and a few articles I’ve missed over the last few weeks:

    1. Robots with odor sensors alert you to bad breath
    2. not exactly sensor related, but an increasing number of airlines are looking at charging passengers by weight. Samoa Air is already charging by weight. With the broad digitization of everything, one could imagine that in the future it could be relatively easy to charge by any number of sensor-derived metrics.
    3. electromagnetic interference can turn LCD screens into touch screens
    4. advertising in the future will rely on where you are looking
    5. work-around when GPS is unavailable
    6. a wristband to let you now if you are washing your hands correctly
    7. the future of smartphone camera sensors
    8. Q&A with Deepak Prakash, Global Director of Marketing for Digital Health at Vancive Medical Technologies
    9. combined solid-state and atomic inertial measurement units which can be used for “advanced navigational sensor chips are smart weapons, positioning, targeting, navigation, and guidance.”
    10. DVD used to scan blood

There has been much written about how digital is broadly changing news dissemination, but beyond simple replacement of the paper alternative and an acceleration of “news” to satisfy an always-on consumer, I think there is a deeper change afoot.

Yes, “traditional news” is undergoing significant change through the direct and indirect influences of digitization – something that has largely been well covered.  But an always-on digital consumer is also driving other changes outside the newsroom. For example, immediately following the Boston bombings, the Boston Globe set-up a spreadsheet (ok technically a Google doc) on their site where individuals could post offers for help and those seeking could find help.  The Globe has left the doc online as a tribute to all those who offered up help the ensuing aftermath.

In this small example, I see the role of the newspaper changing.  While it seeks to remain an important distribution platform for news it might also find relevancy elsewhere. In the early history of the United States, the colonial tavern was a physical place for news dissemination – something that was largely replaced by newspapers as the young nation urbanized.  But beyond just news dissemination it was also often the physical hub of the community.   Newspapers are well positioned to reinvent themselves – doing what the Globe did – and being the digital hub of the underlying communities.

Several changes are underfoot which could be shifting the direction of curation.  Over the last 24 months major content distribution platforms have been steadily moving towards becoming more curation focused. Curation feels like the natural evolution of content. As companies try to move up the value chain they become more focused on curation. As they seek greater margin – they focus more heavily on becoming a curated platform.

Still today there is talk of traditional (linear and paid) TV being killed by disruptive technologies like Internet TV.  But this believe seems rather shortsighted to me.  First, Internet is just a distribution approach and others could certainly adopt it. Both DirecTV and Dish have examined Internet delivery of their services for example – despite the fact one might argue Internet delivery is at odds with their current use of satellite delivery.  Under that scenario, Internet TV hardly seems disruptive to their business in the way most people are thinking about it. Secondly, I’m not want to quickly rule out innovation from incumbents.  Even when the innovation doesn’t originate with incumbents many are still quick to adapt.  Look at DVR technology. While Tivo really introduced the possibility and potential of the technology, traditional MSOs and telecos integrated the technology quickly into their existing business models and one could argue it was these exact MSOs and telcos who took the technology to mass markets.  MSOs and telcos still feel ready to adopt new innovations.

There has long been talk that free content or user-generated content would disrupt existing business models into nonexistence, but this has yet to come to fruition and I doubt it is on the horizon. Clearly we aren’t completely through the cycle of change, but as Jeff Bewkes, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Time Warner recently posited –  TV is taking over the Internet, rather than the Internet taking over TV.  YouTube is reportedly launching paid subscriptions for some of their video channels which only seems to lend support for this premise.  Multiple business models around  entertainment services are coexisting and many are thriving in the face of perceived competition.

Netflix recently laid out their Long-Term View – most of which is completely consistent with what I’ve laid out above. It is also evident, Netflix too is pushing forward to be not just a distribution platform, but also a curator.  As Ted Sarandos, the company’s Chief Content Office recently put it –

if we believe our own theories, most content will eventually be delivered online to most people on the planet. Then we will have to distinguish ourselves from emerging competitors in other ways…You do not want someone looking at two sets of content from different services, then shrugging their shoulders and thinking that they are about the same. We want to avoid that down the line…Our appetite for non-exclusive content is going to near zero. We are willing to pay more for programming on an exclusive basis and for individual programming on a curated basis but we are not taking on a lot of non-exclusive bulk. It gets very confusing for consumers when they see two different products advertising the same content brands.

