Hear from host Paul Spain and guest Brett Roberts (Voluntas Ventures) as they discuss the future of satellite technology, the impact of AI on driving and advancements in digital currencies. Plus, Tech News from the week including:

  • One NZ‘s 5G boost,
  • Spark IoT partner with Iota
  • A look at NZ Government’s digital apps
  • Ford’s BlueCruise investigation
  • Possible Siri upgrade on the way?

Apple Podcasts  Googlepodcasts  Spotify RSS Feed

Special thanks to organisations who support innovation and tech leadership in New Zealand by partnering with NZ Tech Podcast: One NZ HP Spark NZ 2degrees Gorilla Technology

Episode Transcript (computer-generated)

Paul Spain: All right, well, greetings and welcome along to the New Zealand Tech podcast. I’m your host, Paul Spain, and a privilege to have Brett Roberts back on the show. How are you, Brett? Brett Roberts: I’m very good. A privilege. I like that we can still be friends. It’s nice to be here, mate. It’s always good to be here. Paul Spain: Oh, look, always great conversations, great insights and opinions from you. Now, your world, over time, sort of tends to change in some ways a bit more than mine and that I’ve kind of been doing the, you know, the same thing for a very long time with the podcast and with Gorilla Technology. But probably since you were last on the show, you’ve bought a business. Brett Roberts: Yeah, there’s been a few things going on. So the first thing I can tell you is that anyone that says that a change is as good as the rest, it’s bollocks. So I think the last time I was on the podcast, I was still at Callahan Innovation. So I left there at the end of March. I’ve joined an organization called Volantis. I’m running the ventures arm. So volantisventures.com and also. Yeah, in that same timeline, not related, but just associated. Brett Roberts: Myself, my wife, and a very good friend of mine bought a manufacturing business, of all things, in a big, noisy factory in east Tāmaki. It’s called creative cam. We do CNC routering of all sorts of panel products. It’s an absolutely fascinating business, and we took possession of that on the 8 March. So all of these things have been happening all at the same time, and yet change is not as good as a rest. I need a rest. Paul Spain: Well, you certainly keep him busy. So we can at least say the AI and the robots haven’t taken your livelihood away from you, Brett. Brett Roberts: No, I don’t know if I’m making any money at the moment, but I’m busy and I’m having a lot of fun, so if we can. Really is interesting times. Honestly, I’ve never. It’s one of the most interesting times in my entire career. In my career. I’ve been doing things for a while now, but learning a lot about owning and running a business, particularly manufacturing business, and trying to modernize that. And the Voluntas Ventures thing is pretty cool as well. I’m really keen, and I’m excited to be involved with them, so. Paul Spain: Great. Brett Roberts: Yeah, we’ll see how it all goes. Paul Spain: Yeah, yeah, and we’ll look forward to. Brett Roberts: Talk to me in a few months. Paul Spain: Hearing more along the journey. Well, look, as always, lots going on in the world of tech. And this is partly because the threads of technology run through everything, don’t they? And they’re constantly changing the world. We just had TV3 in the studio before the podcast to talk about robotics and some of the things that are going on there. The artificial intelligence topics just keep coming, for better or for worse. Cause there’s some good sides and some bad sides to all of these things. Brett Roberts: Definitely. Paul Spain: But let’s jump into some of the change I saw in stuff. There was a business owner being very bewildered after their bank refused to take cash over the counter. Now, to me, this is part of this sort of journey of digitisation, is things that we’ve got used to will start changing and disappearing. And I do often sort of struggle to get my head around. Is the timing right? Should we be doing this? Do we really want to get rid of x, to flip to y? Can we keep both around? Where do you land on this one with. Yeah, going, I guess this is part of a journey to a world where we don’t have physical currency. At some point in time we’re going to get there, aren’t we? Brett Roberts: Yeah, I think it’s a really interesting topic. Right. And for a few reasons. I think the thing I really like about digital currencies is that they drive the conspiracy theorists insane. So that has to be a very good thing. So I can imagine right now around New Zealand there’ll be a bunch of sovereign citizens that are freaking out. I think these things are going to be an and for a very, very long time, rather than an or. I don’t see in the next ten or 20 years that we will be ditching cash anytime soon. Brett Roberts: But I think it’s interesting to note that I remember when bitcoin, when cryptocurrencies first sort of arrived on the scene and everyone was saying, well, this frees up the transfer of money now. And banks, they can’t do anything about it and governments can’t do anything about it. And guess what? Yes, they can. So never under estimate the power of governments and legislation. So look, in all honesty, I think that we will see digital currencies, you know, national, you know, digital currencies and New Zealand digital currency at some point, I’m sure. But I think there’ll be cash of some sort for a very, very long time to come just yet. So we’ll wait and see. I mean, I remember when banks refused to start or refuse to take change, right. Brett Roberts: You know, coins, and then they’ve, I think they’ve got machines where you just tip them into. And they count them all now, right? Yeah. So, yeah, it’ll take a while. It’s that classic thing of, you know, people overestimate what’ll happen in the short term and underestimate what will happen in the long term. I think this is just one of those things. Paul Spain: Yeah. And look, that’s a great reminder. I mean, we can look back. When did New Zealand first turn on eftpos and being able to, you know, pay with an EFPOs card? When did we turn on Internet banking? These things have been around for decades now. And yes, they’re normalized, but they haven’t completely replaced some of the old things. Checks, I guess, are gone in New Zealand and understandably so when they’re not utilised, but they’re still around in other parts of the world. Right. Us. Paul Spain: I mean, I don’t know what would happen, actually, if I remember with one or two entities that we dealt with in years go by and you’d get a check from them, from the US, it would turn up in the mail and. Yeah, you’d go and have to deposit this check and it was so painful. Yeah. Fortunately that hasn’t happened for a while. But these are the things. There’s