IKEA to use AI to remodel your home

IKEA nabs augmented reality provider

Ikea’s store division, Ingka Group, has purchased U.S. startup GeoMagical Labs — a company that enables AI-based renderings through a smart phone. The technology will enable users to take a smartphone photo of rooms they wish to decorate, and then fill an image with virtual IKEA furniture, becoming their own interior decorators. Reuters

dis-rup-shun: One can assume that this will become the new standard for furniture, paint, floor covering and clothing shopping… take a snap of that which you wish to change, try out virtual samples, then press a button and Amazon, UPS or FedEx will deliver within the same or (godforbid) three days.

Exactly how much have our online habits changed?

App Annie is a research firm that captures actual app usage for IoS and Android. In short, due to the pandemic, app usage has increased between 10% and 30% during the most intense times of shelter-in-place. Gaming usage has soared, and non-games app usage is also substantially higher. Time on apps is up as is spending through apps, as people buy more games, books, music and supplies.

dis-rup-shun: Mapping our pandemic behavior will provide great data for anthropologists, policy makers, doctors and marketers for years to come. Suffice it to say that consumer technology, in general, has been a big winner of the Coronapocalypse. The real question now is how much of the surge in digital services usage will remain when we find a new normal? It is safe to guess that most all of the services that we are using heavily will experience a significant fall back when the crisis is over, but will level off higher then pre-pandemic levels. 

Apple accidentally unveils new tracker product

It seems that there are so many Apple watchers, that whenever the company posts something out of the ordinary, people notice. Such a posting was caught by a blogger who reveals that Apple appears to be about to release an object tracking service — similar to Tile. AirTags, as the product is called, will feature some sort of battery operated tracking device that one can affix to wallets, keys, bicycles and other objects that could get misplaced. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: For Tile, the news is not so good, though the company may benefit from Apple’s advertising and marketing power, generating more awareness and demand for the product category. Tile may have to price below Apple to find its niche within the object tracker market, and there are plenty of similar case studies of Apple absorbing a technology that is already in market. A few to study are smart watches, sleep monitors, and even ear buds.

New product from Ring — Doorbox

In another inadvertent product leak, it appears that Ring is about to release the Doorbox. A picture is captured by CNET fuels guessing on what the device will do. It could be a mailbox that detects motion and affixes to a door or gate. The picture suggests that the device does not have a camera.

dis-rup-shun: Ring is working quickly to move from provider of niche connected smart home products, to provider of do-it-yourself integrated systems. The fact that the company is owned by Amazon makes for an interesting future, with tighter integration between the devices and Echo-powered devices. Other than SimpliSafe, there aren’t many complete DIY smart home system offerings in market. Nest comes and goes leaving Ring an opening to be the most complete provider of low-priced smart home products at retail.

Toilet paper, monitors and laptops: in high demand

 

Monitors, laptops and toilet paper

Sales of monitors and laptops have surged since we sheltered in place. NPD, the market research firm that counts sales receipts, shows computer monitor sales doubled in the first week of March while laptop sales were up 10% CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Setting up home offices and getting screens just right for all of those Zoom calls has been critical to WFH. As stated before, many sectors of the tech market will thrive as the result of the pandemic: video conferencing, Internet infrastructure, cloud services, computing devices, streaming gaming and entertainment.

Apple purchases weather app Dark Sky

The popular weather app, Dark Sky, has won multiple awards for its IOS version. Apple confirmed that it has purchased the company and will shut down the Android version. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Why does Apple want another weather app? The company has, in the past, purchased technologies that it views as best-in-class. But what’s more is that a number of apps, and weather apps in particular, feed data to a number of other apps and get paid per transaction. It is likely that Dark Sky offers a strong data source to multiple apps and can feed data to a number of Apple products and services. Owler.com lists Dark Sky’s revenues at only $2.5 million. We know Apple is working hard to build out its services business and maybe Dark Sky will be the foundation for a premium weather service.

Microsoft purchases Affirmed Networks

Affirmed is a company that provides software that enables wireless carriers to expand their networks by using cloud services. While terms of the transaction were not disclosed, it is speculated that the transaction is valued at over $1 billion. Affirmed Networks is in a strong position to capitalize on the 5G network build out, currently underway. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Another victory lap for a tech company despite the pandemic. Microsoft Azure is working hard to catch up to Amazon Web Service, which is way ahead. But Microsoft has shown several times that there are advantages to being a tech company with a cloud service. Cloud services can be leveraged into existing tech tools and infrastructure, creating a seamless platform. Amazon, on the other hand, has done a good job building new tech tools that extend the cloud into the premise, but the online retailer has to convince companies that it know tech down deep. Everyone has their strengths and has to work twice as hard to build strengths where they don’t already exist.

Beta Technologies builds recharging platform for electric flying taxis

Beta Technologies is building a flying taxi and, fittingly, needs a place for the craft to land and quickly recharge. The facility also offers comfortable quarters for pilots (or are they called taxi flyers?) to recharge while their craft is getting juiced up. The test facility is located in Burlington, Vermont. Wired

dis-rup-shun: If taxis will become electric and will fly, then they have to go somewhere to recharge. Some very forward looking business people at Beta Technologies want to be ready when the time comes. This combination of a futuristic service station, helipad and sky diner is certainly way ahead of its time, but when the time comes, Beta will have a well-researched offering.

 

Quibi arrives next week

Are you ready for Quibi?

What’s a Quibi? It is a new streaming video service for $5 per month (or $7 for no ads). But it’s not just another streaming service. This one is available only for your smartphone, enables you to choose the camera angle you wish to watch, and is owned and produced by celebrities, and offers programming that is no longer than 10 minutes, and packed with screen stars. The service has already produced a healthy number of episodes and will have 175 original shows in year one. Despite the pandemic, the service will launch next week.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: I was on the fence about Quibi, but given the current appetite for entertainment, I think that Quibi is the luckiest company on the planet. There is no better time or circumstance than now to launch a very specialized video service that will give people a lot to talk about. Those that don’t understand the talk will be forced to subscribe to be a part of the new normal. Just look at the impact on our online lives that Netflix’ Tiger King is having, then imagine all the talk is about something that only costs another $5 per month. Quibi will be thanking the coronavirus.

Air pollution is down – way down

The European Space Agency satellites have noted a significant decrease in air pollution. Significant visual changes are seen over Wuhan, a factory city, and Italy’s Po Valley, where the Alps block smog from industrial centers around Milan. The pandemic shutdown is providing scientists with a glimpse of what a reduced pollution future will look like and where it will change the atmosphere most. Wired

dis-rup-shun: If we are tallying up wins from coronavirus, we can credit the atmosphere as a winner.

Microsoft is a coronavirus winner

Use of Microsoft’s cloud services, including Teams and Skype video conferencing applications has skyrocketed. Teams use in Italy for a one month period was up 775%. On the news of the company’s strong performance, the stock was up 7%. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Let’s face it, the Internet is what is keeping our economy open during the pandemic. If our internet infrastructure collapsed, then we would devolve into a 1980s-like experience, with a bunch of smart devices that are computing islands. The companies that are keeping our lives together are the companies that make the devices, software, services and telecom infrastructure. Unless the company is involved in point of sale computing, the IT sector should be thriving in this time, and thank goodness for companies that make great, reliable products.

Free Zoom backgrounds

Need a less messy home office for your constant Zoom calls? A number of graphics providers have made backgrounds available for free — some animated. Sites are Unsplash, Canva, Modsy, and choices include PeeWee’s Playhouse, a confused John Travolta, and many others. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: It is nice to see that ingenuity is alive and well, jumping on the meteoric rise of Zoom and providing razors to go along with the free blade of Zoom conferences. Expect to see a list of video conferencing accessories, including software, devices, stands and microphones. We are an adaptive people.

 

Fitness trackers show activity crisis

Fitness tracker data shows less movement, more sleep, with telehealth intentions

Evidation Health conducted a study of 160,000 U.S. citizens including 68,000 with fitness trackers and watches from Apple, Fitbit and Garmin. The data reveals that quarantined people are 39% to 50% less active than prior to quarantine, and time asleep has increased by 10% to 20%. Most notable, however, is that people’s willingness and future plans to visit doctors via telehealth has risen to 30% from 19% pre-pandemic. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic will accelerate the telemedicine industry (as it has the video conferencing industry) by three to five years, as the crisis is proving the efficacy of remote care to doctors, payers and patients. This sea change would have taken years in ordinary times, but when the crisis abates, telehealth will be a standard tool in care portfolios and will serve to trim escalating care costs.

14 apps to combat cabin fever

Wired offers some great alternatives to madness, as people strive to pass the long days of living mostly indoors:

Calm — a meditation and relaxation coach.

Headspace — another meditation and relaxation coach.

Libby — an electronic library card enables check out of books and videos.

Noisli — emulates a multitude of ordinary sounds.

Brain.fm — musical accompaniments to accelerate a desired state of mind.

JustWatch — a guide to finding and starting whatever programs are online on a streaming service.

Google Duo — another video chat app.

House Party — a party-like video chat app.

Peloton — a fitness app for people without the bike.

Aaptiv — a fitness training app with online coaches.

Design Home — an interior design app.

Minecraft — a virtual world app that can include others.

Nuzzel — an app for curating news based on what your contacts are reading.

YouTube — a good place to get lost watching things you never imagined.

dis-rup-shun:  I recommend Simone Giertz, aka Queen of Shitty Robots, on YouTube. This is fascinating entertainment, especially considering that Simone does this for a living.

UAE citizens appeal to government to allow use of WhatsApp and Skype

The UAE prohibits use of free communications apps, requiring its citizens to use government telecommunications infrastructure. Last week the government allowed temporary use of Zoom, Skype for Business and Google Hangouts, but has not allowed WhatsApp, Facetime or regular Skype. Citizens are calling for support of all major communications apps as they seek to connect with relatives around the world. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Just as the Berlin Wall was torn down after a few crosstown communications were allowed in 1989, the UAE’s stranglehold on communications policies could quickly slip away with frequent use of internet conferencing. If it happens, the good people of UAE can thank a global crisis for gaining what most of the rest of world considers to be innate internet freedoms. Another potential Coronavirus winner.

Polaroid instant film camera reborn

In a long and strange trip, the functionality that made the Polaroid camera a hot item in the 60s and 70s has been reunited with the brand name, and the instant film camera is re-born. The Polaroid Now camera costs about $100 and, based on film costs, each picture costs about $2. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: What is the demand for a bulky but fun camera which provides instant printed, color photos in the online age? Perhaps this throwback to the time when processing ordinary film took a week and Polaroid owners whipped out pictures in minutes will strike nostalgic chords. It is hard to imagine, however, that this technology will go beyond a very small niche. Polaroid marketers should work to make these instant photos unusually artsy in an effort to create a fad and hope it has legs.

 

Shared innovations fighting medical supply shortages

Public private cooperation yield 3D printed ventilator extender

Prisma Health is a company that, based on an idea from an ER doctor, created a simple three way valve that enables one ventilator to serve four patients. The device can be quickly created with a 3D printer and was approved for use under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization rule. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It is exciting to see innovation, flexibility and generosity abound, as great ideas are being rushed to the field while, at the same time, acts of generosity are always growing. The pandemic will ultimately good for healthcare as new innovations including telehealth and telecare, technology concepts that have been ready for prime time for several years, but blocked by the healthcare establishment, are now being implemented.

British vacuum makers Dyson and GTech to the rescue

Two well-known British vacuum cleaner companies, Dyson and GTech have quickly switched production from household appliances to ventilators, using inexpensive and quick to produce parts. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: If you have seen the movie Apollo 13, you will recall when a group of engineers were placed in a conference room with a bag full of objects that the astronauts had available in their capsule. They were given about 24 hours to construct a lifesaving solution. The good people at the vacuum companies have tackled a similar challenge.

Ford manufacturing face shields based on open source design

Lennon Rodgers, director of the Engineering Design Innovation Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison, answered the call from a local hospital, requesting that the lab create face shields, as the hospital could not get adequate supply. Rodgers, with the help of local designers and his M.D. wife, developed a prototype and posted it on the web as an open source design. Ford, along with other companies, used the design to fabricate what it expects will be 75,000 units this week. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Speed and agility. Two things critical to slow the global pandemic. Thanks to the instantaneous and global availability of information via the Internet, many parties can react quickly and take action. As soon as a Coronavirus vaccine is developed, it must be an open source solution that drug manufacturers worldwide can produce rapidly.

Slack announces integration with Teams

In an interesting move, Slack has announced interoperability with Microsoft Teams. In the wake of coronavirus, Microsoft has revealed that some 44 million people are using the product daily. Microsoft is bundling the product in its Office suite, making it a tough competitor for Slack. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Slack was there first, but just like Netscape, will discover that Microsoft’s installed base receiving Teams will likely bury a standalone utility product. Slack’s move to inter connect with Teams is a good one, and may keep Slack fans from having to follow IT departments that mandate corporate use of Teams in the future, but the execs at Slack won’t be sleeping well for the foreseeable future.

Amazon gives and takes away

Amazon essential items policy is killing retailers

Many small retailers have built their businesses using Amazon as their only channel to market. Thousands now find that Amazon will not accept or ship their products for weeks, given its “essentials only” policy to deal with the pandemic. While retailers understand the need for the policy, they must quickly find alternative channels such as Walmart.com through which to sell products. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Amazon, for many small businesses, does all the heavy lifting in terms of sales and distribution. Their policies — be they the order that products appear on a web page, or when shipments are de-prioritized — are a reminder of the need for diversification in most all things: suppliers, customers, lenders, and investors.

Facebook Portal a pandemic winner

Facebook’s Portal is a web conferencing device built for families and friends to watch TV together and enjoy video chatting. The devices were discounted by journalists and serious tech fans when they were announced just prior to holiday season in 2019. Facebook’s privacy problems were seen as a barrier to acceptance of the device. Now, the simplicity of the device is making it a favorite of consumers. Facebook Portal TV is now sold out. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: My how circumstances can change things. The simplicity of Portal TV and its fun features is well aligned with a literally captive market that is hungry for human connection. Call Facebook lucky or prophetic, but Portal is turning out to be a visionary product.

