About Michael Tchong

Michael Tchong

Michael Tchong is the founder of Ubercool Inc. and a trend-tracking inspirational speaker who helps transform audiences worldwide. As the founder of five start-ups, he helped pioneer such sweeping changes as desktop publishing, personal information management, Internet research and online marketing. Michael is authoring an e-book, called Social Engagement Marketing, that will shine a bright spotlight on this market. His uncanny ability to decode the future, lead the U.K. Telegraph to label Michael “America’s most influential trendspotter.”

Michael is the founder of MacWEEK and ICONOCAST, which produced multi-million-dollar conferences, including one starring basketball legend Dennis Rodman and another featuring a Broadway musical. Michael strongly believes that the successful organizations of tomorrow will address the changing consumer lifestyles of today.


Latest Posts by Michael Tchong

How Robots Becoming More Integrated In Our Lives

January 27, 2015 by  

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In 2007, David Levy an artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands, speculated that we would be marrying robots by 2050, and that Massachusetts would be the first state to allow it.
While you may smirk in disbelief at this prediction, society’s infatuation with the digital lifestyle suggests that a man-machine relationship is not all that far-fetched. Here’s growing evidence that robot love, or hate, is gathering momentum:

  • Concert conductor – On May 13, 2008, Honda’s stair-stepping Asimo robot lead the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, performing “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha” with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
  • Domestic robots – Woody Allen’s 1973 movie Sleeper gave a hilarious but prescient look at the future of domestic robotics. The domestic robot invasion began with the vacuum cleaner, launched by the iRobot Roomba with much success in 2002.

Samsung POWERbot VR9000At the January 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Samsung introduced its latest generation of vacuum-cleaning robots. The Samsung POWERbot VR9000 robot vacuum (£815), pictured above, offers “CycloneForce” suction power.

  • Employment trend – The New York Times reports that the American work force has been growing polarized for decades. Highly skilled jobs, such as writing software or performing surgery, or service jobs like child care and cutting hair are growing. Jobs in between, such as factory work, sales and bookkeeping, are shrinking — explaining the economy’s slow climb out of the recession. Part of the blame lies with Silicon Valley. Many of these jobs involve repetitive tasks that computers and robots are well-suited to perform, from robots loading conveyor belts in factories to selling airline tickets at Kayak.com.
  • Industrial robotics – One glance at the video, bottom, of Amazon’s “pick”, but not yet “pack,” robot will convince anyone of the future potential of industrial robots. Statista reports that worldwide shipments of multipurpose industrial robots are forecast to exceed 207,000 units in 2015, up from around 159,000 in 2012. Since the average industrial robot costs about $100,000, that implies a 2015 market of about $21 billion.
  • Service robots – The non-industrial business market comprises of service robots, like the one employed at the Aloft hotel in Cupertino (see below) or the Pepper robot (main photo), employed by Softbank at its stores in Japan, which will soon show up at Sprint stores in the U.S. Japan is focusing its robotic efforts on helping its aging population, which explains why Riken, a Japanese research institute, has a goal of designing a robot able to carry at least 154 pounds (70kg). This is important given that Japan, along with Italy, shares the distinction of having the world’s oldest population.

At the Aloft hotel in Cupertino, Calif., guests are greeted by the “Botlr” robot, made by the start-up Savioke, which reportedly will also be used to make small deliveries to guest rooms.

