SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: Technology [en]

Running notes from the SWITCH conference in Coimbra. Are not perfect. Feel free to add info in the comments, or corrections.

Pedro Bizarro

What’s common between a traffic jam, a bad surprise with your energy bill, a heart attack?

Bad surprises can sometimes be avoided if the right person has the right information at the right moment.

Real-time information. Lots of information to process in traffic management, measuring energy consumption, or running a hospital.

steph-note: very dark room and glaring white slides, not helping me focus; grumble: don’t give your whole talk in the dark for a series of dark slides, not worth it — or turn the light down just when you show those slides.

Cheap sensors everywhere, easy to capture information now; ubiquitous networks, no limit to storage.

Use case for this type of technology: monitoring ICU patients to predict risk of cardiac arrest.

Another is monitoring energy consumption in the house, which can give you a prediction for your bill at the end of the month.

Hugo Pinto

Personal journey: getting technology to do stuff to you. Most entrepreneurs have a dream they pursue. Hugo is a bit different — was a strange kid, reading strange kinds of books: SF comics. Imagining he’d play a part in this SF future.

But where are the hover cars, the spaceships, the house robots? A future that never was. Economics have kicked in. Hugo’s probably never going to land on a lunar base anytime in his life.

So, what’s the story? Hugo is a kind of entrepren– dreamer. Programmed during his teens, took computer engineering at university, corporate programming in his 20s, and then management (heck, he lost his way!)

Reboot, back to his dream: can we do pragmatic stuff? Co-started Inovaworks in 2006. Do fun tech stuff that has business value and sell it. Inspiration: read The Muse in the Machine by David Gelernter. (Something about predictive outcomes in creativity steph-note: if I understood right)

Started a company, but ended up getting a state-sponsored fund (around their work on creativity). As always, the company ended up doing some stuff they’d predicted they’d do, and some stuff they hadn’t. For example, more mobile stuff. iPhone apps and casual games. Oropoly (?).

All that they do, they do cheaply (or at least cheapish). Hardware is getting cheaper. Open standards make it easy to exchange knowledge. Globalization helps you connect with people having useful resources, like alibaba.com. 3D printer: horrendously expensive, but they have one for 950$. Not that good quality, but it works great for prototyping!

Unless you’re doing fundamental tech research, technology is about doing stuff. Ideas per se have little market value. Build a prototype, social market the hell out of it, bootstrap or get it financed!

Possible to make great products out of cheap technology. It’s really really hard to protect IP. It’s way easier to just kickstart it by making a product. Going to market is the most important thing nowadays.

Hugo’s company are doing research on interactive 3D. AAA3D as a new enabler. 3D game engines have been maturing, cost of developing this type of interactive media has decreased dramatically.


What about the space thing? Very costly. The chemicals needed to lift you into space are not getting any cheaper. Space elevators and space loops are decades away. Hugo won’t go into space, but can he fake it? Computer imagery, as we have seen, is catching up 🙂 (DID is getting cheaper and cheaper: 290$)

Maybe we’re all going to space 🙂 — 3D cameras on the Mars spaceship!

Here’s a video of Hugo’s talk if you want to watch it.

Frederico Figueiredo

Boosting user experience. Best practices in large enterprises. How to produce good UX. @fredfigueiredo was born the the computer science department of his university 😉

Joined Siemens in 2005 (amongst other things). His passion is usability. Finished his MSc in 2007, papers and talks with people in many parts of the world. Liked basketball — is not just a geek, though he’s probably not in good enough shape to dunk anymore!

Boring ISO 9241 definition of usability. Has to be a better way to explain it!

Effectiveness: accuracy and completeness. Efficiency: ressources expended. Satisfaction: what you gain afterwards.

Fred’s definition: How easy is it for a “user” to do “something” in a given “environment”.

Example: how easy is it for you to know when the next rain is in Amsterdam airport, etc. gives us a bunch of examples of usability fails in offline environments

First step (Nielsen): know your users. This is where you really get value. Observe them in their environment. User-centred design. Put the user in the focus of everything you do.

UX: mix of usability, visual aspects, good design, brand. => nice product people use enthousiastically

In the past, the brands were in control. Now, users are in control, the market is very competitive. Users have expectations based on past experiences, and based on real world experiences. Users are demanding and they don’t always demand the same thing.

Look at the iPhone: less features than any other smartphone on the market, but #1 seller.

But organizations keep providing services and products which are not usable, etc => need usability as a core competence in the organization. Cannot be something external you add on as an afterthought. Quite easy in small organizations, but hard in larger corporations. Nobody gets to meet the CEO. Too much distance between decision power and ideas/concerns. Companies driven by ROI, etc => who cares about usability?

Multiple sites, different cultures, different roles and backgrounds. So many different takes on what usabiilty is.

Bureaucratic processes, turnover.

How can people recognize the brand when they want products that are customized to their needs. Also, hard to know the users as they are so far away. Is usabiity really accepted in a corporation? What can we do about this?

Fight the organization, but intelligently and smoother. Aikido.

  • path to self-discovery, requires a team
  • use the energy of your opponent and make it your own
  • be aware of your environment
  • make the decisions in the action *steph-note: didn’t get that*

Infiltrate. Don’t go in with a big sign saying “I’m here to change your organization”. Observe. Go in as a software designer, etc. Strategy.

Challenge: don’t know what the difference is between a customer and an end-user.

Build a team, an identity, get peer recognition, network, convince other people to pay attention to usability, educate others and train them, and only then can you make a change, make a difference.

It’s all about selling usability, in the end. You don’t sell the concept of usability, but the end product, the value it brings. Sell it with emotion and enthusiasm.

Two of Fred’s favorite tools:

  • presentations: with results/value (what you have gained by applying usability) — but don’t do crap powerpoint, target to the audience
  • just do it!

Luis Borges

We are at war! An information war. Fast, tech-based, and global.

We need new tools to deal with information overload, check for information quality, and support knowledge. steph-note: related, addicted to technology — I’m a bit tired of that topic

“No, you weren’t downloaded. You were born.” comic strip

Time and space.

Places are important for us: where human activity takes place; central for life, learning, work, fun.

Time and space change in the digital world. We’re not sure yet how to use these new “time and space” to support our human activities.

Digital time and space are more independant, elastic.

But! More time to do, less time to react. Space is almost impossible to control, but easy to reach.

The digital world allows time and space to overlap in different ways than in the physical world.

The world suddenly becomes our place, no more boundaries at human scale. We can be in more spaces at the same time. But we cannot not be where we are, or be at another time.

Human limits still apply! Physical location and place remains important.

The world has changed and will never go back.

Digital is part of any place, but we always come back to offline.

steph-note: this is interesting — I’m not sure I agree with everything, but I like the idea of rethinking space and time in the light of the presence of digital technology.

We need tools that free people from data-information-knowledge tyranny steph-note: I disagree, we simply need to set boundaries, learn to say no, etc.

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