that convenience factor. There are those good factors. And look, you talk about the conspiracy theorists, but there are aspects, I think, to things like privacy, depending on how far down a track we go with these sorts of things. Paul Spain: And I still often tout the Will Smith movie. He’s been in a couple of interesting movies when it comes to sort of technology and conspiracy theory. But enemy of the state was a movie I enjoyed. I don’t know if you remember that one where he basically, whoever it was that was after him, I think it was CIA or some sort of government thing. And they were tracking him based on his banking transactions and his cell phone signals and things like that. And we all kind of had a bit of a. It was a good tale, but of course that stuff’s not possible. And of course, as time’s gone on, we give away most of this data anyway, quite freely through varying mechanisms on social media. Paul Spain: And oh yeah, we can give this at my location. So it very much is a changing world. But I imagine some of these things we are going to have to delve in and think around. How do we balance them when it comes to the central backed digital currencies? It seems like there is a bunch of work going on on that front. And what I’m hearing is that they are working to keep them quite simple in terms of the data. So it’s not actually going to store what you bought when you were out for a meal or filling in all those sort of gaps. So it’s not going to be dramatically different to what we would see on a bank statement today in terms of what’s going to go in now that might be different if you’re in a totalitarian regime and they might have categories and you might get limited on buying certain things, things and so on, because, you know, there are already, you know, some of those factors in place when it, when it, when it comes to, you know, social credit scores and the like. But as long as we can keep good, good, stable government in New Zealand, which we’ve got a pretty, pretty reasonable history of. Paul Spain: And, yeah, don’t know about being good, but stable, you know, we stay in, I guess, a reasonably normal democracy where things are going to bounce backwards and forwards between governments and no one’s going to lock us down too much. Then I hope we manage all these things pretty well. And I think New Zealand, well, some people will debate anything, so we’ll leave that topic there. Brett Roberts: Well, no, actually, just one last point, maybe. So my brilliant plan is, if ever this thing kind of gets to the point where I think it’s a bit intrusive, uh, spying me too much, I’m going to melt all my devices down and extract the gold and use the gold to trade and I think that’s what we could all do. So one way or another, it’ll all be fine. Paul Spain: So, yeah, yeah, make sure you got some connecting with Brett Roberts in the zombie apocalypse so you can trade gold with them. Uh, if you’ll see this big pool. Brett Roberts: Of black smoke where I’m melting down on my computers to get 0.5 grams of gold out of them. Paul Spain: Yeah, yeah. All right. And onto sort of some of the local or other local things. Spark on the IoT side are partnering with a company called Iota range of technology, but they’ve been rolling out smart water meters and management for councils in Australia. So Iota have been. Seemed to be very, very successful with this. Apparently deployed 70,000 smart water meters in Toowoomba in Queensland. So this becomes, I guess, another sort of string to sparksbow when it comes to IoT, being able to tap into a large international entity that’s working in varying markets. Paul Spain: And look, I think these sorts of things have already been happening, but there’s probably, as there is with any new technology, there are times when it’s a bit more expensive to get started. So different entities will be moving slower. But as they become more and more mainstream, it becomes an easier and easier decision to say, hey, let’s have a smart water meter, rather than having somebody from, you know, come to check your usage or, you know, what have you. I think when we talk about sort of water and power, there do still seem to be considerable gaps in the. In the. In the data. I was talking to some. Somebody recently who we’ve been doing some work with, and he. Paul Spain: He mentioned about a particular water leak that. That was happening on their street and putting a whole lot of water onto their property and it’s a bit sloped. And anyway, the sort of pushback from, I don’t know whether it was council or watercare, whoever the entity is that was sort of responsible for that particular water was like, no, no, no. Issues with our stuff, it’s all good. Must be a problem on your property. You go away and you got to get everything checked and tear up your house and look what’s going on underneath. And anyway, eventually it was sort of admitted like, oh, yeah, it is coming from the street and so on. But what it highlighted was, although the water was being measured per property, there wasn’t a measurement to say higher up, to say, well, here’s the total amount of water that’s going through, and then let’s compare that to what’s going to the individual properties and what’s being lost. Paul Spain: And this might be where Wellington, which has had so many issues with water leaks and so on, has maybe struggled as well to work out. Well, why are we losing so much water? Where are we losing it? And so this sort of technology put it in the right sort of places, all sorts of positives for the environment, financially and so on. So some really good flow ons if we make use of this technology appropriately. So, yeah. Encouraging to see that sparka moving forward on that front. Brett Roberts: Yeah, flow on. So I see what you did there. That was very good. Yeah. Look, I think it’s interesting for a whole bunch of reasons. So one is very smart, strategic move on Spark’s part. Right? So they’re in the business of ones and zeros, and those things are effectively free and not particularly highly valued anymore. Right. Brett Roberts: So I think the idea of moving into a space where they can utilize all of those ones and zeros that they can transport and build a competitive immunity, is clearly a clever, strategic move. It’s always amazed me how little we value water, and I think that will change over the next decade, profoundly worldwide. I mean, there’s already wars being fought in some ways, over water at the moment. But I think here in New Zealand we’ve had an abundance of it and treated it as effectively valueless. And hasn’t that worked out well for Wellington, for example, if you think about the lack of investment in infrastructure, partially due to the fact that there is no ability to charge other than some blanket charge, which, of