…there is an App for that…
While working at the computer this evening I found myself smiling about the power of the IT tools now helping me live my professional and personal life. Despite being in senior CIO positions during my earlier career, my glib slogan has always been, “information technology really doesn’t work.” By that I meant it is difficult to operate IT devices that improve our lives, without the hassle factor over riding the productivity gains. A good example continues to be video tele-conference meetings. Most are too complicated to set-up, for the small value gained through low quality images.
But, my slogan has finally outlived its previous reality. One awesome technology I use daily is the navigation functions on my smart phones, tablet computers, and desktop computers. This one function has become so effective in my daily life, that it cancels out all of the remaining hassle factors associated with these devices. In the case of navigation, my ability to set up a lunch appointment, share the exact location and time, pull it up in my navigator to direct me there, and make that all happen within minutes, truly a productivity gain. In a previous time that would have represented at one to two hours of admin assistent time (multiplied by the number of attendees) plus the cost of printed pages I would have carried, while getting lost along the way!
The reality is that the power of our end-user devices has been sneaking up on us technology lovers over the past two decades. A recent IDA study on Mega Trends Reshaping C2 shows that today’s smart phones have more compute power than the World’s fasted super computer did in 1979. That first Cray 1 super computer ran at 100 MegaFlops, weighed 5.5 tons, cost $8M then, ran 8 MegaBytes of RAM, with 32 GigaBytes of storage in a separate large room. In just over 30 years we have inherited the privilege of carrying a Cray 1 in our pocket integrated with the additional functions of radios for the Global Positioning System, the mobile cellular infrastructure, and WiFi, a photo quality color screen, HD video and still cameras, plus magnetic and acceleration sensors to support applications. Interestingly, to make the miracle of my productive lunch appointment possible, it takes this much smart phone capability supported by available mobile telecommunications and cloud infrastructures.
Although the miracle of global mobile networks and powerful end-user devices is mind boggling, the future is all about human focused IT devices. By beginning to focus on we humans, Apple Computer Inc. has recently become the largest company on our planet. But as well designed as Apple products are, they have only begun to address our human needs. Our future is about devices that are context aware! A simple example is the use of context aware smart phone apps such as Yelp. By knowing where you are on the planet, and what time of day it is, Yelp provides users with information limited to places that are geographically close and available. In the case of restaurant choices, it shows those that are open, and then provides access to each restaurant’s menu and user ratings. If you want to dine in one, it offers to make the reservation and navigate you there.
Their are hundreds of these Yelp-like apps emerging today but they are just the beginning of this new context aware user-focused IT paradigm. Context aware computing is now reaching out into smart devices meant to be worn most or all of the time. For example Fitbit tracks my daily activity and advises me on how many calories I should consume to maintain, lose, or gain weight. In the future, sensors like Fitbit may be woven into our clothing. Daniel Kraft’s TED talk — Medicine’s Future? There’s an app for that, provides an wonderful glimpse into this future.
…as this smart device revolution continues to mature, one day we may all agree that “IT really is starting to deliver”…