Twitter Facebook Dribbble

Category “Business”

IDEO on Autonomous Cars

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 4.37.03 pm

 
IDEO have built a nice site called automobility.ideo.com where they explore ideas and concepts about the future of, among other things, driverless cars.

There are some really interesting stats on the site and some nice mock-ups of how cars may look.

One stat that caught my eye was this: “Each autonomous shared vehicle could replace 11 conventional cars”.

That is the first time I’ve seen anyone put a figure on it and that’s a pretty significant figure.

If you’re interested in the topic, the site is well worth a look.

 

 

Idea: Flight Status Update, Auto-SMS

The Problem

Last Sunday I took a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne with 3 friends. After we took off (and after I had turned my phone off), the pilot announced that due to wind conditions, the flight would be arriving 25 mins early at 12:50pm.

Normally this would be good news, however we had organised a car to pick us up at 1:45pm (allowing for a 1:15pm arrival and collecting our luggage). Because we were unable to use our phones during flight, we were unable to send a message to the person picking us up to let them know we were going to be early.

The result was that we ended up waiting at Melbourne airport for about 40mins.

 

The Solution?

As we landed, I thought a simple fix to this problem could be to add auto-sms update system. As you check in or book your flight, the customer is asked if there is someone picking you up at the other end who could benefit from know if the flight is early, on time or delayed.

SMS

Flight tracking apps already provide people with arrival time information, but they require the person picking you up to be proactive or have the app installed etc. An SMS (or I suppose email) is a very cheap and efficient way to keep everyone informed. Like any good relationship, communication is they key. The value to the person flying and the person picking you up is potentially very high.

 

 

Photo 24-09-2014 11 32 34 am

The Opportunity

A quick scan of the ‘Domestic airline on time performance’ stats for August 2014 (which is put out by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development in Australia), shows that:

  • 82.4% of flights departed on time
  • 83% of flights arrived on time
  • 1.8% of all flights were cancelled
  • Virgin Australia had the highest percentage of cancellations with  3.4%
  • Qantas had 1.1% cancellation rate
  • The Melbourne – Sydney route had the highest cancellation percentage 4.9%

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.16.07 pm

Here are the definitions for on time departures and arrivals:

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.19.36 pm

It seems fair to say that there are not a huge amount of flights that are arriving early or late or being cancelled, but there are certainly some and for the cost and complexity to build this, it could be worth the investment.

Why this may not get built

This idea is likely 5-10 years too late. It also could exists (does it?). A number of flights in America now offer in flight WiFI which makes this service redundant. Although in flight WiFi typically has to be purchased, which could mean this idea has some legs left in it.

Driverless Cars (1)

For most of this year I’ve been making time to learn about driverless car technology.

Humans driving cars is a problem. When we drive cars we are ‘machine operators’ and like any human who operates a machine, some are good and some are not. We get tired, we get distracted, we SMS, we get old, we get drunk.

Driving is dangerous. Driving is unproductive. Driving is wasteful.

My primary area of focus here is not the driverless technology itself, but the impact it will have on current systems and services and the in the new industries and services that will be developed as a result of it’s implementation.

Key benefits of the technology

  1. Health & Safety (lower incident rates of accidents)
  2. Productivity (more efficient travel times & ability to work or rest while in transit)
  3. Environmental (more efficient use of energy & a move to electric cars)

I’ll continue to research this topic and share links to research and development that I come across.

 

Below is a list of articles and videos I’ve found interesting so far and serve as a bit of an introduction to the topic:

 

1. (2011 TED talk) Googles Driverless Car by Sebastian Thrun

 

2. Google Self Driving Car Project (Official Google Blog, October 2010)

http://googleblog.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/what-were-driving-at.html

 

3. Google’s first prototype with no steering wheel (link)

 

3. Fortune Article on 3D printing human organs (link)

“A major source of organ donations? Auto collisions. Which means 3D printed organs won’t become a reality until we get self-driving cars, a surprising connection.”

