I just came across the Tiles and the Tile smartphone app product (watch video demo here), the product/company that will create the largest lost-and-found in the world.
Below, I’ve highlighted both why I think this is a noteworthy invention and app that we should all download, and two quick ideas for how the value proposition might be further extended.
What I really like about Tiles and the Tile app:
- App harnesses the power of mobile and sensor technologies to remember where it last “saw” a given tile. I guess the app is remembering when and where it last was within a certain proximity of a given Tile.
- App “surfs the crowd” to locate Tiles/items that have been reported as lost/stolen. Much like the winning MIT team from the DARPA Network Challenge, Tiles and the Tile app harness the fundamental power of mobile technologies and the crowd. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tile app soon becomes a top-downloaded/used app of all time, demonstrating people’s comfort with trusting services that–in theory–could be used to infringe on one’s privacy when when the value they are receiving in return is large enough. Working in the mobile technology field, I know that it is easy enough to design the system and tech such that all personally identifiable information is safeguarded, and so I predict Tiles will be a great success so long as the company (Reveal Labs) addresses customer privacy in an opaque and easy-to-understand manner.
- Company makes it easy to recycle Tiles. Since Tiles last one year and electronics are highly toxic to the environment, I like that the company reminds you when it’s time to order new Tiles and also sends you an envelope to recycle your old ones.
The ironic thing now is that Tiles and the Tile app (as a system for locating my most prized possessions) now make my smartphone an even more critical tool in my life, so what do I do to locate my lost/stolen smartphone and the tile I put on it?
Two ideas for further strengthening the value proposition:
1. Integration with police systems
Also, now that Tiles, the Tile app, and cloud can be used to locate stolen items, can a feature be built into the app that enables one share a live feed of a lost/stolen Tile/item location information with police? Or another feature that could enable the owner of a given Tile to request police assistance for retrieving an item at a specific location?
2. Sponsorship by insurance companies
If Tiles and the Tile system can be shown to reduce theft and/or increase recovery of stolen items, will insurance companies be willing to compensate customers who use them? Didn’t car insurance companies reduce premiums for customers who used LowJack?
P.S. The company is currently raising investment funds via Selfstarter, and expects to begin shipping Tiles to customers winter of 2013. You can pre-order Tiles here (limited quantities).
Today, early Facebook employee and now Quora founder, Charlie Cheer, came to Tepper to talk to us about his entrepreneurial experiences in the web 2.0 space. He said a lot of interesting things, but one thing in particular I thought was quite smart and different. When asked how Quora competes with other question-and-answer websites, especially as a late entrant, he said that Quora’s competitive advantage–and I am paraphrasing–
It’s not one big thing, but rather a bunch of little things.
He then went on to give an example of one of these little things that Quora has done with the design of its product; and that’s when I started to believe in my theory that a web-based platform business can not only compete with but beet incumbents with better user-centered design. This made me then wonder why might this be true? Are these web-based platform businesses unique from other businesses in this way? Could any other business enter a market and create better user experiences by simply out-designing the competition?
Fortunately, I had the chance to ask Charlie what his biggest challenge(s) was in running such a web-based platform as opposed to say, a web app that taps into a platform, and he said it was growing the number of users that use the platform. This of course made sense, and so I wondered, if users are the lifeblood of the platform, and the entire user experience dictates whether users continue using, join, or stop using the platform, shouldn’t we expect these platform businesses, which sometimes depend on network effects, to consistently announce that their competitive advantage will be user experience and product/service design?
All businesses need to care about the experiences of their users/customers, but I think network effect-dependent businesses/products may be uniquely positioned to make a focus on user experience design a market entry strategy against a sea of incumbent players. This may be especially true given customers/users have such low costs of switching to competing products.
For all my friends who aren’t too familiar with industrial design and the role it will play in our future, I recommend watching this movie called Objectified. It is available on Netflix.
Some of my favorite highlights from the film are:
- Japanese toothpick design that features a breakable tip that breaks off flat and that is intended to act as a rest to keep the toothpick off dirty surfaces, such as tables, so that you can reuse the toothpick without worry.
- Practitioners of the Japanese craft of bonsai say that one should trim the tree in such a way to imagine that a small bird should be able to fly through the tree.
- For all the time Apple spends on designing its devices, Apple spends a significant amount of time designing manufacturing processes. For example, one critical component of the MacBook Air (a solid piece of aluminum into which multiple other pieces are bolted) required being physically held by a variety of different tooling machines; hence Apple had to figure out how to have its robot tooling machines hold the piece at different stages of its crafting, so that it could be produced in large scale operations.
- An indicator should only be visible when indicating something, and it should therefor be hidden otherwise.
- Design firm SmartDesign, designs for the extremes and lets the middle take care of itself. That is, it designs for the most capable of experts and the most incapable of novices, because the firm believes that such as process yields designs that will naturally satisfy the needs to users that sit between these two extremes. For example, when the firm designed the OXO brand of kitchen utensils, it designed them for use by people with arthritis and weak grips.
- Hamster and hamster-ball directed Rumba vacuum; and the innovations that are made possible by opening up technology platforms for development by third parties. This was an ingenious way to satisfy the random pattern of covering the room floor.
Use Redfin.com to find bargain home prices:
- Use the Redfin search window to find a neighborhood by name or ZIP code. On the “Overview of homes for sale” page that appears, click “reduced listings” to show a list of price-reduced homes in the area.
- On Redfin, at the bottom of each home’s listing page, see “listing price history,” showing the dates and amounts of any price reductions.
- Farther down the same page, you’ll find a bar graph labeled “Should I wait for a price reduction?” This tells you how long homes are staying on the market in the neighborhood and at what point sellers are dropping their prices. You can get an idea if the time is right, given local trends, to make a lower bid. (Read more about this tool here.)
We all do it…but now organizing multi-person meetings will no longer be such an administrative pain thanks to Whenisgood.net. Using this well-designed and simple site is probably the most effecient way for an organizer of a meeting to schedule a meeting that fits all schedules of meeting participants.
Check out the website and a video demo of how it works out at http://whenisgood.net
They even offer a dedicated subdomain for your companies looking to use their product as a company wide tool.