When unbridled thoughts pollinate with unstoppable force – Rich Roll & Yuval Noah Harari!

In conversation Rich Roll and Yuval Harari. The fact that they are so divergent in what they do and still could come together to stitch something so meaningful is awesome. Here are my takeaways and disagreements with what they think.

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The Rich Roll Podcast – Yuval Noah Harari On Why Clarity is Power – https://radiopublic.com/the-rich-roll-podcast-G4N4P1/s1!4f7e11c3e32027e3971575cf1ec40f38e2928839

Had the must fulfilling hour listening to 2 people I personally admire. In conversation Rich Roll and Yuval Harari. The fact that they are so divergent in what they do and still could come together to stitch something so meaningful is awesome. Here are my takeaways and disagreements with what they think:

1. They conclude that one would need to reinvent themselves 4 – 5 times to stay relevant. I would say that’s an understatement, that number could be 8 -10. The maths is simple around 40 to 50 yrs of active professional life and change cycles are 4 – 5 yrs. That’s it. #education is power.

2. In the current data age, Knowledge is NOT power, CLARITY on what to do with that data and knowledge is the actual power. Could agree no more. Knowledge is freely available with advent of #internet and #technology, even cheaper is spreading it magnanimously through the power of #socialmedia. What’s difficult is carrying the batten to lead next gen to a more meaningful world with right extraction from this knowledge.

3. The perils of #artificialintelligence and how we are enslaving ourselves to it with consent is so scary. What is scarier is AI falling into rouge/despotic state agencies and then citizens being conditioned right from kindergarten days or be exterminated (on realisation that the dissident cannot with any dosage of conditioning be brought inline with the state). This is the secret police 1984 George Orwell coming alive.With noble usage of AI like early detection of a perilous health condition, help to the old and diseased with voice commands, making right choices in terms of how one spends his limited time on the planet wisely and fruitfully. The idea is to maintain a balance on who and how handles the levers on AI, well that’s just the idea – how do we do it. No clue.

4.  Climactic changes and the fear of entire nations be gone with it. Hilarious was the positive spin that Yuval gave it. Some practical thoughts like Russia being a major beneficiary when icecaps would melt and Siberia turns a bread basket for the World (oops!) or opening up of shorter sea routes promoting trade and commerce or even to the extent of humankind be cornered to create alternative bio-friendly technologies to save whatever we have left of the planet. To my mind – any man disaster can never lead to total annihilation for a man made disaster always has benefactors/sponsors. I am sure we will come to a solution. Will be slow but will be perpetual.

5. If the damages are so obvious why don’t political leaders make election manifestos out of it. The reason they conclude is simple – a ‘to-be-elected’ leader looks at winning next 4 or 5 years. The changes that we are talking are so deeply ingrained that they will take a few decades. We are talking about completely changing the way we live and think. Does solution lie in extending the leadership – I wouldn’t think so. That makes the incumbent too totalitarian, a despot. An option could creating be a National list or a charter, as holy as the preamble of the consitution with an option to be reviewed every 10 years by a body which is not elected, to broad and generic as an idea but could be pursued if we could have the right intent.

6. Finally, Veganism as trend and clean meat. They argue, that raising and killing animals for consumption is cruelty, an option in works is ‘cellularly created meat’ just for consumption – how about raising a steak instead of a whole chicken. The idea is sound to me but to a huge cross section of global population this is cruelty and blasphemy at an altogether different level, this is man playing god himself. The cell that was supposed to grow into an able bodied chicken is now just a steak- total sacrilege.

This talk is a ‘definite hear’. It opens the mind up to infinite possibilities that are not just coming but they are already here! Go savour it.

Thanks Rich and Yuval, keep enlightening us.

Fitbit Ionic- ‘Intimate’ 3 months ownership review

Used Charge 2 for more than an year and half before upgrading to Fitbit Ionic with certain expectations. Ionic has lived upto most of them. If you are looking to adopt one, you are at the right place. Read on – for this comes straight from the horse’s mouth!

Used Charge 2 for more than a year and a half before upgrading to Fitbit Ionic. I was absolutely happy with Charge 2 and the capabilities it offered, especially the backup that it carried (as a fact of the matter, I never bothered to check the battery specs on charge 2). It lasted me almost a week sometimes more with what I did.

Which brings us to what my typical week looks like in Fitbit perspective.

