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.

Moto RAZR is back and beautiful

Moto RAZR is back, and looking sharp

The RAZR put Motorola on the top of the cell phone market, and provided some really strong years for the company. The new RAZR smartphone has a foldable screen, and looks really great, but is reportedly under-powered and overpriced at $1,500. It appears that the device is designed for early adopters who want to show off, but perhaps, if it succeeds in the market, Motorola will drop the price and go head to head with other Androids. Initially the RAZR is only available with Verizon. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: A couple of big questions are raised by the RAZR.  First, will foldable-screen based phones hold up to the wear and tear that users put them through? This is the first generation, so time will tell (soon). Secondly, are users ready to go back to the Motorola brand, a brand that was iconic a decade ago, but not a player in the most recent decade? If the RAZR flies, then expect Apple to add some folding devices to its mix next year.

Blood oxygen monitoring comes to Fitbit

If you own a Fitbit Charge 3, Ionic, Versa, Versa Lite, or Versa 2, then its time to update the software and see the new blood oxygen graph, and track your numbers throughout the day. Why should you care? Blood oxygen content helps identify sleep apnea, and if your levels are changing, there is a good chance that you are not sleeping well. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: Fitbit is now a Google company, and we can presume will be in the race for the long haul. How can Fitbit differentiate from the very successful Apple Watch? Both companies appear to be pursuing health and wellness monitoring as important selling factors, and both are following a similar design path. If Fitbit works to be the athlete’s preferred device, doubling down on training and performance measurement apps, it could hold on to a niche it has enjoyed since its inception, allowing Apple to be the general purpose, do-all device, but no doubt Apple will be quick to match Fitbit’s differentiating features.

The best Alexa-capable speakers

The smart speaker landscape is changing fast, and with this week’s announcement by Sonos that older gear will no longer be supported, it is time to consider an upgrade. Wired profiles the landscape and suggests the best solution for different applications. For those wanting to extend the life of their hi-fi or whole-home system purchased many years ago, the $35 Amazon Echo Input is a dirt cheap way to add both Alexa as well as streaming capabilities to your favored music system.

dis-rup-shun: Research continues to reveal that people are buying Alexa-enabled systems primarily to listen to music. Amazon has had moderate success in the streaming music business, and little success making Alexa a shopping interface. Perhaps being the new music system is a Trojan Horse tactic, and once people enjoy music mostly from an Alexa-enabled device, Amazon will find new ways to monetize the device and the services its supports. The company is already on a path to become the new home intercom system, and can easily become the replacement for the land line telephone system.

What to make of the Bezos phone hack?

If you missed it, Bezos’ phone was hacked in 2018 and the hackers revealed some nude photos of Bezos that he sent to his mistress. Bezos hired some investigators to determine how the phone was hacked, and the report implicated Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman. After the alleged hack, bin Salman’s regime murdered Washington Post (owned by Bezos) reporter, Khashoggi, who was critical of the prince. Wired

dis-rup-shun: There are more questions than answers here, and more issues that are not about technology than are. About technology, expect that any device that is connected to a network can and will be hacked. Time to get rid of any pictures that you don’t consider public. One reason that your smartphone wants you to update it frequently is that those updates fix security risks — so update all your devices regularly. And don’t hang out with the Crown Prince or the richest man in the world, as you could get caught in the crossfire.

Porch pirates beware

Porch pirate retribution bomb 

A former NASA engineer and YouTube personality, Mark Rober, has developed a new and improved porch bomb to serve justice to porch package thieves. The brown paper parcel, when opened, creates an explosion of bio-degradable glitter, fart scent, and is recorded and automatically uploaded to the web. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: With the proliferation of doorbell cameras combined with the popularity of social networks, it stands to reason that public shaming will eventually reduce doorstep theft. Rober’s device reminds us that packages of even moderate value will soon include tracking devices, and perhaps biometric locks that beam the opener’s fingerprints to the shipper for verification or, perhaps, investigation. 

