Solutions in search of a problem
One of the challenges we face is that we frequently get really interesting solutions in search of a problem. Or put it another way, there is some cool technology but we don’t know how to put it to use in a productive way. This is a common problem with invention. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph (at the time, a wax cylinder capable of recording sound). He thought that the target market for this idea was for terminally ill people who could record their last will and testament. (you can tell he was an engineer and not a marketing person: not much of a repeat customer base here). Sometimes you just need to come up with the better problem (e.g. people want to listen to music on-demand).Here are some others that we’ve come across. Any ideas on what problems they’d solve?Home automation: I can turn off appliances, measure their energy consumption, automate certain activities (e.g. turn off all the lights at night). But given that it’s often much more effective to add insulation, buy double-glazed windows, or replace an old appliance with a newer one (more energy efficient)-why bother with automation when I can do the things I just mentioned and can turn things off when I’m done?Thin client computing: Not that the problem of complexity and data loss on PCs aren’t real, it’s just that as the PC keeps getting cheaper all the time, are people really willing to give up on a fully-featured PC vs a terminal?RFID: Bar codes work pretty well in controlled environments (like warehouses), and RFID read accuracy is not (yet) good enough to make it in noisy places. Active RFID (with batteries) works better–but batteries wear out so then the tags go dark.I’m not trying to appear as a doom-and-gloom naysayer–I’m by nature a technology optimist and believe that sooner or later some (or all) of these will ‘pop’. Feel free to ask my opinion on any of your favorite ‘unloved’ technologies!