December 8, 2016
This Thanksgiving my family and I traveled to Dallas, Texas to visit our youngest son and his wife Sarah. Even though we are East Tennessee “ridge-runners” we love Dallas. It’s a great place to visit with “tons” of wonderful restaurants, museums, and other terrific things to do and see. If I may, let me recommend to you the following five visits that we consider “must see and do” experiences. We have visited each of the following sites and I can attest to experiences. Here we go:
- Dallas Arboretum and Gardens–The gardens are truly outstanding but bring your walking shoes.
- Dallas Cowboy Stadium—Seating 80,000 rabid fans, it sits prominently in Arlington, Texas
- Ross Perot Museum—Downtown Dallas
- Downtown Dallas Skyline—A wonderfully modern skyline with truly cutting-edge designs.
- Pecan Lodge Restaurant—Best ribs and brisket in Dallas and voted one of the best four in the world.
OK, I know there are many many others but if you have only two or three days you might consider these five. Dallas Cowboy Stadium is out of town but is a remarkable engineering and architectural feat—it is a must see. Put that one high on your list.
This may be a little off-the-wall, but I would like to take you to the last one on the list—The Pecan Lodge Restaurant. If you like smoked brisket, smoked ribs, smoked sausage AND all the sides that might go with each, you NEED to visit the Pecan. The Texas Monthly called it one of the best four (4) BBQ restaurants in the world. (Of course, they are a bit bias but it is a great experience.)
The owners tell us the following: “It all started when we ditched our corporate jobs and weekly travel that came with them so we could spend more time as a family. And, to be honest, we weren’t out to set the world on fire – just some mesquite wood, plus a little oak. But one mouthwatering bite of brisket led to another, and before we knew it, the juicy secret about Pecan Lodge was out. Folks began to serve us up heaping portions of praise, and soon after, lines started to form for what Texas Monthly called one of the Top 4 BBQ joints in the world.
It’s not easy work, but we love what we’re doing. And there are no shortcuts to doing it right. Our BBQ pit burns 24 hours a day, fueled by nothing but wood and passion. We grind and stuff our own sausage. And anything we can make from scratch, we make from scratch – from our Southern Fried Chicken to Aunt Polly’s banana pudding to our Mac n’ Cheese to the collard greens. Times change, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches. Our little stand at the Farmer’s Market had to make way for redevelopment, so we’ve now set up camp in the heart of Deep Ellum. You’ll find us where Main St. meets Pryor St., and good old-fashioned elbow grease meets smoked perfection”
Before we really get into a pictorial visit, let’s look at how they do it.
Texas Style Brisket by Pecan Lodge
- 1 1/2 cups paprika
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 3 tablespoons onion powder
• 3 tablespoons garlic salt
• 1 tablespoons celery salt
• 1 tablespoons black pepper
• 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
• 1 teaspoon mustard powder
• 1 teaspoon cayenne
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 trim brisket, about 5 to 6 pounds
- Combine all the drying ingredients in a bowl and blend well.
2. Trim the brisket, leaving about 1/4-inch of fat.
3. Season the brisket with about 1/4-cup of the rub. (NOTE: You don’t want such a thick crust that the smoke won’t penetrate the meat. Let the brisket marinate overnight in the refrigerator.)
4. Preheat your grill to 250 degrees F using charcoal and hickory.
5. Using indirect heat, cook the brisket for 3 1/2 hours and flip. Cook another 3 1/2 hours, cooking for a total of 7 hours (about 1 1/2 hours per pound.) The brisket should cook to an internal temperature of 185 degrees F.
6. Rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board before slicing. Slice brisket against the grain
How long does it take to smoke a brisket? And at what temperature? Are there any tricks to creating the “bark” on the brisket?
The answer varies, depending on the weight and type of smoker you are working with. Most of our briskets cook between 15 and 18 hours. To get a nice bark, we use a generous layer of spice rub, which — blended with the fat insulating the brisket — leads to a nice, dark bark on the outer layer.
I hope you’ve got that and will be willing to give it a try. The Lodge is very willing to give you this recipe which I think is outstanding.
The Pecan Lodge opens at 11:00 A.M. each day. Parking is no problem at all with plenty of spaces in the back and sides of the building. As you walk towards the entrance you see two massive smokers. These smokers run seven days a week with each brisket taking eighteen hours (minimum) to cook. We were fortunate this day because the doors to the smoke house were open.
