BLACK LIGHT

March 25, 2017


Black Light is the second in a series of books written by Stephen Hunter with Bob Lee Swagger as the main character.  You might have seen the movie “The Shooter” which told the story of Bob Lee and how he was accused of being an assassin and how he exacted revenge on his accusers.   That was the first book in the Bob Lee Swagger series.

I do NEED TO TELL YOU, it is NOT a book for the politically correct.  If you are a snowflake looking for a safe place when offended, you will not be amused.  The language is “R” rated as well as text describing multiple acts of absolute violence.  The discovery of a young black teen-ager who has been raped and strangled to death is detailed and extremely gruesome.  FAIR WARNING.

Former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger has finally put his past behind him until he meets Russell Pewtie.  Pewtie wants to write a book about Bob Lee’s father, Earl, who was a state trooper in Arkansas. He died in a shoot-out in Blue Eye, Ark., in 1955.  The link between Pewtie and Bob Lee, ties the first three Hunter novels together. This link is that Lamar Pye, the escaped con who almost killed Pewtie’s father in Dirty White Boys, turns out to be the son of one of the men who killed Earl. Behind that death, lies a forty-year-old conspiracy somehow tied to the brutal murder of a young black teenager mentioned above.  Earl Swagger was investigating that murder on the day he died. The plot is fast-paced, well-constructed and builds to a pulse-pounding night ambush that echoes the finale of Point of Impact but that stands on its own as a classic one-on-one confrontation. Other echoes of the earlier novels sound as well, giving this one the feel of a recapitulation, or a farewell. But then Hunter has set a high standard for himself-and while this novel doesn’t match the escalating craziness of Dirty White Boys or the stone-cold efficiency of Point of Impact, it should seal his reputation as an author who not only can write bestselling thrillers, but write them exceedingly well.

Mr. Hunter, in my opinion, is a MASTER “wordsmith”. He demonstrates the remarkable ability to craft a story that could have multiple endings.  His writing style is very purpose-driven and gives the reader the sense of “I cannot put this down until I read one more chapter”.  In Black Light, the last three chapters leave you with the thought—“I did not see that coming”.  The ending is just that surprising.

I would now like to give you some idea as to reviews posted online from individuals who have read Black Light.  As you can see, readers are as enthusiastic as I about Hunter’s writing.

Mike Fench— Another 5-star book in the Bob Lee Swagger series! This book features Bob Lee looking into the death of his father, Earl, an Arkansas State Trooper shot in an attempted arrest of 2 killers. Kept me riveted from beginning to end WARNING: This book is far from being PC!

Rick– Some negative reviews have called ‘Black Light’ predictable, racist and violent. Yeah, what’s your point? Look, this is a book in Stephen Hunter’s ‘Bob Lee Swagger’ series. Swagger is an ex-Marine sniper in the south. He hunts bad guys. Violent? I should HOPE so!  As he so often does, and does so well, Hunter reprises characters from past novels. It’s like running into old friends (or enemies, as the case may be), but knowing these recurring characters is NOT a prerequisite for enjoying any of the Hunter novels.

Susan— And this one is the best Stephen Hunter yet. This guy can flat tell a story. Some of the plot is not even interesting (I’m just not fascinated by the intricacies of various guns) but even so, his stories are just so compelling.

Michael Burke— Never lets up for a minute you’re in it from beginning to end it hardly gives you time to breath. The writing is spare and still fulsome I enjoyed the pictures it paints of the Arkansas hills in the dust and sweat. And of several very interesting characters who I look forward to reading about in the future.

Christopher Bunn— Best thriller I’ve read in a very long time. Solid characters. Great motivations. Excellent pacing. Good dialogue. Very intriguing plot twists that advance with just enough foreshadowing and hints to keep you hooked, but not enough information to allow easy guessing. Perfect villain. Hunter knows what he’s doing. Refreshing to read a book that maintains all the way to the end, particularly these days. Rare thing.

