JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 103 : November 12, 2002

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

  • More on human longevity - 3
  • Electric-auto technology will spread
  • Siemens & ABB - Compare & Contrast
  • JimPinto.com Weblogs growth
  • The Pervasive Internet
  • eFeedback:
    • Chinacosm comments from an American living in China
    • ABB commentary was unfair; switching to Reps & Distributors
    • Acquisitions of small companies doomed to fail

More on human longevity (3)

Our coverage of this subject continues to generate great interest and discussion.

Just a generation ago, 40 was over-the-hill. The idea of sexy 50-, 60-, 70- and 80-year-olds seemed a contradiction in terms. This is no longer true - as has been demonstrated by Tina Turner, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Farrah Fawcett, Candice Bergen, Lauren Hutton, Sophia Loren, Jane Fonda, Raquel Welch, etc. Not to mention Peter Jennings, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Harry Belafonte, Sean Connery, Colin Powell, Kevin Costner, Ricardo Montalban, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman - and the list goes on and on.

Today, there is a whole new industry involved with halting, slowing or actually reverse aging. Their marketing message is NOT just achieving advanced years, but doing so vigorously, and even youthfully. Americans are spending an estimated $6 billion on substances from ginkgo biloba to human growth hormone, that claim to offer new powers.

Some skeptics believe that all these potions producing nothing but expensive urine. But, consider this:

  • Respected demographers calculate that half the babies born today will live to be 100.
  • The number of 100-year-olds in the US has been increasing by over 7% per year since the '50s. The fastest-growing group of drivers in Florida is over 85.
  • Dozens of companies (some staffed by distinguished scientists) are in the business of dramatically slowing aging.
  • Bets have been placed (amounting to millions on payoff) that at least one person alive today will live to 150.
  • Eminent technologists believe that science will evolve so fast in their lifetimes that they themselves will live energetically for a very long time, if not be effectively immortal.
The list of believers includes William Haseltine, CEO of Human Genome Sciences in Rockville, who soon may be biotech's first billionaire; Ray Kurzweil, the technology futurist who I have written about and quoted many times; and Eric Drexler, the nano-technology guru and author of the ground-breaking book "Engines of Creation."

Ray Kurzweil, now 54, sees biotechnologies within the decade that will allow us to regrow our tissues and organs, prevent hardening of the arteries and cure diabetes. Ray agrees that the vast majority of us are going to get sick and die in the old-fashioned way; but he suggests that we don't have to do that - we're right on the cusp!

Ray Kurzweil insists that the human biological systems are really very inefficient, not optimally engineered. A well-designed blood system should allow you to sprint for several minutes without getting tired. And the human gastro-intestinal system is inefficient - it stores too much fat.

Beyond 10 years Ray Kurzweil sees technologies that will supplement red and white blood cells with little robotic devices that are hundreds of times faster. And he also sees gastrointestinal systems being replaced with engineered ones that would allow us to eat as much of anything as we want, for sociability and pleasure, while intelligently extracting nutrients from food and trashing the rest.

This long view has had a profound perspective on Ray Kurzweil's own life. He says: "I really envision living through this century and beyond, and it does give me a sense of the possibilities. I am not looking to slow down 10 years from now and be happy if I make it to 80. It's liberating. I envision doing things and being different kinds of people that the normal model of human wouldn't allow." Ultimately Ray envisions us expanding our brains through "intimate interaction with non-biological intelligence" (computers).

Beyond just futurists and enterprising startup companies, INTEL has formed a new "Proactive Health Research" group to look at how computing can be used in the health care industry, especially to help take care of the quickly growing population of senior citizens. Intel is using sensor networking, smart home technology and artificial intelligence to develop products that can be used in the home and applied to the quickly growing population of senior citizens.

So, if YOU live to be 100, with energy and vitality, what do YOU think YOU will be doing?

Click Washington Post - Forever Young

Click Intel gives health care a tech checkup

Click Ray Kurzweil's book - The Age of Spiritual Machines

Electric-auto technology will spread

This (summary) from the latest George Gilder weekly e-news (gosh, I love the way this guy writes....)

Picture a vast parking lot filled with 10,000 cars. At exactly the same moment every single driver turns the ignition key, shifts into neutral, floors the accelerator, and 10,000 engines go screaming up to the red line on the tachometer. All together, those engines are now generating about 1 gigawatt of power. Which is about as much power as flows down a few dozen high-voltage lines from a typical electric power plant operating at full power.

