Grayson Brulte

Grayson Brulte

@gbrulte | @gbrulte

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company.

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company. As an innovation strategist and strategic advisor, Grayson builds trusted relationships with organizations, working together with internal teams to prepare clients for what’s next.

From developing strategies for autonomous vehicle programs to helping companies become the go-to resource for technology innovation, Grayson empowers clients with the foresight and intelligence to take on the world’s biggest challenges.

Sharing his insights into what’s next, Grayson hosts The Road To Autonomy Podcast and the SAE International Tomorrow Today Podcast, where he interviews high-caliber guests and leaders across industries, sharing his own unique perspective to deliver one-of-a-kind discussions.

Harnessing his in-depth knowledge of diverse markets, economics, politics, and technology, he and the guests tackle topics from autonomous vehicles and mobility trends to the financial effects of innovative breakthroughs and their impact on society.

Grayson understands the intricate relationship between politics and innovation, expertly navigating between these worlds and facilitating the impactful conversations between the two. Grayson has enabled forward momentum and transformation from a city to a national level.

As a former Co-Chair of the City of Beverly Hills Mayor's Autonomous Vehicle Task Force and member of the city’s Smart City/Technology Committee, he helped Beverly Hills become one of America’s digital capitals chosen by Google.

His perspective, insights, and opinions are utilized and shared by leading organizations and publications throughout the market.

Grayson’s comments and opinions have appeared in numerous publications, including: The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, CNN, Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter, and Reuters.

For speaking engagements, editorials and media enquiries please email [email protected].

From Quartz to Smartwatch — Will History Repeat Itself?

As smartwatches become more prevalent, it might be worthwhile for the venerable Swiss watch industry to reflect back on the turbulent 1970s following the advent of the quartz watch.

Will history repeat itself for Swiss watchmakers — if they choose to stand by as smartwatches steal market share — or will they learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and adopt some of the disruptive technologies? Might we see a Swiss-made mechanical sensor hybrid watch with a sub-$5,000 price tag to offset the possible loss of revenue and market share from Apple, Samsung and other smartwatch innovators?

First, a history lesson: the last revolution that would forever change the watch industry started in 1962, when the Swiss watch industry founded the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) research center in Neuchâtel. The mission of the research center was to reinvent the wristwatch and develop a Swiss-made quartz wristwatch.

Around the same time in Japan, Seiko and Citizen were focusing on building their own electronic watches. Until that time, all watches manufactured in Japan since the late 19th century had been mechanical. On Christmas Day 1969 in Tokyo, the world’s first commercially available quartz watch was introduced — the Seiko 35 SQ Astron. With a limited production run of only 100 watches, Seiko 35 SQ Astron retailed for $1,250, roughly the same price as a Toyota Corolla in Japan at the time.

The Seiko 35 SQ Astron was accurate to within five seconds per month, or 100 times more accurate than any watch on the market. The accuracy combined with the fact it ran continuously for a year would help change the watch industry forever.

Soon after, in 1970 the CEH introduced consumers to the first Swiss-made quartz wristwatch — the Ebauches SA Beta 21 quartz. Yet when the Ebauches SA Beta 21 failed to catch on with the public, instead of doubling down, the Swiss watch industry returned its focus to crafting handmade mechanical watches. Meanwhile, the Seiko 35 SQ Astron would go on to usher in a revolution in watches.

As the Swiss watch continued to focus on their heritage, the exports of Swiss-made mechanical watches declined from 40 million in 1973 to only 3 million 10 years later. During this turbulent time, there was a massive downsizing of the Swiss watch industry, with several watch companies closing their doors. The number of individuals working in the Swiss watch industry fell by nearly half over the decade, to 47,000 by 1980.

It was not until 1983 that the Swiss watch industry rebounded to compete with the Japanese — with the launch of Swatch. The plastic watch was a big success, paving the way for the revitalization of Swiss watchmaking.

Who Will Join the Next Revolution?

Fast forward to today: the next revolution that could forever change the watch industry may have begun in September, with the official introduction of the Apple Watch. Could history once again repeat itself? If Swiss watchmakers follow the same path that they followed in the 1970s, it may very well.

Just ask Elmar Mock, co-inventor of the Swatch. He recently warned that Swiss watchmakers may have already “missed the boat” when it comes to capitalizing on the smartwatch opportunity.

So far, the Swiss reaction to the challenge posed by the Apple Watch has been a mix of indifference as well as some level of appreciation.

