Playlist 2013.

After all I created a playlist of most of the songs I really enjoyed in 2013. Most of the artists are British which is quite interesting – there’s such a buzz of great new groups in UK. Chvrches, London Grammar, Thumpers, but also groups like Crystal Fighters or Daughter. So many different styles – just great.

Feel free to subscribe to my playlist.

There you go:

Spotify: Turning off Shuffle mode

Spotify really is my favorite app. It’s just great to have your music available everywhere. But what really almost drove me to the edge of madness was turning off shuffle mode. This is one the worst usability issues I’ve seen this year.

For those who want to know how to do achieve this goal:

1. Choose a playlist and play a song

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2. Go to the detail section of the song by hitting the album icon on the very bottom of the screen

3. Hit the “i”-button

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3. Turn off Shuffle mode

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It’s as easy as that…

To turn it on again -accidentally or not –  just hit the Shuffle button on the playlist screen.

 

Self-driving cars.

I’m really looking forward to the day when self-driving cars become a standard in transportation.

This will be one of the next disruptive innovations we’re going to experience in the next 10 to 15 years. Google is even expected to release it’s first car by 2016. Imagine what massive improvement a self-driving car would be. These are just a few of my thoughts regarding this topic.

Security

Self-driving cars are expected to drive much safer than any human driver could. Algorithm-controlled cars which are able to communicate with each other will react much more reliably to sudden events like children running on a street, animals crossing roads or drivers falling asleep. This will reduce the amounts of accidents and spendings for insurance companies. Good news for all customers!

Intelligent traffic control

Communicating cars which are able to pass their destinations to each other will be able to intelligently control traffic flow. You could even know the exact traffic situation of next morning’s rush hour based on data analysis. Or communities and private road and bridge providers could even offer “pre-booked” slots for self-driving cars. This could result in a bunch of new business models based on traffic data and realtime traffic analysis.

Commuting will be much smarter: Imagine car sharing in a world of self-driving cars. People will be able to organize routes digitally. This will result in lower costs for energy, efficient use of cars and – in the end – less cars on the road.

Spend less time for searching parking space

For me a self-driving car would be a major improvement and time saving device: I live in a dense urban environment. When I come home from work, there’s usually no parking space available in front of my house. Imagine a car that searches parking space on its own! You just jump off your car in front of your house and tell the car to search for parking space – maybe even far away from your door.  Who cares? You don’t have to walk the long way. The car will then be back in the morning at the anticipated time right after you closed the door behind you. Fascinating. And if the car uses renewable energy – who cares about energy costs for the way to the final parking destination?

Spend less for speeding and parking fines

If you don’t drive yourself, there will be no speeding and no illegal parking. Therefore, you will never spend a dime for parking or speeding bills. Good for you, bad for our communities.

Less signs on the roads

Self-driving cars gather information by accessing the mobile internet and GPS. There is simply no more need for signs: There will be no need to display speed limits and distances as the car knows this much better. This will result in reduced costs for communities as well as in a cleaner environment and cityscape.

Is technology the major problem?

Will self-driving cars enter markets quickly? I think the biggest problem is not the technology. Self-driving cars more or less are a further development of existing technologies. Of course, there are new problems regarding cyber-security. But I think the key to accept this technology is not the complexity of it itself. It’s people and their understanding of administration, control and organisation. There are so many questions to be answered:

  • what about car insurances? Who is to be held responsible if there is a crash of two self-driving cars? The owner? The manufacturer?
  • what does a self-driving car mean for taxi-business and the transporting business? There will be many jobs lost just be having this technology available for a mass-market.
  • people love to drive. Especially Germans – they don’t even like automatic transmission in cars! Shifting this from “total control” of a car to “total relaxation” as a guest in their own car will take time.

 

 

Don’t offer me what I already own.

We moved to a new apartment about 8 weeks ago. During that time we had to buy a lot of new stuff for our kitchen. Of course, I started searching on the internet. As always I started looking around on amazon.com: I searched for a dish washer and a new stove. For about a week I was focused on searching products, comparing prices and making decisions. In the end, I really ordered a dish washer at Amazon (it really was a good deal and the service of delivering and setting it up was great). But what really annoys me is what happens since then:

I get bothered with emails. Advertising emails by Amazon offering me dish washers and stoves. 8 weeks after this product information was relevant to me, Amazon still tries to sell that stuff to me. This is not really a useful offer. If Amazon would analyze my order history right, they would easily recognize, that I already bought a dish washer. From the day on I ordered it, my interest  in getting further offers is abruptly gone. Amazon should know as I ordered the product at their store. I presume there are few people on the planet willing to buy dish washers in that high frequency.