course gets everyone’s backs up. So I think the idea of we are in a world where everyone should be paying for their water, that makes complete sense. I still can’t believe that people. So, yeah, look, look all round, I think smart move on Spark’s part. Brett Roberts: There’s absolutely going to be massive demand for it. And, you know, in a world where it’s a very precious commodity and becoming more precious by the day, I think anything we can do to stop pumping it into the ground is probably a good thing. Paul Spain: Yeah, I agree. And, you know, for those that aren’t familiar, if you’re, say, in Auckland where you’ve got using water care, they do have an app and you’ll probably find similar situations in other areas. So that allows you to see actually how you’re doing. And we’ve already got a level of these smart water meters rolled out. So that’s something that is a way that we can make a little bit of a difference ourselves by not wasting water. But it seems like when you look at the likes of Wellington in other parts of the country, how much you would save in the bigger picture might be negligible to the other issues within the water supply network. So hopefully government and councils will be able to really leverage technology and at least help keep some sort of a cap on the. The many billions of dollars investment that’s going to be required from a water perspective over the years ahead. Paul Spain: Now, not to be outdone, not only we’ve got a news in from Spark, we’ve got something from one NZ this week that they’re boosting their mobile networks, four G and five G, because they’ve got the Commerce Commission sign off to acquire dense air, New Zealand’s business and spectrum, and they’ve got 235 MHz blocks of 2600 in the 2600 megahertz range. So what this does for one NZ is just. It gives them that increased spectrum, that increased bandwidth, so that helps them with bringing more customers onto their network and delivering those faster four g and five g speeds. So, yeah, I guess it’s a constant thing between our telecommunication providers to want to stay competitive, to improve the service they’re delivering. A lot of that is technology investment. But ultimately there are limitations and spectrum is one of those sort of external things where the more they can get, the more service and the better service that they can deliver from a mobile perspective. Brett Roberts: I mean, Jason Parris, I think, has done an amazing job of leading Vodafone now. One, I’m not a telecommunications guru by any means, really does seem to have given it strong direction and they’re moving ahead of pace, which is pretty cool to see, right. I’d be happy if he could get rid of some of the 3G in between where I live in Taldaranga and Auckland. Jason, if you’re listening, mate. But it is cool to see that they’re always on the front foot and not just in the other. Telcos are as well around delivering better and better services. That’s a tough business, right? That is a really. I think profits are getting chipped away at the technology pace of technology change is increasing. Brett Roberts: Customer expectations of what good looks like are increasing. I think they’ve done a good job of staying at the sharp, pointy end of that. Paul Spain: Yeah. Look, I think we’re in a situation in New Zealand where we’ve got good, strong competition. I think people like to bag our telcos from a customer service perspective and so on, but it’s one of those areas that largely is reasonably low margin. But each company, and I think these days they’re more than telcos, right? Each of them have got a whole range of technology services and AI and all sorts of divisions that are doing offering a broad range of services. But yeah, if we didn’t have them as competitive as they are and working as hard as they do, it would not be as nice a place to live. I guess we look at some of the advantages we get out of these technologies. On the flip side, though, we have this international competition which is coming in from satellites, and I guess you could. It’s not just competition because it’s also very helpful. Paul Spain: We’re seeing satellite technology sort of leveraged in so many ways. I guess the technologies that have a sort of space element to them are increasing pretty quickly and it’s awesome. The work that rocket lab and the many dozens, I think probably in the hundreds now of companies in New Zealand that do work in the aerospace sector are amazing. But part of the increased cadence of rocket launchers and satellites means we are coming into a world where satellite communications will really change the landscape. When it means when we think of telecommunications in New Zealand. I’m so fascinated as to what will the whole landscape look like in 20 years time and how will the different bits and pieces be fitting together. Look, I think New Zealand’s done an incredible job on the fibre front and that’s your best choice when it comes to connectivity where it’s available. And we have amazing mobile networks, particularly as they go, you know, more to away from that old 3g that you were talking about earlier, Brett, which makes life hard when you’re trying to drive and also watch a YouTube stream at the same time. Paul Spain: I struggle with that too. Yeah, but one of those changes is the competition to our fixed wireless, our fiber connectivity from. From Starlink. And largely that has sort of been for those in rural locations that don’t get good connectivity from our New Zealand carriers. But what we’re seeing is, I guess it’s a little bit hard to get your head around, but the performance we’re seeing from Starlink and of course this is kind of the first of the. The low Earth orbit sort of satellite networks to be able to provide Internet to virtually any location on the planet. Of course, to start with, that’s most relevant to those that don’t have good connectivity. But what we’ve seen in the last month or so is that New Zealand’s been one of the first locations to get access to a massively reduced cost Starlink service. Paul Spain: And so it’s coming in, I think, at half the original price. So their standard plan for most users, if you want a fixed connection, around $160. But the new low cost offerings are half that, just under $80 a month. And I saw Bill Bennett has written a little bit of a piece on how that’s starting to tilt things maybe more away from, for instance, the Wisps, the wireless Internet service providers that have been providing doing a great service to New Zealand with Wi Fi service. But there will be a point where I’m sort of sad to say it, because these are great, innovative Kiwis that have done a great service. But it seems to me that that type of service is probably going to disappear over the next few years when Starlink are able