JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 317 : 29 August 2013

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

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Bucket-list trip to India

Last week, I arrived back home from my long-awaited bucket-list trip to India. Wow! What an experience!

We landed in Bangalore (now called Bengaluru) where I was born. This is the software hub of India, home of Infosys, Wippro and many others - often called the silicon-valley of India.

On arrival, the first impression is the new Bengaluru airport - inside it could be anywhere in the world. But outside, India hits you very quickly - the crowds, the continual construction, the noise and garbage everywhere. Within a few days, you start to ignore it, and even expect it. I'll be writing more about this in reflections on India in a future eNews.

A primary reason for our trip was to visit my family - still centered in Bangalore, with two in Pune (and my eldest brother lives in England). I'm #7 in a family of 10 (5 boys and 5 girls) and I must tell you, I was emotional when I saw them all again, albeit older. I have a plaque in my home here in Carlsbad, "Family is One of Nature's Great Masterpieces". The glow of old memories, warmth, love and affection engulfed us all.

After a week in Bangalore and Pune, we joined our Overseas Adventure Travel group in Delhi - 15 Americans who are experienced travelers and ready for any exploration. We were on a 17-day "Heart of India" tour of North India, which none of us had seen before.

We explored Old Delhi, with a rickshaw ride through a crowded bazaar and visit to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Then we toured New Delhi, the center of government for the world's largest democracy, and the 234-ft. Qutab Minar 12th century tower.

Next we went overland to Ranthambore National Park, one of 11 sites chosen for India's tiger conservation program. We stayed in a palace - at least it was built (relatively recently) like a palace.

We traveled overland to Jaipur, stopping to explore villages and sights along the way. In Jaipur we were lucky to be there for the annual Tejj festival, with close-up seats to witness the processions of decorated dancers, acrobats, camels and elephants.

Of India's 1.24 billion population (4 times the US population) 70% is rural. We visited a village school and stayed overnight in a village camp, entertained by local dancers who proudly performed cultural tribal music and dancing, and served authentic local food. We mounted camels for a trek through the village and countryside.

Then of course there was the incomparable Taj Mahal in Agra. Over 20,000 workers built this edifice over 20 years in the mid-1600s. It's truly a wonder of the world!

We flew to Khajuraho, with temples that have erotic stone carvings that symbolize the important role of love and energy in Hindu thinking, but still scandalize many. Some editions of the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian sex manual, use Khajuharo illustrations.

Finally, we arrived in Varanasi, the holiest of Hindu cities with 4,000 years of written history. It has an intense, almost palpable atmosphere of spiritual devotion, with pilgrims from every part of the country crowding the narrow streets and bathing on riverbanks. The Monsoons had raised the Ganges River to record high levels and all we managed to do was get in knee-deep to make our ablutions.

This was the final stop on our memorable tour. We flew back to Delhi and suddenly we were back home in California.

Wow! What a trip! This will take me months to digest - emotionally and philosophically!

Click India Travel

Click OAT Travel - Heart of India

Click Jim Pinto Bucket-list trips

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Invensys acquisition postscript

The announcement of the Schneider bid was leaked by the Invensys board to generate a bidding war. Schneider was not pleased, but Invensys board chairman Sir Nigel Rudd was praised for leaking the news. But, no one else was really interested and the acquisition went through as expected.

The Invensys board earned high praise for doing what was needed to attract a price of about $5.2 billion. CEO Wayne Edwards (formerly the CFO) has already moved on to another job, clearly indicating that he was prepared for a quick move.

Now, one wonders what will happen with Invensys. Foxboro, the one proud process-controls industry leader formed the central core of a string of acquisitions after the the January 1999 merger of two large, old-line British companies, Siebe and BTR. After Foxboro, Wonderware (PC software), Eurotherm (temperature controls and drives) and others were acquired at a heady price. An expensive advertising campaign proclaimed, "The biggest company you never heard of".