  • Bio-bots – If you believe that the substrate of robots will be limited to metal or plastic, banish that thought. In 2012, researchers at the University of Illinois developed a walking bio-bot powered by heart cells. The video gallery below shows how bio-bots propel themselves.
  • Robot fish – Robofish have captured everyone’s imagination. In 2005, the London Aquarium featured its first robot fish, created by University of Essex computer scientists. Japan’s Ryomei developed a health-monitoring robot carp that checks up on real-life koi.
  • Self-driving cars – According to Boston Consulting Group, 55% of car buyers are very likely to buy a partially autonomous vehicle — official speak for an automobile that drives itself. Once drivers learn that they’ll be able to text or surf the web while their car drives itself, that figure is certain to skyrocket. ;)
  • Love companions – No matter how you robo-slice it, the Robot Love trend could not be complete without an excursion through amorous territory. The pleasantly entertaining movie “Her” already shows just how involving a digital relationship might get. Suffice it to say that many an entrepreneur is hard at work developing the ultimate love robot. One researcher predicts that by 2050 Amsterdam’s red light district will be all about “android prostitutes.”
  • Robotics are destined for a spectacular future. So much so that the BBC reported in 2006 that robots could one day “demand workers rights.”
  • If you’re curious about robots, check out Mashable’s Top 10 Robot Videos on YouTube. You may fall in love with what you see. We won’t tell anyone.

Amazon.com pick robotBio-botHumans Need Not ApplyPepper robot

 

The Sony Experia Z Ultra & Phablet Trend

January 19, 2015 by  

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You’re the front runner of the mobile market. You re-invented both the first disruption, the iPhone, and the second one, the tablet. But something happened after the iPad. Consumers couldn’t live without a big-screen device. Yet the iPhone had a small screen.

The shoot-from-the-hip Android market saw an opening and ran with it. Samsung pioneered the “phablet” trend, a contraction of phone and tablet, with the introduction of the Galaxy Note in October 2011. So what happened?

Apple was too successful. It got users addicted to hi-res touch screens. The iPad further spoiled consumers but when faced with a choice between a small-screen phone and a large-screen tablet, consumers opted for convergence.

Which lead Samsung to the phablet, or as one pundit put it — “big-ass phone.” And why not? Who wants to carry two devices when one can do? Manufacturers like Sony stretched the limits even further with the 6.4-inch Sony Experia Z Ultra, pictured above.

Apple faced a typical innovator’s dilemma. In a classic case of innovation recoil, Apple couldn’t put its iPad sales under pressure, which at the time was the fastest growing consumer device in history. And that’s what a larger iPhone would do. So, a full three years after Samsung introduced its Note, the iPhone 6+ was born. And as you might suspect, Apple lost a lot of sales momentum.

This holiday season, Flurry Analytics examined data from more than 600,000 apps and found a big jump in the popularity phablets this year, which more than quadrupled from 3% to 13% between 2012 and 2014:

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Apple was instrumental in that phablet explosion. The iPhone 6+, Apple’s first phablet, was among the top 5 devices activated and contributed to Apple’s 51% share of all new device activations between December 19 and 25.

As TechCrunch’s Chris Velazco put it, “I’m surprised at how quickly I’ve grown accustomed to these sorts of hefty handsets.” Consumers seem to agree, big-ass phones are here to stay.

Photo credit: PhoneArena.com.

Top Innovative Products & Designs at CES 2015

January 17, 2015 by  

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Ever since Apple showed the technology industry the importance of outstanding design, there’s seen a dramatic upsurge in product design. Here are the eight best designed products shown at CES 2015.

This article showcases the most stellar designs packaging innovative technologies. The list is by design incomplete, since there are surely more products that might qualify, but these ones are on our radar screen.

A photo gallery follows the list:

HP Pavilion Mini
The mini computer is growing in significance. HP interpreted the concept beautifully in the HP Pavilion Mini ($320 and up), packing Windows 8.1, an Intel Pentium 3558U, 4GB memory and 500GB hard drive in a 6×6-inch (15 cm) package.

LaCie Mirror Drive
Portable hard drives are mass commodities, selling for as little as $50. So LaCie recruited French designer Pauline Deltour to create the stunning LaCie Mirror ($280), which is encases a 1TB hard drive in scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass placed atop a stand made of ebony wood from Makassar.

Logitech UE MEGABOOM
Logitech’s UE BOOM and MINIBOOM have already achieved much acclaim but they now have competition from the new Logitech UE MEGABOOM ($300), which is 200% larger. Logitech’s battery powered Bluetooth speaker features an octagonal design and eye-popping colors.

