JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 313 : 25 April 2013

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

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Reclaiming our Republic

In the last two issues of eNews we discussed lobbying and blatant bribery in the US government. This corruption at the heart of American politics, is caused by direct funding from a very small percentage of wealthy Americans.

That's the message at the core of a talk by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig. In a recent TED talk speech which quickly gained well over 500,000 views, he relates how bribery corrupts in the most fundamental way. His rallying bipartisan message resonates everywhere.

Today, trust in government has reached an all-time low. Special interests funnel huge amounts of money into government, driven by campaign-finance rules that were legalized by the US Supreme Court. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress.

Lawrence Lessig describes how America arrived at this crisis: good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be corrupted and exploited. Lessig examines the root causes of this problem. He discusses campaign financing and corporate lobbying, showing how the core of the system has become corrupted. He calls for Americans to mobilize and bring about a new constitutional convention to return our republic to its originally planned greatness.

Lessig champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. He presents practical and intellectual tools for the people to do something about it.

In 2007, just after his last TED Talk, activist Lessig announced that he was leaving his regular work to focus on solutions that combat the corrupting influence of money in American politics. In 2011, he founded Rootstrikers, an organization dedicated to changing the influence of money in Congress. His latest book, "Republic Lost", shows just how America has spun off course, and how citizens can regain control.

Lessig's TED talk is the rallying cry for the country to reclaim the American Republic from the corruption of lobbying and election funding. It is a stunning talk, with massive bipartisan appeal. Watch the TED talk, and share the link with others.

Click Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

Click Watch "The Republic we must reclaim" on Youtube

Click Amazon: Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress - a Plan to Stop It

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Fusion Power on the horizon

Fusion is one of the most spectacular wonders of Nature and scientists understood the physics behind this wonder some seventy years ago. In the Sun, fusion reactions take place in a context of enormous gravitational pressures at very high temperature ?conditions (15 million °C).

With the understanding of the process of celestial fusion, came the ambition to reproduce it on Earth. The first fusion experiments in the 1930s were followed by the establishment of fusion physics laboratories in nearly every industrialized nation.

In fusion reactions, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus. In doing so they release comparatively large amounts of energy arising from the binding energy of the strong nuclear force, causing an increase in temperature.

Fusion can deliver safe and environmentally benign energy using abundant and widely available fuel, without the production of greenhouse gases or long-term nuclear waste. It is one of very few options for the large-scale, non-carbon future supply of energy.

The leading designs for controlled fusion use magnetic or inertial confinement of a plasma, with heat from the fusion reactions used to operate steam turbines which drive electrical generators, similar to the process used in fossil fuel and nuclear fission power stations.

As of July 2010, the largest experiment has been the Joint European Torus (JET). In 1997, JET produced a peak of 16.1 megawatts of fusion power (65% of input power), with fusion power of over 10 MW sustained for over 0.5 sec. Its successor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), was officially announced as part of a seven-party consortium (six countries and the EU).

In spite of the fact that several key people responsible for development of the project were from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the US backed out of the project, apparently for political reasons. ITER is currently under construction in Cadarache, France. Of course, the key MIT people all moved to France.

Nuclear power is the primary source of electric power in France. In 2004, almost 80% of the country's total production of of electricity was from nuclear power, the highest percentage in the world. France's nuclear power industry is a success story that has put the nation ahead of the world in terms of providing cheap, CO2-free energy. They jumped at the opportunity to take the lead in Fusion Power.

In the US, progress in Fusion developments has stalled because of budget cuts and annual funding fluctuations. Commercializing fusion power remains many decades away.

Energy from fusion has huge potential. Fusion produces no greenhouse gases, and, unlike nuclear fission, it does not produce long-lived radioactive waste. Further, there is no chance of a runaway reaction that could lead to a Fukushima-type meltdown event. Fusion energy is also virtually unlimited. It will revolutionize the energy system when commercialized.

