JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 70 : December 5, 2001
Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- Video games train troops to fight terrorists
- Kamen's 'IT' announced - Segway Human Transporter
- Soft solutions for hard problems
- Invensys dismemberment proceeds
- Brokers hired for sale of pieces
- Action Instruments crumbles
- Happy birthday - now I'm 64!
- Shared values vs. Ayn Rand's Objectivism
- The real problem is the economic gap
- Distributed vs. centralized living
Anti-terrorism technology - 10
With the click of a mouse you flip from a huge, blank movie screen to a
seat in a Humvee rumbling through the misty cobbled streets of a village
where there has been an accident. A turbaned child lies in the street in
critical condition. Townspeople glare angrily from a curb. A helicopter
Video-games train troops to tackle terrorists
This is Mission Rehearsal Exercise one of several high-tech interactive
video games designed to train U.S. soldiers in the rigors of war. A series
of scenarios projected on a 150-degree movie screen with floor-shaking
surround sound, mimic the sound and feel of a variety of hostile war
situations, natural disasters and peacekeeping missions.
Ubi Soft Entertainment, one of the world's largest video game companies, is
licensing technology used to create simulations to help train soldiers. The
Department of Defense plans to use the game engine from 'Tom Clancy's
Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear' - the programming that powers the game's logic -
to train troops to fight terrorists in urban terrain. It will be modified
to use maps and scenarios requested by the U.S. Army, and will teach
strategy and tactics, as opposed to weapons training.
Training the military to tackle terrorists
Soldiers play 'virtual reality' training games
Dean Kamen's 'Ginger' is announced:
More than a year ago, we were intrigued by the top-secret new machine that
Dean Kamen was working on - code named "Ginger". On Monday (3 December
2001) the ABC television program "Good Morning America" demonstrated the
invention - a one-person, two-wheeled, battery-powered scooter that can
travel at about 12 mph.
Segway Human Transporter
Says Kamen: "This self-balancing human transporter does what a human does -
it has gyros and sensors that act like your inner ear; a computer that does
what your brain does for you; motors that do what your muscles do for you;
tires that do what your feet do for you." (You can see videos via some of
the web-links below)
Supporters insist that the agile scooter will displace awkward, polluting
cars, leading to realigned cityscapes that are more people-friendly.
Segway HT will be sold in limited quantities over the next few weeks. By
the end of next year it should be widely available at a price around
My friend Ray Zack, a long-time Kamen observer, doesn't believe the claims:
"I am still having trouble with the Physics - 2HP inductive loads, plus
gyros, plus mechanical losses, 300 pounds capacity, 11-15 mile range,
etc. - all in a package weighing about 80 pounds, including batteries. A
TIME: Re-inventing the wheel
"Several years ago, a simple 2-wheel scooter was
offered for sale, using a small gasoline engine driving the rear wheel and
started by impulse. It had a range of about 15 miles on a quart of gas - no
batteries, no gyros, no electronics, no electric motors - and weighed about
45 pounds. I am having trouble seeing how Kamen's Segway can become
CNN Sci-tech:Scooter like magic sneakers (includes videos)
Soft solutions for hard problems
Comments and feedback on this topic continue strong and supportive. More
and more people seem to be recognizing that the headlong rush into hard
technology does not provide solutions for the softer side of humanity.
The first of my articles has just been published (December '01) in the
popular web-magazine spark-online.
"Soft Solutions" at spark-online
Soft Solutions for Hard Problems
Your inputs, ideas, feedback,
commentary, suggestions and encouragement will be much appreciated!
eSpeak to me :
Invensys dismemberment proceeds
It has been clear for some times that Invensys cannot survive, with its
Yurko-legacy debt burden. This week, it became official. The company has
hired two brokers ("investment bankers" is the respectable name)- Morgan
Stanley and JP Morgan - to sell £1b worth of the business (nominally flow
controls and battery systems).
Analysts have pointed out that Invensys has £3.3b debt and raising money
through disposals is difficult in current economic conditions. They expect
industrial automation systems and other businesses to be sold off as well.
So, what will be left - Baan?
UK Financial Times: Invensys asks banks to sell £1bn of assets
Rick Haythornthwaite is doing what is expected and Invensys stock has risen
on the expectation that the group will be sold at some sensible value.
Haythornthwaite would quickly become Haythornwait or Haythornweight if he
did not bring in the brokers immediately to coordinate the auction and
maximize the sale-price.
In a poor economy, no one seems to want to make a bid to buy the whole ugly
mess. All the usual buyers (Emerson, Tyco, GE, Siemens, Schneider) are
looking (ABB and Honeywell are too busy with their own problems). Everyone
is fishing for the good pieces and no one wants the carrion.
