JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 31 : January 27, 2001

Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Stay e-tuned....

  • What is Kamen's Mystery IT ?
  • More on Peer-to-peer File-swapping
  • Using Unused Computing Power
  • Tech Review 10 : Biometrics (face recognition)
  • Holding Light Still
  • eFeedback
    • The Sad Side of Progress
    • Language Translation
    • Microsoft Mugging

What is Kamen's IT??

In the last eNews, we discussed Dean Kamen's mysterious new invention that has attracted significant venture financing and attention in the press. It turned out that the San Diego Union, my local newspaper, carried a feature on IT the same day, as did many other magazines and TV programs. So, I received a flurry of speculation. So, who is Dean Kamen? And what is IT?

Someone said : "It is difficult to tell the difference between a saint and a flake". Dean Kamen got mostly positive, but some negative, comments.

Ray Zack [ZaxFax@aol.com] e-said :

    "This is entirely consistent with Kamen's "MO", One of his last inventions was based on a highly disguised version of Boyle's Law, which he promoted as a whole new concept. The latest Patent appears to be based on Stirlings combustion engine, patented in 1816!"

Bob Nickels [bob.nickels@honeywell.com] e-moted :

    "I have the highest respect for Dean Kamen, not only as a technologist, but as a person of passion who is driven to accomplish things that most of us just talk about. I think he is a very smart guy, who surrounds himself with folks who are even smarter, but it's the passionate pursuit of a fundamental change in our society's approach to science and technology that impresses me the most. His pursuit of these overarching goals probably accounts for why some (who would pursue even more monetary success instead) might call him a flake. I doubt he'd be up for sainthood either, but if he is truly able to change how our culture views science and technology, then he'll certainly earn a place in history - with or without a newfangled motor-scooter!"

So, what is IT ?? The prevailing opinion is that IT stands for Individual Transporter and IT may be the device described in Kamen's patent application published in December 2000, which includes a picture of the product.

Click Kamen's Latest Patent

Alex Pavloff, Software Engineer, Eason Technology [apavloff@eason.com] e-reported :

    "I know what IT is, Jim."

And Alex sent this URL link to a webpage that shows an excellent picture of IT, actually operating!

Click Animated Picture of operating IT

Is file-swapping music piracy?

Have you used Napster? It's incredible - name an artist, or the title of a song and it seeks out copies on other users computers, which you can then download - for free! While you are downloading, others may be downloading songs from your computer !

Click Try it yourself! Napster website

The battle over music piracy continues. We're now entering the next phase in the recording industry's fight for the control of music distribution. The three most important numbers in the debate:

  • Music file-swapping site Napster has 51 million users
  • Napster users buy less music.
  • Napster users are more likely to increase what they spend on music than non-Napster users.

In other words, people love getting music online, but nobody knows whether it's good or bad for CD sales. In the meantime, under the wing of Bertelsmann (the book publishing giant that owns Barnes & Noble, among others) Napster continues to facilitate downloading. And, if it is ordered to stop, other websites will inevitably takes its place. How can anyone stop voluntary peer-to-peer file downloading?

IBM is reported to have come up with a new Electronic Media Management System (EMMS) technology, which limits the use of a song after it has been distributed once. But, will this stop Napster? Or, just delay the inevitable - voluntary sharing?

Click Read the ZDNET story on IBM EMMS technology

Using Unused Computer Power

There will soon be an explosion of businesses that multiplex the online resources of all the computers on the Web. Companies are gearing up to broker unused PC processing cycles to companies that need supercomputer-like resources: doing complex financial, genetic, and other simulations, image processing (such as is needed for computer-animated movies). Because computing power and bandwidth often go hand in hand, it makes sense for these products to run on idle night-time desktops of corporate office workers- it would be a good way for businesses to recoup some of those sunk PC costs. However, it's far more likely that the first groups to take advantage of this technology will be home users with DSL and cable connections.

Regardless, this is an interesting business, and it is also a bit of a race. A bigger network will be faster and attract more paying customers and thus more people wanting to get on the system to sell their cycles. It's not quite a natural monopoly, but this business will have extremely strong network effects.

In reality, peer-to-peer (P2P) computing is just one-third - grid computing and distributed information infrastructure are the other two-thirds - of a very hot idea: distributed computing. This year, distributed computing will be one of the VC hot-buttons - venture capitalists are throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at companies like AppleSoup, Centrata, Quiq, NextPage, Distributed Science, Engenia Software, Popular Power, Static Online, United Devices, and Uprizer.

Distributed computing is going to change the way we think about technology and the Internet itself. On a practical level, it will have far-reaching effects on how software is written, and on how computer and networking gear is installed in businesses.

P2P will spawn many companies that use Napster-like services to distribute video, music, files, and even software. Napster provides a primitive example of what these new applications might be. The music-sharing service's central servers act like traffic cops, keeping important data on members and shared file lists and performing music searches. While Napster users store and download music using their own resources, key data elements are kept in-house, on Napster's central servers. Napster's technology applied to the enterprise supply chain - where key data is kept within the walls of a corporation but the rest of the chain is broken up among suppliers - is one way companies might use distributed computing.

