At the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) Technology Roundtable, held recently at Verizon’s Basking Ridge headquarters, attendees had a chance to listen to three different perspectives on tech in N.J. The overriding commonality among all the presenters on the podium: technology would help improve the lives of the businesspeople in attendance.
Livingston, N.J.-based early stage investor John Frankel, of ff Venture Capital, gave one of the more inspiring and amusing presentations of the day. “I like to say we live in the Star Trek generation, that the things we saw happen on the Enterprise are happening today. I look at our kids and ask, Which generation are they going to live in? … We are on the cusp of some amazing technology.” Frankel said he has listened to a company pitch an iPad game that moved things around “by thinking, no touch.” He said ff Venture Capital looks at companies whose ideas will take up to six years to become mainstream. His firm usually takes on software companies.
“I think I have the best job in the world because I get to see these companies before their ideas are fully formed. Some [founders] are deranged. The ones who are mildly deranged… are probably the winners! No one reasonable ever changed the world.”
Frankel pointed out that while larger trends tend to stay the same, many are going digital. For example, people who like to collect things used to define themselves by their objects, and that is changing. “We used to define ourselves by our CD collection or our art collection,” he said. Now there is Pinterest, where people collect things digitally.
Noting that Best Buy reportedly tried to block Amazon customers from scanning bar codes and comparing prices last Christmas, when Amazon had a promotion offering consumers a $15 premium for using its bar code reader, Frankel asked, “What’s the future of a store? It will just be a showroom. You’ll be able to buy things there, but they’ll be the same price you can buy them for online.”
Verizon’s associate director for N.J. B2B sales, Frank Augurusa, spoke about wireless devices in the workplace—the explosion of iPhones, other smartphones and tablets, and how businesses are using these devices to “do more for less … We have a CRM [customer relationship management] tool we push out through the tablet. It provides a desktop experience, so workers no longer have to go to the office to get work done.”
Machine-to-machine communications is also important to businesses, Augurusa said. For example, a company with assets, such as trucks, in the field can put a module with a magnet under the vehicle to track its location. “Or you can take it to the next level and use a module inside the vehicle, which can tell you its speed or if the driver has gone outside the territory you’ve set up,” he added.
Focusing on energy savings, Noveda Technologies’ (Branchburg) president and CEO Govi Rao argued passionately that his company’s new technology, which acts as a dashboard for the smart monitoring of energy resources in homes, offices and buildings, could change occupants’ behavior, reduce energy consumption and costs and lead to a smaller carbon footprint for all. “We, as a generation, are lazy,” he said. In the U.S., people are used to having light at the flip of a switch or heat when they want it. It appears unlimited. “We assume that when we open the faucet the water will flow.”
Every kilowatt we use has a cost in dollars, Rao said, but the bigger issue for the planet—because our resources are based on fossil fuels—is lives per kilowatt. “How many lives is it OK for us to lose protecting our right to get oil from some godforsaken part of the planet?” he asked. Even companies going in the right direction and putting in solar panels are not looking at how those renewable resources are being used. Why put in a renewable resource if you are using it to burn inefficient incandescent lighting? he asked.
Noveda monitors all types of energy and provides visual, understandable usage statistics at the building, campus or enterprise level, Rao said, helping people manage their energy use. “We’ve also created Makemesustainable.com,” he added, a social media adjunct that lets companies, families and individuals monitor their usage to reduce their environmental impact and save money.