Each to his own.  The reviews above are samplings of five star ratings that several readers have given this book.  I can certainly agree that Black Light is a book worth reading, if for no other reason, the writing style of Mr. Hunter is amazing.  A truly great author.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

RISE OF THE MACHINES

March 20, 2017


Movie making today is truly remarkable.  To me, one of the very best parts is animation created by computer graphics.  I’ve attended “B” movies just to see the graphic displays created by talented programmers.  The “Terminator” series, at least the first movie in that series, really captures the creative essence of graphic design technology.  I won’t replay the movie for you but, the “terminator” goes back in time to carry out its prime directive—Kill John Conner.  The terminator, a robotic humanoid, has decision-making capability as well as human-like mobility that allows the plot to unfold.  Artificial intelligence or AI is a fascinating technology many companies are working on today.  Let’s get a proper definition of AI as follows:

“the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Question:  Are Siri, Cortana, and Alexa eventually going to be more literate than humans? Anyone excited about the recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning should also be concerned about human literacy as well. That’s according to Protect Literacy , a global campaign, backed by education company Pearson, aimed at creating awareness and fighting against illiteracy.

Project Literacy, which has been raising awareness for its cause at SXSW 2017, recently released a report, “ 2027: Human vs. Machine Literacy ,” that projects machines powered by AI and voice recognition will surpass the literacy levels of one in seven American adults in the next ten (10) years. “While these systems currently have a much shallower understanding of language than people do, they can already perform tasks similar to simple text search task…exceeding the abilities of millions of people who are nonliterate,” Kate James, Project Literacy spokesperson and Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer at Pearson, wrote in the report. In light of this the organization is calling for “society to commit to upgrading its people at the same rate as upgrading its technology, so that by 2030 no child is born at risk of poor literacy.”  (I would invite you to re-read this statement and shudder in your boots as I did.)

While the past twenty-five (25) years have seen disappointing progress in U.S. literacy, there have been huge gains in linguistic performance by a totally different type of actor – computers. Dramatic advances in natural language processing (Hirschberg and Manning, 2015) have led to the rise of language technologies like search engines and machine translation that “read” text and produce answers or translations that are useful for people. While these systems currently have a much shallower understanding of language than people do, they can already perform tasks similar to the simple text search task above – exceeding the abilities of millions of people who are nonliterate.

According to the National National Centre for Education Statistics machine literacy has already exceeded the literacy abilities of the estimated three percent (3%) of non-literate adults in the US.

Comparing demographic data from the Global Developer Population and Demographic Study 2016 v2 and the 2015 Digest of Education Statistics finds there are more software engineers in the U.S. than school teachers, “We are focusing so much on teaching algorithms and AI to be better at language that we are forgetting that fifty percent (50%)  of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level,” Project Literacy said in a statement.  I retired from General Electric Appliances.   Each engineer was required to write, or at least the first draft, of the Use and Care Manuals for specific cooking products.  We were instructed to 1.) Use plenty of graphic examples and 2.) Write for a fifth-grade audience.  Even with that, we know from experience that many consumers never use and have no intention of reading their Use and Care Manual.  With this being the case, many of the truly cool features are never used.  They may as well buy the most basic product.

Research done by Business Insider reveals that thirty-two (32) million Americans cannot currently read a road sign. Yet at the same time there are ten (10) million self-driving cars predicted to be on the roads by 2020. (One could argue this will further eliminate the need for literacy, but that is debatable.)  If we look at literacy rates for the top ten (10) countries on our planet we see the following:

Citing research from Venture Scanner , Project Literacy found that in 2015 investment in AI technologies, including natural language processing, speech recognition, and image recognition, reached $47.2 billion. Meanwhile, data on US government spending shows that the 2017 U.S. Federal Education Budget for schools (pre-primary through secondary school) is $40.4 billion.  I’m not too sure funding for education always goes to benefit students education. In other words, throwing more money at this problem may not always provide desired results, but there is no doubt, funding for AI will only increase.

“Human literacy levels have stalled since 2000. At any time, this would be a cause for concern, when one in ten people worldwide…still cannot read a road sign, a voting form, or a medicine label,” James wrote in the report. “In popular discussion about advances in artificial intelligence, it is easy

CONCLUSION:  AI will only continue to advance and there will come a time when robotic systems will be programmed with basic decision-making skills.  To me, this is not only fascinating but more than a little scary.


It really does creep up on you—the pain that is.  Minimal at first for a few months but at least livable.  I thought I could exercise and stretch to lessen the discomfort and that did work to a great degree.  That was approximately seven (7) months ago. Reality did set in with the pain being so great that something had to be done.

