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Stock SectorOctober 15, 20183min34

Impacting business opportunities and customer experiences

“It’s an exciting time for innovation on many fronts,” said Estelle Johannes, CompTIA’s staff liaison to the Emerging Technology Community. “The challenge for many organizations is to separate hype from reality, and to identify those new technologies that make the most sense for them.” Among the innovations generating a buzz in 2018, community leaders have identified 10 with the potential to make the greatest immediate impact and to create business opportunities for IT channel companies. Here are the 10 trends they identified.

Internet of Things

"The network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and connectivity, which enables these objects to connect and exchange data."


"The technology by which a process or procedure is performed without human assistance."

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Stock SectorOctober 15, 201816min17

Hanuman yacht on a racing courseNorth Sails

Making sailboats blast across ocean waves with speed and efficiency embodies more than just a fixation with adventurous zeal. The process is advancing computer software and robotics, revolutionizing hull and sail technologies and integrating—with choreographed precision—all players in the design and construction process.

On a recent trip to Saint-Tropez in coastal southern France I visited the Société Nautique, a seemingly casual beach locale near the west side of the port. Within minutes inside this microcosm I met a parade of accomplished individuals, including a former King of Spain, a vice-president of Chelsea Football Club and a previous owner of one of the top five wine châteaux in Bordeaux. I also met sailor Ken Read, an American who understands the technology that radically altered the paradigm of how sails are produced. We pulled beach chairs through sand to the water’s edge to speak.

The engine that drives any sailboat is a sail, which transforms wind energy into a propulsive force. Techniques to design and produce sails have altered dramatically in the past decade and a half.  Read summarized how.

“Sail making went from a bunch of people on a floor cutting and sewing, to robotics. Overnight. This was 12 years ago.”

Ken Read won the U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award twice, has sailed in three Volvo Ocean races, and has been victorious in dozens of renowned nautical events. After college he owned a small sailing related company in Newport, Rhode Island, which he sold to North Sails in 1996. He has worked for them since, and is now a company president. Their sails are synonymous with durability and performance largely because the company focused their funds, as well as research and development efforts, in a different direction than any competitor.

Read explained the technology used to make their sails, known as 3Di.

Volvo Ocean Race sailboats aim from Gothenburg to The Hague, 2018.Volvo Ocean Race

It’s called spread filament. Basically, you take a filament of carbon and spread it into a tape. Then, using very sophisticated software, you take these tapes and create this ‘load map’ that takes all the loads that these crazy wild boats can distribute on them.

[To avoid interference with satellite communication signals, carbon was not included in sails for the Volvo Ocean Race.]

In contrast to traditional sails made from a uniform fabric with consistent characteristics, the material, strength, weight and thickness of different portions of these new sails varies. This reduces weight while delivering optimal performance. Read explained.

On the mainsail of a boat today, the corner at the end of the boom might be 30 or 40 millimeters thick, while part of the sail up in the middle would be 2 to 3 millimeters thick. You are absolutely distributing tapes all over the sail and matching loads, and that’s how you get rid of weight, because most conventional sails would be of the same weight and fabric throughout the whole sail—homogenous. These things are anything but. These have load distributions all over the sail with very specific finite details.

The resulting performance helped revolutionize the sport. Thomas Coville used these sails last year when he set a 49-day record for solo circumnavigating the planet on a trimaran. North Sails were also used by all boats in the 2017—2018 Volvo Ocean Race.

This industrial engineering is counterintuitive: repeatable production complemented by individual tailoring. Each sail—courtesy of computer design and robotic production—can be as bespoke and individual to a specific boat as a suit tailored on Savile Row for a specific individual.

Computer modeling is key to design. North Sails uses three specific programs—Finite Element Analysis (FEA), as well as two others, described by Read.

Flow™ and Membrain™ are gods in the sailing world. Other companies are trying to create rival software programs to do something similar. All have their own uniqueness. Most competition is still using technology that’s 25 years old.

Saint-Tropez in Provence, France (Credit: Getty Images)

As competitors emulate the novel thinking behind this design, those at the company push thinking in even more novel ways.

