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.

Machine Learning capable of chronic disease prevention

AI used to prevent kidney failure

Alphabet’s AI division, Deep Mind, worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to develop an algorithm that accurately predicts kidney injury up to two days before it occurs. Kidney injury is an often fatal condition frequently occurring among hospital patients and difficult to detect until its onset. The algorithm is effective at identifying patients who are highly likely to have kidney damage in time to effectively treat them. Financial Times

dis-rup-shun: This exciting use of machine learning, improperly termed AI, relies on vast amounts of hundreds of patients’ records to ‘feed’ the algorithm. This same analysis is promising in detecting many other diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease and others, and will eventually become the primary form of diagnosis, relying primarily on data and secondarily on trained medical professionals. This transformation of the medical industry and relief from a shortage of medical professionals, however, will be stunted by the problem of patient privacy. In order to build effective data sets that are the foundation of detection algorithms, tens of thousands of patient records must be de-personalized for protection of privacy — a thorny issue that HIPPA is designed to prevent.

Consumers tire of expensive phones — leading to softer tech economy 

Consumers were raised on carrier subsidized handsets — meaning a new phone required only a few hundred dollars out of pocket. Given that the latest smartphones from Apple and Samsung cost around $1000 and are no longer carrier subsidized, sales are slowing. Apple’s sales are down 15% and Samsung 11%, according to a number of sources. Consumers are increasingly embracing less expensive phones made by Chinese companies Xiomi, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. Huawei, despite sanctions from the U.S. government, has achieved a worldwide market share of 15%, a sliver behind Apple’s 16%. ExtremeTech

dis-rup-shun: We have seen cellphone incumbents Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry rise and fall in stunningly swift succession. Surely Apple and Samsung won’t miss the call to offer more variety of price points and let upstart “value players” quickly grab market share, followed by growing consumer approval of the new brands. In the cutthroat electronics business, fast is often not fast enough, and smartphones are a very large driver of the tech economy and associated stock prices.

The confusing world of streaming music players 

Selecting the right streaming music speakers for the right setting is increasingly difficult with many new form factors and options. Wired profiles the major options from Sonos, with prices from $50 to $1100.

dis-rup-shun: As a teenager, the holy grail of music enjoyment was owning a giant receiver (what’s that?) and speakers that were at least waist high. Today, the majority of music fans don’t understand file compression and the loss of high fidelity that came with digital music, and very few understand the best architecture for a whole home audio system. Wired or wireless? Digital to analog or all digital? Sonos is the new Bose, and all but very discriminating aficionados will be content with a digital streaming music player.

Walmart discovers $10 billion app

Walmart misstep turns to $10 billion gain

Walmart, in an acquisition questioned by many, acquired, for $17 billion, an Indian e-tailing company, Flipkart. Last year’s acquisition was seen as a misstep given vast cultural differences between the companies and Walmart’s distance behind Amazon in e-commerce. Recently, however, Walmart discovered that the acquisition’s subsidiary, payment app PhonePe, has experienced 77% growth in the past year. The payments company is riding atop of rapid growth of Indian consumer use of payment apps. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: Walmart needs a little luck as it struggles to catch Amazon in the online retailing race, but finding it has control of one of the fastest growing payment apps in India could open new lines of business for the company that has mostly struggled to gain traction outside of North America. As mobile payment apps quickly become preferred forms of commerce outside of the U.S., Walmart can build on its strong position in India.

Attorney General Barr decides to take on Big Tech

After a number of controversial testimonies, the U.S. Attorney General has decided to investigate if Big Tech has become anti-competitive. Stock prices of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple fell 1% in extended trading. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If the determination of anti-competitive is having a “dominant market position,” then Google search dominance will be a problem, as will Facebook’s dominance in social networking with not only its Flagship, but its owned subsidiaries of Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon’s domination of ecommerce will be hard to dispute.

Honeywell T9 smart thermostat full on features, light on design

Resideo’s newest smart thermostat, branded Honeywell T9, has remote sensors that go beyond Nest and Ecobee by measuring both temperature, presence and humidity. Despite the strong feature set, the device lacks the sleek industrial design of leading competitors. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: Despite Honeywell being the best recognized brand in residential HVAC controls, it has struggled to grasp the importance of cutting edge design and to shake off its industrial heritage. As the smart home struggles to move from Early Adopter to Early Majority, engaging the young professional, tech savvy buyer who considers aesthetics as important as features, is critical and appears even more important than brand recognition.

Electric Ford F-150 pulls a train

Ford sold 1.1 million F-150 pickup trucks last year. The company released a video showing a prototype electric F-150 pulling a train load of F-150s (42 trucks). Ford believes that consumers perceive EVs to have less power, hence the towing demonstration. Ars Technica

dis-rup-shun: Global share of electric vehicles of all vehicles was up 54% in 2017, and is expected by Statista to make up 14% of all U.S. vehicles sold by 2025. Government policies, providing incentives for electric car buyers, has been critical to sales growth. Now car makers are offering some exciting electric options. Expect ride sharing apps to offer an electric vehicle option, as soon as there are enough on the road to enter the ride share pool.