Ann I. Nygren

Moore Of Everything Is On The Way

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore famously predicted that computing would dramatically increase in power at an exponential pace. Strictly speaking, Moore’s Law relates to the ever-increasing number of transistors that can be crammed onto a silicon chip. But it’s also become shorthand for the radical advances that computers and technology continue to make with each passing nanosecond. And there’s no end in sight.

Tectonic shifts in technology and massive marketplace disruptions are becoming routine. Every single day, the advent of something new and amazing is announced. The pace of innovation today is dizzying. Mind-blowing. You can’t find an adjective big enough to qualify as hyperbole. Writing a quarterly technology column is like building a futuristic attraction at Disney’s Tomorrowland – by the time it’s done, it’s virtually obsolete.

Self-driving cars. Artificial intelligence. Cryptocurrency. I’ve written about each of these subjects in this space over the past several months (an ice age ago in IoT time). Today, in recognition of Moore’s Law, I’m sharing updates with some cool new developments in these areas (knocking on Ikea particleboard they’ll still be relevant by press time).

Current’s New Currency

Many pundits have postulated that, even if Bitcoin isn’t the future, it’s underlying blockchain technologies could serve as the picks and shovels that unearth game-changing ideas. Enter Current, a startup company evangelizing an incentivized blockchain-enabled multimedia ecosystem that rewards people for the time they spend streaming media.

Current, which counts Mark Cuban among its initial investors, is addressing today’s fractured media-consumption landscape by bundling popular sites like Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud into one platform. The idea is to not only give users a simpler, more streamlined way to access the media they crave, but also reward them for the time they spend listening to music or watching videos.

Current rewards its community through CRNC – pronounced “currency” – a new digital token designed for the media industry. Use Current’s app on your smartphone to play your favorite music, videos and podcasts, and you’re rewarded with CRNC tokens you can apply toward discounts on premium memberships with Current, Spotify, etc. Users can choose how much or how little of their data they want to share with the community. The more you share, the more CRNC you accumulate.

Content creators are also rewarded. They can convert their accrued digital currency into fiat currency or ads that run on the Current platform. Content curators are rewarded for discovering media that gains popularity. The Current app is available now in the Apple Store and will be available to Android users in Q3 of this year.

Partner networks like Spotify and YouTube retain their ad revenue and user data for content played within Current. The company also plans to grant CRNC to partner networks for implementing the Current protocol as a means of rewarding users within their own host platforms. If this ecosystem approach sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably an Amazon Prime member.

Groceries A Go-Go

Ah yes, Amazon. The all-everything Internet giant that revolutionized the online retail space is now on a quest to reinvent how brick-and-mortar shopping is done. This past January, the Behemoth That Bezos Built opened Amazon Go in Seattle – a convenience store that greets shoppers not with cashiers, but with cameras. Lots and lots of cameras. Consumers use their smartphone to identify themselves as they enter the store. Every item you place in your shopping basket is tracked so that when you walk out the door, a charge is automatically applied to your Amazon account. Easy peasy.

In-store cameras are nothing new, of course – big box retailers have been using them for years to measure traffic patterns and dwell time (the amount of time you spend inside a store). But the introduction of IoT sensors has led to even more sophisticated tracking – AT&T and Samsung have cameras that track customers in the aggregate, creating heat maps of traffic patterns.

NEC has unveiled cameras that use facial recognition algorithms to identify individual customers and track them as they walk through the store to provide targeted messages to them on display screens in the aisles. Targeted messaging delivered at the point of sale is a marketer’s Holy Grail – something we’re already accustomed to seeing online, compliments of creepy retargeting ad tech.

Courtesy of iStock

For its part, Amazon is continuing its quest to be the A-to-Z arbiter of everything by extending its online tracking and AI expertise into the brick-and-mortar space using the same kind of computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion found in self-driving cars. Amazon Go may provide a glimpse of how consumers react to the pervasiveness of this monitoring tech at the grocery store.

Silicon Chauffeurs and Gophers

The technology driving autonomous vehicles is speeding right along, too. Waymo recently announced that it’s buying thousands of self-driving minivans for a driverless ride-hailing service. And every auto company is furiously working to perfect the autonomous tech behind features like automatic emergency braking and automatic steering correction that keeps you cruising in your lane. Even Apple is in the game, recently increasing its self-driving test fleet in California to more than two dozen cars.

But the jury’s still out on who – or what – will be riding inside of these vehicles. A study conducted by AAA earlier this year revealed 63 percent of U.S. drivers are afraid to travel inside a self-driving vehicle. So, the more likely scenario for bringing autonomous vehicles into operation at scale involves the transport of things, not people.

Nuro, a startup by former Google engineers, is working on a driverless prototype designed specifically for the purpose of delivering laundry, groceries and other items trafficked by local merchants. Rather than reconfiguring robot taxis or autonomous trucks, Nuro envisions a new type of vehicle altogether – one that looks like a large lunchbox on wheels. Google it and see if you agree.

The market trends are Nuro’s friends – consumers are ordering more items online than ever before, and they’re clamoring for shorter and shorter delivery windows. A recent study by McKinsey put the annual global price tag of last-mile delivery at around $86 billion and projected staggering year-over-year growth rates. As you might expect, numbers like these are creating an innovation scrum in the marketplace.

Naturally, Amazon’s got skin in the game. While it works out the kinks with drone deliveries, it’s also filing patents for self-driving robots. Toyota, the world’s second-largest automaker, unveiled an “e-pallete” concept at CES this year involving see-through, self-driving boxes that roam through cities delivering people, packages and pizza. Pizza? Apparently, it’s a thing. Ford and Domino’s have teamed up to deliver pizza pies using self-driving cars as well. There’s even a company called Starship Technologies that’s working on sidewalk-only delivery bots for the streets of California, Washington D.C., Germany and the United Kingdom.

I fully expect to see BB8 droids with bags of Whole Foods groceries in tow cruising around on Jetson-style sidewalk conveyor belts by the time my next column is due.

Op/ed column submitted by Ann Nygren, President of Key Consulting Software. KCS is an IT consulting company focused on gaming and hospitality applications ranging from Agilysys (LMS/Stratton Warren/Infogenesis), Infinium (AM, AR, FA, GL, GT, HR, IR, PA, PL, PY, TR), Bally’s (CMS, CMP, ACSC & SDS), and interfaces with Aristocrat, IGT and Micros to Transitioning properties during purchase, sales, or merging of properties. KCS provides IT Departments with assistance in installation & upgrades, customization, interfacing and creation of unique client-specific software. Ann can be reached at ann@kcsoft.com.