Customer Service and AA Insurance


ImageSome nice person hit my car some time in the last few days, whilst it was parked unattended. I’m not sure where it was, probably in a supermarket car park. No note or apology, they obviously didn’t feel any remorse. This is what it looked like. The hole at the top isn’t my exhaust, it’s where one of my fog lights was mounted before the bracket got smashed in the impact.

Anyway, I rang AA Insurance, got answered within a minute, by a Kiwi in Auckland, I’m not joking! If you have rung a call centre recently, you have probably (as I have with other companies, not to be named here, but you can find them in this blog) waited for anything from 20 minutes to an hour, listened to repetitive Muzak  advertisements and soothing statements of how your call is valued and thank you for waiting.

We went through the obligatory security questions, talked about the incident, some brief friendly conversation with an operator who was very friendly and empathetic, I listened to the honesty statement and agreed that I was being truthful and understood that this was being recorded. I was then told all my options, claim number and what to do next. From the time to picking up the phone to hanging up, feeling pleased despite the stress of the accident and knowing I was going to be without my car for a week, took less than 5 minutes.

This morning, as per the appointment, I took my car to the AA Insurance depot, met with one of their friendly efficient team, had the car assessed, at the time of my appointment, on the dot, paid my excess (ouch, would have been less if I had details of who had dented my car and wallet) and 5 minutes later was in a complimentary taxi back to my office.

I am not used to getting customer service like this. It is that rare that I felt I wanted to share my story and my endorsement. Not only did I get great service, it didn’t take long, I didn’t have to wait and I felt like they cared about me. Generally the experience with large corporates, utility companies and insurance companies seems like they are super friendly when they are signing you up and after that they don’t have time for you.

Its not over yet, I am without my car for a week, but when it comes back, I have a lifetime guarantee on the workmanship and they will have my ongoing loyalty. Just  a footnote, people do business with people and providing great caring service is the best form of marketing. It’s rare enough for me to make the effort to share this story. Thanks again AA Insurance.

Could a San Franciscan Artists lost eye instigate the next disruptive technology?


This will no doubt do find its way to TV and all the media will pounce on it, not the least because most people will think it is pretty weird. I found the story by accident when following a tweet from NZStuffEnt about a new NZ ICT Body.

So the story on Stuff goes like this. Tanya Vlach, an artist in San Francisco lost an eye in a car accident in 2005 and has asked for someone to replace her prosthetic eye with a Web Cam with Bluetooth connectivity. She also wants a 3x optical zoom and an SD slot and the ability to take still photos. She told the NY Times that she could be used for a reality TV show or as a life recording.

As she said, this kind of thing has been in Science Fiction stories for decades and would be a logical extension one day, so, just like with my Location Innovation Awards, why not make one day, today?

This would fit quite nicely with recent topics I have been blogging about such as Haptic VR suits. If they can make prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the human nervous system, it shouldn’t be hard to create an eye that can be controlled directly, either through optic nerves, or by blinking to allow her to zoom, focus, switch it on and off (there are obviously times when you do want some privacy) and dilate to cope with bright light.

There are obviously some technical details such as the power required to run it and the Bluetooth Communications. Having done a lot of photography I know how much power is involved in zooming and adjusting shutters etc, but I’m sure there is a way, after all they can implant pacemakers and other technology that requires a modicum of reliability.

As to what to do with it. She would make a fortune just from telling her story, but the opportunities would be huge. Espionage might be unlikely because of a high profile and metal components, but chances are the military would be very interested in her experience as would other security services, irrespective of how discrete the new eye is or isn’t.

The company that gives it to her will be gifted a huge business opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this technology doesn’t already exist. I have previously blogged about contact lens displays for computing which are already under development. Some 30 years ago my grandfather became snow blind and was a guinea pig for a technology of experimental prosthetic eyes. They were big many faceted things that didn’t work very well, but instead of seeing nothig he could see shadows and knew when I was walking in the room. So this concept can’t be new. The big difference is that the technology development that I have been aware of was designed for the user to regain vision, not as a camera to be transmitted elsewhere.

So like the 6 Million Dollar Man, wouldn’t it be better if she could see everything a well as transmit it?

So if you have the technology and want to help her and yourself, she has a blog where she has her wish list specifications and you can make contact with her.

This is so cool on so many levels. Firstly from adversity comes something potentially better than she had before. She might hanker for more privacy one day but it sounds as though she is smart enough to sign a contract that will give her what she wants and let the people who develop it get what they want.

