Lyft enters car rental race

Lyft offers car rentals

Lyft announced that it will now enable people to rent cars through its app, eliminating the requirement that a person go to a rental desk to get a car. Shares of Hertz and Avis were lower on the news. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Rental car companies should have seen this coming and beat the ride share companies to the punch. Silver Car, purchased by Audi, has been renting cars through its app for several years, providing not only the transaction, but the check in and pick up process all through its app. Renting a car and returning it to a specific office is inconvenient, and if Lyft and Uber make this process much easier, then the traditional rental car business, at least off-airport, will be upended.

Connected life vests have arrived

French safety product company Plastimo is working with networking company Sigfox to develop life jackets that can be tracked with low earth orbit satellites and a wide-area ultra-narrowband network near coastal areas. Plastimo states that product costs are less than $2 per unit and falling. Enterprise IOT Insights

dis-rup-shun: Another story to tell your grandchildren… “There was a day when you went out on the water and there were no satellites tracking your location and safety – some people died.” Safety seems an obvious application of IOT and connectivity. The problem is, GPS and battery powered transceivers add costs, and must have a power source. For commercial seamen, maintaining a connected life vest will be critical. Life jackets on a leisure boat likely have a product lifetime of one to two decades. Keeping your life jackets powered will be an additional challenge when keeping a boat running is challenge enough.

The top 44 gadgets released in 2019

CNet provides a look at the best products released to the markets in the past year. Here is a sampling across multiple categories…

  • Motorola’s Moto G7 — maybe the best “lower” cost phone, coming in at under $300 for friends of Android.
  • Apple Watch Series 5 — the wearables continue to improve at a fast pace, providing heart monitoring and now an always on display.
  • Apple AirPods Pro — generation 2.0 of the wireless ear buds get better with noise cancellation and a more customized fit.
  • The LG OLED B9 TV is the cream of the crop, with even better clarity, connectivity and thinness.
  • Google Nest Wi-Fi — not sexy, but a mesh router can solve your home Wi-Fi dead zone problems.
  • Disney + — a streaming service with enough blockbuster content to make it a no-brainer.

dis-rup-shun: The gadget industry continues to deliver faster, better, cheaper products and, considering CPU per dollar, even the most expensive phones continue to get cheaper. The biggest challenge, it seems, is to figure out how to engage customers with new product categories that didn’t exist last year. Product managers need to forecast growth on three potential curves: catching the viral wave, non-viral appeal, and lack of appeal. If you know how to guarantee viral growth, I have several job opportunities for you.

Smart home opportunity: air purification

Indoor air quality is a big business in Asia – expected to be $1.7 billion by 2023 while the US market for air quality is still in its infancy. With increasing focus on health, climate change, sleep quality, diet, exercise, and recurring calamities such as California wildfires, the public is generally more concerned about what we breathe than it was a decade ago. A number of technologies are available to both monitor as well as purify indoor air. A few of note are Airthinx, Awair monitor,  HEPA-filtered Dyson stick vacuum, Molekule, Air Visual Pro. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Add air quality devices to homes is a natural product line extension for HVAC makers, thermostat makers, and small appliance manufacturers. First, however, consumers need to be made aware of the quality of their environment through sensors. Paired with a mobile app, small, in-home air quality monitors that provide information and eventually activate purifying systems are a strong product growth opportunity for the connected home.

Best Buy resurgence bucks the Amazon Effect

It’s the experience, stupid!

Best Buy was believed to be on death row only a handful of years ago, as similar big box stores such as Toys ‘R Us bit the dust and blamed the Amazon Effect. Best Buy’s sales are on an uptick. Its success is attributed to three things that are not easily available online: a well-lit, attractive place to see and touch products, knowledgeable sales people, and the ability to pair a sale with an installation appointment by the Geek Squad. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The call for experiences is all around us. It’s the only reason that new malls are still being built, new restaurants are opening weekly and movie theaters, despite exorbitant ticket and refreshment prices, are still selling out. It’s why Apple stores are often packed to capacity. Experience is something that Amazon has not yet been able to offer on its website, and the reason that the online king is increasingly opening brick and mortar stores.

