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M.AD Insighter Series

Demystifying Tech Trends with Brian Cooley

May 05, 2021 - 12:00am

Speaker

Brian Cooley

Director and Editor, CNET

Overview

Life moves pretty fast…and in 2021 AD, it all feels faster than ever. Every day it feels like there’s a new “game-changing” tech here to change the world and life as we know. NFTs, AR, VR, Crypto…oh my.

What are we to make of it all? Enter people like Brian Cooley: the experts who help us make sense of what’s going on.

To quote CNET: “Brian Cooley checks the tech and always tells it like it is. His favorite car? Anything that nails what it set out to do, which may make him the only auto journalist who gets as excited by an Optima as a Huracán. He’s been focused on high-tech cars and modern driving since he did CNET’s first car review in 2005.”

Brian Cooley

Director and Editor, CNET

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Hank Richardson:

Hi everybody and welcome to the broadcast today. We're excited to have everybody here, and we've got a really exciting program for you. I can't see a raise of hands here, so I'm just going to share for you CNET. I would ask you, how many of you have ever heard of CNET? If you've got a blank stare on your face, after today, you want. So CNET I would tell you is the premier destination for all tech products, reviews, news, price comparisons, videos. If you want an authority, go to CNET. It just shows you the exciting possibilities of how technology that we use and live with every day can enhance and enrich our lives. So I'll speak to today, Brian Cooley is the editor at large for CNET, which is the largest publisher of consumer technology information in the world. I have been a fan and a reader and viewer of CNET for years. And he's charged with following the consumer tech trends and to drive modern lifestyles of ourselves every day. And most importantly, about demystifying a lot of what underlies the hits and the misses in the history of consumer tech adoptions. I would also share with you that he is a car aficionado, and he's been heavily focused on high-tech cars and modern driving since CNET's very first car review way back in 2005. So today Brian Cooley comes to us from California. And Brian, take it from here. Thank you.

Brian Cooley:

Great. Thank you. Thanks Hanks. Thanks for that overly gracious introduction, I appreciate it. And thank you Pippa for having me in as well. So it's a nice to be in front of this tea, such raves I've heard about the program and the students that are involved, and the faculty from people I know in the agency industry. So it's really nice to get in front of you all. And what a great bunch of creative faces I see out there. So what I'm going to do today is give you a snapshot of what I do a lot for agencies as well as a lot of their brands representing CNET. They'll often ask us, and that often means me to come in and give them just an idea of which way the wind is blowing in consumer technology, hardware or software or services. But not to get down into the nitty-gritty of what's the best phone or what's the best television, that's not the kind of thing that's strategic. But more a matter of which way our consumer appetite is going.

Brian Cooley:

What's the next big hit, what's maybe not the next big hit? And what drives things that have great consumer and personal appeal over time? Because I've been at CNET about 26 years now, and so I've had the luxury of seeing a lot of things arrive and either make it big, make it eh or fade away. So I'm going to try and share with you as much of that knowledge and intelligence as I can today. We'll do about 30, 40 minutes of going through this. I'll stop a couple times for any burning questions, and I'm going to also allow about 10 or 15 at the end so we can get in there and take plenty of questions. And I think we'll have you put those in the chat, I think is how we're going to do it. And Stephanie will be keeping an eye on those, and she can tee those up as I go along. So we kind of funnel things through the chat.

Brian Cooley:

So let's get started here so we can make good use of your time. And let me get my screen up in front of you, which I think you see now. Give me a thumbs up. Good, I see Pippa is shaking her head, so that's good. Let's see what we can do here. So my concept around this, and I've always called this presentation the next big thing because it's about the next big trend. It's not about a particular object as I mentioned. I want to start off by giving you a little framing of technology. You heard this is going to be a tech presentation today or a technology presentation. And when you think of that, I know your mind goes here. We all think of this, we think of these devices. We think of electronics, right? That's synonymous these days with tech.

Brian Cooley:

But I would ask you to back it up and actually think of technology this way. Not as sexy, just a simple line. Technology is actually how we get things done, that's actually what the word means. This is the only good thing about being an English major in the tech industry is I can actually decode what the word means. And that's important to think about because the great hits of electronics that we just saw and software and services, they come from a respect for how we get things done, we being the consumer population out there. And that also sort of carries with it helping people get things done that they want to do not inventing appetites with electronics or software. That rarely works. Most great hits of technology have been through the idea of what did people want to do but maybe had a difficult time doing or have a latent interest in, but they gave up on it because they didn't think it was possible. But inventing appetites isn't really what happens.

Brian Cooley:

Here are four things inside there I think you'll find will help you in your work as you try to work on that last concept of helping people do what and how. Think about the idea of great technology always gets more transparent as it evolves. That's why we're so in love with voice. That's why one day we'll be so in love with gesture and AR, which is still pretty nascent. Voice was a huge revolution compared to touch, we couldn't believe anything could be simpler than a touchscreen or more transparent, but voice is. And before that, we had mice and keyboards, and that was as good as it got. Well, that was better than sitting down at a typewriter and learning how to put your fingers in the right places. And all of these are marches toward getting the tech out of the way by making it more natural.

Brian Cooley:

And that makes it appear to be more transparent in the usage case. Intuitive is obviously making sure something's easy to understand how to use. But I want you to always focus on making sure you use it in the sense that it's all about making something easy to understand why to use. I've seen a lot of technology products that haven't done very well on the market. And part of it is because they didn't get the why clearly messaged as much as how. They showed you right away how easy it was to use. First, you've got to tell me why I would bother. Intimate is where we're going in the world of personalization, which has obviously been part and parcel of the world in the internet era. But in the future, it's intimate because it's going to be using data increasingly from our wearables, our connected or so-called smart homes, we'll talk about that in a second, and connected cars.

Brian Cooley:

And the kinds of data that those three throw off about people I think are largely subconscious. And so you're going to have a almost better understanding of a person than they have of themselves consciously speaking. I don't know much about how I actually drive to be honest, but my car is going to be revealing that to different services. Maybe my insurance company, it already is. And they'll know that about me before I know that about me. And constant is the idea that whatever you offer as a technology, make it available as widely as possible. Make it a constant presence all around the user's day parts and places. So anytime of day or any day part of their day ... Our lives are built up around leisure, sleep, work, make sure you're present for any of those and also all of my places.

Brian Cooley:

Places mean physical places. They mean virtual places here on my device, and they also mean map of the mind because I occupy different places in my mind at different states of mind. Sometimes I'm focused on doing work, sometimes I'm focused on wanting to do just nothing. You want to be available in all of those places. The future of interaction is anticipation. We have lots of things that you recognize here. These icons tell you about the modern world. There's all kinds of search and like and follow, and those are amazing, and they're not going away. But in the future, I think we're going to be adding a layer of anticipation. So not just levers that we can pull, which is what these four are, but also levers that pull themselves for me. And that's part of that whole idea of getting in front of people with nice transparent technology. Take a look at this video about artificial intelligence, it's about two and a half minutes. And I want you to take away some key thoughts here.

Video Voiceover:

There've been a number of shifts in the way we think about computing over the past few decades.

The terminology artificial intelligence has come in and out of favor in the scientific community. Sometimes it's called machine learning.

We tend to call it machine intelligence these days.

I just call it intelligence.

And sometimes it's just the effort to build machines that are better.

So in the early days, everything was built on logic, doing mathematical integration problems, playing chess. But realized that what the real challenges were, were the things that people can do every day.

The real world is actually very messy. Hard logical rules are not the way to solve really interesting real-world problems.

You have to have a system that will learn to get the knowledge in, you can't just program it all in.

Artificial intelligence is an effort to build machines that can learn from their environment, from the stakes, and from people.

And we're at the stage where we don't know what is the right path and the right breakthrough.

Any progress we make in building truly intelligent systems is going to depend on progress in technology generally.

And until recently, we didn't have computers that were fast enough or datasets that were big enough to do that.

And so being able to take a particular problem and spread it out over lots and lots of machines is a very important approach because it makes our research faster.

So there's applications of artificial intelligence around us all the time.

When it begins to work or it does work, it's all of a sudden given another name.

We're all already using it and very comfortable with it.

Things that now we regard as routine 30 years ago would have been regarded as amazing examples of artificial intelligence.

Antilock braking

Autopilot systems for planes.

Search.

Recommendations.

Maps.

To decide whether or not this particular email is spam or not spam.

The ability to translate one language to another with your phone. 10 years ago if you tried to talk to your computer or to your phone, that would just be helpless.

