Sorry, Can’t Hear You… There’s an Elephant in the Room

A trade summit with China last week neglected to address the most pressing trade problem facing our two nations head on: how to resolve the conflict surrounding the US’ tariff on Chinese-manufactured car tires, which (of course) is linked to their hitting us with a similar tariff on chickens. There’s nothing to do but escalate and retaliate, it seems… in response to the US’ 35% tariff on imported tires imposed in September, the Chinese will start an anti-dumping investigation on US-made cars.

There’s a succinct piece in the 1 November wsj.com’s Opinion Asia section that lays it out nicely. My sense is that there are too many political rumbles taking place on both sides of the Pacific for either side to back down. It’s a matter of what the country’s respective adiminstrations deem to be worth fighting over. We’re in for a long period of “happy ears” diplomatic and trade meetings between envoys with no skin in the game but only the need to sustain their influence. There’ll be dropping and adding tariffs and investigations, until one side lets the free market reign. Wouldn’t hold my breath.

Cybersecurity: Next Challenge For Electric Cars

Car Jack-Jacking: Cybersecurity Is The Next Challenge For Electric Vehicles | Fast Company.

Wow, glad the author wrote about this key security issue for new electric car industry. As with any electronically controlled device, consider the implications to car owner and the power grid provider of cyber car jacking.  Sets up security issues that extend beyond the simple, personal transaction of juicing up the tank.

While these new cars are capturing the imagination of drivers, many are wary about the reliability of an electric car (will I be stranded roadside, waving a plug and begging for a mobile charge?), while mulling over costs vs. benefits (how high will my household electricity bill rise?). Now, along comes this elephant in the room. A sure challenge for electric car brand marketeers.

Big, smart providers such as RSA and Cisco have already jumped into the electric vehicle field with new products. Will keep an eye on this new tech movement.

Cellular, Telecomm, Cable Providers Step Up at CTIA

Da Brick by Motorola: the 80s were good to us!

At last week’s CTIA trade show, a 25th anniversary display included a glam shot of Motorola’s iconic cellular phone, Da Brick, adopted early on by Magnum, P.I. and my realtor sister. That $4,000, one-hour-talk-time wonderment looked like it had been plucked right off the front lines in ‘Nam and spray-painted beige.

Today, a planet of applications developers and systems engineers scramble to fill our insatiable demand for 4G-worthy data flow between machines and each other, via ever-shrinking, mobile devices.

Cisco’s CTO said in her keynote that their challenge is to ensure machines do more of the work, via machine-to-machine protocols; and to figure out how to keep all of us in video-centric, always-on, location-based user mode. As a consumer, my challenge is the continual evaluation of how I retrieve and share data on the job and at play, and from which combo of service providers. Thus, CTIA is a great testing ground for me.

It was remarkable to see cable companies and their ecosystem of suppliers gain such high visibility at CTIA. Indeed, the supply lines are blurring. Races will be won by those who can merge real-life and work-world needs, i.e. health care monitoring in the home, and robust inventory control at work. Cable? Telco? Cellular? Or all three, with “an app for that” thrown in?

A recurring Elephant in the Room theme for me is power consumption. How will battery life hold up with 4G-paced data transfer and jumbo-esque screens on pocket-sized devices? I continue to watch solutions providers for un-corded powering and re-charging solutions, and technologies used by service providers that improve battery life by managing signal transport.

Favorite visual images from my CTIA Experience:

– a lo-o-o-ong line of folks waiting to meet Shaun White (what a brand for the ages that guy is!). Shaun stopped traffic with his big ginger ‘do and top-of-the-world smile.
– event after-parties at tragically hip nightclubs, which open early for private parties, then boot everyone out by 11 to get ready for their 1am opening. Most of the “great-unhip” wouldn’t get past the bouncers during regular club hours!

Part two of my coverage of CTIA will be an in-depth look at an industry sector in transition: mobile money. Look out, Western Union… international smart pre-paid services are here!

National Export Initiative: Boon for US Exporters

President Obama’s State of the Union address last month yielded a windfall for those companies who earn their way in foreign trade, and for those federal agencies who support their cause. The goals of our new National Export Initiative include doubling American exports over the next five years and supporting up to two million jobs here at home.

The proposed 2011 budget for the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration will increase by 20%. And, the ITA has been ordered to hire about 300 additional foreign commercial service officers.

While launching this ambitious and praiseworthy initiative, the president continues to guide debate on the ratification of free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama; and stepping into challenging trade negotiations with China (see my previous entries about these topics here, here and here) Fair and competitive global trade policies – a certain result of the National Export Initiative – must by logic include the elimination of trade barriers in order to work.

Notably, the NEI creates an Export Promotion Cabinet, reporting to the president, that will consist of top leaders from the Commerce, Treasury and State Departments, the Department of Agriculture, the Export-Import Bank, the office of the United States Trade Representative and the Small Business Administration. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will head up the cabinet.

Within 180 days, all of the agencies in the Export Cabinet will be responsible for submitting a coordinated, detailed plan to the president about how they will collectively enhance United States exports. Tall order, isn’t it? It will be a challenge to the cabinet to move nimbly and in lockstep, given the size and scope of coverage each department enjoys. Of note is the president telling our Export-Import Bank to increase the financing it makes available to small and medium-size businesses from a record $4.4 billion last year to $6 billion next year. That should relieve the angst over available credit to exporters who need to expand in order to claim their markets overseas.

I’ll make a note to assess the movement and report back in 181 days!

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