Monday, March 13, 2017

Real, Real Costs

If more people understood the real costs of owning and driving a private automobile, would ride share be a ‘no brainer’?
By Dave Desmarais, President & Founder, Perinata

Driving is expensive.

The average age of a private automobile in the USA has now risen to 11.4 years, according to the market research firm Polk.  The average number of miles put on each of those cars each year is now 11,100 miles.  The average cost of a new vehicle is $33,800.00.  The average price of gasoline over the last 10 years is $3.00 per gallon.  Then, there is maintenance and repair, insurance, taxes, license fees, drivers license renewals,  tolls, and accessories.  So, put on those rosy glasses, look at the budget and say, “Yes, I can afford that.

How much does someone really spend for the convenience and luxury of driving?

Figure 1 Ten Year Average Gasoline Price in USA

If you add it all up, the average cost of ownership for a privately owned vehicle is $8,698.00 per year according to AAA.*  Columbia University put that number at 85 cents per mile for a driver that puts 10,000 miles per year on a car.

Many people figure their costs differently.  Some believe that leasing is a less expensive option, by paying less ‘up front’ for the vehicle and only paying for the depreciation.  Maintenance and repair is generally cheaper, because the vehicle rarely goes past its 3 year/36,000 mile warranty period when the manufacturer is taking most of the risk of failure and major repair is unlikely.  However, property taxes, insurance and risk of penalties if you violate the terms of the contract or misuse the vehicle may offset the benefit of cheaper up front costs. 

Some people prefer to buy and old ‘clunker’ and believe that the low cost of purchase may save them in the long run.  The risk here, of course is major repair and inconvenience for having a vehicle in the shop being repaired.  There may be safety issues involved as well and those my be extremely costly. 
I am a ‘middle-of-the-roader’.  I have some issues with spending over $40k for a car that sits in my driveway most of its life.  If you drive an average 11,100 miles per year, a car spends 63 minutes a day on the road at an average of 30 miles per hour.  Therefore, it spends 22 hours and 57 minutes of the day parked somewhere, 95.6% of its life.  So, in theory, if I buy a 2 year old car with 22,200 miles and significant depreciation, I should be better off right? 

Well, the sad truth is, that looking at the overall costs, driving is a pretty expensive proposition no matter which way you go.  So, whether you have $35,000 cash, or lease, or finance an old clunker, you are pretty much stuck with paying a high price per mile. 

Below is the gas gauge for just the cost of the transportation, assuming you do not have a catastrophic loss, accident or act of God.

New Car Purchase or Lease                                  
       85ȼ per mile                                                          

  Used Car Purchase
    63ȼ per mile
 ‘Clunker’ Purchase
      52ȼ per mile  
No matter which option you choose, there is a also a ‘hidden’ cost.  Let’s assume for the moment that you have $35,000.00 in cash and can afford to spend it on a new vehicle without financing.  If you put that money in a medium risk stock and mutual fund portfolio, managed by professionals, over the course of ten years, that money grows at 8 to 10% per year, on average.  At 10% (you have a really good investment adviser), you have spent $35,000.00 plus a loss of $55,781.00 in interest over 10 years.  The total is $90,781.00 the vehicle purchase cost you. 

“Sure”, you say, “but, I traded it in after 5 years”. 

I wouldn’t go there.  You took the hit on depreciation at about 60% and then went and spent more money on another vehicle. 

“Did I save that interest money by leasing?”  Yes, you put that money in the bank, about three quarters of it.  But, you kept making those lease payments and an extra down payment to get a new lease.  The math gets a bit more complicated.  You gained about $16,000.00 in interest over 10 years versus if you had the cash and purchased the vehicle.  Note, your experience may vary wildly depending on the vehicle you choose, the state of the economy and how your investments perform.  And, the vast majority of vehicle buyers do not have the cash.  They choose to finance, which changes the dynamics considerably, albeit more loss. 

The point here is that owning and driving a private vehicle is expensive. 

The perfect world cometh?

The same Columbia University study that said driving now costs 85 cents per mile says that the cost of ride sharing in electric vehicles is 15 cents per mile. 