to sort of turn these knobs and just overnight offer a half price service. Yes, it’s slower than their old service, but it will be relevant to an increasing number of Kiwis. Brett Roberts: Yeah, man, there’s a lot of good stuff in what you’re just saying. And so pick up on a few of those things. I think you’re right about wireless ISP’s. I think that’s probably a dying business. You know, for the obvious. For the obvious reasons. There’ll always be niches. There’s always been and always will be niches, but I think generally they’ll die out. Brett Roberts: We live semi rurally out of Tauranga. We had fiber installed, I think, a couple of years ago, but it stops just up the road and everyone else up the road. Lots of people are now using Starlink and are very happy with it. Based on what I see on the local community Facebook pages, they were very happy with their wireless ISP four or five, six years ago. So that switches is definitely happening. I think one have done a good job jumping into bed with Starlink. I think that was a smart, strategic move. It’s like mice dancing with elephants, though. Brett Roberts: The Starlink has the ability to completely destroy terrestrial telcos to a certain extent. You imagine in ten years time, where there’s ten or 100 times more satellites, the likes of a company like Starlink could drop the price of Starlink to a dollar a month for ten years for New Zealand without affecting their bottom line. So all of a sudden, those local companies are facing international scale, strategic or existential threats. And I think that’s an interesting situation. And I would not be surprised if we don’t see the government get called in at some point around anti competitive behavior. It’s not to say that anybody’s being anti competitive at the moment, but I have a suspicion at some stage that the local telcos will, you know, have reduced their pricing as far as they possibly can and still ec out a profit, but that the likes of Starlink will be able to probably go even lower and for longer periods of time. So it’s a war of attrition. But the technology is incredible. Brett Roberts: The one worry I do have is that clearly it’s polluting the night sky. And I think that’s a genuine issue. You can paint these things black and with non reflective paint and all that sort of thing, but when there’s tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of them, one day orbiting, I think, you know, that’s. That’s a. That’s pollution. That’s effective, you know, anti light pollution. I guess you’re blocking the light out rather than allowing it through. And I think that’s something that we should be thinking a lot more about than we are at the moment. Brett Roberts: But. But what do you do? It’s Elon Musk. He’s not going to listen to me. Paul Spain: So, yeah, it’s an interesting one. I think if we look at the low Earth orbit satellites, they have this incredible advantage when you’re able to put up insane numbers like they are. And if we look back to before Starlink, which we’re only looking in the last two, three years. And then at completion of Starlink’s satellites, I think we started with, I don’t know, five or 6000 satellites. When Starlink and others looking sort of five years out, there will be somewhere between five and ten times as many satellites in this reasonably short space of time. So that coverage thing is going to be really big for certain scenarios, but it doesn’t necessarily get you to in building situations and so on. So there’s some complexities there. And then I think we have probably a number of unknowns as to how low prices can go. Paul Spain: And then what about sort of spectrum and regulatory challenges now, at the moment, the way Starlink’s been operating in most countries, they don’t have to do anything right to be able to point a signal at you. Or I think there’s maybe a couple of small boxes to take a few forms to fill out and they’re beaming Internet to you. But if it goes to making it work on your mobile and emulating a mobile service, then they need a one NZ to partner with and to offer them and make spectrum available that they’re effectively using that in the same way. Link will do exactly the same with Spark and with two degrees. So I think there will be room for sort of a regulatory control and challenge on that front. And of course, there’s also capacity and bandwidth limitations. Our expectations and usage of Internet bandwidth keeps going up, doesn’t it? Brett Roberts: That’s true. Paul Spain: Hasn’t stopped. And we want better and better video and all the rest of it. Want it everywhere, you know, and so on. So I think that all of these things will end up sort of, you know, probably largely sitting sort of side by side, but some things will disappear or maybe dominate in different ways and the market will be carved up, you know, reasonably different in ten years, 20 years, you know, 50 years is anyone’s guess. But I guess most business leaders and investors today don’t really need to worry about where we’re at 50 years out. But it’s going to be a very different place. Brett Roberts: Yeah, look, I think obviously it will be a different place, but I guess the way I would look at it is in many ways what it comes down to is the local carriers have transmitting and receiving equipment stuck on hills, you know, on the ground. And Starlink has it moving around, around the earth. Right. From the point of view of receiving signals, that’s no different than receiving BBC World News. Right. And it’s available to be pretty hard to regulate the reception thing. It’s the transmission side that you might be able to regulate. But, you know, I. Brett Roberts: Yeah, I would not underestimate the ability of an incredibly well funded, long term visionary like an Elon musk to really take it to the telecommunication, the terrestrial telecommunication companies. I think, you know, at first, you know, partnerships make sense. I think that, you know, I think we’ll see lots and lots of those types of partnerships, but over time, I just can’t see a company led by a guy like Elon Musk being content with, oh, we’ve got these wonderful partnerships all around the world. Everyone’s happy, and why would we rattle that cage? I think over time that you will see that they will start to offer, potentially, countries that don’t have great infrastructure at the moment. They’ll start to offer handsets and other things. We’ll wait and see what happens. But once the capacity is there and floating above our heads, literally, I think all bets are off. So, yeah, we’ll see. Brett Roberts: We’ll see what happens. It’s just amazing. If you had told me ten years ago that firing rockets into space maybe 15 years ago, firing rockets into space is such a regular thing that I don’t even watch the launches anymore, and that