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UCR Grads Making Smart Home Audio a New Standard

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UCR Grads Making Smart Home Audio a New Standard

By Inland Empire Business Journal staff

We live in an increasing world of connectivity, with platforms by Amazon, Google, Apple, or Microsoft. However, these platforms tend to only work within their own ecosystem, locking consumers into a certain set of products. Vanguard Dynamics’ VAIL Cast, integrates the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence to break these limitations and create a smart home audio interface that is user-friendly to everyone, regardless of what platform they use.

Imagine bringing the ambiance of an upscale restaurant home as you dine over classical music and candles with your guests. Cast your favorite music from any mobile device or laptop to any room. At the end of the day, you tell your home to draw down the shades, lock the doors, and shut off the lights while your favorite songs play in your bedroom. All this, and much more, can only be achieved with VAIL Cast.

VAIL Cast Concept

Vanguard Dynamics’ goal is to bridge this gap and develop a product that works with every major platform for your convenience. This creates even greater connectivity, allowing everyone to use their favorite products, no matter their platform preference. It acts as a WiFi booster, so the WiFi signal throughout your home improves. By using it with the platform of your choice, it gives you a smart home experience catered to your liking and still allows you to utilize all the capabilities of any smart assistant. Connect VAIL Cast to a TV and any pair of speakers and enhance the sound of your favorite movies, shows, or video games.

Born and raised in the Inland Empire, Alex Chiou is on a mission to make smart home audio a new standard. Chiou founded Vanguard Dynamics in 2011 and has made a profound impact on the audio industry with award-winning and innovative smart home audio products. His current project, VAIL Cast, is a stereo amplifier that amplifies the sound of a smart assistant throughout your home. It connects with all of today’s most popular smart home digital assistants with Chromecast built-in, works with Alexa, Apple Airplay 2, and Microsoft DLNA and it is the only amplifier that works with all platforms simultaneously.

“We’ve been working with home builders around the world for over a decade and VAIL Cast is a game-changer for them because we’re providing an entertainment system that gives their homes high fidelity sound and strong WiFi coverage in every room that is fully universal and future-proof, controllable by any smart device.”

Chiou thought this would be a great opportunity to reconnect with the community of the Inland Empire and has been utilizing resources available by the City of Riverside, such as EPIC, the UCR A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management, Riverside ExCITE, and the Economic Development Department to help his company raise awareness for VAIL Cast. He reached out to both Dr. Ashish Sood, AGSM Associate Professor of Marketing, and the Career Development Center to gather a team of bright and driven UCR MBA students to help commercialize the new product.

Vanguard Dynamics is now working with an entire team of MBA students, including Alex Waskul, Eduardo Tellez, Jamie Linares, Lily Luu, and Randy Pimentel. The team meets regularly to strategize and brings cutting edge ideas they learn in various classes to the company. Each member contributes to the company through their unique skill sets. Lily and Randy help with the creative side of marketing the product, utilizing their superb writing and videographic capabilities to bring the vision of the VAIL Cast to life. Eddie, an audio enthusiast, utilizes his customer experience and public relations skills to increase awareness and facilitate interactions with their brand. Alex W. and Jamie combine their product management experience to ensure the team properly implements strategies, efficiently meets goals, and ensures effective brand management

The team has received continual support and guidance from Dr. Ashish Sood, AGSM Associate Professor of Marketing; the AGSM Career Center; Mai Temraz, Blackstone LaunchPad Entrepreneur-in-Residence; and Steve Massa, City of Riverside Economic Development, to ensure the team has all the insight and expertise needed to become successful.

They are now in the early stages of creating a Kickstarter campaign by generating content, designing reward-tiers for backers, and gaining support from their fellow UCR family in order to spread the word of this new innovative amplifier to become the new standard.

