At the moment I am very much involved in Living Labs. Living Labs are an important development in research, design and development. At the core of the living labs idea is that the gap between design and reality is growing. More and more products and services have social networking aspects or location aware functionality. These aspects are very hard to simulate in a normal laboratory like Home lab at  Philips.
Amsterdam Living Lab is the initiative that we are starting in, surprise, Amsterdam. Here we are changing Amsterdam in a large scale laboratory, together with Waag Society, University  of Amsterdam and Telematica Instituut. Together we try to create new design, develop and test processes based on real life user experience. For this measurement tools and sensor to measure reality will be developed and new design processes that take this real life data into account.
More locations in the Netherlands are developing such an approach. Living Lab Leiden is involved in development of wireless services, Rotterdam Climate Initiative is developing new approaches to saving energy. Approaches that take the real life behaviour of people into account. For the Innovatieplatform I am working a plan to strengthen this ecosystem of initiatives and promote the capabilities national and international.
Next week the Innovatieplatform is organising a big day on innovation in the Netherlands. I am organising a track on Living Labs there too. Several Living Labs are  present and  some demo’s are given. So if you are interested, drop me a line. Meet you on third of December in Rotterdam.

Google bank

Banks are of course very much the focus of the news these days. One of the interesting news items a journalist found out is that Google already has a banking license in the Netherlands. Bank are potentially one of the sectors that will change a lot because of business possibilities that a technology like SaaS will enable. Competition will come from completely new sectors because they are better at reaching the market or using the “intelligence of crowds”.
While searching a little further I found this blog post from Jeff Jarvis where he is asking for examples of bank services that Google would be very good at. Examples are peer to peer lending, more transparency around transactions in stocks, open source platforms to increase functionality (E-invoices anyone?).
In a way Google checkout and it’s competitor PayPal are already on the move. In my view banks really have to start thinking on how to really innovate their processes through which they create value for their customers.


This is very interesting picture that shows the difference between the opportunities for saving energy between Europe and the USA. I do not think there are many households in the Netherlands that do not use a programmeable thermostat, often even integrated with a outside temperature sensor. This is something we have to keep in mind when comparing research on energy saving between the USA and Europe.

Oops, sorry, forgot the attachment …

who does not know the feeling of feeling utterly silly when sending an e-mail in which you say that you are enclosing an attachment after which you forget to include the attachment. I know it happens to me and most people around me. But Google is paying attention!
They now have a new function where Google scans the text of you e-mail and when it thinks you intended to include an attachment it gives you a reminder. I think this is a nice example of paying attention to your users and deliver services that are based on looking what people are really doing and what really goes wrong while doing it.
I understand from the google groups that discusses this that it does not really work very well at the moment (it misses a lot of cues when there should be an attachment) but let’s hope they will get it right. At least they are trying …

User interface 2.0?

Some time ago I bought an iPhone and I must say I love the user interface. It all feels very slick, every function does what you think it should do and looks very nice.
However, I recently downloaded an iPhone app from the NOS that shows you teletekst directly on you iPhone. very convenient.
However, I was wondering myself that it is quite a remarkable that this application for the iPhone is that popular. It is a user interface designed for TV’s with minimal interaction and minimum use of graphics. Of course the original idea was that through this simple view and interface it was easy to use and easy on the hardware. All reasons that are completely not valid on the iPhone platform.
I wonder where the popularity comes from. Is it because people are used for so long to this interface or are minimal interfaces more powerful than we think anyhow? Amazing..


Last days I was present at the MobileHCI conference. I was involved in this conference as sponsor chair. This conference deals with how to design and use mobile devices and experiences. There have been two issues that I found remarkable.
The first is the fact that two research projects dealing with the design of user interfaces showed that people preferred to use the slower interface. In one example they had developed an interface with special icons to use in the address book of the phone, targeted at illiterate people. Research showed that although people were faster through the visual interface they still preferred the alphanumerical one. Maybe they just did not want to be branded illiterate?
The second project dealt with research on the amount of air pollution children are exposed to by their route to school. This Lancaster project gave GPS equipped phones to 12 year old children and had them make pictures and blog their route to school, through all seasons. These routes were compared to the known air pollution throughout the city. Also the children got asked questions on how they felt and on their health. Through this research they could show the children that they would have less air pollution by taking another route. But reality is much more complex than we think. Many of those routes were banned by their parents because they are thought not be safe (e.g. a route through the park).
Both projects show that reality is much more complex than we think when designing products and services. This complexity is I think growing with the digitization of our society.
This conference was also the formal start of the Amsterdam Living Lab, a large research program I am involved in where the focus is in helping designers design products that people really want, not the ones designers think they want. I will publish more on this soon.
A last example how reality can be unexpected also came from the Lancaster project. The children all came from a very poor neighborhood. It turned out that some of them could not recharge their phone during the evening because their parents had pre-paid electricity …
And a final fact during the conference in another presentation: more than 60% of the mobile searches are for adult content: why does it not surprise me anymore …

