JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 26 : December 11, 2000

A new-age newsletter, published irreverently and irregularly by Jim Pinto.
Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Stay e-tuned....

  • Extropy
  • Kurzweil on Nanotechnology
  • Nano-bots
  • More on MEMS
  • Rockwell Spins off Collins Avionics
  • MTL Acquires Standard Automation
  • eFeedback - Bizarre Projects


Remember "Entropy" (increase of "disorder") from your Physics days in college? Entropy tends to make complex systems degenerate over time, making them simpler, making energy less available. Well, "Extropy" is the word coined for the steady increase of order in the evolutionary sense.

The Extropy Institute acts as a networking and information center for those seeking to foster our continuing evolutionary advance by using technology to extend healthy life, augment intelligence, optimize psychology and improve social systems. The Institute brings together the finest critical and creative minds to challenge conventional thinking about human limits and to develop, critique, and implement new ideas about the use of technologies of all kinds to improve the future. As an information center, the Institute acts as a portal for detailed information on advanced technologies, their positive potentials, their challenges, and their possible dangers.

Click Read all about The Extropy Institute

Extropians are techno-believers with boundless faith in the power of science to boost human potential. They believe that a Utopian future will come about thanks to 21st-century advances in genetic engineering, biochemistry, electronics and medical technology. Extropian rhetoric isn't nearly as wild as it sounds. And the council of advisors includes people like Marvin Minsky and Ray Kurzweil.

Click Extropy Institute Council of Advisors

Click Extro-4 : 4th Conference of the Extropy Institute

Foresight Institute - Kurzweil on Nanotech

eSpeaking of Ray Kurzweil, he gave the keynote speech at the Foresight Institute's 8th Molecular Nanotechnology Conference held near Washington D.C. recently. His point: "We're accelerating the rate of progress. In fact, we're doubling the rate of progress every decade. We are now entering the knee of the exponential growth curve of progress. Therefore we will see what would be at linear rates 100 years of progress in the next 20 to 25 years."

Click Ray Kurzweil's keynote speech

The Foresight Institute's goal is to guide emerging technologies to improve the human condition. Foresight focuses its efforts upon nanotechnology, the coming ability to build materials and products with atomic precision, and upon systems that will enhance knowledge exchange and critical discussion, thus improving public and private policy decisions.

Click Visit The Foresight Institute


A team of scientists at Cornell University, Ithaca, US, has developed the first microscopic "helicopters", which could one day carry out medical tasks inside the body.

Written about in several science-fiction stories, these nanobots are no bigger than a virus particle. They could eventually move around the human body, ministering to its needs or dispensing drugs. The metal rotors of the tiny machines turn at a rate of eight rotations per second, powered by the body's natural fuel, a chemical called ATP. When the bio-motors were tested in the laboratory, they were able to drive the helicopters' propellers for up to two-and-a-half hours.

This is only a first step as the technology is still very inefficient. Only five of the first 400 bio-motors worked. And scientists will have to show that the machines can function inside the living cell, something that may take many years to achieve.

Click Cornell University news item on bio-molecular motors

Click Look at the recent BBC News Sci/Tech Item

Drexler's Engines of Creation Start with Eric Drexler's book - "Engines of Creation"

More on MEMS

Gnat-sized robots, microscopic gyroscopes, television beamed directly onto your retina - these all seem like sci-fi, but are all real-life MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) today.

MEMS have already been built which can do almost everything their full-sized counterparts can - things like rotary electric motors, toothed gears, linear stepper drives, hinges, inclined planes, screws, pulleys, tweezers, wheels, bending beams. MEMS devices are small, cheap, robust, easy to make using the techniques developed to build integrated circuits and easily integrated with digital and analog electronics.

While microchips are flat, static structures, MEMS are silicon wafers packed with three-dimensional moving parts acting as sensors and actuators : laser-guided mirrors, chemical canals, micro-switches, networked micro-robots, disposable blood-pressure gauges, wearable pollution sensors. Within a decade or two at the most, MEMS will be everywhere - even in our own bodies - providing revolutionary performance and price improvements over conventional techniques. Like the transistor and the microprocessor, MEMS will be "disruptive technology" - beyond evolutionary or incremental changes, causing a whole new world.

Click Wired magazine : MEMS Revolution Takes Off

MEMS technology is already at the business stage, seeking funding and ready for deployment. Hundreds of companies and thousands of researchers around the globe are working on MEMS projects. Here's a look at the standouts selected by WIRED. Get ready to be disrupted.

