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Putting People First

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April 2012
18 April 2012

The future of connected cars: what Audi is driving towards

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Richard MacManus writes on ReadWriteWeb that the next generation of in-car apps will be about providing “smart” services, such as taking some of the cognitive load off the driver – including making the car autonomous in some ways. And he provides Audi (which just bought Ducati, by the way) as a case in point:

“One area where in-car technology will evolve is navigation; in particular how the car can automate some navigation aspects. [Anupam] Malhotra told me that Audi is currently figuring out “what the vehicle’s role is as the navigator.” Right now this is done via Google voice controls. For example if you’re looking for a spicy chicken lunch, you can tell the system “spicy chicken” and it will inform you of the nearest eatery where spicy chicken is available.

Another area that Audi is targeting is the HMI (Human-machine interface) in the car. The first generation was buttons around the driving wheel and touchscreen controls in the dashboard. Voice controls came next, with the Google voice system being the latest iteration of that for Audi. In the near future we will see gesture controlled systems, which Audi demonstrated at CES as a concept. Gesture controls will be used not just by the driver, but passengers in the car.

The software in the vehicle will also evolve, said Malhotra, to take away some of the decision-making from the driver. Not so much in terms of driving, which people want to keep control over. It will be focused on things that augment the driving experience. Features such as lane departure sensing, warning systems if there is a car in your blind spot, technology that protects the car occupants in the event of a collision. “All of this will happen through connectivity,” said Malhotra.

The overall goal of these future-looking developments, Malhotra said, is to take away the “misery” aspects of driving; like parking problems, dealing with traffic congestion, fuel management. This will allow the driver to enjoy the actual driving part.”

Read article

18 April 2012

Do walled gardens offer a better user experience?

Occupy Wall Street march, New York City, 17/11/11

In an extensive article by Charles Arthur, technology editor of The Guardian, on the rise of walled gardens (apps, social networks) on the net, we read this quote by John Battelle of Federated Media:

“The open web is full of spam, shady operators and blatant falsehoods. Outside of a relatively small percentage of high-quality sites, most of the web is chock full of pop-up ads and other interruptive come-ons.

“It’s nearly impossible to find a signal in that noise, and the web is in danger of being overrun by all that crap. In the curated gardens of places like Apple and Facebook, the weeds are kept to a minimum, and the user experience is just … better.”

The article centres around the dilemma this poses in terms of control and autonomy, well summarised in this example by Media commentator Jeff Jarvis:

“Apple’s iPad is sweet and pretty but shallow and vapid … I see danger in moving from the web to apps,” he said. “The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again.”

Read article

18 April 2012

Nest Thermostat: User-centered design is the best marketing

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I enjoyed the final paragraph of the Fast.CoDesign article on the second generation Nest Thermostat:

“Here’s a sense in which the Nest seems almost over-designed–all of this care for a one-time experience of screwing it in might seem excessive. But the fact is that user-focused design is also a form of good will–and a better sort of marketing than any ad could ever be. What happens if Nest starts creating all kinds of other products, for keeping track of your home or, hell, even managing your entertainment and utility bills? Consumers won’t forget the experience they had. And it will sell them on the next new thing.”

18 April 2012

The future of money in a mobile age

 

Within the next decade, smart-device swiping will have gained mainstream acceptance as a method of payment and could largely replace cash and credit cards for most online and in-store purchases by smartphone and tablet owners, according to a new survey of technology experts and stakeholders.

Many of the people surveyed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said that the security, convenience and other benefits of “mobile wallet” systems will lead to widespread adoption of these technologies for everyday purchases by 2020.

Others—including some who are generally positive about the future of mobile payments—expect this process to unfold relatively slowly due to a combination of privacy fears, a desire for anonymous payments, demographic inertia, a lack of infrastructure to support widespread adoption, and resistance from those with a financial stake in the existing payment structure.

The survey results are based on a non-random, opt-in, online sample of 1,021 Internet experts and other Internet users, recruited via email invitation, Twitter or Facebook from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University. Since the data are based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed, and the results are not projectable to any population other than the experts in this sample.

