Apple to build smarter devices

What does Apple’s acquisition of mean?

Apple has acquired, for an estimated $200 million, The company was spun off from the Allen Institute, and began to create a process for making machine learning more efficient so that less powerful edge devices can run artificial intelligence. This may signal Apple’s deeper investment in the Internet of Things (IOT) and/or smart home products. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The next wave of consumer technology is making connected devices much smarter, so that doorbell cams can recognize faces and let you know if your mail man is at the door, or if it is a total stranger. Machine learning is taking place mostly in the cloud, so this move by Apple signals the company’s desire to build smarter products, and differentiate through machine learning. Two contradictory trends are taking place at the current time: edge devices getting smarter and the arrival of 5G, which makes connecting devices to a smart cloud faster and ultimately cheaper. The net effect of faster connectivity to a smart cloud and smarter devices will likely be some amazingly powerful and innovate devices touching our lives at home, in the car, on the go, and at the office.

Alphabet joins trillion dollar club

Google parent Alphabet is now valued at over $1 trillion, joining Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, companies that have all, at one time, broken the trillion mark. Together Big Tech (including Facebook) make up 17% of the value of the S&P 500, up from 11% in 2015. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While Big Tech is in the sights of regulators, both Federal and state, the companies continue to rapidly grow, crushing smaller companies while acquiring others (see above). The economic engines of GAFAM are some of the biggest job creators, while crushing traditional markets such as print and TV advertising, shipping, brick and mortar shopping, and smart devices, to name a few. The concept of creative destruction is taking place rapidly, and the question is, to what extent should our government regulations protect smaller interests as Big Tech explodes in revenue, influence and value?

Best earbuds for runners

It’s the new year and most of us are resolved to get in better shape. The days of wired earbuds are over, so what is the best earbud product for vigorous exercise? This CNET review looks at 11 possibilities for those most concerned about fit, noise cancellation, water proofing, or prefer an over the head and even glasses configuration.

dis-rup-shun: The hottest product for sale over the holidays was Apple AirPods, with people lining up before stores opened daily in hopes that a new shipment arrived before Christmas day. Investing in things that likely fall off, however, is not helpful and in the gym, being tethered to a treadmill, Peloton or just staying connected to a smartphone with wires is so 2010s.

Kings of the Castle latest Apple Arcade game

Kings of the Castle by Frosty Pop is the newest addition to Apple’s $4.99 per month all you can play gaming arcade service. CNET

dis-rup-shun: According to CNET, Apple’s new gaming service is off to a good start. Apple chose a different path from Google and its Stadia service, which is focused on more serious, traditional gamers. Apple’s Arcade is going for growth by converting casual gamers — people that don’t think of themselves as gamers — into fans of the service. The simple and engaging titles on Arcade are good ways to get another $5.00 per month, of $60 per year from the iPhone faithful, pumping up revenues from the same platform with a host of new services, including gaming, news and Apple’s new credit card. Building new revenues on existing platforms is how Apple the company will continue to grow despite maturing products.


ATMs of the future recognize your face

ATMs in Japan use facial recognition, QR codes and AI

NEC’s new line of ATMs are more secure and efficient, in terms of power consumption, self-diagnostics, and currency requirements. The devices authenticate users with facial recognition, then send a QR code to the customer’s smart phone that serves as the key to the transaction. AI tracks the patterns of customers and anticipates currency requirements, while better managing the power requirements of the cash dispensers. Enterprise IOT Insights

dis-rup-shun: Efficiencies will be another benefit of machine learning in everyday devices — anticipating needed maintenance and supplies (like cash). The idea of sending users a unique token for each transaction — in this case a QR code — increases security, making it tough to rob someone’s account without both their face and their smartphone (and fingerprint). Expect to see these technologies in global ATMs in the 2021 and 2022 time frames.

