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When Technology isn’t the Answer

I was having lunch with a friend and fellow IT professional recently and during our discussion we talked about how we both feel like we are at a revolutionary time with technology.  In many ways it feels like we’re re-living the excitement of the dot com era.  Non-stop buzz around the latest and greatest gizmos—an ever increasing number of them Internet-connected, electric cars, rockets delivering a payload to space and then landing on a barge in the ocean, and it seems like everyone and their brother has a drone.  Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites seem to have a never ending supply of the next greatest gadget that’s going to change everyone’s life.  But will it?

Less than a decade ago hardly anyone had a smart phone – if they did it was likely a brick with the rough dimensions of a Blackberry or perhaps a Treo.  Remember those?  Today many middle—and sometimes even elementary—school kids are walking around with an iPhone.  Truly a game-changer.  Up and coming, the Internet of Things movement is on a quest to connect seemingly every single item a person could possess to the Internet.  Does the world really need smart kitchen drawer pulls?  Admittedly, some of these gadgets such as a smart thermostat, irrigation controller or LED lighting system can at times save quite a bit of money while providing additional convenience.  

The truth is that there is always a price to pay with technology.  Sometimes technology is an extremely useful tool that can help make you more efficient and increase quality of work and life.  Sometimes it’s nothing more than a distraction and a drain on already tight resources(be it time, money or something else).  Remember the old saying that cautioned against buying the first model year of a car because it was likely to have problems?  The same is very much true in the technology world.  Though most of the time they would never admit to it, companies have become really adapt at releasing the first version of a new product as a beta and then leveraging feedback received from their user base to improve the next version.  It’s a fantastic idea on the business side – pay for initial design and engineering while assuring that it’s a good enough starting point and then release it to mass market to get additional feedback and use the funds to further develop the product.  

As an end-user, it often feels like getting duped.  Standing in line for the chance to be the first owner of whatever gadget pretty much guarantees that you’ll be the first to discover its shortcomings.  Not to mention the inherent security risks related to hacking and identity theft many of these devices carry.  If you have the time to deal with customer service, product exchanges or warranty work, more power to you.  Me?  I’m going to wait for at least the third generation of those kitchen drawer pulls.  Until then, I’m going to have to rely on my trusty 20/20 vision to tell me that I have indeed closed my junk drawer.

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