Author: Kees Jan Engelen

"Alexa buy me the best value espresso maker" will soon become the way we buy stuff, nobody is going to read reviews anymore. Amazon's brand-killing virus infiltrates half of all new electronic devices coming out. Alexa facilitates Amazon's "invisible brands" to take over any category worth their time. Consumer electronics brands, such as the soon to IPO Sonos, are going to have a very hard time.  Selling more for less A recent teardown by Ben Einstein compared an Amazon Voice Controlled (VC) Speaker with a Sonos product, offering striking insights. First, the Amazon's speaker is oddly enough NOT optimized for sound quality, because that's not where Amazon wants to set itself apart. But the most interesting take away is that Amazon is willing to pay 20% more in product cost, yet sells its unit for 25% less. They obviously have a huge cost advantage in not having to pay commission to the world’s largest electronics store. But there is more.  Alexa = Gateway to EVERYTHING Amazon’s mission has always been to take away any and all friction people are experiencing in buying stuff. The Kindle has done a remarkable job as a sales gateway for books, you now buy a book and have it in your hands at...

In a recent interview, Elon Musk gave us a look inside his new Tesla Assembly Factory in Freemont, California. He made some very good points on the high level of automation, which seems to explain most of his current manufacturing problems:  1. Don't introduce too much new technology all at once I have found that to be very true for some of the products we have developed as well. Moving from a version 1, to version 2 to version 3 in a deliberate fashion, means that you can keep the amount of new stuff at a manageable level, so we can confidently continue to assure full reliability.  2. Making the machines which make the machine is the hard part Many people don't realize how much work is needed to design, build and optimize the electronics assembly process. Even if we do not use any robots, we always need to build testing jigs and write testing software. We take great pains to design the assembly SOP in close cooperation with the assembly plant. During the pilot production runs, we do a lot of process optimization, to assure the assembly line reliably delivers reliable products. 3. There are limits to what Assembly Factory Automation can achieve Elon Musk will need more workers (including himself!) to...

Industrial IOT is the area within Internet Of Things where it’s easiest to make a business case, and forecasters predict some $3.7 Trillion in value to be created here in the next 7 years. But adoption in the field is not going nearly as fast as this sizeable carrot would seem to justify.41% of firms are in limbo in the pilot stage, and 30% are still discussing how to start, adding up to 71% of industrial firms still stuck in Pilot Purgatory. And these are all firms interviewed by McKinsey, so I assume large firms with big budgets, otherwise I rather doubt the firm would be talking with them.The solution, according to McKinsey and Cisco, is of course to hire more consultants. It sounds very self-serving but I do think they have a point: in my experience factory engineers tend to be very busy people. Developing new industrial IOT products from scratch is generally not what they focus on, their skill is in tweaking and optimizing the designs they are given. An internal IoT project is also likely to be instantly paused when yet another fire from a major paying customer needs to be fought. As a result, IMHO chances are low that...

The reason we're buying such a large % of electronics from China, is no longer cheap labor, but China having the most complete and cost-effective ecosystem of component manufacturers in the world.To build an iPhone you need a lot of different parts: touch screens, camera modules, batteries… Many of these are custom made in China, and unfortunately, there are simply no suppliers of these kinds of parts left in the US.  Assembly in the US of custom electronic parts from China is a logistic nightmare  Every custom part is a new product in itself, which especially in the beginning will need some adjustments. If your first shipment of 10,000 LCD’s has a wire which turns out to be a little too long, if you're buying your electronics in China you just send them back to the factory, 5 minutes down the road They will send the fixed units back within 2 days. If those same LCD’s would have been shipped to the US, it would be in a batch of 100,000, the shipment would take 3 weeks, and after discovering the problem the screens would all have to be shipped back and forth again. Meanwhile the assembly line is dead for 6...

