Delighted to bring this interview out, with the highly informed, and entertaining Andy O’Donoghue at @. He has some interesting insights into likely future tech trends, and key issues to take note of.
He started a career in technology at Apple, spending a decade writing software for most of the journey. Since then he’s run BuyAndSell.ie, has been a start-up, a maker, helped create products like the RTEJr Junior Pad. Away from his desk, Andy is a technology commentator appearing on radio regularly and is one of the producers of TV3’s the Gadget Buzz, Ireland’s first dedicated gadget TV show.
Gadget Buzz, great fun, and very little else of a similar nature on Irish TV at moment, what’s the story behind it?
For years, I’ve wanted to put tech on the TV. I get to talk about technology on the radio often, but seldom the nitty-gritty, nor the philosophy of tech and the intersection of tech and society. Technology makes good TV, and a longer format program is what we wanted to do, rather than a segment. The last Irish technology show I recall seeing was RTÉ’s Zero – which was a good series, but it’s been way too long since tech has been on the TV.
Today, everyone is interested or touched by technology. Be it mobile, healthcare, education or gadgets – across all demographics, technology has a presence in our lives. Beaumex as a home entertainment distributor has been in the music and film business for decades, and TV was a natural progression, initially making Brendan Grace’s Bottler, then the Entertainment Buzz for TV3. TV3 liked the idea but it was still a brave move to put a new show, a new format about technology on prime-time television. 1.8 million viewers saw the show, brave call, good call.
How was 2014 for you? What were you big wins?
The RTEJr JuniorPad sold particularly well this year. A product that I’m really proud of. I introduced some wearable products to the Irish market and it was fascinating to see resellers and retailers in the spring trying to understand why you would put something like a FitBug on your wrist? “Why would I let people see I’m trying to lose weight?, then by Christmas the warehouse was empty.
I’m also responsible for Beaumex’s Apple business, and that was an interesting year. iPad for us in Ireland, did better than the corporate numbers would have you believe, and I think iPad is only now beginning to get the large-scale deployments that were anticipated. IBM and Apple will make that an easier equation for IT managers and CIOs in 2015.
Anything you’d like to do differently in 2015?
Use more renewable energy.
What are your goals for 2015?
A key goal is to see series two of The Gadget Buzz on TV. As a business we’re going to make around 30 episodes of TV this year, and the content and broadcasting landscape are changing rapidly and the fusing of brands, broadcast and social is an intriguing proposition for Beaumex. We like making things at Beaumex, from TV to electronics, and we’re going to do more of it this year.
A personal goal is to write more code than I did in 2014. It’s hard when you have commercially focussed day job, but I have never been happier than when it’s dark, headphones in and the compiler message says ‘Done : Zero Errors’. Celebratory Ginger Beer.
What were your most useful gadgets this year?
I’ve probably been funding too many projects on KickStarter and other Crowd-funding sites, but I think I have a mild addiction. I think my background in manufacturing makes me prone to backing makers, wherever they are and whatever they make; it could be cartoons or solar-powered keyboards. The era of the maker is upon us. I think Nest is probably the most interesting product I’ve brought home this year.
Playing with SmartThings, Nest and Python occupied me for a whole weekend in the autumn, about 30 hours straight, but what a 30 hours! The ‘conscious home’ of 2020 may be nothing like how we now imagine it should be. Right now, we’re focussed on the automation of repetitive tasks as consumers now, but the Nest home in 2020 I think will be one that works very, very hard to promote well-being for an entire family. Physical and mental.
What tech innovations do you wish were already invented an available to you in your line of work?
The Personal Wireless Environment that Apple referred to in their Apple Watch patent is one of the most fascinating, unseen concepts of the technology industry. I carry references to so much data around with me and yet, not much of that data actually comes with me. Accessing it when I need it, when I really need it is not easy. Accessing it where I need it is not easy. Cloud services haven’t given me a solution, mostly because the infrastructure doesn’t support seamless and lag free transfer. I want my work data, my personal data and reference data all the time now. I don’t want to wait and I want the incongruous way I get access to my data to be fixed.
All of my wearable and mobile devices should live in their own subnet. I would create less need for bandwidth on the public networks, I wouldn’t consume bandwidth or even IP addresses. My devices could access each other, securely and put data in context, context of use say, or of location. Cloud Monkey was an interesting KickStarter we backed. I think Apple alluded to this sort of environment in the Watch patent, where your health data, your music or your movies travel with you.
Maybe the ones you use most or relevant to where you are, travel with you, flowing in or out based on a learning algorithm. There are three tech companies that could make this. All three of them have voice, AI and digital assistant competency. They can all store and transfer huge amounts of data, yet I think it’s possible that the first steps in PWE may come from a start-up, using Amazon as a platform. I want my data, when it matters. It’s as simple as that.
You’re active on twitter, with a big following, tips?
I try to have as few arguments as I can on social media, but you seem to gain followers when you do have a spat with someone. I use Twitter every day, the others less so and I resist the temptation to be glib, though I think Twitter lends itself to satire. Be funny or be right.
Overall with social media, what’s your strategy, and is it a challenge to find the right balance?
Saying too much is the challenge with social media, and in saying too much you dilute your message. Your message may be about you, your band, your product or your cause but saliency is critical to gain trust in the social world.
How do you define success?
An evening where an early night doesn’t make you feel guilty.
What tips would you give to new businesses starting out?
I meet lots of start-ups. Most full of enthusiasm, but many with dreadful ideas. If I see another trade-show full of people displaying ‘our new’ dashboard, I will scream.
Enthusiasm is useful but the most useful insights I learned about both technology and the commerce of business were gleaned from working for a large Foreign Direct Investment company. You will never be the smartest guy in the room, and that keeps you sharp. Start-ups are of great value to economy, they’re inspirational but if you have the opportunity to get a few years behind you at a large, industry leading tech company first, do it. If you have a great idea for a product now, you’ll have another one in 3 years. And, read Peter Thiel’s new book Zero to One, the best business book of any type I’ve read in years.
Check out clips from TV3’s Gadget Buzz show here;