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Amazon here seems to be adoping the “hackathon” or “red-team” model that a lot of tech and software companies have employed for a long time. By using a competition to identify vulnerabilities in security of firms, they are able to get a fresh set of critical eyes on how strong their systems are.

In contrast, Amazon uses open competition to innovate their warehouse processes. To your question of whether this is a value play or a public relations play, I think the answer is both! They are able to foster a community that cares about making their processes more efficient so that they may be able to address conditions of overwork in their warehouses. At the same time, the PR around having an open innovation contest can only help their public image.

Great article.

On November 14, 2018, ZHoyt commented on Open Innovation at Tesla – Time for a Change? :

This is definitely a thought-provoking subject. On one hand, the old adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats” seems to apply here. If the industry as a whole does well, and Tesla is able to preserve its competitive advantage via the high reputation of its brand among consumers, then continuing to advocate for a policy of open innovation is a logical choice.

On the other hand, it is possible that Tesla enjoys the existing valuation it has due to the underlying intellectual property that it owns. If that’s the case, then legally protecting that IP via a more closed development system makes sense.

The underlying assumption of your argument is that Tesla’s policy of open innovation has in fact contributed to its lagging stock performance. In actuality, I think that Tesla’s cash flow problems, its absurdly high valuation in relation to its earnings, and systemic concerns about government protections for clean energy platforms are the generally accepted explaining factors for its performance.

For that reason, I would advocate for continued open innovation.

On November 13, 2018, ZHoyt commented on Taste the Future: 3D Printing Chocolate at Hershey :

While it is an interesting novelty to be able to print chocolate, and could prove to be a great marketing tool for Hershey, I fundamentally don’t particularly understand what problem this is solving that makes it worth the investment to Hershey to develop the technology. While it would be nice to print intricate designs that are not otherwise feasible by chocolate molds, the equipment in its current state is certainly cost-prohibitive for such a niche purpose. While this is a thought-provoking and well-written article, I think the underlying question is not “how do we scale from here?” but rather “why?”

On November 13, 2018, ZHoyt commented on Can AI save brick-and-mortar retail? :

Is there any future for a brick-and-mortar department store to exist in a world of same day delivery and e-commerce?

First off I really enjoyed this post. I think that given the concerns you have raised, the only way brick-and-mortar department stores can exist in the world of same day delivery and e-commerce is if the service-driven experience one has at a brick-and-mortar store is able to deliver something beyond the convenience of an e-commerce experience. This is where Machine Learning could come in, by identifying the preferences and purchase history of customers that walk into the store and offering them tailored products and services based on their tastes.

I’d like to respond to the first question. I think that given that Hershey uses 3-D printing of chocolate primarily as a marketing tool, that the best way they could utilize this technology is by offering it to large corporate clients for conferences, extravagant weddings for live printed gifts, and other venues where the performance of creating customized chocolate is in and of itself an form of entertainment. The Hershey-branded 3-D chocolate printer would provide the same kind of entertainment as a photo booth, allowing guests to take away an edible keepsake. I don’t believe that Hershey is truly at the forefront of 3-D printing, but this application is a nice marketing tool.

On November 13, 2018, ZHoyt commented on “What do you mean, Doctor?!” :

To answer question 1, I think the answer is no. Curai sounds like an interesting premise, but I do not see it surmounting the bond of trust that patients seek from their providers. Instead, I think the underlying ML tech that Curai uses might better be put to use as a means of training new doctors to know what to look for when conversing with patients. With a large enough data set, Curai may be able to pinpoint certain triggers that will alert doctors to probe for more information or conduct tests, rather than having Curai interact with patients on its own. By doing this, the ML tech can assist in providing better care while avoiding the insurmountable challenge of gaining trust with human patients