• Don’t discount the NFT trend too quickly…
  • Uses for robotics in the shipping industry…
  • Will “smart” carts be a practical option for grocery stores?

Dear Reader,

Welcome to our weekly mailbag edition of The Bleeding Edge. All week, you submitted your questions about the biggest trends in technology.

Today, I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you have a question you’d like answered next week, be sure you submit it right here.

“I don’t buy art or play video games…”

Let’s begin with a question on non-fungible tokens (NFTs):

Hi, Jeff. I followed your recommendation on crypto investments. The recommendations to buy NFTs, though, don’t appeal to me because I don’t buy art or play video games.

I’m 70 and live simply. Doesn’t this make sense for someone who may only live another 10–15 years? Thanks for all that you’re doing to help us.

– Nola C.

Hi, Nola, and thanks very much for sending in your question. I’m sure you’re not the only one wondering about this topic.

That’s why I held my very first event on NFTs this past Wednesday evening. It was a great night, and I had the chance to answer this question – and many more.

Let me address your question here as well…

First, you’re ahead of the curve simply by knowing about NFT technology. And whether you only live another 15 years or you live past 100 in good health… NFTs are more relevant than you might think.

You’re right. For someone who might not have any interest in art or video games, you’ll be fine without those kinds of NFTs. But the reality is, this is just scratching the surface of what NFT technology will be used for.

A simple example is tickets to an event. Today, it’s pretty normal to use electronic tickets that we display using our phone. We purchase tickets online, we receive an e-mail for our tickets, and then we show them to be scanned when we get to the event.

But that’s just a barcode with a seat number… That’s not an NFT.

Things get very interesting with NFTs. Because NFTs are smart contracts, they can be imparted with certain attributes.

The NFT can include both access to the event; access to a special meet and greet with the actor, singer, or athlete; and some physical goods (a t-shirt, hat, jersey, etc.).

Another good example is NFTs used as a way to denote membership. Those that hold the NFT are members. 

That membership comes with a certain set of rights or attributes and can be used or sold at any time. This membership model could be a co-op membership, a private organization, season tickets to a team’s games, a club, etc.

We’ve already made the leap from analog/paper to digital. Our airline tickets are now on our phones, as are our credit cards, our frequent flyer/stay programs, etc.

And now NFTs are the next technology that can bring additional functionality to goods and services that we use throughout our daily lives.

You’ll certainly be fine and won’t have to use the technology if you don’t want to. But as investors, what is important is that we understand these technologies and how other people are using them.

And now we have the chance to benefit from a similar misunderstanding in the market about NFTs.

In the earliest days of a new technology, it’s far too easy to dismiss its real value. One of the biggest mistakes is having the thought, “I’d never use something like that,” and then discounting the idea.

It doesn’t matter whether we like it or would use it personally… What matters is how many others will.

That’s why NFTs going mainstream this year will be such a big deal. Bigger picture, NFTs are going to play a key role in the growth of blockchain technology and the metaverse. They serve functional purposes in both these environments. 

And to my point earlier, they will find their way into our daily lives. They won’t just exist in these digital worlds for our entertainment and productivity.

As such, this tech is going to impact everything about how we earn money, transact, and interact in the future. That’s not something that any serious investor should miss out on.

And rest assured… You and I don’t need to spend lots of money on digital art or collectibles to profit from NFTs.

Rather, we can invest in the larger trend – such as the companies supplying the technology that supports NFTs… or promising NFT projects themselves.

I’d like to encourage anyone who’s feeling hesitant about NFTs to watch the replay of last Wednesday’s event.

There, I shared my top ways to build a stake in this trend – without needing to buy a single NFT. And I even gave away the name of one recommendation entirely for free.

So if anyone missed The NFT Moment’s premiere, please go right here to learn more about this booming trend.

Putting more robots to work…

Next, a reader wants to know more about use cases for robotics:

Hi, Jeff. Will robotics ever be used for loading and unloading containers? High-quality surveillance could ensure that contraband is not smuggled into the containers.

– Brian C.

Hi, Brian, and thanks for being a reader. Yes, robotics is already beginning to infiltrate most parts of the shipping industry.

We’ve previously discussed how automation technology has improved warehouse packing and sorting… and how autonomous trucks are filling in the gaps to transport containers around the country.

So assigning robots tasks like unloading and loading containers makes perfect sense.

Boston Dynamics, for example, already has its Stretch robot, which is equipped with machine vision and an agile arm. It can move 800 boxes an hour, making it an excellent candidate for this kind of task.