We're seeing a steady torrent of these tricks one after the other getting figured out right now. And I think a lot of people that are close to the field do have that kind of breathless sense that things are moving quickly.

It's a progressive thing, it's about building things that are slightly better, slightly better, slightly better.

Intelligence is really not going to be something that we ever succeed in defining in a succinct and singular way. It's really this whole constellation of different capabilities that all are beautifully orchestrated and working together.

Predicting the longterm future is very difficult, nobody can really do it.

And the bad thing to do is take whatever's working best now and assume the future is going to be like that forever.

Brian Cooley:

So I want you to take away a couple of things from that in particular. One is that five of the big brains about AI in Silicon Valley, and let me un-share for a second here and come back with you, couldn't really agree on the definition. Did you notice that? Sort of the parameters, the terminology. So it's okay if you're looking at artificial intelligence and seeing a lot of vagary, and it seems to be everything all the time. It's a little bit like software in that respect. Software is an exceedingly large flexible concept and the technology in your electronic sense. You don't need to put it into a tight little box. Another thing you heard in there was it's technology that learns from its environment, mistakes, and people. That's very different than technology we have today that is traditionally software based.

Brian Cooley:

And the other thing I'll tell you, and they didn't really call that out here specifically, but I hear this from a lot of people in AI is they say one of the most powerful things about it will be not just finding answers, but also finding questions, highlighting and formulating the right thing to ask, which AI may or may not actually answer. But the idea of developing questions is as important as developing answers. I think those three things will help you understand where AI can go as you use it in your career. I know there's an awful lot around it, and everything's called AI these days. I think it's a little bit overused as a term, but you probably have that impression already.

Brian Cooley:

So let's move on now and get into if you have those building blocks I just shared with you, you start to realize the future of interface, which I know a lot of you are interested in is increasingly going to be ambiance as opposed to voice or touch or some kind of even augmented reality where your eyes are being tracked or gestures are being tracked. All of those are rich and powerful. But think about an interface in the future where by being, you are controlling and driving technology to serve your needs. We already have location, very powerful technology, well-established. We're going to go all the way to the right to brainwave monitoring in the next few years with consumers. And all the ones in the middle there, you recognize those icons.

Brian Cooley:

Those will be forming a basket of passive signals coming from all of us that largely tell technologies around us what we need or want to do next. So it's not going to replace the things we do today, it's another layer on top just like anticipation. Last thing I'll give you here before we dive into some specific buckets, and I'll take a couple of questions here in a minute, if you have any, is this idea of divergence versus convergence. It's talked about a lot in technology. Where do the big hits come from? Are they big things that create a new trail and open up a new category and are completely new and fresh and innovative or are they mashups of things that already are appreciated by consumers? There's an argument for both. You can look at the idea, the argument behind divergence. And it will say, look, you create a new category, you enter it with a product and a brand that's new and devoted to that category and you own it. And you focus on it, and you have great brand sharpness and focus.

Brian Cooley:

Then there's a convergence argument saying, take what consumers already love and get them in the most elegant symbiotic mix of that. And they already understand it, and they can leverage it right away. Well, you look at the phone, here's the original iPhone, right? Is that a divergence product? Yes. Is that a convergence product? Absolutely. So my lesson to you here is not that one or the other is right, but know that the greatest hits of technology usually have done both. So don't get caught up in the argument of, should I be breaking new ground completely or should I just be mashing up existing hits? Both go into most of the really great tech products that have been invented out there. Before I get into some smart home, any questions on those big topics that we just covered?

Stephanie:

We have one in the chat, Brian. Is Apple going to be successful in your opinion as the personalization of big data?

Brian Cooley:

Apple's obviously driving a lot of change right now in terms of personalization and in terms of what they will allow. It's driving Facebook absolutely up a wall. Many of you probably have been reading about the battle between those two companies. I can tell you it's personal between Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook. It's not just between companies, it's become persona [crosstalk 00:15:13]. The chemistry between them is just not good. So Apple has the incredible ability to drive technological change because they have people that are so passionate and vertically aligned in their products. People who buy one Apple product tend to buy several and tend to use most if not all of Apple services. That's different than Android, Windows. They tend to have much more of a, I don't know, I guess a less passionate, less compelled user base.

Brian Cooley:

Apple is able to play that card pretty strongly. That's a very astute observation. Let me get into the smart home now and talk about this. If you talk about the smart home, you're looking at obviously just all kinds of products today. Some of you have these in your house. You can get anything in the home today as an electric connected version. So that's not where it's interesting to be honest. The products are very interesting, but that's not where the strategic interest is. The big story is they initially gave us remote control. I can turn on a light without getting up. And they gave us a little bit of efficiency, I can have lights or irrigation that turn themselves on or off on a program and not waste water or power. Those were the easy initial steps.

Brian Cooley:

Later, we started to get some pretty elegant inter-operation largely thanks to voice technology that tied these together with just a command by my voice as opposed to me having to do a bunch of fussy integration on an app and getting these things to all talk to each other from different brands. But the hardest part that isn't done yet is learning. Learning is just another word for anticipation. If these devices learn how I live and what I need each time, I'm going through a moment in my day, they're anticipating my needs. They don't really do that now. Many of you who have smart home tech in your home or apartment know that these are not anticipatory technologies yet, they're not smart. This is still connected home. It's called smart home as a category, it's not smart yet. That's still in the offing.

Brian Cooley:

And if you really want to know what smart home is all about, it's these three things, these three values. We did a major research study a few years ago. And over and over, 5,000 consumers kept telling us answers that fit neatly into one of these three circles or the overlap of them. So if you really want to zoom out and say, why do we have smart home revolution? It's to do those three things for people in the context of their home. At the CES electronics show, the biggest electronics show every year as I'm sure many of you know. It happened in January, it's a few months behind us now. But touchless and disinfected tech was the biggest single story for obvious reasons. We saw smart electronic face masks that are better than cloth, or what have you.

Brian Cooley:

We saw the touchless video doorbell. I did not know that video doorbells were a big vector of COVID. And of course, we now know they weren't because touch in general wasn't spreading COVID as the CDC recently admitted. However, companies will make hay while the sun shines. We did see a lot of plumbing technologies, products that have touchless ability to operate them like you've seen in commercial bathrooms for 30 years. Or products like the refrigerator door dispenser that has ultraviolet light that's constantly sterilizing. Overall, I think this might have a little bit of faddishness. I'm not discounting the need to be hyper clean going forward, but not that hyper clean. We're hearing constantly now that we need good germs around us. And these kinds of contact surfaces, except for the masks are not really how COVID spread a lot. And by the way, you saw this ultraviolet robot here cruising around a classroom.

Brian Cooley:

When you see those, don't be confused. Those are not meant for home use. If they really work, they work well enough to be injurious to people. This is not something where you'd sit in the room and have this thing drive around you. You'd end up over a short amount of time with some skin and possible eye tissue damage. So when you see those, don't think, "Oh, that's coming to the home." That is not coming to the home. My smartphone home lab colleagues who are all based in Louisville, Kentucky where we have a big lab there, they tell me the next big thing in smart home will be devices that save us a lot of time and a lot of effort. As opposed to right now, most smart homes tech saves us a little time and a little effort. See light switches, see automatic irrigation. The things that those are solving aren't hard, the hard things are a toilet that never needs cleaning because it's always cleaning itself or in the middle there, a clothes folding machine. It works okay, it's a startup that makes it, it's not great. Or really advanced robotic vacuums.

Brian Cooley:

That's not new, but for them to work as well or better than a human with a vacuum, that would be a breakthrough. And right now, most people say, "All right, it's good, it's not as good as me going around with my Dyson." This is the next big area we think, things that really save a lot of labor and time. But here's the problem, look at that big blue slice of that pie. That is the percentage of American broadband households, households that have a good internet connection who have no smart home whatsoever. They don't have a single smart light switch, not a thing, they're just not interested yet. The next slice one to two, that's your next biggest population. And those are the homes that have one or two smart devices, almost nothing. And look how small the 10 plus slice is. That looks a little bleak, right?

Brian Cooley:

More exciting for the work you'll be doing in the years ahead is that smart home adoption in homes that have it is rapidly getting denser. People that have it, love it and get more of it. That doesn't solve for the big blue slice on the right. However, see how fast the average number of devices per smart home is ramping and is expected to ramp. This is according to Parks Associates, which does I think the best research in this area. So if you're doing anything or concepting now or in the future around smart home, know that the homes that get it are going to be your gold mine for quite a while as we gradually evangelize the other three quarters who look at it as just being very complicated because there's a lot of parts.