  1. I typically end up doing a little over 15K steps a day for 5-6 days a week. Little over 10Km run on 5 days, and over 15Km run on 1 weekend day, the other weekend day is optional. Depends on what motivation do my buddies throw at me, a nice hot chocolate typically does the job 🙂
  2. An early morning alarm, 7 days a week. I absolutely love waking up to the gentle vibrations in my wrists. It’s heavens when compared with the rude wake-up alarm from the cell phone. A few occasional alarms on weekends when grabbing quick naps.
  3. Occasional music during runs – not always, just a couple of times a week to keep myself going. I love the purity of early morning gentle breeze and chirping birds as I pace myself. Music is a distractor really!
  4. GPS sometimes, when I am running a new route. That is the traceback on the app once the entire run is downloaded on the app from the tracker. Love to see that track covered, born of toil – everyone loves that!
  5. Assistance in stretching post runs
  6. Breathing Routines post runs, in flights, and during ‘hectic-breathless-backbreaking’ work days.
  7. Finally, I love wristwatch to assist me with time, date, and day. (Weird but true, I keep trying to find out reasons and use cases to keep myself off the smart phone)

Charge 2 ticked all the boxes except for the big coloured screen, integrated GPS (never run with my phone, that’s a little too cumbersome and intrusive for me), and music.

Apple watch is a great option when you look at missing pieces but my preference for Android ecosystem also Apple Watch is really not a fitness tracker, its more of a smartwatch. I wanted a 100% rugged abuse resistant fitness tracker.

What’s awesome

  • The looks – When Ionic was launched late 2017, I had done a piece on it suggesting that Fitbit could have done a better job of it. The piece was titled Fitbit Ionic – The watch we want, but the watch we don’t deserve!  I am in parts taking my words back just on the looks. While it’s miles behind Apple finesse, it looks amazing. The diamond cut, softened edges unibody created out of aerospace-grade aluminium is pretty solid to hold and a delight to look at. It’s every bit a runner’s, an athlete’s watch. Change the straps from the stock classic version to a leather unit and it very well stands out as a semi-formal sort of a smartwatch.
Fitbit_thewatch
FITBIT IONIC STOCK AND THE ADIDAS LIMITED EDITION. PERSONAL OPINION – THE STOCK VERSION HAS GREATER LIKEABILITY AND VERSATILITY OF USAGE
  • The Straps – The straps are a much-improved version of the Charge 2 or Blaze from previous generations. and that’s not all the box comes with 2 pairs. One attached to the tracker, the other one kept as a spare piece. Works for me, for in past with Charge 2, I had a case of split straps. Though Fitbit replaced it under warranty, I had moments of heartburn, that peace of mind I guess is assured now.
  • Unboxing Fitbit is itself a delightful and satiating experience like with rest of the version. The box gives you a feeling of holding up something special and the stuff is pretty neatly stacked in there. Here are some snaps for you.
Unboxing_Fitbit
FITBIT – UNBOXED. THE BOX ITSELF, CHARGER CABLE, THE TRACKER, COUPLE OF STRAPS AND THE MANUALS
Fitbit_Barebones
FITBIT IONIC BARE BONES
  • Integrated GPS – Much wanted feature for minimal runners. There is a huge cross-section of minimal runners and fitness enthusiasts who prefer moving extremely light, cell phones especially not only for distraction but also for the hassle of carrying one additional overhead. Connected GPS with Charge 2 was decent but I never used it for first – the hassle of connecting and second – the hassle of carrying the cell phone. Now that’s completely gone with Ionic, the integrated GPS honestly is not a must-have feature as most enthusiasts would end up using it just a couple of times per week. One never ends up discovering or running newer routes every day, most runners invariably know their beat like the back of the palm, plus the overhead that GPS ends up burdening the tracker battery with becomes counterproductive.
  • Multi-clock faces – There are multiple clock faces, there is stuff in for the data lovers, the minimalists, the traditionalists, and everyone around. There are faces which come without a cost and there are some which come with some payouts.
Clock_Faces
SNAPSHOT CLOCK FACE OPTIONS
  • Decent Backup –  And I say decent because of the large and colourful clock face that it has to work with. The back lasts 5-6 days of operation without GPS and intensive music and with a daily run/exercise tracking of an hour. Battery specs aren’t disclosed officially but the unofficial circle has rumours of Ionic packing a 200 mah backup. Have observed the following power consumption pattern for the Ionic in 3 months intensive usage.
Usage Battery consumption Outcome
An hour of run with GPS ON Around 15 to 20% This implies that if one intends to run a full marathon in 4 hours, the watch if 100% charged will barely scrap through.

