Innovations born of small annoyances could be the next big thing, reports Farhad Manjoo in The Wall Street Journal (10/10/13). Farhad terms such innovations "the Andy Rooney business plan: First find the most annoying, obvious problem that millions of people deal with every day. Then ask if things really have to be that way." This is hardly a new approach to innovation, but Farhad thinks technology is making such breakthroughs more attainable and affordable today than ever before. His case in point is Nest, the self-programming thermostat.
Unlike traditional thermostats, which "expect users to program their ideal temperature settings into the device – which many never did," Nest uses "sensors and algorithms to ‘learn’ your preferences and program itself." Nest is now out with a similarly smart smoke detector that, among other things, "has a sensor that can see you, allowing you to silence false alarms by waving at it." Other examples include Square, which lets you pay for food service via your smartphone; Uber, an app that hails taxis; and ZocDoc, for making doctor’s appointments and accessing medical records.
Nest CEO Tony Fadell says his company’s products essentially reinvent "products that have been unloved, that are basically the same as when we were growing up." Through "a mix of intelligent software, cool hardware and network power," they "transform the frustration into an experience that is close to exhilarating." Such innovations don’t come cheap: the Nest thermostat costs $249 and the detector runs $129. Then again, the thermostat saves energy and the detector could save lives – and besides, "the price of digital innovations tend to fall" over time.