Here’s how you can help:
Like and share our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/vailaudio/
Follow us and share our Instagram: @vailaudio
Support us and subscribe: www.vailaudio.com/kickstarter

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Economy

No Near-term Recession Says Leading Forecast; Supercharged Consumers will Propel U.S. Economy into 2023

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Recession Potential Will Grow If Federal Reserve Tightens To Control Inflation… But The Sooner The Better; California On Verge of Recovering All Jobs Lost To Pandemic

Despite real signs of stress in parts of the system, for now, consumers will carry the U.S. economy through this year and into 2023 without a downturn, according to Beacon Economics‘ latest outlook for the United States and California. The wealth created by the excessive fiscal stimulus enacted in 2020 and 2021 continues to drive a consumer consumption binge and the new forecast anticipates economic growth to look better in the second half of 2022 (when final numbers are available) than it did in the first half.

Inflation will continue to run hot, and interest rates will continue to rise as a result, but those circumstances are not recession causing, according to the outlook. Instead, expect a slow pace of overall economic growth, with weaker numbers from the more rate sensitive sectors.

“Functionally speaking, policymakers went from maximum acceleration – the stimulus – to maximum braking – tightening by the Fed – over a single year, something that would create turbulence in even the healthiest economy,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “But in the near-term, while parts of the economy will remain cool due to rising interest rates, that supercharged U.S. consumer, armed with a $30 trillion increase in household wealth over the pandemic period, will keep momentum going.”

The new forecast also argues that inflation may have peaked but will not decelerate rapidly. “Until the Fed gets serious about tightening, that is reducing the money supply and raising interest rates, expect price growth to remain elevated,” said Thornberg.

Although the potential for a real recession in the nation will increase if and when the Fed applies more aggressive quantitative tightening to control inflation and push up real (rather than nominal) interest rates, the faster the Fed acts the better in order to prevent a truly deep negative business cycle, according to the forecast.

Starting in 2023, if Fed action is inadequate the United States may be looking at 3 or more years of very weak growth, with consumers in a relatively poor financial position at the end. If the Fed stamps out inflation in the near-term by aggressively reducing its balance sheet, it will drive up interest rates, cool financial markets sharply, and possibly create a modest recession next year led by consumer cutbacks. However, the nation would come out of it with a strong private sector.

In California, the state is on the brink of a milestone: recovering all the jobs it lost during the pandemic-driven downturn. While many states have already reached full recovery, as of this writing, California still has a 73,000 job deficit. However, if the economy adds the same number of jobs as it did in the latest numbers in the next data release, the state’s job count will be above water.

“California’s labor force contracted during the pandemic and employers have struggled to hire the workers they need, especially in coastal communities,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “These difficulties circle directly back to the long-term affordability crisis facing the state as the labor forces in more expensive coastal areas have declined while they have grown in relatively affordable inland communities.”

View the new The Beacon Outlook including full forecast tables here.

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Economy

It’s The Demand Curve, Stupid…

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It’s The Demand Curve, Stupid…

By Christopher Thornberg

The biggest obstacle to slowing inflation is that the real causes of it—excessive consumer demand and rapidly rising wages—are too politically toxic to acknowledge.

The August CPI report showed prices in the United States continuing to increase, contrary to the predictions of most Blue-Chip forecasts and the Federal Reserve. This has spooked the markets and caused a sharp decline in the various indexes—the S&P 500 dropped over 4%. The decline in the markets doesn’t surprise me—they are the ultimate drama queens of the economy, overreacting to everything. They will likely bounce back soon enough.

What does perplex me is how we collectively continue to be surprised when the official inflation forecasts fall well below reality. This same kabuki dance has been repeated almost monthly for more than a year now, with expert economists assuring us that price growth will soon decelerate and maybe even reverse, followed by a gnashing of teeth and predictions of doom when it turns out the data is not living up to the optimism.

I am certainly not suggesting that inflation is easy to forecast—especially on a month-to-month basis. But the problem I see here is different. The major forecasts and official prognostications aren’t just missing the mark, they have consistently predicted lower inflation rates than have been occurring. In statistical parlance the forecasts have bias. And this bias stems from the fact that the cause of inflation has been misinterpreted as primarily a supply chain issue, when in fact it is an excess demand and labor cost issue.

