It took me awhile to find the right image to put on this posting.

Everything that I came across didn’t convey the message that I wanted to get across.  It made everything look so complicated and complex and that was just the opposite of what I was trying to convey. But ultimately, in a connected world there are a lot of complexities to make everything communicate together seamless and trying to illustrate that picture to someone, especially those that don’t want their lives complicated by the additional constraints of technology will make them go running for the hills.

healthy-dynamism

I constantly tell my team that we have to make the solution as “hands off” as possible.

It has to come off as invisible, simple technology that just works.   The simpler we try to make it for the user, the more complex it is going to be in the background, and it should be.  I have seen some incredibly simple solutions that almost drive the app for me, but I have also seen solutions that make me painstakingly enter the data that the system should already know about me or that they can obtain from other sources.  When I am at my computer and come across this in my day to day I typically yell, “Lazy programmers” and my wife rolls her eyes.

My wife threatens me with my life every time that I bring a new piece of technology into the home, or even upgrade her iOS operating system across her varies devices.  “Why do we need the new iPhone 6, I just got used to my iPhone 5 and it works great!”  Once she gets the technology dialed in, she wants it left alone.  As I have written in previous postings, my mom is exactly the same way.   She is using technology from many many years ago, and I will have to pry it from her cold hands in order to get her to upgrade.   We have tried it many times, but she always falls back to the older technology because it worked for her, it was simpler and she had her routine down on what to use and when.

I think its important, in fact I believe it’s a deep seated passion, to realize as more and more technology and connectivity is brought around us, the less we need to see and touch the technology or else it becomes incredibly overwhelming and adoption goes way down.

I LOVE going through the Cox Communication voice help system.   That’s a strange statement, I know, but it is a very intuitive system, that knows about me and tries to solve my problem while I am on the phone.   “I see you are calling from xxx-xxxx.  Are you calling about your Cable, Phone or Internet service (It knows the three services that I have)?”  “Ok Cable.  I see that there was an outage in your area and that it might require your cable box to be reset.  Can I do that for you now?”  “Ok, I reset your cable box, did that clear up the problem”. “Thanks, let me know if I can do anything else for you!”  I know that A LOT of time and effort went into this system to know ME and engage ME on my personal level.   It wasn’t a phone system that didn’t know anything about me, and having me yell “AGENT” at it in order to get someone that did.   We need to engage more with technology on the users’ terms, not the developers.  I now prefer to talk to the Cox automated system instead of a live agent (that’s where they wanted to get me – similar to getting me to bag my own groceries at the grocery store or self check out at Home Depot – I prefer those now).

We recently built a new home and because I am into connected technology I insisted that everything throughout the house be connected through a common platform.  I also wanted to learn and experience the latest and greatest connected platforms.   There were many to choose from.  But one thing I learned is that connectivity and automation for connectivity and automation’s sake is a losing game. Where once I could go up and turn on the TV and change the channel, it now takes 10 clicks and an act of god to get the TV moving in the right direction.   This is an important lesson as we develop technology for ourselves and others around us.  Especially in an older generation, if the technology is not seamless and intuitive and has a high touch point, then it will mostly cause frustration and will not be used.   We have to learn how to move the technology to the background where it is utilized but almost never seen.

Case in point, I went over to my neighbor who is 84 years old yesterday to help around the house and she asked me to help her put in an address into her new car navigation system.   When I sat down with her to use it (then read the instructions – usually done in that order), I have to admit it wasn’t intuitive at all, but once I started using the buttons, I could start to figure out the work arounds and navigate myself thru the system (which I would probably only use about 10% of the functionality).   But it was interesting to see her interact with the system and screens.   The system would say “Please say the command after the prompt” and she would either wait after the prompt not knowing what to do next, or she would start talking before the prompt was issued. She said “Why does this all have to be so complicated, all I want to do is call my friend?”

I tended to agree with her.