In the decade of the eighties, I was an avid runner with thoughts of running a marathon or even marathons. My dream was to run the New York City and Boston Marathon first then concentrate on local 10 K events. After one year I would concentrate on the Atlanta marathon—at least that was the plan.  I was clocking about twenty to thirty miles per week with that goal in mind.    All of my running was on pavement with three five miles runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a ten-mile run on Saturday.  It did seem reasonable. I would drive the courses to get exact mileage and vary the routes just to mix it up a little and bring about new scenery.  After several weeks, I noticed pains starting to develop around the twenty-five miles per week distances.  They did go away but always returned towards the latter part of each week.   Medical examinations would later show the beginning of arthritis in my right hip.  I shortened my distances hoping to alleviate the pain and that worked to some extent for a period of time.

Time caught up with me.  The pains were so substantial I could not tie my shoe laces or stoop to pick up an article on the floor.   It was time to pull the trigger.

TOTAL HIP REPLACEMENT:

In a total hip replacement (also called total hip arthroplasty), the damaged bone and cartilage is removed and replaced with prosthetic components.

  • The damaged femoral head is removed and replaced with a metal stem that is placed into the hollow center of the femur. The femoral stem may be either cemented or “press fit” into the bone. One of the first procedures is dislocating the hip so femoral stem may be removed.
  • A metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the stem. This ball replaces the damaged femoral head that was removed.
  • The damaged cartilage surface of the socket (acetabulum) is removed and replaced with a metal socket. Screws or cement are sometimes used to hold the socket in place.
  • A plastic, ceramic, or metal spacer is inserted between the new ball and the socket to allow for a smooth gliding surface.I chose to have an epidural so recovery would be somewhat quicker and the aftereffects lessened.  I do not regret that choice and would recommend that to anyone undergoing hip replacement.  One day home and I’m following my doctor’s orders to a “T”. Doing everything and then some to make sure I touch all of the bases.  I was very tempted to pull up “U”- TUBE to see how the surgery was accomplished but after hearing it was more carpentry than medicine, I decided I would delay that investigation for a year-or forever.  Some things I just might not need to know.

    Sorry for this post being somewhat short but the meds are wearing off and I need to “reload”.  I promise to do better in the very near future.

CHICAGO—THE MUSICAL

February 18, 2017


Our youngest son and his wife gave us two tickets to the musical CHICAGO.   This was a Christmas present from them this past year.  The play was held in one of the most beautiful theaters in the south and certainly the most beautiful in the Chattanooga area.  Before we talk about the play, let’s take a quick look at the Tivoli Theater.

THE TIVOLI:

The Tivoli Theater is located at 709 Broad Street in downtown Chattanooga and is definitely the focal point of the city.  The first digital shows the entrance and the marquee as you approach from Broad Street.

outside

The Tivoli was built between 1919 and 1921 at a cost of $750,000.  That was a huge sum of money in 1919.   It was designed by the famed Chicago-based architectural firm Rapp and Rapp and well-known Chattanooga architect Reuben H. Hunt.  It was constructed by the John Parks Company (general contractors) and was one of the first air-conditioned public buildings in the United States.  The theatre was named Tivoli after Tivoli, Italy.  It has cream tiles and beige terra-cotta bricks;  a large red, black, and white marquee with one thousand (1,000) chaser lights, with, as you can see, a large black neon sign that displays TIVOLI with still more chaser lights.

It is a well preserved and excellent example of the downtown Grand Palace Theater built throughout America in the 1920s. Not every town and city has a comparable theater so we are extremely lucky and very happy events such as CHICAGO still visit.   Its elaborate and exotic architectural and decorative detail, its conveniences, and luxurious materials combine to make theater going a complete social as well as entertainment phenomenon infrequently rivaled. Notable is its elaborate plaster work, rich colors and textures, marble, and theater organ. It was also among the first buildings in the United States to be air-conditioned.

