Impressive Commuter Vehicle … the Aptera Typ-1

Aptera Typ-1 Passenger VehicleWow. I know that other people might be well aware of this vehicle … but I just found it and this is impressive. Aptera Motors, Inc. – based out of Carlsbad, California – is creating a revolutionary commuter vehicle and is about to go into production. For the last five years they have been designing and testing this new Typ-1 passenger vehicle that is like nothing I every imagined being this close.

The Aptera Typ-1 details are amazing …

The Typ-1 uses a commoditized, ‘ruggedized’ 3-phase motor controller designed for vehicular applications, and a 3-phase motor made for us by a company here in Southern California. The rear drive suspension, and the drive reduction, are all designed and made by Aptera. Since the Typ-1e (electric) and the Typ-1h (series plug in hybrid) have different battery needs, this may result in different battery manufacturers for the two models. The Typ-1e is designed to use a 10 KWh pack, while the Typ-1h uses a smaller pack. The cycles and DOD are different for both applications. We will announce further information regarding the battery lifespan and warranty policy well before we begin manufacturing the Typ-1 next October.

Diesel or Gasoline? Our first prototype, the Mk-0, was a parallel hybrid Diesel and achieved an average of 230 MPG at a steady state of 55 MPH. This was pure Diesel/mechanical drive with no electric assist. Diesel is attractive for its Carnot efficiency and the increased enthalpy of Diesel fuel vs gasoline. However, diesel contains lots of unburned hydrocarbons and NOX compounds, and it’s impossible to get a small Diesel engine certified for emissions in California. Therefore, the typ-h uses a small, water-cooled EFI Gasoline engine with closed loop oxygen feedback and catalytic converter. This engine is coupled to a lightweight 12KW starter/generator. It’s very clean and quiet.

The design is three-wheeled, allowing it to be classified as a motorcycle in many states … and allowing it to use the commuter lanes. As for the performance?

With the All Electric Aptera, it is very easy to figure out the mileage range. The mileage is determined by the distance you can drive, under normal circumstances, until the batteries are effectively drained. In the case of the first Aptera typ-1e, we have calculated the range to be about 120miles.

With the Plug-in Electric Hybrid version of the Aptera(typ-1h) the mileage of the vehicle is difficult to describe with one number. For example, the Typ-1h can drive 40 to 60 miles on electric power alone. Perhaps for such a trip, the engine may only be duty-cycled for a few seconds or minutes. This would produce a fantastic number, an incredible number that, though factually true, would have no useful context, i.e. it’s just a point on a graph.

An asymptotic decaying exponential is an accurate way to describe the fuel mileage of the Typ-1h. For example driving say, 50 miles, one might calculate a MPG number that’s 2 or 3 times higher, say, 1000 MPG. As battery energy is depleted, the frequency of the engine duty cycle is increased. More fuel is used. at 75 miles, the MPG might be closer to 400 MPG. Again, we’re using battery energy mostly, but turning the engine on more and more. Just over 100 miles we’re just over 300 MPG, and just beyond 120 miles, we’re around 300 MPG.

So why pick a number at 120 miles? Well, it’s more than double of most available plug-in hybrid ranges that achieve over 100 MPG. It’s three times the distance of the typical American daily commute. It’s a meaningful distance that represents the driving needs of 99% of Americans on a daily basis. Sure, it’s asymptotic, after 350-400 miles it eventually plummets to around 130 MPG at highway speeds where it will stay all day until you plug it back in and charge it up.

And all of this for an estimated $30,000 sticker price! Read more of the Aptera facts and then think about driving one of these to work … I want one! The problem is that for now they are limiting the market to the LA area … bummer.

Web 2.0 Expo – Mobile 2.0: Design and Develop for the iPhone and Beyond

The second presentation at Web 2.0 Expo that I attended on Tuesday of this week was a great presentation by Brian Fling of Fling Media, and the creator of the Mobile Design blog. He started off with a really good review of all of the “layers” in the “mobile application” stack. There are a lot of complex pieces in place in the ‘telco’ world … the underlying technologies, the networks, the carriers, and the phone devices themselves. It’s really created a nightmare for software developers to write good mobile applications.

