Month: April 2015

Augmented Reality, Gestures & The Human Element

Moritz v. Grotthuss, CEO of gestigon, has an articulate understanding of the state and challenges of AR technology.  “Over the past twelve months we’ve seen the first beta deliveries of augmented and virtual reality solutions,” Grotthus explained. “In most of them, the human element is missing! For example, you don’t see your hands when you put on a pair of virtual reality glasses.”

InsideAR-SF-2015-Logo_RactangleGrotthuss, who will be in San Francisco speaking about and demonstrating gestigon technology at the Inside AR conference next month, is razor focused on enriching the user interface and making AR a more human experience.  “When you scan a room with your tablet, you may get all kinds of interesting data about the objects in the room, but the human beings are usually just displayed as blobs,” he shared. “gestigon’s mission is to change that.”

Computers recognizing human context is key to making that happen.  Gestures, facial expressions, and vocal intonations can be indicative of intent or emotion, which means AR solutions must also incorporate elements of affective computing to fully understand human context.  gestigon gives “computers the ability to recognize the human context, ranging from enabling your hands to manipulate a virtual menu that your smart glasses are displaying to providing a more complete picture on the intent of a particular Human/Machine interaction,” Grotthus explained.

To learn more about AR alongside over 3,800 other AR affectionados and to connect with gestigon, plan to be in in San Francisco May 20-21, 2015 at the Inside AR conference.  Tickets and more information are available by clicking here.

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Smart Apartments VS Dumb Apartments

In the ongoing battle to provide the latest and greatest amenities and to provide the best tenant experiences possible, multifamily residential housing owners and operators are looking at connected home solutions. By offering a connected apartment, a management company can differentiate from competition.  Suddenly one apartment is smart and the rest are dumb.  At the same time, providing a connected apartment also provides multifamily owners and operators the ability to control energy use, especially in vacant units, and to gain insights into how to improve their communities.

This means the real estate industry, an industry not widely know for early technology adoption, may surprisingly become the key to unlocking the door to consumer internet of things hardware adoption for the smart home.  This also presents an opportunity for start up entrepreneurs. IOTAS, Remotely, Monarc Tree and Dwelo are four of the companies vying for the IoT opportunity in multifamily housing.  IOTAS is in a pilot with Greystar and was featured on a the Gigaom IoT podcast by Stacey Higginbotham in February.  Monarc Tree is beta testing in four buildings with a fifth in development.

I caught up with David Beenfield, Co-Founder & CTO of Dwelo this morning for a conversation about the solutions in residential multifamily housing units. “The winner will be somebody who can design a program that is minimal enough to scale,” Beenfield said.  As someone who started implementing and managing real estate accounting and operations information systems over a decade ago, I second Beenfield’s opinion.  Simplicity in design and scalability are important for multifamily housing managers because if it isn’t simple, it isn’t going to get done and it certainly cannot scale to thousands of units.

Tenants must feel that the technology works for them rather than them working for the technology otherwise they will complain. Property management must feel that the technology works rather than them working at fixing and dealing with technology issues and complaints.  Owners and asset managers must feel that the technology generates more value for the bottom line than the costs of technology implementation and management.

When asked where the market would go Beenfield explained, “The future of multifamily housing will be an entirely connected building that is digitally interactive from any device. This will fundamentally change the resident and manager experience to one of greater convenience, transparency, and energy consciousness.”

Edit 5/14/15 a typo was corrected

TeleSense – IoT for the Smart Building

Internet of Things technology in commercial real estate opens up a world of possibilities for improving occupant experience, reducing energy costs and managing building equipment, three areas with the potential to impact returns on real estate assets.  Large players such as Intel and new startups are working on solutions that put the Internet of Things to work for commercial real estate.  This morning I caught up with one of the players in this race to create real value in real estate IoT, Naeem Zafar, Co-Founder & CEO of Adolene, Inc.  Zafar’s growing team is creating a smart building retrofit solution called TeleSense.

