Let Amazon Echo Show you the future

Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem is far more than just novelty voice activated devices. Do not underestimate the vision to which Amazon is painting for us.

You have to hand it to Amazon, for a company whose net worth is over $450B, they sure as hell do not act like a big slow bureaucratic corporate; but have a speed that leaves most startups with their heads spinning.  Amazon this week done it again, outflanked the industry, and announced a brand new device to its hardware lineup; Echo Show – Alexa now has a face.

The device had only been leaked literally 48hrs before Amazon officially started taking orders – a level of secrecy the likes of Samsung or Apple can only dream of.  Why is this?  Because Amazon is a company we all underestimate.  Many write them off too quickly as simply an online retailer.   They are not scared to fail.   They fail fast, which is a fancy way of saying, they don’t dwell on their mistakes, and simply dust off the experience and move on.

Echo is the hardware ecosystem around the Alexa AI intelligent voice-activated service.  It gives a body to Alexa.

2017-05-11_14h53_21Yet the Echo range is part of a much longer game that most people have not yet realized.

First came the voice activated 2001 esq cylindrical monolith that would sit in your room listening for commands to serve you.   Things like the weather status, daily news briefings and then of course controlling your music collection.   You could of course have Alexa add things to your Amazon shopping cart – after all, Amazon is your consummate retailer and it needs to see those tills ring.

Though Alexa Echo had it’s shortcomings, something I detailed back in January of this year, it still found a place in my life, namely the bathroom where it provides me with my acoustic diet each morning in the shower.

But Amazon have bigger plans for Alexa than just being my shower buddy – this week they introduced a touchscreen with it, to make things a little bit easier.  Many assume that the screen is there to help with some of the issues that voice-activated devices pose.  Oh you are so wrong.  Amazon is already ahead of you.

Amazon is well on it’s way to integrating into all of our daily lives.  Alexa is already starting to pop up on cars and other devices, all linked back to your Amazon account.  She can follow you around, like the Ship’s Computer in Star Trek, ever present to help you out.

But why the screen?  Well, as part of the experience is the video calling.  Amazon wants to make it as simple as possible to make hands-free video calling a real thing, and this goes a long way to make that happen.  A couple of days after announcing this new device, they announced that anyone with the Echo device or even just the app, can enjoy voice calling for free to another Echo user.

Now this is where it is getting interesting.   Amazon is now going to be making it real easy for us to connect to each other, not just Amazon.   Instead of fumbling for our phone in our pocket, looking up contacts, we can easily say “Call mom”, up to my arms in either the kitchen, bathing a child, and get a helpful voice (or video call) all without detracting from what we are doing.

For the record; many a time, I have been knee deep in a project, hands busy with other stuff, loving to be able to call in help for some assistance, on the task at hand.

Think about that for a minute … what seems a simple movie-like feature is actually a very powerful game changer.

It isn’t a huge leap to think Amazon will connect this voice network to the public PSTN network and be able to dial up anyone in the world.   Amazon AWS recently started offering build-your-own call center technology as part of its cloud offering.   So you know they have the ingredients to easily and quickly add to the Alexa universe.

The Sony Dash – epilogue

For those of you that feel there is something a little familiar with the Amazon Echo Show, then allow me to help you there.  Sony, in 2010, tried building an Internet helper device to sit somewhere in your house many years ago; the Sony Dash.  I had one of these devices, and as soon as the novelty wore off (which took all of 2 weeks) it was relegated to the cupboard and never used again.

Sony creates and sells good devices, and outside of the Playstation, sucks at creating communities.  The Dash suffered from a drought of updates, widgets and general features.  It was also horribly slow and often locked up.

Sony is officially killing off all support and updates this July 2017.


Amazon, I believe will succeed where Sony failed, because it is more about just the physical device, but the overall story and vision.  You are not buying a voice activated device when you jump into the Alexa/Echo world, but a fast paced evolving world of experimentation as we figure out just exactly what it is we want from such a device in our normal daily mundane lives.

This is what Amazon Dash should have been

Alternative to Amazon’s Dash is announced but runs on the SigFox network.

A company from Singapore has announced their version of the popular Amazon Dash button, which is just a button that is connected to the Internet and once clicked can unleash no limit of destruction – though in most cases ordering more toilet paper!

Amazon’s Dash works by connecting itself onto the local WiFi – a right old pain in the ass and something that is dragging down many a great IoT innovation.   However, alternative networks now exist that are becoming practical from a business point of view – one of those is SigFox.