While at the CTIA show this last month, I learned a lot about the carriers, and their issues with software developers. The first was that software can often cause additional expenses to the end user, and if the user doesn’t like their bill they won’t pay it. On top of that is the second issue … the user will then call the carrier to be upset with them … and that support call can cost – on average – $20-$25 each call! So now they have an upset, non-paying customer on the phone to their support center costing them money … not good for cash flow. The one comment I heard was that two support calls a month makes you a non-profitable customer. And so the end result? The carriers want complete and tight control on the applications being deployed to cell phones.

Brian talked about the lock that the carriers have on the network, the phone devices, and the applications being deployed, and he then showed a great YouTube video of Jason Devitt (of Skydeck and Vindigo Studios) testifying before Congress about open access to the cellular networks. (Jason Devitt testimony before Congress) This video is really good to watch if you want to learn more about the limits imposed, if you aren’t aware of the current situation. It is, in many people’s opinions, completely crippling the creativity and value that could be delivered to your phone.

Some of the statistics presented were:

  • Current Global Mobile Users: 2.9 billion
  • Current Mobile Users with Web Access: 1.3 billion
  • Current Desktop Users with Web Access: 1.1 billion

This is fascinating as it shows that more people can access the Internet and the Web from their mobile devices, than from desktop or laptop PCs! The prediction that he quoted indicated that by 2010, half the worlds population will have Mobile Web Access!

Brian then presented his thoughts on Mobile as being the 7th Media:

  1. Printing Press (print)
  2. Recordings (audio)
  3. Cinema (video)
  4. Radio (remote audio)
  5. Television (remote video)
  6. The Internet (globally distributed and accessible)
  7. Mobile … with you all of the time!
    Apple iPhoneHe expanded on his thoughts in this area as he reviewed the real revolutions of Mobile Media:

    • Personal mass media – it’s your device!
    • First ‘always on’ mass media – most people leave it turned on
    • Always carried – you have it with you everywhere
    • Built in payment channel – via your phone bill, or browser
    • Point of thought – when ever/where ever – it’s just there!

    I was really impressed as he then talked about the fact that this is the only form of new media that can do everything the first six media types were able to do! Your mobile device can provide you with printed/text information, stored or streamed audio and video, and real-time Internet access … all of the time, almost everywhere you go on earth.

    From there, Brian moved into the value of location finally being realized. Location Based Services – LBS – are becoming reality due to the capabilities in new mobile devices. Although we often think about the possible privacy concerns … it is there. New forms of using Wifi, Cell Towers, and GPS are providing access to where you are … where your mobile device is. This then leads to the “Contextual Web”. Mobile applications are now able to begin to give you information based on when and where you are.

    All of this information and lead in was to set the stage for the rest of his talk about the current state of application design for mobile devices. Although the iPhone is completely changing the landscape, and pushing other mobile device vendors to wake up and move in new directions, there are still many “least common denominator” that any developer will want to consider when creating their mobile applications.
    His overall lessons about developing for Mobile devices are what he calls the Three C’s of the Mobile Web:

    • Cost (be conscious of the user … and their phone bill!)
    • Content (how you design the content for small device screens)
    • Context (how will the user use it … where they use it)

    This is where the presentation then moved to really focus on the iPhone … and why it is becoming the biggest impact in the mobile world … ever. He began by quoting Craig MCaw … someone who was instrumental to the development of the cellular market in the US:

    Change occurs because there is a gap between what is, and what should be – Craig McCaw

    Brian spoke about how he feels that the iPhone is the definition of Mobile 2.0. He believes that it is the first phone to truly integrate all of the necessary components to truly shift the future of mobile applications. When he attended one of the last Mobile 2.0 conferences, he commented on the 10 things that he learned:

    • Mobile 2.0 = the web
    • Mobile web browser is the next killer app
    • Mobile web applications are the future
    • AJAX is the next frontier
    • Rich interactions kill the web
    • Mobile User Experience sucks
    • Mobile Widgets are the next big things
    • Carrier is the new “C” word … they suck
    • We are creators … not consumers.

