June 01, 2014

Trakdot - An Internet of Things Cautionary Tale


(Photo credit Craig)

This morning my sister sent me a link to a USA Today story "Ultimate Travel Tech Tools and Tips for Families."  She knew I would want to read about the new Trackdot, a wireless luggage tracker for frequent fliers.  Trakdot's idea is you put this little battery powered device in your luggage before you check it, and then when your luggage arrives at it's desitation, it sends you a text message saying where it is located.  That's nice when it lands the same place you do, and really helpful when it lands somewhere else so you can tell the lost luggage department where the luggage actually is.  Because you know they don't know where it is most of the time!

The Trakdot costs $49 with free shipping, and there is a $19 per year service plan to pay for its wireless usage.  You can also buy it on amazon.com.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I have not yet ordered a Trakdot.  I really could use this product, but I found most of the reviews on Amazon, sorted by "most helpful" were pretty bad.  To be fair, the most recent reviews are mostly very good.  

And this is the point of my post here. The Internet of Things market is going to be full of very cool, inexpensive and useful sounding technology, and some of it is not going to work very well especially in the early days of the products.

What I saw in the early reviews of this product were typical of many new tech products:

  1. Poorer than advertised battery life
  2. Confusing and poorly written documentation
  3. A human interface that is not obvious to use, requiring the use of the poorly written documentation
  4. Customer service that is either overwhelmed or doesn't care and leaves the early customers who believed in the vision of the product wondering if they made a mistake being an early adopter
  5. Lots of mentions in the press and in blogs by people (like me) who did not actually get to use the product before writing their breathless reviews about how great the new technology is or is not going to be
  6. Poor reviews by actual users who are frustrated and want to warn others away from the product

Whenever there is a gold rush mentality in a market, people rush in, money follows and products get shipped before they are ready because the inventors and investors are afraid that someone else is just about to ship and steal the category.  In the early days of the gold rush the press believes the PR machine and knows the public is interested in the newest thing, so the reviews tend to be uninformed and glowing.  

I am so excited by the Internet of Things - cheap little computers, connected to sensors and to the internet - and it will bring amazing new devices and services to our lives.  But I do hate to see companies get caught up in the rush to market with a product before it is quite ready.

Getting back to Trackdot, and reading the latest reviews on Amazon, I see a company that seems to be trying to get back on the right foot with their product launch.  The more recent reviews are almost all positive.  One reviewer mentioned getting an unsolicited email from the Trackdot CEO applogizing for the issues the reviewer had and then got them replacement devices.  They are getting (or generating) great stories in the press.  I love the idea of this product, and the price is right for the frequent traveler.  I hope they can overcome the early growing pains, but I know if they can't, someone else is right around the corner with a competing product.  Either way, in a little while I'm going to be able to track my luggage and most other important things in my life by cheap little devices.

I am a little cautious about the most recent reviews for Trakdot on amazon, because very few seem to be from people who have ever done a review on Amazon before or are verified purchasers of the product, and they also tend to be just a few sentences long.  I'll tell you what.  If I get 10 comments on this post, I'll buy a Trakdot and try it out, and I'll write an informed review.  Until then, consider this post as a cautionary tale about launching new products in general, and not a product review of the Trakdot product.

(Disclaimer:  I have not purchased or tested a Trakdot.  I am also an amazon.com shareholder.  Because I live in Colorado, I will not get even a few pennies if you click through and buy a Trakdot or anything else from this post.  I do my best to be independent.)

June 1, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, Internet of Things, Travel | Permalink | TrackBack

May 16, 2013

I've flown 152,820 miles since 1-13-09


According to tripit.com, I've flown 152,820 miles since January 13, 2009.

I'm a big fan of tripit.com.  If you travel at all, you should check it out because it is the very best way I've found to organize travel information such as flights, hotel reservations and rental cars.  When I book a flight, I get an email from the airline.  I then forward that email to [email protected] and it magically puts it into my intenerary for that trip.  Same thing for other reservations.  Then while I'm traveling I can use the web or a mobile device to look and see where I need to be next.  It's even smart enough to tell me if a flight is delayed and it will suggest alternate flights.  They also make it easy to print a paper copy, just in case the electronics fail, and you can easily email your travel plans to other people.

This afternoon I was planning a quick business trip and I noticed that Tripit also keeps track of total trips and miles flown.  Here are my stats since I joined Tripit January 13, 2009.


That's a lot of miles, even though many people fly a lot more than I do.  This year I've done a lot of customer visits and a couple of personal trips.  In the past four years and four months, I've flown the equivalent of a little more than six times around the world, at the equator.  Again, I know people who fly way more than me, but I was surprised at just how many miles I've flown.  I wish I knew how many miles I've flown in my life!  United says I've flown 555,171 miles just with them, not including all the flights that they didn't credit me for, so maybe the total is a million or more.  Wow, I've probably flown more miles than I've driven!




