Facebook’s Libra currency backers reconsidering

Facebook’s Libra currency unraveling

The Libra Association, featuring 28 companies supporting Facebook’s third-party currency, has been under attach since it was announced. PayPal announced that it was pulling out of the association and Visa and MasterCard are reconsidering their involvement. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The Libra Association is a fascinating idea, as a widely backed alternative currency would likely be less open to political manipulation and might be a vehicle to accelerate a real free market global economy. Big Tech is on trial in Washington, and the last partner you want to have, if you are seeking to escape Congressional insight, is Facebook. Sorry Facebook, you need to mend some fences and build some bridges before challenging global governments with your own monetary instruments.

New Google shopping feature provides daily price updates

Over the weekend, Google added a new feature that enables shoppers to watch pricing of a product from all online sources daily, and receive a report each day on any price changes. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Google has gained a shopping advantage over Amazon and could potentially steer shoppers away from Amazon if a competitor offers a better price. Meanwhile, Google will be tracking the sites shoppers visit and building algorithms to determine from which one people purchased. The company could potentially lure shoppers to its own shopping sites and drop prices on select products for interested shoppers. Could this be the beginning of custom pricing for individuals, based on a number of factors? Google certainly has the potential to sell the data to retailers who wish to provide specials on certain products in exchange for volume.

30 best video games of the decade

CNET ranks the 30 best video games of this decade — one which has seen drastic tech innovation, including graphic processors (GPUs), fast connectivity for multi-players, maturing of a new generation of consoles, and all you can eat gaming subscription services. CNET’s top 5 titles are:

  1. Breath of the Wild
  2. Dark Souls
  3. Minecraft
  4. Portal 2
  5. Red Dead Redemption

dis-rup-shun: Apple’s game service seeks to make everyone a gamer, or at least a casual gamer, with thousands of titles available for a single monthly price, and the ability to play across platforms. What you started on the smartphone on the train during your commute can be continued on the office PC during break time. The risky business of investing millions in a game title and hoping it will be a hit may change with subscription services, enabling a title to be instantly distributed to a large audience. 

Microsoft files patent for virtual reality mat

A new patent filed by Microsoft envisions a mat or carpet that is sensitized and connected to virtual reality devices, including smartphones and computers. With the mat, one might receive tactile feedback as you move around the room, providing haptic feedback to your feet. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Adding the floor to the experience is a logical extension of VR, but it seems like VR is going the way of 3D TV — plenty of offerings but not much consumer excitement. For hard core gamers, VR experiences are amazing, but the mass market consumer is yet to get excited about wearing glasses or headsets that take them completely out of real reality. Microsoft was also a leader in surface computing (the plane, not the PC/tablet device), that would turn any surface, like a table or counter top, into a computer but that technology has yet to become mainstream.

Automated pill dispensing and the future of remote care

Pria pill dispenser and communications station from Black & Decker

The familiar trusted household appliance brand has launched Pria, a tabletop medication manager and communications station that is part Echo Show, and part automated pill dispenser. Loaded with daily medications in a cartridge, the device reminds people that it is time to take a medication, and communicates with care givers through apps — notifying others if grandmother has not checked in, has not taken medicines, or has indicated that she does not feel well. Okpria.com

dis-rup-shun: Leveraging technology to increase care is a giant business that has really not yet begun. The economic pressures to provide more care for less, especially remotely, are enormous. Even CMS, the body governing medicare reimbursements, is warming up to paying for remote care. Connected health is a technology market opportunity that is, well, “huge.”

