Hey device, pay attention!

Users are lost in the noise

Windows, Android, iOS … all of today’s operating systems are now suffering from a malaise that runs deep, manifesting itself as a device which doesn’t respond when you interact with it.  I don’t believe it is acceptable for a laptop, iPad or Smart Phone to just decide that it has more important things to do than pay attention to its user. Here are some thoughts on why this happens (which goes to the root of how we develop devices) and what we could do about it.

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Humans Don’t Scale – the future of the Internet of Things

Over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the future of the Internet of Things – and how we’re all going to bring that future into the present. Some of this thinking has been with my most recent startup AlertMe, some with the IoTA forum led by ARM, and some at the Cambridge University Computer Lab where I’m currently a Visitor.

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Co-opetition – unpronounceable and good

Co-opetition

I first heard the ugly word “Co-opetition” in 1995 in Silicon Valley – and assumed it was as meaningless as it was unpronounceable. But gradually I’ve come to appreciate what it means and why it’s so important … and since its Wikipedia entry doesn’t really do it justice, I thought I’d share some thoughts here. Let’s start off with a more familiar word…

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Electricity Storage

Why we need it – and how hard it is

I mentioned in my recent IET talk that the supply of electricity to the grid is likely to become increasingly variable as wind generation grows, and because as net energy importers we are increasingly dependent on foreign energy outside of our control. We don’t worry about this problem too much with gas because we can store it relatively easily in giant gasometers. If we could store electricity too that would be a huge help in de-stressing our electricity grid (and its engineers!).

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Guilt-free gadgets?

[I ran out of room to include this topic in my recent IET talk]

As late as the 1880’s a debate was raging about whether to distribute electricity to our homes by Direct Current (DC), where the current always flows in one direction as from a battery, or Alternating Current (AC), where the current reverses direction many times a second. The prolific American inventor Edison advocated DC, while European genius Tesla advocated AC.  It was called the War of the Currents (what is it with all these “war” analogies? Enough already!).
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The Learning Curve

I cut my teeth in the computer industry, where for decades Moore’s Law has pretty accurately described the way that year by year computers become more and more powerful for a given price. Or put another way, that every year transistors become cheaper and cheaper. Is this perhaps due to some magical property of transistors? No – as the picture below shows, it was happening before transistors were even invented, and it will surely continue to happen even after we abandon silicon for optical or quantum computing:
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From Consumer to Producer

Phew! After months of thought and planning, our home Solar Electricity (PV) Panels are finally up and running – just days before the government halves the FIT (Feed-In Tariff) subsidy.

Choosing what to fit… and who to fit it

There are plenty of good online guides about choosing and siting your solar panels. To receive the maximum subsidy you can fit up to 4kWp of panels (about 20) – enough to fill the roof of a largish house. Obviously they have to be largely south-facing and unshaded for much of the day!

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What is “Smart”? User Experience and the Internet of Things

Guest blog post for TSB’s Creative KTN 

In the developed world we’ve achieved 100% connectivity for humans and are working on connecting-up all the “things” around us too, offering the tantalising prospect of the Internet of Things – a world where autonomous devices get on with the business of making the world a better place, without needing too much attention from us. Or will they?

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Engineers do take showers

and save £410/year!

Even as I have taken successive steps to reduce my bills and my carbon footprint, a remaining guilty pleasure is my good long soak in the shower every morning. Somehow it’s essential to wake up slowly. So I have tried various low-flow shower-heads, and after a couple of appalling “cold mist” experiences, finally found an aerating shower head (the EcoCamel) that still felt good and claimed to reduce flow substantially. But just how much was it really saving us?

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