Standing in line at a coffee shop the other day I was checking my email and a friend sent me a spreadsheet with a bunch of numbers to be reviewed. I opened it on my phone realizing quickly that I couldn’t use or leverage the information in the format I had it. It was more information than I could cope with on the small screen. Now I could have broken out my traveling glasses (basically makes my cellular phone a 50 inch screen) but that really isn’t cool in a coffee shop. Additionally no matter how big I make the screen the actual input isn’t easy.
The problem is three fold, what you are using, how you are using it and frankly how the application was built. The first two are serious considerations in the world of how we interact with cloud based solutions in the future. Information you can’t access or information that arrives after its critical path isn’t good.
A functional boundary is the edge of both how something is used but also the requirements for that use. It has two aspects that must be considered Human and Machine. The human functional boundary can be “physical” such as physical limitations that make usage harder. The Machine boundaries can be as complex as overall maximum processor capacity or as simple as the screen simply can’t display the content.
Functional boundaries don’t impact you or your solution until they actually impact you and your solution. From having to hold your phone at arm’s length to read information or having to wear glasses because the print is so small you can’t read it there are human boundaries to solutions. The machines continue to get smaller, faster and more capable. But the screen size is a significant impact. Watching a movie on your cellular phone is one thing, working your way through a complex spreadsheet or presentation with lots of builds is quite another thing.
The machine boundary can be broken into capabilities and capacity. Simply put some devices has a set of capabilities that support the “Syncverse” effectively. Other devices do not have those capabilities and will limit the effectiveness of the solution overall.
· What is the devices video capacity
· Local storage capacity for cache
· Permanent data storage that can be leveraged
· Processor capable of rendering requirements
· Network bandwidth (right now)
· Network bandwidth (overall monthly)
· Software interaction that allows for soft keyboard and other functional “interactions” such as camera (video conferencing) and voice.
Human boundaries are harder to discuss because all of us have them. It is the willingness to try new things, the ability to understand and use technology and a willingness to try new ways of doing things.
· Can you use an on-screen keyboard?
· Can you see what is on the screen clearly?
· What do you want your device to do?
· Is the environment you are in conducive to the task you are trying to complete (is it loud? To bright? Etc…)
· What are the physical or asset security requirements for the solution you are using, can you easily interact with the security requirements on the device you are using?
o Solutions requiring fingerprints don’t work on devices that don’t have finger print readers
o Optical interaction (facial or retinal) recognition requires a camera capable of producing the required quality of image.
From ability as is often the case we open the door. If you have the ability to do something that is frequently the first step. There is a factor that is limiting your ability and that is simply what do you want the device to do. I bought my first Swiss army knife when I was 11 years old. I used that knife to open wine, carve balsa wood and as a screw driver and all around quick to use device. Would I however use a Swiss army knife to cut down a tree? Only if it was the only device I had for that purpose other than my hands, yes. Otherwise I would never use a Swiss army knife to cut down a tree.
Machine boundaries are often more clearly defined and less variable. They do appear frequently as you move to the edges of what you are trying to accomplish. You see people all the time who struggle with the performance of their device as they attempt to complete a task. This represents the functional boundary of that device for them. It could be as simple as lack of bandwidth or as complex as trying to work on a spreadsheet on a phone screen.
Application Development and Functional Boundaries
The next component of functional boundaries lies within the solution itself. I mentioned already the concept of human and machine boundaries. I also talked briefly about the limits imposed by security and the then physical hardware requirements. You can’t require fingerprint access for a solution if in fact the devices (blackberries) don’t support a fingerprint reader.
There is another side to this that is even more significant. The concept of what and how applications are leveraged on the device becomes a huge issue.
1. Can I get to the solution remotely?
2. Does it require local data?
3. Does it require great security than my device supports?
4. Is the application smart enough to understand what I am using and begin an automated switching solution for the overall processing?