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Fieldbus fizzles; SP100=SP50 x 2If you're in the automation business you've heard about Fieldbus. Over the past couple of decades the attempt to define the SP-50 standard for industrial automation networks went round and round till it finally fizzled out into a European IEC committee definition of 8 different standards.
After years of squabbling, the selection of not one but EIGHT "standards" was nothing short of funny. It couldn't be described in anything but poetry. You might wish to take a look at some of my Fieldbus poems - weblinks below.
My friend Dick Caro is an acknowledged automation networks guru, with several books and countless papers and speeches on the subject. His article on where Fieldbus now stands was published in the April 2007 issue of ISA's InTech.
Dick Caro's opinion is clear:
My intent is not to dwell on past poetry, but to utilize past experience to raise the flag on the new Wireless standards now being debated by the SP-100 committee. One frustrated committee member says SP100 = SP50 x 2. This standard too is doomed to being talked into nothing.
Here's the problem: Everyone major company wants their own proprietary products to become the standard. As soon as any one camp seems to be in a good position, competitors start to bring up impossible objections. And the merry-go-round goes round and round.
One wonders why no one at these meetings sees this point. Actually, many people recognize it - and some have resigned in disgust. But there are always others who continue the interminable committee posturing.
Google keeps growingLast week at the San Diego Venture Group meeting in San Diego I met Dr. Vinton G. Cerf, known as the "Father of the Internet" for his co-invention of TCP/IP protocol and his work on Internet architecture. For his contributions, he won the US National Medal of Technology in 1977; in 2005, he received the highest US civilian honor - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Vint Cerf joined Google in 2005, as their "Chief Internet Evangelist. His discussion was entertaining, stimulating and challenging.
Google continues its growth, a new-century phenomenon. First quarter 2007 profit jumped 69%, blowing past predictions. Quarterly revenue reached a new high of $3.66 billion, 63% over last year. Google has has now beat analysts' estimates in all but one of 11 quarters since its IPO August 2004. The company has established itself as the most profitable and most powerful business on the Internet.
Google "owns" Internet advertising. You'll notice Google advertising on many of the JimPinto.com webpages. Hey, I just sit back and collect my fees, which keep growing consistently.
What can Google do next? After the recent acquisition of YouTube, last week display advertising company DoubleClick was acquired for $3.1B, just a small fraction of Google's $150 billion market cap. Google's next move will inevitably be to compete with Microsoft Office with web-based versions.
With a policy of hiring only the brightest and the best everywhere in the world, what can Google NOT do? Google Maps are already being used for a variety of things that were unthinkable just a couple of years ago. The company plays to its own strengths, freely giving away what it does best.
What next? Google will allow sharing of genetic information via the web, leading to new medicines and cures.
Microsoft Robotics Operating SystemMicrosoft software is now headed into robots. Microsoft Robotics Studio was recently unveiled, a software development tool that has as much growth potential as DOS in the early PC market.
The robotics market seems to mirror the PC days of the late 1970s. Everyone was developing with proprietary software on different microprocessor platforms. Then came the IBM PC with Microsoft's DOS (which could just as easily have been Digital Research's C/PM). The rest is history.
With robotics today, the hardware is fragmented, with little standardization. There are lots of companies that want to develop products, but just don't have the tools. Microsoft is hoping that they'll use their Robotics Studio.
Building a robot these days is as much a programming exercise as a nuts-and-bolts hardware project. The problem is that every new robot, even those built by industrial robot manufacturers, requires its own specialized software and programming tools. If there were a single, widely used tool for robot programming, code could be reused on different robots, and robot builders could concentrate on advanced features rather than re-inventing infrastructure.
Microsoft's Robotics Studio runs on Windows XP and includes several components: a programming environment for writing and debugging software that's similar to Visual Studio, the main tool for writing Windows software; a "runtime" environment that functions as a mini-operating system for robots, executing code people write using the programming tool; and a simulator that allows users to build virtual models of robots and test how their software behaves without having to build actual hardware.
If you're into robots, you need to play with (free) Robotics Studio.