Our owner, Peter Dubens, asks me ‘what’s next?’ during every board meeting, like clockwork. Even if it takes ten years, he wants the next thing to happen, and he wants us to be revolutionaries. I think fibers will be the next breakthrough. These black sails, they’re not all carbon fiber. There are mixes of all kinds of materials inside: aramid, carbon Spectra®, and in some form or fashion there are different mixes all over the sail. It’s not just loads; it’s durability in each part of the sail. For the first time in history, the most durable sails are also the fastest. That’s the breakthrough. When in history have we ever said ‘light’ and ‘strong’ and ‘durable’ in the same sentence? It’s a game changer.

I’ve done three Volvo Ocean races, and these boats are being pushed harder than ever before. That means sails are being ravished. Thank you for the drones in the last race, because their footage proved the abuse sails went through 24 hours a day. It’s phenomenal.

Saint-Tropez harbor lighthouse (credit: Getty Images)

This transition of sail design incorporated lateral thinking and long-term foresight, computer aided design, optimization and robotics. How does this impact the lives of non-sailors? The entire process involves—almost paradoxically in a modern world where specialization generates great strides in technical progress—a strong focus on integration.

‘Job specialization,’ or ‘division of labor’ is one of a few specific defining characteristics of any civilization. Modern sail production tweaks this paradigm slightly in requiring even specialists to be well aware of, and to interact with, other roles and jobs within (and sometimes tangential to) an entire industry. To perform a job effectively, individual workers must not only rapidly grasp the big picture of their industry, but be comfortable communicating well with others in associated industries. Read explained.

The biggest thing in performance yacht design now is the fact that everything is being integrated as one. Before, there would be a keel designer, and a hull designer and a rudder designer and a mast designer and a sail designer. Now, software can help designers figure out drive force coefficients that are going to come from the sail plan in order to modify hull shapes and foil designs. Everything is linked. Hydro and aero are now one. We have to learn to work with all the best designers in the world because they can’t do it without us and we can’t do it without them. It’s a whole new world. That’s one reason why these 100-foot trimarans are lifting out of the water with one guy on board. This couldn’t happen without an industry working together. As a sailor, it makes for better boats. The boats are so much more fun to sail now that the whole package works together.

(Integration between production units can also relate to sister industries; the company’s apparel line plans to produce clothing that incorporates recycled sail fabrics.)

From offshore, Saint-Tropez appears to be a relatively small, cinnamon colored town of stone buildings. This is where Villefranche-sur-Mer meets California’s Venice and Laguna beaches: hip and casual, yet still moneyed and somewhat self-conscious. Meters from a skyline of opulent yachts, a popular wine bar is a cluster of barrels outside an open garage door stacked ceiling high with boxes. This meld of privilege and casual camaraderie gives the city a unique attractiveness.

On a warm October afternoon in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, energy during any of the Les Voiles race days can be both friendly and taut, smiling yet wary. An attraction of sail racing here is the diversity of nautical styles (including century old race boats) as well as different sized craft and architecture. Due to lateral movement of wind bands, weather can alter rapidly and turn the sea into a horizontal and viscous mogul field.

Marco Vögel steers his Inouï yacht during Les Voiles de Saint-TropezTom Mullen

Marco Vögele, owner of the 108 foot (33 meter) Inouï yacht racing in Saint-Tropez, lives on the shores of Lake Zurich in Switzerland. Yet for three months a year he lives on his yacht. The weight of installing granite in the onboard kitchen and bathrooms may have sacrificed a modicum of the sailboat’s speed across water, but the decision was common sense for a man who considers his yacht as much partial home as race craft. He selected sails from the company Read represents because of their technology—durability and performance. Previously owner of a successful apparel company, Vögele appreciates style and function, as well as the camaraderie of racing.

One attraction is having a great team around you, and all of these other boats. The crews know each other. There’s competition on the water, but on land there’s friendship with everyone.

The high performance sails now used on yachts such as Inouï will, according to Read, eventually trickle down to weekend sailors.

Sailors can have the same type of technology that the latest and greatest sailboats have on the planet. And at an affordable price out of material that’s going to last. You don’t have to have a bag for a sail anymore. Using technology, you can have more fun. That’s the goal.