 

4. How Google’s Driverless Cars Detect Aggressive Drivers (link)

 

5. Video of how the Google car navigates city streets

Product idea: SMS Based Personal Assistant

This past week I was in Brisbane promoting our upcoming design conference. I was scheduled in to give 15 presentations to design colleges / universities in 4 days.

The entire experience was made a lot easier because my amazing friend and business partner Leisha went to the effort of sending me an SMS at the beginning of each day with a list of the presentations I had that day, the address & location of the presentation and the room number and contact details of the person I had to check in with.

sms

The Experience

While not highly technical, Leisha’s efforts made a huge difference to my week. Knowing I had all the details I needed in my phone meant I could focus on the task at hand and enjoy my down time without having to stress about where my next presentation was or how I was going to find the room.

 

Airbnb

Last month I was in SF staying by myself using Airbnb. At the time they were testing a new service named Local Companion. There service is an SMS style conversation with a person employed by Airbnb to help make your experience better.

In the screen shots below, you can see I was asked if I liked a band (based on a YouTube clip) and then offered two tickets to their gig that night.sms2 sms3

 

Surprisingly great

In each case, I’ve been surprised how great the experience has been. With the Airbnb example, I was travelling alone and I really appreciated some local suggestions of things to do and placed to visit. While in Brisbane last week, it was small thing to have locations and names SMS’d to me each morning, but knowing that I had the info with me meant I didn’t have to stress at all about being late or missing a presentation.

 

Other use cases

It’s easy to see how this kind of personal SMS based, assistant-style service would be valuable to a lot of people. Certainly organising appointments etc. is useful, but cafe or restaurant recommendations are great, but I can think of 100’s of other ways a service like this could be useful.

If the person at the other end knew I liked to cook breakfast on the weekend (which I do) I’d love to know if my local supermarket had avocados on special for example. The more the app/person knew about me, the more valuable it would become.

 

Could everyone experience this?

Airbnb has the resources to try this out without worrying about the cost and Leisha was doing her work on our company time, but is it possible that anyone could pay to use a service like this?

Here are some rough numbers I’ve been playing with.

I’ve estimated that 1 person might be able to handle 10 – 15 customers at one time. One of the tricky parts to this is that you can see this service being useful outside regular work hours as well as weekends so the amount of time required to service them is not clear to me.

Let’s work with the lowest and most conservative number of customers, 10 per employee.

Leisha was able to make a big different to my week by sending me a series of messages that I would think didn’t take longer than 30 – 45mins to put together. Across 10 customers though, that’s 7.5 hours or a typical work day.

If our employee is earning $60,000 per year, each customer would have to pay $6,000 a year or $500 per-month.

When I asked a couple of people about the idea today, then said they would like to pay “about the same as I pay for Spotify”. Spotify is $11.99 per month in Australia. So our new service is 41x Spotify right now.

Looking around online, some virtual assistants start around $30 a month and go to $200 and above, so it’s likely my estimates are off.

 

Summary

This wouldn’t be a difficult idea to prototype and test to get more information, but I don’t have the bandwidth right now to do so. I believe that people would love this kind of service but I think the challenge lies in creating a sustainable business around it.

 

 

 

The Positive Posters Problem

In March 2009 I pitched an idea to a small room of people. The idea was to build a website where designers could upload posters about the things that were meaningful to them. The ideas they wanted people to talk about.

We launched a crappy site built on WP that September and something like 350 from 50+ countries sent in posters. It was a competition model, so we closed the submission part of the site in November that year.

The competition continued to run annually for the last 4 years.

Over that time we made improvements to the site and our community grew. At one point positive-posters.com was doing 10,000 unique visits a day.

Naively I never spent much time thinking about a business model for PP and as hosting charges increased and revenue (mainly from corporate event sponsors) decreased it became harder and harder to work on it.

