THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- JANUARY 18, 2020
Whether we like it or not, technology is dragging us headlong into the future. A person can choose to be a Luddite (a person opposed to new technology), but that does not mean they won't be touched by it. There is no escape. With that in mind, and with the Consumer Electronics Show just concluded in Las Vegas, it might be appropriate to think about some technology that is affecting our everyday lives.
Adapting to new technology is happening at a record pace. “The time that it takes for a new technology to penetrate most U.S. households is dropping. To go from around 10 percent to 90 percent adoption in U.S. households, it took: the car 74 years, the phone 66 years, the stove 54 years, and color TV 19 years.” Now fast forward. “Over the last 10 years the smartphone has closed in on 85 percent adoption for suburban and urban users.” (https://ourworldindata.org/technology-adoption?utm)
Things are moving fast on the home front, too. “A major new report by Strategy Analytics suggests that smart homes have now become the majority in the US. Fifty-four percent of homes own at least one smart home device, with the most popular being smart speakers, interactive security systems and smart thermostats.” (https://news.strategyanalytics.com/press-release/intelligent-home/strategy-analytics-ces-most-homes-are-now-smart-homes)
What's coming through those smart speakers is also changing. “Streaming rose from 7 percent of the U.S. music market in 2010 to a whopping 80 percent in 2019. Paid streaming subscriptions rocketed from 1.5 million to some 611 million by the middle of 2019.” (https://variety.com/2019/biz/news/music-streaming-soared-2010s-decade-riaa-1203454233/)
It takes power to run this technology and the source of that power is also changing. One of the leaders in this field is the country of Denmark. Thanks to lower costs and better offshore tech, 47 percent of Denmark's electricity consumption came from wind power in 2019. It's a record high and miles ahead of second-place Ireland, which received 28 percent of its electricity from wind.”
The rest of the world is far behind this trend, but it's not difficult to see into the future. “Offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply in 2018, says the International Energy Agency. However, it is a rapidly maturing renewable energy technology that is expected to become a $1 trillion industry by 2040, a 15 times increase from today.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-denmark-windpower/denmark-sources-record-47-of-power-from-wind-in-2019-idUSKBN1Z10KE and https://www.iea.org/reports/offshore-wind-outlook-2019?utm)
With all this new tech going on, it's interesting to note a couple of old tech items in the news. For example, you might think that with all the data being bounced around the world we'd have to duck our heads to avoid the satellite traffic. The reality is not to look up but to look down. “Despite new modes of data transmission, submarine cables have remarkable staying power. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1858, and now, submarine cables carry over 99 percent of data traffic that crosses oceans. These undersea fiber optic cables are the backbone of the global internet. (https://www.newsweek.com/undersea-cables-transport-99-percent-international-communications-319072?utm)
Another old tech area that continues to chug along is the paper book. “Analysts confidently predicted that millennials would embrace ebooks with open arms and abandon print books. Instead, ebook sales seem to have stabilized at around 20 percent of total book sales, with print sales making up the remaining 80 percent.”
Why did the ebook revolution stall? “The digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. They’re glued to their phones.” When they do buy a book, they tend to buy paper editions.
So if the whippersnappers are not buying ebooks, who is? “The people who are actually buying ebooks are mostly boomers. They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.” (https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/12/23/20991659/ebook-amazon-kindle-ereader-department-of-justice-publishing-lawsuit-apple-ipad)
So, old tech still exists, but sometimes a bit of new tech has advantages for all of us. It's winter in Northern Michigan, just in case you have not noticed. It's cold out there! Do you dread pumping gas into your car while the wind whistles through your ears and your fingers solidify into permanent claws? As if that's not enough, trying to push the buttons on the pump and slide your credit card into the ice-covered slot can be challenging. A recent announcement might lessen the pain a little bit.
“Soon, drivers will be using Alexa to pay for a tank of gas from the comfort of their vehicle. ExxonMobil and Amazon announced at the CES consumer electronics show a partnership that will allow voice-activated fuel purchases in vehicles with Alexa built-in as well as from Alexa-enabled smartphones and other devices. The platform is slated to launch in April at more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the United States.” (https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/06/business/alexa-gas-exxon/index.html)
Pretty cool. This new technology is certainly amazing. I could use one more Alexa thingy, though. “Alexa, tell the snowblower to clear the driveway.”