I can ask my Amazon Alexa “where’s my stuff” and she’ll tell me. I can tell Google Home to set a timer for 7 minutes so I can boil water for tea and I’ll get the alarm at the right time. Facebook knows that I made plans to talk with Derek tomorrow. Apple knows that I pestered Siri with facts about North Carolina for my daughter’s book report. BUT…
Amazon and Facebook and Google and Apple Don’t Want What’s Best for Me
Because they don’t share.
I can’t ask Siri about my Amazon order (without going into my browser or app). I can’t ask Facebook if I have any timers set right now. Alexa doesn’t know I’m talking to Derek. It’s all a bunch of data silos.
But that’s ME. That’s MY data. That’s the view of my world broken into digital moments. And I wish (beyond reason, because there’s no way these companies will do this) that all the biggest holders of my data would work together to make that data view of my world better.
What If The Big Companies Wanted What Was Best For You?
If I were asking my Google Assistant more than a few times about the Patriots game, what if Apple told me I could buy a live stream of it for $2.99 right now? When I spend two hours in a variety plant-based Facebook groups, what if Amazon asked me if I wanted to order the stuff to make that four bean chili recipe I was gushing over?
That’s the somewhat larger view. Heck, I’d settle for being able to set a timer or an appointment on one system and have the other systems aware that I did it. I’ll show you what I mean:
- I go downstairs to throw some clothes in the laundry machine.
- I use Google Assistant on my phone to set a timer for 34 minutes.
- When I get upstairs, I really just want Alexa to take over the timer duties.
So how could they do it?
I’m not a developer, but I can sketch the thumbnail easily enough.
- Create a database for me about me that all four companies agree to share. (This is where it falls down because all four companies compete and don’t want to share this.)
- Create a detailed data management settings app so that I/you/we can decide which companies are given which data.
- Allow a kind of “exchange” of tasks (like switching the “owner” of the timer).
- Set up frequent “pings” between the services to “sync” which data is best served where.
- All a robust third party integration to build in even more skills and capabilities.
This won’t happen. Ever. But it’s what would make for a much better user experience.
I Don’t Mean IFTTT and Zapier
Those solutions are more like copy/paste and make lots of duplicate data. That is a “fix” but not a “solution.” In fact, it’s like what got us in trouble in the old days with “document management” before the advent of the cloud. So no, not that.
The Even Larger Picture
The use of computers over the last several decades has been keyboard and screen. Then, keyboard mouse and screen. Then touch screens. And then a little bit of VR which is just a face screen and some devices.
But what’s after that? Voice is a big component. Another is distributed computing throughout a bunch of devices. We’ve been used to thinking of our “computer” as that laptop or desktop or phone.
Your car is smarter. Your kitchen will be smarter. Your thermostat. Blah blah blah. And so on. Computing is floating free of specific devices.
And that causes a HUGE challenge/opportunity.
We need a way to keep the context of us, the data of us, central and manageable and shareable so that this new “computers scattered all over the place” reality (which is a lot more now than the future) can best serve us.
Can you see it?