• This “old” tech is streamlining the way we order our dinner…
  • Google just made a jab at Apple…
  • Warning: This app sets a dangerous precedent…

Dear Reader,

One of the best ways to keep a close eye on the health of the global economy is to track what’s happening in the semiconductor industry.

After all, semiconductors are the key components enabling just about anything that uses electricity. Cars, phones, laptops, servers, clocks, watches, aircraft, spacecraft, microwaves, smart speakers… you name it. They are all powered by these small components that we rarely ever see.

So if semiconductor sales are increasing, we know that the global economy is healthy. If the opposite is happening, that means we are in a slower economic environment.

The August numbers for the industry were released on Monday, and they were quite interesting. Worldwide sales of semiconductors increased by 3.6% month over month.

This is a strong jump. And it’s certainly an indication that the world is getting back to more normal economic activity after the COVID-19-inspired economic restrictions.

Also positive was that the August 2020 semiconductor sales were 4.9% higher than August 2019.

This represents very healthy growth considering 2019 was the best economic environment that I’ve ever seen, and the U.S. was running at record low unemployment and extremely high labor-force participation numbers.

What’s interesting is where this growth in semiconductor sales was coming from. Year over year, here is the regional breakdown:

  • China: 3%

  • Japan: -1.4%

  • Asia Pacific: 2.1%

  • Europe: -10.1%

  • Americas: 23.6%

The numbers are remarkable. I wouldn’t fault anyone for expecting that the growth would be coming from the Asia Pacific region, including Japan and China.

After all, everything is manufactured in Asia, right?

Clearly, this isn’t the case.

The “Americas” region was responsible for almost all of the growth. 23.6% growth year on year… almost all of which is from the United States.

What does that mean? It means products that require a lot of semiconductors are being manufactured in the U.S. It also means that there is strong underlying growth in the U.S. markets.

When we see numbers like these, it is not hard to understand why the U.S. is enjoying such strong stock market performance. It is also a clear sign to me that we have a lot to look forward to in 2021.

The U.S. economy is in for continued economic growth and healthy equity market conditions for investors.

And yes, we will continue to see the rebirth of the manufacturing industry in America as well as other developed markets, which are also starting to bring manufacturing back onshore. If you’d like to learn more about this trend, go right here to see my recent presentation.

Now let’s turn to today’s insights…

Square’s latest innovation revives a decades-old technology…

I’ve been traveling quite a bit around the country without pause since the economic lockdowns began in March. Some have told me I am crazy to do so, but my research helped me understand the risks are extremely low for my health and age.

And I am a firm believer in “boots on the ground” research. There are some things that we can do behind a computer screen and other things that we can’t.

I’ve been watching developments in contactless technology closely. It was fairly limited prior to COVID-19, but I’ve seen use cases pop up seemingly everywhere in an effort to reduce transmission.

Here is an example of what is being used in most airport restaurants right now…

Quick Response (QR) Ordering System

QR codes have been on the tables of every airport restaurant I’ve been through in the last couple of weeks in one form or another. The QR code system helps users order their meals.

As you can see from the image, travelers simply pull out their smartphone, open the camera, and scan the big square QR code in the top right-hand corner of the pamphlet. That pulls up a mobile-ready website on the phone where the restaurant’s full menu is displayed.

From there, it is just like shopping on Amazon. Customers simply select what food items they want to order and put them in a shopping cart.

When done, customers review their cart and place the order. Then they can pay using Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay on their mobile phone.

Once the payment is complete, the order is sent directly to the kitchen. And when the food is ready, a server brings it out to the table. That’s the first interaction customers have with the waitstaff.

The entire process is completely contactless. No more fumbling through a menu. No more handing over a credit card to pay. It’s all digital.

And Square, one of my favorite tech companies now known for its products supporting payments for small- and medium-sized businesses, has launched its tech offering for QR codes in a retail environment.

This is such a smart move by Square. These QR code menus are fully integrated with the companies’ point-of-sale terminals. It is a perfect service for Square to offer in a post-pandemic world.

And this QR code system isn’t limited to restaurants. It could be implemented at any retail location.

What’s interesting to me is that QR codes have been around for decades. They were invented in Japan way back in 1994.

And I had firsthand experience using the early version of QR codes when I first moved to Japan in 1997. The rest of the world hadn’t seen them yet, but they were quickly put to use there in Japanese mobile phones.

Then, in 2000, QR codes were standardized for international use. This opened up the use of QR codes more widely for a global base of consumers. But it took the COVID-19 pandemic some 20 years later to act as a catalyst for adoption.

The ironic part is that the approach previously being used was expensive. Airports were placing something like an iPad at every seat with a credit card scanner for ordering and purchasing. Yet the simplest solution, which costs no more than printing a QR code on a piece of paper, wasn’t implemented.

Square is effectively reviving a decades-old technology with this new system. And I expect this to be rapidly adopted going forward.