Since it was the Thanksgiving holiday, there were fifty or sixty people in line to pick up call-in orders. I can imagine turkey and brisket sitting on dining room tables across the Dallas area. NOTE: The pick-up line is separate from the line for indoor and outdoor seating. Don’t get in the wrong line.
We got there around 11:20 thinking we would be one of the first families in line. Please note we were at the back of the line you see below. Down the sidewalk and around the corner past the “bull” you see in the background. I stepped out to take this picture to indicate just how popular this place is.
Due to the number of people ordering and needing to be seated, the management requires each order to be submitted before individuals are seated. In other words, you can’t send a family member to save a seat while you are in line. They are really big on this one.
The two digital pictures below will give some indication as to the size of the indoor dining room. It’s big and notice not too many people are looking up—all looking down at their plates and going at it.
It would not be a BBQ “joint” without hats, shirts, belt buckles, etc etc. These are on display so you can choose and pay as you place your order.
Given below is the menu. It’s the only one you get. We all ordered one, two or three meats and one or two sides. This gave us variety to share with each other. Note the “Hot Mess” in the upper right of the menu. I did not order this but my son did and it is outstanding—hot but outstanding.
We were very lucky in that the day gave us seventy-five degree temperatures and plenty of great sunshine. We ate outside where there were eleven picnic tables—most of them full.
I know we have BBQ in east Tennessee and some of it is pretty good, but we do not have Texas brisket. Hope you enjoyed this post and can make the visit to the Pecan Lodge in big “D”.
November 19, 2016
If you keep up with my posts you know that I try to bring my wonderful readers STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) news from all over the world. The United States remains the global leader in technology, disruptive and otherwise but there are fascinating developments occurring in all parts of our small “blue dot”.
It has always been interesting to me the absolute need we have to find out where we come from. One of the most successful web sites accessed today is Ancestry.com. Americans are obsessed with genealogy and this desire has spawned a billion-dollar cottage industry. Alex Haley, author of the hugely popular 1976 book Roots, once said that black Americans needed their own version of Plymouth Rock, a genesis story that didn’t begin — or end — at slavery. His nine-hundred-page American family saga, which reached back to 18th century Gambia, certainly delivered on that. But it also shared with all Americans the emotional and intellectual rewards that can come with discovering the identity of our ancestors.
That need not only deals with individual ancestry but the need to find out just how we got here. What mechanism or mechanisms created our species? In finding out, we look back—back in time to see the origins of our planet and our universe. That effort was furthered by FAST. Let’s take a look.
The world’s largest radio telescope, according to China’s official Xinhua News, began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life this past Sunday in a project demonstrating China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige. “The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe,” Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told state broadcaster CCTV. “In theory, if there is civilization in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us,” Qian said. Installation of the 4,450-panel structure, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, started in 2011 and was completed in July. The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is named after its diameter, which, at five hundred meters (500), is 195 meters wider than the second-largest telescope of its kind, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Xinhua News reports the telescope cost $180 million and came to past with eight hundred thousand (8,000) people being displaced from their homes. This displacement created the necessary three-mile radius of radio silence around the facility. The facility itself will be used for “observation of pulsars as well as exploration of interstellar molecules and interstellar communication signals.” FAST is built in the Dawodang depression in Guizhou Province. The natural landscape provides the perfect size and shape for the construction of the telescope. The ground also provides enough support for the gigantic telescope. The porous soil forms an underground drainage system that protects the telescope. With only one town in the twelve (12) miles radius, the Dawodang depression is extremely isolated from magnetic disruptions. The remoteness of the location also protects the surrounding landscape from any damage.
Like radio telescopes in other parts of the world, FAST will study interstellar molecules related to how galaxies evolve. For example, this summer a team using data from the Very Large Array, a collection of radio antennas in the New Mexico desert, picked up what scientists describe as “faint radio emission from atomic hydrogen … in a galaxy nearly five (5) billion light-years from Earth.” In the paper describing their findings, the team writes that the “next generation of radio telescopes,” like FAST, will build on their findings about how gases behave in galaxies.
Digital photographs of the completed structure and construction may be seen below. As you can see, it is monstrous.
The initial construction represented a huge effort with detailed planning extending over a five year period of time.
This structure proves that for people all over the world—we are searching. Personally, I think this is truly healthy. My only wish is, one discovered, that news is shared with all humanity. As always, I welcome your comments.
