How to think about wireless

by Bruce Kasanoff on September 20, 2010

Wireless technology is here, but wireless thinking is not.

In the past hundred million years of evolution, none of it required the human brain to leverage wireless technology or perish. Spearing a fish with a sharpened stick, bashing small animals with large rocks… these skills enabled us to feed our young and build organized civilizations. But envisioning a way to leverage technologies that no longer need a physical connection to the wall, no, we are utter rookies here.

Don’t give up hope. In the paragraphs ahead, you’ll learn how to get a step ahead of 99.9% of the human population, at least when it comes to being innovative with wireless technology.


In the old days – five years ago – people plugged computers into walls. By doing this, they could connect their computer to other computers. In recent months, people are thinking little. They are now connecting their phones to each other, or to PDAs, or to printers.

But wireless allows us to connect anything to anything. Connect…

• Your dog to your back door (it unlocks for her, but no one else)
• Your laundry basket to your cleaning lady (it calls her when full)
• Your lawn to your sprinkler (it turns on the water when its roots get too dry, and turns it off before they get too wet)
• Your son’s homework to your son (it sets off a reminder alarm if he tries to leave the house without it)
• Your dog to your neighbor’s dog (she beeps her friend automatically everytime she goes outside, so her friend knows to come out and play)

Pets, appliances, teachers, cars, traffic lights, skateboards, ski lifts, ocean tides, television programs, plumbing systems, restaurant chefs, city buses… anything can now be connected to anything.

So forget about computer to computers. That’s wired thinking.


Remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? In this movie, Ferris had perfected the process of skipping school. He wired in stereo to the doorbell and intercom system, so anyone who stopped by to check on his sick body home alone in bed could here him croak that he was too sick to open the door. In fact, they were hearing a recording of his voice, while he was plaaying in downtown Chicago.

Once you wirelessly connect anything your imagination moves you to connect, by throwing in a bit of automation you can leapfrog Ferris on his best day. Seafood merchants can automatically raise prices on their display case when water temperature indicators in Buzzards Bay predict the big schools of fish won’t arrive for another two weeks.

Connect microphones in movie theatres to movie studio marketing departments and studios will know two hours after comedy is released the states in which audiences are laughing hard enough to indicate they think the film is a side-splitter, and where people murmur uncomfortably and sneak out.


Your highway can’t handle current traffic levels, which are twice the volume the road was designed to handle? Connect cars so they brake and accelerate in a coordinated and safe manner, minimizing the sort of unexplicable delays that drive us crazy.

Your school can’t fit every student into a classroom? Connect students and teachers wirelessly, so that they can spend an hour extra at home each day, yet still have animated conversations.

Your police force is stretched too thin? Use automated toll devices – what we call EZ Pass in the New York area – to enforce speed limits and automatically bill anyone who gets from one location to another faster than the law allows.

Can’t leave your miniature poodle outside at night because coyotes have invaded the suburbs and are eating other small animals? Put a strobe light on the dog’s collar that automatically goes crazy if your pet or the attacker generates a loud noise (but warn Fifi first.)


Wireless should benefit individuals before companies.

It’s the wrong place for mass-market ads, but the right place for recommendations on demand.

It’s the wrong place for unsolicited sales calls, but the right place for alerts when two friends are about to cross paths.

It’s the wrong place for lengthy lectures or huge documents, but the right place for quick sound bites.

Wireless makes it easy to treat every individual, well, individually.


Okay, so you have all these devices, creatures and parts of nature connected wirelessly. Data is streaming in from all points. How do you figure out who can use it?

First, start with the people or institutions most important to you. Think about what causes them frustration, slows them down, or creates uncertainty.

Next, think about the way these people/groups differ from each other. Also think about the ways they are similar. Then start to connect the dots. Ask these questions:

WHO? should we connect to whom? (or what?)
HOW? does each connection occur?
WHAT? type of information gets passed along?
WHEN? will we learn what’s working, and what isn’t?

Connecting anyone to anything, anytime. That’s wireless thinking.

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