JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 322 : 23 January 2014

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

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Pinto Top-3 Automation Technology Picks for 2014

Technology is causing accelerated changes in industrial automation. Here are my top-3 technology picks for 2014.

Mobile Devices: The use of WiFi-connected tablets, smartphones and mobile devices will generate explosive growth this year. Integration of mobile technology boosts productivity by reducing costs and improving operating efficiency with existing resources. Any process that involves collecting data and centralized data entry will switch to mobile data collection. More diagnostics and service functions will become accessible via mobile phones, with cheap 2-way audio and video visibility to aid trouble-shooting and service procedures.

Cloud Computing: One of the hottest technology growth markets today. For industrial automation manufacturing execution systems (MES) and production planning systems (PPS) are shifting to the cloud. Significant cost and efficiency gains can be achieved as products become more intelligent and connected through the cloud. The key transition point is the shift from an isolated world into the completely connected enterprise, which provides major productivity gains.

Internet of Things (IoT): What GE terms the "Industrial Internet" will transform the next decade, with estimates of 50 billion devices being IoT-connected by 2020. IoT is spreading rapidly in industrial plants. The addition of intelligence, via sensors and connected networking technology, takes measurement and control to the next level. Growth will be stimulated by wide-spread grass-roots usage.

Click Manufacturing Automation - Top-5 in 2013

Click Jim Pinto on Automation Futures

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Futurist Predictions - 5-10 years

Driven by the new paradigm that machines learn, reason and engage in more naturalized and personalized ways, several innovations are starting to emerge. These are enabled by cloud computing, big data analytics and learning technologies all coming together to bring valuable insights when most needed.

Omnipresent computers will keep getting smarter and more customized, helping to take on what may have been seen previously as unsolvable problems. The new era in computing will lead to breakthroughs that will amplify human abilities, assist in making good choices, help navigate the world in powerful new ways.

With a 30-year track record of accurate predictions, Ray Kurzweil is considered one of the world's leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists. The Wall Street Journal calls him "the restless genius"; Forbes magazine says he’s "the ultimate thinking machine"; INC magazine considers him "the rightful heir to Thomas Edison."

Here are the 5 ways Ray Kurzweil predicts our lives will change:

  1. By the early 2020s, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging.
  2. By 2030 solar energy will have the capacity to meet all of our energy needs. The production of food and clean water will be revolutionized.
  3. By the early 2020s we will print out a significant fraction of the products we use - including clothing as well as replacement organs.
  4. Within five years, search engines will be based on an understanding of natural language.
  5. By the early 2020s we will be routinely working and playing with each other in full immersion visual-auditory virtual environments. By the 2030s, we will add the tactile sense to full immersion virtual reality.
To those who consider Ray Kurzweil too "far out" and IBM more believable, here are IBM’s five technology predictions regarding what will change in the next 5 years.
  1. Education: The classroom of the future will go from one-size fits all to learning about each student, providing each with a personalized curriculum from kindergarten to high school and on to employment.
  2. Buying local: Savvy retailers will use super-intelligent technologies and augmented reality in the physical store to create experiences that cannot be replicated by the likes of Amazon.
  3. Doctors will use DNA: Computers will help doctors to analyze individual DNA to understand the individual patient’s ailments and find the right treatment within days and even minutes.
  4. Digital guardians: Security systems will acquire a 360-degree view of personal data, devices and applications. Patterns that could be precursors to cyber attacks or stolen identity will be stopped, while maintaining the privacy of personal information.
  5. Sentient Cities: Computers will learn to understand what people need, what they like, what they do and how they move around the city. Learning systems will create real time understanding of how billions of events occur. Mobile devices and social engagement will enable citizens to develop relationships with city leaders to get attention not just at election time, but all the time.
As we approach 2020, what do YOU expect will happen?

Click Ray Kurzweil: This is your future

Click IBM's 5 predictions for the future

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Singularity - when computers become smarter than humans

Three years ago, on January 13, 2011, the IBM computer Watson defeated two champions on Jeopardy, the TV quiz show. Just 6 months later, computer-driven automobiles were judged safer than humans and licensed to drive in Nevada. Google’s autonomous cars have now logged thousands of miles on American highways.