May 16, 2013 in Travel | Permalink | TrackBack

February 13, 2009

Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy


Lois C.K.

My good friend Marty sent me a link to a video clip of comedian Louis C.K. doing a bit on Conan O'Brian where he talks about how amazing things are now.  I sometimes have to keep my optimism in check a bit, because I know people are hurting and worried about the economy, but this is good for a laugh, and it’s a reminder of how much things have improved in just the last 50 or 100 years.  As a phone geek, I got a laugh out of the reminder of how phones worked not that long ago.

I would imbed the video, but the comments are interesting, to a point, where it just turns into a flame-fest.  I will say this though – the more I learn to appreciate what I’ve already got, the happier I become and the less stress I feel about the things that aren’t going the way I want them to go.  I still want still want a new guitar and the next cool gadget, but I now know that happiness is NOT defined by or provided by – stuff.  It’s often a choice and it’s about actions and relationships.  Seriously.

Click here to see the video.

Have a happy weekend!

February 13, 2009 in Entrepreneurship, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | TrackBack

January 23, 2009

Waitamo Caves – Wonderland or Weirdoland – Kindle update

kindle story

Back in October I wrote about my experience publishing on the Kindle ebook from Amazon.com.  My wife Cindy had written a short story about our experience doing something called Blackwater Rafting a few years ago, and she donated it to me for my publishing experiment.  I published it to the Kindle and mentioned it once on my blog, expecting that maybe one or two of my friends with Kindles would buy it.  It’s only about 10 pages long, so I priced it at the minimum price of $1 and Amazon discounts it 20%.  At 80 cents a pop, we weren’t planning on being able to fund a return trip to New Zealand.  I think I get maybe 8 cents for each copy sold, but the joy that Cindy gets every time someone buys a copy has turned out to be worth way more than 80 cents.

I checked the stats on Amazon.com today and I’m very proud to report that my wife’s story is now ranked #66 in the Rafting category, and #85 in the Adventure travel category.  She will be horrified if she finds out I’ve written this, because she would first point out that it’s #66 ON THE KINDLE, not in all books, and besides she’s kind of shy about this sort of thing.  Seriously though – 80 cents.  I’ll personally refund your money if you don’t like it, but you will – it’s a funny story and pretty much told at my expense.  There are a few four letter words in the story – the ones you would use on your husband if you were coerced to ride down a river in an inner tube, in a cave 300 feet below the surface, in a tight wet suit with a miner’s helmet on your head.  And there are “Enchanting Glowworms” on the ceiling of the cave.  “Glowworm” is a nice tourist-term for maggots with poop that glows in the dark.  Oh, and you are a tad claustrophobic.  You know the words I mean.  :-) 

The experience, and the reaction from some very kind readers, has encouraged her to write more.  Just a few weeks ago she finished the first draft of a novel.  I’m biased, but I think it’s a great story.  If you want to take my word for it, and you are an agent representing fiction novels, PLEASE contact me.  I’ll get SO many points if I can help Cindy get her book published.  And it really is a great story.  So far I haven’t been able to convince her to let me publish it on the Kindle – she’s kind of traditional about some things.

Thanks to everyone who bought Cindy’s story.  If you haven’t yet, here’s another convenient link.  I get double points if you go write a nice review on amazon.com.  Once again, that link is right here and here, or you can just search for Cindy Gold on amazon.com  Can you tell how proud I am of her?

Cindy doesn’t read my blog, so let’s just keep this post between us, OK?

Update 1:  She found out about this post, and has called me "Ridiculously Supportive."    I'm so lucky.

January 23, 2009 in Books, Travel | Permalink | TrackBack

December 28, 2007

A dream come true . . .

I think one of the keys to happiness is to be thankful for what we already have.  I travel a lot and sometimes I forget what a privilege it is, even with the increased security and crowded flights.

Here is a video about a guy in Deli, India, who bought a retired Airbus A300 and put it in his yard so kids can achieve their dream of sitting in an airplane.  The video reports that 99% of Indians have never boarded an airplane, and that hundreds visit the plane every week.  Think about that next time you fly and see if you don't feel a little bit better about your life.

Mr. Gupta, I'm sure you are inspiring a lot of future engineers and airline pilots.  Well done!

December 28, 2007 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 23, 2006

home safe

52 hour delay - a personal record, but I'm still smiling!

December 23, 2006 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2006

so close yet so far

I made it to Denver, but we've been sitting on the ramp for 90 minutes waiting for the person to wave us in the last 50 feet. The story is that most of the ground crews couldn't get to work today, so they are only handling a few at a time.

I'm still smiling, though it has been a long day and I still have to dig out the FJ.

December 22, 2006 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Real-time flight tracking

Here's another travel tip.  You can track flights in real-time at http://flightaware.com/ and other sites.  Flightaware is showing me exactly where the plane is that will be used for my flight out of here.  It also predicts that it will arrive here at 5:04, which is about ten minutes after my airline claims I'll be departing.  Assuming the airline is not changing planes, that means my airline is fibbing a bit and I'm going to be delayed again.

