Monday, January 25, 2016

Are We Ready for Wearable?

In Dec. 2014, we predicted 2015 would be a big year for wearable tech, and it didn't really turn out that way. As we noted in Dec. 2015.

In Dec. 2015, we predicted lots of news coming from CES about wearable tech, and we were generally right. There were all kinds of new wearable tech items presented, for example smart clothing of all kinds (as well as some that seemed more punchline than smart).

Our initial reaction to news from CES is that wearable tech is not quite ready for prime time in 2016.

We're not claiming credit for that insight by ourselves. In his Style section column, "Where Wearable Technology Ends Up (Hint: Not Your Wrist)," Nick Bilton looks at why many wearable tech devices have just not caught on. It's because they're ugly and power hungry, and can seem like you're wearing a fax machine on your wrist.

But Bilton says it may come down to price, that's it's hard to justify the purchase of a wearable device that offers limited value but costs as much as a smartphone. I'd agree with that but I think it's because the value, even as a fitness tracker, isn't there yet. There are too many different proprietary tracking algorithms and it's hard to interconnect. If I have a FitBit and my buddy has a Jawbone, we can't compare our workouts because there's no way to get those two devices to communicate with each other. Yet, I guess. It may be hard enough to find a workout buddy but now I have to ask my workout buddy to switch to my device. (It's perhaps not worth noting that I don't have any friends with whom I'd want to compare workouts with, but that's for another blog post.)

Anyway, worth reading Bilton's article.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New York Times Validated Our Predictions on Unicorns

In our annual predictions, we predicted that the business media, which in 2015 had breathlessly reported on unicorns – startups valued at upwards of $1 billion – would start reporting that there's a unicorn bubble. On Jan. 20th, a little more than a month after we posted that prediction, the New York Times' Steven Davidoff Solomon wrote an article, "Expect some unicorns to lose their horns, and it won't be pretty."

In his article, Davidoff Solomon predicted, "The unicorn wars are coming, as the downturn in the market will force these onetime highfliers to seek money at valuations below their earlier billion-dollar-plus levels, known as 'down rounds.'”

He also goes into more detail about the kinds of wars that will occur, including those 

  • Who own common stock vs. those who own preferred -- those with preferred make out better.
  • Employees vs new money -- in other words between stock options that may now be worthless as new investors push the value down significantly.
  • New money vs. old money -- in this case the valuation given the shares that new investors get vs. those earlier investors got. 
  • Founders vs. everyone else.
If you're interested in unicorns because they set a tone for the market, Davidoff Solomon's article is worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is Wi-Fi Security a New Trend?

We've already issued our predictions for top trends for 2016, but we're seeing a new trend -- at least from the privacy-interested Wall St. Journal. (A couple of years back, the Journal ran a multi-part series on our lack of privacy.)  

On Tuesday, the Journal ran an article about rarely patched firmware holes that make home routers vulnerable. The reporter, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, works on special projects for the Investigations group at The Wall Street Journal. Her current coverage focuses on technological tracking and surveillance and the impact these have on business, society and the law.

Meanwhile, the Journal's consumer tech reporter, Joanna Stern, also wrote about public Wi-Fi and security. In her test, of a new high-speed public Wi-Fi system in New York City, Stern spent about half her article talking about security threats, offering key security tips such as: encrypt, delete public networks that can automatically connect to your phone (and can damage if that network has been compromised).

Check out both articles to protect yourself. Meanwhile, the question is: will public hotspot Wi-Fi security generate more coverage beyond the Journal? We think the answer is probably.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New York Times Validates Our Prediction About Driverless Cars

In its article, today, "Insurers Brace for the Self-Driving Future and Fewer Accidents," The New York Times notes, "With fewer drivers behind the wheel making mistakes, accidents and insurance premiums are expected to fall, and some insurance companies may not survive."

The article validates our contention: that "auto insurance will see that premiums will go down as accidents decrease – and that will change one dynamic of driverless cars (perhaps not theft, however)."

That's nice to start the year with some quick validations.

