Monthly Archives: August 2012

Automation

Bill Gates Once Said

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Over recent years automation has become a feature of day to day life and our lives are now often assisted or even controlled by technology.

A prime example of this is an automatic toilet found on many high streets. After each use the toilet is programmed to clean itself saving thousands of pounds on maintenance and is arguably more hygienic because it is cleaned after every use.

It occurs to me that automated systems are no longer reserved for the world of the production line and that the general public are now the largest consumer base for automated systems – how many things are automated, for example in your house? Central Heating? Oven Timer? Lights? ….. if you think about it you can probably compile quite a long list.

My favourite example is Auto Cleaner – the automatic vacuum cleaner (iTorchless 2009). The robot can be placed in a room and periodically will detach itself from the base unit, vacuum the floor taking care to go round corners and avoid obstacles. When the task is complete the machine will re-dock and perform the task again a few hours later.

The question that I think we must ask ourselves is what would happen if some of this technology went wrong? I guess an automated light failing to switch on wouldn’t be particularly drastic, but what if your heating failed to switch on in the middle of winter leading to a burst pipe?

This begs the question ….. are we becoming too reliant on technology to assist with our every day lives? What do you think?

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Categories: Automation, Invention, Technology | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Great Devices

Over the past few days i’ve been giving a lot of consideration to what makes a device a “great device”.

Take the concept of a mobile phone; I got my first mobile in 1998, to be blunt, it was a BT cellnet brick. At the time I thought it was the best thing in the world and that I would never need another phone ….. less than a year later I was back in the phone shop looking for a better device.

This trend continued until 2007 when I got my first iPhone. Now don’t get me wrong i’ve upgraded my device every 12 to 18 months since then, but this time something has changed. I’m no-longer looking for a “new” mobile phone, instead i’m looking for a new “iPhone”.

It would therefore be reasonable to assume that I consider the iPhone a “great device”. Over the last 15 years not many devices have had that same effect on me – the iPad being the other notable exception.

So what is it about these devices that make them great? Why is it that I no-longer feel I need to be constantly searching for a better mobile phone or a better tablet device?

If i’m honest i’m not sure I have the answer ….. at least not the full and complete answer. Just as I was pondering this earlier in the week a friend of mine visited me with her two year old daughter. I’d left my iPad on the sofa and as we were talking I noticed the inquisitive child pick up the device and after a couple of minutes work out how to switch it on. The child didn’t know what she was doing, but she did manage to “swipe to unlock” and a few minutes later had managed to launch the app angry birds.

Now I don’t believe that Leila is an unusual 2 year old, she may well grow up to be a genius but right now she is just an ordinary child. Something about the “i” range of are intuitive and easy to use. It occurs to me that with these devices Apple haven’t developed some technology that they want to bring to the masses, instead they have started with what people want from a device and then made the device insanely intuitive. So intuitive that a 2 year old can work out how to use the technology.

This is the clever bit ….. they haven’t “dumbed it down” – the devices can do extremely complex things, they just do those complex things in such a way that anyone feels comfortable “giving it a go”.

To my mind it is therefore the fact the the “i” devices do everything that a user wants in a “friendly” and “intuitive” way that encourages users to want to use them and as a result makes these devices great!

Other views on “i” device greatness can be found at these links:
http://www.phonebuff.com/2011/10/what-makes-iphone-great/
http://www.ipadfb.com/ipad-why-people-love-it/

Categories: Apple, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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