren’t we cool).  Apple’s focus is on the customer (let us help you to get the most out of whatever you are passionate about).  Ironically, Samsung sells all kinds of products that capture pictures and video, but won’t allow you to use those devices inside their “Experience”.  Apple doesn’t sell cameras or picture phones (yet), but they don’t have any problem with you using them in their store.

The bottom line is that Samsung doesn’t really get the whole “customer is in control”, social media thing.  I walked into the store really excited about “experiencing” the store, but after being challenged, I had very little desire to spend any more time in the store.  I made a quick pass through and left. That’s unfortunate because the store has the potential to be really great place.

2007 Trend: Wi-Life

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I haven’t written much about Wi-Life (“wireless living”) in a while, but seeing how the gang over at PSFK have identified it as a 2007 Trend, I thought I would share my thoughts (and theirs).    

Bluetooth & WiFi  technologies have been serving the professional world for a few years, allowing us to stay chained to our desks, even when we are not at the office.  OK, more optimistly, they are freeing having to be in fixed locations to accomplish tasks.  This has made us more mobile and has definately changed our behavior.   

Many homes now have wireless routers and high-speed internet (although its still way overpriced in the US compared to other parts of the world).   I started this post in the kitchen, but am finishing it at 12:13 am lying in bed.  Back in the summer, I often wrote posts outside on the patio.   The home office is no longer a dedicated room.  You can take that spare bedroom back now and turn it into something else.  Ours is a scrapbooking room.

PSFK points out that Wi-Life is much more than being able to connect to the web wherever you want and the implications for how we will spend our leisure time in the near-future are really big:

Wireless internet and Bluetooth drives web-telephony as people can make calls from where they want when they want – and the laptop on the sofa offers an alternative to the TV or music center. WiLife means streaming your entertainment however you want. With wireless distribution systems like the Apple iTV, people will be able to use their computers as a kind of entertainment mission control from where they can send video, audio and more through the air to their TVs, Huffs and even your picture frames. (what’s a huff??)

Look at your laptop in your home as your new cable box and your additional hard-drive as your Tivo.  Download your entertainment media from the web, save to your drive and play to any Wife enabled electronic.  In fact, the distribution of media from the home computer to dumb terminals like the TV is a critical factor in the rise of the HearMeSeeMe web.

Of course, WiLife is not just for the home. Ford and Avis have announced a system that will let drivers download directions as they drive and give passengers to download shows and swap files tirelessly in-car.  One day the cars will tell you where in the city your WiFi enabled friends are too.

And WiLife continues when you leave your car. Once we’ve recharged our gadgets with electro-magnetic wireless chargers, we’ll walk around with our phones and pods and these will us wireless technology to download entertainment and information from a media hub in the sky (Ryan talks about how he’ll use the phone in his video here). We’ll take both our record and DD collection around with us once it’s digitized and uploaded to our virtual slate on the web. And where will we play our tunes? At the beaches, parks and streets that cities are busy covering with wireless networks.

The impact of this always-on life is going to be pretty huge. Many of us have already seen our professional life become all-but always-on, now our leisure and social life will undergo a similar revolution.

The Fear of Buying Technology

Today’s technology consumer is faced with a no win situation.  The planned obsolescence model of the 20th century, in which manufacturers made products that would wear out and need to be replaced, has been, well, replaced with a model in which products become obsolete long before they break.  In the PC business the cycle is about 12 weeks!   This rapid upgrade cycle frustrates customers and is stifling purchases in certain categories, especially among older customers.  The NY Times has an interesting article about the fear of buying technology: 

“There is a fundamental shift that is taking place,” says Samir Bhavnani, research director at Current Analysis, a market research firm. “People thought a product would last 10 years. They keep it three years. They upgrade their cellphone every year.”

The frustration and tendency to delay purchase is compounded by the rapid race to the bottom in terms of price.  The TV you would have paid $3000 for last summer, dropped to below $2000 this past fall.  If you bought it then, you probably felt good; that is until you saw the price this past Christmas. 

“But this new form of obsolescence can stymie the consumer because it makes little sense to buy now if the product will be cheaper tomorrow. Knowing when to buy becomes as important as knowing what to buy… Mr. Axtle, who already has a 51-inch Sony flat-panel TV in his “entertainment room,” thinks of TV like he did PCs more than a decade ago. “You’d get the most money could buy,” he said, but it wasn’t enough because the technology changed so quickly, making the PC obsolete in only a few years. “You couldn’t hope to get ahead,” he said.”

