The Internet of Things, Seeding Boston Start Ups, and One User Experience for All

by Jon Follett

Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

The Internet of Things Will Rise in Boston
With the advent of the mobile revolution, we're now living connected lives, where our day-to-day activities are closely tied to the digital products and services that we carry with us everywhere on our smart phones. The future vision of smart devices networked via an Internet of Things takes this connectedness one step further, to a place where not only our phones, but our cars, our homes, the appliances within them, and any number of other objects can communicate with each other and us. This connected vision may be closer to reality than we realize.

Boston has long been a hub of both industrial and software design. The Internet of Things, of course, requires that those disciplines work together to produce the amazing new connected devices, generating streams of sensor data that can be controlled, consumed, monitored, and analyzed by software.

In his Innovation Economy blog in the Boston Globe, Scott Kirsner highlights Bolt, a new accelerator / incubator program, with the express mission of fostering businesses built around connected devices, currently looking for space in the Boston and Cambridge area.

One User Experience for All Devices
With the announcement of OS X Mountain Lion last week, Apple has fired the first shot in the universal user experience platform war.

GigaOm has a great article dissecting Apple's Grand Unified User Experience, the term coined by Jean-Louis Gassée in his analysis of the OS. The essential idea is that no matter what the device — laptop, tablet, or phone — the user experience feels the same, behaves the same, and draws on similar patterns. Mountain Lion, of course, brings UX elements from iOS back to the desktop experience, completing the cycle of OS behavior. With this universal UX, the user can also expect their devices to synchronize, not only data, but workflow. Start a conversation on your iPad in FaceTime and finish it on your Mac laptop. Write a document on the laptop and edit it on the way to work on your iPhone. While some of this is certainly possible now, the new Mountain Lion OS further integrates the separate device experiences to make them seem like they fit together naturally.

It's easy to see how Apple has upped the ante here for UX. In the coming war then, for a universal user experience, on one side we'll likely have Google with its Android / Chrome OS, on another Windows / Windows Mobile, and, in the strategically enviable forward position, at least for the moment, of course Apple and OS X / iOS.

Freelance Nation
There's no question that the combination of work anywhere technology and an unpredictable economy has contributed to an increase in the ranks of Freelance Nation. Time has an interesting piece heralding "The End of the Full Time Salaried Job" that details some of the current trends, while a related article in GigaOm cites a study by MBO Partners predicting 70 million independent workers in the next decade, which would amount to half of all employees. The Atlantic Monthly has called the surge in freelance workers, the "industrial revolution of our time". The disruption of the time honored employer / employee relationship is here to stay. What happens next, though, is another question entirely. Whether a huge swath of independent workers can not just survive, but thrive over time, without the trappings that come with employment from a single entity — like health and retirement benefits and a steady flow of work — remains to be seen.

Seeding Boston Start Ups
The Boston start up scene got another boost as NextView Ventures inaugural fund recently closed with $21 million in its coffers. NextView Ventures is a seed stage venture capital fund, managed by partners David Beisel, Rob Go, and Lee Hower, that invests solely in internet businesses. A micro VC firm like NextView is right sized for Boston's early stage companies and fits the needs of a city where start ups are in abundance, but angel funds can be hard to find.

Rethinking Money v. Happiness
A review of Laura Vanderkam's new book, All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending, on Fast Company, highlights some of the new realities of work / life balance in a world that blurs the boundaries between the two. Technology has freed us from the cube farm, but it has also tethered us to the always on broadband connection. The economic instability of the past four years has shaken our belief in the steadiness of full-time employment, but has opened us up to the great possibilities of a work / life conceived and designed by ourselves. If you could work on any project, what would it be? As we rethink the assumptions we've made about how and why we work, we have a golden opportunity to align our daily grind with what fulfills us. Credit Fast Company for advancing the conversation.

Topics: Design, apple, venture capital, freelance nation, start ups, boston, Ideas, windows, android, Analysis, Blog, google, the internet of things, UX, ui, user experience