The Day Fry’s Died

Goodbye Fry’s — we will miss you indeed

The demise of Fry’s Electronics hurts more than so many closings of the past year. As Wired reported, the chain was an important if eclectic part of many people’s journey through technology. Wired reports that Fry’s was yet another victim of the Amazon Effect. It was a place that claimed “if it has a plug, we sell it.”

dis-rup-shun: What made Fry’s important is what has made it irrelevant. For many years, it was one of very few places that had anything you needed related to computers or electronics, and you could pick up a case of Pringle’s alongside a new hard drive. Fry’s, for many of us, was always a long drive away, as the stores were frequently located in outer suburbia. It wasn’t a place easy to drop in to meander, rather it was a place to visit with a purpose. Nowadays, the best place to aim through endless isles of unrelated but interesting stuff is at the end of a mouse — Amazon.com. And getting products from Amazon is so much quicker and more convenient than driving, parking wandering, reading, then choosing.

The Broadband Miracle of Mississippi

The Governor of Mississippi is changing the state in a most radical way — spending a portion of the state’s coronavirus stimulus grant of $1.2 billion on rural broadband. The state’s connectivity is currently ranked as 42nd among the fifty states, with at least 35% of rural residents without access to broadband. The Mississippi legislature smartly assigned the money to 15 electric co-ops and gave them only six months to spend it, creating a mad rush for deployment. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic has brought, along with its destruction, a myriad of success stories. Upgrading the rural citizens of Mississippi is a brilliant move, especially with the unplanned infusion of $1.2 billion into the state’s coffers. The long-term implications for the state are numerous as access to jobs, education and information will increase for an otherwise un-connected population.

Scheduled text messages — now on Android

Android users received a highly beneficial feature with the addition of scheduled text messages on Android phones running Android 7 or higher. Previously this feature was available only with third-party messaging apps. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: In a time when smartphones are so advanced, meaningful new features are few and far between, but this one is significant.  How many times have you forgotten simple tasks that others have asked you to do because you are focused on something else? How many times do parents fail to register with children who are so engrossed in their mobile device that they never heard a request, despite nodding their heads? This feature, for parenting alone, is worth installing instantly.

Target to open mini Apple stores 

Target continues its battle to remain a relevant alternative to online purchases, and the company has fared well during the pandemic by offering same day pickup at most stores. Now the company will open mini-Apple stores within a store — hoping to keep people coming to Target as the outlook for a return to shopping as normal appears only months away. 17 Target stores will feature an Apple shop in the initial roll-out, which will not include a Genius Bar. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The blurring of the lines continues in retail and tech, and Target has always lived on the edge of mass discount retailer and upscale shopping experience. Target’s electronics department has long been almost good enough, but lacking a few options. This move will close that gap to an extent, and likely skew the customers entering the store slightly upward as it will attract a few more shoppers seeking premium Apple devices.

 

Ring + Alexa make for electronic doorman

Ring and Alexa now work together to handle visitors to the front door

Ring, owned by Amazon, now has a feature, available to premium Ring Protect subscribers, that employs Alexa to converse with visitors to your front door. Through the Ring app, subscribers can turn on Alexa Greetings which will respond to a visitor, based on their statements, and report back to the homeowner with a message, or will instruct a delivery person where to leave a package. When integrated with other Ring cameras with motion detectors, the doorbell can warn visitors that they are being recorded. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The concept of the doorbell is changing. Imagine what a technological breakthrough the electric doorbell must have been — replacing the wrap of knuckles on wood and ensuring that the homeowner could hear a visitor even if he or she was far away, and could scurry to the door to greet the visitor. The doorbell of the 21st century will analyze a visitor as they are walking up to the door, performing a near electronic background check, confirming their identify, mood and intentions and determining how to deal with them before they even press the button. With success, homeowners will never have to actually speak in real time or face a visitor, unless they are the anticipated kind. Camera technology will continue to isolate neighbors from one another, but hopefully live safer, and lose fewer packages to porch pirates.

If work has gone remote, why is Big Tech still building?

Wired contemplates the massive Silicon Valley construction projects even as tech companies have opened work from home as a permanent offering. Tech companies are simply growing too fast to throw building projects in reverse, as these projects have been on the board for a number of years. In addition, many workers surveyed have stated a preference to return to the office.

dis-rup-shun: Work life after the pandemic appears to offer plenty of options — both a space at an office, or at least cubicle, or the option to work from home, or a combination of the two. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to see if we can rely on remote tools, and effectively coordinate a distributed workforce. The result, for the majority of companies, appears to be a resounding yes.