Brian Cooley:

Also on the smart home technology is also health technology. Everything I'm showing you here, that speaker is for controlling things like all smart speakers. But it's also a coronary artery disease detection device. They verified that at Mayo Clinic almost two years ago that they can listen to you talk and accurately tell if you have or are having worse coronary artery disease over time by the timbre of your voice. Light bulbs tell me where people are, they're a presence detector. Whenever you turn one on with your app, you pretty much told me you're in that room or someone is. Water valves that prevent floods in basements. Those also monitor toilet use because it's very easy to tell from a water valve that's smart like this when one gallon of water or 1.6 gallons I guess it is just got dispensed from the water line, and then the line shut again. That's easy to spell, that's an easy fingerprint.

Brian Cooley:

And body temperature, thermostats. Smart thermostats can give you a general idea that someone in the house is trending warmer or cooler in terms of how they feel. And therefore, they're requesting more or less heat or cooling. So all of these are shadow health devices. Know that if you're working on health deck or ever get involved in working on smart home tech, the two meet. And I hear this a lot from clients and their agencies who understand that they are very much cousins, whether they're in the home tech business or the health business. So that brings us to health. Connected health has really three things going on, these three areas that are not going to be new to you. Tele-health obviously radically got advanced in COVID. We're starting to see tele-health and consumer devices, signals that come off of our watches and such start to get merged. They really weren't until 2020.

Brian Cooley:

And this idea that we can actually have the goal now to look at telehealth plus devices and say there are times when that is better than traditional go to the clinic health care. A premise you would not have proposed before 2020, unless you were just a total wild-eyed techie. Anywhere in the medical tech community, no one said that. They said, "Let's see how good tele-health and devices can be when that's the only thing available." But now the conversation is pivoting to, in what cases is it better to have a remote consultation, to use data off a watch as opposed to driving to the doctor's office and getting something clipped onto you? Here's how you live your life just like me, we all do the same thing.

Brian Cooley:

Our dashboard is on literally that long each year. You go to the doctor for a checkup once a year, maybe. And that's the only time your indicators are lit up, the rest of the time this is you going through your life. You don't know your fuel, you don't know your temperature, you don't know your oil pressure, so to speak. That is crazy. You wouldn't drive a car that way. And yet, you drive yourself that way, and you're the most valuable irreplaceable thing you have more than any car. So this is what we're trying to solve for at the intersection of tech and health. And look how many places it works at the patient, with diagnostic chat bots, with telemedicine, with remote monitoring, and with payment systems. These five areas here are deeply getting infused with consumer techs out of this array that makes up the whole medical experience.

Brian Cooley:

So you see, 5 out of 10 of the lobes of modern medicine have a great vector into technology like this. This is a couple of examples of home medical kits. What these are things you can take home that normally only existed in the doctor's office. That one on the right is called the TytoCare diagnostic kit. It's got a digital tongue depressor that can take a accurate photo of the back of your throat, a stethoscope for heart and lung listening. And it's got an otoscope for looking inside of an ear and taking a photo. And it all connects to that little hub device. And it does all this with some medical accuracy so your doctor, when you're talking to her in a telehealth consultation, so you can say, "Let me look in your ear." And you can do that for her as opposed to having to go down to the clinic.

Brian Cooley:

And if you can't do that for a day or two, you either feel worse or your condition has changed. And the whole thing is a very slippery, messy experience. This is about pushing health care out to the edge and doing it with technology when it makes sense. You think about healthcare as being very much wearables, but think about where we wear it. I mentioned earlier how the home is a bunch of health devices where when you boil it down. Also our wearables, not just our watches, but earbuds and headphones are constantly being developed towards someday when they will mostly or all have a blood pressure, heart rate, maybe even a heart arrhythmia sensor built into them.

Brian Cooley:

Why is this important? Because in technology, you can try to get people to do something, or instead you can pack up your technology and go get in front of a parade that they're already in. That's usually a very smart way to go. Get in front of a parade as opposed to starting one from scratch. And that's what you do when you embed heart rate or blood pressure tech into earbuds, let's say. This is a company that's doing exactly that, it's not on the market yet, but they will have it embedded in various companies' earbuds I'm pretty sure next year. So the next time you plug in your earbuds, you'll also be plugging in a blood pressure sensor without having to do so.

Brian Cooley:

Continuous monitoring is also my dashboard analogy. How do we know how we're doing if we don't always know how we're doing? That's the question. On the right there is an interesting thing, it's a blood pressure machine at home. That's nothing new, this has been around for 40 years. But this one live continuously reports your blood pressure readings into your electronic health record that your doctor uses to store your records, the same one. And when something is off, it'll alert your doctor that you're trending oddly on your blood pressure. And when something's not wrong, it won't bother anyone. That's just as important as letting someone know you've got an issue, it is not bothering someone. Not saying, hey so-and-so just took their blood pressure again, here it is. Don't bother a physician with that unless there's a reason for them to look at it is what these systems do.

Brian Cooley:

Now, any of you who may monitor your insulin, who care for your diabetes condition probably know these CGMs, Continuous Glucose Monitors. They're not that new on the market, three, four, five years now. But this one's interesting from Abbott. If you look at the, it's hard to see, but in the bottom left corner of the box there, it says not for medical use. You never saw that on a glucose monitor before, they were always for medical use. What's changing here is they are repositioning this technology. It's the same tech, but they're repositioning it for people who do not have diabetes, who do manage their insulin, but who want to manage their blood sugar toward the goal of athletic performance, general health, long-term aging health or just feeling a certain way.

Brian Cooley:

Some people say, "Boy, every time I eat, I get tired." They don't technically have diabetes, but it would sure be good to get in front of it before they have adult onset type two or just so they just feel better all day. And look how small that device becomes in its next iteration that is due on the market soon. That's another version of transparent is making something so small that I'm not aware that I'm dealing with it at all. So this is another March toward taking medical tech and turning it into lifelong health tech and making it very simple and easy to use. And of course, these things report into your phone, which is always with you. Very transparent. Let me stop down there for a second. Do you have any questions about the healthcare tech area before I move into a little mobile, a little TV?

Stephanie:

Nothing in the chat, but if anybody wants to unmute themselves. We'll give it another minute, you can drop your questions in the chat.

Brian Cooley:

I'll leave time at the end as well. So don't be shy now, and don't be shy then. All right, let's move on into our [crosstalk 00:27:52]-

Speaker 11:

Actually, I started a medical company last year, and I'm interested to your experience between how people pick up this technology and how it can be used for more of a personal point of view. In what way will that be required of us, do you think?

Brian Cooley:

Well, that's interesting. So when you talk about their acquired use of some of this technology, you get into a very interesting area that medical ethicists, especially those that are technically savvy are still arguing over. It really came to a fever pitch and still is to some degree when you talk about proof of COVID vaccination. That was one of the first real-world cases where we went from theoretical, should we require people to use this tech to bring down our overall health cost in this country and improve our public financing of health? That's a thing we have to do for each other. But then it became very real as we got into this discussion of contact tracing before we had a vaccine should you be required to, and then vaccine proof, which we're all talking about right now. Who and when should be required to show they've had a vaccine or is that really creating classes we don't want to create? It's a very thorny argument well beyond my expertise in technology.

Brian Cooley:

But I think you'll find increasingly that we're going to be not offering sticks but mostly carrots to get people to embrace this technology in large, if not universal numbers. That's more or less how the technology industry would go. If regulators want to step in and make something required, that would be different. But technology products tend to do better with carrots than sticks since they don't have sticks really, only regulators have that. Good, insightful idea there that this works best when it works most, and that's not necessarily the same with every other technology out there. Let's talk a little about mobile and wireless tech for a moment. This is where I put back to work. I know a lot of people are saying back to work or back to school, when is that going to happen and how? It's obviously a new hybrid future for many organizations. Not all, but for many schools and many workplaces, they'll never go back to nine to five five days a week, which we've been doing for 70 years prior to COVID.

Brian Cooley:

Now, everyone's out there to figure out what works for their organization, which is interesting because it'll make for some weird gear meshing that may not always match even between companies and industries. Let's say you're a coal maker and you're working nine to fives or even 24 hours seven days a week. But the steel company that you supply to is on a three and two where people are in the mill three days a week and not two days a week. And I mean, office workers, right? So there's a lot of weird meshing of gears that won't always work for business efficiency between businesses and industries. That's one issue. More importantly though is in the office of one organization, who's in how often, and are we all in at the same time?