November 14, 2016
I want us to consider a “what-if” scenario. You are thirty-two years old, out of school, and have finally landed a job you really enjoy AND you are actually making money at that job. You have your expenses covered with “traveling money” left over for a little fun. You recently discovered the possibility that Social Security (SS), when you are ready to retire, will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. You MUST start saving for retirement and consider SS to be the icing on the cake if available at all. QUESTION: Where do you start? As you investigate the stock markets you find stocks seem to be the best possibility for future income. Stocks, bonds, “T” bills, etc. all are possibilities but stocks are at the top of the list.
People pay plenty of money for consulting giants to help them figure out which technology trends are fads and which will stick. You could go that route, or get the same thing from the McKinsey Global Institute’s in-house think-tank for the cost of a new book. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, was written by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, and offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. If you chose stocks, you definitely want to look at technology sectors AND consider companies contributing products to those sectors. The following list from that book may help. Let’s take a look.
Below, we’re recapping their list of the “Disruptive Dozen”—the technologies the group believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.
The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient. Battery technology will remain with us and will contribute to ever-increasing product offerings as time goes by. Companies supplying this market sector will only increase in importance.
As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops. This is a rapidly growing field and one that has and will save lives.
The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.
Self-Driving or Autonomous Automobiles
Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves. You will not catch me in a self-driving automobile unless the FED and the auto maker can assure me they are safe. Continuous effort is being expended to do just that. These driverless automobiles are coming and we all may just as well get used to it.
Alternate Energy Solutions
Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050. I might include with wind and solar, methane recovery from landfills, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and other environmentally friendly alternatives.
The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.
Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”
The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.
It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.
The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”
The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets. This was a real surprise to me but our country has abundant oil supplies and we are already fairly self-sufficient.
There is an ever-increasing accumulation of data from all sources. At no time in our global history has there been a greater thirst for information. We count and measure everything now days with the recent election being one example of that very fact. Those who can control and manage big data are definitely ahead of the game.
CONCLUSION: It’s a brave new world and a world that accommodates educated individuals. STAY IN SCHOOL. Get ready for what’s coming. The world as we know it will continue to change with greater opportunities as time advances. Be there. Also, I would recommend investing in those technology sectors that feed the changes. I personally don’t think a young investor will go wrong.
November 12, 2016
We hear a great deal these days about wearable technology. Let’s see if we can get “calibrated” relative to the definition and what devices are available. First, the definition:
DEFINITION NUMBER 1:
Electronics that can be worn on the body, either as an accessory or as part of material used in clothing. One of the major features of wearable technology is its ability to connect to the Internet, enabling data to be exchanged between a network and the device.
DEFINITION NUMBER 2:
A wearable device is a technology that is worn on the human body. This type of device has become a more common part of the tech world as companies have started to evolve more types of devices that are small enough to wear and that include powerful sensor technologies that can collect and deliver information about their surroundings.
Wearable devices are also known as wearable gadgets, wearable technology or simply wearables.
DEFINITION NUMBER 3:
Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.
I’ve given you three definitions although I really don’t like or completely agree with either. As we delve further into what is available in today’s modern world you will understand where I’m coming from.
Now we tackle trends in wearable technology by looking at the devices available. This post is a marathon and not a sprint but I think you will be surprised, as was I, when you see the number of possibilities are what consumers are buying. I can’t indicate all hardware available so I have provided a representative sample of what’s out there.
I’ve started off with man’s best friend because my son’s dog, an Alaskan Husky, frequently decides he wants to explore the “hood”. He is one of the most elusive “critters” on the planet and loves to avoid capture at all costs.
Part pet tracker and part insurance company; Nuzzle is a GPS collar that goes the extra mile when it comes to looking after your furry friends. This device provides activity monitoring and GPS mapping features alongside data on favorite walks and wellness stats in the companion app. That app can be downloaded onto your cell phone, laptop or PC.
GPS is integral to proper sports tracking, and TomTom is set to transform itself into a sports brand in 2016. I enjoy play golf but am certainly not ready for Augusta. As a matter of fact, I’m not too sure I’ve ever owned a used ball. They simply don’t last that long. This device allows you to track your shank or slice so recoverability is possible.
Xmetrics is the hottest swimming wearable and is designed for pros and enthusiasts. It sits on the back of your head to minimize drag and measures a broader set of bio-mechanics than any other swimming wearable. Between kick-turn times, breath counts, stroke efficiency, all fed back to you in real time audio; it’s a far more detailed and complete platform than anyone’s made before. It should sell big.