Download report

18 April 2012

The Smart City starts with you

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Wired UK has published a guest post by Usman Haque, founder of Pachube.com and director at Haque Design + Research and CEO of Connected Environments, where he argues that current Smart Cities initiatives are looking for a one-size fits all, top-down strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being and economic development, and that their strategies focus on the city as a single entity, rather than the people — citizens — that bring it to life.

“Any adequate model for the smart city must focus on the smartness of its citizens and encourage the processes that make cities important: those that sustain very different — sometimes conflicting — activities. Cities are, by definition, engines of diversity so focusing solely on streamlining utilities, transport, construction and unseen government processes can be massively counter-productive, in much the same way that the 1960s idealistic fondness for social-housing tower block economic efficiency was found, ultimately, to be socially and culturally unsustainable.

We, citizens, create and recreate our cities with every step we take, every conversation we have, every nod to a neighbour, every space we inhabit, every structure we erect, every transaction we make. A smart city should help us increase these serendipitous connections. It should actively and consciously enable us to contribute to data-making (rather than being mere consumers of it), and encourage us to make far better use of data that’s already around us.”

Read article

17 April 2012

Wearable devices: the next battleground for the platform wars

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Wearable devices, or “wearables” for short, have enormous potential for uses in health and fitness, navigation, social networking, commerce, and media.

In a new report out today, Forrester argues that wearables will move mainstream once they get serious investment from the “big five” platforms — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook — and their developer communities.

A blog post by the research company lists the key take-aways.

> More reflections by The New York Times | TechCrunch

Meanwhile, interaction-design.org has published an extensive chapter on wearable computing, in collaboration with Steven Mann, a tenured professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto.

17 April 2012

UX is the heart of any company. How do you make it top priority?

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Wolff Olins’s Mary Ellen Muckerman explores what a focus on user experience could mean for business.

“The principles and theories of UX have created a new normal in terms of brand delivery and interaction. They state that how people actually use your product is much more important than how it was intended to be used. So engaging your consumer in ongoing, iterative product development is more valuable than holding out for a “perfect” product launch. It is far better to get started in a live environment and be prepared to change fast around the needs of the user. As a result, consumers need to know what to expect from your product, as well as what you expect from them. This means they need openness and transparency from you. If they make choices online based on honesty and credibility of comments, forums, and communities, they’ll expect you to be a part of that same engaged and involved culture.”

Read article

17 April 2012

People-powered health

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People Powered Health is a programme from NESTA, the UK innovation charity, to support the design and delivery of innovative services for people that are living with long term health conditions.

The programme focuses on co-production – that people’s needs are better met when they are involved in an equal and reciprocal relationship with professionals – working together to get things done. It is a radical approach to public services that is built around six characteristics:
- Recognising people as assets
- Building on people’s capabilities
- Promoting mutuality and reciprocity
- Developing peer support networks
- Breaking down barriers between professionals and users
- Facilitating rather than delivering

14 April 2012

Interactive eBook apps: the reinvention of reading and interactivity

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Avi Itzkovitch argues that the experience of interactive eBooks should not be confined to animations based on touch-and-response interaction, or merely flipping the page; when designing these Books one must ask what is the enhanced experience — why to move from print to digital, and how to create value and fun.

In this article, he showcases some examples for new eBooks that provide interactivity that goes beyond the superficial, adds value to the book and creates an experience that would be impossible in print, by using the full capabilities of a touch device to engage the user and enhance the learning and reading experience.

Read article

13 April 2012

Design principles for complex, unpredictable, people oriented systems

 

InfoDesign alerts us to a well-thought through post by Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM on experience and systems:

“But, socio-technical systems are oriented toward people and services. While product excellence and competitive costs are also important to services, they are not enough. The service sector is oriented toward consumption, that is, toward people, who are the consumers of services. Therefore, an overriding design objective for good socio-technical, service oriented systems has to be a positive user experience. Ease of use, intuitive interfaces and good overall customer service must be key objectives for a well designed system.”

