Ringing in 2020 with Consumer Electronics Galore–Futurum Tech Podcast

CES 2020, the Consumer Electronics Show happening this week in Las Vegas, will offer up some winners and some losers – we let you know what to expect. Plus the latest on deep fake technologies, Intel’s quantum computing chips, VMware’s shift to the cloud, and how Russia is edging closer to shutting off the global Internet – all this and more on this week’s edition of the Futurum Tech Podcast.

Our Main Dive

It’s 2020, and that means it’s time for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2020, running January 7 – 10 in Las Vegas. As the pre-eminent event of the season for all things glitzy and tech we’d be remiss to not kick off the new year without a preview of this spectacle in the main dive of our first Futurum Tech Podcast of the year. Speaking of tech, we’re expecting a lot from this year’s event, from Artificial Intelligence to Alexa in your shower, from electric vehicles to #sextech (a new category this year).

But first, let’s put some context around CES. This show is big – so big that it’s virtually impossible for one person to take it all in. But that’s okay, because CES isn’t about the “new” as much as it is the “cool” and while there’s likely something for everybody to see at this show, attendees (and virtual attendees) can pick the types of products and events that are important to them and dive right in. Our own Daniel Newman has a great suggestion for tracking this event: plan, plan and plan. By doing some homework in advance, taking a look at the categories that are important to you and taking into account how packed this event will be you can create your own “journey map” for the event.

Another option is to go social. Twitter is awash with announcements and coverage of the event, offering the opportunity for users to follow hashtags that are important, such as #CES2020 (the main hashtag) with specific topics of interest, such as #ai, #autonomousvehicles, #iot… you get the picture.

Personally, I’m closely tracking technologies that are most likely to impact consumer (and brand) behavior. While there are a lot of feature-rich products on display, areas such as mobility, electronic vehicles, and motorcycle safety (including a sweet partnership between electronic motorcycle vendor Damon and Blackberry, leveraging QNX as the means to improve rider awareness and safety).

Our Principal Analyst, Daniel Newman, has a few themes to follow, including 5G being used to connect to everything; new physical formats for electronics and compute platforms (from foldable phones to roll-able TV screens); lighter-weight devices (such as VR goggles); and the streaming wars continuing to heat up.

For more info on the event, check out the official CES 2020 site.

Our Fast Five

We dig into this week’s interesting and noteworthy news:

  • Deep Fakes go TikTok. I’ve been a strong advocate for the ethical use of technology, and the development of AI-based technologies that can create “fake” audio and video that looks like the real thing has been used in just about every unethical manner possible, which brings us to TikTok. Tech Crunch is reporting that TikTok, working with its parent company, ByteDance, has been developing its own deep fake technology to improve its face-swap features. Sure, it may be cool, but it’s also introducing its billions of users to the art of digital fakery, and we’re not so sure that is a good thing.
  • Intel’s new Cryogenic Horse Ridge Chip for Quantum Computing. We think quantum computing is a game changer, as our own Daniel Newman discusses Intel’s announcement of its new Horse Ridge cryogenic control chip, designed to control multiple qubits (quantum bits) and opening up the possibility for the development of large-scale quantum computers. He believes this could help other companies, such as Honeywell, Microsoft and Amazon, move towards quantum computing at scale.
  • Artificial Intelligence Boosts Cancer Detection. In his quest to inform the world on the value of human-machine partnerships, Olivier Blanchard dives into a recently published paper that highlights the gains that Google and a team of medical researchers have made in leveraging AI to improve the early detection of certain types of cancer. Well-done, Google.
  • Apple Rethinks its Imagination Play. After abandoning graphics chip manufacturer Imagination Technologies back in 2017, Apple appears set to restart its use of Imagination’s latest developments in its mob8le and desktop products. Why the return? Imagination has been developing next-generation ray tracing technologies, essentially a better approach to rendering graphics (and a must-have for Augmented or Virtual Reality and gaming). Now let’s see Apple and 3rd-party developers use their imaginations.
  • VMware Buys Back Pivotal Software, Sort Of. As Daniel Newman explains, VMware and Pivotal Software were part of EMC, which Dell Technologies purchased for $67 billion back in 2015. Pivotal, a provider of cloud-based digital transformation tools, was ultimately spun out as a publicly traded company in 2018. But the company has struggled of late, with VMware (still partially owned by Dell Technologies) stepping up and paying $2.7 billion to bring Pivotal back into the fold and strengthen VMware’s push to bring virtual machine technology to the cloud. Bravo.

Tech Bites

Russia’s Success is the Internet’s Failure. I’ll admit it, I’m as much a fan of an open Internet as I am of protecting the privacy of user data. And Russia, well, is being Russia. And China. In an effort to protect Russian citizens from the dangers of everything not Russian, Russia has successfully completed a test of a system that would essentially allow Russia to disconnect from the global Internet (or more appropriately isolate its citizens inside a domestic bubble). While we understand the need to prevent cyber attacks and information warfare, this move is just another step closer to a nationalized Internet, with individual countries controlling who its citizens can communicate with and what types of information and content they can share. Not good, not good at all in our opinion.

Crystal Ball: Future-um Predictions and Guesses

Returning to our main dive topic, Olivier Blanchard tasked Dan and I to predict our Winner and Loser of this year’s CES show. Dan’s big on AI as the winning theme of the show, but also believes that too much AI in the wrong place (like in bathrooms and the new Kohler/Amazon Alexa-enabled showerhead) will likely be the big loser as well.

Personally, I’m expecting the melding of AI and mobility to be a big winner as companies leverage smart technology to improve how consumers move and navigate in the real world. As for losers, I’m afraid we’re in for an oversaturation of cool-but-not-needed features as non-tech brands struggle to keep themselves relevant by adding tech to everything (again, the Kohler/Amazon battle).