Wouldn’t it be easy to guess what’s right?

But it would be so easy to guess what would grab my attention: From the day they delivered my dish washer (the delivery date is stored in my Amazon account), Amazon could have treated me with other stuff. They could anticipate that -since I’m now able to clean my dishes- I could be interested in

  • buying new dishes! They could send me an offer regarding new dishes, cups, wine glasses or whatever
  • cooking! They could send me an offer regarding cookbooks, cooking accessories or other cooking related items
  • decoration! While setting up new kitchen equipment: Why not freshen up my kitchen style?

Instead, Amazon wants to sell even more dish washers and stoves. And that’s the problem with all the advertising on the internet. Advertising companies just follow one basic thought:

What was interesting yesterday, is relevant today. What I bought yesterday, will be bought by me tomorrow. While this is absolutely true for most of the stuff I buy and consume, this is completely false for most of the stuff I buy on the internet – especially regarding Amazon.

If I buy a rucksack, don’t offer me more rucksacks the days after. Please go ahead and offer other outdoor related items.

If I buy a new jacket, don’t offer me other jackets. Offer me other clothes in similar colors or style.

While looking at my 3 year order history at Amazon, I can find so many things that describe my style, taste and interest. Thinking about it, it appears to me that it should not be too difficult to analyze that data right. At least there must be a way of generating better offers than dish washers or stoves.

Anticipating systems

The fact that even Amazon seems to not get it done quite right, shows the fact, that there still is so much research and work to be done to get really useful offers based on personal consumption history and anticipated data. Amazon does not have access to my Facebook account (at least I hope so). Nevertheless the amount of data (a few hundred record sets of orders just by me) already seems to too complex to generate high-performance personalized offers. So, they offer what might be most relevant: The stuff I looked for or bought weeks ago. But Amazon has the right data to do it better: While searching for products in their web store, I get Information about related stuff. This information is still poor sometimes but there obviously is a way to relate products. And that is the information Amazon should aggressively use for their product newsletter.

But in future there is more to be done. The ideal way would look something like this (let’s not look at data protection issues): My Amazon account is linked to my Facebook account and some wearable device collecting data about nutrition, sports or location. These three key information (data of social networks, consumption history and personal tracking data of multiple kind) should lead to really useful digital products as well as really useful personalized offers. Anticipating systems that tell me what I might need in a certain situation. Big data. Big challenges.

Until then, dear Amazon, I’d be glad to have just a simple solution: Please (please, please!) send me offers to related products and not the same products I bought. That would be really helpful.

Design in wearable devices.

Update March 25, 2014: Finally good news arrived. It seems like Google co-operates with design companies to get its Google Glass (and future products?) running.

Wearable devices seem to be the technology-trend of 2013 and beyond. While I can’t wait to hold a device like Google Glass (or the maybe upcoming Apple watch) in my hands, I’m really curios about how these companies will proceed regarding general questions about taste and style of their users:

Wearing glasses or watches is very different from carrying a smart phone or tablet computer. While smart phones and tablets easily hide in your bag you cannot do so with a watch or glasses. Well, you could – but what’s the point in doing so. So, there is a challenge designing these devices to suit people’s taste. If I wore glasses I would want them to look good. And more than that: I want to choose from a selection of types to find the one which best suits my face. With watches this would be the same. Both represent not only necessary and useful items but also individual gems. And as gems there is a much higher need to create a selection to choose from. People love to have a individual style – just like for clothes, wearable technology needs to suit that need.

I think, companies like Google or Apple will have to come up with a solution for that. If there was only let’s say five different Google Glass designs all from a technology company, I don’t think people will quickly adopt this new technology. This might be easier for people who never wore glasses before. For those people these new devices might be just another technology-shift. For those who wore glasses before the decision whether to change to Google Glass or not will be based on the variety of designs available.

Maybe the answer lies in creating joint ventures with designers and fashion companies. If Google comes along with Google Glass technology built into e.g. Ray-Ban glasses, I would more than fancy buying those. I’m pretty sure that Google is already negotiating with design firms to do exactly that. Once the technology built into Google Glass is smaller and easier to integrate in other glasses, this technology will be a mayor break-through. What about Apple? Will Apple integrate their whatever to be released wearable devices into third-party designs? Maybe this will become necessary to compete in a market which will be more and more based on the need for individual / variable technology designs.