General Tech Health Mobile Tech

How Little Data changed my life

In my work life I am driven by data around the businesses I have responsibility for. Whether it’s revenue, traffic, clicks, dollars saved, data is a big part of how I understand things. It gives me the ability in a digital world to follow trends, track objectives, experiment with new ideas to improve metrics and know whether myself and my team are making things better or worse.

Late last year after a visit to the doctor’s office for a checkup that was long over due, I discovered my cholesterol was through the roof. High enough that even determining risk factors for heart conditions was not possible. My thoughts immediately turned to my beautiful family and especially my daughter who just turned two in April. After getting to my forties and fairly certain I was not going to have a family, I met the one. I knew it from the moment I met her. We have been married for three years now. We had a perfect, beautiful, fun and smart little girl that neither of us thought we would have. I can’t imagine not being there for as long as I possibly can. Doing everything it takes to be there for them and also to enjoy every moment with the people I love.

So I immediately started taking stock of my lifestyle. Diet needed to change. Activity levels were at an all time low brought on by my long commutes in a car to work, long hours and running out of hours in the day. Getting my diet back on track was fairly easy and my weight dropped quickly. Then as 2014 started I decided I also needed to get my fitness levels back on track or I would be eating salad and grilled chicken for ever. I started slowly by working out on a stationary bike every other day. I committed myself to getting up at 6AM every day to get a few extra hours. I also wanted to support my wife in getting some time in the mornings too for her own goals. So on days I wasn’t working out, I still got up at 6AM and hung out with my daughter. The gym was monotonous. It was something that had to be done, but not something that I was excited about.

In February we took a much needed break together to sunny Florida. While there I committed myself to still staying active. The gym was about 2-3 km from where we were staying. I walked the first day to go see what they had in the gym. I used an app for that! My first Little Data. It told me how far I walked, calories, speed, route. I had a first taste of Little Life Data KPI’s. The next day as my personality is want to do, I wanted to improve my life KPI’s. I went for a run. Sort of. Ran two minutes, gasped, ran when I stopped gasping and repeated for 5km or so. But my numbers were better! My brother-in-law then said he would come with me the next day. Well now I had to do it again. I was sore from the day before, but went out again, smartphone in hand running my KPI collector apps and some tunes to keep me distracted. Data said I did slightly better again.

Since then I have run almost 500km, burned 48,000 calories, lost 20lbs (40lbs since the journey began last year). I can now run over 10km at a not bad pace and log about 25km per week on the road. Each day I see in numbers that I am running faster, farther and becoming stronger. I feel antsy if I don’t run because I wonder if my KPI’s will go backwards. I need to see the graph and the numbers get better! I enjoy the feeling after especially the long runs. There is also a certain meditative state to keeping moving for an hour or more and willing yourself not to stop. I look at my watch and it tells me my heart rate at the time which I now know what that means for my ability to keep the pace up or if I can push a bit more. It also instantly tells me how fast I’m going and how much farther I have to run to get to my goal for the day. The Personal Records keep improving every few weeks.

I get home and plug-in my watch and look at my dashboards updated for the day. I see the data of friends who inspire me to keep improving as well. It’s my new daily habit that I believe is now going be a life habit. Little Data tells me every day that I’m doing better. Instant feedback.

Business Mobile Tech Strategy

Mobile payments – the battle for your whole wallet, not just your money

The first time I saw an NFC payment service was for a trial in a food court about ten years ago. I don’t recall who the solution was being provided by. They had signed up a number of the vendors in the food court in my office building to use the payment service which required the consumer to carry a key fob. It was not tied to a credit card but rather was a separate account to which money could be painfully transferred several days in advance. All so we could tap and go on transactions that were less than $10. Between credit cards, PDA’s, cell phones, cash, ID, keys for my car, keys for my house, my security card for parking, security card for the office my pockets were jammed full.

I looked at the person trying to sign me up and asked them why would I possibly want a thing like this? I could see the advantage for the merchant if it shortened the time spent at cash and kept people moving through the food court. But what was in it for me? Something else on my key chain? Well because you can just tap and go I was told. It works instantly? Well no it still goes through a dial-up terminal like a credit card to be authorized and approved. So out of my typical 45 seconds of waiting, I was shaving about 3 seconds from my time. Not a big reward for my key chain real estate.

Fast forward to 2013 and NFC smart cards have all been in Canadian wallets for a few years now. We regularly tap and go or insert the smart chip but now with an actual credit card rather than an intermediate step to connect funds to the payment method. Many of the terminals now are hooked up to high speed Internet access which results in authorizations taking mere seconds. My wallet still bulges though with multiple credit cards, driver’s license, health card, gift cards, memberships cards and many other things.

While I worked at Rogers I participated in an employee trial using NFC technology integrated into a mobile phone for mobile payment. This was a few years before they became so common place in most smartphones other than iOS. We could use them tied to a credit card initially only at the company cafeteria but then by select merchants near our office. It was amazingly simple, fast and I didn’t have to take out my wallet for anything. The same experience as using a smart credit card but I didn’t need the card any more. Just my phone which I have with me 24/7. A recent update at AndroidTO by David Robinson, VP Emerging Business at Rogers finally clicked the lights on.

The phone is the last ID you and I will ever need. All mobile devices are connected in a multitude of ways: NFC, Bluetooth Low Energy (4.0), WiFi and high speed mobile data (HSPA, LTE). An NFC enabled phone can take the place of every smart card in my wallet of which there are more coming in Canada as government and transit authorities also adopt the technology. The US has not followed the NFC path on credit card so things will take a different course south of the border where perhaps Beacon technologies based on BLE or WiFi check-ins will come of age sooner and skip NFC all together. In Canada, Europe and many other countries NFC is already in use. The infrastructure is there and very secure. There is no need to invent new methods of security, convince merchants to do it differently. It just works. Now.

Mobile payments are the wedge use case to change our wallets forever. It can be so much more than a credit card. It can communicate friend-to-friend to transfer cash, it can be placed on a reader at the subway station to let me on. There is nothing in my wallet now that can’t make its way to my smart phone. So what’s in it for me?

I don’t need to carry a wallet any more as well as a phone. I don’t even need to carry keys, security passes. The combination of technologies will support even automatic checkins on an opt-in basis which mean I never even have to take my phone out. As some of the conceptual videos from PayPal’s Beacon have already shown, I will also be instantly known to the establishment I enter and all of my preferences available to improve the service given to me.

My pockets are now lighter and my service experience so much more personalized. Sign, me, up!!!