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February 2015

The Leyendecker View

The Best (and the Absurd) from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show

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In April 2011, we published our first issue The Leyendecker View. This month marks our 43rd issue. We are thrilled to announce that all past TLVs can now be viewed on our website. We hope you enjoy reading these every month as much as we enjoy putting them together. As always, we welcome your feedback, thoughts and ideas, as our aim here is to provide you with a fresh, perhaps even new perspective.
 
As always, we hope you find value and things of interest in this TLV.
 
Thanks for your readership through these four years!
 
Publisher: Doug Leyendecker
Managing Editor: Kelly Griego

Welcome to The Leyendecker View
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The 48th annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in January in Las Vegas. Since 1967, CES has grown to be one of the largest global consumer electronics fairs. In its nearly 50 years, CES has been home to many significant product and technology launches – the VCR, the camcorder, compact disc player, digital audio technology, HDTV, to name a few – and some significant flops (remember the Mini Disc?). Each year, it’s an exciting spectacle of imagination, ingenuity and always a little bit of Jetsons-like creativity (and some occasional nonsense).
 
In 1967, CES was launched in New York City as a spin-off of the Chicago Music Show, which had until then served as the primary stage for consumer electronics. That first event, which ran Sunday through Wednesday, kicked off with an evening gala, “A Night At the Waldorf.” For just $10, attendees enjoyed a reception with an open bar, a sit-down dinner and entertainment from comedian Dick Shawn and singer Jane Morgan, backed by the Ray Block orchestra. The industry was comprised almost totally of men, so the gala invitation explicitly stated “ladies are invited” to gin up the night.
 
Female CES Guides (or “booth babes,” in more informal terms) were hired to attract attendees – a tradition that remains today; in the late 1970s and 1980s, scantily clad booth babes became the norm, a standard that has persisted and grown increasingly controversial.
 

 
  

CES Guides, or “booth babes,” at the first CES Show in 167


 

 

Booth babes at CES 2011 promote Nikon digital camera
 

Today, CES is an informal and massive event. Its growth seems to have tracked technology’s exponential proliferation into our lives. (Whether or not there are enough women in attendance from the technology industry yet, not just those in risqué clothing in a booth, is a hot button topic at the moment.)

 

Chart data sourced from here and here.
 
Since we seem to be approaching some sort of technology inflection point – where not too long in the future, almost everything in our lives will be digitized, Internet-connected and “smart,” including our homes, cars and even clothes – we thought it worthwhile to devote this month’s TLV to looking at the most exciting technologies and trends and most ridiculous products from this year’s CES. Sit back, relax and imagine your Jetsons-style future…
General Economic Perspectives
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With sovereign central banks all over the world expanding stimulus yet again, one has to wonder – what is economy when it seems so dependent on government stimulus?
 
Is it a coincidence that right about the time our Federal Reserve stopped quantitative easing, Japan’s central bank initiated its own similar program? And now the EU has jumped on the “money printing” bandwagon.
 
There’s no business like funny business in today’s developed market economies, since it seems to take a printing press to keep economy “humming” along. All great for investors in the speculative asset markets that benefit from the tsunami of cheap and easy capital, but where does the average Joe find opportunity in today’s economy?
 
The monetary (and fiscal) stimulus crowd keeps suggesting that eventually, inevitably, sometime very soon, just around the corner…“believe me”…all this stimulus will right economic ships and provide average Joe with more wages and more prosperity. But, it’s coming up on seven years since Lehman’s bankruptcy and economy still seems quite dependent on funny money.
 
Governments that will never be able to pay back their debt now enjoy interest rates that not long ago were only available to the most sturdy of balance sheets. And the likelihood of any sovereign debt “vigilantes” forcing interest rates higher is eliminated when a government’s central bank buys all the debt their treasury issues. This is where Japan is today, and likely where Europe wants to be soon.
 
Let’s think this through…the treasury sells debt that the central bank buys. Debt goes out one door of government only to be purchased through another.
 
Why does it take all these shenanigans to keep economy going? In a roundabout way, the answer may sit in this month’s TLV issue on CES. It’s all about technology.
 
Technology, working in a global market-based economic system, has already destroyed and rebuilt a significant number of industries. Might the force that is changing the face of industry upon industry also be working to do the same with sovereignty? Is economic malaise in the developed markets a canary in the coalmine of the inefficiency of government?
 
This nonstop money-printing scenario seems quite surreal, but what we have is what we have. For now, all we can do is continue doing the job we must do, live the lifestyles we have become accustomed to. None of us wants the game to end, so maybe we should be happy to have a printing press.
The Hiring Market
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Up until the Thanksgiving turkey the oil and gas industry received over the holidays, national job growth seemed quite robust and wages even started to look like they had turned the corner. Most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests these trends continue, although some momentum may be waning.
 
