Facebook’s Libra currency backers reconsidering

Facebook’s Libra currency unraveling

The Libra Association, featuring 28 companies supporting Facebook’s third-party currency, has been under attach since it was announced. PayPal announced that it was pulling out of the association and Visa and MasterCard are reconsidering their involvement. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The Libra Association is a fascinating idea, as a widely backed alternative currency would likely be less open to political manipulation and might be a vehicle to accelerate a real free market global economy. Big Tech is on trial in Washington, and the last partner you want to have, if you are seeking to escape Congressional insight, is Facebook. Sorry Facebook, you need to mend some fences and build some bridges before challenging global governments with your own monetary instruments.

New Google shopping feature provides daily price updates

Over the weekend, Google added a new feature that enables shoppers to watch pricing of a product from all online sources daily, and receive a report each day on any price changes. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Google has gained a shopping advantage over Amazon and could potentially steer shoppers away from Amazon if a competitor offers a better price. Meanwhile, Google will be tracking the sites shoppers visit and building algorithms to determine from which one people purchased. The company could potentially lure shoppers to its own shopping sites and drop prices on select products for interested shoppers. Could this be the beginning of custom pricing for individuals, based on a number of factors? Google certainly has the potential to sell the data to retailers who wish to provide specials on certain products in exchange for volume.

30 best video games of the decade

CNET ranks the 30 best video games of this decade — one which has seen drastic tech innovation, including graphic processors (GPUs), fast connectivity for multi-players, maturing of a new generation of consoles, and all you can eat gaming subscription services. CNET’s top 5 titles are:

  1. Breath of the Wild
  2. Dark Souls
  3. Minecraft
  4. Portal 2
  5. Red Dead Redemption

dis-rup-shun: Apple’s game service seeks to make everyone a gamer, or at least a casual gamer, with thousands of titles available for a single monthly price, and the ability to play across platforms. What you started on the smartphone on the train during your commute can be continued on the office PC during break time. The risky business of investing millions in a game title and hoping it will be a hit may change with subscription services, enabling a title to be instantly distributed to a large audience. 

Microsoft files patent for virtual reality mat

A new patent filed by Microsoft envisions a mat or carpet that is sensitized and connected to virtual reality devices, including smartphones and computers. With the mat, one might receive tactile feedback as you move around the room, providing haptic feedback to your feet. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Adding the floor to the experience is a logical extension of VR, but it seems like VR is going the way of 3D TV — plenty of offerings but not much consumer excitement. For hard core gamers, VR experiences are amazing, but the mass market consumer is yet to get excited about wearing glasses or headsets that take them completely out of real reality. Microsoft was also a leader in surface computing (the plane, not the PC/tablet device), that would turn any surface, like a table or counter top, into a computer but that technology has yet to become mainstream.

Ikea goes long on smart home

Ikea invests heavily in a smart home future

Sweden-based home superstore Ikea is making some bold transformations to adjustment to the changing face of retail. Such changes include smaller stores located in city centers, more online sales, services such as assembly, and building out a line of smart home products. Its smart home focus is on lighting, speakers, air cleaners, and smart blinds. Financial Times

dis-rup-shun: What can Ikea do for smart home? The company has always been highly pragmatic. Don’t expect to find excess and luxury home goods here. If Ikea provides a smart home product, it is because they believe it has clear utility (a concept missing from many smart home products), and the potential for large volume. Perhaps it is useful to study what Ikea does not feel to be its essential smart home products at this time — locks, security systems, cameras, thermostats — as it focuses on smart home staples. Volume retailers like Ikea, that have particular appeal to first time home makers, will be successful in defining the essential smart home. Let’s watch them carefully.

Internet enables the sublet economy for boats, cars, houses, pools and backyards

Wired provides an inventory of Airbnb-like businesses for many owned assests: Turo for cars, Boatsetter for boats, Spacer for garage storage, Swimply for swimming pools, Jettly for private jets, Globe for someone’s bed for midday naps, Rent the Backyard for small housing built in people’s yards, and HipCamp for pitching a tent in someone’s yard. 

dis-rup-shun: The possibilities for renting assets are endless. How about Artly, to rent some of the art that is in the attic, or Petly, if you wish to try out my dog for a couple of days. The internet-based commerce platform is easy and well proven. Insurance models have been developed to protect both sides of the transaction. The shift in cultural attitudes toward ownership has already spooked auto makers. A complete shift away from ownership to consumption by the hour suggests that people will own less, insure less, live in smaller spaces, and that a new class of businesses — service providers — will be the owners and letters of assets. Such capital efficiency would ruin many industries who sell an asset that is rarely used. If leisure boat makers sold boats based on the time the boat was actually used, their industry would be one twentieth of its current size, or smaller. Makers of such leisure products have a brighter outlook as makers AND renters of these assets. 