“I don’t think at all that this will change what we are doing,” Patrik Hoffmann, CEO of Ulysse Nardin recently told the Financial Times, following the unveiling of the Apple Watch. Hoffmann noted that luxury mechanical watches such as his — which start around $9,000 and can top $1 million — aren’t really in the same market as smartwatches that carry a price tag in the hundreds.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Biver, LVMH president of watches and jewelry, says he recognizes the opportunity that smartwatch technologies present to the Swiss industry, but doesn’t necessarily see it as a threat. “Adapt to this new business model and don’t underestimate the technology,” he told the FT. “But, at the same time, don’t forget that it is not the first revolution experienced by the watch industry — and it will certainly not be the last.”

If there was a history lesson from that last revolution, it’s that adaptation to a changing marketplace is key for any business — even Swiss watchmakers who can take great pride in their craftsmanship. Embrace the disruptive forces of technology and make them your own.

Biver has raised the possibility of a smartwatch for the company’s TAG Heuer brand and, as Apple sets its sights on capturing market share from the Swiss, other watchmakers might be wise to explore a similar move. For example, the strategic development of a mechanical-sensor hybrid watch retailing for less than $5,000 would not only provide a hedge against smartwatches, but potentially change the course of history — just as Seiko did more than four decades earlier.

The Seiko 35 SQ Astron quartz watch changed the watch industry by making owning and operating a watch simple. Similarly, the smartwatch is redefining what a watch is what it means to the consumer. The clock is ticking.

From Quartz to Smartwatch — Will History Repeat Itself? is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.

Unlocking the True Value of the St. Regis Brand

The current value of the St. Regis brand is weighed down by associating the St. Regis brand so closely with Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

In 1904 Colonel John Jacob Astor IV founded the St. Regis brand with the opening of the St. Regis in New York, NY which at that time the was declared “the finest hotel in America” by The New York Times.

When John Jacob Astor founded the St. Regis it was known not only for it’s luxury, but for the new technology that was featured in every room. Each room had it’s own telephone along with central heating and an air-cooling system that allowed each and every guest to control the temperature in their room.

The hotel also featured one of the first central vacuum systems and a central fire alarm system which would improve the safety of the guests. These technological advancements under the leadership of Mr. Astor cemented the St. Regis’ brand as a leader in innovation and hospitality.

The St. Regis New York would stay independent until ITT Sheraton purchased the property and the naming rights to the St. Regis brand in 1960 for an undisclosed amount. In 1998, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc purchased the St. Regis New York from ITT Sheraton and launched the St. Regis brand in 1999 with the debut of The St. Regis Aspen Resort and The St. Regis Houston.

Today in 2014 the St. Regis brand is over 100 years old and is wholly owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. with 31 properties in 20 countries with 21 future St. Regis openings planned in 5 new countries.

As Starwood embarks on their expansion of the St. Regis brand it would be prudent for them to take a step back and rethink the brand while channeling the innovative leadership of Mr. Astor. A rethink of the brand should start with a discussion about creating value by spinning out St. Regis as a stand alone luxury brand that is not part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program or central booking system.

The current value of the St. Regis brand is weighed down by associating the St. Regis brand so closely with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. As technology companies such as eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Symantec split into two publicly-traded companies, Starwood Hotels & Resorts would benefit by following the trend of creating value by spinning St. Regis out as a stand alone brand.

As famed investor Carl C. Icahn said about eBay spinning out PayPal “it is almost a no brainer that these companies should be separated to increase the value of these great assets and thus to meaningfully enhance value.” Mr. Icahn is correct. PayPal’s growth was weighed down by eBay and by spinning out PayPal, eBay is creating value for their shareholders.

While Starwood does not need to spin St. Regis out as a separate publicly traded company, they should spin the brand out as a stand alone brand that highlights the deep and rich history of the St. Regis dating back to 1904.

By spinning out St. Regis as a stand alone brand Starwood would be creating value for not only shareholders but also guests. A stand alone branded St. Regis would be able to command higher room rates and better directly compete with privately held Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Inc.

Isadore Sharp, Founder of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts understood and still understands the value of a single brand with a single level of quality and how it reflects on the brand. In Mr. Sharp’s biography Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy published in 2009 he openly focus on the strategic advantages of managing only medium-sized hotels of exceptional quality and to make service the brand’s distinguishing edge.

