Michael Tchong ideation, trends Leave a Comment

Welcome to our simplified site. Every few years, we review how our digital outpost has evolved and ubercool version 14.0, the previous iteration, had clearly become too complex and unwieldy, making our innovation and trends content hard to navigate and updating a major challenge. So we scrapped it all and are beginning from scratch.

You too should periodically review your product and service offerings and try to simplify not only your line up but also your messaging. Does it still reflect what you’re trying to convey? Is it serving a need? Does your brand look and feel remain approachable?

In a world where complexity has become the norm, it’s increasingly evident that a new mantra of simplicity has to start somewhere. As The Wall Street Journal reports, in 1980 the typical credit card contract was about 400 words long. Today, many are 20,000 words. Is that really necessary?

So we’re kicking off a K.I.S.S. campaign. Eliminate unnecessary gimmicks, as we did, because the typical visitor spends just 75 seconds viewing the average web page. Harmonize your life by getting rid of clutter as Marie Kondo advices. Simplicity pays off. Just ask the the world’s most valuable corporation.


Michael Tchong trends Leave a Comment

Christmas 2015 was a beautiful day in San Diego. Joshua Burwell, a 33-year-old visiting from Sheridan, Ind., decided to hike Sunset Cliffs to watch the sunset. Witnesses noticed someone distracted by an “electronic device” seconds before Burwell plunged off the cliff. He was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.

It was another example of the intoxicating spell our digital devices cast on us. The ability of our phone screens to literally suck us in is fueling the screensucking trend — a lifestyle habit that is distracting the world around us.

And it’s truly a global phenomenon. In China this past November, a surveillance camera captured a Chinese woman glued to her phone while not ignoring her two-year-old daughter. A slow-moving S.U.V. then ran over the toddler, killing her.

Some of these bouts with distraction end well. In perhaps the first recorded incidence, a Japanese woman walked off a subway platform in 2007 while texting. In 2011, a 10-year-old Italian boy fell off a Milan train platform while playing on his Sony PSP.

But perhaps the most infamous screensucking incident that captured media attention worldwide was Cathy Cruz Marrero stumbling into in a shopping mall fountain while texting.

In 2011, Cathy Cruz Marrero famously fell into a shopping mall fountain while texting. A shopping mall spokesperson says a guard was fired in connection with the incident.

Screensucking is also to blame for causing Americans to sleep less. In the 1920s, the average person enjoyed 8.8 hours of sleep each night. Today, we sleep two hours less, or an average of 6.7 hours during the work week.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “emergency room visits involving distracted pedestrians using cellphones were up 124% in 2014 from 2010 — and up ten-fold from 2006.” Meanwhile, the latest AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index survey found that more than 40% of respondents admit they’ve used their phones while driving.

LG 8K LED TVThe situation has gotten so bad that traffic signs are going up around the world to warn drivers about distracted pedestrians, like this one in Sweden. Of course this assumes that the driver will look up from his or her phone to notice the sign.

Will we ever be safe from all these screen diversions? Not unless we give up screensucking, which is highly unlikely.

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Michael Tchong

Michael Tchong is a professional people watcher and founder of four ahead-of-the-wave startups. He’s also a top-rated innovation and trends speaker, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley.

Smart Home

Michael Tchong innovation, trends Leave a Comment

You know that the smart home innovation has arrived when a CES 2017 exhibit hall in Las Vegas is teeming with Alexa-driven or other platform-connected air purifiers, mattresses, refrigerators, toasters, toothbrushes, trash cans and even an innovative connected hair brush, the Kérastase Hair Coach!

Google acquired Nest in January 2014 for $3.2 billion, signaling that the “connected home” or smart home trend had arrived in full force. Innovative smart home devices are multiplying at a dizzying clip. And any device that is connected to the internet is considered a member of the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) trend.