Oliver closes out our crystal ball with his own winners to watch at CES, focusing on the rapidly maturing melding of tech with fitness and health technologies that have the ability to improve how we live, offering an additional potential winner in the strengthening of smart home technologies that are selectively or properly integrated in our everyday lives.


Olivier Blanchard: Welcome to this week’s edition of FTP, the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Olivier Blanchard, Senior Analyst with Futurum Research and joining me today, our Principal Analyst, Daniel Newman and Senior Analyst Extraordinaire Fred McClimans. How are you guys doing today? And Happy New Year by the way, this is our first show of the year.

Daniel Newman: Happy New Year. It’s good to be back. It’s been a while here and I want to know how do I get to be Principal Analyst Extraordinaire like Fred over there. Or as it says Freddie under his little tab nobody can see as they’re listening.

Fred McClimans: So to kind of answer that question, hey, great to see you guys as well in 2020.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, you’re looking at a map of me. My camera’s giving fits, but that’s okay. Nobody has to know that it’s a podcast anyways.

Fred McClimans: Right. So for our listeners, when we record this podcast, we are using an app called SquadCast that allows us to watch each other to basically a video app that records locally. So we get good sound quality and we can see each other, we can tease each other, we can poke each other, all that fun sort of stuff. On the screen here, we’ve got myself Freddie, we’ve got Olivier titled as ignorant as a Rex.

We have Dan Newman who is listed as the tough presenter on the screen, but we don’t see Dan. All we see is a map of I’m guessing Illinois somewhere. And then of course in the upper right hand corner as always is Marty the wonderful magician who makes all this magic happen and makes us sound so incredibly good.

Daniel Newman: And that’s the actual sound quality we should point out not the things we say. Marty has nothing to do with that.

Olivier Blanchard: Right, there’s only two brains between us so we do what we can. Okay, so-

Daniel Newman: Happy New Year everyone, I mean my gosh it’s another year and at least from me as a Principal Analyst of the firm and Owner I’d say thanks everyone for a great last year. Of course you guys and Marty and the producers and thanks to everyone who listened to us, we’re super excited to get this year started.

It is officially the 3rd of January that we are recording this on in case anyone’s wondering. There’s no tape delay here. This wasn’t recorded last year and we are sneaking it in as a new… This is the first podcast of a new year, and we are excited and I’m going to turn it back to the host because I’m doing what I always do, which is taking it over. I didn’t mean to do that, but I did want to just say hi and it’s been a while so I’m really kind of excited to be back. A little nervous.

Olivier Blanchard: I know. It’s been a while. And by the way, I think we’re officially the fastest growing research firm in the galaxy. So that’s good too. So yes, that’s a good way to start 2020. Okay, so we’re going to start today’s show with a discussion about CES. CES is upon us again, so we’ll talk about some of the tech that we expect to see there. And then we’ll circle back a little bit later to touch on the winners and losers may be.

But we’ll also share some of our favorite tech news stories of the week in our Fast Five segment, followed by Tech Bites in which we highlight at least one of the biggest tech related fails of the week. And we’ll end the show with our Crystal Ball, which like I just suggested, we’ll swing back to CES and we’ll predict which technologies and which products will be the winners and losers in our vein.

As always before we start, it goes without saying that this show is intended for informational purposes only and no advice or insights provided here today should be taken as investment advice. Okay guys, CES is upon us and I’m already seeing all of my social media newsfeed being flooded with kind of interesting product announcements but also kind of ridiculous product announcements. And CES is a huge show. It’s almost too big. It encompasses everything now because tech and essentially consumer facing technology has embedded itself in pretty much everything from kitchen utensils to showers.

First of all, let’s just start with this and I’ll start with you Dan, since you’re so psyched to be here. How do people wrap their minds around CES? Because it’s so much and so compressed in such a short period of time. What’s a good way for especially like me being someone who’s been at CES a number of times to help our listeners wrap their heads around what they should focus on and what they should not focus on?

Daniel Newman: Well, I think as a whole everybody needs to think about what they want to gain out of a show like CES. It is by far too physically large for any one person to get across that floor. So if you are attending like our very own James Kobielus, who’s a new analyst on our team who will be out there. You sort of have to narrow it down and say, what are we hoping? Are we looking to see the future of AI autonomous vehicles? And then there’s a part of the show that’s going to be really dialed into that.

Are we looking at new gadgets? Are we looking at gaming, are we looking at new compute, or new devices? And by the way, the show really hasn’t been a place to launch new devices for a number of years. Gadgets, yes, so drones, Alexa powered shower heads, when we were talking about that. And you’ve seen quite a few demonstrations, so Mercedes Benz last year or two years ago was driving people around in a fully autonomous vehicle on a predetermined track in Las Vegas that it was taking people to kind of show the example of level four autonomy.

But as you’re kind of heading to the show, if you’re actually heading to the show, it really comes down to what is it that you’re looking to get out? Which companies are you looking to see? And do your homework. We don’t usually make this show a public service announcement or a PSA of recommendations for people. As a whole Fred, I have no idea what you’re showing me buddy and this goes back to that video, but as a whole, what I really do recommend that everybody does is you take a look at all the companies that are going to be there.

What interests you? Like I said, is it AI, is it vehicles? Is it gadgets? And kind of narrow it down and have some predetermined stops along the way because you will find if you try to cover the whole floor, you will see nothing. And just expect things to be crowded. Budget time to get places. It’s going to take longer to get anywhere that you think you want to go. If you want to get across the strip from somewhere on the North side of the strip to the South side of the strip, it can take an hour. You could probably walk faster.