Verizon will bring 5G Home Internet to U.S. cities

Verizon announced that wherever it offers mobile 5G (for your smartphone and your car), it will offer 5G home Internet (replacing your home router). Initially priced at $70 per month, the service will provide really fast service for not much more than people are paying now. Ars Technica

dis-rup-shun: Today, your Internet provider has to drop a line to your home and install a router. Despite the rapid pace of technical innovation, you don’t get an updated router unless you complain, or until you have had it for five or six years. With 5G Internet, your provider just ships a modem to your home and you plug it in, and you have Internet speeds only offered by a few wired modems today. It costs the provider less to provision, and gives you the latest technology. While not likely to be available in rural areas, 5G will make access points in cities super fast, and competition from AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint will keep prices down. Cable modem-based services from vendors like Comcast will reportedly brand Verizon’s service as their 5G option.

Spain, SEAT and Telefonica leverage drones, 5G for safety

Spanish government agencies, along with car maker SEAT and Telefonica, have proposed and are testing a system to alert drivers of dangers on the road. Using a drone to spot road hazards and 5G to link cars to the cloud, drivers will be informed of hazards before they reach them. Enterprise IOT Insights

dis-rup-shun: The applications for 5G are almost unlimited, and connecting cars will be a major driver for 5G. For safety applications such as this, the question is who will pay for them? As the feature will initially be available only to owners of cars made by SEAT (a subsidiary of Volkswagen), it is unlikely that Spain’s government will cover the cost, and phone company Telefonica will not. At some point, auto customers will be accustomed to paying a monthly connection fee for cars, and perhaps this is best rolled into the cost of the new car so customers will not object to one more monthly fee.

Apple’s low price iPhone 11 selling well in China

Despite the recent struggles between China and the U.S., China’s initial orders for the low cost iPhone 11 are strong. Apple’s shipments to China dropped 14% in Q2 of this year, so Apple needs a win with the new generation of iPhones. Of all pre-orders through a Chinese Apple reseller, 60% were for the lower priced model. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Smartphone sales are a global economic indicator, and Apple’s sales have sputtered in 2019. Given that the flagship models are priced at more than $1000, the handset refresh cycle has slowed. Apple has wisely decided not to cede the mid-market to competitors and is fighting for relevance in this larger market. It is important to see the world’s leading consumer tech company keep sales strong.

5G: the end of home Internet frustration

Cable alternatives coming soon

Many people complain about sporadic Internet and Wi-Fi service at home, and many people have only one or two broadband provider options. Wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile will soon be viable options for home broadband, providing a wireless 5G modem to replace your cable box or home router. 5G provides wireless data service at speeds of 1 to 1.8Gbps through a small modem attached to the side of your home or apartment. CNet

dis-rup-shun: 5G will be a game-changer in that it will increase the number of carriers competing for your home broadband service. Current equipment fees are high, but the service does not rely on wiring from the street to your home, so in theory, infrastructure is less expensive. Streaming Netflix and listening to Pandora on multiple devices should be easy and fast, as capacity exceeds most current broadband modems. Expect to see the traditional carriers offer some great deals to keep you from switching when 5G rollout starts on a broad scale.

Toyota using Olympics to showcase future of transportation

Toyota will use the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics to showcase new vehicle concepts, from scooters, to people movers, to electric cars. 3700 vehicles will be provided for the event, 850 will be electric. Toyota’s early lead in electric cars has been obscured by luxury models from Tesla, GM and others, but will release six new electric models in the next five years. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: As Gen Zers are not buying cars at the rate of their predecessors, auto makers are getting aggressive about redefining their business. The rise of electric, autonomous, green, ride sharing, and the high cost of ownership are hammering traditional car buying habits, and Toyota and others are in the process of redefining their roles as providers of conveyance, not just automakers.

LinkedIn training non-technical workers to become coders

There are nearly 500,000 unfilled computer programmer jobs in the U.S. The U.S. immigration policies have increased the talent deficit since 2017. LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, has initiated training programs and is recruiting workers from the food service industry, veterans and mothers, to help solve the labor shortage. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: AI is changing the economy, eliminating many jobs but increasing the demand for technical skills. The impact of AI, named by some, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, requires new methods of training, educating and managing work forces. Companies such as LinkedIn that are proactive in re-training work forces, will have a competitive advantage as knowledge worker scarcity increases. Expect companies that re-train new employees to have higher retention, reversing the trend of shorter employee engagements and frequent job hopping.