UnaBiz has announced their version, which is a single button that is pre-registered on the SigFox network and costs approximately $1 per month.   While it is more expensive than Amazon’s alternative (one off cost of $5) the ease of setup cannot be underestimated.

Will/should Amazon release a SigFox version of Dash?  probably.

Weekend’s Top 8 roundup – 19th Dec

The week before Christmas and we have lots of self-driving stories making the headlines, Apple finally releases the AirPods in time for Santa’s stockings, Uber makes a massive loss, lasers help kill cancer and we are finally shown how to eat chicken wings properly.

The week before Christmas and we have lots of self-driving stories making the headlines, Apple finally releases the AirPods in time for Santa’s stockings, Uber makes a massive loss, lasers help kill cancer and we are finally shown how to eat chicken wings properly.

  1. Google’s Waymo, car driving company, releases its first car
    chrome_2016-12-24_12-48-23Waymo, Google’s self driving company (I hadn’t heard of it either), has released its first vehicle in partnership with Fiat.  A mini-van souped up with the latest technology to make it see through the streets.

    This is sort of thing that could make mini-vans sexy again.  Remember that infamous scene from Get Shorty?

  2. Apple’s new found AirPods are available to purchase
    chrome_2016-12-24_12-50-36.pngApple finally announced that AirPods are available for purchase and at a $159 for a pair, this is not an impulse buy.   Apple drew a lot of criticism when it released the latest iPhone without the traditional 3.5mm audio jack; relying purely on BlueTooth technology.  Being someone that uses BlueTooth all the time, not a major upset that the manufacturers are taking away this port; Samsung is rumored to be removing it from their next Galaxy.

    Though the issue with the AirPods is the fragility of losing $159 worth of headphones by simply walking or moving your head.  Can you imagine the panic when you lose them inflight and they fall?!?!  We’ll have AirRage I tells ya.

  3. Blackberry is back; this time as self-driving company
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-20-00.pngSo you may not be able to make a call with the once dominant handset manufacturer, but you could let it drive you to the shops or work.   Blackberry has rebranded itself and launched into the self-driving market space, positioning it’s powerful QNX operating system at the heart.

    This is a bold move and it will be interesting to see if the market will tolerate the branding to stretch this far.  Once again, Blackberry is going into a very tough market, positioning its QNX up against the likes of Linux, Android and Java.

  4. Uber net income over $5.6B, but on track for a $3.3B loss for 2016
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-23-59.pngThe size of Uber cannot be underestimated.   It is a company that is innovating on so many fronts than simply democratizing ride sharing.  Uber, while private, is thought to be valued at around the $68B space, making it larger than even GM.

    However, it is still struggling to make money, as the amount of legal challenges mount and it finds increasing competition from the likes of Lyft (who incidentally GM investor in).

  5. 20 years ago this week, Steve Jobs came back to rescue Apple
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-32-16.pngWe live in Internet years, which each year feels like a few.  It was only 20 years ago that Apple was really struggling both financially and innovatively.  Hard to believe considering the powerhouse the company is today, which its huge stockpile of sheer raw cash at hand.  But one man was all it took to turn the fortunes around, through the launch for the iPod and then the iPhone.

    The question many investors have been asking today though, who is there to rescue Apple today?  With Microsoft taking the lead in releasing sexy and desirable products, anything can and will change in our industry.

  6. Prostate cancer gets the laser and deep-sea bacteria treatment
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-39-53.pngAs I approach that time of life when the body can’t take the same level of abuse it once could, and every ache and pain lasts for weeks instead of hours, I get a huge amount of faith in the advances in medical science.

    This week in the UK successful trials in treating prostate cancer using lasers and bacteria found at the bottom of the ocean.  Though the article was a little light on detail on exactly where the laser would be shot!

  7. Sleeping on planes just got a little easier and quicker
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-45-06.pngAny warrior of the sky knows that a good sleep on a plane is a hard thing to obtain. The company PowerSiesta has come up with a rather ingenious $17 product that is a flat pack cardboard pillow, that once erected creates a nice shelf for your head to rest on.

    We’ve seen this before, and as a homage, to the man we’ve all seen for over 20 years in the SkyMall magazine.  Though in all my air travels, never once have I seen anyone use one.

  8. Finally, how to eat chicken wings
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-49-10.pngThere are some viral videos that make you laugh, make you cringe, make you cry, but every so often one comes along that truly changes your life.  This week, with the help of BD Wong, this one teaches us how to eat chicken wings.

    You wouldn’t think it would be too difficult, but I have always felt I leave way too much meat behind in my fumbles with knives and forks.


