CES Insights, Day 2

Focus on the weird

One of the most fun things about CES is to marvel at whimsical inventions and try to imagine if the creators are serious, or just looking for an expensive laugh.

Bathroom robot. Charmin, the toilet paper maker, is showing a number of bathroom oriented technologies, including the V.I.Pee, an in-bathroom viewing screen for live events that enables you to see what you are missing when you run to the bathroom. Another is the the Rollbot — a wheeled device with an extra roll of TP on the top that you can summon with your smartphone when you find yourself in that stranded position with no more paper on the roll. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Why, you may ask, would a legitimate consumer products giant take the time to develop these not very marketable toys? The answer is that many smart CEOs in non-tech industries are well aware that their industry will, somehow, at some time, be disrupted by tech. As a matter of fact, Georgia Pacific used technology, in the form of a patented, motion-based hand towel distributor, called enMotion, to disrupt the paper towel business and Charmin is smart enough to know that it needs to demonstrate thought leadership in the toilet paper dispensing technology arena as a defensive strategy. Amazing.

Selfie keyboard.  Selfie Type is a Samsung labs technology that enables a user to type on a virtual keyboard created on a blank surface (table, desk, airplane tray) by facing their smartphone towards them while the app is running. NET

dis-rup-shun: This is big. This is a step toward being able to use any surface as a keyboard so that one could perform real work on a smartphone. Using the airplane scenario, this is a step towards the day when one could place their smartphone on the folding tray, have the phone output to the small in-seat video screen and the tray becomes the keyboard — mimicking the full computing experience in order to finish that report you must deliver by the time you land.

Y-Brush. The Y-Brush is a $125 smart toothbrush-like device that claims to clean all of your teeth in 10 seconds. You bite on the Y-shaped tray and it cleans all of the top teeth in 5 seconds, then you flip it over to finish the bottom in 5 more. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Life is short. Why spend it at the sink? Seriously, technology innovation is focusing on personal hygiene, including smart toilets, smart curling irons/straighteners, smart nail polishers and, yes, smart tattoo machines.

Human exoskeleton. Delta airlines is at the event, showing how it is using technology to differentiate. Facial recognition, a new boarding app, are among the technologies in development, but interesting to see is a mechanical exoskeleton that baggage handlers can adorn in order to more easily lift and load heavy bags. CNET

dis-rup-shun: By the way, airlines are killing it by charging people for the their luggage. This has been an important part of a return to profitability. It would be interesting to know the dollars spent on rehabbing injured baggage handlers who eventually lose to the physics of overstuffed luggage. Delta has a Transformers-like solution that is half robot, half power tool that does the heavy lifting while strapped to the back and arm of human luggage handlers. Perhaps this is a new robotics category we can call “hybrid robot,” as the device can’t do its thing without a human strapped in.

Telemedicine as good as live

Telemedicine visits seen as effective as in-person

Telemedicine and remote doctor visits are particularly valuable in rural communities, where access to certain highly skilled providers is limited. In this free whitepaper, a recent study of patients at Mercy Children’s Hospital network determined that for children with Asthma, telemedicine visits proved as effective as in-person visits. TechRepublic

dis-rup-shun: Telemedicine will keep many rural hospitals in business despite their lack of diverse specialists at the local hospital. It is exciting to see telehealth working, providing people with quick, local access to care even if provided locally with the help of a distant specialist. The industry urgently needs more clinical data to confirm the success of telehealth and more case studies are needed to accelerate the new care models that will dominate our society in a few short years. Connecting to care specialist remotely will become the norm for people living in large cities as well as rural areas, a shift that will improve the economics and slow the rising costs of care while providing better experiences for patients.

