JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 198 : 6 December 2005

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

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The Future of the Internet

A recent Wired magazine article on the Internet's "10 years that changed the world" summarized our amazing progress. Ten years ago, Netscape and others introduced "browser"; Yahoo! was just a peculiar name; Amazon.com was mainly about books; and the two founders of Google (billionaires today) were Stanford students.

Since then, the Internet has revolutionized everyday life for millions of people around the world. The next obvious question is: What will the Internet be like in the future?

Between 1968 and 1982, Vinton Cerf played a key role, starting at UCLA and then with DARPA (US Defense Dept. Advanced Research Project) as the leader of the ARPANET team, the precursor to today's Internet. Now consulting with Google, he thinks that 90% of all Internet applications have yet to be invented. He says that users will begin using their mobile devices to control and manage other Internet-enabled appliances (kitchen appliances, entertainment gadgets). The cell phone will become the equivalent of a remote control device that works anywhere in the world.

A study by Pew Internet and American Life Project came up with concerns, coupled with excitement. Top on the list of worries is a cyber attack. Most analysts agree that terrorists or computer criminals are simply waiting for the right opportunity to strike. For example, a cyber attack could shut down the power grid in a large metropolitan area and keep it down. This is quite likely to happen within the next decade.

But there are positive projections too. There'll be self-healing, self-repairing and self-configuring computer systems. And everything, including coffee pots, home lighting, alarm systems, autos and heart pacemakers, will have a secure IP [Internet protocol] address and be able to be controlled by the owner. RFID tags will couple with Internet delivery to do all kinds of automatic shopping and delivery.

There'll be more changes and advancements in the news and publishing industry. Blogs (online journals) and podcasts (audio webcasts) are just the beginning. The home computer will become a 'digital hub', the centerpiece of a living room with content streaming from the Internet.

The boundary between work and leisure will diminish. Today's example is the PDA e-mail/phone/Web device. This changes habits, and (on the downside) become addictive.

Surveillance will be everywhere - governments watching everyone. In a post-9/11 world, some think this is a necessary tool, while others worry about the erosion of privacy. Get used to it.

Some think that online voting will be secure and widespread within a decade or so. But, though the possibility of secure voting remains enticing, most analysts agree that that there are too many problems and vulnerabilities for it to happen too quickly.

Interestingly, machines will overtake humans to become the biggest users of the Internet. There will be electronic sensors, smart homes, and tags that track users' movements and habits, and machines communicating with each other. Currently there are about 875 million Internet users worldwide, a number that may double. But, by comparison, there will be tens of billions of machines online in the decades ahead.

Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" is on the horizon....

Click Wired - 10 years that changed the world

Click The Internet: What lies ahead?

Click Machines will become the biggest users of the Internet

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New products for a new business environment - Innovation wins

Manufacturing – the transformation of materials into products – is no longer a primary source of prosperity in advanced economies. Productivity improvements through automation have caused manufacturing employment in the US to decline steadily, from 25% in the 1960's to less than 10% today. Even China is losing manufacturing jobs – between 1995 and 2002, China lost 15 million manufacturing jobs, compared with the loss of just 2 million in the US.

Discussing manufacturing strategies in the first decade of the new century is somewhat like discussing agricultural strategies at the start of the last century. Farming used to employ some 35% in the US at that time, and now employs less than 2%, generating a surplus of food and agricultural products. Most of this came through automation – giant tractors, harvester combines and the like.

To follow this time-shifted parallel a bit further, at the turn of this new century, agriculture in the US is all about high-tech, bio-tech, and info-tech. Also there's increasing vertical integration of production, processing, and distribution at all levels within the global agricultural system. One wonders how much of that is prescient for manufacturing in this century.

To achieve sustainable advantage, manufacturing efficiency must be coupled with innovative new products. Companies that go beyond manufacturing low priced commodities and offer improved customer values are the winners in the new global environment.