Most of our team moved on to other positions in new companies. Unsurprisingly I started accepting paying offers to work on other people products and projects (The Loop, IDEO etc.) to help pay for my time on PP.

fast forward to today

On Sunday night I was thinking about the events of the last few days. What’s happening in Gaza and the tragedy of flight MH17. Since the brief of 2011, we’ve always let the PP community choose the topics that they create posters about. Sometimes they have been linked to events like the Japanese earth quake, or the riots in London in 2012. Other times they address issues that for the most part aren’t linked to a specific date like equality & equal rights, and global warming.

PP

The design our community creates are simple, beautiful and often confronting. Visual styles differ from country to country, but the one thing they have in common is they all tell a story. They capture emotions, a feeling or a moment in time. They let us all stop and reflect on an idea we otherwise might have missed. And in a week like we’ve just had, I wonder what kinds of stories our community would be telling if we accepting submissions today?

Today I’m wondering why, 5 years after PP began, we don’t look at PP as more than an annual competition? I wonder why we don’t look at it as a product, a service that we put real development and design resources behind and keep it running 365 allowing people to create and submit designs when they want about the issues and ideas care about?

The value of PP isn’t the code thats behind it. The value is in the community. A passionate, talented, global community of designers.

10506898_10152467067031840_324791047453848169_o

The content is good.
If there was every any doubt about how ‘shareable’ the content is that our community creates, well you just have to look at this post by popular media site 9Gag from a few weeks back. They shared a poster that Joey Klarenbeek designed for the 2013 competition. It received close to 500,000 like on Facebook.

 

What happens next?
I don’t know. I know the right people to build PP into something great, the developers, designers, community managers etc. I also own a media company that could in theory help with monetisation (through advertising).

There certainly is a part of me that want’s to open the site for submissions and just see what our community comes up with, but we know where that road leads (ho$ting & re$ources).

Some people spend years trying to find product market fit and then build something great. For what ever reason, PP resonated with a lot of people and its weeks like this that I miss working on it and engaging with our community.

The path forward isn’t clear for PP right now, but its getting harder to make a compelling argument to shut it down.

 

Video Stores & Multi-level Car Parks

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 10.34.51 am

At the bottom of my street is an independently run convenience store. It sells various fruits, vegetables, home wares and liquor.

5 or so years ago it used to be a DVD rental store and before that a VHS rental store.

We’ve watched the space in the store dedicated to video rentals go from 100% to 90% to 80% and so on, as the owners added snacks, then drinks, then more food, adapting their business to the growing needs of their customers and the market.

It occurred to me that the changes experiences by the our local video store might similarly happen to multi-level car parks over the next 10-20 years with the introduction of driverless cars.

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 10.38.03 am

If we assume that driverless cars will become a part of daily life for most people in major cities in developed countries, we can see there will be a need for them to have a place to refuel and store them selves. It seems like a logical solution to this in dense cities would be to use existing multi-level car parks.

As VHS was replaced by DVD’s and DVD’s were replaced by digital video streaming, so might a single floor of a car park that is available to the general public today, in the future these may be replaced by driverless car spots.

The car parks might continue to be owned by private companies like Wilson (Australia), leasing individual spots or levels to either energy companies like BP or Mobil who will supply the fuel to the car manufactures, or to the car manufactures themselves who will refuel elsewhere.

Photo 24-05-2014 10 53 57 am

 

Designing the infrastructure to support driverless cars will be a very interesting project combining many key stakeholders from the private sector and government. Energy companies, insurance companies, storage companies, car manufactures, maintenance suppliers, roads and infrastructure. It’s game on.

Could be a good project for IDEO.

 

Post 35: Build Video

 

Post 33: The Oxygen of Good Design

Last night I was reminded of just how important customer research is when you’re developing a new product.

At a small design industry event in town I showed a bunch of people our product and asked questions about how they use other products like LinkedIn and Behance.

