Connected All The Time

So there is a story on Mashable called The Latest Tool in Medicine? The iPhone which highlights some studies where iPhones are being used to collect data as part of medical studies.

Yes, carrying around a powerful compute device, that you can interface with, that is connected to the mother ship for two way communications might result in some powerful new medical studies, advances, options and ideas. Duh.

It is not really the iPhone, it is the mobile, connected, compute device that people have with them all the time (and won’t leave behind) that is the key here. I love my iPhone, but that is not the advance, it is the connected device connecting to the patient/subject.

There will be huge things coming from this as has been written about elsewhere. Immediate detection of crisis events, more frequent sampling of data in studies, ability to trigger something to happen to the patient (administer something), etc. etc. Lots of things can come from this.

Compound Actions

Siri is a fun tool to play with on the iPhone and I’ve enjoyed trying out different things it/she/he can do. However, what is missing is the ability to do compound actions or build up actions in a sequence. Siri can do remind you of something (an alert) when you arrive at a location which is great. However, I’d like to string more things together. For example:

  1. Send my son a text tomorrow at 2:45 PM tomorrow to wish him well on a test. (send the text at a later time, not just now).
  2. Remind my wife to pick up milk when she leaves the office. (i.e. put a reminder on her device to have something happen based on her location).
  3. Tell me a stock price rises above $40/share. (when an external trigger happens, then alert me).
  4. Remind me when the OSU football game is about to start. (look up the start time and set a reminder for then).

Siri can work with pieces of this information, but she can’t yet string them together. And she can’t interact with someone else’s device. Seems to me that these are the next steps.

These kinds of compound tasks remind me IFTTT which I wrote about earlier. If you’ve not tried that out, you should take a look.

The ability to do compound actions, where you can tie together one thing with another in a sequence or where you can connect disparate systems together in an easy way will further transform mobile and in fact corporate IT. The big monolithic IT systems that can not interoperate in this fashion will be dinosaurs.

Since we are talking about the iPhone, I would certainly like for Siri (and the iPhone Search) to interact with Evernote. It would be great to ask Siri to open up a document in Evernote.


iphone 3

Complexity Creep

I used to think that simplicity of mobile applications and smart phones was the future for applications. The simple buttons and simple processes behind most applications make them very popular as a way to get things done. They had to be simple because there was little real estate on a screen to make it complex.

However, I’m starting to think the mobile phones (smartphones) are creeping(racing? soaring?) further up the complexity ramp. The screen content might be simple, but applications have settings scattered (notifications, sounds, in the app settings and under settings settings) and the platform has settings (notifications, power, network, roaming, sounds, etc.)

My iPhone 5 running iOS 6 (and the prior platform) has become more complex.

  • To minimize power consumption, or stretch a low battery further, you’ve still got to go turn off bluetooth, locations services, Wi-Fi and maybe data services on the cellular settings page. There isn’t one place to go. I wrote about this ages ago and it seems Apple could really simplify this with one page/tool that allows you to power up and down key services from one place. Android does this better.
  • International data roaming has the ‘data roaming’ setting which can be turned off, but the Cellular Data button still allows update to come through. I noticed this while in Spain last month.
  • Siri takes some setup including identifying relatives and key contacts. It is not clear how to do this.
  • If you have more than one mail box, there are complexities around outbound mail to specific which mail system to use. I keep getting that wrong and sending personal email on my business account and the reverse.
  • iTunes Match and syncing. Not understood by most mortals.
  • I’m delighted that notifications are in one place, now every app wants to make sounds to get our attention. If I add a new app, I need to go change its notification settings to turn off sounds.
  • Passbook is great, but you seem to have to have each app post whatever on the passbook page. Boarding passes from United or AA need to be moved there from the United or AA app instead of just appearing there.
  • Read this hysterical rant about iMessage and group messaging here. You’ve got to read it. You can’t unsubscribe from large group messages!

These wonderful, simple tools are creeping up the complexity curve just like we’ve seen with Excel and Word and Powerpoint in the past.

Is this just inevitable?

And trying to smartly manage your account with your wireless vendor is another challenge. I was considering moving to their shared plan where the family smart phones would share a common pool of data and I’d save money in the process by giving up unlimited on 3 of our phones. They have a worksheet to calculate how much data you need to ‘buy’ but instead of taking your usage patterns for the last 6 months, it asked you to list out your devices and enter how much each one needs. Hello? They already have our usage! Why can’t just recommend a level? Dumb and complicated.

Spoiled on Integration and Design Thinking

I’ve become spoiled with the smooth polish and tight integration across the iPhone and the Android applications. One can simply select a phone number in an email and the phone recognizes it and dials the number. The phones find new wi-fi networks for connections and can automatically connect if so desired. Pictures can automatically be tagged with location information. Music syncs to/from the cloud with no user intervention. In short everything just works and it works smoothly most of the time.

I recently purchased a new car and it demonstrates the other way of doing things. The car will sync with your phone via bluetooth and it will download your address book to the car for dialing later. However, that address book is not integrated with the navigation address book which is a different list. I can’t use the addresses from my iPhone to load up the destination addresses in my car navigation. However, I can type in addresses to this list one at a time or I can mark a point after I drive there or via a map in the car. Good design thinking would connect these subsystems together in a smooth fashion.

There is a second address book of sites, that can be downloaded via the car’s cellular interface, which are called eDestinations. And, there is third separate list of 5 locations that can be setup for commonly used destinations(like work) which have dedicated buttons on the navigation screen. In fact there is a fourth address book for destinations like McDonalds, Starbucks, and other points of interest.  NONE of these address books are connected together. I can’t select an address from the first book and it make it one of the top 5 destinations for the quick access buttons on the screen. Now, since there are so many places to look, I have to pause and remember where to even look on the car to set a destination. A person could literally appear in this address book mess and phone number mess in 5 different places.

Furthermore, none of the menus work in an objected oriented fashion where you can select the data (an address or phone number) and then select what to do with it. Instead, you have to decide you are going to delete entries first and then select the entry to delete from the list. Very old school, very non-intuitive, very disappointing. Throughout the car electronics, the menus are ancient thinking, poorly designed, not integrated and very frustrating to use.

Like I said, I’m spoiled.

The bar is now very high on user interfaces and their simplicity. Our employees, customers, and suppliers don’t want to find these antiquated ways of getting things done at work(or in their car, DVR, tv, etc.) because they are used to better on their iPhones.