Tech investors claim the age of synthetic biology begins now

The synthetic biology market is now expected to hit $55 billion by 2025, according to Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO. Synthetic biology is using technology to alter organic items to make crops that don’t require fertilizer or lab grown vegetable products such as the investor darling, Beyond Meat. The investment community has grown frustrated by tech, as Big Tech is embattled with congress for anti-competitive practices, Uber and WeWork’s IPOs have failed to enrich investors, and autonomous vehicles are too far into the future. That makes synthetic biology the venture capital hot spot.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Synthetic biology, also known as GMOs, are considered evil by many naturalists. Synthetic organisms, however, can be valuable assets in preserving, or doing less damage, to natural ecosystems, thereby gaining support. With celebrity investors including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt in the space, the investment community is lining up for its share. We know that the venture community moves and grazes in herds, and synthetic biology is the current popular grazing ground.

Samsung Pay adds features that will hurt banks and wire transfer services

Samsung Pay, the app and service enabling one to make payments from an Android phone, has added the capabilities of a virtual pre-paid credit card (think gift card), and an international money transfer service with Travelex, that enables transfer in many currencies to many countries. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Banks, credit card companies, and payroll cashing services, watch your backs — your business is under attack. Samsung and Apple are happy to make those same fees (or even less) for moving money around, and since we all already have phones, we don’t need your brick and mortar locations and your apps simply add friction to what we can already do with our iPhones and Galaxies. Wonder how many executive boardrooms have gotten these messages?

Amazon grocery stores and lessons on retail

What proposed Amazon grocery stores teach us about retail

Amazon has signed leases and completed permits for dozens of grocery stores — not Whole Foods — in major urban centers including Los Angeles, Irvine, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Wall Street Journal

dis-rup-shun: Amazon’s expansion plans for brick and mortar retail stores – grocery stores — is curious given the company’s dominance of online selling. It is important for all industries to understand that Amazon is not content with dominating online sales, but wants to dominate sales of anything through any channel. What other conclusions should we draw from this initiative?

  1. Certain product categories won’t move substantially to online sales. Amazon has likely learned that grocery delivery will not soon move beyond niche or luxury service, and the bulk of food sales will remain brick and mortar.
  2. Amazon wants as many touch points as it can get. Almost everyone goes to the grocery store, so Amazon’s presence in the grocery store means it has the eyeballs of most everyone.
  3. Amazon should no longer be classified as an online retailer. As stated before, dominating online sales is too limiting for the company’s ambitions.
  4. The economics of cashier-less stores change the profit margins of brick and mortar retailing. Most retail stores struggle to produce thin profit margins. Reducing the number of clerks required will profit a margin advantage.
  5. The Whole Foods acquisition is proving to be more of an experiment. It seems that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods was more opportunistic than strategic, as the chain seems to be a hot bed of experimentation.
  6. Amazon may be changing the idea of food market to corner store — returning to a time when smaller neighborhood stores provided a small number of diverse goods, more similar to 7-Eleven crossed with the now extinct dime store category.

Microsoft launches ARM-based Surface Pro-X – big deal?

Microsoft has launched its first ever ARM processor based PC, using its own chipset, based on a partnership with Qualcomm. The Surface Pro-X processor includes an AI engine, and the device incorporates a removable hard drive. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Why is this announcement a radical move for Microsoft? First of all, this product moves Microsoft one step further from its decades old, tight marriage with Intel — or Wintel, as the marriage was called. Previously Microsoft has not created its own processors, and has almost never released a non-Intel PC. Microsoft missed the entire smartphone revolution and many attribute this miss on Intel’s inability to compete with ARM processors that are the mainstay of smartphones. Additionally, the deeper Microsoft goes into manufacturing its own devices, the more it competes with its best Windows and Office customers, Dell, Acer, HP and Lenovo. Could this move be a bookend to a new product line that starts with the Surface Duo (see below), or is this a defensive move against upstart PC substitutes such as Chromebook?