This trend is expected to continue through 2007, frustrating both customers and CE retailers.  CE retailers should look for strategies that either take advantage of the new model, like encouraging customers to use the lower prices to replace more than just the family room TV; or they should look for ways that provide alternative products and services that minimize the negative effects of the new model. 

It’s O.K. to Fall Behind the Technology Curve – New York Times

Best Buy’s Home Automation Innovation

connectedhome.JPGBest Buy is going to sell a packaged solution of Media Center plus home automation. Literally, it’s a package — a box. A customer walks into a Best Buy store, delights in the demo, buys the package, and waits for its arrival in a big box about four-foot cubed.  The package costs $15,000.  For that you get a Media Center PC, Lifeware automation software from Exceptional Innovation, an Xbox 360, IP surveillance cameras, automated light switches, a thermostat and installation.  It’s a complicated business model, called ConnectedLife.Home, and it’s bound to pit the new group against other Best Buy factions like Geek Squad.

Click here to read the very long and detailed article on this new innovation.

<via Slashdot>

RFID Your Life

<via Springwise.com>

The Loc8tor is a combination of radio-frequency emitting tags and a cellphone-sized signal decoder. Both tags and handheld transmit and receive radio signals. Each handheld device can monitor up to 24 tags, which can be attached to keys, kids, pets and anything else of value that has a tendency to get lost. When registering new tags, users can specify what they will be attached to: ‘Wallet’, ‘Favourite child’, ‘Prize-winning Poodle’, etc.

The system has a maximum range of 183 meters/600 feet, and the handheld will guide its holder to within 2.5 cm/1 inch of the lost possession, using fully directional signals: left, right, up and down. (Particularly useful when kitty-cat is hiding in the attic.)

Not just for finding things, Loc8tor’s alert mode also makes it easy to prevent them from becoming lost. Attach a tag to a child, and then set a safety zone. If the child strays beyond a specified distance, the Loc8tor sounds an alarm. The panic tag also acts as an alarm button that a tagged child can press to activate an alert on the Loc8tor. Obviously, as stated by Loc8tor, this isn’t a replacement for parental supervision. 😉

Cisco patents the “Triple Play”

Filed under: Home Entertainment, Networking

If you haven’t heard of a Triple Play yet — you know, where some service provider tries to shove TV, internet and phone service onto one pretty little contract for supposed cost savings and convenience to you — then we applaud you for your apparent skill at avoiding the incessant advertising of such services from the major media companies. Unfortunately, it seems the US Patent Office possesses just such a skill, since they’ve granted a patent to Cisco Technology for the concept of “providing integrated voice, video, and data content in an integrated service.” Now, Cisco did apply for this patent way back in 2000, before the idea had quite gotten so pervasive, but we’re still a bit miffed that something this common-sensical can be patented at all. No word yet on what Cisco plans to do with the patent, but there are a whole lot of “infringing” services out there that they could potentially go after if the mood strikes. Luckily, Cisco has some pretty neat ideas of their own for a Triple Play network offering listed in the patent, so we’ll remain cautiously optimistic — safe underground, of course, in our tin-foil shielded bunker.

[Via Slashdot]

How Apple Will Change the Rules (Again)

While most of the tech bloggers were going gaga last week over Apple’s announcement of new iPod devices and wondering when the iPhone is going to debut, a few guys with much more insight than me were writing about the real stories behind the “iTV” headline. 

I highly recommend both of these outstanding posts.

Carl Howe over at Blackfriars’ Marketing writes a great commentary predicting Apple’s entry in the flat panel TV market.  Lots of big boxers like Home Depot and Office Depot are announcing their entry into this rapidly growing market, following robust profit reports from Circuit City and Best Buy.  While the success of these Johnnies-come-lately is dubious, Howe makes a great case for Apple’s winning in the TV business.

Apple has design icon Jonathan Ive (among many other great designers), one of the best and most powerful brands in the world, incredible differentiation, and is repeatedly ranked number one for product support. It has a chain of 161 stores that generate 67% of the revenue of Best Buy with 10% of the floor space. And most importantly, Apple sells experiences, not low-priced hardware. They’ll offer two or three choices to avoid the tyranny of too much — and amaze everyone again by making more profits on fewer products.

Over at the Mac Observer, John Martellaro’s take on the “iTV” story is that Apple’s strategy:

  • Leverages 4 key competencies (customer inertia , the power of “the culture to influence”, large software development capability, & technical leadership),
  • Will lead to success, and
  • Will simultaneously confuses competitors and the analysts.

The result, Martellaro predicts, is that Apple has a strong chance of owning the game in home video entertainment.

