JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 265 : 12 May 2009

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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Wireless Standards Wars - 2 years later

In September 2007, when HART-7 and WirelessHART standards were released, Honeywell and others insisted that the ISA-100 standard was worth waiting for, and would be released in "months". Now finally, almost 2 years later, the ISA Standards Committee has voted to approve the proposed ISA100.11a and the leaders claim they have passed a major milestone.

This latest announcement followed earlier rounds of infighting, split votes and eyewash refinements. The draft now has approval by 81% of the voting members of the committee and 23 of the 24 end user members. One wonders who that 24th end-user is...

In Sept. 2007, ISA and the HART Communications Foundation (HCF) agreed to collaborate on investigating ways to incorporate IEEE 802.15.4 based WirelessHART into ISA 100.11a. But, the latest ISA-100 announcement, perhaps intentionally, makes no mention of WirelessHART. Meanwhile, at the Interkama show in Hanover, Germany, five vendors launched Wireless HART compliant SmartMesh IA-510 wireless sensor networking products.

The ISA 100.11a draft specification has finally got committee agreement. But that is not the end of the process. The proposal will be reviewed by ISA-100 co-chairs, and after that has to be approved by the ISA Standards and Practices Board and ratified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) before final publication by ISA as a standard.

They claim that the final release will be in August 2009. But, I wouldn't bet on it. This is just committee jargon for another round of lobbying and protests. You wanna bet that something will come up to delay the launch? In any case, the standard will still need to accommodate WirelessHART which already has a large following.

The workings of a committee are always amusing, and the ISA-100 committee machinations would deserve a poem - if I had not already written one. (Weblink below) But, perhaps the significance was lost in the committee mentality.....

Click ISA100.11a standard closes in on approval

Click Competing wireless standards stir - rather than clarify - issues

Click The Industrial Wireless Wars

Click Pinto Poem: The Industrial Wireless Quadrille

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Prospecting the Future - Future Series Continued

In 1970, Alvin Toffler predicted Future Shock. Thirty years later, a new millennium brought 9/11, a stock market crash that has never quite recovered, and a major recession/depression by the end of the first decade.

In the midst of this turmoil, the Future moves forward ever faster. My avocation as a "futurist" leads me to study trends and examine likely or possible outcomes.

My items on "The Future of Capitalism" and "The Future of Energy" (eNews 24 April 2009) brought several excellent and thought-provoking eFeedbacks, which prompts me to continue the "Future" series in this issue of eNews.

As we move into the second decade of the new millennium, several dinosaurs are starting to topple. Giant newspapers are going out of business in record numbers. In his annual letter to shareholders, wise old Warren Buffett - the largest Washington Post shareholder - wrote that "fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry" and warned that "the skid will continue."

When the cost of something continues to escalate, while the benefits are reduced (through competition, available alternatives and changed habits) it inevitably disappears. This is exactly what is happening in 3 major arenas of modern life: Education, Health and Television.

Read on. I'll appreciate your feedback and commentary.

Click The Future of Capitalism

Click The Future of Energy

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The Future of Education

In the past, information was available only in text format. Until the arrival of the printing press, manuscripts were hand scribed, and limited to very few copies for the elite.

When widespread education arrived, people read, memorized, listened to lectures, and took tests to "pass". Even today, formal Education has not really shifted from that basic model.

Traditionally content was organized into disciplines - "arts and sciences" - and further divided into smaller content silos, each to be learned in a prescribed curriculum of courses and topics. Today's colleges are tethered, isolated, generic, and closed, with central control, standardization, and top-down administration of courses, tests, and degrees. This applies broadly to schools, community colleges as well as universities.

Lecturing has been used to educate for hundreds of years - expecting students to go to a lecture hall at a prescribed time and sit still while a professor talks for an hour.

But that formal education doesn't reflect the life that students are living today - huge amounts of information are available at high speed, on demand, files are shared, and the world is mobile and connected.

Our society no longer learns only through books and classrooms. We are now visual and spatial learners. Information comes in a variety of dimensions, text-based, graphical, musical, audio and visual. There are:

  • 3.5 million song on iTunes
  • 4 million books on Amazon
  • 60 million blogs online
  • 4 million entries on Wikipedia
  • 100 million user accounts on MySpace
  • 6 million videos on YouTube
Students listen to lectures on iPods and iPhones, and those lectures are also available online to everyone anywhere for free. Course materials are shared between universities, science labs are virtual, and digital textbooks are free. Anyone, anywhere in the world can study using material from over 1800 open courses at MIT. And this is only the beginning of the education revolution.

New immersive learning environments, built on state-of-the-art data modeling and intelligent game systems, are the future of education. The application of "serious" video games carries significant implications for education. You can get more data in a video game than you can in just about any other learning environment.