Microsoft beats Amazon for Pentagon cloud contract

The JEDI contract, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, is a Department of Defensive initiate potentially worth $10 billion over ten years. The initiative is a significant computing upgrade for Defense, moving military operations to the latest cloud technology. Market leader AWS lost the deal to Microsoft’s Azure service. Some state that the decision was influenced by President Trump’s bumpy relationship with Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, a newspaper known for criticism of the President. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft is on a strong run, with a number of victories for CEO Nadella and team. Amazon’s own success has fueled a number of Microsoft’s wins, most notably a significant cloud contract from Walmart, Amazon’s arch rival, and FedEx, two competitors to Amazon. Once considered an ‘evil empire’ for its dominance over the personal computing industry, Microsoft is now viewed as a humble, highly competent player, with Google, Facebook, Amazon and even Apple seen as the controversial bullies of BigTech.

Samsung’s modular TVs fit custom sizes and spaces

In its sponsored video series on new technologies, BestBuy with Gizmodo explains what is a modular TV and why it is unique. Modular TVs are bezel-less 8K TVs that can be fashioned into different sizes according to spaces and custom requirements.

dis-rup-shun: TVs in homes and, of course, in digital signage applications are about to get much more interesting, with entire TV walls replacing big TVs hanging in prominent places. As odd shaped panels appear in interesting spaces, new applications will arise to curate video content, which will remain in a letterbox format, to intermix TV and movie content with video content to fill in the gaps. Consumers will design the content layout of video walls, overlaying a rectangular NFL game over a virtual aquarium, for example. Control applications will turn consumers into video program directors, making playing with big screens that much more fun.

NASA building new rover to find water on the Moon

The VIPER rover is a small vehicle that will explore the dark south pole of the Moon where the presence of ice crystals has been confirmed in prior explorations. The VIPER will drill samples in the Moon’s surface when sensors determine it is near water. The craft is scheduled to begin work in 2022 and will be conveyed to the Moon by one of the commercial space companies vying for NASA contracts. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Plans for locating, drilling, pumping, storing and maybe even purifying Lunar water has implications for many industries. Who will be the water utility for the Moon? A cadre of contractors will be required to help NASA get into the water business, and consortia consisting of aerospace companies along with hydro engineering companies, pipe and pump companies will all compete for future contracts. New interest in the Moon and space will direct millions of dollars to space technology companies.

Samsung’s The Wall is 146 inch TV

Samsung’s “The Wall” 146 inch TV now installed

Southern California video company Just One Touch/Video & Audio completed the first U.S. in-home installation of Samsung’s giant wall panel MicroLED TV. The price of the installation was not disclosed, but several more are scheduled for a movie star, hotel and a mega yacht. CEPro

dis-rup-shun: This giant wall TV will be a big hit in 2020 as news will travel fast that it is possible to own the largest TV made. Other manufacturers will follow quickly and high-end homes will feature media rooms that, instead of having a big built-in TV, will have a complete wall covered, top to bottom, side to side, by TV.

Some doctors getting licensed in all states to prepare for telemedicine

Insurance companies have begun to cover remote medical care, or telemedicine, which means that you can have a video chat with a doctor who may live in a state across the country from where you live. The telehealth business will be worth $130 billion by 2025. In order to offer a comprehensive telemedicine business, doctors must be licensed in all states that may call the doctor. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Telemedicine will be the norm, not the exception, for doctor visits within several year’s time. Use of doctors’ services will actually increase when you don’t have to wait for the office to open, try to find a convenient appointment time, drive across town, sit in the waiting room and eventually see the doctor. Doctors who are getting licensed in all 50 states are likely on their way to developing mega-practices, and it is likely that the future of medical practices will be a small number of giant doctor corporations (think of national and regional banks) and plenty of small specialists whose trade will continue to require local, in-person visits. The changes will be rough on doctors, but will help them find business models that continue to reward them well for their expertise.

Nature-as-a-service may have positive effects on workers

Monthly plant subscription businesses such as Horti that deliver a plant a month, can have positive impacts on moods and productivity. Some studies indicate an increase in worker output when surrounded by natural elements. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The subscription/rental economy, with cars, rooms, homes and pools available for om demand, makes having a little nature in life easy and affordable. Millennials who seem averse to ownership, can have a new plant each month and not worry about the permanence of trying to raise one or two houseplants for years to come. Kill it and no sweat, another plant is sent to you next month and you can start over.