Brian Cooley:

So I talked to a guy named Nick Bloom who is a professor of economics at Stanford Business School a couple of months ago for a talk show I do. And he said, "It looks like this." He goes, the surveys that they keep doing, and they've got a regular survey base of employees and employers are talking about this. Employees want to go back to work about halftime, two and a half days a week or so. Employers envision one day a week you'd work at home, and four, you're back in the office. So we have a little friction there. So the obvious thing that he thinks is likely is splitting the difference, a three and two model. Three days in the office, two days when you can work from home. That's if your job is applicable. A lot of people, it doesn't apply because they have to do their job on location. And then the other thing that's interesting here is what do you do for people that are new to an industry, new to the business or new in their career? Three and two is not going to advance them fast enough.

Brian Cooley:

So they may do more four or five days a week. Then the question is, who's in the office? If everyone else is gone two days a week, what are they doing in the office on those two days? And then you have to now look at your senior management or relatively senior and say, "You're in a mentor role, you can't be out of the office that much. You need to be there when the youngest people are." And the middle of the stack gets more flexibility, the middle of seniority gets more flexibility to be away from the office. None of it's perfect, but that's where the conversations are bubbling up right now. And what's interesting also here is that the theory is that when we have a three and two, everyone's in the office together on those three as opposed to you pick your three. That gets to be too disconnected.

Brian Cooley:

But a lot of people are going to say, "Wait a minute, half of the reason I want to do three and two is for flexibility, now you're telling me which three." And that takes a lot of the flexibility out of my work life. So plenty of things to be dealt with here, but it's a fascinating area. Now, let's turn to mobile. 5G, as you know, is the thing in mobile these days and in many other things. Don't just think phone. When you see 5G, think phone obviously, think tablet, think laptop. Laptops have always been seeking wifi. Laptops and Starbucks go together, right? You're always looking for wifi unless you're home and you have your laptop out. Not anymore. Phones obviously are pretty good hotspots, phones with 5G are really good hotspots. But laptops themselves are becoming 5G enabled in the future.

Brian Cooley:

And also think beyond all those devices in general. Think about home, car, think about the world of devices that are out there built into the infrastructure of the world. 5G is much more about us than it is about me when you compare it to 4G. 4G was a me, ne, me technology. I've got the internet on my phone, I hate it, make it work for me. That's all 4G was about. 5G is about a very different thing because these technology specs you see on this slide, those are great. But most consumers, A, don't know what they are. And B, don't particularly care because 4G works pretty well. And so here comes 5G saying, "I'm going to gild the lily, I'm going to add icing on top of icing. You in?" And a lot of consumers say, "I can wait. On my next phone, I'll get 5G, sure. But I'm not in a huge hurry because 4G works pretty good."

Brian Cooley:

It's an interesting position to be in, it's a nice one to be in as consumers is that we have a good tech, and now we're being presented with a better tech. The problem is those who are backing 5G want it to be compelling so they can roll it out fast, have their business work well and get their R&D back. So 5G is arriving in phases. If you are not wowed by 5G right now. And I bet if I did a show of hands and everyone turned their camera on, I'd see a lot of hands. It's like, "Yeah, 5G looks interesting, but it doesn't change anything." You're right. 5G is right now in the mode where it's just making existing things a little better. If you have it on your device, if you're in an area where it's already lit up, and a lot of areas are. Once we turn the corner after 21, you'll start to see all those things you were told it was going to make amazing start to happen.

Brian Cooley:

Really excellent remote health care where you feel like the doctor is right there with you because the fidelity is so good. Mobile gaming that is as good as sitting in front of a wired home-built desktop gaming rig. Augmented reality, finally really working because AR only works when it has a ton of data and a really low latency connection to something. Therefore, whenever you move around, it's able to quickly sense things as quickly as you can. And you're a pretty amazing package of sensors. And this idea that everything will be connected one day, that's a 5G attribute that'll take a decade or more. When will every vending machine and every clock and every, you name it, every Kindle all be tied together somewhere in the cloud? That's a 5G promise that's going to take some time.

Brian Cooley:

And the last thing is vehicles get connected. Right now, vehicles are barely connected at all and not with 5G. But once vehicles become 5G connected, they can do amazing things like know about each other, know where bicycles are, know where pedestrians are, know where the parking spaces are available. That's all 5G relevant for varying reasons. It's not always about more bandwidth or speed, a lot of it is about just ubiquity of the network. And 5G is going to be really good at that as well. But all you ever hear is speed, 5G is so fast, it'll blow you away. And they always tell about how fast you can download a movie on 5G. Who downloads movies? Who cares?

Brian Cooley:

What I'm really concerned about is having low latency. That means when the signal goes back and forth on the internet, when I click on something on my screen, the other end, the server, the service I'm interacting with knows it immediately. You need that for gaming, you need that for AR, you need that for connected cars. It doesn't work with lag, those don't work at all with a lot of latency or lag. Therefore, 5G is more interesting that way. People I talk to who really are focused on the 5G market, a lot of them feel like 5G will actually come out of COVID stronger than if we had not been through and are going through this pandemic era. For a variety of reasons I'm not going to bore you with, but just know that 5G should actually rocket out of this. And the most important one is that first line.

Brian Cooley:

Consumers are learning that every connected device they have needs to be connected as well as any other as opposed to the old hierarchy where my desktop has probably got a good wired connection, that's my best. My laptop has good wifi, my next best. And my phone when I'm out and about has pretty good 4G that isn't bad. That hierarchy is starting to go away. And consumer is saying, I'm doing important stuff on every device in every place all the time. Therefore, all my connections have to be, quote, my best connection. Step up mobile, step up wireless. You cannot be second or third fiddle anymore, it doesn't work for me. A really great thing is look how many of the best smart phones out there right now, and I say best in terms of function not in terms of their model number are way under a thousand dollars or a thousand pounds wherever you live.

Brian Cooley:

That's really important because the days of chasing flagship phones are over. Consumers do not want to buy thousand dollar phones let alone 12 or $1,400 phones. You hear a lot about those, they get a lot of press, they get a lot of media. They are not where the phone industry lives. The phone industry lives in 5 to $700, and often less. I carry a $500 phone. I'm a tech editor, but I'm also a real consumer, and I buy my own gear. CNET editors don't get any freebies, we buy all our own stuff. So I don't have a $1,200 phone, no way. I buy the one that's the best value, and it costs me 500 bucks. So know that you don't need to make many sacrifices there, know that about your consumers that they are buying devices that are based on value. Therefore, you should develop for what the mainstream value phones have and not necessarily rely on the latest.

Brian Cooley:

Like this, we're seeing no traction for the folding, scrolling devices. They're really interesting, they're great electronics. But they're not great technology in my definition, which is helping people get things done that they already wanted to do. There was not a huge appetite out there saying, "Boy, I wish my phone could stretch into a tablet once in a while." It sounds cool on its face, but there was not a huge appetite. And so far, there is not because the technology arrived as electronics. It should have arrived as a use case, but it didn't. It arrived as sheer electronic and innovation, and that doesn't cut it. That's why you know almost nobody who has one of these. I'm not knocking these phones, they're amazing. And the folding ones you've seen, I'm just showing the latest ones here that scroll the screen out. But you've seen folders for over a year now.

Brian Cooley:

You don't see them often, few people have them. A, they're very expensive. And B, they don't really have a reason yet. I'm not saying they won't, but they don't yet. I would get more excited about LIDAR, which only a couple of flagship phones, flagship iPhones, for example, have LIDAR. LIDAR is really interesting because it is a vastly better and more nuanced sensor for technology and software to understand the world around it. And that's a key part of that ambient interface. Here's a simple example of one of my colleagues who gets very excited about when you buy clothes online, you always buy three. The size you think you wear, the smaller one, and the bigger one. And you know two are going to go back. What a mess for you and the merchant. Why can't we have phones where we take a selfie with camera and LIDAR turned on and that automatically in the shopping app, whether it's Amazon or a denim brand or whatever it is knows exactly my size because LIDAR can tell that, a photo can begin to tell that. And I receive one item, the one that fits.

Brian Cooley:

I don't even say my size, I just say I want those jeans, send them to me. Size, I don't know. Look at my selfie, I just took it. You figure out the size. That's a radically different world for clothing, for furniture, for home remodeling. There's a lot of interesting things you can do with LIDAR. It's early days, but it's going to be very sexy. And something to watch there, we talk a lot about folding phones being the folding thing. Don't take your eye if you care about this of folding laptops and tablets. Sometimes me and my colleagues think that the idea of a tablet that folds out into a laptop is more interesting than a phone that folds out into a small tablet. That's not as much of a difference as going from something Kindle size to something laptop size. That may actually be more exciting, even though you don't hear so much about these.

