Blippy, Woot, Bundle (Pardon me…)

21st century names for the Rice Krispie elves? Or powerful new, Twitter-pated, info-sharing services?

The quest to reach the zenith of Too Much Information races upward. Fast Company reports on new ways to compare prices and get screamin’ deals: meet Blippy, Woot, and Bundle.

Ever wondered what your online tribe are spending their money on, right now; or ever wish they could see what you just bought? Tweet your credit card transactions with Blippy, “a fun and easy way to see and discuss the things people are buying”. Blippy satisfies the craving that tribes have to know and tell what’s in the bag, and what it costs. Every.Fricking.Thing.All.The.Time. Like topical creams from Walgreens, for down-where-the-sun-don’t-shine. Or a Big Mac for Friday breakfast… on Good Friday. Oh, this can go so wrong…

Hey, What'd Ya Get? What'd Ya Pay?

Hey, What'd Ya Get? What'd Ya Pay?

Woot is with a twist… a fun one. It sells only one item per day, while supplies last. No back-order, no dibsies… it’s there until it ain’t. The very humorous people who wrote the Woot website offer to Tweet you with notices of what’s what. Finally, the Thighmaster model I crave! Buy now!

This great article also mentions a slightly creepy service called Bundle. Sounds like someone’s reading my bank card statements before I am… because now I can find out what people who live in my neighborhood are spending on food, clothing, entertainment, etc. and even Tweet the news to my tribe. While actual names aren’t revealed, I’m thinking that data on the guy who lives at the Boo Radley house around the corner won’t show up under Home Improvement. Idea for use? Realtors who specialize in relocation clients. (“Why yes, radishes do cost more in Eugene!”)

Thus, the emergence of these mightily simple, Twitter-fed apps. A new global business model, where consumers, app developers, point-of-sale data, and real-time data sharing meet.

… Might as well try and tax the wind

Apologies to Dylan, but while pondering recent taxation maneuvers around the globe in renewable energy, the lyrics to his song Catch the Wind were blowing through my head. Investment Tax Credits (ITC) appear to be holding up in most countries, to the benefit of wind and solar power industry players; even as governments map out new taxation of output. So, what’s given to these pioneer entrepreneurs up front in the form of ITCs will be partially recouped, starting when the first turbine spins. That is where taxing the wind comes in… expect to see generators forking over to their local taxing districts a direct payment based on the electricity production from the wind turbines. Is it fair to tax the wind? Sure – petroleum exploration and refinery companies and providers of hydroelectricity have been subjected to the same tax obligation, while converting the natural elements into vital power output.

My expectation, though, is that renewable energy ITC policies should in fact render more after-tax revenue for providers than those policies that benefit petroleum-based energy providers. A nascent industry needs a boost, for a pre-defined period of time. Healthier after-tax margins will serve as a sign that these amazing new ventures around the globe are open for business and here to stay, which will attract ever-ready venture capitalists and mutual fund portfolios. There is already in play a multi-tier global industry: from land developers to manufacturers of specialty control equipment. The industry has drawn the most unexpected players, too, such as Knight-Carver, who’s made the delightful transition from design and construction of racing yachts to specialty wind blades. Their operations can be found today on both the San Diego bay front and on the South Dakota prairies.

Renewable energy programs are also becoming a local asset touted by regional economic development offices around the world, signaling a stable, diversified base for companies in search of a home. It’s the availability of, and the ability to generate, renewable energy that’s attracting companies in manufacturing, distribution and transmission of renewable energy and its components. A truly global industry is arising, with both mighty and emerging countries competing equitably. And it allows even perennially rainy spots like Portland, Oregon to tout themselves as a Solar City USA.

All governments will of course tax the wind — that’s a given. But they must keep their eye on the global competitive roadmap, mindful that companies can choose to locate most anywhere on the globe and easily reach customers everywhere.

Consumer Electronics Show: The Takeaway

In 1830s America, the fur trade introduced the forerunner of the American trade fair: the rendezvous, a regular annual gathering where all the bargaining and the buying were done. In wide pastures at the foot of the mountains, the Indian traders and fur trappers gathered with their pelts and the buyers came in with dollars and various seductive trinkets.

I’ve worked at many trade fairs, spanning many industries. No matter the product, the venue, or the industry, I’ve noticed that while name tags and shop talk patter change, the experience stays the same. I guess any of us could be dropped back into a 1830s prairie rendezvous and feel the same vibe, look over our shoulders at upstart competitors, and dish the same gossip with colleagues during over-priced meals.

