COGNITIVE ABILITY

June 10, 2017


In 2013 my mother died of Alzheimer’s disease.  She was ninety-two (92) years old.  My father suffered significant dementia and passed away in 2014.  He was ninety-three (93) and one day.  We provided a birthday cake for him but unfortunately, he was unable to eat because he did not understand the significance and had no appetite remaining at all. Dementia is an acquired condition characterized by a decline in at least two cognitive domains (e.g., loss of memory, attention, language, or visuospatial or executive functioning) that is severe enough to affect social or occupational functioning. The passing of both parents demanded a search for methodologies to prolong cognitive ability. What, if anything, can we do to remain “brain healthy” well into our eighties and nineties?  Neurologists tell us we all will experience diminished mental abilities as we age but can we lengthen our brain’s ability to reason and perform?  The answer is a resounding YES.  Let’s take a look at activities the medical profession recommends to do just that.

  • READ—What is the difference between someone who does not know how to read and someone who does know but never cracks a book? ANSWER: Absolutely nothing.   If the end result is knowledge and/or pleasure gained, they both are equal.  Reading books and other materials with vivid imagery is not only fun, it also allows us to create worlds in our own minds. Researchers have found that visual imagery is simply automatic. Participants were able to identify photos of objects faster if they’d just read a sentence that described the object visually, suggesting that when we read a sentence, we automatically bring up pictures of objects in our minds. Any kind of reading provides stimulation for your brain, but different types of reading give different experiences with varying benefits. Stanford University researchers have found that close literary reading in particular gives your brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions, while pleasure reading increases blood flow to different areas of the brain. They concluded that reading a novel closely for literary study and thinking about its value is an effective brain exercise, more effective than simple pleasure reading alone.
  • MAKE MORE MISTAKES—Now, we are talking about engaging life or JUST DO IT. Every endeavor must be accompanied by calculating the risks vs. reward always keeping safety and general well-being in mind.  It took me a long time to get the courage to write and publish but the rewards have been outstanding on a personal level.
  • LEARN FROM OTHER’S MISTAKES—Less painful than “learning the hard way” but just as beneficial. Reading about the efforts of successful people and the mistakes they made along the way can go a long way to our avoiding the same pitfalls.
  • LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR BREATHING—This one really surprises me. Medical textbooks suggest that the normalrespiratory rate for adults is only 12 breaths per minute at rest. Older textbooks often provide even smaller values (e.g., 8-10 breaths per minute). Most modern adults breathe much faster (about 15-20 breaths per minute) than their normal breathing frequency. The respiratory rates in the sick persons are usually higher, generally about 20 breaths/min or more. This site quotes numerous studies that testify that respiratory rates in terminally sick people with cancer, HIV-AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other conditions is usually over 30 breaths/min.  Learning to control respiratory rate is one factor in providing a healthy brain.
  • EXERCISE-– This seems to be a no-brainer (pardon the pun) but thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people NEVER exercise. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines: Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.  That is the minimum.
  • VISUALIZE YOUR OUTCOME—You have heard this before from world-class athletes. Picture yourself accomplishing the goal or goals you have established.  Make winning a foregone conclusion.
  • FOCUS ON THE LITTLE THINGS—For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. You have often heard ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’.  People who accomplish pay attention to detail.
  • WRITE—Nothing can clear the mind like writing down your thoughts. You have to organize, plan, visualize and execute when writing.
  • LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE—This is a tough one for most adults but, learning a new language stimulates areas of your brain. Scientists have long held the theory that the left and right hemisphere of your brain control different functions when it comes to learning. The left hemisphere is thought to control language, math and logic, while the right hemisphere is responsible for spatial abilities, visual imagery, music and your ability to recognize faces. The left hemisphere of your brain also controls the movement on the right side of your body. The left hemisphere of the brain contains parts of the parietal lobe, temporal lobe and the occipital lobe, which make up your language control center. In these lobes, two regions known as the Wernicke area and the Broca area allow you to understand and recognize, read and speak language patterns — including the ability to learn foreign languages.
  • SLEEP-– The evidence is clear that better brain and physical health in older people is related to getting an average of seven to eight hours of sleep every 24 hours,” said Sarah Lock, the council’s executive director and AARP senior vice president. The evidence on whether naps are beneficial to brain health in older adults is still unclear. If you must, limit napping to 30 minutes in the early afternoon. Longer naps late in the day can disrupt nighttime sleep. Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week. (You will not like this one.) Keep the bedroom for sleeping, not watching TV or reading or playing games on your smartphone or tablet.
  • DIET—A “brain-healthy” diet can go a long way to promoting cognitive ability. Keeping weight off and maintaining an acceptable body mass index (BMI) can certainly promote improved mental ability.
  • LEARN TO PROGRAM-– This is another tough one. Programming is difficult, tedious, time-consuming and can be extremely frustrating.  You must have the patience of Job to be a successful programmer, but it is mind-stimulating and can benefit cognitive ability.
  • TRAVEL—As much as you can, travel. Travel is a marvelous learning experience and certainly broadens an individual’s outlook.  New experiences, new and interesting people, new languages, all contribute to mental stimulation and improve cognitive ability.
  • LESSEN MIND-NUMING TELEVISION—Enough said here. Read a good book.
  • APPLY THE KNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE—Trust me on this one, you are a lot smarter than you think you are. Apply what you know to any one given situation. You will be surprised at the outcome and how your success will fuel additional successes.
  • REDUCE EXPOSURE TO SOCIAL MEDIA—Social medial can become a time-robbing exercise that removes you from real life. Instead of reading about the experiences of others, bring about experiences in your own life.