Twenty-six hundred (2,600) yards of carpet for aisles, boxes, logs, approaches, mezzanine, stairs, and rest rooms. Electric fixtures for the entire house are plated with fourteen (14) karat gold, burnished, and ornamented with hand painted china. The balcony is supported by a five thousand five hundred (5,500) ton steel beam encased in concrete, and there are no columns or pillars. One million bricks were used in the construction of the balcony. The proscenium opening measures 48 x 26 feet and is the largest in the south. You may see the balcony design and structure as follows.

the-auditorium2

 

The lobby is noted for its marble floors, niches, tunnels, and promenades. The marquee extends the width of the building and has 15,000-watt capacity lamps, and on its underside, are a number of 75-watt day light globes. The outer lobby’s ceiling is the same height as the building, and is enriched with massive plaster designs in polychrome and antique with Chinese and cobalt blue, mulberry, green, and buff over aluminum leaf. There are sectional plate glass mirrors at each end to reflect the ceiling. On the left is a seven-foot fountain with running water and a figure of Cupid which is named “Cascatelle” for the river of many cataracts outside Tivoli, Italy. The floor is marble. It is lighted by a seven-foot hanging lantern in antique design. Glass doors lead to the inner lobby and the large plate glass window is hung with brilliant American Beauty plush draperies.

the-lobby

The grand staircase features ornamented bannisters of copper bronze surmounted by mahogany handrails.  Of course, the stairway leads to the balcony above.  You can see the auditorium and balcony, as pictured from the stage area in the digital below.

auditorium-from-the-stage

The mezzanine is the most beautiful section of the theater. It circles the auditorium and is the promenade. Its carpet is solid and it is furnished with chaise lounges and Adam designed chairs. It is known as “Villa D’Esta” after a famous villa at Tivoli, Italy. All openings are draped in silk with gold embroidery. The box seats are on either side of the auditorium and are truly beautiful.

box-seats

NOW THE MUSICAL:

My musical abilities are limited to playing the radio.  No piano, no guitar, no trumpet.  I can only listen, BUT I have an immense respect for talented individuals. Performers who can make a play, movie, musical come alive.  That is exactly what my wife and I saw last night during the CHICAGO performance.  I don’t know if you are familiar with the play but her are several specifics.

CHICAGO is a musical Vaudeville play that opened June 3, 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre.   It ran for 936 performances, closing on August 27, 1977.  The opening night cast starred Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly, Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart, Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn and Barney Martin as Amos Hart. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the musical is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the “celebrity criminal.” You may think this is somewhat heavy but it is hilarious and the music is phenomenal.  Several recognizable songs are:

  • “All That Jazz”
  • “Cell Block Tango”
  • “When You’re Good to Mama”
  • “Roxie”
  • “Mister Cellophane”
  • “Razzle Daxxle”
  • “Hot Honey Rag”

One definite reason we wanted to go—Eddy George played the part of Billie Flynn.  As you recall, Eddy George was a Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State in 1995 and played for the Tennessee Titans for several years.  HE WAS GOOD. I know it is difficult to go from the NFL to the stage but he really pulled it off.   ALL of the performers were absolutely excellent.  The rolls of Roxie and Velma were played by Dylis Croman and Lana Gordon.  Amos, the husband of Roxie was played by Paul Vogt and Mama was played by Roz Ryan.  Are you ready for this?  All of the ladies in the cast sang and danced in high-heels never missing a step. If you ever get an opportunity to attend the musical CHICAGO—take it.  You will come away realizing it was a wonderful experience.

THE NEXT FIVE (5) YEARS

February 15, 2017


As you well know, there are many projections relative to economies, stock market, sports teams, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.   People the world over have given their projections for what might happen in 2017.  The world of computing technology is absolutely no different.  Certain information for this post is taken from the publication “COMPUTER.org/computer” web site.  These guys are pretty good at projections and have been correct multiple times over the past two decades.  They take their information from the IEEE.

The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading membership organization dedicated to computer science and technology. Serving more than 60,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the trusted information, networking, and career-development source for a global community of technology leaders that includes researchers, educators, software engineers, IT professionals, employers, and students.  In addition to conferences and publishing, the IEEE Computer Society is a leader in professional education and training, and has forged development and provider partnerships with major institutions and corporations internationally. These rich, self-selected, and self-paced programs help companies improve the quality of their technical staff and attract top talent while reducing costs.

With these credentials, you might expect them to be on the cutting edge of computer technology and development and be ahead of the curve as far as computer technology projections.  Let’s take a look.  Some of this absolutely blows me away.

human-brain-interface

This effort first started within the medical profession and is continuing as research progresses.  It’s taken time but after more than a decade of engineering work, researchers at Brown University and a Utah company, Blackrock Microsystems, have commercialized a wireless device that can be attached to a person’s skull and transmit via radio thought commands collected from a brain implant. Blackrock says it will seek clearance for the system from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so that the mental remote control can be tested in volunteers, possibly as soon as this year.