If gaming were any more real, then it would no longer be a game. The Void is a real-life virtual reality (VR) theme park built in Salt Lake City. In beta phase at the moment but opening soon, it’s virtual gaming experiences are superimposed onto a blank maze-like space. The upshot is that all your other senses buy into the vision of your adventure as well as just your eyes. I have no real use for VR or other video experiences but must include this one due to the rising popularity of VR systems. (A complete waste of time in my opinion.)
This one I love. Wearables’ unique position on the body make them more personal than ever before, and offer the chance for them to become real life savers. Crowdfunded Athena smashed its goal thanks to its promise to protect women via an alarm and GPS alerts. Cheaper sensors also help tech companies build for the developing world. From storing medical records or even warning people about floods and earthquakes, wearables are set to make a difference in 2016. Our youngest son has a medical condition and early-warning can be big.
The big frustration with fitness platforms is that those programs they assign to us are far too general and wearables in 2015 have begun to clue up to this. Moov has already tackled the problem and Fitbit has promised a bigger emphasis on coaching, too. I have a Fitbit and love it. It tracks the number of steps per day, the number of stairs climbed and calorie count.
Once again, a device I love because it gives early warning of impending medical problems. The newly rebranded Google Life Sciences already has ambitious projects, including its glucose-detecting contact lens. Google’s also set to use tech to target cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems too. I have low blood sugar and a device such as this could keep me from issues that would definitely ruin my day.
As smartwatches mature, the need for a constant digital umbilical cord to a smartphone starts to feel a little antiquated. The great separation is already underway with Android Wear and the Samsung Gear S2 both supporting e-SIMs, which tap into your pre-existing cell network at no extra cost. While the first untethered Android Wear device, the LG Watch Urbane Second Edition has been cancelled, we’d bet that every smartwatch brand with have an LTE version by the end of 2016.
Ears are perfect for biometric measurements and a natural home for all those virtual assistants from the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple. Wearable broke the news that Microsoft is working on a hearable called Clip, Jabra’s CEO is in on the game, we’re expecting a second crack at the Moto Hint and Bragi Dash is just about to ship.
Digital health is an enormous opportunity for both the private and public sectors. More accurate, more constant and better respected measures of individual’s biometrics mean both money- and life-saving. If you’re the NHS, you can axe millions from your costs by ensuring that people are compliant with drugs. If you’re an insurance company, you can price your premiums accordingly. If you’re a tech giant, you can capitalize with your health platform and data sales. Whomever you are, it’s a winning situation. The only haunting figure is the specter of possible identity theft; no small deal but perhaps no big problem.
Discussed for years but the rest of the world needs to catch up on invisibles. Sensory tech is far easier to design when you don’t have to worry about it looking great, so there are tech tattoos in development from Chaotic Moon, New Deal Design and more which might only need power from your movement or the current across your skin. And what they could learn from your sweat, we’re sure to find out.
It would not be a post without the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch was number one on the Wearable 50 for 2015 and that was before it was even announced. All the same, we were right to champion it as the hot wearable of the year. Perhaps, once again, the smart money is on the Apple to be another huge deal as the calendar ticks over. The first iPhone had no 3G or Bluetooth. What style gaps and feature flaws will the Apple Watch 2 set out to fill? We look forward to finding out.
The infrastructure is here but people aren’t paying from their wrists – yet. But wearable payments are set to become the norm in 2016. A few million Apple Watches in the wild, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, bPay, plus MasterCard backing the likes of Ringly and Nymi mean that there are going to be more ways to pay, and more securely than ever. With so many of the big players behind it, it’s sure to be the year for wearable payments.
OK, this will do it for now. You get the picture thought—we will be seeing more and more wearable technology as time go by. If I were a betting man, I would say you will own some form of wearable during the next five (5) years.
As always, I welcome your comments.
November 5, 2016
I grew up in the ’50s in post-world war two (WWII) decade. It truly was a very simple time as compared to the chaotic, time-obsessed, “hair-on-fire”, get-it-done-at-any cost times we experience today. One expression I remember very clearly was: “faster than a ’57 Chevy”. Anything over walking speed was faster than a ’57 Chevy. This, of course, was handed down from the older kids to guys my age. The object of that expression may be seen below.
(I told you those were much more simple days.) If we only knew what was coming down the pike, we would have never never used that expression. You know what is really faster than a ’57 Chevy? Let’s take a look.
