Monday, March 23, 2015

To what extent would you go to help with research?

For the longest time I have not thought of Ikea – I hate furniture assembly, the tool I know how to use is my phone, so in the end it is not even worth it to buy “assembly required” stuff. Reminds me of the time at Tandem when a new printer arrived with the instructions composed somewhere outside of the English speaking zone and one step listed was to fringer the part in place. Ever since all of us involved in the exercise of assembling this printer say “go fringer!” whenever a situation calls for “go figure!”

But I digressed. The thing is in the past few days I have been forced into thinking about Ikea. First, CNN Money reported how the new Ikea night tables will charge our phones wirelessly. See http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/02/technology/ikea-furniture-charge-phones/?iid=EL Getting rid of the wires has been my personal dream for the longest time,  for a very evident reason, too.

Well, today I read an article in the Fortune magazine about Ikea growth and expansion to the less developed countries, http://fortune.com/2015/03/10/ikea/

Author, Beth Kowith, wrote a particularly disturbing paragraph about Ikea:
“One way Ikea researchers get around this is by taking a firsthand look themselves. The company frequently does home visits and—in a practice that blends research with reality TV—will even send an anthropologist to live in a volunteer’s abode. Ikea recently put up cameras in people’s homes in Stockholm, Milan, New York, and Shenzhen, China, to better understand how people use their sofas. What did they learn? “They do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV,” Ydholm says. The Ikea sleuths found that in Shenzhen, most of the subjects sat on the floor using the sofas as a backrest. “I can tell you seriously we for sure have not designed our sofas according to people sitting on the floor and using a sofa like that,” says Ydholm.”

And this brings me to my question: To what extent would you go to help with research? The presence of the cameras, the ability of things I use to “spy” on me and report – just see the offer from AT&T: https://my-digitallife.att.com/learn/ShopHomeAutomation.html .

I am not sure I really like it, and today I read another story about Ikea: http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/17/news/companies/ikea-hide-and-seek/index.html Virginia Harrison writes: “The Swedish furniture retailer wants shoppers to stop playing hide-and-seek in its stores as the game attracts a growing following on social media. We are very happy that people are playful but safety must prevail," said spokesperson for the Ikea Group Martina Smedberg. "Please don't play hide-and-seek in Ikea stores." It all started in Belgium last year when a woman put playing hide-and-seek in a Ikea store on her pre-30th birthday bucket list. Smedberg said she turned up with some of her friends and everyone had a great time. The game has also been played in Sweden.

But now things are getting out of control. The practice looks set to ramp up from a few friends to something much bigger. Word is spreading on Facebook and similar events are planned in Europe and Canada. 19,000 people have signed up to an event at an Amsterdam store next month. That's prompted the furniture retailer, which has 315 stores in 27 countries, to call time on the games.”

I am thinking it is only fair that people play hide and seek in the stores of the company that does its research by installing cameras and watching what you do on your sofa in the privacy of your home!  Yes, Ikea found out that folks “do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV” – and I for sure would not consent to cameras in my family room! Perhaps, setting aside sections of their stores where real customers can be filmed using select furniture pieces as a follow-on to hide and seek may be a solution!

Getting rid of the wires certainly needs little additional research. No one needs to mount cameras in my office to fully understand the problem. Something needs to be done – and perhaps it’s already being addressed and I just have to find something that works a lot better in my environment. When it comes to NonStop systems as long as I recall the vulnerability was in the connections; there were wires plugged into chassis by NonStop engineers installing systems on customers’ premises.

I travelled to Australia in the early 1990s to look at government-funded research into very high-speed wireless connections with the intent to verify if the then to be announced S-Systems could be packaged with wireless interconnect. Such a connection model would mean NonStop would come with a life-time warranty. Something Product Management was keen to explore. Perhaps the failure to proceed with the technology was more a case of not being able to present a viable business case, but then again, as I look back on that trip, maybe I should have taken a lot more photos or, at the very least, set up a video feed for potential clients to check out.

3 comments:

JustinHP said...

Hi Margo,
This is probably a precursor to installing reporting sensors in the sofa. As many articles attest based on the coming Internet of Things, companies selling products will be anxipus to understand usage of the products by lifetime tracking. I think we cross the 'creepy' line very quickly but that doesn't mean it's not coming....

Margo Holen said...

Yeah, Justin, I agree....There will be benefits, for sure, but I am not convinced I care to participate :-)

Anonymous said...

@Justin: Coming to a Sleep Number bed near you?

(shudder)
Bill Honaker