AI employed to sort your old Lego collection

In an ingenious display of AI, or more specifically, a convolutional neural network, Daniel West has developed, out of Legos, a machine for sorting any Legos that the computer powering the system has ever seen in a 3D rendering. See it sort on YouTube. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: This demonstration is a great visualization of how AI and object recognition can transform processes in a manufacturing facility, an airport baggage belt, a pill dispensary, or many other applications. The fact that it is made of and for Legos also reveals that the toys of tomorrow also need to include software components. Kids of tomorrow will be snapping the Lego AI module onto the Lego platform and solving many of civilization’s toughest problems on the floor of their rooms. Toys and entertainment need to keep apace of flourishing minds and their craving for powerful tools.

Newer, cheaper self-driving tech on the horizon

A start up called Aeva, founded in 2017 in Mountain View, California, has attracted the attention of automaker giant, Volkswagen. The company employs a technology called silicon photonics that results in an autonomous package in the $500 per car range — far cheaper than current offerings in development. Volkswagen is considering implementation of the technology in the resurrection of its iconic VW van, called the ID Buzz vehicle. CNBC

dis-rup-shun:  Competition once again proves that more nimble players will increase the rate of development of a new technology. If you aren’t familiar with Christensen’s classic Innovators Dilemma, this is an example of emerging companies being out-innovated. With more players offering more affordable paths to the goal line, autonomous cars may be on the road in four to six years.

Smart home product makers waiting for privacy guidance

TechCrunch has inquired of smart home makers if they have a stated policy and report for what personal data has been requested by and or released to law enforcement agencies. Amazon, Facebook and Google/Nest all disclosed any government requests in their respective transparency reports. Apple stated that due to the fact that all data collected is anonymized, no such report is necessary. Other popular device makers have not produced transparency reports.

dis-rup-shun: The debate about the legality and morality of providing personal data in criminal cases will endure until the end of time. The best examples we have from our past are the most personal high tech device our society has enjoyed over the past 100 or so years — the telephone. The use of phone records in criminal cases is well established and will likely set the legal standards for smart home devices. Companies such as Google who want to personalize and monetize personal data will face increasing pressure to anonymize data, like Apple, and will find themselves at the middle of this debate for years to come.

Cloudy future for IPOs

Direct listings vs. IPOs gain traction

Using a direct listing to take a company public is a technique gaining momentum for companies that are less concerned about becoming public than raising additional money. Spotify and Slack employed the technique in 2019, and five or more companies are considering direct listings in 2020, including GitLab, AirBnB and DoorDash. The method is leading Wall Street banks to become far more flexible with traditional IPOs. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Companies in general, and tech companies specifically, are savvy about communicating and reaching potential markets with current digital marketing tools. For companies flush with venture investments, Wall Street’s rigid rules for holding periods and over-sized fees are simply not needed and are being bypassed. Seeing the damage inflicted on the retail brokerage industry by Internet stock trading platforms, Wall Street will work fervently to not lose one of its biggest paydays — the IPO. The disruption has already begun, however, and the IPO fee structure will never be what it was.

The Irishman helps Netflix gain cred

Netflix is counting on giant blockbusters such as The Irishman, viewed by 26 million households in its first week, to attract the top film producers to make great movies and series. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Netflix was amazing until others, namely Amazon, offered more new release content, albeit for an up-charge. Then there was everyone else — including Warner and Disney that control vast catalogs and have studios where the best of the industry are created. Differentiation is no longer about convenience or price, but about offering “must watch” content. Whatever streaming service is not required for participation in the all important water cooler conversation will be purged from the overtaxed credit card account. Netflix has declared that its production budget will secure its place in the must watch category.

What are smart glasses 2.0?

North brought its lighter, more-stylish Focals line of smart glasses to market in 2019. It is now turning its sights to Focals 2.0 — thinner, more powerful with better display. The second generation of smart glasses will likely remain priced at around $600, and will continue to be the leader in alternative ways to view smartphone generated images. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It is rough be on the bleeding edge of a new product category and smart glasses seem to be a bit like the slow adoption of wearables — some good offerings but consumers took a few years to be convinced they needed the product. Apple is said to be working on AR glasses and, as soon as the company enters the market, North can expect to be acquired by Google, Facebook, Amazon, or some other large brand that wants to enjoy the benefits of Apple creating a new category while having to compete. North will have to continue to survive by serving early adopters until a big brand can generate viral demand for the category. Perhaps Warby Parker is that brand.