Many have recently asked if we’re seeing a rise in unemployment in Houston. At this stage, the answer is “no.” Announcements have been made, but layoffs have not actually happened yet, at least not in our market or in markets that most TLV readers touch. Surely the first layoffs are out in the field of oil and gas operations, those regions where just a few months ago you could barely find a bed to sleep in or a person to work at McDonalds.
 
Although the number of people “working” in oil and gas is miniscule to the overall economy, wages of these folks are significantly higher than those working at the shopping mall. And the actual number of people dependent on oil and gas for employment is significantly higher than those statistically counted in just that domain.
 
As a good friend recently suggested, “Even the orthodontist in Houston is in the oilfield services industry.” Houston’s economy may be a bit more diverse, but this certainly would seem to apply in the shale basin geographies. Every job in those geographies has been supported by the shale boom gold rush that has now collapsed.
 
There will always be a lag effect between what happens in the on-the-ground, real economy and government data. It takes a while for real-world activity to make its way in to government reports. The effect of the oil bust on employment, wages and consumption will take a while to show up in the national numbers.
 
What was a major organic growth engine to our national economy is now sputtering. Time will tell if the extra cash in consumer pockets will move the economic stimulus baton from oil and gas investment to consumer spending. But surely the growth in $10-an-hour jobs at Walmart isn’t going to replace the loss of six-figure blue-collar jobs in oil and gas.
Managing the Modern Day
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It’s difficult to know when we have it easy, but it’s easy to see when we have it tough.
 
When the world is easy, we can chalk it up to how smart, efficient and productive we are. It is only human nature to assume our success is a result of our efforts. We are there. We are involved. Good things are happening.
 
What is hard to acknowledge is the amount of success that comes from being right place right time. There is smooth sailing for everyone in a rising tide that lifts all ships environment.
 
But when the tide turns, we know it. It is obvious. There is more challenge to everything. It takes longer to work things out, and many times things don’t work out as we’d like.
 
Working through challenge is what really improves our operations as companies and our skills as individuals. Only during adversity are we able to separate the men for the boys.
 
So enjoy the wind in your face, as it only makes you stronger and better
BLS Corner
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Volunteering in the United States, 2014
 
In this BLS report, volunteers are defined as persons who did unpaid work (except for expenses) through or for an organization.
  • The volunteer rate was little changed at 25.3% for the year ending in September 2014. About 62.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014. The volunteer rate in 2013 was 25.4%.
  • The volunteer rates for both men and women (22% and 28.3%, respectively) were little changed in the year ending in September 2014. Women continued to volunteer at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, educational levels and other major demographic characteristics.
  • By age, 35- to 44-year-olds were most likely to volunteer (29.8%). Volunteer rates were lowest among 20- to 24-year-olds (18.7%). For persons 45 years and over, the volunteer rate tapered off as age increased. Teenagers (16- to 19-year-olds) had a volunteer rate of 26.1%.
  • Among the major race and ethnicity groups, whites continued to volunteer at a higher rate (26.7%) than did blacks (19.7%), Asians (18.2%), and Hispanics (15.5%).
  • During the year ending in September 2014, 27.5% of employed persons volunteered. By comparison, 24% of unemployed persons and 21.8% of those not in the labor force volunteered. Among the employed, part-time workers were more likely than full-time workers to have participated in volunteer activities – 31.7%, compared with 26.5%.
Video of the Month
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Corning: A Day Made of Glass
 
In keeping with this month's TLV theme, we thought we’d share this video from glassmaker Corning, in which they envision a future where most anything is digitized and Internet-connected. It’s fun to imagine the possibilities.

 

 
The Best (and the Absurd) from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show
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The Most Talked About
 
Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car stole the show
 

  

 

  

 

Mercedes hasn’t just gotten in on the self-driving car game, they’ve upped the luxury ante and imagined how the inside of a car might adapt for autonomous driving. And it is pure fun – pod-like swivel seats so passengers can easily interact, Internet-connected screens line the inside of the doors (should any passenger need restaurant recommendations or want to catch up on the headlines) and technology that’s all gesture, eye-tracking or touch controlled.
 
The car, which is expected to hit the market in 2030, produces no carbon emissions. Instead, “the car is powered by a battery and a fuel cell that produces electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen to create water. When these two gases combine, they release energy that can be harnessed.”
 
This video is a must-watch to preview the car’s many imaginative and futuristic features and functionality.
 

 

 
For those of you wanting to know more, you can watch Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz, share the car’s story in his keynote at CES here, complete with a “cambot,” of course.
 
Sling TV: Might this finally disrupt cable TV?
The great complaint of cable TV is that we are forced to buy outrageously expensive packages with dozens, if not hundreds of channels we never watch. Based on reviews of CES 2015, Sling TV was the clear frontrunner. Released by Dish, Sling TV is the first real promise in breaking down the pay TV model as we know it and moving us closer to live, streamable, a la carte cable content.
 