QR codes allow for a perfectly contactless experience, and that’s something that will remain popular even after the pandemic is a distant memory. In many restaurants, especially casual dining spots that tend to move quickly, printed menus are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

QR codes will also allow businesses to reduce their operating expenses because they facilitate a simple automation process. That will allow restaurants and other businesses to operate with fewer employees.

And I’ll point out that this plays right into the hands of Apple and Google. It will encourage consumers to use Apple Pay and Google Pay, which will push more transactions through those systems. And, of course, the two tech giants will take a small cut.

Google just revealed its flagship 5G phone…

Google just announced that its flagship 5G-enabled smartphone, the Pixel 5, will launch sometime this fall. It is expected to cost $699.

And in addition to the Pixel 5, Google also announced that it is making a 5G-enabled version of its Pixel 4A available this fall. It will cost $499.

The timing of this announcement was no coincidence. Google wanted to announce the Pixel 5 before Apple reveals its flagship 5G phone, the iPhone 12. We can think of this as a small jab at Apple.

Google is also pushing the development of 5G-enabled Android phones forward here.

This isn’t well-understood, but Google doesn’t produce its Pixel phones hoping to sell a bunch of them. It knows that they are simply too pricey to capture a large market share.

Instead, Google sees its Pixel phones as a model for what Android phones should look like. Google uses the Pixel design to influence other manufacturers of smartphones using the Android operating system (OS).

In this way, we can think of Pixel phones as reference designs for the Android smartphone community, which includes about 87% of all smartphones shipped worldwide.

And the Pixel phones aren’t just hardware reference designs. They also include all of the software integration of Google’s Android OS as well as other Google smartphone applications.

The dirty truth is that the more deeply Google’s OS and software applications are built into Android smartphones, the more Google controls its data surveillance of Android phone users.

That’s how Google makes its money… selling access to data that it has collected on billions of consumers around the world, mostly without their knowing about it.

A case in point is that Google itself only sold 7.2 million phones worldwide last year.

In comparison, Samsung sold nearly 296 million phones in 2019 – all running Android’s OS. And Apple sold 191 million iPhones.

When it comes to smartphone sales, Google is an insignificant player.

But Google and Apple are still neck and neck for market share in the U.S. Roughly half of the country’s population uses an Android smartphone, and the other half uses an iPhone. And worldwide, as I mentioned earlier, 87% of all smartphones are Android phones.

Google has a stranglehold on global market share. I always get a chuckle when I hear someone say that Apple has a monopoly in smartphones…

Even though Google is a tiny player when it comes to smartphone sales, though, the fact that it has these 5G-enabled reference designs is great for the entire market. Other smartphone manufacturers will follow quickly, adopting Google’s design and Android software.

And that means Apple is now the last pin to drop.

We should be just days away from the iPhone 12 announcement. And that will mark the inflection point for the beginning of widespread adoption of 5G devices.

This could be the last chance investors have to get in on 5G investments before this tech goes mainstream. But there’s still time if you know the best places to put your money right now.

I’ve recently put together a presentation on how we can position ourselves for the next wave of 5G buying once the Apple iPhone 12 is released. If you’d like to learn more, go right here.

Big pharma is pushing for a massive invasion of American privacy…

We’ll end on a scary note today.

Medical device giant Abbott Laboratories just rolled out a new smartphone app called NAVICA that pairs up with its rapid COVID-19 test. The app records an individual’s COVID-19 test result and then generates a unique QR code that signifies whether the person tested positive or negative.

Abbott is marketing this as a “digital health pass.” And it is pushing for businesses, schools, and organizations to require people to present their NAVICA QR code before being permitted to enter any buildings.

To this end, Abbott is going to supply the U.S. government with 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests before the year is out. It hopes that this will allow for the dissemination of these tests throughout the country at no cost to the end user.

So we are back to the idea of immunity passports, which we first talked about back in April.

To me, this is frightening.

It is a severe violation of our privacy, our rights, and our freedoms to be forced to submit to such a system just to go about our daily lives. This is especially glaring now that we know most COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests produce false positives.

The data from these tests are grossly inaccurate. And the actual risks of COVID-19 to the vast majority of the global population are grossly overstated.

Imagine being denied entry to our workplaces, our churches, or even our grocery stores thanks to a false positive COVID-19 test. That’s not fair to anyone.

And if we allow such a system to gain traction, it will pave the way for even more draconian testing systems in the future.

How long would it be before we’re required to test for other illnesses like the flu in order to gain entry to public places? Or imagine being suddenly subjected to blood tests on a regular basis…

After all, big pharma stands to make a lot of money if it can push hundreds of millions of tests onto people. If the industry sees one company successfully implement a forced testing regime, no doubt other companies will try to follow suit with their own systems.

This is scary and appalling to me. We should not be forced to share our personal health information with any corporation or government to prove we aren’t sick.

In a twisted way, such a system presumes that we are “guilty until proven innocent.” And from my perspective, that is not how a civil society functions.

I sincerely hope we can guard against Abbott’s scheme and any similar attempts that follow.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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