America has some 200 million power-plants-on-wheels (automobiles). If they ran flat out, all the time, they would burn 5 to 10 times as much fuel as 2-3,000 electric power plants. But the electric power plants in fact burn more fuel, and produce much more useful power, because they run very efficiently, around the clock, and at close to peak capacity for many hours of the day.

Heat, which defines the third principal sector of our energy economy, is about the same size as the transportation sector. The thermal sector uses furnaces, ovens, dryers, and welders to heat air, water, foods, and chemicals, to cure paints and glues, to forge steel, and to weld ships.

The future of energy technology comes down to one overarching trend and one key paradox. The trend is electrification: electricity is the ascendant fuel of our energy economy. The paradox is that the automotive sector consumes barely 30% of our energy but builds about 90% of our energy conversion technology. Thus, while the automotive sector is certainly the last of the three main sectors to embrace the electric drive train, the technologies that electrify the distribution of power under the hood of the car will ultimately dominate electrical power processing everywhere.

Automobiles have a unique demand for high volume, low cost and exceptional reliability. The best energy-technology companies are working with the auto-manufacturers to electrify brakes, steering, pumps, valves, suspension, and ultimately the wheels - everything downstream of the internal combustion engine. Very profitable margins are now opening up between the old mechanical-hydraulic power distribution systems (almost a century old) and the electrical systems that now offer at least ten-fold improvements in speed, precision, reliability, fuel economy, and environmental performance. These same auto-industry suppliers will quickly dominate the rest of the energy-tech sector as well - the power-related tiers of industrial machines, consumer products, and information technology.

Intel developed its microprocessors for desktop computers but ended up selling them for cars, cell phones, and microwaves. The companies that come to dominate the market for automotive power processors will end up selling them to factories, offices, and homes. The big telecom story of the current decade is the convergence of telephony, cable, and broadcasting into a single, digital, broadband market. The big energy-tech story will be the convergence of the automotive, industrial, and electrical sectors.

Click Digital Power Report - Pontiacs & Powerchips

Click InTech Pinto's Point (24 Apr. 2002) - The Silicon Car

Click Get George Gilder's Friday letter (free):

Siemens & ABB - Compare & Contrast

The largest (by far) company in the industrial automation business is Germany-based Siemens. The 155 year-old company has always been considered staid and conservative. It's European rival ABB, on the other hand, had always been held up as a model of enlightened leadership, good management, aggressive growth orientation.

ABB (the Swiss-Swedish result of the merger of ASEA & Brown Boveri) grew through literally hundreds of acquisitions. Chairman Percy Barnevik, who ran ABB from 1988 to 1996, was considered by many to be the chief architect of the company's growth strategy.

Barnevik thought that ABB could gain a leadership position in the vast industrial automation & process controls business by stitching together the fragments, with the vain hope that an enlightened management style could generate positive results.

Barnevik would have found these Pinto-maxims useful:

  • Pig + pig = Piglets
  • The only person interested in a lot of pigs is a pig farmer
  • Never play with a pig - you both get dirty and the pig likes it
With ABB's continued decline, Barnevik's departure was clouded by the news that his golden-handshake was a little too golden for European tastes. And today, with a combination of bad luck and bad timing, after 3 departed CEOs in 5 years, Jurgen Dormann is cutting the company down to size.

US-based Combustion Engineering, acquired in 1990, faces asbestos-related claims that may exceed the subsidiary's book value of $812 million, ABB says. That wouldn't be enough to crush a healthier company. But ABB's $5.5 billion debt load has forced a costly reorganization and undermined confidence in the company's future.

In contrast Siemens (which competes with ABB in factory automation & power-distribution equipment) looks set to emerge from the current economic downturn battered, but intact. For the latest quarter (Sept. 2002) Siemens made a profit of about $250m on sales of $21b - not a bad accomplishment in these tough times. Although still burdened by losses that relate to the telecom business, Siemens appears to be in good shape, with no sense of anything like the crisis that embroils most of the other automation players. And, it is evidently out hunting for good deals in segments of automation markets where it does not have leading market-share.

Siemens is reported to be looking closely at both Honeywell IS and Foxboro. Siemens tends not to buy whole pig-farms (to sell-off unwanted segments); rather, they negotiate only for pieces that fit their strategy.

Siemens has long been criticized for slowness, lack of focus, and excessive caution. But its strength may have been its stubbornness and refusal to stray too far from its traditions of prudence.