Amber smart circuit breaker a home electrical game changer

Amber Solutions, a Silicon Valley startup, has developed a semiconductor that manages electricity. The product, when placed in a circuit breaker, can sense and manage changes in current, power surges, shorts, and enables both remote control of circuits as well as reporting of energy usage. Amber Solutions

dis-rup-shun: The implications for smart circuits include the ability to control all devices in the home with a single app or single skill. The app could easily enable different scenarios such as conservation mode, vacation mode, security mode, and could detect problems with appliances, such as HVAC systems, long before they gave out. The question is how Amber will win over the circuit breaker giants such as Eaton, ABB, Leviton, Square D and others.

Apple releases new laptop like iPad

iPads continue to look and feel more like light, thin, touchscreen-capable laptops, and the latest release from Apple even claims to be a replacement for a laptop. The new iPad Pro is more powerful, supports a stylus, supports a mouse or trackpad, has new camera technology and LIDAR support. LIDAR technology enables augmented reality — the ability to superimpose dynamic images on top of photos. You need to watch the full Apple video to appreciate the potential. Apple.com

dis-rup-shun: It seems more and more people are using iPads as their daily computing device. The question Apple has to ask is if pushing the iPad as laptop cannibalizes more PC sales or MacBook sales. Given that there are more PC laptops in the world, the math would likely reveal that the new product wins over more PC users in volume. Nonetheless, Apple has, many times, shown that there is room for a new class of device, and getting more people to use iPads as their “travel computer” may not reduce sales of full strength MacBooks. Time will tell.

Is the Internet pandemic-proof?

Will the pandemic crash the Internet?

Verizon reports that voice usage on its network was up 25% the week of March 12th, and total web traffic was up 22%. Usage of streaming media services was up 12%, VPN usage jumped 30% and online gaming spiked up 75% while social media remained stable. So far, the Internet appears sturdy and robust, despite the claims by a few analysts who believe the infrastructure will not be able to handle more traffic. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The internet has performed beautifully under the strain of WFH and School from Home (SFH), by informal accounts. The service providers, often bashed for a litany of issues, should be commended for building robust, stable, and scalable networks that are, quite frankly, the most important resource, other than food and water, for the continuous functioning of our shelter-in-place society. Perhaps we can look at all of those government mystery fees on our bills with a little less disdain.

covidnearyou.org site built in one week by volunteers

Covidnearyou.org created a website to help people map where the virus has been confirmed, helping close the gap of inadequate testing facilities and capabilities. The site was the idea of Rem Ramaswami, the head of product at Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs when he and his wife felt sick. Rem knew he could not build the site without help, so he gathered the support of friends who work for Apple, Amazon, MongoDB, CloudFlare, Alphabet and other tech firms. Together, working through the nights, they built the site in about seven days. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Community spirit, innovation and creativity will enable our culture to soar despite the current hurdles. Expect to see a number of impressive collaborative efforts bringing people together to do good. We learned from 9-11 that hard times bring out the best in people, and some great stories are already circulating.

Oura ring may help detect illness early

Our bodies send signals before we become ill, but we don’t often have ways of detecting the warning signs. Oura makes a ring that is a sensor that detects changes in temperature and sleep patterns and may be able to detect changes that signal illness, like coronavirus. Oura is working with UCSF to outfit 2,000 healthcare professionals to determine the effectiveness of the rings. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Collecting and building large sets of data is critical for applying data analytics and AI, and is difficult to do given HIPPA regulations that ensure privacy. Wise tech firms, like Google, have been able to collect data sets through partnerships with hospitals and academic institutions. Commercial and academic partnerships will build the empirical evidence required to lead healthcare providers and payers to adopt new technologies for the betterment of our care systems.

Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp enjoy surge

It’s not just Zoom and Microsoft Teams that are enjoying unprecedented volume. Facebook products Messenger and Instagram Live usage have doubled over last year in certain regions, especially Italy. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Socializing over the internet works. It is definitely not as good as being in someone’s presence, but it enables people to make eye contact and see each other’s faces and feel the warmth of their presence. Video chats will keep the fabric of our culture intact until it is safe to high five, shake hands, hug and kiss.

 

Race virtually against pro car drivers

Pro race drivers competing against gamers

With the cancellation of Formula One, NASCAR and Indy Car races, professional drivers are competing against themselves and against gamers in online SIM races. Esports events are featuring virtual races with familiar professional drivers. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Online gaming technology levels the playing field — driving skills and all athletic skills, for that matter, do not necessarily translate to dominance in video games — making the mixture of professionals and amateurs even more interesting. The NBA and MLB will benefit greatly by keeping fans engaged through Esports events, keeping the most enthusiastic well engaged. A number of pro sports owners also own Esports teams and facilities, and the current crisis will encourage further diversification into video franchises.

Car dropped from tower onto trampoline

Why? Because it was a challenge. A former NASA and Apple engineer and a band of video bloggers do what no one has done before — drop a car 121 feet onto a specially designed, industrial strength trampoline. This 15 minutes and 45 second video is well worth all the time you will waste watching it — not only because we are all fascinated by the immutable laws of physics acting on objects under severe distress, but because the reactions of the brilliant and well-funded pranksters strikes a cord of joy and adrenaline that takes us back. Wired

dis-rup-shun: In these times of utterly unbelievable and distressing news, this fifteen minutes will transport you back to the time when sheer amazement and joy can be found by doing totally crazy stuff. Watch it!

FluSense system detects public illness

Researchers at UMass Ahmerst are developing a system that measures the number of coughs detecting in public places. It uses thermal sensors to estimate the number of people in the room, then computes something along the lines of coughs per capita and frequency of coughs to measure relative changes of health in public areas. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Collecting health data from those who have not yet identified themselves as sick, by going to a doctor or hospital, could lead to insights about the onset of flu before healthcare resources are aware, or needed. As the system does not identify individuals, it does not compromise privacy, but could lead to better predictors of public health.

Bidet attachments ease the need to horde toilet paper

Europeans aren’t queuing up at the market for a run on toilet paper because in many European homes, the bidet has long been a permanent fixture. Bidet attachments can retrofit nearly any toilet for $20, $80 and up, providing a cleansing that nearly eliminates the need for paper. Running a supply line to a hot water source, however can be a bit complicated. CNET

dis-rup-shun: While the coronavirus may leave a permanent mark on traditional ways we educate our college students and how we use expensive office real estate, it is not likely to permanently change the way Americans go to the bathroom. Bidets, for reasons unknown, have not been popular in the U.S., but now there are even better reasons to try an inexpensive attachment which could lead to graduation to a Kohler bidet model that includes a light, a heater, and Bluetooth connectivity.

 

Improving your webcam look

How to look good on a webcam

Life is now enjoyed via web conference, and looking good on a webcam requires a few tricks.

  1. Elevate the computer to be at eye level, else your audience is looking up your nose.
  2. Look into the camera, not the screen. The lack of eye contact is noticeable.
  3. Get a good microphone. The one on your laptop stinks.
  4. Create better lighting by changing the tone on your monitor. Go to settings and choose a warmer hue than monitor blue.
  5. Don’t sit in front of a window — you will be a silhouette.
  6. Choose a good background. This can be performed with software in some video conferencing apps, or by moving to a good spot.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: Face it, you aren’t going anywhere for at least a few weeks — especially if you live in California.  Your chance to make a first or second or nth impression is right here in your home office and you might as well amuse yourself and your coworkers by stepping up your web conferencing game.

Microsoft Teams reaches 44 million users 

As stated above, life is now about web conferencing. All the providers are seeing massive increases in usage, and Microsoft Teams, a very full featured remote work application that incorporates video chat, screen sharing, and instant messaging is enjoying more than double the usage over its 20 million figure last November. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The bulk of online humanity is now trying out a video conferencing platform, but most may not realize that Teams is both a video conference platform and a virtually work space. Microsoft took some lemons from the abysmal Skype product and made lemonade, and except for some hard to find control features, the product is delightful. Slack will have to step up given that Teams is bundled in Microsoft Office suites. Just ask the good people at Netscape what bundling means.

Pornhub does its part for Europeans

Adult content website Pornhub has extended premium memberships for free for a month to the good people of Italy, France and Spain. The company saw dramatic spikes in viewership after the offer. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Well, as we tell children at birthdays, it’s the spirit that counts.

PS5 versus XBox X Series

CNET tries to fill in the missing blanks to determine which new console will be better. Both will be well powered with AMD processors, will have faster memory units and offer backwards compatibility for existing games software. Sony is expected to offer a fairly different controller, and Microsoft is expected to reduce latency via software on its controller. Both are using different architectural approaches to accomplish better performance, but the question of what games will be available on the new devices lingers.

dis-rup-shun: It’s the content, of course, that makes the device! Both companies have kept game titles well concealed, with a few titles known for XBox. Even one totally awesome game on a new platform will sell many, many units.

 

Security owners want more smart home

Smart home security systems owners want more

In a recent study conducted at Interpret Research, owners of smart home security systems indicated a significantly higher intention of purchasing smart home products than people without security systems, suggesting that systems dealers and manufacturers have an interested market, ready for upgrades and add-ons. Interpret

dis-rup-shun: The smart home industry is waiting to understand if smart home product purchasers are more or less inclined to purchase integrated systems, like smart home security systems, after they purchase one or two smart home products. The Interpret study suggests that security systems providers are fueling growth of more products. Next month the company will publish data indicating how important device interoperability is to smart product buyers.

Playstation 5 unveiled

Sony, in a live webinar, unveiled the latest Playstation — number 5. The high-powered console is based on an eight-core AMD CPU and GPU, with SSD storage, haptic feedback and adaptive triggers based on the games being played and what you are doing in the game. The device promises to offer a premium experience. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: These are interesting times for the console makers, and the pandemic and subsequent quarantine may help the console makers, as occasional players will be reminded of the hours of fun and community received by playing on the console. With mobile and cloud-based options eating away at the core of the consoles’ markets, the devices have to deliver an even better experience but still remain priced in the sweet spot of the mass market. It looks like both Sony and Microsoft will deliver on a powerful experience and will get the game content community engaged in another console generation. What happens beyond this generation is harder to predict, as console alternatives continue to get better and offer more titles.

The best video games to play in quarantine

Whatever your preferred genre, there is a multiplayer version of the game you choose which will enable you to meet new people and feel like you are not stuck at home. Some favorites covered by Wired include, Final Fantasy XIV, Don’t Starve Together, Jackbox, Overwatch, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s Warzone, Stardew Valley, World of Warcraft Classic.

dis-rup-shun: Contact starved quarantine-ees will have to find solace in online communities. The volume of video conference calls must have increased 10 fold or more in the past week, teaching even the skeptics that video calling from home is almost as good as being in an office. Watch productivity spike for home workers (who don’t have children home schooling simultaneously).

Lots of work-from-home newbies are setting up big monitors

If you are perfecting your home office for a long WFH stint, here are some good guidelines to purchasing and connecting a larger monitor to your laptop. If you have a new laptop, you will find that you no longer have standard USB or HDMI ports, as new machines have all gone to the tiny USB-C connector, requiring an adapter or port replicator to be purchased with a new monitor. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Once home workers perfect their setup, it will be difficult to return to the office for more than an occasional team meeting. Will the demand on office space be less after the pandemic as workers want less from their office space and are more willing to be “hotelers” and share space?

 

Amazon on hiring tear

Amazon to hire 100,000 immediately

Amazon has been overwhelmed with orders, especially for consumer staples. Given the potentially long duration of the pandemic, door-to-door delivery may become vital for many who are unable or afraid to shop at stores. The company is beefing up its delivery system, including drivers and warehouse workers, and is encouraging people displaced from the restaurant industry to apply. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is another silver lining company, one that will prosper during the global pandemic. While the global supply chain is being disrupted and is affecting Amazon, its delivery business will continue to boom and its grocery delivery business may finally get the push it needed to become a household habit. The tech giants do appear to be going the extra mile, using their strong cash positions to assist displaced employees and contribute to the great good.

Bill Gates says good bye to Microsoft

Gates, founder of Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen (now deceased), has retired from Microsoft’s board of directors. He has also retired from the board of Berkshire Hathaway, in order to spend more time managing the philanthropies of the Gates Foundation. Gates stated that Microsoft has never been in better hands. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is a heart-warming story to see Bill, who, along with a handful of visionaries including Steve Jobs, changed the world. Some of the greatest tech companies that helped change the world, including IBM, HP, EDS, Xerox, Sun Microsystems and even Cisco have lost their way and are either gone or struggling. Gates and Steve Jobs have both moved on, but the leaders that are now at the helm have found new markets and kept the market innovation at the forefront. Now that “Neutron” Jack Welch has passed away, Gates could be the next senior statesman-management sage, showing today’s leaders how to be great.

Remember movie theaters?

The theater industry just had its worst weekend at the box office in two decades. Several major releases were postponed, but theaters remained open, which may not be the case in subsequent weekends. The damage was total revenues of $55 million, an amount that is often earned by a single film in one weekend. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Not wanting to pile on the doom and gloom, we must consider that life after the pandemic will be different. Streaming movie experiences keep keeping better, with better content, better video quality, better user interfaces, and better pricing. Theaters will always be special places to go to get away, to have the one-of-a-kind popcorn buckets, and to take a date when its not yet appropriate to invite a date to your home. But will the pandemic finish off the several week exclusive window that new theaters enjoy before new releases are streamed to home TVs? If so, it will be hard to go back, and movie theaters will lose one big differentiating advantage.

Still don’t have AirPods?