Durability 2.0

iFlickrWe all know we have to be very careful with energy due to the warming up of our planet, dependency on energy from areas in the world you do not want to be dependant on and other reasons. But we also know that it is very hard to find the incentives to stimulate people to save energy here and now. Problem is that there is too much of a time lag between the action to save energy and the advantages acquired.
Recently I held a key note presentation at the conference “Greening the enterprise 2.0“, focused on how to save energy in office environments. Especially in offices it is hard to stimulate people to save energy because they do not have to pay the energy bill themselves. Automatic systems are usually circumvented (people open windows in completely controlled buildings because the intelligent control mechanism for temperature is less intelligent than the maker thought) and therefore seldom delivers the result that we think of beforehand.
And people are lazy. The picture on this post is from my own re-chargers in my office. I once placed a switch there to switch of the electricity. But after two cases of dead batteries that I needed at that moment I always have it switched on.
Focus of my presentation was how to use social networking aspects to stimulate people to save energy. By sharing best practices but also by more direct feedback on individual actions and results (and some peer pressure maybe …).
Here are the sheets.


While scanning through some of the articles I missed during the holiday season (you really do not need a computer on a terras in Barcelona eating Tapas and drinking wine) I came across this Article from Nicholas Carr (Is Google making us stupid). Central them of the article is that due to jumpy way we read on the Internet (following another link after some paragraphs of reading) our way of thinking may be changing. More and more it is becoming difficult for a lot of people to concentrate on long texts, let alone long books like war and peace.
I do think this is a risk we are facing at the moment. In workplace research there is something that is called Attention Deficit Disorder. What it means is that people are so accustomed to browsing and wandering of a subject, checking mail all the time, reacting to chat and other disruptions that in the end they are not capable anymore of creating things that need concentration for a longer time. They are reacting instead of acting. I myself can sometimes feel this way: you have to force yourself to stay away from email and chat for several hours do finish something that you really have to think about.
A lot of our philosophical heritage is coming from people that were accustomed to do a lot of thinking without interruption. Of course, Plato and Socrates had little choice without broadband Internet available to them… What does this fragmented way of collecting information and maybe the resulting fragmented way of thinking lead us to in the future?
There definitely are positive aspects too. Now it is much easier to connect different information parts because they are all easy to find, or somebody else already connected them for you.
At the least this new way of reading and its consequences for our way of thinking is something we need to take into careful consideration when designing our new tools for the workplace.
Interesting read and food for thought. Do not forget to read the whole lengthy(?) article …

Social netWORKing

Being the center of your networkOne of the most fascinating developments there are at the moment at the workplace is I think the use of social networking tools. What can ben seen in several reports is that the use of social networking tools (for example to find the right person for a task) is growing rapidly within companies (Funny thing is that in many cases this is happening completely below the radar of the IT department). The tools are used for example to find the right person with the right expertise as close by in your network as possible. Directly based on previous work done by people like reports they wrote, memberships of communities, questions they answered etc. Maybe even based on the emails you sent to specific people though in this respect there are of course issues on privacy that we have to deal with
IBM is developing some quite interesting applications around lotus connections dealing with social networking. Recently they have developed a tool called Atlas that is capable of showing you your network, how it relates to the subjects you are dealing, with and how to reach people. Important is that this information is also showed in relation to the company structure and (other) communities.
What I especially like about developments like these is that it gives the individuals in an organisation the power to create their own network besides the structure of the organisation. Links are being made that work instead of links that are made to control power (or am I being naive and will it still be used to do that?). I think due to the transparancy it will give the individual more power to reach his goals based on achievement instead of organisational position. People can create their own organisation that supports their work within the overall organisation. This leads to fascinating possibilities.
Of course their are lots of questions on how this will work. How do we deal with privacy, will the organisation not use the transparency to discipline people instead of giving them more freedom. What is the role of management in structures like these?

Personal, very personal

This morning I wrote about social networking and all the good things it may bring us. Stay in contact, meet old friends and things like that. After that I received this email from plaxo. One of my freinds, John will have his birthday on December 14th. Nice to get a reminder (I am terrible at reminding things like that) but where will this bring us? My first idea was: hey we could automate this and send the card by itsel so you will never forget another birthday. I can imagine being called by a friend: He Martijn, thanks for your card. Me: What card, what for?
I wonder where this will lead us …
And John, in case I forget: happy birthday …. 🙂