This month the Top 500 biannual ranking of the world’s fastest, publicly known supercomputers will be updated. The list release will coincide with SC16, the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis held in Salt Lake City from November 13 to November 18. The last Top 500 update in June revealed that China maintained its grip on the number one spot with the new and surprising Sunway TaihuLight device, which reached ninety-three (93) petaflops per second or ninety-three quadrillion calculations per second or “faster than a ’57 Chevy”.
Let’s refresh our memory. A petaflop is a measure of a computer’s processing speed and can be expressed as:
- A quadrillion (thousand trillion) floating point operations per second (FLOPS)
- A thousand teraflops
- 10 to the 15th power FLOPS
- 2 to the 50th power FLOPS
NUMBER 1: National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China: Sunway TaihuLight with 10,649,600 cores running 15,371 Kw. The Sunway is shown below:
NUMBER 2: National Super Computer Center in Guangzhou, China: Tianhe-2(MilkyWay-2) with 3,120,000 cores running 17,808 Kw.
NUMBER 3: DOE/SC/OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY, UNITED STATES: Titan-Cray XK7: 560,640 cores running 8,209 Kw.
NUMBER 4: DOE/NNSA/LLNL, UNITED STATES: Sequioa-BlueGene/Q: 1,572,864 cores running 7,890 Kw.
NUMBER 5: RIKEN ADVANCED INSTITUTE FOR COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE, JAPAN: K Computer SPARC64: 705,024 cores running 12,660 Kw.
Not only has China outdone itself in terms of the fastest supercomputer, it is now home to the largest number of supercomputers on the list. One hundred sixty-seven (167) to be exact. This doubles the number in the United States. This year marks the first time since the Top 500 rankings began twenty-three (23) years ago, that the United States cannot lay claim to the most machines on the list. All is lost—well not quite.
In September, the DOE’s Exascale Computing Project or ECP, announced the first round of funding for advanced computers. It awarded $39.8 million to fifteen (15) application development proposals for full funding and seven proposals for seed funding. This is significant and will provide necessary financing to keep up and even surpass the Chinese.
If we look at the history of computing power, we see the following:
Compare that with the cost of computing power:
As you can see, the advances in computing power are remarkable but at a significant cost. Speed vs. cost. This is one very expensive technology. Fortunately, the computers we mortals use, do not require the speeds cutting-edge technology requires. With that being the case, computing power on the domestic scale has decreased significantly over the years.
November 3, 2016
I think we are all aware that automotive trends point towards autonomous vehicles; i.e. “self-driving” cars. Personally, I’m not too thrilled about the prospects and feel the reality of one in my driveway is down the road, if ever. With that being the case, BMW, INTEL, and Mobileye have teamed up to bring autonomous vehicles to the BMW product line. I must admit, this appears to be one “mean ride”. Let’s take a very quick at the styling to date.
As you can see, the styling is truly beautiful. Each company represents leadership in automotive technology, computer vision, and machine learning and share the opinion that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier. No doubt, easier is a given but I have yet to be convinced safer is right around the corner. There are significant challenges to overcome before road-worthy vehicles such as the i NEXT receives certification and goes into production for the buying public.
The goal of collaborative effort is to develop future-proofed solutions that will enable drivers to reach the so called “eyes-off”, or level 3, and ultimately the “mind-off” or level 4 by 2021. This would transform “getting there” to leisure and/or work time. BMW said the new i NEXT model will be the basis for future fleets of fully autonomous vehicles that will drive on both highways and in urban environments, which are far more challenging. A BMW spokesman said it expects a steering wheel and pedals to remain in the fully self-driving vehicle, in case the driver wants to be in control. I personally feel even these will be removed if the concept proves itself with greatly improved safety. By doing so, cost savings may be accomplished and reduction in system complexity.
While BMW lends its automotive expertise to the collaboration, INTEL is providing computing power ranging from its INTEL Atom to INTEL Xenon processors, which deliver up to one hundred (100) teraflops of power-efficient performance without having to rewrite code. Mobileye is developing software algorithms, system-on-chips, and customer applications based upon processing visual information for driver assistance systems.
BMW is actively revamping company concepts to assure direct competition with the likes of new OEM Tesla, along with the usual suspects, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In March, the company showed its future ideas regarding vehicle autonomy via its Vision Next 100 concept cars. This was likely an overly obvious foreshadowing of the iNext platform.