Some of the key take-aways from Netflix’s Long-Term View:

For most existing networks, this economic transition will occur through TV Everywhere. If a consumer continues to subscribe to linear TV from a multi-channel video program distributor (MVPD), they get a password to use the Internet apps for the networks they subscribe to on linear. The more networks successfully keep their prime-time programming behind this authentication wall, the less “cord cutting” will occur. The same consumer who today finds it worthwhile to pay for a linear TV package will likely pay for a “linear plus apps” package…

We don’t and can’t compete on breadth with Comcast, Sky, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, or Google. For us to be hugely successful we have to be a focused passion brand. Starbucks, not 7-Eleven. Southwest, not United. HBO, not Dish…

We are not a generic “video” company that streams all types of video such as news, user-generated, sports, music video, or reality. We are movies and TV shows…

Another area of focus is personalized merchandising, which drives what content we feature on a given member’s initial screen. Google search is an example of a ranking system, where results are automatically computed to show Google’s estimate of the most relevant answer to the query. For Netflix, the user’s home page is the personalized ranking of what we think will be most relevant for that specific user at any given time. By analyzing terabytes of data from every recent click, view, re-view, early abandon, page views and other data, we are able to generate a personalized homepage filled with the content most likely to please. Our aim is to keep inventing and tuning algorithms to generate higher satisfaction, viewing, and retention, for whatever the level of content we can afford in that territory…

All of our algorithm work, like with Google search ranking, is proven or disproven by A/B testing. Only algorithms that lead to an improved experience get rolled out to everyone…

As we’ve gained experience, we’ve realized that the 20th documentary about the financial crisis will mostly just take away viewing from the other 19 such docs, and instead of trying to have everything, we should strive to have the best in each category. As such, we are actively curating our service rather than carrying as many titles as we can..

Over the years, we’ve successfully developed the art of estimating how much our members will watch a given show or movie based upon how it has performed to date in other, earlier channels (theatrical for movie; broadcast and cable first-run for TV) and on how comparable titles have performed on Netflix. This generally enables us to avoid overpaying for content, relative to member enjoyment…

With Originals, we are now extending that concept to estimate the attractiveness of projects that are brought to us by professional producers. There is more judgment required in this process, and more variability due to the art in the production process, but because of the data we have on our members’ viewing habits and our experience in licensing a broad range of content, we think we can do as good or better job than our linear TV peers in choosing projects and setting budgets…

At times we have worried about the strategic motivations of ISPs that are also MVPDs, but the absence of cord-cutting has mitigated this concern. In the USA, MVPDs have remained stable at 100 million subscribers while Netflix has grown to about 30 million members. The stability of the MVPD subscriber base, despite Netflix large membership, suggests that most members consider Netflix complementary to, rather than a substitute for, MVPD video. MVPDs are keeping their subscribers through TV Everywhere authentication. Internet video services like Netflix,, iTunes and YouTube are not currently a material strategic problem for companies that are both an ISP and an MVPD.

In the case of Netflix, HBO or other TimeWarner properties, and even YouTube the great purveyor of “free” content, the move towards margin-rich curation is tangible.  It is increasingly clear that multiple business models will successfully coexist – even over an extended period of time.  Consumers are building suites of entertainment options instead of locking into a single service provider of content. Each business model has their own respective approach and each approach adds value in different ways.  But common denominators do not facilitate differentiation.

If (read: when) all content can easily be delivered via the Internet it will be. In that environment, distribution isn’t a differentiator so companies will increasingly turn to curation in an effort to provide a unique value proposition.  At the same time, consumers will maintain relationships with several “curation providers”.






Jonathan Turley wrote last week that more surveillance would not likely stop the type of violence we witnessed in the Boston Marathon bombing.  Turley writes, “as a thousand papercuts from countless new laws and surveillance systems slowly kill our privacy, we might want to ask whether a fishbowl society will actually make us safer or just make us feel that way.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a strong believer in civil liberties, but Turley’s discourse is a vanilla argument that lacks understanding of what a future of digital images might look like.

Today greater surveillance simply equates to more evidence after a violent act is perpetrated.  While the threat of eventual capture might dissuade some violent acts, it might not dissuade the type of gross acts of violence perpetrated by those who don’t care for their own safety.  This is the point Turley is making.  I don’t want to debate which camp the Tsarnaev brothers fall into.

But Turley fails to realize the future doesn’t necessarily look like the present he assumes.  As camera systems become both more pervasive and higher resolution systems are deployed – (a natural phenomenon of technology evolution is technology gets better at the same price and more pervasive over time) – then more can be done with the digital assets that are collected.  Computers can be used to match individuals overtime and across locations.  That means computer systems can identify when a given person shows-up in a given place and identify how frequently they are there.  These future systems can essentially digitally track our movements while looking for digitally discernible patterns.