If you are one of the few people who didn’t receive AirPods for the holidays, and if you are determined not to give Apple any more of your money, check out this review of the best wireless ear pods. Sennheiser, Jabra, Sony, Samsung, Anker, and others, all have a place in the top choices. CNET

dis-rup-shun: It is impressive that the consumer electronics industry keeps inventing new must have products. There are a few of us who haven’t yet decided that ear pods are “must haves,” but eventually even the laggards are buyers.

Working from home? Upgrade your Wi-Fi

Upgrading home Wi-Fi now that you are WFH

Millions of people have been barred from the office and are not working from home. With home Wi-Fi now critical to both work and play, there are some easy ways to improve the reliability. Replace your cable or telco router, relocate your router, add a Wi-Fi signal booster, use power line networking to transmit data over through your  electrical outlets, or try using a wired network. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Networking equipment products should be enjoying a significant sales increase as the nation and world retreat to home offices and strive to maintain a semi-normal routine. Corporations will quickly learn that businesses, for the most part, will run quite smoothly with remote workers. The current pandemic may ultimately reduce demand for office space as corporations realize that the work force can be highly productive without the added costs of offices.

Xbox Live service goes down on Sunday

Xbox Live’s service was out for two hours on Sunday. The company has not yet reported if the outage was the result of heavy usage, but it was restored by Sunday evening. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: It’s Spring Break and the ski resorts are closed, air travel is discouraged and everyone is encouraged to stay home… and play games. The Internet providers will be tested in the next weeks as people connect virtually and play games, stream movies, and video conference while working from home. Computer peripherals and accessories, including printer cartridges and paper will be hot quarantine items.

Everbridge emergency management software surges with the pandemic

Everbridge, a public company based outside of Boston, was founded after 9/11 to help companies monitor, manage and communicate in a disaster. The company’s software has been important in tracking coronavirus outbreaks and enabling companies to communicate with employees and customers. The company recently signed a $25 million, 5 year contract with the state of California. The company’s shares are trading at 17 times earnings, well above its average of 11 times. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: As the world braces for economic crisis, finding the winners during bad times will be interesting. Everbridge has a good business model, as natural disasters are a given, and are predicted to be coming more frequently thanks to climate change.

Online game usage surges as schools close

Fortnite, Call of Duty are winners of coronavirus debacle

It has been hard to find silver linings in light of this week’s decimation of life as we know it. Publishers of online games Fortnite and Call of Duty, Epic and Activision, are enjoying surging demand for the game titles. Telecom Italia has reported a surge in network traffic as people stay home from school and work and rely on internet connections for gaming, video consumption, and online classes. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Streaming video services, likewise, will be fully exercised as people stay home during the global sports and concert blackout. Virtual live concerts and sporting events will resemble pay-per-view boxing matches, and may create new entertainment formats that are less reliant on live audiences.

Visual One makes web cameras very smart

Web cameras have become very popular, but motion-based alerts can be some common that people begin to ignore them. Visual One is a company using machine learning and a low cost Wyse Camera to identify types of motion that may interest you — like someone taking a package off the front porch, or a dog jumping on the couch. Being able to select which of these events are worthy of an alert makes a web camera far more useful. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Today’s smart home is a misnomer when we realize how smart products are getting ready to become, and the boost in utility they will provide. Such intelligence, of course, will continue to sound ethics alarms when your webcam is able to send alerts like “Suzy’s boyfriend came through the back gate at 10:48.”

Shadow cloud gaming service comes to U.S.

Another cloud based gaming service is revising its offer for the U.S. market. Blade, a French company offers a monthly fee of $11.99 for a more powerful gaming experience. The service provides a full Windows 10 instance, meaning that for the monthly fee, you essentially have full use of a powerful Nvidia-charged PC, that will run any Windows app you choose — remotely. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: An objection to cloud gaming is latency. With a more powerful processor in the cloud, latencies will be reduced to those in the network, not the data center. Shadow’s offering may make Chromebooks or tablets more feasible, providing all the tools one needs to perform specialized tasks, but from a light weight, low-powered device. 5G will further improve this latest twist on cloud computing.

Foreign made drones to be banned from U.S. Defense purchases

Trump’s administration is preparing an executive order to ban the purchase and use of non-U.S. made drones in military and government applications. The order cites the potential for compromises of national security that could result from sensitive data being transferred to foreign nations. The drone market is expected to be worth $15 billion by the end of the current decade. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: On the heels of the release of detailed accounts of  the massive Equifax data breach, sensitivity toward cyber attacks is high. About 70% of the market is controlled by China-based DJI. The majority of the DoD’s fleet is made up of China-based manufacturers. Old films of East Berlin or Russia during the Cold War showed odd looking Trabant cars, made locally in East Germany. The perils of closed markets are very apparent.

COVID enables tech to crush the college experience

Virus-fighting technology likely to change college forever

Thousands of colleges and universities across the globe announced their closure — some for weeks, others for the duration of the semester. Most all closing institutions will rely on online learning to substitute for people gathering in classrooms, labs and lecture halls. USA Today

dis-rup-shun:  Will academic institutions ever go back to a classroom setting after their abrupt shifts to online education? The late Steve Jobs suggested that college classrooms would someday be replaced by computers and live gatherings would be only for the purpose of holding study groups and help sessions. Perhaps to justify large tuitions and preserve tradition, many high ranked private colleges have employed online learning only minimally. This is now changing in response to COVID-19, and institutions large and small will find that it is easier and less costly to operate a virtual college. Suspended extracurricular activities, sports teams and aging facilities may not be resumed and the collegiate college experience may forever change, especially if quarantines drag on beyond a few weeks.

Stop touching your face! There’s an app for that

If you are following hygiene instructions and washing your hands frequently and trying not to touch your face, you are now aware of how frequently you do it. Slightly Robot, a startup, has created the Immunotouch wristband that buzzes every time your hand approaches your face. And yes, there is an app that enables you to track your retraining progress. The device was originally designed to assist those who have developed the bad habit of pulling their own hair out, but has been opportunistically re-purposed to assist in the battle against coronavirus. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While an interesting solution for those really determined to keep their hands off of their face, it seems likely that smartwatch makers may quickly respond with an app that takes advantage of the existing accelerometer in the device. China has deployed a number of apps to track one’s proximity to people who have tested positively for COVID-19. Leveraging technologies to assist in controlling pandemics makes perfect sense, and tech companies that do so will endear themselves to the public.

Chip Wars: The (Intel) Empire Strikes Back

After years of attempts, AMD’s 3rd generation Rizen CPUs, the Zen 2,  beat the performance of Intel’s Core i5 9500. A new Intel chipset, the Core i5 10400, will put Intel back on top, at least until AMD rolls out Rizen Gen 4. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: It is tough to stay on top, and after several decades of dominance, Intel is being attacked on many fronts. ARM processors won the mobile race, with Qualcomm a big winner. Nvidia bested Intel with its GPUs for superior graphics in in-car displays such as those in VW and Audi, and now AMD is edging Intel in its core market, the consumer PC. Competition is good for the consumer, and it is certainly giving Intel a thorough run.

Quibi launch mired by lawsuits and coronavirus

What is Quibi? It is a new video subscription service that displays only on smartphones, uses original content no longer than 10 minutes, and is backed by a number of high-level celebrities and business moguls, who are taking a BIG gamble that their exists an appetite for this unusual service. Another unique-ness is that you can rotate the phone and get a completely different camera view of the action — letting you, the viewer, determine the best angle for the action. The service is set to launch in a few weeks, but coronavirus fears prohibit public launch events, and a company called Eko has claimed that Quibi, and several of its executives who came from Snap, who discussed, under NDA, the possibility of using Eko’s technology, have stolen the screen flipping technology. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Foretelling demand for Quibi is tough. On the one hand, it seems that we all have too many video sources to watch and too many monthly subscriptions to pay. On the other, it seems that if really compelling content is offered by Quibi, and everyone starts talking about it, the urge to spend just a few more dollars per month will be irresistible, just so we can join the conversation.

The end of the cashier is near

Amazon Just Walk Out technology about to transform retail

Amazon has been developing, through its cashier-less stores, technology that accurately charges a customer for what they have taken from a store using sensors and cameras. Shoppers enter the store and scan an app, then simply walk out with their purchases. Receipts are optional via email. Amazon is now selling this technology to other stores, and it is expected to appear not only in shops, but in movie theater and baseball concession stands. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Isn’t it ironic. The company that took shopping online and wrecked retailers is now in a position to transform retail shopping and eliminate check out altogether. Even shoplifting will be transformed, as thieves and the goods they remove will be well documented by sensors and cameras. This is not the first time Amazon has taken an internal technology and licensed it to the public. The company’s own remote data center technology became the foundation for Amazon Web Services and its Software as a Service tools that it sells to thousands of customers, generating over $25 billion in revenues in 2018.

Health records opened: big win for consumers and Big Tech

In a move that took a decade and a village of healthcare companies and legislators, the Department of Health and Human Services cracked Epic System’s stranglehold on personal health records. Epic Systems, a company protected by a slow-to-change industry that is careful to safeguard privacy, effectively controlled electronic health record access and resisted Big Tech’s efforts to interface with health records for use with smartphones and health apps. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The health care system and its incumbents are right to insist on the highest level of data privacy and compliance with HIPPA, but enabling tech companies easier access to consumers’ health records will accelerate the creation of a transparent market with open pricing and clearer choices. To be able to shop for your next MRI or even compare costs of surgeries from place to place will rock the care industry, but will ultimately lead to more competition between care providers, a higher focus on service, and a more cost effective care system. Bring it on.

Ready to carry a password key?

Passwords suck. Many are not secure and remembering multiple passwords requires uncommon genius. A new security technology, called FIDO, is working on replacing passwords. FIDO requires a combination of a physical USB key and a biometric reader (fingerprint or facial recognition). FIDO apps on your smartphone, when tethered to a PC via Bluetooth, can serve as the physical key. FIDO is reported to be far more secure than any prior security method and, even better, is able to block spammer and phishing schemes. CNET

dis-rup-shun: It is a rare person that sits at a computer without their smartphone nearby, so FIDO could transform security without much hassle. Eliminating passwords that need to be complex and always different to be secure will be a great day. Most people still seem to carry keys, so adding one more for data access sounds like a reasonable possibility.

The Internet lives in a hotel in NYC

Wired goes inside one of the large Internet hotels where servers, switches, miles of cable, power plants and backup generators live under very tight security. Multiple hotels house interconnection of networks such as AT&T, Google and Verizon, enabling them to exchange data across their separate networks. The hotels house hundreds of servers, some which are owned by the networks, and some by their large clients.

dis-rup-shun: You will enjoy the photos that show how a click of a mouse can connect us to millions of data sources from around the world. The resources required to create the Internet are clean, yet massive. Huge amounts of power, cable, plastic sheathing and diesel fuel (for backup) are required to enable the high reliability network. The rapid growth of data will require ever more resources, pushing against the resource reductions delivered by the now sputtering Moore’s Law. The distributed nature of Internet hotels, however, provides effective protection from potential disasters.

 

Rocket rides sold for $55 million

Space travel broker Axiom Space sells a seat for $55 million

The travel broker Axiom Space sold its first of three seats on a SpaceX rocket, and a 10 day stay on the international space station, for $55 million. CNET

dis-rup-shun: This is an interesting cluster of commercial, private and government interests. Which entities stand to gain from private citizens paying a commercial rocket company for time on a multi-national government funded space station, and what happens when space tourists get in the way of valuable scientific experiments and potentially endanger astronauts who have trained for decades to spend time in space?

Techlash — no more office space allowed in San Francisco

The city of San Francisco expects to pass Proposition E (pundits indicate that bill has 55% support). Proposition E limits construction of new office space based upon the amount of new housing stock created. Local residents are celebrating the proposal, while economists and venture capitalists are highly concerned. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Despite exceptionally high housing prices and shocking growth in homeless population, San Francisco’s tech boom continues to draw the best and brightest to the city. The city is looking more like a closed system — if you pour in thousands of prosperous jobs, you can’t force the low wage earners out of the city — they want and need to be there too, but are increasingly forced to live in the streets. With remote work tools getting better by the month, tech companies should find it easier than ever to tap into lower cost, distributed work forces outside of the Bay Area.

Apple App Store bans many COVID-19 apps

Apple joins other Big Tech companies on controlling the misinformation associated with coronavirus. Apps that help track the virus that are not submitted by health organizations are blocked. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is working to take down price gougers who are selling masks and sanitizers at outlandish prices, and Facebook is working to eliminate misinformation posted on its network. Apple is doing its part to prevent misleading or overly opportunistic apps. It is encouraging to see that Big Tech is collectively focusing on protecting people and helping the global community steer its way through the current health and economic crisis.

Oppo watch is Apple Watch lookalike for Android

Chinese manufacturer Oppo has released a good looking Apple lookalike. The product runs the Android-based ColorOS, and will be released for sale first in China on March 24th. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The watch is not an exact knock-off of the Apple Watch, but very similar. Just as in phones, Apple set the look and feel for an armada of smartphones from many brands — none as successful as Samsung — sold to people who liked the technology but preferred not to join the Apple faithful. As the smart watch gains market share, expect Apple to dictate the design, feature set and pricing even while Android powered watches eventually overtake Apple’s share of the market.

Coronavirus spurs telehealth use

Coronavirus may be catalyst for telehealth

Telehealth applications are proving effective to keep the worried well out of hospitals and clinics. Those who wish to confirm that they do not have the virus are turning to telehealth apps including Teledoc, Anthem’s LiveHealth Online, United Health Group, and Aetna’s CVS Minute Clinics. Remote physician visits, through an app, prevent overcrowding of the health care system, which can be better utilized to treat those with positive symptoms. Reimbursement for telehealth still has some obstacles to overcome, including paying doctors who treat people across state lines. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: There must be some silver linings from coronavirus, and a thorough test of telehealth systems, including reimbursement of healthcare professionals, should be one. Our healthcare systems must lean heavily on telemedicine to address the looming care crisis (that exists without coronavirus) and the burden is on health insurance companies to provide incentives for consumers as well as doctors to use telehealth before crowding doctors offices and clinics for basic care issues.