Rating cloud services on environmental responsibility

Cloud computing is the future of computing and is the economic engine fueling massive growth by Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others. These services consume massive amounts of computing power, and electricity. Wired has evaluated the practices of the biggest three cloud providers and rates them. Google received an overall score of B+, Microsoft a B, and Amazon Web Services was scored C+. Factors considered include use of renewable energy, use of efficiency algorithms to maximize cycles per watt, and creative ways to reduce emissions, such as Microsoft’s location of data centers on the ocean floor.

dis-rup-shun: Amazon, the largest cloud provider by far, appears to have grown so quickly that it has struggled to keep apace with zero carbon pledges made by its competition. The socially conscious tech giants, however, will drive creation of renewable energy production at large scale, helping to make energy storage more viable. Expect companies to make purchase decisions of cloud providers with environmental responsibility an important priority, behind price.

Tech and military collaboration critical, says Bezos

We are the good guys, implores Bezos

Bezos, addressing the audience of the Reagan National Defense Forum, implored that cooperation between Big Tech and the Department of Defense is critical to national defense. Bezos stated that the country is in big trouble if tech firms do not provide new technologies to the Pentagon. CNBC

dis-rup-shun:  Bezos was reacting in part to protests from Google employees over Project Maven, a contract to assist recognition of faces and objects from drone video feeds. Google, under pressure from employees, decided not to renew the contract in 2019. It is important to remember that national defense spending funded much of our nation’s tech industry, especially if one considers NASA to be a scientific face of a larger national defense initiative. Tech employees are not asking themselves who, if not the U.S. and its allies, will develop superior weapons technologies. Expect some tough showdowns in the coming quarters between Big Tech employees who want nothing to do with war, and company management, who will remind the employees, to their chagrin, that peace is often maintained by brandishing the most sophisticated weapons. Unfortunately, such realities will make BigTech companies “less cool” work places for some.

Metropolitan area Change in innovation jobs Change in share of US innovation jobs
1 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 77,192 2.0
2 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 56,394 1.3
3 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 52,288 1.1
4 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 26,066 0.4
5 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 19,949 0.4
96 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV -6,569 -0.4
97 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD -9,178 -0.4
98 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX -8,969 -0.5
99 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI -12,582 -0.6
100 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA -8,322 -0.7

dis-rup-shun: Tech companies in the Bay Area have pledged millions to help alleviate the housing shortages they have created. Despite a strong national economy and aggressive hiring plans, the BigTech economic engines aren’t replacing the middle America jobs they have displaced with online markets and cloud computing. The Amazon HQ2 debacle in New York diffused the excitement of building alternative tech centers, but U.S. cities need to continue the dialog with BigTech to spread the wealth that is being generated by the Internet economy.

Google Maps does track your every move

If you are wondering if Google knows everywhere you have been, the answer is yes, if you have accepted the default settings. With a few changes to the defaults, you can turn that tracking off or limit the amount of history stored. The steps for doing so are in CNBC.

dis-rup-shun: The debate regarding if ads sent to your phone or computer were in fact the result of where you went, continues on. It is certainly possible that ads can be directed to you based on your location as Google stores this data, to a minute level, unless you disable these features. This tracking information can be a good thing in that it helps to inform travel times for the public, and it can help you remember where that great restaurant or hotel is that you saw on your last trip and wish to research. If you are going somewhere that you don’t want others to know about, it is probably wise to turn it off. Expect to see both regulatory and public sentiment force Google and Big Tech to display a simple, easy to access dashboard which enables you to understand what personal data is being stored, and for how long.