In the meantime, all the pieces are aware that they are being sold; I get a
hundred emails about somebody making a tour, and noise about who is buying
what. And the re-structure re-org rumors rumble regularly.
My own advice to the Invensys people:
You will be better off when your
company is sold. They will be looking for good, motivated talent to help
build what they buy.
Action Instruments crumbles
Action Instruments, the company that I founded 30 years ago, was a jewel in
the instrumentation business till it was acquired by Eurotherm (my choice),
then an exciting UK publicly traded company. Sadly, a few months later
Invensys bought Eurotherm (not my choice).
Several key people have since exited Eurotherm: Peter Wade the CEO retired,
Peter Vos the CFO moved to Baan, Allen Imrie (Systems Division CEO) went to
Roxboro. Eurotherm has since crumbled under the weight of mis-management by
those who remain.
Bill Perry, President of Eurotherm USA planned to exit two years ago - even
he wonders why he is still there. Frank Williams, long term Action hero and
my choice as President of Action Instruments, quit in disgust a few months
ago. VP Marketing Fred Noble, and dynamic Marketing Manager Mike Adelman,
joined Graviton (wireless sensors) in San Diego recently.
Just this week, Rob Henley, the dynamic VP of Sales who has been at Action
for 22 of his 41 years, resigned to join stellar startup Xsilogy (web-based
wireless data acquisition) also in San Diego.
Companies like Weidmuller and Turck are now reported to be looking to buy
what is left of Action. You know, perhaps Action will be better off sold to
someone who can bring back the sparkle.
Rob Henley is at Xsilogy
Fred Noble & Mike Adelman are at Graviton
Happy birthday! Now I'm 64!
I've always been a Beatles fan - indeed, I kinda feel I learned music from
the Beatles, trying to follow all their interesting chord progressions.
One of my favorite songs has always been: "When I'm 64" - I had always
savored the idea that, if I was lucky enough to last till the new century,
I'd eventually get there.
Well, I've arrived at December 6, 2001 and I'll be 64 (tomorrow). To
celebrate, I've written this little ditty - which you can sing to the tune
of the Beatles song. Try it!
"Now I'm 64" - right here on the web
P.S.: I couldn't put in the "grandchildren on my knee" line yet - though
I'm excited to announce that my son David and his wife Surya are expecting
a boy in April. So, I'll be a grandpa soon....
University of San Diego Professor Dennis Zocco [firstname.lastname@example.org]
"I believe your emerging philosophical (and pragmatic) body of thought is a
counterpoint (not a complete refutation) of Ayn Rand's Philosophy of
Objectivism (which includes "The Virtue of Selfishness"). Her ideas had
their place in the 20th century, and resulted in the advance of capitalism
and the exposure of communism as a non-viable economic system. But with
the close of the previous millennium, they were taken to their extreme and
resulted in the resentment of American values in many places in the world
as well as economic excesses followed by dramatic failures.
Canadian Jerry Van Ee [email@example.com] wrote:
"There is no better time than the beginning of our new millennium for new
thinking - a Philosophy of Shared Values, or something of that sort, to
serve as a contrast to Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism. A new soft
technology of thinking and reasoning."
"In your latest email musings you are brushing up against subjects which
are much bigger than events of September 11, 2001, or the US economy, or
capitalism in general. Frankly, much of the world is in a condition where
most of the citizens do not have the basic essentials of life such as a
steady supply of food or decent shelter.
Lou Heavner [Lou.Heavner@EmersonProcess.com] commented on distributed vs.
"I don't think much of the world
cares to find out about American "freedoms and the warmth of its culture".
They want to have a decent place to live and be able to put food on the
table everyday. These are two things to which most North Americans never
have to give a second thought. I am not saying that Americans caused the
situation and I do not know if they have an obligation to try to fix it."
"I don't know how far and how fast we will embrace distributed living, but
there will definitely be some changes. I am generally wary of claims like
higher reliability and reduced environmental impact. It may come to pass,
but where are all the old worn out batteries going? To the sea or a
landfill or an incinerator? And where will they all be made? In battery
operated factories? And if we fly less, will we drive more? Revert back
"Walking and bicycling are possible answers, but when itís
hot like it was this summer in Austin, TX. That doesn't seem like progress
to me - especially when schlepping around 5 kids and the family pets. And
during the holidays, I will miss the hugs and kisses from visiting
relatives. Somehow, I can't imagine a virtual reality environment that will
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