EU threatens to block Fitbit sale

EU to Google on Fitbit: “Not so fast”

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

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

Google Maps receives an upgrade

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

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

Best Alexa-enabled smart home devices

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

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

What are people doing with smart speakers?

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

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

Microsoft fixes voting

Microsoft seeks to become the voting standard

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

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

Redbox offers free ad-supported streaming service

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

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

Can Google watches catch Apple Watch? 

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

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

Amazon Care now open for Seattle employees

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

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

 

Musk: Gates is underwhelming

Elon Musk calls Bill Gates “underwhelming”

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

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

Ring gets serious about data security

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

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

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

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

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

Use Alexa to find your lost phone in the house

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

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

Sex tip app launches with $5M investment

Lover – sex tip app funded by Tinder founder

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

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

Ditch the Disk group calls for new standards for medical imaging

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

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

A DIY bidet enables luxury living

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

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

Percussive massage guns are required for fitness enthusiasts

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

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

 

 

 

Phone apps are cheating on you

Your phone apps are leaking data you did not authorize

Security researchers, after analyzing more than 1000 mobile apps, have found that many collect and transmit data to third parties even after you have denied them permission to do so during set up. One example is AccuWeather, an app that keeps transmitting your location even though you have denied it that permission. Third parties using the data are, of course, advertisers, and allegedly, the federal government for tracking immigrants. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The evidence is growing daily that new tech needs limits, clear standards, easy to understand data permission dashboards, and a body enforcing adherence to these policies. This is the role of government agencies such as the FTC and the FCC, but are these agencies too mired in Capitol Hill politics to assert needed leadership?

Sony PlayStation V faces market dilemma

The PSV, the next generation game console from Sony, will be the most advanced console hardware ever sold, with boosted memory, fast graphics and expensive solid state storage. The component costs of the device are estimated to be $450, well above the price of the prior generation PS4, which retailed for $399 before discounting. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: The console market faces a crossroads, as cloud based gaming from Google, Nvidia and possibly Amazon (Apple’s Arcade focused on a different type of gamer) offer serious threats to console makers. It has been speculated that the end of the console is near. Sony, seeking to give gamers an experience better than they can get from cloud games, has created a premium device but now must price it higher than console buyers’ expectations, or take a loss on the device. What do you do when much of your loyal market is moving to the cloud? It’s time for Sony to say goodbye to the budget minded gamers — let them go to the cloud. Sony should rev up the PSV with the very fastest, hottest hardware and raise the price to take its position in the only place the device can survive — providing the “Lexus” experience for more affluent game players. It is time to lower sales projections and milk profits from the endangered console.

Half of homes will have cut cable by 2024

Roku, the streaming video enabler, outperformed expectations in the quarter just ended, buoying its stock 7%, and credibility, even further. The company predicts that half of U.S. homes will not have a traditional cable pay TV subscription in four years. Roku is an enabler of this transition, making old TVs internet-capable. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The reinvention of TV is happening faster than we may have expected, and the results are better TV — TV on our time, with bundles of services (the new channels) that we ourselves choose, and programming far better than anything seen before. As it will be many years before all of our old TVs are replaced with internet-ready smart TVs, Roku has a bright future, and has time to figure out what it will be in its next generation. Meanwhile all homes need to upgrade their patchy internet service to support many video streams all day throughout the house.

Bezos wins one round in the Amazon vs. Trump battle

As you recall, Amazon cried foul at the Department of Defense’s award to Microsoft of the $10 billion JEDI contract to put the military on the cloud. Amazon claims that Trump manipulated the process to tweak Bezos, whose Washington Post has been highly critical of the president. Amazon filed suit in court and won an injunction. The injunction, however, comes with a requirement that Amazon be prepared to pay $42 million in case it was determined that the injunction was unnecessary. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The chances that Amazon will get back into this contract are slim, however the fact that Amazon won an injunction is remarkable. If the courts find evidence that the president directly influenced the DOD’s process, then what other unsuccessful vendors of government contracts will claim that a brush off of their CEO by the Donald requires a review?