The Consumer Electronics Association hosts CES, a global trade fair for the most pervasive industry out there – electronics – and pulls off a whopper every year, in both lean times and salad days. Where else on earth could 2500+ traders meet up with 120,000+ buyers but in the oasis that is Las Vegas? Pre-event messages from the CEA’s president reminded readers that innovation and optimism reign supreme, and he was right.

Though there are dozens of aisles featuring ancillary, nice-to-have, throwaway wares on display — activewear accessories for your smartphone, sensurround comfy chairs for gamers, or jewel-encrusted earphones – CES visitors get to talk with inventors of what I feel are key enabling technologies, and see and touch products that will end up in our cars and homes very soon.

That’s why enduring the throngs of people and the “so-much-moreness” of Las Vegas is worth it. It’s a great way to set your frame of mind toward a new year of opportunity, change, the search for personall excellence, and progress.

Nittier and Grittier: More from CES

It’s Elvis’ 75th birthday, and I find myself in his Mecca, Las Vegas. The elevator Muzak is all Elvis today; classy touch.

So – on to CES, and my votes for the Most Exciting, and Most Off-the-wall Products.

Most Exciting .
Power of the Future. Near Field Inductive Coupling Technology is at the core of a wireless power movement branded at CES as eCoupled, from Fulton Innovation. Manufacturers including Energizer, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Bosch, Leggett & Platt, and Amway (!) are part of this consortium to develop “e-coupled compatible” products and systems powered wirelessly. The CES booth featured lifestyle settings ranging from a kitchen to a hotel room to an in-car dash to a power tool chest. New ways to live without wires. Imagine what it means for product development, ergonomics, and daily living overall! eCoupled Wireless Power Technology by Fulton Innovation.

Connected Healthcare. Another industry consortium, Continua Alliance, ensures that patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers are connected and empowered. Among such large company members as Cisco, GE, IBM and Qualcomm are innovative companies like Nonin, makers of pulse oximeters that route vitals to remote medical caregivers. Across the aisle from Continua were the makers of Wellcore. Wellcore “takes personal emergency response to the next level, combining automatic fall detection with 24/7 monitoring and prompt emergency response if needed… Wellcore keeps loved ones continually safe, secure and connected.” The message is targeted to boomers with aging parents living far away. The boomers themselves will likely adapt it for their own use in the distant future, too.
Continua Health Alliance.

Most Off The Wall.
OK, hard to choose from among 1000s of exhibitors, but the makers of electronic cigarette smoking devices win. Smoke anywhere, emitting only harmless vapor … no flame, no ash, no nicotine smoke. e-cigarettes are free of tobacco, but include a nicotine cartridge. Smokers: will it do the job when all you want is a good smoke?

The Nitty Gritty from Consumer Electronics Show

Greetings from Las Vegas on The King’s Birthday, where everything is so much more… where Cirque du Soleil meets Viva Elvis. Where everything’s sexier in Paris, thanks to Barry Manilow. A couple of observations on what looks cool, and even better what looks hot, in my usual terms of successful market entry:

3-D TV. No stranger to the show floor, but so much more this year. Emboldened by successful entertainment ventures, all major TV manufacturers and gaming systems makers featured wowzie displays of 3-D, with requisite weird Terminator glasses. None of it makes sense unless there’s a successful market entry at play, though, and the most feasible one I learned about was at the Panasonic mega-booth. Here, a rep from Dish TV announced that Dish will launch a 3-D content package, with the promise of plenty of 3-Dness via ESPN and other networks, and dedicated paid content channels for subscribers. Supposed to be a nationwide launch in June, let’s watch it and see the uptake from trendy consumers. Will it be worth it, and tip the scales toward broad acceptance, or will it languish a few more years? I feel that the human interface is still so awkward; any industrial designers out there who care to win world domination by fixing that?

Google phone. Motorola staff showed me two new models at their booth, for AT&T and Verizon. There’s a stickiness to the devices that further insinuates them into users’ daily routines: upon activation, users load up every bit of their social network life into the device, and so much more, and it never forgets. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… it’s all there, all the time, always. But here’s where I see a market shift taking place: the inclusion of Google’s mapping and location siting technology. That single factor signals the death of another consumer market sector: portable GPS systems. Why will I need a Garmin or TomTom device if I buy a Google phone? I cross-checked my theory at their respective booths, and saw Garmin continuing its strong action sports and wilderness positioning that transcends concerns about mobile phone coverage areas. But – where does this leave their market for standalone devices?

So much more to come. Hint: powering our future through inductive coupling technology.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to you all for a productive, robust, and fun 2010. Be back soon with a rundown on what I learned and saw at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show.

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