I think this is a great marketing strategy for Mercedes. Like IBM’s assault on Jeapody, Mercedes’ attack on last-mile delivery sends a strong signal to the market – Mercedes is a leader in technology, reliable, and will transport anything (including you and your stuff) in style. Given Mercedes is not looking to publish incremental research papers on its technology, I think this moonshot attempt is the right goal for the company.
While it is pretty obvious that this application cannot reasonably replace all of last-mile delivery by trucks and people (because of costs and reliability issues resulting from bad weather and other externalities), I think it will be interesting to look into what alternative applications this can have in different industries. Who knows, but maybe babies will now be delivered by drones rather than stalks some day.
Indeed Philips needs to continue innovating to stay ahead of the curve. Already other startups are looking to disrupt the lighting industry, with innovations such as The Finally Bulb, a bulb that is 75% more efficient and has a useful life 15 times longer than the LED bulb http://www.topbulb.com/blog/next-big-thing-lighting-led/.
In 2015, Philips signed a $25 million deal to team up with MIT and move its R&D headquarters to Cambridge http://fortune.com/2015/05/19/philips-rd-mit/. This suggests they have recognized the need to focus on R&D in-house, rather than just buy up competitor start-ups. Or perhaps this may just be a marketing stint to create a “growth story” for the company given it recently sold 25% of its lighting business http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/03/philips-to-seek-ipo-for-philips-lighting.html.
Irrespective of intentions, innovating in-house clearly seems to be a key strategic focus of Philips Lighting.
WhatsApp is a great app. It was the leader in many aspects of Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”), and that lead to its quick market proliferation. With competition from other VoIP apps such as WeChat, Slack, and Groupme, WhatsApp’s innovation seems to be venturing into dangerous ground. It’s recent move to encrypt all texts makes policing very difficult, and facilitates terrorist and criminal activity https://www.wired.com/2016/04/forget-apple-vs-fbi-whatsapp-just-switched-encryption-billion-people/. Indeed, the Paris terrorist attacks were coordinated using the app. Hence I agree WhatsApp’s greatest threat is regulation, not only from telecom regulators, but also from national security agencies.
Pippa! What a good read. This movement to give electronic hongbaos is however very concerning to me. It is my understanding that hongbaos were traditionally given to bring good luck, because of the color red, and that the money inside was just a nice gesture. The fact that people are now giving “digital hongbaos” reflects a society that cares more about money than the good intent others have for them. Further, the app seems to also allow you to track how much each person has given you, and can be very easily used as a tool to judge the merits of one’s relationship. Whilst the tension of whether Chinese New Year is about celebrating with loved ones or about the gifts you receive has always been there (a similar tension surrounding Christmas), this movement to digitize hongbaos and the government’s support of that seems to place the emphasis on materialism.
I did not realize how much water it took to make coke! I’m not sure how the distribution channels for coke work, but if India is a regional hub for manufacturing, then maybe it’s time to move some of that capacity to places with more water resource.
Aside from water, do you know if the coke-making and distribution process is very carbon intensive? I guess they have received a lot of push back when it comes to water, but it seems like they may be able to make a significant dent on carbon as well given their extensive operations.
I find it strange how these large supermarkets can force away the tax – especially after it was passed. I presume that if the government did not do away with the carbon tax, then many small suppliers would have gone belly-up and the government would have found itself with an unemployment issue and reduces overall taxes. In such a world, these supermarkets would have also then suffered as supply chains collapse and consumption declines. Hence it was a bold move by the supermarkets to stand their ground to see who blinks first.
Also, since implementing a carbon tax and letting it pass though the system is ineffective for structural reasons, perhaps the government could impose taxes directly onto corporations at every level though Renewable Energy Credits (“RECs”)? RECs ensure companies do not produce too much carbon, and forces them to bear the cost of excess consumption.
I think you highlighted a good point in that importing fossil fuels (90% of which is oil) for power generation is not sustainable – electricity prices in Hawaii are amongst the highest, and relying on external supplies places the communities at risk. Hence renewables not only make sense in terms of reaching targets, but it also reduces the overall risk of the grid.