It makes me think at the beginning of office space, the guy in the walker along the side of the road, that’s sometimes what traffic looks like at CES. But as a whole, like I said, map your journey, try to get some things in and do what I do and that’s get the right hashtags in your Twitter stream, follow the news, hear what’s hot, and hopefully you know some people that get you invited to the right parties or do what I’m going to do and stay home, read it online and be really, really happy that you’re getting a good night’s sleep.

Olivier Blanchard: What about you Fred? How do you follow CES? What are the things that you… Actually no, let me rephrase that. What this year, what topics and what product categories kind of strike your fancy or?

Fred McClimans: Well, first I have to say that I’m impressed that Dan worked in journey mapping or mapping the journey into that discussion.

Daniel Newman: Thank you.

Fred McClimans: But yeah, no CES is one of those shows and we were I think joking about this earlier today, offline actually online, CES like so many things has jumped the shark, so to speak. There was a time when CES was really about, hey, here’s all the cool stuff. Here are the buyers. Here’s what consumers are going to be buying this year.

People would see the products, they’d make their plans, they’d sign deals, they’d do all the kinds of things that you would expect for a consumer based electronic show.

Today however, it is so much bigger than that. It’s one of those things that I kind of look at it and for me it’s not really what are all the mainstream new things? I mean there are some really cool mainstream new things. Some of the OLED TVs and so forth are coming up. And by the way, if we’re going to call it OLED, not O-L-E-D, we probably should call it CES instead of CES. Just my personal take on that. For me this year there are a number of things that I’m personally very interested in, and it kind of dovetails down or kind of walks down two different paths.

One, tech that isn’t really tech, in other words, at CES this year, like we saw last year, this year we’re going to see it even more. Companies that want to ride the tech wave that are putting tech into their non-tech products so they can get out there in front of everybody. This is the Alexa in the shower head moment, and there’s a lot of that stuff out there.

It’s always interesting to see what brands are willing to do, how far they’re willing to go to convince somebody that a commode is really an electronics device. The other thing that I’m really interested in are things that personally to me I think have an impact in and kind of some breakthrough moments. For example, this year there are a couple of things in the EV space, electric vehicles space, particularly with motorcycles and motorcycle safety. I’m an avid, have been for years, a motorcyclist. And when I see some of the things coming out here, Damon this year with the new electric bike that is powered safety-wise by Blackberry actually.

They’ve got a whole suite of safety components that go into the motorcycle and into the gear. Everything from better communications and visual awareness to vibration sensing in the handlebars as a, hey, heads up, something’s happening. So I look for those things that are kind of breakthrough. I mean for me it’s not really about who has the best pixels or who’s going to come out with 5G first or last in this space. But it’s innovation that kind of takes a game to the next level. And that’s what I’m looking for.

Daniel Newman: Fred, have you used a toilet in South Korea or Japan? I’m sorry, but that is electronics at its best.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes, I was going to say, yeah.

Daniel Newman: I saw this in a stand up comedy bit. I think it was Jim Gaffigan said it, so I don’t want to take credit. But he says in Japan, it’s the only place in the world where you actually leave a bathroom cleaner than when you came into it. So think about that.

Fred McClimans: As one should.

Daniel Newman: Because it’s never like that in America.

Olivier Blanchard: Right.

Daniel Newman: You go into any public restroom, that’s not how it works.

Fred McClimans: So Olivier, I’m curious from you, and by the way, yes, I will not be at CES this year, but I will be there in spirit. I’ve got three computer monitors, I’ve got two cell phones, I’ve got an iPad. All of them will be streaming different things from the event, different live streams, different hashtag searches. I think you can get so much out of that. It’s not the same as being there but as Dan said, we will all wake up much more rested in the morning.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. But it’s kind of like I talk to my mom who lives in France once a week and she’s really into her soap operas. And she gets very upset if she misses one day of her favorite. So one episode. But the reality is that she could skip a week and kind of jump right back into it and she hasn’t really missed anything. She’ll get it. She hasn’t missed that much of the plot. CES to me is a little bit like that. It’s good to go, but if you skip a year or you go every other year or every two years, realistically, unless there’s a huge paradigm shift that’s happened all at once and very quickly, you’re not really going to be sidelined by new technologies.

We’re all aware that 5G is here. We’re aware of virtual reality and EVs and smart vehicles or at least connected vehicles, semi smart vehicles and electronic toilets, which by the way are fantastic and I’m super impressed with electronic toilets. They’re going to get smarter. It’s too bad they’re just not a little bit more affordable otherwise, everybody would have one. But I think if it’s okay to at the very least spend one year going for a few days and have a plan, and then spend the next year just kind of following up on what you saw the previous year online and you’ll be fine. And you can probably actually kind of space it out every two, three years.

Fred McClimans: Yeah, that’s kind of like if CES were actually CIS. So you have CIS and you have CES or CIS, Miami, then CIS, Las Vegas. They’re all kind of the same. You can catch up pretty quickly on the story.

Olivier Blanchard: It’s also like the Olympics of tech. So the Olympics only come every four years. And it’s okay, you don’t miss out on swimming and track in between. It’s just-

Fred McClimans: So here’s an interesting aspect of this though. I mean this is tech allowing us to absorb tech. We have at CES, so many people, as you pointed out, it’s impossible to go to all the places that you want to see. There’s just so much there. You could run around all day long and only touch a fraction of what is at the event. But with the interwebs and with social media, and with the variety of tech biz news outlets that are out there and all the reporters, we have this amazing auto curating system in social media, in all these sites, so much information you can almost say, “Look, the things that are hot at the show, they will get attention and they will float up to the top.”

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. And you know what? That’s actually a really good place to stop. So I definitely recommend-

Fred McClimans: Floating to the top.