According to Statista, the smart home market, which includes home automation, security, entertainment and ambient assisted living (AAL) will grow from $15 billion to $32 billion by 2021:

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Factors driving growth include:

  • Smart home controllers – Smart-home controller or “hub” shipments are predicted to reach 3 million by 2018.
  • IoT forecast – The installed base of active wireless connected devices, of which the Nest Learning Thermostat ($247) is a prime example, will reach 41 billion by 2020, according to ABI Research. Gartner is slightly less enthusiastic, predicting an installed base of IoT devices of 26 billion by 2020. Both forecasts include industrial connected devices.
  • Market demand – A Lowe’s study (PDF) found that 70% of consumers want to control something in their home from their mobile device without getting out of bed, a shocking finding! 😁 And 62% find smart home controls most beneficial for monitoring safety and security, equally unsurprising.


The three major platforms trying to wrest control of the smart home market include:

  • Alexa – When launched is Amazon Echo speaker ($180) on June 23, 2015, no one expected that the nine-inch (24 cm), voice-driven audio speaker would become the huge hit it is today. Amazon’s Alexa home assistant now boasts more than 3,000 skills, or third-party apps, including the ability to order pizza from Domino’s, raise your Nest thermostat or turn on your Philips Hue lights. At CES 2017, a host of connected home devices showed off new ways of interacting with your Echo speaker. There is no question that today, Alexa is the dominant smart home voice platform.
  • Apple HomeKit – On June 13, 2016 Apple launched Home, a single app to manage its HomeKit platform, which lets iOS users control locks, lights, video cameras, doors, thermostats, plugs and switches. The platform offers secure pairing and is able to control gadgets separately or set automations for device groups. Home can be operated with Siri voice commands, so just saying “time for bed” will turn off lights and lock the front door.
  • Google Home – In October 2016, Google launched its voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Developers can now create “Actions” for Google Home, which are the company’s equivalent of Alexa Skills.


There are far more smart home products that support the three major platforms, but due to space constraints, we’ve limited our this smart home buying guide to the most significant products:

  • Belkin WeMo – Los Angeles-based Belkin debuted its WeMo line of connected devices in 2013, including a WeMo-based Crock-Pot ($109) at CES 2014. The Belkin WeMo Switch ($35) is Amazon’s second best-selling smart switch.
  • Logitech – The Logitech Harmony Elite remote control ($298) relies on a hub and app to work with Alexa.
  • Nest – The Nest Learning Thermostat is unquestionably the best smart thermostat, and at $247 not cheap, but its app, interface design and packaging are superb. It’s the Apple of connected home devices, which also includes their first-rate Nest Protect ($99) smoke alarm.
  • Philips Hue – Philips’ third-generation Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit 464495 retails for $200 and lets you instantly add a rich palette of colors to your home milieu.
  • TP-Link – What set TP-Link smart home devices apart is that they do not need a hub or controller. The company has just launched the TP-Link HS105 Smart Plug Mini ($35), which occupies just one AC socket and also works with Alexa.

The best way to jump into the smart home market now is to buy an Amazon Echo plus a smart LED lighting system, like the Philips Hue, or TP-Link Smart Plug and Smart LED Light Bulb. You will be very happy you did.

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Michael Tchong

Michael Tchong is a professional people watcher and founder of four ahead-of-the-wave startups. He’s also a top-rated innovation and trends speaker, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley.

Pioneer Rayz: When Opportunity Knocks

Michael Tchong innovation Leave a Comment

Apple’s decision to remove the audio port from the iPhone 7 resulted in a public outcry of world-ending proportions. To some Apple aficionados it was armageddon meets invasion of the headphone port snatchers.

But as any creative individual will tell you, problems spell opportunity. And so Pioneer this week launched its Rayz headset that adds a Lightning port to its cable, letting iPhone 7 users to charge their phone while using the headset. The Rayz Plus model ($150; PDF) sports a Lightning port and snappy metallic finish, while a $100 Rayz model (PDF) dispenses with Lightning port and features an ordinary black finish.

I’ve been using the Rayz for more than a month now and it’s an outstanding headset. Not only does it do a great job with music and phone calls but the accompanying Rayz app is elegantly designed and fun to use. When you first plug your headset in, the app will calibrate it to your ear canals. A smiling emoji tells you when the personalized scan of your ears is done. The app also lets you control such settings as adaptive noise canceling, equalizer, HearThru, which lets you listen to ambient sounds, and auto pause, which pauses music when you take the earbuds out.

Besides excellent sound quality, the Rayz features first-rate packaging making it an accessory that matches Apple in look and feel.