Click Sandia Intelligent Micromachines

Click Microvision Visual Light-scanning

Click UC Berkeley Mirco-robotics

Click Microsensors' micro sensors

Click Bell Labs (Lucent) Optical Networking

Rockwell spins of Collins

To returning to the industrial automation roots shared by many eNews readers, you probably remember my previous prognostications regarding Rockwell (Companies in Trouble - Oct 2000, Automation Slide Sept. 2000). With management that came from Allen-Bradley, Rockwell moved its focus away from aerospace and ASICs (fax-chips) to industrial automation. But, this has simply not attained the growth and success it needs to raise its stock from the doldrums and the market-cap of about $8b makes Rockwell a clear acquisition target.

Now, following a recent financial-market trend to "spin off" dis-similar segments (Hewlett Packard spun off Agilent, Lucent spun off Avaya - several others) Rockwell has decided to spin off Collins. Rockwell expects that Collins (Avionics & Communications) will do better on its own, fetching a better market value as a separate company. And too, any aggressive acquisition moves can be separated between the base automation business (interesting to Siemens) and the Avionics business (interesting to United Technologies, GE/Honeywell and others).

Rockwell Collins Employees recently received a letter from Clay Jones, President of Rockwell Collins, saying (in part):

    "I believe we have a terrific opportunity ahead of us. We have the opportunity to build on our strengths and successes as a fast-growing company. We have the opportunity to demonstrate how far we have come over the past few years in achieving our vision of becoming the most trusted source of communication and aviation electronic solutions. And we have the opportunity to have our own publicly-traded currency which can be used to grow the business through acquisitions and other actions and at the same time enhance employee personal rewards in the form of stock ownership."

Click Rockwell press release regarding Collins spin-off

MTL acquires Standard Automation

UK-based MTL (sales about $ 60m) recently announced the acquisition of Standard Automation (sales $ 17m) for about $ 20m.

MTL is publicly held in the UK, with a respectable market-cap of about $100m and is a leader (along with Pepperl+Fuchs and Stahl in Germany) in intrinsically safe products. The Intrinsic Safety market is declining as industrial networking reduces the need for multiple barriers in hazardous environments. Looking for growth, MTL has acquired what is essentially a sales company that represents Wonderware and others in the Southwestern US. The petrochemical industry (Houston, TX area) is traditionally the hotbed of IS products and MTL is looking to leverage its 8000 Series I/O products (private-labeled by Fisher-Rosemount Delta-V, and Siemens-Moore Procidia) into other process and automation markets.

A keen industry observer says this about Doug Whitehouse, President of Standard Automation: "Doug is the biggest rep for WonderWare and one of the most effective, professional sales and marketing guys on the planet."

In my experience, it is hazardous for a product company to acquire a sales company - the assets, balance sheets, values, people and objectives are quite dissimilar. It will be interesting to see whether Doug Whitehouse utilize his sales prowess to help grow MTL, or simply exits with a few million in his pocket. MTL needs to grow, or will itself become an acquisition target.

Click MTL news release announcing the Standard Automation acquisition


In the previous issue of eNews, Bradley Timm from South Africa [timmb@iafrica.com] e-suggested that we could discuss "Bizarre Projects”.

Kirk S. Hegwood [kirk.hegwood@hegwoodelectric.com] sent this in:

    "I had an interesting little project, much simpler than Bradley's. A customer asked me to develop a mechanism that would allow his quadriplegic brother-in-law to hunt again. The brother-in-law had been an avid outdoorsman, hunting, fishing and the like, but coming home late one night, he ran into a cow that had gotten loose from a field. Through the usual process of trial and error, we eventually developed a simple system that would operate with a joystick. The gun mount attached to his wheel chair and was powered by the batteries. It gave me a nice feeling knowing this man was once again enjoying himself. He actually wanted to manufacture them for others, but unfortunately, due to liability issues there was no way. Next is a fishing pole...."

E. Douglas Jensen [jensen@real-time.org] suggests :

Click This site is an endless source of utterly amazing stuff

Regarding our discussion on voice-response to replace keyboards, Dan Greenberg, Dan [DGreenberg@mainspring.com] e-wrote :

    "I ran into a company a while back here in Cambridge called Voice Signal They are a true "embedded application" voice recognition company. This is from their home page: We make very special speech recognition software. It's not for PC's or workstations, or super computers. It's for you, to make life easier. Soon our software will be in your phone, your microwave, your car, and your Internet device."

Click Voice Signal Voice recognition software

Nick Sheble [nsheble@ISA.org] e-suggested:

    "James Fallows had a piece on voice recognition software this month and he's pretty high on Dragon Systems' new technology. Check it out."

Click Dragon Systems Voice-recognition software

Dick Caro [RCaro@arcweb.com] e-exclaimed:

    "Think of the marvelous benefits if we could interface directly to the brain rather than via the retina. The blind could "see" - from science fiction, via Star Trek II, Jordy's visor. Meanwhile, what will be the replacement for the keyboard? Voice? I remain to be convinced. People do not speak the same as they write. Imagine the office cacophony if everyone was dictating documents in their Dilbert cubes!!!!! Yahhhh!!"

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