 

Rather sub-optimal performance I would suggest for the highest priced and one of the better-rated fitness trackers (But none perform better is what Garmin users have told me). An average marathoner would rather take 4.5 to under 5 hours to finish the run

An hour of run with GPS and Music on Around 22 to 25%
An hour of run without GPS or music 5 to 8% Under these conditions, Ionic can last almost a week.
An hour of run without GPS but with music 10 to 12%
  • The alarm – I am a regular user of the Fitbit vibration alarm. Used to be tricky with charge 2 because the alarm had to be set through the app and then be synced with the tracker, wasn’t the most reliable method really. In critical situations like catching an early morning flight, I would not trust the alarm on charge 2. That’s gone with Ionic, with alarm setting directly on the tracker. The need to sync with the app is gone now. And that makes it so trustworthy, all that one needs to do is train oneself to wake up to vibrations and not to the shrill sound of the watch.
  • Music delivery – The sound quality just falls short of awesomeness. Pair the tracker with a great pair of Bluetooth running earbuds and you are on. I am not sure of the Fitbit earphones performance (I find them a little too pricey for someone like me, where music is an intermittent requirement. I typically use mid-range performance earphones. The current one in service is an earpiece from geekcases
  • Tracker charging mechanism and time to charge – The charging mechanism is a straight inspiration out of the MacBook, and that’s a great improvisation I would say – learnings from cross sectors & industries are always meant to better the entire ecosystem. With boxy/Clippy charging pods from the blaze and charge 2 have given way to nicely done up magnetic lead which latches on the charging leads at the back of the up Ionic and sits there snugly. The charging is impressive as well, though the Ionic tech specs suggest that it might take up to 3 hours to get a 100% charge on the tracker, I typically end up getting it in less than an hour and a half. This also is a function of the adapter that one uses. I use the adapter from my Android phone which typically powers up a 3000 mah battery.
  • The layout of the coach and exercise app – That’s absolutely awesome. Large neat screen and intuitive to use layout is pleasing to the eyes.The 5 – 10 minute stretch sessions on the tracker are very well placed. This layout just works, I am more than 100% pleased.

The not so good

  • The guerrilla glass screen – catches scratches a little too soon, and that’s been my personal experience too. I have seen comments on Fitbit community where people have been ‘gutted’, ‘heartbroken’ – just for the sake of that damn scratch on the Ionic. But then people are passionate about their stuff and they want it in mint condition – ‘all the time’. There are some life hacks like using toothpaste to clean up surface scratches, but then the next generation of watches will need to work on this aspect for sure.
MUSIC TRANSFER INTERFACE FOR MAC
MUSIC TRANSFER INTERFACE FOR MAC
  • Putting back the strap – one can never be sure if they have got it right. Post cleaning the tracker, once you try to put the strap back in, the click sound to suggest that the strap is now in place requires a real hard push, it’s an undue hard push. One might have their heart in mouth while doing it. Have seen a lot of people reporting cases of straps not fitting back in and they had to get themselves a replacement. Most cases are actually, people not forcing belts hard enough. Fitbit will need to be kind of proactive in educating users regarding it. Right now, the approach is more like – responding once the complaint is in, why would you want to do that when the niggle and the solution are both known. Get a cue from the car industry, be upfront, be proactive.
Attaching_Belts
PUTTING BACK THE FITBIT STRAPS POST CLEANING

My Wishlist/Must haves/On priority basis

  • The sequencing of the Exercising/Running and the Music app on the tracker: If one intends to run with music on, you will compulsorily need to fire up the music app first and then start the exercise app in that order. Once the exercise app is running, one cannot send it to the background and then get the music app going. You will need to kill the exercise app, start the music app and then get the exercise app back on. This ends up killing your stats for the first part of the run. As an end user, one would like to have complete flexibility in the order of usage of these apps.
  • Low power intelligent mode: What good is a fitness tracker do if it ain’t good enough to track the steps or the run. The problem with Ionic is that it is not smart enough to switch to basic step or exercise tracking once it starts to run out of power. Say, for example, you start your run with 15% power with GPS on. That’s just sufficient to keep you going for less than an hour only, if your run extends beyond an hour then the tracker without any warning just SHUTS DOWN without any warning. The tracker must have an inbuilt smart low power mode where it shuts down all non-essential functions (GPS/Music) and keeps tracking steps/run only.
  • Decent Music transfer app: Fitbit has an official tie-up with Deezer in US & Europe. In most places in Asia, one will need to have the basic Fitbit desktop app either for windows or for mac as the case may be. It’s a 3 step process. Step 1: Download music files on desktop/laptop Step 2: Create a playlist in the Fitbit music transfer app Step 3: Transfer files to the tracker. The transfer part is the most painful one – a playlist of 40 to 50 songs would sometimes take more than 3 -4 hours. This really tests one to the edge of patience, an unacceptable experience for the best tracks in town. That’s one time when you miss an Apple Watch. Good folks at Fitbit – listening?
  • Fitbit Pay: Have used NFC enabled Samsung pay, loved the experience. As of date, Fitbit supports pay option for a select group of countries, unfortunately, India is not on that list. We need that option up here, have seen passionate Fitbit users clamouring on Fitbit community to get that option on their devices here. Not getting that option would really mean shortchanging the customers, suggest the good folks at Fitbit to not do that pls.

