JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 253: 26 August 2008

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

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My trip to Oz

I've just returned from a 10-day trip to Australia. I had intended to do an eNews before I left, but didn't quite get to doing that; hence just one "irregular and irreverent" eNews this month.

I went to Australia as the keynote speaker at the Citect Oceania User's Conference, 2008, in Port Douglas, Queensland. Topic: "Future Global Trends in Industrial Automation".

Wow! Wonderful venue (Sheraton Mirage Resort) with 250 people attending, including about 150 end-users, 50 systems-integrators and the remainder our Citect hosts.

All the key people from Citect (Headquartered in Sydney) were there: CEO, Chris Crowe; Scott Woodridge, VP Oceania; Anthony Wong, Sales Director; Steve Flannagan, SCADA Director; and many others.

Schneider was represented by Lionel Finidori, Pacific Zone Manager, who opened the conference with a stirring speech, "Schneider is 'bloody' serious about Citect" - the Aussie expletive signifying the maximum commitment any parent company could make.

Judging by the luxurious surroundings, sumptuous cuisine, spectacular entertainment and enthusiasm at the well-planned multiple events, this was a celebration the likes of which I have not seen for a long time. This was reminiscent of the glory days of automation, decades ago in America.

I've visited Australia several times in the past, but always dashed in and out of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, missing some of the best scenery and surroundings. This time I spent a couple of extra days, starting with friends in Sydney, followed by a relaxing 4-5 days in Port Douglas (an hour from Cairns) and then 2-3 days in Brisbane, speaking at an industry luncheon hosted by Wayne Patterson CEO of Multitrode, and other local companies.

I've gotta tell you, I love Oz and the Ozzies! A country about the size of the continental US with wealth stemming from bountiful natural resources - minerals, metals, mining, oil - plus only 20 million people with an attitude that resonates friendliness, confidence and optimism. Perhaps this is reflected in their high ranking of Olympic medals per-capita.

I'm going back!

Click Read the Wikipedia summary of Australia

Click CSU Guide to Australia

Click Past & coming Pinto speaking engagements

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Video Conferencing - Virtual Travel

As travel costs rise and airlines cut services, large and small companies are rethinking business travel and face-to-face meetings. The technology has matured to the point where it is often practical, affordable and more productive to move digital bits instead of bodies.

The emerging trend goes well beyond a reaction to rising travel costs and weakening economies. Past predictions that technology could replace travel have been frequent and premature. The main difference today is that the technology is finally catching up to its promise. There's no single breakthrough - rather a series of advances in telecommunications networks, software and computer processing.

The results can be seen not only in the expensive new telepresence systems, but also in more mainstream collaboration technologies - Web conferencing, online document sharing, wikis and Internet telephony. Companies of all sizes are beginning to shift to web-based meetings for training and sales presentations.

Of course, face-to-face meeting are not obsolete. It's simply that digital tools are making business travel more selective. A recent report estimates that up to 20% of business travel could be replaced by videoconferencing today.

A range of companies offer the mainstream online communications and collaboration tools: WebEx, Citrix, Microsoft, IBM and others, plus top-end products from Cisco, HP and Polycom.

Completed telepresence rooms, typically with three huge curved screens (and a fourth screen above for shared work), custom lighting and acoustics, cost up to $350,000. That cost is rapidly decreasing.

With more than 200 telepresence rooms, CISCO says it is avoiding $100M in annual travel costs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from air travel by 10%. HP says air travel for offices with telepresence rooms is down 25%.

The paradox in "telepresence" is that it stimulates the richest form of human interaction: people talking to each other, face to face.

But, many agree that it is not a perfect substitute. You don't learn about other cultures with telepresence. You get things from being there, over breakfast and dinner, building relationships face-to-face.

Some years ago, I made a televised speech from San Diego to a conference in Australia. That could not compare with the level of personal interaction and enjoyment I achieved during my recent Australia trip. The travel time was about 14 hours each way. But, the personal interaction was worth the journey.