    Based on all of these things learned, it is interesting to see the way that many, if not all, are addressed by the introduction of the iPhone in the market. Brian’s thoughts in this area are the iPhone Strengths:

    • Smart phone for the masses
      • Although there have been many smart-phones produced, and sold into business, this is the first real “usable” smart phone. Period.
    • Flat-rate data plan
      • There is now no worry about “How much data am I using?” Users don’t have to worry about surprise phone bills. This, in my opinion, is the biggest value that Apple delivered.
    • Device sold and supported outside the carrier
      • Carriers are very worried about the cost of support calls. Apple is training users to contact the phone/device manufacturer (Apple) instead of the carrier.
    • No subsidization
      • This, in my opinion, is the second largest impact of the iPhone! People are paying hundreds of dollars for a phone … something that simply wasn’t done in the past with this class of mobile device owners.
    • Updatable software (4 updates in 9 months)
      • The fact that the mobile device can evolve and be updated easily by the user. In the past, few updates ever appears for the phones once they were shipped.
    • Location awareness
      • Huge. Integrated into the iPhone are ways to obtain information about Wifi access points in the area, and cell towers that are “visible” to the phone. Both of these methods are then used to attempt to fine-tune the users location.
    • Resetting bandwidth expectations
      • Here, the iPhone is giving the masses the first experience of broadband Internet access. It is setting a base threshold for expectations.
    • Portable device convergence (phone/ipod, etc.)
      • So many people didn’t want a converged device … because they wanted their iPod. The iPhone has now integrated digital camera, iPod, portable browser, and phone … all in one sleek device.
    • Web & Mobile standards (great adherence in rendering)
      • The Webkit browser engine used within the iPhone has an incredible level of support for the current HTML/CSS/Javascript standards allowing for rich application designs.
    • Impact on developer communities (developers moving into iPhone development)
      • The iPhone has ignited a real interest in people developing applications for mobile devices … specifically the iPhone.

    Some sales date that Brian provided:

    • 4 million sold in 90 first days
    • 2.5 million last quarter
    • 10 million by the end of the year … they are at 70% of that now!
    • 1457 Mobile apps as of yesterday
    • 131 new apps in the last 14 days
    • 600 new apps in the last 60 days
    • 84.8% of all iPhone owners are accessing news and information
    • iPhone is already 23% of all mobile web traffic
    • Wired magazine showed the iPhone as .09% of all web traffic
    • Brian showed the iPhone web stats report … March 2008 now at .15% of all web traffic

    Now, besides the iPhone, the newer Apple iTouch is becoming a new transformation of the iPhone. It is a WiFi media device that can also be considered a powerful mobile device … containing the same Webkit browser engine … allowing iTouch users to cruise the web via Wifi. He asked people to think about how quickly the iTouch might begin to replace the more common iPod … there were 22 million iPods sold in Q1 of 2008 … over 140 million sold in 6 years.

    For the more technical web application developers, this is where Brian finally cut to the tech details. First tip … you really have to design with bandwidth in mind. For those who never developed for dial-up modems, this is the time for you to experience the “old days” of the Internet. In his testing, Brian said you really have to consider that the average max bandwidth that an iPhone user will see is ~125kbps on Edge … and even on Wifi, you *might* see rates of ~4Mbps … but design your mobile device applications for 125kbps! Keep the content light!

    There are also two key features that you are going to want to program into your website:

    • Device/Browser Specific Stylesheets
      • Use the “media” queries (slide 268 above)
    • Device Detection (Javascript redirect or Server Redirect)
      • userAgent matching or server side (slide 270 above)

    Also, when developing applications for the iPhone, he mentioned that there are several specific limits that Apple has imposed:

    • 10MB download limit
      • no bigger objects!
    • Javascript execution time limit – 5 seconds for each top-level item
      • You can’t have any long-running Javascript routines.
    • No Flash or SVG
      • This is still disappointing to me … I really like both!
    • No Java
      • I’m not a Java fan, so no biggy to me.
    • No mouse-over, hover, tooltip mouse events
      • The biggest impact here is drag-and-drop, etc.
    • No file downloads or uploads
      • Again … limits what you can do to get data to and from the iPhone

    There are now several development kits and tools that can be used, and Brian said that all of these have use with iPhone applications:

    • iUI by Joe Hewitt
    • Google Web Toolkit (GWT)
    • Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI)
    • many other icon and interface design tools

    For the PHP crowd out there, Brian again reiterated the importance of bandwidth … and size.  He stressed that you really want to reduce content size:

    • use ob_start(“ob_gzhandler”) for PHP content
    • remove whitespace
    • refactor Javascript to be efficient, remove extra brackets, etc.
    • compress images or use CSS where possible
    • cache data on the server for good response times

    Overall, what was really fascinating to me, was that he continued to recommend using HTML and AJAX for iPhone applications … for now.  The real issues of creating an installed iPhone application still center on the uncertainty of you will ever get your application installed on the phone!

