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🛰 Voice Hype, Future of Privacy, Crude Renewables, Electric Cars and Public Benefits - IOP Observatory #12

February 7 · Issue #12 · View online
The VUCA Observatory
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In this issue: Voice hype, Connected Privacy, Your implants testify against you, Cars and Asthma
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Blog posts
Security and Privacy
Privacy is always a concern when it comes to the increasing proliferation of sensors in our world. So it’s encouraging to see the worst transgressions sanctioned by relevant authorities, as happened with Vizio, a maker of TV sets, that collected viewing habits in up-to-the-second resolution. That itself, found the FTC, isn’t problematic. They should’ve informed their customers better. It’s worth reading acting chairwoman Ohlhausen’s statement on the matter, too, as it seems to indicate a potential new direction for privacy litigation within the FTC. Whether customers actually would’ve read through a litany of Terms of Service and Privacy Policies is another matter entirely. Given this problem, and the increasing scrutiny under which lawmakers put connected devices, the idea of consumer-friendlier labels takes hold. On the European level, there’s some work on cybersecurity labels already under way. This regulation now comes under scrutiny itself for its potential impact of innovation potential.
Voice and the hype cycle
It looks as if we’re observing a particularly quick run through the hype-cycle (which on its own is problematic, but you know that already) with voice-activated assistants. Amazon’s Alexa saw a scathing review centered around its deep limitations, while more generally, voice assistants tend to have a discovery and stickiness problem, that people increasingly find out about. The bottom line: they’re great for simple tasks, but not much more. The question is whether they can be much more. There are arguments for both sides: it gives you an intuitive, hands-free interface vs. voice introduces more friction and overhead in forcing you to adhere to syntax. Add to that the discoverability problems and it’s clear that the gushing forecasts of Amazon’s path to home dominance might turn out to have been a little premature. It’s certainly instructive that Apple chooses a different path, instead focussing on underlying platforms. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out with a product offering of their own – indeed they have all the relevant platforms already. But I do think it might look very different from what Amazon and Google are doing. Oh, and as long as those assistants can be triggered by TV ads, they’re not going to be your personal assistants.
Cars and its tangents
If you want to get an idea about how much of negative externalities cars actually produce, have a quick look at Stockholm. They introduced their own variety of a congestion charge, marking a premium on driving during rush hour, and subsequently saw asthma attacks in kids decrease by 31%. So it’s encouraging that the drop of cost in batteries and renewables could put a stop to fossil fuel consumption growth by 2020. (The financial effects of that would be felt much sooner, as we covered last week.) Cleaner air would hopefully encourage more people to use alternative modes of transport, such as cycling. If self-driving gets its act together by then. It seems cyclists are one of the biggest “known unknowns” for autonomous vehicles. That plus the problems of transition period of going towards autonomous seem to indicate that for public benefits, policy should prioritise electric vehicles over autonomous vehicles.
Industry, Energy, AI
You know the world is shifting when Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest producer of crude, is pondering a whopping $5bn investment into renewables. And shifting it is. New battery grid storage is coming online quicker than anyone in the industry anticipated (Does that remind you of solar somehow? strange, isn’t it?) and will change pricing mechanisms much faster than anyone would like. I often joke that my two favourite markets, energy and the internet, are so interesting because they don’t adhere to standard economics, because of their time-boundedness and their instantaneous nature. We’ll have to figure out how the combination of the two looks like rather quickly. In the meantime, offshore wind continues to break records. And I probably should introduce a section that’s titled “Industry Consortia”, as there’s always a lot of movement there, but the recent announcement by Bosch, Cisco and select manufacturing partners about an IoT Blockchain infrastructure should make you pay attention.
The Strange, Weird, and Interesting
End note
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Also, I’ll be in Munich next week from the 15th - 17th. If you’re there, send me a message. I’d love to meet you for coffee or beers.
Until next week!
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