Alexa Changed my Life AND Has Almost Stopped TXTing and Driving

Crushing It CoverI first installed Alexa on my iPhone back in ’18 after reading the @garyvee book Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence and How You Can Too.

I knew about Voice First Technology of course. I had been using Siri for ages and played round with Cortana which was a little less impressive. I just didn’t feel I needed it on my laptop. I still touch-type fast.

When Alexa started connected to my WiFi and Bluetooth displays, things changed. I had a mix of audio and video in the rooms in the house where I wanted it. Then there’s my car.

I didn’t get to CES 2018 unfortunately but I didn’t really need to. I got the picture from videos.

A big difference was getting Alexa in my car.

Navdy goneOf course I already had my Navdy, which had hand gestures but the company went under as I was waiting for my software update, because the navigation maps were no longer current. I can’t tell you how gutted I was about that. I’m still using it, but a lot of the new freeways and subdivisions aren’t on it. With Alexa a lot of the the other features are now redundant.

Anyway, two major things happened.

One is how my life has changed with VFT and the other is that distracted driving accidents from people TXTing and driving have reduced by about 10% each year for the last 5 years and its not because of driverless cars. They STILL haven’t become popular. I guess people still enjoy the drive. I still do, that’s why I have a Corvette right? I didn’t buy a muscle machine so it could drive me.

This is a little bit of what my day looks like with Alexa

I wake naturally, I have a good body clock. I ask Alexa the weather. She says its 11 degrees (That’s just under 52 degrees for my American readers.) and we are heading for a high of 15 C.

I get her to turn up the climate control for the lounge dining area and go to the bathroom where she is connected to my shower speaker from AliExpress and get my personalized news. I have a mix of New Zealand news as well as CNN and BBC.

Then its time for a traffic report. It’s school holidays so it is only going to take me half an hour to travel the 12 km to work, that’s great. I can linger over breakfast (asking her to add milk and English muffins to my grocery list) and dictate my morning vlog.

20160507_153136 (2)I get Alexa to open the garage door and unlock my front door and the car, she points out that I am not carrying my phone and gives it a quick chirp so I know where it is.

I start up my driveway to work, confirming she has locked the front door and closed the garage door, all the lights are off as is the electric towel rail which I always used to forget to switch off! ; and I get her to open Spotify (yes I’m still using it) and start my Daily Playlist 5.

I don’t use Alexa much at work, except while I am walking to the Sushi shop the long way and listen to a podcast. It’s an open plan office.

On the way home, I use it to ask Gaspy where the cheapest 98 octane fuel is for my car. It’s getting very expensive and not many gas stations have it any more.

When I have my tank full ($150! Petrol is heavily taxed and way more expensive than in the US or just about anywhere else in the world), I turn on the heat pump at home to 24 degrees so the house will be nice and warm when I get in and turn on the front door and hall lights.

She opens the garage door and front door as I’m getting ready to reverse into the garage.

My wife isn’t due home for another hour so I get Alexa to order our usual Chinese takeout from Uber Eats for 7 PM. I’m not much of a cook and we couldn’t cook a meal cheaper than that for two anyway.

Getting changed I ask Alexa for another news update and for my fitness info. I only walked 3,000 steps today, a little over 3 KM. Most of that was the 2 km circuit I do after I buy my sushi.

I then play a quick game of poker online and use Alexa to translate the Portuguese that the Brazilians are talking because it frustrates me that I can’t understand them and they often dominate the table. Then I get Alexa to translate my English and dictate it back to them, telling them to pull their heads in. They lol.

We sit down for dinner in the lounge and Alexa finds where we are at on Suits Series 12 and casts it on the 85″ TV that I finally managed to get spousal approval for, on the basis that the US Tennis Open would look so much better on the 16k TV screen. The resolution is way better than being there and the sound is amazing. I’m still frustrated that they are not broadcasting 3D, but she doesn’t like it anyway.

Bedtime and Alexa turns off the heat pump and the lights, as we leave the lounge. she confirms the front door is locked and it’s goodnight world.

Just another day.

 

 

 

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PUBER Startup Gains Traction and Provides Employment for Powerless People

ev chargerRecent startup PUBER has signed a major contract with a Chinese manufacturer to produce hundreds of thousands of trailered EV chargers as they roll out their new mobile charging service for electric vehicles that have run out of power on the road.

These new devices have power adaptors for most brands of electric cars and can charge them back to full charge in around half an hour.

