When I was an MBA student, more than 20 years ago, I was invited to participate in a research project for some innovative technology that originated in the defense industry. It was a modified computer that would, in nearly real time, monitor public water systems and provide an early warning if someone tampered with the water and put in harmful chemicals such as poisons. Our job, our little group of students, was to determine where the market opportunity was for this system, which was estimated to cost $40,000 (in 1990 dollars). We spoke to public water utilities, big and small, all over the United States. We interviewed government officials at agencies designed to protect the public health and the environment. And no one was interested in our device. Sure, cost was a big issue, as we were told more than once, “I could hire a full time engineer for that cost and grow jobs in our community.” The bigger factor, in my opinion, was the other issue we kept hearing, “there’s no such thing as domestic terrorism. The amount of chemicals needed to harm the public would be huge, like the amount in a tanker truck.” People simply couldn’t imagine the possibility of someone taking over a truck and using it for terrorism.
One of the great “joys” of home ownership is home maintenance. You know what I mean, because you already work hard to keep your Ranch, your Colonial, your mid-century Modern, in tip-top shape. That means regular housekeeping and bigger chores like cleaning the gutters, painting the exterior, and re-roofing. What would it be like if maintenance could be done automatically or even by a free service that’s included when you bought your home? Wouldn’t that be sweet?
Technology does just that, helping you keep your electronic gadgets and beloved software tools running at their best. Your operating system alerts you to important updates; your security software downloads and installs them automatically. You might ask why, if the original version you’ve been using is just fine. Depending on which tech toy we’re talking about, there can be important security patches or refinements to the software that make the experience of using it much, much better. As an example, navigation software needs data about new roads, buildings or pedestrian malls to help you drive safely.