“We shouldn’t have one all-encompassing online solution for everyone in customer relations”, says Amber Case

  • The cyborg anthropologist is launching a new series of talks by the Naturgy Foundation that encourage reflection on how humans and technology interact in the energy sector.

The Naturgy Foundation held the first of a new series of Talks on conferences with the cyborg anthropologist, Amber Case, at the Casa de América in Madrid. She spoke about ‘Calm Technology and the Future of the Energy Sector’.

She offered a forecast based on data from Cisco: 50 billion devices will be online in 2020. “In an era of interruptive technology, we need calm technology”, she said. This term was first coined in the mid-1990s by Xerox PARC researchers, Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown. Amber Case echoed the words of Mark Weiser by saying “A good tool is an invisible tool. “And by ‘invisible’, we mean that the tool does not interfere with your consciousness; you concentrate on the task at hand, not on the tool in your hand”.

Amber Case believes that calm technology provides the perfect framework for designing products and services under such premises as “technology should not require our full attention but only a part of it and only when necessary”; “the right amount of technology is the minimum needed to resolve the problem”; and “technology should enhance the best of technology and the best of humanity”.

“We live in an era of technology that robs us of so much time; mobile telephone has become a computer that absorbs 100% of our attention”, she said. Therefore, “in this era of the Internet of Things, we should be designing technologies that do not imprison our attention”.

In the field of energy, Amber Case said that “the current context underlines a need to use the natural resources available and reduce energy consumption by being more efficient”. According to the anthropologist, customers need to know that electrical appliances increase their bill, or how to reduce the cost of heating and cooling in their homes, for example. “This will enable them to make changes to their consumption habits”, she explained, going on to highlight the need to use simple devices that use colour to predict when something is going to fail; if a gas leak is going to occur, for example. “I’m talking about simple technology, that does not necessarily need to be connected remotely, such as smoke detectors”, she said.

In terms of customer services in an increasingly more connected world, Amber Case believes that “a more hybrid approach is needed. There are certain processes that can be automated, but there needs to be human interaction; not everything can be online. We shouldn’t have one all-encompassing online solution for everyone”.

The author of such books as “Calm Technology” and “Designing with Sound” said that technology should attract our attention only when needed and should remain “calm”, in the background, most of the time. In this regard, Amber Case repeated a prophecy by Mark Weiser: “The scarce resource in the 21st century will not be technology. It will be attention.”

Amber Case has been described as one of the most influential women in the world of technology by the Fast Company magazine; and was named Emerging Explorer by National Geographic and one of the 30 Under 30 by Inc. Magazine.

Innovation and technology serving the energy consumer

Amber Case was accompanied by the Customer Centricity Manager of Naturgy, Ana Serrano, who spoke about how innovation and technology are helping to create more efficient products and services for customers.

Ana Serrano explained that the sector is busy defining a new energy transition model that will encourage renewable energies and CO2 reduction, as well as energy efficiency and sustainable mobility. In this context, Naturgy’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan “provides a foundation for our industrial model on such key levers as digitalisation, competitiveness and agility while always placing the customer at the centre of our business”. “Technological innovation plays a major role in all of that”, she said.

In line with the talk by anthropologist, Amber Case, Ana Serrano also said that, “nowadays, with an increasingly busier, more demanding and more emotional customer, we are starting the battle for that most scarce resource: their attention. Against this backdrop, we are making efforts to innovate and make technology work for the customer by creating products and services that make their life easy, efficient and that only require the minimum attention necessary”. As examples developed by Naturgy, Ana Serrano mentioned apps to help complete procedures with the company easily and quickly or to intelligently manage your heating and air conditioning from a mobile telephone.

New series of Talkson conferences

Talkson is a new series of conferences with which the Naturgy Foundation seeks to continue spreading information on energy and the environment by offering innovative, cutting-edge speakers a platform from which to talk about energy-related issues from new perspectives.

The foundation aims to offer an opportunity to connect the most disruptive talks with everyone who, in one way or another, is either professionally or academically tied to the energy and environment sector or has a special interest in the current situation in the sector.

The Naturgy Foundation and its mission to train and raise social awareness

This project forms part of the education and awareness-raising programme being carried out by the Naturgy Foundation in various Spanish cities on energy- and environment-related issues. Its fundamental goal is to foster a rational use of energy resources and encourage sustainable development; in other words, improved energy efficiency and technological innovation in the field of energy in a way that complements environmental respect and protection.

Set up by the power company in 1992, the Naturgy Foundation is also engaged in social action programmes both nationally and further afield, by influencing particular initiatives aimed at alleviating energy vulnerability. In terms of culture, it promotes initiatives geared towards both preserving and communicating the historical heritage of the gas and electricity sector.