Christian Hansson’s official title is chief technology officer at Tango Card, but he prefers to go by Chief Geek. The Seattle company offers an alternative form of gift cards, allowing people to use them at a variety of stores, donate to non-profits, and redeem their balances for cash.
But what truly sealed his status as our latest Geek of the Week was the novel use he’s come up with for his AR Drone quadrocopter — using its videocamera to check the status of his rain-gutters without first getting up on a ladder. He explains how its works, and why he does it, as part of his answers to our questionnaire below.
Name: Christian Hansson
Job, hobby and/or other geeky pursuit: Chief Geek (CTO) at Tango Card
Coolest thing about what you do: I love that I’m involved in quite literally shaking up a $150 billion industry via cool technology. I like to think of myself as an “engineer butt kicker” and cause waves in any industry I’m involved in. I also have to say that growing an engineering team is very, very cool. I like to grow my engineers’ skillsets and push them hard, but always make sure they’re learning in the process.
Geekiest thing(s) you’ve ever done, built, or worn: So many embarrassing options to choose from! My current geeky build is to use my AR Drone to check my gutters. Basically I’m writing some code for the iPad to be able to control the drone’s forward-looking camera for edge detection so it can automatically follow the gutters around the house without me having to control it. Then I use its existing altimeter to get it to the correct height (and adjust for height differential when it moves in over the roof), and then leverage its downward-looking camera to record the gutters. This way I can record a video and see if I need to get up on the roof and clean my gutters, all without leaving my front step. I’ve always said that laziness is an engineer’s best friend — we want to make everything as easy as possible.
Will our smartphones (or other devices) ever fully replace physical wallets? And when will Near Field Communications become mainstream? As soon as NFC is coupled with biometric identification, we’ll be there.
Do you own any Bitcoin? Nope, I do not trust the security model one iota.
Best tips or tricks for managing everyday work and life? A few things. 1) Cap meetings at one hour – everyone gets less productive after that. 2) Digitize things like gift cards and receipts so you don’t lose them. 3) Don’t buy anything on credit – paying interest is like burning money.
Back in the day you worked for a company called Skywalker Industries in Seattle. What was that company, and what were some of the crazier things you did there (that you can talk about?)
My team and I used our creativity and “extra time” (wink, wink) to design and build a bungie jumping experience — much to the chagrin of the building’s insurance agent. It was basically a computer-controlled pneumatic reverse bungie system that could throw a person 70 feet in the air and then stop them just a few feet off the ground. The company had several patents but, alas, couldn’t make it. We were headquartered in an airplane hangar on Boeing Field where all the engineers lived for about two years, not taking salary, etc. Aah, youth. :)
Mac, Windows or Linux: Mac, since OS/X is basically FreeBSD with a cutesey UI on top, and I spend 90% of my time in bash shell and emacs.
Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn: LinkedIn. Too much performance anxiety on Twitter.
Kirk, Picard or Janeway? Picard! We hair-challenged folks need to stick together. And Picard actually … speaks … without … weird pauses … in the sentences.
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … I would invest all of it in what Tango Card is about to launch for Salesforce.
I once waited in line for … Waiting in line is a complete waste of time. I only do it at the airport and only because the Department of Paranoia forces it.
Your geek role models (And why?): Stephen Hawking. He is a truly brilliant man and role model who has demonstrated that intellect and willpower are the only things that matter.
Greatest Game In History: I’m dating myself but I must admit that it would be a toss-up between LPMud (take that World of Warcraft!) and iMoria.
Best Gadget Ever: It changes regularly but right now: my AR Drone.
First computer: Sinclair ZX-81
Current phone: iPhone 4S
Favorite hangout: Il Fornaio
Favorite cause: American Cancer Society
Most important technology of 2012: Digital delivery of previously physical goods.
Most important technology of 2015: Usable and mainstream fuel-cell electric cars to break oil dependency.
Words of advice for your fellow geeks: Life is short. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, switch. Besides, you do your best work if you enjoy it.
Your Site(s): Besides www.tangocard.com, none! ;-) I am about as artistic as a river rock and usability/visual cohesion is a necessity for any decent website these days.
Your Twitter: None, I never feel I have anything to say to the general populous, but you can follow @TangoCard where I sometimes make guest appearances.
Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.
Does someone you know deserve this distinguished honor? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Geek of the Week photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey, email@example.com.]