So, think about the future.  You arrange your ride share to take you to work.  The driverless vehicle parks in your driveway at the appointed time.  You have ordered on line on your smart wearable  and the vehicle stops at the Starbucks drive through on the way to pick up your latte.  There is no waiting, because it was prearranged and the robot barista never makes a mistake.

Figure 2 Starbucks Drive Through

You whisk through traffic, because with auto driven vehicles, there is no need for stoplights or traffic jams.  Computers determine the fastest routes to speed your trip along.  You can sit back, enjoy the scenery, sip your coffee, read the electronic book or watch a video, or work on your upcoming presentation.  With 5G Cellular, you can video-conference in 4k resolution with your EU colleagues before they go home for the day. 

If you have an extra minute, you can admire your portfolio, because you have just spent 15 cents per mile to get to work, instead of 85 cents.  Over 10 years, you have saved yourself $70,000.00.  Feeling very smug about yourself, you can smile and remember that you teenager is being safely delivered to high school, as well and not driving dangerously himself.  You have set aside some money of that savings for college.  All is right with the world.

Is it all perfect?

Driving a vehicle today is expensive.  Will majorities give it up to switch to self-driving ride sharing vehicles?  I am not so sure that it is that simple.  The infrastructure to support this is expensive, especially in rural areas where the infrastructure cost is spread over far fewer individuals.  Private transportation choices are very much ingrained in the culture.  In areas of the world where public transportation is pervasive, frequent and government subsidized, consumers clamor for more roads and private automobiles.
There is certain amount of gratification in owning and keeping a private vehicle that only the owner can access.  With all the vehicles for sale out there in high price ranges, it seems that there are plenty of people around who are willing to spend over $100,000.00 on an SUV.  Still, the question becomes, will the future in an IoT world where big data and networked infrastructure controlling access to roadways, be disruptive enough economically to change the culture to self-driving ride sharing as the predominant mode of daily transportation?   Will it be reliable and attractive enough to offset the desire to ‘own your own”?

Elon Musk has said that that may take 20 years.  That remains to be seen.  In the meantime, consider all the benefits and cost savings of video-conference with "real" face-time with your clients.

Dave Desmarais is President & Founder of Perinata

Contact Dave Desmarais at:

Phone: 864-885-1918

*Note:  AAA based their cost number on driving 15,000 mile per year.  

Friday, September 30, 2016

Are You Upradaphobic?
What did I need that for again?

By Dave Desmarais, President & Founder, Perinata Inc.
If you upgraded your pc to Windows 10, you may have noticed that you can no longer see what upgrades are available, choose to ignore recommended or optional upgrades and install them at your discretion.  Microsoft has abandoned this former information so that it can “push” to you whatever updates and upgrades it deems necessary for your pc – ah, without your knowledge.

There is good reason for Microsoft’s decision, both from a user experience sense and a business sense. For the vast majority of consumers, the upgrades were just a “bother” How many actual home pc users went to Microsoft’s site to read what Windows 7 KB9904812 really meant and did?

I just learned my lesson again today.  I still have a Windows 7 pc.  Microsoft advised me that I needed a new driver for my Graphics card (an “optional” update).    Unfortunately for me, I did not read it carefully.  It was a driver from 2013 and it has cost me a day of fixing the issue attempting to upgrade the graphics driver to one that works.

As we just learned with Apple iOS 10, some upgrades may be hazardous to your device health.  Apple’s recent gaff with iOS 10 is not earth shattering.  If someone was without their phone for a few hours until they could get to computer to attach it to the USB port and finish the upgrade on iTunes, well that is not a major tragedy for most users. 

I am a strong proponent of “Agile Programming”.  That is, addressing issues as they arise and tasking programmers to find creative solutions to issues and features that clients using software actually must have.  That does mean frequent updates to software.  For massive systems and millions of users, as we have seen above, mistakes are made, even in the most careful testing environments. 

So, what does that mean for IoT?  

We thought we saw revolutionary technologies before, like land lines to cell phones, maps to SPS and printed reading material to device based access to the cloud.  The “Internet of Things” promises to be perhaps even more profound, from driverless automobiles to, perhaps, a “workless” world.  As we become more dependent upon Artificial Intelligence and machines that accomplish tasks we used to do, we are also far more dependent on the upgrades that are “pushed” to them. 

