As part of the PayPal team I had an opportunity to attend the Solid 2014 conference, held in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center on May 21/22. While shuttling between the PayPal booth, the sessions and the hardware startup showcase, I’ve collected a few of my impressions that I wanted to share with you here.
At the PayPal Booth
Our booth was pretty busy with guests coming up all the time and asking about the PayPal Beacon, what it does, how it works and how they can use it for their merchant needs. I believe we had a couple of hundreds of visitors during the two days. Folks were interested in the hardware and software bits related to Beacon as well as in the Raspberry Pie prototype (also at the booth) that Josh Bleecher Snyder, one of the lead developers on the project, put together.
Hasty Granbery, another Beacon developer, was interview at the O’Reilly booth, where he talked about Beacon hardware, software, architecture and more. The video can be seen below
Thanks in part to PayPal Beacon, the Bluetooth LE Bluetooth Low Energy protocol was quite a buzz word at the conference.
I was fascinated just by the fact that the conference was about hardware and software that runs it. So much around me is about the web that this different world was largely unknown to me.
As you can imagine, pretty much every session was talking about the “internet of things”, wearables, sensors and what the these new technologies mean for us humans. One of the questions that caught my attention was: will we become one of the hardware devices ourselves, processing a lot of input and throwing our output data at other devices like us? A talk by Kelsey Breseman of Technical Machine, “Beyond the Screen: Humans as Input-Output Devices:, resonated with this line of thinking in particular. The material she presented was quite fascinating. I will post links to the presentation and slides below.
Another phrase I heard repeated a lot was “there is no such thing as China button”. The premise was that it’s easy to put together a prototype, but many hardware startups fail when they need to scale from a single unit to thousands. The point was that you can’t just go to China, show them your prototype and expect the miracle happen from thereon. A lot of hard work and planning needs to take place when you are there at the factory, breathing in the same air with the rest of the workers on the assembly lines. Not surprising is the fact that, unlike in the software world, the “release early, release often” mantra doesn’t quite work the same way with the hardware. In fact, it seems that the opposite is true. Once you release the unit into the world, you can’t just take it back and iterate.
In terms of demos, I was hoping to see a bit more gadgetry on the showcase floor, but either I missed most of it or there just wasn’t much to touch and play with. Among others, there were dancing robots, a keyboard that could be played by walking on its keys, a roaming robot that was controlled remotely, etc. Here is the list of all demos.
Talks I really Liked