Apple Ecosystem Update

The picture above shows the new Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York which will open on September 20. No doubt, the line will be long for consumers anxious to get the new Apple Watch Series 5 and the new iPhone 11. People love Apple products. It remains to be seen if people will love Apple services as much but I suspect they will.

Apple made a very aggressive move by pricing its new streaming video service at $4.99 per month. Anyone buying a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV will get the new streaming service free for one year. People will not cancel Netflix to get the new service but, after a year of Apple building up its video portfolio, perhaps some will. Others may be willing to keep Netflix and keep the new Apple TV+ streaming service. Apple has made a bold and strategic move to lock more people into its ecosystem. There are more than one billion Apple iPhones and iPads out there. If only 10% of them end up paying $4.99 per month, the annual revenue will be $6 billion. Likewise, if another 10% go for the new Apple Arcade streaming game service, there will be another $6 billion. The ecosystem is ramping up to become a major element of Apple’s business.

For now, the hardware products remain the heart of the company. If you watch Tuesday’s Keynote (highly recommended), you will find it was done with great marketing aplomb. Apple has it down pat. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. The mantra works every time. What has changed in very recent years is Tim Cook has shared the stage with a diverse team of senior and upcoming executives from Apple’s team of 132,000 full time employees. The bench is impressive, and so are the products they presented. Analysts tend to downplay the technology. They call it “tweaks” to what was there before. I view what they announce as breakthrough technology. It might go in the same case, but inside is incredible technology. The iPhone 11 Pro is called Pro for a reason. It is so powerful film makers will be using it.

The other significant thing I took from the announcements is the pricing of prior generation iPhones and Watches. They dropped the price of Watch Series 3 to $199. The lower price will bring in millions of new Apple Watch users. The users will get hooked and then want the longer batter life and new features of Series 5, and they will upgrade. Likewise for the lower priced iPhone models. More people coming into the ecosystem to sign up for services, upgrade to other new hardware, etc. The hardware platforms and services strengthen the ecosystem and keep users locked in and loyal. That is why AAPL is valued at roughly a trillion dollars, nearly 4% of the total for the S&P 500 stocks.

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What’s New?

In addition to all the new goodies from Apple, there are some other things to update you on….


Wifigen is entering week #3 of its fund raising campaign. So far, there are 52 investors and more than $30,000 has been raised. Investments have ranged from $250 to $10,000. The funding will enable Wifigen to expand into the U.S. and make WiFi great for owners of a cafe, deli, pub, coffee shop, restaurant, hotel, or other retail establishment. Check out the status of the campaign at Wefunder.

Robot Attitude is off to a great start. It is now available in Paperback and Kindle. You can also now see the entire “It’s All About Attitude” Series pages on Amazon. One for Paperback and one for Kindle.
Another “Meet the Author” night is coming up on October 9 at 5:30 PM at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Danbury, CT. Wine & Cheese. Save the date if you live in the area. 100% of the book sale proceeds will go to Housatonic Habitat for Humanity.

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WiFi Radar: Counting Feet

Radar, which stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging, started with experiments by the German physicist Heinrich Hertz in the late 19th century. The experiments showed radio waves were reflected by metallic objects. The discovery led to widely used detection systems which use radio waves to determine the range, angle, and velocity of objects. Radar can detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain.

Wifigen, a technology startup company, has developed a technique to use WiFi as a detection system in small retail establishments such as coffee shops, cafes, or small hotels. The Wifigen technology does two things. First, if a new customer walks into Jane’s Cafe and looks at their smartphone WiFi setting, they see Jane’s Cafe. When they click on it, a welcome page appears and allows the customer to enter his or her email address in return for the free WiFi. If the customer had been in Jane’s Cafe before, the page says Welcome back! Having the email address enables Jane to use Wifigen tools to better understand how many people are using the free WiFi. She can also send marketing emails thanking customers for their business, making special offers, and telling them about another Cafe which Jane owns across town.

The newest feature of Wifigen is the ability to see how many customers in the Cafe are not using the free WiFi. The Wifigen “radar” sees the devices in a purse or pocket. It does not know who the smartphone owners are, but it knows they walked in. The technology is called foot count. This is great for Jane. If she learns there are a significant number of people who come into the Cafe but do not use WiFi, she can address the opportunity. For example, she could put an invitation on a poster on the wall or on the menu saying something like, “Welcome to Jane’s Cafe. Please feel free to take advantage of our free WiFi. Go to your settings and click on Jane’s Cafe.”

A test of the new technology is underway at Cocoon Coffee House in Hawley, Pennsylvania. Wifigen is currently raising investment funds to expand its operations to more locations. Wifigen is using the SEC-approved Wefunder.com crowdfunding platform. Learn more at wefunder.com/wifigen.

Cocoon Coffee House, Hawley, Pennsylvania.

