Ready for a smarter lock?

Former Apple employees start a smart lock business

Level Lock is the latest entry into the smart lock business. The founders are former Apple employees who envision a smart lock that can be controlled by an app, by smart speakers such as Alexa, can be included into home automation scenarios, can be unlocked with a code texted to someone, and is backed by Walmart and Lennar homes. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: A few former Apple employees leave the company to create a far better version of an everyday household product that will sell for a premium. If the story sounds familiar, it is the story of Nest, which was quickly gobbled up by Google for $3.2 billion. Level Lock sounds like a great sequel, but this time big investors like Walmart and Lennar lined up early, possibly to keep the company from being swallowed up by Amazon or Google, or big lock makers such as Assa Abloy or Spectrum, who purchased August Lock and Kevo, respectively. Add in the growth of the AirBnB rental economy plus the rising demands of home health care, in which strangers will frequently enter homes, and the timing is good for Level Lock.

Google’s hardware party

Google unveiled several new products at a launch event in NYC. The new products include:

Pixel 4 Phone – selling for $799 or $899 for the XL version, implements a better camera, facial recognition technology, and gesture control.

Pixel Buds – Google’s answer to Apple’s AirPods, featuring BlueTooth distance of a football field or three rooms inside a building.

Pixelbook Go – starting at $649, is a souped up Chromebook that provides more memory and more processor for those that can live on a cloud based computing device.

Nest Mini (re-branding of the Google Mini smart speaker) – is $50, smaller, comes in bright colors, can serve as a home intercom, music player, or can be used to call people on their phones.

Nest Wi-Fi Router — priced at $269 for 2 or $349 for 3, are colorful small devices that spread Wi-Fi signal throughout the home by creating a mesh network. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Google’s hardware rollout has been, to date, a bit disjointed and it has definitely made some heavy handed moves with its integration of Nest products into the Google mothership. It is hard for the Big Tech companies to be all things, but it appears that they are all trying, with even Facebook now in the hardware business. Given the close relationship between devices and services, first manifest in the iPod and iTunes, it seems that each Big Tech company needs to ensure that its services will have a device home by building its own hardware. The dream of open systems in which any hardware device can run any software or service app (like an AM/FM radio or a WinTel PC) is once again under fire, as companies race to own complete product ecosystems.

TytoCare is a home health device that includes the doctor

TytoCare is a multi-purpose tool about the size of an orange, with multiple attachments to enable one to perform simple at home health tests. Tests include ear exam, heart rate measurement, temperature, lung and throat exams. The app connects the device to a doctor, who can either remotely take over the exam, or who can read data from the just-performed exam and make a diagnosis, including prescribing medicine. BestBuy Studio @ Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: When the first in-home thermometers were sold, people must have felt they were on the threshold of a technology breakthrough. Tyto is the new home thermometer, and for those with young children, the convenience is astounding. Devices like Tyto will contribute to the demise of the family doctor, who will now be bypassed by the rotating crew of corporate doctors at the other end of the TytoCare app. As mentioned previously, these new business models will make it easier for doctors to thrive in the world of expensive office rents, equipment and insurance.

Flexera survey spells trouble for enterprise IT providers

A study of anticipated IT spending shows that as computing moves to the cloud, makers of enterprise premise software, namely Oracle and IBM, may be big losers. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: Migration to the cloud is no secret, and a trend that started a handful of years ago. But legacy software and services providers may not have moved quickly enough to stem the rush of revenues to big cloud providers such as AWS, Microsoft and Google. What is not measured by Flexera is the fallout to IT consulting shops such as Accenture, HPE, Deloitte, etc. whose businesses may be under pressure from cloud companies who are good at packaging solutions with their cloud services. Why would an enterprise pay Accenture hundreds of thousands for a custom implementation when AWS could offer similar solutions-as-a-service rolled into the cost of computing time and data storage fees? It’s a fast changing landscape.

