Posts Tagged 'Technology'

Laptop with wings please

It’s been such a long time since the laptop got a game changing feature. Except for form factor and design (and to some extent the trackpad!), nothing seems to be changing in the laptop world.  >90% of laptops are manufactured in Taiwan and quite a large extent of the design and innovation (or the lack of it) also happens there.

I decided to ask for more.  How about if we had a laptop that could do the following?

1. Print – I’d love for my laptop to print out my flight/train tickets (yeah, I hate having to buy and maintain printers just for tickets. I’ve stopped printing much else now a days)

2. Scan – I’d love for my laptop to scan things I come across quickly and store, categorize them for later references (scanning is on the up move but all the same, I don’t want to buy a separate device to do this)

3. Project – I’d love to be able to project my presentations without having to connect it to any external device, just click and shoot!

And while we are at it, can it please also have wings? Talk about advanced mobility solutions! Acer, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba – are you listening?

Readers, what are your demands from your laptop?

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Technology is not the panacea – Part 2

The next part of the puzzle has to do with the traditional “market ethos” of “why break something that ain’t broken?” If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, you can catch it here (you might want to take a quick look at it before reading this thread)

One might argue, “let’s make things better” or “this is for their good”. But, asking someone to put in any more effort than what requires to keep things going doesn’t ring a bell of happiness in most people’s heads, it rings a bell of despair/alarm. (Obviously, I’m not referring to the market of “techno-enthusiasts” here)

They either know that you right, but don’t want to be the first adopters and hence, a ring of despair or they are alarmed that you are out to get them.

Take the case of school teachers, they all agree that technology could potentially improve the learning capability in students, but why should they be the learning scapegoats? Why, for the peanuts they earn, should they put in any kind of extra effort without a social/economic benefit to show for it (no extra pay, no climbing the hierarchy, no awards – you know, the works)? The prevailing majority attitude then becomes, let it happen independently. That shows for the success of many online tutoring services and several other direct to student technologies. One might ask, what about the success of the likes of Educomp, Everonn etc. – that, for me, is a subject of another post. I’m referring to technology from the teacher’s point of view in this example.

Lets take another example, the nation’s favorite for technology advancement – farmers! All the incubation labs in the country are buzzing with activity around creating technology innovation for farmers. What is the story on the other side though? Alarm bells start ringing in their heads when you talk of any new technology introduction. They think that you might have a trick or so up your sleeve and hence want them to use the technology that you are talking about. Call it lack of knowledge, their hand-to-mouth existence that precludes trial-n-error or “been-there-been-tricked” experiences.

All this results in the best of the technology interventions not being met with the kind of excitement or implemented with the kind of enthusiasm that was intended. What with all the effort that was put into creating the “cool technology wonder”? Be it the lowest cost laptop, the simplest digitally controlled water pump – if the team doesn’t make an equally gallant effort (as for creating product) into delving and unifying the product experience with the market ethos – it is bound to just remain “a newsworthy cool technology”, nothing more.

Technology is not the panacea – Part 1

I know the title might seem clichéd to many, but for a technophile like me who has an eye (more say an affection) for products, a cool technology seems to open up a vista of opportunities (and more dreams) that can be tapped. I had to learn it the hard way to realize that technology is not the panacea, it is only a piece of the larger puzzle that needs to be solved to create innovative solutions that create an impact in the world.

Lets take a few examples, why is the penetration of information technology, internet and computer in substantial parts of India, say vis-a-vis mobile phones, TV, Radio etc. so low?

I’ve come to believe that it has less to do with technology and more to do with “perceived need” (and I mean a need and not a benefit – very difficult to convince people living on subsistence money on the “potential benefits” of your product when all they are worried about is their day-to-day life). This is the immediate, visible, “will-break-a-habit” – kind of need and not some random “wish”. So, if internet (or any other technology for that matter) has to penetrate further we need to establish and educate people of the “need” first.

This first step of establishing a need and educating people how to “elevate their problem” through the use of technology cannot be over emphasized. Skip the first step and the coolest of technology cannot win against “traditional ways”. Do the first step right and with/without technology innovation, adoption might skyrocket. Two real examples opened up my eyes to this:

1. I realized the importance of “educating” people on their problem when I came face to face with the “perceived notions” on technology in schools. At a deep rooted level most teachers believe that technology is an “attention grabbing” technique for today’s students (and hence, at best frivolous). Very few amongst them have the exposure/experience to use technology as an aid to help the students learn and explore the world around them in innovative ways. Without the right orientation and understanding of the need for change, the best of technology aids are largely underutilized in schools and any wonder the usage of technology remains so low despite the potential benefits?