Olivier Blanchard: Floating to the top. We started with electronic toilets and we ended with floating to the top. So yes, of course, we would go there because we’re that kind of podcast. But no, I’m actually excited about CES and I’m very excited that I’ll get to watch it from a distance this year. And I think in a way it will be less overwhelming and a little bit more focused. But I am looking at what’s coming out in new TVs with and without bezels. I’m not sure what the obsession is with bezels. Actually, I like bezels because on TV bezels kind of protect the screen, especially when it’s a really expensive TV. So I don’t know, maybe I’m kind of old school that way, but I’m not a bezel snub.

Fred McClimans: Amazon sells only TVs with bezels. Jeff Bezels.

Olivier Blanchard: Okay. All right. So we’re definitely… Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Is this like the corny humor edition?

Olivier Blanchard: Yes, we’re definitely done with this segment. Wow, welcome to 2020.

Daniel Newman: Well give me a chance.

Olivier Blanchard: Okay, I’m sorry.

Daniel Newman: No, it’s okay. I mean I wrote an article with my five big themes, because who wouldn’t do a predictions piece on CES. So I wrote a piece on Forbes and I’ll just kind of throw out my predictions, and I don’t predict specific products for these kinds of shows because like I said, one is, I don’t think it’s a great platform anymore for launching important new products. Two is we are sort of 80 20 enterprise focused. So we do like our devices, but a lot of our work tends to focus on the enterprise. So I kind of always try to look at that link. But here’s what I said. I said, one 5G is mainstream. We’re going to see 5G connected to a lot of discussions about how everything is connecting at CES this year.

Two, we are going to see a ton of new formats for devices. Not so much like I said, the device launches and sells, but we’re going to see more foldable stuff. We’re going to see these roller based OLED screens that can be placed on the wall. You’re going to see formats without bezels. You’re going to see new physical formats for compute, whether that’s when yoga came out in the flexible displays. We’re just going to start to see and hear about more of what companies are planning to do with those kinds of things. Even the Zhao meta device, we’re going to hear about that. The one that’s got the screen 360 degrees of screen, but I did say this, I think MWC will be the point where a lot of this stuff takes its biggest splash. It’s going to be at mobile world, not at CES.

The autonomous vehicles will be a hot topic. We’re going to hear a lot about what companies are doing with EVs, about autonomous vehicles. We’re going to hear from the chip makers that are all there. Intel’s there, Qualcomm’s there, Nvidia is there. Nvidia just had their GTC event and launched a brand new drive platform. We’re going to hear more about that. This is a place and a platform where that’s going to be discussed. One of the gadgets I do think we’re going to see a little more of is going to be lighter weight headsets for VR and AR. And that’s going to be driven by 5G again because 5G devices in our pockets give the speed connectivity and low latency required for lighter weight headsets.

And then last thing, I think there’s going to be this underlying theme of content and streaming content becoming more of a dominant part of the CES conversation. It might not be on the floor, but if you actually look at the content through the keynotes panels, we’re going to be hearing a lot about the competition that’s going to be going on. One of the areas I’m really focused on is obviously who’s going to win between the Netflix, Apples and Disney plus. And I think we’re going to be hearing more just about how content’s going to evolve because ultimately what fills our screens is this content. And it’s going to be what drives which devices we choose and which networks we connect to, and which providers we buy services from.

So those are the five big themes I think I’m seeing for CES this year. They will underline a lot of the specific announcements. So look out for those five themes and everything that you will read over the next week and there. Now we officially actually put some content in this segment.

Olivier Blanchard: All right. Yes. Thanks for putting the meats into our podcast burger at the last minute. I appreciate that.

Daniel Newman: Is it an Impossible Burger? Does it really not taste like meat?

Olivier Blanchard: No, it’s a very possible burger. I think this was real beat. All right, cool. And apologies to our vegetarian and vegan friends.

Fred McClimans: I don’t eat beef.

Olivier Blanchard: You don’t?

Fred McClimans: Yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: Is it that you don’t like it or you can’t?

Fred McClimans: No. Beef is one of the things that I can eat, but I don’t, I eat a lot of other meats.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. Actually, we should probably do a segment on that at some point, but I’ve actually cut back on my consumption of land meat as well. All right, just as a footnote. Okay. So let’s move on to our Fast Five. Fred, I think that you want to tell us about deepfakes. And I’m sorry that Shelly’s not here because that’s a topic of great and profound interest to her.

Fred McClimans: Yes, it is deepfakes. I mean, we’ve been talking about deepfakes for a couple of years here now. And for those that aren’t aware what a deep fake is, it’s essentially the ability to leverage AI technology to change an image or a movie in such a way that you literally create a movie that doesn’t really exist. Imagine taking your face and putting it on Denzel Washington’s body in every movie that he’s ever been in. That’s the kind of capability we’re talking about here.

Some of them are so realistic that it’s scary. Politicians saying things that they haven’t said, doing things that they haven’t done, people doing things they haven’t done before. But in this case here, this just gets all the more bizarre because it turns out that ByteDance, which is the parent company of ticktock, formerly Musically, they have embedded into their system a deep learning capability or sorry, a deep learning, a deep fake capability that goes beyond the typical Instagram, Snapchat, Faceswap kind of thing. That actually apparently is pretty scary in what it can do.

So imagine you’re sending a video of yourself to a friend. You put your face on some actors body or some actors face on your body and there you go. You start sharing it on TikTok. And it’s interesting because the argument here for doing this on one side is that by putting an app like this out there that educates people on how easy it is to create these fakes, maybe people say, “Oh, I’m not going to trust what I see as often as I did in the past.” In other words, seeing it isn’t necessarily mean you have to believe it. So there’s an educational aspect of this. I think that’s kind of horse shit.

