SECTIONS - Caught in the Crossfire
August 29, 2016

Capital, Disruption, and Sudha Jamthe

“May you live in interesting times”, was a phrase Joseph Chamberlain said as attributed erroneously to a Chinese curse. He was a statesman before World War I back when Rule Britannia had the span of the world, and he administered to the colonies. Today we are facing Brexit (the possibility that Britain will withdraw from the European Union), which will cause a great deal of disruption and some opportunities. Often the negative side of disruption is all we see. If we are comfortable with the status quo, it’s hard to accept change.  

Yet when it comes to the internet, we have not only accepted disruption, we have a tendency to seek it out – sometimes to the point where irrational exuberance can be attributed to trends. Looking at the venture capital markets and the passing of Thomas Perkins, the co-founder of Kleiner, Perkins (now KPCB and the home of Mary Meeker), I keep seeing the frustration of investors being manifest in the billion-dollar start-up club (149 at present per The Wall St. Journal).  One of Perkins’ last speeches predicted that a bubble existed in the VC community that would be more impactful on the rich than the middle class this time. He may be right. I see several billion- dollar unicorns with three clones with VC money, and I can’t find a way to justify the investment to the revenue opportunity. 

Connected cars are a case in point. At the present time there are 13 autonomous car permits in California alone. We have consolidated the auto industry and just a few years ago had to provide loans and incentives to get them back on their feet (except for my family name, Ford, but no relation). 

Mind you, Tesla is proof of what is possible and uses 40,000 lines of code, while the rest of the auto industry keeps adding sensors and processors to the point where they are at well over 150,000 lines of code. Current manufacturers are in need of retooling, but autonomy software does not strike me as the critical path to breaking out. Already most major manufacturers have adapted driver-assisting software for collision detection and parking. Is the consumer that ready for change?

Feeling the frustration that great internet companies can’t stick to their knitting and the market wants an Apple Car and Amazon drones, I have a tendency to avoid California.

Fortunately, I had the good fortune of meeting Sudha Jamthe at Jeff Pulver’s How We Communicate event. Jamthe teaches at Stanford, and you can tell she is appreciated in the community for her perspective that IoT is a great opportunity for disruption to lead to money. To date she has written three books on the IoT: The Internet of Things Business Primer, IoT Disruptions: The Internet of Things – Innovations & Jobs, and IoT Disruptions 2020:  Getting to the Connected World of 2020 with Deep Learning IoT.

The Internet of Things Business Primer is the book she uses to teach the class at Stanford. It provides a practical overview of what opportunities exist to use IoT – from autonomous cars and smart cities to wearables. It has that Californian entrepreneurial spirit that can be intoxicating and evangelical.

However, behind that inspiration is the methodology to look at the challenges and the best practices that guide you to new opportunity. The audience for the book is the product manager looking to see how IoT impacts his or her company’s product plan or the entrepreneur ready to strike out on his or her own. 

Of late I have had many conversations with people who feel they are ready to start something new in IoT, and I find that they are probably great candidates for this book since its focus is on customer experience and not the technology. Jamthe makes a point to focus on the human machine interface and offers insight as to how IoT impacts education, health care, and retail.

At the core, though, she is a mentor with a long history of helping her fellow engineers discover the path to success in their endeavors. 

This means she can look at the big data analytics and deep learning opportunities associated with machine learning. In the last section of her book she focuses on where artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and chip implants for bio payments are going.

All of this, with a history of paying attention to the social media market, makes her uniquely qualified to speak to the opportunities associated with the social machine and the human interaction.

Renewed by Sudha’s enthusiasm, I am glad we live in interesting times. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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