    Apple has taken the approach that, although there is an open developer kit, the actual ability to get an app to a user will be limited initially … and it’s still not quite clear all of the implications.  If you simply develop an application on your server that can detect the iPhone browser, you can then deliver a very customized experience to the user with great success.  No need to install anything …

    Obviously the limitations of this approach, are that you will loose the tight integration with many of the iPhone features such as the location data, and the accelerometers.

    I’m now looking to obtain a couple of used iPhones for testing … or maybe an iPod Touch.  I want to see what we can come up with for a good iPhone UI for one of our recent projects.  This session was great for learning some of the more indepth aspects of what to consider when developing for the iPhone.

Web 2.0 Expo – Your Digital World – Meshed!

I’m sitting in the Web 2.0 Expo session on Microsoft Live Mesh where Ori Amiga of Microsoft is doing a demonstration of the current solution. I’m slowly getting a better idea of what they are doing, and how this all works.

Live Mesh PreviewOri started off by logging into his Live Mesh account on-line. He showed where he manages his “ring” of devices … the devices that are to be included in his synchronization cloud. He had PCs, Media PCs, an Ultra Mobile PC, his cell phone … and his Macbook. He was able to navigate the “ring” and view the status and information about the devices and their connectivity.

The other core part – to me – that he demonstrated was the “Live Desktop”. In the portal, you actually get a “Live Desktop” that is like a basic desktop in the cloud. There, you have a variety of tools and applications that you can use to interact with your Mesh, and your shared/sync’d resources. He showed where he could create a shared folder on the Live Desktop. He could also see various event streams in a small desktop client application showing updates and changes to the various shared resources. What was cool was that he then flipped to looking at his desktop, and had all of the same capabilities … the shared folders were on his desktop of his laptop, and he had the same client application that allowed him to see the event streams and contents of the mesh resources.

Ori then went through a full demonstration of photos being shared, through the mesh, across his laptop, a Media PC, his phone, and his Macbook. He took a photo with the Macbook that sync’d everywhere … and photo with his cell phone that sync’d everywhere. This is a very simply demo, but what was impressive was the underlying protocols and engine being used to provide this capability. The “shared folder” is actually also “feed” that can be subscribed to, and that has enclosures that link to the associated file objects. Updates to the local “folder” on one machine cause POST updates to the others in the cloud … and then synchronization occurs by the other remote devices pulling from the feeds on the local device.

The presentation then went into a little more depth on the “feeds” and the models that are being used to define the architecture. I’ve added some note below on this portion … but to me I am thoroughly impressed as where Microsoft has taken the concepts of “feeds” … then have created a complete Resource Model around feeds … and an engine to leverage this model and provide the core mechanisms. The pluggable architecture of the Moe (Mesh Operating Environment) allow for the feeds to be rendered in a wide – and completely extensible – range of formats … RSS / ATOM / XML … and anything to come.

In a later demo, Ori showed where a web property can have an “Add to my Live Mesh” button, and so a web user can then add that site/application to their Live Mesh. The demonstration was shown using a SilverLight and he was able to then run the application locally and have all of the same capabilities of the hosted application. He even made a comment about a photo on the local application, and the comment than appeared on that same photo on the hosted application. The idea here is that the usage can become very transparent to average users.

Ori also showed a very specific client application that was written to use the Mesh APIs, and provide even more real-time data synchronization capabilities to keep two different complex data sets in sync. The demonstration was a “family tree” application, and as he updated photos and names, the other “remote” application reflected the updates in real-time. I know that here he was no doubt showing that there can be tight integration with the local Moe to subscribe to events of mesh resource updates.

Upon leaving the session, I immediately went and complained to the Microsoft folks about the problems I was having with my preview account sign-up. They jumped to action and sent me down to the Microsoft booth … where I could again reproduce the same problem. I was really getting bummed … I wanted to experiment with all of this.

