JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 304 : 23 May 2012


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

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Automation Acquisitions are Brewing

Automation acquisitions are in the air. Consider this - the majors are all flush with cash; the low-hanging fruit are ripe and ready to be plucked.

After the GE debacle a decade ago, Honeywell Process Solutions is again in play. Just a month ago, a good source reported that Siemens was again interested. The Division head has never reported directly to the CEO and the heads keep switching every couple of years. The most recent chief, Norm Gilsdorf succeeded Jack Bolick in January 2009, and has now been shunted off to a new position as president of Russia, Central Asia & the Middle East. He was replaced by someone from Metrologic Instruments which was acquired recently. Want to read between the lines?

Invensys has been in a holding pattern since CFO Wayne Edmunds took over after CEO Ulf Hendrickkson was fired. Edmunds let the two primary Divisions (Rail and Process Automation) float, and ignored the third (Building Controls). He immediately got busy trying to offload the company's albatross pension fund; the cost has jumped to estimates of 1.7B, though analysts don?t see the this as too much of a poison pill. On May 13, UK Sunday Times reported that 4 companies - Siemens, ABB, Emerson and General Electric - have approached Invensys through bankers, either to acquire outright, or breakup. Afterwards Wayne Edmunds dismissed the speculations - clearly he'd been approached but couldn't talk about it.

The other company that is ripe for takeover is Rockwell Automation, still reporting to the clique under CEO Keith Nosbusch. While Rockwell is doing fairly well, my hunch is based on the observation that the company really has nowhere to go - too big to be small, and too small to really compete against the likes of Siemens and ABB.

So, who will buy? Siemens is the largest automation company in the world, with a big war-chest ready for acquisitions. They are the leading possibility and will likely pull the others into joining the bidding.

ABB has earmarked $9-18 billion for acquisitions over the next 5 years. CEO Joe Hogan says they are still looking to fill blank spots in automation. While he didn't name any targets, he flatly ruled out rumors about bidding for Rockwell. One wonders why he was specific.

France-based Schneider Electric keeps making investments in building management, software and smart grid technology - their APC and Square-D dominate power electronics in that arena, and they?ve been buying worldwide. Is Schneider interested in joining the bidding for Honeywell, Invensys or Rockwell?

Meanwhile, General Electric keeps making acquisitions around the periphery of industrial automation. I've been predicting for a long time that they'll re-enter industrial automation (after the Jack-Welch/Honeywell debacle over a decade ago); it remains to be seen whether marketing orientated CEO Jeff Immelt will allow this to happen.

Emerson is divesting $2 billion to $3 billion of under-performing assets. CEO David Farr says they expect to spend $5 - 6 B on acquisitions in the next 3-5 years, especially in industrial automation and process management. Their Delta V is doing well; they?ll acquire primarily to expand their customer base and divest unwanted pieces.

Stay tuned for some lively action before the end of this year. If you get some news, do tell.

Click ABB CEO: Automation, Controls Are Next Targets for Acquisition

Click Four industrial cos interested in Invensys

Click Invensys lifted by talk of break-up offer

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Education Revolution

Futurist pointer: Any product or service that delivers less and costs more, is seriously in decline.

Example: Education. College costs are increasing at about twice the inflation rate and graduates are piling up huge debts. Technology is revolutionizing Education - no one needs to attend college anymore.

Last year, Stanford University computer science professor Sebastian Thrun decided to allow anyone, anywhere to attend classes online for free. Within hours they had 5,000 sign-ups; within 2 days, 10,000; soon, there were more than 160,000, from 190 different countries - high school students, people with disabilities, teachers and retirees. They were all taking the same classes as Stanford students.

Stanford awards degrees for online work, but only to students who get through the admissions process and pay some $40,000 for a master's degree. When the university learned that their professors wanted to teach online classes, grade and issue certificates for free, there was an uproar. They finally settled for the professors themselves giving free "letters of accomplishment" with no mention of the Stanford name.

Now, independent of Stanford, Sebastian Thrun has lined up venture capital to create Udacity (see website), committed to free online education for everybody. They offer full curriculums in in computer science.

In 2006, a Harvard & MIT graduate Salman Khan started Khan Academy, with the stated mission of "providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere for free." Khan's website supplies a free online collection of micro lectures via video tutorials on YouTube: mathematics, healthcare and medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics, cosmology, organic chemistry, American civics, art history, microeconomics and computer science.

There are some 3,200 videos, usually 7-14 minutes long, with voice-over by Khan (he never appears in the videos himself). More than 2 million watch every month and Khan Academy now has more than 320,000 subscribers, with over 140 million total views. His website offers software that generates practice problems and rewards good performance with badges.

Khan Academy now has significant backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google; several people have made $10,000 contributions.