The decade for wearables

According to research firm Canalys, wearables reached 45.5 million units shipped, growing 65% since Q3 of 2018. Fitbit, an early player, has been pushed down by the success of Apple and Chinese competitor, Xiaomi. Google purchased FitBit for $2.1 billion last month in a bid to keep up with this hot new product category before Apple and Xiaomi run away with it.



dis-rup-shun: The market for wearables was nascent before Apple brought its weight to the party and made smart watches main stream. The question, then, is if Apple will do the same for smart glasses. We know that the company has been working on smart glasses, but are they ready for the mass market, maybe late in 2020, or is this a 2021 product? Probably Apple alone can make smart glasses widely appealing to consumers, and drafting in the wake of Apple will increase the business of those players currently working on glasses — so Apple’s move would lift all boats.

The most popular games of the decade

SlotsTemple, a tracker of gambling, has summed up the decade’s most popular video games, based on user feedback. The best selling title of the decade? Grand Theft Auto V. The most popular genres are action (36%), RPG (23%), Platform & Adventure (18%). The best selling console was the PS4, having sold 102.8 million units. 

dis-rup-shun: The question at the close of the decade will be, can Apple and Google generate significant revenues from casual gamers, or by converting everyday people into casual gamers with smartphone all-you-can-game plans, and cross-platform technologies? While the companies strive to grow the casual gaming pie, my bet is that their success will come at the expense of existing casual games channels rather than by converting the un-gamed.



Textbook racket smashed by Internet

Internet crushes textbook racket — schools next

The textbook industry has long been controlled by giants such as McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who have charged outrageous prices and have practiced planned obsolescence (version revisions). A host of digital-first alternatives, including Pearson, are busting the traditional practices by offering digital editions, open-source textbooks (think Wikipedia) and subscription models (think Netflix). Research shows, however, that learning is less efficient with digital versus printed textbooks. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Another example of how the Internet resolves inefficient markets and creates competition where it is stifled. This shift will include new ways to deliver and complete homework and new teaching styles required to address the reduced effectiveness of digital versus tactile learning. Schools must adjust delivery and test styles before more efficient, online-only institutions figure out how to create new methods to deliver better performing (test-taking) students and disrupt colleges and universities altogether.

5G deployment has real estate implications

The CEO of American Tower, a REIT that owns and leases locations for cell tower operators, reports that 5G requires towers to be closer together, potentially increasing real estate demand. He reported that cellular data growth on 4G is 30% per year, supporting evidence that the market for cellular data services remains strong. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The merger of T-Mobile and Sprint promises significant investment in 5G. The fact that it will take nearly a decade to complete a national build-out of 5G facilities (when do we expect 6G?) offers a strong economic growth engine for telecommunications suppliers and carriers, and tower companies as well. A host of smart stock investments surround 5G deployment.

Good news for Fitbit fans

Fitbit is releasing a new device, the Versa, that looks and acts more like an Apple watch, but without the apps and without the price tag. What’s more, the device supports Alexa, besting the problematic Siri. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: The Apple watch is an amazing device, but many are content with specialty devices that are simple and inexpensive. Golf watches, running watches and fitness trackers can be had for quite a bit less than Apple’s or Samsung’s top of the line wearables. Having premium products and value products are typical of any category, and market share in both should increase — but pity those brands that try to play in the middle and aren’t cheap enough or aren’t good enough to compete at either end of the spectrum.

Cashless retail meets opposition

Cashless methods for purchases bring many conveniences, including no change, less fraud and theft, and high average transactions. A number of companies, including Amazon, have built prototype cashless stores (Amazon Go). About 25% of the U.S. population, however, is without banking services, or “underbanked,” excluding them from cashless outlets. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Technology, for all its many benefits, continues to add to the digital divide, leaving many further behind. Online banking can close the gap, providing a more secure place to hold money for those who live in unsafe places, or who may not have permanent addresses. Access to those resources, however, requires an expensive smartphone with a monthly fee. There is a significant opportunity to provide online banking services to those with poor credit and low savings, but it will require easy and secure access methods through basic touch tone phones and shared public computers.