Monthly Archives: October 2014

Wolffepack Backpack Fixes the Bag’s Biggest Design Flaw

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By Jason Brick on October 24, 2014 in PSFK  Design

This Kickstarted backpack stays on even while you rummage through it.

The word “backpack” is one of the most plainly descriptive words in the English language. It’s a pack that stays on your back. The “pack” part is nothing but good: a place to store things you want to take with you. The “back” part is a mixed blessing. The stuff you carry stays out of your way, but it’s a bit of a process to retrieve your stuff from it.

The Wolffepack promises to change that. A design team consisting of award-winning engineers James Jeffrey, Edward Goodwin, Richard Hartshorn and Luke Ireland have built a backpack that swings to your front while still hooked to your back.

It works via a magnetic handle connected to a retracting cord. When disconnected, it releases the bag so you can pull it to your front. Once finished, you retract the cord and reconnect the magnetic handle for all the convenience of a regular backpack. This simple design has gone through months of blueprint and CAD modeling and 14 iterations of physical prototypes.

Far from a one-trick pony, the Wolffepack includes the options you want to see in a high-end regular backpack: multiple subcompartments for pens, business cards and zip drives, a detachable keyhook and two padded compartments for laptops and tablets. Construction is of high-quality materials, including gunmetal ziptabsand G-hooks and compartments made from Kevlar fabric. It comes in two models. The Metro is a black, urban commuter’s pack while the slightly smaller Escape is colored like traditional hiking backpacks and built for those load-outs.

Backer levels aren’t unique, but stand at a good value: 85 pounds to pre-order the pack at approximately two-thirds the retail price. The Kickstarter campaign runs until Dec 1, and is at $5,000 of its $30,000 goal with over a month to go as of October 22nd. Those who like the idea but aren’t in the market for a premium piece of luggage can back the project at 10 pounds in exchange for a custom key ring.

 

Pay. Mobile Payment will grow fast this time. (Updated Oct. 29th)

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Apple Pay was introduced this week and just like with the Apple Watch it is receiving much attention, not all from believers. Google Wallet has been around for since 2011 and has been available in many locations. Why they have not promoted it much more, I will never understand. It allows for a typical Apple late entry approach that will in my mind make true mobile payment finally come true.

 

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Why will Apple Pay work? Why will Apple Pay help accelerate mobile payment adaptation? A few key reasons:

  • Even though the Google Wallet app has been downloaded on many Android phones it is not as easy to use. Apple Pay is build on a very robust platform and is very easy to use. With new iPhone 6 volume building quickly it will gain momentum quickly.
  • I think they have been very clever to announce it at the same time as the Apple Watch. With the Apple Watch it will be even more easy to use since you just raise your arm.
  • Apple has also a very good track record building networks of companies that will support it. Their first wave of banks and stores is already a good start. Stores will benefit by moving consumers through their lines quicker.
  • They will have learned from the under promotion by Google and will advertise with their launch partners. Their partners have more incentives this time and they have already started.
  • Apple Pay is easier to use than a credit card, even though credit cards are also easy to use.  However, the recent credit card data hacking events have put the spotlight on privacy and security issues for the the consumer.  The Apple Pay system is more secure then credit cards (no paperwork, no data is shared with the vendor, nobody else can use it.) which will be a key educational message that consumers will more easily consider than before.
  • Apple will not have access to purchase information and does not store transaction data. They are making this a key differentiator with Google Wallet since Google is not clear what their intentions are in the long term with transaction data.

Many hurdles are still in place that need to be overcome. (The interesting aspect of the Apple Pay launch will be that Google Wallet will benefit significantly as well so maybe Google will need to thank arch rival Apple for taking the plunge). Apple Pay’s success will be based on easy of use and it must be more secure than other options. Early indications are they have succeeded with easy of use, which will only increase when the Apple Watch comes out. Mobile payment will finally become mainstream in the next 3 years and companies need to be ready for it.