Click As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual

Click Jim Pinto on Virtual Visits for the holidays

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Softdel/Matrikon Joint Company Formed

Two companies I have been associated with, Softdel and Matrikon, recently (Jul 15, 2008) formed a joint entity. The new company will utilize global talent for deployment in parts of the world with tight labor markets such as Australia, the Middle East, northern Alberta and parts of Europe.

Publicly-held Matrikon is often labeled the world's largest OPC provider. The company, based in Alberta, Canada, has offices throughout North America, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

Matrikon Founder and CEO Nizar J. Somji, was personally involved in the formation of this new joint company. Says Nizar, "This is a strategic move to optimize our operational efficiencies and growth opportunities, with access to a steady supply of highly qualified engineers."

SoftDEL, has development centers in Mumbai and Pune, India, and focuses on software and hardware developments for Industrial & Building Automation, and Test & Measurement. SoftDEL's expertise includes real-time PC hosted applications, embedded systems, hardware & mechanical design and systems & application engineering.

I've known and worked with Sunil Dalal for several years. He's the Managing Director of the UniDEL Group, which founded SoftDEL in 2000. Softdel's CEO D. Viswanath (we call him DV) led the effort to form this joint company with Matrikon. DV is proud of his company's continued growth and success with advanced software developments for worldwide customers.

Sunil and DV are excited about the new company, "It's great that we can leverage Softdel's talented people with Matrikon, to generate the next level of mutual growth and success."

As part of the Automation.com Corporate cultures series, I've described Matrikon's growth orientated people culture (weblink below)

Click SoftDEL announces joint entity agreement with Matrikon

Click Matrikon to use design engineers from India

Click Matrikon - A Successful Solutions Provider

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Trends in the 3 different worlds

In his insightful article in the July-August 2008 issue of the World Future Society's journal "Futurist" Andy Hines looks at the big trends in demography, money, and consumerism that will shape the world in the next decade. I've summarized Part I of this article here, with my own editorial tweaks.

Andy Hines separates the world into three different segments:

  • W1: Fewer than 1 billion people in the affluent countries including the US, western Europe, Japan, S. Korea and Australia.
  • W2: 3-4 billion people in the middle, in nations that are relatively balanced in terms of needs and resources, though still vulnerable to setbacks.
  • W3: 1-2 billion people who are in dire straits, including most of Africa, Bangladesh and Haiti.
Andy Hines describes 9 trends:
  1. Aging population:
    The populations of W1 countries are skewing towards more older people. W2 is just behind. While some Americans complain about the "broken" Social Security system, most of W2 and W3 don't even have a social security system.
  2. Changing families:
    In W1, "Alternative" family arrangements are mainstream. In the US, 51% of adult women are now without a spouse and 37% of babies are born to single-mothers. Couples are delaying childbirth to pursue career goals and generally have smaller families.
  3. Migration:
    Today, it's easier to relocate across a country or around the world. This is raising challenging social and political issues. In W1, the debate continues over immigrants being a net benefit or drain. In Europe, the problem is acute as native-born population growth has stopped and is declining. Adopting immigrants into national social systems is a major challenge.
  4. Population growth: From about 7 billion today, the global population will top off at 9-10 billion. 95% of population growth will come from W2 and W3 worlds. Soon W1 will have too few people and too few workers. The "automatic" expected business growth will stop.
  5. Urbanization:
    The majority of the world's population is now living in cities. In W1, urbanization rates typically hover around 75%. W2 and W3 are rapidly urbanizing, as regions transition from agricultural to industrial economies. People will live in huge mega-cities.
  6. Asia rising:
    China and India are ascending the economic ladder of development in the global knowledge economy. Small countries (like Singapore) will ascend from W3 to W1 status in just a generation. By comparison, the average wealth in most major W1 countries will be declining.
  7. Consumerism:
    Hundreds of millions of people in W2 and W3 will be living in a consumer economy. As these nations become wealthier, their work and lifestyle patterns will shift, building new economies with specialized labor.
  8. Middle-class decline:
    In affluent countries, the middle class is shrinking as the upper and lower classes expand. The standard of living at the bottom of W1 is still higher than in much of W2 and W3.
  9. Time pressure:
    Consumers in wealthy W1 nations will feel that they never have enough time. People have more free time now than in the past, but they just fill it up as soon as they get it - they feel the constant need to be "doing" something.

