I used to love my old Nokia 6300. And let’s face it so did many of us; it was a product that sold in serious volume. So I couldn’t help feel a little sad when I read the BBC headline that the company was about to shed another 10,000 jobs. Not for the first time, has this company been in the news for having to make cut backs, and yet it wasn’t so many years ago that the Finnish rubber company turned global phone maker seemed to have an untouchable market lead.
At the same time as Nokia’s troubles started I noticed two separate but interlinked trends emerge. The first trend is that the Geek has become ‘chic’. Whilst I work for an innovative product developer, who has a heavy bias towards technology, I can’t help feel that this is a public phenomenon, enhanced by the likes of the late Steve Jobs who made jeans and trainers acceptable business attire. It’s cool to be into technology, and there’s a growing view that technology enables things, makes life better, or at least makes it more fun.
The second trend – which seems to directly conflict with the first – is that most people don’t care about technology. Instead we simply expect stuff to work, seamlessly. Remember trying to order a pizza when Nokia introduced WAP technology onto its phone? Those of us who tried it probably only ever did it once for good reason. Now compare this to the ease and convenience that the ‘app’ has created, whether we’re simply checking the weather or looking for what to cook for tonight’s dinner.
So what’s the lesson here? For me, it comes back to innovation. Technology enabled innovation. Twenty years ago, anyone who was anyone had a hi-fi system that demonstrated its prowess through the number of buttons, dials and flashing lights. Compare this to the recent success we developed for Armour plc, called the Q2 radio. The power of internet captured in a radio that that has none of the above paraphernalia…. It doesn’t even have a button that allows you to change channel.. instead you simply roll the radio onto a different face. Yet, arguably the technology inside the Q2 radio is far more complex and technologically advanced than anything in those 1980s stack systems. The technology is – from the user’s perspective – completely hidden.
Those who harness these trends clearly become highly successful. Apple and Google are just two names that spring to mind. However, what I find interesting is that this trend of technology enabled ease is now spreading beyond consumer goods, and is starting to affect more conservative markets such as healthcare. For many years, we all accepted that taking our medicine wasn’t necessarily going to be a pleasant experience. but we expected to put up with it because it was doing us good or, in extremes, saving our lives.
But even that is changing. One of the designers in our medical technology practice, recently showed me a YouTube video about a lady called Tasha trying to take a progesterone shot as part of her IVF treatment. Clearly this is bound to be a highly emotive experience, yet what becomes abundantly clear is how she struggles with the thought of sticking a long sharp needle into herself, behind her back, and then injecting a cold, viscous fluid that take almost a minute to administer. If ever there was a case where technology could improve the way we live, surely this must be one of them. It’s well worth watching, and then considering how you would react if faced with the same scenario.
On a similar vein, Cambridge Consultants recently entered a prototype development for the prestigious Brawn Prize 2012, this time with a design focused on helping people who suffer with multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. Both conditions leave the person with limited dexterity or muscle control so the process of administering their drug regime is anything but easy. By incorporating clever design and innovative technology, we believe that Flexi-ject could offer a real improvement to the way that patients take their drug. And this is just the start of a new wave of devices that will come to market, because as Nokia know all too well, those that are seen to have the most innovative and intuitive products are the ones that stand to gain the most.