Click Distributed Computing - Red Herring Magazine's 2001 Top-10 Trends

Tech Review : Biometrics

The Jan/Fe 2001 MIT Review Technology Trends listed their selection of the 10 most important technology trends:

Click MIT Review : Tech Top-10

Let's look more closely at Biometrics : identifying individuals by specific biological traits. Large companies use fingerprint sensors for logging on to corporate networks, state driver's license authorities employ face recognition for capturing and storing digital photographs, and the first iris-scan-protected ATM in the US was introduced in Texas in May 1999. Yet consumers have been reluctant to adopt the technology, and so far, it remains largely relegated to military and government applications.

Today, PDAs and cell phones are becoming our portal to the world, our transaction devices, our ID and perhaps soon our passport. These small gadgets carry so much of our personal and financial information, and this brings great risk - lost or stolen identities. The increasing and urgent need for security is driving biometrics.

The tools for biometrics are already emerging rapidly : increased bandwidth, new cell phones, PDAs equipped with digital cameras. Together, these create an infrastructure capable of putting biometrics into the hands of consumers. Visionics, based in New Jersey, is developing software tools that allow rapid and accurate detection and recognition of faces, to enable the authentication of any transaction.

Click MIT Tech-Review article on Biometrics

Click Visionics website - face-recognition software

Holding Light Still

The NY Times, January 18, 2001, had this story :
"Scientists Bring Light to Full Stop, Hold It, Then Send It on Its Way..."

Light normally moves through space at 186,000 miles a second. Ordinary transparent media like water, glass and crystal slow light slightly, an effect that causes the bending of light rays that allows lenses to focus images and prisms to produce spectra.

Using a distantly related but much more powerful effect, a research team at centered around Harvard University, is Massachusetts, first slowed and then stopped the light in a medium that consisted of specially prepared containers of gas. In this medium, the light became fainter and fainter as it slowed and then stopped. By flashing a second light through the gas, the team could essentially revive the original beam, which then left the chamber carrying nearly the same shape, intensity and other properties it had when it entered.

The achievement is a landmark feat that, by reining in nature's swiftest and most ethereal form of energy for the first time, could help realize what are now theoretical concepts for vastly increasing the speed of computers and the security of communications.

Hey! Could this lead to StarWars like faster-than-light "transportation" ? Beam me up!

Click Read the NY Times story


The comments continued on my essay :

Click View 2001 : Growth in a Shrinking World

This from Ron Wheeler [rwheeler@aaxico.com] - would you believe, my school-mate from way back, in Bangalore, India, now a marketing executive in England :

    "I have just returned from sales trips to India and China. I was appalled at the child labour, the smells, pollution, poor sanitation, congestion and mayhem in the cities. The countryside looked as good as ever, but the urban sprawls were dreadful.

    "In my mind, I began to criticize the powers-that-be who are so corrupt and self-serving that they do nothing about it. And then I remembered that Victorian/Dickensian London and turn-of-20th century New York and other capital cities in their headlong rush with electric power, telephones, radio and travel, would have been just as dreadful with horse dung all over the place, the black smoke from the chimneys and the fumes from the gas lamps, the poor sewage collection.

    "So the western world cleaned up its act and now the Third World will have to because we have transferred all that stuff to them while we sit back. The two countries with the largest populations have the problems, multiplying exponentially.

    "I am not normally a gloom merchant but I admit to being depressed at the comet-like conception of all the wonderful things you speak, bright and fast, but in its wake a less-glorious trail of rubbish. I just hope there will be a world order which will create a sweeper class which makes lots of money clearing up after the bright young things in their pursuit of progress. Perhaps it will be the only way to ensure that the system does not fall apart."

Doug Bailey [jdbailey@flash.net] e-wrote :

    "You have made some thought provoking prophecies - I especially like the language translators. That might come to pass in my lifetime - think of the problems caused by simple misunderstanding of ideas, opinions, events (catastrophic or common), cultural mores, etc. I once spent three months living in the jungle in southeast Asia. The frustration of not being able to communicate even simple things, let alone have a discussion, is enormous. You cannot know a person until you know his language."

Still on language translation, Joe Jansen [JoeJansen@KEMET.COM] e-said :

    " For what it is worth, I picked up this article over the weekend. The "Universal Translator". Not quite a PDA, but it is still small...."

    Click Universal Translator

Regarding the story on Microsoft - "The Whole Truth" - and my poem:

Click The Legal Mugging of Microsoft

Bud Keyes, [Bud.Keyes@FRCO.com] e-xploded :

    "The mugging of Gates is an apt description. An unbiased analysis would have to say that Bill and Microsoft are responsible for much of the amazing productivity gain we enjoyed in the late 1990's and are still enjoying today. This productivity gain has created capacity, killed inflation and actually driven prices down. It has also has made wages even less relevant in the overall inflation model.

    " People attribute this productivity pop to the Internet but really the suite of applications that has popularized the internet is for damn sure not based on SunOS, UNIX, Linux or any other arcane operating system. Only Gates software and the complementary applications that ride on it have provided the ease of use that has finally "brought the power of the internet to the people". To pillory Gate and Microsoft is, in my view, a crime that could only be conceived by the perverted minds of David Boies, Janet Reno, William Jefferson Clinton and their ilk."

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