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Bull Session

The Trials and Tribulations of the Early Adopter

August 10, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss the difficulties that early adopters can encounter when using new consumer technology. In many instances, the first version of a tech product is no better than a beta release. Initial consumer iterations are often test cases for unproven inventions that can barely survive QA. Today, with so many tech products being released on a regular basis, the role of the early adopter is akin to that of an innovation guinea pig. So, why be an early adopter?

Resources:
The Trials and Tribulations of the Early Adopter

Bull Session

Amazon Eats Whole Foods

June 22, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we explore Amazon’s recent purchase of high-end grocery chain Whole Foods and how this transaction will impact the future of retail. For its $14 billion investment, Amazon gets, among other things, a strong real estate portfolio in areas of the US with wealthy, desirable demographics; sophisticated food industry logistics and warehousing; a host of purchasing relationships and agreements; and some potentially rich customer data.

It’s a little ironic that an e-commerce giant such Amazon now has an unique opportunity to redefine brick-and-mortar retail as well. But, the company has been experimenting in this space for a few years. Its Amazon Go offering, for instance, is a IoT-enabled grocery store which enables customers to forgo the checkout line. People can walk in, tap their mobile phones on a turnstile, grab what they like from the shelves, and just walk out again — no waiting in line required. We can imagine that Amazon’s retail technology might soon make an impact on its newly purchased grocery stores. Join us as we discuss the evolution of the retail and the consequences of the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods.

Resources

Why Amazon Bought Whole Foods

Bull Session

AI Goes Mainstream

February 3, 2017          

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss the high-powered Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, an initiative whose founding members include Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Apple. Apple was just recently added as a founding member.

The mission of the group is to educate the public about AI, study its potential impact on the world, and develop standards and ethics around its implementation. Interestingly, the group also includes organizations with expertise in economics, civil rights, economics, and research, who are concerned with the impacts of technology on modern society. These include: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the MacArthur Foundation, OpenAI, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Arizona State University and University of California, Berkeley.

Will AI build upon our society’s biases and disparities and make them worse? Or does it have the potential to create something more egalitarian? Join us as we discuss all this and more.

 
Resources:
Apple joins Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft in AI initiative
Partnership on AI
A massive AI partnership is tapping civil rights and economic experts to keep AI safe

Bull Session

The Future of Retail

January 21, 2017          

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss Amazon Go and the future of retail. As e-commerce continues to rise in popularity, retail stores are taking a huge hit, losing billions of dollars in transactions which have migrated online. What should physical retail look like then, in the 21st century? Ironically, Amazon, the e-commerce giant, might have the answer.

Amazon Go, the company’s new retail offering being beta tested in Seattle, is a IoT-enabled grocery store which forgoes the checkout line. Customers can walk in, grab what they like from the shelves, and just walk out again — no waiting in line required. How does Amazon Go work? When customers walk in, they tap their mobile phones on a turnstile, which logs them into the store’s system. It connects them to their Amazon account via an app. Amazon Go uses machine learning, sensors, and AI to track the food items that a customer selects and adds them to the app’s virtual cart. If the customer picks up an item and puts it down again, the item is likewise removed from their cart.

Amazon Go is just one of a host of ideas for retail store formats that re-define that experience: product curation, showrooms (a la the Apple Store), immersive environments, etc. Join us as we discuss the evolution of the retail store.

 
Resources:
Amazon just opened a grocery store without a checkout line

Bull Session

The War for The Smart Home

May 19, 2016          

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss the war for the smart home. When it comes to the ongoing battle for consumer IoT dominance, there are many big players involved like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon; connectivity providers including AT&T and Verizon; and innumerable device manufacturers such as Withings, D-Link, and a host of others.

On the consumer side Amazon has some unexpected market leadership with its Echo product and rivals are beginning to take notice. For instance, Google recently open sourced its networking protocol for IoT devices, OpenThread — which is used by Nest — in the hopes that other companies will get on board.

Companies are approaching the smart home from multiple vantage points — HVAC, lighting, television (entertainment) — but Amazon seems to have the upper hand so far with Echo and its voice UI, Alexa, as the interface for the IoT goes beyond the screen.

Resources
Google’s Nest Open Sources OpenThread to Snag More IoT partners, Take on Amazon

Cover photo: “Miracle Kitchen” series by Bob Lerner for Look Magazine