I see many parallels to this problem in the debate over driverless cars. Many feel that driverless cars will revolutionize the transportation industry (myself included). By optimizing the traffic system, they will reduce accidents, relieve congestion, and optimize energy consumption through general efficiencies. Many of the same points were made in your post concerning automated trains. To your point, unions will never cease to exist to represent workers. However, I feel that it would be in the best interest of the unions to find new roles for their members, through training to fill roles such as technicians that maintain these automated trains. As accidents go down, the unions assume less risk for their members as well, as the unions often represent their members in cases of negligence. In much the same way that unions are opposing automated trains, insurers are opposing driverless cars. While accident rates will theoretically be reduced, they lose revenue as less people are buying their services (assuming the insurance risk with driverless cars shifts to the manufacturing corporations instead of the individual). While it is in their best interest to increase revenue, shouldn’t they also be motivated to decrease accident rates?
The idea of cheap and accessible home automation systems is incredibly appealing to me, as a homeowner and an energy conscious individual. However, I don’t feel that this is an incredibly revolutionary system in that others can very easily, and some already have, replicate. The home automation space is very crowded, with fully automated systems coming in at upwards of $5000 to small systems with limited components priced in the double digits. However, their is space in which I feel there is room for Phillips or any other electronics or tech company to breakthrough in a big way. Providing an all-encompassing system that enables a homeowner to piece together the most desirable products over time or within budget would strike a chord with consumers. Current companies in the space provide a few products and navigating the compatibility matrices across platforms is incredibly painful. I look forward to Apple’s full release of the Home system (as opposed to just the Home app that snuck its way onto your phone in the latest update that syncs with a small number of products) as I feel this may be on track towards the system most homeowners truly desire.
Compared to all the hype that the development by Amazon of drone delivery systems is getting, I appreciate the incremental step that this approach is taking in improving the last leg of the personal shipping process. As far as regulations go, I would be less afraid that the government will not adapt to such technology. While it will most likely take more time than most would prefer, I feel that the significant improvement in reliability and efficiencies will outweigh and political apprehension that may be currently hindering progressive policy. For example, laws and policy surrounding privacy, regardless of all the controversy surrounding NSA hacking, have had to drastically shift to address the new technology. This is particularly pronounced in the privacy realm of patient data, as many healthcare providers see the benefit of coagulating data for probabilistic treatment determinations. The government has to make exceptions for commercial purposes to rules such as the current FAA regulations you mentioned.
I agree with the fact that bundling is no longer a viable long-term play for cable television providers. While there is evidence to suggest otherwise in many markets, I feel that the “bad taste” left in the mouths of so many consumers as they scroll through dozens of channels that they never watch differentiates television in that regard. The skinny bundles are ideal for those unwilling to completely cut the cord. This eliminates the issue of paying for unnecessary channels, which is ever more important as society becomes more cost and value conscious.
I don’t, however, feel that any models other than on-demand streaming will survive in the long term. The modern consumers do not want their lives dictated by when their favorite show is on TV. They want to watch their shows at a time convenient to them. That is why Netflix and other similar models are so popular. The only exception is live sports or events, such as presidential debates. However, these exceptions are already addressed with pared-down versions of streaming TV, such as Sling. I don’t see any of the traditional content deliverers surviving unless they align their models to what modern consumers want. I also worry that other competitors, such as Google, may bundle a content delivery system that includes a pared down version of live television with streaming options with their already existing Fiber services.
While I am also a fan of Under Armour and their push into the digital space, I fear that they now have a big problem in packaging and presenting their fitness solution to consumers. There are many…many…options out there to manage your fitness, both actively and passively. While I don’t disagree that Under Armour is a leading company in the wearables space, they don’t stand out amongst the crowd. They also do not have a clearly UA associated line of products (for example, no proprietary wearable tracking device that links to the mobile app). However, excitingly I have heard rumors that they are pushing into integrating biometric sensors into clothing that will achieve higher levels of passivity in tracking activity and providing feedback. I am waiting for the day that I can throw on a running shirt that monitors my heart rate and body temperature along with a pair of shoes that monitors my foot strike and distance while providing real time feedback on an UA wrist device (that also plays my music on a pair of reliable bluetooth headphones). Hopefully if Under Armour continues on their path, they can introduce such technology and truly differentiate themselves in the crowded fitness technology arena.
I have always appreciated the ability of Square to bring the “little man” into the marketplace to compete, from a payments perspective. The readers are incredibly innovative and have definitely filled a void in the market. However, I am less optimistic that Square can remain competitive. There are already other mobile payment options and it would not take much for Visa or some other major credit company to develop the same technology and simply undercut the current rates charged to users of the readers. They would essentially be cutting out the middleman and have the ability to do so because they own the cards. I also fear that these same, more established credit and financial institutions will leverage their more mature financial management assets, from payroll management to capital investment, to further sway SMEs into their product lines. I feel the ability to use one company for full-spectrum financial operations is incredibly powerful.
