• In the age of COVID-19, “contactless payments” could mean the end of cash
  • This technology could help power an American manufacturing renaissance
  • Next year, Apple’s biggest product reveal won’t be a new iPhone…

Dear Reader,

The insights about COVID-19 and its spread published in the last three days have been incredible. The increase in data and transparency is allowing us to better understand this virus.

The University of Oxford just published some excellent research outlining how quickly the team from Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology and Infectious Disease group believes COVID-19 has spread.

I think the results will surprise you…

The assumptions used were all reasonable and backed by data already collected about COVID-19 and its basic reproductive rate (how fast it spreads). The team also assumed that COVID-19 first reached the U.K. by mid-January, which is a conservative assumption.

The research models determined that COVID-19 has already infected somewhere between 36% and 68% of the U.K. population.

That’s not a typo.

It is highly likely that a third to more than half the population has had or has COVID-19… And most are asymptomatic. They don’t even know they have it.

This data is consistent with research just out of Iceland. Iceland is unique because it has tested nearly 3.4% of its entire population for COVID-19. On a percentage basis, this is more than any other country in the world.

It found that half of those who tested positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and the other half display “very moderate cold-like symptoms.” Only 30 have been hospitalized out of the country’s 1,086 confirmed infections, and there are no deaths as of the time of writing.

Additionally, Italy’s National Health Institute released data that confirmed more than 99% of all COVID-19 fatalities were people already suffering from underlying medical conditions. Only 0.8% of the fatalities were healthy adults.

To put that in context, only 86 healthy adults have died from COVID-19 there.

Given the research out of Oxford and the basic reproductive rate of COVID-19, it is not difficult to determine the exponential growth in the spread of COVID-19.

On March 1, I spoke with an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins who stated that the actual number of cases was likely 100–200 times larger than what was being reported.

But we don’t see those cases for the same reason as the research out of Iceland… The cases are asymptomatic or too mild to justify testing for it.

And here is why this latest research over the last few days is fantastic news for us all.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are more than 741,000 confirmed cases. The reality is that there are almost certainly more than 74,100,000 cases.

That may seem scary, but it means that the actual mortality rate would be 0.047% or less. Compare that to the mortality rate from influenza in the 2017–2018 season (0.14%).

Every day, the data is giving us a lot to be optimistic about. The world is quickly building immunity to COVID-19.

Veritas in numeris.

Truth in numbers.

As always, I’ll keep monitoring the situation. But now our insights…

Get ready for the digital dollar and the end of cash…

As I’m sure readers know by now, the U.S. Senate approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package last week.

What many may not know is that the original bill contained language regarding a central bank digital currency (CBDC). It talked about creating a digital dollar as a means of moving away from cash and toward “contactless” payments.

The funding to explore a CBDC was dropped from the final stimulus bill. But it has already been reintroduced in a new bill. And I can tell you, there’s a lot of talk about this in Washington right now.

As longtime readers know, I’m a member of the Chamber of Digital Commerce. The Chamber is a group that advocates for the blockchain industry and educates policymakers on the benefits of the technology.

I discussed this on Friday with several colleagues at the Chamber. It appears the digital dollar has become a priority in some corners of D.C.

And next week, we’ll be having a call with the chairman and chief executive of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on the same topic.

So that raises the question – how should the digital dollar be structured?

The legislation does not refer to blockchain technology. But experts in the industry believe that Congress should look at a blockchain-based stablecoin.

After all, USD stablecoins already exist, and they work. Why re-create the wheel?

Of course, private companies back the existing stablecoins. I don’t expect the U.S. government would ever cede control of the official currency to another entity.

It made this clear when Facebook went public with its Libra digital currency project. Many central governments around the world fiercely opposed it.

But the government could build the digital dollar based on existing stablecoin code. That would be the fastest, most secure route to take. This could accelerate the deployment of a digital dollar.

However it plays out, though, one thing is clear: COVID-19 was the catalyst Congress needed to get serious about a CBDC.

In my 2020 prediction series, I said that 2020 would be the year we would see the rise of state-backed digital currencies. That prediction is looking more promising by the day.

A new AI chip makes computer vision even smarter…

Computer vision (CV) technology will get a major boost from a new artificial intelligence (AI) chip that a team at the Institute of Photonics at the Vienna University of Technology just developed.

The chip combines light-sensing electronics with AI software on a single semiconductor that acts as the sensor. I’ll explain with a little background…

Computer vision is what allows machines to “see.” Self-driving cars, autonomous robots, and autonomous drones all use the technology.

With CV, the sensors are the “eyes.” They take in video and images and digitize them.

Up to this point, those images had to be sent back to the cloud for processing. Then the AI crunches the data and sends back its analysis.

The challenge with this model is that it is energy intensive. And there’s a delay between input and output.

The delay occurs because everything is sent back to the cloud… even data that are not useful for the AI. And that’s where this new tech comes in…

This new chip allows the AI to process data from the sensors right on the spot. If it encounters something unique, it will send that data back to the cloud for analysis. And data that are not useful will simply be discarded.

In other words, the AI will operate at the edge of the network and have “discretion” about what it sends to the cloud to be analyzed.

This will empower computer vision to process data much faster than it could before. And it will reduce the amount of energy required because unnecessary data is filtered out.

So we’ll see this tech deployed in self-driving cars, factory automation systems, quality control systems, robots, drones, and any other area that employs computer vision. It will lead to optimized, energy-efficient systems.

Bigger picture, we’re starting to see a trend in the industry. We saw this same dynamic with Tesla’s new patent that we talked about last Thursday.

And here’s an interesting implication for this advanced technology…

Longtime readers know I’ve been predicting an “American manufacturing renaissance.”

In the near future, manufacturing facilities will return onshore in developed countries. And advanced robotics that use this form of computer vision will operate them.

And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that unforeseen events overseas can quickly disrupt supply chains. I suspect many multinational corporations will begin weighing the benefits of moving some of their facilities back onshore.

More hints that Apple is gearing up for a big augmented reality launch…

Rumors are floating around that several Taiwan-based inspection labs recently received some smart glass testing orders from Apple. If true, that would mean Apple is much further along on developing a consumer eyewear product.

What’s more, Apple just filed a patent for automatic lens adjustment glasses.

The patent details a system of actuators and motors in a pair of augmented reality (AR) glasses that shifts the lenses around to optimize the viewing for each user.

In other words, the lenses adjust on the fly so the wearer can best see the visuals of the AR glasses.

This kind of patent tells me that Apple is refining its augmented reality technology.

Remember, Apple already detailed a new user interface for AR glasses in a patent filed earlier this year. We talked about that back in February.

To me, it’s clear that Apple is now putting the finishing touches on its AR glasses. This tells us it is gearing up for a big commercial launch.

There is a chance it might happen at the end of 2020, but I suspect that Apple will wait until next year so it can take advantage of component miniaturization and further develop its platform.

After all, it makes sense for Apple to focus on its 5G-enabled iPhone this year with its big launch this fall.

And as a bonus, Apple can build 5G technology into its AR glasses. The glasses could connect directly to 5G wireless networks, just as some Apple watches can connect directly to wireless networks.

Simply put, there’s no company better positioned to bring these two technologies together. I’m not kidding when I say that I believe Apple could be a $2 trillion company by 2022, thanks to 5G and AR.

And by the way, if investors are looking for exposure to Apple’s new suite of products, there’s a better way than buying Apple stock…

I’ve been preparing my readers for this new consumer electronics boom by recommending key Apple suppliers. One of them is my No. 1 large-cap 5G stock of 2020. Get all the information here.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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