CONCLUSIONS:  As always, I welcome your comments.

CLOUD COMPUTING

May 20, 2017


OK, you have heard the term over and over again but, just what is cloud computing? Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”). Companies offering these computing services are called cloud providers and typically charge for cloud computing services based on usage, similar to how you’re billed for water or electricity at home. It is a type of Internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., computer networks, servers, storage, applications and services), which can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in either privately owned, or third-party data centers that may be located far from the user–ranging in distance from across a city to across the world. Cloud computing relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economy of scale, similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over an electricity network.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES:

Any new technology has an upside and downside. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages when using the cloud.  Let’s take a look.

 Advantages

  • Lower cost for desktop clients since the applications are running in the cloud. This means clients with smaller hard drive requirements and possibly even no CD or DVD drives.
  • Peak computing needs of a business can be off loaded into cloud applications saving the funds normally used for additional in-house servers.
  • Lower maintenance costs. This includes both hardware and software cost reductions since client machine requirements are much lower cost and software purchase costs are being eliminated altogether for applications running in the cloud.
  • Automatic application software updates for applications in the cloud. This is another maintenance savings.
  • Vastly increased computing power availability. The scalability of the server farm provides this advantage.
  • The scalability of virtual storage provides unlimited storage capacity.

 Disadvantages

  • Requires an “always on” Internet connection.
  • There are clearly concerns with data security. e.g. questions like: “If I can get to my data using a web browser, who else can?”
  • Concerns for loss of data.
  • Reliability. Service interruptions are rare but can happen. Google has already had an outage.

MAJOR CLOUD SERVICE PROVIDERS:

The following names are very recognizable.  Everyone know the “open-market” cloud service providers.

  • AMAZON
  • SALESFORCE
  • GOOGLE
  • IBM
  • MICROSOFT
  • SUN MICROSYSTEMS
  • ORACLE
  • AT & T

PRIVATE CLOUD SERVICE PROVIDERS:

With all the interest in cloud computing as a service, there is also an emerging concept of private clouds. It is a bit reminiscent of the early days of the Internet and the importing that technology into the enterprise as intranets. The concerns for security and reliability outside corporate control are very real and troublesome aspects of the otherwise attractive technology of cloud computing services. The IT world has not forgotten about the eight hour down time of the Amazon S3 cloud server on July, 20, 2008. A private cloud means that the technology must be bought, built and managed within the corporation. A company will be purchasing cloud technology usable inside the enterprise for development of cloud applications having the flexibility of running on the private cloud or outside on the public clouds? This “hybrid environment” is in fact the direction that some believe the enterprise community will be going and some of the products that support this approach are listed below.