Scientific community shocked by SpaceX satellites

Elon Musk’s SpaceX company is, (great news) providing a way for every corner of the U.S. to receive broadband coverage via a chain (bad news) of up to 1,800 Starlink satellites. The satellites, being launched in batches every few weeks, are forming a mesh of shiny objects, criss-crossing astronomers’ view of space. The company has stated that future launches will include a dark coating on each satellite to reduce its reflective-ness. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: An ongoing battle between science and commerce in space has begun. It will likely not end soon as more and more commercial and defense-minded technology is sent into orbit at a breakneck pace. Just as commercial (over)fishing of the seas impacts the biology of oceans, the arrival of industry into space will forever impact the nature of star gazing. Who will arbitrate such matters that include not only contests between science and commerce, but between nations? Expect space management to become an important, volatile and highly contested field in the next half decade. Perhaps this is an avenue for law schools to pursue.

Finding the right new TV service

The de- and re-construction of TV

Traditional pay TV services have unraveled quickly with the rise of streaming services. But the rise of multiple, partially unique streaming services has led to a growing number of small, monthly subscription fees slowly choking the wallet. But if you are seeking free or ad-supported streaming services, there are quite a few free services, though they are long on older content and short on originals. They are Crackle, Tubi, Pluto TV, Kanopy, Roku Channel, Plex, IMDb TV, Vudu. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Then there was cable. Then there was the $180 monthly TV bill. Then there was Netflix and its followers.  Then your monthly TV bill was $240. Then you cut the cord and your bill was only $100 (multiple streaming services and lots of ad hoc purchases). Then there was AT&T TV which was just like cable but with different bundling and pricing. Then you realized new TV looks a lot like old TV. Expect the young, tech savvy and un(der)employed to stop paying for premium streaming services and feast on free and bootlegged programming. For the paying household, what did all that gain? New choices, better bundles and the majority of TV viewing being ad-free.

Uber reveals statistics on sexual assault

Uber released statistics which show 5,981 reports of sexual assault between drivers and riders in 2017 and 2018. The data includes reports of 235 rapes. Riders were often the accused, but in the case of rapes, the majority of the accused were drivers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Uh oh, this is bad news. Seems like new things are really great until they aren’t. Get ready for a firestorm that rips through the ride share industry, reducing ridership and stock prices. The results will include much better driver screening and safety standards, lots of in-car video cameras, controversy over the loss of privacy from video cameras installed for your safety, and the rise of more exclusive subscription-based ride services with well-screened drivers, and, of course, higher prices.

Chime challenges banks and skyrockets in value 

Chime is the largest of virtual banks, with no physical branch. It has recently closed a $500 million Series E investment round and its valuation has ballooned to $5.8 billion — a 500% increase in the past 9 months. The bank is opening around 150,000 new accounts per month, catering primarily to those who have had rocky relationships with banks by charging no overdraft fees, no fee for accounts, and early deposits on direct deposit paychecks. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Disruption delivered by Internet companies often follows the same pattern — break the established rules of the industry in order to deliver customers what they really want, using the Internet as delivery mechanism, and don’t worry if the business model is clear — as that is secondary to locking up users. 

Will cheap security products win trust?

CNET offers a list of very inexpensive products designed to give you peace of mind through monitoring. The list includes Wyze cameras and Wyze sensors (each priced at $20), Amazon Echo Dot to provide smartphone alerts if it hears anything of concern while you are away ($25), and inexpensive smart lighting, again from Wyze for $8 for one bulb.

dis-rup-shun: These are really inexpensive products, but a system, they are not. What is a system? It is a collection of different devices with specialized functions that are integrated and can be controlled as one. These are great for dabblers and for apartment dwellers and for those not interested or willing to pay for an integrated home security system. The question is, will these products impact the market for home security systems? The answer is no. These products remain in a separate category and we should devise a better name for them, as they appeal to a different buyer with a different set of needs.

