The Jenda: Another voice-based organizer at home in the kitchen

I’m fascinated by a small sub-genre of electronic device innovation: Those that aid busy families. Picture the collaboration systems you’d find in the biggest companies, but downsized for organizations more often defined by a picket fence and a two-car garage.

In February I described one such innovation. The SmartShopper used voice recognition to capture, transcribe and list the family shopping list. Clever idea. But with a price tag of over a hundred bucks, it invites a losing cost/benefit analysis. After all, what’s lost if you forget an item from the store? On the other hand, this week I learned of a device that helps keep appointments and remember events. And at $50 it can conceivably pay for itself the first time it helps avoid a missed doctor’s appointment .

The Jenda, created by Milwaukee’s own Finger-String, was originated to serve as an organizer for those allergic to complicated electronics.

The Jenda Lifetime Voice CalendarThe 10″ x 12″ surface is covered with buttons, but even from the photo they look easy to read and understand. Recurring events like birthdays are entered once. You press a few buttons and speak the event into it. One-time events are similarly straightforward.

I heard an interview this week with one of the people behind the device. Bob Borovsky of Finger-String said that as he and some friends were imagining how the Jenda would operate, they realized that speaking into the machine made the most sense from a simplicity standpoint. It is also the most familiar playback mechanism for their primary market — those who are of retirement age.

As a group, these folks have been slow to adopt the latest technologies, but they have made their peace with the answering machine. And similar to those devices, a flashing light on the Jenda is what alerts users that a message is waiting for them that day.

Borovsky said that he and his business partners are heartened by how people have been making repeat — and multiple — purchases. This is a sign that it has connected with consumers, and perhaps fired their imaginations. It did mine. I have to admit that I thought of a new use for it. (No, dad, you’re safe — I didn’t get you one for Father’s Day!)

Lately I’ve been helping a friend publicize his breathtaking vacation villa in the south of France. He’s just started a Guestbook, where he can have guests leave a written account of their stay right on the site. As a vacationer, I’ve personally contributed to more traditional paper guestbooks. My wife and I have stayed in a rental condo on Sanibel Island with a thick scrapbook half-filled with prior visitors’ memories. It’s a charming grace note. But of course the barrier for my friend’s electronic guestbook is getting people to contribute through a web interface.

But what if they were shown how to record an observation or two (or record a suggestion for improving the villa’s amenities). And what if the recording device was the easy-to-master Jenda? The same device could allow the villa’s proprietors to give guests timely reminders about when housekeeping will be in, or to alert them to an event in a nearby town.

The guest’s “Guestbook” messages could be transcribed and posted (with guest permission, of course!). Or perhaps they could even remain as voice recordings — endorsements uploaded to the site that can be played using a Flash voice player. This would be cool. And quite easy.

That’s my take on this device. What are your thoughts?

Published by Jeff Larche

With a background that includes direct marketing and customer relationship management (CRM), Jeff Larche brings an unusual approach to his work. What these other two disciplines have in common is database marketing, and they continue to strongly influence his work as marketing technology leader.

2 replies on “The Jenda: Another voice-based organizer at home in the kitchen”

  1. I love the jenda-it’s too simple! I don’t have to turn it on and wait, it’s always right there on the fridge and i just push one button to check my messages. This will be a big hit at Xmas! John

  2. Hi, I reckon it is a good idea in principal…we could trial it maybe?

    I guess other applications can be as a home message/management centre – does it have a wifi or online link so you can log/enter remotely by any chance?

    Ian

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