Brian Cooley:

One of those is a prototype, one of those is real, but it's still a pretty small market. Finally, on the mobile thing, people ask me, "What's going to replace the phone?" It's been the king of tech for a long time." True. It'll obviously be some merge of an augmented reality glass that has voice command, built in, of course. And also in some way, stay with me here, is able to read your brain waves. Now, that sounds insane right now because look at the headgear you have to wear to get brainwave monitoring to work. And there's a ton of startups who are working on this, and they're very well-funded by the way, which should tell you something. However, we will get to the day where earbuds, headphones, and the temples of glasses will be able to do sufficient brainwave monitoring to be able to read intent, vague excitement, or fear or stress or anxiety and start us down the road of brainwave monitoring toward the goal of better anticipation.

Brian Cooley:

A couple last topics here, I'll go through these briefly so we have a little more time for questions. In automotive, there are three big things happening, electrification. We're connecting cars, and we're letting them drive themselves a little bit not as much as Tesla would tell you. The road to electrification is the biggest story right now. That was not the case a year and a half ago. It was an even horse race between connected, autonomy, and electric. Now, electric outshines everything for a number of market reasons. This chart is incredibly weedy. All I want you to take away from it is right now we're in the era of sticks regulation. Before, we were in the era of carrots. You could buy a hybrid or an electric car, and they gave you big tax discounts, a sticker to use the HOV lane.

Brian Cooley:

And of course, you became someone incredibly avant garde in your neighborhood. Now, we're in the era of regulation. You know what, you can't drive a combustion car in this city or country anymore. You can't sell a combustion car in California in another 14 years, et cetera, et cetera. That's the era we're going to be moving into gradually. But the biggest era for electric cars is going to be another resumption of carrots. And that is when the total cost of ownership, buying it, running it, insuring it, repairing it, and maintaining it is cheaper on electric car than for any gas engine car. And that day is about three or four years away. And in the mainstream, less than 10 years away. So know that electric cars are going to make it like almost every product makes it, the best value at the best overall price.

Brian Cooley:

That's how everything wins. Consumers really have a one-note tune when you get right down to it. When you ask them, "What do you need to see to consider an EV?" And they will tell you these three things all at once. We can't quite get you that right now, there is no car at that price, with that charge rate and that range, but we're so close. And we will get there probably in 18 months to three years, this will be the most common description of an electric car. Then watch the flood gates open and see EVs get picked up pretty quickly. Last thing on the electric cars, I get more excited about charging than about batteries. I'm not so excited about who can have the next 5, 6 or 700-mile electric car or the first really, that's not the point because by doing that we are training consumers to think of electric cars as gas engine cars without gas. That's all wrong.

Brian Cooley:

We should be thinking completely differently about how we charge these cars not in long, big gulps, but in constant snacking nibbles so we never think about trips to the gas station or the charging station. We just drive. And by parking, we are charging. It's, again, very transparent. Whereas right now, filling up gas in a car is the opposite of transparent. You have needle anxiety. How much further can I go before that red light says I'm out of gas? Now, I got to go to a gas station. Doesn't matter how close the gas station is, if you've ever noticed, if you're a driver, it's always drudgery. There can be a gas station right on the next corner. And you go, "I gotta pull in and get gas." No one likes that. While we're at this, let's make refueling or charging transparent, you recharge by driving.

Brian Cooley:

And a lot of that will be coming down to really common infrastructure. And a lot of it will be wireless charging infrastructure, which by the way is not hazardous even though I know it sounds like it. And finally, Tesla has got some anticipation in their navigation, and there's some sensing things going on in the cabin. I'm going to move past these, and let's just talk about television for a minute so we have time for some questions. I like three topics and everything, as you can tell. In the television streaming business, the big questions are or were, is there such a thing as mobile video different from just video?

Brian Cooley:

If any of you have been following the rise and fall of Quimbee, you probably know at this point there is not ... I think at this point in history, we can say there is no such thing as mobile video. Seven companies have tried it, well-funded big names like Verizon and Samsung and Quimbee, and none of them have been able to make it work. It's a technology with a lowercase T not chasing the kind of technology that I care about, which is usage-based. Pruning of services, how many of you have like four streaming accounts that you pay for? Not to mention a bunch of other free ones. Many Americans have five, too many. It is supposed to be simpler than cable, not harder. And so there's going to be a shakeout, we know that.

Brian Cooley:

And the idea of bypassing theaters for new releases is heresy in Hollywood, but I think it's coming and more and faster than a lot of people will admit. Most people who have any streaming have four or more services right now, that's too many. Expect it to get down to three as this market matures in 18 to 36 months. So it's a game of musical chairs. Talk about releasing movies to the home, look at these numbers on the left or in the right. On the left in red, Deloitte research. Where would you like to see a new first run film? Typically, at home. Parks Research on the right, where would you like to see a new film? Typically, at home. Very few of us really are committed to going back to the theater, even though that's what we're all using as an example of getting out from underneath COVID. But I think at the end, after we do a little bit of revenge viewing at the theater, I think we're all going to say, "You know what, I just want to have things released at home. The theater is great, but it's not that great."

Brian Cooley:

There are places for it, it's going to have a market. I'm not saying it goes away, nothing really ever goes away. But in this case, I think the theater is in for a rougher road and it never comes back to the level of prominence it had. Here's a service called Struum that's coming out. It says, look, there's going to be a lot of you services, streaming services out there that don't cut it to be honest. Instead of trying to get consumers to subscribe to you, which too few of them will, why don't you come under our umbrella and offer your content a la carte where people just get one at a time as opposed to trying to get them to sign up for something, which is much harder than asking a consumer to do a la carte. Here's another interesting one coming up here. I talked to this CEO, this founder a couple of weeks ago, it's an odd one, I'll grant you. It's called it's called Venue from a company called XCINEX.

Brian Cooley:

And I'm only holding it up as an example, I don't know if they're going to make it or not. But they're thinking about it the right way. This thing you see on the right clips on top of your television, and it's an image sensing camera. So it can tell how many people are in the room watching something on that television. You buy tickets for a movie, an opera broadcast, a boxing match, whatever you're into. And if you buy three tickets, this thing will make sure only three people are in there watching. If too many come in, it pauses the playback, which isn't good for a live event because you know you're missing something and says, "Look, you've got to send some people out of the room or you've got to buy more tickets. Why do you do that?" Because it sounds kind of rude.

Brian Cooley:

They do it because it's the only way to support the economics of a $300 million movie that you want to release at home. That doesn't work if you're going to pay $4 to stream it in HD for 48 hours, your typical Amazon price. Those economics don't line up. You can't do that and shoot The Mandalorian, the budget doesn't line up. So this is a way of saying, "Look, let's move the Box Office to the home, a true home box office lowercase." So it's an interesting startup, I'm not saying that it's got all the parts in place. I'm not saying it doesn't, but it gives you an idea that we've got technologies in the electronic sense that are bubbling up and saying, "Let's find a way to make the economics work for Hollywood to go direct to living room."

Brian Cooley:

And the last thing I'll talk to you about here is if you look at television technology, always think about it as more than video. The people at the biggest electronic companies that make televisions, and I won't name names, but you know the biggest brands. Just about all of them tell me in their own words that their biggest project for this decade is to get the television to be seen as more than a screen for entertainment. That's what it is today, that's how we pigeonhole it. They're jealous to be honest of what happens on the phone. They want that to happen on the TV, and they don't understand why. Now, we understand why because the phones, this unique combination and exceedingly mobile.

Brian Cooley:

However, they do have an argument to make saying, why are we doing all these FaceTimes on our phone? When you're home and doing FaceTime on your phone, that's bizarre. Why aren't you in front of your television? You're probably in front of your television, it's just not turned on. It would look awful better if you had it turned onto the TV, and that was your FaceTime. Or if you're doing anything else, controlling your smart home. How many of you sit in front of your TV and control your smart home on your phone? Why doesn't that elegantly pop up on the screen? Samsung or LG would tell you it does. I think most consumers would tell you it doesn't yet.

Brian Cooley:

So the big picture is the television industry is turning away from just being about television, the medium, to being a television that is about all manners of digital interfaces on that big screen when you're in front of it. When you're not, you're not, they're not trying to force people to sit in front of the TV all the time. So that's a big trend I think in that industry. So I hit you with a lot, and we've got time for some questions now. And I've got as much time as you have. So I'm happy to take any of those now, either in the chat or anyone who wants to unmute and ask one.