UPDATE:  October 29, 2014

The Apple Pay launch has been a success with users registering more than 1 million credit cards on Apple Pay in the first 72 hours last week, making it the most widely used contactless payment system available. At the same time, the battle for mobile payment dominance has increased with CVS and Rite Aid deciding to pull their support for Apple Pay. They will support the system from Merchant Customer Exchange called CurrentC which is expect to go live in 2015. They were consistent and also blocked Google Wallet. CurrentC will work very differently and is not expected to be as user friendly as Apple Pay or Google Wallet. In addition, merchants will have access to your shopping data since the data will be stored which Apple Pay will not do. Privacy concerns and easy of use will give the upper hand to Apple and will hurt merchants over time. There will be many stages in this battle that has just began.

Mind Your Health, Weight Loss with Portion Control Plate

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By Jason Brick on October 20, 2014 in Design 

Mind Your Health, Weight Loss with Portion Control Plate

Tableware designed to match meals to nutrition and portion recommendations helps thoughtful eating require less thought and more enjoyment

Nutritional science has known for decades, and the public has known since the 2006 release of Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating, that the single most important factor in how much people eat is how much food people are given. Its a simple fact of food consumption that is too often exacerbated by large dinner plates, super-sizing and all-you-can-eat appetizer deals at your favorite restaurant.

Dutch designer Annet Bruil saw the problem, and offers a solution in herETE plate. It’s a “pie chart” for the meal you eat before your pie. The simple, white plate has lines drawn on it dividing its surface into sections for vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. The size of the plate keeps your total amount of food in line with daily calorie requirements, and the dividing lines keep the relative proportions in line with what nutritionists recommend.

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The plate comes with instructions for meals with mixed components — like a stir fry made with veggies, noodles and chicken. It offers a simplified, visual approach to eating fewer calories with better nutrition.

The ETE plate is manufactured in the Netherlands, and shipped internationally in Dutch or English for 25,50 Euros plus delivery costs. Though designed specifically to match the dietary recommendations of the Netherlands’ government, users from other countries can use online resources to use the plate to match their home country’s guidelines.

Despite the designer price tag, early reception of this new product has been enthusiastic. Since “too complex” and “too hard” are two of the top objections people give to learning how to eat better, the ETE plate has potential for helping people make positive changes in their eating habits.

ETE Plate

We know the dangers of disruption so why are we fighting it?

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Excerpts of an article by  in ITBusiness.ca 

October 7th, 2014

So the real question is, why are so many companies not taking the right steps – why are they resisting? Peter Sondergard’s, global head of research for Gartner, answer is simple. “The new digital businesses have lower margins.” Given that, today’s businesses have a difficult challenge. Do they take short term and potentially massive pain and bet on a larger market share with far lower margins. Or do they soldier on believing that somehow they will defy the odds?

There is a second and compelling reason why companies are hesitating to do what they know is inevitable. Digital businesses are different. A digital business may be agile, but to do that it will take risks. Digital businesses are not afraid of failure and risk taking. Yet the mainstay of the enterprise in so many companies from banking to retail to government to manufacturing to natural resources – all of these need “rock solid systems and processing.” When the consequence stoppage in production runs into the millions of dollars, it’s hard to accept failure.

Digital machinists versus digital humanists

Gartner sees this as a conflict between two mind-sets. The “digital machinists” represent the old enterprise with its need for uninterrupted operation and “rock solid” processes. The new thinking of the “digital humanists” runs counter to everything that the “digital machinists” think.

“Digital humanists” are driven by principles not processes. These principles, Sondergard outlined as:

  • People – at the centre of all actions is a concern for human beings and a focus on the user/customer experience.
  • Embracing the unpredictable – where machinists try to control deviations from the norm, humanists exploit these to learn and explore new ways of performing services.
  • Respect for personal space – or in the words of another analyst, humanists don’t do things that are “creepy.”

The challenge of the bi-modal enterprise

Who is right? According to Sondergard, they both are. Companies need the rock solid business processes to exploit current business opportunities but they also need to embrace the humanist ideals to avoid disruption by agile competitors. They need to be bi-modal.  A traditional enterprise may not be able to instantly transform into a start-up, but we can all incubate start-ups within our existing enterprises.

