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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mobile Devices - The New Business Model

Currently almost all the "valuable" functionality of the mobile phone is derived from connecting with the network. Almost all business models are based around this central theme and already there is a lot of clutter in this space. However there is a lot of space for innovative business models to exploit inter-device interactions. The next stage of development of mobile devices will be in exploitation of the inter-device interaction.
The "Close-By" opportunity
One serious impediment for exploitation of mobile services is the lack of location tracking at close range. At the most a phone can be tracked to the nearest tower. Lets imagine if it were possible to track a phone right down to within 5-10 meters. We all know Bluetooth can enable this very effectively.
The stumbling block
First constraint is that people switch off their bluetooth communications. Can one overcome this constraint? Of course, if offers are flashed only on bluetooth then people will switch on their bluetooth.
Second is privacy. People will not welcome spam on their mobile devices. Frankly the messages one gets while roaming are extremely irritating.
Third is security. Why will I enable my bluetooth connections for others to send messages to me? Will it mean I will be exposed to Viruses or any other threats?
The Bright Idea
To avoid this advertisers need to place constraints on themselves. These could be enforced technologically too. Like for example imagine a program, a bluetooth message trasmitter server and a receiver client, that makes sure the messages are customised and welcome. How?
Imagine the "client program" has options that let me choose the products for which I want offers. The "server program" knows and only sends me those offers that I have asked for!! This "client program" can be freely distributable with mobile phones (just like our dear Adobe Acrobat). The "server program" will be bought by local advertisers (shops, malls, bus service providers etc) and telecom companies will run them. We all know that the "client Program" can be configured to be independant accepting only from "known" "server programs" thus eliminating security threats.
In sum...
I think this means my mobile experience will be much more valuable, there will be additional revenue for Telecom service providers, and local advertisers will have lower advertising cost enabling highly targetted advertising. Wont it make a better world? What Say?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Engineering Diamonds

While I am on the subject of Jewellery, let me also say a few words about diamonds. The biggest question that faces a layman like me is about the authenticity of the diamond, its material (is it really a diamond or is it polished glass!!), the cuts (apparantly more of them are better), weight in carats, flaws ( diamonds always have some of them). Not many people can look a diamond in the eye or pass light through it and tell if its a great piece or not. We all go by experts view. Is there any other way?
Optics and Diamonds
At the core of diamonds value is light or better optics. A diamond appears bright and sparkles. Also when light is passed through a diamond it forms patterns. When the diamond is manufactured they should establish what pattern it forms and share it with the consumer.
So long as the light is consistent (same frequency) and the way it is passed is consistent ( angle of incidence etc) it should produce the same pattern throughout the life of the diamond. This can be used as a metric to measure the genuine-ness of the diamond. For example, it should be possible to design or designate one particular frequency of light that shall be used for the purpose of reading patterns. Using this it is possible to create a testing equipment which can observably indicate if the diamond is of high quality or if its quality has deteriorated.
Artistic Inclinations and Observable Quality
Turning the idea around, theoritically, it is possible to design a diamond's cuts given a light pattern. Lets say a hexagon of certain dimension with bright vertices is a pattern. Now can we work back from this pattern and arrive at what design will form such a pattern? I think we can. Just that not much "engineering" thought has gone into designing of diamond patterns.
The general artisty in diamonds is currently confined to ability to design the cuts that creates the best value. Another form of artisty can be applied to diamonds and that will be pattern creation. The more complicated the pattern (and more recognisable) the more value can be derived from the diamond.
People can be offered diamonds that emit a pattern (under certain conditions) that says "I love you" or "Ferrari" or "Intel Inside" and even customized names like "Rahul" and the value of these diamond can appreciate far more. I am sure once this happens it wont be long when real pictures can be encoded into these diamonds so that the pattern that they form is actually a photo. And that will be the first step in making diamonds more valuable. All it needs is a few engineers putting their heads into the design departments in this industry. Dont you think so?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Engineering Jewellery

Long ago I had a look at various kinds of Jewellery designs. The designs I saw were uninspiring and dated. Considering that India is one of the biggest consumer of Gold and that too in jewellery form with a history dating thousands of years in jewellery design, this was totally unexpected. Through each of the designs I found there are only x number of patterns out there in the market. The forms of jewellery is also the same. I kept looking for innovation as the industry became more and more organised. But alas! No innovation in a product of such a high value!!! I believe the main problem is that currently the industry is dominated by artists rather than engineers.

Base of Jewellery Design
At the base of jewellery design are three basic items:
  1. Designing patterns (these form the elements): This aspect is more of the artist type of work where differnet designs are created through use of symmetry, forms and look. These we will call "elements".
  2. Designing links (that hold various elements together): If you observe different jewellery pieces (except the ring) you will find that various elements are meant to position themselves on the wearer's body. The links help positioning these elements and holding them together.
  3. Designing Clamps or holders for gems: The element comprises of gems or diamonds(sometimes it doesn't). These gems (and diamonds) are required to be held by clamps. These are of different types crab-like or ring-like and many more.

Two paths for innovation from Engineers!
First would be bringing CAD (Computer Aided Design) to this field. I think using CAD far more imaginatively designed links can be used. In fact engineers can effectively use their design skills to make the links the focus of attention (thus morphing them into elements) or submerge them totally so that they stay invisible to the observer.
Second would have (I believe) far reaching consequences. For example, imagine a necklace that can morph from a simple necklace into an elaborate bracelet or a watch! Or imagine a necklace that you can customize with a set of jewels! This will lead to buy once and use as many!! Girls can wear one configuation each day and never will people know its just the same necklace reconfigured!

The Future of Jewellery!
Of course human infatuation with jewellery will continue! (Ok, its female infatuation for jewellery and male infatuation for females!) However, in no way has the industry even scratched the surface of innovation. The answer to me seems to lie in increasing involvement of engineers in this field.