In a 60 Minutes interview, Amazon CEO & Founder Jeff Bezos dropped a marketing bomb by unveiling a plan to use unmanned aerial drones for ecommerce delivery. The plan wouldn’t come into reality for years to come, but the impacts are being felt immediately, including for libraries. The big reveal also shows that once again the next battles in innovation will be expansions of traditional areas.
On 60 minutes last night, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos shared Amazon’s plans to use octo-copters, unmanned autonomous aerial aircraft, aka drones, for delivery dubbed Amazon Air Prime. The service would deliver purchases of up to 5 pounds (which covers 86% of what they deliver) to a radius of 10 miles within 30 minutes time.
Bezos unveiled it as his big surprise, ‘his one more thing’ in a grand PR move that stole the show. Charlie Rose himself referred to is as “Amazon’s boldest venture ever” once he saw it (Bezos was so sure of the surprise that he told CBS producers that if they could guess he would them give half his fortune).
Amazon acknowledges the project will not likely become a reality before 2015 because of FAA regulations and that it is completely R&D now. Check out Amazon’s promotional YouTube video for the ad, also embedded at the bottom. Amazon has gotten us talking about them again as they themselves fear being out-disrupted.
Impact and synthesis – Some of my preliminary analysis.
This is about three things; media access, competition, and in line adaptations.
Although there is a lot potential for media delivery this is more about the ecommerce war. Many books exceed the 5 lbs weight limit and DVDs etc may be more realistic.
It is important to watch possible futures in media provision and what this book and commerce giant does and hopes for. Its moves continue to create opportunities and challenges for libraries as it guides media expectations for the public. But this news says more about competition in the ecommerce space than anything else.
This is also about an entity trying to stave off its atrophy and its own disruption. Bezos admits in the interview that he believes Amazon will eventually be disrupted away as new nimble players continue to shake up the space. It is an eventuality. PR gimmicks are not the solution, but preparing in advance to industry pivots can be.
A possibly truer value for amazon is positioning itself to guide the discourse on the opening standards for drone use in private sector delivery just as it did by being a stakeholder literally at the table on the panel that made the recommendation adopted by the FAA to allow devices during all parts of flights. Drone shave been called the next major change coming in the private air sector and Amazon may also be predicting that drones will also be a major factor in e-commerce.
Amazon has been working hard to compete heavily against Walmart etc in e-commerce as the race to success has meant shortening delivery time as same day delivery is no longer the golden standard. This comes on the heals of last months’ news that Amazon would begin Sunday delivery in partnership with the USPS.
60 Minutes producer Draggan Mihailovich was right on when he said “the big idea is half hour delivery.” It isn’t the technology nor the concept, it is a leap forward in delivery time which is retailers’ current major battle. However, we are already seeing the half day and even the hour delivery and I am sure we will see other solutions to the half hour delivery well before the drone delivery program takes off. So again, this is a PR move to outpace the competition, at least in discourse. Amazon is feeling the pinch.
The recent controversies over military and surveillance drones have inspired fears as well as imagination. Like the recent airplane device policy conversations, there is a policy tension with enterprising innovation across industries as drones are sometimes seen as over legislated now. The controversy surrounding drones also makes it provocative, attracting attention that cannot be tempered due to current restrictions.
The inclusion of “Prime” in the project’s name “Amazon Prime Air” reveals a push of Amazon’s member service and attached priorities of streaming online content and speedy delivery membership program.
Is it really “out of the Jetsons” as one producer put it or is it a new angle on the old? We should not fail to notice that this announcement was made on old media, 60 Minutes, long form television. We are in an age of innovation happening within and expanding traditional spaces, not creating whole new arenas. I believe this reflects a maturation in many of our recent technological advances reaching cultural stability.
Other Aspects of Note:
The drones for delivery conversation has been happening for awhile now (drones for delivery of pizza, beer, and textbooks. Drones for scientific and industry observations), but will a behemoth like Amazon coming into the field force the focus to ‘delivery drones’ over ‘war drones’ in our lexicon?
That Charlie Rose could not recognize what the drones were in the interview before Bezos explained them may date the reporter considering their impact on many areas of late and I suspect will not be repeated by others as the impact by Amazon’s entering the space is felt.
I think one of the interview’s best part was when asked to define Amazon, Bezos used mission areas not services. “I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do, invention. We like to pioneer, we like to explore, we like to go down dark alleys and see what’s on the other side.” He did not define Amazon as an ecommerce business. When asked to define libraries do we also say “a pioneer in the community,” “big ideas,” “costumer centric,” and “explorer?”
It was also of note that Bezos spoke of Amazon’s capital of trust in the context of their very successful long tail approach. This focus on trust is always at the forefront of our conversations about the library’s value going forward. For Amazon and for libraries, trust is an investment to protect. Libraries enjoy the trust of our users at a level only dreamed of by other elements and its protection is one strategy for future success as we balance new directions.
Thoughts For Libraries:
This is not a major disruptive challenge for libraries. It could though become a platform for opportunities bringing similar challenges we have already faced.