GM gets serious about beating Tesla

GM showed off a new modular chassis and battery platform designed to be the foundation for a large variety of models from GM, Cadillac, Chevy and Buick. The new battery technology uses less cobalt and more aluminum, and is expected to get ranges of 400 miles on faster charging time. In the mix are a new Cadillac EV as well as a Hummer electric pickup truck. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Ever since Tesla’s market valuation ballooned to more than 3x that of GM, the big automakers have received the message. The message is that their side agenda of mixing a few electric cars into the fleet is a death wish, as the future is starting to look all electric. Now the question is if the service stations, lube franchises, and auto repair businesses are thinking long term. Certainly petrol burners will be on the road for a decade or two, but with the average family SUV being electric in a handful of years, the demand for combustion engine automobile services will fall like a rock. This will also put a big dent in auto dealership service revenues, as EVs simply require far less repairs and maintenance.

Apple Arcade becoming the Netflix of Games

Apple’s $5 per month game subscription targets the family gaming experience, providing a host of family-friendly game titles without any in-game purchases of weapons, tools or cheats. Designed for a different market from XBox services or Google’s Stadia console killer, the service, like Netflix, offers a variety of titles and genres under one simple subscription price model. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Apple executives at some point sat down to determine how they could be like Netflix, and one result was Arcade. In addition to creating a new source of revenues, the service further cements children’s’ affections for the Apple brand — catching consumers for life at an early age. Let’s see what future service models Apple has up its sleeve, and how its successful credit card venture can be woven into these services.

The future of tires: AI and self-healing

Goodyear has introduced a very different concept of tires for the future — tires that use AI to determine, based on your driving style, what your tread should be like, and then using cartridges of rubber-like material that a driver injects into the tire frame, an individualized tread is “grown.” The futuristic concept requires a narrow tire on a slim frame that makes flat tires and changing tire pressure a thing of the past. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Generating rubber for tires, either of natural or synthetic rubber, is a resource intensive process. Disposing of tires may be even worse. As our culture takes a hard look at environmental impact, the tire industry has a lot of cleaning up to do. With electric vehicles still requiring at least four tires per car, the future of the tire industry isn’t bleak like the gasoline engine-based industries, and innovations improving efficiency and reducing energy and waste will be well embraced by EV manufacturers.

Consumers love Microsoft, Amazon distrust Facebook, Twitter

Verge consumer survey shows what tech companies are loved and disdained

The Verge completed a follow up survey to its 2016 survey on public perceptions of tech firms. Facebook lacked trust in 2016 and has fallen precipitously, while Amazon, adored in 2016, remains a public favorite. Microsoft is the must trusted tech company (75% trust it), followed by Amazon (73% trust it).

  • 56 percent said the government should break up tech companies if they control too much of the economy
  • 72 percent said that Facebook has too much power
  • 51 percent said Google and YouTube should be split into separate companies

dis-rup-shun: What is surprising about the survey is that Apple is in the bottom half of companies discussed. Has Apple’s premium product positioning and pricing made it an elitist brand that does not appeal to the masses as do Google, Netflix, and Amazon? Perhaps Apple has become the Nordstrom’s in a Target world, where technology is now a lifestyle necessity of all but the most impoverished, and highly accessible brands are seen as providing great utility to society. Facebook, however, remains a powerful but disliked brand — a precarious position for long-term success.

Walmart readies answer to Amazon Prime

Walmart will soon launch Walmart + which is a fee-based loyalty program aimed to combat Amazon Prime. Amazon now controls 40% of online retail, Walmart.com controls 5%. Walmart is exploring perks for which it has a unique advantage, such as 1,600 grocery stores in the U.S. that could provide free delivery. Aside from free grocery delivery, the retail giant may be hard pressed to find other advantages its chain can offer over Amazon. Vox

dis-rup-shun: Amazon has changed the rules of shopping, with Sunday deliveries so successful that FedEx trucks are rolling down neighborhood streets on Sunday. To beat Amazon at its game, Walmart must not only offer equivalent one to two-day delivery, but must provide a product that so delights customers, as Amazon Prime Video does, that consumers will, as with Amazon, feel as if they are receiving something for free. Grocery delivery is great, but more of a necessity than a pleasure. Free ice cream delivery, or make it dessert delivery, could be a game changer.

AT&T TV: meet the new face of cable TV

AT&T has exactly eight video service offerings, and the newest is simply AT&T TV. The new service looks like a skinny cable bundle (just the major channels), is delivered over the Internet, and costs only $50 per month. The catch, however, is that a two year contract is required, and year 2 costs $93 per month before a plethora of add-ons. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The masses are cutting the cord and there are many, many streaming TV package alternatives. Hulu and YouTube TV are the early leaders with bundles that look like cable, but cost a lot less, and provide whole-home (multiple device) solutions. AT&T TV is a clever offering, in that it will appeal to those that believe they should join the cord cutting revolution, yet just aren’t sure if non-traditional providers will give them what they want. Enter AT&T with a promise to deliver the new TV dream while also providing a familiar pricing package full of expensive add-ons and increasing prices over a contract period. Once again, the company will churn the same user base that it recently churned from U-Verse to DirecTV.

Another one (SpaceX rocket) bites the dust

Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost another Starship that apparently buckled under pressure as nitrogen filled its tanks. This follows a series of failures of different types and parts of rockets as the company remains hellbent on getting reusable space travel ready for prime time ahead of competitors. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Every rocket failure can be seen as a setback, but should be seen as great progress towards achieving safety in space. Every failure, let’s hope, is one less that will occur with precious cargo such as humans, aboard. The stakes for winning space are very high and commercial space travel is one area of technology that American entrepreneurs are leading the globe.

U.S. Air Force ready to help the flying taxi industry

U.S. Air Force offers to help test flying cars

The USAF has offered to assist the flying car and flying taxi makers test and certify their crafts in order to accelerate growth of the new category, for civilian and military use. The move is reported to be the result of the small drone business, vitally important to the U.S. military, having migrated to China, making it difficult for the U.S. military to find domestic drone partners. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The USAF’s dilemma is a new theme that will repeat many times: how to keep at least some core of new technologies from rapidly migrating to markets, such as China, that can produce faster, better and cheaper. With the majority of consumer electronics already being produced outside of the U.S., designating selected technologies to remain on-shore is an unlikely outcome. The Air Force’s move will likely create important military-emerging company partnerships earlier that may, if military funds follow, become long-term.

Sparta Science and the NFL use data to predict injuries

Sparta, a company founded by MD Phil Wagner, uses workout and movement data from NFL players, to create a player risk profile. By compiling thousands of data points from video scans of players, the technology determines points of stress in a player’s movements and predicts injuries that are likely to occur. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The idea of science predicting when we will get injured, sick or die is creepy, but with millions of dollars being invested in pro athletes, especially NFL and NBA players, it only makes sense. Consider the possibility, however, that to purchase a life insurance policy or even health insurance, we will report to a clinic that will run a series of tests and, consequently, assign us to a risk category, to which our insurance premiums will be set.

Internet Archive stores 20,000 VHS recordings

Did you know there is an organization which preserves historical media for posterity? The Internet Archive is a non-profit online library of media of our yesteryear. It is well known for its Wayback Machine, which is a tool that can be used to locate millions of web pages that have long disappeared from the world wide web. The Internet Archive has now stored the contents of over 20,000 VHS recordings, preserving a great deal of 90s videos, commercials and TV shows. Check out the VHS Vault for a black hole of campy entertainment. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: The ability to study history firsthand is invaluable, and thanks to the Internet Archive, future historians can do just that. The downside, of course, is that governments that might wish to control resources such as the Internet Archive can, literally, re-write history. Let’s hope that these resources remain independent, redundant and well preserved.

Unions call for investigation of Amazon for anti-competitive trade practices

Big Tech, facing increasing pressure from Congress, can now add unions to its list of detractors. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Communications Workers of America, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Service Employees International Union have petitioned the FTC to look into Amazon’s “immense and growing influence.” The unions call on the FTC to consider Amazon’s “exclusionary conduct to the detriment of workers, consumers, merchants, and competition itself.” Amazon’s reply: the company has created over 500,000 jobs and represents less than 4% of total retail. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It’s a slippery slope that giant, fast growing corporations walk, and history shows that giants are eventually toppled by regulators. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 toppled Standard Oil, and President Roosevelt sued 45 additional companies. Not quite a hundred years later Judge Green ordered the restructuring of AT&T. Amazon is, no doubt, reshaping our economy, but can it do so without being seen as a menace? Just this weekend on television, commercials for Amazon’s Pill Pack pharmacy were aired. Amazon’s push into healthcare may provide much needed disruption, but may also draw the ire of a new set of industry regulators.

 

Tempo perfects connected home weightlifting

Tempo weightlifting provides live coaching online

Peloton has changed home workout equipment forever, and Tempo, with Series A funding of $17 million, is on its way to making home weight lifting state-of-the-art. The six foot tall station includes a flat panel equipped with a 3D camera, which monitors your reps and form and corrects improper form. Live classes not only offer you a just-like-the-gym experience, but the instructor on the other side of the screen can see if you are using poor form and can call you out to correct you across the wire. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Imagine a high end home with a collection of state-of-the-art exercise devices.  Because the owner wants only the best, each piece of equipment has its own programming, its own class subscription plan and pricing, and its own schedule for live classes. It would be like going to the gym and finding that every piece of equipment was made by a different company and worked a bit differently. The home fitness industry is entering a stage in which most devices are connected, offer an experience as good or better than from a live trainer, and demand a hefty monthly subscription fee. If the result is that more people get in better shape for the same or less money than going to the gym, then everybody wins. The question will be to see if gym memberships decline, or if the need for human fellowship keeps the gym buzzing.

After information, controls is next tier of smart speaker usage 

Smart speakers are now found in 35% of U.S. households, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure quarterly survey of 9,000 U.S. households. The screen-enabled version of smart speakers, called smart displays, were heavily promoted for the holidays, with commercials for Facebook’s Portal, Amazon’s Echo Show, and Google’s Nest Home Hub. Smart displays will likely be used more frequently than smart speakers for shopping, as only 8% of respondents claim to make purchases through smart speakers. The primary use case for the devices is asking about the weather (53% of respondents), searching the web to answer questions (34% of respondents), followed by keeping a to-do list and task reminders (27%). An impressive 26% of respondents reported that they control smart home devices through their smart speaker. Interpret Analysis

dis-rup-shun: If half of smart speaker owners are now controlling home systems through their smart speakers, the devices are paving the way for increasing adoption of smart home products that can communicate with Alexa or Google Home. Amazon now owns Ring and Google owns Nest, so both companies are poised to finish what they started — building a full array of smart home systems, from lighting to thermostats, cameras, doorbells and leak sensors. With the riches possessed by both companies, however, one wonders why the companies haven’t moved more quickly to acquire these missing pieces. Perhaps it is only a matter of time.

Disney’s new CEO leaves analysts questioning

On Tuesday, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, announced his resignation and appointment of Bob Chapek, head of amusement parks, as his replacement. The announcement puzzled analysts who have heard, for the past several years, that Disney’s future is all about streaming video, suggesting that head of Disney streaming, Kevin Mayer, would be tapped for the top job. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The selection was unexpected, but perhaps the toughest job in the room is keeping the magic that is Disney, continuing. The video business is critical to Disney’s future, but what makes the company special is imagination and imaginative content, and perhaps the way to keep imaginations blooming is through the man who kept the theme parks imaginative and fresh.

Home videoconferencing technologies are improving

Share prices for videoconferencing software companies are on the rise, thanks to coronavirus. But the increase in videoconferencing started way before the virus. Gartner Research says that more than 50 percent of global employees will work remotely, on occasion this year, compared to 20 percent in 2016. The result is more software choices, but also better features, such as shared whiteboards, the ability to choose from a variety of backdrops, and even technology from Microsoft that makes you appear to be looking into the camera even when you are surfing Instagram. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The efficiencies of remote work are proving effective, as forming specialized work groups seems to be ever more important in today’s global, connected economies. The industries clobbered are likely the relocation companies: moving vans, corporate apartments and the like, as the reasons for relocating for work are fewer, at least for specialized knowledge workers.

 

Work: Silicon Valley style

Silicon Valley has ruined work

Wired claims that the new work culture of ping pong tables, nap pods, unassigned cubicles, free juice, paid lunches (and dinners) and unlimited vacation days is an export from Silicon Valley. Furthermore, the author claims that this new work culture has ruined work in that it has eliminated the distinctions between work and personal life as work now has no barriers. The days of leaving work after five or six pm and not resuming until the next work day are over, courtesy of Silicon Valley.

dis-rup-shun: For those of us who started our careers wearing a suit and tie, every day, for the sake of impressing mostly our co-workers, the changes in work culture have been astounding. We have watched offices reflect our status, with size and location, then disappear for all except for senior managers, and we have watched cubicles go from large and tall to non-existent. Work today, more than ever, is defined by the culture of its boss(es), and requires teamwork and collaboration, given the lack of barriers between the most senior and most junior of employees. Making work fulfilling, as it fills a larger space in people’s lives, will be the biggest cultural challenge facing business leaders forthwith.

XBox Series X will be fast

Microsoft has released initial information about the next XBox, coming to us near year’s end. The early information indicates that the device will be long on horsepower, enabling games to load quickly, switch quickly between games, and support high graphics frame rates. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Google has disrupted the console space by offering strong titles via the cloud, at very attractive prices. Some believe a similar service from Amazon is inevitable. To remain relevant, console makers will have to emphasize the unique experience provided by a really powerful machine that sits next to their favorite gaming spot. Expect consoles to become even more powerful and expensive, closing the distance between gaming PCs and mass market devices, as much of the mass market migrates to cloud gaming. Console makers will have to re-examine their business strategy and margins to determine how to profit from lower sales of more expensive devices.

