We are entering an era of awesome automation. Now that the world is largely operating via the internet and Big Data is starting to give us the ability to make real-time decisions and predictions about our macro and micro universes, true automation is becoming a reality.
Startups thinking about automation are thinking in the right direction. You just need to remember that in order for automation to achieve maximum value, we need it to fit into existing workflows instead of creating more work. Aside from one-time setup tasks, if an “automated” tool causes even one extra click or login, I don’t consider it fully automated.
Some great automation examples:
- Aria by Fitbit My smart Wifi scale is what got me thinking about this. This thing is so awesome because other than 20 minutes to set it up, I don’t do anything different. I just stand on the scale every morning like I always have. But now it stores it automatically, including BMI, and I always have a history.
- Streak my gMail based CRM. Yes, I have an extra step if I want to log e-mails, but the step in the right direction here is that the entire interface is within gMail. It’s essentially an interfaceless platform. My boxes and stages fit right into the gMail interface and I never have an additional login or click out to another site. Even better, the mobile app for Streak pulls your inbox into the CRM. So you’re using email inside the platform that manages relationships. It’s a new way of thinking about integrated platforms, but it is so simple and ultimately makes perfect sense.
- Smart Alarm App – I am now hooked on this app for my iPhone that measures and tracks my sleep cycles (by movement) and will only wake me up at just the right time between cycles. Nothing new to my process– I still set an alarm when going to bed, I still plug in my iPhone, and set it down. The only difference is that I set it on the bed beside my pillow face down instead of on the night stand. Now I feel so much better when I wake up and have awesome data about my sleep quality. (PRO TIP: It does actually record all the noises during the night and you can play them back on a timeline. Good if you need evidence in a “how loud you snore” discussion with your spouse but not so good if you don’t want your pillow talk recorded!)
- Nest I don’t have one yet (hint, hint, click, click, hint, hint). But this is the “learning thermostat” for your house (Or my house?). You just adjust your temperature for a few weeks to be comfortable and it will eventually do it yourself. If you’re like me, you already adjust your thermostat constantly (even if you have a schedule set on it) so with the Nest, after you do it a few times, you will realize you don’t need to anymore. It will think for you.
- IFTTT – (Stands for: If This Then That) Of course all techies know this as the ultimate personal automation app. It allows you to set triggers and build automated actions between the apps you use. I have it set to copy photos in my iPhone Photostream to my Dropbox (since I consider this my “master” for photo storage), and I have it set to download photos I’m tagged in on Facebook to my Dropbox as well. I’m only dabbling so far compared to the true power of IFTTT.
One bad automation example:
My Infiniti JX can almost drive itself. It won’t rear-end another car, it will pull you back into the lane if you drift. It will even stop and start acceleration through rush hour traffic maintaining perfect distance behind the car in front of you using radar cruise control. However, big failure point—- you have to TURN ON all those great features with a button the steering wheel. They are neat features, but they aren’t truly helpful automation just yet because when I need it most will undoubtedly be the time that I forget to turn it on. (And no you can’t set it to be on by default, a big problem).
I love automation. I can’t wait to see the things that are automated for us over the next 10 years.