I suspect the first impacted areas for libraries will be of remote access and the digital divide, the continued eminence of print, adapting to outside technology to strengthen traditional services, supplementing traditional mobile library trucks.
Surface options for libraries I imagine will be having the library serve as a host delivery hub for locals to collect their Amazon Prime Air purchases. The Drone delivery system will be optimized for urban areas because of its distance limit so libraries can act as local hubs for customers to come and collect their delivered goods and possibly for libraries to partner with Amazon as local refueling hubs to extend their reach in line with Amazon’s local hub model for its distribution system.
Book delivery is an important area but libraries probably do not have the infrastructure to act in this area so our role will not be to compete. We may though play a role. Not exactly an immediate issue for libraries in context of delivery of print media but will be of import to libraries once it opens up to e-content
What will be important to watch will be how kindle e-lending may evolve to include print via drones.
Will the library facilitate Amazon Prime memberships? Will there be an extension of inter-library loan via Amazon drones? Will the library procure more through Amazon to make use of this?
What ways do you imagine libraries and library vendors will play a role in unmanned air vehicles with or without Amazon?
I am an Amazon Prime member and would make use of drone delivery while watching the impacts across industries. Can the New York Times also please add drone home delivery?
See the full segment of this 60 Minutes interview online http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazons-jeff-bezos-looks-to-the-future/ and http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-unveils-futuristic-plan-delivery-by-drone/
Here is Amazon’s promotional YouTube Video
- – Joe Murphy, Librarian
Voice calls in air stir a tension that is familiar to libraries.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will propose allowing in-air phone calls in addition to the FAA’s recent approval of non-connected gate-to-gate device use. The FCC is causing cultural disruption by just putting this idea on the table, upsetting situational expectations. Many travelers and airline steward unions have already voiced their concern, worrying such a policy would disrupt the flying experience; imagining seat-mates talking on their phones throughout the flight.
“… as what is known as a Notice of Proposed Rule Making, in which the agency will invite comments on the idea before making a final decision. The entire process could take months.” – Ryan Knutson for the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303653004579212210178774516).
I would be against such a change, not as a luddite, but as a frequent flier who values any element of peace I can find in the air. Or maybe it is fair to be a luddite in such a situation – the Luddites defined their own movement as being against technology implementations that disrupted their communities and commonalities.
It would be up to individual airlines to allow the voice calls and install the technologies to make it possible for plane passengers to have stable connections with cell services (some international airlines now have to turn off that equipment when entering US airspace).
When policy exceeds norms. The possible ruling pits what is possible against what is acceptable.
Allowing unconnected device use was necessary to catch in flight policy up to traveler behavior expectations. Allowing in flight phone conversations shoots beyond what people want in pursuit of rapidly meeting all possibilities, disrupting perceptions of the hoped for experience in the process.
On a plane we expect to travel in peace while we expect to use our tablets and smart phones for entertainment and work. In the library we often expect quiet work areas while we use our devices to read work and study. Opening the entire library to phone conversations may disrupt an established expected atmosphere valued by library users. Opening the flight to full device use may disrupt the sense of peace and personal space in cramped planes. Airlines may find it valuable to look to a library model with allocated quiet areas (or the reverse with conversation zones) to give people the choice of what kind of environment they want to experience. I’ve enjoyed this option in quiet train cars on Amtrak. Or they may hold onto flights as one of the few remaining zones free from phone conversations. A place free of chatter. Like the library, a stable and mostly quiet island in our fast world.
Libraries adapted to the mobile revolution by opening up their spaces and policies to appropriate use of mobile devices in what used to be solely quiet buildings with new quiet zones (for visitors and staff) and policy shifts in support of device use but against voice calls in many library areas.
Libraries shifted with the mobile revolution’s cultural impacts, allowing and facilitating device use while supporting expectations for still relevant traditional library roles.
The lesson is adapt but do not overshoot. It is important to bring policy in line with technology’s potential as well as with societal expectations. Technology is a piece to move as we shift ourselves in line with cultural changes.
The library has been a canary in the coal mine in regards to evolving while considering what is socially acceptable. Libraries can also use this opportunity to take stock of the next shifts and how we may strike a balance between what is demanded and what will be preserved.
– Joe Murphy, Librarian.
I have the joy of presenting “Massively Social & Openly Mobile Reference: Current & Future Tech” online today as part of Amigos Library Services’ webcast – “MOOCs, Mobile Technologies: Their Impact on Reference Service in the Library. ”
Here are my slides -
Great event – thank you to the folks at Amigos.
I had the luck of being invited to present a webcast for Novare Library Services.
The focus of my talk was on hope though change in tech and culture.
Nostalgia as capital. Connections as economy. Risk vs. reward. Empowering through inspiration points.
Empowering librarians dreaming big and creating inspirational futures. The Library 2.013 conference is a global online event featuring speakers and attendees in all time zones. Slides and more below.
I have the honor of being invited back to present “Library Futures & Tech Directions” as a Distinguished Speaker after delivering a keynote for last year’s conference.