Digital learning tools promote multidisciplinary thinking and an appreciation for multiple perspectives while solving authentic, real-world problems. Sophisticated online search engines lead learners to specific details, discarded after their use and resurrected when necessary.

Traditional universities will be 'irrelevant' by 2020.

Click Thomas Frey - The Future of Education

Click Universities will be 'irrelevant' by 2020

Click 2020 Visions for the Future of Education

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The Future of Health Care

As a society, we're living longer and better than at any time in history. Death rates are down, long-term disability is down, life expectancy is higher than ever, and we're making progress against the most serious diseases we face.

As costs increase, present healthcare models cannot be sustained. Technology will cause private health insurance to disappear; social pressure to provide equal access to care will remain. Inevitably, public health care systems will provide universal coverage.

Some economists believe that market-determined prices allocate scarce resources efficiently, which improves everything for everyone. But there are times when private markets break down, and the government has to step in. Health care falls into this category.

The US spends nearly 15% of our GDP on medical care, roughly 50% more than countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands. As measured by life expectancy and infant mortality, Americans' health outcomes are worse than those in much of the industrialized world. Something has to change.

Technology will force private health insurance to disappear at the same time that the social pressure increases to provide equal access to healthcare. Governments will replace markets, insuring that the poor and uninsurable receive medical treatment at the same time that the healthy are forced to participate in a comprehensive system. Everyone will receive adequate health care, though access to the most expensive treatments will be restricted only to those who can afford them.

A new system most health care providers are changing to are revenue cycles to help with their billing process. Most new medical providers use systems like Dell revenue cycle management to help health care providers save time and money on billing. This is a new technology/system that is aiming to be placed in all medical offices to change the way billing and management occurs with your medical provider.

A major problem will be the prevention, treatment, and management of diseases suffered by the aging "baby boomer" generation. In the year 2000, there were roughly 35.6 million Americans age 65 and older. By 2030, this number is projected to double to 71.5 million. Diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's represent a growing threat to keeping health care affordable. We must do better in our lifestyles and in our health care system to avoid the enormous economic burden of our aging population.

The new administration is planning to allocate more than $10 billion to implement a nationwide, interoperable electronic medical records (EMR) system. Many different technologies - electronic records, algorithms, remote monitoring devices - promise to streamline the health care system, saving money and improving services.

EMRs have the ability to radically change the way patients interact with health care professionals. Predictive modeling algorithms can draw on billions of health indicators and outcomes from clinical and claims data, while also considering an individual's health. A computer can weigh the data against a patient's particular needs and determine which treatment option is most likely to work. With a computer connection, the physician can get a treatment plan based on best practices and the patient's unique needs.

Two companies already create remote monitoring devices designed to cut down on trips to the doctor's office and hospital. Medtronic's cardiac devices, for example, can send data about a patient's vital signs via the Internet to the EMR system, which is then accessed by a physician, thus saving a trip to the doctor's office.

Intel's HealthGuide, a small box-shaped device for at-home use, is equipped with a video camera for two-way calls with a doctor. It also can be connected to devices like blood-pressure monitors and glucose meters, with results automatically sent to physicians.

Diagnostic tools like these can make a substantial difference in providing high-quality health care for everyone.

Click The Future Of Health Care

Click Obama, Healthcare Industry Promise $2 Trillion Savings

Click Health Care's Wireless Future: Vital Signs in Remote Real-time

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The Future of Television

The writing is on the wall for Television; TV is getting unwatchable. CNN sticks in an ad every 3 minutes, and it's getting worse. Old media is imploding at a rapid pace, as the cost of producing quality content escalates.

At the same time, advertising dollars are scarce, especially during this recession which emphasizes the decline. Ad rates are dropping and ad-frequency is going up. Consumers are squinting their eyes (and their brains) trying to squeeze out snippets of real content. The idiot box is getting more idiotic by the day! It is simply not sustainable.

Over the past decade traditional television content has rapidly migrated to computers. As consumers demand easier access to media, major content providers are scrambling to be ahead of the curve.

Local stations have been hit particularly hard by the media shift. The recent downturn has disproportionately damaged local stations which rely heavily on these big buyers for advertising revenue.

The business model of TV advertising is struggling to transfer onto the Internet, as consumers seek out ease of use and quick results. But there seems to be no real solution.

Telecoms like AT&T have spent billions on deploying U-Verse, their IPTV (fiber-based Internet) services. Satellite companies like DirectTV and Dish Network are beaming down video services into the home but are limited by bandwidth and cannot do IPTV or broadband services.

Then there are standard cable operators like Comcast and TimeWarner who are trying to preserve their subscription world against all the new players by offering the 'triple play' of video, voice and high-speed Internet. All these 'operators' are competing for video subscriptions, against the free-and-open Internet TV companies that are multiplying daily.

