Democratizing Access to Personal Helpers

Democratizing Access to Personal Helpers
Arts & Culture

How technology is connecting us to a network of human helpers operating in the background for life’s little details

  • 20 may 2015

For every timesaving device humans have invented, we have found new ways to fill that time with more work—much of which is unpaid. A recent survey by Pew found that men and women spend 11.8 and 21.3 hours per week respectively on non-paid work such as childcare and housework. For every minute we’ve saved through dishwashers and microwaves, we’ve found new ways to use them doing something else.

Instead of helping people find more leisure time, our days are just as charged as they have ever been and time remains a precious resource for people to acquire, trade, and conserve.

In PSFK’s latest Future of Connected Life report, we highlight some of the trends we’ve seen people embracing as they navigate the constant pulls for time.

We dubbed one of the trends we’re seeing Always-On Assistance. While the concept of hiring help is certainly nothing new, the proliferation of mobile devices and growing acceptance of the sharing economy have coalesced to democratize access to a dedicated network of helpers. What was once reserved for the wealthy has now become possible for the freelance writer, young professional, or middle class parents of the world.

By outsourcing time spent running errands, people can use that time to work toward their greater goals and help people achieve more productive and balanced lives.

alfred- 10460415_1564602993758129_7234359720524041503_n
Alfred—named for pop culture’s most famous butler—is a service available to busy New Yorkers and Bostonians that promises to take care of weekly errands so they don’t have to. For $25/week, subscribers can arrange for their shopping, dry cleaning, ironing, cleaning, packages, and other tasks to be done and waiting for them when they get home.

“We’re empowering you to let others do it for you,” explains Alfred’s CEO Marcela Sapone. “You’re the manager of your life. [We’re fighting] against the stigma of ‘People use this because they’re lazy.’ Absolutely not. They’re using this because they’re extremely busy.”

An accompanying app helps homeowners and Alfreds alike keep track of the tasks that need to be done. Each Alfred undergoes a rigorous background check and training and is specific to each individual subscriber. Overtime, the Alfreds form a relationship with their employers and can become a trusted ally.

While Alfred can help users manage their quotidian tasks, Native is a subscription-based service that aims to help frequent travelers manage the details of their trips making it easier, safer, and happier for everyone involved. While travel agents used to be the norm in the nascent age of flight, automation and a culture of DIY customer service has transitioned travelers away from expecting a personal touch when it comes to travel. For $25/month, travelers have access to their own personal travel assistant with whom they share their needs and preferences. Instead of going through the process of finding the best deals and experiences themselves, Native takes care of everything from booking flights to accommodations, tours, and more. Because travelers are dealing with a real person, they can ask questions in natural language, get help in emergencies, and mitigate any cultural barriers.

Native App

Native’s co-founder and CEO Sam Felsenthal explains,

“Conversational interfaces make mobile devices feel like extensions of the interactions we are already having today, allowing you to offload tasks to someone connected to many more resources who returns with concise, clear, and actionable information.”

As Native works in the background helping travelers experience peace of mind abroad, our last example offers that feeling to young urban and suburbanites at home. The Happy Home provides a landlord-like maintenance service for inexperienced homeowners or those who simply do not want to deal with routine maintenance to their property.

For $35/hour, residents can work with a specialist to create a custom home care plan as well as receive help with repairs such as plumbing, carpet cleaning, or even roofing. An additional $9.99/month provides a dedicated home manager so tenants can build a relationship with their contractors. Unlike many landlords, Happy Home users can access help 24 hours a day, seven days a week to address any issues. Anyone who has ever rented in New York City can attest to the luxury of having 24-hour help can be.

happy home
As our digital devices make it increasingly simple to tap into a network of helpers, the option to offload quotidian tasks to helpers has opened up to more people. While living a constantly connected life may make us feel like we are living more harried lives, those same technologies can aid in freeing us to pursue our passions. Living in a more connected world, with more connected lives, these always-on assistants are starting to help people live, work, and play better every day.

Future of Connected Life

PSFK Labs is proud to release The Future of Connected Life: Live, Work, Play Better. This content series on follows the trends affecting the modern individual as they adapt to a changing world as well as strategies for brands to tackle contemporary challenges adapt to the changing landscape.  Download the full report here, view our trend summary on Slideshare and be sure to check back daily for new articles about the latest trends affecting individuals as they strive to live, work, and play better in their connected lives. 

+fitness / sport
+home improvement
+marcela sapone
+native app
+sam felsenthal
+the happy home co
+travel agent

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