France says no way to Facebook’s Libra currency

Facebook continues to face opposition in Europe, with France taking the lead at pushing back on U.S. Big Tech. Facebook’s Libra private currency, an association of many companies,  plans to be based in Switzerland. France’s finance minister, with the support of the president of the European Central Bank, said Libra will not be developed on European soil. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Libra is ambitious, and the implications of an alternative currency supported by giants such as Facebook, Pay Pal, Visa and Mastercard is intimidating to central banks of any country, especially while those countries are simultaneously struggling to find the right level of regulation for Big Tech. Expect Big Tech to be locked, continuously, into complicated political wrangling with world government regulators from here on.

iPhone 11 camera features are giant leap, says analyst

This week’s Apple product announcement had no surprises, and most have lamented the lack of earth shaking news. Analyst Shelly Palmer broke from the pack by stating that Apple’s computational imaging — using software to coordinate images taken simultaneously through different lenses — will forever change journalism. iPhone 11’s lenses can record both audience and performer at the same time, and enable users to edit multiple images at once, turning amateurs into multi-channel video editors.

dis-rup-shun: The still image photography from the Samsung Galaxy S10 is shockingly great. With innovation by Apple and Samsung in smartphone cameras outpacing that of Canon and Nikon, we can expect more professionals to use smart phones for their trade and the prosumer category will continue to crowd out the professional photography segment. Camera lens improvements will be only incremental, so big innovation in photography will be from controlling multiple lenses with software. It is a tough time to be in the digital SLR camera business. Canon’s profits were down 64% last quarter.

Shelf scanning robots help brick and mortar retailers close data gap

Online retailers enjoy instantaneous data on when and how people shop. Brick and mortar retailers have to follow customers or record movements in stores to gain granular shopping behavior data. New robots that roam aisles, or drones that fly about shelves and use machine vision and RF scanning can close the gap and provide data that store clerks cannot. Bossanova, a maker of stock scanning robots has raised $100 million. Simbe Robotics has raised $26 million.

dis-rup-shun: Robots roaming the aisles in supermarkets, particularly during rush hour, will be annoying. Maybe the robots will also give free samples to increase their popularity among shoppers. The reward to consumers, however, will be to less frequently find an item out of stock, or to have similar items grouped together, once retailers get deeper insight on shopping patterns, resulting in higher revenue per cart or higher revenue per shopping minute. ZDNet

Is an uptick in PC sales an economic indicator?

PC sales are up, maybe

PC sales have been slowing as users rely on smartphones and tablets, but both IDC and Gartner analysts report an increase in PCs. IDC reports an increase of 4.7% and Gartner 1.5%. The firms have very different definitions of what is a PC. IDC counts Chromebooks but not Microsoft Surface Tablets. Gartner does not count Chromebooks, but does count Surface products. ArsTechnica

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft Surface has single-handedly brought a fringe of users who were Mac users but not in love with the MacOS back into the Windows fold. Surface is cool enough that a user can walk into a conference room in Silicon Valley and not receive the usual taunts from the Mac glitterati. Surface devices, except for the Go units, have keyboards and Chromebooks, which don’t run Microsoft software, have keyboards and are hinged. That said, PC growth is fueled by classroom success of Chromebooks and by the excellent design of Surface.

HeroLabs helps fight homeowners biggest enemy: water damage

HeroLabs, a UK startup, is developing Sonic – a water leak detector that attaches to pipes inside the house (underneath the kitchen sink) and “listens” for water movements throughout the home to identify leaks. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: As leaks are the biggest cause of insurance claims, cost effective, easy-to-install leak detection systems are theoretically more likely to gain a discount from insurance providers than a home security system. Even more, leak detectors that are connected to the cloud could be monitored by insurance providers, as those providers are the ones responsible for paying claims when water damage occurs. Expect property and casualty providers to be big players in smart home technologies.

Facebook attempts to explain Libra to Congress

The Libra Association has been summoned to Congress to explain the currency. The sophisticated crypto currency will be based in Switzerland and will conform to international monetary rules and will not compete or interfere with governments’ fiscal policies, the pre-released testimony states. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Congress has a tough challenge in that it must understand the impact, risks, and benefits of Libra or rely on consultants that do in order to properly respond, regulate, limit or prohibit the new venture. Like the rise of Uber, Libra will move far more quickly than legislators and will continue to redefine the rules of the monetary system. World governments need to rapidly understand from what dangers it must protect its own monetary systems.