Ford adds sensors to create the safer scooter

Ford’s Spin electric scooter company is adding sensors to scooters for a year long experiment at Virginia Tech. The year long project is designed to collect data on how people use scooters and how they get hurt. The outcome will determine what changes need to be made to scooters, sidewalks and laws to make the two-wheeling a mainstream mode of transportation. Wired

dis-rup-shun: People are turning to many substitutes for owning cars, and automakers such as Ford are determined to reinvent their products accordingly. Ford performed enough research on the Purdue campus in 2018 to justify a $100 million acquisition of Spin. Expect the product lines of the big three automakers to be highly diversified by 2023.

AI cares for persons with dementia

National Institute of Health taps AI for persons with dementia

People Power (the author’s employer) announced that the NIH is now offering, at no cost, to install smart home systems powered by AI that cares for persons with dementia. The sensor based system alerts care givers when an occupant wanders, experiences abnormal sleep or bathroom habits. The smart home solution is developed by People Power and University of California Berkeley’s Psychophysiology Laboratory, headed by Dr. Robert W. Levenson. PRWeb

dis-rup-shun: The annual costs of assisted living or nursing homes average nearly $90,000. A smart home system that costs a few hundred dollars once, and less than $100 per month to monitor, can save over $7000 per month. A few motion sensors placed strategically in a main room and a bedroom, paired with cloud analytics, quickly learns residents’ habits and notifies a circle of trusted friends when patterns deviate. The high correlations between changes in sleeping, bathroom, walking habits and illness provide an early warning to care givers who can take appropriate action to avoid hospitalization or institutionalization. AI data analytics determine which events are worthy of an alert.

Apple’s credit card squeezes AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile

Apple, with its new consumer credit vehicle, can dis-intermediate wireless carriers who use handset financing plans to lock in subscribers. Apple can more easily invert the relationship so that consumers are leasing phones directly from Apple. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: To go a step further, Apple, as banker and handset provider, is now in a position to resell network access from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint and become a virtual network (MVNO) operator. And a step beyond that, why wouldn’t Apple sell other commodities from its payment platform, including electricity and streaming TV services, to name a few? It’s a tough time to be an incumbent service provider.

Google’s Stadia game platform changes the electronic gaming economy

On Monday, Google demonstrated its cloud based streaming game platform, Stadia. Stadia, like Netflix, offers a library of game content that can be streamed to essentially any device, meaning your favorite games can follow you across various devices as you move about your day. The entry level service is free, with premium offerings for better graphics and premium titles. The $135 billion electronic gaming industry is projected to more than double to $300 billion by 2025. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The gaming economy, like most, has segments ranging from hard core enthusiasts to casual, occasional gamers. While Google will likely not disrupt the hard core gamers who spend big money on souped-up PCs, fast broadband speeds, and premium titles, it will grow the gaming industry by making many more titles available to the mass market, who may be tiring of streaming reruns of the Office. This shift will impact the already beleaguered console makers whose expensive devices and titles will be not be necessary for most young households looking for entertainment.

THX updates its Deep Note — still worth a trip to the movies?

THX has one of the most successful brand signatures — not just a logo, not a tag line, but an audio/visual experience. The new immersive trailer integrates 4K video with the signature acoustics and ends with the familiar synthesizer crescendo. See it here. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Despite many expensive home theater offerings, few can replace the body thumping exhilaration of the THX trailer. It is almost worth the price of a movie ticket, and serves as an important reminder that the in-theater experience is special. Many sources of entertainment compete for the entertainment dollar. Expect the theater experience to continue to improve to differentiate from the living room.

Wired cartoon of the day

Ikea doubles down on smart home

Ikea commits to become a force in smart home

Ikea revealed its smart home and IOT strategy by announcing a new smart home division that will aggressively ramp up its start in smart home products. Previously the company released a line of lamps with Sonos speakers, and a line of smart lighting before that. The company’s smart home division is an significant part of its future strategy. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Ikea’s announcement is another good sign for the smart home industry, as the consumer is being surrounded on all sides by all channels with IoT and smart home products. The smart home section in Best Buy has grown from a portion of an isle five years ago, to three isles in many stores. Smart home products are integrated into offerings from telcos, cablecos, security companies, energy providers, retailers, and now furniture makers. Ikea’s excellent design, value and user experience will further elevate the penetration of smart home technology into the mass market.

