JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 64 : October 12, 2001

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

  • Anti-terrorist technology - 4
    Is technology an ally?
  • Invensys: RIF Rule 3 - Dismemberment
    • Bruce Henderson departs (last of the good guys)
    • Project Unity proceeding with IBM (Hmmm...)
    • Action Instruments manufacturing shutting down (Ouch*#@)
  • Complexity Science - the next BIG thing
  • Robotic Parking Systems
  • Good People - good connections
  • eFeedback:
    • Face-recognition already quite effective in Las Vegas
    • Rockwell's melting iceberg
    • Who is growing this year?

Anti-terrorist technology - 4

Over the past few weeks, many technologists have wondered aloud about its likely role in countering terrorism - or in carrying it out. Have the limitations and dangers of technology been overlooked? Where, on the other hand, might technological innovations emerge or be redirected as a result of recent events?

The NY Times article "Is Technology an Ally?" features an interesting discussion between technology futurist Ray Kurzweil, computer scientist Peter Neumann, science fiction author Bruce Sterling, law professor Lawrence Lessig, engineer Severo Ornstein (formerly at ARPANET, precursor of the Internet) and cryptographer Whitfield Diffie.

Here is a synopsis:

Lessig: This is a great spur for technological innovation to respond to real threats by achieving effective surveillance and yet preserve personal privacy. The real problem we face is not slowness in technological innovation, but rather slowness in legal and civil rights innovation in response to the technological change.

Diffie: The natural trade-off is a broad public right to inquire and the right of the individual to employ protection from surveillance (cryptography, wearing masks, using pseudonyms, etc.), which presumes a commercial right to make and sell products that support the individual's desire for privacy.

Neumann: Techniques to protect can also be used to subvert, attack or otherwise compromise. The problems are inherently human, and technology can be used for good or bad.

Sterling: If we're going to use surveillance as a weapon, then we should trust our democratic traditions and arm the population with it. Don't worry too much about states surveilling average citizens. Worry about sneaky political operatives carrying out dirty-tricks campaigns against politicians. This can destabilize legitimate governments more effectively than terrorism.

Ornstein: This is just an instance of the more general conflict between the needs and desires of the individual and those of the larger society. Today's technology permits small numbers of people to wreak a disproportionate amount of havoc. The debate about where to draw the security line will be ongoing. The more damage, the tighter we'll circle the wagons.

Kurzweil: Centralized technologies are subject to disruption and disaster. Distributed technologies tend to be flexible, efficient and relatively benign in their environment effects. Technologies that allow work, and people, to be dispersed rather than centralized are accelerating. We'll see a great deal of innovation to overcome many of the current limitations of videoconferencing.

Click Read the NY Times article: Is Technology an Ally?

Click Ray Kurzweil's additional responses after NY Times meeting

Invensys proceeds towards dismemberment

Bruce Henderson Departs (last of the good-guys)
Allen Yurko has departed (October 1), presumably pocketing his princely pension, leaving his replacement Rick Haythornthwaite to preside over the dismemberment of Invensys. The following is the gist of a Haythornthwaite memo issued this week:

    "Bruce Henderson, Division Chief Executive of Invensys Software Systems, is leaving the Group. Effective immediately, the division will report directly to me."
The rest of the memo was a poorly written, thinly disguised blah blah about Henderson doing an excellent job, etc. You don't make a major move like this, unless you have a successor at the gate. It simply means that Haythornthwaite had no choice; Henderson was the last of the good-guys. I challenge anyone to come up with a single name within the totally depleted management ranks that could have replaced him. The hordes of hungry hangers-on will simply fall in line, meekly awaiting dismemberment.

And so, dismemberment proceeds. An insider close to the top sent this:

    "Rick will sell whatever he can get a decent price for. I can't see that either the existing divisional structure or any previous ideas about what is or is not core business will be relevant; "cash is king" in this situation.

Project Unity proceeds
I had guessed that Haythornthwaite would waite till Yurko departed before he cancelled "Project Unity" - the outsourcing of IT and some key functions to IBM and others. I was wrong - it looks like he is fighting too many alligators to stop the momentum. One wonders whether IBM knows that what they're really buying is a relationship with a fast disintegrating organization.

Click IBM and Invensys team up

Action Instruments Manufacturing shutting down
Forgive my picking on a fast-declining Invensys. In the past I had no "grudge" - only encouragement and appreciation from lots of Invensys employees worldwide, who wrote:
    "No one tells us anything! Your clear, blunt reporting of the facts is critical at this juncture. Career decisions need to be made to adjust to the situation and your emails are very informative."

Now however, I am genuinely upset!

Action Instruments - the company I founded 30 years ago, acquired by Eurotherm (my choice), which in turn was sold to Invensys (not my choice)- has been informed that all manufacturing will be outsourced. So, some 60-80 manufacturing people (some there for over 20 years) will be out of a job. Under these conditions, how many others do you think will stay?

How can I comment on this stupidity? I shall - in an article I have brewing: Stupidity is more destructive than Malevolence!