Huawei, the Google of China, rolls on with a smart speaker

Huawei has just released a smart speaker for the EU that will take on Google Home and Amazon Echo variants. The Sound X device does not yet come with its own smart assistant software in Europe, but does offer Xiaoyi, its voice assistant in China. The product will not be offered in the U.S. and is a partnership with French high-end audio specialists Devialet. The partnership is a move to position the product for audiophiles who will pay a premium for sound quality. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Huawei, despite intense and ongoing political pressure from the U.S., continues to release new and diverse products, including telecom equipment, smartphones and now, smart speakers. Blocked from the U.S., Huawei is aggressively competing in all other markets, drawing strength from large markets such as India and Europe, a strategy that will pay many long-term dividends.

Rumors indicate a low cost iPhone in March

The next swath of iPhones, coming as early as March 2020, may include a new low cost unit, possibly called the iPhone SE2. The last low cost iPhone was the iPhone SE, sold for $399 is 2016.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: Apple stands to gain a new following by catering to those not willing to spend for an iPhone 11 or 11 Pro. For those that feel they cannot join in the buzz inside the packed (pre-coronavirus) Apple Store, a lower price point will open up the fun to a new clientele. Additionally, it seems that an increasing number of spendthrifts are operating on iPhones that are 3 and 4 generations old. Apple’s new offering may be what’s needed to refresh a significant number of “sleeper” Apple fans.

New NFL rights could be the end of TV

NFL TV rights are linchpin for the future of TV

NFL broadcasting rights are locked up through 2022, but awarding of future contracts will begin in the next months. Currently, NFL broadcasts are held by owners who distribute through traditional pay TV outlets (cable, satellite, over the air). To be seen is if an exclusive streaming video provider, such as Netflix, Amazon, or You Tube steps up to grab exclusive rights to NFL broadcasts — an act that would forever change and further devalue the traditional TV business. It is more likely, however, that the NFL will award the new contracts to companies such as CBSViacom, Comcast and Disney that own distribution both in traditional as well as streaming channels. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is possible that our disruptor friends Amazon, or You Tube would do the unthinkable and pay unprecedented sums to lock up the NFL for streaming only. Such an act would rapidly accelerate the demise-in-progress of the traditional TV business and dislodge the remaining Luddites who are holding onto cable and satellite TV mostly for live sports. The big winners, of course, are the fabulously rich NFL owners.

Buffett trades flip phone for iPhone

Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 245 million shares of Apple, worth $72 billion. Apple is the third largest component of Berkshire, following the company’s stake in insurance and railroads. Buffett calls Apple “probably the best business I know in the world.” CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is high praise from the most successful investor of our time, who expresses regret for not owning the company sooner. Buffett has always been an investor in financially stable and traditional companies. Is Apple now the General Electric and General Motors of our time — a traditional, conservative investment? In the highly volatile and high risk world of technology, it is hard to consider any tech player as a low risk investment. Let’s hope Apple continues to lead technology innovation for at least another decade.

Pets go hungry for days as technology failure shocks owners

Petnet, an IOT company backed by a collaborative of investors including Petco, makes the SmartFeeders line of connected products that dispense food to pets on a pre-set schedule. The company experienced an unexplained system failure that took systems offline for a week. While the service is restored, pet owners are left wondering what went wrong and if it will happen again. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: We hope no pets were actually harmed during this outage, and that owners, after some period of time, realized their pets had not been fed. The incident, however, is a reminder that our society is entrusting more and more of the important things in life, including the safety and health of our loved ones, to technology companies. The reasons for the outage are unknown: was it a software glitch, a network outage, or financial turmoil that resulted in kitty not eating for several days? Whatever the cause, vendors will face increasing pressure from consumers to ensure redundancy of technology that is important to them, as consumers expect IOT systems to be as reliable as an electric, water or cellular utility company.

How are your resolutions? Weight Watchers or Noom?

CNET weighs the merits of weight loss mobile app programs from industry veteran Weight Watchers, now re-branded “WW” and newcomer Noom. Both apps include daily tracking of food intake, various levels of coaching, and healthy living advice. WW focuses on a points system, is more flexible, and has three tiers of service and price, whereas Noom is based on calorie counting, heavy on coaching, and has a single, higher price point. Both programs offer clinical evidence that they are effective — with 78% of Noom users losing weight when on the program for over a year.

dis-rup-shun: Weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers had to quickly change to an online program when the world went digital. These programs are examples of human-first services transforming to machine first, with human coaches being offered to support the machine based functions only as needed. While it appears that the digital programs remain effective for weight loss, it will be interesting to learn if the new WW operates at a lower cost, employing fewer humans, than in the days of operating physical Weight Watchers store fronts.

 

EU threatens to block Fitbit sale

EU to Google on Fitbit: “Not so fast”

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), an entity of the European Union, has raised concerns about Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit and its 28 million users. The EU has concerns about the big U.S. based tech company acquiring private health data of many European citizens. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: News today is a constant cadence of analysts determining that apps that are not authorized are still transmitting customer location data, and other private data points, all the while with tech companies making constant, and genuine, progress towards device and data security. Data privacy is becoming such an issue in the public’s perception of tech providers that Big Tech must run faster and farther to get ahead of growing consumer unrest. Tech firms would be well served to fund and launch a trusted third-party data privacy and security certification and enforcement agency to create a Good Housekeeping or UL Certified endorsement for products. Google will win and the EU will acquiesce, but good for the Europeans for voicing concerns.

Google Maps receives an upgrade

The battle to be the mapping software for your autonomous future is on, and Google has just updated its maps to be more user friendly, providing a slightly refreshed look and more convenient menu buttons across the bottom of the screen, including Explore, Go, Saved, Contribute and Updates. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Google has to fight back Apple, whose second tier map application has just been improved and updated. The new menu buttons on Google Maps are a threat to some daily app staples that we all enjoy, including Waze, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook. By adding similar functionality at your fingertips, it is likely that reliance on these other apps will decline. Upon further consideration, most of what we do on a smartphone could be integrated into mapping applications — including even text messages — making it harder and harder for other apps to find their place in our lives.

Best Alexa-enabled smart home devices

As Alexa enters its 7th year in our lives and homes, it (she?) continues to play a larger role in a growing number of devices — some not so helpful (microwave oven) and some quite useful. CNET provides a rundown of the ten most useful Alexa-enabled devices:

  • Echo Dot with Clock — the clock radio is reincarnated, but is it listening?
  • Arlo Pro 3 smart cam — view camera streams on Echo Show
  • Ring Peephole Cam — replaces the peephole in your door and provides a great solution for people in apartments or who don’t want to attach something to their door frame
  • Ecobee smart thermostat — if you can talk to your thermostat, you don’t need a separate, stand-alone smart speaker
  • Amazon Echo Show 8 — if you have an Amazon enabled doorbell cam, you have a great front door intercom system
  • August Smart Lock Pro — tell Alexa to unlock the door without getting off the couch
  • SimpliSafe home security system — arm and disarm the home with voice commands
  • Philips White Hue LED — these light bulbs include both Zigbee and Bluetooth radios, and are Alexa enabled. This means you can have smart lighting without an additional hub device — just let your phone and or your Alexa-enabled device talk to your lightbulbs. Simple.
  • TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini — outfitting lamps with a smart bulb or a smart plug is a great convenience if you haven’t tried it. For $30, it is worth a try.

What are people doing with smart speakers?

MarketWatch provides some interesting data on what, exactly, people are using their smart speakers to do. 

dis-rup-shun: With more devices including Alexa or Google Assistant, expect smart home commands, as a use case category, to increase. A home built with all switches voice-enabled is not far away — meaning you never have to flip a switch. But when baby is sleeping, you will want to still flip that switch. Stay tuned next week for more research from Interpret on the role of smart speakers in smart home product adoption.

Microsoft fixes voting

Microsoft seeks to become the voting standard

Microsoft is out to fix broken voting technology through its new ElectionGuard product line that creates dual printed copies of each ballot, encryption, and a certificate validating the vote. If hackers break into the system and change votes, the discrepancy will be more noticeable and traceable. CNET

dis-rup-shun: It is hard for the average voter to fathom how antiquated the polling process is, and why the best minds have not developed as foolproof a system as can be created. If we now bank mostly from home and on our smartphones, why can’t voting be done the same way? And for a fraction of the cost of recruiting all of those volunteers to over-staff polling places.

Redbox offers free ad-supported streaming service

Redbox is feeling the pinch of the slow demise of DVD rentals, and is now launching Redbox Free Live TV. In a world of cord cutters, receiving content via the internet for the price of watching some commercials appeals to many. The free content is organized into channels by theme, and offers a viewing experience more like over the air TV, but with no subscription or per episode charges. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: In the new world of streaming video, there is something for everyone. Premium services, discount services, and free services will all coexist on you internet connected TV, as different services fill different niches. Expect the services that are pumping out original content to take a premium, hybrid price model similar to Amazon Prime Video today, in which one pays an annual subscription fee as well as per-event up-charges. For those that don’t want to pay at all, there is always Redbox over free over the air TV. After all, Redbox offers a better deal than paying a monthly subscription fee and watching commercials.

Can Google watches catch Apple Watch? 

Smartwatches are going after the turf served by the less functional but smaller fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, a company that is being acquired by Google. Apple is doing deals with large health club chains, that now offer discounts to owners and regular users of Apple Watches. Nearly 70% of fitness club members own a device, but only one-third of smartwatch owners belong to a fitness club, meaning incentives to smartwatch owners could be a great enticement to join up. After catering to fitness enthusiasts, the next logical segment for smartwatch makers to target is parents. Smartwatch owners with children under 18 show a high affinity to shop for pizza, jewelry and financial service products — and there is a (smartwatch) app for that. Interpret Research

dis-rup-shun: Digital natives claim they have little need for a watch, since their smartphones provide the time. But digital natives no doubt need an on-wrist communicator to keep them even closer to text messages, so the watch, in its new form as smartwatch, lives on. Once again, apps will define the utility of the device, and Google is running fast to catch Apple, acquiring Fitbit and, in theory some of its users. If Google opens the smartwatch OS, as it did with Android on the phone, then it stands a good chance to at least control the software on the majority of smartwatches after a number of manufacturers catch Apple’s long lead in this category.

Amazon Care now open for Seattle employees

Amazon Care is the company’s internal health care service for employees, providing them for an app for live, remote doctor visits, as well as for scheduling the appropriate Amazon Care health care professional to come visit the employee at home or office. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is not unique for a large company to have its own health services for employees, but Amazon is different. It has built its own app, it owns an online pharmacy called PillPack, and it likes to rapidly scale projects that seem to work. This could very well be the test bed for a nationwide alternative care network which would likely change the way we consume health care services — turning the entire care industry on its head in a few short years. Time will tell, but healthcare is an industry very ripe for some Amazon-ization.

 

Musk: Gates is underwhelming

Elon Musk calls Bill Gates “underwhelming”

Bill Gates just reported that he purchased an all electric Porsche Taycan. Musk took to Twitter to report that his past conversations with Gates were underwhelming. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The Taycan takes electric vehicle ownership to a new level — the ability to be environmentally responsible and drive one of the premier car brands. Gates, whose foundation focuses on climate change, along with many other issues, gives Musk full credit in an interview in Inc. for changing the automotive landscape. Gates, who has long been a Porsche fan and owns a very rare model 959, explains his decision by saying that the Porsche, while premium priced, is “very, very cool.”

Ring gets serious about data security

Ring, owned by Amazon, has been criticized both for its relationship with law enforcement, as well as for the ease that its system can be hacked.  Last month, the company announced a data privacy dashboard, enabling consumers to more easily see and control what data is shared with third parties. The company just announced that it is implementing two-factor authentication for its users, requiring them to input a code sent to a smartphone when they log in.  TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Ring is doing the right things to make sure its smart home products are protected and that its products are transparent in terms of sharing user data. Ring is on the leading edge of a movement by most product makers to provide consumers with more visibility into data sharing. Consumer displeasure, mixed with the pressures of congressional inquiry, have caused Apple to take the position that it is the “privacy company,” distinguishing itself from rivals Google, Facebook and Amazon. Good news for consumers, other Big Tech firms are following suit. Expect to see data privacy dashboards and two-factor authentication become standard offerings for smart home and consumer electronics products.

Latest squeeze on Huawei – cut off access to chip making equipment

Only days after disclosure that the Equifax heist was conducted by operatives of the Chinese army, the U.S. Commerce Department is considering a new policy to require users of U.S. made semiconductor manufacturing equipment to obtain licenses. This registration effort would seek to prohibit, or at least keep track of machines sold or used for Huawei production. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The international Whack-a-Mole game continues, with the U.S. Commerce Department taking stock of what is left under U.S. control that it has not already used to limit Huawei. Huawei, a marvel in resistance, continues to respond to U.S. sanctions by building its own products, including a new smartphone operating system. The long-term effect of this latest chess move could well be the development of semiconductor manufacturing technology in China. Each obstacle may slow the technology giant, but not for long.

Use Alexa to find your lost phone in the house

If you aren’t yet using Alexa at home, this could be the best use. With a voice command, you can ask Alexa to call your phone and, assuming the phone is not on silent, you are in luck. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Alexa has many tricks to make life easier, but none that will win over those with Big Brother Syndrome. The fear of Jeff Bezos listening in to arguments about whose turn it is to walk the dog or other highly classified in-home discussions will keep the marvels of voice assistants out of the home for the foreseeable future. Amazon’s real technology feat will be to create a feature that convinces people their data is safe, and that they can take a chance on voice technology.

Sex tip app launches with $5M investment

Lover – sex tip app funded by Tinder founder

Lover is an app funded by Tinder founder Sean Rad. Lover is founded by board-certified sexual medicine clinical psychologist Dr. Britney Blair, who shares that the site is built on decades of research. Blair claims that the site not only enables people to have better sex, but overcome sexual problems, including ED. Blair states that in pre-launch testing, 62% of people with ED reported improvements within three weeks of using the app. Lover is free for 7 days then charges $9.99 per month. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: TechCrunch points out that digital pharmacies such as Ro have reached a $500 million valuation in 18 months. Commercials for ED drugs from online pharmacy Roman and Hims are frequent, indicating that there is big money here. A non-pharmaceutical approach to sexual health, along with tips, tricks and “how-to’s” from a legitimate source will be a runaway hit.