 

Coronavirus takes down Mobile World Congress

Coronavirus could topple the largest telecom trade event in the world

Mobile World Congress, hosted each February in Barcelona, has grown to be the largest telecom and phone related conference, bringing over 100 thousand visitors from around the world and pushing Barcelona to its limits. Due to concerns about coronavirus, many major sponsors and participants have backed out of the event, including Nokia, Siemens, Ericsson, Amazon, Vivo, LG, Facebook, Sony, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and BT. Organizers decided on Wednesday to cancel this year’s event. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The damage of the virus to this industry fixture could be fatal. With two weeks to go before the event, it is nearly impossible for the organizers, the GSMA trade organization, to curtail costs on venues, fixtures, signage, and vendor contracts. Partial payments by sponsors will not be adequate to stem losses, requiring the operators to declare Force Majeure to extract full payment. Hopefully this disaster will not do what the PC bubble of 2001/2002 did to Comdex, the largest tech tradeshow of the time. Comdex had a recession-related off year in 2001 and was never able to recover, shuttering after its 2003 edition. MWC, unlike Comdex, has remained highly relevant, but a strange thing happens when people skip a mainstay trade event and determine that their business didn’t suffer for the absence.

Samsung’s Unpacked event reveals new devices

The new products released at Tuesday’s event include:

  • Galaxy Z Flip — the $1400 foldable phone that we have been waiting for.
  • Three new Galaxy S20 phones now supporting 5G ($1000 to $1400)
  • Galaxy Buds+ – Samsung’s answer to AirPods but with 11 hours of battery life

TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Samsung’s great looking products continue to be industry leaders and the Galaxy S10’s photos are shockingly great. If the S20 has improved the camera further, then arguments for owning a separate camera device are just about over.

App determines if you have been in contact with coronavirus 

China turns to technology to contain the coronavirus. A number of agencies have developed an app that determines if the user has been in close contact with someone who has the virus, or with someone who has been in close proximity to someone with the virus. The app uses data from popular WeChat and QQ apps, which contain location and contact information for users. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The effectiveness of this app in helping slow the spread of coronavirus will offer insight on the value of sharing location and private contact information. In China, choosing not to share this data may not be an option, but in public debates about the circumstances in which sharing personal data with government bodies should be required, this will provide an important new talking point.

Just how much has TV watching changed?

According to Neilsen, the use of streaming video services has nearly doubled in two years. In 2019 532 original scripted programs aired on TV and 646,152 unique program titles were accessible on a streaming or over the air service. 60% of consumers have more than one streaming service, and nearly half of adults 18 to 34 claimed to have more than two services. It appears that new services are additive — not cannibalizing on the existing two or three services. Hollywood Reporter

dis-rup-shun: This is the golden age of television. Not only are consumers able to watch what they want, when they want, on any device they want, but their insatiable appetite (demand) is driving the supply of programming to unprecedented levels, and that volume of content is forcing studios to compete on quality. And quality is what we are getting, but the bigger question is will the streaming business model support the billions that are being spent on programming? At some point, consumer appetites are satiated and streaming channels are caught in a price war. Such a time appears to be at least a couple of years into the future. In the meantime, binge away.

Equifax hack unveiled

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

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

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

What you need to know about the Internet of Things

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

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

Sony Pictures Exec hired to run Amazon Prime Video

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

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

Microsoft’s first Android phone is spotted

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

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

 

Autonomous vehicle enthusiasm waning

Money flow is moving from autonomous to electric vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus could delay tech products for rest of year

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

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

Apple fined $27M in France for throttling

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

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

 

Disney Plus is a smash hit

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

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

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

Smart speakers still not used for purchases

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

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

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

Would you consider a separate camera?

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

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

Sunrise alarms — better than smartphone alarm clock

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

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

Amazon’s cash cow

A stellar quarter for Amazon

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

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

Your thermostat called the repairman

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

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

A Facebook control panel for personal data

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

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

Ring’s attempt at better security

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

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