During the recent TechSauce Global Summit 2018 in Bangkok, our CEO and co-founder Anthony Chow was invited to speak on a panel with the Chief Innovation Officer from Ananda, Dr Yong Chern Chet. The topic was something that was pretty new to the audience: Demystifying living tech - just Uber for X, Airbnb for Y, and a ton of apps?
Post-panel, we thought we would share some of the points brought up on Living Tech, and related considerations that go into the designing and rolling out of products and services.
Living tech - a term that may be unfamiliar to many, and a quick Google search doesn't seem to pull up much that explains what it means. During the panel, Anthony shared that living tech was technology that improved people's lives. But while this pretty much encompassed almost all technology, the discussion was to focus more on the residential sector.
The panel highlighted the 5 Cs to bear in mind when thinking about living tech: conversation, context, community, culture, and cost. Of course, there was another important C that was not going to be discussed - convenience - which was not called out as it's a given.
Product development always has to be a conversation between the people producing the product and the people using it. Although instincts tell us to create a product based on what you or your team think is useful, it sometimes is easy to forget that our experiences are not universal.
Of course, the core idea of a product/service often stems from issues that we have encountered personally, but the development of the product should definitely take into account feedback from testers. Testers should include the same people that will be buying your product in future, because they are the ones that have the best understanding of the issues they face, and are most likely to provide relevant and constructive feedback.
Product development is always an iterative process - it is expected that there will be many rounds of modification and tweaking of the product features, design and specs. While a product could be suitable for a group of people at one point of time, needs may change. A 2-way conversation helps to ensure that the product is kept relevant and effective.
Dr Chet shared that at Ananda, they believe that the medium of customer experience of Living Tech (or Urban Tech, as they call it) should in fact, ideally be conversation. Although this is unspoken, they try to add the human aspect to customer experience, and minimise having their customers look at any more screens than they already do so day in day out. With the recent advances in AI and voice based smart assistants the prediction is that this form of technology interface/interaction will be baseline customer expectations in the near future.
Context is critical with any product. How a customer uses the product, the environment in which the product is used, the frequency of which it is used, or if it needs to be used in conjunction with other products.
To a design a product well, all the above and more must be factored into the thought process.
For example, igloohome's products are designed for the management of access remotely, but the needs of a vacation rental host can be different from that of a home owner. A host may not necessarily want to install a smart lock because he doesn't own the house/apartment, so a lockbox could be a much better option for him. A home owner may not want to handle keys at all, and would probably choose a smart lock over a lockbox.
Another example on context - while igloohome smart locks generally fit doors of around 40-60mm, we have done custom orders for countries where security is higher importance and doors of up to 100mm are not uncommon.
Modifications of your product may be needed depending on the context, or you may even need to widen your product range or provide accessories/complementary services for your brand to do well.
In the grander scheme of things, great service (convenience) via a killer user interface (conversation) is limited in value without the context (eg. customer's needs at the right timing, at the right location etc). The hope is that the smart living environment created by Ananda will not only be limited to simple home automation/remote capabilities, but have embedded true Machine Learning predictive features to assist the resident in their day to day living activities.
Dr Chet shared that Ananda strives towards the 2 Cs mentioned, in order to create value for the subsequent set of Cs; community, culture and cost.
With the recent hype about IoT (Internet of Things), more and more devices are connected to one another. Information is transmitted at an incredibly rapid rate, and this means tremendous potential for applications.
One good example would the Ring doorbell (which recently was acquired by Amazon). The device is pretty straightforward - it allows you to record footage of who is at your door, providing surveillance for your home and extra security.
But while a single home with a Ring doorbell installed on it only has sight of their own front door, a whole neighbourhood with Ring installed allows for an entire community to help watch out for one another.
The Neighbors App provides crowdsourced information to everyone connected, including real-time crime and safety alerts. If someone suspects that a suspicious character has ill intent, he/she can quickly highlight this to the community so that they can stay one step ahead of crime.
Smart locks too can serve a similar purpose. Having them installed on every door within a building means you can retrieve access logs of exactly when somebody passed through an entranceway, which makes them very effective in tracking movement.
Technology when deployed at a large scale can help to provide much greater peace of mind and other benefits to the community.
Culture is something often overlooked in today's globalized world. While barriers are significantly lowered in many ways, the social behaviour or ideas of a certain culture could make it less accepting of a product/service compared to another.
igloohome has noticed a difference too. We realized quite quickly that in certain countries such as the USA, home owners are much more willing to allow a delivery man into their homes while they're away (with some security measures such as CCTVs of course) via a smart lock. In South-East Asia, most home owners are more resistant to the idea.
Having said that, sometimes it could be a matter of changing mindsets over time. Not too long ago, people were shocked by the idea of letting strangers into their homes or cars - yet things changed after Airbnb and Uber/Grab came along.
Most people would already have known this. Cost is touchy, and also something that everyone takes into account before deciding whether or not to go ahead with your product or service. If you're planning for widescale adoption, you have to consider whether your price point is suitable for the masses.
Also, if you intend to roll out in other countries, it's worth thinking about currency conversion and cost of living in that country. While one country may have a large proportion of middle class citizens, another may have much greater inequality. This means that your target market size differs, and you may have to make a decision whether you need to reposition your brand in that country as a premium product or not.
Dr Chet shared that at Ananda, at the end of the day, as with their Urban Living Solutions provider ambition; they are focused not only on the what like the technology and the services, but they are indeed sensitive to their customers as individuals and as people with their own needs and aspirations. Hence, they see the community and culture aspect, while providing meaningful experiences at the right cost per se as ultimately a lifestyle curation which our residences can enjoy as they journey through life
He shared the following:
Convenience + (Conversation + Context) = Community x Culture / [divided by] Cost = Curation
Meaning, the technological capabilities (convenience, conversation and context) has to meet the social and practical needs of the user (community, culture and cost) to be seen as an attractive lifestyle option (curation).
The 5 Cs mentioned above serve as guidelines to shape the way we think about living tech.