The final verdict

When Fitbit was launched, I had suggested that it’s gonna be a great buy in a year’s time when prices moderate around 18K to 20K INR. That’s where it is now.

For all its shortcomings as of now, there is nothing which comes close in terms of fitness tracking capability. It’s a reliable companion to manage not just activities but also healthy lifestyle (If one chooses to adopt the entire ecosystem – diet management, water intake, weight tracking, strength building with Strava).

Would recommend the device any day!

Steve Jobs comes alive ‘Behind the Mac’

Some things should never change, core values are one of them – as Steve Jobs would say. Behind the Mac campaign by Apple stands that test.

Apple inc stands tall as a 1 Trillion USD worth organization, momentous occasion really. The first one to go there and will be there for quite some time now – can be pretty lonely at the top.

Personally to me, not a miracle at all. They were always destined to be there, just made it there sooner than later. Afterall they not only have one of the largest toplines across the globe but also the fattest bottom line.

Sans last few years, Apple always has been at the leading threshold edge of Design and Technology. They have really redefined the alphabet “I”. Google – the Verb, has already made it to the Oxford dictionary; not long before you see kids babbling ‘I’ for iPhone or an iPad or an iWatch.

What’s quite intriguing is the Apple’s falling out with the MacBook. The product which etched them permanently into the minds of the diehard Apple fanboys. MacBook as a product sets the benchmark for what a professional computing device ought to be – versatile, light, durable, aesthetic. Students love them, guys from creative agencies swear by them – and I don’t disagree. The MacBook deserves all the adulation it basks. Unfortunately, last few years Apple has not chosen to talk about the MacBook at all, there has been no serious upgrades, and I guess it’s not acquiring new users at a comparable rate to the other “i”Devices.

I think the MacBook defocus has been the fall out of transition between Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. Tim Cook has often touted the iPhone as the ‘mother of all the devices’ and the rest of the organization has clamored around.

Steve the businessman always looked for profit pool but Steve the visionary would never let go of something as fundamental as the Mac. A young Mac user of today is Apple acquiree forever. Initiate and acquire through Macbook – he is in for rest of the iDevices. To rationalize just compute the Customer lifetime value for this acquisition.

Now what’s amazing is Apple coming back strongly to talk about the Mac and that too in primetime Steve Jobs way. The ongoing Apple campaign “Behind the Mac” is an ode to Steve himself, the way he felt and thought about Brands. He never believed in the classic definition of the Brand – a logo, a symbol, a quote etc. He thought much more and much beyond about it. He took a lot of inspiration from Nike and the way they talked about their Brand, sometimes I guess more seriously than Phil Knight himself. chuckle!

Posting a youtube link from exactly 21 years back when Steve broke the first Apple Brand campaign, Think Different

(4:50 to 5:20, feel free to watch the entire thing, it’s an education anyway). He says “Nike is not about Air soles, Nike is about honoring great athletes, that’s who they are, that’s what they believe in!”

The Think Different campaign that broke that weekend in 1997 talked about people and paid home to those who thought and did things differently – The list is extremely distinguished Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King. Mohd. Ali. Here it is.

21 yrs later in 2018, Behind the Mac campaign upholds things that Steve Jobs truly believed in, it’s again come back to celebrate the great men and women of today, these are artists who have perfected their craftsmanship to a different league altogether. It’s not about the MacBook at all, it’s about those men and women and the transformation they have brought, though the Mac sits there as a proud prop, as a tool and weapon that propelled them to the heights they are at. Some of these guys are legends, some are at the cusp!