Tovala provides smart oven and meal kits for busy foodies

Tovala is a tech company and a food company. It makes both smart ovens and fresh food meal kits to go in the oven, and the software to scan the food information on the package to cook the contents correctly. The company has received an investment round of $30 million on top of investments made by Comcast Ventures and Tyson Foods. The company is riding the wave of people who, due to COVID-19, are spending more time at home and want to eat fresh foods, but don’t want to take the time to shop or read recipes. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Tovala not only makes the blade, but also the razors, and in classical marketing form, the company provides deep discounts on its razors (ovens) to sell more blades (meals). But does the target demographic really need a specialized oven that can perform other functions, but is primarily geared toward selling the Tovala meal kits? That is a tough sell, but perhaps affluent people who are busy but have not yet purchased an armada of counter-top appliances have room for an extra oven in the kitchen if it assures them of better in-home dining.

Disney’s streaming services shrug off Covid-19

Disney’s amusement parks business has been all but decimated by the pandemic, however Disney’s streaming services, including Disney + and Hotstar, in India, have mostly made up for the losses at the parks. The company now has over 146 million total paid subscribers across its streaming services as of the end of the first quarter. The parks revenue was down 56%, and its future hangs on the rate at which people get vaccinated and return to vacationing. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Disney is yet another of many companies that has been able to dodge the pandemic bullet — not due to luck, but due to good timing. The transformation of the video industry continues to happen in record time, with AT&T DirecTV telemarketers desperately phoning customers to offer to cut their bills in half before they cut the cord completely. Meanwhile, cord cutters continue to tack on extra streaming services — slowly moving their monthly video expenses towards the amounts they formerly paid for cable bundles.

Where does Zoom go from here?

Zoom Rooms are the new conference rooms

After a year of phenomenal growth that helped keep the economy moving even during the Pandemic, how does Zoom continue to stay on top of the video conferencing market? Zoom Rooms, the new name for the office conference room when empowered by the new Zoom software. Zoom Room software counts the number of bodies in a room and helps remind participants how to social distance, or reminds them that too many bodies are in the room to maintain safe air quality. The software also features new controls that turn the smart phone into the presentation remote — providing control to those outside the room, and enabling people in the room to not have to touch the same device. CNET

dis-rup-shun: We are still thinking of Zoom calls as a substitute for meetings in conference rooms, but that is about to change as video conferencing becomes the norm — even with people in the same building. Joining conferences by meeting in the same room will be the new exception to the norm — and will be seen as nice but not necessary. Zoom will need to push the envelope of video conferencing to stay ahead of competitors anxious to close the gap between themselves and the category leader, Zoom.

SpaceX SN9 rocket test ends in fiery crash

Elon Musk’s pursuit of placing humans on Mars continued with another test of the SN9 rocket, which lifted off from Boca Chica, Texas for a successful trip to 10 kilometers. The trip down resulted in a crash, as the craft was not able to right itself for a gentle return to Earth. CNET

dis-rup-shun: SpaceX had a banner year last year, as it twice ferried astronauts to the International Space Station, and back. You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, or in this case, wreck a few rockets to get to Mars, so we can rack this up as progress. Musk was also quick to point out that these tests are stressing the bureaucracy at the FAA, which may also need to be cracked in order to accommodate an innovator such as SpaceX.

Microsoft to Australia “I will never leave you”

Last month Google threatened to pull the plug on the country of Australia if it did, in fact, pass legislation requiring Google to pay news publishers a fee to link to their content. Microsoft took advantage of the public relations opportunity by assuring Australians that Microsoft would never pull its search engine, Bing, from down under. Bing holds only 3.6% of the Australian search market. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While news organizations and media companies have long been the whipping posts of the freedom of information afforded by the internet, it is unlikely, and unwise, for governments to attempt to curtail market forces. As Parler, Trump, Facebook and Twitter are learning daily, restrictions on the posting of news and opinions is a difficult and murky business which continues to lack rules and guidelines. The blurring distinctions between social media providers and news providers will continue to vex modern civilization until credible organizations develop a transparent and public standard that defines news. It may be awhile.

