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🛰 IOP Observatory - IoT and Electricity, Base-Cost Renewables, & Self-Driving Car Behaviour

January 24 · Issue #10 · View online
The VUCA Observatory
glad you could make it.
In this week’s issue: IoT and Electricity, Base-Cost Renewables and Self-Driving Car Behaviour
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So let’s jump right in.

Connected Products
Yeah, I know. Another week looking at Alexa. But it is the big new kid on the block, although its future seems far from as rosy as one might be led to think. We’ve talked in last week’s issue about the data ecosystems that voice-activated assistants need to be integrated into, and it seems the competition will lead that way, with Amazon possibly finding itself fighting a rear-end battle due to it’s overly open approach with Alexa, which is great for discovering use-cases but poor for maintaining profitability. And given the low bar of requirements that need to be met for Alexa integration, one has to wonder whether the speed-to-market is bought with potentially vulnerable devices. Given the background reading on Mirai, the botnet that took out Dyn last fall, that certainly seems a possibility. Given that we’re making the rounds again with the “IoT will be like electricity”-Meme, things like Mirai should certainly have a place in your mental model of the products and services you build, even under assumptions of ubiquity.
Autonomous Mobility
Biggest news item certainly seems to be that Tesla has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a NHTSA investigation into the death of a driver who crashed into a trailer while on autopilot. Tesla tries to substantiate the safety of their semi-autonomous system with latitudinal data, which seems compelling enough, but without any mention of the methodology, I’d advise you not to take it at face value. But it seems certain that we’re going to have a lot of discussion around the trade-offs of autonomous mobility systems, with safety one obvious component, but by far not the only one. A look at unexpected consequences of self-driving cars is always interesting, esp. since the most interesting ramifications of any new technology usually play out as second- and third-order effects. On this note, it’s always good to revisit Jan Chipchase’s look at new behaviours that might be triggered by autonomous vehicles. Lastly, Deloitte produced a study on consumer sentiment of self-driving technologies. The upside: a lot of convincing will probably be necessary to actually move those units in meaningful quantities, given that it’s usually such a big-ticket item, and dealers already don’t know what the tech in cars does.
Energy in Transition
Bloomberg New Energy Finance, one of the best data sources on, you guessed it, New Energy, published their annual outlook for 2017. And as always, it’s worth a read. Their headline claim, a shift of the power system from the current base-load model to a potential base-cost model driven majorly by renewables certainly gives room to think. Almost concurrently, the MIT’s Energy Initiative published a whopping 350p report on the future of utilities under conditions of increased renewables and distributed production and storage capacities. It makes for compelling, if slightly terrifying reading, if only for the glacial pace of change in utilities, and the energy policies of the incoming US administration which manage to not mention renewable energy sources even a single time. Compare and contrast to the new Chinese energy plan as outlined in last weeks issue. But given the cost decline of e.g. Li-Ion batteries, there’s little room for utilities to move to, regardless of federal policy.
The Strange, Weird, and Interesting
End note
As always, if you have feedback, please let me know at And if you find something that should go into next weeks newsletter, send it my way!
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