Really interesting idea. If the amateur quants’ IP is protected and truly their own, I wonder how Quantopian will be able to prevent top ideas/coders from being poached from their platform by established funds. In this case, Quantopian would be providing the infrastructure for talent discovery and development for hedge funds, effectively becoming their outsourced R&D and recruiting arm, with little compensation in exchange for top performers (with only middling ideas who are not poached left on the platform). This would only be a problem if the platform was very successful, and if potential LPs discovered and actively poached amateur quants (which I’d imagine could be a violation of the terms of partnerships between potential LPs and Quantopian), or if the amateur quants actively marketed their success (which maybe Quantopian has assessed to be less of a risk).
Sounds like a very passenger friendly development. Cynically, my first reaction to the IoT sensors being purchased to help anticipate maintenance needs was that costs (and eventually fare prices) could increase as the government would no longer be able to delay spending on repairs (which may cause more long term damage/cost, but could save in the short term). The holistic view of providing a better experience and sharing information with passengers (e.g., using the “crowding indicators”) seems like it will only drive ridership up, while still creating a better overall experience.
I wonder how these (or other) technologies are being used to improve security and police monitoring as well?
It’s interesting that the company prioritized integration of smartphone controls into their original product design as such a young business – I wonder how much of that decision was driven by the hope of increased hype / marketing value vs. actual expected use. The product itself seems very on trend, and maybe this was the right way to stand out in what could become a more competitive field.
I agree with your assessment that smartphone application proliferation is already crowded, and will only become more crowded for consumers. It will be interesting to see if a developer is able to create a master application through which to operate all other smart home apps (i.e., one app with individual product apps plugged into the back-end).
Interesting post. I wonder if this is a niche product for a small subset of hobbyists or if there are ways to scale these technologies to make them more broadly applicable? Another post summarized the application of “Precision Hawk” drone scans for farmers, and it sounded like much of that technology included the functions/capabilities of the Edyn family of products. It may be the case that this is simply a smaller niche market, but it would be interesting to compare the economics of a drone compared to a number of scattered, embedded sensors in a broader application like agriculture.
I wonder how much the cost of the drone hardware could become a barrier to purchase for small and medium size farms, which are operating with fairly thin margins. There may be an interesting opportunity for agriculture services businesses to own the assets to help amortize the high up-front fixed cost across a number of farms, which individually may not require 100% of a drone’s time day-to-day, but could benefit from periodic scans of their property.
I also wonder if there are other adjacent applications of this technology like cattle or other farm animal monitoring, which might be costly and inefficient today, but could benefit from automation.
The concentration of the hops supply within the United States is really interesting. It was surprising to learn that sophisticated multi-national corporations like the mega brewers are so dependent on a crop with 73% of production in one area. I wonder what steps they have taken so far to help diversify this input supply base? Based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it looks like the U.S. represents ~23% of global hops supply (with Germany at 23% and Ethiopia at 18%)  – I wonder how regional or international sourcing impacts the economics of their manufacturing operations and how their global supply chain (and international operators) have worked to diversify the supply of these climate sensitive inputs?
 As of 2013. http://faostat.fao.org/beta/en/?#data/QC, accessed Nov. 2016
The question of how Walmart should message its sustainability efforts to consumers is interesting. How does Walmart view the risk of consumers thinking of a sustainable product as either higher cost or lower quality, and how is this challenge different for a mass channel retailer like Walmart vs a mid-tier or premium brand. Given the sophistication of their business, I imagine that they have done considerable consumer research to test and optimize their messaging and have decided not to broadly promote their efforts. Another potential driver for this relative inaction is that more self-publicity could draw incremental scrutiny from environmental activists (or even regulators) which would not be in the best interest of their bottom line.
The Nespresso brand provides an interesting case study into Nestles sustainability efforts and the conflicts of interest inherent in these efforts:
A number of studies have found that single serve coffee pods are less environmentally friendly than traditional drip brewing.  The Nespresso pods are constructed using aluminum (which has a carbon intensive supply chain to produce) and cannot be recycled without separating the component parts of the pod. While Nestle has started a recycling program allowing consumers to mail back pods for recycling (in the continental U.S.) with pre-paid postage, it is not heavily advertised, and still requires consumers to deliver the bag to a UPS location. . While this is a step in the right direction, there is clearly a tension between either advertising this program or redesigning capsules to be more easy to recycle at home and Nestle’s bottom line.
 “Taking a close look at the eco-balance of coffee capsules” https://www.empa.ch/web/s604/it-all-depends-on-the-coffee, accessed Nov. 2016
The idea of localized nuclear is very compelling from the standpoint of sustainability in addition to minimizing energy yields lost in distribution / transmission.
However, there are a number of concerns associated with nuclear – some of which are generic to any nuclear plant (e.g., disposal of nuclear waste), while others would be accentuated with the proliferation of local nuclear plants (e.g., safety and security concerns). While operating at increasing scale could improve the costs associated with the disposal of nuclear waste, security concerns will continue to raise questions, particularly in the communities near where these new plants might be built. 
Very interesting – I hadn’t considered how the private sector has taken the lead on sustainable real estate development in so many cases. One of the most compelling arguments I’ve seen is related to how green buildings allow developers to sell a more cost efficient product to their customers in the form of operating expense savings. The U.S. Green Building Council has published some interesting statistics on this point, summarized by “…owners of green buildings reported that their ROI improved by 19.2% on average for existing building green projects and 9.9% on average for new projects.” 
This also seems to be an interesting example of by outpacing regulatory action, the private sector is work with 3rd party certifiers to define what sustainable real estate development means and maximize the efficiency of their investment in innovation (rather than reactionary action following from prescribed federal regulation)
 The U.S. Green Building Council, “The Business Case for Green Building”. http://www.usgbc.org/articles/business-case-green-building, accessed November 2016