I could think of so many uses for this technology. I was interested to note that she did not list a microphone but I guess at times when she is recording for others, she could always wear a seperate microphone, somewhere, perhaps built into her watch or jewellery.

As well as law enforcement and military use, it would be great for all sorts of news reporting. I wonder how many situations are lost because people wouldn’t allow cameras into a scene of activity. William Gibson would probably see it used for marketers looking for the next big fad or selling the experiences of people wearing them to others, Philip K Dick would have had people rebelling against the Big Brothers who were wearing them and trying to find ways to shut them off.

Imagine using them in a sporting environment. How would you like to see exactly what your favourite sportsperson sees when they are playing? Bring in the Haptics again and you could see and feel what is happening. It’s not unreasonable, they already using sensing technology on top athletes to understand exactly how their bodies work.

Marketers are always looking for the next Christensens Disruptive Technology and if Tanya is successful, this could have a huge impact on so many technologies that people will adopt in the future. I wish her every success.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

The future of Personal Computing Part Two


This is a follow on from my blog last week about a day in my life of personal computing in 2013.

So I’ve had breakfast and I go to my PC to check email and messages. My wireless network at home now consists of a variety of devices and networks linked together. These include my Entertainment Server which links to various TV’s around the house, the Sky Dish, cable TV, media audio players and recorders, HD radio tuner as well as the Toshiba Fenininity Server which allows us to control and monitor the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, climate control, breadmaker and a host of other appliances not to mention the HVS climate control.

I also have the latest Kindle which lets all of us read our personalised news. It aggregates the top stories from mother Herald as well as other papers and magazines of interest so we all get the version we want. Scared the hell out of me the other day when I opened my wife’s logon by accident and all I saw was stories about TV and filmstars and their failed marriages and getting their 23rd adopted child out of Afghanistan which is the new Darfur. But then that is the beauty of it that we all get MeNews and not what someone else wants us to read.

I’m still into social networking in a big way, but have a number of portals that manage and aggregate each of my networks. I check my Music Portal which manages all the sites where I showcase my music. Now I can load my new songs, video’s, blogs and gig calendar onto one site and it updates the 127 sites I feature on in one hit, according to each sites unique specification.

So it’s time to go. I leave the house and activate the alarm which sends a signal to my iPhone to say the system is now armed and hop in the car. I drop the iPhone onto the little tray beside my seat and as I put the key into the ignition and my seat and steering wheel adjust itself to my preferred positions, my phone announces itself to the Wireless CANBUS so that it has access to the entertainment system.

I tell my integrated GPS navigation unit to take me to ‘the office’ select the podcast I want to listen to from those that are just audio as I don’t want to get pinged by the distraction laws and get on the road. As I near the top of Chartwell Drive, my podcast pauses (I used to hate missing stuff when the old system just muted the sound) and the nav tells me that there is a serious traffic incident on High Rd that it has picked up on TMC and would I like to route around it. I say yes, and it seemlessly takes me on down Diana drive and I arrive at work right on time.

As I wait at a set of lights I check the Buddy feature on my GPS and see an image of my wife’s car crawling along Bush Rd on her way to work. Her unit beeps to alert her that I have checked her location and she sends me a smart message back by tapping on the SMS keyboard on her nav unit which uses Bluetooth to send the message via her phone. Her car and system is a bit older than mine. 2009.

When I get to work my phone opens the carpark grill and after I have parked the car, it unlocks the door into the building and then into my office. I fire up my  Touchbook which has just been upgraded to Vista (“WE” like to be cautious about our computer network and go to the machine in the kitchen for a perfectly fluffy flat white.

As I have done forever, I start my day with email. My touchscreen notebook is now running Windows Vista Touch and although Microsoft has announced their new OS I will be using this one for another couple of years until our IT Department is comfortable that it is reasonably robust, especially given that it took 3 years to get most of the kinks out of Vista and for a while they went back to offering Windows XP again as an option in the 2nd half of 2009.

One thing that we have now universally adopted is Unified Communications. All my voicemail whether it comes from my landline, mobile or email is now waiting for me in my Inbox and with my iPhone or my notebook.

My days haven’t changed much. Probably the only major difference is that I do now use video on a lot of my phone calls so I can see the person I am talking to. This has saved me a lot of wasted travel time given the disaster that is Auckland’s roads today. They have started building the Auckland Harbour Tunnel, but it will be a couple more years before it opens for buses and T3 (cars with at least 3 peple in them) let alone ordinary traffic. So many meetings have been replaced by necessity with vidphone calls. Of course I can also do this on my iPhone 6, but unless I’m doing it over the Wireless LAN (and we still don’t have one in the office) the costs are prohibitive.