A Sling TV subscription gives you live content – streamable to any smart TV or device – from ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, TBS, TNT, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. There are no contracts or commitments. And the service costs just $20 / month.
 
Critics argue that on cost per channel, it’s not a huge cost savings and that the channels are limited. Sling TV CEO, Roger Lynch, disagrees and shares that they’re not trying to win those already paying for the traditional cable bundle. Instead, they’re targeting those who’ve opted out because of cost – particularly millennials, who remain virtually untapped by traditional cable networks – but would like access to certain cable channels.
 
In the brief video below, Dish CEO Joe Clayton announces Sling TV at CES. He explains that he expects more channels and streaming devices to come on board. Should that be the case, a la carte cable might not be too far off, making Sling TV one of the most promising announcements at CES 2015.

 

 


The intersection between health and technology
This year’s CES saw a 30% increase in health, fitness, sports and biotech companies from CES 2014. CEA, the parent company of CES, predicts that overall sales of health and fitness devices will surpass $1.8 billion in revenue in 2015. It’s a growing market that’s witnessing some exciting developments that could dramatically reduce healthcare costs, improve lives and pain/illness management and accelerate early detection of disease or health issues. Watch the video for some fascinating biotech advancements and consider the implications of all the instantaneous and collected data.
 

 
 

Smart Everything
 
Soon, all cars will be smart cars
This year’s CES showcased vast leaps and improvements in car Internet-based operating systems and intuitive controls that (finally) merge rotary controls with touchscreens. This means that the future of the car (at last until 2030…) is all about the future of the dashboard. Imagine features like access to Google Street View, real-time traffic information, four-zone climate control, tablets in the front and back seats that communicate with each other, the ability to start your car or access vitals (like gas and oil) from your smart phone – to name a few. Watch this brief video to learn how some car brands are integrating wired technology into cars.
 

 

 

Soon, your home will be smart
 
To first grasp the smart home, it helps to understand the “Internet of Things” (IoT). This 2-minute video from a Stanford engineering professor explains how an ant-sized, battery-free radio device, that powers itself from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna, can be put on smart devices to compute, execute and communicate data and commands. This tiny, sensing radio can be put on, say, your oven. It analyzes temperatures, realizes you forgot to turn it off, sends a message to your smart phone, and you command it – remotely – to turn off the oven. Or you leave town and forgot to turn off the heat. From the beach in Florida, you can turn off your heat.

 

  

 
Several companies are capitalizing on this connectivity between gadget and the Internet and striving to make most anything in your home smart, connecting most any thing to the Internet.
 
A favorite in smart home technology from this year’s CES was the Stack smart lightbulb Alba, developed by an engineer who left Tesla. Alba turns on when it senses people enter a room and turns off when all people have departed. It alters the amount of light per time of day – cooler, more natural hues when in the morning, brighter tones at night. If there’s big commotion, it will instantly beam its brightest light. At $150 for a starter kit of two bulbs and a hub, they’re pricier. But their long, energy-saving lifespan will ultimately allow 60% - 80% savings over LED lights.
 
Last year, Samsung acquired start-up SmartThings in its quest to connect all devices to the Internet of Things. Samsung’s CEO announced that all of its products would be able to connect to the Internet by 2020 and communicate with all other Samsung products. As B.K. Yoon, the CEO of Samsung, announced this at CES, he repeatedly used the word “open” to indicate that their smart products’ operating system will be open source, allowing for communication with other systems and brands. He was acknowledging that IoT will only survive if consumers are allowed to buy the brand product they want and not be forced into buying exclusively one brand.
 
This short video highlights some of the best and most useful smart home products of CES 2015.

 


When fabrics and technology merge
While many companies are building wearable smart devices to track health and fitness data, French entrepreneur Jean-Luc Errant is focused on creating smart clothing. His rationale: you might forget your watch or you phone when you head out for a run, but you’ll never forget to get dressed. Errant’s company Cityzen won an award at CES 2014 and he returned to CES 2015 to seek funding. The brand’s “D-shirt” for runners has sensors that track and analyze heart rates, temperature speed and distance and sync with smart devices. Errant intends to develop a full suite of smart athletic wear, and eventually move to home furnishings – like curtains that can measure air quality.
 

 

 

Things That Will Make Your Life a Little Easier
 
A remote control that’s impossible to lose   
While gesture control technology isn’t new, it’s getting refined and more sensitive. EyeSight has developed a highly sensitive gesture controlled-remote control that can be used for all your TV-related devices. No wearable device is needed to communicate with the technology; all that’s needed is a hand. Imagine navigating your Apple TV with just the wave of a hand – no small deal since that tiny remote is always getting lost in the couch cushions. Watch the video below for a demo.
 