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Stock SectorOctober 15, 201811min14

Even if you believe that an apple falling from a tree inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s universal law of gravitation, his Principia certainly didn’t spring forth in a eureka moment. It’s a lovely analogy, but science doesn’t necessarily work that way, neither does technology, business or life.

In reality, discovery and advancement result from an ongoing process of intense study, experimentation and scrutiny. We leverage existing knowledge to formulate new hypotheses in pursuit of more knowledge. To paraphrase Newton himself, we are like dwarfs climbing onto the shoulders of giants to glimpse greater vistas.

Technology is merely the “fruit” of this ascent, translated into practical, real-world applications. The headlines may make new tech sound like magic, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s merely evidence of ongoing hard work and the accumulation of myriad incremental and continuous improvements.

A trio of solid-state physicists researching electrical current and semiconductive substances produced the transistor effect in 1948. Seventy years of iteratively applying that knowledge toward utility and — presto! — you wind up with the new iPhone XS.

Delivery Gap

I’m not proposing that we don’t live in a world of impressive technological achievement and possibilities. The internet and the data revolution have quickened the innovation pace to an astonishing degree. Even in this digitalized age, where “in effect, a person can get access to nearly any notable work mankind has ever produced … instantly,” there’s still far too much focus on quick buzz and too little on continuously improving function. Thus, too much technology fails to deliver on its promise. Why?

Some of this can be attributed to human nature. There’s a reason Gartner’s famed technology hype cycle plunges from the “peak of inflated expectations” to the “trough of disillusionment.” Like grade schoolers coveting those cool new sneakers because everyone else is wearing them, we’re often drawn to whatever is newest, crave the next big thing and buy in anticipation based on what we see others do, leading to acquiring technology for technology’s sake, which is both wasteful and pointless.

The delivery gap can’t be entirely explained by “FOMO,” or fear of missing out — a misguided impulse to keep up with the Joneses. There’s more to it than that.

Enterprise IT

When it comes to information technology (IT) infrastructure, optimism and profit are potent forces. In the enterprise, technology investment is primarily driven by these two factors and adheres to Amara’s Law, whereby, “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

Acquisition is directly tied to business benefit. No new solution will spark interest without assurances of a significant return on investment (ROI). The trick is in balancing these forces, and that’s where problems arise.

Consider enterprise cybersecurity, for example. Business leaders know that digital threats are real and attack exposure is great. This year’s KPMG “2018 U.S. CEO Outlook” confirms that cybersecurity tops the list of threats posing a risk to growth, with 68% of CEOs reporting they believe that a cyber attack is inevitable. Gartner forecasts global enterprise security spending will exceed $96 billion this year, but the report notes that a large portion of the spend will be in reaction to breaches rather than in prevention. Cart, meet horse.

Continual and evolving cyber threats mean that securing the software that runs modern business requires frequent and evolving updates and upgrades, but how often does this take place in the enterprise if there hasn’t been a breach?

Conversely, when it comes to your mobile phone, you’ve likely had at least a dozen application modifications over the course of the past month, where software patches and improvements have been implemented automatically or with the click of an “OK” button to quickly upgrade before you can continue to use the software securely.

The need for continuous incremental improvements is the widely adopted standard in the mobile world. So, why has that not translated to the enterprise, where software updates still get scheduled on a quarterly, annual or illusory “when we get around to it” basis?

Based on my perspective, there’s a severe cultural disconnect between mobile and enterprise practices. Meanwhile, estimates suggest cyber-crime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021.

There’s a visible pattern of enterprise paying lip service to the importance of security but not changing to address the issue. It’s only tied to a business value after a significant loss. Optimism trumps complexity and focuses return to flashy new technologies that promise super improvements to vague user experiences and the glory of double-digit ROI.

The truth is that people are attracted to buzz because that’s how you get seen. Nobody gets a promotion for making the stuff you already have work. The issue of cybersecurity is just one example of this phenomena, but the cultural disconnect is evident throughout all aspects of enterprise IT.

