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On November 20, 2016, sarah_yu commented on FedEx – the next big Challenge :

Great article Gabriela! Really cool to see how FedEx is using SenseAware to give customers more granular and real time data on their shipments. While that data must be very useful to the customers, I also wonder about how FedEx can use this real time data about parcels in its system for logitical/operational improvements as well as for its pricing models.

While I am sure FedEx has very robust and complicated models, I am curious whether this additional data can be used to make FedEx’s resource utilization more efficient, and to map out last-mile delivery routes that decrease the total throughput of a package. More interestingly, I wonder whether this data might be used for last-minute dynamic pricing deliveries, where FedEx can determine routes with lower than expected capacity and offer discounted rates for people trying to send packages on those routes at the last minute or with more sensitive time constraints.

On November 20, 2016, sarah_yu commented on Teladoc: Mobile Medicine :

Super interesting article Caroline. Telemedicine seems to be making great strides in reducing the monetary and temporal costs of healthcare, leveraging digital platforms to connect doctors and patients in innovative ways. Given that health care costs continue to grow at a higher rate than inflation, I am all for anything that is able to “bend the cost curve” and slow the growth in real health care spending growth rates. I wonder, however, where there is even more that telemedicine companies can do on this front.

For instance, a doctors time is one of the most expensive components of health care delivery. I wonder whether the digital platforms that telemedicine providers can be used to create methods of preventative care that alert patients to issues and alter their behavior before issues worsen to the point where a doctor, and the related intelligence and discretion of human-provided care, are required. For instance, are there types of health and biometric data that these platforms can track to alert a patient to unhealthy practices or possible issues requiring immediate attention before they become worse issues? If so, even greater strides can be made to reducing healthcare costs.

On November 20, 2016, sarah_yu commented on Are we approaching the end of management consulting? :

Super interesting article. I’ve always been a bit confused myself about how defensible the management/strategy consulting value proposition was given the fees they charge, so am fascinated by a company that is trying to attack it. HourlyNerd’s use of technology to connect companies with particular consultants does seem like an interesting way to serve a clientele with a lower price point, but I do wonder if they are truly leveraging all the potential of their platform to provide higher value added services or to begin providing services to higher margin customers.

For instance, you mentioned in your article how traditional management consulting firms provide a lot of the value they deliver to customers by aggregating expertise from various internal and external expertise and resources. It seems like the current business model, in which a single consultant is matched with the firm, is unable to provide analogous services. I wonder whether HourlyNerd could also use its platform to allow individual consultants to join teams from each project on a per-project basis, to allow companies to customize expertise in different areas as well as leverage the aggregation of expertise in a similar manner to traditional consulting firms.

On November 20, 2016, sarah_yu commented on Bringing Digital Innovation to the Mountain :

Cool article Caroline. As an active skier, I am very curious about how technology will impact the experience. Reading you article about RFID technology that Vail is using, I am struck by the endless possibilities that RFID technology and passive GPS data from smart-phones can bring to the skiing experience.

Particularly interesting from my perspective would be efforts by Vail and other mountains to communicate aggregate usage data to skiers on the mountain as a way to influence behavior during runs and minimize many of the pain points of skiing today. For instance, could Vail provide up to the minute wait times at each of its lifts to incentive skiers to make their way towards underutilized lifts to minimize wait times. Could they display current remaining capacity at restaurants on the mountain to allow skiers to optimize meal decisions. Finally, could they track the amount of skiiers on the mountain and offer dynamically priced “rest of day” lift tickets to (local) skiers on days when the mountain is being underutilized. Seems like all of this information could go a long way towards reducing bottlenecks on the mountain!

On November 20, 2016, sarah_yu commented on A Better(ment) Way to Invest? :

Alex, great article. I have followed the growth of Betterment very closely (you may have notice me sporting a Betterment t-shirt every now and again) as my cousin runs their legal and biz development teams. We have had many discussions over the business models, and you article has certainly picked up on some of the main benefits and challenges the company itself thinks it faces. In particular, the low barriers to entry to replicated Betterment’s value proposition seems to be a particularly salient challenge to future Betterment customer acquisition and market share growth.