The device was developed by a consortium, called BrainGate, which is based at Brown and was among the first to place implants in the brains of paralyzed people and show that electrical signals emitted by neurons inside the cortex could be recorded, then used to steer a wheelchair or direct a robotic arm (see “Implanting Hope”).

A major limit to these provocative experiments has been that patients can only use the prosthetic with the help of a crew of laboratory assistants. The brain signals are collected through a cable screwed into a port on their skull, then fed along wires to a bulky rack of signal processors. “Using this in the home setting is inconceivable or impractical when you are tethered to a bunch of electronics,” says Arto Nurmikko, the Brown professor of engineering who led the design and fabrication of the wireless system.

capabilities-hardware-projection

Unless you have been living in a tree house for the last twenty years you know digital security is a huge problem.  IT professionals and companies writing code will definitely continue working on how to make our digital world more secure.  That is a given.

exascale

We can forget Moor’s Law which refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention.  Moore’s law predicts that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Although the pace has slowed, the number of transistors per square inch has since doubled approximately every 18 months. This is used as the current definition of Moore’s law.  We are well beyond that with processing speed literally progressing at “warp six”.

non-volitile-memory

If you are an old guy like me, you can remember when computer memory costs an arm and a leg.  Take a look at the JPEG below and you get an idea as to how memory costs has decreased over the years.

hard-drive-cost-per-gbyte

As you can see, costs have dropped remarkably over the years.

photonics

texts-for-photonoics

power-conservative-multicores

text-for-power-conservative-multicores

CONCLUSION:

If you combine the above predictions with 1.) Big Data, 2.) Internet of Things (IoT), 3.) Wearable Technology, 4.) Manufacturing 4.0, 5.) Biometrics, and other fast-moving technologies you have a world in which “only the adventurous thrive”.  If you do not like change, I recommend you enroll in a monastery.  You will not survive gracefully without technology on the rampage. Just a thought.


FACTS:

  • 707,758 motor vehicles were reported stolen in the United States in 2015, up three point one (3.1) percent from 2014, according to the FBI.
  • A motor vehicle was stolen in the United States every forty-five (45) seconds in 2015.
  • Eight of the top ten cities with the highest rate of vehicle theft in 2015 were in California, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
  • Nationwide, the 2015 motor vehicle theft rate per 100,000 people was 220.2, up two point two (2.2) percent from 2015.2 in 2014. The highest rate was reported in the West, 371.5 or up eight point two (8.2) percent from 342.2 in 2014.
  • In 2015, only thirteen point one (13.1) percent of motor vehicle thefts were cleared, either by arrests or by exceptional mean, compared with 2014 percent for arson and nineteen point four (19.4) percent for all property crimes. Very disappointing statistics indeed.
  • Autos accounted for 74.7 percent of all motor vehicles stolen in 2015, trucks and buses accounted for 14.8 percent and other vehicles for 10.5 percent.

Given below are the cities in which most vehicles are stolen:

top-10-cities-for-stolen-vehicles

TOP TEN VEHICLES STOLEN:

The National Insurance Crime Bureau ranked the 10 most stolen vehicles in the country with data from the NCIC. Let’s take a look.  The actual numbers are in parentheses.

  1. Honda Accord (52,244)
  2. Honda Civic(49,430)
  3. Ford pickup (full size) (29,396)
  4. Chevrolet pickup (full size) (27,771)
  5. Toyota Camry (15,466)
  6. Ram pickup (full size) (11,212)
  7. Toyota Corolla(10,547)
  8. Nissan Altima (10,374)
  9. Dodge Caravan (9,798)
  10. Chevrolet Impala(9,225)

Automotive engineers continue to examine smartphone system and design to provide models for the development of an increasingly sophisticated user experience, with large center information displays and capacitive touchscreen being a good example.  Now designers are adding another smartphone feature, the fingerprint sensor to enhance modernization of the driver’s interface to functions in and beyond the automobile. This and other forms of biometric authentication, show great promise if implemented with sensitivity to user privacy and the extremes of the automotive operating environment.

BIOMETRICS:

Just what is the science of Biometrics?

