- Creating products for local needs & wants with mass production methods. A look at the astounding variety of phones available in Shenzhen, created with local rather than 'universal' tastes in mind. With rapid progress being made in 3D printing and robotic assembly, this kind of locally-tuned product mix could be the norm in 10-15 years.
- A hardware product to enable a "frictionless Skype" experience - basically something that is as easy and intuitive as the old landline phones, plus video. We've been promised this videophone future many, many times before. Maybe this time will be different; Apple and Sony manufacturing superpower Foxconn is investing in the project, as well as being the contract manufacturer in charge of building the final units.
- The insane testing work that Apple does to design and engineer their vision of the perfect user experience for their hardware products.
Machines for Moving:
- Huge, self-driving vehicles are now in use in mining operations. For an industry that sees its need for labor fluctuate wildly with shifts in global demand, the appeal of the autonomous is huge. Mining companies also don't have a stellar history of fair or even humane treatment of labor so they have compelling PR reasons to have fewer human eyes and ears around.
- CyPhy Works, a slightly-dystopian, cyberpunk sounding drone company has just raised a $ 22 million dollar round of investment, with brown truck, brown parcel company UPS participating as an investor - perhaps looking to place some strategic drone delivery bets in order to prevent Amazon from cutting them out of the delivery game with their own drone efforts.
- Vicks is adding a connected thermometer to their lineup of products. It's too early to say if it will edge out the startup that it seems to be mimicking closely (Kinsa), but it's a challenge to any hardware startup when their brilliant insight and excellent execution of a product is up against a multi-decade brand that has deep associative powers in a market that a new company can't easily achieve.
- Big, non-tech companies are looking to bring some startup tech perspectives into their organizations in order to maintain their market share, even as the once solid foundations they have built (distribution, brand recognition, economies of scale) turn sandy and shifting. We wonder if better (and cheaper) results could instead come from giving greater autonomy to a limited number of pilot locations which distributes decision making closer to the work being done.
- Formalized end of life plans in the U.S. are not as common or detailed as it should be - and means a lot of totally preventable problems come up for families at times when they are least prepared to deal with them. A new app called CAKE is trying to simplify the process in a human way and make thinking about our own mortality a little easier.
- Hangovers are hurting the economy. The CDC says it costs $ 249 billion a year in the U.S. (compare this to the ~$6 billion or so productivity hit from influenza). Maybe if so many workers didn't dread going back to work on Monday, they wouldn't hit the bottle so hard on the weekend.
More next week.