At lunch time I quite often walk to the Subway for some exercise and of course their food has the Heart Tick. On my way, I check out their menu on my iPhone and wonder if the food will look as good as the picture. I specify exactly what time I will get there. On the way back I get the phone to play me some Utterz messages from friends while I’m walking.

On the way home I drive past a bar and get a Speights Mates message saying there is a Happy Hour Running and sending me an eCoupon to get 2 for one in the next half hour and prompting me to hit the forward button to send the same coupon to any of my personal Speight’s Mates who are within a 2km vicinity to come and join me for an after work beer. I love location based marketing and decide it is only right to support people who have invested in this technology given that I helped to develop it. Isn’t that called the fruits of your labour? Yes. I know hops aren’t strictly fruit.

Before dinner, I go to my home studio and record a lead track on my Gibson LP Guitar onto my 8 track TASCAM for my latest song, nothing has changed there really, call me old fashioned. I still have my music on loads of web sites and while I’ve sold some songs, I haven’t scored a number one hit yet.

I bought the new Internet TV Aggregation Server last year and replaced my MySky. Now that I have cable for internet as well as TV, I can cherry pick and watch exactly what I want when I want and am no longer subject to the whims of SKy TV. Yes, I still subscribe to Sky Sports Channel because they have exclusive rights for many events that NZ teams compete in such as All Blacks Rugby and do support NZ sport better than anything else, especially the biased commentators, although I wuldn’t have a problem if Murray Mexted got some new material, but the rest is pretty much free. I don’t have to watch ads although many programs have very overt displays of product i the story.

I finally got an 80″ TV, the largest my wife would let me buy, and that wasn’t easy. Sometimes we have multple screens running so that we can watch different things at once and have adapted to that. We tried the VR glasses from the new Nintendo, but they are very antisocial. Awesome for 3D movies tough! Home entertainment is now awesome. No more channels full of reruns of programs we have already seen umpteen times, I never have to sit through another show of Friends again! Now I can see exactly what I want when I want, subject to agreement in the house of course and we all have to compromise sometimes,

Along with cable came free international calling to anywhere in the world for a modest flat fee, so I don’t use Skype much anymore. Finally a little music from iLike at the end of the day. I kept my CD’s and vinyl as souvenirs, but for a flat fee of $10 a month to our ISP, the house can access and download unlimited music from almost all record companies in MPEG 9 which is great quality at 960kbit/s.

Not a lot has changed in 5 years, but life is certtainly a little easier than it used to be.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Why were there so many accidents in New Zealand last week?


This month to date there have been around 32 road deaths in New Zealand compared to 15 at the same time last year. The crazy thing is that the weather has been awesome. Unlike right now as I write this blog, and it is blowing a gale with a little precipitation, it has been warm, dry and perfect driving weather.

Last week I drove to Hamilton during the day on business. I passed 4 major accidents over a period of 3 hours and saw lines of congestion that averaged 2-3km of stationery traffic during a normally quiet time of day.

If you are reading this in the US, you might consider 32 road deaths as a pittance, but consider for a moment that there are less people in the whole of New Zealand than there are in many US cities. Most cars are relatvely new and feature power stearing and at the least anti-skid break technology, so there is no reason for multiple car collissions in these nice weather conditions. Our maximum legal speeds on our freeways is a mere 100 kmph and most people drive close to that.

I haven’t seen any statistics yet, but I am sure that the coroners will back up my theory. I suspect that a large number of people were in the process of text messaging and not paying attention to the road and other cars. Every time I drive I see literally dozens of people with one hand and eye on the road and the other on their phone. It’s a national disease. There is discusison about devices such as car navigation being a dangerous driver distraction, but as a seasoned user, I rarely look at my device when I am driving, I listen to the instructions. SMS is much more dangerous and distracting.

I don’t know what the usage statistics for SMS are in NZ, but with accounts allowing 2,000 free messages a month and services such as the ability for consumers to send a message to up to 15 recipients at a time, the numbers are mind boggling.

So my theory as to why so many people crashed and some of the 32 people who needlessly lost their lives on our road so far this month, is that they were sending or receiving text / SMS messages.

Seems funny now to think of the coroner in London in 1890 something who said that never again must any person die from a motor vehicle accident (that was when the guy walking in front of the car with the safety flag was killed by the very car he was protecting pedestrians from).

Surely no message is worth dieing for?