We need a national commitment to develop fusion power.  This would mean committing $30 billion over the next ten years –to achieve demonstration levels of fusion power. This will set the stage for full-scale commercial power that can drive American prosperity for centuries to come.

Will Fusion Power indeed solve all the world's energy problems forever? Or, will it lead to a huge disaster, as many fear. Politics seems to be driving developments in this critical arena.

Click Fusion power

Click International Collaboration to Demonstrate Nuclear Fusion

Click A Challenge to America: Develop Fusion Power Within a Decade

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Google Glass is Coming

For several years now in my technology futurist talks, I've discussed a small screen built into eye glasses, in a corner on one side so as to not affect normal vision. This would be the next step from a handheld smart-phone. One could check information on the Internet, make hands-free telephone calls, record and playback what one is seeing, and more.

Google has officially released specifications and application programming interfaces for its Glass Explorer editions, a beta program designed to generate developer interest, apps, buzz and improvements for a broader rollout. Could this be Google's iPad?

Google Glass captures 5-megapixel images and video at a 720p resolution, and includes 16GB of Flash storage synced with Google cloud storage, of which 12GB is usable. The headset has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Whenever a new consumer technology emerges, the early adopters are usually considered gadget-freaks. But, when they become more affordable they start to be accepted by the mainstream and become commonplace.

This was the case, starting with radio pagers, then cellular phones, then Bluetooth headsets, and most recently smartphones and tablets - which resulted in the decline of the omnipresent PC.

Glass is very different from all of these technologies. While it is indeed a mobile technology platform, just like a smartphone or a tablet, it is different in that it is an "always-on" technology that has one particular feature that the others do not:? that's the issue of "life logging".

Life logging is fundamentally the same as having a smartphone or any small digital camera that can record and store many hours of video. Virtually every smartphone today has a built-in high-definition camera with enough storage to record an entire day's worth of events, if someone wanted to use them that way and had enough reserve battery power to do it.

But with these technologies, you know when they are being used - it's pretty obvious when someone is using a smartphone or a tablet to take photographs or record videos. Sometimes it could be surreptitious, as presidential candidate Mitt Romney discovered much to his chagrin.

Google Glass has thrust wearable tech into the mainstream. Before the product even hits consumer shelves, there will be around 10,000 users across the US with just the developer version. These people will be responsible for how the world initially perceives this new product category.

There's concern that Glass will be banned in certain establishments, and this will impact how general usage will expand. That's the one thing that can stop this unusual product from being "the next big thing".

Click Google Glass: how it works (info graphic)

Click 10 things about Google Glass: Could this be Google's iPad?

Click Google Glass and the emerging Glasshole culture

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Pinto Keynote Speech: Industrial Automation in the New Digital World

A couple of weeks from now, May 7-8 2013, I will be the keynote speaker at the Automatech User Group Conference, in Towson (Baltimore), MD. My subject: "Industrial Automation in the New Digital World".

For the past decades, automation technology has made only incremental progress around the core developments of PLCs, DCS and SCADA hardware, with steady migration to networked and Internet-connected systems.

Now the future is coming at us fast! Accelerating technology, together with demands of global customers and worldwide competitors are generating rapid product obsolescence and drastic reductions in system life-cycles. A lot of hardware is slipping back into the commodity supply chain and industrial automation is moving to software-centric systems.

Several growth inflection points are starting to impact in the new digital automation world. Rapid shifts are occurring in all measurement and control environments - from wired systems to wireless connectivity; from conventional client-server processing systems to cloud-based processing; from tethered PCs and centralized operator-stations to an abundance of mobile devices; from deterministic measurement and control to distributed peer-to-peer based I/O; from relatively large centralized systems to the industrial Internet of Things (IoT)

The automation majors are mostly shifting their focus from the old product-centric approach towards systems and services for larger end-users, leaving smaller systems integrators and third-party suppliers to fill the gaps. Leaders like GE are making major investments in the new Industrial Internet.

The new automation leaders will be those who can demonstrate that their products and services can yield significant productivity improvements, and can meet the demands of rapidly changing global markets.