there’d be thousands, if not tens of thousands of these satellites, I would not have believed you. So it’s testament to, particularly Musk’s vision, inability to execute. Right. Just absolutely incredible. Paul Spain: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So a couple of things there. One is this technology. It’s real now. You can be, if you’ve got an iPhone, because Apple have got their deal behind the scenes with the satellites as well. You can be a remote location and you can share your location with another party, that costs you nothing. If you’re sitting on a plane and you don’t have any coverage, or you’re out in an area without coverage, you’ll see the little satellite icon come up on the newer iPhones, and you orient your phone in the right direction, you’re able to tap into these services. So it’s there now. Brett Roberts: Amazing. Paul Spain: It’s going to increase. Brett Roberts: We’re living in the future, mate. Paul Spain: Well, yeah, we’re the future compared to where we were at the beginning of the podcast, and we’re way in the future in terms of what we got now compared to when most of us were growing up. So. And to your point around, you know, where that might go, I think it usually comes back largely to what’s possible. Right. The regulatory and all of those things largely get worked out. If there’s a way to disrupt and to bust up what the norm is with some new technology, then we’ve seen it happen, right? And it’s been happening not just for the last century, these things have been happening for a long time in one form or another. It’s just we’re seeing more and more of it. So, yeah, very interesting times ahead, that’s for sure. Brett Roberts: Always is. Paul Spain: Now, we’ve obviously got a different government in place over these last, what is it, roughly sort of six months or, or so. And we’re hearing that Judith Collins, in her role as minister for digitising the government, is wanting to give us sort of one app that potentially does everything, all sorts of things for us in terms of being able to interact with government. I think this is. I guess in some ways it’s somewhat inevitable that we see councils, we see government want to digitise their services because it’s efficient, it saves money, it’s convenient for people. And we’ve got NZTA with their app that I think they’ve launched in beta in the last week or two that folks can tap into. If you’ve set up your Realme account correctly and you’ve verified yourself, I need to have another go at that, because when I signed in, I had some sort of an issue there. But a lot of these things are going to make our lives just a little bit easier in certain areas. As someone driving an electric vehicle, I’ve got to get used to paying a road user charge. Paul Spain: So these apps and so on that digitize that, make it a quicker and easier experience. I’m not having to wander down to a post shop or what have you. To me, largely sounds like this is the sort of direction that we should go. In some ways, I just wonder what have been the challenges to this in the past and has the current government going to do something better, different, smarter than what previous governments have wanted to do? I’m not sure that they’re necessarily going to be able to tap into a whole lot more technical expertise or what have you, but maybe there’s just been enough underlying change behind the scenes that this, this gets easier. Now, what are your thoughts, Brett? Brett Roberts: Yeah, I think there’s a few things going on in there. I’m not even sure it’s about governments, to be perfectly honest. I mean, Morris Williamson was the first guy, so I think it was Morris that pushed for the image on driver’s licenses, right? And I remember all the who ha about that at the time. He was the guy that pushed the Smartgate arrival technology at airports, which was a big step forward. I think we were one of the first countries that kind of implemented that sort of technology. It’s funny you should talk about this. Just today, I was completing the process of registering a company via the company’s office, which is the most incredibly simple, seamless process, all via realme identity. I’ve got a Realme, you know, sign on identity thing. Brett Roberts: I had paid my GST recently or done my GST return with the IRD using the same identity, you know, so the. This stuff’s been happening for quite a while and really improving things like, you know, you can get a GST return done in, you know, a solid five minutes, you know, and that’s if I’m having a slow day. The company thing is amazing, you know, applying for passports online. Yes, there’s a big delay at the moment. The actual process of applying for a passport online, I think, is probably one of the world’s best. So I think this stuff’s been happening, and in all honesty, I don’t think we can apportion it to a red government or a blue government or a green government. I think there’s a lot of folks in the public sector have just been getting on, getting these things done and actually doing, I think, a pretty good job of it. I think the idea of really starting to push harder on this, though, is good. Brett Roberts: And anyone that knows me will tell you I don’t necessarily ascribe to Judith Collins politics, but I greatly admire her ability to get it done right. And so I think she’s the perfect person to kind of get it behind this and start to tie together some of the loose threads and maybe get some momentum happening. I think the momentum was already there. It’s not like the government is going to somehow magically magic this up out of nowhere. These things have been coming together for a while, but there’s no doubt been some regulatory hurdles or technology hurdles or whatever it might be. So I think anything that helps move us forward down that path is a really good thing. Right. We will, at some point, run into identity issues and identity, the political ramifications of digital identities and other things like that, and privacy. Brett Roberts: But that’s just inevitable. And lots of other nations have run to those things and worked their way around them. So I’m all for this. I think, you know, I think we’ve done a. I think we’ve got a pretty good track record so far, certainly better than a lot of other places. It could always be better. And I think Miss Collins, exactly the person to grab it by the scruff of the neck and drag it forward at pace. So see where we go. Paul Spain: Yeah. Look, I’m curious as to how some of these sort of initiatives actually play out because sometimes they’re a lot easier said than done, but they’re always say. Brett Roberts: Right. Paul Spain: There’S a lot of people within the public sector that work really hard and have been working really hard on these things over a period of time. And of