CEO Max Power said that one of the things he was really pleased about was being able to provide self employment opportunities for people who had lost their incomes when companies like Uber and Lyft made the shift to driverless cars. “It’s kind of ironic”, he said from his home in Chattanooga TN ” that we are offering employment to people whose livelihoods disappeared when these companies replaced the people who built their business with autonomous cars.”

He went on to say that PUBER was launched in a think tank at the 10th annual Chattanooga startup week and immediately gained traction with investors who recognised that there was a major opportunity with a growing trend of people running out of electricity during their trips. “Many people haven’t made the mental shift from having cars that can drive for 500 miles on a tank, to a car that can only do about 200 miles. Many forget to charge them up and overestimate how far they can go when they get back in.”

Owner operators buy one or more towable trailers fitted with a large powerpack and power adaptors for most brands of car. Customers have a mobile app which allows them to send their GPS location, prepayment and a service request to the nearest PUBER operator who can’t wait to get them on the road again.

My Auckland Commute to Work

Do you ever think back to how things used to be? Auckland motorways used to be known as the car park. My commute on the North Shore is so easy these days, thanks to the awesome travel information we have at our fingertips and some awesome transport planning by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency.

Britomart Station“You have no scheduled appointments today”, the display on my mobile says. “Are you going to work?”

I speak to it: “Yes. Audio on.”

“Travel time via the motorway is 67 minutes. Travel time via Public Transport is 23 minutes if you leave now.”

“Travel time in 30 minutes?”

“Estimated travel time in 30 minutes via motorway is 82 minutes or 27 minutes via Public Transport. Would you like me to book a car park at the Long Bay satellite Park & Ride?”

“Yes, please.”

“Your car park at Long Bay Beach Park & Ride is number 118.”

As I get into my car, it says “Mobile connected, confirm navigate to Park 118 at Long Bay Beach.”

“Yes, confirmed.”

“Turn right in 200 meters car park is on the right……You have arrived. Buses to the Albany train station are available every 5 minutes.”

“The next train is full, another train is arriving in 5 minutes, seat 15A reserved, use your Hop Card for a free coffee while you wait. Confirm flat white no sugar.”

“You have 3 VIP emails. Read?”

“Yes, audio off.”

I smile as the train races past the cars on the motorway, still a little impressed that it is flowing as well as it is given that Auckland’s population has increased by 250,000 in the last 4 years.

US Motorists Road User Charge Taxes Create Windfall for Kiwi GPS Developers

The solution to a massive nose dive in US domestic tourism has come from an unlikely source, specialists in GPS vehicle tracking, Road User Charge rebate and electronic in-vehicle tax payments by Fleet Management companies in a place that many Americans couldn’t even place on a map, close to the bottom of the globe, New Zealand.

When the USA introduced national Pay As You Drive road user tax for all other than electric vehicles a few years ago, no one appreciated the impact this would have on a variety of industry segments. The intention was to encourage commuters and urban business travelers to make more use of public transport. Having a blanket rule resulted in a significant negative impact on the cost of living for rural Americans who typically have to travel much greater distances even for basic needs such as food, health, shopping an getting to work. It also decimated the domestic tourism industry.

Whilst rental vehicles were exempted which ensured international tourist numbers weren’t impacted, the tourism industry still  went into free-fall as domestic tourists couldn’t afford the increased cost to their trips. In the last few years US residents ‘for leisure’ person trips have dropped by a staggering 350,0000,000 from the 1.6 billion person trips recorded back in 2012.

Enter new rules designed to encourage people back onto the  freeways and into small town USA, which allowed rebates for motorists who met certain conditions. These included a ratio of distance traveled on non urban roads, or on private roads and proof that the vehicle was more than 100 miles away from home for one or more nights.

In Car RUC System

In Car RUC System

New Zealand Fleet Management solution companies, having had many years developing Road User Charge tax rebate solutions with GPS tracking for commercial diesel fleets, were able to offer a ready made answer. Not only did they have low cost solutions ready to plug in to most vehicles manufactured since 2007, they also had the ability for people to pay those taxes direct from the vehicle and included an in-vehicle display which both Police and the public could use to ensure that taxes had in fact been paid. Several Kiwi companies have now partnered with US organizations including domestic Fleet Management companies and major vehicle brands.

The AAA and insurance companies also welcomed the move as the Fleet Management systems monitor car driving behavior, encouraging green driving and enabling PAYD (Pay As You Drive) insurance, where premiums are reduced for people who don’t use harsh breaking, over-acceleration and other behaviors which reduce risk. Several car and motor-home manufacturers are now considering putting this technology into their vehicles as standard features.