A short history of AutomationTrace the roots of all significant automation business segments and you'll find key people and innovations.
Industrial instrumentation and controls has always been a hotbed of new products - improved sensors, amplifiers, displays, recorders, control elements, valves, actuators and other widgets and gismos.
Automation has a few key segments. In the 1970's, the original DCS was developed by a team of engineers at Honeywell. Also in the '70s the first PLC was the brainchild of inventor Dick Morley. These two industry segments alone represent several billion dollars in annual revenue. Several innovative startups developed HMI PC software. Innovative sensors and actuators came from several key companies.
In a fragmented business, most innovators get stuck at growth plateaus and get bought out. But some continue to generate independent growth and success. My new article in Automation.com traces the history of key growth segments in industrial automation markets.
Extrapolating automation history forward is an interesting challenge. In the past, growth inflection points have developed from new products and leadership (DCS, PLC, sensors, software). Today, growth is coming from global expansion and services, but that's only incremental.
A new surge of growth will come through new technology (perhaps nanotech sensors, or wireless), production at the lowest cost for global distribution, and fast time-to-market (not impeded by standards committees and antiquated management conservatism). The managers, innovators and visionaries who recognize the possibilities will become the new leaders of tomorrow.
TED - videos of world-class speakersTED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) started in 1984 as a conference in Monterey, California, bringing together the world's brightest minds, the thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in just 18 minutes). These are all available on the TED website, with a dazzling video player technology.
Here are some of my favorite speakers and their subjects:
More than 100 talks are available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.
Jeff Bezos' motivation was infectious when he stood in front of me on my 23" screen and talked to me for 18 minutes. I've seen Ray Kurzweil talking in person, and on a stage - this was better. Have you been to a Tony Robbins sales seminar? Here he is - in your face! And Dean Kamen and Craig Venter and many others.
eFeedbackGary Mintchell [email@example.com] comments on the lack of motivation in American education:
"While far too many administrators are simply clueless about management, the biggest change has undoubtedly been the lack of student motivation coupled with (maybe because of) lack of parental will to work with and motivate their children. Every teacher I talk with bemoans that lack of parental support. Parents are quick to criticize, but are absent when it counts.
"The last thing to consider is that when comparing US to other countries, we use statistics for every child in the country; many other countries don't. Children who drop out are not counted in all countries' statistics. As in all comparisons, it pays to dive beneath the well-publicized generalities."
"The redistribution of wealth among fewer and fewer Americans is not smart in the long term because the wider the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the closer you come to becoming a second-rate society.
"When you squeeze out the middle class all you have is a Third World Nation. The removal of the middle class is a security breach for the wealthiest Americans. They need to maintain the middle class as their safety buffer, if for no other reason.
"The solution to this will not come from politicians but true statesmen. Where do you find one of those these days? The silent majority needs to stop being silent.
"Already in our 20th to 21st century cultures we've flattened most of the Population growths throughout Europe; American birth rates are down; China will have an excess of 70MM men in a short while, plus all the pollutants and the 'other known causes' including cigarette smoking will start to show an effect.
"One of the reasons China and many other countries are in their situation is that they are working to create industry without conservancy. In the 1990s we were spending close to 1 penny on every dollar of profit to clean or service the 'conservancy stream' (which literally means keeping bad materials out of the waste stream and out of land fills.
"If you want an example of waste streams, look at the NE quadrant of N. America (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Baltimore, etc.) and answer two questions:
How many people lived here in 2005?
"Not many people know that New York City almost drained a complete lake which had been it's water reservoir. China is currently rerouting rivers to major metros like Beijing.
"If over 95% of the peoples of the world living in cities, who will be servicing and protecting the areas that will provide the food, water and fuels? In the end that's what it will become, an 'allocation' stream.
"If we start now and divest ourselves of both wasted resources (moving into a path for conservancy) and nonrenewable resources, then we'll have a different path for the whole world.
"My comment to everyone who reads this: There is too much beauty in our world, to not care; there is too rich a story from our world to not nourish and build in this conservancy direction, for the children, as our legacy to the future."
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