I don’t think it matters whether you are 84 or 54, I am starting to see technology around me as VERY static

I have to manually do something to get something, almost like issuing DOS commands at the prompt.  I have to consciously open an app on my iPhone before I can perform an action or get information.   I believe that apps as we know them will disappear in the next 3-5 years (or sooner) and start transitioning over to Smart Dynamic apps (or Super Apps) that are consciously aware of my surroundings and life style and create the experience for me, instead of having to statically, manually be dragged through my world bringing technology to the forefront inside of pushing it to the background where it belongs.

So in the case of my neighbor, wouldn’t it be nice that when she schedules tickets to the opera online, that the address is sent to her schedule and her car is talking to her schedule.  So when she gets in the car before the event, the car asks her if she would like directions turned on to guide her to the event, and when the event is over it provides for directions back home.  Depending on your preferences, it could sent text messages or alerts to individual saying that you are on your way and will arrive in xx minutes.  Wouldn’t it be nice that when you schedule a goto meeting, it is put on your calendar and at the time of the meeting it finds you (maybe via GPS on your smart phone and put the meeting on the computer you are sitting, the smart phone or the desk phone – that you are connected automatically).

I feel the same about what I call, “My Life Circles.”  I have patterns that repeat probably tighter than most.  I practically eat the same Monday – Friday (breakfast, lunch and dinner).   On weekends we have different patterns.   Almost every morning I head out to Starbucks to get our coffee before I head to the office, but many times I am on conference calls.   When I get to Starbucks, wouldn’t it be great for the system to order for me, knowing that I ordered the same thing day in and day out in my “Life Circles” and not have to put the conference call on hold when I get to the speaker, only have the barista get my order wrong.

I could go on and on about how technology is looking so static to me right now, it needs to be a more learning, self healing, an individual form of technology that is tailored to my individual life and patterns.  My “Life Circles” most likely are totally different than the person that I am sitting next to, including my spouse (though those should be somewhat close).

Now why am I droning on about Static vs a Dynamic life. I think its incredibly important to make sure we bake that into the solution that we utilize in connecting with patients, especially those that are elderly.  NO!, I am going to back off on that statement.   I think it applies to just about everyone.  I think almost EVERYONE wants a simpler life and not have to have technology control their life, but seamless guide your life in the background.  I recently noticed that some of the apps on my phone are getting a little bit more dynamic.   I use MyFitnessPal from time to time and used to have to consciously open the app to input my food during the day.  If I forget, I would have to try and remember what I have eaten in the past couple of days.  Now when I use it, it prompts me around meal times to enter my food (or gently nudges me).   I know that this isn’t the ultimate goal of where we want to be with an apps like MyFitnessPal, it should take in the calories differently from what I have eaten and log it into the system.   I am not sure I am going to be ingesting RFID/NFC chips anytime soon in order to measure my caloric intake.

We have to build applications that record and nudge when taking or not taking our medication.

I have my medication prepared in a Saturday-Sunday pill box so that it is ready for me to take.   You don’t know how many times that I rushed out the door and forget to take my medication.   It might be nice to put up a simple message that shows up on my phone or navigation system that senses that I am in the garage or car after 7 a.m. and I haven’t taken my medicine.   Why don’t cars provide a checklist on the screen of things that should have been done before I leave the house (doors locked, medication taken, brief case in the case and in the case of my wife, curling iron unplugged)?

It would be nice to have my scheduling system talk to the doctors scheduling system and ask me if it is okay to schedule my next checkup because we both have time on our calendars.

I know, I know, I know…  This sounds WAY too much like Big Brother.   In a time when people are trying to get off the grid, it looks like I am suggesting that we get more plugged in – In fact, I am not.   I recently overheard a conversation the other day from a person that says that she purposely takes herself off the grid for 1-2 hours each day and dedicates it just for herself.  No one can get ahold of her during that time and its meant for peaceful meditation and relaxation. (Which is very therapeutic.)   Wouldn’t it be great, if during the time she is off the grid, that her “Life Circles” are still connected in the background.  Her life doesn’t have to cease functioning just because she went off the grid.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think we are getting way to connected?  In this world where connectivity is inevitable, do you think there is a better way to engage people, especially in our Mobile lives?