Getting Real (Time)

Enterprise needs a new mindset. We must first acknowledge that we’re living in a “continuous” age. IT strategy must move away from stop-gap measures, annual schedules and magical set-it-and-forget-it dreams. Organizations, like the rest of the modern world, are now real-time, streaming, evolving technological entities requiring ongoing processes of intense study, experimentation and scrutiny.

The culture has to change — and people hate change, so it requires commitment. You can’t deliver on the promise of hyper-converged infrastructure or artificial intelligence or blockchain, or whatever the next big thing may be, without the hard work of first defining how that technology builds on your existing technology and how it should function in your environment — doggedly tackling integration, simplifying and retraining and upgrading in continuous incremental efforts to foment adoption.

Newton didn’t “discover” gravity when an apple fell on his head, and enterprise IT won’t be “fixed” by eureka moments. Delivering on the breakthrough promises of innovation requires abandoning the beautiful allegories and embracing the real world of steadily improving function.

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Stock SectorOctober 15, 201810min19

How are rural schools, which face logistical obstacles unheard of in more urban districts, finding ways to provide their students with technology? If one Alaska district is any indication, it’s through a combination of creative problem solving.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is the second largest district in Alaska after the Anchorage School District. It serves 20,000 students spread over an area the size of West Virginia. Its 47 K- through 12-grade schools range from the tiny 19-student Beryozova School, which serves what is known as an “Old Believer” community of families with Russian heritage to a typical 1,200-student high school.

The access to technology that students have is just as varied as the students and schools themselves. Some students live off the grid, in homes only reachable by four-wheel drive vehicles. Others live in familiar American suburbs. After conducting a survey in 2015, district leaders found that while a surprising number of students have access to broadband, the biggest obstacle to technological access rural students face is the lack of devices.

To provide better access for the students of the Mat-Su district, leaders there created the Rural Enhanced Access initiative. The program is run by Justin Ainsworth, Director of the Office of Instruction and his team of 5 at the District’s Office of Instruction, including Jeffrey Blackburn, an Educational Technologist . One unique aspect of Mat-Su’s approach to digital learning is that edtech is housed under the office of instruction. This means that decisions on education technology are being made by certified teachers with experience and that the classroom was at the forefront of every decision made. They work closely with the district’s IT department to implement the policies.

The program uses school resources to purchase Google Chromebooks for students in rural areas (as the name implies) and couples that with a blended learning strategy in the classroom. With the ultimate goal of going 1:1, the district started with a pilot program of 9 schools and 1,200 students.

The plan they devised was simple. Flipping the traditional script of starting with the “core” schools, Mat-Su leaders looked to the edges of their district. They focused on the smaller, rural schools because these were both most in need of access and had the smallest student bodies. Fewer students meant that the roll outs would be simpler and district leaders could learn from any missteps before scaling up the program at larger schools. Ainsworth and Blackburn offered training to administrators before the school year started, and provided professional development for teachers onsite at the schools, pulling them out for a couple of days for intensive instruction.

The results of the program’s first year — and community feedback—were positive. The next year, the program was extended to five more schools, and just this fall, it expanded to another three schools.

Since implementing Chromebooks and the blended learning strategy in the district, student performance metrics across the board have risen. Graduation rates this year are projected to reach an all-time high of 83 percent, and language, reading, and math scores on standardized tests are up at almost every grade level. Beyond that, the program has spawned a few incidental by-products. For example, Girls Who Code has worked with the district to start 27 coding clubs—something that would have been unthinkable before. While Ainsworth is reluctant to attribute all of the increases to the technology initiative, it is sure to have played a part.

Three Lesson Learned from the Program

Ainsworth and Blackburn shared three key takeaways from their experience of launching the program:

1. Go Where the People Are

One of the biggest challenges the district faced was logistics. How could they get the technology and training into the right hands with their schools spread over such a wide area? Something as simple as asking teachers to come in for a training session could mean many hours of driving or even an overnight trip—and all the extra expense that goes along with it. So instead, they brought the learning to teachers. The edtech team spent weeks going around to various schools to provide on-site training.

