Sometimes technology utterly stuns me. The first time I downloaded an album from the comfort of my couch is one instance. Receiving a phone call in the car for the first time is another. The most recent example: A car having an API and what can be done as a result.
The first few hours of learning to use the Tesla API were pretty frustrating. My "Hello World" program was a few lines of code to honk the horn. After an hour or two I got it to work:
Wife: "What was that?"
Me: "That was the sound of Python talking to the car!"
A program talking to a car was the first stunning event. The second came when I used a simple "Get Status" command and saw what was returned. Listing all of the information here would make this post too long. But examples of available car data include: GPS coordinates, battery charge level, odometer reading, cabin temperature, status of each of the 5 seat heaters, is someone sitting in the driver seat....and on...and on...and on.
The final stunning event: The Tesla is connected to the internet all the time. So getting this data, as well as the ability to control various car functions, can be performed wherever the car is. Before learning the detailed capabilities of the API I figured, when checking if the car was home, I'd attempt a ping on the local network. But instead Suncatcher checks the car's GPS coordinates to determine if it's in the garage or not.
For those interested in learning more I'm using TeslaPy: https://github.com/tdorssers/TeslaPy
Weather or Not
"See you’ve been in the sun and I’ve been in the rain” – So Far Away, Dire Straits
Cycling in the wind stinks. Tailwinds can trick you into thinking you're really fit. Headwinds are a thief of effort. As a result, I like knowing how much wind I'll encounter for a cycling trail I frequent before driving the 10+ miles to get to the trailhead. It’s no fun to load everything into the car and drive there only to discover the conditions aren't great. Weather Underground delivers “hyper-local” weather information and forecasts that enable me to determine conditions before leaving home. They do this by gathering data from a large network of weather stations. This is a great example of the "Internet Of Things" - a term I find amazingly boring given the excitement of the solutions.
The Weather Underground website and smartphone app deliver content to users based on data collected from three sources:
How did the company establish this huge network of Personal Weather Stations? They recognized an opportunity to leverage the proliferation of low-cost weather stations and their ability to connect to the Internet. Weather Underground also made it easy for weather station owners to register and connect their units with the Weather Underground service. Now all data from someone's Personal Weather Station is available to anyone accessing Weather Underground. This data is also used to provide forecasts for very precise locations. (e.g. What is the weather forecast for my neighborhood?)
Creating a Personal Weather Station is easy. Weather Underground even provides a Buying Guide that identifies a variety of compatible options. Many stations not listed in their Buying Guide will work as well. A quick search on Amazon.com provides a host of very reasonably priced Personal Weather Stations that will connect to Weather Underground. It’s clear that weather station companies see “Weather Underground Compatible” as an important selling feature as it is frequently listed as a product capability.
Weather Underground users can monitor a specific station very easily because all registered stations are placed on a map. That is what I do before leaving on a bike ride. You can simply click on any station you wish to monitor.
Unique And Elegant
The discipline of Product Management is fascinating. Great Product Managers are both analytic and creative. Analytic skills are required to understand and prioritize customer requirements, perform competitive analyses, and understand R&D budget constraints. Creativity is needed to determine cost-effective features that address the user's requirements. A recent experience with a Bosch appliance caused me to label one of their features as one of the most creative I’ve ever seen in any product.
My wife and I are in the middle of a kitchen remodel. Bosch dishwashers, as you may already know, are known for being exceptionally quiet. In fact, they are so quiet, Bosch received “complaints” that users couldn't tell whether the dishwasher was running or not. It is an odd conundrum: Users want a quiet dishwasher, but they also want to know the dishwasher’s status.
Bosch’s answer? The Product Management and Engineering teams enabled their dishwasher to project onto the floor (via light) the dishwasher’s status, including the time left in the cycle. Such a brilliant idea! It doesn’t change the outward look of the unit at all, yet it conveys the unit is running and when it will be done.
Is there some sort of Product Management “Gold Star” award for incredibly unique and elegant solutions to customer problems? I doubt it. But if there was, and I had a vote, Bosch would win it hands down!
What product feature would you award a “Gold Star”? I’d love to hear what has impressed you in the products you use.
Thoughts about Solar Energy, Electric Cars, Train Alert and more.