What’s next? Intelligent machines could rapidly design even more advanced machines and there is very little doubt that superhuman intelligence will eventually dominate. Ray Kurzweil predicts that machine intelligence will exceed human capabilities by 2045.

In his 1993 essay, "The Coming Technological Singularity”, San Diego State Math professor Vernor Vinge argues that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which "the human era will be ended", such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it.

Will there be a Singularity? On one hand, it could potentially solve most human problems, even mortality. Unshackled by human limitations, advanced life could eventually do amazing things beyond our abilities. On the other hand, it could destroy life as we know it.

The Singularity could be the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity. Yet, largely, it is shrugged off. A common argument is that it hasn't been scientifically proved that any disaster scenarios will occur.

On the optimistic side, digital technologies will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.

In their new (Jan. 2014) book, "The Second Machine Age", MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, immense bounties will result in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives.

Amid this bounty will also be wrenching change. Professions of all kinds — from lawyers to truck drivers — will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar.

The authors identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.

A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age will alter how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

Click The Second Machine Age
Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Click Kurzweil Book: The Singularity is Near

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HER - the movie

After reading Ray Kurzweil and other futurists, Spike Jonze wrote the script for this movie and also directed and co-produced it. His critical insight was that the movie shouldn’t be about technology, but about people and their fragile and complicated relationships.

On another level, this is very much a movie about technology. After all, one of the two main characters is a consciousness built entirely from code. How does the super-smart artificial being deal with the mere human?

Set in the Los Angeles of the near-ish future, the movie is about Theo Twombly, a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing personal letters for other people. He is heartbroken after the end of a long love relationship and becomes intrigued with his new, advanced operating system which adapts for each user and promises an understanding personal relationship.

On startup, Theo is introduced to "Samantha” a female voice that’s insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As their mutual friendship and desires grow, their relationship develops into love for each other. The artificial entity simulates and stimulates that love in ways that Ray Kurzweil has been predicting will happen.

The movie was chosen the best film of 2013 at the National Board of Review Awards and also shared first place for Best Film with Gravity in the LA Film Critics Association Awards. It received three Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best Actor Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, winning one for Best Screenplay. Now it has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Writing for original screenplay.

Perhaps all the hype (or politics) has biased viewers? Rotten Tomatoes said that over 90% or viewers and critics liked it. But frankly, I was expecting more and was somewhat disappointed.

There was no real story, beyond Theo’s odd relationship with the realistic computer voice that comes via his ear-piece and is always there till he removes it at night. Theo has some somewhat dysfunctional friends and doesn’t expect much from them because of his recent human disappointment. So he falls in love with his Samantha.

The movie drags on and on for 2 hours and I must admit I was not surprised with the surprise ending. Perhaps it was predictable, given that Samantha was a multi-tasking, super-intelligent computer system with nothing to do but serve multiple users like Theo.

If you’re a futurist buff and Kurzweil aficionado, go see the movie. Otherwise, you have many other more entertaining choices.

Click HER - movie trailer

Click Reviews by several critics

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Consumer Electronics Show - January 2014

The January Consumer Electronics Show is not just for consumers - there’s lots of tech for business. It provides an excellent opportunity to examine emerging technologies and get a feel for the most important products that will emerge in the coming year.

The biggest trends:

  • Wearables: Glasses, watches, cameras, fitness trackers.
  • Cloud-based productivity tools for business; storage limits are disappearing.
  • Messaging is jumping ahead of conventional email.
  • Big gaps between small (tiny) and big (huge) screens.
  • The world is digital and mobile; desktops are history.
  • Phablets" - tablets with telephones.
  • Biometrics - Activity tracking, voice and facial recognition, fingerprint identification.
  • Devices embedded into clothing and on wristbands or ear buds allow tracking of even mundane activities.
The coolest tech:
  • 3D webcams
  • Foldaway screens
  • Huge 150” plasma TV
  • 3D TV - no glasses needed
  • Tablet-controlled drones
  • Transparent (see through) LCD screens
  • Personalized sleep optimization
To build the Internet of Things (IoT) computers are becoming smaller than smartphones or tablets. Small computers were everywhere at CES. AMD demonstrated a desktop-class device the size of a smartphone. Dell's concept PC looked just like a USB thumb drive, using a modified USB port to connect to the outside world, driving a screen and keyboard.

