Best Buy resurgence bucks the Amazon Effect

It’s the experience, stupid!

Best Buy was believed to be on death row only a handful of years ago, as similar big box stores such as Toys ‘R Us bit the dust and blamed the Amazon Effect. Best Buy’s sales are on an uptick. Its success is attributed to three things that are not easily available online: a well-lit, attractive place to see and touch products, knowledgeable sales people, and the ability to pair a sale with an installation appointment by the Geek Squad. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The call for experiences is all around us. It’s the only reason that new malls are still being built, new restaurants are opening weekly and movie theaters, despite exorbitant ticket and refreshment prices, are still selling out. It’s why Apple stores are often packed to capacity. Experience is something that Amazon has not yet been able to offer on its website, and the reason that the online king is increasingly opening brick and mortar stores.

AI employed to sort your old Lego collection

In an ingenious display of AI, or more specifically, a convolutional neural network, Daniel West has developed, out of Legos, a machine for sorting any Legos that the computer powering the system has ever seen in a 3D rendering. See it sort on YouTube. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: This demonstration is a great visualization of how AI and object recognition can transform processes in a manufacturing facility, an airport baggage belt, a pill dispensary, or many other applications. The fact that it is made of and for Legos also reveals that the toys of tomorrow also need to include software components. Kids of tomorrow will be snapping the Lego AI module onto the Lego platform and solving many of civilization’s toughest problems on the floor of their rooms. Toys and entertainment need to keep apace of flourishing minds and their craving for powerful tools.

Newer, cheaper self-driving tech on the horizon

A start up called Aeva, founded in 2017 in Mountain View, California, has attracted the attention of automaker giant, Volkswagen. The company employs a technology called silicon photonics that results in an autonomous package in the $500 per car range — far cheaper than current offerings in development. Volkswagen is considering implementation of the technology in the resurrection of its iconic VW van, called the ID Buzz vehicle. CNBC

dis-rup-shun:  Competition once again proves that more nimble players will increase the rate of development of a new technology. If you aren’t familiar with Christensen’s classic Innovators Dilemma, this is an example of emerging companies being out-innovated. With more players offering more affordable paths to the goal line, autonomous cars may be on the road in four to six years.

Smart home product makers waiting for privacy guidance

TechCrunch has inquired of smart home makers if they have a stated policy and report for what personal data has been requested by and or released to law enforcement agencies. Amazon, Facebook and Google/Nest all disclosed any government requests in their respective transparency reports. Apple stated that due to the fact that all data collected is anonymized, no such report is necessary. Other popular device makers have not produced transparency reports.

dis-rup-shun: The debate about the legality and morality of providing personal data in criminal cases will endure until the end of time. The best examples we have from our past are the most personal high tech device our society has enjoyed over the past 100 or so years — the telephone. The use of phone records in criminal cases is well established and will likely set the legal standards for smart home devices. Companies such as Google who want to personalize and monetize personal data will face increasing pressure to anonymize data, like Apple, and will find themselves at the middle of this debate for years to come.

Best Buy folds branded smart home line

Best Buy pulls the plug on its own smart home

Best Buy’s house brand, Insignia, announced on its website, that the company has discontinued its Insignia Connect products, which consist of smart plugs, IP camera, light switch and a refrigerator/freezer. Except for the IP camera, the other devices will continue to work, but will not connect to an app. The article does not suggest that Best Buy will discontinue selling the plethora of smart home products from other manufacturers that now make up a large part of its shelf space. Wired

dis-rup-shun: What’s the problem with smart home products? The industry analysts continue to forecast strong growth (IDC – 23.5%, Forrester – 26.2%, Security Sales & Integration – 31%, McKinsey – 31%), yet Best Buy joins Lowe’s as two big retailers who have pulled the plug on their own branded systems. Best Buy, by the way, is the same company that paid $800 million to acquire another form of smart home products — Great Call, makers of devices to connect seniors to family, friends and care givers. One of the clearer answers to the smart home riddle is that consumers buy solutions to problems, and home automation is not a mass market problem. Home security, remote monitoring and safety of seniors, and utilities needing to save energy are large scale problems that smart home products and systems solve. A number of companies, including, have forged relationships with new home builders such as Toll Brothers who have found that home automation increases home value and who will lead a gradual transformation to making automation a new home standard. Much of the success of smart home is the result of single products such as door bell cameras, smart speakers, and smart thermostats, that are both cool and helpful in solving point solutions. These hot products, however, are DIY install products. When people want a whole home system integrating multiple devices, they are more inclined to call a home systems integrator than to put a system together themselves, as big retailers have discovered.

Facebook creates Venmo-like payment system

In an effort to link Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, the company will equip all of those applications with a common pay system. This pay method is separate from Calibra, which is part of the doomed Libra cryptocurrency consortium. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Facebook serves a majority of social media users, so it makes sense that a common pay platform will be convenient, but what about the Facebook trust factor? As reported Monday, Facebook’s tarnished image is hurting its success in new product areas. If the Facebook brand has some rot, isn’t tying the company’s brands together a bad move?

Tesla will open fourth Gigafactory in Berlin

Musk stated that he intends to sell more Teslas in Europe, and appears to be following through with his intentions. The factory will be located near Berlin’s new airport, and will be in addition to factories in Reno, Buffalo and Shanghai. While sales of Teslas were down in the U.S. for Q3, sales in Europe have been trending upward for the last three quarters. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Musk is out to change the world, and despite some bumps in the road, he is well on the way to making Tesla a global brand. With manufacturing in three continents with high interest in electric vehicles, the company will continue to disrupt traditional automakers and, very likely, will be acquired by another global brand, as developing new car models, especially with a completely different engine, is a huge undertaking for traditional players. Many existing car companies already have electric cars at the dealer or in the pipeline. Perhaps a Tesla company buyer will come from another industry. Virgin Auto or Amazon Auto, anyone?

Disney + Streaming Service is live and ready for your credit card

Disney’s new streaming service is up and running, and has the advantage of content from the Mouse House, from Pixar, National Geographic, Fox, Marvel and Star Wars. Not only does the company have a content advantage over new and incumbent streamers, it also has a technology advantage, having purchased BAMTech in 2017 — an expert in streaming content infrastructure and encryption. Wired

dis-rup-shun: As stated many times on this site, Netflix has a serious battle on its hands as its future relies on the difficult task of creating a long string of big hits. Disney + must also keep the hits coming, but it has the advantage of leveraging many beloved franchises for an infinite number of sequels and prequels. Netflix is a beloved brand which will likely not be displaced, but subscriber growth will likely be more difficult and the costs of operations, thanks to expensive original content, will continue to rise.