Read article

13 April 2012

Digital differences in the USA

 

When the Pew Internet Project first began writing about the role of the internet in American life in 2000, there were stark differences between those who were using the internet and those who were not.1 Today, differences in internet access still exist among different demographic groups, especially when it comes to access to high-speed broadband at home. Among the main findings about the state of digital access:

  • One in five American adults does not use the internet.
  • The main reason they don’t go online is because they don’t think the internet is relevant to them.
  • The 27% of adults living with disability in the U.S. today are significantly less likely than adults without a disability to go online (54% vs. 81%).
  • Though overall internet adoption rates have leveled off, adults who are already online are doing more.
  • Currently, 88% of American adults have a cell phone, 57% have a laptop, 19% own an e-book reader, and 19% have a tablet computer; about six in ten adults (63%) go online wirelessly with one of those devices.
  • The rise of mobile is changing the story.
  • Both African Americans and English-speaking Latinos are as likely as whites to own any sort of mobile phone.

Read article

13 April 2012

European Commission consults on rules for “Internet Of Things”

 

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a future in which everyday objects such as phones, cars, household appliances, clothes and even food are wirelessly connected to the Internet through smart chips, and can collect and share data.

The European Commission wants to know what framework is needed to unleash the potential economic and societal benefits of the IoT, whilst ensuring an adequate level of control of the devices gathering, processing and storing information. The information concerned includes users’ behavioural patterns, location and preferences.

The Commission wants to ensure that the rights of individuals are respected and is launching a public consultation inviting comments by 12th July 2012.

Read press release

13 April 2012

Prisma kitchen at Eurocucina 2012

 

A high-tech kitchen and an instant classic, designed by Experientia®, for Toncelli kitchens

PRISMA01.jpgMinimalist design in a high-tech kitchen

Experientia® is taking part in the Salone del Mobile in Milan this year, with its brand new kitchen design, the Prisma, designed for Tuscan company Toncelli Kitchens.

Introduced by Toncelli as the “futuristic jewel” in its Eurocucina 2012 collection, the Prisma is a stylistic departure from Toncelli’s other kitchens, where the emphasis is on prestigious materials and traditional workmanship.

The Prisma is conceived as an entry-level luxury kitchen, which combines elegant prismatic shapes, gleaming surfaces, and minimalist styling with the latest in touch-screen technology.

Interactive workbench with internet connection and touch-screen technology by Samsung Electronics

While the Prisma also sports a stand for a personal tablet computer, the more high-tech element is the Samsung-driven touch screen table, integrated right into the black glass bench. Cooks will be able to use the internet connection to update chosen contents from a programmed menu. Designed for tech savvy home chefs, the Prisma kitchen picks up on the trend of tablet computers migrating to the kitchen, and then takes that idea to the next level.

PRISMA03.jpgThe prismatic compositions of the drawers and sink are illuminated from below, and give a dynamic, light feel to the kitchen

The minimalist design fits well with the high tech elements of the kitchen – red and white lacquered surfaces, anodized aluminium and black glass create a contemporary and dynamic feel. The prismatic composition, from the drawers in the island bench, to the sink which supports the bench top, gives the kitchen a feeling of weightlessness and light. The red, raised chopping board can actually slide along the island bench to any desired position, and provides an accent of colour in the otherwise black and white kitchen.

The minimalist feel is heightened by the use of easy-open, invisible handles on the drawers, cupboards and refrigerator. These were created by Experientia designers, working together with Toncelli’s engineers, and are so far exclusive to the Prisma.

PRISMA08.jpgThe red chopping board slides along the island, and has a stand for a tablet computer

The Prisma kitchen will be on display at Eurocucina 2012, as part of the Salone Milan, along with five other Toncelli kitchens. While a display of the Prisma will be visible to all the Salone visitors, guests must register on the Toncelli website for a guided tour of all the kitchens, tracing a linear time-line from the kitchens inspired by the past through to Prisma, a futuristic jewel, and, Toncelli hopes, an instant classic.

12 April 2012

Designing for touch

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Fingers and thumbs turn desktop conventions on their head. Interaction designer Josh Clark explains what you need to keep in mind when designing for mobile touchscreens and compares finger-friendly touch interfaces for iPhone, iPad and Android.