Streaming game of thrones: Viacom and CBS form latest alliance

Viacom and CBS align for battle in the streaming wars

Viacom and CBS announced their merger, providing a combined network with a vast content library, similar to NBC’s merger with Universal in 2004 and acquisition by Comcast in 2011. This will strengthen CBS’ streaming service, as the combined company owns 140,000 TV episodes, 36,000 films and 750 series. ViacomCBS is now in a better position to challenge Disney, Netflix, AT&T and Comcast in the streaming wars. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: A bit like GOT itself, the seven kingdoms are aligning to have a seat at the throne of your smart TV. A streaming service, be it from a cable network (Comcast), an over the top service (Netflix) or from a studio (Hulu) is mere commodity without unique content. To compete, you must purchase or create a production studio and build a library of popular content. Netflix changed the world by offering a new format (anytime TV) at a new price point. Others followed but found it hard to differentiate. Content differentiates, and now when cord cutters drop their pay TV subscriptions with AT&T or Comcast, there is a good chance they will subscribe to a streaming service partially owned by AT&T, Comcast, CBS, Disney, etc. Realignment of subscribers beats total loss of subscribers any day.

Nest accounts become Google on August 31st

Customer backlash prevented Google from cancelling support for third party devices that controlled Nest devices (through Works with Nest programs). On August 31st, only security support for Nest accounts will be provided, meaning that Nest accounts will work, but won’t receive any feature enhancements. But if you control a Nest device, like a camera or thermostat from a 3rd party app, don’t migrate to a Google account, as you will lose the ability to control your Nest devices from apps provided by third parties. CNet

dis-rup-shun: Confused? Nest is increasing its control of data created through the use of its devices, and is providing incentives for its customers to control home devices through its Google Home smart speaker devices. It is doing so, in part, by discouraging use of third party devices. This is a risky strategy for a number of reasons: 1) the smart home is way too big and diverse for a single vendor to dominate, and if one were to dominate, it would likely be an Apple or Samsung, who provide many more devices than Google/Nest; 2) Nest thermostats and cameras are strong selling standalone products, but if they don’t work (well) with other devices and hubs, there are many good alternatives and this move will ultimately hurt sales of Google/Nest products.

A side by side look at home Internet and Wi-Fi services

The largest Wi-Fi providers, by market share, are  Comcast, Charter Spectrum, AT&T, Verizon and Cox Communications. When selecting a provider, be aware of hidden fees such as modem rental fees, data overage fees, installation fees, and early termination fees.

ISPS: 100 – 150MBPS PLANS COMPARED

Comcast Xfinity Charter Spectrum AT&T Fiber Verizon Fios Cox Communications
Max download speed 150Mbps 3 – 300Mbps (same price for all plans in this range) 100Mbps 100Mbps 150Mbps
Max upload speed 10Mbps 1 – 20Mbps (same price for all plans in this range) 100Mbps 100Mbps 10Mpbs
Data allowance 1TB, then $10 / 50GB Unlimited 1TB, then $10 / 50GB Unlimited 1TB, then $10 / 50GB
Installation costs Up to $60 Up to $140 Up to $99 Up to $99 Up to $75
Promotional price $50 / month $45 / month $50 / month $40 / month $60 / month
Promotional period 12 months 12 months 12 months 12 months 12 months
Price after promotion $80 / month $66 / month $60 / month $55 / month $88 / month
Modem/router fee $13 / month $5 / month $0 $12 / month $11 / month
Early termination fee Up to $120 None Up to $180 None Up to $120

CNET

dis-rup-shun: Differences between services are subtle, unless you live in a household that watches many movies everyday, are running a compute intensive home-based business, or unless you are an online game player and every Mbps counts. Bundles with other services, like pay TV (unless you have already cut the cord), or streaming subscriptions thrown in for free, may be the biggest difference makers in your choice for next generation broadband service at home.

Have consumers lost excitement for smart home?