What is the St. Regis’ distinguishing edge? Perhaps it is the brand. However, it is diminished by the close association with less stellar hotels that are included under the Starwood Hotels & Resort banner.

The time is right for Starwood Hotels & Resorts to have the discussion around the St. Regis brand as the competition for the global high-net worth traveler is heating up. Aman Resorts recently announced their first city hotel in Tokyo, Japan and The Peninsula Hotels recently unveiled The Peninsula Paris and the soon to be developed The Peninsula London.

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Aman Resorts and The Peninsula Hotels all have one thing in common. They great brands that are not weighed down by association with less than exceptional quality hotels.

St. Regis could too be apart of this elite group of hotels, but it is up to Starwood management to make the decision to spin St. Regis out as a stand alone brand.

By spinning out the St. Regis brand Starwood would increase the value of the St. Regis brand. A stronger St. Regis brand would be able to command higher room rates which would in turn lead to increased revenue per room night.

Now is the time for Starwood to follow the tradition of innovation started by Colonel John Jacob Astor IV and spin out the St. Regis brand to create value for guests and shareholders.

Unlocking the True Value of the St. Regis Brand is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte.

Rethinking The Wi-Fi Strategy of Fine Hotels & Resorts

The hotel industry is the the midst of disruption from startups such as Airbnb who are re-imaging how you can book and experience lodging.

What Airbnb lacks is the hotel industry’s greatest strength: hospitality and consistency. While Airbnb is creating value for their customers, you cannot replace the experience of a true five-star hotel or resort.

A true five-star hotel or resort understands the needs and wants of their guests, but time and time again they tend to overlook Wi-Fi and it’s benefit to the guest experience. A guest booking a room, house or even a treehouse on Airbnb have come to expect unlimited complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi with their stay.

A guest booking a treehouse in Cooper, Alajuela, Costa Rica on Airbnb for $85 per night are offered complimentary Wi-Fi with no bandwidth restrictions. But when staying at most five-star hotels or resorts around the world paying an average rate of $600 per night, guests are limited with their Wi-Fi speeds and their bandwidth consumption is capped.

Airbnb hosts are creating value for their guests by offering complimentary Wi-Fi, while some five-star hotels and resorts are devaluing their brands by not offering complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and limiting the experience. Travelers are used to airlines limiting their bandwidth and blocking services such as HBO Go and Netflix due to the current state of the in-flight wireless infrastructure, but not hotels.

The in-flight wireless infrastructure is currently being upgraded as AT&T announced plans in April to launch a high-speed 4G LTE-based in-flight network in late 2015. The upgraded in-flight wireless infrastructure will come to the relief of 9 out of 10 users globally complain about the current state of in-flight Wi-Fi service being slow and inconsistent according to a Honeywell Wireless Connectivity Survey.

John Stankey, Chief Strategy Officer of AT&T summed up his thoughts on in-flight Wi-Fi  by stating; “Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet”. Mr. Stankey’s comments are correct and they should serve as a guide for owners and operators of five-star hotels and resorts.

The recently announced four-star Virgin Hotels Chicago opening in 2015 is following Mr. Stankey’s lead by offering “the right to faster, free Wi-Fi ” in every single guest room. Virgin Hotels Chicago is not capping the bandwidth, instead they using the no-bandwidth limit as a marketing tool to encourage guests to lodge at the hotel.

Virgin Hotels Chicago property is even taking it two steps further by moving away from the iPad in the room model to a bring your own device, control the room model. The control your room, bring your own device model will save Virgin Hotels Chicago an up-front charge of roughly $124,750 for adding the new iPad Air 2’s to each of the hotels 250 rooms plus monthly software licensing fees.

Another idea that Virgin is attempting to re-invent is the in-room TV experience by allowing guests to “watch your stuff on our TV”. This is a huge step forward as the hotel TV of today is outdated and does not enhance the overall guest experience. A smart TV that a guest can program with their own content will create value for the guests.

The content streamed to the TV will require Wi-Fi which is in-part by why Virgin Hotels Chicago is offering unlimited bandwidth. Industry sources have told me that Virgin Hotels Chicago is going to operate at break-even to build the brand and disrupt the marketplace.

While Virgin Hotels very well might disrupt the market, Airbnb has been a true disrupter to the hotel industry in a good way. Hotel owners and operators should look at Airbnb as a friend rather than a foe as they are encouraging individuals to travel and see the world.

