Trade War consequences: China as innovation leader

China vs. U.S. tech race — who ends up stronger?

A key tenet of U.S. tariffs imposed against China is curtailing the illegal use of intellectual property by Chinese companies. An unintended consequence of the trade war is strengthening of Chinese tech leadership, as China’s tech giants, including Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu are developing their own AI microprocessors and mobile operating systems. The U.S. needs to develop and fund a national agenda for reaching new gains in technologies such as AI and 5G, says think tank CFR. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Countless examples throughout history confirm that competition is good. Competition is proving China to be swift and agile in moving from tech follower to tech leader. If trade wars are accelerating innovation in China, it stands to reason that the EU, US and India will step up innovation as well. Would open economies without tariffs reward innovation at the same rate? Perhaps the US agenda of greater enforcement of IP laws will be successful, especially when Chinese companies develop more IP than the US.

Apple CarPlay gets an update

Apple has made some useful updates to CarPlay, the app that enables your in car display to more easily display your iPhone screen. New features include a split screen, allowing you to see a map and media player at the same time. Also, a passenger can now look things up on other apps while connected to CarPlay and the car display still shows the map. The Apple Maps has been enhanced to make it more travel friendly. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If your car isn’t compatible with CarPlay or Android Auto, then you need a new car. Integration between the car and the smartphone is perhaps the most important car feature aside from the actual car systems, and the ability to seamlessly integrate both in a safe manner will greatly influence the customer experience. Successful integration provides a powerful platform for entertainment and shopping, as Xevo, a division of Leer Corporation, has shown. Xevo’s growing list of merchant vendors are the preferred vendors that are easily displayed when you search for gas, tires, food or other services from your car.

Musk unveils Starship Prototype

Elon Musk’s SpaceX unveiled, this weekend, its enormous Starship rocket prototype. The large, stainless steel reusable craft will be flying in a matter of months, says Musk. What is not understood is the business model for such a large rocket – far larger than needed to launch satellites. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Musk’s unbounded thinking (and spending) put him in the realm of Steve Jobs, especially if SpaceX is able to make commercial space travel and delivery routine. SpaceX is years late in delivering on a NASA contract for Commercial Crew development, and Musk’s problems and cultural problems at Tesla suggest potential for problems at SpaceX. The Starship concept is way ahead of its time and the business model for a large, reusable rocket is, as of now, unknown, but perhaps that is not as important to Musk as being first at something truly revolutionary.

Motorola Razr re-boot: foldable

The popular Razr will come around again, this time, however, it will be a foldable — the new technology that has proven hard to bring to market. Motorola’s mobile assets are now owned by Chinese PC maker, Lenovo. The phone was supposed to have been delivered this summer, but now appears it will be a late year release. CNET

dis-rup-shun: While innovations in smartphones have continued along existing lines, providing better cameras, batteries and apps, it is time for something different. A phone that incorporates current technology (apps), the latest technology (foldable screens) and yesterday’s iconic memories (Razr) could be a hit and a great change from the status quo.

AirPods in the subway create danger

AirPods causing dangerous rescue conditions in NYC subway

Many people in NYC have chosen inopportune moments to adjust AirPods — just as they are stepping on or off the subway. The uptick in lost AirPods create danger or at least a hazard, both for MTA employees who have devised devices to rescue the ear buds off the tracks, as well as a few individuals who have dared their own rescues. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Technology continues to create cultural crises — and high value products like AirPods lead people to take risks. Such crises are the birthplace of innovation, as subway operators may launch new rescue services, for a fee, or insurance companies may offer ear bud insurance, or hardware stores may create an AirPod extractor tool. Innovation follows innovation, and new opportunities are born.

Samsung readies a less expensive foldable phone

Following the troubled release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which will be released in September after a false start, Samsung is said to be releasing a smaller, less expensive foldable phone. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Who doesn’t think a foldable phone and being one of the first to own one, wouldn’t be cool? The new Samsung is expected to have a 6.8 inch display. Having a wider screen, optimized for videos or for viewing multiple apps at once, will be a big hit if Samsung can get the price down. Expect to have one of these on your holiday list this time next year.

The business of Satellite traffic jams and celestial rights of way

The first of many near mishaps between satellites occurred this weekend. Fortunately, these devices are able to detect oncoming objects and change their orbit. As SpaceX creates a constellation of hundreds of satellites that will provide broadband service across the Earth, the likelihood of collisions is rising. This weekend’s near miss was between SpaceX’s Starlink and a European weather research satellite. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While the technology of space exploration and exploitation are fascinating, the politics and rule setting for governing space will be even more fascinating. Is all of space considered “international water?” Will a company like SpaceX that is taking up more than its fair share of outer space be paying rent to nations? Will we see an international enforcement body that will ensure that everyone plays by the rules? Expect the formation of space law degree programs at leading universities.