Click Andy Hines - Consumer Trends in Three Different Worlds

Click Andy Hines in "The Futurist" on Global Trends

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Green is going mainstream

Whether it's because of high fuel prices, or worries about global warming, environmentalism seems to be going mainstream.

Al Gore's film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth" is the 3rd highest-grossing documentary in history. The nay-sayers are being ridiculed as oil-company pawns. A major poll finds that more than two-thirds of Americans now believe global warming is having a serious impact, and it's necessary to take steps right away to counter its effects.

Companies are learning to make their profit by helping nature rather than by destroying it. Capital is shifting towards making green (money) through going green (environmentalism). That's a seminal shift into a different kind of economy.

Automakers are finally getting serious about hybrids, expanding offerings and retooling gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs as hybrids. Consumers are looking for more energy savings which puts green builders and building products in demand. Skyrocketing energy prices are changing the math.

When energy costs were relatively low, making investments to reduce future costs was an uphill battle. But today's energy costs moves the issue to simple fiscal responsibility.

Click Youtube video: Why Don't People Conserve More Energy?

Click Green goes mainstream

Click Pinto on Youtube - 'Green' is good for business

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Howard Minnick [hminnick@asi-ez.com] has first-hand experience with China Pricing:
    "Over the past 2 years we have developed relationships with a few manufacturing companies in China and I have traveled there 4 or 5 times. I have had meetings with dozens of companies ranging from what we would call a mom-and-pop operation to large companies like GE.

    "It has been a very interesting experience and your article really hits home. When you are in meetings with these people in China it is apparent that they are focused on long-term. Also with regards to pricing and profits I think that you are absolutely dead-on with your article about their lack of concern for profit levels as compared to ours.

    "The capabilities and the focus that I have seen on quality and developing relationships has been impressive. Given their mentality and what they are looking for in terms of profit, I think that our manufacturing sector will continue to suffer, especially when it comes to anything that can be built in volume."

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Rodger Lovrenich [rlovrenich@yahoo.com] has some thoughts on "the world with 1,000 people":

    "I enjoyed the Dona Meadows article. It is meant to make people think, and when humans think, sometimes good things happen.

    "The math insinuations are based on the tacit assumption that all people should be considered equal by head count. They are not; and no rational person equates the ability or productivity of a scientific PhD with that of an illiterate.

    "If the Earth's size remained the same size and the 1,000 people were evenly distributed, mankind would perish because the people couldn't find each other to procreate. The ultimate Green Dream consequences.

    "Now if we put these 1,000 people in some special place, let's say in 2 square miles without any outside influences, they would all speak the same language because of close proximity to each other. They would have essentially two religions, believers and non-believers.

    "OK, so we shouldn't scrutinize Meadows' work too closely, since her point is to call out the uneven distribution of things under present influences.

    "Meadows' math takes poetic license to her agenda. The 600 unmentioned people receive 23% of the income. This unmentioned group receives 4 times the income per capita of the as the singled out lowest income group.

    "Karl Marx repeated this type of harangue in his writings and we know what his agenda was. Capitalism is unfair, Socialism is unfair, Communism is unfair; hell the world is unfair. Life is unfair, youth is wasted on the young."

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Ray Champagne [rjchamp@comcast.net] on Religion vs. Secularism:

    "When it comes to religious group's attitude to secular humanists, the scenario is quite different in the US. While Europe is largely secular (aside from Islam), the US remains driven by religious extremism.

    "What happened to the division of church and state which our Founding Fathers believed essential to a free society? What we see today is faith-based favoritism bordering on hostility to those who do not believe in their god, or any god.

    "As you know, secular humanists believe in freedom of thought, reason and moral behavior of the society. What chance would any political candidate have in the US if he/she did not profess religious belief?"

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