AFTER more than 20 years of mobile working and a growing use of more and more sophisticated technology, I can look back on 2015 with some deep satisfaction. Everything more or less worked as it should, and I suffered no major glitches or failures that I wasn’t able to fix fast. Even the unexpected death of my mobile phone was made irrelevant in less than an hour by a fast SIM swap to a spare device from an earlier generation.
All fine and dandy, you might think, but I am still left with some ‘tech niggles’ that I would like to see fixed and out of my life forever, and I am reminded of that famous quote by Danny Hillis: “Technology is everything that doesn’t work yet.”
So my ‘Father Christmas wish list’ for 2015 is more of a ‘Please Fix IT list’ of my top mobile and IT niggles.
Just connect: I find myself travelling all over the planet night and day. In hotels, airports, coffee shops, I waste valuable time looking for WiFi hot spots and/or 3/4G signals. I have to select the best option, get connected, do a speed test, and then start work.
Oh, for an app that takes this routine away from me and just does it, logs on to the best available connection, having taken speed and cost into account.
Search and find: No doubt about it – I spend more time looking than doing and I need smart search. Being told that there are 35.7 million available references and posting on a topic and here are the top ten in 800ms is very impressive, but mostly useless. I need the top ten for me and not the population of the planet.
A search facility that monitors my work history and activities, meetings, writing, communications, networking and searching ought to be able to hone the search process specifically for me. Ideally, it would also anticipate my needs to search and find before I even ask.
Habituality: Like it or not, we are all creatures of habit; it is a part of being human. So why can’t my laptop master the most simple of tasks and recognise the fonts and sizes I prefer? Understand that for 99.9% of the time Jane is my wife and not every other Jane randomly selected from my address book. The same goes for my audio and movie editing, presentation style and format options. Why not watch me, learn about me, help me, be intelligent, and apply all the above fixes to every app?
Modelling: With mathematics often outgunned by non-linearity, complexity and scale, I find myself increasingly embroiled in simulation, emulation, synthesis and very challenging analysis. The tools and methods available sort of do the job, but I would like to see an acceleration to make it all far more intuitive. And not just for me: I watch company boards, managers, teams and individuals struggle as I do, and the opportunity space is there for a new construct. Perhaps graphical spreadsheets, a DIY modelling set for the non-expert, and those desperate for a clear picture. In short: We have big data but little understanding.
Complexity: As a technologist and engineer I find myself struggling ever more with complexity and a growing feature death in every dimension. Could we just back up and ship very basic (stripped-down) apps where we add those features we need when we need them, one at a time, instead of getting everything under the sun in one big gigabyte slab? Wood for the trees springs to mind. What I want to do is often available but hidden by the sheer quantity of options and obscured by ‘geek speak’ and the weirdest choice of descriptor.
So, Father Christmas, I think I have all the hardware I need, and I have a powerful array of apps, but I would appreciate it if you could get your IT elves working on all of the above. It would make my life, and everyone else’s, so much easier and I would be that much more effective. ?
Peter Cochrane is an IT consultant and the former chief technology officer at BT