Standards wars in home automation: don’t spend big $ yet

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TL;DR It will take 5+ years for standards to get sorted out in home automation. Until they are, devices from different companies will not be compatible. Anything that you buy and install now will be inconvenient (you will need multiple interfaces) and become obsolete in a few years.

Now that there are many genuinely useful and modestly priced home automation devices (and I don’t mean smart refrigerators), we are ready to enter the rising portion of “the S curve” where penetration increases. Most of the devices can be retrofit, which will make uptake much easier.

But right now, most vendors have their own protocols. Common protocols are needed at 3 layers:  the user interface, such as a mobile phone/computer app (or web site), physical communication such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, or Wi-Fi, and data protocols (API’s, essentially). Most vendors appear to be moving toward a hub and spokes arrangement, where the hub handles communication to the user and outside the home, so there will also be competition for whose hub customers buy. Finally, I would add security as its own “layer,” since it is so important and currently completely neglected.

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Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom 

The research on this seems pretty overwhelming: laptops and cell phones in class hurt learning. Related issue: learning to listen.

Unfortunately in my more quant courses, they can be necessary at times. But if I had a way to turn off the Internet, I certainly would. (FCC makes wireless jamming illegal – for good reason.)

For my former students in BGGE: Hong Kong Disneyland, reprised

Prof. Steph Haggard and I taught a course on government/private sector relationships for many years, called BGGE (business and government in the global economy – pronounced “big-e”). One of the cases was a 2-day slog through the negotiations between Walt Disney Corp.(WDC) and the Hong Kong government, about setting up the first Disney theme park in China.

The punch-line of the case was that WDC would win whether the park was profitable or not, because it received royalties as a fraction of the gross revenue. It also extracted lots of favorable financing from the HK government.

According to this article, one of the feared scenarios in the case has happened. WDC built a second Disney park in China (Shanghai), and within six months of its opening, it is siphoning away visitors. And sure enough, it looks like WDC and the HK government are playing the same game again: pumping subsidies into the park to boost attendance, with the side effect of helping WDC.

Source: Hong Kong Disneyland, Seeking Return to Profit, Plans $1.4 Billion Upgrade – The New York Times

Excerpts:

But the scope of the enhancements also reflects the difficult spot in which Hong Kong Disneyland finds itself. Despite more than $600 million in added attractions in recent years, including three new themed areas and a nighttime parade, the park lost about $20 million last year, according to financial filings.

The renewed focus on Hong Kong Disneyland, with its lush gardens and collection of classic Disney rides, comes just six months after the opening of the Shanghai resort, which generated global headlines for its opulence. Disney has suggested that the Shanghai park will attract 10 million visitors in its first year; four million people visited in the peak summer months alone.

Hong Kong leaders, already feeling insecure about the ascension of Shanghai as a financial capital, do not want their Disneyland to be viewed as a lesser property.

 

“My Galaxy Note7 is still safer than my car.” No, it isn’t.

The odds of dying in a car wreck are twice as high as this thing “exploding.” I’m keeping it.

Source: My Galaxy Note7 is still safer than my car. I’m keeping it

This author does an interesting calculation, but he does it wrong. The 100 Note7s that have exploded, out of 2.5M sold, were all used for 2 months or less since the phone has only been on the market that long. When you correct for this, the rate of fires over a 2 year ownership period is roughly 1 in 1000. (Probably higher, for several reasons.)

Second, lithium battery fires are nasty, smelly, and dangerous because they can set other things on fire. I speak from personal experience. Do you want to leave a device plugged in at night that may have a .1% chance of burning your house down over the period that you own it? I hope not.

His car wreck odds calculation (1 in 12000), by the way, may be per-year, but again he does not realize that it matters. But he is right that cars are plenty dangerous. I once estimate that at birth an American has a 50% chance of being hospitalized due to a car accident during their lifetime.

There are many other TOM issues to do with this Samsung Note7 recall. Clearly they have internal problems, and problems somewhere in management.

Medicine Grand Rounds at Stanford

Yesterday I gave a Grand Rounds presentation at Stanford Med School. My title was

Craft, Standardization and Automation: Powerful yet Perilous Paradigms for Control when Lives are at Stake

Most of my talk was about the adoption of procedures (checklists) by US military aviation, during and after WW II. It has close analogies to the situation of health-care today.  Here is my short presentation.  A much longer presentation, with more examples but without discussion of medicine, is here.

Initially, I was concerned that my topic might seem too esoteric for Stanford’s medical faculty. However, their Medical Grand Rounds program covers a lot of ground. My topic was only 1.5 standard deviations away from the mean.

For more of my research on flying paradigms and how technologies evolve from crafts to sciences, please see this page.

 

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Police  body cams will cost $1000s per cop per year!

Police body cams sound great, but it will take years to work out all the ramifications, rules for using them, etc. One concern is cost. It’s likely that the initial cost of the cameras is a small fraction of the total cost.

One issue is the cost of storing the video recorded by cams. According to my rough calculations, this could be thousands of dollars per user per year. That will put a hole in any department’s budget.

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Each new generation needs to learn the lesson of Theranos: appearance ≠ reality

Every 10 years or so, a conspicuous bubble bursts, and in doing so it resets the expectations of the next generation of young adults.

  • Enron
  • 2008 financial collapse
  • Now Theranos

Reading this article, I’m astonished at how little substance the adulation of Elizabeth Holmes was based on. And how much secrecy her investors allowed her. Given that she was claiming that her system would be ~100x better than established technologies, why didn’t they demand evidence? Why was it left to a reporter to figure out that the emperor had no clothes? And, was she nothing more than a successful con-artist with no genuine scientific expertise?

“In a searing investigation into the once lauded biotech start-up Theranos, Nick Bilton discovers that its precocious founder defied medical experts—even her own chief scientist—about the veracity of its now discredited blood-testing technology.”

Source: Exclusive: How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards Came Tumbling Down | Vanity Fair