Very interesting article on the future opportunities of Nest, now that Google is at the helm. As a homeowner (x2), I am particularly interested in the idea of digitizing my home for improving energy efficiencies and reducing security risks. From personal experience in pricing and attempting to piece together a system for a home, their is no clear winner in the home automations landscape for the cost conscious consumer that is interested in only components of a system. While there are systems available to automate an entire home (oftentimes costing upwards of $5000) that do everything from adjust blinds to monitor water quality from a smartphone, most homeowners do not need that level of automation. There are two partnerships that companies such as Nest should pursue. First, they need to partner with current traditional security systems, as these companies have existing customer bases and the installation expertise. The marketing could focus on upselling the product to any existing system. Secondly, I would push hard to partner with internet providers. Most high-speed internet providers, in addition to providing the internet data, also provide modems and other ancillary products. Adding the capacity of a more fully integrated home, with cameras, thermostats, and other components provides a natural path into the homes of more customers.
I particularly appreciated your suggestion on partnering with local utilities as an option for SolarCity moving forward. Utility companies could benefit by lowering their own carbon footprint while diversifying their portfolio, a necessity for any company moving forward. There is absolutely a power grab occurring with utilities and direct to consumer renewable energy companies. One would assume that both industries would benefit from partnerships.
Has SolarCity looked at changing their business model, specifically their pricing model for residential consumers? Currently, most SolarCity installations are done through a leasing model, which drives away many possible customers, as they may not actually realize the marginal return in energy savings. I am curious if SolarCity would attract more customers by selling the PV panels and installation outright, given the low cost of panels and the energy savings potential.
Most importantly though, as you mentioned in your post, solar companies need to find more efficient and appealing ways to produce revenue, as government subsidies seem to be fading.
I thoroughly enjoyed this post, to include the pun in your title. Most importantly, however, was your focus on the action that the City of Miami is taking in addressing the issue. They are creatively, and perhaps controversially, taking action to manage storm water, reduce the risk of storm surge, and improve bundling codes.
In a previous job, I spent time in the US Army Corps of Engineers working with the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana as they developed solutions to similar problems associated with sea level rise. However, in this experience, the city and state level governments were not committing resources to combat the issue and were instead fighting (primarily through lawsuits) with the federal government for restitution for projects they themselves had previously championed. The basis of their argument was rooted in the idea that past federal waterways projects in Louisiana contributed to issues associated with sea level rise. However, they ignored the evidence that suggested climate change and man-made coastal deterioration from near-shore oil and gas development are more likely to blame. After that experience, it is very refreshing to see a local level government accepting and addressing the issue.
Great perspective on how Apple has tried to cover the full spectrum in reducing their environmental footprint, both through supply-chain sourcing and energy consumption. I had no idea that my Iphone was made from recycled materials. I am that much happier that I made the switch to Apple!
In your last paragraph, you touched on a point that has been discussed recently in class, the issue of selling a product upon which the company revenue relies on a repurchase in the near future. How can a company that constantly promotes product upgrades claim to be sustainable? I feel that Apply should do more to highlight the point that phones replaced through the Apple Upgrade Program are refurbished and reused in other markets. I feel that this isn’t common knowledge nor is it widely articulated by Apple.
While I generally do agree with your point that the costs typically associated with repairs is too high, don’t knock Apple on this point entirely. Forcing customers to replace items instead of repair by charging high repair prices is counter to a sustainable message. It is quite ironic that products tend to fail directly after the expiration of their warranty. However, I had a different experience with repairing a Macbook. After almost six years of use, my wife’s Macbook finally began to have issues with the motherboard. Apple replaced this, along with a new screen and an upgraded power port for about a quarter of the price of a new similar Macbook.
Thanks for helping me learn something new about a company whose products I use constantly.
I really enjoyed this post’s introduction, as it highlights the importance of a private companies working alongside public entities to create and strive for the goal of a sustainable future. Setting the close ties between public and private entities in Saudi Arabia, one can still discern the important of such a coalition.
Oil companies are in a unique position, as they chief revenue source becomes more scarce. In reality, the world will not actually run dry of oil. Supply and demand theory shows that the cost of oil will become so prohibitively high that consumer demand will drop and companies will consolidate or fold. This is forcing oil-focused companies to hedge their portfolios with natural gas and other sources of energy.
After reading your post, I found myself asking a few other questions about the topic. To what extent, if any, has Saudi Aramco diversified their portfolio of energy sources? This would, in collaboration with the government, help achieve the goals stated in the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative. Also, is Saudi Arabia simply in denial of the implication of slowing worldwide demand for oil does the country simply have confidence in a steady demand?
As Chile’s largest producer of power is of unmistakable importance to the continued development of Chile. Given the changes in rainfall patterns and river flows that you highlighted in your post, I can also see that Colbun is a critical player in the shifting energy landscape of Chile. Your assessment that by diversifying their energy production portfolio they can further hedge themselves against climate change is also important. I do, however, have several critiques of the paths forward you have proposed and I hope they spark further interest and research on this incredibly important topic.
• I would argue that, while water flows on rivers has changed, the greater impact to hydroelectric dams is the silting that occurs in the upstream reservoirs, decreasing their capacity and increasing the chance of flood. Is Colbun taking any action to address this issue?
• Biomass is an inefficient fuel, as it often requires energy of several multiples higher than it provides just to transport to energy production facilities, depending on the energy density of the material and other assumptions. This form of fuel is typically only viable in small-scale energy production serving regions with access to dense biomass. Thermoelectric plants are most often optimized through the use of liquid natural gas, the cleanest burning of the traditional fossil fuels.
Great job in highlighting the issues that Colbun is facing, as they are similar to those faced by many other large-scale energy providers around the world.