Siemens & ABB have radically different attitudes toward debt. Siemens raised billions by spinning off its semiconductor and components businesses at the peak of the tech boom. But, with the cash raised, it did not rush into any big acquisitions. Siemens' debt is now $1.8b, which is reasonable for $83b sales.

The third player in this drama is GE, whose high-growth, high-return record has not been matched by its European rivals. GE's potent mix of manufacturing, media, and finance has powered a total return on its shares of 363% since 1992. In contrast, total return for Siemens equity is only 117%. GE's shares have trailed Siemens' of late. But, with all its prudence, Siemens has yet to meet the GE challenge.

Click Business Week: Siemens Proves Prudence Is a Virtue

Click Siemens Weblog

Click ABB weblog (new):

The pervasive Internet

Within a few years, billions of Internet-enabled microprocessors will provide digital intelligence and connectivity for almost every commercial and industrial product and appliance, extending the Internet into most aspects of our lives - this is the concept of the pervasive Internet.

The next era of connectivity - device connectivity - will allow product suppliers to provide increased benefits for their end customers, hence providing increased competitive value. Device networking allows product and service companies to communicate with their products, without the interruption that might be imposed on an end consumer. This allows both the supplier and the customer to benefit significantly.

Imagine any product you know being Internet-enabled - an automobile, a house, a washing machine, an office thermostat - these all have the potential to be networked. Skeptics think that this kind of gadgetry has few practical applications for the user of the product (do we really need to talk to our washing-machine?) But, it's not the consumers that initially have the most to gain from device networking - it's the businesses that support them.

Manufacturers will use their connected products to develop customer service relationships that ultimately recreate the nature of revenue growth and customer management in an information economy. Product companies will use device-networking technology to reduce, or even eliminate (for their customers) the hassles of product ownership. This allows the manufacturer to reduce costs, achieve revenue growth, and pursue new opportunity areas. Device networking is not only possible, but also essential.

Soon, digital intelligence and connectivity will be available for almost every commercial and industrial product and appliance, extending the Internet into most aspects of our lives. Products and companies that fail to exploit this next wave of the digital revolution will simply obsolete themselves.

This article was published by AutomationTechies.com, November 2002. And a copy is available on the JimPinto.com website.

Click Harbor Research - The Pervasive Internet Report

Click The Pervasive Internet and It's Effect on Industrial Automation

Click The Pervasive Internet (JimPinto.com website)

JimPinto.com weblogs

Since we started the weblogs a few months ago, traffic on the JimPinto.com has jumped significantly - double and triple previous levels, and still growing.

The Weblog (or "blog") is a relatively new email-publishing phenomenon. It is attracting a lot of new people to insert their own comments and read other people's feedback on a particular topic. Blogging is NOT on-line "chat" (which is relatively real-time) and is not quite the same as "groups", where a lot of irrelevant and sometimes rude and crude remarks get published automatically, with no moderator. A weblog always has a "moderator" (for the JimPinto.com weblogs, that's me) who has editorial privilege and inserts only those that make sense for the subject-thread.

JimPinto.com weblogs are available for 2 topic-threads, relating to my articles & eNews:

  1. Social commentary: This category includes my trilogy of articles - Crony Capitalism, Creeping Criminality, Lure of the Lifestyle. And, the central theme is "Soft Solutions for Hard Problems", relating to the "hard" problems of the new century which appear to defy the old "hard" solutions of the past.
  2. Industrial Automation: This includes weblogs on several of the major industrial automation companies - Rockwell, Invensys, Siemens, Honeywell, ABB (recently added) and the Japanese automation leaders (Yokogawa and others).
The major traffic that the automation-company weblogs generate indicates that many people (mostly employees, or ex-employees) have a NEED for some (ANY) type of discussion. I have sometimes felt uncomfortable that the JimPinto.com weblogs could become merely be a platform for the chronically dissatisfied, or for insecure employees who are recently, or soon-to-be, laid-off. But I am happy to report that, considering the difficult economic environment, there is indeed a balance of realism.

I have tried (more than once) to exert my editorial influence to encourage the optimists to get involved - with at least some results. But the overall tone of the complaints is that of simply the NEED TO BE HEARD.

If you are still an employee of one of weblog subject companies, you can do 2 things :

  1. Weblog your own comments to spread your own sense of positivism;
  2. Forward the weblog-link to the highest level possible, or at least the HR (Personnel) department, with a simple request: PLEASE READ.
Several people have pointed out that a couple of major companies are conspicuously absent from this list: Emerson and Schneider. I am aware of this, and will be working to start weblogs on these (and others) sooner or later.

