Amazon has had a patent granted to
fly blimp warehouses above cities so drones can deliver your goodies from the blimps. Leaving aside the "how the hell do you get a patent for something so damn obvious and that has already been done
", the question is why blimps?
The answer is the appalling logistic costs of transporting products by drone. As we showed in the previous note on this area (over here
), drone delivery has some major problems:
(i) Small payload - many trips are required to satisfy even a moderately large order, a weekly shop would take 20+ drones to deliver. Heavy lifting drones are unlikely to be a feature of urban environments anytime soon, they are very dangerous if anything goes wrong.
(ii) Each trip has two very unproductive components
- firstly, the trips to and from warehouses, which are a long way (tens of miles) from where most customers are
- secondly, as payload is small, there is no ability to do a number of drops in one run as you can with a van, so each and every drop is essentially a point to point trip from warehouse to customer which increases transport costs per trip and reduces trips/drone per day, so asset utilisation falls
So there are essentially two solutions to the problem - either put physical warehouses in very high cost urban land (ie buy the Royal Mail or Big Yellow Storage) which hugely increases costs of warehouse square footage, or have mobile warehouses that move in closer so reducing the back and forth distance each drone flies.
Why blimps? Simply put, our analysis shows that the sheer number of drones needed to replace vans would be tantamount to huge swarms of these devices, the noise, flying traffic and risk of having them at street level would intolerable. Thus the only other available option is to fly them up and down to hovering blimps. Downside is the blimps are aircraft and thus have to fly at a safe height (tens of thousand feet), so drones (which, remember, for this application are basically helicopters so cannot benefit from any lift generated by wings) will have to expend a lot of energy climbing
We say only available option - the other option is of course vans, travelling on roads. These are high payload carrying, can optimise multiple drops and are non intrusive as they stick to existing transport networks. Best of all, they don't fall out of the sky.
Also, as we showed in the previous note, vans have a useful device - called a driver - that can negotiate that most tricky of problems, the last yards delivery to the customer....
It's time for Broadstuff's annual Tech predictions for 2017, or rather where we Puncture The Hype. Given our whole operating mantra is to give realistic advice to clients on new technology opportunities, getting behind the hype is essential and if we can do it a bit tongue in cheek, well that adds to the entertainment (You can see our stellar 2016 record over here
). Of course it is in Listicle format as countless analytics show more people read listicles than ordinary articles, so consider yourself "nudged".
Anyway, here goes:
1. The Reality of Legacy - the weightless rise of cloud, social, analytics etc platform companies will increasingly find the gravitational pull of legacy platforms restrains them. That is where much of the data and a lot of the core processes flow, and for these new systems to move from the periphery to the centre of the enterprise they will need to interoperate with the old gradgrinds - which will force reality into all the overblown economic "savings" projected from all the new shiny products hitting your screens.
2. Cloud comes to Earth - Not only the above, but the limiting economics of the rental cloud model, the lower service responsiveness for sophisticated users, and its security risks will weigh more heavily on heavy users of computing power. Expect far more to be made of hybrid cloud + user managed services. Last year we believed Cloud had already hit these buffers and (as has been the trend) would rename itself again - - we were wrong, but will predict that 2017 is the year of transition and we'll see more Cloud - X and Y-Cloud services
3. Social, meet Regulation - the lesson of 2016 is that Social as a vector of Fake News, heavy trolling and abuse, use to communicate "ist" dogmas, a vessel of Millenial mental illness et al has sparked increasing ire (whether you believe its valid or not) in a lot of groups and organisations which do have political influence, so expect increasing pressure for social platforms to be regulated or constrained in a raft of ways. In other news, all Social platforms will busily copy each others' features to differentiate themselves until they all look the same.
