Episode Ninety Five: Health; Smart Cars; Odds

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

It’s 11:45pm here on the west coast, so I’m cutting it fine. This is probably the latest and closest to midnight I’ve written one of these weekdaily episodes and I don’t think I’ve quite yet found a post-employment rhythm to them yet. It’s been a one-and-a-half episode of In the Night Garden night, along with a oh-look-the-cat-brought-in-a-quarter-of-a-mouse night along with a it-was-quite-nice-whilst-you-were-sleeping nights with my son. And so: it’s late. And I want to go to bed. And I’m tired. But, I’ll still write.

1.0 Health

So I’m still thinking about Health-the-app and HealthKit and the use-cases and the things that we can’t talk about from the WWDC session videos and I’m kind of relaxing my stance a little and trying to be a little bit less grumpy and less reactionary. I suppose the thing is this: if you take a somewhat more reasonable attitude than the utopian quantified-selfers, then sure, having *access* to more information about your health to allow you to take more informed decisions is probably a good thing.

But then ask yourself this: when was the last time we were able to build something that gave you reasonable access to information so you had a sort of awareness, but didn’t feel intruded upon or overloaded? Or, do you necessarily trust for-profit models to not try to monopolise your attention? I think what I’m getting at is this: it’s not clear what Google was going to do with Google Health. It’s kind of clear what Microsoft were – are – trying to do with HealthVault, because it’s a typically Gates/Ballmer-era move: some sort of enterprise-the-business-is-actually-our-customer solution that in principle gives you access to your health record. Apple – whether through dint of great positioning or not – seem to have a take on Health and managing your medical information that they just want to help you out. Sure, it happens to be on their device, locked into their platform, but they’re just kind of sucking everything out of existing data sources and then plumbing it together with a much more usable interface.

On the one hand I’ve seen claims that if Apple saves even one life thanks to an emergency health record that’s carried inside the Health app (much like the trend for having an address book contact named ICE – In Case Of Emergency – in UK phones), then they’ll have achieved something tangible and worthwhile. Leaving aside the issue that for someone to access that information it would need to be easily accessed *whilst you were unconscious, and your phone was locked* and figuring out how to maintain access controls that would restrict and safeguard any sensitive information contained therein.

On the other hand is the more specific example – which makes sense when you listen to it, but not in some other reports – of the Health app being able to notify your primary care provider (or whomever needs to know) when you record a blood pressure reading that is *outside of a defined range*. Again, leaving aside the whole issue of “well, what doctor is able to respond to such constant notifications” (part of the answer being: well, nurse practitioners, obviously).

This might seem really obvious, but I suppose the point is: what can we build now that someone’s decided to fix this problem of not knowing about the stuff your body’s up to. It’s not a particularly pressing problem (at least, we don’t know how pressing it is and what the implications will be), but at least there’s an option for better access to medical information that isn’t precluded on the model of you checking it all the time to see if you’re hitting your daily goal.

2.0 Smart Cars

I had my first ride in a Smart Car – actually, the car2go variant – when a friend I’m working with got us one to pop down town for lunch. They’re pretty, well, smart: a bit minimum viable car: you turn round in the passenger seat and realise: holy crap, there’s no rest of car there, it just *stops* like some sort of horror movie. The integration is nice, and I suppose it’s what you get when you have Mercedes doing the whole thing end-to-end rather than what Zipcar’s doing with retrofitting remote access to whatever cars they can get their hands on (side note: Zipcar’s car’s are significantly less fun in the Portland area now that they’ve been acquired by Avis Budget and instead of sporty zoomy things are now boring Ford Focuses), so when we entered the car the central display said something along the lines of “Hello Evan” and invited my friend to enter his PIN.

We agreed, though, that there was a significant lack of personalization pushed through to the car. The mapping system that’s built in looks kind of in-house (but I couldn’t really tell) – again, it was kind of minimum viable mapping, but what you’d at least like would be some sort of “hey, we linked this with your Google/Foursquare/Swarm/whatever account and here are the top five places you normally go, if you’d like directions.” We didn’t really get a chance to use the nav system because I’m a human who knows how to get from a small number of places to another small number of places, but it would’ve been interesting to see if search history persists across car-sharing sessions.

3.0 Odds

It looks like there’s a small number of you who already read this who’d be interested in buying, or supporting, a best-of collection. And I realise that perhaps I was looking at this the wrong way because you’re all obviously reading this in the first place. So the best-of isn’t really for you, it’s for everyone who hasn’t read my newsletters yet. There were some good suggestions along the lines of “don’t just collate them, edit them and do the easy thing”, pointing out that what some people like about these episodes are that they are a bit stream of consciousness and what I should instead do is to try to replicate that experience or at least go a little bit deeper into it. I have to admit that the thought of doing a podcast is alternately a bit terrifying and a bit thrilling, partly because some of the most fun times I’ve had have been conference panel sessions with a bunch of friends where we’re essentially chatting (and, from what I can tell, the audience enjoyed them too), and terrifying because hey all public speaking is terrifying even if you end up enjoying it in the end.

I have a big spreadsheet at the moment. I caught myself, in a slightly weird moment, saying to my wife that I missed Salesforce. We used to use Salesforce (and also used Highrise) a little bit at Six to Start, the company I co-founded with my brother Adrian to track all the leads that we were getting and to try to model our revenue and sales pipeline. What I learned from that was that modelling that kind of of pipeline was stupendously infuriating because in reality, it didn’t really feel like a pipeline at all. It felt like a really badly written progress bar indicator that would move really quickly for a bit and then get stuck at 98% for like three weeks and then either sprint across to completion or just hang and you’d have to force-quit the process.

So anyway: I have a spreadsheet and it has a list of all the people I’m talking to and all the people I want to talk to and what I last did and what I have to do next and how much it might be worth to me and when I should hustle or hassle them again and I think: man. Someone should make this better. Email is so broken in so many ways. I shouldn’t have to use a spreadsheet for this. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m being overly anal and instead regular people are able to keep track of all of this in their heads. Or regular people really love using Salesforce.

All of that is, I suppose, a roundabout way of saying: I’m still interested in, and looking to have, conversations with interesting people who are interested in working with me. I’m looking for consultancy/freelance contracting at the moment, and preferably a retainer relationship where I can do some thinking and doing for you. If you need someone who’s super good at product strategy, or need to bridge the gap between traditional communications and product/service design, or you’re thinking about (or doing) something in mHealth or wearables or the quantified self and want to talk to someone who has, I think, a lot of smart opinions about where things should be going, drop me a line. Or check out my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/danhon. Or if you know someone, point them in my direction.

Gosh, that felt really dirty.

Now send me notes saying how it shouldn’t have felt dirty.