Airbnb can also teach the hotel industry why venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s theory that “software is eating the world” is correct and why software will only continue eat away at industries. In 2007, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal took a 95% stake in Four Seasons Holdings Inc., owner and operator of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts with Bill Gates at a valuation of $3.8 billion USD. Today as software has eaten the world, Airbnb has a valuation of $10 billion after a $475 million USD round of financing led by TPG Growth.

Airbnb does not own or operate a single property, but they have 800,000 listings available for rent in over 190 countries. While Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts owns or operates 93 hotels and resorts in 38 countries.

Airbnb was started out of necessity as Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were having a hard time paying their rent back in 2007. To fix this issue they hatched an idea of renting out three airbeds on their living-room floor and cooking their guests breakfast and launching airbedandbreakfast.com.

Fast forward seven years to 2014 and Airbnb is a thriving business that is growing daily. The Airbnb story is one that five-star hotels and resorts should take to heart when they are thinking about their Wi-Fi strategy.

Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky found a way to create value for guests paying $80 a night for a air bed, including breakfast. While Airbnb lacks the overall hospitality and consistency of a five-star hotel or resort, they do offer value. Five-star hotels and resorts can do the same by offering unlimited complimentary high-speed in-room Wi-Fi.

Will five-star hotels and resorts follow the model that is being pioneered by Airbnb and Virgin Hotels or will they continue with the status quo? Only time will tell what decision the owners and operators of the world’s finest hotels and resorts choose to make as it relates to Wi-Fi.

While not every five-star hotel or resort has the budget or flexibility to re-think their Wi-Fi strategies, the ones who do would be creating long-term value for their guests, which in turn would lead to an increase in paid room nights per year.

Travelers have come to expect complimentary Wi-Fi in hotels and public spaces, now it is time for the world’s finest hotels and resorts to not only live up to their guests expectations, but to exceed them in every imaginable way.

Rethinking The Wi-Fi Strategy of Fine Hotels & Resorts is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on SocialSign.in.

Revisiting the Doctor Visit

Today we are more in tune with our health than any other time in history. This new focus on health and change in consumer behavior is largely being driven by startups in Silicon Valley and innovative tech companies around the world.

The innovators are disrupting and consumerizing healthcare to the benefit of all of us.

As tech companies consumerize healthcare and create more frictionless experiences, it would behoove doctors to take notice and implement certain technologies and services into their practice to improve the patient’s overall experience.

Focusing on user experience, many tech companies are developing healthcare products that consumers want to utilize on a daily basis. This is resulting in higher engagement rates, which means users are more likely to take their health more seriously, focusing on exercise and diet.

While doctors are clearly focused on the health needs of their patients, many haven’t adjusted to the consumerization of healthcare by taking into account the whole user experience.

Take the doctor’s visit. When you visit a doctor, you have to sign in, fill out paperwork, share your insurance card, then take a seat in the waiting room. Wait times now average 21 minutes before seeing your doctor, an increase of 6 percent since 2012, according to healthcare data analytics firm Vitals.com.

To improve the patient experience, doctors and employees of medical practices should start to consider how to create value for their patients. “The value experience is unknown in the medical field,” says Dr. Daniel E. Thompson of Commonwealth Orthopaedics, the official orthopedic and physical therapy partner of the Washington Redskins.

While creating value is a relatively new approach in the medical field, it is the bread and butter of the hospitality industry. César Ritz, founder of The Ritz hotels, had the famous saying, “The customer is never wrong.” The staff at doctor’s offices could learn a lot from Ritz and his focus on providing excellent customer service.

With a fresh new attitude and approach to customer service by staff, doctors should focus on eliminating friction with the office visit. Instead of filling out paperwork, patients should be able to wave their smartphone in front of a near-field communication (NFC) device, which would enable the staff to instantly view their patient history and insurance information on a tablet.

Staff checking in patients would know their required co-pay and whether they hit their deductible. This data would allow the provider to charge the correct amount for the office visit, without overcharging or incurring any friction, since the patients’ credit cards would be on file.

A receipt would instantly be emailed to patients, notifying them about complimentary Wi-Fi and encouraging them to post a review of their visit online. The receptionist can send opt-in updates via iBeacon technology, informing patients about their remaining wait time and their exam room.

By staying in constant communication with patients, doctor’s offices can help reduce stress level. Even after a 21-minute wait, patients will be more satisfied with their visit if they’re kept in the loop. Once the appointment ends, patients could receive any additional paperwork via email, eliminating the risk that they could misplace important health documents.