Seniors not on leading edge of autonomous car adoption

Benefits to seniors for self driving cars over-hyped

The number of drivers over 70 on the road has grown 58% between 1997 and 2017, and these drivers have higher accident rates than other drivers. Autonomous car companies have predicted that seniors will be major beneficiaries of this technology, and will help drive adoption. This may be an exaggeration, according to Wired, as two factors need to be considered.  First, seniors’ longer response time requires that cars be completely autonomous (level 5 on the autonomy scale, and today’s cars are at level 2), and that is a long way off. Secondly, cars for seniors need to be designed by and for seniors, with information telling them what is happening at all times, and with knobs and displays that are extremely senior friendly. No one is taken these factors into consideration, according to Wired, and therefore saying autonomous cars are great for seniors is, at this stage, hype.

dis-rup-shun: Seniors are a demographic that will not be on the leading edge of autonomous car adoption. They are likely the last group to jump into a driverless car, and their loved ones will be reluctant to do that to them until the technology is very well proven. As with ride sharing services focused on seniors, there will be autonomous car models that are more senior-friendly (maybe sold by Cadillac?) — a Jitterbug on wheels, so to speak. The point is, there is plenty of time to optimize auto cars for seniors and this demographic will not be a driver for early adoption.

Tesla shows some love to early, abandoned buyers

Tesla is promising to do better to owners of its first car, the Tesla Roadster, released in 2008 through 2012. Tesla stopped making spare parts for the Roadster and does not offer service through the mainstream app used by owners of current models. Jerome Guillen, President of Automotive, indicated in an email to Roadster customers that they will get their own, dedicated service advisor. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Tesla, as well as its customers, are pioneers with a ring-side seat to what could become the transformation of cars as we know them, to predominantly electric. As we know, you can always spot a pioneer because they are the people with an arrow in their backs. Tesla owners are no exception. The next 18 months feel like a tipping point for Tesla — if the company can grow revenues, then it may just make it for the long haul, or be acquired by a larger entity (Apple would be cool). Bad reports from Tesla employees and disgruntled car owners would force the company to focus even more energy and capital on Europe and Asia, where it is receiving a strong reception. Tesla’s withdrawal from the U.S. market would likely cool electric car development efforts by GM, Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota, and that would be unfortunate.

Qualcomm releases 5G chipsets

Qualcomm is a global leader in chipsets found in smartphones, and yesterday the company unveiled two new chipsets that support 5G. When it arrives en masse (in 2020), 5G networks will enable mobile gaming and mobile video at speeds not seen before in consumer products. The new chipsets have faster speeds, more AI capacity, and, of course, the ability to connect to new 5G networks. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The timing of Qualcomm’s announcement means it is likely that many 5G capable phones will flood the market in the second half of 2020. As stated previously, next year’s holiday commercials will be all about special deals to entice users to upgrade their handsets for 5G models. Those who are excited about the potential of 5G won’t be upgrading phones for the next six to eight months as they wait for the new technology.

Amazon releases wireless Echo for India

India has proven to be a hot market for Echo, and the most requested enhancement has been portability. The new mobile model sells for $84 and has a 10 hour battery life. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: If the Echo is really Amazon’s household Trojan Horse, what are the profitable services that the company will grow in India? According to its website, Amazon.in was the source of over 50% of online purchases in the country. The category of highest value for Indian shoppers was smartphones, followed by fashion and consumables, then large appliances. While Echo has not yet become a strong shopping platform, Amazon continues to push aggressively across the globe, and will likely not face in India the regulatory threats being proposed by the U.S. and E.E. regulators, meaning the company could have a lot larger share of a much larger market (albeit with less spending power) in a short period of time.

Alphabet’s mid-life crisis

MAGCA — Make Alphabet and Google Cool Again 

“Larry Page and Sergey Brin step down as things aren’t fun anymore. Now, Sundar Pichai has to pick up the weight,” says Jennifer Alias at CNBC. Google is struggling with a series of challenges, including; decrease in revenues from its core advertising business (driven by search); employee activism and backlash against some large but controversial projects; failure to derive material revenues from diversification efforts; a fall to third place in cloud services (behind Amazon and Microsoft); scrutiny and regulation from both the U.S. and E.U. governments.

dis-rup-shun:  As our parents told us, growing up is hard, and Google, like many fast growth companies that struggle to create new lines of businesses as successful as their core, is no exception. Alphabet is simultaneously struggling with mid-life pressures as well as “The Facebook Effect,” which I will describe as growing distrust and even disdain of the power held by Big Tech. Apple and Microsoft experienced similar mid-life crises before strong captains righted those ships. HP and IBM are still awaiting arrival of visionary new blood. Palm, Sun Micro, Yahoo! and so many others died while waiting. The next 18 months will be telling for Alphabet, which may decide to jettison the baggage of new ventures, and return to the core business of search in hopes that the magic will return.