One thing we haven't figured out about driverless cars is that there will need to be an infrastructure investment on the part of highways and roads -- to make it easier for driverless or autonomous cars to get around -- and also by those who run parking garages and city parking spots. If these cars lack steering wheels (as Google would prefer), how do you indicate where to park once you arrive at your destination? Let's say you want to shop at the mall, and it's mid-December, and parking spots are hard to find -- how does your driverless car find a parking spot, avoiding handicap spots and those for short-term pick ups (like those near some restaurants)? Or, how about pulling into a gas station, to an empty pump? Or what if you're driving into Manhattan, and have an appointment but can't find on-the-street parking? Do you send you car on a trip around Manhattan for the 45 minutes you're at your appointment? 

We're sure someone is working on a solution. But right now, I'm concerned that in the future, we will see lots of empty cars driving around because they can't find parking. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wired Validates 5 of Our Trends

We're already seeing validation of some of our trends. The January issue of Wired ran two articles of note to our trends: cutting the cord and the gig economy.

About cord cutting, we said, "We expect some people not to cut the cord because it’s more complicated and not necessarily cheaper if you cut the cable cord." In an article called "Cord-Cutting Is Gonna Suck in 2016, But It'll Get Better," Wired identified the same problem we did: the cost of different subscriptions services, the complications of how to access it including of when you exceed your data limit means that cord-cutting isn't the solution you think it.


We also said the gig economy will generate coverage in 2016, and that "To pessimists, it means that people won’t have the safety net of company-provided healthcare and benefits." Also in the January issue (and not yet available online), is an article by Jessi Hempel called, "A New Deal: Gig-Economy Workers Need Protection. Now." 

Check out the article when it becomes online.

Actually, in his Letter from the Editor, Scott Dadich identified other trends that validated ours. Dadich feels that VR will go mainstream in 2016 while we think VR will still be much more of an early adopter tech next year. 

We agree with him (or he with us) that "AI comes to the everyday" (we said, "The rise of AI"). We both offered up concerns about unicorns, mostly that startups worth upwards of $1B will become on the verge of extinction -- okay, that's overstating things; it's just going to be much more difficult for them in 2016. 

And in "Autonomous driving gets serious," Dadich agrees with us that "we won't be handing over the steering wheel this year," and that a big issue is "talking about regulations" -- while we said the big issue isn't the tech or safety issues but "the insurance requirements."

So, judging by Wired, we're doing pretty well with our predictions.

Also, check out Fast Company's "Twenty Predictions for the Next 20 Years," by Robert Sarfian, which has a lot of interesting good trends.

Meanwhile, by the way, we expect a lot of IoT news coming from CES next week.

Here's to a happy New Year, and more tech validations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Key Predictions for Trends in 2016, Part III