Hot smart home products are cooling down

Smart home hero products losing their luster as sales drop, says Thinknum. The report states that top selling smart products such as Philips’ Hue lighting system, Nest thermostat, Samsung’s SmartThings, as tracked by Amazon.com sales volume, have all fallen off the top sellers list. Ring doorbells, however, remain among top sellers.

dis-rup-shun: Crossing the chasm — selling beyond early adopters to early majority and mass market is a challenge for new product categories. Smart home products that are new, cool and convenient will continue to titillate consumers, but building these technologies into everyday systems such as air conditioning, lighting, washing machines and intercoms, rather than expecting mass market consumers to add on do-it-yourself kits, will signal the arrival of smart home for the masses.

Samsung warns of reduced profits 

Samsung warned that Q2 profit was off as much as 56% due to slowing smartphone sales, a lower demand for memory chips, and U.S. led sanctions against China’s Huawei. The company’s flagship Galaxy S10 smartphone has sold slowly. CNN

dis-rup-shun: The consumer tech economy is driven in large part by smartphones. Top of the line smartphones are simply the best ever made, with large enough capacity for all your photos and apps, outstanding cameras, and amazing screens. Phones that serve needs longer and that are no longer heavily subsidized by carriers have life cycles of 3+ years, changing the entire demand model. Both carriers and handset makers have created their own dilemma — changing the product and buying experience but expecting the same replacement cycle.

Navigating the challenges of travel with the right apps

Wired offers some travel tips, aside from suggesting that you sign up for TSA Pre-check. Finding cheap flights: Skyscanner, Google Flights and Scott’s Travel Scanner are good discount finders. Downloading Google Maps of your destination before you leave helps you avoid data roaming fees. Google Translate will help with language issues and if you are heading to Southeast Asia, you will want to grab Grab, the Asian equivalent for Lyft and Uber. App in the Air provides updates on delays and gate changes, and Mobile Passport Control is similar to Global Entry, providing you with expedited customs processing in (hopefully) shorter lines.

dis-rup-shun: Over 2.7 million apps are currently listed on Google’s Play Store. Travel apps fall into two categories: ones that help you shop across all vendors for the cheapest, closest, or most available, and those that help you quickly shop your preferred provider (American Airlines, Bonvoy Hotels, Avis Rental Cars). The ultimate success of brand marketing is to keep you shopping within one brand, making all the other apps irrelevant. Expect to see more loyalty points awarded within a vendor’s own app to keep you “at home.”

Planes that can land themselves anywhere 

Researchers at Munich’s Technische Universität München (TUM) have developed technology that enables an autonomous plane to land without ground to plane radio communications. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Commercial aircraft have employed autopilot features to assist with landings for many years. Unlike the system developed at TUM, today’s systems depend on a series of ground based radios, found only at larger airports, to guide the plane. The autonomous system enables a plane to land anywhere based on the “visual” capabilities of the onboard computer. This technology will be increasingly important to drones that will have to ‘spot’ good landing surfaces on your front porch, or to differentiate the sidewalk from the grass or planting bed.

A recipe to reverse tech decline

Make America tech again (MATA)

Here are depressing stats on the U.S.A.; the country ranks 25th in the world in R&D tax credits, is no longer in the top 10 in global innovation, is behind in the race for AI development, is behind in creating scientists and computer scientists, and is ranked #11 in world technology readiness.

Forbes provides specific instructions for government policy to reverse these trends:

  1. Implement a consistent data security and privacy policy similar to Europe’s GDPR standard. This provides a consistent standard for data protection and a guideline for enforcing violators.
  2. Use satellite technology to provide broadband to all citizens, and restore net neutrality.
  3. Increase the R&D tax credit to 25% to keep cutting edge tech development companies from setting up shot elsewhere.
  4. Increase annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) funding by at least tenfold.
  5. Healthcare must be pushed to adopt a standard for electronic health records (EHR) and must encourage the use of telemedicine and telecare technologies to lower costs and increase care across populations.
  6. Encourage the funding of digital technology to measure and analyze climate change and better quantify changes from year to year.
  7. Make it easy for knowledge workers to obtain H1-B visas (and their spouses).
  8. Increase competition within the Internet economy by shrinking the tech oligarchies.
  9. Spend generously on cyber security, increasing the budget by 25% per year until the problems diminish.
  10. Outline specific and substantial spending initiatives to lead in the development of artificial intelligence. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: Perhaps the U.S. Federal government can accomplish all of these objectives by breaking up the tech oligopolies, but rewarding the new baby techs lucrative contracts to accomplish these tasks, and giving them large tax credits and visa allotments. Break-ups could be bitter sweet launches into new businesses with new partners and plenty of government assistance.