Today, the home entertainment industry is confusing. Customers muddle through. Some dare to ask questions; some just plug it all in and hope things work. Issues linger: Is my 1080i HDTV already obsolete? What is HDCP, HDMI, de-interlacing, scaling, 802.11n? Should I go with cable or satellite? Will Blu-ray finally win? No one company has stood up, with courage, and said: “We have a vision. This is how to do it. Follow us.”

Now, Apple is starting to provide that leadership in home theater. They’re defining an architecture, putting the product pieces into place, and developing leading edge products.

But most importantly, Apple is inserting this orchestrated scheme of pre-planned and well defined technology into a massive technology consumption machine fueled by the consensus thinking on the Internet. If it sucks, it’s history. If it’s cool, it’ll be embraced, and any company that tries to force the issue against this massive thinking machine will fail.

The platform dubbed “iTV” will be revolutionary.  Apple has demonstrated the ability to bring simplicity to complicated things and they appear to be poised to do it again for home theater.  What’s more, iTV will bring video iChat and the internet to the living room.  When they introduce a flat panel display, you can bet it will have an “iSight” camera built into the top bezel just as their computers do now.  iChat, along with inevitable higher bandwidth connections could revolutionize home-based communications and the “internet from the sofa” will certainly bring increased impulse buying online, including of course, movies and more from Apple’s iTunes store.

PSFK: Disappearing Electronics

The folks over at PSFK have an interesting observation regarding consumer electronics.  I think their observation is correct:

“The shrinking of technology has meant that we’re no longer forced to show off technology. Our TVs are on wheels and can come out when we feel like moving the projector from its cubby hole is too much of an effort, speakers are beginning to look like pictures. Our desktops have become laptops filed away in the magazine basket. Our music player is the ubiquitous little white box and the stacks of CDs and DVDs are quickly disappearing to storage (before they end up in recycling).”

What do you think?? 

 PSFK: Disappearing Electronics

Sony, Matsushita and others plan to create standard for Internet TVs

Just saw this story on Engadget, that says Sony, Matsushita, Sharp, Toshiba, and Hitachi have joined forces to create a standard for Internet-connected televisions. The alliance has come together under the TV Portal Service Corp banner which is apparently as stealth organization. Sony and Matsushita look to be the major players in the new consortium, with a 35% share each. Engadget says that the Internet TVs will be Linux-based and will be operated just with a remote control instead of a keyboard. Despite the lack of details, it appears that things are progressing pretty quickly, with the first Internet TVs expected to go on sale as early as next year, and with sales projected to reach 10 to 20 million units by the year 2011. All of this is in Japan only, of course — hope you didn’t get your hopes up too much…. 

Telecom Wars: Sprint Nextel Launches first WiMax salvo

Sprint Nextel Corp will use WiMax technology to build a broadband wireless network in the United States. Sprint will work with Motorola and Samsung according to the announcement (webcast and news release), as well as with chipmaker Intel. The network will be built from 2007 to 2009.

At Monday’s press conference, Sprint said it will invest $1 billion in 2007 and $1.5-$2 billion, in 2008 (not including investments by its partners). The Sprint Nextel 4G mobility network will use the company’s extensive 2.5GHz spectrum holdings, which cover 85 percent of the households in the top 100 U.S. markets.

Implementation of this network will introduce some significant competition markets that are currently dominated by Cable (ISP, Video). Look’s like cable’s free ride may be over.

Many more details on this story at dailywireless.org

Your Washer is Calling and the Dryer is on IM

[via Slashdot]
Laundry Time, an eight-week pilot program from the Internet Home Alliance, begins next week with three Atlanta families and the technology and services of Microsoft, HP, Panasonic, Proctor & Gamble and Whirlpool. The idea is to allow family members to receive alerts and control certain laundry functions from their PCs, cell phones and TV sets, presumably so they can spend more time with their PCs, cell phones and TV sets.  (BTW, click the link to read the story over at NetworkWorld.  It’s pretty funny!)

I am all for tech for the sake of tech, but I’m pretty sure this is one of the signs of the Apocalypse Nostradamus prognosticated.

Cleopatra the Electronic Home Attendant

"Electronic home attendant Cleopatra is a digital avatar that appears on screens and wireless tablets throughout ElectronicHouse's 2006 Home of the Year. She greets each resident in the home by name, announces visitors, phone calls, voice mails, emails and deliveries. Cleopatra shows who is home, pictures of recent visitors at the front door, the local weather forecast, stock market changes, and even the national security level."

But wait there's more…… For a look at the near future in Digital Home Services, read the entire story here and be sure to look at all the photos to appreciate the amount of technology in this house

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