As the author points out, connectivity is only worthwhile if that connectivity allows consumers something to do with it. As it stands, many of the features of smart appliances seem trivial or marginally helpful. Because of that, I applaud Whirlpool for dreaming big and trying to imagine an entire ‘kitchen of the future’. There is likely going to be a smart-home revolution (According to a Nielsen survey, 45% of renovations in 2015 included at least one smart home appliance) but that revolution is likely to be marked by slow adoption. One reason is, as several of the responses have pointed out, compatibility with some sort of centralized smart-home system is a must for IoT devices. Before there is widespread adoption of these centralized systems (i.e. Amazon Echo or Google Home), I wonder if consumers will really want to adopt many smart appliances from different manufacturers. After all, who wants to have to manage 10 different apps at the same time?
When I read about driverless cars and their imminent deployment, I am reminded of the hype around flying cars 20 years ago. While I believe driverless cars are significantly more plausible than the flying car fantasies, they do feel farther away than many technology enthusiasts would like to believe. While rational conclusions, like those by Musk, on the safety benefits of a driverless car are compelling, humans do not always make rational decisions. In many cases, people seek control over safety, which is antithetical to the driverless car value proposition. Beyond that, the ‘weirdness factor’ cited in this article (http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/02/21/you-are-the-biggest-roadblock-for-driverless-cars.aspx) is part of that roadblock for adoption. Society-wide changes in perception take a long time (i.e. 8 years for 10% of the population to get a smartphone), so accepting driverless cars is not likely to happen over night. The author also points out regulatory challenges, which are likely to slow down this change even further. While tech aficionados probably want it tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised if our naps to work inside our personal cars are still a decade or more off.
While the 3Derm system offers differentiated value today, one chief concern I have with their business model is the reliance on their physical system for that differentiation (see product overview on https://www.3derm.com/). Many telemedicine competitors are emerging in the space, and several use iPhone / smartphone cameras in order to relay information to dermatologists. While the 3Derm argument is currently that those photos are not high enough quality, the current rate of technological advancement is not on the company’s side. At some point in the near future, 3Derm’s physical camera system is going to be obsolete or at least no longer a competitive advantage. At that point, their offering will really hinge on whether they have a sufficient network of PCPs and dermatologists to remain sticky in the marketplace. This may be challenging. As BAL points out, 3Derm is currently competing with a growing number of telemedicine solutions, many of which are compatible with services beyond just dermatological triage. Telemedicine triage is likely to play a role in the future and as the author pointed out, holds great promise for increasing access for low income patients (among others). I am just not sure if 3Derm can gain market share fast enough to be a major player in that market. Perhaps an acquisition by a larger telemedicine player (like https://www.teladoc.com/) is in their near future or their best way forward.
As the author points out, the risks associated with disappearing professional journalism were truly highlighted in the latest election. With much of the post-election conversation focusing on ‘fake news’ and how it destroys one foundation of democracy (an informed populace), the NYTimes might have an opportunity to reverse its difficulties in converting users into subscribers. In fact, the backlash against unprofessional news could be one of the biggest opportunities it has had in ages. Recent reports show that news outlets are seeing a surge in subscriptions post election (see: http://adage.com/article/media/york-times-wsj-subscriptions-surge-election/306778/). Perhaps modern society is ready to embrace not only a personal, but civic duty to support the professional press. I think for that reason, the blog author’s plan to offer more free articles could be a mistake in the current environment. Instead, the Times might have a real chance to re-introduce its value proposition to potential subscribers and encourage sign ups.
One of the interesting things about LendingClub is that its growth has mostly come during a period of economic recovery. I wonder how its underwriting and P2P lending model will fair during an economic downturn. Can LendingClub’s returns remain resilient even though their portfolio is purely consumer credit? Evidence from 2008 suggests the service might (http://www.lendingmemo.com/p2p-lending-recession-performance/), but LC may have had different, less lax standards during that period. Also, it’s interesting to think about how these new P2P opaque lenders might lead to reduced ability for banks to see a credit downturn coming. If consumers struggling to repay their credit cards are able to refinance with lax LendingClub loans, first order banks may have a rosier picture of the economy than actually exists. This multi-tiered supply chain of consumer credit could ultimately result in bullwhip type effects within the consumer credit market. In that way, digital lending from LendingClub might be an interesting place to watch for early signs of economic weakness. Digital lending models clearly hold promise, but we have to keep a close eye on whether or not P2P lenders are able to successfully price risk in years to come.