I love it and most people do! it’s upholding the true Apple values of celebrating the different, the misfits, the challengers of status quo. Some things should never change, core values are one of them – as Steve Jobs would say. On the other side, MacBook users would be more proud than happy, they are getting their due, after all.

Watch the Behind the Mac campaign series below.

Running Rules – Literally and Figuratively!

Running with rules!

This was we what Dean had to say when he started his umpteenth 100 miler.

Mind you, the man reflecting here is no less than 2 decade old in some serious kick ass endurance running across the toughest terrains of the World. But have no misgivings, that starting line can give jitters to the very best that’s out there.

But then that’s the beauty of running distances, it’s not repeatable or predictable even if you have done it a dozen or more times earlier. Deep inside you know that if you have done it once you will be able to do it again, but that element of tummy rumbling, that moment of self doubt every time you start off that line like a Greenhorn makes it exciting. The idea is to keep going, come what may.

Most runners have their rules, unwritten tenets to keep propelling them in. There are no wrongs or rights, they are just beliefs.

I am no great athlete, just a runner. But I have my tenets as well and I am pretty religious about those. I have 2 sets – The core ones and the peripheral ones.

Core ones are just 3, pretty simple.

1. A run planned cannot be cancelled at any cost.

2. A run started cannot be terminated, come what may!

3. When running, whatever is visible is achievable.

I am an every day runner, weekdays are moderate, weekends are little more. Having these rules by my side has helped me tremendously in getting imprisoned into the virtuous-addicitive-vortex that running is!

I have my bad days, the feet don’t get into rhythm, arm doesn’t swing right, Sun’s beating down hard (ya .. I am from Delhi).

But these rules, they are mighty rigid, help me take good days, bad days all in stride.

There has not been a single day where I have regretted post a run, it’s always been euphoric. However, feelings haven’t always been upbeat in pre-run phases which is where my rules have partnered and pushed me through thick and thin, through rains and arid Sun, through moist laden, sweat soaked Tees to sub zero temperature dashes.

I bow down to my ‘Holy Trinity’.

Will these rules help you get started, d drop in a note.

Marketing 3 Ps – profession, passion, and pain!

I have met many professionals specifically marketeers, who have basic thumb rules to keep them going, keep them engaged and motivated for the most part of their work.

Some would proclaim ’till the time the number of good days at work is more than the bad days, they are doing well’.

Some others would say, they are bloody good at what they do and that’s why their organisation has entrusted them with a multi-million brand business.

Still others would say they were first benchers in their alma maters, maintained very standards of acads. They have always been sharp, as a result of which they ask super incisive questions and that’s what has helped them stay at the top of their game for so long.

As a marketeer, for quite some time now, here is what I think about it.

  1. Marketing, managing a brand, or managing a product/category is not an entitlement that one can really owe to their sharpness, acads, or incisiveness. It’s merely an opportunity that is a function of ones’ good fortune, willing to start every day like a rookie, being humble, willingness to respect opinions across the table, fight hard and hug harder, and a little noise surrounding all of it. if ever it feels like an entitlement, its not gonna last long.
  2. If you have always asked questions, then in all probability either you are a consultant, or your were born a CEO or you were born with silver spoon of business to inherit the day you started to walk on twos. Asking questions is easy, I have read a lot of management bibles (not that I don’t respect them) where asking 5 Why’s takes you to the root of the problem. Remember 2 things always.
    • When you are asking the why’s; you are pretending to be smart, someone else has to do all the answering
    • In most case it doesn’t take 5 W’s to know the root cause. It just 1st or the 2nd W.

A marketeer inevitably ends up answering all the time. So when you are in it, be kind to the people who ask you those tough 5W questions, forgive them. For they probably will never have it them to stand up and take those 5 Ws in the face of looking extremely silly.

3. ‘Marketing is simple’. Ain’t it? Hell no. What’s easy is throwing ideas left, right, and centre. What’s really complex is executing those ideas. An execution can be nerve wrecking, bone shattering experience.

It’s akin saying – a minute ain’t much. Well pitch this question to someone trying to earn his last minute on a treadmill. That’s the importance of minute, as hard as execution probably harder. So, if someone says marketing is easy ask them when was last that they did something significant which is other than getting awarded for a fabulous idea or writing a paper which either gave no results or never saw the light of the day.

Execution is tough, may be pulling the incredible even and so is marketing.

4. I get awarded almost every quarter for something really amazing that I keep doing. I am so fertile and so agile. Forget it. You are actually not achieving anything substantial. All that you are doing is earning desk fillers to deck up your CV.