Stephanie:

Let me jump into the chat real quick and ask one on tele-health please just for a second. This one is from Abby, and she says, "How do you think telehealth could help elderly living alone?"

Brian Cooley:

Yeah, Abby, a big part of the telehealth thing, and I didn't bring the slides up in this one just for brevity. But a big part of it is continuous monitoring. When I showed you that blood pressure cuff that was on the right that reports automatic into your health record, there was a product in the middle there that has just been released by CVS, which has a big innovation lab even though we know them as a drugstore. And what they've done there is created a whole package of sensors that are tuned toward monitoring the person who is, A, elderly, and, B, living. And this happens in so many industries.

Brian Cooley:

This has huge echos in the area of food delivery and in animal welfare. So humane societies, is to move things out to the edge and say instead of bringing you into the hospital for more frequent, easier checkups or instead of making it easier to come to our restaurant to pick up, or instead of making it easy to bring your animal in or to get something done here or to relinquish your animal, all those industries are saying, "Nope, keep it out at the edge, better things happen out at the edge than coming into an incredibly well-designed center."

Brian Cooley:

It's just something we haven't really thought about much until now. So look at that for elderly people who are always going to do better when they're at home around friends in whatever living setting they've got, hopefully around family. But the technology has to be there to help caregivers who are often family do their, I don't want to call it their job, do what they want to do to help their elderly relatives, and do it in a way that takes off a lot of that burden. And technology can do that by allowing them to monitor without having to be there all the time, and communicate in high fidelity without having to rush home all the time or be around the elderly person, just waiting for a moment when they might be needed, but they maybe aren't a lot of the time. That's a big thrust.

Stephanie:

Great. Thank you so much.

Speaker 12:

Hi Brian.

Brian Cooley:

Yes.

Speaker 12:

Hi. Thank you so much. This is a very, very interesting talk.

Brian Cooley:

Oh good, glad to hear that.

Speaker 12:

And you touched on so many things that my nine-year-old loves to talk about Like the car-

Brian Cooley:

Oh good, I'm at the level of a nine-year-old. It's actually a great compliment because that's exactly where the best tech comprehension usually lies is the younger kids.

Speaker 12:

It's fascinating stuff, especially the work week. We talk about this very often, he really doesn't think that the weekend should be two days.

Brian Cooley:

Well, I don't either.

Speaker 12:

Well, yeah, there you go, so great minds. This might sound like a very goofy question to you, but I can't help myself. You have so much enthusiasm and so much knowledge about the way we do things or the way we're trying to do things differently. Is there anything that you don't like or that you are weary of? I'd love to hear about that.

Brian Cooley:

I don't normally like to criticize technologies because, A, I think it's unfair to people that work so hard to develop them even if they don't work out. And B, I've learned the hard way that things that looked like they were never going to work out, sometimes they'll sneak after seven or eight years and like, "Oh, look at that, it's a hit." So I've learned the hard way over the years, I've made some calls on technologies I thought had no road, and they eventually did. But a couple to give you now, virtual reality, not augmented reality still has a very hard road going forward as far as we believe. We still think it's got just an exceedingly narrow niche of appeal, although it's very deep. Once you hit a vein of interested users, they're incredibly into it.

Brian Cooley:

However, it still looks exceedingly narrow. Another one that would be important to watch is remote schooling. I don't have kids, so I don't know about this personally. I know many of you have much closer connection to at-home schooling over the last year and what it's been like. But everyone I talk to in the education business or who has kids and is in the tech business says, "Yeah, a lot of things work remotely, the schooling thing really didn't, not very well." Shopping, absolutely. Entertainment, absolutely. Telepresence, video calls and gatherings, absolutely, and of course work. Those have all been huge hits, and health. Those are all going to have a high residual. But education appears to have a very low residual going forward. It's going to be largely about getting kids back to school. Let's face it, socialization in person is one of the big things you learn in school all the way through college. And sitting in front of a screen doesn't deliver that. So those are two that come to mind.

Speaker 12:

Okay. Thank you very much.

Brian Cooley:

Thank you.

Speaker 13:

Brian, I have a health question.

Brian Cooley:

Tee it up.

Speaker 13:

First of all, I'll say those products would be a hypochondriac's dream, the constant data.

Brian Cooley:

Well, that's interesting because actually there was a study recently, and I don't talk about it too much because it's just one study, but it's Mayo Clinic. And they found that in an early study of, it was hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of Apple Watch wearers who received an indication, and this is from the current, I guess an Apple Watch 5 or 6 who were told that they had a heart arrhythmia possibly because an Apple Watch by FDA regulations cannot say definitively you have a heart arrhythmia. It just says you might want to go see if you have a heart arrhythmia. Well, that tells me I've got a heart arrhythmia. They would go to see a clinician, and they didn't have a problem. So the false positive level was huge.

Brian Cooley:

Now, this is just one particular condition in a product that is still pretty green. I don't think it's by any means condemning it. But yeah, you're right, there is a hypochondriac's gold mine out there because some of the best part about having distant healthcare where you got to go somewhere, frankly, you never know. If you're a hypochondriac, you get less fuel to tell you that something could be wrong.

Speaker 13:

But my question is probably one of the biggest health trends has been the obesity epidemic over the last 40 years related to type two diabetes. Some people might argue that the cause of that was fraud. Ancel Keys cherry picking the data, if you're familiar with the dietary studies back then. And I'm going to say politics, which was George McGovern's committee, which pushed out the food pyramid which drove industry with low fat diets for the longest time. And I'm going to say, with data collection like this, do you think it would temper the effects of that or would it amplify it? And how would you square your answer with what we're seeing today with the censorship of COVID misinformation?

Brian Cooley:

Well, that's the question is when we have the information that can finally tell us what really happens in the intersection of diet and outcome, a lot of that is small sample, relatively small. Compared to a nation of 340 million, we have very few people who are ever involved in dietary health outcomes studies, that's just the numbers. If we suddenly had everyone on the dashboard, if you will. And that's a combination of having the technology and also our previous discussion about requiring in a sense that they let that be reported into a trusted central government database. We'd finally know the truth. Now, if it's going to get monkeyed with by regulators and politicians, I don't know what to do about that. That's outside my expertise. But there's an argument for saying, "Look, we really need to get everyone to wear, subsidize them to wear a watch or an earbud that can monitor blood pressure or whatever can monitor glucose."

Brian Cooley:

We need to get everyone to wear that and have that reported into a trusted probably government health database so we finally for the first time really know that what you eat based on your transactions, we can already tell that and how your health is progressing. We could tell that. Suddenly, we finally know the intersection for the first time ever. That's incredibly powerful to me toward population wellness not just individual wellness, which right now is very much about you do what you do. And then when you get into a health crisis, we have amazing ability in this country to bring you back from the brink. But that's not efficient. Efficient is never gained in the brink. And that's what's hard for us to do as a population right now.

Speaker 14:

Hi Brian-

Speaker 15:

Well, go, sorry. Go ahead, I've already asked one.

Speaker 14:

Hi Brian, nice to meet you, thank you for being here.

Brian Cooley:

Thank you.

Speaker 14:

I just had a quick question. So I found it really interesting what you were saying about the sentiment that people have about the new release of movies and things like that and wanting to watch them at home. So it just had me thinking, do you think that result is skewed because of our circumstances in the present? Do you think the result may have changed if it was asked in two years or even if the pandemic didn't even happen?

Brian Cooley:

Yeah, there's always that possibility. But I think what you hear about is it's just like going to work. Right now, you might find a lot of people saying, "you know what, working from home works out pretty well," but a lot of them are going to bounce back to the office. So we know we have this residual effect, and everyone wants to know how deep will the residual be. When the tide goes out, how much sand is going to be left in work, in tele-health, in all these tele things we're doing? And you could classify in-home movie releases as tele-entertainment, it's moving the movie theater to my house. I would say though, and I'm just looking here. Yeah, those were both late 2020 studies, both done in December of 2020. So they were deep in a year of COVID shutdown.

