JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 310 : 25 January 2013

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

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Legalized Bribery in America

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul," wrote Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.

America is becoming a third world nation. The only difference is that in most third world countries everyone takes part in bribery. In the US, bribery is the exclusive domain of the elite.

Bribery is an economic system, like capitalism or socialism. In the US, graft flourishes mostly at the level of government. It is done gracefully and usually legally.

For example, Big Pharma pays Congress to insert in some voluminous bill that almost no one will read, a clause saying that the government will pay list price for drugs, instead of negotiating for a better price. Over time, this is worth hundreds of millions, paid by consumers. Yet it's legal.

The arms industry pays Congress to buy enormously expensive, unneeded and often outdated aircraft, arms and equipment. Or agribusiness pays Congress to cough up large subsidies. It's legal.

Almost every US lawmaker takes big money aimed at helping private interests win favorable government action. If they stash the cash for themselves, it's illegal. If they use it to get reelected, keep their job, and help the private interests, it's generally legal.

Either way, money still talks in Washington and the legal/illegal distinction gets easily blurred in all the backroom dealings with private interests - until a brazen case of bribery pops up. Then everyone jumps in with an accusatory, holier-than-thou demeanor. The laws and rules are simply not tough enough, or the prosecutors vigilant enough.

The practice of calling millions of dollars of bribes to members of Congress the polite name, "political contributions", is an insult to the intelligence of the American people. What other reason would lobbyists and corporate interests have to give millions of dollars to members of Congress every time they seek to pass, or block, legislation? The only purpose is to bribe them into using their congressional position for the benefit of the briber.

The system of legalized bribery so prevalent in American politics today is a major threat to our democracy. It is a pernicious system that perpetuates itself.

Both political parties now have "super PAC" (political action committees), political organizations established by the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" decision. They accept millions in unlimited donations to support candidates. The Court ruled that this influx of cash will not jeopardize our democratic process. Donors "might have influence or access to elected officials", reads the Citizen's United decision, but it "does not mean that those officials are corrupt." That interpretation may be technically correct, but it's clear that a majority of the Supreme Court Justices have no idea how politics really works.

Corruption infiltrates Congress. While Members' votes are not necessarily for sale, America's legislative process IS. And the super PAC era is making the situation much worse.

Recent polls found that two-thirds of Americans are uncomfortable with unrestricted money in politics. So, can the SuperPAC ruling be reversed?

Click A culture of bribery in Congress

Click Ex-lobbyist - Most in Congress accept bribes

Click Blatant Culture of Bribery And Public's Acceptance of the Crimes>

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Top 50 Automation Companies 2011

Once again, CONTROL magazine published its list of the top-50 Automation companies in N. America and the world. This is the only published list, and it always appears to be 2 years old - it's published in December and most people read it in January of the new year.

I always bring this up with my friend Walt Boyes, the Editor, and always his response is that the published results of many companies is for their fiscal year that ends in March, or even later. Since the results are tabulated from review of annual reports, old dates seem unavoidable.

My advice for Walt: This is your list, so YOU make the rules. I have 2 suggestions:

  1. Publish the top-50 lists in June; or,
  2. Simply make the title a year later, with a note about the dates.
In the complex industrial instrumentation, automation and controls business, CONTROL discloses clearly what's included and what's not in their definition of revenues. It is creditable that their basic analysis methodology has not changed for the past several years.

Summary of the 2011 Global and North America Top-10 rankings

North America
Rank 2011 Rank 2010 $M 2011 Rank 2011 Rank 2010 $M 2011
Siemens 1 1 14,767 4 5 1,562
ABB 2 2 11,364 3 3 1,737
Emerson 3 3 7,943 1 1 3,664
Schneider 4 5 5,644 6 7 1,192
Rockwell 5 4 5,465 2 2 3,082
Yokogawa 6 8 3,949 19 20 305
Mitsubishi 7 6 3,759 32 30 133
GE 8 10 3,461 7 6 1,167
Honeywell 9 9 3,114 9 8 829
Danaher 10 7 3,057 5 4 1,375
Omron 11 11 2,535 20 22 304
Endress+Hauser 12 15 2,138 16 16 395
Invensys IOM 16 14 1,759 12 11 491

In the top 10, Siemens, ABB and Emerson all held their global ranks. Schneider and Rockwell changed places and GE moved up significantly, while Mitsubishi and Danaher moved down.

Clearly the Japanese (Yokogawa, Mitsubishi and Omron) are comparatively low on the N. American rankings; they don't seem able to grow in the US.

I continue to think that Invensys (IOM), at $ 1.75B is too precarious to survive as an independent and will be acquired, likely this year. At $ 5.45B worldwide, I don't see how Rockwell will stand alone either.