Biometrics may be a fairly new term to some individuals so it is entirely appropriate at this time to define the technology.  This will lay the groundwork for the discussion to follow.  According to the International Biometric Society:

“Biometrics is used to refer to the emerging field of technology devoted to identification of individuals using biological traits, such as those based on retinal or iris scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition.”

The terms “Biometrics” and “Biometry” have been used since early in the 20th century to refer to the field of development of statistical and mathematical methods applicable to data analysis problems in the biological sciences.

From the Free Dictionary, we see the following definition:

  • The statistical study of biological phenomena.
  • The measurement of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, DNA, or retinal patterns for use in verifying the identity of individuals.
  • Biometricsrefers to metrics related to human characteristics. Biometrics authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. Physiological characteristics are related to the shape of the body.  Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, palm veins and odor/scent.  Behavioral characteristics are related to the pattern of behavior of a person, including but not limited to typing rhythm, gait, and voice.  Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.

More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number.  Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.

The oldest biometric identifier is facial recognition. The dimensions, proportions and physical attributes of a person’s face are unique and occur very early in infants.   A child will (obviously) recognize a parent, a brother or sister.  It is only since the advent of computers and accompanying software that the ability to quantify facial features has become possible.

The FBI has long been a leader in biometrics and has used various forms of biometric identification since the very earliest day.  This Federal institution assumed responsibility for managing the national fingerprint collection in 1924.  As you know, fingerprints vary from person to person (even identical twins have different prints) and don’t change over time. As a result, they are an effective way of identifying fugitives and helping to prove both guilt and innocence.

AUTOMOTIVE BIOMETRICS USING FINGERPRINT TECHNOLOGY:

What areas of a typical vehicle might benefit from specifically identifying a human being and matching that person to a particular car? Several possibilities come to mind:

  • Secure Access;
    ● Ignition Permission;
    ● Seat Reservations;
    ● On board communication systems;
    ● Anti-Theft programs;
    ● Driving license suspension programs.

All of these would insure privacy and access.  The two digital photographs below will serve to indicate how this methodology might work for an automobile.

starting-the-car

The fingerprint reader can be located in the steering wheel so the driver can concentrate in a better fashion.  This definitely desirable if biometric fingerprints are used for purposes other than starting the vehicle.

starting-the-car2

With this in mind, there are three mainstream fingerprint-sensing technologies available for automotive applications. These are as follows:

  • Capacitive Sensing—This is used in the world’s best-selling smartphones due to very small size: a sensing pad a few tens of microns thick and a small controller allow for very low power consumption.
  • Optical Fingerprint Sensing—Optical sensors are highly reliable and accurate, and so are widely used at border crossings. However, the sensors require a backlight to illuminate the finer.  They are still comparatively bulky compared to capacitive solutions.
  • Ultrasonic Sensing—This offers reliable detection of fingerprints in 3 D but has not found its way into mainstream mobile devices and is relative expensive.

CONCLUSIONS:

I believe biometrics will play a much bigger role in the automotive industry over the next few years.  Biometric fingerprinting could be used in a host of areas including:

  • Access to cabin compartment
  • Starting
  • Accessing cellphone communications
  • Allowing for application software located on cellphone so warm up in very cold climates could be made possible.

Now—here is the downside.  Someone has to be capable of troubleshooting a failed device and fix same if difficulties arise.  As complexity grows, we move more toward replace than fix.  Replace is costly.

As always, I welcome your comments.

DIALYSIS PUMPS

February 8, 2017


I entered the university shortly after Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz invented calculus. (OK, I’m not quite that old but you do get the picture.) At any rate, I’ve been a mechanical engineer for a lengthy period of time.  If I had to do it all over again, I would choose Biomedical Engineering instead of mechanical engineering.  Biomedical really fascinates me.  The medical “hardware” and software available today is absolutely marvelous.  As with most great technologies, it has been evolutionary instead of revolutionary.    One such evolution has been the development of the dialysis pump to facilitate administrating insulin to patients suffering with diabetes.

On my way to exercise Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I pass three dialysis clinics.  I am amazed that on some days the parking lots are, not only full, but cars are parked on the roads on either side of the buildings. Almost always, I see at least one ambulance parked in front of the clinic having delivered a patient to the facilities.  In Chattanooga proper, there are nine (9) clinics and approximately 3,306 dialysis centers in the United States. These centers employ 127,671 individuals and bring in twenty-two billion dollars ($22B) in revenue.  There is a four-point four percent (4.4%) growth rate on an annual basis. Truly, diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in our country.