Brian Cooley:

There is always that possibility for that bias. But here's the thing releasing movies at home is going to do three things that consumers love. One, it's going to be more affordable. When you take out a middleman, things get cheaper in a perfect economy. I know they may jack up the prices of movies anyway, and then may get back where they are. But in general, there's a lot less expense to distribution, so you can see a less expensive option. Consumers always love that. And secondly, accessibility. We're basically lazy. If we can do it from our sofa without getting in the car, we usually tend to want to do it. That's just human nature. And a ton of technologies have made it for that very reason. This is the most crazy thing to me. We have cards, credit cards that you can swipe, but that was too much work. Then we gave them a chip, and that was too much work. Now, you just hold them near the thing, you don't even need to articulate your wrist anymore.

Brian Cooley:

And that sounds absurd that those would be improvements, but they've been huge. Find me someone who doesn't love swipe compared to slide, compared to slide in. They're all basically the same thing, but they get just slightly easier. Micro conveniences have a long history of working, let alone mega conveniences like watching a new movie at home. So I think it's got legs, but you're absolutely right. This is a deep 2020 snapshot. Even if we dial those back somewhat, we still have a pretty good population that wants to watch new movies at home, but it's a good point.

Speaker 14:

Thank you.

Brian Cooley:

Thank you.

Stephanie:

Brian, I'm going to go ahead and take one from the chat from Emily. Have you watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma? And if so, do you believe that the increased access to our information is harmful to us or is it beneficial that companies can dictate our moves and actions?

Brian Cooley:

I think it's both, that sounds like a cheat of an answer. But this reminds me of when we first realized, I think it was probably in, boy, I want to say it was late 2008. And you may recall this, some of you. It's going back quite a ways now, I know. But there was in the headlines for about three or four months was just this incredible outrage that our phones are tracking us. Suddenly, we all woke up and realized, what, my phone follows me around? Well, yeah. And we did lots of articles as did a lot of other people saying, "Here's how to turn off tracking on your phone if you really want to." And guess what, your phone doesn't really work worth a damn after that. And what happens was we just got used to it, we got educated about why it's tracking us, and we got educated about the benefits of said tracking. And we all made peace with the concept.

Brian Cooley:

So we grew as a populace, and the technology got better about keeping its nose clean and being very clear about when it was tracking and what it was using for. We met in the middle. I would characterize that other discussion about privacy and extreme data tracking as having to meet in the middle. I don't see it as going either way. That we need to take everything back and say, "No, I don't want to share any more data than I did in 2010. Let's just roll it back, and that's the line forever." That's just not practical for the benefits we're trying to achieve. If I want a car that never runs over a cyclist, my car must be tracked. There's just no way around it. So I'm okay with that even though it's never happened before. And that's a big intrusion.

Brian Cooley:

I will never be able to go off on a drive on my own and get away from people knowing where I am. Not really. I'll need to go out way out in the boonies for that in the future, but I'm willing to do that to make sure my car always knows where cyclists are and pedestrians are and never turns into their way. The benefit is too high. So I think we broker it. I know that sounds like a cheat of an answer. I wish I could say, "Oh yeah, it's going to go this way or that way." But I think it has to be a little of both and show the value.

Stephanie:

All right, Brian, how are we doing on time? A couple more?

Brian Cooley:

I'm good, I'm here for as long as anyone. We're in the after party now, so I'm glad so many of you have stuck around.

Stephanie:

Oh, one more from the chat from Angel, have you seen Microsoft's mesh? And how do you see that type of technology affect B2B and consumer behavior?

Brian Cooley:

I'm not as up on that as I probably should be. So I'm going to table comment on that right now. I know of it, and that's about it. I don't want to try and come up with an answer on something that I'm not deeply aware of.

Stephanie:

All right. And then a couple of raised hands. John David, do you want to go?

John David:

Any thoughts on solar capacity storage and solar charging, talking about the trickle down effect to charging a car, putting solar panels. I've seen tech in splashes, like windows can be actually transparent solar chargers. I don't know how real that is or how viable that really is.

Brian Cooley:

The issue is solar is of course that it has to be coupled with batteries, we're starting to figure that out. And that's not something that's totally new, but the battery technology is really becoming coupled with solar so that we have a nice shock absorber. And we don't have to worry so much about whether on a given time of day or season. And the battery creates this buffer that looks like I always have power, and I'm decoupled from the vagaries on the wild differences that my panels are actually seeing. That's an important one. Tesla's Powerwall was the first to go popular, although there've been others before, and there are others now. But the idea that storage has to be coupled with solar is very powerful. You know why, even though it's a bigger apparatus, you've got tiles all over your roof or panels, and you've got these giant batteries in your garage.

Brian Cooley:

What it actually does is make the whole thing disappear. It makes it transparent because I no longer feel the presence of solar. All I know is I have electricity all the time, period. I don't worry about who, am I getting it from right now? It's a nice continuous flow, it's usually the same mix or whatever the optimal mix is of grid and my battery, local storage, which means I can have a rate plan that's optimized. I have some bargaining, if you will, as opposed to being totally beholden to the utility at certain times of day or certain seasons. It's a very interesting way to make a technology transparent even though you add a couple thousand pounds of batteries in your garage. The other thing about solar I think is very important is that we are, as we look more and more toward the future of plugging cars in, which is going to be a huge drain. I'm not an expert in the grid, but I know it's a huge, additional load on the grid.

Brian Cooley:

If you're going to take the world of petroleum and you're going to move it to the grid, I know that's enormous. And so to do that, we're going to need lots of micro-generation. We can't just do all the generation remotely and send it down transmission lines, the big ones. And then distribution lines, the wooden poles in your neighborhood. We have to have micro-generation, which means everywhere around us needs to be, in many cases, solar. Even if it's not a huge installation, even a few panels on every roof goes a long way. So that's a big trend I hear about when I go to energy conferences. It's an important, and it's a big trend. It's going to be decades in the building.

John David:

Thank you.

Brian Cooley:

Let's do-

Stephanie:

Elena, you're up.

Brian Cooley:

Let's do Elena.

Elena:

Hi, I have a question. We talked about the smart houses and homes, what do you think about smart cities? Like [inaudible 01:06:43], the project of Google. If you know what I'm talking about, this labs, Sidewalk Labs.

Brian Cooley:

Yes. Sidewalk Labs has had some hits and misses. There's so many aspects to smart city, it's almost like an entire discipline in itself as you know. I worked with a guy named Ted Smith here at CNET for a long time. Most recently, he's been the smart city czar for the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky. Which you may say, "Louisville, what about New York?" Louisville is probably the most aggressive smart city in the US in terms of per capita distribution of city technology. It's an amazing place. And they have had a lot of hits and misses, a lot of it comes down to the usual difficulties of funding and getting a city on board. And cities tend to be a little bit backwards, right? Very bureaucratic. But a lot of it comes down to some things make sense and some don't.

Brian Cooley:

Oe of the things he's working on now, for example, is something you would not have thought of, but they're monitoring the sewer system in Louisville. And by doing so, they can monitor very accurately the prevalence of the COVID or the sires SARS-CoV-2 virus in the Louisville population. I won't go into any more details on that because it's kind of gross, but it works really well. And no one thought about that. Everyone thought, "How can we do a million tests a day? Don't bother, it's already in the sewer." Now, you can't tell one person, "Oh, you have COVID or you don't." But you get a beautiful macro of your city and say, "Oh, Louisville is trending like yay." And you can also get it down to zip code level because you can intercept at different parts of the sewer system and see where is COVID rising or falling in shedded cells. It's amazing.

Brian Cooley:

So that was one that was kind of easy to do and amazingly useful. And it'll be useful for the future because you can use that same technology for a lot of other conditions that you can sense that way. Again, on a population basis, not individual. The other thing that I think is very exciting is the area of cars and cities. That's the one that I think has got real painter. We have to rapidly get the cars in the world when they're in city areas to know the big five. Cyclists, pedestrians, fuel or charging, traffic and signals and parking. Those are five buckets I look at to say there is no reason in 2021 why we shouldn't have cars that are aware of those five all the time. Where are they, what status are they in? Whether I'm trying to charge or park or not run someone over. That needs to be done yesterday. And so that's one of the most important parts of smart city that you'll see I think really make a huge difference in a lot of ways. Some of the other stuff's a little more fatuous.

Elena:

Thank you.

Brian Cooley:

Thank you.

Speaker 13:

Hey Brian. One thing about the cars that I didn't hear you address, I'm sure you've thought about it. You said the criteria for picking was priced and charge time and maintenance. But I think the whole ownership model will be questioned. And I had somebody who recently moved to Miami, and he said, "I want to keep all my Uber receipts for the next three months." If I don't spend over X dollars, I'm not going to buy a car."

Brian Cooley:

Interesting. And has he come to a decision yet? Do you know?

