How smart are the smart systems ?

Walking down one of Hampstead’s bijoux roads recently I noticed a woman leaning out of an upstairs window explaining to a man at the door that her “smart” lock had locked her in and asking him to try different ways to open the door.


If MediaCom’s strategy director Mark Cochrane is right we can expect much more of this in our homes. A secret tech geek, Mark delivered the “what’s next” presentation at our joint conference with Channel 4 this month “Make our house your home.”  Mark revealed Smart locks, lighting, alarms, coffee makers, blinds and of course cars and fridges all currently on the market though clearly not mass market yet.  You could see the audience taking notes.  Mind you though during the last 24 months I’ve had more power cuts than in the last 24 years; but I’m sure it’ll all be absolutely fine when everything possible is hooked up and the power fails.


In other highlights C4 research head Neil Taylor talked us through the new consumer decision making process.  He warned that the consumer purchase “funnel” is now leaking all over the place and overflowing with unnecessary information and too many choices.  MediaCom planning head Steve Gladdis and strategist Lindsey Jordan explained approaches to counter this for brands, including making stuff simple through bite size chunks of information and use of the credibility of celebrity experts which C4’s Danny Peace illustrated with case studies.  Speaking of experts the glorious Sarah Beeney was interviewed by Damon (move over Chatty Man) Lafford.  Her top prediction? Wall carpets to counter bad acoustics caused by open plan and wooden floors.  Neil had already told us that consumers would like robot vacuum cleaners; surely the launch of wall crawling Roombas can’t be far away?


I too will give some of the smart devices designed for the home and car a go. It strikes me though that very little in the working environment of most offices is smarter.  Have you been in the slightly smarter lifts at Central St Giles, I think that they lack charm.  When I’m working late and concentrating hard at Theobalds Road the lights go off because I’m not moving about enough.  Most new systems seemed designed to outsource effort from central teams that were originally designed to take unproductive tasks away from employees.  You can see the sell (smaller central admin teams), but the individual user might have to jump through more hoops.  Am I being unfair?  Are there “smart systems” out there in the workplace that are increasing individual productivity?


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