Sunday, April 30, 2017

More Haiku of Finance for 04/30/17

Bring on the Bluetooth
Future mesh for device spreads
Adding tiny costs

Alfidi Capital Attends Bluetooth World 2017

I have always been curious about this Bluetooth stuff, so I had to check out Bluetooth World 2017 down in Silicon Valley. I did not actually see anyone with blue-colored teeth at the conference but maybe I just didn't look closely enough into people's mouths. There's more to Bluetooth tech than just drinking blueberry juice.

Alfidi Capital got a free pass to Bluetooth World 2017.

Some Cisco guy supposedly predicted that the IoT market would be worth over $14.4T by 2023. It's one of those phantom quotes that gets thrown around at these types of conferences. The Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) aficionados here were all about grabbing that big IoT market. There's no free lunch with this tech, meaning there's a tradeoff between longer range and higher bandwidth forcing developers to choose between optimizing for either speed or power.

The "mesh networking" protocol enthusiasts here think it's some revolutionary leap for power optimization over many IoT devices without recourse to gateways or routers. We hear about revolutionary leaps all the time in this valley. IMHO developers for Bluetooth and others techs are way too enamored with smartphone I.D. authentication. Techies never want to admit that bad people can steal or hack phones. Once again, everyone's pitching convenience over security! The immaturity in this valley is mind-boggling.

Bluetooth dominates the wireless audio market and it will probably rule the beacon market in retail store promotion. Online shopping is decimating retail, so beacons have a closing window of opportunity. The next recession will see this window slam shut, and I predict only a few surviving upscale retailers will truly leverage store beacons.

The big push for Bluetooth Mesh as an IoT architecture is doomed to fail if it relies on end users to implement security. It is also unclear how Bluetooth IoT devices and apps will generate revenue. Bluetooth SIG whitepapers should spell out the Cloudonomics metrics that will guide investment. Beacon data generating contextual information about customers will have commercial value once it is aggregated in clouds.

Let me continue on this money metrics theme. Energy use and data processing throughput are measurable costs for IoT devices. Any value Bluetooth adds must exceed the energy and data costs per device. It's also worth asking whether Bluetooth promoters intend the tech to be a completely open source system like ARM, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi. The choice to keep it moving in that direction will affect how developers build apps.

Bluetooth IoT devices will generate enormous volumes of data and metadata, requiring a greater role for machine learning in analytics. Developers should define where machine learning belongs in the data flow from device to cloud. I suspect only a minuscule amount of AI can reside at gateways due to power and processing limits, especially as Bluetooth Mesh pushes these support functions beyond gateways. Developers should focus their AI efforts on the cloud, where power and processing are theoretically unlimited.

It is unbelievable that some people at Bluetooth world think that blockchain will add value to Bluetooth in IoT. The vast amounts of data flows I mentioned above will quickly overwhelm a blockchain ledger. Imagine the constant forking and multiple layers of ledgers to track the new forks. Just say yes to machine learning and no to blockchain.

I foresee a market opportunity for startups based on scraping, collating, and cleansing data from Bluetooth Mesh networks. Venture investors should ask how these startups translate data from Bluetooth and other tech systems into a single format, as long as Bluetooth has competition. Startup IoT devices are amenable to crowdfunding if they have some consumer hook, like a cute beacon base station that invites in-store selfies. I am certain we will hear a lot more about AI and IoT convergence as startups figure out the combo is a hook to get VC funding.

I keep seeing startups jump on the wearable tech bandwagon and Bluetooth World 2017 had its share of starry-eyed wearable devotees. There is very little chance the wearable train will ever leave the station, folks. Wearables will always be way too expensive for most consumers. Battery life is a major limiting factor. Embedded sensors and processors make the products so fragile that they will need delicate care and frequent replacement. The connectivity path loss by distance from embedded devices to sensors is a challenge for devices hanging on a human body. These things will never be a mass-market product, and any personal data aggregated from wearables would likely pose HIPAA violations if released without a user's permission. Security matters "over the air" for wearables.

I asked one tech expert here about how we can design physical plant for maximum flexibility with future digital architectures. The guy said bandwidth is the bottom line, with physical structures built for the maximum possible access points and transmission capacity. There you go, Bluetooth fans, just develop your devices to fit in every building's joints, corners, and shafts.