39% of execs believe China will lead AI

A survey of worldwide execs believe that China will overtake the U.S. as AI leader. 35% believe it unlikely. 50% of executives view machine learning and AI as the leading opportunity and cyber security risks are seen as the top operational challenge. Forbes

dis-rup-shun:  The sprint for world leadership in AI, and the neck and neck contest between the U.S. and China will make for blazing-fast acceleration of technology over the next decade, at least. The contest will create thousands of jobs as well as hopefully displacing fewer. Unfortunately, the contest will include development of increasingly powerful smart weaponry, and, sadly, more sophisticated hacking and cyber attacking technology.

AI changes the course of chip making

The race for AI includes implementing deep learning, or a process whereby AI processes are better with more data. Processing massive amounts of data to make quick and informed “decisions” requires math capable CPUs. For this reason, graphics processors (GPUs) from companies such as NVidia, have enjoyed significant demand for AI. New chip company Cerebras has announced a chip the size of an iPad itself, 56 times the size of NVidia’s most powerful GPU. With 1.2 trillion transistors, compared to NVidia’s 21.1 billion, Cerebras is a supercomputer on a chip. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Autonomous cars, planes and drones, for a few examples of IoT,  have to process thousands of data points and instantaneously adjust to changing external conditions. The compute power required to do so accurately is significant and, quite frankly, no one will trust these new vehicles until they are proven to respond flawlessly. Expect at least two Cerebra scale CPU’s — one primary and one redundant, in critical applications.

Microsoft hires former Siri chief

Bill Stasior, former head of Apple’s Siri products, was previously a senior executive at Amazon. Microsoft’s answer to Siri, called Cortana, was unbundled from Windows 10’s search box last year. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do in the areas of voice, as Cortana is not found in many devices and without a force in the smartphone or smart speaker market, Microsoft has mostly missed the voice interface race. Microsoft’s smart home and IOT strategy includes a number of investments in AI and machine learning and has likely tapped Stasior to make voice a key part of future Windows versions, as well as some new products from Microsoft. Expect a new version of voice control to show up in Microsoft devices such as XBox, keyboards, mice, and, of course, Surface tablets and notebooks in about a year.

Google is following you, everywhere

How to control Google’s tracking of your every action

As we all know, or suspected, Google follows what apps we use, what we do on those apps, what devices we use, what we purchase and where we go (or where our phones go). Wired provides simple instructions to limit or disable those functions without pulling the plug on your online life.

dis-rup-shun:  Information is power and consumers are loading Google, Facebook, Amazon, and to a lesser degree, Apple, with more power every day. Whose job is it to inform customers of the choices they are making everytime they install an app or visit a site? Perhaps the Bureau of Consumer Protection, a department within Federal Trade Commission, should take the lead in both informing consumers of their rights as well as requiring a common data sharing dashboard that must be used by all application providers. 

Walmart hires Google/Amazon Chief Digital Officer

Suresh Kumar, formerly of Google, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon, will be Walmart’s new CTO and Chief Development Officer, reporting to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Walmart, the company that used to be the most feared for controlling the way products are purchased, is now only in the top 5 of most feared, with Amazon clearly in first place. Walmart needs to continue to increase its online sales presence, and has a great deal of ground to gain in services, where Amazon is growing daily.

Is AI really going to wipe out vast numbers of jobs?

The Brookings Institute provides a detailed study of the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce. Key points:

    • Automation substitutes for labor
    • Machines substitute for tasks, not jobs
    • Automation complements labor
    • Automation can increase demand, creating jobs
    • Capital and labor augmentation spurs innovation
    • Tech possibility is not the same as tech reality

dis-rup-shun: So, will AI displace vast numbers of jobs? The answer is that it will displace many jobs, particularly the simpler, task oriented jobs like delivering food or answering simple support phone calls. Past productivity revolutions have increased demand for knowledge workers and AI will do the same, putting greater pressure on the knowledge divide between those educated and those not.