Canon AI driven camera makes photographers optional

Canon’s robotic PowerShot PIC is a camera mounted on a swivel, infused with AI. It follows its subjects and takes pictures either on command or as it calculates it should. This is the ultimate selfie camera, as it makes the production all about you.  TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The camera industry is an amazing shrinking phenomena and it must reinvent itself or be nearly completely subsumed by the smartphone. Canon is working hard to redefine the camera and create new use cases and form factors, but even so, these new use cases are peripheral to the central role of our smartphones as our “camera for all occasions.” Just like Kodak, brands such as Canon and Nikon will have to hasten their diversification and reinvention to stay relevant.

 

Smart perfume reflects your mood

And now… smart perfume

Ninu Perfume has combined AI with fragrances. Using a mobile app, you can inform your smart perfume about your day and about how you are feeling, and it “custom blends” a unique fragrance of the day, right in the applicator. The app’s digital assistant, Pierre, helps mix the occasion-specific fragrance and informs you when you are running low and need to reorder. Ninu is made from premium, eco-friendly ingredients and housed in a well-designed case. Input

dis-rup-shun: This is the ultimate internet of things play, as we had breakfast cereal boxes and toasters in the queue for receiving smarts well ahead of perfume bottles, but let this stand as a great symbol for the vastness of this category includes. Making simple pleasures of life more personal and “custom” have merit, as most people want a personal touch, and when we start going out of the house again, this will be a conversation item.

Samsung Bot Handy robot

Samsung showed off, at CES, a one-armed mobile robot that is able to pick up objects, using cameras and intelligence to apply the right force at the right time. The demonstration showed the robot moving dishes from the sink to the dishwasher, pouring a glass of wine, and placing a single flower stem into a small vase. While this device is not likely to reach market in its current state, Samsung is displaying some impressive capabilities which will find their way to market over countless, and likely bumpy attempts to make robots main stream home products. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Specialized robots, such as robotic vacuums, do work and are selling well, but a multi-purpose butler is a long way off. Home tasks can be done very quickly and affordably by efficient-minded homeowners or fair-priced domestic workers. Watching a bulky and expensive robot slowly perform single tasks at low speeds has no place in busy households of multi-taskers. Expect household robots to be at least five years away from being popular items.

Alarm.com offers touchless doorbell

In the age of COVID, and with general heighten awareness about spreading infectious diseases, Alarm.com now offers a touchless smart doorbell. by simply standing in front of the device (or standing on an appropriately labeled doormat), the visitor can simply stand and wait to be spoken to. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Doorbell cameras are a great addition to the home, and will become the standard for any home in coming years, but there is room for improvement. First, if you have much activity in front of your house, motion sensing sets off alarms quite regularly, which can be too frequent. Secondly, the delay time from first ring to activation and engagement with the person outside often takes too long. As these deficiencies are addressed and facial recognition determines what and even who is there, then these products will become far more helpful.

Mobile home theater from Asus

The Asus Latte 1 is a home theater projector and Bluetooth speaker about the size of a large cup of coffee which projects images up to 120 inches in size at 700p. While the price is not yet known, the device offers an easy way to turn most any place into a home theater. Input

dis-rup-shun: Think of the places that you could turn into a movie-watching party: dorm rooms, campouts, hotel rooms, birthday parties, business presentations. If you can recall all of the occasions that you have hurried to a client site to give a presentation and the AV gear won’t cooperate, popping out your own projector to “just start” could be an impressive move. While this is a niche product category, it has potential of becoming a useful business or entertainment tool in coming days.

 

Highlights from Virtual CES

A new GM reveals the future of transportation

GM, following a year when the electric car upstart, Tesla, became more valuable than all of the Big Three automakers, revealed at CES its path for the future. The company unveiled its new division, BrightDrop, designed to provide logistics companies with an all electric delivery van and an electronic pallet platform. In addition, GM’s Mary Barra unveiled a new electric, flying personal taxi drone, called eVTOL which will be branded Cadillac. CNET

dis-rup-shun: These announcements are bold, as it seems clear that GM, the behemoth of American industrialism that foundered for many of the last thirty years, clearly understands that the future is not about fossil fuels, not about people owning multiple large cars, and not about running all over town to shop. The future is heavy with ecommerce, fractional services, gig-economy, and environmental conservation. GM gets it and is acting accordingly, knowing full well that the business model of the legacy carmaker is a path to certain extinction.