According to US Travel Association research in 2012, 1 out of 8 US jobs depended on travel and tourism (representing 14.6 million jobs supported by travel expenditures), which was in the top 10 income earners for 48 states.

It is hoped that domestic tourism will make a big swing back in the coming year, with the costs of the initial investment for motorists being offset by a variety of discounts, special tourism industry offers and off course road user tax rebates for those who meet the criteria.

You have been driving for 2 hours

“Would you like to order your favorite coffee from Starbucks? You have been driving for a little over 2 hours and there is one just a mile ahead.”

StarbucksFord Sync is looking after my well being. It also asked if I had any passengers that I would like to order for and I was able to order for all of us without lifting my fingers from the wheel. I then told Spotify to play some more old school Bruno Mars as headed for the cafe.

I was also able to reserve an EV carpark right by the front door, so that the car could get a lift at the same time as we had our coffee break.

You won’t ever see me in a self driving car if I can help it, but I do like the new technology:)

 

Police Look Into Fake Google Glasses

Police are struggling to enforce the new law banning wearing Google Glasses whilst driving a motor vehicle according to spokesperson AR Seymour. “From a distance many of today’s Augmented Reality glasses are indistinguishable from normal eye-wear. This has been compounded”, he said “by the many cheap knock-off’s that young people are wearing today that look like AR glasses with a HUD (Heads Up Display, but are in fact just plain plastic imitations.” 

There have been suggestions that a driver mode be enforced, which only allows certain functionality, such as GPS car navigation, however there appears to be no way to police this. Google has suggested adding functionality that allows the glasses to check whether there is a steering wheel in front of the driver or not and if there is, automatically put it into driver mode. Hackers are already saying that if this is done, they will develop jailbreaks for this functionality.

Meanwhile there have been more and more motor accidents occurring due to distraction by drivers, including many involving pedestrians, often the fault is in fact the pedestrian not paying attention as they cross busy roads. This technology is very exciting and unstoppable and authorities are holding meetings with Google and others to explore possible solutions.

Hundreds more bars, Government Departments and workplaces have followed the example of The 5 Point in Seattle in banning Google Glasses, as an invasion of privacy.

Google Glasses Separation Syndrome

Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren’t wearing glasses. But there has been a downside.  People can’t bear to be without them.

 Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.

Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends via social media, the ability to take pictures or view them. Many find it difficult to function because they now rely on their glasses to tell them everything from the names of people they ‘know’ through facial recognition (including information on their last point of contact, meeting, email) to public transport timetables or driving directions. They no  longer seem to have the ability to cope without this information beaming onto their eyeballs. The are unable to make decisions and are so used to large volumes of information at their fingertips that they are suffering from sensory deprivation with their eye-wear.

Insurance companies who have benefited from knowing much more about their clients, have been caught by surprise and won’t pay out on claims until the Syndrome has been recognised as an official condition and because they AR glasses are now a way of life, no one really has answers on what to do next.

My Grocer is Getting Social With Me

Back in the day, when I was a toddler, the grocer was like a family friend. When we went into the supermarket, the butcher would see us coming and set his slicer to thinnest mode and get ready to cut some veal for Wiener schnitzel, just as my mother liked it, he would chew the fat with her and give me a saveloy.

Grocer’s over time became more impersonal and started focusing more on customer acquisition with ads and inserts in newspapers and local rags. Then of course subscriptions to the NZ Herald died down to a trickle and they went to a wireless subscription model, which started with a free Kindle for a 2 year subscription and the local papers are down to 1 per week if you’re in a well populated area.

Impersonal probably isn’t fair because of course I now have a tablet magnet mounted on my fridge which the F&P fridge scanner talks to and that send the order direct to my local Countdown  supermarket for pick up (if I want to touch and feel the fruit or extra little things) or home delivery. The tablet is connected to the home network and lets us watch cooking lessons, checking if we need any of the ingredients to be added to the shopping list, as well as the usual things like streaming music, TV, Skype, internet etc.  just as the other tablets around the house do.

Anyway, I was talking about the switch from acquisition to retention, or back to basics, but using modern technology. I was getting frustrated with the construction at our local supermarket, but am now so impressed with the way they have embraced social media in and out of the store with their new studio. Well it looks like a recording studio, but basically it has no window, so that you can talk to the guys while they are running Facebook, Foursquare Check-In Deals and Twitter campaigns with big video projector displays on the wall showing discussions they are having within and outside of the store.

