JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 34 : February 21, 2001
Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- ABB Blahs
- Siemens' Stew Simmers
- Embedded Fieldbus chip
- MIT Tech Review: Flexible Electronics
- Futurescope 2001: Evolution of the TechnoHuman
- Slow light
- Growth in automation
- Distributed computing
We start with some industrial automation stuff in this issue.
Swedish ASEA and Brown Boveri, along with the acquisition of Combustion
Engineering and Taylor in the US, George Kent in the UK, and a multitude of
others -most recently Elsag Bailey - puts ABB among the top-3 in the
industrial automation business.
The decision of former ABB CEO Goeran Lindahl to focus on factory
automation has been tough on the company. Shareholders watched the stock
drop precipitously as the company spent millions on acquisitions while
competitors reported falling demand. So, after 30 years in ABB, 15 years in
corporate management and four years as CEO, Lindahl has been replaced by
Jorgen Centerman, 48, the head of ABB's Automation business.
In reality, ABB is in big trouble. Lindahl was dumped because his
transformation wasn't working and the profit growth was all related to
accounting issues and capital gains. After previously indicating that a
move to US GAAP would have no material impact, ABB's operating profit fell
by a third, which was even worse than expected. And they are stuck in a
low growth, low margin rut. The shares are down 40% from last year and
could fall a lot further.
The new CEO, Jorgen Centerman, has the backing of Percy Barnevik, Chairman
of the ABB Board. Centerman is a smart guy and knows the automation
business. He has promised that he will reinvent ABB as a customer-centric
organization and that the first fruits of his new strategy will be evident
in a couple of quarters. However, to change an organization with 160,000
employees, restructure the way it has historically operated and expect the
new structure to deliver significant business gains by the second half of
the current year is hugely optimistic - such transformations rarely occur
Also, Centerman is starting out knee-deep in gaap-goop. ABB had previously
delayed its planned US stock-market listing blaming "weak market
conditions". Now, it's recent press release reports that they intend to be
listed on the New York Stock Exchange during the second quarter of 2001. It
seems certain that US GAAP accounting, which ABB still does not understand,
will collapse Centerman's customer-centric campaign.
An ABB bid for Invensys is unlikely - they are still sorting out Elsag
Bailey and must tend to their own, old knitting if they hope to survive.
Browse the ABB website
The latest crop of ABB press releases
Siemens stew simmers...
Speaking of US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), which the
Europeans think they understand, but don't - Siemens, the biggest of the
industrial automation majors, is expected to get listed on NYSE shortly.
That's when the fun and games will start. Siemens reports that they have
already installed US GAAP, but they simply do not understand the scrutiny
of the US analysts. We should expect to see the same type problems that ABB
will experience with GAAP when the analysts start probing Siemens'
Siemens is hungry for automation market-share and is the leading contender
to buy IAC - the industrial automation and controls division of Honeywell -
from GE who just recently bought all of Honeywell and is still evaluating
strategy and tactics. Some insiders report that it seems more and more
likely that GE will keep IAC, though the axe may fall on some of the
leadership, notably IAC President John Weber, who will inevitably take the
blame for his boss Bonsignore's blunders.
Siemens recently bought Moore Process Automation (now called Moore-Siemens)
which it will quickly dissipate by integration into its own, bloated
corporate hierarchy. It seems that the Germans don't quite know how to run
small, independent organizations without inserting Deutsch discipline. If
Siemens cannot buy IAC from Jack Welch of GE, expect them to turn their
attention to Rockwell (Allen-Bradley) and perhaps Invensys.
Siemens FY2000 annual report
Press release with Q1-2001 results
Embedded Fieldbus chip
Mike Justice of Synergetic Microsystems brings our attention to their
introduction of a new EmbeddedComm EC-1 chip. This is a complete
communications System-on-a-chip (SoC) that features Multiple Network
communications including Ethernet, Dual CAN Channels, Profibus DP, SPI and
Dual serial channels. A high performance Turbo 80186 compatible
microprocessor, that can handle the most demanding embedded applications,
has also been integrated into the EC-1. By combining a cost effective,
powerful microprocessor, peripherals, fast internal memory and integrated
communications controllers, the EC-1 offers the lowest total cost design,
quick integration and the shortest possible time to market.
My question to Mike:
In the low-volume industrial automation business, can
this technology generate the volume need for commercial success?
"A system on chip with Ethernet is the big thing, the CAN
and Profibus and serial ports are a bonus; most of the designs will go that
way. We are winning designs for Ethernet connectivity and by the way the
others come for free. Who will buy? All the majors are interested in
industrial, medical, and automotive test equipment. The embedded market is
much bigger than industrial. Design Wins are rolling - volume to follow".