The uglier side of electric and autonomous vehicles

Automakers are, collectively, laying off 80,000 workers as our cultures shift to electric, autonomous, and shared cars. Auto sales this year are off 6% from last. Bloomberg

dis-rup-shun:  Perhaps laid off auto workers can become shared ride drivers, taking advantage of the trend that is displacing them. As has been said many a time, the pace of change will never be as slow as it was today.

iPhone app of the year is photo app from Spectre

The app of the year for iPhone is one that enables your less than latest iPhone to take pictures like an iPhone 11 — creating special effects available previously only with a digital SLR camera. Spectre takes hundreds of pictures in a few seconds and overlays them to create long exposure effects — special effects employed by the pros. CNet

dis-rup-shun: Interesting that Apple would choose a camera app as “best” given that smartphone innovation seems to be limited to photography. It seems doubtful that smartphone makers will blow us away with amazing new capabilities in coming years, and will continue to try to entice upgrades with better screens and cameras. The arrival of 5G will provide smartphone makers with a non-camera innovation that should lead to upgrades. 

Remember when phones were for talking?

Robocalls are rampant. New legislation proposed by congress and the FCC will help, when enacted, but for now, a number of technologies, introduced by carriers, by phone makers and by third parties (apps) seek to block unwanted calls. iOS 13 helps users route unknown callers straight to voicemail, and T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have utilities for iOS and Android to help block likely spammers. 3rd party apps do the same. Some popular apps include Hiya, RoboKiller, Youmail, and Nomorobo. CNet

dis-rup-shun: We will tell our grandchildren stories of how people used to use their phones to talk to each other. Thanks to the rise of robocalls, people are simply about to stop answering calls from anyone other than their friends and family and trusted vendors. Voice calling on phones is now the intercom between a trusted circle of friends and family, driving direct sales to email, text messaging and social media. Sales managers seem slow to understand that that telephone is no longer an effective sales tool until a relationship is formed.

Cheaper batteries enable home energy storage

Cheaper battery technologies make solar more attractive

The solar industry is being boosted by the falling price of large scale storage in cheaper batteries, and California’s rolling blackouts have helped prime consumer interest. With tax incentives, a California resident purchased whole-home battery backup for $4000 and plans to save $1,500 per year in energy savings. In addition to urgent environmental concerns, the costs of solar work to lower operating costs in many niche commercial and factory applications. The Energy Storage Association estimates that the costs for solar energy will drop 10 to 15 percent each year through 2024. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The awareness of electric cars, thanks to Tesla and its followers, paired with startling new climate change predictions, utility wire-generated wildfires and subsequent law suits that made rolling blackouts a necessity in California, have created a growing interest in electric powered homes, cars and factories. Expect the continued everyday use of solar energy, first on the west coast to move across the nation into our everyday lives.

5G has arrived. But wait.

T-Mobile is launching its nationwide 5G network this Friday. That’s a big deal, but T-Mo’s 5G network is different than others in that it uses low band 5G. That’s a good thing in that it provides vast coverage — able to include many areas that the bigger players can’t (yet). Low band, however, does not penetrate walls and buildings well, meaning that indoors, speeds won’t be drastically improved. AT&T’s and Verizon’s offerings are the opposite. Currently, phones that support all variants of 5G networks aren’t available, so unless you have a specific outdoor need, it is too early to buy a 5G phone. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The introduction of most new technologies is choppy, but by next Christmas (and the one after), expect every other TV commercial to feature Santa on a sleigh dialing up a 5G handset and offering two-for-one if you join in the latest cellular technology upgrade.

Walmart and Target closing the online gap

Cyber Monday sales will test trends spotted in November, when Target and Walmart showed significantly higher online sales growth than Amazon, according to Edison Trends.

