Last week I was in Austin, TX with a few thousand of my closest friends for the annual South by Southwest conference.
If you’ve ever been you know that there are so many events and sessions to attend that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Some of the sessions I attended really inspired and motivated me. Others fell short. Overall though, I’m walking away with new perspective and ideas that will stick with me for a while. I want to talk about one of those today.
I went to a panel discussion called “Designing Daily Positive Additions”. One of the members of the panel was David Rose. David is an instructor at the MIT Media Lab. He said something during the session that struck me. It was a great sound bite. We were talking about how to use technology to help people live healthier lives and he said that we should stop focusing so much on building mobile apps and start building furniture.
Furniture?! I was lost. So as I began planning my exit from the session, he continued and I came to understand what he meant. His point is that you don’t think about using furniture. It’s there, you use it. It’s habit. And by the simple fact that you’re using it, you’re giving it data. It just doesn’t know how to capture it. Compare this to the many mobile apps for consumers designed to improve health which require users to record data manually. What if the things we used every day captured some of this same data automatically?
One of the examples he used was the Glow Cap. He and his team designed this to address medication adherence. It fits on the traditional prescription pill bottle that we’re all familiar with. When it’s time for you to take your medicine, it glows. Then, because the cap is connected to a cellular network, it records when the bottle was opened and can send that data to the doctor or pharmacy. You didn’t have to record anything. You just used what was already there and let the inanimate object capture the data. .
Now, to be clear, his point was not that we should stop pursuing mobile applications. Rather, it was that health applications can fit into everyday things if we expand our approach to the problem.
I am still a big fan of mobile technologies and believe they provide efficiency and accuracy in the delivery of care. The reason I find his perspective refreshing is that it reminds me that there is room for innovation outside of the smartphone. I love technology. I really love technology. Mobile gets a lot of attention and will no doubt deliver some amazing products in the future. It already has. But let’s not forget about the ways we can build better mousetraps in the everyday things around us.