Microsoft Surface Duo is folding phone or mini-PC

Microsoft surprised watchers yesterday by announcing the Surface Duo, an Android device that runs Windows applications via Windows 10X, an operating system variant that enables the device to run multiple apps at once, using each screen for a different app. The device will be available late 2020. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft, like Amazon, Facebook, Google and, of course, Apple, has caught hardware fever — joining the rush to create new categories of devices to dominate before its competitors do. A Microsoft app-running foldable phone makes more sense than the Samsung fold, as the extra real estate afforded by dual screens fills the narrow gap between the Surface or tablet and Microsoft Office applets on smartphones — usable but only in dire circumstances. With a Surface Duo, one could actually sit in coach class and complete a proposal or spreadsheet without contorting the body.

Netflix subscriber base will not be eroded by new competitors

A survey by Piper Jaffray concluded that despite the impending competitive streaming offerings by Disney or Apple, Netflix will not lose many subscribers. 

The analyst firm believes that most Netflix subscribers will stick with the service, and not churn to competitors, and remains bullish on the company’s prospects, saying the competitive threats are already priced into the company’s share price. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is true that Netflix subscribers remain pleased with the service and their return on subscription fee. The problem remains, however, that Netflix won’t reach profitability and a positive return on its large investments in original content unless they win many new subscribers in the future. The pie of people who are not yet Netflix subscribers has been sliced into many pieces by competitors who have a stronger catalog of content than Netflix (Disney and Apple for starters), and who have the potential to bundle other services (AT&T). It is not losing existing subscribers, but rather the escalating cost of new customer acquisition that is keeping Netflix execs up at night.

UPS first to register drones as airline

UPS wins round one of drone race

UPS is the first company to win approval of its fleet of drones from the FAA, receiving a Part 135 certification — the same as is required to run an airline. With this approval, UPS can fly as many drones as it likes in any locations, subject to FAA flight restrictions. UPS has been operating drones at Wakemed Hospital in Raleigh, NC, and now has the opportunity to expand its services. Wired

dis-rup-shun: UPS’ operations in Raleigh serve an important need for the conveyance of medicine, blood and equipment around a campus. Expect to see many campus applications for drones as currently the FAA requires flights to be within line of sight. Wide scale delivery, replacing courier trucks, is many years away as many obstacles, including buildings, power lines, trees, excessive noise and landing spots are challenges outside of a controlled campus. Expect to see UPS and other couriers vying to be the official drone providers of specific corporate and educational campuses, where a drone control tower can easily see most all parts of the campus.

Study shows that texting speed is close to keyboard typing speed

In a study conducted among 37,000 volunteers from 160 countries, by Aalto University, University of Cambridge, and ETH Zürich, it was determined that average typing speeds via text keypads are nearly as fast as speeds with a keyboard. The study also determined that average keyboard WPM speeds are decreasing and that two-thumb texting is faster than single finger entry. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: We must recall that the qwerty keyboard was invented to slow typists down, as mechanical typewriters were jamming when fast typists perfected speed of entry. We must also realize that today’s child learns to navigate a touch pad well before a keyboard, and well before any typing courses are taken, if those still exist. With smart speakers, reliance of full keyboards will be more about accommodating the habits of older generations, rather than defining an optimal way of tactile input. As voice entry becomes a standard for business communications, we can expect today’s qwerty keyboard to slowly fade from many devices in the coming 20 to 30 years. With the qwerty keyboard dictating the form factor of laptops today, expect the smart phone or tablet to completely replace the laptop when all of us are equally comfortable with touchpads and voice entry.

Tech facilitating dog-to-human communications

Georgia Tech’s FIDO project is a research project equipping working dogs with wearables that, when activated with the press of a nose, for example, warn of impending seizures, high or low insulin levels, the presence of explosives, an episode induced by autism, or other important things that working dogs know that their human handlers don’t. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Working dogs are already heavily utilized for many specialized situations. According to ShareAmerica, there are over 500,000 working dogs in the U.S. alone. According to Statista, there are nearly 90 million pet dogs in American households. So a talking wearable for a pet dog that might notify an owner that a dog needs to go outside has a total addressable market of several hundred million worldwide.