Over the past decade, MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) has put all of the educational materials from its undergraduate and graduate-level courses online, partly free. Now MIT and Harvard have announced a partnership to provide online education. Starting later this year, their edX venture will provide online interactive courses for free.

Anant Agarwal, director of MIT?s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and president of edX says this is "disruptive, and will completely change the world." He considers it "the biggest change in education since the invention of the printing press."

Around the world, millions of people have access only to the poorest quality of education or sometimes nothing at all. Technology changes that by making it possible to teach 100,000 students as easily and as cheaply as a class with just 100. Online videos let students anywhere in the world do courses with their own schedules. Embedded quizzes let them monitor their own progress and provides vastly better feedback for teacher improvement.

Technology is finally remaking education, and it's reached an inflection point. Watch for enormous, rapid changes in this decade.

Click Udacity website

Click edX, a joint venture from Harvard and MIT

Click How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education

Click Khan Academy - Watch, Practice. Learn almost anything for free

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Paradigm Shifts

In his landmark 1962 book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" Thomas Kuhn defined and popularized the concept of "paradigm shift". He explains that advancement is not evolutionary, but rather a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions, when one conceptual world view is replaced by another". A transformation, a metamorphosis is driven by the agents of change.

Alvin Toffler (1970, Future Shock) warned about the pace of change and the ways in which society must learn to cope. In this second decade of the new millennium and century, the signs of paradigms shifting are everywhere. We are moving from a mechanistic, manufacturing, industrial society to an organic, service based, information centered society. Technology continues to impact globally and Change is pervasive.

Some consider that Charles Eisenstein is "one of the greatest minds of our time". His book "Sacred Economics" discusses how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, has destroyed community and demands endless growth. We are living with that mindset. It feels "normal" because it's all we've ever known. Lead by recent Western growth and success, we've become trapped in paradigms (Eisenstein calls them stories) which are damaging to the future.

Greece and much of Europe refuses to accept "austerity" - they demand "growth" to correct unsustainable debt. In America, when housing starts rise, it's hailed as great news; few seem to recognize that we already have excess housing capacity and 20 million vacant homes. Everyone tries to believe that there's a little bit more growth. It's addiction to the wrong paradigm.

The same applies to oil. We have depleted all the easy resources. To keep growth going we demand more at almost any cost. So, we think Push fracking and tar sands and the like, and ignore the fact that these will devastate the eco-system.

Shifting our paradigms brings opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological and sustainable way of life. Eisenstein's book presents a vision based on commonsense, radical yet gentle. As the crises deepen around the globe, this thinking is increasingly relevant.

Editor Gary Mintchell, says I like the word "paradigm" - I use it a lot. Several of my articles in Automation World have that word in the title, relating to shifts in management styles, employment, the workplace, automation innovation, manufacturing, pricing, growth, global business.

Here's my favorite paradigm example: The word "boss" is still widely used, even though it's an archaic relic of obsolete management paradigms, dating back to boss/slave relationships. Read my recent "Paradigm" articles in Automation World. Hey, maybe I should publish a "Shifting Paradigms" eBook? What say you?

Click New Management Paradigms (AW April 2012)

Click New Employment Paradigms (AW March 2012)

Click New Manufacturing Paradigms (AW March 2010)

Click Automation Innovation Paradigms (AW Feb. 2012)

Click Charles Eisenstein: It's Time for A Better Narrative

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Capitalism Paradigm Shift

The crumbling economies of Europe demonstrate that current trends cannot be sustained. What lies ahead can be understood from reviews of current thinking, analysis of the obsolete paradigms relating to how wealth is generated. This will affect America and the rest of the world to the extent that new forms of Capitalism will emerge.

Capitalism is supposed to generate Wealth for everyone through "enlightened self interest". However, the current model is hardly enlightened; ego, greed and selfishness are winning in the name of free enterprise. Anything is acceptable because it's legal: transferring money offshore to get tax-breaks; shifting jobs overseas to save costs; buying huge advertising campaigns to sell grossly wrong ideas; hiring lobbyists to buy votes in Congress. Need I continue?

The "Occupy" protests actually reflect the unfairness of current forms of Capitalism, but are being ignored and ridiculed by the establishment as ignorant under-class disgruntlement. While most segments of the economy are shrinking, take a look at ForbesLife magazine which caters to the wealthy - it's getting fatter and more decadent than ever. In the present paradigm, clearly the rich are getting richer while the middle-class continues to decline.

Today's stock markets are poorly disguised forms of gambling for the rich. They actually produce nothing, but simply shifts winnings to those who know where to place bets. What are hedge-funds and credit-default-swaps, other than astute gambling? Why were the big losers "too big to fail"? Is that "Capitalism"?