Anyone who wants a head start on the next big thing should start adding Bluetooth knowledge to their skill set. The IoT frontier is like a gold rush and vacant land rush combined. Proliferating Bluetooth tech that identifies devices should make QR codes obsolete. Startups building solutions that can flex between Bluetooth and other techs will own the IoT future. You heard it here first from Alfidi Capital, thanks to Bluetooth World 2017.

The Haiku of Finance for 04/30/17

Search engine ad reach
Optimize with special tags
Remarket funnel

Alfidi Capital Attends SMX West 2017

I am a known regular at every major digital marketing event in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Search Marketing Expo 2017 down in San Jose. I attended this year's SMX West Conference to hear what Microsoft Bing and Google had to say about their search capabilities, but there were other goodies on hand.

Alfidi Capital displays Expo badge at SMX West 2017.

My free Expo badge got me into the main events from the major sponsors, plus all the free candy I could grab during booth pitches. The badge selfie notes the Landy Awards from Search Engine Land  which I was not invited to attend. Someday, these folks will have me hosting their award ceremonies. Mark my words, because my badge selfies are prophetic. The only other photo I took was of some wild equation someone displayed on a pitch slide illustrating online ad spending; it did not come out nearly as well as my badge selfie.

The keynote address pitching Google Assistant was the latest roadshow chapter in Google's plan to take over the world, one household at a time. Google Assistant integrates with Google Home and probably enables other parts of the IoT ecosystem, like Nest. Before you know it, your thermostat will be searching Google for neighborhood microclimate forecasts. I suppose Google's in-home devices and apps will interface with Google's APIs by passing basic data on identity, payments, and geolocations back and forth. Doing this with users' permission requires users to become a lot more cognizant of security. The UI is always the weakest point in security chains. Good luck, Google; you're better off pitching automated security and letting the smartest users post helpful bug fixes online. Actions on Google gives developers hints on how to build for Google Assistant.

The Bing people talked up their ad programs' quality score metrics. I prefer that they raise the quality of their search algorithm if they ever hope to have a shot at taking market share from Google Search. I did like their tip on landing page optimization, where the "root word" of a word with many synonyms avoids a search engine penalty for keyword stuffing.

One big benefit for yours truly was to hear SEO legend Bruce Clay speak at SMX West. The guy has been doing search marketing since the earliest days of the discipline. The FTC has plenty of guidelines impacting search marketing, and everyone advertising in the search sector must comply. I did a Google Search of some combos of "FTC PPC SEO" to see the latest developments. Mr. Clay mentioned WebPagetest as one way to identify fixes that will raise a page's search rank, in addition to Google's long-standing webmaster guidelines. I asked Mr. Clay about how emerging industry guidelines on making Web pages accessible to people with disabilities will affect SEO. He generously answered that ADA Rule 508 (supported by treaty in many countries) enables audible readers for alt-tags of images, and a company can incur huge fines if a US federal government employee uses a website that's not ADA compliant. Lawyers are lining up behind the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) to pursue liabilities for websites whose images do not have matching alt-tags. The FCC is tracking CVAA regulation updates. Thanks again for the heads-up, Mr. Clay, because Web entrepreneurs like me need to stay out of trouble. Mr. Clay's tips were endless, telling us to mitigate referer spam and UTM injection, and cautioning against malware installation into plug-ins that cause negative SEO results.

The Google free talks were the day after the Bing talks. I scored multiple handfuls of free snacks from both sponsors, in addition to some cool marketing insights. There's tons of online commentary for Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) as an ad performance metric, including calculation methods. Marketers should use ROAS together with CVR, CPA, and CPC in a dashboard format, with conversions traced as "attributions" to each spending metric. I used to hear a lot about remarketing to prospects who fell out of a marketing funnel, and now it's accepted as a given with "dynamic remarketing" as a variant. The ultimate purpose of using data-driven ad buys is to raise CVR while lowering CPA, and the Google people made it clear that this is their ad platform's approach. I don't use Google Merchant Center, because I don't sell any products or run ads, but it's the future for online retailers of any size.

I picked up quite a few other specialized tips from the Expo that probably aren't applicable to my general readership, but they are definitely of interest to me. I have realized lately that sharing too much about my business strategy can be counterproductive. I took a bit longer writing this article about the Expo because I wanted to ensure I had time to update my own SEO techniques. SMX West 2017 was a winner for Alfidi Capital.