Technology will only enhance the doctor’s visit, enabling doctors to focus on what they do best: providing care for those in need.

Revisiting the Doctor Visit is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.

Wi-Fi Opens New Distribution Opportunities

With the rapid growth of global WiFi hotspots comes an opportunity to take a step back and rethink what WiFi does and what it can do in the future.

A lot has changed since 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the top grossing movie of the year with over $924 million in global revenue. The Backstreet Boys were on top of the charts with their Millennium album that sold over 11 million copies, and Excite CEO George Bell made one of the worst investment mistakes in history when he failed to buy Google for $750,000. In August of that year, the term WiFi was used commercially for the first time in history. The inaction of George Bell to acquire Google and the introduction of the term WiFi would end up changing the technology landscape forever.

Fast forward fifteen years later and it’s 2014 and Google has a market cap of $369.26 billion. The Walt Disney Company now owns the rights to Star Wars after buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion, and global WiFi hotspots are projected to grow to 7.1 million by 2015.

With the rapid growth of global WiFi hotspots comes an opportunity to take a step back and rethink what WiFi does and what it can do in the future.

A WiFi network currently creates value for individuals by allowing them to connect to the internet from a mobile device without having to pay for a data plan. In the future, a WiFi network will become a distribution platform for brands and content owners alike that creates value for users of the network. In London, MasterCard has partnered with public WiFi provider The Cloud to offer free WiFi access for MasterCard card members at over 22,000 hotspots. MasterCard is using the WiFi promotion to build brand awareness for their MasterCard Priceless Cities campaign.

Right now, free WiFi is only available to MasterCard cardholders who download the MasterCard Priceless London WiFi app prior to connecting to the free network. MasterCard has the right idea in mind, but in my opinion they didn’t completely think through the large opportunity presented in front of them. Yes, MasterCard is creating value for cardholders, but they are also creating friction by requiring users to download the MasterCard Priceless London WiFi app prior to traveling in order to connect to the network. This friction filled experience devalues the value proposition.

To truly execute a frictionless branded WiFi experience, brands have to take one step back and ask themselves;

Does this only benefit our brand or does it create value for our customers too?

If the answer only benefits the brands then the campaign was a non-starter. If the answer is this creates value and I would want to use this, then it’s a win for the brand and the user.

In Italy, Italian lawmakers have put forward a proposal to develop and launch a free WiFi network in thousands of public places. When Italian lawmakers start to think through the free WiFi proposal, they shouldn’t lose sight of the cultural importance of Italy and what WiFi can do to enhance the cultural experience for tourists. Sergio Boccadutri, a member of the ruling Democratic Party and sponsor of the proposal recently said, “Free WiFi would have a big cultural impact and help the economy recover, starting from industries such as tourism.”

While Mr. Boccadutri is correct, lawmakers must not get lost in the details of developing and launching a free WiFi network. Instead they should outsource this proposal to a firm with a proven track record of developing frictionless software that lives on top of WiFi networks. The software layer on top of the network will provide the true value to tourists in Italy, as it would grant them access to geo-targeted content based on their location that might be of interest to them from an Italian cultural perspective.

The operators of the WiFi network would then be able to offer value added services such as private tours and fast passes for museums. The data gathered from WiFi networks can create tremendous value for those individuals who choose to interact with the network. In Austin (TX), travelers waiting in the security line at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport are now told how long the wait is in real-time on screens thanks in-part to data gathered from the WiFi network.

As more users start to connect to WiFi networks and brands such as MasterCard, governments such as Italy and airports such the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport start to use WiFi as a value added services, individuals benefit too. While individuals benefit from the increase in free WiFi access, this creates a business opportunity for brands and content owners to distribute their unique content over a global network that supports Passpoint to a highly targeted audience.

Imagine you take your family to Walt Disney World Resort and after a long day, your child is tired and ready for a nap. You put him or her in the stroller, pull out the iPad and connect to Disney Guest WiFi before handing it over to your child.

When you connect to Disney Guest WiFi, Disney knows that you are in the Magic Kingdom in Adventureland, based on your location and offers up complimentary hyper-targeted Disney content such as the Swiss Family Robinson movie.

You click play, hand the iPad over to your child to watch the movie and you enjoy the park.

Wi-Fi Opens New Distribution Opportunities is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on SocialSign.in.