What you need to know about Android 10

Android 10 has been released, and like Apple’s latest mobile OS, the innovations are subtle. Aside from being the first release not named after a dessert, Android 10’s notable new features include:

  • The use of gestures to navigate the phone, as back and home buttons are no longer required.
  • Dark mode is supported — meaning the user interface and apps will have a trendy dark look.
  • Accessibility features enable video to be quickly transcribed to text, and people with hearing aids will have a more optimized Bluetooth connection.
  • Privacy features may be more easily selected through enhanced privacy settings.
  • Digital well-being features enable limits for time on certain apps and activities to be metered.

Wired

dis-rup-shun: That’s it. No more. While these features are useful and help differentiate a phone from last year’s model, they will not create a groundswell of excitement or cause a line to wrap around phone stores for days before release. As often mentioned, the smartphone market is mature and getting incremental users, including stealing market share from Apple, is increasingly difficult. New service revenues must come from new services, new apps, and innovative software.

Helicopters catch rockets and return to Earth

Can Amazon’s Rekognition software read a poker face?

Amazon’s AI team claims to accurately detect fear through facial recognition. The Amazon technology, called Rekognition, can provide readings at the cost of $.001 per image. A study of 1000 images, however, suggest that facial expressions do not reliably provide insight to true emotions. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The survival of the human species relies, in part, on people being able to mask true emotions. Amazon’s software likely accurately detects the emotional message on a person’s face, but not their true state of mind. Some people are wracked with fear every day as they enter a school or office building (or return home), so fear detection may not be as valuable as Amazon hopes, but nonetheless, the technology has many possibilities.

Recovery: the key to the new rocket industry

Launch company Rocket Lab is developing a process for slowing down rocket engines after they fall back into the atmosphere, and grabbing them with a helicopter before they fall into the sea. This is one of many recovery solutions being developed by a host of companies including BlueOrigin (first to land a launcher), SpaceX (lands rockets on platforms in the ocean), United Launch Partners and the German space agency (using a helicopter). Wired

dis-rup-shun: Rocket launches are becoming almost a weekly occurrence, and the importance of space craft to defense, communications, science, politics, and eventually, passenger travel, is increasingly evident. Reusable rockets change the economics of space travel, enabling regular and routine launches. The space companies are on the cusp of making rocket reuse standard operating procedure and that will be the tipping point of this new industry.

Connected swim goggles

Form has released swim goggles that project statistics on the lens in real time, giving you timing on each of your laps and determining what stroke you are swimming. The unit can be synced with your smartphone to connect you to the community of swimmers comparing stats on personal performance. Wired

dis-rup-shun: With connected diapers and connected shorts available, swim goggles are a natural. Consider this device an extension of health and wellness wearables, and a niche extension of the quantified self market is created. According to Statista, 27 million people swim for exercise in the U.S. in 2017. 55.9 million run regularly, according to the same source. Logic says the total addressable market for smart swim trackers is about half or less than that of the running trackers. KBV Research estimates the growth rate (CAGR) for fitness trackers to be 18%, making it a decent niche product category.

Scoop raises $60 million for carpooling

Scoop is a carpool coordination app designed for employers to offer scheduled rides for employees. This round of funding, led by Activate Capital, takes the company’s funding to over $100 million.  TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: In a super tight job market, stacking on extra perks can give an employer a slight edge. Enabling employees to arrange a ride, potentially paid by the employer, is a nice extra, but will it hold up when today’s hot market slows down? Match.com should acquire Scoop so that employees can attempt to find a match while commuting.

Smart appliances make purchase decisions

Smart home as shopping platforms

A new report (for purchase) from Business Insider reports that people are using their smart speakers to perform research about products, but not to actually purchase products. The report predicts the smart refrigerator will be the food control center of the home — informing grocery shopping and food delivery. The report covers the strong alliance opportunities between smart appliance makers (that will order goods) and consumer products providers (that will supply the goods ordered by connected appliances).

dis-rup-shun: Dis-intermediation of traditional supply chains is coming. Washing machines and refrigerators sold through Amazon will be delivered with, guess what, automatic links to Amazon.com, pre-configured with your Amazon.com account, to order detergent, milk, eggs and soft drinks from Amazon.com. Who should worry? Appliances makers, grocery stores, and BestBuy.

Find my iPhone works for AirPods

If your AirPods are missing and still powered and still within range of your iPhone, you can use an app to find them. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The beauty of the connected economy is the ability to bail yourself out of dumb moves — many have found phones in backseats of moving Uber’s, golf courses, under the bed covers, and in the possession of thieves with a quick search from a friend’s device. AirPods, one of the most likely devices to be lost, can be found if they are in Bluetooth range, but unfortunately that is less than about 300 feet, so success may be limited.