Speaker 13:

I don't know, I don't know. I know people who are flexible, if they need to drive up north, they'll rent a van. If they need to go here, they'll rent this. It doesn't make sense sometimes to buy a 30,000, 20,000, 30, 40, whatever thousand dollar car, have sit in traffic for an hour, park it someplace for 12 hours a day. It unbelievable. And it seems like-

Brian Cooley:

You've touched on one of my favorite hot buttons, which is buying cars basically never makes any sense. The car is not the ultimate driving machine, to paraphrase BMW, it is the ultimate parking machine. You're overestimating how much we use it. The known number in the auto industry that is that all cars park 96% of their life from showroom to scrap yard. That is ridiculous. That is the least utilized product that is expensive I think in the entire consumer life. There's nothing else that I buy that's over a thousand dollars anyway that I use so little. And yet when I do use it, it does something that nothing else can do. It does a big burly job, and it does it with luxury. It's an amazing machine I'm not trying to be naive, but it is the strangest thing.

Brian Cooley:

And add to that this, we have an enormous refining and gasoline infrastructure in this country. It's a huge industry, right? And all it does is power cars. That's basically a one-note song, electricity powers almost everything, even natural does more. Natural gas can heat, it can cook, it can do all kinds of stuff. Gasoline does one thing, it runs combustion engines. It's really strange how little it does. Now, it does a lot of them, but it does almost really nothing more than one thing. So gasoline looks really exposed and vulnerable as you start to look at it that way. And that's also part of the story of how the car, it's a really weird market. It's vibrant, and there's all kinds of conspiracy theories about how the car took off, how some of the biggest auto makers made sure that they could plunge a knife in the heart of early subway and rail systems and to advocate along with certain families I won't name that made sure we had sprawl and developed suburbs and all of that.

Brian Cooley:

And I'm not against suburbs. I live in the suburbs, and I love it. But that's not to say that they came about the right way all the time. So the car is the most wasted thing that we own. And the average price, as you point out, is pushing $40,000 right now. The price of cars has gone up much faster than our ability to afford them. Financing has made the difference, of course. But that's a false shroud around their affordability.

Stephanie:

I think we have time for maybe one or two more. Helena?

Ricardo:

Yes. I'm Ricardo from Mexico City, how are you?

Brian Cooley:

Hi Ricardo.

Ricardo:

Great talk, Brian.

Brian Cooley:

Well, thanks for joining us.

Ricardo:

I read an article today about Elon Musk with his rockets, he has been sending satellites. And his next venture is Starlink, so he wants to give internet to the whole world. He got 500,000 people sign up and paying $90 for being the first in line. Do you think he will make it a success, in the next five years, he will make it?

Brian Cooley:

I think Starlink has a bright future. My colleague, John Kim, who's one of our senior editors, he's tested, I have not. But I've talked to him and I've watched his video. And if you just Google John Kim Starlink, K-I-M is the last name, you'll see a really good test. He got one of the very first systems, this is like a month and a half ago. Took it to his apartment here in San Francisco area and just set it up. No special help, no tech support. It worked really well, it was not hard to set up. He got about 75 or 80 megabits download speed. Now, for those of you who aren't broadband geeks, that's quite good. It's not killer. You can easily get hundreds of megabits today on a nice cable connection. But 75 megabits, everybody can be streaming Netflix in the house and have plenty of room for whatever else you're doing, it's a very good connection.

Brian Cooley:

And they should be doubling it, they say within about a year so that you'll have about 150 megabits. And that's real world, that's not stated. They state higher, but he says, "I actually got 75 megabits." And I think he got eight megabits going up, which is perfectly good for Zooms or what have you. So I think Starlink is already there, it just needs to hone and refine it. And it's expensive for what it does. It charges you, like you mentioned, nearly a hundred dollars for what ... I'm getting 10 times the bandwidth for the same price through Comcast. But this is an old established technology that I'm using, cable. So Starlink is not going to be as fast or as affordable, but it may come to a sweet spot for a lot of people where they say, you know what, it's the right choice for me.

Brian Cooley:

The other one to watch is 5G, not for mobile, but 5G to the home. This is a lesser known and lesser appreciated part of 5G where you have a router in your house like you do now, but it's not connected to cable or to the phone company, it's connected to 5G wirelessly so you have an invisible 5G wire coming to your house. And then that gets translated into wifi just like you currently use. But that puts a lot of new players in the market like T-Mobile who suddenly becomes a home broadband provider as opposed to it just being the one or two choices you have now. If we know anything about 5G, its best days are ahead of it, and its highest speeds are still ahead of it. We ain't seen nothing yet. 5G can be blisteringly fast, especially in rather dense areas like large suburbs and cities. It will be very, very fast. So that's another option to look at.

Ricardo:

And there's billions of people coming into the internet that have never-

Brian Cooley:

Have never.

Ricardo:

Been there.

Brian Cooley:

No, there are so many people who are still on 2G. Many of you are too young to know what 2G was, you never had a 2G or a two and a half G phone. That's a phone without the internet for those of you who are wondering. There were such things. But today we take it for granted that everyone has 4G, and 3G is something we laugh at. You got to be of a certain age to know what 3G was. It was painful, that's what it was. Like you say, there are literally two to three billion people who've never had broadband wirelessly. It's not available where they are, either economically or geographically or both. That is a huge untapped market. We currently have about three billion activated smartphones in the world. Well, that can go to six if you look at the world population. That's a huge lot of headroom for a very interesting industry.

Ricardo:

Incredible. Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Brian.

Brian Cooley:

Thank you. Yeah, good point. Want to tee up one more?

Stephanie:

Sure. Actually, this one I think is good for everybody to hear. But Brian, what is your strategy or outline for learning about new tech and understanding their future potential?

Brian Cooley:

I'm lucky to work at CNET obviously. We have a lot of editors, I'm just one of them. But I'm able to kind of stand on their shoulders and harvest all their work like anyone could by reading it. But I also read a lot of other publications online, I read a lot of financial trades because the business press is important for you as creatives who may be either messaging technology or developing technology. You need to always watch what the financial press does. Not because it's a Wall Street thing, but because they are tapped into a very good set of real-world indicators of what investors are going to do and what consumers are going to pay for. And you can't do anything around tech unless you've got investors getting you started and consumers sustaining you after you get started.

Brian Cooley:

It's the manna of any technology that you may work on, startup or support with marketing or messaging. So always watch the financial press' take on technology. Not just the tech press, the tech press tends to be in love with all tech and then turns around and hates it for some reason, but that's a whole different psychology. And the other thing that I always like to keep an eye on is to make sure that I'm looking at places that are not necessarily tech. And you know them, Amazon, it's one of our biggest competitors, and we're not a store in any way, shape or form. But Amazon is one of our biggest competitors because it's where people look for advice on tech, we all do it. We go to Amazon, look up laptop and then sort by stars and then read a few comments. Look at the price and then buy it or not.

Brian Cooley:

That is a purchase research path. I don't care where you get it, that's researching tech. So always be aware of where consumers go not just what platforms say we are this or we are that. Look at what consumers decide by their behavior is this or that. If they deign to make Amazon a tech reviews website, then guess what, Amazon is a tech reviews website. And it absolutely is, it's just not the kind that I work for where it's professional editors. It's crowd wisdom, fine. Wherever the consumer goes, you've got to respect it.

Stephanie:

Brilliant way to wrap up the session. Thank you, Brian.

Brian Cooley:

It's a good question. So thanks so much. I know we had a nice after session, which I love. I love the questions because the questions keep me thinking about the right things too. Keep me sharp. I hope and keep my priorities in the right place. So I really appreciate you guys sticking around and having so many questions and being so thoughtful.

Hank:

Brian, would you be up for people reaching out if they have other questions-

Brian Cooley:

Of course, yeah. And my email address is an easy one, it's brianc, B-R-I-N, C, @cnet.com, brianc@cnet. If you have any other questions or if something came up and you just didn't get a chance to ask, just shoot me an email. And I'm happy to throw an answer back to you.

Hank:

This has been fascinating today, thank you so much. You've probed questions for everybody, I guess. If the business of the future is to be dangerous, you've laid it out for us.

Brian Cooley:

Yeah. The future is a very special place. I hope to get there one day.

Hank:

Yeah. So everybody catch CNET, catch Brian. And it's pretty amazing what that's all about.

Brian Cooley:

It is.

Hank:

Thank you everybody for coming today. Brian, thank you.

Brian Cooley:

Thank everyone. Thanks Hank, thanks Pippa, thanks everybody.

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