This is a technology that is quickly making its way into the hands of people around the world and not just adults but children as well. And the technology I know will be abused just like deepfakes have been abused out there. So it’s a troubling thing and I think that there needs to be a much, much stronger emphasis put on the regulation of deepfake technology and its use in applications, as well as the development of systems that can spot deepfake tools. And it turns out, by the way, that AI is the best tool we have available right now. Just bought an AI based deepfake. So it’s an interesting one out there. It’s not the way I expected to kick off 2020 but there we have it. Deepfakes starting to make their way into mainstream apps. Oh boy.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, that’s going to be fun. So thanks for that. Thanks for that uplifting check report. Daniel, you have something about quantum computing and Intel.

Daniel Newman: Well first of all Fred, thanks for this low five.

Olivier Blanchard: Thanks for the deep dive.

Daniel Newman: That was a full dive. I love it buddy. I love it. Just so you know.

Fred McClimans: Yes.

Daniel Newman: And I’m out of time, let’s go on to the next one. All right, so I’ll make this quick Intel introduced its cryogenic control chip that they code named Horse Ridge and it’s going to be used to speed up the development of quantum computing systems. And basically this Horse Ridge chip is going to be available to commercially viable quantum computers based on superconducting technology, which is one of the two different types of technology that’s utilized for quantum. It’s important to note this because there’s one called ion trapping and one called super conducting and they’re done very differently.

Intel is focused on the cryogenic control. It helps the people be able to manage and control multiple cubits at the same time, which is a critical feature if you want to be able to do quantum at scale. Temperature regulation is also super important and with this new control chip as opposed to typical superconducting which has to be operated at absolute zero, you can actually do this at four Calvin, which gives the opportunity to simplify this process just a little bit for those companies doing it.

Overall for 2020 I’m talking a lot about quantum. We’ve spent a little bit more time with some of the makers like Honeywell and Intel, and Microsoft and Amazon that are both deploying these technologies in the cloud believe it or not. I still think it’s very early. I still think people are really trying to figure out what quantum is going to be used for, but right now what we have figured out is there are certain things that quantum are going to be able to do that classical computing cannot do or accomplish. That’s what quantum supremacy is all about and that’s what the focus is of companies like Google, IBM, and these others right now. But Intel’s new chip is going to work with those companies and help speed up the deployment of commercially available quantum systems and there you have it. You now know all you need to know in 2020 about quantum computing.

Fred McClimans: Dan, one of the cool things that I’m waiting for in this whole quantum race is quantum encryption. That’s something that this technology is leading to very quickly, as well as [crosstalk 00:21:47].

Daniel Newman: Will that stop a deepfake that will be on TikTok doing a dance to Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice?

Fred McClimans: Let me tell you, there are many things including me and probably Olivier that would stop you from posting that. Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: I’ve been waiting my entire life for that sentence to finally be uttered. So yeah, good TikTok and Vanilla Ice in the same sentence. It’s actually pretty fantastic. All right, so in my quest to inform the general public and the world at large about the benefits of human machine partnerships, which by the way plug Daniel and I wrote a book on this very topic in the last few months and it just came out. So if you haven’t bought it yet, it’s called Human/Machine, which is a book about the future of automation and human machine partnerships.

I found an interesting story that was a good plug, right? I found an interesting story today in the New York times about a paper released by Google in… Well actually it’s not technically Google, but researchers from Google medical and medical centers in the United States and Britain. I think it was published in the journal nature that focuses on the advances that Google and researchers have made in helping doctors and medical professionals diagnose cat scans and x-rays using AI computer vision in machine learning. And how much better this stuff is getting at detecting breast cancer, at detecting lung cancer very, very early when cancer cells are hiding in human tissue.

And so I just wanted to highlight this because one, it’s on theme with a lot of the stuff that we’ve talked about and that we’ve written about. Two, it’s a very encouraging step forward. We talk about all kinds of technologies and how they might be used in a negative way, whether it’s the deepfakes or surveillance. But in this particular case, this is a use of technology that is extremely beneficial to humanity at large that will save potentially millions of lives, and also that highlights the fact that AI and smart automation don’t have to be replacement schemes to kind of replace humans with machines, but help to augment the capabilities and the abilities of trained professionals.

We get the best results generally in technology use when humans and machines work together. So I’m really psyched too, and we’ll have a link to that in the show notes as well if you’re interested in reading more about it. So let’s go back to Fred.

Daniel Newman: Oh my gosh.

Olivier Blanchard: What? I’m sorry.

Daniel Newman: Oh no, I was just thinking it sounds like you’ve written a book about human machines. That was fantastic. You’ve probably even been building a deck. You sound like you’ve just been on top of this.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes, I’ve been obsessed with building several presentation decks actually.

Daniel Newman: I love it.

Fred McClimans: Did that book come out just this week in 2020?

Olivier Blanchard: No. Thanks for noticing that it came out.

Fred McClimans: So 2019.

Olivier Blanchard: It was a 2019 book, which by the way there’s an audio book version. So if you don’t like to read books, you just want to listen to somebody read it for you. You can get that on Amazon.

Daniel Newman: That’s super cool. Although I was a little bummed they didn’t ask Fred to read it with his golden throat.

Olivier Blanchard: I know, right? Yeah, that was an oversight. Next time.

Daniel Newman: He could have taught everybody about the Big Butler.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, big brother. Big mother, big Butler. It’s an obsession.

Fred McClimans: I’m not even sure where to go with that one.

Olivier Blanchard: Well, let’s go to Ray tracing.

Fred McClimans: Yes, ray tracing, and this is not ray as in Star Wars ray tracing. This actually has to do with Apple. So there’s a company in Britain, Imagination Technologies. You may recall they had a significant 70% stock drop in one day back in 2017 when Apple announced… Actually I think it was Imagination that announced that Apple would not be using its graphics chips moving forward in its iPhone products. So Apple went literally in one day one decision wiped out a company and we’ve seen that before. Apple has done a very successful job at creating and wiping out small companies where Apple happens to be the majority customer of that company. But the news gets better for Imagination Technologies.