course new government comes in, they will find a different landscape to what the previous government found because there’s been that work going on in the background and yeah, I’m hopeful we’ll get some good movement forward and, yeah, but it’s not too painful and we make sort of good decisions on that, those areas that maybe can negatively impact people as well. We don’t leave too many people high and dry who are maybe a little less technologically inclined and so on. Brett Roberts: Actually, that raises a really interesting point, which is the importance of all people having access to this technology. And I remember a few years ago having a conversation over a few wines with somebody and they were bemoaning the fact that some homeless person that they’d seen had a cell phone. And, you know, how could they be homeless if they had a cell phone? And it just highlighted for me a, how ignorant some people are, but b, how do you apply for a job? How do you scan the seq or whatever it might be for a job? How do you stay in touch with folks? How do you access government services these days if you don’t have some sort of device? So I think that as we move down this path, this is a really good point. Actually, it just popped into my head, which is, as we do these things, to bring more of the stuff online, we need to make sure that everybody has access to these things that we are bringing online and that we don’t create even a bigger digital divide than we have today. Paul Spain: Yeah, it’s a great point. And yeah, we definitely still have challenges on that front. I think sometimes we look at it and think, well, all of that’s been solved. Everybody’s got what they need, but I’m not quite sure that’s the picture just yet. Now, just looking at a few other bits that we can tap into, sounds like we’ve got some new iteration on AI coming through with Siri, a bit of the bits and pieces that we’re reading. I think that it’s kind of long overdue. Right. We’ve had AI sort of assistance and Amazon, Alexa’s and Google devices and Apple with Siri and so on for quite a long time. Paul Spain: But when you compare how they work to what we’re seeing out of generative AI today and what’s possible, you know, the way they respond to things, it’s like it’s sort of stuck in the Stone Age now. It hasn’t really, you know, those things haven’t really moved in the last 18 months. And the rest of the world, when it comes to AI, has moved massively. And we expect to, you know, to be able to. I mean, I can fire up the chat GPT app if you’ve got a paid subscription, and you can have a conversation with chat GPT as though you’re, you know, as though you’re, you’re speaking with Einstein and, you know, whoever other sort of people from history. Cause it’s got access to that and it will speak to you not in their voices, but, you know, it’ll speak to you. And it’s very sort of human sounding voice. And I can effectively have the equivalent of a phone call with, with the world’s smartest people over a Bluetooth chat while I’m driving down the road today. Paul Spain: Yet with these assistants, they’re still pretty much stuck in the pre open AI time. So I’m kind of ready for this. What do you think? Or should we keep it old school here, Brett? Brett Roberts: I think Apple’s late to this, right? But the last company on the planet I would ever underestimate is Apple. They have deeper pockets than literally any other company on the planet, maybe aside from Microsoft. Super smart Tim Cook is a genius CEO and a great four dimensional chess playing strategist. I can absolutely see a deal between Apple and Google here. It would sort of make sense to me. Google need the access to market, and that will provide that. Nap will need the. The AI powerhouse, and I think Google could provide that. Brett Roberts: And some of the stuff in that article you sent me is quite interesting. In fact, there’s a piece here that I thought was interesting. Apple’s research has also created a system called Eelbert, not the best name, that can essentially compress a large language model into a much smaller size without making it meaningfully worse. The compressed take on Google’s Bert model was 15 times smaller, only 1.2 megabytes, and saw only a 4% reduction in quality. Did come in some latency trade offs, though. I can absolutely see. And of course, Apple can make their own chips, right? So that’s a pretty powerful combination. Deepest pockets on the planet, incredible chip making capability, handsets and billions of hands. Brett Roberts: And they’ve got a very tight relationship with Google, I can see some really interesting stuff happening in the space over the next twelve months or so, if not sooner. Actually, I’d be surprised if it’s not in the next six months. Paul Spain: Yeah, and we were chatting recently and this was in conjunction with new laptops, starting to come through with Intel’s newest generation of chips with some a level of AI capability. We’re seeing new devices come through with that local with the neural processing unit capability. Apple have already been there, so I think this is quite a fascinating area to watch. And yeah, those differences between what’s going to happen in the cloud versus what happens at the edge locally. At the edge, yeah. And I was sort of touting how amazing chat GPT is when you’re driving around and having this conversation. But there’s a flip side to that, is it’s happening in the cloud and you could be having a conversation and it kind of works a little bit like a phone call that’s dropping out. So if you’re asking chat DPT something, it’s talking. Paul Spain: But your coverage is not so perfect on the move. And I’ve had it this even Auckland central business district, and I miss a whole lot of what it’s actually saying to me. They haven’t quite filled in the sort of smarts of actually feeding the data down and waiting for me to catch up. It just gets missed. So, you know, there’s definitely some room for this now. Also on the AI front, I saw coverage TechCrunch, and as usual, a bunch of others sort of covered it around Ford’s blue cruise hands free system. And, well, actually, I guess there’s a topic we probably haven’t spoken about much for a while. So there’s blue cruise, which is the technology that Ford have in some of their vehicles. Paul Spain: And that’s been getting some attention because of deaths, as I think you have to expect when you move to some level of autonomy, there are going to be some consequences along the way when the technology is perfect, and nobody has this technology perfect at the moment, but they’re sort of coming under the sort of scrutiny that really we haven’t seen much of for a while, other than sort of probably thrown at Tesla when Uber and Lyft and the US were going down this autonomous driving tech and