Leading companies get this and are embracing these moves to a new digital first approach on new businesses and services while they defend but gradually scale back their traditional business.

The digital transformation

As Sondergard pointed out, it’s not just businesses that are changing. Technology is changing us as well. There is a power shift happening as we move from physical to digital enterprises. Power is moving from corporation to customer. In enterprise technology, it is moving from structured IT departments and processes to business leaders. It is shifting from enterprise to employee. At every level, power is moving from its existing base to new distributed, decentralize but no longer “de-personalized” model.

As technological change accelerates, it accelerates the power shift to the new “digital humanists.”

The Internet of everything

If you had to look to find one current trend that would show the pace and extent of change, you need look no further than what has been termed the “Internet of everything.” Cisco Systems product marketing manager Beth Barach presented on this topic during the 2014 Gartner Symposium in Orlando.

For those who wondered what the difference was between the Internet of everything (IoE) and the Internet of things (IoT), Barach gave an elegantly simple answer. The Internet of everything is, as the name implies – everything. It is people, process, data and “things.” But the “things” are special. They are not just the devices, they are the sensors that supply the data. In turn, that data runs more and more of our day to day world – transit, homes, office buildings, infrastructures and even our cars – just to name a few areas.

These “things” operate our world and provide the data that controls that world. This is how we benefit from the Internet of everything. The “things’ give us the data and the data drives the rest.

A blessing and a threat

The dirty little secret is about these “things” is that that as they assume more and more control of our businesses and our day to day lives, they also present more and more of a risk. And as they grow in numbers the threat becomes even greater. The more of these devices that exist, the more likely it is that they will be compromised. On a recent TV show, a fictional plot showed a pacemaker being hacked. Gartner estimates in a few years this will be a reality.

Businesses know this too. Cisco’s Barach showed us that 73 per cent of companies expect IoT to cause security threats. Yet by the same data, only 13 per cent of companies feel they are addressing this challenge.

Is it a technical problem? No. It’s a mind-set problem. Like the “digital machinist” and the “digital human” there two distinct mind sets at work – the Information Technologist (IT) and the Operational Technologist (OT) The OT mindset actively pursues the benefits of a proliferation of devices and sensors. The IT mindset sees and tries to mitigate the risks and return the company to the certainty of “rock solid” processes. The OT mindset has no time for this.

The reality is that they are both right in their own respect. According to Cisco’s Barach both are critical to organization success. There is no technological miracle – few if any of these devices and sensors have any security built in. What is needed is a cooperative approach to solve this contradiction – how do you collaborate to build “rock solid” security and still have the agility and ability to harness learning and the “power of serendipity” which is such a part of the digital enterprise?

How to do it in real terms

As Gartner analyst Frank Buytendijk pointed out, this way of thinking is not new. Jim Collins, the guru of modern strategy has said that successful companies had to escape the tyranny of or and embrace the possibility of and.  The only problem, Buytendijk pointed out is that Collins didn’t tell us how to do it.

Two presentations at the Gartner Symposium tackled this in real terms. The first session, led by Richard Hunter another senior Gartner analyst, looked at scenario planning as a way to do strategic planning in a time of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Traditional strategic planning requires that you determine and place a bet on a future state or environment. This works well if the future is predictable and stable, which we have discovered, it is not. Scenario planning invites us to embrace this uncertainty and imagine several futures. Each will have its own strategy to address it. Each will have a series of leading metrics to tell you in advance if that strategy needs to be employed. It’s a very flexible and for those who do it well – a very practical and reliable method of strategic planning and response.  In fact, the only real way to “fail” at scenario planning is to be too timid. Failure in this is failure of imagination. Because as Hunter says, “if you are imagining a vastly different future, you’ve probably got it wrong.”

The future is wilder and more unpredictable than we think. One analyst gave an example using the film “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise. In the film, Cruise manipulates a 3D computer interface in mid-air. In 2002 that was astonishing. Today, the parts to make that interface, according this same analyst, would cost $70. If we fail to vividly imagine the future – if it doesn’t seem like we are really pushing the envelope, in this age of rapid change, we are likely to underestimate the degree of future change. The failure of scenario planning is the failure of our imagination.

