When was the last time you turned off your phone? Like, actually shut it down. No calls, no messages, no emails, no apps. Just off. In most cases, this is a device with a lot of power, held very close to your person, and it rarely has the opportunity to take even a five-minute break. Unless you are forced to do a system restart, which feels utterly grueling for that minute or two, your phone is constantly running. The same thing goes for things like wi-fi. The instant there’s a hitch, you’re immediately aware of it, much like a spider sensing that something has pricked the web.
In the modern age, technology influences many things, such as our routines, purchases, and general lifestyles. Everyday items, such as TVs, appliances, vehicles, toys, security systems, and so much more, are heavily weighted on their ability to connect to wi-fi, download associated apps, or simply link to another device in some manner.
Living within this network of life-governing information, when any of these items shut off or disconnect out of turn, people tend to feel an immediate sense of isolation. In a very real sense, for some among us, tech integration has become a digital heartbeat. Things like the smartphone, wi-fi, apps, and the newly-incorporated 5G can easily insert themselves into our lives and become a staple of our every day while also increasing their own complexity. As a result, people get comfortable and develop a dependency on a new standard of day-to-day living. Like plenty of modern advancements in past generations, we didn’t know that we couldn’t live without it until it was already here to stay.
But how does something that starts out relatively simple manage to bind itself so thoroughly to our lives? Social media, for example, started as a fun and occasional way to connect with one another. A few decades later, it is now an ever-present fundamental of society, relevant in government legislation, business-building, and capable of making or breaking any relationship. How does any aspiring innovation reach these heights?
For a new technology to take its place as the equivalent of a “household name,” there are a few standards it must meet:
We all strive for convenience as a way to make our lives easier. With the infinite daily tasks that rob you of your given thought cycles, a better way to remember something or the ability to have it done for you is much more enticing than committing it to your physical “to do” list. Grabbing your phone on the way out the door is as common as reaching for your keys, purse, or wallet. Why? Because over time, if it hasn’t already, your phone’s convenience will let you replace all these things. If an app can lock your doors or start your car, if your payment info can be stored and accessed as needed, well, what more do you really need to step out the door? Even if you’re not sure how long you’re going to be out, that’s no big deal. You can turn on your lights and start the oven before you get home if it gets to be too late. Any tech must progressively make life easier if it is to stick around.
Simplicity is something we shouldn’t have to think about, as that is the very nature of the word. When anybody has to think too intently about how to make a product work, or if it becomes a significant undertaking, like learning a whole new software, the actual user group will be harder to grow. This is also part of the reason that trends exist. People like familiarity with the things they do. If others have already been vocal about the ease of immediate use, then inherently, a new tech experience becomes less intimidating and spreads like wildfire. On the other hand, if the experience becomes more complicated than the convenience it provides, the only function it offers is dust collection.
Cost-effectiveness is always a must for the general population. Making things affordable at the consumer level influences the ability to sell and spread a new technology. To again reference the typical smartphone, the average cost can come in around $1,000 for any user not subscribed to a plan of some sort. Things like multi-year deals and payment plans are essentially geared towards making a profit while simultaneously presenting an attractive price to multiple levels of consumer buyers. Does $1,000 seem like a lot? Certainly! How about $30 a month instead? Now you have my attention. After the tech has become essential, the additional fees for making lives more convenient fall right in line with utility bills and mortgage payments. A pain, perhaps, but an accepted one.
Accessibility is becoming more of a constant in the world of the spider’s web. For those on the go in a busy life, reaching out to your technology from anywhere is both important and expected. Consider daily activities and their place in a workday. If instead of visiting the bank or the department store, committing to a full grocery run, and reading the paper, someone could alternatively check their accounts, buy clothing and food, and receive the latest sound bites all from their smartphone, they certainly would. In fact, they already do.
Easy maintenance is a vital portion of the tech experience, although in an unusual way. With continual advancements in our electronics’ complexity, many of our most common devices are beyond the average user’s skill to diagnose and repair. Instead, the concept of easy maintenance is often delivered through a robust customer service FAQ, easy returns on defective products, and intelligent support services that can help maintain full functionality without overly burdening the customer. Things like battery life, storage capacity, and security are often the only basics a typical person tends to concern themselves with to keep the machine running.
Year to year, what is the new level of consumer tech standard? Experts bounce their speculation back and forth frequently, but a new standard is often integrated before we’re fully aware of it. It takes the precise combination of well-developed hardware, software, and a cultivated user base existing in a symbiotic relationship to generate the next level of “groundbreaking new technology.” Then you blink, and it’s just a part of life.
—Cam McKenzie & Joe Nemeth, St. Onge Company