One thing that would be interesting to know is the mix of renewable resources available and consumption habits of people / industry on the different islands as matching the types of renewable energy to consumption needs will be critical – for example, if people use a lot of air conditioning in the evening, then solar alone will not be sufficient. In principle, it would be good to see a good mix of reliable power (dammed-hydro, geothermal, and nuclear) and peaking power (solar and wind) that matches consumption habits. Without a stable mix, it will unfortunately be difficult for any utility to become 100% renewable (unless battery technology improves to the point where it is able to store sufficient energy to match generation and consumption needs).
Solar in India is certainly the buzz when it comes to renewable energy in emerging markets. India’s tremendous solar resource, its significant energy deficit, and long-haul transmission issues definitely plays into the strengths of rooftop solar power which can be consumed at the point of generation (aka distributed power).
One key risk I see in this business is equipment cost. Given they play exclusively in the rooftop space, their projects will not be of sufficient scale to attract significant vendor discounts. Hence, they are in significant risk of being priced out of the market if other utility-scale developers expand into the rooftop arena (which is already happening with Azure Power, the largest Indian IPP, for example).
Further, their operations are focused on Tamil Nadu – the state with the most solar in India – and hence could be at risk of a regulatory environment that becomes less friendly to the sector as it matures.
Overall, I see Aspiration as a small fish in a relatively small pond that is growing, and their ability to survive will very much depend on whether they can get big before the pond stops growing.
Nuclear certainly has got a bad rep since the Fukushima disaster, which is unfortunate since it can be a very sustainable source of energy.
Nuclear energy however also has its limitations as the plant takes a long time to switch on and off. Hence, nuclear plants have to be running at all times to form “baseload” generation. Unfortunately there are also a lot of existing baseload generators connected to the grid, making the costs of building a nuclear plant not easily justifiable.
Further, many of these baseload generators have long-term supply contracts for coal and other cheap forms fuel (Coal and gas form 66% of energy generation in the U.S. according to the EIA – https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3), and the coal and gas industries have strong unions and lobbying groups.
Hence, while nuclear does present a strong value proposition, it is fighting an uphill battle against having a bad rep for being potentially very dangerous, and mammoth commodity industries.
Interesting take on how climate change will impact airlines. A lot of the solutions seem to have an impact on the long-term (R&D, alternative fuels, stakeholder management) – do you see any quick wins here that can move the needle?
With oil at $45/bbl, and expected to stay there for the medium-term, there are really no incentives for airlines to invest and switch to more efficient engines / alternative energy sources. Oil makes up a significant portion of costs for airlines, and the industry has been doing extremely well with cheap oil.
Perhaps what is needed is mandatory code-sharing to reduce duplicate flights. However, I don’t think there are any incentives to do this as all airlines want is to grab market share and will hang on to their routes to do so, and customers want competition to keep the airlines honest.
As such, I do not have high hopes for the airline industry to make a significant difference in the fight against climate change in the near future.
S, whilst bad news, this almost sounds like the solution to all our problems! You see, if the world has less coffee, people don’t get out of bed nor do things as quickly, so people stop consuming things and destroying our planet, leading to reduced climate change – maybe??
Or maybe not, given all the artificial caffeine in the market that people end up drinking when there is no coffee (sadly).
Instead of GM, I also potentially see more farmers swapping from Arabica to Robusta, which has higher yields and is less susceptible to pests. Unfortunately, Robusta doesn’t taste as good as Arabica, and hence, people may need to make some sacrifices there.
Also, given the obvious economies of scale, I wonder why there hasn’t been market consolidation – or is that happening now and will become a new trend?
It’s interesting to see how utilities and regulators are removing incentives now that solar has reached grid parity. I can understand why utilities would charge people for using their grid – they spent millions of dollars building these things so that they can sell power through them, and now that people are generating their own power, why shouldn’t they pay to use the benefit of the grid? Further, if they do not charge these households for selling solar on the grid, then all the current grid maintenance costs will have to be pushed down to the remaining users who do not have solar. This will in turn make using conventional power very expensive, and make solar even more attractive, which then causes people to switch to solar, resulting in higher prices and a death spiral for utilities. While this may be an interesting new world order, I doubt it will be beneficial for society (at least in the near term) as many people and industries still need utilities who can supply a reliable source electricity. Hence, I would not be so quick to demonize utilities who provide a public service and are trying to survive.