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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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It’s not your system

I was in the middle of a running discussion on how to get people to understand why NBIMS is important a couple weeks ago. By happy chance I came across this article during the discussion, directed to programmers, on the subject “You are not your user! I found this passage particularly apt:

It's Not Your Software
Contrast the folly and the cunning in software design to understand why you are not your application's user.

It expressed some of my concerns much better than I did, but in a different domain.

Getting to the real heart of the issue, Platt asked how many in the audience drive a car with a stick shift, and it looked as if nearly every person in the auditorium raised a hand. Guessing that at least three quarters of the audience thought that a manual transmission controlled with a stick shift—something that is harder to learn, harder to use, but gives you better control—is a good trade-off, Platt contrasted this result against the roughly 12 to 14 percent of automobiles sold in the U.S. that come with stick shifts.

"Six out of eight think something that's harder to use but gives you better control is a good trade-off; only one out of eight of the general populace thinks that's a good trade-off. Normal people do not drive stick shifts," Platt said emphatically. "Why? Because they don't care about the driving process in and of itself. It's a means to an end. They don't want to drive somewhere; they want to be somewhere."

Following an outburst of laughter from the audience, Platt evoked a loud round of applause by punctuating the theme: "It's an important distinction. You think your users want to use your software. They do not want to use your software. They want to have used your software."

In this case, the participants in the conversation were domain experts in IT can construction. They understood what they were up to. They seemed not to understand that what motivated them was never going to motivate a wider audience.

The real audience for NBIMS is the enterprise developer, someone who, while technical, does not want to know anything about the deeper IFC. Until NBIMS finds a way to make itself accessible to the enterprise developer, it will remain an interesting side-show.

The next week, I headed off to Dallas, and to the GridWise IT symposium. There I found the same issues. I even used Platt’s audience participation game, and found similar numbers of manual transmission aficionados in the audience.

There I pointed out that none of the avid consumers, totally committed to efficiency and economy was likely to surface. If they wanted to expand the market for their ideas on improving the Power Grid, they were going to have to translate it into some combination of three things: Autonomy, Self Image, and Cool. Find a way to enhance these, or appear to enhance these, for the consumer and the battle is done. Fail to do so, and the technical substance is wasted.

The same argument could be made about Building Systems, and oBIX. In fact, I will be at Connectivity Week in three weeks. I probably shall.

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