Thanks for drawing attention to this major security issue with the rapidly developing world of IoT. As a consumer, I definitely think twice about furnishing my home with connected devices. Even with the promise of increased productivity and efficiency, it is hard to stomach the possibility that an object as benign as my toaster oven could be hacked into. As such, I agree with you that Icon Labs occupies an indispensable and highly valuable segment of the IoT ecosystem.
You raise a great point about the increasing risk of accountability that manufacturers face for any security breaches such as the Mirai malware hacking, but I would go even further and say that Icon Labs’ services extend beyond a defensive move that manufacturers can use to protect themselves from lawsuits. Icon Labs’ embedded cybersecurity solutions can also serve as a competitive advantage that manufacturers can promote to assuage consumers’ fears and sell their products. The ROI math could be a powerful argument to help Icon Labs drive topline growth, expand their customer base and get more cash on hand to reinvest into further R&D to stay on top of the ever-present cyber threats we face today.
I was particularly struck by the opportunity that Medtronics has to collect longitudinal data for T1DM patients, which can then be used for medical research as well as personalized medicine. With electronic medical records becoming more prevalent, frequent data dumps of insulin dosing and blood sugar levels can augment the individual snapshots of data gathered during isolated doctors’ visits. In many ways, the boundaries between medical device companies and healthcare IT companies are blurring to benefit a patient’s health and pocketbook since severe (and expensive) adverse conditions can probably be addressed preventatively with the extra collected data. I am optimistic that future iterations of these Medtronics MiniMeds can become holistic diabetes management devices instead of just higher-tech insulin pumps.
Betterment is an interesting name to watch in the robo advisory space, especially given the rise in popularity of passive investment management. Given the large troves of financial data that require some expertise to analyze and interpret, it is not surprising at all that the investment management space has been digitally disrupted to optimize investor returns given their preferences. That said, I question how Betterment’s “Nobel-prize winning research”-influenced algorithm is differentiated vs. other investment alternatives. You astutely pointed out that Vanguard and Charles Schwab are starting their own robo advisory practices, but it is also interesting that investment research firms such as Zacks Investment Management have also entered the space. Zacks’ Zacks Advantage Offering launched earlier this fall and appears to be going after a high net worth customer base, requiring accounts above $100,000 (http://www.financial-planning.com/news/zacks-investment-jumps-into-robo-adviser-race). While I agree with your suggestions of how Betterment can brave it on its own by supplementing its offerings and creating a stickier platform for its existing clients, I worry that Betterment has already shared its secret sauce to Fidelity, which was once a technology partner but recently launched its own product, Fidelity Go, to compete against Betterment and capture its share of the millennial and Gen X market (http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-advisor/051116/how-fidelity-go-roboadvisor-will-compare.asp).
PillPack is a great example of how digitization of a manual process, such as drug dispensing at a pharmacy, can not only improve consume behavior for individual benefit but also create greater cost savings and efficiencies in the ecosystem around the consumer, i.e. the U.S. healthcare system. As a millennial, I can definitely see myself as a user of PillPack’s online portal and app, but I wonder what the adoption rate is for older demographics. Will this be as scalable in regions of the country or the world that aren’t as digitally engaged? PillPack has done a great job with reducing the friction for user adoption by making it free to the consumer, but it would be interesting to see the company’s strategy to target the most non-compliant patients and thus maximize the positive impact of its digitalized approach to drug dispensation.
I definitely agree with your assessment about Epic’s interoperability issue. In the past, it seems like Epic was able to rely on its scale and ensuing network effects, besides its technical capabilities, to acquire new customers onto its platform. However, as competitors such as Cerner band together to form the CommonWell Alliance to promote information sharing through interoperable systems, Epic will continually face an uphill battle in maintaining its own separate ecosystem and charging its customers to manually transfer data to other health systems to follow patients’ medical journeys. As I wrote in my post, Epic recently lost a major Department of Defense contract bid in 2015 and analysts attributed not just Epic’s price tag but also its lack of interoperability as key factors for the decision (http://hitconsultant.net/2015/08/03/dod-ehr-contract-will-it-impact-the-larger-ehr-market/). Time will tell, but I’m willing to bet that continued revenue hits such as the loss of the DoD contract will put additional pressure on Epic to become a better team player in the EMR space.
Chris – I think you raise a great point regarding the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum that Monsanto faces with GMO R&D and the fight to reduce crops’ carbon footprint, most classically exemplified by Golden Rice as you mentioned. I see Monsanto’s BioAg Alliance with Novozymes as a step in the right direction to reduce GMOs as a percentage of Monsanto’s portfolio while also solving for crop yield improvements.
