Category Archives: Business Models

Voice assistants I love to unplug, and smart fridges I really don’t need

I’ve had some fun with Alexa. The matter was settled over the Christmas break: We can do without AI in our home.

I had previously written about it here. And featured voice assistants in my last tech column, “I spy with my little AI.” I reference how creepy it could get should an AI enabled device such as Alexa, Google assistant or even Siri eavesdrop on our private conversations. AI devices after all are supposed to do our bidding, not spy on us. But there’s a fine line between passively listening and spying.

So when we discovered that an AirBnB we rented over the break provided an Amazon Echo speaker, it got to the point where (after a few rounds of asking Alexa random questions and finding ‘her’ quite annoying) I unplugged it and put the darn thing away.

It was no surprise then to hear that at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas,  several new breeds of AI devices were unveiled, designed to respond to human inclination to suddenly want to talk to hardware. Such as the smart refrigerator by LG that ‘talks’ to a smart oven etc.

Which makes me wonder: Just at the time when we have plenty of research pointing to the correlation between being too plugged in, and being extremely socially disconnected, we have the tech sector pushing products that seem to exacerbate the issue. I don’t need a smart fridge, thank you very much – I just need a painless way to talk to an LG service rep (25 minutes on hold, seems customary) when my fridge behaves badly.

And speaking of snooping devices, here’s something that is advertised as being able to monitor a home. A clothes hook with a hidden camera. Creepy? Or is it the sign of (the Internet of) things to come?

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 17, 2018 in Business Models, Hype, LMD, Technology


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do you trust Apple? Or buy it’s half-baked PR?

Many, many years ago I decided I would no longer support or use Apple products, however ‘convenient’ and cool they were. Most iPhones and Macs before that were overpriced; we as a family decided against them. (My first PC was an Mac. Today I could by three fast PCs for the price of that Mac I owned up to 1996.)

So now, as Apple products come under withering scrutiny, such as the ‘speed throttling’ or battery issue, I wonder why people still put up with a terribly unethical company. There have been plenty of scandals that signaled to customers something was awry  – from the iPad Chinese scandal, to the more recent one that smells of ‘Planned Obsolescence’ (an old marketing ruse).

Transparency is not its strong suit – secrecy is is built into its DNA after all. Including workplace secrecy. But Apple seems to understand human psychology, and knows that a shiny new object is enough to deflect bad business practice. If you read the company’s disingenuous apology, it sounds like it was hammered out by a group of ghost-writers in a tavern filled with corporate lawyers. So while there will be lawsuits and pressure from governments, it could ride this out.

So my question is, if you’re an Apple user do you ‘like‘ the company, and distrust the brand? Or is it the other way around?


Tags: , , , ,

Could Fitbit smartwatch take over iPhone territory?

Though I will never wear an activity tracker. I’ve been very curious about the smart wristband / ‘wearables’ business. Especially the territory Fitbit has been moving into.

Sure, most people will be awed by Fitbit’s ‘SpO2’ sensor, for instance. But despite the clinical USP (to keep tabs of ones oxygenated blood), there are some features that blur the lines between an activity tracker and a smart watch; a wearable that can make contact-less payments via NFC, minus a phone.

There’s also the music feature. A smart watch that could store music could be a game changer. With Bluetooth and WiFi (and GPS) who knows what territory it might lead this ‘wearable’ into? Will it motivate some to leave their phone behind? Would that mess with the iPhone eco-system?

The other reason I’m curious about this wearable is, I plan to use Fitbit as an example in an upcoming class. It’s a class about the Internet, and the connectivity it provides. And the hardware and software that run on the infrastructure students take so much for granted. Following up on last week’s look at Virtual Reality, nothing like bringing up the much-hyped Internet of Things.


Tags: , , , ,

Aaron’s take on “How to humanize digital marketplaces.”

As many of you know, my son, Aaron often writes on matters pertaining to markets, the economy, and alternative currencies.

I found this topic on ‘humanizing digital marketplaces‘ very relevant to lifestyles we now take for granted, ‘shopping’ for airfares, taxis, books, and even knowledge –all of it online. The article is at If you read it (it is a long read!) I’d be interested to know what you think. He will too.

