Sera Lewis (email@example.com)
Production editor, IBM
September 2, 2002
The folks who work in the Pervasive Computing lab here at IBM are missing out on some great product ideas. Sera fills them in on stuff that would really sell.
I've mentioned before in this column that I'm not one for little gadgets. My PalmPilot sits lonely in its cradle, gathering dust and failing to replicate. I recently got a cell phone, and managed to call someone simply by throwing my pocketbook into the front seat of my car with a little too much gusto. The first time the phone actually rang, the person hung up before I figured out the sequence of buttons that would let me actually pick up the phone. (Well, I could pick it up, I just couldn't hear anything but the phone ringing.)
When I was trying to explain to someone the other day what the group known as "Pervasive Computing" here at IBM works on (portlets, portals, and cell-phone apps, oh my), it got me thinking about wireless devices I might actually put to use. So here's my wish list. I'm sure someone will get working on these any minute.
A remote for the car stereo. Not for my stereo; for yours. So when you pull up next to me at a stoplight and your radio is so loud my dashboard is vibrating, I'll just smile. And then I'll point my remote at you, lower your volume, and perhaps change the channel to public radio. An added button that shuts off your car alarm would be a bonus. And hey, I wouldn't mind another button that silences the "cute" song your cell phone sings in the movie theater.
While I'm talking about things automotive, a notification device for car owners when their alarm goes off would be nice. Perhaps one of those dog collars that gives a little zap would get them out and shutting the thing off pronto. We could repurpose the collars in the office to allow for remote team zapping when folks start to ramble during conference calls ... three of the folks listening hit a phone key and pzzzzzt!
At work, I'd like a messaging portlet from the microwave that tells me that the oven is empty before I walk down to the break room and pings me when my lunch is cooked. It'd be nice if it also had a proximity indicator for people I owe answers, money, or work to.
I'd also love to see a traffic flow monitor for outside the ladies' room at the baseball stadium or concerts. It could tell me just how long I'd be in line, and warn me in advance if the line inside was just as long as the line outside.
Lest you think I'm only concerned with my own needs: For my husband, a fashion alarm that goes off when he puts shirt and pants together in ways that terrify children and cause dogs to howl. (I, of course, would have the override for my own clever combinations.) Also for him, a gadget that pulls out the checkbook belonging to the person at the front of the grocery line and writes up the check BEFORE the order is totaled.
For my office buddy Steve, a foot-in-mouth alarm that lets him know when he veers off into dangerous conversational territory. (Come to think of it, this one might be useful for lots of folks I know.)
For my boss, a goof-off alarm that tells him when I start writing humor columns instead of editing articles ... ooops! Here he comes now. (Guess he can just use his wireless boss radar, instead.)
More great ideas
Wow! I should have asked all of you for ideas, instead of running around the office (and getting mostly blank stares for my trouble). Here are some of my favorite ideas submitted by readers. Following the advice on the Car Talk site, I've "replaced some unprintable words with more pleasant words," in brackets.
- A button-activated cloaking device to instantly shield you from unpleasant odors (cloying perfumes, body odors, bad breath, flatulence, greasy foods) in public restrooms, elevators, stairwells, offices, office hallways, fitting rooms, grocery-store aisles, etc.
- A remote-control electric shock generator to wake up sluggish drivers whose attention span is exactly two seconds shorter than the duration of the average red light. Perhaps this could also activate a loudspeaker that screams "Wake up, you idiot! Move your [not elbow]!"
- Could we maybe have a button to lower the voice volume of those on cell phones whose calls were answered before we were able to zap them? Like at the restaurant where I had lunch today -- two of the three people were on cell phones talking loudly and oh-so-importantly!
- A Hertzian wave generator that you can point at reckless or rude drivers that shuts off their engine for 15 minutes.
- A mute remote that works on humans.
- Flag 13: Logs off all the surfers and sightseers on the information superhighway.
|About the author|
Sera Lewis is the production editor for IBM developer solutions. She has a compulsion to correct the grammar and spelling of signs posted in the grocery store. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.