The large companies move up and down a couple of places every year. Here is my view of my favorite growth companies on the global list:

  1. After having separated from Fanuc, GE is now #8 at $ 3.46 B worldwide and Fanuc is now #19 at $1.6B. GE will acquire a large player soon.
  2. Phoenix Contact has attained $ 2.13B revenues, far outpacing its old rival Weidmuller which is still at $ 870B. Wago at $ 645 M is close behind.
  3. Other closely held Europeans are still growing: B&R $ 575M; Turck $ 559M; Pepperl+Fuchs $ 504B; Pilz $ 398M.
  4. National Instruments has exceeded $ 1B in revenues, as predicted.
  5. Beckhoff has grown to $ 650M - well on its way to $ 1B. Advantech, the other industrial-PC maker is close behind at $ 600M
  6. Ametek at $ 1.6B and Roper at $ 737M are making good progress. Cameron Valves now at $ 1.6B; Belden $ 288M.
Take a look for yourself at the CONTROL Top-50 commentary and lists.

Click Top 50 Global Automation Vendors (2011)

Click Top 50 North American Automation Vendors (2011)

Click Pinto commentary on 2010 Top 50 Automation Companies

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Pinto's Prognostications 2013

For the past two decades, automation technology has remained at a plateau. In 2013, developments are brewing to generate new growth inflection points.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can literally monitor everything, generating massive amounts of data which will yield vast productivity benefits.

For industrial automation, the Cloud is a transformative approach that fundamentally changes how masses of IoT-generated data can be used for real-time interaction. Major growth will result for companies that can demonstrate practical productivity results.

Smart-phones and tablets are everywhere, with iPad, iPhone and Droid apps proliferating for just about anything you can imagine.

In the automation world, the days when expert operators stayed behind control-room operator panels are quickly disappearing. Every technician can be an expert, working from any location with wireless connected tablets.

Emboldened by mobile communications trends, supposedly conservative industrial plants and factories have begun to accept the clear advantages of industrial wireless sensors and actuators.

I am continuing to predict that the automation supplier top-ten line-up will change, with mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. The question remains: which company will acquire whom? As China and India keep advancing, expect major acquirers to come from that direction.

Several growth opportunities are emerging this year. When the inflection points arrive, the leadership lineup will surely change.

Click AW - Pinto Prognostications 2013

Click Check out - AW - Pinto Prognostications 2012

Click Check out - Pinto Prognostications 2011

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Consumer Electronics Show 2013

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is held each January at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, it is one of the largest, and typically hosts previews of products and new product announcements.

CES doesn't welcome gawkers: attendees are executives, purchasing managers, engineers, marketers, journalists and others with connections to the industry. The show is loud, overwhelming, crowded and chaotic, so I haven't been attending in person of late. I attend virtually, skimming all the new products via multiple websites and viewing close-up videos of the stuff that interests me. I thought you'd like my summary, with web-links.

Over the last few years, TVs and PCs have declined in importance and portable gadgets have risen. Apple, the biggest trendsetter in mobile gadgets industry doesn't attend - it makes big announcements at its own events. And Microsoft too has scaled down its involvement. Google, Amazon and Facebook were conspicuously missing.

It seemed that the future is all about bigger, better and more connected than ever. Bigger Tvs, 3-D TVs and curved screens. The big shifts were in gaze, gesture, voice, touch and even facial expression to control computers, TVs, or whatever. Technology promises to make computers and other smart devices easier to use. Industry figures suggest that interest in laptop and desktop computers is declining as consumers move to smart-phones and tablets.

Intel's new gesture-sensing hardware device, offered with SoftKinetic and webcam maker Creative, has a combination of conventional and infrared cameras, and several microphones. This enables applications to track each of a person's 10 fingers, recognize faces, and interpret words spoken in nine languages.

There wasn't much new in home appliances. The innovations are in automation - robots that do housework. There are two different types of home robot: The choice is between complex and general purpose, or simpler, single-purpose Devices. The winners seem to be simpler and cheaper, with iRobot's Roomba a clear market leader.

CES 2013 was bigger and more influential than ever, even as the offerings were less revolutionary. It's still the best show for product developers hoping to disrupt everyone with their imaginations and new creations.

Click MIT Review - PC Makers Bet on Gaze, Gesture, Voice, and Touch

Click The Top Five at CES Las Vegas 2013

Click Youtube Official CES Channel

Click Tomorrow's robot world: From cleaners to the cloud

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Going Paperless

Last year, I moved after 25 years - from my home in San Diego to my condo in Carlsbad Village, about 30 miles away. It has always been my dream to live right on the beach.