NeuroMetrix Quell
The NeuroMetrix Quell (est. $250) is the first wearable to be cleared by the FDA for treatment of chronic pain without a prescription. Quell’s pain therapy can be tailored using a smartphone. NeuroMetrix expects Quell to go on sale in the second quarter of 2015.

Seagate Seven
Seagate claims the Seagate Seven ($100) is the world’s thinnest 500GB portable drive, at just 7mm thick. Its steel casing clearly looks like a bare metal drive, but Seagate may well be the first tech company to embrace the popular industrial look.

Sony Walkman NW-ZX2
Believe it or not, the Walkman is back in the shape of the Sony Walkman NW-ZX2 ($1120), now featuring hi-res audio playback, including DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, Apple Lossless, 128GB built-in memory, a microSD memory-card slot, plus Bluetooth with high-quality LDAC for up to 60 hours of wireless playback. What’s notable is the revival of Sony’s classic VAIO “hinge” design.

Sony FDR-X100V
Be forewarned, Sony has three products in this listicle, which underscores the company’s legendary prowess in industrial design. While GoPro has long dominated the action camera segment, Sony’s entrance should boost the category’s overall design. The Sony FDR-X100V ($500) is the company’s first 4K capable (3840×2160 @30p, 15p) POV camcorder.

Sony XBR-65X850C
No, this is not Sony’s top-of-the-line 900 series, which feature two rather ugly feet and will charge you through the nose for its 5mm thinness. The more affordable 65-inch Sony XBR-65X850C (est. $2800), offered some of the best display quality on the CES show floor and features a beautiful single-piece stand.
HP Pavillion MiniLacie MirrorLogitech UE MegaboomNeuroMetrix QuellSeagate SevenSony Walkman NW-ZX2Sony FDR-X100V

Sony XBR-65X850C

Voyeurism+, Where Selfies Take Center Stage in Our Lives

January 13, 2015 by  

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Smartphone cameras unleashed a major trend around the globe — “selfie” — the act of taking photographs of one self in various states of dress or undress. Paying the ultimate tribute, The Oxford University Press named selfie 2013 word of the year.

Selfies are part of the voyeurgasm ubertrend, a societal trait that is being accelerated by the rapid improvement in tools that enable voyeurism, like the smartphone.

Apple’s iPhone 4 gave self-portraits a big shot in the arm with the inclusion of a front-facing camera, although, today, many selfies are taken using a mirror. But now the smartphone has gained an ally to help celebrate instant narcissism, in the form of the selfie stick.

That a telescoping wand designed to help smartphone users take better photos of themselves would be hailed by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2014 is indicative of the far-reaching impact Voyeurgasm is having on society.

From The New York Times to The Verge to USA Today, everyone seems riveted by the selfie phenom and, pardon the pun, its selfie-stick growth curve:

  • Market growth – The New York Times ruefully suggests that “the séance with the self is only going to grow.” Had the author understood our Voyeurgasm Ubertrend, he would have known why.
  • Potential improvement – The Verge waxes poetically “I love how something so simple as a retractable rod takes a crude shot meant for one or two people and expands and improves upon its potential.”
  • Hottest gift – USA Today called it “one of the hottest stocking-stuffer gifts this holiday season.”

Ellen DeGeneres tweetWith more than 3.3 million retweets, the Oscar photo orchestrated by Ellen DeGeneres is the most retweeted selfie in Twitter’s history. Could Ellen’s wish that Bradley Cooper had a longer arm been the call to arms for selfie stick makers?

  • Narcissistick – While some believe that the millennial generation is no more self-indulgent or self-centered than any other generation, one 2010 study of 100 college students concluded that “Facebook feeds narcissicm.” No wonder some have dubbed the selfie stick the “Narcissistick.”
  • Word of the year – In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary chose “Selfie” as its word of the year.

CamKix Selfie Stick

One of the most popular and highly reviewed selfie sticks on Amazon.com is the CamKix Extendable Universal Selfie Stick with Bluetooth Remote ($30).

