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Normative aims to reset our expectations: from personal goals to hospital connectivity

Back in the fall, five North American companies were selected to participate in a three-month bootcamp to develop new apps for wearable technologies (like Google Glass).

One was Toronto-based software design firm Normative, and the app they came up with is now available. It's called "A to B" and the idea is simple: record your route during an activity (running, biking, skateboarding), and then race against your own recorded routes.

It's one example of the kind of work the 25-person company has been working on over the past six years—work that, says Normative CEO Matthew Milan, is essentially driven by the same goal: "using software technology to help people do the things they want to do…to give them better capabilities, make it easier for people to do stuff."

One example we've all been hearing more about lately: the Internet of Things. That, explains Milan, "is what happens when you start assigning network addresses—just like you have on your cellphone or computer—to a much wider range of things like, like your car, or your dishwasher, or your alarm clock."

And while that might seem to needlessly complicate things, the goal, at least, is to make them simpler, "to use data you get from the network to optimize experiences people are already having." (For instance, having your dishwasher remind you to get detergent.) Normative's latest foray into this realm is called Peak, an app that uses sensors in specially designed skis to collect data about your performance.

But this kind of integrated software design isn't just about the fun toys and gadgets, fancy new gizmos that few people will ever buy or use.

Another Normative project: developing an intranet for the Hospital for Sick Children.

"Five or ten years ago people would build an intranet, and it would help make it easier to find documents, for example," Milan says. Their goal at Sick Kids was to "help people find people rather than people find documents…make a system that makes it really easy for people to find each other, develop relationships with each other, collaborate with each other." It allows people with expertise who may work only a few doors or floors away, but never have met in person to easily find each other, and work together on research and patient care.

As for the future of technology in Toronto, and Canada more broadly, Milan says that "one of the challenges we have is that there is a real dearth of real literacy in terms of technology… We really need strong leadership that understands how technology is going to make things better at all levels of society."

He compares it to the U.S. New Deal: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's slate of laws and social programs that established the social safety net Americans grow up with today. Milan believes that technology now offers the same kind of promise and potential—the ability to fundamentally change our expectations, establish baselines for what daily life looks like, or as he puts it redefine "what 21st century society should give its citizens."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Matthew Milan, CEO, Normative
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