This spirit of proactive facilitation extended beyond physically coming to the teachers. The program itself was completely voluntary. This wasn’t a push from the top down. Instead, the district’s edtech team reached out to those teachers who expressed interest in the program. The result was that teachers were engaged in the process. Blackburn and Ainsworth credit this as one of the program’s strengths. By focusing on the teachers who were already on the path to personalized learning, they found willing and enthusiastic early adopters who then became evangelists within their own schools.

As the program grew, they faced a new problem: there was no budget for more IT staff to meet the growing demand that the new technology brought. To deal with the rising tech support demand, teachers began to train as “digital first responders,” providing local on-site support for other teachers and assisting them with tier-one tech support, such as resolving password and login issues, installing and uninstalling programs, and helping teachers navigate unfamiliar applications.

2. Have a Bias Toward Action

In part due to the culture of independence in Alaska and in part due to the realities of working in such a geographically spread out district, edtech leaders focused on actionable steps over meticulous planning. That’s not to say that there wasn’t planning—the scope and success of the project is proof of that—but that where actions could be taken, they were. Similar in many ways to the agile development model, the team built a minimum viable program, sought feedback from users (in this case, educators), and iterated to improve as they went along.

3. Focus on How Technology Serves the Teaching

Blackburn credits the success of their onsite training with getting teachers on board for the program.The best way he found to accomplish that was focusing on the instruction techniques that technology could support, and not on the tech itself. “This was a very intentional thing for us. This [technology] is a tool to amplify the best practices that have been proven over decades, not to replace them. Take those things that you know are good and use the technology to amplify them,” said Blackburn.

What’s Next for Mat-Su?

Ainsworth and Blackburn are looking forward to the next iteration of their program. “As we move toward the core area schools and the cost of going 1:1 rise, we are looking to focus on specific content areas,” says Blackburn, starting with math and moving on from there.”’ And as the program matures, they intend to dig into what resources and tools are working best for their teachers and students. That type of analysis will allow them to make the right moves going forward and continue expanding the program to meet the needs of their district.

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Stock SectorOctober 14, 20189min34

The Pentagon relies on five major defense contractors. The newly formed L3 Harris Technologies hopes to be a sixth. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

October 14 at 4:46 PM

L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation have agreed to merge in an all-stock deal, the two companies announced Sunday, creating a $33.5 billion military technology company.

The combined company will be called L3 Harris Technologies and will be based in Melbourne, Fla., the home of Harris Corporation. Its 12-member board of directors will consist of six members from each company. The deal is expected to close next year, pending a review by the Defense Department.

“L3 Harris Technologies will possess a wealth of technologies and a talented and engaged workforce,” L3 chief executive Chris Kubasik said in a news release. “By unleashing this potential, we will strengthen our core franchises, expand into new and adjacent markets and enhance our global presence.”

Both companies have built military communications empires focused on networking and surveillance capabilities that are built into larger defense systems.

Harris Corporation handles complex military communications networks for battlefield management and in military aircraft. It is also known for a brand of Stingray cellphone trackers used by U.S. law enforcement. And it has made inroads in the space industry thanks to a recent classified contract, executives said in a recent call with investors.

New York-based L3 Technologies’ most visible products are the 360-degree scanners that travelers encounter when they go through airport security, part of a $170 million line of business with the Department of Homeland Security. It also makes night-vision equipment and sensor systems used in military aircraft. Under the stewardship of Kubasik, a former Lockheed Martin chief operating officer who took the helm at L3 last year, the company has established new business units around next-generation military technologies such as undersea drones.

Under a succession plan agreed to as part of the deal, Harris chief executive William Brown will serve as chief executive of the combined company for two years following the close of the merger. Then, L3′s Kubasik is to become chief executive after the combined company’s third year, according to an announcement from both companies.

“When Chris Kubasik was forced out as the prospective CEO of Lockheed Martin, many observers thought he would be back,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the nonprofit Lexington Institute. “This clearly demonstrates he is not done being a major player in the defense sector.”

In a Sunday announcement, Kubasik said the transaction is intended to create a sixth prime government contractor. The five largest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics — have dominated the U.S. defense market for years, each of them taking in more than $10 billion a year from the federal government.