Marketeers, if lucky, worth their salt, and diligent will at best have 2 or 3 real big achievements in their entire career. That’s probably true of any other profession. You will probably have 1 or 2 highs in a year which will all be a team effort. If you thought, you pulled it alone, you are day dreaming. Think of the agency who toiled along side you, the finance guy who released the PO in time, the marcom lady who was kind enough to ask one question less and your boss who was brave enough to let you go off from one insignificant meeting.

5. Keeping your chin up when you really sweating down to your pants, looking silly when questioned stripped down to bare bones by a table full of CXOs with an overall intellect and weighted summed experience of probably more than a century. And you really don’t have anything to offer except for a few slides, wide smile, and plans A, B, and C all of which together aren’t adding up to what you have just committed.

In God you trust, in your boss do you confide, and have heart to keep taking Mr. Murphy on day in day out. You will survive today with head held high and smile on your face when you end up home at the end of the day, to see the light tomorrow.

If you can earn respect from just a few post going through all this. You have just experienced some serious marketing sweetheart!

Disclaimer(s):

1. By no means does this denigrate any other profession, they are all amazing. These are mere experiences some true, some made up, some exaggerated.

2. This piece comes immediately post a ‘Runner’s high’. So if you cannot make sense out of a few things, it’s okay. It’s supposed to be that way.

3. Lolz.

But I still love it – Fitbit

It’s not about the fitness band you wear. It’s about what does it throw back at you and how do you use it. Its’ about how you ‘take care’ of yourself!

In last few years, there has been a lot of awareness on health and especially on well being. Not that we as Indians were not aware, being active was a part of our culture. Historically, we have been pretty outgoing and entrepreneurial by nature. As a society, we have always been an agrarian society, it hasn’t changed as of date. Agriculture has started contributing lesser to our GDP, still employs the largest number of people (and that discussion is for some other time)

Our new found awareness on well being chiefly stems out of the new found unavoidable urbane upwardly lifestyle that we have mostly been forced upon. Extended work hours, staying away from ‘Gen – 1’ family, poor sleep quality, cramped little spaces, single-minded focus on proving oneself at business is killing us.

In this mass hysteria, health and fitness bands come as an awesome awareness and preventive tools for lifestyle management.

And hardly surprising is the fact that they are available at a huge spread of price points starting from 1500 to 25000 INR. The idea behind this write is to not compare or benchmark these bands but to specifically talk about Fitbit and the impact it had one me over 1.5 yrs of usage and this after initial scepticism (I have always been a firm believer in know thy body and know thy mind, because no one knows it better than thy).

All the devices offer you a range of stats from step counts, to the heartbeat, your sleep time, and silent alarms. Absolutely no difference except for the number of steps that they count (that typically depends on the algo in use). Where Fitbit scores against all these is deriving personalised, meaningful insights from these pieces of data and generating actionable steps for the user.

The kind of insights it generates is terrific, truly smart! You genuinely get the feeling of someone really caring about your health and wellbeing. The insights range from being psychological to physiological.

I could broadly categorise themselves into 3 broad kinds!

Kind1: Be kind to yourself Find out your moments of peace, relaxation, and grab wink.

Relax for your moments, be kind to yourself!
Relax for your moments, be kind to yourself!

Kind2: Pat on the back, Postive Reinforcements.

You did good buddy, keep doing more of it!
You did good buddy, keep doing more of it!
You are doing very well, stay at it!
You are doing very well, stay at it!

These reinforcements are not only limited to sleep (though I started with sleep because that’s what we are most deprived of these days).

I love the way these reinforcements come through even with steps, all those small daily accruals come together to blow up into a meaningful personal achievement. Trust me, you will actually be very proud of those!

 

Top_Badge.JPG
My top Badges :-), I am proud of these!

 

 

Daily_Badge.JPG
Everyday steps accruing into something big, something personal, sort of milestones.

 

 

Lifetime_Badge.JPG
And your efforts made you hop across countries and continents, ain’t that something

 

Kind3: Gentle Reminder, bordering mild reprimand. mend your ways, trouble around the corner

Enough, take note now
Enough, take note now

Other features that I regularly use are the silent alarms, Cardio fitness score, and guided breathing sessions.

Silent vibrating alarms on your wrists are extremely gentle and powerful. They just cannot be ignored and have multiple advantages – you don’t ever have to wake up to that metallic, non-stop, head wrenching alarm from your phone. You would rather only stay half asleep for the fear of that nasty alarm going off! 🙂

I also love the way it generates your VOx levels (broadly put it is the efficiency of O2 burn during a physical activity ) and hence the cardio fitness score. I have seen mine improving across a period of time with loads of long distance running.