Consider the various explanations for inflation over the last year. They have typically attributed the problem to parts shortages (e.g., empty car dealer lots and high used-car prices), energy markets (the high cost of gasoline), the war in Ukraine and grain markets (food prices) among other issues. The following quote is from a Wall Street Journal reporter discussing her interviews with various economists prior to the summer CPI estimates:

“[June] will probably prove to be the peak for the annual measure of CPI. That’s because pretty much all of the major drivers of the inflation surge this year and last year are fading or outright reversing. Energy prices are on the downswing, most obviously gasoline prices. Upstream, energy and food commodity prices have come down a lot in recent weeks too, which suggests that there’s more easing to feed through to consumers in store, particularly on the grocery front. Supply-chain pressures seem to be gradually improving.”[1]

If we think about inflation as being strictly driven by limitations in inputs, then any relief in those supply pressures should cause prices to fall. But this is not the case today, as the August number clearly demonstrates. The supply-chain theory of inflation is wrong. And the reason many experts continue to get it wrong is because the true causes of today’s inflation—excess consumer demand and rapidly rising labor costs—are politically toxic and difficult to acknowledge in these terse populist times.

Excess consumer demand has been caused by an overstimulation of the economy on the part of the Feds. As I have written many times, the pandemic hit to the economy was never the crisis it was portrayed to be, and the $6.5 trillion in fiscal stimulus, largely funded by $5 trillion in new money created through the Fed’s quantitative easing program, was vastly more than necessary. It set financial markets to new (unsustainable) highs and ultimately generated a 25% bump in household net worth ($30 trillion in new wealth) in just 2 years. This new “wealth” has driven consumer spending to new highs, and that is what is causing inflation. As Milton Friedman famously quipped: “Inflation is caused by too much money chasing after too few goods.”

Looking at the supply side only mistakes the symptoms for the disease. Gasoline prices shot up because the minor issues with supply were magnified by the major jump in demand. Estimates of short-run demand elasticity for gasoline suggest the market is inelastic, but still, an increase in price will lead to a decrease in consumption if those prices are only being driven by supply constraints. Yet, the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ GDP data shows that in the last 18 months, even as energy prices rose 97%, consumption of energy products increased by 7%. Prices rose so dramatically because of the surge in demand, not the limitations on supply.

And now that energy prices are falling as supply catches up, money not spent on energy is simply flowing to other spending—healthcare, housing, restaurants, travel—and causing more inflation in those categories. And those sectors also have supply shortages—driven by labor shortages rather than supply chain issues. Just as excess demand drove up energy prices, excess demand is also causing a rapid increase in worker earnings, which is another important contributor to business costs and output prices. According to the Atlanta Fed’s wage tracker, U.S. worker earnings are now growing at a 6.7% annual pace—the highest rate ever recorded in the 40 years of data they have created.

And therein lies the political problem. If we acknowledge that inflation is being driven by excessive consumer demand, then we must admit that Americans are overconsuming. That’s an idea that doesn’t fit the miserabilist narrative that underpins political debate today. Both parties consistently tell their supporters how terrible they have it and then immediately blame the other party’s policies. Apparently, in the political world, most U.S. households are living hand to mouth, workers are highly underpaid, and we’re all just one paycheck away from financial disaster. To suggest otherwise would be gauche.

For the record, U.S. consumers are overconsuming. Consumer spending as a share of nation’s GDP is the highest it’s ever been, except during the runup to the Great Recession—not a comfortable comparison. This overconsumption is one of the root causes of the growing U.S. trade deficit, currently at almost 5% of GDP, again the widest it’s ever been except for the 2005 and 2006 period. As for the idea that real earnings growth is negative, you only get this result if you use the CPI estimate of inflation, which overstates the situation for technical reasons we won’t dive into here.[2] The appropriate deflator is the PCE deflator from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and if we use that, real earnings growth is positive, albeit not at a 40-year high pace.