A roadmap to Amazon’s next conquests

The seven industries Amazon will disrupt next

According to analyst firm CBInsights, the next targets for Amazon include the following:

The four industries certain to be disrupted by the Seattle giant:

  1. Pharmacies — Amazon has acquired Drugstore.com and PillPack. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Pharmacy middlemen (PBMs) and executives enjoying fat profits.
  2. Small business lending — Amazon knows the financial performance of thousands of small merchants that sell on Amazon.com. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Commercial and local banks.
  3. Online groceries — a notoriously difficult business, Amazon is now expert at both logistics and the retail grocery business from its Whole Foods acquisition. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Meal subscription services that charge a small premium for meal kits will find Amazon offering more choices for the same or less money.
  4. Payments — the company already owns Amazon Cash, Amazon Reload, Amazon Pay, and Amazon Prime Visa and will work hard to keep more deposits in Amazon accounts. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

And the industries that may be disrupted by Amazon:

  1. Mortgages — getting approved for a mortgage is a cumbersome activity, therefore ripe for disruption, and Quicken Loans is the leader in fast, online mortgages. Amazon understands online selling. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Not only mortgage originators, but the archaic title companies.
  2. Home and Garden — several companies are shipping plants and garden kits to new home owners, and this is a supply chain business. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Amazon needs volume and the mail order plant business may not be very reliable, so Home Depot and Lowe’s will continue to be the go-to companies for lawn and garden.
  3. Insurance — Amazon has a great deal of information about its members, especially Prime members, and can use this data to determine who the better risks are. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Insurance providers who are not profiling subscribers based on available data and therefore are slow to target the best customers they wish to keep for many years

Ride hailing in China takes a step up

Alibaba (think Chinese Amazon) has created an aggregation service which enables ride hailers (330 million in China) to summon a ride from a single app, rather than compare ride availability across the four major rideshare providers’ apps. The aggregator takes a share of the fare and simplifies the process of both getting a ride and, if you are an emerging ride service, gaining scale. China is raising the required standards for accreditation of drivers and autos, creating a shortage of drivers. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: U.S. and European local governments will be wise to follow China with higher standards for drivers and autos, as the demand for more drivers has degraded the formerly consistently delightful Uber or Lyft experience. Taxis are now looking better than they have in five years as many yellow taxis are now cleaner and mechanically equal or better than the average ride share vehicle. Ride share vendors should offer a new class of premium ride, such as ‘Uber Certified,’ which ensures a clean, sound car and a preferred driver.

Waze data shortens emergence response time

It turns out that Waze users are so good about reporting accidents, that Waze learns about a crash 2 minutes and 41 seconds before emergency responders are notified. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Here is yet another example of crowd sourcing from private enterprise functioning better than a government entity’s best and most optimized emergency system. If a free app can provide more accurate emergency data than the tax-payer funded 911 emergency system, then should the public expect that Facebook’s proposed private currency, Libra, can provide better warnings of financial meltdown, fraud or theft than the Federal Reserve Bank? Makes you wonder.

Should Facebook’s currency be blocked?

The implications of a non-government financial currency

On Tuesday Facebook and the Libra consortium officially announced their new financial currency. Already, government regulators are seeking to press pause on the project until some big questions can be answered. U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry , the top Republican on the House Financial Services committee, has asked for an inquiry, and European regulators have immediately expressed concern. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Policy makers’ concerns about a privately controlled currency are many, including how to handle fraud, how to prevent money laundering, how to ensure stability of existing financial systems, and how to maintain the ability to influence monetary policy when buyers and sellers could move to another system if it was more favorable. We can liken this privatization effort to creating a private version of the TSA in other parts of the airport, creating alternative mail carriers (think UPS and FedEx), building alternative power grids on new poles next to existing, or creating private armies that will be deployed when corporate interests dictate. Sometimes a private currency would be favorable, and other times disastrous, but what is certain is that it would greatly undermine governments’ abilities to manipulate currency and the economy through fiscal policy. The irony is that before Facebook got involved, cryptocurrencies have been operated under fairly shady circumstances and now that a well organized entity is entering the fray, governments are ready to take action.