Here is the theme: If someone set out deliberately and maliciously to plan the demise of good companies like Action (or APV, Foxboro, Eurotherm, Wonderware) they could NOT do as much damage, as quickly, as sheer stupidity.

The Invensys yes-men, middle-men who perpetrate such idiocy will get short-shrift when the parts of Invensys are sold off soon to hopefully more sensible acquirers.

'nuf said. I'll let you know when and where my commentary is published.

Complexity Science the next big thing

Chaos Theory, also known as Complexity Science, is the study of how order inevitability emerges from chaos, and how all systems - natural and created - innately seem to crave and develop efficiency and organization.

Dick Morley, technology guru, PLC pioneer and co-author of "The Technology Machine", has been preaching the applications of Chaos Theory for more than a decade. I have been attending his annual "Chaos in Manufacturing Conference" in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for several years and am disappointed that it was called off this year. The small band of "Chaos Groupies" simply did not generate enough practical business applications. Dick will be pleased to note that the new century is generating new and significant interest - more than just visionary.

Jim Rutt, Internet pioneer and CEO of Network Solutions (until recently, the only Internet registrar, now sold to Verisign) has quit his job to dedicate himself to the applications of complexity science to computers, so that machines and their applications can become more intelligent.

Rutt says complexity science is already being used in software such as heuristic virus scanners, network traffic routers and voice recognition applications - applications that, on a very basic and pre-programmed level, can make choices. He believes these applications are only the raw beginning of a whole new type of technology - computers, systems and software that will independently think and learn.

Click Wired Mag: Pioneer steps out of Net Rutt

Click Business 2.0: Jim Rutt - Complexity Pioneer

Robotic Parking Systems

One of the worst things about having a car is parking it. In busy downtown areas, parking garages are most often crowded and dark and choke you with exhaust emissions.

In the future, robots will do the dirty work, thanks to automated parking systems such as those developed in Germany by Klaus Parking Systems and in the US by Robotic Parking Inc.

Fully automated garages offer computer-controlled parking and space-efficient stacking, which can fit twice as many vehicles as a conventional garage. Cars placed on pallets are shifted into tight positions mechanically rather than maneuvered into place by drivers. The technique is similar to raising and lowering aircraft to different levels on a carrier.

Click Robotic Parking Inc.

Click Klaus Car Parking System

Good people - good connections

JimPinto.com does NOT accept any paid advertising. We do accept "brownie points" (only from friends) - which we will collect from time-to-time.

The "good connections" mentioned here are people we like, whose capabilities we respect and talents we admire. We recommend that you browse their websites and utilize their services when you need anything they have to offer.

    Mike Willey: Recently joined the Global Foresight Group - providing strategic business and product planning, market size and growth forecasts, marketing due diligence, profitability improvement through price management and other services for companies in the Instrumentation & Automation industries.

    Walt Boyes: One of the best marketing minds in the industrial automation business. He is co-author of "e-Business in Manufacturing: Putting the Internet to Work in the Industrial Enterprise" ISA Press - September 2001. Read the latest edition of "Notes From Walt's Desk" - topic: "Managing Manufacturers' Reps".

    Jeffrey Harrow: The imaginative and prolific author of Compaq's RCFoC (Rapidly Changing Face of Computers). He has now struck out on his own as a technology consultant, exploring innovations and trends across technologies. You might like to sign-up for his (free, weekly) Harrow Technology Report.


Jeff Dean [jeffdean@execpc.com] commented about face-recognition as an anti-terrorist technology:
    "On a spot basis, face recognition technology has been used in Las Vegas and has proven to work quite well. I view Alex Pavloff's statement concerning a one-third-failure rate as being a solution to eliminating two-thirds of the air traveling public from further physical feature analysis. However, he also stated the DARPA test was performed with indoor light. Why not just use different light bulbs to enhance facial features?"
Jeff Dean happens to be ex-Rockwell, and he wrote regarding my coverage of the Rockwell decline:
    "Rockwell's iceberg has been melting for years. They've been laying people off regularly since I left - three years ago. Best I can tell they are eliminating worker bees to fund maintenance of too many layers of middle management.

    "While Rockwell has been able to produce lots of "products", they have proven to be inept when it comes to creating the "solutions" the market is demanding. Long gone are the days of the A-B Distributor being able to sit by the fax machine waiting for PLC-5 orders to come in. The sales (and now service) force has to present an integrated vision for the plethora of products, controllers, I/O, and software - even if the corporate leadership doesn't have such a vision."

In a recent JimPinto.com eNews, I mentioned that some industrial automation companies have reported revenue growth of 17% this year. I had several responses:
    "What groups of companies are saying this? Is it just one supplier? I'd like to apply for a position to help continue that growth!"
Several companies in industrial automation have been growing quite well this year - example, OSI Software. Ask Pat Kennedy for a job: [Pat@osisoft.com] - tell Pat I sent you.

However, what about the majors? Well, I got this response from a leader - Sales $16b, market-cap $21b:

    "This company provides more motors than any company in the world, their measurement business bookings alone grew over 19% globally, their lead systems product line grew more than that, and their favorite color is blue."

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