If you need a new electronic product manufactured, then the fastest and lowest cost way to get this done would seem to find an ODM factory in China which already makes very similar products. They have the leanest design and cost structure, the experience, the buying power and the large production volume which allows for the lowest cost. On top of that, the fee they charge to customize a product to your specifications is often only symbolic.It all sounds very tempting, but having developed electronic products with factories in China and Taiwan for 20 years I’d like to share a few of my lessons learned: 1. Be aware you have no ownership The changes you are requesting will be modifications to the design which is the Intellectual Property (IP) of the factory. You may be working with the factory for a year, and pay them quite a bit of money in the process, but if in the end you decide to part ways, they will not allow you to take the design elsewhere, so you will need to start from scratch. One more reason to pick your partner very carefully. 2. Make sure you have a firm spec It’s best to have your specifications...

When you need to get a custom electronic device manufactured, cost is a very important concern. First the cost to design the product, and even more so the cost of manufacturing the device.In these days of globalization and auction sites, it would seem a smart idea to first ask ten design firms to bid on designing your custom product. Next, take the resulting design, and ask ten factories to bid on manufacturing your custom electronic device. But alas, in reality, this is not nearly as easy as it sounds.  Be careful of a disconnect Splitting up a project in this way is a recipe for long delays, especially if you are not experienced in managing electronic design projects. The risk of miscommunication and finger pointing is very high. The designer in California will say the China mold maker totally screwed up his amazing concept. The Chinese mold maker will say that the 3D files he got were impossible to manufacture, so he was just helping the project by quickly (i.e. without asking) making some "improvements". On the electronics side there are many issues as well, if you import components from the West you may face 30% import tax, the list goes on and on.  Don't...

Bob O’Donnell points out in an article that the time that Apple was able to surprise the world with real innovations may well be behind us.They were very late with their Apple Watch, I guess they postponed the introduction a couple of times because it wasn’t ground breaking enough to meet the enormous expectations, and when they finally did launch it it indeed failed to impress.Their recent products are competent evolutions, but nothing revolutionary, I feel the Iphone 6 looks decidedly boring, should I say Samsung-like?It seems they are running out of ideas, last weekend all they had to announce was, hold your breath…:a new version of the iPad Pro tablet new wristbands for the Apple Watch a budget iPhone SE, which seems an almost desperate move to get iPhone sales from slowing down even further Their most interesting product was a robot specifically designed to destruct iPhones!Perhaps it is the need to support 1 billion active devices which is becoming a burden rather than a boon....

As Ben Joffe shows in his presentation below, prices of quite a number of consumer products have come down very rapidly. The XiaoMi Yi camera for example equals or bests the GoPro Hero on virtually all specs, while selling for just $65. Mind that the prices listed in the graph are China retail prices, in the US it sells on Amazon for $97.Another important aspect is the increasing speed at which products come out. As Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, is quoted: “Before you had six years, now you have six months“.Exciting and scary at the same time, China’s supply chain is clearly still unparalleled, especially for anything custom: housings, LCD displays, batteries, PCB’s, packaging…The first samples and production batches of custom parts often have issues. To avoid being crippled by shipping costs and delays, final assembly needs to be done close to the factories making the components. And when you’re having most of the parts made and assembled in China, nothing makes more sense than having the design done there as well.The trick of course is to harness the power of this supply chain beast to reap the benefits while avoiding IP infringements and other China manufacturing pitfalls....

In 2014 Relayr initially raised a modest 111K in crowdfunding for it’s beginner friendly IoT starter kit, but now got funded by venerated VC Kleiner Perkins. Congrats to the team and also to Startupbootcamp!The kit allows beginners to experiment with Beacons and connected sensors. I feel it’s rather overpriced at Euro 470, better buy it at Seeed, but they must be doing something very right in their support services....

After raising $3.4 M on KickStarter Feb 2014 they now raised another $22 million. This project is so ambitious that I was wondering whether they could pull it off, but they did the impossible and the unit is working well. Now they are working hard to overcome manufacturing yield issues, there is a big difference between getting 1 unit working, and 10,000 units not failing.  http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2015/11/features/bragi-in-ear-assistant...

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