But the innovative name could not hide underlying poor performance. Invensys went into a debilitating, downward spiral. Architect of the bust, Allen Yurko was booted into oblivion and a new CEO sold off most of what was left to survive. A series of managers bravely tried to keep the company afloat and now Schneider bought what was left.

Schneider said the deal will generate significant revenue savings - $ 530 M a year by 2018 as a result of expanded offerings, complementary customer bases and from integration. But then, that's what everyone says up front. It remains to be seen what will happen to the group of excellent people in the many Invensys companies.

Says Gary Mintchell in his popular Manufacturing Connection blog:

    "This is no doubt a mixture of good news and bad news for Invensys employees, business and the industry. On the one hand, Schneider is much more stable at the top than Invensys, and financially stable. Invensys top management has been unstable, not focused, and not really running a viable business.

    "On the other hand, Schneider's sole venture into industrial automation software - the Citect acquisition - has not been managed for growth. In like manner, Schneider has pretty much ruined a great old brand in Modicon. It will be interesting to see how they integrate the unfamiliar businesses of Foxboro, Triconex and Wonderware."

Oh well, this is what happens when giants crumble. And we'll see much more of this within the next few years. The automation majors all have feet of clay.

Click Schneider Pays Up for Invensys

Click The Invensys/Foxboro Culture - took a lickin' & kept on ticking'

Click Mintchell - Schneider will Broaden Automation and Software Business

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End of the traditional university

Publishing, music, shopping, journalism - all have been revolutionized by the Internet. Education is next. Now world-class tuition is free to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Within the next few decades, half of the colleges and universities now operating in the US will cease to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it.

The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor's degree will become increasingly irrelevant.

Today, student loan debt is at an all-time high - an average of more than $23,000 per graduate - some up to $ 100,000 per year. And tuition costs continue to rise at a rate far outpacing inflation. The college degree is already devalued and students keep defaulting on the debt required to pay for them. The persistent public faith in the college degree has kept demand high - but it's fading fast.

An important part of the college story concerns the impending financial collapse of many private colleges and universities and the shrinkage of many public ones. When the bubble bursts, the system of higher education that has long been a culture of exclusivity will end. Then the college classroom will go virtual.

One has to recognize that online courses are not amenable to learning for all levels of students, and also the quality of interaction and learning is suspect. While each one of us learns differently, the general notion of learning - by thinking, asking questions and discussing with others does not really exist online as it does in a real life classroom setting. This gives the traditional system an edge.

Will online education be as recognized as regular education? Today, the credibility is not the same as that from a regular university. But, the world of education is shifting. The way that all of us are getting information, knowledge and ideas is increasingly shifting online as a result of the online, information revolution.

What we know for sure, is that thousands and thousands of students are signing up for online courses and that is a fact we cannot ignore.

Click The End of the University as We Know It:

Click Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university?

Click America's College Education in Serious Decline

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Top Disruptive Technologies

What technologies will most radically transform human life in the next twelve years, to 2025? The McKinsey Global Institute has narrowed the most potentially disruptive down to a dozen. They are, in order of size of potential impact:
  • Mobile Internet - defined as increasingly inexpensive and capable mobile computing devices and Internet connectivity.
  • Automation of knowledge work - intelligent software systems that perform knowledge work tasks involving unstructured commands and subtle judgments.
  • Internet of Things - networks of low-cost sensors and actuators for data collection, monitoring, decision making and process optimization.
  • Cloud Technology - delivered over the Internet, as a service.
  • Advanced Robotics - increasingly capable robots with enhanced senses, dexterity and intelligence, used to automate tasks or augment humans.
  • Autonomous and Near-Autonomous Vehicles - driverless cars.
  • Next Generation Genomics - fast, low-cost gene sequencing, advanced big-data analytics, and synthetic biology.
  • Energy Storage.
  • 3D Printing.
  • Advanced Materials - Nanotechnology.
  • Advanced Oil and Natural Gas Recovery.
  • Renewable Energy.
We have covered many of these technologies in past eNews issues.

