Monthly Archives: August 2016

Technology to Fashion

With the rise of ecommerce, many of us now do the majority of our shopping from the comfort of our homes. But buying clothes online can be daunting. Startups utilizing emerging technologies are trying to change that, such as a company that uses 3-D imaging to let you “try” on clothes before you buy to one that uses a chatbot to personal shop for you.

This year marks Decoded Fashion’s fifth annual New York Summit — a two-day event where leaders, innovators and upcoming designers come together to discuss the most disruptive and innovative technologies shaking up the fashion and beauty worlds. The summit covers a variety of tech topics such as new in-store tech experiences, augmented reality and projection mapping.

The event also features a competition, “The FROW,” where tech startups looking to change the future of fashion and beauty pitch a panel of professional judges and executives from companies such as Coach, Equinox, Parsons School of Design, Google, Simon Venture Group and more. Think of it like theShark Tank of fashion and beauty.

One prediction in the show boldly conjectures that women will forgo skirts in favour of pants in the year 2000. Others foresee cantilever heels and glass wedding dresses.

But certain flights of fancy like a climate-controlled belt and a telephone suit — educated guesses that were cutting edge in the 30’s — come pretty close to heat-controlled jackets and mobile phones.

Cut to the present.

It’s almost 2016 A.D. Several technologists and designers predict that real clothes will start resembling science fiction. Again.

Our History with Predicting Fashion

Whether it’s the retro-futuristic style of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the outlandish, leading-edge clothes designed by Gareth Pugh or Intel’s roboticspider dress that defends your personal space, the influence of fashion on technology and vice versa is apparent in the steady rise of experimental themes in popular culture.

Solution for Annoying Trick

images-13On Halloween, what’s better than snuggling up on your couch, popping a bag of buttery popcorn, and binge watching scary movies all night? Then the doorbell rings. It’s a group of trick-or-treaters. You pause your movie, get up, dole out the candy, and then sit back down.

Ding-dong. There goes the doorbell again. Pause. Get up. Candy. Sit down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

You don’t want to be “that jerk” with the porch light off and no candy on Halloween. But is it too much to ask to be able to watch Hellraiser orChildren of the Corn uninterrupted?

The struggle is real. Netflix thinks it has the answer.

Say hello to the Netflix Halloween Doorbell. It’s a contraption that goes over your existing doorbell that “plays spooky sounds and music from your favorite Netflix shows.”

In other words, the device can blast the theme song to Stranger Things, for instance, while alerting trick-or-treaters to the tub of chocolates you stashed on your porch.

Oh, wait, of course there’s a catch: You have to build the darn thing yourself. Netflix outlines all the supplies you need and even offers instructions for how to create it from scratch.

The Star Speakerphone

download-46Think back to the last time you were on a joint call with several co-workers. You were likely packed into a conference room, all collectively staring at the star-shaped speakerphone in the center of the table. The phone absorbed and transmitted important topics discussed, deals done, projects debated and to-do list items checked off.

The world has Jeff Rodman and Brian Hinman to thank for that technology, which can be found in nearly every conference room from Boston to Paris and Beijing to Tokyo. The pair created the phone in the early 90s after founding Polycom in Rodman’s San Francisco basement. Since then, the company, now based in San Jose, has blossomed into one of the world’s largest communication players with 71 offices in 31 countries and 3,800 employees worldwide.

Earlier this month I caught up with Rodman, now Polycom’s chief technical evangelist and speaker at upcoming NextCon — a business conference scheduled for November — to learn more about his path to building an iconic company and his advice for others who want to do the same.

Let’s start from the beginning. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

I always wanted to be an engineer. I’m not sure about the entrepreneur part. Looking back, I incorporated qualities from both my mom and my dad into my career and life path. My dad was a radioman in WWII, and I learned a love for technology through him. My mom is an organist and has played piano all her life. I now play the piano quite often.

How did you and Hinman come up with the idea for Polycom?

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, moved up to San Francisco after college to work as a development engineer and then relocated to Boston to work at PictureTel, a startup that was leading the way in video conferencing and collaboration. After a few years, my wife wanted to come back to California, so in 1989 we moved back to San Francisco. It was right around that time when Brian — a founder at PictureTel — and I started talking about launching a company. (Note: Polycom acquired PictureTel in 2001.)

Related: 7 Signs It’s Time to Transition From Employee to Entrepreneur

He moved out, and we got to work in my basement. We wanted to create a company that would let people collaborate wherever they were. We had ideas around document collaboration, but eventually decided to get into audio first and started talking about how to create the next great speakerphone.

How did your idea morph into the star-shaped phone?

We wanted to create a speakerphone where you could talk with anyone and interrupt the same way you do when you are in the same room with another person. That was an unusual concept at the time. Back then, speakerphones pretty much only allowed the person with the loudest voice to carry the conversation; that person’s voice would drown out other conversation.

We created a technology that mimicked in-person conversations and, at first thought, it could work perfectly just as a super speaker inside an existing phone on a person’s desk. When a conference call needed to happen, colleagues could gather around that desk. We priced it out and realized it would cost $400 per phone. And this is 1991 we are talking about.

Regulations Are Changing the Construction Industry

download-47Drones are changing businesses left and right, and companies are racing to integrate them into new industries. The expression “the sky’s the limit” doesn’t seem to apply to drones. So far, their applications have been limited only by the imaginations of their operators.

Construction, in particular, has benefited immensely from the advent of drone technology, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Mapping drones can conduct surveys of large job sites in a fraction of the time it takes a team of experts to do the same job.

The FAA takes an evolving stance on the use of drones for commercial means. The agency recently changed an important aspect of the law regarding who can pilot small drones. Those provisions could have significant impact on the way UAV technology progresses in the coming years. I connected with Dick Zhang, CEO of Identified Technologies, to find out more.

1. Part 107 reduces barrier to entry.

Until recently, a company needed to receive a Section 333 exemption from the FAA to apply any kind of drone toward commercial use. TheFAA’s website says that 1,692 petitions have been denied as of July 2016. The staggeringly high volume of requests alone causes delays in processing.

“The petition process takes too long for most firms interested in using drones,” Zhang says. “We were one of the first companies to obtain an exemption for construction applications, and it wasn’t easy. I’ve found that many of our customers come to us specifically because they want to circumvent the costly petition process.”

The recently announced Part 107, also called the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule, substantially reduces the barrier to entry for pilot drones. Now, an operator doesn’t need a commercial pilot’s license to fly a drone for commercial purposes. Under the old rule, Zhang’s company had to send a licensed pilot to every construction site it mapped even though its drones fly themselves. Construction companies now can operate one of Identified Technology’s drones with very minimal training.

2. Part 107 increases agility.

Mapping a construction site with a drone is an enormous leap in efficiency and accuracy. A project that could take a team six weeks to complete can be done by a drone in minutes, and it can be repeated every day if necessary. Programmers can load drones with imaging technologies that produce incredibly detailed maps. This gives project managers groundbreaking insights into the finest details of their built environments.

Using a drone can save huge volumes of time, help to avoid costly mistakes and — depending on the project’s size — save builders thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars. A simple mistake that causes a week’s delay could result in huge losses due to equipment-rental costs and payroll.

Part 107 makes drones more accessible than ever. Identified Technologies’ blog recently included this game-changer: “The costs of paying for commercial pilots will be eliminated, which will dramatically reduce your drone mapping costs.”