“Great mobile designs do more than shoehorn themselves into tiny screens: they make way for fingers and thumbs, accommodating the wayward taps of our clumsy digits. The physicality of handheld interfaces take designers beyond the conventions of visual and information design‚ and into the territory of industrial design. With touchscreens there are real ergonomics at stake. It’s not just how your pixels look, but how they feel in the hand.”

Read article

12 April 2012

Boston Citizens Connect

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With its Citizens Connect app, Boston is showing how to use technology to empower citizens and involve them in the inner workings of the city. Hana Schank reports on FastCo.Exist.

“Some cities seem to take an approach to digital that either involves throwing a bunch of stuff against a wall to see what sticks, or focusing on back-end upgrades that are largely invisible to citizens. Boston, however, has a unique approach which has not only earned it recognition as a top digital city, but which also allows the city to develop truly user-centered digital applications.

Co-chaired by Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics acts more like an open-door digital consultancy than just another city agency in that it spends time talking to city agencies and citizens alike in order to find out what people need and then developing accordingly. In other words, the office gets users involved throughout the process in a meaningful way, and the result is apps that work.”

Read article

11 April 2012

Videos from Technology Frontiers, an event by The Economist Group

TechFrontiers

Over 250 business leaders from across Europe descended on London’s Inmarsat Conference Centre for Technology Frontiers, two days of thought provoking sessions and networking. Led by The Economist’s Digital Editor, Tom Standage, the event explored how advances in technology will transform our work, our lives, our world.

Some highlights (all links are videos):

Using technology to turn consumer behaviour into a business model

  • Systempathy: Can technology systems be good for empathy? [18:53]
    Charlie Leadbeater, a leading authority on innovation, strategy and education
    Consumer behaviour is one of the most powerful forces in business. This session looks at how consumer behaviour is being transformed by technology, and asks what impact this should have on business strategies. We will also look at how technology is driven by consumer needs and how these needs can create new business models. Charlie Leadbeater talks about whether technology is for us or are we for it?
  • How people influence each other in a digital world [18:12]
    Aleks Krotoski, Academic and Journalist – Technology and Interactivity
    Aleks Krotoski writes about and studies technology and interactivity. Here she talks about the impact of technology on consumers lives and how it enables them to become influencers.
  • The business of interactivity and collaboration [18:22]
    Bonin Bough, Vice President of Global Digital and Consumer Engagement, Kraft Foods

Adapting to major technology-driven market forces

  • What happens when personal data becomes something to leverage rather than protect [11:24]
    Cory Doctorow, Science Fiction Author, Activist, Journalist and Blogger, Co-editor, Boing Boing
    Technology has the power to dramatically change politics, demographics, social norms and values. This session looks at how technology shapes society and how companies adapt to this.
  • Panel discussion: How technology changes social norms [28:06]
    Cory Doctorow
    David Greenberg, Executive Vice-president, LRN
    Mark Stevenson, Author of “An Optimist’s Tour of the Future”
    In this, the first panel of the summit, Cory Doctorow, David Greenberg, and Mark Stevenson came together to discuss how technology has the power to dramatically change social norms and values.

Open Minds

  • The Internet of Things [23:16]
    Andy Hobsbawn, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, EVRYTHNG
    The Internet of Things is on everybody’s tech trends radar for 2012 – could this be the year it becomes mainstream? Imagine the interactive possibilities when everyday objects communicate with each other and the people that use them. Your camera can tell you where and when to get the perfect shots, your guitar can help you find other musicians near you. Companies can augment physical products with digital services that deliver personalised experiences and apps for their individual owners.
11 April 2012

Radical UX focus created a $1 billion company

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Kim-Mai Cutler writes in TechCrunch how a radical UX focus was Instagram’s secret ingredient to success:

“With their UX skills, Krieger and Systrom refined Instagram to require as few actions as possible. Unlike the original version of Path, Instagram didn’t force users to add tags about people or places to their photos. A photo could be posted in as few as three clicks. Mirroring Twitter, they made Instagram public by default.” [...]

“All the while, Systrom kept saying he never felt threatened by Facebook. Facebook’s mobile apps were just too complicated. The iOS app just had too many things in it. To please the company’s more than 850 million monthly active users, Facebook had to stuff every bell and whistle of the desktop site into its mobile app. That just wasn’t conducive to a great user experience on a phone.