TV shows were some of the first forms of video content to appear online; viewers are quick to seek out missed episodes on their computers or video iPods. Websites like TV.com have partnered with major entertainment groups to bring traditional TV media online, available to loyal viewers with minimal commercial interruption.

There are now Hulu, Joost and a total of 238 different Internet TV providers, who do nothing with the TV itself, but merely provide video access via a PC. They already have millions of Internet video views daily. The media is trying hard to bring these viewers back into the living room, to utilize the rich content through their TVs.

This seemingly dangerous forecast for television has a possible upside. Consumers are spending more time - over eight hours a day - in front of screens. The next step is to make Internet streaming and on-demand services profitable enough to retain advertising revenue while fulfilling consumers' desire to avoid monthly fees.

The ideal world of TV would be unlimited video-on-demand, perfectly personalized to the consumer's taste, with advertisers able to push ads precisely aligned with those tastes. The delivery infrastructure must take into account the service-provider's interests. And the box must be "free" - not be charged to the consumer.

Hey, get a bigger monitor for your computer. And a comfortable couch...

Click Is the future of TV on the Web?

Click The Perilous Future of Television

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Jim Pinto Speaking Engagements

I thought you'd like to see my latest Youtube video, showing clips from some of my recent speaking engagements.

I'm available for selected public speaking engagements. I enjoy talking with large or small groups, and have addressed audiences ranging from 50 to 1,000 people at business seminars, marketing & sales meetings, international conferences and exhibitions.

The following topics are popular favorites :

  • The global future of industrial automation
  • US & international sales channel development
  • Global R&D and manufacturing shifts - Offshoring
  • Futures - new century predictions
A typical Pinto speech lasts for an hour or 90 minutes - or two 45-minute segments, with a short-break. I'll provide a summary and a Powerpoint presentation in advance, for inclusion in conference materials.

My speaking engagement fees vary, depending on the type and size of audience, topic, location (travel time), etc.

Click Jim Pinto - Recent Speaking Engagements

Click Youtube video - Jim Pinto speaking engagements

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Tom von Alten [tva@fortboise.org] comments on our recent discussion on the future of energy:
    "Energy 'too cheap to meter' is always just around the corner. A recent 60 Minutes had a piece about more palladium electrochemistry and people chasing 'excess heat'. Talk about bubbles!

    "Human ingenuity has not yet figured out how to achieve the dreams of the energy without enormous impacts on the environment, which boosters are quick to dismiss as insignificant, or the price of progress. Sorry West Virginia, we need those mountains of coal.

    "I enjoy the fruits of technological progress, but I prefer to have the costs and benefits assessed objectively, with an engineering mindset, as opposed to the real estate developer's (or mortgage broker's) mindset. Systems that allow promoters to skim temporary profits and pass costs and environmental degradation onto others are inherently unstable.

    "NO part of human progress is 'inevitable'."

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Mike Willey [mwilley@gfgroup.net] discusses the automation business decline and Strategies for the Downturn:

    "It is clear from talking to our network that there will be some major industry restructuring. You talked about the Automation Suppliers, but we see the same thing at the End Users. Companies that are looking at this as an opportunity and have resources to invest now and not just hunker down and cut costs, will become more competitive. As you suggest, to a great degree this is about mindset and not money....

    "Your comments about layoffs are also timely. Can you imagine being a middle or upper level manager at some large company and going into work every day, wondering if you were going to be sacked?

    "Even though most business will feel some effect of the slowdown we are pursuing new opportunities. Our company, The Global Foresight Group, is doing some new projects in alternative energy (Wind and Solar) for smaller suppliers into the Automation market who are doing well in these emerging areas and looking to improve their position coming out of the downturn.

    "It is still going to be a tough year but rather than the 'hunker-down' mode, we are more in the 'opportunity' mode. As you said, 'It's a mindset!'"

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Gary Costello [garycost@rcn.com] discusses the bad side of immigrant motivation, and forecasts radical societal changes:

    "Your article on "Capitalism & the American Dream" was refreshingly honest and very accurate. But consider that in conjunction with some immigrants who (unlike the real contributors described in your article) come here for a free ride and join the welfare roles virtually upon arrival. And stay there.

    "I've witnessed the general disintegration of both the business and social environment and, although appalled, am realistic and know I can't change it.

    "Radical changes to the way this nation conducts its education and business affairs are crucial to getting us out of the mess we're in. The 'old ways' aren't just broken, they've decomposed. Thus, pumping vast sums of money into those 'corpses' can only result in multiple business versions of Frankenstein's monster, all of them replete with top hats and canes dancing across the stages of the USA in some bizarre ballet. If it weren't so awful and depressing, and real, it would be funny."

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