Published on: March 12, 2013by Michael Sansolo
To paraphrase a line from a famous gun rights advocate, "I have more technology than I need, but less than I want."
My phone, my home and even my car are loaded with capabilities that I barely know how to use. Yet I can’t help myself. Tell me there’s some new widget that measures my workout, finds my golf ball or identifies the closest good pizza shop and I’m on my way.
Truth be told, I understand why corporate leaders get tired of the endless argument for more technology. Simply put, they are still waiting for the ROI on the stuff they’ve been buying for years that never quite seems to deliver on all that promise. Instead of killer apps, we end up with piles of RFID chips.
That’s why I also get really excited when I see technology that solves problems or opens new markets. Because to my mind, that’s the technology that really works. Two recent examples caught my eye: one for how it could impact food safety and the other for a possible discussion point on improving logistics.
The first came from the pool of exceptionally unusual products featured at the recent South by Southwest Interactive Conference (SXSW). While the notion of an app that lets me “hate” rather than “like” things on Facebook is intriguing, I see real potential in a device aimed at the hospital industry.
Recognizing that poor hand washing is a major cause of infections in hospital, Intelligent M has created a wristband that records how often and how properly staff wash. I don’t totally understand the details, but that strikes me as a device with incredibly quick ROI in the form of preventable illness and death.
However, like most people I spend, thankfully, little time in hospitals, yet hours in supermarkets and restaurants and I know that clean hands are an essential part of food safety. If these devices work, they could help companies ensure safer food handling and create an interesting marketing idea.
SXSW also featured bicycles that Tweet. Sounds silly except it’s not. The bikes are rentals that use Twitter to alert people in the bike sharing pool as to where they are and when they are available.
I’ve had some personal experience with a similar service thanks to my daughter’s use of Cars2Go. Now unless you live in Washington, DC, San Diego, Miami, Portland or Austin, you’ve never seen this, but you should. I’m betting the company with its distinctive fleet of easy to park Smart cars ends up growing pretty quickly.
Cars2Go enables city dwellers to easily rent cars whenever they want. Unlike the larger Zipcars, Cars2Go doesn’t require the user to get to any specific location. The cars are here, there and everywhere.
For instance, when my daughter wants a car she checks an app that displays the location of nearby vehicles. When she finds one, she taps her membership card to a device on the windshield to unlock the door. Once inside, she enters her membership number to unlock the keys and she drives. When she’s done, she signs out and walks away. My daughter pays for the time she used the vehicle and the car is now available for the next user.
Of course, she’s learned how to work the system properly. For instance, when she visits a supermarket she can’t risk someone else walking off with the car while she’s inside. So she takes the keys and pays for the minutes.
With cars spread out around a city, fueling up obviously can be an issue. Cars2Go solves that in part by giving drivers an incentive of free rental minutes for filling the tank. (The company pays for all gas and maintenance.) In fact, minutes become a currency of sorts. When my daughter found one car that was left in less than pristine shape she alerted the company and got a bounty of minutes for that.
Now renting Smart cars or Tweeting bicycles is a long way from pooling truck fleets. Yet it’s clear that someone is figuring out how technology can solve some interesting problems that might someday soon help truck fleets reduce empty miles.
From little acorns grow mighty oaks. Who knows what Tweeting bikes can do?
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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