Truly innovative companies generate a major segment of their revenue from products designed within the past three to five years. Schneider Electric and ABB are two companies that stand out in this respect. Schneider has approximately 3,000 development engineers across 20 countries. ABB allocates more than 8% its revenue and 20% of its corporate resources to new developments and improvements.

Click Automation World Nov. 2005 - Automation plus innovation wins

Click Automation.com - Price/Margin/Volume Mindset Inhibits Growth

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The history of the PLC

The programmable logic controller (PLC) was first detailed on New Year's Day, 1968. Since then, a slow steady growth has allowed the manufacturing and process control industries to take advantage of applications-oriented software. Some 35 years later, it is arguably the most widely used product in the industrial automation business, with a worldwide market of several billions of dollars per year and available from hundreds of different sources, in many different form-factors (including embedded) and prices ranging from tens of thousands of dollars (for triple redundant, failure-proof systems) to commodity products at less than a hundred bucks.

My guru and long-time friend, Dick Morley, is generally credited with the "invention" of the PLC. But there were many others who were involved in the birth of this landmark development, including the late Odo Struger (from Allen-Bradley, now Rockwell).

Take a look at this History of the PLC - as told to Howard Hendricks by Dick Morley himself. In true Morley fashion, Dick calls these "fables" which may or may not have a basis of truth; but, he insists, they are the best that his memory can do at this time.

Read, learn and enjoy!

Click The history of the PLC

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The Universe outside & within

Take a look at this website, developed by Florida State University in Tallahassee. It zooms from galaxies to atoms in steps of 10, providing enthralling pictures of the Universe, outside and within.

The view begins (zoomed out to 10 to the power of +23) as a view of the Milky Way Galaxy viewed from a distance of 10 million light years and then Zooms in towards Earth in powers of ten: 10 million, to one million, to 100,000 light years, and then reaches a large oak tree, and begins to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons, down to 10 to -16 (100 attometers).

The software does all the work. Just sit back and imagine how perfect our Universe is. You can play it forward and backward to be amazed over and over. You can then click to review the process in reverse. You can set the delay time for each view, and go forwards or backwards, auto or manual.


Click Secret Worlds: The Universe Within

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Pinto's Points - Read it? Please do an Amazon.com Review

By now, a lot of JimPinto.com eNews readers have read my new book, "Pinto's Points". I have a favor to ask from those who have read it - please do a review on Amazon.com (link below); it helps.

Those of you who have not yet read the book - please grab a copy and read it. Or, better yet, buy a few copies and hand them out as Holiday gifts this year. I'll appreciate your contributions towards making this an ISA best-seller again.

Here are some of the back cover kudos:

  • "Jim is not afraid to take on conventional thinking. Jim will quickly catch your eye and force you to think. You may not agree, but you will think."
    – Gregory Hale, Editor, InTech magazine.
  • "Pinto's Points help develop strong leaders in the industry. They foster thought provoking conversation and allow leaders to put themselves at the forefront of industry trends."
    - Jack Bolick, President, Honeywell Process Solutions
  • "Jim goes beyond the face of technology to look at the implications of technology and how they change the game. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did."
    – Hesh Kagan, Director of Technology for New Business Development, Invensys Process Systems
  • "When you read Jim, you have the feeling that you’re looking through a telescope’s magnifying end. With Jim, you get to use the telescope with the microscope in the right direction: you see clearer, and you see things you cannot see with the naked mind."
    – Dick Morley, leading visionary & father of the programmable controller.
  • "Like a breath of fresh air in the frenetic ‘rush-rush’ of the world of automation burst Jim Pinto. With an incisive mind and a superb gift of observation, he earned the title of Poet Laureate of Instrumentation and Automation. Everything he touched was fun."
    - Eoin Ó Riain, of Read-out, and Instrumentation Signpost.

Click "Pinto's Points" - Read the complete Table of Contents

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Andy Wright [ajpwright@parker.com] on the problems of poverty which co-exists with excess wealth:
    "A few weeks ago the news was dominated for several days by the rioting in France, provoked by the desperation of the poor and disadvantaged in that country.