Let's get back to fundamentals. Wealth is generated through just 3 types of resources:

  1. Labor: Productive human activity to generate economic gain.
  2. Natural Resources: Oil, minerals and the like, which are location sensitive, clearly not generated through capital investment. Through accidents of geographical location, unskilled, uneducated people are wealthy. Capitalism does not make them rich - they only become richer through capitalism.
  3. Knowledge: This is developed through diligence and declines through negligence. This type of resource started spreading centuries ago through the invention of the printing press, and is now spreading worldwide via the Internet, only very much faster.
The ability to adapt assures Capitalism's survival. In his book, "Capitalism 4.0", Anatole Kaletsky (a Times editor who previously worked for The Economist) suggests that the current financial crises will bring the transformation of modern capitalism, and a new, improved version will evolve. The beginning of the classical era of laissez-faire was Capitalism 1.0; the Depression brought the government-heavy era of Capitalism 2.0; the stagflationary 1970s generated free-market Capitalism 3.0. The latest transformation will alter the relationship between markets and governments and between politics and economics as Capitalism 4.0 develops.

The fast-developing budgetary problems, the accelerating pace of technological change, the mobility of multinational capital are combining to reduce the unfairness of the current blend of Capitalism. The New Capitalism will create a more balanced and effective world. This paradigm shift will happen in this decade.

Click Capitalism 4.0: The Birth of a New Economy in the Aftermath of Crisis

Click The Future of Capitalism - Jim Pinto (eNews April 2009)

Click Jim Pinto poem - The Occupy Ballad

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Book - Consumer Shift

Andy Hines, is Lecturer and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Houston?s Graduate Program in Futures Studies. Andy has worked as a futurist with Kellogg and Dow Chemical, and has spent 20 years as an organizational, consulting and academic futurist. I know him as a colleague at the Association of Professional Futurists (APF).

Andy Hines believes that foresight can help deliver the insights that are sorely needed in today's fast-changing environments. He is "motivated by a professional hunger to make foresight practical and useful".

A large segment of today's US population is shifting into post-modern values. They are tired of being treated poorly by retailers who value Them only as "consumers". Steadily increasing numbers are adopting "less is more" attitudes about where they choose to spend their money.

Andy 's new book, "Consumer Shift" explores changes in the consumer landscape over the next decade. His premise is that businesses that are interacting with consumers are increasingly frustrated about no longer understanding where their consumers are coming from, or where they are going. The old approaches are simply not working.

This book provides a framework for making sense of how consumers are changing: changes being driven by predictable long-term shifts in consumer values, and shifts that fit into emerging landscapes (e.g., society, technology, economy, etc.).

Andy expects that people will continue to consume goods and services, but will demand new relationships with those who provide them. He provides a practical "customization kit" for people in business, government, non-profits, or educational organizations to analyze the changes themselves.

Andy Hines achieves his stated purposes: to explain how changing values are reshaping the consumer landscape, and showing marketers how best to respond to accelerating consumer paradigm shifts.

"Consumer Shift" is well-written and packed with lots of ideas. It's well worth reading.

Click ConsumerShift: How Changing Values Are Reshaping the Consumer Landscape

Click Andy Hines' website

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eFeedback

Rodney Neal [rodney.neal@cybewerks.biz] comments on the discontinued automation company Weblogs:
    "Jim, I understand your reasons for shutting down the anonymous blogs, but nonetheless, I miss them. I made sure that I checked up on several of my favorite vendors almost every day. I?ll have to admit that for a while, automation engineering was fun ? like we had this edgy reality show thing going on; our own version of Jersey Shore, Trump, and the Kardashians all rolled into one.

    "Oh, well. Back to the mundane world. Thanks for your contributions!"

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Rick Lamb [relamb@midtechv.com] writes regarding outdated proliferation of post-office Mailboxes:

    "When will we see the demise of the physical USPS mailbox? As I was driving down a rural road with a long line of mailboxes out by the street, the thought hit me that someday soon they would (should) go the way of the phone booth. Very little of value actually comes in my physical mail anymore.

    "All mail will be delivered electronically, and anything requiring physical delivery can be delivered to the doorstep by Fedex, UPS, or USPS special delivery.

    "There?s no need to continue to expend resources on an antiquated system of driving around to collect and deliver mail. The mailbox should become extinct, and we should expend those resources on information network infrastructure, especially to under-served rural areas."

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Bob Peterson [mrpetersonra@gmail.com] commented on the Youtube phenomenon:

    "There is an amazing wealth of content on Youtube. I watch something there just about every day.

    "I fully expect that at some point video editing skills will be part of the educational mix, just as using the mouse, keyboard, spreadsheet and word processors are now.

    "One minor kicker is that there is not a very good way to index video by content yet. You have to rely on the poster to supply the correct tag words."

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