  • Elastra (http://www.elastra.com ) is developing a server that can be used as a private cloud in a data center. Tools are available to design applications that will run in both private and public clouds.
  • 3Tetra (http://www.3tetra.com ) is developing a grid operating system called ParaScale that will aggregate disk storage.
  • Cassatt(http://www.cassatt.com )will be offering technology that can be used for resource pooling.
  • Ncomputing ( http://www.ncomputing.com ) has developed standard desktop PC virtualization software system that allows up to 30 users to use the same PC system with their own keyboard, monitor and mouse. Strong claims are made about savings on PC costs, IT complexity and power consumption by customers in government, industry and education communities.

CONCLUSION:

OK, clear as mud—right?  For me, the biggest misconception is the terminology itself—the cloud.   The word “cloud” seems to imply a IT system in the sky.  The exact opposite is the case.  The cloud is an earth-based IT system serving as a universal host.  A network of computers. A network of servers.  No cloud.


My wife and I love going to the movies.  Notice I say “going to the movies”.  Not so much downloading a film and watching from the couch.  We usually combine our movie watching with dinner afterward; discussing the film over a hot plate of “something”.  Something usually fattening. With that being the case, have you noticed lately the number of movies dedicated to designated heroes “saving the day” and the number of Sci-Fi movies that have been and will be released in the 2017 calendar year?

Let’s take a quick look at what we have coming down the pike for 2017.

  • POWER RANGERS—24 Marcy 2017
  • WONDER WOMAN—2 June 2017
  • SPIDERMAN HOMECOMING—July 7, 2017
  • RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER—January 27, 2017
  • GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOLUME 2—May 5, 2017
  • THOR: RAGNAROK—November 3, 2017
  • TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT—June 23,2017
  • OKJA—June 27, 2017
  • DARK TOWER—July 28, 2017
  • STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI—December 17, 2017

Let’s take a look at releases for 2018.

If we take a look at history, we find the top ten (10) grossing movies are as follows:

  • Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002) –$311 Million
·         9. Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005) –$380 Million
·         8. Independence Day (1996) –$306 Million
·         7. Back to the Future (1985) –$211 Million
·         6. Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999) –$475 Million
·         5. Return of the Jedi (1983) –$309 Million
·         4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) –$290 Million
·         3. Avatar (2009) –$761 Million
·         2. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) –$435 Million
·         1. Star Wars (1977) –$461 Million

The box office amounts represent numbers earned during the year of release.  If you associate 2017 numbers the amounts become much greater from a relative perspective.

Notice a trend?  Six (6) of the top ten grossing movies involve the Star Wars series.  We absolutely love seeing the “good guys” win.  Good against evil.  We go to these “flicks” hoping beyond hope the heroes will save the day, the good guys will get the girl, civilizations will win, all live happily ever after.  I love to see the computerized graphics and how the script unfolds using the graphics to illustrate and define the story.  These days, spectacular computer generated effects sequences are commonplace in everything from big-budget films to television, games, and even commercial advertising. But that wasn’t always the case—before 3D computer graphics became the norm, the world was a slightly duller place. Aliens were made of plastic instead of pixels. Superman needed wires in order to fly. Animations were created with pencils and paintbrushes.   Blockbusters look better than ever thanks to a talented army of 3D modelers, animators, render technicians, and warehouses full of the computers that do all the math.

Computer animations make the “hero-type” movies but still the questions must be asked—Why do we need heroes? Let’s take a look.