CNBC

Two lessons learned from the Amazon and the flight to e-commerce: 1) As Amazon has made pricing transparent, price is no longer a competitive advantage. Every major retailer is forced to match price and must differentiate through other factors such as shopping experience, informed store clerks, in-store pickup of online orders. 2) Brick and mortar stores are not dead, and Amazon will have to continue to open more physical locations to keep gobbling up market share.

FBI cautions owners of smart TVs

The FBI’s website now features a warning to smart TV buyers stating that TVs have varying levels of security and may be hack-able. In addition, the site warns that TV manufacturers are collecting extensive usage data for their and advertisers’ benefits. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun:  Is this warning politically motivated, given that Congress is in the process of cracking down on Facebook and friends? Is this part of the Trump versus Bezos/Amazon conspiracy? Perhaps it is simply part of a concerted effort on the part of civil servants to make the citizenry aware of the personal data privacy that we have all unknowingly clicked away. Expect to see more consumer friendly policy changes like this one from Zillow

In January 2020, we’re launching a privacy portal to give you more control over your personal information. You’ll be able to see what information about you we’ve collected and, if you choose to, delete that information.

Enabling your customers to take control of how they share their data should be rewarded, and hopefully Big Tech will follow the lead of these customer service leaders.

Are self driving cars close?

The arrival of self-driving cars

Self driving cars are late, based upon claims by executives at Waymo, Tesla and Cruise that 2019 would mark the arrival of autonomous cars. The CEO of Amazon backed, self-driving technology company Aurora says fully autonomous cars will be on the road in 5 years.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: A key point in the arrival of self-driving vehicles, currently seen as not advanced enough to be safe enough, is that the technology will  soon be safer than 50 percent of the drivers on the road. Some industry backers claim that we have a responsibility to put autonomous cars on the road as soon as they are safer than the majority of human drivers. The problem, however, is that when an autonomous car kills someone, public outcry will state that the technology is flawed and should not be allowed. When a human driver kills someone, however, the public acknowledges that the person made a mistake, but that humans are fully capable of driving safely. Success of autonomous cars, therefore, will require strong public awareness campaigns to convince people that an imperfect technology will be safer than the status quo. That won’t be easy.

Cultural alignment problems holding back connected health technologies

Digital health technology companies have struggled for years to find market success, despite technical efficacy. One cause is the misalignment between tech entrepreneurs’ act-now-and-ask-for-forgiveness-later mentalities versus clinicians, who are rigorously trained to minimize risk. Omada Health is working to bridge the culture gap between doctors and technology developers as digital health companies are on the rise, having raised $8 billion in investments in 2018. 

dis-rup-shun: Theranos is a text book example of the clash in cultures between tech companies and clinicians  — the latter being silenced by Elizabeth Holmes. Many health tech companies have built great products, but struggled for acceptance. If health tech startups launch products that have been developed through a clinician-friendly process, with clinical data for the health care industry to study, the chances for product acceptance will increase. Omada’s process will likely be emulated and considered a new development standard if it leads to faster time to market.

A search engine not interested in your identity

DuckDuckGo is a search engine just as Google, but very unlike the behemoth in that the company does not track your identity and search history. After using DuckDuckGo for over two years, the author of this Wired article states that the lesser known search engine does just as good a job of basic search requirements such as definitions, dates and places. For highly specific searches, such as the name of a movie in which a named star takes some vague action, DuckDuckGo will be less capable of navigating the circuitous path to the specific name of a movie. Google has far more features, but the question is, do you need all of those features if you wish to search the web without being carefully tracked and sold to? DuckDuckGo has 78 employees compared to Google’s 114,096, yet is a viable search alternative. 

dis-rup-shun: Privacy concerns seem to be on the upswing, and people appear to be ready to sever ties with companies that they believe are not responsible with personal data. Apple has been watching this trend and is trying to get out in front of it by using privacy as a brand differentiator. Expect DuckDuckGo to grow exponentially as it becomes widely known and popular in the coming year, as word spreads virally that one can function on the Internet without Google — most of the time.