For the lunch break I sat down on the 3rd floor, and was about to eat when I noticed some friends from Microsoft at a nearby table. I went over and again told them about the problems I was having … it turns out that Amit Mital was standing behind me! As the Mesh General Manager, he immediately asked me for my Live User ID, and sent off an e-mail … as I finished my lunch he came back over and told me it was fixed! Sure enough … I logged and am now Meshed!

Here are a couple of other thoughts …

Key Elements of Live Mesh:

  • Resource Model
    • The entire resource model was reduced to the idea of a “feed”. This is identical to an RSS or ATOM feed. It can contain DateEntries and those can have Enclosures.
    • There are DataFeeds, NewsFeeds, DeviceFeeds, MembersFeeds … it is extensible.
    • A Mesh Object can then contain one or more feeds.
    • Mesh Objects can be viewed … in a feed … of course!
    • Moe – the Mesh Operating Environment – can then render the feeds in any format … and can also be extended with new renderers.
    • The local client can be directly accessed to get all of these feeds in the mesh! e.g. http://localhost:2048/Mesh … so feeds are automatically – and symmetrically – replicated to all devices in the ring.
  • Cloud Services
    • Ori didn’t spend a lot of time on the Cloud Services …
  • Client Runtime
    • Upon adding my laptop to my “ring” there was a 1.5MB downloaded client. This appears to be the Moe, and has added a new icon to my tray. Through this little tray icon I can open the Mesh Notifier which shows me my device “ring” and recent activity. I didn’t have to reboot to get this going … woohoo!
  • MeshFX
    • Although he mentioned this, he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it.

The breif discussion about the Mesh Developer Stack really came down to his Core Tenets of their efforts.

  • Core Tenets:
    • Open (Protocol Based)
    • Resource Oriented
    • Consistent S+S Programming Model
    • Extensible

I have to admit that I am impressed with what I am seeing so far … it’s really a cool direction for Microsoft to go, and I can only image all of the applications that might begin to appear. I’m disappointed right now that the developer info is most likely going to be out at PDC – the Microsoft Developer Conference – in the fall … I want it now! I’m going to ask around and see what I can find out … I’ll be blogging about this … 🙂

Web 2.0 Expo – Microsoft Mesh

I’m sitting in the keynote at the end of Day Two of the Web 2.0 Expo.  Microsoft’s Amit Mital, Mesh’s General Manager.  He started off by talking about the fact that we all have more and more Internet attached devices – from PCs to laptops, to mobile phones – that all have Internet connections.  He then commented on how all of these devices do not yet share all of your information … they don’t seem to talk … communicate … or share information.

Live Mesh is a Software + Service platform that provides services for devices to become aware of each other, and to share data and information. He showed the “trailer” about Live Mesh.  In the example, he showed where a photo being taken on a smart phone can instantly and transparently synchronized to other phones, PCs, XBox, and even showed “dad” using a Macbook at the airport.  As the phone took the photo and saved it, the photo was immediately synchronized to all of these other devices and made available.  But he stressed this is not just about photo and file synchronization … but is a core engine that provides the mechanisms for the communications between devices using standard protocols … with NAT and Firewall traversal … and peer to peer capabilities.
He then showed a quick look at the “device ring” … this is where you add devices into your mesh.  You can then add “folders” where you can put files.  You can invite others to share via e-mail.  There are then feeds for the mesh, and folders, so that you can see events of what is going on in the mesh.  Data and applications are always available.  Resyncing your data into a new device … is simply adding into into your “device ring” …

His entire presentation was quick … and was accepted with mixed reaction.  I’m looking forward to playing with Live Mesh, and writing more about my experience and what I learn.  I’ll attend some sessions tomorrow or Friday … and will post more then!

P.S. They are giving us a URL to download the early access code … I can’t wait!  🙂

Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco 2008

This week is the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. At the last minute I got a deal on a pass, and really wanted to come out here to listen to a few of the sessions. There is nothing like getting out to the San Francisco Bay Area to learn and mingle with the web world. I came in today to attend the Workshops they were offering … there were a couple that caught my eye.