Tesla acquires DeepScale computer vision startup

DeepScale, a Silicon Valley computer vision startup, brings to Tesla needed talent to help outfit cars with the video processing power required to assure autonomous driving. Computer .ision requires heavy processing power, not convenient or cost effective for mass production in cars. DeepScale will help bring computer vision to low powered car processors. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The acquisition reportedly fills a gap left when a computer vision team left Tesla over the summer — an increasing problem in a culture that has been reported to be unfriendly and chaotic. Tesla’s goal is to create and sell cars that can be driven by or without humans. It is unknown if the technology gap required for autonomous cars is greater or less than the legislative gap required to gain acceptance for driver-less cars, but the Federal Government has developed standards for self-driving vehicles. Read about it here.

Why Alphabet’s hiring of former FDA commish is a good thing

Google parent hires former FDA commissioner to run health strategy

Google’s parent, Alphabet, has hired Robert Califf, former FDA commissioner, to head policy and strategy for the company’s Verily Life Sciences and Google Health divisions. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: No doubt hiring a government insider to help grease the skids of the difficult FDA approval process is smart. Before jumping to the conclusion that this is just another example of hiring a fox to direct the hen house, it is important to think about how beneficial to our greater society this move could be. The care economy is in big trouble as not enough workers are entering the field(s) to address the needs of a fast growing, aging and unhealthy population. At the same time, great technology innovations are flooding the market. Many of these innovations are highly effective at augmenting care tasks, but most will not survive a consumer unfriendly care distribution system, or become approved for health care reimbursement as determined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Califf is in a position to teach both Alphabet and our Federal Government how to work together and streamline the adoption of technology products to play critical care roles. There is big money to be made by tech in the care business, and even bigger money to be saved. We all stand to greatly benefit from the integration of tech into the care industries and need it to occur sooner than later.

Levis and Google team up on smart jean jacket

Google and Levi’s are resurrecting the Jacquard smart sensor and app — a small sensor that fits into the sleeve of the jacket and reacts to conductive thread in the sleeve to enable remote control of your smartphone functions. Using the app, one can program what taps, swipes or gestures control. These controls could include phone volume, camera apps, or headphone noise cancelling. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Smart clothing may not be mainstream for some time, but a $200 smart jean jacket, for the sake of cocktail conversation, may just be a hit. What are some more valuable applications for this technology? How about unlocking your car remotely when you are hands are full, or turning on garage lighting? The smart home and the smart clothing industries will definitely find some synergies.

Best live TV streaming services

Wired offers a look at four streaming services that have apps to get to live TV. It suggests, in order of recommendation, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Sony PS Vue, Sling TV and then, of course, buying a $44 digital TV antenna is a good complement to streaming TV services.

dis-rup-shun: The digital economy has eaten a hole in our wallets, one $9.99 bite at a time, and the traditional services like pay TV are starting to look like hogs at $179 and $219 per month. Consumers, for many years, asked for a la carte channel pricing and cable providers said no, forcing us to subscribe to packages which have now devolved into dozens of channels covering the Shark Vacuum and Cindy Crawford’s makeup secrets, 24 x 7. Even tech laggards are considering cord cutting, and a three or four streaming services with some option to access local programming will do the trick. Once a majority of subscribers cut the TV cord, the wireless phone bill will be the next pig to slaughter as consumers seek some angles to cover their rising health care bills.

Dogs need technology too

Wired provides a review of some of the best dog gear, both tech products and dog boots, for hikes in rough places with mollusk shells or volcanic rocks. The Whistle Go, for $100, is a collar with GPS for tracking your dog as well as its activity level, and keeping it geo-fenced.

dis-rup-shun: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are constantly offering things like iPads for a $10 if you agree to tether them to a cellular network for several years. Seems like the carriers should be pushing things of real value, like pet trackers as most any pet lover will spend stupid amounts of money for their furry friends. It is time for BestBuy and AT&T to have a pet section in their stores.

Trade War consequences: China as innovation leader

China vs. U.S. tech race — who ends up stronger?

A key tenet of U.S. tariffs imposed against China is curtailing the illegal use of intellectual property by Chinese companies. An unintended consequence of the trade war is strengthening of Chinese tech leadership, as China’s tech giants, including Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu are developing their own AI microprocessors and mobile operating systems. The U.S. needs to develop and fund a national agenda for reaching new gains in technologies such as AI and 5G, says think tank CFR. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Countless examples throughout history confirm that competition is good. Competition is proving China to be swift and agile in moving from tech follower to tech leader. If trade wars are accelerating innovation in China, it stands to reason that the EU, US and India will step up innovation as well. Would open economies without tariffs reward innovation at the same rate? Perhaps the US agenda of greater enforcement of IP laws will be successful, especially when Chinese companies develop more IP than the US.

