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Friday 26 April 2019

Weekend Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

Today, everybody talks about how much information is bombarding us. Imagine what it must have been like after the printing press when people who had been totally devoid of information had all of this information flooding them. The powers-that-be rebelled against that. Shortly after the printing press was developed, a Swiss scholar sat down and said, “I’m going to catalogue all of the books that have been printed thus far.” He ended up warning of the harmful magnitude of books and how it will create nothing but chaos. Well, that’s kind of like what we’re experiencing today on the internet, isn’t it?

How streaming content providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is changing the game.
HBO is so successful because it never had to cater to advertisers. It only had to cater to its audience, who was paying them directly to not have ads. Amazon is more audience-focused than advertiser-focused.

As Apple and Amazon compete for a greater share of consumer dollars and attention, they also have a particularly intimate business relationship: Apple is spending more than $30 million a month on Amazon’s cloud. At these rates, AWS would be picking up more revenue from Apple than from several other companies, including Adobe, Capital One, Intuit, Lyft and Pinterest. People use more than 1 billion Apple devices each month, and accordingly, Apple has considerable computing and storage requirements. The company is investing heavily to build its own infrastructure: In January 2018, Apple announced plans to spend $10 billion on data centers in the U.S. within five years. In December, Apple said it would spend $4.5 billion of that amount through 2019.

An EV with a daily commuting distance of 30–40 km needs 6-8 kWh of energy, equivalent to the daily power needs of a small household. If 80% of India adopts EVs, the total power demand could touch 100 Terawatt-hour or about 5% of the total electricity demand of India by 2030.
This presents unique challenges for power utilities, which will need to increase production and resolve the issue of too many people charging at the same time from a single grid.
This additional burden can be managed only by deploying intelligent tariff and pricing solutions, with minimal network investment.
Another solution deployed by states like Maharashtra is a variable tariff structure called time of use (ToU). It means power tariffs will be cheaper at certain times of the day when the demand is usually low.
Integrating power generation from renewable sources with conventional grids in order to meet EVs’ demand is key. If India wants to see an effective reduction in pollution levels through EVs, the sector cannot be seen in isolation.\A vehicle running on electricity may be considered clean, but it is not really a zero-emission vehicle if the power source is coal. India generates a majority—about 65%—of its energy demand through coal.

When you speak, your brain sends signals to your lips, tongue, jaw, and larynx, which work together to produce the intended sounds. Now scientists in San Francisco say they’ve tapped these brain signals to create a device capable of spitting out complete phrases. The effort doesn’t pick up on abstract thought, but instead listens for nerves firing as they tell your vocal organs to move. Previously, researchers have used such motor signals from other parts of the brain to control robotic arms.

Thursday 18 April 2019

Weekend Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

1) Now we have drones doing something good for the world. The startup, Biocarbon Engineering, makes and uses drones to plant trees and grasses at abandoned mines in Australia and on sites in other parts of the world.

The project began in 2012, after the government began opening the country’s borders to international business. More than six million trees have been planted so far, and the nonprofit plans to plant another four million by the end of 2019. But it also recognizes that humans can’t easily cover the amount of land that could potentially be restored.

2) By 2025, China’s leaders want annual sales of new-energy vehicles –- including pure-battery electrics, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars -- to reach 7 million units. That’s the equivalent of about 20 percent of China’s total auto market.

There are now 486 EV manufacturers registered in China, more than triple the number from two years ago. While sales of passenger EVs are projected to reach a record 1.6 million units this year, that’s likely not enough to keep all those assembly lines humming, prompting warnings that the ballooning EV market could burst and leave behind only a few survivors.

A study made for Europe says India has the highest levels of small particulate-matter pollution (PM2.5) globally, according to the WHO, and is home to 16 of the 30 most-polluted cities in the world. A Lancet report from 2018 found that air pollution in India causes about 1.2 million early deaths a year. Reducing pollution will have profound impact on life-expectancy and lower healthcare costs. Yet, unfortunately, no political party talks about it in an election year.

4) A wonderfully detailed look at platform businesses.
Though they come in many varieties, platforms all have an ecosystem with the same basic structure, comprising four types of players. The owners of platforms control their intellectual property and governance. Providers serve as the platforms’ interface with users. Producers create their offerings, and consumers use those offerings.

To understand how the rise of platforms is transforming competition, we need to examine how platforms differ from the conventional “pipeline” businesses that have dominated industry for decades. Pipeline businesses create value by controlling a linear series of activities—the classic value-chain model. Inputs at one end of the chain (say, materials from suppliers) undergo a series of steps that transform them into an output that’s worth more: the finished product. 

Apple’s handset business is essentially a pipeline. But combine it with the App Store, the marketplace that connects app developers and iPhone owners, and you’ve got a platform.