How to Humanize Digital Marketplaces


Tags: , , ,

‘Customers Not Cargo’ act thanks to United Airlines

You’ve heard of ‘cattle class‘ – the seating area most of us are herded into?

After last week’s horrible incident in which a doctor was dragged, bloodied and asked to get off a United Airlines flight, congresswoman Jan Schakowsky plans to introduce legislation “that would end the practice of involuntarily ‘bumping’ passengers from oversold aircrafts once and for all.” Likewise in the senate, Chris Van Hollen is introducing a similar ‘Customers Not Cargo’ bill.

The gist of it is that an airline which oversells a flight for business reasons has to come up with a business solution (not a law-enforcement one) to make sure the flight is emptied of the excess passengers who paid for that spot, anyway.

Now I’m not sure we need to have laws to ensure businesses treat customers with respect. But if you’re like me having been adequately bruised, and given the cattle prod, you’d agree they had this coming. Especially the folks who wax about the ‘friendly skies.’ (The Leo Burnett-inspired slogan dates back to 1965, and was brought back in 2013.)

Note the ad on the right. About embarking at Chicago. As the 1960s headline promised, the airline would later ‘catch’ Dr. Dao not far from the gate at Chicago O’Hare. The body copy goes further to suggest being friendly is catching. Hmmm)

Bonus Reading: Read the business evolved between United’s and Continental Airlines merger Wired Magazine


Tags: , , , , , ,

Will ‘Little Free Libraries’ do what eReaders didn’t?

Many years ago, in a neighbour’s store-room down Hildon Place, a few of us stacked our books together and called it a library. When the idea caught, we began issuing hand-made library cards. There was no organization to support us, but there was no shortage of kind old aunts who fed the librarians and patrons well.

So naturally I’ve been fascinated by the ‘Little Free Library‘ movement that’s been cropping up outside homes. The library (as you can see here) looks like a large bird house with a door and a plaque.

But will a little box on the curb spur a new interest in reading? We were hyperventilating with optimism when eReaders took the world by storm almost a decade ago.

A little library with no overdue fines looks quaint, but unlike digital trends, these decidedly analog ‘platforms’ (they are raised boxes, aren’t they?) have the potential to build conversations, and bring communities closer. There are some 40,000 Little Free libraries, to date, according to the website’s FAQs.

Starting one is as simple. Owners are asked to register one’s Library making it searchable online. Borrowers are urged to contribute a book for every book borrowed.

Some young people have launched their LFLs with aplomb, having constructed it out of scrap wood or from an old bookshelf. I could see this trend become almost a hobby, as young readers discover that there is more than one way to enjoy a good book.

  • If you like the idea, follow Little Free Library on Twitter @LtlFreeLibrary

Tags: , ,

Whatever happened to music lyrics? Are good songwriters going extinct?

Tell me if you’ve felt this way – that the words of many recent songs are beyond awful.

We’ve got some oddly eclectic music going on at our home, so I do hear a wide range – from Adele and Chris Stapleton to Merle Haggard and Sting. But in so much of the other current music (and I know this sounds like a dad talking!), they are passably listenable, until you actually hear the words. You’d think a bunch of blindfolded monkeys were given word processors and the results were set to music. And while I’m at it,

I know there are folks who think, for instance that Adele’s lyrics are very old. Such as that refrain “I must’ve called a thousand times.” But she does tell compelling stories (River Lea, for instance, which has been the subject of literature before), and those stories never grow old, accentuated by the quality of the voice.

There’s a good article on the music industry on the business model of making us like bad music: How The Music Industry Is Brainwashing You to Like Bad Pop Songs. Basically it’s that ‘Stockholm Effect’ combined with virtually bribing radio stations to play terrible music until they infect our brains.

But to get back to the main point of this: Is the music industrial music complex ignoring good songwriters just to churn out radio hit after radio hit? Isn’t it odd that while there is so much of emerging musical talent via TV talent shows, songwriting talent seems to be going down the slopes.

Mr. Paul Simon, where are you when we need you most?


Tags: , , , ,