I caution Mike:
Beware the "majors who are interested". They will all
send marketing guys with notepads, to review your power-point
presentations; and the engineers will follow-on, to get some free
education. Pick your partners wisely, my friend!
Check out this neat chip on the Synergetic embeddedcomm website
MIT Tech Review : Flexible Electronics
The Jan/Feb 2001 MIT Review Technology Trends listed their
selection of the 10 most important technology trends:
MIT Tech Review 10
The implementation of pervasive computing-the spread of digital information
everywhere in human society-will require electronics capable of bringing
information technology off the desktop and out into the world. To digitize
newspapers, product labels and clothing, integrated circuits must be cheap
and flexible-a tough combination for today's silicon technology. Even the
cheapest form of silicon electronics is too pricey. And it's difficult to
incorporate electronics on bendable surfaces such as plastics.
Technology innovators are finding ways to circumvent these limitations.
Some are trying to reinvent amorphous silicon. Others have abandoned
inorganic compounds like silicon to develop transistors based on organic
(carbon-based) molecules or polymers. Organic electronics are inexpensive
to manufacture and compatible with plastic substrates and several research
teams have made impressive progress, with commercial products nearing the
market. But organic circuits are still far slower than silicon. Recently,
Cherie Kagan at IBM research has developed transistors made from materials
that combine the power and speed of silicon with the affordability and
flexibility of organics. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.
MIT Review Flexible Transistors
Developer Cherie Kagan's page at IBM Research
Futurescope 2001: Evolution of the TechnoHuman
The annual meetings of The World Future Society are unique,
excitement-packed events. Since the First General Assembly in 1971, the
Society has held a variety of small and large conferences that have brought
together futurists from around the world to share ideas and vital
information about the trends and events that will affect the world
The 2001 Annual Conference "FutureScope 2001: Exploring the 21st Century"
will be July 29-31, 2001 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Hilton Minneapolis
and Towers. I will be presenting at a Technology session on: Evolution of
the Techno-Human. Here is a synopsis of my talk.
In this century, technology speed-up will continue with major evolutionary
consequences and significant societal change. The technology tools of the
future will allow an evolution into a new form of techno-human. Some
fringe-thinkers are already discussing trans-human and post-human
Our current pace of technological progress poses a very real threat to the
future of the human species. But, there is also potential for tremendous
good-synergy can develop between natural and synthetic intelligence.
Sequencing of the human genome will bring a new level of knowledge of our
biological makeup. Technology will enhance biology through the virtual
elimination of disease and significant increase in longevity. What are the
societal and philosophical changes that will occur?
Who should attend: Those interested in technology futures, artificial
intelligence, human/machine interaction and symbiosis, societal changes
caused by technology, and philosophical impacts of synthetic intelligence
exceeding human intelligence.
What you’ll learn: This presentation will allow you to keep abreast of the
fast-moving technology shifts, as well as stimulate thinking about the
societal and philosophical impacts of synthetic intelligence and
combinations of man/machine (synthetic life). Participants will walk away
with a summary of these technology shifts that are causing fundamental
change in human/machine interface and interaction.
World Future Society
Futurescope 2001: Conference Information
Technology/Science Session Descriptions
My article Evolution of the TechnoHuman
Neil Kelly [email@example.com] from down-under is still thinking about
slow-light. He e-muses:
"I read somewhere that although he got the Nobel prize for work related to
light, it was not its nature that triggered Einstein's imagination. In fact
it was by a flash of insight (pardon the metaphorical pun) that he realized
that its velocity in vacuum could actually be a universal constant. All
relativistic investigations thereon I believe dealt only with this
constant, and not light itself. So, I fear that merely hitching a ride on
a slow photon might not give us eternal life...."
After reading my article "2001: Industrial Automation Outlook" wherein I
complained that industrial businesses are not growing, Pat Kennedy
"Not sure I agree, OSISOFT ($ 60m and still grrrowing) is not exactly small
and can generate organic growth at will - all it takes is a focused
business plant, good people, and lots of money."
Regarding Napster, and the powerful concept of Distributed Computing, Russ
Kinnear [Russ.Kinner@avcacorp.com] brings this to our attention :
"You might note that there are several voluntary organizations that have
worked on distributed computing applications for years. Look at
Distributed.net : Founded in 1997, the project has grown to encompass
thousands of users around the world and distributed.net's computing power
has grown to become equivalent to that of more than 160,000 PentiumII
266Mhz computers working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!
The infrastructure has been enhanced over the years and refined to a point
where it can reliably handle tens of thousands of new computers.
"So, solving complex problems by breaking them up into small chunks and
sending them on to thousands of processors is already being done
effectively. Making a business plan that can be profitable to both the
coordinator and the PC owner to harness the spare processor cycles is the
only challenge left."
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