  • You will like it – On Medium, Lindsey Weber puts it succinctly: “You will mock, then purchase a selfie stick.”

And like it we will. Pew Research reports that 55% of Millennials, the generation aged 18 to 33, have posted a “selfie” on a social media site.

If it’s good enough for an ABC TV show, the President of the U.S. and the Pope, it has our blessing.

 

Voyeurgasm is Remaking Society

January 7, 2015 by  

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Rodney King’s 1991 beating was a watershed moment in modern history. Not only was it groundbreaking because police violence was captured on video, but it also helped accelerate an Ubertrend, Voyeurgasm, which points to a future where just about everything will be captured by smartphones or UHD camcorders.

Since then, an explosion in high-profile events have been captured on video, ranging from the elevator assault on Jay Z by Beyonce’s sister Solange to the Concorde crash, September 11, Paris Hilton’s “sex-capade,” President’s Bush’s shoe-throwing incident, and O.J. Simpson’s infamous car chase, plus countless other police-car chases, and violent teen beatings.

Voyeurgasm dates back to the beginning of mankind but the rapid evolution of manmade tools has turned it into a major societal force over the past few decades. Digital technology in particular, ranging from camcorders to smartphones equipped with video to webcams and surveillance cameras, have whipped this Ubertrend into a frenzy:

  • Early history – The painting was first to help budding voyeurs catch glimpses of others, unrobed or not. In 1839, Louis Daguerre introduced the daguerrotype, ushering in the photographic revolution that let anyone capture images on film.
  • Reality shows – Voyeurgasm’s impact on media is well-documented. In 1992, MTV debuted “Real World,” a show about seven strangers who share a home, that started the reality show trend in earnest. “Big Brother,” created in the Netherlands by Van der Mol Studios, was buoyed by the popularity of peeping-tom webcams, like JenniCam. It was quickly followed by a series of me-too shows, such as “Survivor” and “The Bachelor,” proving that people do indeed like to watch. Today, a plethora of reality shows clog the airwaves, and heeding the Voyeurgasm call, there is even a show called, Naked and Afraid.
  • HDTV/UHD – It was high-definition video technology, introduced in the 90s, that dramatically raised the quality of videos, many of which are bound to end up on mass media. Today, the market is moving to “ultra high definition” or UHD, which will rachet up the quality of voyeurgasmic videos.

Panasonic HC-WX970Introduced at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic’s new 4K Ultra HD camcorder HC-WX970 ($1,000) is the company’s first “prosumer’ camcorder that records ultra high-definition, or UHD, video, offering four times the resolution of HDTV, 3840×2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Once tools like these get in the hands of the YouTube generation, all prying eyes will be on us.

  • YouTube – Perhaps no other medium has brought Voyeurgasm to the forefront more than YouTube. Launched in February 2005, YouTube has reshaped the way the world shares and consumes video. After just 10 years in existence, more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, almost an hour for every person on Earth. You might call it “digital rubbernecking.”
  • Smartphones – If the video camera revolutionized Voyeurgasm, it’s the smartphone that made it possible to capture any event and upload it to the internet instantly. A perfect example was this harrowing road rage incident (NSFW) captured in December in Sacramento, Calif., involving two girls and a woman.
  • Policing police – Another remarkable incident happened on July 19, 2014, when a bystander used a smartphone to catch a New York City police officers choking 43-year-old Eric Garner to death. That mobile phones will soon catch every police deed and misdeed was underscored by a video that caught another New York police officer knocking a Critical Mass bicyclist off his bicycle, in front of horrified bystanders. As bodycams and dashcams proliferate, police video footage is certain to surge.
  • Surveillance – Another trend propelled by Voyeurgasm is the rapid growth in surveillance cameras, which routinely capture people red-handed, like this FedEx driver flinging a delivery package, or these three girls taking a bath in a KFC sink. London now has more surveillance cameras monitoring its citizens than any other major city in the world, some 500,000, which are part of the 6 million CCTV cameras in the U.K. According to an Electronics.ca report, the video surveillance market is predicted to reach $37.5 billion in 2015.