I got to wake up at 4:30am to get out of the house by 5:00am … it’s an hour drive from Heber to the Airport … to catch my 7:00am flight to SFO. I like a conference like this because upon arriving at SFO it was a short walk to the AirTrain to ride to the Bart station … then a quick ride on Bart to the Powell Station just blocks from my hotel and the Moscone convention center. I dropped my bags at the hotel, and heading over to the first session on Starting Up: Strategies for Financing & Growing Your Web 2.0 Startup … presented by Rob Hayes & Jeff Clavier. I got in an hour late … so missed some of the initial slides … but got some good points from them:

Picking your source of funding
They spent a great deal of time talking about how to pick your source of funding carefully. They really stressed to not waste YOUR time. There is no use going to a angel or VC if their investment profile, and current investments, don’t align with your type of start-up. Do your own research into who is out there, and what types of investments they make … what dollar levels, and what risk levels. Do they invest pre-revenue, and how big is their fund. All of this will ensure that if you can get in the door … there can be some synergy between the investor and your organization.

The presenters then spent a good bit of time talking about the value of introductions. They both stressed that although it is not the absolute rule, if they hear about you and your company through one of their current investments, or someone that they know, it can really assist in getting you more attention. C’mon … this is obvious thinking, and so they said to again look at where and how you can do some networking, and meet the people who know people with money. They talked about the numerous Bay Area tech parties and meet-ups (which Jesse and I both agree we want to see more of in Utah!!) where tech people hang out to talk about what they are up to … and share knowledge and ideas. These events are happening on a weekly and nightly basis! They both commented about the

The Process
They had a slide with too many bullets for me to jot down … and joked about what to be prepared for in the process of funding. From experience, I can say they are right …

  1. Pitch
  2. More pitches
  3. Due diligence
  4. More pitches
  5. Partner’s meeting
  6. Termsheet issued
  7. Terms negotiation
  8. More due diligence
  9. Legal docs
  10. Get funding
  11. Begin work!

They really wanted to stress that the process takes time … and is a lot of work. And to be prepared, and patient, with the process.

The Pitch
They spent some time talking about your pitch … don’t waste time … don’t talking about big flowery stories … don’t waste your time with them setting the stage for how you are going to save the world, and create world peace. The keys to a successful pitch are:

  • Goals – clearly state yours!
  • Audience – consider who you are talking to
  • Presentation – keep it short and sweet … 10 slides!
  • Energy – if you are passionate, they will know!
  • Attendance – choose carefully who is going to be there
  • Follow up – make sure to follow-up quickly and thoroughly

They then introduced some CEOs of small Web 2.0 start-ups. The first was the CEO and founder of Dogster & Catster, Ted Rheingold. He created vertical portals for pet lovers. As of March 2008: 750k unique visitors, 25 million page serves. He explained how they made a lot of mistakes … thinking they could make revenue through ad networks, affiliate programs, locally targeted ads, outside sales of ad inventory, and even over spending on marketing when they weren’t sure what they were marketing!

What he then explained worked … selling their ad inventory directly, integrated brand campaigns, sponsor-level brand advertisers (Important!), subscription service, leveraging customer base for QA/Market Research, and creating REAL content with viral fun!

There was a second CEO, and then open floor Q&A. There were a lot of interesting questions and comments.

  • If you are working on your start-up on the side, make sure it is not in any conflict with your full time employer. Do not use their equipment or resources!
  • Once funded, you must fully commit your time and efforts to the start-up. Period.
  • You are much more likely to get money from your local area. This relates to the investor being able to meet/see their investment. There are also possible tax issues, board meetings, etc. Local *can* be within a region … western USA, eastern USA. It’s simple logistics. How far does the investor want to travel for you? The investors time *is* money.
  • What do the VCs look for? An idea? A prototype? One answer was: Who you are, who is on your team, what is the market, how do they (the investor) perceive the market.
  • Investors want to see *some* level of experienced team members.  They *might* invest in a new “just out of school” team, but they feel much more comfortable with a team that has at least one experienced member.  Never say never … but it’s worth finding an experienced entrepreneur with a track record of some kind.
  • Do everything that you can to keep your “burn rate” down … low expenses … careful spending … until you actually get a “tick up” – a real rise in users and usage – which proves adoption.  That is when the Series A funding becomes possible.

Overall … a fun presentation!  Off to lunch …