Did the brothers scout their plan prior to Patriot’s Day? Could these future systems – cameras and computers tied together in one continuous mesh – have identified Tamerlan, who as you’ll recall had been previously interviewed by FBI? Did they act suspicious in the time leading up to the bomb being detonated and could that behavior have been digitally detected?  The future of these systems is real-time continuous communication.

These future systems might not stop all acts of violence, but one can certainly see where the momentum of technology will take them.



At rare times in our collective history a tech product is introduced – one that is so new it doesn’t have a market.  It’s capabilities and functionality are largely undefined – left to others to uncover. These devices and services offer tremendous promise. They offer promise about what can come to fruition through the right application of the technology.  They offer promise of what tomorrow can bring.  The future is wide open to these products. They are positioned to disrupt.

Edison originally thought his phonograph invention would be used for deathbed recordings and limited dictation.  But applied – it has changed entire industries and ultimately our culture. Philo Farnsworth’s television system did the same. Then the personal computers of the 1970s.  More recently mobile telephony followed by today’s smartphone.

These product introductions might not always make sense when taking out of this context.  In 2010 we saw it with 3DTV. Ultimately, 3DTV didn’t fulfill market expectations within the timelines prescribed to it.  But the initial buzz around the initial launch was driven by the belief that it might change things as we know it.  Tablets in 2011 held the same position.  The jury remains out if tablets will fulfill their destiny of fundamentally changing how we computer and  interact with other experiences (ie TV and “second screen”).

This year we have several technologies with great promise. I believe the appeal of smartwatches encompasses this great promise. Google Glasses fall into this category as well.  New applications applied to a unique form factor of computing power and connectivity have the potential to disrupt how we live our lives.  Unknown applications are waiting to be discovered.

Over the last 24 hours there have been hundreds thousands of articles written about the realization that selling Google Glasses received under the Explorer program is strictly verboten (see here and 1,000+ other places). Outside of some overzealous attorneys, I think (I hope) this restriction is designed with the intention that Google has put this new technology in the hands of those they believe best positioned to help realize the great promise of this new technology.

The world is truly becoming flat when it comes to consumer tech and that has had (and is having) profound ramifications on the competitive nature of the global marketplace for consumer tech.  The global tastes and preferences of consumers are becoming homogeneous and while some subtleties still exist between geographic markets, these differences are quickly becoming marginalized.

Take for example mobile telephones. In the last 24-36 months we’ve witnessed the rise of global preferences for smartphones or traditional mobile telephony. Not news of course.  But what is perhaps interesting is that these preferences have largely materialized around a very few specific models.  Because of this, the global market has truly become a winner (can) take-all market. While mobile phone manufacturers will broker specific carrier deals within a given region, they are still selling the same handset across these markets for the most part. This has ramifications for accessory manufacturers and more broadly it has ramifications for the entire suite of devices, services, and software/applications within the accompanying ecosystem of a successful product – especially if the ecosystem is built around a specific OS.

Even when usage patterns differ across geographic markets do we care? Perhaps when it comes to the nuances of actually marketing a product or service, but because products and services will have all of the bells and whistles built in anyways there isn’t really much customization that needs to be done on a geographic basis.

But it does mean that the initial design of a device or service is extremely important.  It must scale globally.  Devices and services must speak a global design language.  Brands must work on a global scale. One need only look at Apple, Samsung, or Beats to see this working in practice.

I’m a fan of  mirroring.  At least I’m a fan of the idea.  I’m not a heavy user. Actually, I don’t really use it at all.  I guess I’m not alone.  According to a recent study from NPD, only about seven percent of tablet or smartphone owners actually use screen sharing technologies.

NPD suggests the technology is simply new so consumers just haven’t adopted it yet.  Certainty this could be true.  We know adoption follows power laws so perhaps we just haven’t hit the point of accelerating adoption yet. There probably is some truth to this. According to NPD’s results,  less than 20 percent of those surveyed are even aware of the capabilities of screen sharing across devices.

But I think there is more.  I think the feature is largely a novelty today and we simply haven’t hit on any real killer applications. Sharing photos on a secondary screen is nice, but not necessary or sufficient. The step of  mirroring the personal device with the shared screen in order to share the content – the time cost to the user – isn’t worth the benefit.  One can simply just “share” the first screen of the tablet or smartphone. Of the seven percent who are using mirroring, about half are using it to share photos – though I would imagine this is something they have done instead of something they do regularly.

