A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 31, 2020

The Reason Online Grocery Delivery Is Facing A Stress Test

Grocery delivery has been a tough sell in the US until the virus really hit two weeks ago.

Delivery companies were not prepared for the sudden surge in demand, especially because the gig economy independent contractors who do the work are also getting sick or are understandably fearful of catching the virus from stores or customers. How the industry responds in the next few weeks will determine its future success. JL

Nicole Lee reports in Engadget:

The state of online grocery deliveries is apparently a lot more fragile than anyone had anticipated. One of the biggest problems is that delivery time slots are seemingly impossible to come by. After filling out their carts, customers would attempt to check out, only to find that all of the delivery options are suddenly unavailable. (And) most of these companies  rely on independent contractors to deliver their groceries. But the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the gig-economy too.

After Years of Hoarding Housing Supply, Airbnb Hosts Are Panicking Due To Covid-19

This could shake out the short term rental market in major cities, hurt Airbnb profiteers, and perhaps increase longer term housing supply. JL

Ben Cohen reports in Vice:

Until two weeks ago, Airbnb was a gentrification juggernaut. A study published last year found Airbnb removed 31,000 homes from the Canadian rental market and that hosts made $1.8 billion in 2018—a 40% jump from the previous year. Multiple-listing hosts generated half of all Airbnb revenue in 2017. Those hosts can't fill a single unit now. “If (hosts) convert to long-term, they’re going to one-year leases. Even if the coronavirus lasts two or three more months, with these new commitments, they won’t be able to quickly get back into short-term rentals.”

Why Americans Are Now Panic Buying Chickens As They Did Toilet Paper

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows, stores have run out of both of them...

And here's a prediction: when and if the danger passes, Covid-19-inspired urban and suburban poultry fanciers will no longer want to care for them, will be too squeamish to kill them so will release them into the wild where they will multiply like pet pythons in the Everglades. Time to stream Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" before there's a run on that, too. JL

Tove Danovich reports in the New York Times:

Baby chickens are impossible to find. When times are tough, people want chickens. Chick sales go up during stock market downturns and in presidential election years. The combination of an enormous rise in unemployment, anxious free time for those not struggling with illness, and financial instability has created strange moments in economics. “People are panic-buying chickens like they did toilet paper.”(But) what seems like a great idea when everyone’s at home with free time won’t be so appealing if or when life returns to normal.

Medtronic Is Open-Sourcing Specs For Its Portable Ventilator To Add Global Supply

It will be the collaborative global sharing of knowledge - and even of protected intellectual property - that will ultimately give humanity the ability to contain Covid-19.

And if companies like Medtronic and the others which have stepped forward derive some reputational or future financial benefit from such actions, they've earned it. JL

Darrell Etherington reports in Tech Crunch:

Medtronic is making available to anyone the full design specifications, produce manuals, documents and software code for its portable ventilator hardware. This makes freely available everything needed to spin up production lines at existing manufacturers around the world without any fees owed to Medtronic. The design is well-suited for “inventors, startups, and academic institutions” looking to produce in short order and create their own adapted designs. It’s a sign of the seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis that for-profit corporations like Medtronic would make free for public use a technology they’ve developed, even if only for a fixed time.

How Working From Home Is Changing Notions Of Hierarchy and Control

The entire economy is in the midst of a gigantic experiment, in which notions of leadership, productivity, teamwork and impact are being reconfigured.

It is not yet clear if organizations, their leaders and staff will snap back to old habits if and when whatever passes for normal returns - or if enhanced notions of collaboration and shared responsibility will prevail. But it seems apparent that interrelationships will have to change. JL

Kim Scott reports in the Wall Street Journal:

As the economy falters, teams that are honest with each other about what they can and can’t do, what the priorities and limits must be, are most likely to endure the crisis and prevail. Successful management will focus more on compassion and candor, less on command and control. Everyone will remember how their boss responded during this time. It may be our ability to upend hierarchical responsibility that gets us through this crisis. (But) it’s not only leaders who need to step up with compassion and candor. We all need to take responsibility as leaders.

Mar 30, 2020

London Health Workers Get Free e-Bike Loaners To Avoid Public Transport Crowds

This is a potentially important contribution since infected health workers led to reduced ability to care for the sick in China, Italy and Spain, which added to mortality rates.

Uber is also reportedly beginning to offer free trips to health workers, with drivers receiving the fare they would ordinarily. JL

Jon Porter reports in The Verge:

National Health Service (NHS) workers in London are being offered a three-month e-bike loan to help them commute to work while social distancing. e-bikes and Abus locks and helmets are being distributed. Free e-bikes reduce commuting costs, but will also help them avoid having to travel in close proximity to others. London is currently running a basic service meant only for key workers such as NHS staff, but the reduction in trains has meant bigger crowds.

Mercedes Formula 1 Racing Engineers Craft Covid-19 Breathing Aid In 100 Hours

There is growing evidence that some of the most dramatic innovations for Covid-19 solutions have come from repurposing existing machines designed for related, but different uses, which has sped up the process of producing them. JL

Charles Riley reports in CNN Business:

Formula One engine manufacturer Mercedes has teamed up with clinicians in London to design a breathing aid for coronavirus patients that can be quickly mass produced. CPAP devices have been used in China and Italy to treat coronavirus, with half of such patients have avoided the need for ventilators. The team had worked to disassemble and analyze an existing device before using computer simulations to "create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production. These devices save lives by ensuring that ventilators are used only for the most severely ill."