Hi Emily – thanks for writing about consumer appliances. We often focus on our cars, our clothes and our lights and forget that a big component of our energy bill comes from these machines. As some other posters have commented, efficiency gains with these appliances is a win all around with lower environmental impact and lower energy bills for consumers. As the Natural Resources Defense Council puts it, consumers could be saving $4Bn a year just by switching to low energy dryers (https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/efficient-clothes-dryers-IB.pdf). Interestingly, this same study points out that while consumers have started to reduce power usage for other things (like dish washers and refrigerators), similar gains in clothing dryers are yet to be seen. I wonder if this is due to a lack of efficient dryers or perhaps due to customer behavior? Are there best practices that can be employed to reduce energy usage when doing laundry? Perhaps Whirlpool would benefit, both from a CSR and sales perspective, by running a marketing campaign on their new dryers and this very topic.
Insightful article – thank you for writing about fast fashion, Zaradi. As you and several other posters have pointed out, the very nature of fast fashion seems at odds with the idea of sustainability. In fact, as can be seen in this photo and extensively throughout this article, the very existence of the trend is one of leading environmental crises the planet faces: http://www.newsweek.com/2016/09/09/old-clothes-fashion-waste-crisis-494824.html. The article points out that 80% of unwanted clothes end up in landfills and incinerators which could easily offset the good the company is accomplishing in its supply chain. I wonder if anyone has considered regulating these companies to internalize the negative eternalities their clothes produce? In the same way that various chemical plants are required to treat their waste, why not fast fashion companies? Finally, I want to point out that not all fashion companies let themselves off the hook. For example, Patagonia has famously tried to convince consumers not to buy its clothes should they already have viable alternatives. On of their famous initiatives (and ad campaigns) that I find extremely effective can be seen here: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ad-day-patagonia-136745.
Great post, Nikhil. As social media and the internet have created the ability to spread local messages worldwide, activists have gained increasing power against large companies like Coca-Cola. This trend is encouraging for holding companies accountable to community stakeholders who are impacted by negative externalities these companies produce. You’ve highlighted several examples of these activists shutting down plants in India and forcing new corporate initiatives at Coca-Cola which shows just how much power these activists have gained. What this shows to me is that corporate social responsibility efforts to increase sustainability must start with local community engagement. By listening and responding to these voices, Coca-Cola can develop the right plans to mitigate concerns and operate ethically around the globe.
Great post, Dimitri, as the opening of the Northern Sea Route clearly demonstrates a game-changing effect of a warming climate. As this shipping passage becomes more navigable and widely accessed, I wonder what the geopolitical ramifications will be. Historically, there have been many flare-ups and power struggles over shipping lanes and canals, and I imagine this will be no different. How will companies like Dynagas navigate these new political waters and will governments which are at odds (i.e. the US and Russia) hinder or help the development of the channel? If the NSR demonstrates one thing for sure it’s that climate change will surely have impacts on businesses and the balance of global power at large.
Great blog post – it’s exciting to see how mobile technologies can positively impact low income communities which are most threatened by climate change. I would be curious to see results of EchoMobile’s information services to understand whether delivery of information alone can materially impact yields and farmer incomes. I am also curious to learn more about how EchoMobile is monetizing its service. Surely the data it collects from farmers is valuable to various businesses and agencies; the question just remains “how valuable?” and whether that value is enough to sustain the company’s operations. That answer likely comes as customers for the service/data emerge in the years to come. In one positive development, I have heard of Echo’s service being utilized (and likely paid for) by investing organizations like Acumen and the Grassroots Business Fund (see more at: https://thegiin.org/assets/documents/pub/collecting-impact-data-using-mobile-technology.pdf).