Here's our third set of trends that we expect to have an impact in 2016:
  1. The market for wearable tech and for IoT will continue to grow. Expect IoT-enabled tech to be a big story at CES.
  2. 3D printers will be popular in schools.  Getting students comfortable with 3D printers is a great for seeding the market, but don’t expect them in every home just yet.
  3. The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. The media will continue to look at whether a college education is worth the student debt loads as well as what kind of education we should provide our students. In an age of instant access to facts, memorizing certain facts may not be as helpful as actually understanding the underlying issues around history, science, literature, etc. and may not be indicators of future career success.
  4. Crowdfunding will lose buzz. With even Hollywood A-listers turning to crowdsourcing their projects, we expect the novelty of crowdfunding to fade, which will make it harder to raise money this way.
  5. eBook sales will plateau. After years of growing sales, eBooks’ momentum stalled in 2015. eBooks aren’t going away but they won’t totally replace traditional books, as some had feared or predicted. Increasingly, buyers may demand the ability to make a cross-platform book/eBook purchase, much as already happens with music purchased from Amazon, where you can the actual CD and direct download to your phone. 
  6. Drones may start falling back to earth. Like Icarus, drones may be flying too close to the sun – and airplanes -- but there problems go beyond that. While Amazon has unveiled a possible drone to help it make deliveries, consumer drones may be the cool gift that sits in a corner until they answer this question: What do you do with a drone after you’ve taken aerial photos of your house? 
  7. Will FinTech shake up traditional banking? Apps that support banking and financial services, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others, will generate a fair amount of business press coverage under headlines questioning whether FinTech will disintermediate traditional banks. FinTech will make inroads but won’t go broadly mainstream in 2016. That includes Bitcoin, about which there was much buzz in 2014 and almost nothing in 2015 except when some reporters thought they had uncovered the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the apparent mysterious inventor of Bitcoin.
  8. China may live in interesting times.  There’s a lot going on that will get coverage here. Expect coverage about the environment, including Beijing’s epic pollution and a lot of coverage about its economy, including the impact of the Renminbi being named by the International Monetary Fund as a main world currency, rising wages and an aging workforce, all leading to a possibly slowing economy. And continuing from prior years, there will be a lot of coverage about intellectual property infringement and Beijing-sanction hacks against U.S. companies.
  9. The concern about cybersecurity, privacy, encryption and government surveillance is already changing. Due to the tragic events in Paris and San Bernardino, many will take a 180-degree turn on government surveillance, and demand the government to do more, not less. Expect more coverage about cybersecurity and privacy – especially as the EU enforces stricter data privacy rules (which will have an impact on cloud provides likes Amazon Web Services). Interestingly, despite the Vtech hack, which may have made children’s information available, we don’t expect much coverage about smart toys and privacy.
  10. A big issue with driverless cars won’t be the technology or safety record. It will be the insurance requirements and state laws. California recently said that driverless cars will need a steering wheel and a person who is certified to drive – even as Google has designed a driverless car without a steering wheel. (The reason: it will be the transition from driverless to driver when accidents could occur.) But auto insurance will see that premiums will go down as accidents decrease – and that will change one dynamic of driverless cars (perhaps not theft, however). 
Let us know if you agree or disagree.

Please note: We're going to take a break for Christmas and New Year's -- which isn't to say we won't be working, just not blogging.

Happy Holidays, and see you in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Key Predictions for Trends in 2016, Part II

While we sometimes look at cultural events, we will not discuss the impact of "The Force Awakens" since many have not seen the movie yet (or have not seen it a second time, yet) nor the presidential election.

Here are our second set of marketing and technology trends that we think will have an impact in 2016.

  1. Content management remains king. With traditional media’s downward trend and social media’s continued prominence, companies must continue to promote themselves as thought leaders through social media, blogs, videos, bylined articles, videos and more. And they must do so an ongoing basis to remain fresh and relevant.
  2. More will cut the cord in 2016. There will always be a reason to watch TV on a big screen but too many families watch TV on separate rooms on various devices. Cable isn’t something you need, even for sports – although in some cases you need to have a cable subscription to access programming on your device and you certainly need Internet access to be able to stream. So we expect some people not to cut the cord because it’s more complicated and not necessarily cheaper if you cut the cable cord. Too much good shows to watch.
  3. The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. The media will continue to look at whether a college education is worth the student debt loads as well as what kind of education we should provide our students. In an age of instant access to facts, memorizing certain facts may not be as helpful as actually understanding the underlying issues around history, science, literature, etc. and may not be indicators of future career success.
  4. The gig or on-demand economy will continue to grow. For optimists, the gig economy gives people the ability to work when they need to, where they want to, to take on new opportunities and experiences, and to be more entrepreneurial (like the guy who took shares in then-private Facebook to paint its offices and wound up with shares worth $200 million). To pessimists, it means that people won’t have the safety net of company-provided healthcare and benefits. We expect the debate about the gig economy to continue in 2016, as courts decide whether Uber drivers are employees, whether they can unionize, etc.
  5. Virtual Reality won’t go mainstream, yet. The New York Times’ new experiment with virtual reality as an immersive advertising platform – which included a free cardboard VR viewer for subscribers –was impressive, but its cardboard viewer hasn’t sent crowds to purchase more sophisticated and more expensive viewers. That said, others will follow the success (or failure) of what the Times calls “the future of news.” If it is the future, expect it to make reporters’ lives even more challenging because of the additional work it takes to film and edit immersive VR.
We will issue our next set of predictions tomorrow. But let us know what you think of today's trends.