Four rocket companies vying for critical Air Force contract

Submissions are due this week for bidders for 24 launches for Air Force surveillance rockets which will take place between 2022 and 2026. Two of four big bidders will win the contract in 60%/40% split. Bidders are United Launch Alliance (Boeing and Lockheed Martin), SpaceX (Elon Musk), Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) and Northrop Grumman. The contest has very large implications about the future of the U.S. space program as well as the welfare of the competing companies. ArsTechnica

dis-rup-shun: This contest pits traditional aerospace contractors with deep government ties with tech company startups. The traditional contractors have a great deal to lose, as they are not focused on the private space business and have few other customers besides the military establishment. The tech upstarts have focused on more economical rockets and lower cost crafts, giving them a potential advantage, and meaning that they will have great influence on the future of space — both government and private funded. Expect one incumbent and one startup to win the contract, providing both low-cost innovation and trusted providers on the job — likely United Launch Alliance and SpaceX.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

Scott Galloway’s book on “the Four Horsemen” offers a candid look at the actions and power of the tech giants, not afraid of offering strong opinions, and praising the companies for their impressive accomplishments. The NYU Stern Marketing professor has long been a student of the companies. Huffpost

dis-rup-shun: To consider the unchecked power of the big four is sobering — why have these companies not been subject to more regulation? On the other hand, each of these companies has played an out sized role in making the fantastic tech-powered world we live in today. Where would we be without them. Expect a significant amount of restrictions and regulations to be placed on at least three of these companies, Facebook, Amazon and Google, over the next two years as their power has become too large to overlook.

 

 

Drug deals and sex acts

Drug deals, sex acts and doctor conversations

What do they have in common? They were all caught by Siri after mistakenly hearing a wake up (and record) command on an iPhone, Apple computer or Apple HomePod. Some 1% of recordings are listened to by humans in order to judge how well the technology understands and follows commands. ZDNet

dis-rup-shunConsumer research indicates 48% of speaker owners are concerned with privacy, yet the product category has been a smash hit. For many, the assumption is that nothing particularly salacious is going on in the home so there is not much to worry about. Despite the large percentage of concerned owners, the product’s convenience and ‘cool factor’ must be outweighing concerns, as the category is found in 21% of households, a 36% increase, according to Mobile Marketer.

NASA contracts with 13 space companies for Moon and Mars shots

13 companies, including Blue Origin (Bezos) and SpaceX (Musk) have inked deals with NASA to help the agency reach for the moon and planets over coming years. The companies, including Lockheed Martin, will contribute skills such as precise landings and vehicle re-use. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The future of the NASA program will be a showcase of the free market system, with many aggressive entrepreneurs having to cooperate with competitors and work within a regulation-heavy government program. The collaboration will bring more discipline to the space companies, and will provide NASA with technologies that would take the agency decades to create on its own.

Google may teach us a new set of gestures

Google’s Pixel line of smartphones is now enabling gestures like pinching and swiping in the air, a few inches above the phone screen, to manipulate on screen images. Wired

dis-rup-shun: By now most of us have seen or heard of infants toddling up to a TV screen and trying to pinch or swipe the screen to change it. Fifteen years ago, such behavior would have been insanity, but today, such gestures are as commonly understood as waving goodbye or beckoning someone with hand motions. Apple, via the iPhone, created a new gesture library and now Google may change it, by enabling gesture control without touching the screen. This has many advantages, including cleaner, more sanitary surfaces, and perhaps more immediate success and less screen tapping.

How the Internet has forever changed the sleep industry

Casper started shipping foam mattresses direct to consumers in a box and disrupted the retail supply chain. Within the first month, the company had over $1 million in sales. Many companies followed. Now the industry is being disrupted by gadgets — top mattresses today must be laden with sensors to detect snoring, tossing and turning and heart rates. No evidence exists that smart bedding delivers any improvements in sleep, but the mattress playing field is now raised by smart technology.

dis-rup-shun: The sleep industry is a case study on the speed of tech disruption, first by online sales, then by making mattresses smart even though the technology has yet to improve sleep — reminders that sales channels even for specialty products (food, mattresses, furniture) is ripe for disruption overnight. This industry also displays that “smart” is as powerful a differentiating word as is “natural,” “low-fat,” and “recyclable.”