Ditch the Disk group calls for new standards for medical imaging

“Ditch the Disk” is a group of tech execs leading a movement to get the medical industry to move beyond storing imaging files on CD-ROM physical disks. The industry’s reluctance to part with physical disks creates significant barriers to sharing images between doctors, causing some patients to carry a disk from provider to provider, hoping that all providers have computers with disk readers. The inaccessibility of images is a frequent cause for duplicate testing, increasing costs and unnecessarily exposing people to radiation. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is yet another example of pockets of resistance to new technology standards in the healthcare industry. The goal for healthcare should be to leverage the latest tech standards as quickly as possible in order to reduce costs and maximize transparency to the consumer. The consumer-ization of healthcare is happening much more slowly than it should, and the faster healthcare professionals and companies accept that Amazon or Google or others will turn the healthcare industry into a consumer-friendly marketplace, the better their chances will be at avoiding displacement.

A DIY bidet enables luxury living

Butt tech: for $599, one can transform their bathroom into a luxury experience with the Coway Bidetmega 400. The device dependably warms, washes and dries the butt, making this luxury product “the best thing you didn’t know you needed.” Wired

dis-rup-shun: The author suggests that given the problems with our society, including massive debt and out of reach housing prices, it is the little luxuries, such as a heated toilet seat and bidet, that make life wonderful. He also points out that the Bidetmega 400 is not internet connected, so no one has to fear that their toileting activities are being stored in the cloud.

Percussive massage guns are required for fitness enthusiasts

CNET reviews percussive massage guns — comparing a number of less expensive models to the gold standard, the Theragun. Percussive massage guns provide the same healthy recovery of strained muscles as massage therapy by a real person, but anytime.

dis-rup-shun: If you have never tried a massage gun on sore muscles, then you are missing out on instant relief. As our culture spends more on online workouts and health club memberships, expect to see more home appliances created for our obsessions with exercise.

 

 

 

Equifax hack unveiled

Equifax hackers traced to China’s People’s Liberation Army

The Department of Justice has alleged that four individuals who are part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were behind one of the world’s largest data breaches, exposing names, passwords and credit information of 147 million people. The hackers exploited a vulnerability in Apache (web) software that was publicly announced, along with a fix. Equifax did not implement the fix for over a week, giving the bad actors time to break in and establish a foothold from which they collected Equifax employee’s credentials — giving them easy access without relying on the Apache vulnerability. From their software base camp, the hackers spent several months carefully studying the Equifax file structure and built a number of schemas to harvest data without detection. Equifax was found, by the DOJ, to have many security weaknesses that made the hacking much simpler. Wired

dis-rup-shun: If four well-trained people gained access to nearly half of all U.S. citizen’s credit information in a matter of months several years ago, chances are good that multiple parties have already quietly gained access to essentially every citizen’s data by now — they just haven’t been caught. Imagine if you will, warfare in which one nation essentially freezes its enemy population’s assets and wrecks their ability to conduct simple transactions, dissolving their net worth instantly. Gold bars buried in the back yard, anyone? Expect data security software and consulting companies to thrive in this dangerous new world.

What you need to know about the Internet of Things

If you have a strong command of the Internet of Things, then skip this article. If you would benefit from a concise explanation of what is IOT, how did it emerge, and where is it going, then read the article. To be really brief, the Internet of Things is the state by which any device with a processor is connected to the Internet so that it can be controlled by other devices (smartphone, for example), can collect data during its use, and can share that data with something else. The benefits are thousands of devices that know us and serve us like we like to be served, and the risks are that bad players misuse the information that things collect and use it against us. Wired

dis-rup-shun: According to Wired, an inflection point for consumer IOT was the birth of Amazon Alexa, in 2014, following Apple’s Siri, several years later. Alexa took the mystery out of smart home and IOT products for some, but solidified the distrust of “big brother” for others. When all of our devices are dependent upon Wi-Fi to run, what do we do when our service goes out?

Sony Pictures Exec hired to run Amazon Prime Video

Mike Hopkins, formerly chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, will run Amazon’s Prime Video and Amazon Pictures units. Hopkins will report directly to Bezos, being one of a few direct reports. CNBC

dis-rup-shun:  The lines between traditional TV services and the new world of streaming continue to blur. Streaming services must have their own studios, period, as content is the primary differentiator. In this way, the new face of video will look a lot like the early days of movies, when a handful of movie studios owned movie theaters around the country and controlled distribution of their content. Today, streaming distributors control the studios making the content, hence becoming more vertically integrated.

Microsoft’s first Android phone is spotted

Spy photos captured pictures of Microsoft’s self-branded Surface Duo, which runs Android. The photos demonstrate that the clam shell of thin glass can be oriented in multiple way to create multiple layouts — including several screens of different content, or content across multiple surfaces. The device, while open, appears to be smaller than an iPad mini, but larger than the largest Samsung Galaxy phone. Arstechnica

dis-rup-shun:  Is it too late for Microsoft to hew out a share of the mobile phone market? Missing the smartphone market was one of Steve Ballmer’s biggest blunders, and one that nearly cost the company its position as a tech giant. The company was too determined that its bloated WindowsCE operating system would eventually prevail, and dismissed Nokia’s and Motorola’s early designs until it was too late. Microsoft’s Surface line caters to premium buyers, so there is a chance that the surface can garner a slice of the premium and profitable end of phablet buyers, and perhaps the company will use its foothold to take a bigger share of the smartphone market.

 

Autonomous vehicle enthusiasm waning

Money flow is moving from autonomous to electric vehicles

Investment funds for autonomous and ride sharing ventures are drying up as money turns toward electric car development. Autonomous vehicles are years away, have uncertain regulatory hurdles, and may not be profitable. Car makers want to make and sell cars, not invest in ride sharing alternatives to ownership. Tesla’s skyrocketing share price, combined with the lower cost of making EVs, has automakers anxious to hasten the transition to electric cars and is shifting the focus of investment to electric from autonomous. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Car makers have to be disrupted in order to shift their focus from the beaten path. Just as Henry Ford II demonstrated in Ford vs. Ferrari, it takes getting insulted to alter the status quo, and it is safe to say that Tesla’s valuation over $100 billion is an insult to makers of many times as many cars. Time to double down on electric cars and see how fast the world’s drivers will adopt the faster, lighter, cheaper, but shorter range vehicles. Expect to see better batteries double the range of EVs in the next 3 to 5 years, as new models will be increasingly electric. Despite innovations, that cross country marathon trip will still be a challenge if one has to charge every 5 to 7 hours.

What to do when your smart home is controlled by mobile apps

As the smart home slowly emerges, control of new internet connected devices is through mobile apps and smart speakers, but that becomes a challenge if a guest or house cleaner wants to control lights, locks and other connected appliances. Brilliant, a company that makes programmable controls for the walls, is addressing that problem. For $399 to $349 per room, you can retrofit light switches to programmable touch panels that control all of your connected home systems — without an app and without having to know what to tell Alexa, Google or other smart speaker what to do. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Brilliant’s solution is a bit ahead of the market in that most homes have not so fully converted to smart systems that they don’t have tactile controls, but most of us are experiencing app overload. Having a touch panel on the wall in key places in the home will enable us to actually leave our smartphones in another room and not have to scroll through multiple apps as we add more home systems.

Coronavirus could delay tech products for rest of year

Manufacturing plants in China are set to open today, a delay of one week after being closed down for the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities. Due to the caronavirus, manufacturers extended the holiday. Despite the shut down being only one extra week, the delay could cascade throughout the supply chain, especially for hard to come by parts, impacting many devices, including iPhones, and potentially putting a squeeze on holiday 2020 supplies. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The outbreak has served to remind people around the world that despite tariffs, trade wars and quotas, the world economy is tightly integrated. Even if the coronavirus stops spreading, the interdependence on workers, designers, and business specialists won’t, making it difficult to maintain the impressive pace of bringing tech products to market.

Apple fined $27M in France for throttling

Apple failed to let users of older iPhones know that iOS updates 10.2.1. and 11.2, in order to protect phones from weaker batteries, throttled performance at certain times. France’s watchdog organization DGCCRF took issue that Apple failed to alert users of this situation, and had failed to provide a downgrade path for users that wanted to return to older OSes to remove the limitation. The company has agreed to pay a $27M fine. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While $27M to Apple is lunch money, the reprimand comes at a time when Apple is working hard to boost its image as the consumer friendly company, that safeguards consumer data better than the other Big Tech companies. The action is another proof point that Europe’s technology regulators are far ahead of those of the U.S. — implementing not only GDPR data privacy policies, but enforcing policies already determined. The U.S. is only now considering national legislation in the wake of California’s just initiated data privacy policy, known as CCPA.

 

Console wars nearing last battle

End of console wars: XBox says real competition is Google and Amazon

Arch console rivals Sony and Microsoft will both release next gen consoles for the holiday season, but Microsoft says this is the beginning of a divergence from the console business as it was, as Google, with its Stadia games service, and Amazon, with no game service yet, are the real competitors. Yahoo!

dis-rup-shun: It is fascinating to watch the tectonic plates of tech shift before our eyes and here is a movement. Microsoft, Google and Amazon have something that Sony does not — big, hungry and high profit cloud services. Big clouds, fueled by 5G networks, make for great gaming experiences across any device platform. Will Sony be successful playing the role of old school console maker, or does it have a trick up its sleeve? Apple has launched its Arcade game service and is targeting the casual gamers — a market that is not core to Xbox or Playstation. Keep your old console to show your grandchildren what gaming looked like in the dark ages of the early 21st century.

Smart nuts and bolts — IOT in construction 

Hilti Corporation, a construction parts company based in Lichtenstein, is producing a family of heavy construction nuts and bolts that include a code on each part. The part is scanned with a smartphone running the Hilti app, and data regarding where and when it was installed is recorded and tracked. Dallas Innovates

dis-rup-shun: The productivity gains by both having additional information about every part in a project, as well as the time savings and error reduction from eliminating manual recording and tracking make connected construction safer, faster and less tolerant of errors. Expect to see an increasing number of parts — not just high value parts — coded and easily scanned so that the cloud knows where they are and when they were installed.

Chinese phone makers unite to rival Google Play Store

Google’s Play Store is estimated to have earned Google $8.8 million last year. As the Play Store is banned in China, Chinese phone users have to go to multiple app stores to purchase the apps they want, making it difficult for app developers to create critical mass. Chinese phone makers have united to form a coalition called the Global Developer Service Alliance, enabling developers to upload new apps to multiple app stores at once, replacing the need for the Play Store. Countries expected to participate include China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Malaysia. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: Trade wars and sanctions are painful, but as “they” say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Chinese tech vendors are finding ways to work around political boundaries and gaining market share while reducing buyer friction. Huawei, cut off from Android services by Google, has begun development of its own phone OS, called Harmony OS. Expect to see other Chinese manufacturers offering Harmony OS phones if Huawei opens up licensing, working around Google in some of the world’s largest markets.

All Google phones will block robocalls

According to the YouMail robocall index, 4.7 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. in January alone. That equates to 1,800 per second and 14.4 calls to each person. All Google Pixel phones will now have the ability to run its Call Screen feature which blocks (some) robocalls. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Despite legislation blocking robocalls, they are a thing of our future. Expect to see phones compete and differentiate on their ability to effectively block calls and intelligently determine when the call is legit. This feature may become as important to smartphone buyers as a snazzy camera as smartphones are quickly becoming our primary business, as well as personal, communications device.

Disney Plus is a smash hit

Disney Plus already has 45% as many U.S. subs as Netflix

Disney’s streaming TV service has been out slightly over two months and already has 28.6 million subscribers in the U.S.  Netflix, at the end of 2019, had 61 million U.S. subscribers and 167 million on the planet, according to Statista. Comparing U.S. only, Disney Plus is already almost half the size of Netflix. The Star Wars Mandalorian and Marvel properties, plus a very attractive monthly rate, have fueled new subscriptions. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Now we understand why AT&T spent billions on Time Warner ($85 billion, not counting three years of legal fees), and why Comcast bought NBCU. If you are a network and don’t own really compelling content, your chances of competing in the streaming wars are slim. If you don’t have a streaming service, your chances of surviving the great video revolution of the 2000s are slim. The Mouse has been buying up video assets and studios in the past few years, as Disney has clearly figured out how to compete in the Netflix age.

Smart speakers still not used for purchases

eMarketer has lowered its forecast for smart speaker sales, signaling that this product may be approaching maturity, at least for the early majority buyers. eMarketer’s forecast for speaker penetration is 83.1 million users. The firm estimates that 21.6 million users will have made a voice purchase by the end of this year. The desire to see a product and fears of security are cited as reasons for reluctance to purchase on a speaker.

dis-rup-shun: The fact that 21 million voice purchases have been made indicates that this will become a significant shopping method. In the meantime, Google and Amazon continue to battle to become the voice hub of the home. The ways to monetize the money losing device sales are numerous:

  1. The party that owns the home hub sets the standards for connected home devices, determining which radios, which interfaces and even which cloud services work best — potentially shifting millions of users towards a complementary product or service.
  2. People’s primary use of smart speakers is to listen to music. If device vendors can steer people to the vendor’s own music service (this has not been terribly successful to date), then monthly fees for music subscriptions will add millions to the top line.
  3. The home hub can serve as the light switch and voice-thermostat, providing  feedback on energy usage and energy spending. Energy utilities have great incentives to be a part of a home energy hub.
  4. Senior care, as shown in Google’s Super Bowl commercial, can be impacted by a smart speaker, reminding grandmother that it is time to take medicine, or helping her remember things like the day of week or arrival times for care givers.