L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation took in a combined $8.3 billion from the federal government last year, making the combined company the seventh-largest recipient of 2017 U.S. contract dollars behind the five major defense contractors and McKesson Corporation, a drug company.

At $16 billion in projected 2018 revenue and some 48,000 employees, the new L3 Harris Technologies can boast that it is the sixth-largest U.S. defense company. It is now bigger than the shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls and Arlington, Va.-based BAE Systems.

The combination is the latest in a flurry of mergers and acquisitions among government contractors, which are taking advantage of a frothy stock market and favorable defense spending to pursue new opportunities.

Last year, Northrop Grumman bought Orbital ATK, a Dulles, Va.-based contractor focused on the space industry, for $7.8 billion cash. Also last year United Technologies Corporation agreed to buy aircraft parts manufacturer Rockwell Collins for $30 billion.

Dealmaking accelerated at the beginning of 2018, after a 2019 defense budget facilitated a healthy jump in spending and Congress lifted the “sequestration” caps that have hobbled the industry since 2013.

In February, a small government contractor called ECS Federal was bought for $775 million by On Assignment, a California-based recruiting firm, in a rare instance of a commercially oriented technology company entering the government market. This past spring, General Dynamics bought a midsize IT contractor called CSRA for $7.2 billion. And last month, Reston, Va.-based government contractor Science Applications International Corp. bought IT contractor Engility in a deal valued at $2.5 billion.

The merger of L3 and Harris also represents a further step in hollowing out the middle of the U.S. defense market, as large and middle-tier government contractors are finding they can climb the ladder more quickly by joining forces.

“This merger creates greater benefits and growth opportunities than either company could have achieved alone,” L3’s Kubasik said in the release. “The companies were on similar growth trajectories and this combination accelerates the journey to becoming a more agile, integrated and innovative non-traditional 6th Prime focused on investing in important, next-generation technologies.”

Procurement experts have worried for years that a steady wave of mergers in the Pentagon’s supply chain could give the government fewer competitive options to turn to. A year-long report from the White House found 300 instances in which critical parts are handled by a single supplier seen as potentially too weak to meet the military’s needs, or a foreign supplier.

The Defense Department could block the merger of L3 and Harris depending on the results of its review, though it has taken a hands-off approach to recent mergers.

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Stock SectorOctober 14, 20187min14



Technologies aimed at keeping older people healthy have long combined cumbersome form and infantilizing function. Way back in 1947, you could strap on a wearable heart-rate detector and go for a stroll. (At 85 pounds, it was “wearable” only on your back, and not for long.) In 1975 the American International Telephone Corp. began selling necklace-style alert systems that could summon an ambulance in an emergency. By 2009 you could buy a wearable device to detect if you’d taken a fall in your home.

Only today is the elder-tech industry finally going mainstream. In September,


announced its latest Watch, which includes all the aforementioned capabilities in a small, sleek package. This is merely the latest in a series of developments suggesting a tipping point: Health technology for older people is now designed not merely to be endured, but embraced.

Historically, many such technologies prioritized bodily needs over aesthetics. This is true of the Life Alert necklace of yore and some fall-detection startups today. Many of these technologies were designed by young people who couldn’t imagine themselves actually using them. The byword for the boatloads of medication-reminder systems, simplified cellphones, hearing aids, gigantic remote controls and so forth became “BBB”: big, beige and boring.

This forced older consumers to choose: Spend money and energy on an unappealing technology, or go without it. Many picked the latter, with real health consequences. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, people with hearing loss go seven years on average between detecting a problem and seeking a hearing device. That hesitation can lead to social isolation and household accidents. Perhaps 4% of Americans who could benefit from a personal emergency-response system such as Life Alert have one, and even those who own the devices tend not to wear them, or fail to use them when emergency strikes.

Which companies, we wondered, would go all-in and develop new products serving older adults’ desires and aspirations? Which would commit to user experience like tech companies do for other consumers? The market exists to justify it; the aging of the baby boom generation and lower fertility rates mean that by 2030 the percentage of the U.S. population 65 and older will be as high as it is in Florida today.