 
Unhackable passwords
2014 was not a good year for digital security – from the Sony hacks, to “The Interview” disaster and celebrities who still think it’s a good idea to share nude photos electronically, 2014 revealed lots of cracks in the system. The good news is that several companies are looking to make the password obsolete and replace it with something unhackable: you. Your heartbeat, your voice and your irises are completely unique. Several companies are looking to utilize this to build better digital security. Watch the short video below for how this will work.

 

 
 

The Absurd
 
Belty: Has your back when you overeat
Well, if you enjoy a good, large meal, but don’t love how your pants feel increasingly tight around your waist with each bite, then perhaps the Belty is just what you’ve been looking for. Through a series of monitors, Belty is a smart belt that automatically expands or contracts when detecting even miniscule changes in your waistline. This might actually be the perfect Thanksgiving dinner companion.

 

 

 

The Selfie Stick got way too much square footage at CES
Kim Kardashian should be thrilled. (Or perhaps this is more her speed…) Who doesn’t need a selfie stick for their house, car, purse, right? Why not put them at each table in restaurants?
 

 

News You Can Use
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The Economy
 
The big lie: 5.6% unemployment
Gallup CEO and Chairman, Jim Clifton, penned an article discussing a point we’ve made here in the General Economic Perspectives and The Hiring Market sections: the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks and prepares unemployment data involves a lot of smoke and mirrors. Key misleading points are:
  • If a person gives up looking for a job over the past four weeks, they are no longer counted as unemployed.
  • If a person performs a minimum of one hour of work per week and earns at least $20, they are not counted as unemployed.
  • If a person works part-time but needs full-time employment, they are not counted as unemployed.
 
Presently, there are 30 million Americans out of work or severely underemployed – a huge portion of which has failed to meet the curious BLS definition of unemployed.
 
What the oil crash means for global economies
A few weeks ago, Goldman Sachs released a report outlining the implications of the collapse of oil prices. Included in the report was the following map showing the extent of impact on the world’s largest oil importers and consumers. Saudi Arabia’s government derives 90% of its revenues from oil, and they require $83 per barrel to balance the budget. Currencies in Canada, Russia and Brazil, to name some, have declined measurably against the USD since oil prices began to fall.

 

Leadership & Management
 
4 ways bosses fail new employees
Whether or not new employees thrive is in large part due to their first few days and weeks – and the extent of the support and information you give them. Here are four tips to set your new team members up for success:
  1. Thoroughly describe how the business creates value
  2. Map out the employee’s internal customers (e.g. direct reports) and external customers
  3. Set immediate goals and begin giving immediate feedback
  4. Share with the new employee why you hired them to reinforce for their strengths
 
How one CEO makes a hiring decision in 7 minutes
Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of beauty brand Bluemercury, recently called herself the “queen of the seven-minute interview.” Follow the link for the three questions Beck asks to swiftly determine a candidate’s “skill, will and fit” to spot the right hire.
 
The New America
 
The most and least “Bible-minded” cities in America
A study from the American Bible Society and Barna Group determined the most and least “Bible-minded” cities in the country (in the chart below, red indicates most Bible-minded and blue is least). The 10-year study of 63,000 adults in the 100 largest metropolitan areas defined Bible-minded as having read the Bible at least once in the past week and as “agreeing strongly” with scripture. By this definition, 27% of Americans are Bible-minded. Follow the link for the full list of the top and bottom 10 religious cities.

 

  

 

Millennials are the most stressed out generation
A study from the American Psychological Association looked at how stressed we are, about what and how we cope. Money is the biggest source of stress for all generations, but it’s highest amongst Millennials, with Gen Xers not far behind. One could argue that money concerns ease with age, as more wealth can amass and new perspectives can be gained. One could also argue that economic circumstances are causing Millennials to fall far behind older generations; one report shows Millennials as $2,000 poorer than their parents were at the same age. Fortunately, how the majority of Millennials cope is generally not destructive.

 

Armchair Economics: Doug Leyendecker’s Monthly Economic Essay
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Several so-called experts are touting the stimulative economic effect of the drop in oil prices. But just how deep is their analysis? Will consumer spending spike enough to cover the loss that will come from the constriction in oil and gas capital expenditures? To determine this, we have to go into the relatively uncharted economic waters of asking what the multiplier effect of capex is vs. consumer spending. Which is more stimulative to our economy?  
 
The Multiplier Effect
 
We hope you find this essay of interest and value.
 
Thanks for reading The Leyendecker View. We hope you find these perspectives unique, insightful and valuable.

We at Leyendecker & Associates are committed to the highest standards of value creation. testing
Doug Leyendecker Jim Ford David Prodoehl Kelly Griego

 
www.leyendecker.com