JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 65 : October 22, 2001

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

  • Anti-terrorist technology - 5
    • Software: Predicting & Detecting Suspicious Activity
  • Is this the end of snail-mail?
  • New Book : The Perfect Engine by Moody & Sharma
  • The fall of Invensys - tracking the story
  • Automation Decline - what's a good person to do?
  • eFeedback:
    • Things have changed - forever
    • Stupidity vs. malevolence
    • Personal loyalty vs. short-term profit

Anti-terrorist technology - 5

Predicting & Detecting Suspicious Activity
There were several unusual occurrences on the morning of 9/11 - a one-way ticket for a transcontinental flight paid for in cash, multiple tickets charged to a single credit card, etc. Could the FAA and the FBI have prevented the awful events of 9/11 by being alerted, perhaps even minutes before?

Banks use a wide range of fraud detection techniques, employing both human judgment and sophisticated data modeling, in their credit card and lending areas. Some systems distill expert knowledge into a set of rules that can be applied to each transaction ("rules-based systems").

San Diego-based HNC Software uses neural-network techniques to build models of complex transaction patterns such as consumer credit card fraud. The models are "trained" to recognize patterns through an iterative process in which large numbers of transactions are passed through a neural network algorithm. Once training is complete, the neural network uses these learned patterns to predict the probability that a new individual will exhibit the modeled transaction patterns.

HNC released a version of its Falcon fraud detection system designed specifically for money laundering. This software is now being considered for use not only in tracking terrorist accounts, but also to pinpoint terrorist behavior.

Click Can Govt. learn risk-management from banks?

Click HNC Software website

In another approach, intelligence analysis software is capable of sifting through and analyzing existing databases of information, both public and private, and spotting suspicious patterns of activity.

The software, being developed by Applied Systems Intelligence in Roswell, Georgia, is called Knowledge Aided Retrieval in Activity Context (KARNAC) and uses "profiles" of different categories of terrorist attacks to seek out key components of possible events. If such a system had been available it might have been capable of predicting the Oklahoma City bombing, and possibly even the 9/11 disasters.

Click Intelligence analysis software could predict attacks

Click Applied Systems Intelligence - website

The end of snail-mail

Electronic communications, particularly e-mail, fax and the Web, have already supplanted the postal service - now commonly known as snail mail. The threat that a deadly disease might be a consequence of opening an envelope could be a tipping point, leading to daily visits by the mailman going the way of the milkman.

It seems that whatever comes in the mail can’t come electronically. Or can it?

The bulk of my own snail-mail is mostly junk advertising that I simply throw away. Advertising "spam" also pops up regularly in my email, but these I quickly delete with a click of my mouse.

Airmail from England, India, Australia, etc. often arrives within a few days, but sometimes unaccountably turns up 2-3 weeks late. My friends and family have long since given sending snail-mail letters.

I get some bills - but I'd rather receive those by email and surely the senders would prefer that too. I get a nice-looking invitation now and then, but those too could be send as personalized e-cards, saving a lot of paper and postage and time.

So, the hand-delivered packages are left. How long will it be before we can "beam them over”?

Click Newsweek: The end of snail-mail?

The fall of Invensys - tracking the story

Invensys has already admitted that it is in danger of breaching its banking covenants and wants to sell up to GBP 750m of businesses to cut its debts. Interesting, this is almost exactly the amount that Allen Yurko paid for almost bankrupt BAAN, just over a year ago.

According to the UK Independent (Sunday, 21 Oct. 2001), Invensys now has a potential value of zero, implying that it could go into receivership. "We have assumed the company fails to reduce debt and falls into the hands of its bankers."

Click UK Independent news story (21 Oct. 2001)

This past week Invensys stock climbed inexplicably to mid-50p, amid some rumors that Foxboro and other ISS companies are already in the final stages of being sold off. Some suggested that Bruce Henderson was no longer needed, because the acquirer would bring in new management anyway and Haythornthwaite would be "acting" out the role during the due-diligence period.

About my labeling of Bruce Henderson as "the last of the good guys", one insider retorted:

    "You must be joking! Every time you mentioned Al Yurko and his yes-men minions, I would envision Bruce Henderson's face. Bruce was an invisible manager, and thus it is unlikely that he will be missed here at Invensys. The inside word is that Rick had no confidence in his ability to execute."
Regarding my challenge to name just one good-guy who could step in as Henderson's replacement, the same knowledgeable insider responded:
    "That's a tough one! The division as organized makes no sense. Some of the pieces have obvious synergies, but who would place APV within a software company? The inside word has it that Mike Carmen (you know - that savior who left within weeks) figured this out but dishonored those who hired him when reporting that the combination of APV and Foxboro to form a division made no sense.

    "It's pretty clear that Rick is going to have to sell things, and it is also pretty obvious that the timing could not be worse. It's awfully hard to deny that he has started to dismember the thing. You have to wonder how he will get on with the dismemberment while the company is busy dissolving legal entities and the infrastructure that made up some of the saleable pieces.