 

Heart.JPG
How fit is your heart today?

 

Guided Breathing sessions are another add-on to make you exercise on the move, or give you moments of calm and peace through the day ‘on demand’. These are 2 -5 minutes of quantized breathing sessions to bring instant calm.

 

Inhale
Breathe to calm down

 

 

Finally, to the naysayers

I have seen a lot of comments with people claiming that Fitbit miscounted steps, gave wrong heartbeats, blah, blah, and, blah.

Is Fitbit accurate – Hell no, by no means. Is it directionally correct – A perfect yes. None debating that.

Can Fitbit be trusted – directionally yes, but it’s not a substitute for any medical consultations or devices.

Is Fitbit perfect – You got to be joking, no way! Perfect, far from it and I agree. Despite being an advocate, I will be blunt and say that it’s not a perfect device at all.  (It’s the earliest cyborg – next generations will be much smarter and nimbler. I see next gen revolution shifting from pockets (smartphones) to wrists (smart wearables)). 

So it’s neither accurate nor perfect, It is an encouraging and positive reinforcements device to keep reminding of your health goals, celebrates your intimate steps achievements moments and makes sure you know on how important you are for yourself – take care!

And they come – Google Home and Mini!

With launch of Google Home and Mini, Indian market will see a fresh face off between Google and Amazon. Here is a neutral look at what do these assistants have to offer the Customer.

With Google making an official announcement through a big bang launch and media bleeding tonnes of CMYK in the reel, digital, and print, the face-off between Google and Amazon is for real now.

And it’s at multiple levels – The intelligence that runs the devices, the partnerships at product and service level, and finally the devices themselves.

Let’s start with the intelligence bit.

Google is smarter and much evolved period. End of argument. The decades of resident data with Google through search, Gmail, map etc. has meant that the engine has got context, patterns, and stuff that customers actually look for.

Google is an interactive device while Alexa beyond a certain level becomes extremely task-centric and transactional.

I have been using Google Home for over a year now and it’s terrific when it comes to being contextual. To quote an example – I ask Google to count from 50 to minus 10 to entertain kids and it does it without breaking a sweat. I step it up ask it count from 100 to 0, well it just refuses to comply saying that it’s gonna take awfully long to do that!

Repeat the same stuff with Echo, Alexa freezes – just doesn’t understand what it’s supposed to do. Offers a meek apology, that’s it!

On being a good assistant Google does a much better job. it does the real job of being a personal assistant, helping you locate stuff. Say, for example, you can tell Google to remember that you have kept your passport in the drawer of the reading table! And later you can just ask Google to tell you where your passport is and it would just replay that information. This is not a ‘reminder’ function but a ‘remember’ function. The remember function also comes with added voice security so that your secrets are only unlocked by you and none else.

Echo doesn’t get this at all! Not only that Google can remember your family tree, relatives, friends everything – Echo just can’t!

In terms of keeping one smart and productive through the day, Google Home does a much better job. And that’s because the one’s user profile is already deeply integrated with one, few or many products from the Google suite, the most common ones being the Gmail, Maps, or the Calendar. The Google assistant can just pick up stuff from there and get going. It can tell you about upcoming meetings, flight schedules, even suggest a time to get started from home in order to be able to get to your flight in time. Echo – NADA! And I don’t see this gap bridging anytime sooner, as a fact I see this a competitive advantage that Google is gonna retain for a very very long time.

Integration with other partners

We must understand that while smart assistants are the centre of the home, in the literal sense. They also have the play the role of an effective enabler to other smart devices around them. Without supporting the ecosystem Google Home is nothing but a search which sits on your tabletop and Echo is a shopping tool, in most simplistic terms. Hence, integration with other partners is extremely important to get this entire show relevant to the end customer.

In terms of service partner (music, entertainment, cab hailing, food ordering) integration I wouldn’t score one over the other – both have got extremely relevant local partner’s on board.

In terms of product partnerships, India isn’t evolved at all. Say for example categories like smart lighting, or smart curtains etc. are still in the closet but then that is where right partnerships will matter. In case the early adopters get right feel for other smart products right at the beginning the adoption is gonna be faster else it’s gonna be a drag all the way along. While Echo has a large width of integration, Google has been extremely selective. But does that mean Echo has got a head start, I don’t think so! While Echo has got many partnerships in lighting most of them offer sub-par experience and that reflects through the customer reviews on their portal. On the other hand, Home has chosen to start with just one proven Global partnership to start with – Philips Hue. I think that is the right way to go about it. This category would require doing things right the first time, else a dissonant customer is not going to come back for a very long time. The commercial outcome of the partnership is yet to come out only time will tell.

