On Sunday afternoon I was driving towards Barcelona whilst in the bizarrely small mountain state of Andorra after a great day skiing in the gorgeous little resort of Arcalis (an absolute gem and a must for any keen skier who is close to Andorra in winter). I was glowing with the enjoyment of the skiing and the anticipation of MWC16 ahead the next day.
As I approached a zebra crossing in the centre of the little town of Massana an enthusiastic black dog pulled his owner onto the crossing and I stopped quickly. Unfortunately the man in the yellow car behind me didn't. You can see what happened to his car in the photo. Amazingly my Seat Leon, rented from Hertz, was almost undamaged. However, what happened next has given me cause for reflection during the last two days.
Xavier the gallant fireman
Thankfully, the zebra crossing was right outside the fire station of Massana and Xavier the on-duty fireman had seen everything since he was outside at the time. Jorge, who had run into me spoke no English or French and my Spanish is limited to ordering beers (up to 10 in fact!) and finding the toilets - both useful but not in this particular situation (or at least not until later).
Of course, we had to sort out the incident reporting and the paperwork for Hertz and for AXA his insurers. Giants in each of their respective markets, one would have to say. Jorge got his AXA incident reporting form out and the gallant Xavier, who had just enough English to help us, started to fill in the forms. Of course, even though I had all of the documentation given to me by Hertz, there was no indication about the insurance details other than I had taken out full cover so Xavier ended up spending 45 mins trying to work through Hertz's call centre (Sunday in Spain is slow) to find out what to put onto the form.
All in all the process took about 2 hours. We were all very good natured about it, and it was a beautiful sunny day and Xavier had cheerfully bridged the understanding gap between us, but wandering around MWC16 the last couple of days has underlined to me the vast gulf between the slogan of Mobile is Everything and how everyday life is in reality. And how we at BlinkMobile and our partners (and so many others) can do to help to improve that everyday life.
Four Years from Now?
One of the major displays at MWC each year is "4YFN" in which they group start-ups together who are offering what look to be disruptive technologies. I'll be going to that tomorrow and always look forward to it. But thinking about Jorge and I, Hertz and AXA (and not forgetting the black dog and his owner if I'd been shunted into them by Jorge) you'd hope that in 4 years time there would have been a completely different set of interactions between us - powered by a set of solutions that are available right now. It underlines how far even the biggest giants of their industries have to go, let alone the smaller enterprises.
My 4YFN (including my little contretemps with Jorge)
I got to imagining how my trip so far would have panned out in four years time given the same itinerary and incidents......
I arrive in Barcelona and my data roaming plan with Telstra is uplifted by, perhaps $1/day on my normal plan. There's no need for me to register, the uplift will just appear on my bill - I don't need any extra data, I just want to use my normal allowance in Spain and Andorra. $10 extra on my bill for my 10 days makes sense, my day of travelling with Emirates just cost $1 for in-flight internet (now very fast).
When I check in with Hertz (who I don't normally use) to pick up my rental car it is all through interfaces on tablets which takes just seconds (almost there now in fact) and they remind me that if I get into any trouble just go straight to their app and there'll be all the help I need. (If I was a Hertz frequent renter I wouldn't even need to do that, and I'd know about what to do if there was trouble).
Google had already made my trip to Andorra pretty easy by 2016, but now they tell me how to deal with the tolls as I approach, and give me spoken advice about refreshment, petrol stations etc when I ask (in a few years time my agent will perhaps be chatting to the car to know when I should fill up bearing in mind prices and my destination). I also ask about the incredible sight of the serrated mountain of Montserrat which I pass on the way and am told about it's geological structure and history since my agent knows what I'm interested in.
When I start skiing in Andorra I don't need to worry about ski passes regardless of which resort I stay in. Yes, I accept that if I only ski for one day in a resort it will be more expensive than skiing five, but if I ski five I get the discount. The app I have downloaded will talk to the gates of each lift through NFC in my rather stylish smartwatch on which nowadays the time can be read in full sunlight.
When Jorge runs into me at the zebra crossing (yes, old cars will still not have automatic emergency braking) we get out and we find that we aren't able to communicate due to my terrible Spanish We use our phones as interpreters.
I get my Hertz app started to report the accident. All my details are there. Jorge's AXA app and my Hertz one exchange each others details and the witness details are easily added. We take photos of the situation, the damage, annotate them to make more sense of them and sketch a diagram. We both sign and agree and immediately we get the PDFs sent to us, to Hertz, AXA and to Xavier. If there were any problems I could have used the Push-to-Call button on the Hertz app to immediately speak with the call centre help line who are now far less busy anyway.
The whole process has taken 15 mins.
Let's get real
The irony is that all of this is possible right now (except for the smartwatch, they still behind a bit) on well proven technologies. This is Smart Living - taking the friction out of processes that are screaming for change. We have a mission to do this and just putting existing processes onto the slab of black glass isn't enough.
MWC is important to showcase what we can use in the future, but, like the computer industry years ago, the hardware is moving faster than the solutions can keep up with. Our job at BlinkMobile is to help our partners and customers to harness these advances into solutions that change everyday life.
I'm not grateful to Jorge for running into me, but he certainly got me thinking.