Trouble on the horizon with fake nudes

A new app imagines photos of women with no clothes. The AI-powered app uses its database of images of nude women to find a best replacement for the clothed portions of the image. It only works for pictures of women. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: While this app may be the X-Ray glasses dreamed by many a schoolboy, it will get a lot of people in trouble. Scandal, libel, lawsuits. This may boost the tattoo industry as women feel the need to wear a “unique stamp” to disprove the authenticity of  fake nude photos.

Amazon using smart home as Prime Day feature

Amazon’s annual Prime Day campaign to pry open wallets which are generally funding other activities in July will include a number of smart home products from Nest, Ring, Echo, and others. The products will be offered at steep discounts.

dis-rup-shun: The smart home industry growth is currently attributed to the increasing availability of interesting ‘hero’ products like doorbells, IP cameras, and voice assistants. The big challenge, however, is converting the successful sales of end point products to systems that enable whole home functionality and a robust monthly service fee. A large number of companies including traditional home security players, as well as energy utilities, insurance companies, telcos, and retailers are determined to convert the 80% of the population without home security system, and the path to their wallets appear to be through cool, connected devices.

Over 25% of every day is spent viewing a screen

Daily screen time up to 6.3 hours

Mary Meeker’s annual report on tech trends provides some statistics on screen usage. Americans consumer a whopping 6.3 hours of digital media per day, up 7% from the prior year. Last year was the first that Americans spent more time on mobile devices than on TVs. While watching TV, 88% of Americans simultaneously used a mobile device. 41% of those viewers were using the mobile device to discuss the content with friends and family while 71% were looking up information related to what they were watching. Quartz

dis-rup-shun: Conventional television content continues to be less important and watching on-demand or live content on a mobile device has become a priority. While TV advertising revenues are down as a result, the importance of word-of-mouth (word-of-keyboard, actually) is increasing the value of the content. Content that evokes discussion on social media has a longer shelf life as friends and family, armed with recommendations and familiarity, are more likely to select the discussed content from a dizzying array of choices. The task for producers, then, is to create content that creates a social media response.

Verizon Smart Locator helps you find anything

The Smart Locator is a tiny device used for finding anything you lose frequently. Using Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and LTE, the $100 per year device will locate anything as long as it is within an LTE cell and the 5 day battery is still active. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: The Smart Locator is the essence of Internet of things, as it puts most anything on the Internet. For $100 per year, keeping up with something you value, like a pet, a purse, or a small child, this is a bargain. Most things, perhaps with the exception of small children, will have their own wireless radios in them in a year or two, but until then, the Smart Locator is a good option.

Smart Displays versus Tablets: which is better in the kitchen?

The new crop of smart displays from Google Nest, Lenovo, Amazon and JBL are optimized for the hands free and voice use in places like the kitchen, where ease of use and assistance with cooking and home controls is the objective. These devices run a version of Android called Android Things. Tablets, on the other hand, offer far more customizations, like running Netflix in the kitchen, while still responding to voice controls. These devices run a version of Android’s mobile OS. The difference in experience is significant and both offer trade-offs. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The question is, do our homes need a specialized screen, optimized for different rooms, like the kitchen, the shower, the bedside, or if a tablet located anywhere will do. Separate devices will be displaced by screens built into refrigerators, stoves, washing machines and wall switches, but at the rate of technological evolution, a 10-year-old smart refrigerator will become a dinosaur far more quickly than a dumb refrigerator. Expect built in screens in most new appliances to be as ubiquitous as their control knobs are today, while counter top screens will control and report on all of those smart appliances.