CareClever Cutii Robot

This is a useful robot. The friendly looking screen and speakers are on a small but sturdy pedestal on wheels. Cutii is designed to help seniors, by keeping them informed, tracking their movements, escorting them on walks, and coming to their aid if they fall. Cutii is not designed to open, close, lift and cook, but it does offer communications and visual contact so that a senior can request access to information, entertainment and communications from his or her robotic companion. Wired

dis-rup-shun: With many seniors in near isolation during the pandemic, such a device would likely be comforting, convenient and could offer a great deal of safety — enabling loved ones to see if a senior’s health appears compromised. Of course, any device that helps a senior in case of a fall could be a lifesaver.

Toto Wellness Toilet

Japanese manufacturer Toto displayed a smart toilet that analyzes waste, with every use, and provides feedback to an app regarding how you need to tune your diet, and other health indicators. The device will be expensive when released, but for those really into the quantified self, it will offer regular feedback on health. Wired

dis-rup-shun: For several years, we have seen smart toilets that offer massaging, soothing, water cleansing, and now, health assessments. Given the costs of such technologies, it will be years before builders offer these devices as standards in upscale homes, but with the recent concerns over toilet paper shortages during the pandemic, bidet-featuring smart toilets will remove one more concern from daily lives.

TCL Series 6 TV with 8K

Chinese TV maker TCL continues to wow consumers with high quality televisions at sub-one thousand dollar prices. The Series 6 offers 8K resolution support in an affordable package. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The world is only now beginning to expect content in 4K resolution, and it will be at least a couple of years before a great deal of 8K content is available, but if you are about to invest in a television that you plan to keep for 5 or more years, buying an 8K set is wise.

N95 Electronic Face Mask

Game hardware company Hazel has developed an electronic N95 mask that not only lights up with different colors, features re-usable N95 filters, but cleverly is made of plexiglass that enables people to see facial expressions and read lips. Wired

dis-rup-shun: We hope that masks are not here to stay, but they may be, or may be for those particularly vulnerable or uncomfortable with no distancing. If we are going to wear masks, being able to see people’s mouths and expressions will make interaction with masked people far more comfortable and effective.

Robotics are a star of Virtual CES

New robots for virtual CES

Increasingly popular stars of CES have been robots. This year’s virtual CES will feature a number of robots including: LG’s UV robot that moves around to disinfect surfaces, Moxie — a Japanese robot that is cute and intended to help entertain and educate children, John Deere’s robotic grain harvester, Daesung’s Hive Controller robot that harvests honey without human beekeepers. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Robots have been slow to become mainstream, instead being heavily utilized in factory automation. As we let go of the misconception that robots are multi-purpose, intelligent servants or companions, and apply AI and automation to repetitive tasks, we will see more frequent adoption. Expect more specialized devices, perhaps not previously considered robots, to be the examples of robotic automation — to prove their value by increasing efficiency and performing tasks that humans find difficult or tedious.

2020: An amazing year for tech

It was a rough year for many, and an amazing year for others. The seven top tech companies increased in value by $3.4 trillion. AppleMicrosoftAmazonAlphabetFacebookTesla and Nvidia. The global pandemic and government investigations have not tarnished the meteoric rise of these companies.  Surprisingly strong iPhone sales, Amazon’s rise in online sales, Microsoft’s Teams surge, and the strength of Google and Facebook’s advertising stronghold plus Tesla’s record deliver of electric cars in Q3 set new records. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Imagine what 2020 would have been without the economic engines of the top tech companies. There is little doubt that their dominance makes it difficult for others to compete, but our economy, without the strength and growth of these giants, may have been very bleak. COVID-19, moreover, fueled the growth of many smaller tech companies, including Zoom and Slack, that have also had a significant year.

The Walkcar — a new form of transportation

The Walkcar is a new device from Japanese company, Cocoa Motors. It is the size of a large laptop computer with four wheels. Standing on the composite square device will transport the ride at a maximum speed of 10 mph. At just under $2000, and a size that will fit into a large computer bag, the urban dweller has an alternative to the Onewheel. CNET

dis-rup-shun: If a laptop-looking powered skateboard is called the Walkcar, then are perceptions of transportation changing? How do we define cars? Are new entrants to the workforce counting on Walkcar-like devices to be their transportation of choice, knowing that Uber or fractional rentals of real cars are available for those seldom occasions when more is needed.

