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.
- Kurzweil on Nanotechnology
- 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
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.
Extropy Institute Council of Advisors
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
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.
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.
Cornell University news item on bio-molecular motors
Look at the recent BBC News Sci/Tech Item
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.
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.
Sandia Intelligent Micromachines
Microvision Visual Light-scanning
UC Berkeley Mirco-robotics
Microsensors' micro sensors
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
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."
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
MTL news release announcing the Standard Automation acquisition
In the previous issue of eNews, Bradley Timm from South Africa
[email@example.com] e-suggested that we could discuss "Bizarre Projects”.
Kirk S. Hegwood [firstname.lastname@example.org] 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
E. Douglas Jensen [email@example.com] suggests :
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."
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."
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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