Harald Krueger, BMW CEO told annual shareholders in Munich that the upcoming vehicle with “cutting-edge” electric drive-train and all new interior will be able to drive itself. The new release, along with BMW’s current “i” line are all efforts to compete in the luxury car electric vehicle market. This will be an addition to the line which already includes the i8 PHEV and the i3 BEV/REx. Krueger said:
i Next is set to be “our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”
In addition to this, as companies are realizing that car ownership is continually diminishing in “big city” environments, BMW has announced its jump onto the bandwagon of car-sharing and ride-sharing ventures. Its first delve into the scene is a car-sharing situation in Seattle, with the possibility of more such services to come.
The numbers are showing that Tesla is dominating the European market and lighting a fire under established automakers. Mercedes has been luckier than BMW with being ahead of the game, launching new product lineups and a multiplex of new models. BMW’s sales in the first quarter of 2016 only gained marginal success compared to that of Mercedes.
In an attempt to try to regain momentum and push ahead, BMW has cut prices by approximately six percent (5.9%) across the board. This is partly since the company’s available models are all “older” models, in direct comparison to the competitors. Nevertheless, BMW is reportedly still on par with 2016 projections.
Krueger, in his stockholder’s address, assured that for the seventh consecutive year, his company is on target. While, unfortunately, above target needs to be the goal when factoring in the accelerated growth of the dominant competition.
“After our first quarter, we are on track for the full year. We have always stressed that our centenary is a springboard to the future.”
CONCLUSION: I marvel at the technology. There is absolutely no way any company or companies could have developed a vehicle such as this as far back as five (5) years ago. The technology was just not there. Hopefully, BMW is successful, but as I mentioned earlier, there are tremendous hurdles and challenges before the rubber hits the road. I certainly wish them success.
October 29, 2016
WARNING: This will probably be very boring to most of you but important if you are in manufacturing. Consider this a public service announcement.
OK, first let us take a look at the following definition:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly known by its acronym OSHA, is responsible for protecting worker health and safety in the United States. Congress created OSHA in 1971 following its passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for workers by enforcing workplace laws and standards and also by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Congress enacted the OSH Act in response to annual workplace accidents that resulted in 14,000 worker deaths and 2.5 million disabled workers annually. Since its inception, OSHA has cut the work-fatality rate by more than half, and it has significantly reduced the overall injury and illness rates in industries where OSHA has concentrated its attention, such as textiles and excavation. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health; the position answers to the Secretary of Labor, a member of the Cabinet of the United States.
You know how the FED works, laws are passed WITH penalties for violations. OSHA works in the same fashion. As of August 1, 2016, the dollar amounts for maximum civil penalties have increased considerably. If you are an employer and violate an OSHA regulation you can be fined. Congress has not raised the dollar figures since 1990, but last year they included a provision in budget legislation allowing all federal agencies to increase fines and penalties to match inflation. That twenty-six (26) year combination inflation rate total of seventy-eight percent (78%) was used to establish new amounts announced by OSHA on 1 July of this year. The new amounts will apply only to civil penalties after 1 August 2016 for associated violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, the date of enactment of the budget legislation.
In addition to the catch-up adjustment this year, the bill allows OSHA to continue raising fines annually to keep pace with inflation. While most statute violation penalties have been inflated every four years, OSHA and a few other federal agencies were previously exempted from raising their fines under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. Moving forward, businesses can expect to see these annual increases by no later than January 15 of each year. The goal of this new change is to keep the fines up-to-date as a relevant penalty.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that administrative civil penalties like those OSHA imposes on employers “are intended to punish, and label defendants wrongdoers”, which means they could be found to fall under the ex post facto ban. NOTE: The definition of ex post facto is as follows:
A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The Constitution prohibits the making of ex post facto law.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
To illustrate the impact of this change, we see the following:
- Other-than-serious violation, from $7,000 to $12,471
- Serious violation, from $7,000 to $12,471
- Repeat violation, from $70,000 to $124,709
- Willful violation, from $70,000 to $124,000
- Failure to abate violation, from $7,000 to $12,741 per day.
- Violation of a posting requirement from $7.000 to $12,471
If you manufacturer a product and have responsibility for safety in your facility, please take a look at all changes to the OSHA document and make sure you are aware of additional penalties. I have no idea as to why the FED decided to “catch up” with increases being other than incremental. I suppose they do it because they can do it.