Would you consider a separate camera?

For those that think photography is more than smartphone pics, cameras also continue to get better. The Fujifilm X100V features a slim body (not as slim as a smartphone), a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and image processor, and OLED viewfinder. This can be had for about $1,400. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Camera sales are down, and the camera quality of smartphones is getting crazy good. But for that European vacation or safari trip, a camera is still preferred and the image processing technology is following Moore’s Law, getting better and cheaper each year. The question is, do you go for a digital SLR with the great but bulky lens, or do you go with a pocket camera like the Fujifilm X100V?

Sunrise alarms — better than smartphone alarm clock

A new product category is born to fill the space once occupied by the erstwhile clock radio. It is designed especially for those who sleep in a room with no windows. The devices emulate daylight by changing hue and intensity to simulate the rising and setting of the sun. They can also play music, show the time, and be controlled by an app. Reviewed in Wired are the Homelabs Sunrise Alarm Clock, Philips Wake-Up Light (HF3520), Casper Glow Light, Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light Therapy Lamp, Lumie Bodyclock Active 250, and Totobay Wake-Up Light.

dis-rup-shun: Inventing new product categories is a great way to embrace the smart product disruption. That’s what Nest did with the dumb thermostat, and launched a new industry. Of course Amazon’s Echo is a home run, as is Roku, the smart TV, and smart mattresses. Alexa-powered microwave ovens have been a flop, as have been internet connected refrigerators. It is time for more creative thinking about how to replace products displaced by smart products.

Women in tech lambast Silicon Valley

Women in tech speak out against Silicon Valley

The steady stream of female authors writing about disillusionment with jobs in Silicon Valley continues — Anna Wiener has written “Uncanny Valley,” a memoir of her tech jobs in the Valley. Wiener joins a number of high profile former and current tech employees that have called out the inequities, harassment and moral compromise found at tech jobs in Silicon Valley. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: What are we to make of this growing disillusionment of jobs with Big Tech? Perhaps the collegiate, “no rules” atmosphere of startups is being carried into large tech companies that have real policies and an employee handbook. Working in Silicon Valley means working in a more relaxed environment, but with out sized goals to conquer a niche and become wildly successful. Perhaps the startup mentality, when carried into bigger tech firms, becomes dangerous and unchecked, and with IPOs at a low point, and awareness of workplace abuse on the rise, change is afoot. Expect to see more formality and clearly stated policies, even in smaller Silicon Valley operations.

Google flirts with $1 trillion, but with murky future

Alphabet/Google remains one of the most amazing stories of American business, rising to a valuation close to $1 trillion in only 25 years. It is in the company of Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, all above or close to $1 trillion. The company, however, has failed to significantly diversify its revenue base beyond search advertising, which contributes 84% of total revenue. While there is no imminent disruptor that will unseat Google, unlike its trillion dollar brothers who have multiple successful business units, Google remains dependent on the same business that it launched 25 years ago. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Despite the company’s reliance on search advertising, the company powers the majority of the world’s mobile phones with its Android OS, and its mapping technology may form the foundation for autonomous vehicles. The company, with its Android, Nest, YouTube and many powerful apps, provides a great deal of utility. The company’s deployment of free apps and an open mobile operating system have endeared it to many, but have proven that it is hard to make money at a zero price tag. With a new CEO, perhaps we will see some bold new initiatives, or at least bold new pricing, from Google.

Google’s Loretta Super Bowl ad called “evil”

Google, through a heart warming Super Bowl advertisement, suggested that its Google Assistant could help keep a senior widower’s memories of late wife Loretta alive. The senior tells Google to remember certain thinks about Loretta and the system displays photos of the couple. Tech Blogger Palmer calls this advertisement evil, as the company does not warn, like the Surgeon’s General warning on cigarettes, that all of these intimate details will be used to improve Google’s ability to target advertisements to the senior. Shelly Palmer

dis-rup-shun: Yes, every user of Google’s products should be able to easily determine what personal data is being used by what application. This should be accomplished through a personal data dashboard, much like that now offered by the everyone’s favorite villains, Facebook. But please, Shelly, can we not share in the dream that technology, be it from Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others, can be effectively used to improve the lives of seniors? It stands to reason that distrust of tech is likely highest among seniors, who have a number of good reasons to resist it, but also have much to be gained by automating their lives. Data, and sales figures, suggest that a very large percentage of our society is happy to pay for services such as memos, photo storage, mapping, chat and email by giving up personal data.

A.I. is like teenage sex (and its happening in HR)

A.I. is like teenage sex,” says Frida Polli. “Everyone says they’re doing it, and nobody really knows what it is.” Fortune summarizes how HR departments are increasingly using AI in the recruiting and vetting process. Here is where AI use is growing at HR:

  1. Chat bots for recruiting
  2. Deep background checks
  3. Employee advisers
  4. Management coaches
  5. Employee review helpers

dis-rup-shun: While AI is automating much of the employee management process, it makes networking that much more important as personal connections remain far more valuable than AI assessments, that is until your personal connection introduces you to the chat bot that you have to convince to hire you.

 

The end of insurance, transportation and retail

Extinct in 20 years: insurance, transportation and retail

According to Dave Jordan, global head, consulting and services integration at Tata Consultancy Services, these industries will be as good as gone by 2040. Insurance, according to Jordan, will be all but unnecessary with autonomous vehicles and will be absorbed into other transactions. Autonomous vehicles will eliminate car ownership altogether, and maker technologies — that is, the ability to print our own products will eliminate the need for retailers. TechRepublic

dis-rup-shun: While Jordan’s warnings of massive restructuring and redefinition of industries is good to contemplate, his predictions, with the exception of car ownership, are a bit extreme. There are many things in our lives to insure such as houses, so insurance for businesses and consumers will not go away but auto insurance will certainly constrict. Personal car ownership, except for hobbyists, does seem to be a necessary evil that we will be glad to eliminate. Retail, however, serves many purposes, including providing an important communal experience and for that reason, will not go away. Jordan, however, is certainly right to claim that these industries should brace for radical change.

Electric Hummer pickup truck coming in 2021

On the heels of the Tesla CyberTruck announcement comes news of an upcoming, all electric pickup branded Hummer, by General Motors. Release is expected in 2021. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Is it marketing irony that the beloved-by-some and hated-by-environmentalists Hummer is being reborn as an all electric vehicle? The giant gas guzzler was retired in 2010 at the time of GM’s bankruptcy. In an unexpected twist, electric vehicles became status symbols, thanks to Tesla and its CyberTruck announcement that has drawn mixed reactions, but plenty of reactions. The CyberTruck buzz has proved that buyers, including EV buyers, want original, exotic, edgy and even expensive models, and GM plans to deliver in an all new EV Hummer.

IBM’s Rometty follows Brin and Larry Page off the ship

Ginny Rometty has announced her departure from the CEO post at IBM. During Rometty’s eight years at the helm, the company’s value has dropped 24%, making it the worst performing large tech company. The next CEO, Arvind Krishna, comes from IBM’s cloud business. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Rometty took a cue from Google founders Brin and Page and got out under cover of a strong economy and strong sector stock prices. IBM has been living on its strong brand and has been slow to change while Amazon, Google, the Big 4, Tata, Infosys and others have eaten its lunch. Rometty was slow to double down on cloud computing and shake up the old guard that makes up Big Blue, and the board never demanded fresh leadership. Now shareholders look to Krishna to pull off a miracle.

Apple updates its maps and Look Around

Apple has invested millions to upgrade its mapping data, relying less on partners and investing heavily on its own mapping data. These improvements will likely not be noticed by consumers, except that Apple’s Street View-like app, Look Around, that provides a person’s-eye-view of addresses, will be better. Google’s mapping technology has been, and likely will remain, well ahead of Apple, but the Cupertino company is striving to close the gap in hopes that iPhone users will not continue to favor Google Maps on their devices. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Online and interactive maps have become essential to life, whether tethered to an in-car navigation system, guiding an Uber or Lyft, or getting guidance on the streets. Advertisements, websites and weather services are inextricably linked to maps and autonomous vehicles will be critically dependent on mapping data. The company that owns the best maps will be to the rest of the online world what Amazon.com is to the online retail world…in control.

 

 

Amazon’s cash cow

A stellar quarter for Amazon

Q: What makes up only 11% of Amazon’s revenue, but 67% of its profit? A: Amazon Web Services (AWS). The company cleared $9.95 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter and continues to dominate the cloud services space. The quarterly performance well exceeded expectations. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It’s looking like Q4 was a great one for tech companies, suggesting that consumer and business spending are robust and that the economy did shrug off suggestions of recession. Strong performance should help gain resolution of outstanding trade war issues with China.

Your thermostat called the repairman

Nest has initiated testing of thermostat alerts that notify a homeowner when the HVAC system performs irregularly. While the thermostat can’t tell if the motor is about to go out or if someone left the back door open, it can identify changes and degradation in performance and can point the homeowner to repair technicians listed on website Handy. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: This is a step towards the true smart home and it is high time that devices use their connected intelligence to provide significant value. Preventing several days without AC during a Texas summer is very valuable, and getting warnings that something does not look right, including suggestions of who to call, is outstanding. Expect companies like Nest to go the next step and offer calendar options for when technicians can arrive at the home, complete with standard pricing so that with a click of a mouse or finger, service can be scheduled. Coincidentally, this is the model for how smart sensors in the home will identify changes in inhabitants’ sleep and bathroom patterns, can suggest doctors to visit, their prices, and next available appointments.

A Facebook control panel for personal data

Facebook has rolled out a tool to show you which websites are using Facebook data to serve up ads and how to easily stop sharing. Follow these steps to limit the amount of Facebook activity being fed to other sites. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Facebook is feeling the withering criticism of the public and the shame generated by Apple by claiming to be the safe company while looking down its turtlenecked nose at the social networking giant. Hats off to Facebook for its transparency and its proactive move to help consumers manage data privacy. A similar dashboard needs to be required of every app that is fueled by data, as a privacy policy standard, policed by the FCC or FTC.

Ring’s attempt at better security

Doorbell and camera maker Ring has reacted to hacks, criticisms and lawsuits by adding a security dashboard to its app. The dashboard enables users to turn on two-factor authentication, to view which apps can access the camera account, to see if passwords are set, and to opt out of giving police access to videos. The security features, according to TechCrunch, are still quite weak, despite providing the user with new controls. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Despite the fact that Ring’s implementation of security measures is not industrial strength, the company should be commended for adding an easy to understand security control panel (see Facebook’s data access control panel above). Debate in the smart home market has long been that if products are highly secure, consumers will be frustrated by the more rigid account generation and sign on processes and pan the product. Data suggests this is true, yet consumers are outraged when really lazy passwords such as “12345678” are easily hacked. Making it easier for consumers to protect themselves is the right move, and very important to keep legislators and hackers at a distance, and Ring is on the right path.

 

Apple reports a stellar quarter

Apple crushed it

The Q3 earnings report is in and its great news… Apple’s revenue exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. The key news is that iPhone sales were up 8% and other products (those tough-to-get-for-holiday AirPods) slightly beat expectations, and services were slightly below expectation. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is great news for the global economy. It shows that the economic engine called Apple was still able to create enough shiny new gadgets to excite consumers around the world. The services business is tough, and it will take a while for Apple to figure out how to extend the aura of its brand — design and user experience — to services.

Apple pushes directly into India

Apple has sold products in India through a number of retail partners that have discounted products and generally had lackluster performance. Apple will launch its own online store for India in Q3, followed by brick and mortar stores, with the first in Mumbai. India is the second largest smartphone market in the world. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Apple doesn’t do well with third parties, and the premium, luxury experience of its retail online and brick and mortar stores will create an event in Mumbai and other Indian cities. The company has announced plans for a lower cost iPhone for big markets like India, and that product will undoubtedly do for India what the C-Class Mercedes Benz did for the U.S. — provide a luxury brand experience for a more affordable price and larger market.

Filmic app enables dual camera filming

An iPhone app by Filmic may transform the way people use smartphone cameras. The app enables use of two of your phone’s cameras at once, providing simultaneous and different streams. One view could be a selfie at the same time as the outward action is being filmed. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Will this app transform the future of pictures? Will it become customary to show two different views in one frame? Expect amateur videos to become very artsy as consumers learn how to edit-in different video camera angles, making even basic videos look like Hollywood products.

Boeing’s 777X has foldable wings

For news not related to the 737 MAX, Boeing completed a test flight for the very large, long haul 777X. Airlines want larger planes for long haul routes, maximizing economies of scale and creating very profitable operations. One problem with bigger aircraft is that they require a larger wingspan, which causes problems in tighter, crowded airports. Boeing is making this massive jet more nimble by enabling the wing tips to fold up during taxi, shortening the wingspan by 24 feet, then fully extending them for flight. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The company is in desperate need for some innovation credit as the 737 MAX debacle drags on. Innovation is what has kept Boeing the number #1 player in avionics. If the newly appointed interim CEO, Dave Calhoun, wants to make the company great again, he will focus on leadership through innovation, and, of course, improved testing and safety processes.

Big Tech wants regulation

Big Tech execs ask for more regulation

At the World Economic Forum at Davos last week, tech execs from multiple companies ask governments to set regulations on tough topics such as data privacy, encryption, AI and content monitoring. Caught between the pressures of congressional investigation and strong consumer backlash, Big Tech wants the government to set limits. Wall Street Journal

dis-rup-shun: One of the first concepts new parents learn is that children need boundaries to feel secure. Tech execs are asking federal governments to give them some boundaries and act like parents in order for them to feel secure about the limits of their businesses. Tech companies are rewarded for plowing new ground and providing services that have never before existed, however the backlash over stepping on data privacy is creating serious blow back from consumers and regulators, and turning some of the most loved brands, including Facebook (especially), Google, Amazon, and, to a lesser degree, Apple, into villains. Getting regulators to set the rules for the future will be tough. With disorganized agendas and partisan posturing consuming our regulators, the chances that they will get ahead of technology trends are, unfortunately, slim, however the new cooperative attitudes by Big Tech could make the career of a legislator who seeks to set a strong agenda.