… and given that this is the week of Christmas, I give you a wonderful Christmas tune from fellow atheist Tim Minchin, who sings a beautiful song about simply being together at this time of the year.  So whatever denomination you are, at the very least, enjoy your weekend.

Weekend’s Top 8 roundup – 12th Dec

Second week of December and we see Yahoo in more security problems, malware that tests our morality, Cisco bails on their cloud, Verizon puts out the Samsung fire, Slack gains video calling, virtual assistant gets a hologram to keep us company and Henry Heimlich dies.

Second week of December and we see Yahoo in more security problems, malware that tests our morality, Cisco bails on their cloud, Verizon puts out the Samsung fire, Slack gains video calling, virtual assistant gets a hologram to keep us company and Henry Heimlich dies.

  1. New ransomware tests the morality of those infected
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-27-58.pngThis is a new twist in the cyber extortion world.  We all know about how malware can target a machine and start deleting files if they do not pay a given amount of money to the hackers.  Well there is a way to sidestep this payment – that is to infect 2 other people and if they succumb you will get an unlock key and you are off the hook.

    This will be an interesting test of people’s honesty and faith.  Would you pass?

  2. Verizon will disable Samsung’s Note 7 this month
    screenshot-2016-12-11-at-08-14-46Verizon who previously said they wouldn’t get involved in the deactivation of Samsung’s infamous flame bursting phone have reversed their decision and in an upcoming software update they will disable people from charging the phone.  This will effectively render them useless.

    Only 7% of handsets are still out there after the vast majority exchanged them.  This will hopefully push the last few over the line and stop the airlines from having to issue warnings on each flight.

  3. Amazon’s cloud claims another; Cisco discontinues their cloud
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-37-25.pngCisco’s ‘Intercloud’ which had a $1B budget behind it will be closing its doors in March 2017.  While it has not publicly acknowledged Amazon, it has noted that existing clients will be moving to other public cloud operators.

    This is another big casualty in the cloud war, and while I am a huge AWS supporter, I don’t want it to be the only player in town.  We need competition in this space.

  4. Slack has added video calling to its app
    chrome_2016-09-30_22-00-12Slack, the very popular corporate chat system, has finally added video calling to its suite.   This brings it inline with pretty much every other chat system.  You can do one-2-one video calling, or group calling.

    Once they add desktop sharing, then this will be one of the best tools for teams and really take a huge chunk away from the likes of GoTo Meeting.

  5. Yahoo admits to another earlier attack; 1 billion accounts at risk
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-32-32The oldest property on the Internet block is just not having a good time of it.  They have released details of an earlier attack, circa 2013, where over 1 billion accounts were compromised.  This is in addition to the 2014 hack where 500 million accounts were abused.

    As you know Verizon are trying to close a deal to purchase Yahoo, and while this probably won’t make Verizon to step away, it gives them yet another excuse to drive down the asking price from the $4.7B.

  6. Tech titans, minus one, met with Trump this week
    The country’s new President-elect met with all the tech titans this week in a summit to discuss various things.   The big players were there, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, etc.  However one player was noticeably absent from this group – namely Jack Dorsey from Twitter.

    The very company that arguably won him the election, was left out because Trump felt they were too small a player. What do you even say to that?!?

  7. Girl in a box is the face of a virtual assistant
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-49-52.pngWe are all starting to get use to the faceless helpers such as Amazon’s Echo, or Apple’s Siri.  Well GateBox have upped the ante here and offered up a hologram to respond to your every move.   While this may first appear creepy, it does make a lot of sense, to have something more contextual to react to instead of just a voice.   The avatar can feedback using actions which will speed up the interactions.

    This I believe is the future of this style AI functions and I can see us all having our own customized avatar that will be with us for life.   Watch this space – more to come here I am sure.

  8. Henry Heimlich, yes that one, has sadly died
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-57-02.pngThe man that invented one of the most famous anti-choking moves in the world, has sadly passed away at the age of 96.   Henry invented the technique in 1974 when he discovered an alarming number of people died while eating out.   He died of natural causes, as opposed to choking himself – the irony would have been too much.

    In honor of the man that saved many, I give you an excellent clip from Eddie Izzard as he performs a stand-up routine around on the technique.

.. the countdown to Christmas day is in full swing and I discovered this seasonal tune from ColdPlay.  I am a big Chris Martin fan, so surprised this one slipped by me a couple of years ago.

Weekend’s Top 8 roundup – 5th Dec

First week of the last month, we see BMW locking bad people up, Apple Watch sales fall dead, Amazon legalizes shoplifting, Bluetooth gets faster, Canada gets a data center, Java 9 may slip, clues to how Samsung built a fire starter and a true legion is no longer in this world.