If you're in the Baltimore area, please attend the Automatech Conference. If you're available during May 7-8, come hear my presentation and meet key people at GE Intelligent Platforms, Moxa, Stratus, Automation Control Products and several others. You'll be glad you were there.

Click Automatech website

Click Register for Automatech User Group Meeting

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Mobile Devices in Automation

The use of WiFi-connected tablets, smartphones and mobile devices is starting to generate explosive growth in industrial automation and process control.

Integration of mobile technology is changing the landscape rapidly because it reduces costs, improves operating efficiency, boosts productivity and increases throughput using existing people and resources.

Any process that involves collecting data with paper documents and centralized data entry is a candidate for mobile solutions. Changing from a paper process to inputs and displays on mobile devices dramatically boosts worker productivity and yields drastically reduced total cost of ownership.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) software gives organizations the ability to track smartphones and tablets, identify users on the network and deploy applications from a secure foundation. With sophisticated malware becoming more common in industrial and control environments, MDM is an essential tool to ensure mobile devices can be used without putting the system at significant risk.

Securely deploying mobile devices is a major challenge, especially as integration with business applications means more sensitive information is accessible if a device is lost, "borrowed" or stolen. With smartphones and tablets, the "freebie" is the camera, which can be used to view the user, with image recognition to authorize or disable the device.

Click Pinto AW March 2013 - Mobile Devices in Automation

Click Manufacturing Goes Mobile

Click Mobile device management

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Bill Ellerton [bill@mainstaybusiness.com.au] from Australia gives us his opinion about the GE approach to the Industrial Internet:
    "GE seem to have their collective heads in the cloud (pun intended) when it comes to the practicalities of using technology in manufacturing.

    "There is no doubt that we need to improve productivity through the more widespread use of automation and by linking automated plants, MES, through to corporate ERP systems etc. The problem with GE's approach is that they don't seem to be able to really explain how to achieve this. Instead, they prefer to talk about 'interconnected machines that can extract data' and find meaning where it did not exist before.

    "The trouble is that esoteric concepts doesn't help factories run, become more efficient or improve productivity. If I was running a manufacturing company I'd like to understand the meaning before investing the money.

    "Maybe GE does have some substance behind the rhetoric and it's simply GE-IP's management who are unable enunciate a clear and precise value proposition. I can't help feeling at the moment that GE-IP's approach sounds more like a pitch to flog risky financial derivatives than a genuine attempt to explain how they might be able deploy their technology to improve productivity."

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Martin Greenwood [greenwme@iinet.net.au] also from Australia writes on the subject of driverless cars:

    "Never forget the law of unintended consequences. I suspect we will find out the problems with driverless cars the hard way.

    "I have cruise control on my car (I need it, and paid extra for it.) Very good on the open road, but not so good on winding roads or in heavy freeway/motorway/interstate traffic, especially at peak hour. It has a bad habit of slowly catching up with or slowly falling behind the car in front, especially if that car does NOT have cruise control.

    "The next step up is adaptive cruise control, now becoming available in affordable cars.

    "I am sure this is brilliant in the heavy traffic on the autobahns/ autostrada/autoroutes/motorways multi-lane highways for which it was developed. You keep a close but safe distance behind the car in front at all times, even as speeds vary, maximizing the roads carrying capacity. BUT, they can be a source of road rage on less frequented two lane roads, which includes most of our major highways in Australia.

    "As driverless cars develop, there are bound to be unexpected consequences as they interact with older 'manual' cars, and with farmer Brown's tractor and trucks, and *@#%* horse floats etc. on our roads.

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Peter Judd [peter.judd@xtra.co.nz] on the subject of politicians being unable to fix the current worldwide financial crisis:

    "Reading your article about the financial crisis in the US and the politicians seeming inability to do anything about it, I thought you might be interested in this comment:

    "Einstein was onto it when he said, 'you cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it'.

    "Another version is, 'How do you solve a debt driven problem with a debt-based solution?'".

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