Growing up, I was focused on media that was old- from books to movies. I grew up playing with mud and was depressed for a whole week, after grandfather cut the Apple tree in our garden. My 6 month old nephew’s favourite companion is also an Apple. He is born into a generation that starts Facetime and Skype at the ripe age of 0+ months- on the iPhone naturally. All of a sudden it seems that the world is smaller and so much more connected. I do not have to wait a month for his letter and printed techni-colour photograph, but press a button and see him, singing. And having said that, it is overwhelming. In my mind, the future of how we communicate is in simplifying the experiences.
Like the one day in glass video launched a few years ago (see below), as my alarm clock- on the mobile- rings in the morning, I am instantly sucked into an automated process: check Emails, then Facebook, then Twitter, iChat and Whatsapp (and it’s not even the complete list). And most times, it is exhausting to keep up with so many things at one time. I constantly go through the guilt of unanswered messages. Even between us, we struggle to sometimes define the ‘most efficient’ channel of communication. In an ideal world, I would walk up to the person and talk. But we do not live in ideal worlds. And sometimes conversations need to be documented over some media. I want to share a project or a post for feedback- over Email. I want to talk to all people at once- on Facebook. I want a quick response- on Twitter. I am so used to this selection and segregation in my head that I can no longer comprehend, how to do all this in ‘real time’. The online media also serves a significant purpose for me: it is less intrusive. Aware, but at the same time, less taxing on time. Because, I can switch it off (and go for a no media detox).
My best friend wrote me an Email recently and had a quick question: “I was looking for some good alternative to Facebook. I like sharing on FB now and then to keep connected just don’t want to get in other troubles. Do suggest. Google plus I don’t like much”. I have another group of friends, who typically communicate over Email and not Facebook. Everyone has their own prioritization in terms of ‘levels of intimacy‘. My sister prefers Whatsapp, my cousins have moved from our Facebook groups to Whatsapp groups, my parents are still on Skype and other critical people are on iChat. I do not know what I prefer at this point, but waking up to tens of Emails and notifications each on different networks is exhausting.
This made me think of a communication future in the first place. What kind of a communication network would I prefer? Another network- no. Something simpler-yes please! In my head- all I was thought of was this: could someone gift a way to sort, sift through these multiple networks and just bring the most critical things to my notice. Instead of a new network, all I wanted was an all-in one simple interface. Then, I connected with a musician who’s also a visionary and a serial entrepreneur. Toby Ruckert, CEO Unified Inbox is creating a unique product- going back to the basics and creating a platform for simplifying digital interruptions and making them meaningful instead. In short: improving my everyday productivity. And basically, simplifying.
What is a Unified Inbox?
Toby: Every year, we lose about $1 trillion due to an inherent productivity loss. This number was a few billions a few years back, but it’s constantly going up. There are constant interruptions in the digital world and that’s leading to us being less productive. When I started the company, I named it Unified Inbox, but over a period of time, I have realized that it’s far more than that. It’s like your own personal assistant helping you define filters, channels and get information as and when you want to all in one place.
People usually like to segregate various networks that serve different purposes for them. Who wants the Unified Inbox?
Toby: There’s a generational effect here. There’s a whole new generation that is used to being on multiple channels at one time. And Unified Inbox apart from providing for a single view, also enables a few technological aspects that are key to making it efficient for usage. These include: a LifeMode– where the user can aggregate information from all platforms (e.g. FB, Twitter…) and then it comes to the user depending on the mode they are in (e.g. ON, OFF). There’s also a ‘SMART inbox algorithm’ which allows people to filter and rank their incoming emails – almost like the Google Page rank showing you search results (for instance). And having said that, the people who may pay for and ‘need’ the Unified Inbox the most are potentially executives in a business context. Imagine getting hundreds of emails a day, this is a smart programme enabling you to deal with all that overload.
How will people be able to access the Unified Inbox?
Toby: We are entering into a partnership with various telecom companies and all our users will be able to download and get access to a Unified Inbox as a part of their usual telecom bundle offering (opt-in). We are doing this, so that we are able to scale our offering. In that sense it’s a ‘Communication-as-a-service‘ offering, if you may. Users can choose where they want to host their data, it could be their preferred servers or our servers- depending on their preferences.
The product launch is 2015, and yet Unified Inbox seems to be on an acquisition spree. That’s not normal for a start-up?
Toby: Not quite. But, all these acquisitions over the past months have been really aimed at finding the best answers to all the questions that our consumers may have. For instance, people want to filter and be available depending on their ‘mode’ and preferences- and thus the LifeMode acquisition. Now we are acquiring ‘SocialGrow‘ which is the answer to another problem. For business or just after meeting people, we tend to exchange cards or some basic information, and then rush to find the networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook…) to add these people. SocialGrow automates this connectivity process, again making it efficient, and finally, making us more productive. The basic question is just one: how do we simplify communication to increase our productivity.
SocialGrow co-founded by Ken Herron was acquired by Unified Inbox – an announcement that just through. Ken has been named the head of marketing for Unified Inbox.
“SocialGrow gives us the opportunity to further unify your communications, including collecting and managing contacts from your in- and outboxes. Integrating SocialGrow showcases how we are using unified communications as a platform to encourage developers to create apps that will allow customers to fully customize their inboxes & if they so choose to meet their specific needs and preferences”- Unified Inbox CEO Toby Ruckert
I am kind of led to believe that this idea sounds like music to me. I suspect people with a philosophy to simplify will agree with such a future of how we communicate. I’ll close this post with John Meada:
Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.
Image credit: Ales Krivec