Nomad Base Station Pro offers charging surface

The Nomad Pro is the surface charger that Apple delivered then discontinued. The device charges up to three devices at once, all at a charging speed of 5W — not the fastest speed, but adequate. The Nomad station, however, does not support charging for the Apple Watch. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Surface charging has been slow to catch on, but offers a great alternative to cord hunting. Charging surfaces built into car consoles are a great accessory, and desks at work should have a built in charging surface, preferably that looks the same as the desktop itself. Expect smart counter tops and work surfaces at home and in the office to be chargers, as more and more of our personal communications devices will require charging at all different times of day.

Connected products detect dementia

Apple and Eli Lilly partner to detect dementia

In a study involving 82 people in a control group and 31 people with some form of cognitive decline, Apple and Eli Lilly collected data from usage of an Apple watch, iPhones and Beddit bed sensors. The study collected usage data on both groups, to characterize differences in usage of those with dementia. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: With 6 million people living with dementia in the U.S., and rapid increases in the incidences of Alzheimer’s, technology is much needed to help us understand and act on cognitive decline. The key to using technology to predict disease is mountains of data, and the barrier to mountains of data is HIPPA (privacy) compliance. Tech companies and health companies should, with full disclose and consent from consumers, collect as much anonymous data as possible using connected devices in order to get ahead of massive stress on the care systems resulting from the graying of Western Europe, North America and Asia.

Google’s Live View Augmented Reality guides you as you walk

Now rolling out to Google Maps applications on both Android and iOS, Live View augmented reality simulates the view you see as you face a direction, and overlays arrows and street names. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: How many times have you ascended from a subway stop and not known which direction to walk? Google is fixing that. Expect to see many people staring at their phones as they stand on street corners, and expect to see many more “location aware” advertisements to take you to coffee shops, restaurants and shops right around you, wherever you are.

Sony’s version of AirPods include noise cancellation

It has become commonplace to see people everywhere wearing Apple AirPods. Sony’s answer includes noise cancellation, meaning that for travelers or those who study in a public place, they are ideal. Sony’s WF-1000xm3 headphones are more expensive at $230 (AirPods are $159) and the carrying case is bulkier. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Sony, in the 70’s through the 90’s was ‘the Apple’ — the cool tech company that made the best gear. The company, since then, has struggled to find its niche but creating premium earphones is a good place to focus. For anyone who travels, noise cancellation is critical and ear buds take up a lot less space in a carry on that over the ear phones. But please, Sony, take a marketing cue from gadget leaders Samsung and Apple and give your products a name that people can weave into conversation. “Hey man, where’d you get those cool WF-1000xm3’s?”

Samsung has the hottest new smartphone

The Samsung Galaxy Note10 debuted in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Here’s the quick summary:

  • No headphone jack
  • Enhanced stylus
  • Gesture control without touching the screen
  • Multiple color choices
  • Larger screen due to very thin bezel (frame)
  • Four camera lenses and ability to zoom audio to get focused sounds on videos
  • AR Doodle feature to add creativity to photos
  • 3D scanning of objects — capturing depth in addition to length and width
  • Quick charge battery and power sharing
  • Support for 5G networks

dis-rup-shun: Samsung maintains its lead on bells and whistles — staying a step ahead of the iPhone, but given that Android vs. iOS has long been a religious discussion, few iPhone users will be swayed by Samsung’s features. Kudos to Samsung for working hard to keep smartphones from becoming commodities — little discernible differentiation between brands — but that is getting tougher to do, especially given that new top of the line smartphones are similarly priced around $1000.

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.

Is your privacy worth paying for?

Privacy browsers catching a wave

The public is increasingly weary of sharing personal information with the tech giants. Privacy browsers generally don’t allow cookies and provide information on what data is being requested of the user. Wired suggests six privacy browsers or plug-ins to your existing desktop browser that maintain your anonymity, to varying degrees: DuckDuckGo, Ghostery, TOR Browser, Brave, Firefox, Safari.

dis-rup-shun: Thanks to Russia and to Facebook, consumer awareness of personal information sharing is at an all time high. Apple is using privacy as a differentiator, seeking to further engender audiences and shame Google and Facebook for their aggressive harvesting of personal information. The campaign appears to be working. If our society moves to reduce the amount of data we allow tech giants to collect, will we be happy when free services become limited or require payment since maintaining our privacy renders advertising to be less effective?