Here is a small example.  I have to cut my lawn.  I have a very hilly yard and an old fashioned, non-self-propelled lawn mower.  Pushing that old lawn mower is beginning to tax my ability to keep up with the lawn.  Enter new, self-driving, self-mowing lawn mowers.  I would love to have one of these.  I could just program it to understand the layout of my yard, set the frequency to correspond to the rate of grass growing and all summer it would just start itself up and run itself.  When it is done, it would just “park” itself in its pre-assigned spot – a wonderful idea.  Even when I am gone for a while, my lawn gets a nice trim!

Now, what happens when I am gone and there is a big upgrade to the software?  As long as it just does some innocuous bug fixes and minor feature upgrades and continues to work as programmed, I am happy.  I did not even know about the upgrade until I happened to look at the panel readout and saw that there was an upgrade.  But, things happen.  Like that Apple example above, what if it needs to connect to its home “server” in the middle of the upgrade?  Or, maybe my wireless router has a hack?  There are innumerous unforeseen circumstances that may occur. And the likelihood increases with time. 

I confess, I never like to throw good working items away.  That is why I am still using a 30 year-old lawn mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine that will not die, or my 2007 laptop that now has Windows 10 on it and running just fine (except that the wireless connection drops in “Sleep” mode and must be rebooted).  Most companies are very judicious about keeping their software safe, reliable and up to date – to a point.  30 years is beyond the capability of most companies to manage their products.  But, is it 20 years, or 10 years or 5 years?

Here is another example.  I was an early adopter of Tivo.  I have a Tivo Series 1.  Again, it is 15 years old.  As of today, it is (what we refer dead equipment as) a “boat anchor”.  Despite the purchase promise of a “device lifetime” software subscription, there is no more subscription.  It has become non-economical for Tivo to support it.  So, for $75.00 in compensation, they render all of that version obsolete.  When you get to be an aging baby boomer, like myself, 15 years does not seem like a long time.  To a manufacturer, it is a product lifetime.

I understand product lifecycles and the economic realities of replacement of aging product.  So, maybe I am being too hard on them.  But, what about the time required for upgrading?
Upgrading to Windows 10 Anniversary addition from Windows 10 requires about 45 minutes to an hour.  Ok, but other things “kick in”, like anti-virus scanning and Windows disk optimization that consume resources and slow down tasks. 

So, let’s go back to mowing the lawn.  If you have a limited window of time to mow your lawn, before you need to be somewhere and you want to make sure it finishes and shuts down on time, you may not have a half-hour to wait while it “upgrades” today.  Even more significant, if you are dependent upon a medical device or living aid, what do you do while waiting for the upgrade to finish?  This is a concern, and if you want more examples, look at how often your smartphone apps upgrade, daily.  How many of those “features” improvements are really necessary? 

The 3 serious questions we all have to ask in moving in the direction of IoT are:
1.       Where and when and how often do we need to upgrade?
2.       How much impact is the upgrade going to make on the end user and does it increase the value?
3.       How long can we legitimately support the end user with the product and upgrades?


The benefits to system upgrades are safety, security, bug fixes and some feature enhancements.  Agreed, they are necessary for a system to continue to be safe and functional.  At the same time, more intelligence is being adopted into products that previously had no electronic connection to a central data collection and control server.  There is a need for manufacturers to carefully consider the timing and frequency of upgrades, especially in relation to the relative value of the upgrade to the consumer and the value of the consumers’ time spent upgrading the system or device.  Like modern smartphones, every device may have some connection in IoT and upgrades get multiplied exponentially.

Dave Desmarais is President & Founder of Perinata Inc., a firm specializing in cost-effective remote solutions for Communications, Broadcast and Electronic Events.
Contact Dave Desmarais at:

Phone: 864-885-1918

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

 Out of the Box - Events on Videoconference?

Thinking out of the box.  Today’s business, education, religious, political and entertainment worlds require constant thinking out of the box to compete with those who do.

Travel weary road warriors, security, events, trade shows, sales, training all require new competitive advantages that leverage modern technology.  The advantages of High Quality, Low-Latency Videoconference are many.