The failure of analysis

Failure of our analytical minds to imagine the real scope and complexity of change is an issue. Frank Buytendijk showed that we “analyze too much and synthesize too little.”

The bottom line is this: analysis focuses on our differences. Synthesis focuses on what makes us the same. We need to stop thinking in terms of “either-or” and differences and to embrace the digital idea of “and” – of synthesis. In a time of change and of great ambiguity this is where the great ideas are born and nurtured.

Summary

Four terms that resonate:

  • Uncertainty.
  • Bimodal thinking.
  • Synthesis.
  • Digital.

Master these.

 

The impact of e-commerce continues to be felt.

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In the Sept. 3 issue of Fortune magazine they asked  “Where have all the shoppers gone?”. A clear cry to find out what is happening. It lists several reasons but one of them is the impact of e-commerce. The graph they included:

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The e-commerce growth is significant but still from a small sales base of 6.4% of the total retail market. The point the article makes is that adaptation to the new world has been difficult. Almost all companies have on-line sales but few master it, resulting in missed growth. An interesting statistic from Green Street Advisors highlights the problem. Customers purchase on-line items of which about 15% are typically stocked in malls.

The solution: Some malls attack on-line threats by adding what the on-line world can not offer, a more personal interaction by adding gyms and wine bars. The mall still offers the convenience but they add new experiences that some shoppers may look for.

Another solution that seems to work is to be able to order on line and pick up at the store. Again, a combination that on-line only can not offer.

Customers continue to look for products and services but stores have to adapt to the way they buy or face extinctions.

 

 

 

Examples of companies on the frontiers of service.

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Extracted from September issue of Consumer Reports.

The do-it-yourself movement is revolutionizing the way consumers go about routine activities and tasks from banking to filing insurance claims. Here’s how some companies are putting it into practice.

Esurance

The insurance company’s mobile app speeds up the claims process by allowing customers to upload accident photos and get an automated estimate of the damage, often eliminating the wait for an adjuster to show up for an appointment.

Hyatt Hotels

Want to avoid waiting to check in or out? At some Hyatts, guests can bypass the line and go straight to an automated kiosk and complete the task with a credit-card swipe. They can also use the kiosk to ­request a room upgrade or add an amenity.

Walmart Scan & Go

In a test at 200 of the chain’s 4,200 stores, customers can use their Walmart-app-enabled smart phone to scan items as they cruise the aisles, put them in their cart, and pay in one step by scanning a QR code—a dotted square than can be read by smart-phone cameras—at the self-checkout.

Zipcar

The Avis-owned firm allows rentals lasting from an hour to seven days. You sign up to become a member and receive a Zipcard. You book online or via mobile app, walk to the designated car, and swipe your card across a reader on the windshield. The doors automatically open, and you turn on the engine and drive off.

Pods

The toughest part of moving is lugging all of those heavy and bulky belongings to the truck. With Pods, the company drops off a cargo container for the consumer to pack, then handles the grunt work of hauling the “pod” to your new home—on your schedule, not theirs.

Panera 2.0

Restaurant customers can place their orders online or by mobile phone up to five days in advance and pick up their order at a predetermined time without waiting. They can also place orders the same way from anywhere inside the bakery-café and have them delivered to the table.

US Airways

Airlines encourage customers to have as little interaction as possible with employees. Kiosks are undeniably handy to print e-tickets and boarding passes. But if you want a paper ticket, the company charges $50. And if you want a receipt for an e-ticket after the flight, you’ll pay $20 to do so by calling reservations.

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet

PNC designed its Virtual Wallet mobile money management account for Generation Y consumers who want to manage their spending and saving in real time. Account holders actually get charged for interacting with an employee. Each staff-assisted transaction costs $3.

City National, Cadence Bank ATMs

City National in Los Angeles has unveiled a new generation of cardless ATMs—you can remove cash via a secure mobile app. Cadence Bank, based in Alabama, has ATMs that go beyond simple transactions to offer video screens that allow virtual interaction with remote tellers.