Business leaders need to repeat the following statement 10 times each morning:
“Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should”
Let me get one thing straight from the start, I’m a tech-guy. I love technology. I work with technology. I play with technology. I took my first computer programming course when I was 13 (which wasn’t easy) and I’ve been programming things ever since. I’ve programmed computers of all sizes and shapes: mainframe, mini (remember those), PCs, calculators, Bar Code readers and a security system. I couldn’t imagine a bit of technology that I would resist…until lately.
Earlier this week, in Barcelona, Spain, Samsung unveiled the S5 smartphone, complete with heart rate sensor. OK, there is a line between useful and useless. This device might straddle that line; it might lean ever-so-slightly to the ‘useful’ side, but not for me. I realize that there are lots of people who might want / need to keep track of their heart rate. Even if this is useful for those people, I still think it would be better to attach something to your smart phone rather than building it in. More on that in a minute.
Let me offer a second example to help focus your attention on where that line is. The line beyond which there might be value in the research but the companies are going to lose money, lies somewhere between the heart rate phone and the Bluetooth toothbrush – “Somewhere in between” but way closer to the phone than the toothbrush.
I’m imagining a scene inside Procter & Gamble that resulted in this device:
CEO – “We have to offer something to get into this Internet of Things thing.”
Designer – “Sir, we make cleaning supplies, health and grooming aids and feminine care products. I’m not sure how to connect things like diapers, paper towels, soap, toilet paper and tampons to the Internet. I mean, it all seems kind of icky.”
CEO – “Nonsense. There must be some way we can cash in on this. Don’t we make anything that isn’t consumed, wadded-up or thrown away after it’s used?”
Designer – “Well, we make toothbrushes.”
CEO – “Now you’re talking! Make it so.”
(Sorry, I picture every CEO trying to sound like Captain Picard).
Why on earth would I want my toothbrush to tell me that I wasn’t focusing enough time on my lower right molars?
One of the really cool things about growing up was that I reached a point where people stopped telling me to brush my teeth. People stopped checking the towel to see if it was wet after I washed my hands. People stopped asking me if I was wearing clean underwear, whether I put on deodorant and whether or not I flossed. The Internet of things isn’t supposed to channel the spirit of those people.
Even if I was so scatterbrained that I wanted help brushing my teeth, why in the name of all that is holy would I want my toothbrush to call my dentist and rat me out? Excuse me P&G; I will lie to my dentist if I want to!
In addition to things we don’t need, there are things we simply shouldn’t have. One big category of things we shouldn’t have is things that annoy other people. We shouldn’t have the ability to make a phone call from an airplane. Think about the way we all talk on cell phones and then think about sitting in a plane while 10 or 20 people are talking. Another thing that we shouldn’t have is Google Glass.
I have friends who think Google Glass is a good thing, but I do not agree. I’m told that Google Glass is really no different than a smart phone but, again, I disagree. If you and I are talking, I am not very likely to pick up my iPhone, snap your picture, search for your profile and read it while you continue to talk. If I did do those things, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were offended. I might expect you to push back a little.
People who are looking forward to Google Glass should prepare for some pushback.
Insulted, beaten and robbed, pushback.
This device isn’t even available yet and this has happened. Are you sure you want to wear those?
Earlier, I promised more about the heart rate monitoring phone. The reason I don’t think it’s a good idea is the same reason I don’t want a 21-piece cordless tool kit complete with drill, driver, reciprocating saw, flashlight and ice crusher. Because, when the battery dies and replacements can no longer be purchased, all those tools are dead. If I have to buy a heart rate monitor, I don’t want to have to replace it every time I by a new phone. Besides, my smart toilet can check my vital signs and I’m getting close to the age where I will use that more often than my phone.