They did not take this lightly. They have been working on a new series of GPUs or graphic processors, and have really come up with something called ray tracing that is a way that when you think about 3D imagery, ray tracing is the mechanism that you use to highlight light and shadows in an image. Basically allowing you to place an image in a room and say, here are all the various light sources. What would it actually look like realistically? And Imagination Technologies has just announced that they are back with Apple and that Apple will be using their technologies moving forward, and apparently in a much broader way than they were in the past. So great news for Imagination Technologies and its shareholders.

I hear better news for iPhone and perhaps MacBook consumers out there because these technologies really do make a difference. It’s technology that Nvidia and others have been bringing into the market over the last couple of years and you see the impact of it in gaming devices and so forth. So great news for Imagination Technologies, better news for consumers of iPhones and Apple products because the graphics are about to get really good.

Olivier Blanchard: Awesome. Good. Well it’s about time. No, I’m just kidding.

Fred McClimans: I knew that was coming. I knew that.

Olivier Blanchard: I like Apple it’s just I pretend that I don’t. Okay, so-

Fred McClimans: And that was a short fast five Dan.

Olivier Blanchard: Well, no comment.

Daniel Newman: Another thorough deep dive segment Fred goes in on ray tracing.

Olivier Blanchard: Ray tracing.

Daniel Newman: Can you give a little history?

Fred McClimans: I’m watching the clock on the monitor here and you guys are not short.

Olivier Blanchard: No, I know.

Fred McClimans: You’re not tall, but you’re not short.

Olivier Blanchard: I know. Jesus, with the dad jokes come on. All right. So what is our last and yeah, our final and probably the best fast five of all because we always keep the best for last, right Dan? Something about an acquisition VMware what? What did VMware buy now?

Daniel Newman: Well, it’s kind of an acquisition. So everyone remembers when Dell originally acquired EMC. Well, part of what they acquired was the company that held the majority of VMware and another company called Pivotal. Pivotal builds basically a platform to help companies with app modernization and cloud native environments. This was very early days. Essentially after the acquisition Pivotal spun off and went public again and VMware now has actually wholly acquired it. So as confusing as it is Dell Tech owns about 90% of the stock of VMware.

VMware still operates as its own company and now VMware has just bought 100% of the stock of Pivotal. In short, Pivotal is a cloud native platform provider of digital transformation technology and services. By golly, what does that mean? But basically you think about it this way, most people look at modernization as using SAS. In the most simple format modernization is getting rid of SAP and going to Salesforce.

And I say that in the most generic sense because I’m not recommending either of those two companies. I’m just saying SAS based CRM is considered easy on prem enterprise developed applications with high levels of complexity are considered old and hard. But the idea is a lot of these older, more difficult applications can’t just be flipped and turned over. But the idea really is to modernize them and run them like cloud native apps, so like Salesforce.

So that’s really what Pivotal is, it’s the ability to work within the confines of something like VMware in a virtualized environment to be able to do app modernization for cloud native applications and move them between your on prem and cloud environments. Simple, and there we go. Now VMware owns this company fully and it was a big acquisition as VMware’s… And the commitment to virtualization as a whole is going to be heavily dependent on fluidity with cloud native, which is more popular with things like Kubernetes that doesn’t really depend on virtualization, but it can work and coexist with virtualization. Does that all make sense? Did I do that in a fast enough amount of time? I’m not sure. That took about 94 seconds. Sorry about that. Moving on.

Olivier Blanchard: About 94 seconds, but just an aproximation.

Fred McClimans: That was two minutes and 54 seconds.

Daniel Newman: No way. This is going to be one of the most entertaining shows of the year, by the way. Maybe not the best content.

Olivier Blanchard: Maybe not the best, but the most entertaining. Well it’s the most entertaining so far this year.

Daniel Newman: Content has been great. Best show of the year guys.

Olivier Blanchard: It’s also yeah, it’s the best show of the year so far. Okay, cool. Well that does it for our Fast Five then. So let’s move over to tech bites. And there were a couple of contenders this week, but Fred suggestion one. So Fred, I’m going to let you lead with it. What happened today in the world of tech or this week in the world of tech that struck you as not particularly great?

Fred McClimans: Yeah. Does that mean that my Tech Bites did the worst?

Olivier Blanchard: Yes.

Fred McClimans: Okay. I won’t, okay, got it. So we always like to hear about successful technology tests, except when that successful test isn’t what we would consider to be a success. Case in point over the Christmas holiday season, Russia successfully completed a test of their let’s isolate ourselves from the rest of the world switch for the internet. Essentially what they did is they conducted a complete test that they said nobody in Russia even noticed it was happening that basically disables or turns off all the access points for nodes within Russia to the outside world, effectively allowing them to do something very similar to what Iran and China have done. Wall themselves off. Literally build the great firewall of China. Now is the great firewall of Russia.

A successful test yeah, perhaps but this is a really scary thing because what we’re seeing here on a global scale are countries that are looking to protect themselves or in the name of protecting themselves from virus attacks and misinformation campaigns and whatnot. Literally creating these barricades that allow them on a moment’s notice to turn off information and access to information for people within their country, and for people outside of their country as well. Kind of a scary thing, and I’m curious what you guys think about this, but I kind of look at it and say, we’ve got to find a way to put an end to this now because this is not what the internet is about or in my opinion, what it should be about.

Daniel Newman: So this segment could be called tech is awesome as well, right?

Fred McClimans: Yeah, it could be, sure tech is awesome. Yeah, it could be great.

