Entrepreneurship, Technology

Modular Hardware = Consumer Win

Have you heard about Project Ara from Google? If not, you should check it out. It is an exciting initiative focused on offering modular phones to consumers. For those of you not familiar with this concept, allow me to use a fun example: Mr. Potato Head. With our spudly friend, we can swap ears, limbs, eyes, add accessories, and change expressions; all without purchasing a new Mr. Potato Head. The proposition of a modular phone is not too different: instead of purchasing phone after phone just for different hardware components, a consumer could simply replace part of the device. For instance, if a consumer wanted a new high-definition camera, he or she could simply remove the existing block component and swap it for a purchased new one. Or that person could add hardware functionality that might not otherwise be available, like NFC with a secure element.

This is a huge opportunity for consumers. Conceivably, costs for these devices and parts will decrease as more and more are produced. This means that quality hardware will be made available to a wider customer base, although if you’re a tween or teenager, this also means that you may be upgrading your device components every couple of months; a potentially expensive scenario for enabling parents.

With this being a Google initiative, I am also hoping that certified third parties will be able to offer standardized components for this platform, keeping with Google’s (relative) tradition of enabling an open ecosystem. I would also be interested in seeing some hardware specifications open-sourced and made 3D printable, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself..

Overall, I am excited for what this project could mean for global smartphone adoption and consumer customization. Supposedly, we will be seeing the first of these devices in January 2015, and I look forward to testing one. If you are interested in helping with Project Ara, I recommend signing up here and additionally checking out Phonebloks. Be sure to tweet me with your thoughts on modular!

Entrepreneurship, Technology

Oh Where is My Wearable

In the next 12 months, I plan on buying a smart watch. Why? Currently we have companies giving us what I like to call the “standard smart watch experience”: a wearable digital screen with mobile computing power. Devices from Samsung, Pebble and the like are the natural evolutionary relatives to devices like the Casio Databank from the 80s. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has changed between the two eras (at least not enough for a stronger consumer proposition). On a separate but parallel development track, companies like Jawbone, Fitbit and Nike are now selling wearable devices that enable consumers to better understand their fitness habits (or lack thereof). With these and similar technologies like Google Glass, which I purchased and returned earlier this year, we are still at the beginning stages of this phenomenon.

So where are the future growth opportunities? Much like any nascent product category, we are about to see some accelerated development in the smart watch space, which is good news for consumers. The International Data Corp is predicting a significant uptick in the number of wearable units sold over the next few years. The hardware manufacturers in the space will continue to add new hardware components, similar to what we are currently seeing between Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S series. There won’t be much room for new hardware entrants, but with unified operating systems like the upcoming Android Wear SDK, applications will still be a terrific opportunity. The future of wearables is all about information convergence, particularly with real-time and personalized data. For consumers and startups alike, we should get excited about the future of wearables. At least until they turn into implantables..

Keep the conversation going on Twitter with #wearable!

Entrepreneurship, Technology

APIs for the Internet of Things

The recent announcement from Google’s Sundar Pichai should be a reminder that connected devices, otherwise known as “the internet of things,” are here to stay. Yes, we know that Google Glass isn’t exactly mainstream (remember, I returned mine), but that isn’t the only device type we can look forward to. Everything from your watch to your washing machine is connecting to the internet, but until Mr. Pichai’s announcement, many of these systems have been closed (adoption of android on new devices is a whole other story). Where an opportunity exists for existing and new IaaS and PaaS companies is to provide useful hardware-based services. There are MANY creative solutions that can be sold as a service. In addition, there is a tremendous data opportunity here, which as we all know is a major investment focus for many firms and corporations. I’m looking forward to seeing significant IaaS and PaaS development in this space.

What are your thoughts on the Internet of Things? Tweet at me with #connected, and let me know!

Entrepreneurship, Technology

Why Regulation Would Help Bitcoin

A lot has happened in the world of Bitcoin this week. The Chair of the Federal Reserve recently gave the opinion that the Fed does not have the authority to regulate Bitcoin because the technology is not tied to the financial institutions under its jurisdiction. While the Fed may not have jurisdiction over this new platform, if Bitcoin is to serve a long-term proposition, it is necessary to establish a regulatory framework in order to protect stakeholders. Hopefully the loss of about half a billion dollars from Mt. Gox will inspire some global action. While many in the Bitcoin industry (if we can call it that, yet) have assured the community that they believe in “transparent, thoughtful, and comprehensive consumer protection measures,” we have learned throughout our world history that financial services companies (particularly those operating on a global scale) are not able to sufficiently self-regulate.