2. Recently, I came across an entrepreneur at a Tie event who is selling “clean water” to the villagers in India. In order to accomplish this, he says the major challenge for him was to educate the villagers that the water they were using was “unclean/contaminated”. They didn’t know that many of the issues being faced by them and their children like bowed legs, deformed teeth etc had to do with something like fluoride contamination in the water.

Technology (no matter how simple or low-cost) cannot by itself make someone use it, there needs to be a larger momentum for that to happen – which can only be achieved through structured & mediated educational/training interventions to help the participants “be better”, “do better” and hence, “deliver better” through the right kind of technology aids.

In the next post, I’ll talk about understanding and working with the “ethos” of the market rather than pushing a technology-based solution that you consider innovative.

Bangalore Traffic Police Go Hi-Tech

Embarassed as I’m of what happened, I can’t help but write about the incident and the revelation. I broke a “u-turn” rule recently near Koramangala in Bangalore in order to avoid a huge traffic jam and got caught by the traffic police. Well, as notorious as they are for taking bribes they are there at all the places, you can’t really escape as much as you wish!

Anyway, coming back to the point, as I approached the officer to pay my fine I noticed that he had a blackberry with him and a small printer (like the ones that print credit card slips at retail stores). He asked for my license and I gave it to him, still puzzled at the hi-tech gadgetry and sophistication around him. He asked me for a few details, took a picture of my license and printed me a receipt for the fine! I was shocked, to say the least!!!

When I probed further, he told me that they have been using this for the past 2 years and that the blackberry application was indigenously developed by the Bangalore Traffic Police department. The photo of the license and the details get uploaded via satellite link to their server and it gets recorded as a transacion in his account. He felt pride in explaining this to me and I was literally dumbstruck!

What can I say, if they keep a tab on that account the corruption levels can definitely be monitored and controlled to a large extent and as to the technology adoption hats off to the department.

Has the mainstream media tweeted too early?

In the recent past I have seen 3 different “editorial-like” posts in the mainstream media (read – newspapers) about twitter and to think that less than 120K Indian’s are tweeting, yet. Is the mainstream media disconnected with the Indian reality and just aping the hype in the western media? To begin with all the articles assumed knowledge of this phenomena and were not educational, to say the least.

Media can definitely act as harbingers of change, but the mechanism to approach it is definitely by briniging the people on board and not just pushing it down the public’s throat, especially when most are either not aware of the phenomena, or have not bought into it, yet. The questions media needs to ask itself is that when an onslaught of new technology – ranging from online presence, blogging, social media and now twitter – comes up what kind of measures do I adopt to get the public onboard, do I have a mechanism to gauge the depth of adoption possible, will my reader identify with this, what role can we play to encourage adoption?

This is going to happen – today with twitter and tomorrow with something else – with the newer technology products, and the better the mainstream media is prepared with a strategy and plan of action, the more beneficial it is for the readers. Not to forget, this nation is still largely influenced by traditional media – TV, newspapers – what with even Google advertising in newspapers in tier II cities, it is sufficient acknowledgement of the fact.

So, what do you think – on twitter or not? why would you get on? I hope one of the reasons is not because the mainstream media is raving about it!

Bluetooth Mobile Headsets – Quite An Earful!

Ever wondered why Bluetooth headsets never took off the way they should despite the growing need for such a gadget amongst the “teleconferencing community”? I bought a Jabra headset a couple of years ago and it has fallen out of favor with me . Thinking back at my reasons, I decided to put them up here for those considering buying one and for those wondering why they wasted money on it! Have fun…

1. Extra Charger – I need an extra charger for the headset! As if having to go through the constant charging of on my mobile phone was not painful enough. I have extra accessories to carry around and remeber to use. What is more, when I’m charging the headset, I can’t use it to talk. So, if you remember that you have an hour long call at the last minute and your headset is out of charge, tough luck!

2. Connectivity Issues – There is no way I can connect the headset as an afterthought, once the call has started, it just wouldn’t let me activitate the bluetooth headset. So using a headset actually means, being prepared – with it charged and connected – all the time, if that is how much you use your phone, which is most of us, anyway! Not to say, if the phone runs out of charge while you are talking, there are good chances that your call gets dropped.

3. Separate Entity – This is my favorite one…a bluetooth headset comes as a separate entity that I need to track apart from the 20 other things that are essential when I’m travelling or working – car keys, security cards, identity cards, food coupons, locker keys, house keys….what not?

Why can’t the mobile phone have a headset space on it, where I can plug it in after use and it charges along with my phone? Why can’t I connect the headset with the ease of putting my phone on speaker vs. handset mode? Well, life would be too easy then, eh?


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