Jacob Mullins Newsletter #1: 2019 — “Smart cards, smart cars, all smart everything”

It’s 2019. Issue #1. I’m starting an email newsletter (sign up here!), a snapshot weekly perspective on tech, startups, venture capital and it’s effects on daily life and our world. Plus some tidbits from Shasta, gadgets, articles, books or other things I find interesting.

Last week I was in Las Vegas for my annual pilgrimage to the international Consumer Electronics Show where companies ranging from young startups to industry leaders come to debut and showcase their newest products. Each year has its own unique measure of craziness for companies trying to gain attention.

This year, there was an 80 foot yacht on the show floor, foldable smartphone displays, and Apple’s minimalist presence hung a shadow over the convention center. After three days of walking the floors and talking shop with industry folks one resounding theme came across for me — the promise of Artificial Intelligence i.e. “smart products” is now here, everywhere and in everything.

To riff-off of Jay-Z’s lyrics from Run This Town:

CES 2019 was “All smart everything, smart cards, smart cars, all smart everything”

Over the past decade we saw the emergence of Internet of Things, connected devices and wearables in both consumer and enterprise uses cases. While many have been widely popular and do very specific tasks like changing the temperature, lights or locks of your home, or collecting your body activity data, in whole, most of these have been point solutions that result in siloed data warehouses, convoluted solutions and a pile of hardware devices.

What we are seeing today is the fruition of the promise of smart devices that take a solution-centric approach (moving beyond the tech-centric approach) to integrate all of the sensors, machine learning models, human intelligence, sleek design and brand into a holistic product that solves an actual end user problem. And these products are focused on elegant integrations into our lives, making complex technology appear easy in user experience. This shift is the difference between attracting early adopters (geeks, like me), and attracting mom, dad and auntie to buy connected products.

Some cases in point:

Deep Sentinel isn’t a just a smart camera, it’s a complete home surveillance system powered by a combination of AI and human-in-the-loop deterrence technology.

Tonal isn’t a workout machine, it’s a fitness trainer in your home.

Amazon Key isn’t a connected door lock, it’s the convenience and safety of putting your packages inside your home or car.

TVs don’t need to be black mirrors at the center of our homes, they can blend in to their environments or even enliven them.

Self-driving cars aren’t just super cool, they will give us our time back to spend more time with people, work more efficiently, or sleep, as exemplified here in Panasonic’s “Living Space Cabin.”

I don’t think I saw one product at CES that didn’t have an element of Artificial Intelligence or “smarts,” even that 80 foot yacht has an integrated AI assistant named “Angel” for your yachting comfort.

Every product today — hardware and software — is learning from its users and aiming to make it a better experience, and the technology stack is finally there to let this happen.

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I invest in Emerging Platforms at Shasta Ventures, specifically technologies bridging the digital and physical worlds including Applied Computer Vision, Perception, Robotics, AR/VR, Esports, Blockchain, and the future of Financial Services. If you’re working on something interesting in these spaces I’d love to chat with you. Find me on twitter @jacob.

Partner at Shasta Ventures investing in Smart Software: Applied AI, Computer Vision, Blockchain, and Financial Services.