An early sign of life came in 2014. The online pharmacy PillPack announced it would package medications not according to type, but time of day to be consumed. The meds came in ticker-tape dispensers that made it hard to forget if you’d already taken your pills. Such packaging, PillPack founder T.J. Parker told us, had been a fixture of nursing homes since the late 1980s, but making it into a consumer product was an innovation.

Amazon bought PillPack this year for $1 billion. Two months later,

Best Buy

announced it is purchasing GreatCall, the maker of the elder-oriented Jitterbug phone, for $800 million. Now with Apple’s entry into the personal emergency-response market, 2018 will go down as the year elder tech sneaked into the wider marketplace. Tucked away within the elegant Apple Watch, technologies like fall detection and heart-rate monitors may be cured of their stigmas.

As product design shifts to the major tech companies, we may soon see heightened attention to detail, usability and engineering. Aesthetics, heretofore largely ignored in the elder-tech industry, will likely become central. And as the focus on older consumers’ preferences goes beyond the development of better products to the creation of new product categories, the experience of later life may improve substantially. That’s the promise of the longevity economy: A longer life can—and should—be a better life.

Mr. Coughlin is founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab and author of “The Longevity Economy: Inside the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.” Mr. Yoquinto is a science writer and research associate at the MIT AgeLab.

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Stock SectorOctober 14, 201810min31

An example of a facial-recognition system at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference in 2017. An NYC councilman wants to regulate businesses’ use of the technology.


saul loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A New York City councilman will introduce legislation this week requiring businesses to disclose if and how they use facial-recognition technology, potentially giving a glimpse into how widespread use of the tool is in the private sector.

The bill, drafted by Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat who heads the council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations, would be one of the first attempts to regulate the technology’s use by businesses in the city.

Companies would be required to disclose if they’re using it by posting a sign near a store entrance or publishing an online post, according to a draft of the legislation provided to The Wall Street Journal. The companies would also be required to tell the public what information they collect and share from the technology, and how long they store the information. They would also have to draft a policy governing the tool.

Currently, no New York City law requires private companies to disclose how they use facial-recognition technology, according to Mr. Torres and experts in the technology. The New York Police Department, which is currently fighting a public-records request in court over its use of the tool, feeds images into a mug-shot database and the technology sends back hundreds of possible matches. A group of detectives then determines a possible match.

Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, said facial-recognition technology ‘could easily be repurposed for profit.’

Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, said facial-recognition technology ‘could easily be repurposed for profit.’


brendan mcdermid/Reuters

Mr. Torres said the technology is often used as a security tool, but it could evolve into collecting data on customers and their habits.

“It could be easily repurposed for profit,” Mr. Torres said in an interview. “Companies would be required to answer those questions.”

Businesses also use the tool for security by saving an image of someone they don’t want in the store, such as a shoplifter, and matching it against footage of customers entering the premises. Companies also use it for commercial purposes, such as researching shopping trends, according to Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, an e-commerce trade association supporting the use of facial recognition by businesses.

State laws in Illinois and Texas require businesses to obtain consent from customers before using facial-recognition technology, something Mr. Zbabo said goes too far. However, he said Mr. Torres’s bill would further transparency and possibly calm the fears of consumers.

“This is all stuff that could be done by just someone sitting there and looking at everyone coming in,” Mr. Szabo said. “The famous saying is ‘know thy customer.’ This is the digital version of know thy customer.”

Mr. Torres said he was inspired to draft the bill after reading reports that Madison Square Garden used facial-recognition technology. A spokesman for The Madison Square Garden Company said it does use facial recognition “to make it the safest place possible.”

The spokesman declined to comment on how the venue uses the tool and the legislation. But they “are happy to work with the City Council when and where appropriate.”

Chris Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the public disclosure of the technology is imperative given that most people don’t know if their data has been captured. Determining whether a company uses the technology is difficult because it runs on infrastructure that has sometimes already been installed, like surveillance cameras, he said.

“Unlike a lot of technology, including initially video systems, you could tell if something got installed anew,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re talking about software that’s already existing in infrastructure, which makes the disclosure of facial-recognition technology important.”

Mr. Torres is expected to introduce the bill on Wednesday. It would need to be passed by the council and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Write to Zolan Kanno-Youngs at

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