Apple CarPlay gets an update

Apple has made some useful updates to CarPlay, the app that enables your in car display to more easily display your iPhone screen. New features include a split screen, allowing you to see a map and media player at the same time. Also, a passenger can now look things up on other apps while connected to CarPlay and the car display still shows the map. The Apple Maps has been enhanced to make it more travel friendly. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If your car isn’t compatible with CarPlay or Android Auto, then you need a new car. Integration between the car and the smartphone is perhaps the most important car feature aside from the actual car systems, and the ability to seamlessly integrate both in a safe manner will greatly influence the customer experience. Successful integration provides a powerful platform for entertainment and shopping, as Xevo, a division of Leer Corporation, has shown. Xevo’s growing list of merchant vendors are the preferred vendors that are easily displayed when you search for gas, tires, food or other services from your car.

Musk unveils Starship Prototype

Elon Musk’s SpaceX unveiled, this weekend, its enormous Starship rocket prototype. The large, stainless steel reusable craft will be flying in a matter of months, says Musk. What is not understood is the business model for such a large rocket – far larger than needed to launch satellites. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Musk’s unbounded thinking (and spending) put him in the realm of Steve Jobs, especially if SpaceX is able to make commercial space travel and delivery routine. SpaceX is years late in delivering on a NASA contract for Commercial Crew development, and Musk’s problems and cultural problems at Tesla suggest potential for problems at SpaceX. The Starship concept is way ahead of its time and the business model for a large, reusable rocket is, as of now, unknown, but perhaps that is not as important to Musk as being first at something truly revolutionary.

Motorola Razr re-boot: foldable

The popular Razr will come around again, this time, however, it will be a foldable — the new technology that has proven hard to bring to market. Motorola’s mobile assets are now owned by Chinese PC maker, Lenovo. The phone was supposed to have been delivered this summer, but now appears it will be a late year release. CNET

dis-rup-shun: While innovations in smartphones have continued along existing lines, providing better cameras, batteries and apps, it is time for something different. A phone that incorporates current technology (apps), the latest technology (foldable screens) and yesterday’s iconic memories (Razr) could be a hit and a great change from the status quo.

Amazon employee clinic may be care model of the future

Virtual care clinics and how Amazon may change corporate benefits

Amazon has launched an internal virtual care clinic for its own Seattle based employees. The clinic offers a virtual doctor visit through an app or web portal. The employee can visit the virtual clinic anytime of day or night and consult with a doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant or practitioner. The result of the visit can be a diagnosis, a prescription for medicine, or an in-home visit by a nurse for a follow-up. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This care model, or something very similar, will become the standard first for corporations that are self-insured, then for the general public. Think of this as an Uber-like care model, where the appropriate clinician is matched to the appropriate need, without regard for location. Doctors will be involved in few of the visits, and will not have to maintain and schedule offices with waiting rooms and high overhead. Nurses will see patients if a face to face is required. The company’s own pharmacy network can emphasize the use of generics and control drug pricing. The faster our society can embrace this or a similar model, the faster costs can be controlled without compromising care quality.

Peloton IPO — a bumpy start

“I feel like we’re six or seven different companies in one,” said CEO John Foley. The stock closed 11% off of its opening price of $27 per share. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While the company is a unique combination of devices, original content, media and health club, Wall Street likes to put companies in boxes, and investors aren’t sure which is the right box for Peloton. What is clear is that the company has a successful subscription model, amazingly low attrition, and a cult-like following. The question Foley must answer is can the company return a profit before a better Peloton comes along and unseats this pioneer. Expect to see waves of connected fitness products flood the market, but be surprised if others do as good a job of content creation as Peloton has.

Ring-ification of urban living

Wired discusses the new reality of doorbell cameras being frequently installed in neighborhoods and, facing outward, recording the public as it goes by. Ring has aggressively built relationships with local police departments, furnishing crime scene videos in exchange for endorsement. Questions arise, however, of who owns the content of me walking past my neighbor’s house. Is it mine, or is it my neighbors’, or is this a matter requiring new legislation?

dis-rup-shun: The inevitability of inexpensive Internet connected cameras is a loss of privacy. However, in public spaces, I should expect my behavior to be public and subject to both local laws and society’s mores, whatever those may be. Expect to see some interesting legal defenses that seek to disregard evidence recorded by an unrelated third party’s (neighbor’s) camera. The number of crimes and un-resolved crimes, however, will undoubtedly decrease as our cultures understand that someone is nearly always watching.