U.S. gaming market larger than China’s

Since 2015, China’s gaming market has been the largest. Given a 9 month ban by China’s government on approving any new games, the $37 billion U.S. market will again exceed China’s in total value. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: China seeks to change its citizenry’s high rate of addiction to gaming with the temporary ban. Chinese leaders, however, are failing to see the high correlation between video gaming and technical fluency among youth. China is focused on becoming the global leader in technology and therefore should encourage youth to immerse themselves in Internet and console gaming, where technical creativity may blossom.

Smart plugs are easy, cheap and powerful

To experience the power and potential of a smart home, one can easily start with a voice assistant and their choice of an inexpensive smart plug – a device controlled through an app or voice assistant which can turn off appliances based on rules set by the user.  CNET offers a guide to smart plugs and their apps.

dis-rup-shun: Smart plugs are a powerful way to experience the convenience, extra sense of security, and energy savings of home automation. Having lights turn on and off when you are away from home, or turning off an always-on cable box in the wee hours can make a difference on the power bill. Most all appliances, in their next generation, will offer built in control features, but in the interim, smart plugs are highly effective.

Facebook enters the currency business

Facebook launches digital currency

Facebook and 27 other companies — many that are familiar brands in the finance, telecommunications and venture capital markets — are launching a digital currency called Libra. Unlike several popular currencies such as Bitcoin, Libra will be backed by a reserve of assets, will not be decentralized, and cannot be mined. Facebook assures the public that it will not use personal identification of Libra holders for advertising. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Facebook is already one of the largest countries in the world by population, so having its own currency is a natural evolution. The company is a long way from repairing its reputation for respecting privacy, making some suspicious about its monetary instrument. Crypto-currencies, however, have often been perceived as shady and a bit mysterious. Facebook, being a familiar brand despite recent events, is seen as far more regulated and will likely be seen as a safe dealer in new forms of currency, especially given the alliance it has formed with recognized brands.

U.S. approach to 5G will exclude rural coverage

5G is the future of telecommunications and the Internet of Things. The U.S. is fighting for leadership of the 5G build out as it will have implications for the country’s economy, defense and education. The U.S., however, has allocated only high band spectrum for 5G, whereas other countries are reserving mid-band spectrum for their future infrastructure. High band spectrum is more difficult and expensive to transmit. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Providing communications infrastructure for rural or sparsely populated areas has always been a money loser, requiring regulation and subsidies to offset costs. By building 5G on less efficient bandwidth, the U.S. costs for serving all of its population will be on average, higher, likely creating a greater divide between urban and rural populations. Space-based broadband, from networks of low orbit satellites being launched as we speak, could be a means for serving rural areas, but may also be a high cost solution.

Comcast adds gaze control to its TV platform

The ability to control a device by moving one’s eyes is gaze control — a new form of gesture control which serves people who are not able to use a remote control or speak to a smart speaker. Gaze control is now offered in Comcast’s Xfinity X1 remote control software. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Gaze control joins gesture control (moving hands) and voice control to make computing highly accessible to everyone, opening up new job possibilities for people with disabilities but also changing the way we interact with devices in our lives. If our hands are full, the room is noisy, or we wish to interact with devices without others noticing, we will choose alternative ways of device interaction. Expect many control and entertainment devices to offer multiple interfaces for interaction.

Palm offers unlocked tiny smartphone

Whatever happened to Palm? The company now offers a tiny-sized Android smartphone with fewer functions and shorter battery life for $350. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: With smartphone penetration nearly 80% in the U.S. and nearly 50% worldwide, the maturing markets are ripe for niche products. Going for a bike ride? Take your tiny phone. Going to the beach in just your bikini? A job for the tiny phone.  A black tie affair? That’s a job for a smartphone by Rolex or Gucci or… you get the picture.