The theme of my talk is connections through Inspiration areas, future directions, and guiding technology changes.
“Creating moonshots around core strengths”
Session Description: Change defines the world that libraries face and adaptability has become the key skill for librarians. It is an exciting time to be in libraries, and this talk explores some of the new growth areas for our libraries. Joe Murphy (Tech Trends & Library Directions specialist @libraryfuture) explores areas to be hopeful for and worried about as technology continues to change the way people interact with each other and with content. Learn about the major current changes in technology impacting libraries and providing new opportunities as we explore new points of inspiration for libraries moving into the future.
Here are the slides from my talk:
Helping libraries be remarkable to secure robust roles for libraries in future conversations.
- – Joe Murphy, Librarian
Google Japan now has vending machines in Tokyo for downloading mobile apps via near field communication (NFC) to bridge digital/physical access models – the same issue libraries are working with.
18 free and paid gaming apps from the Google Play store can be downloaded via NFC or Bluetooth with these three app vending machines at 3 stores across Tokyo. Users simply place their Android device on a tray and it will start downloading your purchased app.
Interesting to libraries as we see various other industries continue experiments trying to resolve access of digital resources in physical spaces.
For those without an Android device – the machine will let you borrow an Android Nexus 4 to “test drive” the apps and the process – in an Amazon Kindle like model providing the gadget to deliver the content and hook you to the experience.
Google is smart to balance between paid and free apps as we see a shift in success models towards in app purchases (Paid Apps Aren’t Dead — but They Are on Life Support).
Like much in shifting industries, this is part experiment (physical representation of online marketplace) and part attention maneuver.
This is not fundamentally different from providing access to ebooks in or beyond the library via NFC enabled objects, Bump-like sharing, Augmented Reality, QR Codes etc. There is a need for digital access at real world points.
What is next in tech solutions for content provision?
- – Joe Murphy, Librarian
Slides for my talk – “What is new and just around the corner in mobile technology.”
The conference – Mobile Devices: Gateway to Your Library – Virtual conference #SEFLIN2013
Thank you, SEFLIN (the Southeast Florida Library Information Network) for organizing such a great online event.
Bump has been acquired by Google. Are there implications for libraries or wider fields of interest? How about for the concept of contact sharing possibly expanding or disappearing under Google?
Bump is a mobile app used to share files by tapping, or ‘Bumping’ smartphones together (causing endless jokes at conferences). With Bump, users could transfer files (photos, contact info, and other mobile friendly file types) between their phones or even with a computer. Bump also created Flock, a group photo sharing app that played off of the major trends of group and photo sharing. The Bump app will continue to operate as is for the time being. Like Instagram, the Bump app was successful as an iOS first app.
This news is interesting because the app relied on people, mobile devices, and location for information sharing.
This news is of interest to libraries because:
- A) Libraries may be using Bump to share files with users and may want to explore a change plan.
- B) Libraries have an interest in information transfer tools, practices, and norms.
- C) Libraries should watch what Google does to peer into tech trends’ transition into mass culture.
Bump lived at the juncture of several mega trends: social sharing, mobile info points, people as info transfer agents.
Watch what Google does to see if the trend of contact sharing has legs in the near future as well as any possible larger integration into the Google ecosystem and the wider info-sphere. Or perhaps Google is just interested in the Bump team and we can expect a closing of the app and that tech area’s chapter.
Bump CEO and cofounder David Lieb reveals few details in a Bump company blog post.
I had previously written about Bump as a way to for libraries transfer info in person in libraries or beyond to maximize the fact that both patron and librarian can be mobile points of information transfer: Libraries can transfer files, reference files, documents, contact info, photos, etc.
All Things D is reporting that the acquisition may have been for around $30 Million and has been “downloaded more than 100 million times”
More info/media outlets coverage:
- Joe Murphy, Librarian.
What is new in mobile tech and how mobile technology will continue to be the gateway to your library.
I will be speaking at the virtual ‘Mobile Devices: Gateway to Your Library’ conference along with a distinguished list of presenters on September 20. The online conference, hosted by SEFLIN (Southeast Florida Library Information Network), will focus on solutions and strategies for training staff and providing services to mobile device users.
My Talk will address “What is New and Just Around the Corner in Mobile Technology.”
Registration for the virtual conference is $40 for individuals and $125 for groups (no charge for library staff working in the State of Florida).
Full list of speakers:
— The Mobile Difference
Lee Rainie (Pew Research)
— Giving your Mobile Users Everything They Need When They Need It
Linda Braun (Librarians & Educators Online)
— Apps & More Resources for Libraries
SEFLIN Virtual Conference Committee
— Implications of the Mobile Revolution for Reference Services and the Library as a Place in General
Tom Peters (Missouri State University Libraries)
— Developing Library Staff Skills for Mobile Technology
Chad Mairn (Novare Library Services)
— What is New and Just Around the Corner in Mobile Technology
Joe Murphy (Libraryfuture)
Hash tag: #SEFLIN2013
- Joe Murphy, Librarian