    "It's not hard to imagine the same thing happening in the USA. How long will poor people accept the in-your-face expressions of extravagant wealth and greed, when they themselves have no hope of employment, health-care or pensions?

    "Hard working middle-income employees also feel frustrated and powerless when faced with ever increasing energy costs - while reading about the record profits that oil companies are posting, and the huge salary and bonus payments paid to top executives. The poor just see the lines at the welfare and food banks growing and the chances of self-improvement virtually non-existent.

    "Even those that have jobs and are doing their best to improve their situation can be crippled by unexpected health care costs once their benefits limit has been exceeded. I know of a professional engineer earning decent money that was forced to take on two other part-time jobs in retail, evenings and weekends, in order to pay for health care costs after his company benefit plan maxed out when his wife became ill and he had an accident requiring back surgery. In the end he decided the only way out was to sell his home to help pay off his debts and re-locate in another state with cheaper housing and start all over again.

    "How sad that, in a country blessed with so much wealth that the 'Haves' cannot just be content with having enough to maintain their lifestyle, rather than the 'more is never enough' attitude that currently prevails.

    "Perhaps the answer to better distribution of wealth is to enforce a simple across the board 30% Personal Income Tax - no exceptions, no loopholes - for anybody earning above a certain minimum. Not very 'capitalist' I know, but since the rich pay the least taxes (percentage-wise) this would guarantee that everybody pays their fair share. The only problem then is we are relying on a wasteful bunch of bureaucrats to ensure that the money is spent and distributed to those that need and deserve it the most."

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Eli.Wittner@ctimi.com [Eli.Wittner@ctimi.com] discusses mis-leading advertising and the problem of controlling the supply of medications:

    "Regarding your recent article on pill-pushing. Although it is easy to pigeon-hole big-pharma with the advertising issues, my thoughts are that the problem is advertising in general.

    "Misleading advertising is ubiquitous. For many years, we have listened to radio announcers 'fast-speak' the last 5 seconds of a commercial with the more important caveats of the offer. When was the last time you got a hotel quote either by phone or by Internet, only to find out that there are myriad add-on occupancy taxes, sales taxes, etc.? Have you ever seen an automobile commercial tout the 'true cost of ownership'"? Bait and switch is illegal, but it is prevalent due to lack of enforcement. Until there is some kind of mechanism to control advertising for content and ethics, the problem will persist.

    "Getting back to the drug issue, there are valid reasons to suspect that drugs manufactured without regards to CGMP rules and regulations may not be safe. Further, opening the flood gates to Mexico and Canada would only entice entrepreneurs in even less desirable locations to produce and import drugs. There are stories about diluted formulations and even placebos being marketed as the real thing. I'm not sure what the solution should be; but I do know it would not be so simple as to force the FDA to allow imports without controls."

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Rick Walkemeyer [rwalk@ylwd.com] traces the decline of exhibitions to a lack of interest in innovation and push for low-cost:

    "Poor exhibition attendance is not just an ISA problem; many exhibitions are dying a slow death. E.g.: Comdex.

    "The American Water Works (where I work) has a paid office staff but the real work of setting standards for water works, putting on education forums of all types, and work to improve drinking water quality, is done by voluntary members on committees. Membership of those under age 48 is shrinking, and almost none of them volunteer for the committees that do the work. Talking with my friends I have learned most organizations and service clubs are suffering the same problems.

    "Many of these organizations have helped build this county. But society has moved on, and sees no value to make the extra effort, and the supporting corporations are also losing interest. If this continues, innovations, new startups and customer service will disappear.

    "As the larger firms stop the drive to have a big ISA announcement each year, the R&D research is also disappearing. The lowest-cost biggest-return (Wal-Mart model) will last for only a while and then give way to hungry competitors encroaching on the business.

    "It is sad to see the strengths of the US dismantled due to lack of interest!"

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