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I have seen the future

Learning about the finer points of wearable tech and app-based banking at Snow*Mobile 2014

One of the themes of Snow*Mobile 2014 was the ways mobile will evolve in the coming months and years. When we think of mobile apps, our minds generally picture a smartphone, but mobile is more than that. To bring attendees up to speed, Donna Lichaw spoke about possibilities around Google Glass and other wearable tech. “Donna’s talk on wearable tech was easily one of my favorites,” says Chicago developer Weien Wang. “It systematically explored the usefulness of products like Google Glass, helping us think about those products as developers, while also combating the thoughtless cynicism which is so popular on the internet.”

Lichaw began her discussion in the world of sci-fi. “Sci fi is a way for us to explore what can be based on what is,” she says. “It’s what we do as designers. Sometime last year, a lot of the companies that she worked with started asking, “what about Glass?” Lichaw, who takes a mobile-first approach to everything she does, sat down and watched a whole lot of sci-fi to figure out what sci fi has prototyped for us, asking Is this something we’ll actually adopt? Is it another Google Wave? (referring to the come-and-gone social network by Google). “Nothing good comes of games in your face,” she says. A long-ago learned lesson, according to Star Trek.

Thad Starner is the lead engineer on Google Glass. This idea of the “Cyborgs are Coming” is not pleasant, but according to Starner it is something we want to strive for. This idea of an expensive toy is not a market, says Lichaw. “We need to solve problems people have. Otherwise, no one’s going to buy it.” There are, however, ways to be awesome with face technology. Lichaw gives three main scenarios:

“I’ve got a job to do and want my hands free to do it”

“I’m mobile and shouldn’t use my hands or avert my eyes”

“I’m impaired and want to do what able-bodied people do”

 Among those who could benefit from wearable tech are soldiers, police, drivers, doctors/surgeons, repair people, firefighters, and the impaired. “Glass for the hell of it?” Asks Lichaw. “No. Glass for a specific purpose? Yes.” The NYPD is beta-testing Google Glass to see if it has any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes. “It’s up to us to really consider the use-cases,” concluded Lichaw. “Not just design apps for the hell of it.”

Tristan Waddington, a developer for Simple in Portland, is also excited about the possibilities for mobile in our daily lives. In his talk on the future of mobile banking, he explained how the completely branchless Simple is trying to make banking better. One of the main problems with the banking industry, says Waddington, is that they are not focused on empowering customers to take control of their own finances. They don’t provide good tools for doing so.

By reframing the banking experience through the tools of mobile technology, Simple is crafting a worry-free bank experience and treating the customer with respect. They are finding new ways to expose data to customers via their app. For example you can see a map of where you’ve made purchases. You can annotate transactions with images and memos. The names of the transactions make sense; you don’t have to puzzle out where you’ve spent your money. You can block your card right from the app if you leave it at the bar overnight.

Both wearable tech and app-based banking are creating unique opportunities for developers. Click for an invite to Simple, or send in your resume–Waddington says they are “hiring like crazy.”