First, it is secure and encrypted.  A conference can be setup so that only authorized participants can join and no one can "bomb" a session and interrupt it.  Encryption means that it is HIPPA and military certified for security.  You have the control to set a PIN number, or lock the room so no one else can enter, or disconnect someone if they are not invited.

Second and most important reason is that Vidyo services are H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding).  I will spare the technical details, but that means that each connection's bandwidth is constantly adjusted to each end users available bandwidth, without affecting any other connection.  Some free services send full bandwidth for each connection to each participant.  That limits the availability to only a small number of connections.  With our conference system, whether you have 2 or 200 connections the High Def Quality is the same!  And, each user can adjust the screen for their optimum presentation.

It is quality that looks good on a computer, in a conference room or on a giant theatre screen.

 Third, is full duplex, low-latency, high quality audio.  Full duplex means anyone can talk at any time with no delay or at the same time as others - like a telephone conversation. No annoying mute or people confused by who is talking.

Fourth, we have the ability to share and chat. You can share anything on a desktop (PowerPoint, whiteboard, etc.) where a participant can double click it and see it full screen - no squinting to see it.  You can also walk around with an iPad or Windows tablet and change slides, highlight text or draw on a white board like a real meeting room!  Chat privately, or with the whole group.  (Optionally, it can be recorded in High Def for later playback over the internet, edited for content, or simultaneously streamed to up to 300 participants.)
Finally, you can connect to any device on any network anywhere.  That includes everything from pc’s to MACS, to iPhones, iPads and Android devices and any brand legacy videoconference system on a corporate campus or add in another one of a different codec at a remote campus or corporate videoconference room. (It works perfectly with 4G and is possible to hold meetings with 3G with lower frame rate.)

There are many more advantages as well. Why struggle with limited services or always be “on the road”, if very low-cost professional and feature rich cloud-based options are available?

Dave Desmarais is President & Founder of Perinata Inc., a firm specializing in cost-effective remote solutions for Communications, Broadcast and Electronic Events.
Contact Dave Desmarais at:

Phone: 864-885-1918

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What Has Happened to Videoconferencing for Lawyers Since 2004?

What Has Happened to Videoconferencing for Lawyers Since 2004?

In November, 2004, Minnesota Lawyer published an interesting article on the use of videoconference for legal applications.  The author, Michelle Lore pointed out many of the benefits and the technological advances of the day that made videoconference reliable, effective and more economical.

In the nearly 10 years since that article was published, there have been many technological changes.  But, the benefits stay the same. 

·         “It’s like having (the mediator) in the room.”
·         “Frankly, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to operate it.”
·         “…they can do it on a very cost-effective basis and not have lost anything in the process.”
·         “…attorneys agree that the videoconferencing process is an effective alternative to traveling.”
·         “It’s a nice efficient way to have a mediation that might not otherwise be available.”

But, in 10 years, the difference is that the technology is even more reliable, easier to use and more economical.  It is possible now to do this at virtually no cost, with free services, assuming you have a webcam, a microphone and an internet connection. 

“Free" is not necessarily free, if there are issues with the delivery.  Free services may not be as reliable or easy to access as low-cost paid services.  Some free services are limited in the number of participants that are capable of joining the conference with bandwidth limitations.  And, if you have documents, pictures, desktop applications or video to share, you may be out of luck.

But, the biggest concern with free services is security.  Legal consultations should be conducted in private.  In a legal environment, one should ask “is the videoconference encrypted?”  Does it allow you to “lock” the room and not allow any unauthorized participants to join and “listen in”?  Does it allow you to set a “PIN” number and only pass that out to individuals you want or need in the consultation?  Does it allow you completely control the meeting as a host, by giving you control to mute participants, mute their video or speakers for a private conversation, or allow you to disconnect them if the need arises?  Does it allow you to “chat” privately with a colleague or participant?  Does it have recording and playback capability?

In 10 years, all this is now easy to accomplish – reliability, security, and features.

State of the art videoconference systems make it simple to connect, stay connected and add in as many participants as you need.  It is simple to share content and simple to privately “chat” with select participants to emphasize or clarify a point, or record the conference for future reference.

10 years ago, Michelle Lore quoted a price of $5,000 to $10,000 for the equipment to set up a videoconference facility and that limited the experience to one room and a connection to a similar codec system on the other end. 