Well, how do these devices fare in the home, and that’s what is most important to the end customer.

In terms of look and build, I see Google Mini and Home both a little more refined and demure in home settings. The choice of fabric, especially over the Mini, makes it meld in the home settings effortlessly. That’s where the Echo Dot looks a little mechanical and stands out as a piece of tech device in the home. I like the Mini more because I typically get things which complement home and not stand out, this might just be different for others.

Assistant one on one
See the fabric draped Mini versus the bare bones Echo dot. Home and Echo are more equitable, just in looks!

In terms of Google Home versus Echo, I don’t see a lot of design dissonance. Home is a little curvy, Echo is a straight up cylinder both carry fabric cover. Not much to pick from there.

To talk about music performance, one has the option of playing songs through the cell phone and directly asking the assistants to play it.

To play it through the assistant directly, you need to enable/link your music partner account to smart device account. Most people would do that, but trust me this is not the most preferred method. Asking assistants to play songs but just letting them know the first line is mighty tiring sometimes.

I prefer the smartphone method. Start your music app and play your music through the assistant. That’s a less smart but more effective and pain-free way of enjoying music.

Echo Dot connects through Bluetooth to your phone and that’s very easy. Just switch On the Bluetooth of your smart device, Echo devices either connect immediately on their own most of the times or your just to have to ask ‘Alexa pls connect with my phone’ That’s it! We are done!

This works a little differently with Google Home and Mini. They don’t connect with phones through Bluetooth. You need to ‘Cast’ your content to the assistant. For that to happen, you have to be on the same WiFi network as the smart device is! That can be a little bothersome. The cast sometimes also is a little tricky when the Wifi network is weak in some corners of the home.

Here, it’s a little simpler with Echo.

In terms of voice quality, I find both mini and Home better in fidelity and bass as compared to Dot and Echo respectively. To be honest, the dot is not even supposed to yield high quality sound, it’s recommended that you connect Dot with a high quality speaker that you already have at home through either an Aux cable or Bluetooth. But Mini scores a point here, much better voice quality I must admit – bang for the buck.

Well, how about listening and response quality of the devices. Indian homes will always have some ambient noise either from the fan in the house or through the window or the balcony door.

The Echo voice recognition is ‘Out of the World’. It just picks you up from all the noise and humdrum. Amazon’s far-field voice recognition through an array of microphones on the top of the device is so effective.

Google Home can sometimes make you feel repetitive and irritated at not being able to pick your voice up! Have also experienced that Home doesn’t pick the wake-up word ‘okay Google’ in quick successions, you have to change the phrase to ‘hey Google’ the second time around. Minor niggle, but major customer frustration. For all the hard work that Google has done with Home and Mini, I am sure this little thing will too b sorted! They wouldn’t want to lose the battle for want of the proverbial ‘nail’ 😃

And now not the most essential bit still a hygiene, the App interface: You will occasionally need to access the app of these assistants once in a while, either to set up a new device, change things around, or set a reminder (setting voice reminders can be boring sometimes, trust me!)

I find the Amazon Alexa app neater and easier to use as compared to the Google Home. The options are neatly arranged and are extremely intuitive. The most frequently needed applications are right there at a single tap.

Amazon Alexa App menu options
Oft-used menu options on the Amazon Alexa app, intuitive spread!

Google home is a little cluttered, and not so user-friendly. Even the most needed options are at the second level. Say for example, why would like something as common as reminder insides settings, that should be pretty upfront – inviting and on single tap!

Google Home App menu options
Menu options on the Google Home App, even oft-used options need a second tap!
Level 2 options in the Google Home App
‘Reminders’ inside the ‘Settings’ options. Not most optimal, things need to be moved around a little!

The verdict – which one to pick!

Depends on what are you looking for. If you are looking for a task-centric introvert non-chatty assistant – Echo is what you are looking for.

If you are looking for a free-willed, more intelligent, interactive, sometimes even deaf eared assistant – Google Home is what you are looking for.

In terms of how much you shell out – doesn’t make much of a difference as of date, both these players will come out with one to one matched partner and standalone device deals. Just get the one which appeals you more!

For customers, its’ just getting started – more the merrier!