According to McKinsey, the Mobile Internet, which could change the lives of more than 5 billion people around the globe, the automation of knowledge work, and the Internet of Things would have by far the largest economic impacts.

All together, the above technologies could generate $14 to $33 trillion. Much of that growth will be at the expense of older technologies and even entire industries falling into obsolescence.

Leaders must be prepared to disrupt their own businesses and make the investments needed to effect change. By the time these technologies influence the economy in 2025, it will be too late for businesses, policy makers, and citizens to plan their responses.

Nobody, especially business leaders, can afford to be the last to change.

Click Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform

Click Disruptive technologies - Interviews, Articles & Insights

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Industrial Computer Futures

For several decades, the technology used with industrial computers has had only incremental changes around core developments. The programmable logic controller (PLC) and distributed control systems (DCS) were both invented in the 1970s.

The standard PC was not used widely in industrial applications because the operating systems were not suitable for control, and industrialized PCs started to replace PLCs. This led to the definition of the PAC - programmable automation controller, which combined the functionality of the PLC and PC.

Today, the use of PACs is shifting in emphasis toward communication standards and software integration, with less emphasis on the hardware and more focus on total system performance.

Everyone is now recognizing that the period of PC domination is over and that same trend is spreading rapidly in industrial environments. PCs are giving way to tethered (powered) and untethered "thin" clients and post-PC devices like smartphones and tablets. Raw horsepower is giving way to low power consumption. Processors are now so powerful that even inexpensive gadgets can handle most tasks. Local storage requirements are falling as more and more data is being pushed into the cloud.

Dick Morley, acknowledged "father of the PLC," makes these projections:

    "More and more computer chips will be used in industrial monitoring; there will be less and less system complexity. To some extent, controls people consider computers and operating systems irrelevant. It's the connectivity that's critical, not the content."
A major inflection point is quickly approaching for industrial automation. Mobile devices are taking over. My own view is that it's happening right now.

Click Industrial Computer Futures

Click What is the future of the PC Industry?

Click The Post Post-PC Era: Will Apple, Google, Samsung, Amazon Or Microsoft Win?

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Jake Brodsky [jakebrodskype@gmail.com] is cynical about Schneider's purchase of Invensys. He writes:
    "I have watched with dismay at all the horrible mis-steps taken by Invensys since Wonderware was purchased many years ago. The only reason I believe we're still a customer is because, although there are better offerings on the market today, it isn't enough of an improvement to justify the retraining and investment of converting all the installations we have built on Wonderware.

    "So we wince with each new release. This software went from delightfully simple and light weight, to bloated with hidden complexities that didn't add much functionality to the HMI.

    "I hope Wonderware and Foxboro fare better under management by Schneider; but I'm not holding my breath. It has been a long time since these organizations have seen good leadership. It will take time to undo a lot of the defensive and ossified parts of these companies and to bring back the talent they lost."

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The ever cynical Bob Fritz [rjf5@me.com] doesn't want the Internet of Things:

    "I don't want thousands of tiny spies gathering data about everything and sending it to the IRS. I don't want some clunky machine adjusting things in my hotel room because my mood might change. I definitely don't want to spend thousands of dollars on actuators so that my gym can pre-adjust machines. And I don't want a hybrid car to preferentially draw down the battery so I can spend another hour or two charging the danged thing.

    "If GE can't think up something people actually want, they should worry about why their stock is 30% lower than when Jeff Immelt took over. "

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Merle Borg [merleborg@cox.net] sent this feedback on a couple of points:

    "The premise that the scientific age may be in a twilight phase certainly got my attention. I wonder if the Big Bang theory or the unraveling of DNA, etc. were even pondered before they were formulated.

    "I hate to quote Donald Rumsfeld, but one of his disastrous lectures was about 'known unknowns, and unknown unknowns'. It could be that we and science will always face unknown unknowns.

    "I also like your formula, Happiness = Reality/Expectations. Today, in the developed world, we are continuously exposed to advertising, directly and indirectly. It has raised our level of expectations - and in very subtle ways has reduced our happiness."

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