Boston Dynamics’ Stretch

Source: Boston Dynamics

Another potentially interesting robotics development is the previously announced Tesla Bot. It was only conceptual when Elon Musk announced it last year, and some made fun of it. But it would be a mistake to doubt Musk and the Tesla team.

As we’ve seen with the Boston Dynamics’ bi-pedal Atlas robot, and the bi-pedal robot from Agility Robotics, both are capable of dexterous movement and picking up and carrying boxes. We can see that the hardware and sensor technology is very functional. 

We also know that Tesla’s fully autonomous self-driving software, based on a neural network, is working… at times perfectly.

So if we just take one more step, and imagine combining the autonomous technology with the hardware that already exists, it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine that Tesla will be able to produce something that can do the work a human can do at a port or customs location.

We’ve already seen how robotics and computer vision can work in tandem. These technologies can be deployed to sort our trash and recycling… perform delicate tasks like pouring a glass of wine… and identify and destroy weeds among farm fields.

So this will be a natural extension of our current capabilities. In fact, we’re going to see more and more of these kinds of use cases develop in the coming months and years.

Technologies like automation, artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, 3D printing, and robotics will transform our ability to manufacture and deliver products in a cost-effective and timely manner.

That’s even more important given the landscape of the workforce. The supply chain problems and labor shortages over recent months are forcing us to adapt.

When companies can’t find human workers, they’re turning to robotic ones. The adoption of various automation technologies has come forward by several years as a result.

And once companies realize how these technologies can affect their bottom lines… well, there will be no going back.

That’s what makes this the perfect time to invest in this space. To learn more about the companies that will profit from the new age of automation, simply go right here for the details.

A reader is skeptical about Veeve’s carts…

Let’s conclude with a reader’s opinion on the practicality of “smart” shopping carts:

Jeff, the concept of the Veeve smart-cart is interesting but not very practical.

Many places that I shop will only allow an attendant to take the cart out of the store because people leave them in the parking lot, and many homeless steal them – and that’s just the old wire baskets.

I don’t see narrow-margin grocery stores investing in high-tech shopping carts, and then having to police them to prevent theft. Just my two cents.

– Dan S.

Hi, Dan, and thanks for writing in with your thoughts. You’ve brought up two interesting points.

For new readers, Veeve is an early stage company trying to improve our shopping experience with its AI-powered carts.

Veeve’s cart combines the simplicity of barcode scanners with a “smart” tablet.

Here’s a look:

Veeve Cart

Source: Veeve

The tablet allows customers to scan each item they select… and automatically applies any available coupons.

Likewise, as the technology learns customers’ buying habits, it can suggest frequently purchased items missing from someone’s cart.

And Veeve is starting to catch on. The company has already inked partnerships with grocery store chains Kroger and Albertsons. Those stores are now using Veeve’s smart carts at some of their locations.

No doubt these first locations will provide the chance to refine the technology and solve any issues like the ones you suggest.

And there are already systems in place to prevent shopping cart theft that could be applied here.

One common method is an electronic trigger. It locks the wheels in place if the cart leaves the parking lot. That means it’s not much use for would-be thieves. And while it’s not foolproof, this can be a deterrent.

Additionally, with Veeve’s high-tech carts, it would likely be simple to locate stolen carts through GPS. A retrieval team could pick up any carts abandoned away from the store.

And I suspect that you’re right: there may be store locations with high crime rates where this approach might not make any sense. The store may choose to employ the computer vision systems on the ceiling that enable a similar grab-and-go experience that I’ve also written about before.

You brought up another interesting point… How would a low-margin business pay for this? To me, these problems can be solved with a clever business model or financing strategy.

Because of the nature of Veeve’s technology, it creates a profile of the customers that it uses to get to know their weekly buying patterns. It can use this information to recommend new products and increase sales. And access to the data could be sold for advertising purposes as well.

In other words, its platform has the ability to serve ads or present coupons to shoppers. This drives revenue, and that revenue can help to pay for the deployment of the technology, potentially at no up-front cost to the store.

The key point is that when future revenue streams are well understood, the tech industry does a very good job at figuring out how to remove the barriers to adoption.

These are certainly considerations that will come into play as this technology goes mainstream. Yet I remain confident that Veeve – and companies like it – will find novel solutions as this technology develops.

That’s all we have time for this week. If you have a question for a future mailbag, you can send it to me right here.

Have a good weekend.

Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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