That reminds me of the time that my airline was saying that the flight was delayed because of fog in San Francisco and I brought up a web cam of the airport showing nice sunny skies.  Never lie to your customer.  It's bad karma and you will probably get caught.

December 22, 2006 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Travel tips

On Tuesday I left Denver to visit some customers, expecting to return home on Wednesday.  It's now Friday afternoon and I'm still not home.  As you probably know Denver got clobbered by a big snow storm that dropped 30 inches of snow at my house.  The Person Who Prefers Not To Be Blogged About just dug out this afternoon after being snowed in for almost three days.

I'm sitting in an airport still waiting to get home, so assuming I really do leave this afternoon I will have set a personal record for a flight delay of 48 hours.  Everyone I've talked to is surprised that I'm not upset about this, so I thought I would share a few travel tips that have helped me keep my good humor.

  1. Keep smiling - you really can choose your attitude.  Being annoyed is not going to help and it will just ruin your day.  Who would you rather help?  Someone who is mad and acting like a jerk or someone who's taking the delays in stride?  I once got bumped into first class and got home while the guy ahead of me got stuck and probably had his baggage sent to Alaska.  The difference - he yelled at the gate agent because of a mechanical problem with the plane, and I simply smiled and told her that I understood it wasn't her fault and that I appreciated her trying to get me home.  The longer the delay, the more fun it is to be smiling while everyone else is losing their head.
  2. Enjoy your time - yesterday I spent a few hours exploring the city.  I can work from anywhere and it was fun to sit in a new coffee shop and answer emails.  I enjoy seeing new places so no matter where I am I can find a new neighborhood to explore.  Having a portable GPS really helps too.  I just head off in an interesting direction, knowing that I can always get back to my hotel.  Now that I'm at the airport, I'm catching up on emails, making a few calls and generally just enjoying some time where I have no choice but to sit still.
  3. Be creative - There might just be another route home that the airlines won't volunteer, so having someone to help look for alternatives can mean the difference between getting home and spending another night away from home.  I'm lucky to have someone helping me who doesn't take no for an answer, and for less than the price of another night in a hotel I'm (fingers crossed) going to be home tonight.  The airline originally said I would not get home until sometime next week.
  4. Travel light - I have a small bag that I don't have to check, so last minute changes don't disrupt my travel as much.  I sometimes have to buy new clothes on the road, but it gives me something to do when I get stuck.
  5. Keep it in perspective - I'm traveling on business and I'm on my way home.  There are lots of people in the world who have it a lot worse than I do, even if I do sleep in a terminal tonight.  This is a bump in the road.

Safe travels!


December 22, 2006 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

Brad Feld commenting on TSA and knitting needles

Brad Feld commented on all the TSA people standing around the last time he flew out of DIA.  This TSA thing is driving me nuts. If I thought we were more secure, I'd be OK with it, but I feel like it is all for show to make it look like we're safer, when in fact we are probably less safe.

I wrote recently about seeing people on two different flights with 12" long knitting needles.  I was surprised because I thought they were still confiscating such things as tweezers and nail clippers from carry on luggage.  It turns out that some of the rules have been relaxed.  You can in fact take tweezers, nail clippers, corkscrews, toy transformer robots (where these once banned???), umbrellas and canes on the plane.

I was surprised to see that you still CAN NOT carry onto a flight tools of any sort, including axes, hatchets and cattle prods (that makes sense), hammers, drills or saws (OK) or wrenches and pliers.  (I guess you might try to dissemble the plane in flight, or make a weapon of some sort.)  Under the Tools category where the types of tools banned are listed, "tools" are listed.  Can't be too careful with tools I guess.

Note that knives of any type or size, except for "round bladed butter or plastic" knives, are still prohibited.  I'm not trying to get the knitters of the world on my case, but does it make sense to allow 12" long anodized aluminum knitting needles on the plane, while the TSA continues to build one of the best pocket knife collections in the world?  I haven't tried bringing on my 2 inch long Swiss army knife and I never will, because of this regulation:

If you bring a prohibited item to the checkpoint, you may be criminally and/or civilly prosecuted or, at the least, asked to rid yourself of the item. A screener and/or Law Enforcement Officer will make this determination, depending on what the item is and the circumstances. This is because bringing a prohibited item to a security checkpoint—even accidentally—is illegal.

I'm writing about this again, not to annoy the TSA, but to say that if we are going to have good security at the airport or anywhere else, it's got to be really good and not just for show.  The screener who looked at my ID last week, didn't even look at my face.  She looked all around me but not at my face and I've had this happen before. Even if she had compared my face to my ID, I'm not sure that a piece of plastic that any high school kid can fake, adds a lot to our security.

I've noticed from my typepad stats that a lot of people are getting to my blog via google and the search words "airline knitting needle".  I'm not at all sure what that means, but I'm not the only one thinking about this apparently.



March 2, 2005 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack