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Posts Tagged ‘mobile phones’

Resetting the Defaults – The Value of Understanding When Large Change Happens

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

In virtually every sphere of life one can think of, there are defaults.  The basic expectations against which all other things in a category are compared.  Understanding how these work can be an important way to identify future opportunity.

Defaults seem permanent, but they’re not.  Though they may last for a long time, something inevitably enters the picture and resets that default in its own image.

Mobile phones offer a great illustration of the numerous default stages we’ve gone through.  If you hold a phone long enough, it changes your perception of every other phone as it becomes your basis for comparison (your default).

History of Cell Phones From Designboom

History of Cell Phones From Designboom (the rest of the history is available if you click on the image).

When they first came to the commercial market, they were bulky box/bag units with a phone handset attached.  This was the default until the “Gordon Gekko/Zack Morris” brick.  It remained the default until the smaller Nokia-style brick phones.  Then the StarTac clamshell vaporized the default with its Star Trek-esque elegance.

Default settings don’t change only one way, however, and after years of Motorola-led shrinking of mobile phones – the default was reset in the other direction with the advent of the Blackberry.  Suddenly bigger was okay, and in fact better because the mobile phone needed a high-resolution touch screen for all of the functionality phones could now provide.

Bigger continued to be better with the release of the iPhone and Android-powered units.  It continues to this day.  Personally I distinctly remember rejecting the Storm 2 because my default had become the mini Motorola qwerty keyboard and I couldn’t see the value in an unresponsive touch screen for typing.  Now when I pick up my old Curve, it feels too small to be of any use compared to my Razr Maxx (which is dwarfed by my wife’s Samsung Galaxy II).

Sometimes defaults are reset so substantially that they blur and join other categories.  Think of mobile phones and tablets for example.  Right now we’re watching two separate processes of evolution toward a standard: phones are growing larger to provide the capabilities of tablets and tablets are shrinking to provide the portability of mobile phones (like the iPad mini).

What we can learn from all of this is that the rules that we tend to think govern human behavior or what consumers will or won’t do are far more malleable than most assume.  It’s just a matter of timing and opportunity.  If you can understand the current defaults – you can see opportunity on the horizon when they inevitably change.

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London Looters: Openly Committing Crimes in the Age of Radical Transparency is Stupid

August 10, 2011 3 comments

Looting in the Age of Radical Transparency

Hey kid – would you put down those Foot Locker boxes and have a bit of a chin waggle for a minute?

Martin Luther King once said “a riot is the language of the unheard.”  What’s burning up London right now is an unheard population, and while I can sympathize with the sentiment, the violence isn’t something that can be condoned and it’s utterly and completely daft.  Here’s why:

  1. London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world (just behind Chicago).  There are over 500,000 cameras throughout the city quietly recording with unblinking eyes.
  2. Facial recognition technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s so commonplace we all have access to it in Facebook.  The pool of photos is growing all the time, both on social networking sites and off in private databases.  Even if you’re wearing a mask or covering your face, it doesn’t matter because police will be able to match your clothing from other video footage when your face was uncovered.
  3. You can’t count on your friends because all it takes is an errant tweet or Facebook post to incriminate you.  Police are already watching for incriminating evidence of activities in process and arresting tweeting looters.
  4. Your technology can narc on you.  Given how prevalent mobile phones are in the UK and how flimsy the security is, it should be relatively easy for police to use scanners to identify all mobile devices within range of a certain area where the riots are taking place.  That would help kick-start any investigations or facial recognition searches.  Not only that, but if the companies that produce all the electronics that have been nicked in the past few days have added any sort of security to them, connecting to the Internet could identify a looter (or someone who received stolen property).
  5. London Police can crowdsource the investigation with ease.  [Update: …and they already are] Back in 1997, a bunch of people in a neighborhood near Michigan State University rioted after MSU lost to Duke in the NCAA finals, burning couches, stealing and destroying property.  Even back then, there were plenty of people shooting video and taking pictures which the local police took and looped on a cable-access TV channel with a message inviting the community to tip them off if they recognized anyone in the photos.  That was 15 years ago – just think of how much easier it will be to crowdsource identification with Facebook ads or mobile apps.
  6. The evidence will stay around “forever.”  That means Law Enforcement can take its time with the investigation – as it does so, the technologies and pattern-recognition algorithms will continue to improve.  I’m also pretty sure England doesn’t have a statute of limitations – so prosecutions could happen even years after these fires have been extinguished.
That’s the new reality whether we want it or not.  The world is much more transparent, and we need to respond accordingly.  My hope is that this new level of disclosure enables important messages to reach their intended audiences without violence like this.

In the meantime, mind the gap! (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

[Update: This just appeared on Mashable and is obviously highly-relevant recommended reading – “NYPD Creates Unit To Track Criminals Via Social Media“]

[Update II: Scotland Yard Confirms It’s Using Facial Recognition Tech]