Intel's SD card-sized Edison is a tiny board built around a two core Quark system-on-a-chip, with memory, radio and a full set of SDIO ports. Quark is Intel's processor for the IoT, a 32-bit device devoid of SSE and other extensions, while still supporting as many interfaces as possible. It’s very low power (less than a watt) which makes it ideal for sensor-driven devices and real-time operating-systems for control.

Edison’s card form factor makes a lot of sense: small, familiar, and well-documented interfaces. It has a SIM card pinout, making it easy to connect to wireless devices that will likely be the heart of any future sensor or control network.

Click 10 Coolest Pieces Of Tech To Ever Debut at the CES

Click CES 2014: Four mega-trends for the professionals

Click Will these tiny computers herald the arrival of the Internet of Things?

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Theo Tsourdalakis [Theo.Tsourdalakis@Emerson.com] was intrigued by the recent discussion about Biotech research pioneer Craig Venter:
    "The ongoing problem of trying to explain how the information to build the DNA molecule evolved is a continuing source of debate between evolutionists and intelligent-design proponents.

    "Although Evolution is taught as a scientific fact in schools the definition is usually unclear where they lump Macro and Micro evolution together. Micro evolution (small changes) is observable and is real science; Macro evolution (a cow changing into a whale) is a huge extrapolation which is BELIEVED rather than observed.

    "Consider just a small number of fundamental scientific problems with Darwinian/Macro evolution:

    • Where did the information come from to build the DNA molecule? - it contains over 4 Gigabits of programming data; we have never observed natural forces creating programming data - a building is proof of a builder, a program is proof of a programmer, a design is proof of a designer.
    • How did genders evolve from asexual organisms?
    • How do you explain symbiotic relationships while holding to gradual ‘evolution’? E.g: The bees need the flowers, the flowers need the bees - they both MUST exist together. How could this occur - slowly or gradually? What came first the chicken or the egg?
    • Where are all the myriad of transition fossils that Darwin predicted? - they were missing then and they are missing now. How can the Cambrian explosion of millions of fully formed organisms appearing abruptly be explained by Evolution?"

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Jack Ring [jring7@gmail.com] commented on my recent column on Process Safety Futures:

    "I suggest that your Process Safety article misses the elephant in the room - software faults. As control systems become more encompassing and complex, the likelihood of faulty computer programs increases and the likelihood of interoperability problems among several programs increases.

    "Moreover, each fault is a cyber-vulnerability site. Even highly automated test suites do not find all the bugs in the code (highly tested codes still insults users at a rate of about one latent bug per thousand function points). Moreover, testing can find only the bugs, not all the faults.

    "A fusion of two new technologies now enables those responsible for software maintenance, integration and development to achieve fault-free software and sustain fault-free software regardless of the pace of change. Further, this can be extended to fault-free data bases, system designs and business processes."

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Rick Lamb [relamb@midtechv.com] has been considering my recent thoughts on Human Constructs. He wrote:

    "I think it's even more basic, just one core construct/belief system. Everybody wants things to be better. But a total dichotomy is what and how.

    "We need to do more to take care of our fellow man, give him a level playing field, and help him out, because he can't possibly combat the negative tyrannical forces of society by himself. He should be entitled to a good life, just like I am. 'A rising tide raises all boats’ versus 'God helps those who help themselves", or Darwin's Survival of the fittest.

    "You need to focus on taking care of yourself and your friends, because nobody else is going to do it for you. You're not entitled to anything, unless you earn it. However, if I have any extra, I'd be glad to decide if I want to share it with you. 'A friend in need is a friend indeed.'

    "You can apply a religious construct or not, to any of those fundamental beliefs."

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