Daniel Newman: Because I will say that while they’re walling off their technology is a little bit alarming. At the same time the ability to wall ourselves off to protect things like elections and democracy seems to have some potential upside to it. In the world where we want to do everything digitally, we’ve created all kinds of risk and vulnerability and we’ve already seen the way information attacks can be utilized to manipulate a democracy and this is probably the area that I would lean into as saying is how could this type of global architecture, for lack of a better nomenclature for this be utilized to put certain countries and nations in a protective state during very sensitive times.

Again, it’s not easy to just turn on and off and I get what you’re saying and the problems with these countries isolating themselves from the world, but at the same time they’ve kind of done this in in effect in different ways for a long time. China’s done it through a censoring information for a long time, having very, very strict limitations to what information non-nation organizations are able to utilize. Like Google, there’s this huge thing yesterday, I think you shared at Olivier about one of the former policy leaders of the company talking about the company’s willingness to put profit over the mission of the company.

But I guess as a whole, without deeply investigating this Fred, and I think you’ve read on this more than I have, is we do have to have some way understanding that the next war, the world’s largest wars are going to be digital warfare. They’re not going to be based upon weaponry anymore. That’s a tactic. But information is the most valuable asset on the planet right now. And that’s why every single day right now, the world’s largest and most important both democracies, governments, and enterprises are all at risk, under constant attack. So how do we protect that in a world where the hackers are moving faster a lot of times than the white hats?

Fred McClimans: Right, but think about this for a moment here. With this approach, and you’re right, we do need to protect ourselves from various attacks, every country needs to, and every business needs to. But just like in a cyber attack scenario here, firewalls, unless you physically disconnect from the rest of the world, firewalls are marginally effective. There are ways around it. Hackers only have to be right once to get into your system, whereas you protecting yourself have to be right all of the time.

The bigger issue here I think is that if you go back and look at the Russian information campaign or misinformation campaign that took place in the United States, it wasn’t just isolated to people sitting at a remote computer somewhere. There were actually people in the US, people that were acting knowingly or unknowingly on behalf of the Russian government performing these tasks.

So you can’t quite say, “Yes, we’re going to lock things down and not expect that somebody is going to get through.” But I think more importantly, the idea that you can simply turn off access to information around the world means that you can also control exactly what information the people within that country are seeing. And that is a scary thought, and yes, we need to protect elections and all that sorts of things. But putting yourself into a silo, as we know in the enterprise space, silos don’t work. Silos are not generally good, and we try and break down silos all the time.

Transparency is the best disinfectant. It’s the best thing that we know about getting value and benefit out of data, out of information, out of people, products, the works.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. There’s a difference between having a sort of kill switch and creating this kind of enclosed internet, and there’s a reason why the countries that are driving this arG China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and not Great Britain, Canada and Australia, right? There’s definitely a pattern. It’s a different vibe and it’s a different purpose I think than the true security intents as we see it in a free country.

Daniel Newman: Those countries tend to have stricter regulations of who enters and who exits. The teams tend to be much harsher for those that break their rules and their laws. So to Fred’s point about a lot of the internal bad actors on prem within they don’t have as many, they just don’t. There aren’t as many US-based again, I wouldn’t have any idea if there’s any but US-based hackers trying to break into North Korea to become on the ground. So what I’m saying is when they-

Olivier Blanchard: Well.

Daniel Newman: I said, aren’t as many, I don’t know the numbers.

I just know that it’s not going to be done in the same volume as what I think we’re suspicious with what is going on in a lot of nations that are more open border that tend to be more open. And this is a policy discussion. It’s a political discussion. But the bottom line is there is something interesting about this concept that probably needs to be explored deeper to understand how can domicile and geographic limitations aid a country in terms of protecting information?

Fred McClimans: Right. And next week on the authoritarian version of the Futurum Tech Podcast, we will dive into China’s surveillance program and how it’s shaping human behavior.

Olivier Blanchard: Wait, we already did that. That was last time. We can do it again.

Fred McClimans: There’s actually a really interesting subject in there that we should probably expand on in a future episode, but that is the relationship between a technology and authoritarian regimes and how technology is being subverted and what we may need to do to prevent that or to minimize the risk of that taking place.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, it’s kind of a slippery slope, right? When you’re in an authoritarian regime and you’re starting to see big technology shift from big mother to big brother, you’re already an authoritarian regime. It’s not fully mature yet and that’s the threat. It’s kind of a slow roll. It takes a while to fully metastasize and by the time it does, it’s a little late. We keep conscious about that.

Fred McClimans: And then you have countries like the United States that have sort of that the big cousin authoritarian system where it’s not the government necessarily, it’s the Facebooks, it’s the Googles, it’s all the companies that are buying and selling and trading all of the data on its citizens. Which not a big brother, not a big mother. I’ll call it a big cousin.

Olivier Blanchard: Dan we have to add a chapter.

Fred McClimans: Maybe a big uncle or something.

Olivier Blanchard: Second edition for Human/Machine.

Fred McClimans: Your big creepy step uncle.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes, that is exactly right. Big neighbor with its binoculars.

Fred McClimans: Mark Zuckerberg, the big creepy step uncle.

Daniel Newman: The big peeping Tom.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. Okay, cool. Well, we have time just for one more segment, which is our Crystal Ball. And so as promised, we’re going to circle back to CES. So guys, hopefully you’ve had a little bit of time to think about this.

What do you think will be the big winner of CES this year and the big loser? And it doesn’t have to be a particular company. It doesn’t have to be a particular product or gadget. It can be a category, it can be a theme. But Daniel, what do you think? Yeah, what’s your big winner or big loser combo for this year’s CES?