Naeem Zafar, Co-Founder & CEO of Adelene, Inc. showcasing one of the TeleSense products at Plug and Play Technology Center April 22, 2015

Naeem Zafar, Co-Founder & CEO of Adelene, Inc. showcasing one of the TeleSense products at Plug and Play Technology Center April 22, 2015

TeleSense focuses on solving three problems in commercial buildings.  First, TeleSense is able to remotely sense temperature, humidity and air quality thus enabling building managers to make decisions that can improve the occupant experience.  Second, TeleSense monitors energy use & consumption.  By combining the monitored data with weather data, energy demand pricing, occupancy and building energy demand TeleSense is able to reduce overall energy consumption as well as reduce energy consumption when energy costs are higher.  Third, TeleSense uses vibration, temperature and sound or acoustics to predict the failure of building equipment, thus migrating from preventative to predictive maintenance.

“The future of the smart building is huge,” said Zafar.  “It’s all about gathering data easily and creating a real brain to actuate based on the data in real time,” he explained.

Disrupting Finance: A Look at the Robinhood App

Controlling your financial future?  There’s an app for that.  In advance of the April 21, 2015 VLAB event Fintech: Silicon Valley Takes On Wall Street, I experimented with Robinhood, who I first learned about months ago and signed up to be one of their first users.  Robinhood Co-Founder Baiju Prafulkumar Bhatt will participate on the VLAB panel; you can learn more about the upcoming event by clicking here.

Robinhood setup is a cinch! The account setup caused zero of the headaches associated with navigating other trading accounts.  Robinhood guides you through every step of the way, including what I would say is the trickest part-funding the account.  Robinhood also communicates to you automatically, keeping you appraised of what is going on during the transfer process.

You get an email when the transfer is initiated and completed and you are ready to begin trading:

RobinhoodTransferInitiated

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What if someone gets my phone?  The Robinhood app locks every time your phone locks, anytime the app is closed and anytime you switch between apps.  As long as you use a unique pin and don’t share it, people are not going to be able to mess with your portfolio.

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The trading process is simple!  Simplicity, in the world of complex financial markets and decisions, is extremely important.  Those who want to take control of their trading experience don’t want to have passed the Series 7, they just want to trade.  Green when the stock is going up and red for when it goes down down, big numbers, and easily tapping and swiping for navigation all contribute to the simple experience. Robinhood, judging by their app design, cares about user experience.

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As for the actual trading, it was so easy to purchase stock you can almost do it without knowing you’ve done it. Robinhood sends you an email confirming the order whenever a purchase is made.  Here was my first purchase:

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It is free to make trades!  Part of the barrier to entry in financial markets is account setup and fees for stock purchase and sale. With no fees, I was able to purchase stock in three different companies without paying a cent in fees.  This is huge for those who want to dabble in stock trading and avoid the costs associated with it.  It also means someone can purchase a single penny stock, see its value double, sell and not be in the hole because of fees. (Fees can range from as low as $5 to over $100 for a broker assisted trade and at that rate penny stock trading just isn’t an option.)

Professional Communication! Robinhood automatically sends you notifications when statements are available and you can access the statements right in the app.  The statements themselves are very similar to the professional trading statements I receive for other financial accounts, including all the lengthy disclosure paragraphs nobody ever reads.

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How has my experiment gone?  The market is volatile but as of about noon today I was up from $100 to $102.49.

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What would I like to see?  There is one thing I’d really like to have in the app, the ability to set rules for automatic sale and purchase of stock based on price changes.  Perhaps we’ll hear that feature is under development during next week’s panel discussion.

For those interested in learning more about Robinhood and other companies making a difference in the world of finance, join me at the April 21st event (tickets are still available here).

Wearable Tech Q&A for 10th Graders

I was contacted by a volunteer working with 10th Grade students in Los Angeles, CA through 826LA, an organization dedicated to supporting elementary, middle and high school students.  The 10th graders created a list of questions to research smart glasses for an article in their school newspaper and I’m answering them here.

  1. What, in your opinion, are some of the benefits tech glasses, such as Google Glass, can bring to people?

Let’s categorize people using tech glasses or smart glasses as people in their average day to day lives as consumer users and people using smart glasses at work enterprise users because the benefits are different for the two different types of users.