The reality is that this is a huge opportunity for those in the Bitcoin space rather than an impediment. If the goal is to push Bitcoin mainstream, then it is necessary for the platform to get legitimate recognition from the major global economic drivers. This means enacting certain consumer protections that are not present in the system today. This is a rapidly evolving space that leaders like the Bitcoin Foundation can play a significant role in.

What are your thoughts on the future of Bitcoin? Tweet at me with #bitcoin, and let me know!

Community, Technology

Why I Returned My Google Glass

Ajay GlassFirst of all, yes, you can return Google Glass. Why did I? Well, rather than start from the beginning, I think I will start from the end. I had coffee with my CEO, Ajay Banga, a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, Ajay is the kind of down-to-earth person you don’t think CEOs of major corporations to be. Some of our discussion revolved around potential markets for this type of wearable technology, and the requirements for significant adoption. We had some fun with my Glass (as you can see to the right and here) and talked about the landscape of wearables in general. Where we immediately agreed was that the consumer proposition wasn’t quite there yet for something mainstream, even with products like Pebble and Gear in the market. We’ll get there, eventually, but we aren’t there today.

944835_10152144915052008_1408164435_nI’ve been a Glass Explorer for about a month now, and overall, it has been a great experience. Essentially acting as a volunteer beta tester, I’ve been able to interact with other Explorers in a closed discussion environment and provide product feedback to the Google Glass team. It has been a good experience overall, as I discussed in my initial review. My main concern with the Explorer edition has been the hardware, which should improve with future iterations. What has been most interesting in my testing has been the social implications of wearing the device. Some folks have come up to me asking about it, wanting to learn more. Others keep away and almost ostracize me, seemingly unsure of who (or what) I am. I know the Google Glass team is well aware of these issues from both testers and the media, and I am sure that will be reflected in future hardware changes.

Even with the recent announcement of Glass frames, it is tough for me to justify the price to myself. I am still very excited about the potential of this technology, and I hope to rejoin the program or purchase a future version of the device. This is one Glass Explorer signing off, for now…

What are your thoughts on wearable technology? Tweet at me with #wearables, and let me know!

Entrepreneurship, Technology

Patent Pending

Screen shot 2014-01-18 at 2.19.27 PMI was very excited to file a patent this week, as you might imagine. While I can’t yet give any real details of the filing, I can say it was for a global transportation platform that could, applied correctly with the right resources, dramatically simplify the way individuals travel. I have been asked about the process of filing the patent, and all in all, it was a fairly simple process. Like most work, detail is important, especially when it comes to developing the claims of a patent. Likewise, the language you use can mean the difference between a valid claim and an invalid one.

I have also been asked whether I plan on doing something with the patent. Well, that depends on many different criterion, so we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, I hope this is my first of many patents to be filed!

Thoughts on our patent system or the filing process? Tweet at me with #patents, and let me know!

Adventure, Community, Technology

Film Review: The Square

I was fortunate to attend a showing of The Square, a documentary focused on the political and social tensions in Egypt we have seen during this decade. This Oscar short-listed film purports to show the revolution from “behind the headlines,” and I have to say it did an excellent job of doing so. The film took viewers into the often chaotic situation in and around Tahrir Square of the clash between a revolutionary force, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Egyptian Army. As a character-driven film, the story focuses on six individuals who are not afraid to show their hearts to the camera. I was thoroughly impressed by how the filmmakers were able to capture the emotion of given situations for most stakeholders rather than provide a dispassionate review that we often see in the media and other films. I highly recommend that anyone who has a chance to the see this film does so.

On the business side, it is interesting to note that Netflix has acquired exclusive streaming rights for this film. This is a continuation of a trend we will continue to see, which I pointed out in a previous post.

Tweet at me with your own reviews and thoughts on the @TheSquareFilm.