Digital mesh: The concept behind Uber’s shot at an empire


Just how big can Uber get? (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Here are five ideas that can have an impact on how we live, work and play.

1. Digital mesh.

Right now we think of Uber as a car service, but that could change. Amazon was once an online bookstore and Google only a search engine. Uber executives appear on their way to expanding the service into a digital mesh, a logistical network that helps city dwellers get what they want where they want it. On Monday word arrived of UberRush, a bike courier system in New York.

“UberRush is like when Amazon first revealed it was no longer *just* a bookstore. Now comes a steady march toward global domination,” Box chief executive Aaron Levie tweeted Monday night.

We’ve heard talk of this before. Kevin Roose of New York Magazine has written that Uber could be more valuable than Facebook. Uber investor Shervin Pishevar once described the potential this way:  “Uber is creating a digital mesh — a power grid which goes within the metropolitan areas. After you have that power grid running, in everyone’s pockets, there’s lots of possibility of what you could build like a platform. Uber is incorporated in the empire-building phase.”

So could Uber’s disruption of the taxi industry be just the beginning? A cynic would say every company talks big when an IPO may be on the horizon. Having a great story and interesting plans helps build interest from investors, who love to buy into growth companies. UberRush is the first significant step toward seeing if Uber can build out a digital mesh to help provides instant gratification of whatever city residents want.

2. Master data, or your company won’t last. Via the Next Web:

Data is a guaranteed disruptor. Amazon used data to disrupt retail. Netflix used it to overhaul video rentals; Spotify and Pandora transformed radio. From retail to lending, other industries are undergoing similar evolutions. …

Users have spoken. They like personalization, and that boils down to data. The more that companies can refine their use of data, the more they stand to gain.

3. Using drones to make art. Via the Verge:

KATSU apparently began work on the drones with the intention of programming them to write graffiti. In the end, it seems that their results became too imperfect: The force of their twirling propellers would whip the paint around, and the force of the paint would cause the drone to wobble as it attempted to stabilize itself.

4. Humans replacing robots on an assembly line. Here’s an interesting approach from Toyota. Via Bloomberg:

Humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. …

Mitsuru Kawai credits manual labor for helping workers at Honsha improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts.

5. Closing apps doesn’t make your iPhone battery last longer. Via Scotty Loveless:

You are actually making your battery life worse if you do this on a regular basis. …

By closing the app, you take the app out of the phone’s RAM. While you think this may be what you want to do, it’s not. When you open that same app again the next time you need it, your device has to load it back into memory all over again. All of that loading and unloading puts more stress on your device than just leaving it alone. Plus, iOS closes apps automatically as it needs more memory, so you’re doing something your device is already doing for you.

Disclosure: Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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