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The News – 07/12/01

Disposable Tech, Part 2

Last time we talked about disposable tech as a bellwether for the integration of a technology into American society. Turns out a company called ResearchPoint claims to have trademarked the term “Disposable Technology™” and Disposable Technology®, Inc., maker of dental supplies, claims to have registered it. A search at the USPTO turned up no references.

At any rate, the DisPosAbleTech™ gadgets discussed last time, disposable cell phones and impending disposable laptops, both are made possible by a third disposable trend: disposable power sources.

Many of you have probably seen the ZincAir disposable cell phone batteries. These single use units are great if you’re on the road, forgot to bring your charger, and your cell phone is dead. Whip into a Wal*Mart and pick up a single use battery, and you’re back yacking in no time. For ten bucks apiece, they offer 8-16 hours of talk time and 130-500 hours of standby. The batteries contain no toxic chemicals and can be disposed of in the trash.

Incidentally, Electric Fuel, makers of the ZincAir, have adapted the technology for electric vehicles, offering a rechargeable ZincAir battery that they claim contains as much energy as a tank of gasoline. They even are working on powering a city bus for a day using the technology. While hardly disposable tech, it’s still pretty cool.

Close-up of Songbird Hearing AidA piece of disposable tech of increasing interest to rock-loving Boomers is Songbird’s disposable hearing aid. According to the company, consumers between 45 and 54 represent the largest group ever with hearing loss (I blame Black Sabbath). Despite this, the company doesn’t really make clear why they think a disposable hearing aid will achieve better market penetration than non-disposables. After further research, I discovered that the lack of a battery door enables the device to feature a microphone that is seven times larger than comparable devices, yielding better fidelity. Would have been nice if the company had featured this bit of information on their Web site. The device lasts 30-40 days when used 12 hours per day and costs $39 per ear. This ends up being more expensive over five years than custom hearing aids.

Back on an information technology topic, computer printers are rapidly becoming disposable, with printer companies adopting the “give away the razor and charge for the blades” philosophy popularized by Gillette. Not only can you get a very nice printer for under $150, you can get one for under $50 (HP 630c). When you consider that the color cartridge for such a printer costs as much or more, you can afford to buy a new printer every time the cartridge runs out. Of course, inkjet cartridges are getting more expensive. For black and white printing, it’s actually cheaper to buy a $400 laser printer than to keep ponying up $50 for a new inkjet cartridge every few hundred pages.

But the real disposable technology will really be here once MIT’s Auto-ID project is realized. For a little more depth on Auto-ID, see the TrendSpot. Unfortunately, their server was down as I wrote this, so I can’t provide an update on their activities. But generally, the idea is to put wireless tags on every consumer product and every manufactured good. So-called RF tags (radio frequency tags) are already used on train boxcars and pallets in warehouses. The goal is to bring the unit cost down under 10 cents, and then your refrigerator can reorder milk from your online grocery for you, or your TV dinner can tell your microwave how to cook it.

We’re heading into a world in which things will communicate even more readily than people. The revolution of disposable tech, combined with the wireless explosion, will change every facet of business, and our lives. Businesses need to be aware of these trends, and evaluate how they will affect future prospects. Is there someone out there right now creating a disposable version of your product? And what will the landfills of the future contain/leak?

AIAG Auto-ID conference

Thanks once again to Alert SNS Reader David Dabbs for research.

 Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Department: Be sure to check out the P2P for Business Directory, recently expanded and revised. It tracks companies specializing in peer-to-peer technologies that businesses should know about. The directory has spilled over to two pages, and we’ve added a companion directory, Non-Commercial P2P Efforts that contains a subset of the main directory.
    P2P Directory
  • Microsoft and Smart Tags: Alert SNS Reader Jacob Jaffe caught an error in my previous news items. Seems that Microsoft’s next operating system is called Windows XP, not Microsoft XP (duh!). Also, he pointed out that Smart Tags are already available in Office XP, and are a real productivity enhancer. To use them, Office users download Smart Tags voluntarily. Then, any documents they read or create in Office will feature the Smart Tag links. Sounds great and puts the user in control. Jacob also points out that anyone can author Smart Tags, and Web site publishers can include code that disables them for their pages. I’d prefer that Web site publishers be required to enable them if they want them to be used.
    Microsoft
  • Microsoft Opens Desktop for XP: After a court ruling, Microsoft has decided to allow PC makers to not only add their own links on the XP desktop, but also to remove Microsoft-provided links, such as to Internet Explorer. Way to go, Big Guys!
    Microsoft
  • Typosquatting Is Allive: While researching the previous two items, I inadvertently ran into a case of typosquatting, the practice of registering names close to those of popular sites, thus hijacking the keyboard-inept to your Web site. Try the link below and see where you go. BTW, a related trend is for porn sites to buy up domain names from defunct dotcoms and forward them to their own sites.
    Not Microsoft, Micosoft


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Canít Get Enough of ME?

In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, Iíve started a Weblog. Itís the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and Iím doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If youíd like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from www.blogger.com. This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

Iíve dubbed my Weblog entries ďStratletsĒ, and they are available at www.stratvantage.com/stratlets/. Let me know what you think.

Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of the latest emerging trends.


In Memoriam

Gerald M. Ellsworth

March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

In Memoriam

Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003