These days, technology can do almost anything. But Amber Case, the self-proclaimed cyborg anthropologist who announced her departure from ESRI at Street Fight’s Local Data Summit Thursday, thinks the frenzy of development may actually be holding back innovation.
“The issue with alerts from your refrigerator is simple: do you really need alerts from your refrigerator?” she said, during an interview with Street Fight COO David Hirschman at the summit in Denver. “You don’t always need a smart chip on your phone or your smart watch or your Google Glass that tells you that you need to refresh something.”
Case calls the growth of connected home devices, which exploded during CES this year, the “dystopian kitchen of the future.” With 20 different companies building 20 different alerts, she argues that the overlap creates confusion and unnecessary complexity.
“The more features you have to support, the more issues you’re going to have,” Case said. “More on-boarding, more training,”
Instead, Case argues that developers should focus on collaboration and reducing — not increasing — the amount of technology used to create a given product. More planning would help companies determine where the overlaps occur and what features are unnecessary.
But it requires developers to change the way they test products as well, said Case. Tests should be run in real-life scenarios. Too many test environments are creating the most opportune, controlled settings to try out technologies, Case said.
“You really need to test a person in the supermarket checkout line,” Case said. “Ask them, ‘Can you download my app, onboard and get it running in three minutes? And not get frustrated?’ And then stand there and look for the points where they’re getting frustrated.”
User frustration is something else that developers should take into account. Case believes that Google rolled out Google Glass to0 early, shocking the general public and setting back the industry. Instead, the product should have launched like the iPhone did, by starting with a small iPod that didn’t have a screen.
“Over the course of 10 years, you saw small features being rolled out,” Case said. “People weren’t freaking out that all of a sudden everyone has a smartphone with a camera in their pockets. Everyone in this room has one, because they were blended into social norms.”
However, one aspect of the industry might be developing too slowly. Case argued that security and privacy will play a bigger part in shaping the way technologies will be developed than other innovations — and yet, the current standards around privacy are incomplete.
“People are putting up with privacy violations and social experimentation and those are big issues,” Case said. “On one hand you have convenience and other you have privacy issues. People will give up a lot of privacy if they’re getting something that is better than what they’re giving up.”
Many users are going through a kind of “second adolescence,” she said, as they try to figure out the ramifications of their privacy being violated.
“It’s usually hot-button scenarios that push forward policy,” Case said. “If you don’t have a hot-button scenario, you don’t have the push to get things changed.”