First week of the last month, we see BMW locking bad people up, Apple Watch sales fall dead, Amazon legalizes shoplifting, Bluetooth gets faster, Canada gets a data center, Java 9 may slip, clues to how Samsung built a fire starter and a true legion is no longer in this world.

  1. BMW remotely locked a thief in the car until the fuzz came
    2016-12-09_14h38_00Finally a great story about why connected cars matters to everyone.  Seattle Police were helped by BMW when it was reported that someone had taken the opportunity of the owners carelessness with their key vob to drive off with the car.

    Unlucky for him though, it was a high-end BMW that could remotely be controlled and the car was locked from the outside, trapping the light finger bugger inside until PSA (Police Side Assistance) came!

  2. Sales of Apple watches plunge; down 71% from last year
    2016-12-09_14h41_48While we have the likes of FitBit buying up Pebble for $40M last week, we see that Apple is not having a great time of it with its range of wearables.  Sales are down a whopping 71% compared to the same quarter last year.

    You would think maybe the market for wearables is showing signs of weakness, but you would be wrong, everyone else’s shipping is up.  Guess Apple just can’t compete with the competition/value.

  3. Amazon Go, launches the mother of all big brother shops
    2016-12-09_14h46_07Picture a futuristic shop, where you walk in, browse around looking at merchandise and then if you want it, you simply take it and as soon as you walk out the door, you are billed for.

    No waiting in line, no handling of cash, no annoying bagger asking if you want your bags carried (well that bit may still be there).  This is Amazon Go, a new grocery shop opening in Seattle next year. Register on your phone, then boom as soon as you walk out you are billed.  It is like legal shoplifting! 

  4. It’s a go, Bluetooth 5 finally launches and it’s even more powerful
    2016-12-09_14h51_01.pngBluetooth, the favourite short range network that connects your headphones and car to your phone (and also a great way to spam out obscene messages to anyone that tries to search for open networks).Bluetooth 5 has 4 times the range and more bandwidth, meaning you can walk further away from your phone and stream more data!

    New phones will start supporting this very soon.  I just want it to work from my jean pocket to my headphone, not a huge ask.

  5. Amazon Web Services opens its first Canadian region
    2016-12-09_14h55_05.pngThe world’s largest cloud provider has opened its first region north of the border, namely in Canada – you know the unofficial 51st state.   The Canadian region supports all the big services of AWS and will be a boom for any company operating up there, as well as being able to keep the data out of the hands of the American government.

    AWS has a huge footprint, with pretty much every major region in the world covered with a data center – Canada is a little late to the party considering how close it is.

  6. Java 9 looks to slip release date of the July 2017
    screenshot-2016-12-11-at-08-13-42One of Java’s biggest releases to date, may be at risk of slipping a few months from its target release date of July 2017.  Java 9 has many big features coming in, with one of the biggest ones Jigsaw.  Jigsaw is the modular run time to make it easier to ship Java into smaller and more manageable pieces.

    This one shouldn’t concern the masses at all.  Java is such a key component of our eco-system it is vital they get it right, not get it on time.

  7. Clues are emerging on why the Samsung kept catching fire
    screenshot-2016-12-11-at-08-14-46A manufacturing company has made a claim that the Note 7’s internal layout and design maybe fundamentally flawed as it has attempted to cram too much into a small space and not left the usual 10% gap between battery.  Thus when compressed, for example, by heat expansion or someone’s fat arse sitting on the phone, two points touch that shouldn’t be touched, and boom!

    It is yet to be seen whether Samsung will ever officially release a reason as to why its flagship phone burst into flames.  But until then, this is the most credible scientific one to date.

  8. A true space hero dies, John Glenn departs this world for the last time
    screenshot-2016-12-11-at-08-24-59John Glenn, a pioneer of the space race, has sadly died this week at the ripe old age of 95 years.   Glenn was the first American to fully orbit the earth, and also, the oldest many to travel to space at 77 years.

    But his notable records aside, Glenn was part of that era that took humans off this planet and gave us the inspiration and stepping stone to explore further.  This generation of people, hold a very dear place in my heart.


… and this week’s soundtrack is dedicated to the excellent HBO’s Westworld that officially ended its first season run this week.  Every so often a TV show comes along that is so well written, produced and acted that each episode is simply a piece of art to be enjoyed.  If you haven’t watched it yet, then please treat yourself.  Now for the bad news- season 2 won’t be here until 2018.

