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🛰 IOP Observatory - Voice Computing, Speeding AI, & China scrapping coal

January 17 · Issue #9 · View online
The VUCA Observatory
glad you could make it.
In this week’s issue: The future of voice computing, the ethics of speeding, and China looking at renewables. All the juicy stuff.
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So let’s jump right in.

Policy & Research
The US Department of Commerce published its green book on the Internet of Things.[1] How this survives the transition remains to be seen, but the proposed actions read like a toothless tiger. Meanwhile, the EC started a consultation on Building the European Data Economy[2], whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Dept. of Alexa
Admittedly, this might get boring soon. But it seems that Amazon is dominating the conversation around connected devices and smart home right now. Google Home? Psshhh. But it’s the new thing and it seems to gain traction, so let’s observe it for a little while. If there’s smoke, there must be a fire somewhere, and with CES and its gushing reviews, there certainly seems to be lot’s of potential behind voice computing. Is it really the next big platform, as folks seem to suggest[1], and that a dedicated accelerator would hope there is?[2] That is, of course, projection, and the current design assumptions behind Alexa point to lots of work to be done.[3] Amazon certainly succeeded in lowering the barriers to experimentation with Alexa, but it remains to be seen whether they can build out the data ecosystem needed quickly enough before competitors catch up.
[1] The Voice
Cars and its tangents
While the discussion of ethics in autonomous driving usually centers around questions of whom a car should kill if worse comes to worst, here’s an easier question: should self-driving cars be allowed to speed? Tesla figured they shouldn’t, and had to correct course[1], amidst no shortage of user pressure, one presumes. But given the implied growth of the sector, and the -ugh- servicification of driving[2], that might be a more reasonable question to ask, still. And governments might find it handy to ask these questions, too. after all, even current automobiles enable plenty of surveillance.[3] Automatic ticketing seems like a foregone conclusion, and might even help offset lost tax revenues. For this to happen, plenty of new thinking has to happen at auto manufacturers though, as they seem to face the same situation that Nokia faced when the iPhone emerged.[4] We all remember how that ended. Funnily enough, it’s ex-Nokia’s mapping division that racks up partnerships for driving left, right and center (as covered last week), while Google seems to disinvest from the tech stack necessary for future cars, as they plan to sell their satellite imaging arm. [5].
Industry, Energy, AI
And while we’re often obsessed with the consumer aspects, industry is making huge strides. China announced it’s going to scrap plans and/or construction of a whopping 100 GW of coal fired production capacity[1], amidst massive investment into HVDC interconnectors.[2] Given the returns achievable with renewables, as evidenced by the WEFs handy guide[3], it’s little wonder. And FarmTech, or precision agriculture, gets renewed interest, with considerable funding for a new entrant[4]. I’ve long held that agriculture seems to be the most natural fit as first theater for IoT rollouts. This seems to slowly come true.
The Strange, Weird, and Interesting
End note
Phew, what a week.
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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