Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Floods and Technology

Harvey, the hurricane and tropical storm hitting Texas and other Gulf Coast locations, has clearly been devastating. Stories and images of massive destruction, people forced from their homes, and damage and loss of property fill the news. Most tragically, there has been loss of life. The impacts of this massive storm on the communities hardest hit will be felt for a very long time. When the waters recede, we will likely see many homes, streets, roadways and bridges that are damaged beyond repair.
One interesting and positive element of the story is that computers, smart phones, and communications technology are all being leveraged exceptionally well in flood relief efforts. A Washington Post story reported, “Using social media, flood victims who still had power were able to communicate with public officials directly or to bypass them entirely and coordinate their own rescues with private citizens.”

On the flip side of the coin, technology has also been a casualty of the storm. Flooding has caused damage to communications infrastructure including cell towers and fiber and coax cable in the ground. This hampers the efforts of the many first responders and volunteers who are working so hard to help those affected.

In the weeks and months after the storm clears the area and waters recede, and as people begin to return to their flood-damaged homes, personal technology is likely to have taken a major hit. Home computers and the data they hold, including important financial documents and the digital photo collections of families, may be damaged beyond recovery. This is another opportunity to think about how we treat and protect data in our personal life, and perhaps a good argument for cloud-based data backups of digital assets we never want to lose.

How do you protect your technology and your data from physical risks like floods? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with us.


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Amazon Buys Whole Foods ... Why?

$13.7 billion buys a lot of organic free-range semi-seasoned fair-trade fresh-squeezed coffee beans

Image Credit TechCrunch
I honestly don’t know anything at all about the grocery business. If none of my thinking here makes sense, please leave comments and help me to learn. But having watched Amazon for many years as they go from simple online book seller to purveyor of all things, to behemoth back-end web-services provider, I’m not sure that Amazon simply wants to be in the supermarket business. Of course, they might be, so I’ll list that first in my list of possible reasons why Amazon is willing to spend $13.7 billion on Whole Foods.

Which of these rings most true to you? Amazon will...
  1. seriously enter the traditional supermarket business
  2. use the Whole Foods locations as retail store fronts for Amazon products
  3. leverage Whole Foods’ supply chain and locations to super-charge their own Amazon Fresh delivery business
  4. operate Whole Foods and significantly drop prices in order to start a supermarket price war. Weaken at least some of the competition and push others out, after which Amazon Fresh and traditional Amazon dry goods grocery items can gain market share
  5. do something I haven’t thought of yet
I find #4 to be the most interesting.

Amazon seems particularly focused on Walmart and Target (big retailers who also sell groceries) and would love to deal them a serious blow. If along the way Amazon can damage some of the big supermarket chains while simultaneously boosting their own multi-faceted food business (Amazon Fresh, traditional Amazon food sales, and the rumored Amazon competitor to Blue Apron), that would be a very savvy business move.

Does this sound improbable to you? Not to me. Just think back on Amazon’s history and the way they have aggressively moved into other business areas (AWS), acquired great businesses (Zappos), and destroyed businesses they perceived to be in their way ( I think anything is possible.

What do you think?