In the meantime, you can help to start new weblogs simply by sending your comments and feedback to me directly by email. Send your comments on the topics discussed in the regular JimPinto.com eNews - or for that matter ANY topic that relates to my articles, poems, news, discussions on the JimPinto.com website. Or, bring up a new topic, or question.

Typically, your name and email address will be published in the weblog. If you would rather have your name withheld, simply don't include it. Confidentiality will be respected.

Your 'blog' will usually be published the same day on the weblog for that topic. You can read the relatively immediate feedback and commentary from many others, on the same, or similar, or new topics.

Happy blogging! Stay tuned!

Click JimPinto.com weblog Index

Click The Blogging Phenomenon


Perry Marshall [perry@perrymarshall.com] sent our Chinacosm comments to his brother Bryan who has lived in China for 3 years. Bryan came back with these interesting comments:
  • "465,000 sci-eng students are graduating from Chinese universities. But these are not American universities; they're Chinese universities and this is still China. That raises my eyebrow toward those who see China ruling the sci-tech world.
  • "Many experts predict India will actually surpass China's population by 2010.
  • "A major irritant to Chinese business is that their economy is not a free-market, though it seems to look like it. The government has its hand comfortably and greedily in the pocket of every profit-earning company in the country. And corporations that don't kowtow to Beijing or the local authorities won't get anywhere. So it's not a level playing field.
  • "I'm highly skeptical when comparing China to Japan. Quality is NOT built into the Chinese culture."
Marc Cote [marc.cote@everest-automation.com] complained about my apparently unfair comments on ABB:
    "Jim, as a regular reader of your eNews letter, I have to say that I am disappointed with the biased comments you expressed about ABB. It is clear that even though they would agree that things are not all that great at the present time, their analysis certainly is very different than yours (and a number of shareholders too apparently).

    "Some would say that many of the changes brought about by Jurgen Dormann are positive and will help to improved the situation in a relatively short period of time. The reality is that apart from the Combustion Engineering situation, ABB is suffering the same woes as the economy.

    "The main purpose of my reply is your 3rd point - about the "key mistake" ABB has made going to channel partners (rep's/distributors) and as a result apparently losing touch with customers:

    "First, you obviously have NO idea how this process is being done. If you did, I suspect your view might change.

    "Second, how many large corporation do you know take truly good care of customers ? Other than certain exceptions such as Dell computers, they are few and far between.

    "Third, Emerson Process Management is built on a Rep system? So in your opinion, Rep systems work for Emerson - but for ABB, it is a mistake?!

    "These comments you have made are very disappointing. I thought your objective was to communicate up-to-date impartial information about the industry, while clearly expressing your opinions separately. In this case, your opinions expressed seem to me quite slanted."

Jim Pinto response:
    " Marc, I had reported on ABB in the past, but always that it was a well-run company that was having bad luck. Just recently, I have had a lot of requests to start an ABB weblog, which I have done.

    "After the exit of Percy Barnevik (with excessive post-departure compensation) I was positive about Centermann, who I thought was an excellent manager. I think too that Dormann is a good manager and is doing what needs to be done. I pointed out that the Combustion Engineering fiasco may bring the company down, because a court ruling has already determined that ABB cannot simply wash their hands with a CE bankruptcy. I am sorry if you don't like that news.

    "Channel-partners: Yes, most good companies work through Distributors. And I am well aware of the background and history of the Fisher Reps. Indeed, I have worked with several Fisher Reps in the past and I am intimately familiar with their business model. However, the Fisher Reps are an exception (name another?) that was developed over many, many years. Simply switching to Sales Reps will NOT help ABB, in my opinion."

Steve Cuff [SCUFF@Calex.com] wrote about the seemingly inevitable result of being acquired by a conglomerate :
    "Well, your analysis of what happens to small, acquired companies proves once again that greed knows no bounds.

    "It's embarrassing to say you are a "CEO" these days. These fellows do such stupid things with good companies and they do it for personal gain only. This applies to the people at the top, as well as the middle-managers who simply follow orders.

    "The record of successful acquisitions is dismal. Something like 4 out of 5 acquisitions end in failure (closure of the firm acquired). I've heard similar stories for years. A lot of them by disillusioned company founders who sold out for stock and then saw the stock become worthless. Indeed, Cash is "king" for these transactions."

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