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Robots, Startups, and Senators

August is supposed to be a slow month but it has turned out to be a busy one for me. The new book, published on August 1, has led to a lot of marketing activities. Following are a few things I would like to make you aware of:

  • Terry Brock, an Orlando based professional speaker, interviewed me about Robot Attitude. The YouTube video of the interview is here (or just click on the play button above.
  • Amazon has created two new series pages for “It’s All About Attitude”. If you visit any of my book pages on Amazon, you will see a link to the Series page. You may be curious to take a look. The Kindle series page is here and the paperback series page is here.
  • The first “Meet the Author” – “Book Signing Party” was held at The Boiler Room in the Hawley Silk Mill on Thursday evening in Hawley, PA. This is near our summer home and where we have many friends. It was a nice turnout. I explained AI and machine learning in a way I hope all will remember. The topic seemed to hold the interest of the audience and they had a lot of great questions. A donation of $300 to the Wayne County Library was made with the entire proceeds of book sales. There will be more book events in Connecticut and Florida over the next six months.
  • The Crowdfunding campaign for Wifigen going on at Wefunder.com went public this week. Wefunder sent an announcement about this to its 250,000 members on Thursday morning. Status of the campaign is at wefunder.com/wifigen.

Now, I would like to switch gears to the world of electronic voting. There continues to be a great deal of misunderstanding about the subject. Secretaries of State are petrified about the possibility of being hacked by foreign actors. There are reasons to be concerned, but there are ways to make elections by mobile devices safe, secure, private, and verifiable. Only one of the 20+ presidential candidates (Andrew Yang) to date have had the knowledge and strength to talk about mobile voting. I am not advocating for Mr. Yang (or any political candidate), but I am advocating for mobile voting.

The real issue which only Mr. Yang has talked about is the huge number of people who could have voted in 2016 and 2018 but did not. That number is 100 million people. Perhaps 10-15% of those eligible voters were apathetic or did not like any candidate. However, most of the remaining 85-90 million people had difficulty with our 150 year-old voting system. They were sick, too frail to go out in the weather, on assignment overseas, busy taking care of parents or children, given last minute work assignment, or any of a long list of reasons.

The solution is not to revert to paper forms and the USPS. Especially for overseas soldiers, they have learned paper ballots are not reliable and they believe their ballot may not get counted unless there is a tie. West Virginia, Denver, and Utah have conducted pilots with mobile voting. Participation increased and voter satisfaction was high. It can be done and it can strengthen our democracy.

Some recent coverage offered strong criticism of Senators who were also presidential candidates, and who missed 30-40% of the votes taking place on the Senate floor. In one case, a Senator missed 90% of the votes during a quarter. The reason they missed these votes is obvious; they were on the campaign trail. The question to be asked is not why they didn’t vote? The question should be why can’t Senators vote from their smartphone while on the campaign trail? (or if they are bedridden with illness)

Enabling mobile voting for 100 million people has many technical challenges, although I believe it can be done. Implementing mobile voting for 100 Senators should be very easy. The Senators’ identities are known. There are no privacy issues since their votes are made public anyway. Each Senator’s smartphone identification # can be uniquely recorded in a Senatorial voting database. The problem is not technical. The problem is Attitude. Requiring the Senate votes to take place “on the floor” is old-fashioned to put it mildly.

Bill Gates famously said in a 1994 speech at a Bank Administration Institute conference, “Banks are dinosaurs, they can be bypassed.” … “Ninety-four percent of bank boardrooms,” he explained, “have never had any professional experience with technology in their career.” In a world which is increasingly all about technology, we should demand our Senators get with it.

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Startup Investments Update

This is an update to the Startup Investments story from last week. I find the concept of Crowdfunding very interesting. Until now, it was often difficult for a startup company to get the funding it needed to carry out its idea and create a successful business. Angel investors who could each invest $100,000 or more in a startup are out there, but for the startup founders, it was not always easy to find ones who would be interested enough to invest. For those who did decide to invest, the process required a lot of paperwork, agreements, legal reviews, etc. to put things in place.

Crowdfunding has turned the model upside down. A Connecticut-based company called LiquidPiston had an idea for a revolutionary design of a rotary engine based on the company’s patented thermodynamic cycle and engine architecture. The company needed $2 million to bring its idea to market. Rather than following the traditional model of seeking a small number of angel investors or venture capitalists, it decided to use crowdfunding at Wefunder.com. The company launched its campaign and in a relatively short period of time raised $2,188,466 from 1,183 investors. That is $1,850 per investor. The entire process was conducted online at Wefunder.com.

It has become clear through the Pennsylvania coffee house test that Wifigen has a solid value proposition for small retailers. The founder, Bilal, plus the other investor and I have decided to raise $250,000 to fund the company well into next year to build out the product offering and put a U.S. effort in place to acquire and support customers. To raise the money, Wifigen is using the Wefunder crowdfunding platform.

In addition to the efficiency of online investment, fund raising can experience the social media effect. The Wifigen crowdfunding began less than a week ago. During the first few days, 22 investors from 12 States and 3 Countries invested a total of more than $20,000. The investment size ranged from $250 to $10,000. An additional investor has pledged $25,000.

Social Media advertising will commence soon. So far, about half of the investors have been friends or family of the the other board member and me. The other half discovered the Wefunder crowdfunding campaign as Wefunder members or through networking. Some learned about it as subscribers to my weekly e-brief. Others may have received a copy of the e-brief from a friend. We see the names of the investors, but more than half are people we do not know. They may be friends of friends of friends. We welcome them! The power of social media is already evident as a key component of crowdfunding.

If you have an interest, take a look at https://wefunder.com/wifigen and you can see a video of the Wifigen founder and the board explaining the strategy, plus a lot of information about what Wifigen is and how it works, why it can be a good investment, what are the risks, and how to invest as little as $250 or thousands. Please share this with any friends you think might be interested.

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