Enterprise Users

Enterprise users of smart glasses use the glasses to transmit or receive information relevant to their occupation.  Some examples include those working in occupations where their hands must be free, such as surgeons and people handling chemicals.  There are also situations where having hands free access to information saves time and makes it so that workers can do their jobs better and faster by receiving information or step by step instructions.

Consumer Users

Everyone not using smart glasses for work is a consumer user.  For consumer users, there are limited benefits beyond having a little fun with augmented reality games, taking pictures and having another way to interface with a smart phone.

  1. Do you foresee any problems caused by tech glasses, such as health or vision issues?

Obviously too much of anything can be bad.  For example, using a laptop with improper posture or hand position can lead to physical side effects.  But at this point there probably isn’t too much to be concerned about with smart glasses.  I will throw out there that virtual reality goggles such as Oculus Rift have been known to cause nausea for some people (and this is being worked on).

  1. Are there any safety concerns? For example, some people reported that Google Glass affected their peripheral vision. Do you view this as a serious concern? If so, what do you think companies manufacturing smart glasses can do to help fix this problem?

Placing an interface over the eye does affect the line of sight.  Wearers of prescription eyeglasses know that the frames around the glasses block out portions of the field of vision; however, they are worn because not seeing 20/20 is far worse.  Users of smart glasses, both consumer and enterprise users, must determine if the benefits outweigh the costs of peripheral vision loss.

  1. One major issue with Google Glass was that some people reported feeling like the video recording capability of Google Glass violated their right to privacy. Will future smart glasses face this same concern?

The biggest challenge with a product such as Google Glass for consumers (not enterprise) is that there is no way for people to know if it is being used and what it is being used for.  This is very different from a smart phone, which you can be holding and people can see when you are reading something, looking at something or when you have it up taking a photograph (a parent or teacher can also ask you to put it away).

It is OK to walk into a restaurant and take out your phone and take a picture or video.  If someone doesn’t want you to take the picture, they’ll let you know or move out of the way.  Because Google Glass can take pictures without people knowing, though, there is a problem: it violates the social contract.  This is why it failed as a consumer device.  People have been kicked out of places for wearing Google Glass and some restaurants even put up signs saying Google Glass was not allowed.  Future smart glasses will face similar concerns in the consumer space until the social contract changes and it becomes ok for video to be recorded or photos taken by anyone at any time.

  1. Who do you see buying tech glasses? Are they a product that the average person will find useful?

Companies are and will continue purchasing smart glasses for enterprise use.  There is real value created there.  There is less value created for the average consumer.  Some products coming to market that consumers will find useful fall in the entertainment space and are provided through augmented reality and virtual reality.  As these technologies improve, you may see more consumer purchases of smart glasses.

  1. Have you heard anything about future smart glass products coming out? If so, which product are you most interested in and why?

Newer versions of smart glasses are coming.  Watch for new versions of smart glasses from Sony, Epson and even Google.  I’m most interested in seeing a new smart glass solution from Google.

  1. When do you predict smart glasses becoming common? Six months? One year? Three years?

Overall in both the enterprise and for the average consumer, it will be more than three years, if not longer, before as many people in the world use smart glasses every day as use smart phones every day today.  The wide adoption of smart glasses both for the consumer and enterprise depends a lot on the software that runs on the glasses or the devices passing content to the glasses.  It is through the software that the compelling use cases for smart glasses are realized, especially in the enterprise space.  In the consumer space, the release of Magic Leap could accelerate the adoption of smart glasses.

Wrap it Up

The world of tomorrow will be a different place because of how you think of, use and develop tomorrow’s technology.  YES, it is you who will be changing the world.  There is no such thing as a crazy idea; there are so many dreams that will be realized.  What was once thought of as only science fiction can now be accomplished through smart glasses and other wearable technology.  You live in a world where these things and so much more are a possibility.  Dream big, fail big, rinse and repeat until you find success, whether it is in wearable technology or whatever you choose to pursue as a professional passion.

If you have more questions, let me know.  I’m happy to follow up with a phone call if you have more things to discuss.  Feel free to explore the Wearable Technology link, in particular you may find Wearables Dirty Laundry interesting because it talks about many of the current challenges faced by wearable technology entrepreneurs.