Diabetes is not only one of the most common chronic diseases, it is also complex and difficult to treat.  Insulin is often administered between meals to keep blood sugar within target range.  This range is determined by the number of carbohydrates ingested. Four hundred (400) million adults worldwide suffer from diabetes with one and one-half million (1.5) deaths on an annual basis.  It is no wonder that so many scientists, inventors, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies are turning their attention to improving insulin delivery devices.   There are today several delivery options, as follows:

  • Syringes
  • Pens
  • Insulin Injection Aids
  • Inhaled Insulin Devices
  • External Pumps
  • Implantable Pumps

Insulin pumps, especially the newer devices, have several advantages over traditional injection methods.  These advantages make using pumps a preferable treatment option.  In addition to eliminating the need for injections at work, at the gym, in restaurants and other settings, the pumps are highly adjustable thus allowing the patient to make precise changes based on exercise levels and types of food being consumed.

These delivery devices require: 1.) An insulin cartridge, 2.) A battery-operated pump, and 3.) Computer chips that allow the patient to control the dosage.  A detailed list of components is given below.  Most modern devices have a display window or graphical user interface (GUI) and selection keys to facilitate changes and administrating insulin.  A typical pump is shown as follows:

insulin-pump

Generally, insulin pumps consist of a reservoir, a microcontroller with battery, flexible catheter tubing, and a subcutaneous needle. When the first insulin pumps were created in the 1970-80’s, they were quite bulky (think 1980’s cell phone). In contrast, most pumps today are a little smaller than a pager. The controller and reservoir are usually housed together. Patients often will wear the pump on a belt clip or place it in a pocket as shown below. A basic interface lets the patient adjust the rate of insulin or select a pre-set. The insulins used are rapid acting, and the reservoir typically holds 200-300 units of insulin. The catheter is similar to most IV tubing (often smaller in diameter), and connects directly to the needle. Patients insert the needle into their abdominal wall, although the upper arm or thigh can be used. The needle infusion set can be attached via any number of adhesives, but tape can do in a pinch. The needle needs to be re-sited every 2-3 days.

pump-application

As you can see from the above JPEG, the device itself can be clipped onto clothing and worn during the day for continued use.

The pump can help an individual patient more closely mimic the way a healthy pancreas functions. The pump, through a Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion (CSII), replaces the need for frequent injections by delivering precise doses of rapid-acting insulin 24 hours a day to closely match your body’s needs.  Two definitions should be understood relative to insulin usage.  These are as follows:

  • Basal Rate: A programmed insulin rate made of small amounts of insulin delivered continuously mimics the basal insulin production by the pancreas for normal functions of the body (not including food). The programmed rate is determined by your healthcare professional based on your personal needs. This basal rate delivery can also be customized according to your specific daily needs. For example, it can be suspended or increased / decreased for a definite time frame: this is not possible with basal insulin injections.
  • Bolus Dose: Additional insulin can be delivered “on demand” to match the food you are going to eat or to correct high blood sugar. Insulin pumps have bolus calculators that help you calculate your bolus amount based on settings that are pre-determined by your healthcare professional and again based on your special needs.

A modern insulin pump can accomplish both basal and bolus needs as the situation demands.

The benefits relative to traditional methods are as follows:

  • Easier dosing: calculating insulin requirements can be a complex task with many different aspects to be considered. It is important that the device ensures accurate dosing by taking into account any insulin already in the body, the current glucose levels, carbohydrate intake and personal insulin settings.
  • Greater flexibility:  The pump must be capable of instant adjustment to allow for exercise, during illness or to deliver small boluses to cover meals and snacks. This can easily be done with a touch of a button with the more-modern devices. There should be a temporary basal rate option to proportionally reduce or increase the basal insulin rate, during exercise or illness, for example.
  • More convenience: The device must offer additional convenience of a wirelessly connected blood glucose meter. This meter automatically sends blood glucose values to the pump, allowing more accurate calculations and to deliver insulin boluses discreetly.

These wonderful devices all result from technology and technological advances.  Needs DO generate devices.  I hope you enjoy this post and as always, I welcome your comments.

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