5) If you want to understand where China is heading, the best guide may be private equity veteran Weijian Shan. His take on his country’s current economic predicament: Its slowdown has only just begun, but its long-term health looks sound.

The first of two immediate problems, he says, is a severe contraction in credit. “Two years ago, the government started cracking down on the ‘shadow banking’ network that provided most of the credit to the private sector,” he says, adding that private enterprise is dominated by small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in China. Beijing was worried that trust companies and other lenders in the “shadow” system were dangerously over-extended, and the motley group might crash, hobbling the economy.

The second deadweight is the trade dispute with the U.S. “The direct impact on business is small,” he says. “But the impact on business confidence is large. The dispute is hitting confidence among Chinese producers, and discouraging them from investing.”

Friday 12 April 2019

Weekly Reading: Some Interesting Stuff

Nearly two-thirds of the residents of Okinawa are still functioning independently at age 97. That meant they were in their own homes, cooking their own meals and living their lives fully -- at nearly 100 years old!
If you ask anyone in Okinawa why they live so long, you will doubtlessly hear two words: ikigai and moai.
Ikigai, loosely translated, means sense of purpose in life. And in Okinawa, a person's ikigai often grows as they get older. It is their reason for living, that thing that propels them out of bed in the morning.
Moai is an informal social group of people who have common interests and look out for each other. Your moai is your "tribe" and another reason Okinawans believe they live so long.

Researchers at Yale and Oxford say exercise is more important to your mental health than your economic status. According to the study, three to five training sessions, each lasting between 30 to 60 minutes, are ideal per week.  The scientists also noticed that certain sports that involve socializing — such as team sports — can have more of a positive effect on your mental health than others.

Google’s Stadia project is motivated, to a greater or lesser degree, by the desire to maintain its predominance as the home of gaming video. As of right now, Google gets more than 200 million logged-in daily active users watching gaming content. That’s 200 million pairs of eyes to present ads to every day. In 2018, YouTube accumulated more than 50 billion watched hours of gaming content. “Gaming has always been the backbone of YouTube since the platform was first founded,” notes YouTube’s gaming director Ryan Wyatt.
The future of cloud gaming is approaching, and instead of trying to play nice with its leaders, Google is choosing to become a leader itself. Because the YouTube moneymaking beast must be fed.

The explosion of internet access has brought a wave of social change, but nothing as ubiquitous as the consumption of online videos. As many as 245 million Indians watch YouTube on their phones each month — in farms and factories, buses and trains, homes and hotel rooms.
India’s craze for videos is shaking the world of entertainment. Valued at more than $700m, the country’s online video market is shaping the content and pricing models of local and global companies.
For many young Indians, YouTube itself is synonymous with the internet. They use it to ask questions, make friends and learn skills. In towns where teachers don’t show up at schools and colleges, students are switching to YouTube channels that “cover” their syllabus.
https://www.ft.com/content/c0b08a8e-4527-11e9-b168-96a37d002cd3 (Free sign-up for limited number of articles per month)

What's exciting about OTT video isn't the way it's delivered, but how it will change content itself. The most fascinating aspect of new distribution technologies in media is how they transform content, rather than just content delivery. Unfortunately, digital-era innovation to date has primarily focused on the latter: on-demand viewing, ad-free experiences, binge releases (or at least binge consumption), recommendation-based discovery, auto-play next and skip credits, etc.

Friday 5 April 2019

Weekend Reading: Some Interesting Stuff

A possible ground-breaking discovery in energy storage. An Australian startup says it's built the world's first working thermal battery, a device with a lifetime of at least 20 years that can store six times more energy than lithium-ion batteries per volume, for 60-80 percent of the price.

How IKEA is changing its business model from selling furniture to renting it out. Thus its moving to the subscription economy.

India has announced that it will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022. The pledge is the most ambitious yet of the global actions to combat plastic pollution that are taking place in 60 nations around the world.

I am always looking for stories on business failures. Here is a recent one.
WOW Air launched in 2011 as a discount regional carrier that offered cheap, no-frills fares designed to undercut legacy players. Along the way, it decided to compete with the bigger airlines, specifically Icelandair, by offering transatlantic flights. That decision required WOW to upgrade its fleet with larger jets capable of making longer trips.
Because of all the variables involved – many of which companies like WOW cannot control – airlines are inherently risky ventures. “In the case of WOW, it’s likely a combination of multiple factors that created difficulties,” Tsoukalas noted. The company’s aggressive expansion “required a large capital investment and not only complicated its operations, but also made it more difficult to fill the extra seats. At the same time, the company had to deal with upward trending fuel prices … and likely increasing wages as its staff started become more senior. In a sense, over time, some low-cost carriers start resembling legacy carriers more and more.”

Amazon is planning to build a network of more than 3,000 satellites federal filings reveal, in an ambitious attempt to provide global internet access.
Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world.