Apple should buy Sonos says TechCrunch

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington says the time is right for Apple to purchase Sonos given Apple’s lack of significant smart speaker progress and Amazon’s debut of the Echo Studio, the high fidelity Alexa device. He points out the alignments between the companies: premium pricing, excellent design, strong support of Apple standards such as AirPlay, and robust support of streaming services.

dis-rup-shun: The Sonos experience has always been great — maybe even better than the Apple experience. Such an acquisition could make sense except that Apple would likely disable Alexa support on Sonos devices in favor of Siri only. Perhaps we don’t have favorites of voice assistants for device control as long as they generally work and connect to multiple home devices, but Siri’s third-party device support is lacking. If Apple were to buy Sonos, it would nice to see support for Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant — not likely.

Amazon expands device offerings

Amazon turns up the heat on Google and Apple with a wide array of new devices.

Amazon’s hardware unveiling took place yesterday in Seattle. Here is what they released:

Echo Buds — Earbuds with Bose noise suppression, powered by Alexa.

Echo Frames — $180 eyeglass frames with microphone built in, enabling you to issue voice commands without touching your phone.

Echo Loop — a ring (for your finger) with a microphone and haptic feedback. Again, you can speak to Alexa on your hand without having to touch your phone.

Echo Speaker — a revamp of the former Echo, with a better speaker components and, consequently, sound quality.

Echo Studio — an Echo that is packed with a high quality woofer, tweeter and midrange speakers, designed for 3D sound for those that want good sound in a compact form factor.

Echo Show 8 — an 8 inch diagonal screen Echo Show for those that agree that bigger is better.

Echo Dot Clock — a Dot with a digital clock on one side.

Echo Glow — a globe-like lamp that changes colors and dims or brightens based on alarms.

New Eero — this is the Wi-Fi range extender/mesh network that is a nice way of covering your house with Wi-Fi, if you don’t mind several devices sitting out on tabletops, or tucked into cabinets.

Two new Ring cameras — a stick up version that can run on battery, solar or outlet power, and a plain indoor camera powered by outlet power.

Sidewalk — a new protocol at 900 Mhz (free spectrum) that has better range than Bluetooth.

Alexa Enhancements — some improvements include multi-lingual modes, emotion detection, privacy enhancements, and more Alexa hunches — applications that anticipate what you will be doing around the house based on history, and when you are likely to run out of supplies. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Clearly some of these interesting new product categories, particularly the Echo Loop and Echo Frames, are not likely to be the next must have holiday items, but the innovation is impressive. How to crack the code of Amazon’s strategy? It is clear that the company believes that it can be a very formidable hardware maker, and, unlike Apple, which expects perfection with every product, is willing to launch a few albatrosses. Perhaps the most interesting release is not hardware, but the “Hunches” applications which use machine learning to understand your household sufficiently to set the right temperature, lighting, and music and tell you when you are nearly out of toilet paper. If a device maker has not already offered Alexa support, they better hurry before their product is not compatible with an Alexa-powered home. If a company has already provided support for Alexa, there is no peace of mind, as Amazon could well reinvent that product category and make the partner’s product obsolete.

Apple WatchOS6 warns of loud noises

Apple Watch OS6 warns of hearing damage

Apple is doubling down on connected health applications, mostly through the Apple watch. A new feature found in WatchOS6 is a warning when the wearer is exposed to very loud noises — over 80 decibels, that have the potential to damage hearing. CNet

dis-rup-shun: Apple is leaning heavily into the connected fitness and wellness market. The company did the easier things first — connected fitness, and now is pioneering tools for connected wellness. In a rush to find new value propositions, Apple has invented loud noise warning technology and solving a problem that most consumers didn’t know they had. Most people understand that when a sound hurts their ears, it is likely unhealthy, but now they can measure exactly how unhealthy with the Apple watch. There are some major health issues, such as senior falls, and changes in eating and sleeping that seem to more urgently need a tech remedy than loud noise alerts, and let’s hope Apple addresses them soon.