Weekend’s Top 8 roundup – 28th Nov

Last week of November, we see hackers giving the residents of San Francisco a day of free rides, an anchor takes out the internet of an island, Netflix allows viewing of content in the air, FitBit rescues Pebble, Amazon beats its chest in Las Vegas, Russian bank loses a lot of shekels and once more the nation’s favorite banned executive toy, is back on the shelves.

Last week of November, we see hackers giving the residents of San Francisco a day of free rides, an anchor takes out the internet of an island, Netflix allows viewing of content in the air, FitBit rescues Pebble, Amazon beats its chest in Las Vegas, Russian bank loses a lot of shekels and once more the nation’s favorite banned executive toy, is back on the shelves.

  1. Robin Hood Hacker, gives free rides to San Francisco’s MUNI passengers
    2016-12-04_19h42_01Last weekend, there was an attack on the network that controls San Francisco’s MUNI transit system, resulting in everyone getting free rides at the weekend, since the gates were free to walk through.

    There was some gloating from a hacker online, that said their systems was very open, another reminder that it is vitally important to keep systems updated with the latest patches.

  2. The island of Jersey taken offline, by a ship’s anchor
    2016-12-04_19h45_30.pngSometimes it is good old fashioned human error that can take networks offline.  This time it was a ship’s anchor dragging along the floor bed of the sea, that snagged 3 fibre optic cables, ripping them apart, resulting in the islands links to the UK cut.

    This has resulted in all traffic going via the line to France, with very slow connections.  The ship in question, King Arthur, is being investigated if it dropped anchor in a banned area – like say the sea!

  3. Netflix finally offers offline viewing; but there is a small catch
    chrome_2016-10-16_11-16-04This was the week that Netflix finally relented to continued pressure and released an update to its mobile apps to allow for users to download content for viewing offline.

    Only selected content, namely their own, is available, but still, that opens up a lot of options.  This closes the feature gap with other players in the market, namely BBC iPlayer and Amazon’s Prime Video.

  4. FitBit buys Pebble for $40M
    2016-12-04_19h57_03.pngFitBit has added to its portfolio by acquiring the struggling smartwatch manufacturer, Pebble.   Pebble came to prominence many years ago as a big winner of KickStarter that help raise millions and get it started.  I was one of such early investor.

    However it has been a tough road since with the company hitting hard times, laying off large portions of its workforce.  Only last year, Citizen is said to have offered $700M for the company – bet someone in Pebble is kicking themselves for saying no to that deal!  Though, now when they do kick themselves, FitBit can register it towards their daily step count!

  5. Amazon Web Services had its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas
    2016-12-04_20h05_20No denying it, Amazon is doing terribly well in the cloud space, on track to book $13B in revenue this financial year.  They are adding more servers daily, than it took to run the whole AWS cloud in 2003.

    They are showing no signs of stopping; they have added 1000 features to their offering this year alone, including lower prices across the board.  Some interesting features announced last week, including Windows 10 on Amazon Workspaces.

  6. Apple confirms they are getting serious about self-driving cars
    Apple has written to the US regulator telling them they are excited about this new space of self-driving cars and they will be working on bringing something to market.  Details are a little sketchy at the moment, if this means a car, or just the software that other car makes can license.

    Comes at an interesting time, as analysts at Oppenheimer have announced they believe Apple will no longer lead the charge in innovation for the next 10 years and they will see their dominance shrink.  Don’t think Apple is going anywhere, but these things come in cycles.

  7. Russian bank, runs foul of hack, loses $31M
    2016-12-04_20h22_38.pngNo small change, but the Central Bank of Russia, has been compromised with $31M being removed through fraudulent client accounts.  This one could easily not be anything that sophisticated but merely relied on social hacking – the ability to convince another human you someone you are not.

    Though, silver lining it could have been worse, they were wanting to get away with double that amount, but failed.  Failed I would use in the loosest sense of the word!

  8. Metal Balls .. they are once more allowed in the USA
    2016-12-04_20h30_10Got to love the land of the free; you are free to buy a gun that can result in untold mayhem, but don’t you dare buy small magnetic balls that you might swallow, resulting in them being attracted to large magnets, you know, like an MRI machine!

    A Judge however has seen sense and once more allowed them to be sold, so a whole legion of desk bound people can once more buy them as your classic fidget toys.  I loved my blue metal balls – until I started losing them (or was someone eating them?!?)


… and this week’s soundtrack is brought to you from the grandfather of Christmas music, Bing Crosby with his classic White Christmas, which first appeared in the 1942 movie  Holiday Inn, and not as people think, White Christmas.