Cync by GE Lighting is new smart home line

GE Lighting, purchased last year by smart home device maker Savant, is planning to stay firmly planted in the smart home market. Its C by GE line is changing names to Cync — and will release a new outdoor smart plug and a new app to control it. CNET

dis-rup-shun: GE is a strong consumer brand. The mother company, GE, has sold its brand to many companies, including Jasco that makes a large array of electronics products under the GE brand, and now Savant, owner of GE Lighting, will use the brand to drive affordable smart products into the mass market. Smart light bulbs are a top selling smart home product, and Savant is wise to leverage the popularity of the brand.

 

 

Biggest tech events of a year unlike any other

Biggest tech stories of a year we will always remember

It has been a year for the history books. With nearly 2 million killed by the coronavirus, unprecedented racial strife, record wildfires, hurricanes, one of the most unusual presidential elections and even record stock market levels attained, the world is a very different as the year ends. CNET has admirably captured the top 20 tech stories of the year. Here are a few of the most interesting:

Apple broke from Intel and began shipping products with its own M1 processor. This shift gives Apple far more room to differentiate its products from the rest of the pack and may lead to levels of innovation we never expected from Apple.

Tesla becomes most valuable car company, at least for a while, as the popularity of electric vehicles has soared and are now considered by most to be the standard for the future. Despite many bumps in the road, Tesla has soared and has been rewarded for being a pioneer in an industry that is not new, but had not seen, until Tesla, widespread success.

Space gets busy as SpaceX sent astronauts to the International Space Station, launched more constellation satellites, and won a large federal contract to provide rural broadband. Meanwhile China sent a craft to the moon, and NASA launched a robot to Mars.

The pandemic alienated those not online. The digital divide has left 18 million Americans without adequate broadband, meaning 5% of the population could not participate in online shopping, entertainment, community and remote work during the lockdown.

The pandemic was jet fuel for Amazon, which hired 375,000 employees and posted a third quarter profit of $6.3 billion as people flocked to Amazon and other online shopping sites for essentials, including entertainment.

Video gaming surged as those stuck at home played more games, ordered new games, and lined up to purchase new consoles, including the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 — meanwhile the Nintendo Switch was difficult to find in stores.

Technology fueled the Black Lives Matter movement as smartphones quickly spread video of the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests across the world, raising the issues to the height of public conscious.

Quibi came and went. The mobile only premium video service was a big risk and failed big, taking $1.75 billion in investment capital with it. Some blame the pandemic for preventing viral growth of the service, but the pandemic also fueled consumption of other online content.

Streaming video was fueled by the pandemic, as people stayed at home and consumed more content, further boosting Netflix, Disney Plus, Peacock, and HBO Max — which abandoned an industry norm of reserving new releases for movie theaters only.

Zoom becomes a new standard for work and community. Weekend use of Zoom increased by 2,000% as people continued to use Zoom for social gatherings, not just connecting to customers and co-workers. Zoom’s security problems led the company to make a number of changes to its platform throughout the year.

Scientists developed a vaccine in record time, developing what is called a messenger molecule, which tricks the body into creating antibodies. The fast development of the vaccine will likely change forever the way drugs are created, tested and approved.

dis-rup-shun: Many people have agreed that the year 2020 has accelerated the development and adoption of emerging technologies by ten years. While that may be an exaggeration, it is certain that business communications and, subsequently, travel, are forever changed. Entertainment and gaming, telehealth, have been accelerated by many years. Use of offices, home offices and second homes is likely forever changed, as is shopping. Hopefully families and friendships have been strengthened by the pandemic and the good fortune enjoyed by tech firms can help lift those who have been forever damaged by the events of 2020. Happy New Year.

Zoom will host record Christmas gatherings

Merry Zoom Christmas

Zoom is preparing for what could well be the biggest day of the year, so far, for the service that has been one of the bright points of the global pandemic. The Zoom boom is particularly pronounced for Londoners and 18 million Brits southeast of London who were put on high alert, following a new strain of Coronavirus impacting that region and calling for the cancellation of Christmas gatherings even among small groups. Zoom may well be the most used “utility,” ahead of voice conversations on phones, and entertainment streamed across screens. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Zoom continues to do an excellent job or keeping families, teams, clients and managers connected. It is possible that video conferencing has kept may relationships more connected than they would have without a pandemic, as many relationships which consisted of emails and one or two face to face meetings have now been replaced by weekly or bi-monthly virtual face to face meetings. The future will likely look a lot like 2020, but hopefully not out of fear of infection.

