Wednesday, August 26
Tuesday, August 25

Project Sunroof from Google

In a nutshell, Project Sunroof is an online tool that helps you determine if solar is worth the investment for your home. Yet another 20% project from a Googler that seems like it has potential to make a substantial impact in an area where we are long overdue for change. I know it’s still not quite economically feasible, but I wish there were some communities (or more, if some do exist) that required solar roofs for new construction. It may not be a cure-all, but every little bit helps.

On a related note, has anyone ever determined if there’s an 80/20 rule that applies to Google’s famed 20% projects? Do 20% projects account for 80% of their successful non-search/ads projects?

Friday, August 14

Samsung Pay Ushers in the Future by Empowering the Past

Samsung’s new phones, featuring the ingeniously named Samsung Pay, can make payments at magnetic swipe credit card terminals, eliminating the need for newer NFC-enabled terminals to allow mobile payments. If the technology works and is as secure as reported, then it sounds like an interesting technology to increase mobile payment adoption during the transition to the newer payment terminals. Here’s a bit about how it works from The Verge:

To fix the problem of ensuring that more stores will take mobile payments, Samsung turned to a clever piece of technology that lets you pay at most any terminal where you can swipe a credit card. The trick comes thanks to a tiny coil that shoots out the same magnetic code that those readers normally get from your credit card. It’s called “Magnetic Secure Transmission,” or MST; it’s built into the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5. As with other mobile wallets, Samsung Pay can also let you pay with NFC and it will store loyalty cards and gift cards.

MST features tokenization, which is the real the game changer technology for secure mobile payments. I still prefer the security and simplicity of TouchID for mobile payments, though.

Monday, August 10

Google is Alphabet Owns Google

During what is normally a very slow tech news month, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin drop a Monday afternoon bomb that Google Inc. is now Alphabet Inc. and the various business entities under the company formally known as Google are now subsidiaries of the new company.

Alphabet CEO Larry Page, in a blog post announcing the change:

We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.

The company and products you formerly knew as Google stay as Google, albeit now as a wholly owned subsidiary under Alphabet. GOOG becomes the stock trading symbol for Alphabet, and all previous shares of Google convert directly into shares of Alphabet.

Forever in tune with the zeitgeist, they even included a nice little easter egg for fans of the HBO series Silicon Valley.

Saturday, August 08

Get Busy Times from Google

Back in the last week of July, weirdly in a Google+ post1, Google announced a new feature that plots out the busiest times of the day for a particular business or other such place frequented by others.

I don’t always have warm fuzzies about Google’s data mining practices – mostly, I’m okay with it, but it occasionally gives me the heebie-jeebies. That said, you have to give them credit for at least trying to give some value back to the users they keep an eye. Features like this certainly make a great case for the utility and usefulness of big, aggregated data sets.

  1. A platform they seem to be abandoning faster than a sinking ship.  ↩

Friday, August 07

Great Design is Invisible

When designing the experience and interactions of a product, the most common question I ask myself is, “What is the least amount of work a user has to do, to achieve their desired outcome?”

Design isn’t always pixels and materials. Sometimes, in fact, it isn’t even about what you see at all.