Human robotics = computer guidance for humans

Dr. Pedro Lopez at the University of Chicago is developing a wearable device that uses electrical impulses to make your muscles move at precise times. This technology has the potential to train people to play a musical instrument, use sophisticated tools, and restore capabilities lost in an accident. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Bridging the gap between humans and computers, Lopez’s invention is the beginning of augmented activity technology. Enabling a human to strap on a device that provides them the skills they don’t otherwise have is far easier, less expensive, and more likely than accomplishing the same through robotics. Perhaps we should call this technology “human robotics.”

Alexa Show helps visually impaired in the kitchen

Amazon’s latest device, the Alexa Show, is designed to sit on a counter top and provide answers, info and control. Now the device can help identify products such as canned food, assisting the visually impaired with everyday tasks. The user holds the device in front of the Show’s camera, and it audible informs them what they have. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Alexa’s use cases are so many, they are staggering. Amazon is finding new applications weekly for the voice and camera technology which is well on its way to being the defacto home hub. Feel good applications like this one help to counteract consumer apprehension about Amazon employees listening in and now watching home activities.

Smart gloves enable fire fighters to move through smoke and dark

Haptic feedback built into gloves give wearers tactile feedback to tell them how close they are to a wall or barrier. Studio@Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Haptics in clothing can assist the blind, can help keep groggy drivers aware of a twist in the road, and can identify law enforcement of the approach of a wanted suspect. It will be a long time before most of us will be wearing smart clothing, but for people who perform specialized jobs, connected clothing will be coming in the next two years.

Amazon in the fitness device business

Amazon planning fitness earbuds

Amazon’s hardware roadmap will include earbuds powered by Alexa that track motion, running distance, and calories burned. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is continuing to head the direction of device powerhouse, extending Alexa to ever more products, and creating possibly a new category of device (fitness earbuds) to capitalize on the hot connected wellness market. Reasons for investing heavily in the generally not profitable device business likely include the fact that, as Apple has taught, devices are platforms for online services. A monthly fitness coaching subscription, possibly free to Amazon Prime members, could be in the works. Furthermore, creating an armada of Alexa-powered products could lead Amazon’s Echo family to become the defacto home hub for all things connected, from music players to microwaves, to light switches, driving commerce for grocery delivery, utilities, and music and TV services through an Alexa-powered home transaction hub. So far consumers have not used Echo as a purchasing platform, but that could change.

Streaming Wars: Netflix’s stock tanks

Netflix’s stock price has dropped, giving up all gains from 2019 and sending it negative for the year. The combination of a drop in subscribers, new competition from Apple, Disney, AT&T, CBS, and others at aggressive price points (several below Netflix), and the loss of the blockbuster series The Office, have painted a challenging picture of the company’s future. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is amazing to watch how fast a pioneer company that invents new categories, like Netscape, Uber, Blockbuster, Sony and now Netflix, can find itself fighting to keep its place in the race it started. As mentioned before, Netflix, though a beloved brand, is different from its new competitors in that it does not have other revenue streams to help subsidize losses of its subscribers. Differentiation is now all about original content, and if Netflix is tempted to lower its monthly pricing, it will have to cut back its original content budget, blunting its competitive edge.

Microsoft quickly capitalizes on retail’s revolt against Amazon Web Services

Microsoft has released retail friendly tools, Dynamics 365, making it simple for online retailers to build product pages that can get ratings and comments from customers. The tools are tightly integrated with other Office tools. As many retailers have moved their cloud business to Microsoft Azure in order not to further enrich their rival, Amazon, Microsoft is moving quickly to provide advantages to retailers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft continues to effectively re-tool its business, both enhancing its core assets (Windows + Office 365) and developing superior products in the cloud race. The company has acted swiftly to capitalize on big retailers’ anti-Amazon movement. Expect the company to continue to find ways to differentiate its cloud services, and to apply similar specialties to other target industries.

Facebook invests in neural monitoring company

Facebook has paid an estimated range between $500 million and $1 billion for neural armband monitoring maker CTRL Labs. The acquisition follows Facebook’s prior investments in methods to control devices with brain waves — eliminating dependence of keyboards, mice and smart speakers. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun:  How does this investment fit into Facebook’s distinctive competencies of social networks? Is this about being able to update one’s status without typing, or is Facebook trying to leapfrog Amazon by building portal devices for video communications and neural controllers since Amazon owns voice control? It is likely a power play to establish the company as a pioneer of a future, undefined product category rather than execution of a defined strategy, but definitely a bold and ambitious (and expensive) initiative.