Britney SpearsThe “pixel paparazzi” now stand at the ready for any opportunity to capture a Britney Spears “oops I did it again” moment so treasured by a celebrity obsessed culture.

  • Celebrity Worship Syndrome – Our voyeuristic obsession with celebrities led New Scientist magazine to conclude in 2003 that one-third of Americans were suffering from something it dubbed “Celebrity Worship Syndrome” (CWS).

Ku Noodle

Ku Noodle at Las Vegas’ new SLS hotel shows how Voyeurgasm has influenced architectural design, with a growing number of venues now featuring transparent public spaces, including kitchens, showers and even bathrooms.

  • Transparency – Another subtle change brought on by Voyeurgasm is the growing role of transparency in everything we do. From public disclosure to glass-walled bathrooms to see-through restaurant kitchen windows, society is rapidly vaulting towards a future where being able to see one’s innermost processes will become an essential objective.

Expect Voyeurgasm to completely remake society, as the YouTubes, Facebooks and Snapchats of the world conspire with billions of smartphones, digital SLRs and UHD camcorders, plus surveillance gear, to create a brave new media world where just about anything goes, video.

 

Brain Age: Why Do We Forget Things Even Early in Life?

January 1, 2015 by  

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Incidences are becoming numerous. You’re about to mention a name and suddenly realize you can’t recall it. “It’s at the tip of my tongue,” you mutter embarrassedly. “Happens to me all time,” a sympathetic listener responds. You suffer from “mild cognitive impairment.” And so do billions of others.

While one could easily dismiss this as a collective “senior moment,” society is facing something never experienced before: a non-stop assault on the senses brought on by rivers of data, a proliferation of media and advertising, copious multitasking, plus a growing reliance on digital devices with memory aids:

  • Age – Scientists note that average scores on memory tests decline steadily after age 25. By midlife, memory erosion accelerates, with humans losing on average 1% of brain volume each year. And there’s growing evidence that cellphones, calculators, speed-dialing, GPS and other memory-saving aids have reduced the need for mental acuity, causing memory to deteriorate at a faster pace than ever before. A study led by Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia, found that people were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later on the internet. A study released in January 2013 suggests that brain aging results in a sleep-related memory decline.
  • Gender – According to a study of almost 2,000 people in their 70s and 80s, men develop mild cognitive impairment earlier and at higher rates than women. Besides men, subjects found to be at higher risk for mild cognitive impairment include those who had never been married, those with less than nine years of schooling and those carrying the ApoE4 gene, which is a risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s.
  • Multitasking – Research by psychologist Denise Park at the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana shows that adults who multitask frequently have more memory complaints than their parents in their 70s.
  • Brain games – With memory lapses on an upswing, the brain fitness business is booming. Nintendo has sold 34 million units worldwide of its popular Brain Age videogame for the DS player. Brain Age was inspired by Tohoku University Professor Dr. Ryuta Kawashima’s work in neurosciences. “There’s more and more evidence that exercise staves off memory loss,” notes Dr. Daniel Press, neurologist at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “In some ways, exercise is as good as any intervention we have in terms of helping people with mild memory loss from getting worse.”

Brain AgeSince its launch in May 2005, Nintendo has sold 34 million copies of Brain Age, a Nintendo DS videogame created by Tohoku University professor Dr. Ryuta Kawashima.