Photo 14-05-2014 9 42 07 am

 

As a two person team, we have assumptions about pain points people have and we think we can solve them. But nothing is more energising to a team than hearing your assumptions come out of the mouths of your customers.

One person gave us the feedback above when I asked her how she used LinkedIn.

While this kind of feedback doesn’t point to a specific solution, it does prove that there is at least some kind of pain point here and in the early days of product development, its this kind of qualitative feedback than helps point you in the right direction.

 

Photo 14-05-2014 10 40 21 am

Speaking to at least 5 customers each week is a goal I’ve tried to hit over the past 3 months. People love talking about things that piss them off about products & services, and if you listen carefully you can learn about where you should be focusing your time and energy.

Listening to Seb tell me about how he found it difficult to add that he’d written a couple of articles to his LinkedIn profile gave us the idea add a feature that lets people include things like articles, presentations etc. on their profiles.

“But talking to customers takes up valuable design time!”
Getting up from your desk to have a coffee with someone on the other side of town, or driving out to a bar after work is a pain. It takes at least 90mins each time and it’s easy to say “I could be using that time designing”. Yes you could, but you could also be designing something that no-one wants. This is the counterintuitive nature of customer research. I’ve never spoken to a customer about a design problem and walked away with nothing. In 100% of cases I’ve learned something I didn’t know before, or found an important problem with my design. In the end, taking the time to talk to real customers ends up saving you a lot of time.

 

Team Moral & Motivation
I’ve worked in teams where they feel like the thing they’re working on isn’t actually something the customer wants. And in my experience, few things kill company moral quicker. Putting a team to work on a real customer problem is energising and focusing. A great way to discover real customer problems is to talk to real customers. Sounds simple, but few people do it or do it enough.

The guys at Google Ventures echoed something similar in a recent article on their blog where they dive into more detail than I have here and explore some of the common excuses people give for avoiding customer research.

Maybe its the way we are educated, or maybe its just uncomfortable, but most designers I know would rather sit behind their 27′ iMac clicking and sketching away than get up from behind their desk and go and speak to the people they are trying to solve a problem for.

More than anything else, I’ve found that real customer feedback is the oxygen that fuels good design solutions.

 

Post 32: Design Update

We’re exploring a product idea that helps you tell your professional story and/or communicating your professional value on mobile devices. For a designer, this might include links to your work on services like Behance, Dribbble & The Loop, your Instagram account and work history etc. Obviously everyones value and story differs greatly.

3 months ago, the idea was that everyone’s story would be like a deck of cards with a ‘face card’ showing an overview of your profile and then you’d have a card for each job, or service you used etc. Something like this mockup.

CD_Card_Perspective1

Over the weekend I sat down to take a closer look at how we might design the product to give people the best browsing experience when looking through a collection of peoples stories.

The solution I came up with is below.

You would swipe left or right on your phone to change profiles and up and down to go deeper into their story.

The ‘card’ UI element has been semi-replaced by a ’tile’ type element, similar to Pinterest.

So far the feedback has been strongly in favour of this design, although there is a lot more testing to do.

We like the idea that a customer can drag tiles around to create their own hierarchy. We also like the idea that we can partner with services like Youtube or Behance or GitHub to create custom tiles that people can add to their profile.

We are hoping to get some version of this design into the build we launch with (end of May , 2014).

 

CD_MVP_V4.3

 

Post 26: Prototype Customer Test

Have you ever looked through someones LinkedIn profile on a phone? We filmed the experience a month or so ago. It wasn’t great, mainly because there is a lot of text.

Last week I hacked together an interactive mobile prototype by uploading .png’s made in Illustrator to Flinto.com

You can get the prototype on your phone now by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/1mRzVx8

A friend (@LeishaMuraki) filmed herself using the prototype for the first time.

These kinds of videos are gold. Just watching where she tries to touch the screen and hearing what she things parts of the interface do are incredible valuable.