Daniel Newman: Big winner’s going to be Amazon. It’s going to be Alexa and everything. I think we’re going to just see this just unbelievable amount. Last year I said AI inside this year it’s Alexa inside. Everybody’s putting Alexa inside everything. So Amazon wins. I think the big loser is going to be a whole bunch of these products that are just going to suck. I’ll start with that shower, toilet. I think there’s personal spaces where we don’t need AI, we don’t need Alexa, we don’t need any sort of connection to the world. And in fact these should be sanctuaries for meditation like my washroom. But as I say, winner, AI, loser AI in the wrong place.

Olivier Blanchard: Okay, Fred?

Fred McClimans: Yeah. So at an event like this, I’m really interested in technology that actually changes behavior in some way. And that’s why as I kind of hinted at earlier in the show, I think the big winner here is going to be that AI be mobility push moving forward. The number of technologies that we see coming out now to improve the mobility of humans. Whether it’s something like the Segway, 28 mile per hour person in a pod, mobile self-standing wheelchair or it’s the push into small electric vehicles, bikes, things of that nature. I think that’s from my perspective, really what we’re seeing a lot of interesting stuff there.

Big loser here. I think it’s any big, broad over-hyped category. And maybe the OLED stuff out there because this stuff is so expensive. It is really cool. I saw a couple of TVs the other day that will just blow your mind with what you see. But yeah, I think they’re losers in the sense that they’re not gaining that much from CES out there.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I left the bezel list alone because I thought Olivier might want it for his loser.

Olivier Blanchard: No, that’s okay. It’s actually not my loser specifically for that. I mean I noticed there’s a trend for no bezels but three years from now it’ll be like bezels are cool again. So it’s not.

Daniel Newman: TV paint.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. Actually, I have a few big winners, but I’m going to pick one and I think… Well, no, you know what? I’ll do two. I’ll give myself two Admiral’s prerogative. I’m the host. I can do what I want. One I think is, I haven’t seen any articles about this yet, but I think that tech and fitness, that combination that kind of started years ago with Fitbit and Garmin and then moved into Peloton type products.

I think even though it’s a slow burn right now this week, I think it’s going to be kind of a hot topic or a hotter topic this year. So I think that yeah, the conjunction of fitness and technology is kind of a maturing category and it’s super personable. It’s something that people understand. There’s tremendous utility in it. There’s comfort in it, and companies kind of understand now where they need to go with it. So I think it’ll be kind of like the sleeper hits category of CES this year. And to be kind of completely counter to myself. Even though I criticized the Alexa shower head from a product management standpoint, it’s just a bad design. You don’t want to put a smart speaker or any kind of speaker or a camera inside a shower head, that’s just generally a bad idea.

But I think it’s a clever ploy to get people to pay attention to what companies like Kohler are doing in the bathroom, and how they’re merging technology with some of these spaces and adding utilities in these spaces. So from smart toilets, which are quite wonderful and can save you from ever using toilet paper again, which is very nice and it’s environmentally friendly to TV’s that are embedded in your mirrors, and Alexa kind of in your bathroom just like it is in other rooms in your house. I think that making the smart home become more familiar and come seamlessly into the bathroom, even though there’s obviously questions of privacy and security with that.

At the same time, if a company can do it right and demonstrate that ecosystem properly, I think that there’s a huge market opportunity there. I have speakers, not smart speakers but speakers in my bathroom so I can hear the TV or the radio or whatever when I’m in there. And I think that there’s, value in having that and having your newsfeed in your mirror to be able to tell Alexa to do something while you’re in the shower or brushing your teeth. I think there is value to that. So I think it’s going to be probably an interesting category to watch for CES.

Fred McClimans: What I like about your two categories there Olivier, is that they both involve changes to human behavior in a positive way. One with the fitness, hopefully a much healthier consumer. And then on the Kohler side, people learning to not take showers underneath Alexa camera’s microphone.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. And I think that… Right, no, go ahead Dan.

Daniel Newman: No, as I say with all that in mind, I mean what a way to start the year knowing our showers are a little less private.

Olivier Blanchard: Oh, microphones in the shower.

Daniel Newman: It is now being analyzed. That’s good. It’s important to know, we want to know what kind of performance you have, how long do you spend on the toilet and what exactly are you doing? I think it’s really important that everyone knows that. I mean especially-

Olivier Blanchard: There’s chemical analysis.

Fred McClimans: Yeah, there’s health related issues.

Olivier Blanchard: I mean, there’s chemical analysis of what you leave behind, which can help with diagnosing illness and sports performance.

Daniel Newman: Do you need that in every bowel movement or do you think we could limit that to the ones when we visit the doctor?

Olivier Blanchard: No, everyone. I mean, if you’re micromanaging your fitness or your health, I can probably see that.

Daniel Newman: I guess data is data. I mean I’m a big proponent of it, but I just think there’s got to be a line, how much water did you use in that shower?

Olivier Blanchard: Well, there’s that too. Yeah, absolutely. I mean all that stuff’s important. So anyway, my loser for CES though is I think this year, and I hate this because I’m really bullish on XR. I think that AR fails to impress again this year. There’s really cool stuff out there. There’s cool goggles, really nice experiences. VR is getting better, but I think it fails to make the splash that people want it to for at least another year. It’s coming into its strides.

Daniel Newman: They haven’t had enough time with that new Qualcomm XR chip, and I say that sincerely.

Olivier Blanchard: No, among other things. Yeah, that’s true. All right, cool. Well guys that does it for this edition or this week’s edition rather of FTP, The Futurum Tech Podcast. And as always, thanks for listening. Hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already and catch us next week for another round of news and analysis at the intersection of tech and business. Have a great week everybody.

There will be plenty of more tech topics and tech conversations right here on the Futurum Tech Podcast, FTP. Hit that subscribe button. Join us, become part of our community. We would love to hear from you. Check us out, Futurumresearch.com or Futurum Tech Podcast, Daniel Newman, Fred McClimans, Olivier Blanchard. We’ll see you later.

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such. 


Author Information

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.


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