Another initiative that is also worth looking into is Monsanto’s recent acquisition of the licensing rights to Crispr from the Broad Institute, the joint Harvard and MIT biomedical and genomic research center (http://www.businessinsider.com/monsanto-ends-gmo-war-crispr-2016-9). Given the public’s strong distaste for GMOs, Crispr might be a more socially acceptable technology for Monsanto to precisely edit genetic code sequences to prevent crops from turning brown or boost resistance to fungal infections. Because these Crispr crops do not have traces of foreign DNA, the USDA has actually taken a more lenient stance on not regulating these crops as conventional GMOs. This represents a very promising future for more carbon-efficient food sources for the human race, and Monsanto has the potential to be on the right side of history.
This MIT Technology Review article is quite interesting for further reading: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600765/10-breakthrough-technologies-2016-precise-gene-editing-in-plants/. Thanks for this thoughtful post!
Anja – I definitely agree that the DoD needs to take action now for meaningful cost savings and efficiencies in the future. While internal bureaucracy might make that endeavor difficult for DoD implement by itself, I see this as a major business opportunity for federal government contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and Leidos. Some recent examples include:
• Booz Allen Hamilton’s Natural Infrastructure Asset Management initiative to enable DoD military installations to manage natural assets such as air, land and water resources and biodiverse ecosystems (http://www.boozallen.com/content/dam/boozallen/media/file/natural-infrastructure-asset-management-cs.pdf)
• Leidos’ materials and corrosion technologies for the DoD to manage material degradation for life-cycle and sustainability improvement (e.g. Leidos Chlorinator/Dechlorinator Paired System to service U.S. Navy submarines and surface ships – https://www.leidos.com/infrastructure/environmental-sciences/corrosion)
As the DoD continues to do its part in our global fight against climate change, I would recommend that DoD consider these public-private partnerships more to increase their efficiency of implementation.
This is a fantastic example of the private sector taking ownership of sustainable real estate development to both “save the world” and maximize profitability. Based on your post, Hines really does appear to be a great role model for other real estate developers to follow. They have even been able to expand their business model to rapidly growing emerging economies, creating Hines Mexico – the firm’s largest property management group outside of the U.S.
I found it very encouraging that Mexico’s real estate market is very sustainably-oriented, with strong year-over-year growth in LEED projects to become the 7th largest market in the world with over 14.5 million square meters of LEED-certified space (http://www.usgbc.org/articles/sustainability-will-reshape-real-estate-development-and-investment-mexico). Mexico has set forth laudable goals to increase green and third-party certified properties and retrain investors to focus on the best green industry practices when valuing real estate opportunities. With such strong buy-in from this large growing market, Hines is well positioned to capitalize on this opportunity and spread green real estate development to economies beyond the U.S.
Dibrom is certainly a very controversial part of many nation’s strategies to combat the proliferation of the Zika virus. While I see your point that AMVAC can play critical role in our fight against Zika and the Aedes aegypti mosquito, I believe that the company should take a much more conservative approach by increasing testing for the negative side effects before aggressively increasing production capacity.
I can easily see U.S. regulatory measures erring on the side of precaution given our society’s increased focus on environmental and health side effects, just as how the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) banned naled (the chemical in Dibrom) for agricultural usage (http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/pesticides/eu-pesticides-database/public/?event=activesubstance.detail&language=EN&selectedID=1610). AMVAC should definitely prioritize the reduction of Dibrom’s negative effects because of the regulatory risk of a broader ban of Dibrom. Thanks for raising awareness of this!
Margaret – I agree that insurance companies such as Lloyd’s need to think more defensively to adapt to the broad-sweeping impact of climate change on many of their offerings. Said another way, I see three areas of the value chain that are at risk for insurance companies: products and services, liquidity and capital management, and investments. You very astutely pointed out how Lloyd’s should reevaluate its capital requirements for such its products and how Lloyd’s has invested in updating and optimizing their catastrophe models to take climate control into account.
However, one area that I think Lloyd’s can do better in is expansion of its products and services to adapt to climate change needs. For example, in this 2012 Science paper, “The Greening of Insurance” (http://evanmills.lbl.gov/pubs/pdf/science-2012-mills-1424-5.pdf), we can see potential for insurers to underwrite climate change mitigation technologies to align policyholders to lower-risk behavior, which is another approach to reduce the risk exposure that Lloyd’s is subject to through its P&C insurance business line. Granted, there is limited operational history to properly quantify, for example, the impacts of pay-as-you-go insurance backed by telematics technology, but insurance companies of Lloyd’s size and clout can have major power to influence public policy by accepting these innovative climate change mitigation strategies into its product line.