Practicing app hygiene makes life simpler

Clean up your phone

The average person launches 9 apps per day and uses 30 over the course of one month. Smartphones, however, typically have several pages of apps, well over one hundred in many cases. The problem with the old, unused apps is that they are not updated, and become security risks, memory hogs, and location trackers. Popular Science

dis-rup-shun: People purchased high tech tools to manage their lives. Now quality of life, like protecting privacy and un-complicating interactions with devices, requires management of devices. What technology will help us manage the devices that help us manage our lives?

 

HVAC dealer as smart home channel

Philadelphia’s Joseph Giannone Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning is selling smart home features as a way to increase peace of mind during summer vacation. Focusing on energy savings, leak detection, HVAC performance and lighting as security makes a trip to the beach that much more worry free. Yahoo

dis-rup-shun: Much of the industry is focused on the shootout between Google Nest, Amazon Ring and Alexa, and low-end security provider SimpliSafe. HVAC dealers and installers, however, provide a trusted source for information as well as a reliable installation authority. Brand will be less important when recommended by HVAC dealers, as their level of authority, in most cases, will matter more to homeowners than asking friends or family which technology is best. 

Uber and Lyft are unsustainable

Shelly Palmer explains that Uber and Lyft have no differentiation, and therefore cannot attain enough pricing advantage over one another to sustain profits. Autonomous vehicles, however, built by big car companies, will win as their ability to make and deploy products directly to consumers who will “buy” the cars one mile at a time will be more profitable. Uber and Lyft, the argument goes, cannot purchase cars outright and rent them as efficiently as automakers. 

dis-rup-shun: For the same reasons automakers purchased car rental companies — creating large buying groups that cut out the middle man (the dealer) — makers of autonomous vehicles operated by the manufacturer will enjoy a higher margin and a pricing advantage in a cutthroat market.

You generate 1.7MB of data every second

Each person, by 2020, will create 1.7MB per data per second

Given that each person’s location is constantly tracked by their smartphone, simply standing still creates data. Driving, however, generates an enormous amount of data that can be mined not only by car makers, but by many parties who can benefit from our patterns, our routes, our entertainment choices and our shopping habits. The auto makers are in an ideal position to benefit from data management, but will likely lose this advantage to FAANG tech giants. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Technology companies, especially Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Lyft, understand that the car is an extension of the mobile phone — simply a service platform that offers not only driving services, but entertainment and communications as-a-service. The automakers will struggle to abandon the legacy model of “selling” 1.97 shiny new autos to each new house for an average ownership period of 6 years, and will find their core business eroded by tech giants and their subsidiaries.

Google providing on call and in-home support team

Google wants to be your device provider and has a team on standby to prove it. If you need consultation on what, where or how to install a home product, a Google support person is on the ready on the phone, or ready to come to your home. Android Police

dis-rup-shun: The good people at Google are playing catch up to Amazon, who not only has the best selling in-home smart speakers and doorbell cameras (Ring), but has had in home support and sales staff, Amazon Home Services, since 2015. Free home service consulting offerings are not profitable, and therefore the people already coming to your homes — the home electronics dealers and installers — are reticent to get into this business while retailers struggle to sell many smart home products that require a lot of explanation and often, installation. In home consultants are filling a gap that will eventually be closed when products are simpler, easier to install, and more familiar to consumers.

Watch a robot pull a plane

The Italian made HyQReal robot is capable of pulling very heavy loads horizontally at low speeds. It is impressive. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: If robots will replace jobs performed by humans, then people who pull heavy loads at low speeds should be worried. That would be operators of tractors, bulldozers, forklifts and heavy equipment. But since autonomous trucks and cars are coming, then we should place all drivers on the endangered species watch list.

Facebook continues to clean-up its act

In the first quarter of this year, Facebook reports that it eliminated 4 million examples of hate speech from its site. The company has formed a group of moderators to scrub the population of posts for those items it defines as unsavory. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: When a company has more customers and more revenues than many countries on the planet, it has to emulate successful countries and implement its own police force to keep the population in compliance with the nation’s rules. Since politicians have begun to invoke antitrust laws and suggest that the Facebook nation has become too large and must be broken up, expect Facebook’s self-governance to grow quickly and publicly.