Willo is going to change the way you clean your mouth

Startup Willo has raised $7.5 million from Kleiner Perkins to revolutionize the way you clean your mouth, claiming that the brush is an inferior solution that only cleans 46% of dental plaque. Details are not available, but the picture offered shows a different approach to dental hygiene. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It is likely that this toothbrush replacement will collect data on our brushing habits and offer weekly emails to rate our dental care performance, because that is what every connected device seems to do, despite the fact that most of us aren’t that interested. What will be helpful, however, is to displace the annoying task of spending an hour with a dental hygienist twice a year. That value proposition will be well received.


Samsung Fold foldable phone ship dates undetermined

TechCrunch reports that AT&T and BestBuy have cancelled early orders of Samsung’s huge, foldable, $2000 phone that was originally scheduled for release on April 26th.

dis-rup-shun: The foldable phone will be a big hit among those that are willing to pay $2000 to have something no on else has. Having a device the size of a small tablet that will fit in a pocket will be great for travel, and if Samsung is able to add its latest Galaxy photo technology, it will be an amazing way to share digital photography.


Highlights from E3 gaming conference

E3 is the biggest gaming industry conference in existence, and 2019’s event just ended. Here are some highlights:

Microsoft’s next Xbox console will launch for holiday 2020 and will feature 8K games and 120 frames per second. It will be backwards compatible with prior generations, if anyone really wanted to play yesterday’s games.

Steaming services are coming. Physical disks are going the way of the Bluray movie disk…unwanted. A large number of streaming services are vying to do for gaming what Netflix did for movie watchers.

dis-rup-shun: The big three console makers have had an effective lock on the gaming space, but that’s about to change when premium content can be streamed to any connected device. Tether a Bluetooth game controller that is not limited to a console architecture to your iPad, smartphone, PC or smart TV, and high performance gaming breaks its traditional bounds. The Verge


Hitting China where it hurts

Chip designer ARM ceases work with Huawei

ARM is the UK based company that licenses the semiconductor design spec used by most smartphone chip makers. Although the company is not based in the U.S., it has stated that many of the design elements in its specification originated in the U.S., therefore it can not lawfully license its design to Huawei. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: This second blow to China’s equivalent of Microsoft or Apple, coming on the heals of Google announcing that it will not license Android to Huawei, essentially finishes off the smartphone division of Huawei. If China chooses to get even, first it bans its contract manufacturers from building certain products designed in the U.S., then prohibits the sale of certain components to U.S. companies and poof, there goes the majority of non-South Korean (Samsung) smart phone business. That would be ugly.

Cannondale Treadwell smart bicycle

Cannondale’s new exercise bike, designed not for racers but for ordinary people who like tracking their fitness, features a sensor on the front wheel which tracks speed, distance and location. The data is uploaded to a special smartphone app, and there is a mount for the smartphone — turning the smartphone into a cycle computer. Wired

dis-rup-shun: There is one piece of this product that seems to be missing, or at least has not been described — it is the bike’s role in an online community. Either by posting (bragging) personal fitness progress to one’s social media accounts, or by being a part of a Peloton-like competition of peers, the bike needs to create an alternate reality to create a viral following. Measuring personal progress for one’s own satisfaction only works for a small audience — and that audience will want a racing bike.

Amazon spends $1.2 billion last quarter on new acquisitions

The company’s growing profits are leading to an increase in investments in emerging companies. Several Amazon investments are in the autonomous auto industry, including car companies Rivian and Aurora. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Bezos, through aerospace company, Blue Origin, is conquering space. Amazon is aggressively investing in the autonomous and auto industries and his ambitions are far greater than delivering packages. The company, no doubt, seeks to disrupt Uber and Lyft, as well as city busses, Ford, Chevy and Toyota. The company will continue to boldly charge in every direction, experiment and unafraid of failures.