4. 2017 will be hyped as The Year of Mobile, will disappoint, and 2018 will later become the New Year of Mobile - In short, we doubt the planet will be eaten by Mobile in 2017. Its days of exponential hypergrowth are ending, and it's settling down into a mature system with comfortable growth and new services largely cannibalising old ones, like the PC industry once it came to the top of its S curve. Worry about Ad-blocking will continue to grow faster than Ad-blocking, but levels of Ad-blocking will start to impact service models, driving increasing concern in the Ad industry but expect no reform yet.
5. AI / Machine Learning - hype will continue to grow to stratospheric levels while the underlying services massively undershoot the rah-rah. Actual deployment will continue to be in tight, narrowly defined verticals with manageable solution spaces, while theoretical deployment will rocket to the stars
, to infinity and beyond. The major problem with AI right now though is much of what is being called "AI" in the hypewave are in fact just closed loop system dynamic algorithms, which is nothing more than a variant of...
6. Big Data and Analytics - people are starting to realise that "big + data" is not the same as "useful information".and that pure analytics is useless without knowing what to do with it. This will be the real focus in 2017 and for the next new years. AI or not, suspicion and distrust of these systems will grow and there will be a few high profile system failures in 2017 that will increase pressure to regulate or force transparency on what these algorithms are doing. Also, on the security/privacy front there will be no letup in data heists - much big data is concentrated by entities whose main concern is its exploitation, not safekeeping - so it's only going to get worse.
7. Internet of Things - the current consumer IoT wave will increasingly look like a busted flush as ongoing concerns about security, privacy and long term service viability grow owing to more data heists, failed services and pulled products. It will sink into the Gartner hype cycle's "slough of despond" in 2017. Lack of universal standards and producer preference for walled gardens means that interworking and open data transportation will remain a pipe dream. Thus Industrial IoT and tightly specific consumer verticals with simpler offerings will be where the real growth is. Wearables, a consumer vertical of IoT, underperformed hugely vs forecasts in 2016 and will continue this slow trend in 2017 owing mainly to the standards and service risk issues.
8. Robots/Mechatronics/Drones - are essentially "vertical" applications of AI/Analytics maths that create real and tangible value (the real cost of physical production essentially drives out all the spurious "Unicorn" business models that drives headline hypergrowth however). But drone/robotic delivery is being totally oversold, once the sheer volumes of these things
required for package delivery and thus moving along sidewalks/flying in suburban areas becomes clear, the only hockey stick curve will be urban resident resistance. Those most hyped of robots, automatic cars, are a pipe dream for several years still. There will be high-hype trials of course, but outside of extremely well manicured environments these devices will still require human control* - so the first major deployments will be industrial (after all, that's where all the previous generations went first) and very structured and dedicated usage paths ie "road-trains/trams".
9. Remote Production (3D Printing et al) - will continue to grow, but also will not "eat the world" in 2017. Expect the real growth to be in remote production by more conventional devices like textile weaving & printing, CNC machining etc rather than deposition (aka "printing") techniques. It is still largely high cost and low quality compared to older technologies, so will remain in niches where its unique properties create extraordinary value. There will continue to be "Much Wow" headlines but big picture will be "so Small". Makers are not going to replace Manufacturers any time soon.
10. Unicorns / "New Ways of Working" / Gig Economy - 2017 will be Shit or Bust year for many Unicorns that rely on "New Ways of Working" using worker exploitation or (and, in some cases) regulatory arbitrage based business models. Many Unicorns are shitting themselves, some big names will go bust in 2017 - especially at risk are those that are growing by using investor money to buy market share that then run into regulatory headwinds. There is much flummery going on as Unicorns caught on the horn of this dilemma attempt to pivot. You can't make book on this
And, as its now the rage in "curating" listicles, here's a Bonus Prediction:
11. AR/VR - Useful bits of AR will become integrated into Mobile and Wearable devices over time, VR will be a niche pursuit until (if) price points come down hugely and even then its not likely to expand much farther than the gaming aficionado market. Resist all blandishments that this is the future, it won't be.
*As an aside, there have been a number of deaths from hybrid auto-cars beinh used outside their "safe zones", so far the makers haven't been touched. So far....