About three-quarters of those who actually use screen sharing technology are streaming video. This makes sense to me.  Utility/enjoyment of video consumption is probably correlated with screen size as viewing duration increases.  The longer you watch a given video, the more likely you might be to want to toggle it to a bigger screen.

NPD reported only about 20 percent reported sharing video games from a personal device to a shared screen. Again, I think this speaks to the way individuals are interacting with the content.  Playing a video game on a personal device like a smartphone or tablet is involved.  It is more interaction than simple consumption.  Toggling to a larger screen – one that is further from you in distance – probably doesn’t help you out when the input still has to go through the screen of the personal device.

There are two key points here. Mirroring makes sense if there are others with whom you want to share content and simply sharing the first screen of the tablet or smartphone is cumbersome. Secondly, mirroring makes sense if those who are consuming the content on the shared screen aren’t involved in the input/manipulation of the content. Because one still needs to do control the content using the personal device, mirroring only really makes sense if those who are viewing the content on the shared screen don’t want to also control it on the personal screen.

So what are the killer applications for screen mirroring?  Education is probably one.  I can see potential if there is a tablet on every desk and the teacher can toggle an individual screen either to her own screen or to a screen in front of the classroom for broader sharing across the entire class.  I think gaming does make sense – when multiple players are involved and the personal screen can be used in conjunction with the shared screen. In other words, the tablet becomes a true second screen with additional information or the  shared screen has unique information that is relevant to the personal screen.


In the last year or two there has been an explosion of massive online open courses (MOOCs).  These have come from a wide assortment of institutions. To date there has been tremendous experimentation but business models are still forming. As Cisco’s executive director for AsiaPac Andrew Thomson recently suggested one potential business model “could be that the content could become free, but you pay for the credential.”

MOOCs are essentially the mass digitization (and democratization) of education. In many ways, it is unfolding in the same way other “digitizations” have occurred. Namely, distribution and content are being commoditized which is drastically lowering the market price. However, a significant portion of education is the relevant signal.  So while digitization is commoditizing the content, the signal remains important.

By providing structure to something that is relatively unstructured – in the case of education an exam, a certification, or a degree – institutions are able to continue to monetize content that is increasingly being commoditized.

Most of the to-date successful web properties have built their success off of providing structure to relatively unstructured bits.  This is definitely the model of Google who has so far done certain aspects of that structuring better than others.  App stores create structure.  Amazon provides structure. If you look around, you’ll note the companies that have provided structure as their industries have digitized have found the most success and have been able to remain relevant.

At the root -this is the battle currently underway between traditional analog/physical players and their digital counterparts. This is what has unfolded with music, video, books, and now education. And because digital bits scale extremely well, companies operating in the digital environment can garner 90+ percent of a market.


At the end of January, Facebook announced they would partner with the suicide prevention group The goals of the partnership are to research the online behaviors of suicide victims in the days and months leading up to their deaths in order to identify and detect patterns of potential suicides.

If successful, the research will identify common strings of those most at risk of committing suicide before they do it. If successful, this research could create the groundwork for the implementation of what I’ll call “digital safety nets” and aid in the prevention of suicides.  These digital safety nets are really just triggers that key a series of digital (and ultimately physical) responses to a given risk. At current, there is a vast amount of research going into the creation of digital safety nets for a swath of risks.

I’ve long been intrigued by the work being carried out by researchers at Northwestern who have been working with a mobile app platform they created call “Mobilyze.”  The mobile platform is designed to help those suffering from depression by prompting users to make changes in their surroundings and/or behavior to reduce or eliminate depressive symptoms. The platform is also designed to identify the patient’s state and provide intervention prompts like text messages or phone calls.

Many of the personal connected devices we see today take what we might already know and provide the information back to us in more exact terms.  For example, we know we exercised or walked or biked, but a given fitness device with an embedded GPS can tell us exactly how far we went or how much we did.  What we are seeing with the creation of digital safety nets is slightly different. Here these connected devices might take what we ourselves don’t know and provide us insight. These connected devices could develop the capability of identifying for us are own tells.

Yes – there are of course the risks of false positives.  But the alternatives are much worse.  And algorithms should get better and more refined (perhaps I’ll write a bit more about why this might not actually be the case in a future post). And while we are currently focused on behaviors with large negative outcomes, we could theoretically alter any behavior – simply through a  mix of digitization, inverted crowdsourcing or perhaps the use of quasi probe data, and finally digital prompts that subsequently exert influence on the behavior we are seeking to alter.