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.