Beware of fake shipping notices

Scammers and hackers are phishing this season, using fake shipping notices that appear to be from Amazon, UPS or FedEx. When some of these messages are clicked on, malware can infect a system and give access to hackers who, in some cases, have used ransomware to extort or “brick” people’s personal devices. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The use of cloud-based services is so easy, one should get in the habit of saving anything valuable to a cloud service. Many are free, and many cost less than $100 per year — a good value in today’s dangerous computing environment.

The outlook for TVs at Virtual CES 2021

The world’s largest electronics event, CES, will be online this year. As usual, TVs are a focal point of the event. CNET does not anticipate 2021 TV sales to be as strong as 2020 sales, but those were in part fueled by a global pandemic. To expect in 2021: TVs are getting even larger. Sales of sets that are 70 inches or bigger were up 82%. OLED continues to be a popular technology for best in class devices, and this year Vizio joined Sony and LG in offering OLED. 8K will continue to be discussed, but sales of 8K resolution sets will likely remain very low.

dis-rup-shun: CES is always the focal point of amazing consumer technology innovation and wonderment, with countless news stories broadcast from the show floor. This year will likely be no different, except for the fact that there is no show floor. Will CES of the future become an online channel for news releases and product tours? COVID-19 has the potential of transforming CES from an event to a media channel or portal, through which most brands will introduce products in expectation of wide press coverage around the globe. This transformation may also mean that CES moves from an early January event, to a 52 week-a-year event.

More about alleged Russian hack of federal systems

More information has been revealed about the massive hack that occurred in past weeks that has given back door access to users of a network management application from a company called SolarWinds. The breach has potentially given unauthorized access to the networks of the US Department of Energy and the Commerce Department. In addition to Microsoft, about 24 companies are believed to have used the infected version of the SolarWinds software. CNET

dis-rup-shun: What are the implications of attacks such as this? We know this will be far from the last, and that cyber warfare is real and ongoing. Some key learnings include the fact that everyone must, in fact, keep updating passwords and using different passwords, despite the difficulties of doing so. It means that companies and governments are wise to maintain redundant networks with different vendors. It means that IT managers of most all organizations should assume that their organizations will be attacked, if they not already been, and that an economic hotspot that is getting hotter is online security. Data and network security tools and companies are likely great long term investments.

Hack of federal systems is “grave”

Hack of Federal systems considered “grave”

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has stated that the extensive hack of U.S. federal government agencies is sophisticated, complex and poses a grave risk to the U.S. federal government. It seems that the sophisticated attack, attributed to Russia, started about the time of COVID-19s arrival in the U.S. The vulnerabilities appear to be tied to IT supplier SolarWinds, whose cloud software updates included an unknown back door planted by hackers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It seems that 2020 was, in fact, worse than you thought. While the U.S. was focused on COVID-19, stimulus legislation and a hotly contested presidential election, Russian (alleged) hackers were having a field day with Uncle Sam’s computer networks. Is it time to unplug the federal governments computers — all of them — and perform a fresh reboot under the fresh watch of the smartest cybersecurity kids in the country? Are federal governments better of decentralizing their data infrastructures to make it harder to topple, or single, central databases that are guarded better than any networks in the world?

Privacy feud pits Apple vs. Facebook

Apple is seeking changes in the privacy policy of apps running on iOS (any mobile Apple device). The policy, called  App Tracking Transparency, enables consumers to learn of what apps are tracking info about them and to opt in or out. Facebook, a company whose advertising intelligence relies on tracking app activity and collecting data, is not happy, as a mass movement by consumers to “opt out” will reduce the effectiveness of Facebook’s data harvesting technology. Facebook’s claim is that Apple’s move will hurt small businesses and is taking out advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Washington Post to say so. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Pop quiz: which company do you trust more with your personal data? Rank in order of most trusted between Facebook, Apple and Google. It is likely that you answered most trusted: Apple, and it is likely that it is tough to decide who is third between Google and Facebook. What is certain, though, is that Facebook continues to build a reputation of the bad boys in the privacy debate, and Apple will certainly win the PR battle in this feud.

