Miss Management: Social security
October 19, 2009 | Galynn Nordstrom
Earlier today I sent an e-mail to our esteemed webmistress, asking (semi-seriously) whether we’d be developing new apps to provide Specialty Fabrics Review magazine on a possible new “iTablet” reader from Apple. She responded (seriously, I think), that “we will probably not look at developing a specific app for Apple products, but we are looking for ways to better package our content for mobile viewing. Right now the sites are set up so that they ‘degrade gracefully’ to mobile—meaning that they shouldn’t break totally, but might not be super easy to use on mobile devices.”
I was completely charmed by the very concept of “graceful degradation,” which I have adopted as a new hobby (it’ll make a nice change from ‘lowering my standards’). Aside from the profound personal ramifications, however, I began to wonder how many of our magazine readers, mostly small businesses making custom fabric products, would actually be willing to—or prefer to—read our publications electronically on a hand-held device. It seems to tie into the whole “high-tech” debate in our industry, and how an awning shop or an upholstery shop or a marine fabrication business can take advantage of all the new developments in fabrics and equipment … or whether they need to.
After last month’s IFAI Expo, especially, all indications are that there really is no “high-tech/traditional” dichotomy in this industry any more. Any cutting-edge company still has basic equipment and operations needed to produce high-tech products; and any traditional fabrication company can still make the change to the newest materials and techniques. We have an article coming up in our January issue about the latest possibilities in shade and solar control—which includes automatic sensors and operations, and may soon include solar power generation. Awnings are still awnings, but the possibilities are anything but standard. Craftsmanship endures, but technology advances.
There are still some barriers to cross for some of us, however. A case in point: Japan’s Teijin Fibers has developed a new two-dimensional communication sheet, called the Cell Form™, which establishes a connection between the sheet and a computer placed on it, creating a secure, high-speed, low-power signal. Teijin is working with Cellcross Co. Ltd. to develop applications with products containing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags—an automatic-recognition technology that passively transmits information stored in the tags, which shows immediate promise for anti-theft and real-time inventory applications. Other potential applications include artificial skins for robots, wearable computing, gaming systems, wireless power supply and much more.
It all sounds promising, but for those of us who view electronic readers as just another thing to drop in the bathtub, there’s a definite adoption curve. I imagine my house lined with Cell Form and populated with smart appliances all communicating with each other; and all I can think of is that I do not want my lawn mower, which is far from subservient even now, communicating with my kitchen appliances, which so far have remained generally under my control. Nor do I envision any possible happy outcomes emerging from an office chair specially upholstered to let the IT department know every time I get up to get coffee, or office supplies, or ice cream.
My plan is to degrade gracefully.