Tech has no love for the family man

first_imgOur households are becoming more and more connected every day. Services from companies are beginning to infiltrate our homes, breathing new life into our every appliance. Televisions, printers, tablets, they are all devices that have been greatly improved by constant internet access. Televisions are smarter, printers can now receive instructions from anywhere in the world, and tablets sit on desks and coffee tables in the house just begging to be used. All of these devices bring along something unique and beneficial, yet they all suffer from the same critical flaw. Not a single one of these products, nor the services that power them, are designed with a family in mind.Here are some devices and services that had great potential, but forgot about the multi-user aspect.Google Cloud PrintGoogle has given users the power to send a file to the printer in your home from anywhere in the world. Using just your Gmail account, you can send any file through Google Cloud Print and it will start printing in moments. The service really speaks to the power of the modern internet, and the capabilities of cloud services in general. Unfortunately, the engineers at Google seem to think that the only people interested in this service are people who live alone — Cloud Print is bound to your Google Account. Only someone with the password to your Google account can use it. All of the power of the cloud, completely wasted when you live in a house with two teenagers who have their own computers. The family printer doesn’t benefit from this powerful feature at all.Google TVMy television has Google Chrome, YouTube, and a ton of apps that let me do quite a bit more than I can do with any other TV out there. I can even sit from across the room and navigate my TiVo with my smartphone, all through the functionality of this smart TV. My friend recently sent me this really funny video on YouTube. I enjoyed it so much I decided to add it to my favorites. Meanwhile, back at home, my 7-year-old daughter could be using the family television and stumble across my favorites list. Did I mention that video wasn’t suitable for kids? Having your Google account on your television gives you access to some great combined features, but as soon as you put your personal Gmail on your TV, it stops becoming a family device.TabletsGoogle, Apple, RIM, HP… all of these companies have made incredible strides with tablets. Obviously some have been more popular than others, but there is no denying that these small yet incredibly powerful computers offer us a great way to consume media and surf the web. Some people have even managed to be productive with them. As great as these machines are, they all fail in the exact same places. They lack multiple accounts.This isn’t a new concept, either. Windows, OS X, Linux have all had multiple account login for years. You put a tablet in a house full of people, and it lives on the coffee table in the living room. If someone needs it, they just scoop it up and use it, and return it when they are finished. Now, as the owner of that tablet, you are out and about one day when your wife picks up the tablet to use it, and is bombarded by notifications from emails, instant messages, and more from you planning her surprise birthday party. It not only seriously detracts from the experience, but it leaves you vulnerable to having your private conversation intercepted.BiscottiThere have been several attempts in the past year to bring video chatting into the living room, and I think that if anybody has a shot at making that work, it is Biscotti. Their product is incredibly simple to setup, simple to use, and does the one thing it advertises it will do really well. All it does is allow you to video chat with anybody over Google Talk. If you have a computer, smartphone, or even a television with a Biscotti, you can video chat.Unfortunately, this would never work in my house. I have hundreds of work and personal contacts that I could potentially video chat with, and that list is completely separate from my wife who has her own friends she would choose to communicate with in this way. What if you have teens in the house, and each of them have their own friends list? It becomes unwieldy the second you have more than one primary user.Why not just make a dedicated account for the house?Yes, creating a separate account that everyone in the house has access to does solve many of these problems. However, it also immediately removes the benefit of having your personal information tied to the device. The real solution here is to allow for both the ability to have multiple users recognized on a device, but also to make it effortless to switch between them. If you have a “house account” it should exist in a hierarchical fashion and allow for multiple users to exist under the umbrella of that account, and not function in the same rigid way you would expect your personal account to exist.Functions like a “guest mode” that would allow for an incognito session to persist while a friend was visiting for a week, for example. Simply making a dedicated account for the house is just a band-aid, and not even a very effective one.Closing thoughtsThis feels like something that could be fixed very easily. Many of my examples are pointed at Google services because they seem to be the most likely to be used by multiple members of the same household. The average household in America does not have just one person in it, and companies need to account for that when they make devices that require a personal account to use. It’s not just allowing for multiple users, but also making it quick to switch back and forth, and still keeping it secure.Ideally, many of these issues could be solved by something like the Face Unlock in Android 4.0. If I pick up my tablet, it should scan my face and know I am the one who wants to use it. This same concept could be pushed to solve many of the problems I have outlined today.last_img read more

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