  • Brain training – National Institutes of Health research shows that older adults with mild memory impairment can benefit from cognitive training, although not necessarily in areas reliant on memorization. San Francisco-based vibrantBrains, which calls itself “A Health Club for Your Brain,” lets participants work on such skills as memory, reasoning, visual scanning, word recall and quantitative facility using games and exercises. Lifespan reports that Americans spent $80 million in 2009 on brain exercise products, compared to just $2 million in 2005.
  • Memory drugs – For some, these memory aids don’t go far enough. A growing number of people are using prescription drugs like Ritalin — which was designed to treat hyperactive children — to boost alertness and brain power. Up to a fifth of adults, including college students and shift workers, may be using these types of cognitive enhancers, a Nature poll of 1,400 consumers found. And the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs is spreading to an ever younger generation. According to University of Cambridge Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology Barbara Sahakian, 17% of students at some U.S. universities already admit to using Ritalin.
  • Future technology – Looming on the horizon are promising drug discoveries. The biotech industry is developing new therapies that can cure such diseases as Alzheimer’s — treatments that are bound to lead to the world’s first “lifestyle” drugs to deal with forgetfulness. Pointing to a future where memory will be fully “customizable,” researchers in Brooklyn, N.Y. recently reached a major milestone with the ability to erase certain memories using an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain that hold specific types of memory, such as emotional associations, spatial knowledge or motor skills.

This type of biotech weaponry will be a welcome addition to the current arsenal used to combat the growing decline in memory retention. We’ve dubbed this trend in wonder drugs “Memory Protection” — because much like computers, which require memory protection to prevent crashes, human beings are increasingly prone to “memory leaks,” as techies like to call PC freezes.

The memory protection market could produce the biggest lifestyle drug yet, because who wouldn’t want to stroll down memory lane faster?

 

Yoga Culture Growth to Over 200 Million People Worldwide

December 31, 2014 by  

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Propelled by the vagaries of the Time Compression Ubertrend — the acceleration of life, yoga is now practiced by 200 million people worldwide, including more than 100 million in India and 20 million in the U.S.

In a time-compressed world, the meditative powers of yoga are now celebrated by an estimated 20 million Americans who practice this 5,000-year-old art, nearly triple the 6 million identified in a 1994 Roper poll.

But yoga’s biggest boost comes courtesy of researchers at Duke University who found in a January 2013 study that yoga is a promising treatment for mental illnesses, including mild depression and sleep disorders.

lululemon

Vancouver-based lululemon athletica, whose wares have been featured on “Desperate Housewives,” opened its first store in Vancouver in 2000. Today, the chain has 254 stores worldwide. Shown above are the company’s popular “Groove Pants.”

Here are some yoga market facts:

  • Market size – The economy has impacted the yoga market. A 2008 poll commissioned by Yoga Journal magazine found that the number of people practicing yoga had declined to 15.8 million, from 16.5 million in 2004. four years later, however, in 2012, the magazine found 20 million practitioners.
  • Demographics – Women make up 77% of yoga practitioners (PDF). Young women also are the fastest-growing segment of yoga newcomers, according to a November 2004 Yoga Journal poll, with 18-to-24-year-olds who practice yoga rising 46% between 2003 and 2004.
  • Expenditures – Yoga’s mainstreaming has fueled demand for fashionable apparel, similar in character to the “athleisure” trend identified with the hip-hop set. Women are realizing that yoga apparel, known for sleek design and comfortable fit, can easily be worn from studio to street. Spending on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media, almost doubled between 2004 and 2008, rising from $3 billion to $5.7 billion, says Yoga Journal. By 2012, that figure had risen to $10.3 billion.
  • Competition – Title Nine, VF Corp.’s Lucy and Lululemon belong to group of retailers focused on designing, making and selling women’s athletic wear – a $15 billion market.
  • Yoga retreats – Yoga retreats have become big business. Many resorts around the globe, like Mexico’s Maya Tulum, or the COMO Shambala retreats in Parrot Cay, Bahamas or Ubud, Bali, offer yoga getaways for those who like to practice in exotic locales. In New York, the Dream Hotel became the first U.S. hotel to feature a Deepak Chopra yoga studio directly attached to a hotel. The New York Standard recently joined the yoga party, with its own yoga offerings (see slide above). Another portion of the $5.7 billion spent on yoga goes to “rock star” yoga masters who offer similar retreats, like Baron Baptiste.
  • Investment trends – A lot of investors are being attracted to the yoga trend, particularly Boston-based venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners. Highland has stakes in lululemon and Yoga Works, a growing chain of studios that now boasts 14 locations in southern California and New York. Rob Wrubel and George Lichter, best known as the men behind the internet site Ask Jeeves, provided refinancing for Yoga Works, which was founded in the late 80s.
  • New concepts – Exhale, markets itself as a “mindbodyspa,” with locations in Los Angeles, New York and other urban areas, that combines yoga classes with facials, massage and alternative treatments such as acupuncture.