These people are getting to know real customers and having relationships with them, generating loyalty that reminds me of the way grocers used to do it back in the day.

I remember the story that a friend told me many years ago, of how she went to Lincoln North Pak N Save with twin girls who were really hard to manage. The owner John Street went to her, gave her his business card and said to call him personally and he would arrange for someone to entertain the twins while she was shopping.

I spoke to him subsequently, although he didn’t know that I knew them personally and he explained. A loyal customer like her who spends around $150 a week (I know it was a long time ago) is worth more then $23,000 over 3 years. Now if you think about what it costs to get a new customer, an investment in social media, taken from what they used to spend on daily newspaper advertising isn’t much is it?

Westfield Kills Two Birds with One Stone with EV Charging at Malls

Westfield has stemmed the tide of decreasing shoppers in malls this winter by providing dozens of Electric Vehicle charging stations at shopping malls around New Zealand and Australia. Over the last couple of years many people have been buying electric vehicles, but have found that the range of up to 160km, which wasn’t too bad during summer, reduced dramatically with the use of air conditioning and window heating to warm the car in winter.

This reduced range combined with a continuing decrease in the frequency of people going to shopping malls provided the impetus for Westfield to come up with a new loyalty program for shoppers combined with a mobile application.

Effectively by using their mobile loyalty app, shoppers are rewarded with credits they can use of various purchases, one of which can be redeemed by parking at one of the EV charging stations at the mall. This not only encourages people to visit the mall, but also to stay longer, whilst electric car owners make sure that their car is fully charged before they leave the mall. The application lets loyalty shoppers know when there is a car park available and guides them to it. It also alerts them when the car is fully charged.

A spokesperson for Westfield New Zealand said that already in the last 2 months they had seen significant use of the charging stations and many retailers, particularly fashion and the food halls and cafes have seen a regrowth in trade.

Event Cinemas have also announced that they are going to trial a number of EV chargers in selected movie theatres in Australia in conjunction with their CINE BUZZ loyalty program. Each time a CINE BUZZ member has purchased 5 movie tickets they will be entitled to a full car charge for free.

Remember Borders Book Stores?

Who’s next?

I was so excited when Borders arrived in New Zealand. I used to love going to the Borders stores on trips to the USA. There were frequently book signings, bands and recording artists, like the BB King autobiography launch in Chicago. You could read books in the cafe and no one would look at you as if to say don’t smudge that page, cause you’re buying it. People in the different departments knew about their topics and loved books and sharing their knowledge.

I walked past the site of the old Westfield Albany Borders store site yesterday, it had changed to Whitcoulls brand in 2012. A year later they were back in a much smaller site, obviously the sales volume didn’t cover the cost of such a big site. They had tried to embrace eBooks for a while, but selling expensive readers and not making it simple for your average reader to get books for them just further demolished their traditional business.

Meanwhile some of the smaller owner operator stores followed the example of retailers such as Pages & Pages in Australia, by installing eBook Kiosks in store back at the end of 2011.

In recent years eBook kiosks have arrived all over the place. They are in convenience stores, magazine stores, libraries, airports and train stations. They all come with their own WiFi network and are very user friendly.

Many combine loyalty and the profiling that we continue to enjoy from Amazon, giving us recommendations on what we may enjoy reading and the instructions are simple enough for most people to step through.

If you’re heading for a flight or will have time to read the book within 21 days you don’t even have to buy them any more. International libraries mean that pretty much any book you could want to read can be available to you on demand.

Personally a favorite feature for me is the international eBook gift registry system. I remember a couple of years ago when I was having a browse at the kiosk at Schiphol Airport on the way back from a location based marketing conference in Amsterdam and saw that my wife had prepaid for copy of the second in the new Stephen King Joyland series for me to read on the flight home. Just as well she doesn’t read King books though or I might never get her into an amusement park again!

The other thing I love about these kiosks is we now get books released all over the world at the same time, which was one of the reasons I used to buy my books from Amazon, I didn’t want to wait 2-3 months after the official US launch of King books before the publishers launched the new best seller here in New Zealand to coincide with Fathers’ Day.

Anyway, RIP Borders, you left too soon. It’s a shame you stopped innovating. You didn’t need to go under, you just needed to be smarter than the rest which you used to be. It’s funny how industries work so hard to create a self fulfilling prophesy that they can blame when things go wrong.

The cool thing is that people haven’t stopped reading. If anything they are reading more than ever and smart writers and publishers are doing very well:)