Today, we can provide the same quality, reliability and security to virtually any device, on any network.  Whether, you are connecting to a pc, MAC, iPad, iPhone, Android Device or a legacy videoconference Room (and by the way, even telephone connected participants can join the audio portion), anyone, anywhere on the internet around the globe to join in with high quality and low-latency connections.  It is no longer necessary to have a dedicated system unless you wish to have one. 

Hosted systems with no commitment start at $24.95 per month for up to 4 participants for up to 5 hours and can be adjusted monthly to accommodate usage.  Inexpensive – effective – ubiquitous and full of features, it opens up new opportunities for legal professionals to become more effective.

Dave Desmarais is President & Founder of Perinata Inc., a firm specializing in cost-effective remote solutions for Communications, Broadcast and Electronic Events.

Contact Dave Desmarais at:

Phone: 864-885-1918

Monday, February 3, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

To Make the Most of Trade Shows, You May Need a Friend

Trade Shows are generally a major expense for companies.  There are concerns about planning, presentation, travel, getting the “right” visitors to your booth and especially, making sure that they leave with the “desire to buy” from you.

One of the major decisions is “who to send to represent the company” at a trade show. It is unproductive and expensive to bring everybody.  Still, customers like to see friendly, familiar faces.  According to Susan Friedman in an article at on “The Secret Weapon Every Savvy Exhibitor Should Use”: 

While starting new business relationships will always be important, a new emphasis has been placed on strengthening and maintaining existing relationships.

“Consider your current customers.  Ask yourself -- or even better, ask them, how they feel about your products and services.  How about your customer service? What makes doing business with your organization unique, enjoyable, and/or remarkable?

Sometimes customers prefer to see their trusted, local representative, who has been “so helpful” in the past.  Nowhere is this more important than in Customer Service.   

I have been in Customer Service situations my entire career, no matter the particular job title.  Focusing in on those repeat, satisfied customers is one of the best ways to create “word of mouth” referrals that typically are critical to landing new business.  At trade shows, I cannot count the times when it was important for customers to bring an observation or complaint to the show floor.  Despite all the sincere demonstrations of the show floor personnel that they will get some “action”, customers usually leave with a feeling like “maybe this time it will be different, but don’t count on it.”  They feel this way, because they know show floor personnel have many other responsibilities, they are working long hours and they tend to forget things.  They may have the best of intentions.  But, results here are not really counted.  Nonetheless, it was very important to the customer and the relationship to your company.

Also, it may be important to be nimble, accurate and flexible in presenting your product to a specific customer need.  Or, financial decisions need to be made that can make or break a sale at the trade show.  We use what we can, spotty cell phone service, conference calls or email – none of which is immediate or reliable. 

Telepresence offers robust, HD videoconferencing services that can connect to any device, any OS on any network.  What better way to contact the home office and bring your expertise into the conversation?  We event connect to any legacy videoconference system with a public IP or SIP connection. 

Whether you are in your hotel room, hotel meeting room, on your iPad, iPhone or Android device you can all be connected together with low-latency, high quality videoconference that will not drop the call and share a desktop or other materials on your computer. 

What better way to impress a customer with a service problem than to meet in a private room and put him in direct contact with the person that can assist with the situation?

What better way connect from anywhere to your home office videoconference system to make executive decisions based on factual information from your home office experts?

Holding training sessions on site during the convention?  Bring in the best experts remotely to make your training more memorable and effective – even if the presenter is a continent away.

Is this difficult to accomplish? 

No, state of the art videoconference systems make it simple to connect, stay connected and add in as many participants as you need.  It is simple to share content and simple to privately “chat” with select participants to emphasize or clarify a point, or record the conference for future reference.

Is this expensive?

It is surprisingly affordable and with so many value-added attributes, it will help make your trade show experience a success.

Dave Desmarais is President & Founder of Perinata Inc., a firm specializing in cost-effective remote solutions for Communications, Broadcast and Electronic Events.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is it important to “look someone in the eye”?

Dennis Nishi tells this story of Paul Smith in the Wall Street Journal,  Paul, a manager at Procter and Gamble had 20 minutes to make a presentation and sell CEO, A. G. Lafley, on new marketing techniques.