There are signs that a backlash resembling the anti-Starbucks sentiment is building in the yoga community, reports The Wall Street Journal. However, only a quarter of lululemon gear is actually used for yoga and Pilates classes. The rest is shows up at gyms, road races and even social events.

With the western world’s 450 million baby boomers looking eastward for contemplative inner peace, and Generation X and Y joining the flow, yoga is destined to become the antidote to civilization.

The Growth of LED Lighting

December 30, 2014 by  

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The opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics will always conjure up stunning imagery of 2,008 volunteers drumming in perfect harmony, an event that vividly captured the imagination of viewers worldwide. But if anything, this Olympic event was a coming out party for light-emitting diode, or LED lighting technology.

The opening ceremonies featured a giant 44,000 LED “scroll” that replayed China’s 5,000-year civilization on a canvas 482 feet (147 m) long and 72 feet (22 m) wide. Tiny LED beads were also embedded in the costumes of performers, who fanned out to create a starry sky with dazzling images.

Philips Personal Wireless Lighting

Philips offers the innovative hue Personal Wireless Lighting starter pack ($200) — three LED lightbulbs that can be wirelessly controlled by your Android smartphone, iPhone or iPad and features energy savings plus the ability to glow in 16 million colors.

There’s no question that LED lighting has quickly achieved cult status in the staid $17 billion U.S. lightbulb replacement industry. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 contained a little-noticed act. Starting in 2012, light bulbs are to be phased in that feature roughly 25% greater efficiency. This move effectively bans most current incandescent light bulbs, with few exceptions.

That this legal maneuver went unnoticed until much later was evidenced by the greater publicity Australia’s February 2007 decision received to completely phase out incandescent bulbs by 2010.

Propelled by such high-profile actions and amplified by rapidly evolving technology, the LED lighting market is poised for spectacular growth:

  • Market size/forecast – In 2015, the global LED lighting market is predicted reach $26 billion, while the overall lighting market grows to $82 billion, reports Taiwan-based firm TrendForce. In the U.S., LED sales reached $891 million in 2012, and is forecast to reach $2.8 billion in 2017, representing an average annual growth rate of 25%.
  • Market segments – The main appeal of LED technology is energy efficiency. In traffic signal lights, a high-visibilty market for LEDs (see chart below), a red traffic signal light containing 196 LEDs draws just 10 watts compared to a 150-watt incandescent light bulb. As they become better and cheaper, LEDs are quickly replacing the U.S.’ 4 million traffic lights plus innumerable neon lights. The Los Angeles Police Department chose the Pelican 7060 LED ($132) as the standard flashlight for all its officers. Meanwhile, virtually all automobile manufacturers have largely switched to LED lights.
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  • Special effects – Hotels, like Las Vegas’ Bellagio, use LEDs from Italy’s Space Cannon to provide exterior color accents, before the company was liquidated. In 2007, Royal Philips Electronics acquired Color Kinetics for $688 million. Color Kinetics is a decade-old Boston company that, among others, designed Toronto’s CN Tower’s 1,300 color-changing LEDs.

GE Link LED lightbulb

In June 2014, GE announced the GE Link LED lightbulb, which is not only seriously cheap at $15 but can also be controlled by a Quirky Wink app, making it the most cost-competitive smart LED lightbulb.

  • Future technologies – At a Düsseldorf retailer, Philips is testing a lighting system with built-in iBeacon technology from Apple that relays location and product information to smartphones. Using a companion app, shoppers can see a store map, including their exact location.

Researchers are taking LED to the next level, working on designs that could positively affect moods and even health. That certainly would be enlightening.

 

 

 

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