Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Of Innovation and Daily life!

Have you ever moved your house? If you haven't, you should definitely ! :) -That is the day when a lot of worldly realizations hit you. Things such as: There are still a lot of people whose bills cannot be settled by credit card; and, remember that plastic card called the ATM card - well the daily limit for withdrawal of money from an ATM is not so big!! :) ( especially when point no.1 has come true for you :) )

Normally, needing cash would mean getting hold of your account number - which beyond being printed in that obscure place in the cheque, we never bother imprinting in our mind. Then going to the bank, getting hold of the withdrawal slip and filling up all the numbers; withdrawing money. ( and if the cheque books and stuff are well packed by your better half, that simple task of getting the account number can be a very formidable task :) )

So here i was, in the exact situation that i mentioned above. All my documents were well packed and there was no way that i could convince my wife to open the package. It was easier to face the sarcastic look of the cashier while i ask her for the number of my account. As i walked into the bank, i was in for a very interesting and innovative surprise. ( btw, Can a surprise be innovative? :) )

There were no withdrawal slips or deposit slips!!!

Every counter had a card swipe machine in front of them. The same machine which you find in countless merchants - which is so familiar at the billing counter of any shop. Well, each counter had this machine. So, when you want to withdraw money, you simply swipe your card, key in your pin number and tell the amount that you need to the teller. She authenticates your id, enters the amount and you are rich!!!

That's it! Don't you think it is an excellent innovation? Of course, it does make it extremely painless, less time consuming and easy for the user, also imagine what it does to the bank... It doesn't have to maintain another set of database about the withdrawal slip numbers. they don't have to build logistics around printing and delivering those slips .. I think its simply great.

I have always been a sucker for using technology for simple day to day life activities. And i couldn't stop but keep marveling at this simple innovation that has made the process so simple. Another similar innovation that i have seen is in the Universal studio, where they have used fingerprint based biometrics for lockers.

They don't allow you into some of the rides in the Universal studio if you have a bag or a purse etc. And there are lockers available where you can store your belongings if you want to go to these rides. But lockers have locks; and together with it are those small things that have a tendency to get lost so easily- called keys. And i am sure the park management did not want to worry about lost keys, forgotten keys etc - So they had a very simple plan. They connected all the lockers to a central computer. You go to the screen, scan your fingerprint, and pick a free locker. the computer open the locker for you. Put your stuff in, and close the door - it locks. To open the locker, scan your fingerprint, computer identifies your locker number and opens it for you. After two hours, the lockers are auto opened ( if i remember right ) so nobody can take a locker for more than 2 hours!

I thought these instances of leveraging technology to help day to day activities are absolutely brilliant examples of out of the box thinking and innovation. No wonder more and more companies are asking the users to submit the ideas that they can convert to functionalities in their product.

Way to go, technology! :)