    "Guys like Haythornthwaite negotiate their golden handshake on the way in...."


Allen Yurko formed Invensys, after UK-based Siebe merged with BTR. Siebe had previously acquired Foxboro, Wonderware, Eurotherm and several others, hoping to generate growth from industrial automation. When growth eluded Yurko, and Siebe was a target for Emerson, he merged Siebe with BTR, another UK hodge-podge, and changed the name to Invensys. With further decline, Yurko bought BAAN, a bankrupt Dutch software company - a risky move that didn't pay off.

After having put Invensys into a downward spiral, with serious cash-problems and troubled loan covenants, Allen Yurko departed Oct. 1 '01, pocketing a princely pension. Under the new CEO, Rick Haythornthwaite, Invensys is moving towards break-up and a piecemeal sale.

Click Complete story: Invensys in decline - since Sept. 2000

Click Pinto Baanalysis - when the trouble started (June 00)

New book : The Perfect Engine

You remember Tricia Moody - she & technology guru Dick Morley wrote the popular book: The Technology Machine - how Manufacturing will work in the year 2020.

Just when some short-sighted companies think they must out-source manufacturing to cut costs, Patricia Moody has teamed up with manufacturing expert Anand Sharma to write a new (just published, October 2001) book that shows how the best companies can thrive: The Perfect Engine - How to win in the new demand economy by building to order with fewer resources.

Sharma (named by Fortune as one of "America's Heroes of Manufacturing") & Moody (also named by Fortune as one of ten "Pioneering women in Manufacturing") have produced a new bible on manufacturing in the new age. This excellent and insightful writing describes the practice of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, beyond just the buzzwords.

Click Become a Manufacturing guru - Read "The Perfect Engine"

Click Moody & Morley’s "The Technology Machine"

Automation Decline - what to do

Today, major industrial automation companies are consolidating and laying-off. What’s a budding young engineer or technician to do? Or, if you ’re already in the instruments business, should you simply wait for the ax to fall?

In this recent article, published by ISA - InTech - Oct. 2001, rather than suggest defection to other "burgeoning" markets, I propose more practical directions that combine ones own personal strengths with new thinking in a new economy.

Click ISA InTech Oct. 2001: Have you paid your daily dues?

Click Pay your daily dues - on the JimPinto.com website


On September 11, Jeremy Gilleard [jeremygilleard@bigpond.com] was in Rome, Italy:
    "I was being served with tea by a waiter in a morning suit (long black jacket, very formal) when the mobile rang to say a plane had run into the WTC. Thought my friend was joking. Terrorism has now changed the world so that threats and fear, no matter how unreal, can potentially create panic in the general public.

    "I believe our world has changed for ever because nothing is now left to the imagination. Time is obviously a healer but in the immediate future the travel & tourism industries and their associated supply chains appear to have collapsed. Globalization may prove the savior and the Internet the vehicle. I'm a marketing man, so ever the optimist."

Regarding my comments on "Stupidity vs. Malevolence", Wally Pratt [wallyp@hartcomm.org] wrote:
    "This is perhaps one of the most profound things I have witness over the years. Never attribute to bad intentions when simple stupidity can explain the situation! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this happen and the escalation that follows can become really hard to unravel. I look forward to your thoughts and insights on this subject!"
A long-term Foxboro employee gave me his feelings, which I felt worth including here. He was quite explicit, but requested that his name be withheld, because "I need to be effective locally".
    "I too appreciate your info - No one tells us anything! Your clear, blunt reporting of the facts is critical at this juncture.

    "About this business of "stupidity", what I find is that one person's stupidity is another's brilliance. It depends on one's goals.

    "I've been with Foxboro since 1974. When I started, we made process control equipment. I noticed at some point that people started saying, "We don't make process control equipment - we make a profit for the stockholders." And now, it's no longer profit vs. loss; it's profit this quarter!

    "In this climate I perceive management considers it stupidity to not achieve an expected quarterly profit. The world financial structure seems to support this, especially among publicly held businesses.

    "Personal involvement is not there (as was the case in the days of the Bristol's, the Edwin Land's, the An Wang's, etc.). Short-term has replaced long-term. "Human Resources" has replaced "Personnel" (a "person" has become a "resource"). Nibbling at product development has replaced research. "Stretch goals" you can never achieve have replaced achievable goals you could feel good about.

    "If executives of companies in bankruptcy receive bonuses, who's the "brilliant" one?

    "I try to be sympathetic to the dilemmas of today's business world. And at my low level, we can't even know the half of it. What I would like management to believe is that there are many, many, many individuals who want the best for the company and would be ready to pitch in. Perhaps at some point, there will be time for trust and communication between top and bottom levels again.

    "Perhaps I should just forward this whole exchange to Rick Haythornthwaite."

JimPinto exclaims: I hope you did!

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