Airlines have kept afloat, in part, by converting to all cargo

Passenger air travel has been down, thanks to COVID-19, by 71% to 96%. The industry has been decimated moreso than restaurants or retail. Airlines are still in business thanks to a large bailout by the government(s) and, to some extent, their ability to pivot to cargo carriers. United led the charge to begin flying all cargo flights, trading weight in the upper (passenger) deck for more weight in the cargo hold. United has now flown over 8,000 cargo only flights.   Wired

dis-rup-shun: Resilience and reinvention are the keys to survival, and the airlines are clinging to cargo shipping to buy more time. Shipping COVID-19 vaccinations around the globe in temperature controlled containers will guarantee some short term, high-value cargo for carriers, but rebound of significant passenger levels is not expected until 2023. Innovation and reinvention will have to continue for two more years, and let’s see how else airlines can re-purpose their crafts for the long haul.

Who won the smart home in 2020?

CNET writers debate which Big Tech powerhouse won the smart home in 2020. Their discussion is actually limited to smart speaker and voice assistants, a key, but not complete, part of the smart home. The best smart speaker recognition goes to Amazon. The best voice assistant recognition is a tie between Amazon and Google and the best data privacy recognition goes to Apple.

dis-rup-shun: The biggest disappointment of 2020 is the fact that Apple has not thrown its weight around with regards to smart speakers and smart home. The Home Pod mini is nice, but more expensive than its competitors that offer far more home control capabilities. If any player can upset the race that Amazon is winning, it is Apple, but Apple is not focused here. Perhaps 2021 will see a bigger home automation play by Apple, but likely not.

Walmart expands driverless delivery to Louisiana

Walmart driverless trucks pass first test

Since last summer, Walmart has been shipping goods a 2-mile distance between stores in its hometown of Benton, Arkansas. The pilot vehicles have completed a total of 70,000 miles. The driverless program will now be expanded to Louisiana. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The retail giant, once the innovator in consumer sales, has fallen behind giants Amazon and Google and has some catching up to do. Beating some of its rivals in driverless delivery will not only provide a cost advantage in some scenarios, but give it some innovation chops needed, as Amazon has beat Walmart to cashier-less store innovations, streaming video dominance, Prime membership, and of course, in number of online shoppers.

UK proposes content rules for social media

The UK government has proposed regulations that will fine Facebook, Instagram,TikTok, Twitter and other social media giants for allowing access to harmful content. The proposal calls for a very significant fine for those social media companies that allow harmful or toxic content. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This move is aggressive, but definitive.  The EU legislators are drawing the line — determining that social media is not a free speech platform, but must only exist as a platform for civil discourse. The challenge, of course, is deciding who gets to draw the line through content that may be “in the gray” and in enforcing standards. How do you define toxic? Okay, how do you define probably toxic? How do you police the millions of sites and posts of dozens of social media platforms? This is an opportunity for AI to be pressed into service. Don’t expect this legislation to pass without some significant compromises.

Spotify amps up podcasting arms race with Prince Harry and Meghan

Spotify adds to its significant podcast lineup that already includes Kim Kardashian West, Joe Rogan, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Prince harry and Meghan will be joining the streaming audio provider, following a similar contract signed with Netflix for documentaries. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The power couple clearly have good business counsel, as they are combining Meghan’s showbiz chops with one of the most popular and private institutions – the Royal family. The combination is nearly guaranteed success. And Spotify is in an arms race with audio content competitors, including Apple, to redefine the entertainment landscape. What was, a few years ago, a scrappy Swedish streaming music service is now a major entertainment provider going head to head with some of the world’s largest media companies. Strong vision and execution have made Spotify a great story to watch.

Amazon Echo devices now provide live translation

Amazon has announced that Echo devices are now capable of translating a conversation between two people in different languages. This follows Google’s similar service, Google Translate, that has been available for the past year and offered across multiple devices, including Google’s smart speaker, Google Nest Home. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The ability to easily translate across languages could mean that Amazon’s and Google’s technology could find themselves in the heart of commercial transactions — helping make a transnational sale, or negotiate a contract. It is certain that the tech giants want to move their technologies more deeply into not only the home, but into the enterprise, and being the chief translator across the globe will likely given them a strong position in many global operations.