Smashing Spotlight: Victor Allen, Chief Technical Officer
Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Victor Allen, Chief Technical Officer, to talk shop, how technology allows craft to become industry, and his brilliant start-up idea that will make Sunday mornings a little more tasty.
Alright, first things first…you’re a tech guy. Favorite piece of technology you can’t live without?
The obvious answer is my phone, but that’s no fun. Smart phones are so integrated into our lives that I’m not even sure they can be a “favorite” anymore. It’s like asking, “What’s your favorite utility, water or power?” There’s a concept that used to be used in sci-fi of the “exoself” that has been realized by surrounding ourselves with connected, portable computing.
Most recently, I’ve found that anything that extends that reach even further has quickly gone from novel to essential. The simplest is probably Bluetooth speakers. I listen to a lot of podcasts and Rdio, so the being able to effortlessly listen without limiting what I’m doing has been really freeing.
That said, my latest toy is a 2nd generation Moto 360, so of course that’s my favorite at the moment.
We’ve heavily been involved with incorporating sensors and BLE technology into connected products. Is this going to become more and more mainstream?
Depending on how you look at it, it’s already mainstream. We’ve already passed into a time of near-ubiquitous computing. The next step is ubiquitous instrumentation. Smart devices have existed for some time, but the need to put the “smarts” right on the device has limited their reach (especially for commodity devices such as toasters or coffee makers). Now that the computing power can largely be off-loaded to external devices, these instrumented devices will become the norm. The standardization of IoT protocols that is occurring now will only accelerate this.
What technologies are you most excited about becoming a reality?
Virtual and augmented reality products have been on the cusp of commercial viability for so long and next year may be the turning point. I’m optimistic about Microsoft’s HoloLens and it’s applications in both professional and personal settings. This is just the start, of course. As AR hardware becomes more powerful and portable, it will finally free digital from the tyranny of rectangular screens!
What was your last truly smashing idea?
Every Sunday morning I wish I had been following up on my startup for on-demand breakfast delivery. Someone get on that, please.
Let’s say we keep the tech geek/nerd stereotype rolling along. Hands-down, the geekiest thing about me is____:
On the geek side, I’ve finally given in and bought a multi-port, commercial-grade charger just to keep up with the various phones, tablets, watches, e-readers and speakers I need to keep topped-off every night. A friend once confessed, “Left to my own devices, I have too many devices.” I might have a problem.
On the nerd side, I’m pretty far down the rabbit hole when it comes to table-top games (boardgames, role-playing games and miniature wargames). I have a definite Kickstarter and Patreon habit when it comes to nerd stuff.
Rumor has it you’re the Cesar Millan of the cat world. Any secrets for fellow feline friends you’d like to share?
I can’t put it any better than Randall Monroe did in XKCD:
Technology has made its presence known in numerous industries for ages: gaming, toys, retail, etc. What are some non-obvious business sectors that will truly benefit from a digital overhaul?
Technology is what allows craft to become industry. It’s all about extending the reach or capabilities of the individual. If you take the example of an instructor in a classroom, this could mean allowing student progress be monitored in real-time so that adjustments can be made to instruction or allowing students greater access to exploration and experimentation than is possible purely with lecture. In both cases the abilities of the expert teacher are extended and enhanced by technology.
There are very few business areas that couldn’t benefit from enhancing the expertise of staff: sales, instruction, management, customer care, etc.
Technology changes so fast. How do you stay ahead of the tech curve?
Fortunately, there’s tech for that. I keep up with tech news in the usual way – following news outlets, blogs and forums. Our team also takes time to discuss and brainstorm around new technology releases or interesting whitepapers that we’ve found.
Last, but certainly not least…you’re stuck on a remote island, but can have one piece of technology with you. What would it be and why?
A water purifier. Can’t really get any more basic than that. It’s worth remembering that for all the fun and productivity that we enjoy from our technology, much of what we do is not very high on the hierarchy of needs.