Self-driving vans deliver Walmart groceries

Robovan delivers groceries for Walmart

Walmart will test a driverless van made by California firm Gatik to deliver groceries from an Arkansas distribution center to homes nearby in Bentonville. The test will include backup drivers who will sit behind the wheel to monitor the robovans. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Walmart, one of the largest retailers of grocery products, is racing to keep Amazon, the owner of Whole Foods and extensive drone development, from eating its lunch. Gatik estimates that driverless delivery vans could halve the cost of grocery deliveries — making the elimination of driver jobs far more appealing to consumers. 

Google Facebook ad duopoly shrinking

Last week’s earnings reports reveal that Snap, Amazon and Twitter’s ad revenues are up significantly, putting a dent in the 51% dominance of Google and Facebook. eMarketer sizes the global online ad market at $333 billion in 2019. Snap’s revenue was up 48% and Facebook’s 28%. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: A decline in the duopoly of Google and Facebook comes at a convenient time for these providers, as Big Tech is under review by Congress for limiting competition. This data will not help Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for breaking up tech giants, though we see that one of the companies taking share from the duopoly is Amazon, perhaps supporting the calls for limiting Amazon’s rapid dominance of many markets.

All three 2020 iPhones to feature 5G

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is reportedly the most accurate Apple watcher, says all three new iPhone models to be released in 2020 will support the new wireless network standard called 5G. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: To repeat a common saying, the pace of technological change will never be slower than it is today. 5G provides data speeds up to 20 times faster than our current 4G networks, and will support far more devices with smaller antennas, using less power. 5G is a big deal because it will enable exponential growth in both number of devices and amount of data than can be downloaded or uploaded on a carrier’s network. If you live in or around a city, you will be awash in connected devices (see connected diaper). If you live in rural areas, well, you will still struggle with basic high speed Internet.  

SpaceX Starship Mars explorer takes a spin  

Musk’s SpaceX continues to aggressively develop and test space craft. Last Thursday the company’s Starship tested maneuverability by taking off and moving laterally about 60 feet, then landing. Musk claims that this is the craft that will go to Mars. Despite multiple fires and mishaps, Musk has sold a trip around the moon to a Japanese billionaire. Wired

dis-rup-shun: For Musk watchers, a pattern to the billionaire’s operational culture proves that risk is not limited by inactivity. With both car company Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, Musk learns by trying and is not afraid of regular failures. In the business of transporting humans, however, this experimentation is high risk, and a balance between safety regulations (consider the 737 Max) and pressing for innovation is required.

Stargazing permanently impacted by new space objects

Shocking photography of satellite launch

An amateur astronomer captured a photo of the launch of 60 StarLink satellites — the first of 12,000 to be launched in coming years. TheVerge  Astonomers around the world, however, have expressed shock at the realization that each satellite’s solar panel will reflect light back to Earth and be very visible at dawn and dusk — forever chaning views of the night sky. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: Imagine the shock of early farmers and urban dwellers when the first interstate billboards, replete with bright lighting, were erected in their views. Today’s stargazers are the ones shocked, as Elon Musk’s band of low orbit satellites, orbiting Earth to provide a new source of broadband services, will forever change views of outer space. Never fear, the new broadband service will make it easier to surf pictures of uncluttered outer space — the way things looked before space objects changed the view.

Withings smart watch is everything Apple’s is not, and more

Withings, maker of connected health and fitness gear, has released a smart watch that is by bar the most stylish design for lovers of classic watches. The device features fitness and workout monitors, sleep analysis, a vibrating alarm, battery life of 25 days and is water resistant up to 50 meters and okay for showers. Inverse

dis-rup-shun: At a price of $199, Withings enables lovers of fashion watches to enjoy the benefits of a connected device, and with long battery life, the ease of use beats Apple iWatch 4’s expected 18 hours.

Tesla Model 3 is best seller in Norway

Tesla’s allocation of Model 3s arrived in the country in February and quickly put a dent in sales of other luxury models, incluing Mercedes Benz. Norwegians have a high interest in electric vehicles. CleanTechnica

dis-rup-shun: Depite Tesla’s bumpy year, with continuous delays in Model 3 production, softening U.S. orders, and stories of cultural disharmony, the company’s product is still favored by buyers of electric vehicles. For generally affluent and eco-conscious cultures such as Norway, the company’s market leadership will spur accelerated EV development by more established competitors such as Daimler, Toyota, and Volvo.

Alexa intercom feature now on all devices

Alexa’s ability to serve as an intercom between only its flagship devices (Echo, Dot, Show, Spot) has now been expanded to every Alexa-enabled device. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: As many different types of devices, including light fixtures, wall switches, door bells, thermostats and Bluetooth speakers now include Alexa, every home has many intercom possibilities. For busy families with young children or homes with seniors, the application for voice to voice, in-home communications adds a new layer of benefits to smart speakers and further advances Amazon’s lead over Google in this category.