Happy birthday iPad

Exactly 10 years ago, Apple unveiled the first iPad. It was thicker, slower, heavier, but not radically different than today’s model. At the launch, Steve Jobs mentioned that netbook computers had failed to add extra value to the customer experience. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: The company has sold over 360 million of the devices in the last decade, and while annual sales have slowed, the product keeps getting better. The iPad has become what the netbook was intended – a smaller, more portable computer. It appears that one of the most popular applications of the device is to purchase an add-on keyboard and use it as a very portable computer.  If Apple and all the buzz surrounding Jobs had not pushed the iPad into an adoring audience, the tablet would have never made it as a category. One can argue that the tablet is yet to find its true use case and the fact that the iPad was a big iPhone is what drove its growth. The brand power of Apple continues to bring magic to rather mundane product concepts, like wireless ear buds, and the magic seems to only be better in the post-Jobs era. Let’s see what’s next.

Apple earnings report: iPhones, Apple TV+, China

Today’s fiscal Q3 earnings report from Apple will include some important revelations worth noting. iPhone, the biggest part of the company’s earnings, have been down, but the iPhone 11 seems to be hot. Sales of products in China are under stress, as Chinese tech giants flood the market with highly competent but much less expensive smartphones. Apple’s new video streaming service, Apple TV+ has launched and early results will be revealed. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Today’s announcement will answer several very important questions for the direction of the tech economy. Question 1: are the incremental benefits of the iPhone 11 interesting enough to get a strong sales response? Observations of Apple stores over the holidays suggest yes. Question 2: Do Chinese consumers still think Apple is special enough to pay more money than for less expensive non-Apple smartphones? Observations of strong performance by emerging companies suggests the answer is no. Question 3: Is Apple’s new streaming TV service, Apple TV+ special enough that Netflix, Amazon Prime and now Disney + (Mandalorian) subscribers will add yet another service to their bundles? Logic suggests that these results will be mixed — not a home run, but given these services are brand new, the service will be off to a good start.

Strong guidelines for monitoring teens’ online access

Wired takes a stand, setting guidelines for how parents monitor teens’ mobile internet access: remind your children that you, the parents own the device, set periodic inspections to ensure compliance with no bullying and no adult content, no device use during meal time, and the consequences of violation are loss of the device for a period of time. Statistics show that 61% of parents monitor their children’s online activity, 42% of children have been bullied online, and 35% have been actively threatened.

dis-rup-shun: Parenting takes courage, and in the digital age, with fewer established rules, parents have to make them up either before they present the device, or set rules as they go. The transition between content for kids and content for adults seems non-existent, with the tween label having all but disappeared. In the Internet Age, individuals have to create their own rules, as much of the road is unpaved.

Sonos feels the burn

Sonos feels the fire from loyal customers

All of us who own Sonos products received a letter of explanation from Sonos CEO, Patrick Spence, who admitted to not handling the Sonos obsolescence announcing well. The letter reiterated that old Sonos gear would not receive feature updates, but would receive security patches. He also announced that the company was working on a way to essentially split home networks into two domains, so that legacy gear could operate in a second environment, maintaining its usefulness in the home without preventing new Sonos gear from having being updated. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It seems that Sonos has forgotten about the scorching, white hot criticism that Nest received when it decided to brick the smart home hub it acquired from Revolv. Criticism was brutal, as it must have been for Sonos. Tech company leaders must remember that their companies have invested thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into connecting with customers through social media and image building. Quick decisions that do not put those customer relationships first can torch a stellar image in a matter of days — just ask Sonos.

Why safer cars cost more to insure

Cars are safer than ever and crash rates are down. Insurance costs, however, have risen 29.6% in the past decade. The reasons for the disparity include the rise in distracted driver claims, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, and the expense of repairing highly instrumented cars. Bumpers, for example, are full of sensors. Windshields are equipped with built-in cameras, high intensity headlamps can cost as much as $1800, and parts of cars are made of carbon fiber. Wired

dis-rup-shun: High insurance rates required to own and operate a car seem to favor the trend toward renting and paying-per-use over ownership. Separately, when we make a transition to self-driving cars, and those cars get in a crash with human-driven cars and the cause is “murky,” whose insurance pays? Expect a period of time when crash data from cameras and sensors from autonomous vehicles make the case that human drivers caused a collision, and the collective reaction from insurance providers for human driven cars will be to raise the rates to “account for crashes with autonomous vehicles.”

Big Tech seeks to change sharing of personal health records

While you read this article, a meeting including some of the largest health information providers in the country, including Cerner and Epic and including Big Tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, is taking place to discuss a potential action by the Department of Health and Human Services to make consumer health data more open. Today, it is often difficult for a patient to access his or her own health records and move the data between different health providers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The question consumers need to ask is, who has given me better access to data that has resulted in self-empowerment? Does authorizing Big Tech companies such as Apple or even Google to house my data in their clouds make for a better healthcare purchasing experience, or is there risk in these companies having access to my very personal health data? While you ponder that question, ask yourself if the current kings of health information are working hard to create transparent, consumer friendly healthcare purchasing markets. It is a very important showdown, and what is certain is that the current system must change in order to improve and our Big Tech companies can certainly bring about change faster than the institutional healthcare data provider incumbents.

Technology for better cat health

The PurrSong Pendant is a Fitbit-like collar that holds a charge for one month and measures your cat’s activity and alerts you, through a smartphone app, when there are changes in patterns, which may indicate that kitty is sick. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Using machine learning to detect differences in activity from a “normal” baseline is being applied to senior care, but can work for most any age or animal species. Annual spending on pet care in the U.S. in 2018 was $72.5 billion, an increase of 4%. Globally, the pet care market is estimated by Grand View Research to reach $202 billion by 2025. Expect a host of connected technologies for pets to enter the market in coming years, following the same introductions for humans by only a couple of years.

 

 

The next TV gets 4K over the air

The next gen TV is built for cord cutting with 4K tuner

TV features continue to evolve quickly, even though people don’t replace TVs quickly. The latest feature is including a 4K tuner into the TV. TV channels in most major markets will begin to transmit the super high resolution 4K format over the air (free) this year. Cord cutters can rely on an antenna to receive local stations in 4K provided they have a built in tuner (new TV) or using an external set top box. Antenna and set top box are extras to purchase. CNET

dis-rup-shun: For those wishing to cut the cord (see instructions in Tuesday’s post), to receive local channels, one can either use the local TV apps provided by Roku or  YouTube TV or one can put up an antenna on the roof or in the attic, and either buy a special set top box or a new 4K ATSC 3.0 compatible TV. With TV features now changing quickly, you should buy up when purchasing a TV, hoping that spending a few hundred extra dollars will keep your TV compatible with the latest technology for a few more years. Unfortunately it looks like the days of not having a bunch of extra boxes plugged into your older TVs will never arrive. Despite the amazing technologies available for home entertainment, it seems that every home implements TV a bit differently, challenging the AirBnB concept and making hospitality TV systems in hotels even more necessary.

DNA testing is down, impacting 23andMe

Makers of DNA testing equipment confirmed what CEO of 23andME reported, and that is people are doing less DNA testing. The breakthrough technology enabling consumers to test their DNA led to fast growth for the company, ballooning to 700 people. The company is now laying off 100 employees due to a sharp decrease in testing that started in 2019. The CEO attributes the downturn to people’s concerns for privacy, and fear of a recession, resulting in more cautious spending. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The fears of a recession in 2020 seem to have calmed, so the drop in DNA testing must, in fact, be related to privacy. It is a fact that many people who have performed the test are not happy with what they have discovered, but the question is, is there a growing wave of consumer fear about loss of privacy? Ring, the doorbell camera maker, is facing backlash from consumers over video sharing. Consumers whose homes or faces appear in their neighbors’ shared videos are feeling exposed, and perhaps a side effect of a connected society is a society that feels watched over. This is a trend to watch in the coming months.

Microsoft sets the path for a new kind of computer experience

The foldable computer is the post-CES buzz, and Microsoft is showing developers how to create dual screen apps that are properly split so that the fold, in a foldable, isn’t doesn’t obscure the app window. Microsoft is pushing a new form factor that is sort of like the current form factor. That is, the new computer is a clamshell, but the keyboard area is also a screen, and the screen extends upwards (where it should be). Getting developers to build apps for this new, unproven device will be a challenge, but one that Microsoft believes will pay off. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The PC form factor has not changed in years, so maybe the market is ready for something fresh. The thing that has kept tablets from taking over the computing world is the need for a keyboard. If a foldable computer doesn’t have a real keyboard, or an app flat on the desktop that works as well as a keyboard, then this new device is a multi-tablet screen. If this device is visually stunning, with lots of screen space, then making this an amazing video watching device may be the best path to market.

Robots hold things without touching them

Robotics are on the rise in manufacturing, and ultrasound technology enables robotic arms to suspend tiny, fragile, or sterile devices and move them, position them or place them. By blasting sound waves at a certain frequency, robots can keep an item suspended in mid air. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Robotics continue to perform specialized tasks, improving one task after another, and this suspension technology will enable robotics in settings such as surgery, medical equipment manufacturing, and many other applications. The success of robotics is in specialization rather than being an all purpose do-anything device, meaning that the idea of a really useful home assistant is at least a decade away.

 

Ready to cut the cord?

Step by step guide to cord cutting

The art of cutting your traditional pay TV service and replacing it with an Internet TV service has become cocktail conversation. Even luddites are doing it. This step by step guide takes you through the process, which involves some new investments: you must have fast, hearty internet service, and you much either replace old TVs with internet ready TVs (smart TVs) or purchase external connections such as Roku or FireTV for those old TVs. When you are ready to end your pay TV relationship, you can return any devices that you are renting (in perpetuity). Between ending rental fees and government mystery fees, you could save anywhere between $50 to $150, not counting your investment in new stuff. Shelly Palmer

dis-rup-shun: There has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not final TV expenses are lower for cord cutters, given all of the great streaming services and add-ons. The bottom line is that traditional pay TV subscribers have been buying most of the goodies, such as Prime and Netflix, and tacking on premium charges anyway, so lowering the base pay for TV services is a big win, especially given that for now, these services are not opposed to account sharing by your kids at college. 5G will upset the internet subscription pay model, in that super fast 5G connections that can power your entire home’s internet needs will challenge your traditional internet service (and may be the same provider), making what we call ‘faster then required’ much cheaper in a year. It’s a moving target, but you have to jump in some time.

The murky future for Sonos

Sonos has announced a trade-in program for some of its first devices, while also announcing that it will no longer support products dating back to 2006 and 2007. The pioneer in streaming music is directing its efforts on supporting the latest technology, all the while suing partner Google for patent infringement. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Sonos makes some of the greatest products in the connected home realm, with a very simple user interface. Sonos is to whole home audio what iPods were to boom boxes, and Sonos became what Bose was to the prior generation — the mark of really cool home music systems. Amazon and Google, with some help from Apple, JBL and others, are displacing Sonos. Research indicates that the most frequent use case for smart speakers such as Google Nest Home and Amazon Echo is to play music. The biggest complaint, of course, being that sound quality is lacking. The smart speaker makers and the Bluetooth speaker makers are upping their sound quality, while adding support for smart assistants, meaning that Sonos’ advantages as a high fidelity provider of streaming music are all but gone. What’s worse, of course, is that Amazon and Google are happy to sell products below cost as they race to be the provider of shopping services, information services, and a hub for smart home products. If you manage Sonos, how do you compete with that?

Proving space travel is safe

On Sunday, SpaceX, in a final safety test for NASA, demonstrated its human recovery module in the event of a rocket explosion. The recovery module is, essentially, a lifeboat that will bring astronauts back to an ocean landing should there be an in-flight catastrophe. The exercise is in preparation for SpaceX’s upcoming transporting of astronauts to the international space station, not yet scheduled but expected in the coming year or so. Spectacular footage of the flawless launch, explosion, Dragon separation, and splashdown can be viewed on Wired.

dis-rup-shun: The exercise will pave the way for the return of U.S. based rockets ferrying astronauts to space — something that has not occurred since the last shuttle mission in 2011. Boeing, the beleaguered maker of the 737 Max, is competing with SpaceX to be the first to return a U.S. based astronaut in space, but at present the aircraft company has a lot on its corporate plate, giving Musk a chance to steal the spotlight. Of course Musk, with his soaring Tesla auto company, highly criticized solar company, and ambitious boring (tunneling) company, among other endeavors, seems to thrive with a lot on his plate. A private citizen eager to purchase a ticket on a commercial space ride has an interesting choice to make: ride on the craft made by the occasionally fiery Tesla father, or ride with the largest maker of commercial aircraft and semi-complete software. I will wait.

Microsoft pushing hard into remote worker software

If you haven’t been working from a remote site, you may not be aware of Slack, a web-based group working software application that makes it easy for remote or headquarters workers to instant message, call, and file share, all from a pop-up app always running on their PC or mobile device. Slack brought in over $175 million in revenue last year, a growth rate of 42% according to Yahoo! Finance. Microsoft has come after Slack with its Teams application, which it built on top of the awkward Skype VOIP application. Microsoft has gone prime time, highlighting on weekend commercials how the application is transforming the way people work. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Teams and Slack are, in fact, changing the way people work — making it increasingly awkward to use the telephone, tethered or smart, to call a co-worker, when, with a click of a button, one can loop co-workers into a screen session and share a desktop. Document collaboration, while not something that happens in an office, is becoming a common result of frequent use of workflow software. Microsoft, having been blindsided by the commercial acceptance of Google Docs, is not about to give up more of its share of office productivity to San Francisco based Slack, but has declared a full battle to claim the new category, and is bundling Teams with Office 365. Bundling, however, does not ensure success, as Google Chrome has long bested Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and now Edge browsers, despite those being pre-loaded onto Windows computers.