Pocket color sensor ideal for designers and DIYers

Nix is a startup that provides a sensor, a mini version and a professional grade version, that accurately read the color of any surface. the smaller than golf ball-sized devices are charged via USB and, with the use of one of three apps, helps one accurately determine the color value of a surface. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: If you have done any design work or any home remodeling or updating, you know that matching colors is a difficult and imprecise task. A gadget to make this simple is very useful — so useful, expect Apple to make this functionality a standard offering in a future iPhone version. Apple is always looking for value-added functions to add to the iPhone and, of course, once it does, Nix will be all but nixed. Given the fact that paint or fabric manufacturers will want to pay to be the first brand that appears in such an app, emulating Nix will have commercial appeal for Apple, in addition to bringing extra value.

Alexa as medication minder

Alexa helps track medication schedules and reorders

Amazon announced that it has entered into a partnership with pharmacy chain Giant Eagle, serving Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Indiana. With the pill minding skill, one can set up their prescriptions with Giant Eagle, order refills through Alexa, and request that Alexa remind them when its time to take a pill. A PIN code secures the privacy of the reminders and helps Alexa keep its HIPAA certification. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Alexa is crossing over from the interesting and cool category to lifestyle manager. Alexa has yet to become a popular shopping device, but reminders of when to take meds and when to order refills may be that important niche application that makes Alexa a commerce engine. Layering telemedicine apps on top of medication reminders, and encouraging people to purchase Amazon Echo Shows for video health exams could make the device a critical addition to households. For people with chronic diseases, or young children or seniors, having a health portal device with proven telemedicine and medication reminder functionality will be an easy purchase decision.

Doorbell cam-phobia increases

Facebook links to a website built by a group called Fight for the Future that criticized the use of doorbell cameras, specifically Ring, was blocked by Facebook. The group is concerned that Amazon’s Ring doorbell, and its tight relationship with many local police departments across the land, is a threat to “privacy, civil liberties, and security.” Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: The triple threat of technology, tech giants such as Amazon and Google who “know all,” and local police have a growing number of people fearful of a police state in which everyone is being watched, recorded, and tracked. Last week’s Iranian government block of the Internet to punish its citizenry for protests over fuel prices, and years of accounts of spying by the U.S.S.R on its own people combined with a constant serving of movies and TV about governments using technology for bad, keep many people wary. Those concerned with data privacy have become a sufficient market segment that tech players such as Apple, and now Sonos, are making data privacy a key part of their market strategy. Expect data privacy to join climate change and gender equality in shaping the marketing messages of many product and service companies.

Los Angeles traffic going electric

The Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap calls for a 25% reduction in greenhouse gases by the 2028 Olympics. This lofty goal calls for 30% of passenger cars and 80% of new cars sold to be electric. The city will ramp up its placement of public chargers. The city has requested help from electric car makers Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Audi, and makers of electric-buses, Proterra and BYD. One of the city’s initiatives is to move more people out of single person cars and into clean mass transit vehicles. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: Car makers in general, but especially those without an electric vehicle in their line ups, continue to bear the brunt of a new generation of everything-as-a-service urban dwellers. Millennials, coupled with environmentally aware baby boomers, make the outlook for the auto industry unclear. Expect efficient living trends – especially regarding fuel, water, real estate, and natural resources, to be guiding new technology products and services. As a matter of fact, if your new tech concept doesn’t align with more efficient living trends, your market potential is very limited.

And the #1 rated Thanksgiving TV show is …

Wired offers us a menu of the top 20 Thanksgiving episodes from popular (and some less so) shows of the past couple of decades. The authors tip their hats to the often dysfunctional and frequently awkward combinations of people that the tradition unites. It’s a holiday for streaming video, and the top 5 of the top 20 are…

5. Friends—“The One With All the Thanksgivings”—Season 5: Episode 8 (Netflix)

4. The West Wing—“Shibboleth” — Season 2: Episode 8 (Netflix)

3. Cheers—“Thanksgiving Orphans”—Season 5: Episode 9 (Prime, Hulu, Netlfix)

2. Master of None—“Thanksgiving”—Season 2: Episode 8 (Netflix)

1. WKRP in Cincinnati—“Turkeys Away”—Season 1: Episode 7 (Available on Amazon Prime)