Yesterday Amazon announced the launch of its new product: the Amazon Echo. The Echo can be seen as a speaker combined with a Personal Assistant; next to streaming music from the Amazon Cloud (if you are a Prime member) or from a separate device through bluetooth, the Echo offers a range of possibilities. One first has to trigger the device by calling it ‘Alexa’, after which the user can ask it questions such as ‘Who was the 13th President of the United States of America?’ (Millard Fillmore), to ask it to set an alarm for 8:00 tomorrow morning, or to put milk on your shopping list.
The device itself is outfitted with 360-degree speaker, is connected to the internet through WiFi, and has a total of 7 microphones, and uses so-called beam-forming technology to ensure it hears your query. Through this tech, it is even able to filter out background noise such as other people talking and music playing in the room. After the Echo hears the trigger word it processes the voice input through Amazon’s own servers which are based in the cloud. Due to this, the Echo seems to have a self-learning aspect, where it can hone its skills in finding the ‘correct’ answer to a question, or the information you want, on the spot.
The reason behind this launch is evident: in a world where the move is about to made towards every device being smart and towards the ‘Internet of Things’, and especially a world where people are constantly demanding more and more convenience in the products and services they use is a very interesting one for Amazon. Amazon, being one of the biggest retail companies of the world, hopes to establish a solid user base in order to be fully integrated into a whole-home smart system where it would act as the hub. As mentioned above, as of now you can only let Echo add items to your shopping list, but it can be expected that it won’t take long until you can simply say ‘Alexa, order the latest season of Game of Thrones’ and have it on your doorstep the next day. It is not surprising that Echo is currently offer to Amazon Prime members for half of the actual price; Prime members spend much more money than normal customers and such products as Echo will only make it easier to do so.
It is clear that Amazon is attempting to move from one-click shopping to no-click convenience, but one is left wondering; will this really catch on? What about certain privacy issues for instance?
The United Nations Environment program found that over one third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is not consumed (which is estimated to be around 1.3 billion tons of food); either produce is lost due to inefficient processes or simply by people throwing away food. This is not only a huge waste, it also poses several problems such as waste of resources and growing landfills emitting large quantities of methane gas into our atmosphere.
Buying a cow
As these are some pretty shocking facts, it seems time for people to become more aware of how much and what they are eating. The website http://www.koopeenkoe.nl offers exactly that: it is an initiative where one can buy a part of a cow, which translates to about 7.2 kilos of beef produce. The cow will be butchered only when circa 30 people purchased to assure that the cow is divided equally. Furthermore, they uphold a nose-to-tail butchering philosophy to ensure nothing of the animal goes to waste while processing it; all the meat is processed, the bones are used to produce glue, and all of the skin is made into leather. This initiative effectively addresses two problems mentioned above; the butchering process is made more efficient which creates less waste in the beginning of the value chain, and customers are more conscientious of the food they buy, resulting in them wasting less.
Why people are interested
A range or reasons can be found why this initiative is interesting for people. The first has to do with price; since the grocery store is disintermediated and the meat goes straight from the farmer/butcher to the buyer, the price is kept relatively low. Second, the consumer’s interest comes from knowledge; one knows the quality of the meat is higher as it is only fed biological food, and one knows the cow had a good life. Next to that, the meat is completely traceable to its source.
Research shows that one fifth of each household in the UK orders groceries online, and that a growth of around 18 percent can be expected. As people grow more conscientious about what they are eating and where their food is coming from, it can be expected that initiatives such as koopeenkoe.nl will become more the norm than the exception. More specific, cross-sided positive network effects can be expected; as more people are interested in buying better quality food online, more farmers will join such initiatives. It can also be anticipated that more initiatives will be set up for not only different types of meat (such as pork), but for different foods in general (e.g. vegetables). Lastly, one is left wondering; what will be the reaction of ‘normal’ grocery stores?