Let me relate the most difficult thing about moving: The furniture and other items were easy to simply donate - the nightmare was moving all the paper in my home office. I had the movers simply pack all the paper, intending to sort at the other end.

But what a nightmare that was! One can't just discard - it takes time and effort to pick out the few important documents; it's best to shred everything else. What an awful, time-consuming task!

I'm converted - now I'm paperless! I don't keep ANY paper! I sign, email, scan, e-fax and store all documents electronically.

By simple request, all my bank, credit-card, telephone and monthly statements are web-based. I don't write checks anymore ? I pay everything online. I don't write notes, my smart-phone note-taking apps makes it easy to keep ideas and lists. Hey, my handwriting has deteriorated to just a scribble.

I can download and file anything I wish to keep. My hard-drive has 1 tera-byte (TB) of storage, and my external automatic time-capsule backup is 2 TB. Plus, I backup the backup now and then, just in case, with a 1.5 TB external drive ($ 150 from Costco).

Are you still accumulating and generating paper? Receiving paper-bills and paying them by mail? Really? According to a 2010 Catalyst Group survey, more than one-third of Americans say they have constant paper clutter problems. The average household receives over six pounds of paper bills and statements each year.

The biggest source of paper is contracts and agreements that need to be signed and returned. My advice: Digitize your signature and return via email or eFax.

When people say "sign and fax back" you can do it without paper. Simply create a digital version of your signature with transparent background. Get the documents via email, and email (or eFax) them back with your signature added. Mind you, this won't work if you need something notarized with an original signature.

Getting rid of ALL the paper in your home or office still may not be possible in a world where birth certificates, house deeds, marriage certificates, and other important information still needs to be in-hand. Perhaps you can scan and file those too.

Click How Paperless Home Offices Work

Click Simple Tips for Going Paperless

Click The Complete Guide to Going Paperless

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Richard Corles [richard@orangewoodwines.com] commented on our recent discussion of Driverless Cars. He wrote:
    "You mentioned the self driving vehicle. I think this will provide dramatic change over the next 10-20 years. My thought is it will be the equivalent of the automobile replacing the horse.

    "Sit down and mull over a few ideas: cars with drivers will become recreational only. With no human drivers on regular roads, accidents will be few, insurance rates will drop, cars will no longer be status symbols, they will not be designed for inattentive drivers - airbags will go, the designs will not be constrained to have forward facing, strapped-in occupants. Breathalyzer testing will no longer be relevant, speed limits will be automatic, spacing between vehicles will be lower, trucks will have an occupant to supervise transfer of ownership of the cargo.

    "Being able to send off your vehicle to park itself somewhere is Interesting; more interesting is that you can send it off to collect your groceries or pizza. Perhaps we will see cars that are travelling refrigerators.

    "Whether you are a car designer, urban planner or a pizza delivery person, there are changes coming."

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Robert Unseld [Robert.Unseld@danfoss.com] from Germany comments on the tax differences between US and Europe:

    "I read your eNews topic on the super-rich: The quite bitter thing is that the super-rich are far above all ability or will of the state to tax them, but the middle class is not.

    "In Germany, the categories of taxation that are discussed and likely to be implemented after the next election: the maximum taxation will go up from the max of today 42 to 49 % (plus the transfer-tax of 5.5% for the former GDR which we all still pay); the starting limit for the highest tax rate will be lowered by 20,000 Euro. I donęt identify a salary of Euros 50-80,000 as really being rich, but those are exactly the ones who'll pay.

    "So they are to lower the (obvious) gap which the poorer people have to those who are a little ahead. This is the easiest thing to do, because well-off from the point of view of those with, say, 30,000 Euros per year, and no lobby or possibility for offshoring their money.

    "And, of course, working income is the easiest to tax. So if you work, you'll get taxed - work more, get taxed even higher. OK, not for those with the 10+ million bonuses, but the normal staff and middle management.

    "Of course that's only my perspective as a middle class person (with three kids and a divorce to pay). If I was a millionaire in the lower digits area instead, I would of course bemoan my struggle for keeping that too and rant about those miserable billionaires with their pretentious 180ft yachts.... :-) "

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Mary Lee Coleman [ocalady@aol.com] who thinks that my futures discussions make her remember the past.

    "I've lived a long time. When I read futurists, I think more of how much has not changed since I was born.

    "When my grandson dresses up in a suit and tie, his suit isn't much different from what his grandfather wore. No shiny silver jumpsuit in his closet as was portrayed in the comics of that day.

    "My breakfast today is still orange juice, toast and coffee. For all the improved conveniences inside, my house looks like any hundred-year old house,

    "There are certainly changes in how we communicate. Things are faster. The world, indeed the universe, in which we live is bigger. But in so many aspects of our homely, everyday lives, the changes come very slowly."

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