Of course, this story is only explaining the mechanisms within basic monetary theory. If you want to predict how much prices will increase, you only need to look at money supply. The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program expanded the money supply of the United States by 40%. Therefore, holding all else constant, prices need to go up by 40% to equilibrate the size of the economy to the size of the money supply.

While the Fed’s quantitative easing caused inflation, oddly their response to the problem has been primarily to push up the Federal Funds rate, the old tool that Ben Bernanke had largely moved past during his tenure. The big hikes in the Federal Funds rate have done very little to reduce the money supply; it has only stopped growing. If the Fed is serious about slowing inflation, they need to engage in quantitative tightening—which they say they will be starting this month.

By tightening of course, they will, by definition, cool consumer demand and weaken labor markets, as these are the ultimate sources of inflation. Given that policymakers are seemingly unwilling to acknowledge that the problem is excessive spending as well as wage growth, it unfortunately suggests they will be unwilling to do what is necessary to slow inflation.

The only question then is how much longer will we continue to be surprised by it.

[1] https://economics.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/d/A6E3C20BCF922DDB2540EF23F30FEDED/DE3F8A096023AA9114399806BE9B4083?alternativeLink=False

2 For more about the CPI’s inflation estimate see: https://www.clevelandfed.org/newsroom-and-events/publications/economic-trends/2014-economic-trends/et-20140417-pce-and-cpi-inflation-whats-the-difference.aspx

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Opinion

These are tech companies Americans want to work at most 

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Google is where Americans want to work the most in tech, receiving more than 487,000 searches a month Apple and Tesla take second and third, respectively

New research reveals that Google is the tech company Americans most want to work at. 

The new study from document management company SmallPDF analyzed monthly searches for openings at the biggest tech companies in the US to see which brand was getting the most interest in job opportunities. 

It found that Google comes out on top for searches, with ‘Google jobs’ receiving more than 339,000 searches a month on average in the US and the term ‘Google careers’ receiving more than 148,000 searches a month, adding up to a whopping total of 487,000 searches. This is more than 200,000 searches a month higher than second place. 

Apple comes in second place on the list, thanks to 180,000 searches every month for ‘Apple jobs’ and 99,000 searches a month on average for ‘Apple careers’, adding up to 279,000 searches a month. 

Coming in third place is a multinational automotive company, Tesla, with an average of 185,000 monthly searches for opportunities at the company. This is split down into 109,000 searches monthly for ‘Tesla jobs’ and 76,000 searches monthly for ‘Tesla careers.’ 

Facebook takes fourth place in the list, with 94,000 searches for ‘Facebook jobs’ and 49,000 searches a month for ‘Facebook careers’, which adds up to a total of 143,000 searches a month on average for Facebook work opportunities. 

Rounding out the top five is Microsoft, which receives more than 141,000 searches a month for openings at the company. ‘Microsoft jobs’ receives 66,000 searches a month, and ‘Microsoft careers’ receives 75,000 searches a month on average.

 

Company 

“Jobs” searches 

“Careers” searches 

Total 

 

Google 

339,000  

148,000  

487,000  

 

Apple 

180,000  

99,000  

279,000  

 

Tesla 

109,000  

76,000  

185,000  

 

Facebook 

94,000  

49,000  

143,000  

 

Microsoft 

66,000  

75,000  

141,000  

 

Salesforce 

52,000  

41,000  

93,000  

 

Verizon 

45,000  

41,000  

86,000  

 

Spectrum 

43,000  

38,000  

81,000  

 

Netflix 

45,000  

34,000  

79,000  

10  

AT&T 

37,000  

31,000  

68,000  

Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson from SmallPDF said: “While some of the US’s most well-known tech companies do indeed make their way into the top ten, many do not, indicating that the job searches for many people are varied and job seekers in the tech field are keeping their options open. The companies at the top of the list benefit from the prestige that their brand holds, which helps them attract the best talent, which helps them continue to lead the industry.” 

The study was conducted by SmallPDF, which offers easy PDF conversion tools, allowing you to be more productive and work smarter with documents.

 

Source: smallpdf.com

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