Mark T. Smith: Your mobile phone will now make you feel good

Posted by: Jenny Minnema   /   0 Comment

mark2Mark T. Smith in the foil room out in Kista. Wireless communication in underground trains is simulated here.

That’s what’s so great about Spotify and Iphone and why they’re so successful, says Mark T. Smith. They offer interaction and convey feelings.

– Who was the important person to me who compiled this Spotify list? A close friend, or perhaps an artist who I really like. It is feelings that have driven these product developments, explains Mark T. Smith.

He adds that the Iphone has grown from just a telephone to something much greater. It is not completely clear what the Iphone really is, but one thing is for sure: it is much more than just a phone and it brings out a lot of positive feelings in its users.

– That is the goal of our research – to make IT products interesting. Weave classic design into modern IT. Make technology into something more than just a box. Because there are no limits to what can be done, says Mark T. Smith.

As another example of feelings-driven technology he mentions the creation of smart billboards in the underground, which will be able to communicate with passengers’ mobile telephones and encourage interaction. It is quite possible to make these now.

But the opposite situation exists, when feelings trip up a technical product or service. Mark T. Smith remembers when he was involved in a project some years ago, which was a variant of the intelligent home. The presentation ended and the audience was completely silent. In the end, one woman got up and said that she would not want to live in such a house under any circumstances.

The intelligent home does not have lots of cameras, explains Mark T. Smith. Or windows that open when it is warm, or alarms that come on automatically in the night.

– People hate things like that. The home feels like a jail that is spying on its inmates, says Mark T. Smith.

He describes a new project he is involved with at the moment, in collaboration with Ericsson. It is called Home Assurance and among other things it measures the electricity consumption of the owners’ appliances and assesses whether everything is working well on the basis of that information.

– That is the thing – that’s where the feelings come in. People want to know that everything is OK – that’s enough. They don’t want to control every little thing that happens in detail, says Mark T. Smith.

“People hate things like that. The home feels like a jail that is spying on its inmates.”
Mark T. Smith.

That is exactly what Home Assurance is all about. The assurance that everything is OK is not a camera picture from the bedroom, but the fact that the iron consumes almost no electricity. People’s integrity is not threatened either; you can see the television is switched on, but not which channels are being viewed at the moment.

Mark T. Smith tells another anecdote about a restaurant owner who had a problem. He had to visit all his restaurants to check that everything was working as it should. He spent a lot of time, energy and resources in making these visits, and so some students were given the task of making the process more efficient.

The students put so-called RFID tags – about the same technology as used in contactless cash cards – on almost everything, so that they could track what was happening.

They then worked out a number of ingenious numerical values. If the fridge was opened x number of times, for example, that meant that everything was running smoothly. If x number of plates passed a certain point from the kitchen to the restaurant, everything was OK. The personnel did not have any problems with the new technology because no individuals were being monitored. The solution was so good that it won several prizes.

– The restaurant owner was able to check all of his restaurants quickly and easily from his mobile phone and make sure that everything was working well. Then he could relax, says Mark T. Smith.

Peter Larsson, KTH Info

Will measure feelings

• As well as the goal of making IT products interesting, Mark T. Smith and his colleagues intend to research into how feelings and technology can be measured.

• Mark T. Smith regards IT products as a value chain: server -> services -> unit (e.g. mobile phone) -> communication -> feelings.

• Do you use an optical mouse? Probably. Then you should know that Mark T. Smith is one of the researchers that developed the optical unit in the mouse.

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