In contrast, Instagram kept its app lean. They didn’t change much to the app’s essential experience even as its user base ballooned. It was more important to say ‘No’ to new features instead of ‘Yes.’”

Read article

10 April 2012

Meet Google’s search anthropologist

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James Temple of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Daniel Russell (video), Google’s search scientist (or as he calls it “search anthropologist”).

“About four years after forming, Google came to realise it needed human insights to infuse that information with context and meaning.

The company began conducting user research studies and hiring human-computer interactions experts, eventually snagging Russell from IBM in 2005. His main role is studying web searchers in their natural environment, at home or work, picking up the human scent where the data trail goes cold. [...]

Russell is part of a small team at Google that focuses on the human side of the equation for search. In addition to regularly observing searchers in the wild, they conduct user surveys, pay people in cafes to try out new products, and invite people into Google to run them though exercises and eye-movement studies. The goal is to better understand how people interact with Google’s products and why.”

Read article

9 April 2012

From banker to service designer

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Olga Morawczysnki, project Manager of Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money Incubator (a CGAP-sponsored new initiative that develops mobile financial products for the poor) and Jan Chipchase, executive creative director of global insights at frog, argue that large scale adoption of (mobile) financial services by the poor will only happen if providers in this sector approach the problem of financial inclusion like service designers, and look at the current experience of banking in poor communities.

“Imagine if a banker approached the problem of financial inclusion from the perspective of a service designer. For starters, the banker would leave his comfortable air-conditioned office and drop his assumptions about the poor. He would spend time in the villages, travelling by overcrowded shared taxis, to learn about the lives of this segment. He would look at the drivers of financial behaviors, and build a richer understanding of why particular financial habits exist. He would also quickly recognize that “the poor” are not a homogeneous group, and that ample opportunities exist for creating segments, such as traders, cash-crop farmers, mechanics and shopkeepers.”

Read article

A longer and more thorough reflection on the same matter can be found in the paper “Mobile Banking: Innovation for the Poor” by Tashmia Ismail and Khumbula Masinge of the University of Pretoria’s Gordon School of Business Science (GIBS).

Access to, and the cost of, mainstream financial services act as a barrier to financial inclusion for many in the developing world. The convergence of banking services with mobile technologies means however that users are able to conduct banking services at any place and at any time through mobile banking thus overcoming the challenges to the distribution and use of banking services (Gu, Lee & Suh, 2009). This research examines the factors influencing the adoption of mobile banking by the Base of the Pyramid (BOP) in South Africa, with a special focus on trust, cost and risk including the facets of risks: performance risk, security/privacy risk, time risk, social risk and financial risk. The research model includes the original variables of extended technology acceptance model (TAM2) (Venkatesh & Davis, 2000).

Data for this study was collected through paper questionnaires in townships around Gauteng. This research has found that customers in the BOP will consider adopting mobile banking as long as it is perceived to be useful and perceived to be easy to use. But the most critical factor for the customer is cost; the service should be affordable. Furthermore, the mobile banking service providers, both the banks and mobile network providers, should be trusted. Trust was found to be significantly negatively correlated to perceived risk. Trust therefore plays a role in risk mitigation and in enhancing customer loyalty.

6 April 2012

Earth Institute publishes first ever World Happiness Report

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The first ever World Happiness Report has been made public and states that our best chance at a contented life is to pack up and move to Scandinavia, writes Wired UK.

Published by The Earth Institute at Columbia University and co-edited by its director, the report was commissioned for a United Nations conference on happiness.

The report collated data from several different happiness measurement exercises worldwide to create a “life evaluation score”, which took in not just wealth but also social factors such as political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption as well as personal criteria including good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and having a stable family life. The sources include the Gallup World Poll (GWP), the World Values Survey (WVS), the European Values Survey (EVS), and the European Social Survey (ESS).

After the figures were analysed, the report authors found that the “happiest countries in the world” are Denmark, Norway, Finland and Netherlands, where the average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are Togo, Benin, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone with average life evaluation scores of just 3.4.

- Read article (Wired UK)
- Read press release (Earth Institute)
- Download report