Another concern I have identified is the changing perception of the value proposition over time. Passive investment strategies such as those provided by robo-advisers are certainty seeing an increase in popularity. In my mind, this is related to the historically poor performance of actively managed portfolios as well as the recent turbulence in financial markets. Over time, it has been show that actively managed portfolios under-perform market indexes and other passive strategies. However, almost all of Betterment growth has taken place in a period of high returns in equity markets. As a result, customers have recognized immediate returns from the investment strategy. I wonder if, however, the next market downturn will lead an exodus away from passive funds and market index ETFs as short term returns become negative. While long term performance would not be effected, I wonder how consumers would reactive to negative returns in their passive investments, and whether they would stick out the downturns or withdraw their money. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

On November 7, 2016, jaredgoodman commented on How will the climate change the UN? :

Very interesting article! Despite the staggering number of crises the UN needs to respond to as a result of climate change, what I find even more worrying is the climate change-conflict nexus and the likelihood of climate change related effect increasing the incidence of inter and intra-state violate, placing even further strains on the UN humanitarian response system as well as the UN peacekeeping system. We are already seeing conflict over water rights, grazing rights and other control of resource situations creating conflict at local levels. As climate change exacerbates these effects, I suspect that the incidence of civil conflict and intrastate war will require additional UN resources to address. Similar to the supply issues around humanitarian aid are those of UN peacekeepers, which must be deployed quickly. Also similar, peace keeping operations are underfunded. Will the UN system continue to be able to minimize conflict in these settings?

On November 7, 2016, jaredgoodman commented on IS SUSTAINABILITY UNGA’S RESPONSIBILITY? :

Super interesting article Diana. I am left wondering what opportunities exist to find those willing to pay for more sustainable agricultural practices and use their additional willingness to pay to fund Kenyan efforts to increase sustainable agriculture. While I like some of the commenters ideas about a certification program are intriguing, I wonder whether Kenyan consumers are willing to pay that premium. Assuming we do not want UNGA to export their products to markets that do, and therefore exacerbate the corn/maize shortage, I wonder whether UNGA could work with NGOs or other organizations to develop sustainably farmed credits to sell to other agribusiness companies, non-profits or other entities similar to how clean finance mechanisms allow for emissions reduction credits to be sold across companies and countries. That way, those who require credit for, or value, sustainable farming practices provide the capital, while the production and consumption of the agricultural products remains in markets that need them, reducing both staple food shortages and avoiding larger transportation costs.

On November 7, 2016, jaredgoodman commented on Making a Google Search Sustainable :

Fascinating article! I always assumed computers/”soft copies” of documents were less environmentally friendly than everyone seemed to believe, but the scale of energy and resource usage is staggering. While I find the various efforts Google is taking to ensure more and more of its energy usage in coming from renewable resources, I am also curious to understand how Google views the energy needs from its “process”, and whether there are additional ways for the company to improve how searches are executed to continue to reduce energy requirements. While your post did mention some aspects of physical design of data centers and their effects on energy consumption/needs, I am also curious about this problem from a computational/electrical perspective. First, how are improvements in computational power effecting energy usage to carry out tasks? Second, are there effects of scale at play here? Would larger or smaller data centers effect the energy needs? What would the trade-offs be to changing the size or location of data centers? Are we talking about milliseconds of speed or more visible changes in quality of service? Perhaps consumers are willing to trade off some of the benefits that would need to be sacrificed in order to achieve more computational energy efficiency.

On November 7, 2016, jaredgoodman commented on Implications of Climate Change on US Navy Operations :

Very interesting perspective on the nexus between climate change and national security. I am particularly interested in how changes in the arctic region have effected the challenges and opportunities from a naval perspective. With less ice creating new routes for transit and supply, and more access to resources creating more non-U.S. presence at a means to capture resources, I wonder what the effect will be on the demands of the U.S. navy. Given its global coverage and the large lead times and expenses for new ships, it seems that the U.S. navy will have to deal with these opportunities and threats with the same sized fleet as before. Will this have implications on where naval resources are stations, either for a deterrent effect or to reduce time required to establish a presence in the arctic in the face of a perceived threat? Will any rebalancing of the U.S. naval fleets global presence then require a reprioritization of the Navy’s other missions and roles? The short to medium term effects on U.S. naval planning and it’s footprint present a logistically complex problem in my mind.

As an avid skier myself, I have been amazed at the variation in snow fall. While I find Vail’s efforts to diversify geographically and increase the area’s all-season product offerings, I also am curious how the sport of skiing itself might change in response to the increasingly variable length of the ski season, and what role ski companies like Vail might play at driving these changes. First, are there innovations in snow creation that might drive down costs? For instance, might there be material with the same consistency and feel as snow but with different melting/freezing temperatures that can replace some artificial snow to decrease the need to recreate snow. Alternatively, are there additives to artificial and real snow that might achieve similar effects. While approaches like these require huge investments in material science and physics research, and certainly a careful eye on environmental consequences, I am curious how adventure/ski companies might try to decouple skiing and coldness going forward…