investing heavily in it. And we saw, you know, a death there some years ago. But we kind of haven’t had much of this sort of attention for a while. But it’s back in the spotlight and I don’t know what this does to a company like Ford. Who have really been struggling to, you know, they’re losing big money on their electric vehicles, which is really the, you know, seems to be the way forward when it comes to cars and then to be, you know, to be getting a lot of heat here from, you know, federal safety regulators in the US who are investigating them around these two crashes that killed multiple people. Now, I guess there’s some other aspects to it in terms of what the other companies are doing, but, yeah, I’m kind of curious how you feel around, you know, this sort of AI driving us. We’ve got quite comfortable with generative AI, and I think we’ve got quite used to quite quickly how poor it can be, you know, at times. I was at a Microsoft function this morning and Kia ora got, you know, transcribed onto the screen as killed her this morning. Paul Spain: So, you know, we do see where the imperfections. But you can’t afford to have too much imperfection when it comes to an autonomous car, can you? Brett Roberts: Yeah, it’s an interesting situation, right, for a whole bunch of reasons. I mean, one is humans are terrible drivers. I mean, we kill hundreds of thousands of people every year, and everyone’s like. Paul Spain: Speak for yourself, Brett. Brett Roberts: Oh, look, I’m down into single figures now. I’m doing right. So we expect a lot of our technology that we as humans can’t deliver ourselves, right? Which is not to say that we shouldn’t be striving to make the technology perfect, without a doubt. But it would be interesting to see some sort of real world, long term, real world test, to see the difference between human driving capability and machines. I think we’re striving for perfection. We’ll never get there. It’s an asymptotic curve, right? It’ll never reach 100%. There’s lots of arguments. Brett Roberts: I’ve read about various technologies to do this. I see some folks say that Tesla’s made a bad call just using visible light cameras. Others are using Lidar and other things like that. I don’t know how that’ll all play out. I’m sure the lawyers are having field day with all of this. You know, there’s class action suits left, right and centre, and lawyers love those. And Ford are used to those, right? It’s not like this is the first, you know, lawsuit that Ford’s ever been on the receiving end of. So I’m sure they’re well, well prepared to deal with this sort of thing. Brett Roberts: But look, I think we’re headed to a world where more and more cars will be more and more autonomous. Whether they’re fully autonomous. I’m not sure, but, you know, I think it’s just a given. That’s where we’re headed to. I worked in the aviation industry for a long time as an avionics engineer. You know, air travel is the safest form of travel because autopilots helped, you know, make it that way. It’s a lot of other things as well, but, you know, the number of deaths caused by aircraft plummeted when autopilots started to kind of make their mark. They’re not perfect, and obviously, there’s a lot more clear air up there than there is down on the ground when you’re driving around in the car. Brett Roberts: But I think, you know, a lot of this is solvable, but not to 100%. And I think the challenge here is the acceptance of the fact that we will have technology that will kill people. And we’ve had technology that will kill people since we’ve had technology. That is just one of the things about technology. But people get on their high horse. People die in elevators. People die on their high horses. There is an element of risk everywhere, and I think seeing a way forward where that risk is being mitigated in the best way possible. Brett Roberts: I don’t think going back to Elon Musk always pops up in these conversations. I’m not sure Musk has showered himself in glory with some of the promises being made versus what’s being delivered. I wouldn’t like to be one of his engineers, but to the guy’s credit, he’s out there pushing the envelope and forcing others to follow. And that might not be a bad thing in many ways. Otherwise, it’s very easy to kind of stay back and risk averse, you know? So, yeah, I think, you know, the next ten years will be interesting, but I would argue that none of this is going to stop autonomous vehicles. That cat is out well and truly out of the bag. Lawsuits left, right, and center. You know, you’re right about the profitability on electric vehicles. Brett Roberts: I think there’s probably going to be a reset at some stage across the entire auto industry. I think we’ll probably see a reset of Tesla’s stock price. I think we’ll see, you know, a reset of pricing. Everyone’s kind of painted themselves into a profitability corner, but I can see the autonomous vehicle thing. I just can’t see that stopping. I think. Paul Spain: It’S. It’s been two weeks now since I was reading that Mercedes Benz have beaten Tesla to selling level three autonomous cars in the US. Really interesting, though, to sort of drill into the details because we’ve seen Tesla doing their full self drive, or FSD beta for a number of years now in the US market. Too bad if you’re in New Zealand, you don’t have any access to that. You sound better, but yeah. Did I spend the money in the wrong place, Brett? I don’t know. Okay, so anyway, we’re putting that aside briefly. So Tesla’s autonomous, or semi autonomous sort of driving capability is usually referred to as a level two in that you can’t kind of take your eyes off, really. Paul Spain: You’ve got to be very, very active at the level three. You can leave it to the machine, the bot, whatever you want to call it, the AI to a greater level, but it isn’t a complete kind of end to end type of solution and it can hand back to you at pretty short notice. So I thought, oh, this looks pretty interesting, but if you, if you sort of tear away the covers and you delve into the realities of what Mercedes Benz are offering in the US market, that’s where you see that if you’re spending the, I think it’s 2400 USD a year on that capability, that it only works on a very small range of, you know, of roads in the US. And so you’ve got to be, you got to be in the right place. You got to be in California or Nevada, and then you’ve got to limit your speed to 40 mph, which basically means, and I saw a video, someone trying to test it on the highway there on the freeway. And basically they were saying, look, I’ve kind of got to wait for a whole pile of traffic before it starts working. And that if there’s a big gap between you and the vehicle in front or there’s no vehicle in front, then it also doesn’t work. So it seemed to