“On the day of the meeting, CEO A.G. Lafley entered the room, greeted everybody and turned his back to the screen. He then stared intently at Mr. Smith throughout the entire presentation, not once turning to look at a slide. 
“"I felt like maybe I hadn't done a very good job because he wasn't looking at my slides like everyone else," says Mr. Smith, who also noticed that the other managers didn't seem very engaged. ‘It didn't occur to me until later that he did that because he was more interested in what I had to say than in what my slides looked like.’ "

Dennis Nishi is making a very good point.  He is demonstrating in his article that “story-telling” is an effective communication tool and Paul was successful because he looked Mr. Lafley in the eye the entire time and told his story.  Many companies are embracing this technique of communication.

However, face to face meetings are not always possible.  Busy executives, managers and staff are often over committed and time pressured.  Traveling is expensive and time consuming.  New communication technology changes the playing field by making virtual face to face meetings a reality. 

Does that mean that the techniques and, more importantly, the social interaction aspects of a meeting the same?  Of course not!

Video is a different realm and a game changer.  Just like any tool, like PowerPoint, techniques need to be learned and practiced to make them effective.  Let’s talk about the social interaction aspects that improve response.  If you are making a presentation or want to be an authority opinion of a topic, then other people in the meeting need to see you.  But, beyond that, they need to see a social version of you that they expect to see and does not violate their sense of visual acuity.  What does that mean? 

  • ·         First, If you had been in broadcast TV, you would know that people expect to see a “headshot”.  That is a view of you with your shoulders and head centered appropriately in the shot.  Note that the eye level is about center in the screen and that there is “headroom at the top.  People have a hard time taking you seriously if they can only see the top of your forehead.  Note, it is more difficult to maintain this with a mobile device or tablet, because the camera points where it wants to.  But, that means you have to work harder at it.

  • ·         Second, it is important to look at the camera!  Many of us forget that in a meeting, if you are talking, you are not talking to your computer monitor.  You are talking to real live people who happen to be some distance away.  They want to see you look at them.  Keep your eyes focused on the camera.  That is the true “looking into their eyes”.  Also, an audience accustomed to television viewing does not like to see head bobbing and weaving.  They will pay much more attention to your content if they are not trying to follow your motion.  If you cannot help but move somewhat, try the “follow me” feature on the webcam to keep you framed in the center of the shot.

  • ·         Third, just like positioning yourself, it is important to pay attention to background and lighting.  If you have lived more than 3 years here on earth, you probably have noticed that the sun is very bright.  Regrettably, as good as new cameras are, they do not have the contrast ratio of the human eye.  So, if your camera is shooting you in front of a window, it has no choice but to iris down and make you look excessively dark.  

       Likewise, excessive lighting on your face can create “hot spots” that the contrast ratio of the camera cannot handle.  Flat front lighting is best.  But, some background lighting is necessary for the “3 dimensional effect” and to avoid distracting shadows on your background.

  • ·         Fourth, background is also an important to a “business look”.  If you have a messy office with piles of papers and miscellaneous debris (unfortunately, like I do), it is preferable to keep it out of the shot.  You should be the focus of attention, not the business in the background.

  • ·         Finally, Modern videoconference systems allow desktop sharing.  If you are giving a presentation, proper PowerPoint etiquette is in order.  Systems now allow a shared presentation to be opened up in a separate screen or moved to a separate monitor.  Please make sure your participants are versed in how to make this change and let them decide if they want to look at you or your presentation.  A quick glance at your monitor can let you know which one is most important to them.   

Technology does not replace good sense in conducting a meeting or a presentation.  Adhering to good story-telling and effective use of information sharing tools, like PowerPoint go a long way to cover-up the technology.  But, don’t let the technology get in the way of what you are trying to accomplish.  As we all know, television is a good medium to impart information.  Television viewers expect a certain decorum in social interaction.  This directly translates to videoconference meetings and it can be disturbing to viewers to see something “out of the norm”.  It is significantly better if you are the “star” of the show, rather than a distraction.

Dave Desmarais formerly was in charge of a multimillion dollar Network Operations Center for customer support.  It was 24 X 7, virtual operation.  Having highly skilled technical representatives working from home offices was essential to the quality of support that was required for 24 X 7.