me like I’d be calling it sort of a scam, really, if you were dropping that money and expecting something that was, you know, that was going to be a step up on the sort of technology that Tesla have had. Paul Spain: Even what we have in New Zealand, where, you know, you can jump onto a motorway and put your autopilot on and it’ll take you from on ramp, you know, to off ramp and a lot of cases with lane changes and, you know, all the other bits and pieces and navigating, you know, cones and the like in many situations. And so, yeah, I think just, just, you know, you know, it’s interesting to see that these things are really, really hard. Otherwise we would see a lot of companies that were ahead and they’re not. On the flip side, with Tesla’s technology, they’ve renamed it from the FSD, or full self drive beta, to FSD supervised now. So they’re trying to sort of adult supervision. It’s a little bit of like, look, it’s maybe a little bit better, but you’d still have to supervise it. Don’t dream that you can sort of fall asleep. And so it’s looking to make sure you’re paying attention. Paul Spain: But the thing that I’ve seen in the last few days, on two occasions with online things, one was from a youtuber, someone else was in a post on x or somewhere. These two occasions, the chaps with their teslas have been using FSD a lot. They’ve been on the beta or the supervised version for some time. But in both cases, they talked about taking over and driving themselves while their partner was in the vehicle. And in both cases, their partners told them to put the jolly thing back onto the FSD, hand it back to the AI, because it does a better drive than you do. So that, to me, is actually quite a turning point. If we are actually at that level in the US now, I don’t know how we’re going to get enough data and so on for right hand drive markets because they have a massive, massive pool of data to be able to train in the US and for left hand drive markets, and they’re going to take that to, supposedly to Europe and Canada and so on. But right now, those that have paid for their FSD on their Tesla and New Zealand are still sitting here and going, well, I can use it on the motorway, sort of. Paul Spain: And you have to accept that’s probably all you’ve got for the time being. Brett Roberts: I remember it’s quite a few years ago, actually, might be four or five years ago, driving home from Auckland to Taldranga one Friday while I was working up in Auckland. And that weekend, Simon Bridges, who I think was MP back then, I think he might have been MP. So it’s quite a while back, was showcasing an autonomous vehicle, vehicle in downtown Taurongo that weekend. I was driving behind a Tesla, and as I passed it, I looked in the window and the guy driving was reading a book. This is down the southern motorway in Auckland. And I just remember thinking just how funny that was. Simon was about to tell this amazing story about autonomous vehicles and there’s some dude reading some book, he’s tootling down the motorway quite happily. You raise a really interesting point in that, which is just to be perfectly frank and use a small amount of French. Brett Roberts: A lot of drivers are shit. Right? A lot of drivers are not good drivers. And I think I have a suspicion, even though that there will be handovers and other things happening, that the general level of driving will be better with an AI based system, on average, than across all humans. You know? So, you know, who knows? Potentially it might have the. Just going back to the. To the spousal feedback you were kind of alluding to earlier. Perhaps it will improve people’s driving. You know, it’s kind of like, you know, your driving’s rubbish. Brett Roberts: We should be using FSD. It’s like, I need to be a better driver. I must learn to be a better driver. You know, who knows? Maybe that’s what Musk’s goal is all along, right? Paul Spain: Yeah. Brett Roberts: He can fend off all the class action suits. Paul Spain: Yeah. I guess the future of learning to drive could be that an AI teaches you and it gives you, or if you’ve already learned that it’s able to give you an electric shock or something each time you do something bad. On that note, it seems like sort of the new ground for autonomous driving is China. There’s been a lot going on there. And then the last few days we’ve heard about Musk going to China and apparently getting some sort of an approval to move forward with offering a level of autonomous sort of driving in the chinese market. So if this is an area you’re curious about and following, have a look at what’s going on in China, because there are so many places in China right now where there are. There’s a level of this technology that’s already available to large numbers of people, and the competition there seems to be pretty intense. Brett Roberts: The other thing is that one of the primary commodities over there is much, much cheaper human lives. So there aren’t any class action suits in China. And that’s one of the. Just realities of things. You can probably make more mistakes over there and get away with them from a legal position perspective or less ramifications on the companies with the technology just being perfectly frank. That’s just how it is, unfortunately. Paul Spain: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a very different environment, I guess. If the government’s behind what you’re doing, then they’ll probably back you all the way. Although you get too extreme, like, what was it? The Miller mine and the baby’s milk. Brett Roberts: Yeah, that’s right. Paul Spain: They do draw a line. Brett Roberts: Yeah. Ask Jack Ma. Right. You know, once you kind of get a little bit out of line, but. Paul Spain: Yeah, I think we’re out of time, Brett, but been absolutely fascinating catching up and chatting through some of these things. I love how you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on and just often bring a differing sort of perspective to the table than what. Brett Roberts: I’m thinking keeps me challenged. Paul Spain: So, yeah, well, thanks very much. We’ll look forward to catching up again on a future episode. And of course, thanks, everybody for listening in. Thank you to our show partners, Gorilla Technology, HP, Spark 2Degrees and One NZ. And of course, if you’ve been listening to the audio podcast, do make sure to follow myself on LinkedIn and follow our other sort of social channels such as YouTube and and the like if you’d like to catch the videos because they stream through both my LinkedIn and through those other social channels under NZ Tech podcast. All right, well, thanks very much and yep, we’ll look forward to catching up again soon, Brett. Brett Roberts: Sounds good. Thanks, mate. Paul Spain: Thanks, Brett. Thanks, everyone for listening.