  1. We’re born to have heroes— More than a half-century ago, Carl Jung proposed the idea that all humans have collectively inherited unconscious images, ideas, or thoughts, which he called archetypes.  These archetypes reflect common experiences that all humans (and their ancestors) have shared over millions of years of evolution, and the main purpose of these archetypes is to prepare us for these common experiences.  Two such archetypes, according to Jung, are heroes and demons.  Current research appears to support Jung – scientists have found that newborn babies are equipped with a readiness for language, for numbers, for their parents’ faces — and even a preference for people who are moral.  Humans appear to be innately prepared for certain people and tasks, and we believe this may include encounters with heroes.
  2. Heroes nurture us when we’re young— Research has shown that when people are asked to name their own personal heroes, the first individuals who often come to mind are parents and caretakers.  All of us owe whatever success we’ve had in life to the people who were there for us when we were young, vulnerable, and developing.  When we recognize the great sacrifices that these nurturers and caretakers have made for us, we’re likely to call them our heroes.
  3. Heroes reveal our missing qualities— Heroes educate us about right and wrong.  Most fairytales and children’s stories serve this didactic purpose, showing kids the kinds of behaviors that are needed to succeed in life, to better society, and to overcome villainy.  It is during our youth that we most need good, healthy adult role models who demonstrate exemplary behavior.  But adults need heroic models as well.  Heroes reveal to us the kinds of qualities we need to be in communion with others.
  4. Heroes save us when we’re in trouble— This principle explains the powerful appeal of comic book superheroes.  People seemingly can’t get enough of Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, and many others. We are moved by stories of magical beings with superhuman powers who can instantly remove danger and make everything right.  This principle also explains our extreme admiration for society’s true heroic protectors – law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and military personnel.
  5. Heroes pick us up when we’re down— Life inevitably hands us personal setbacks and failings.  Failed relationships, failed businesses, and health problems are common life experiences for us.  Our research has shown that it is during these phases of great personal challenge in our lives that heroes are most likely inspire us to overcome whatever adversity we’re facing.  Heroes lift us up when we’re personally in danger of falling down emotionally, physically, or spiritually.  I think this is one reason we all love the movies.  We can become winners through the actions of our heroes.
  6. Heroes validate our preferred moral worldview — One fascinating theory in psychology is called terror management theory, which proposes that people’s fear of death strengthens their allegiance to cultural values. Just the simple act of reminding people of their mortality leads them to exaggerate whatever moral tendencies they already have.  For example, studies have shown that reminders of death lead people to reward do-gooders and punish bad-doers more than they normally would.  Just thinking about the fragility of life can lead us to need and to value heroes.
  7. Heroes provide dramatic, entertaining stories— Psychologists have long been aware of the power of a good, juicy narrative.  Stories of heroes and heroic myth have entertained humans since the dawn of recorded history.  Joseph Campbell documented recurring patterns in these hero stories in his seminal book, and virtually all hero stories feature these time-honored patterns.  Today’s media are all-too aware of our hunger for hero stories and take great delight in building celebrity heroes up and then tearing them down.  People have always been drawn to human drama and they always will be. Admit it—we all love a great story.
  8. Heroes solve problems— Research has shown that people’s heroes are not just paragons of morality. They also show superb competencies directed toward the goal of solving society’s most vexing problems.  Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine.  George Washington Carver introduced crop rotation into agriculture. Stephanie Kwolek invented the material in bullet-proof vests that have saved the lives of countless law enforcement officers.  Heroes give us wisdom and save lives with their brains, not just with their brawn.  We do NOT get much problem solving from Congress now days so just maybe we substitute that inability with guys who really do things.
  9. Heroes deliver justice — People from all cultures possess a strong desire for justice.  After members of the Boston police captured the Boston Marathon bomber, crowds of citizens lined the streets to applaud their heroes.  Research has shown that we need to believe that we live in a just world where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  The preamble to the 1950s Superman television show spoke of superman’s never-ending quest for “truth, justice, and the American way”.  Heroes quench our thirst for fairness and lawfulness.
  10.  Heroes give us hope — Independent of our own personal well-being, we cannot help but recognize that the world is generally a troubled place rife with warfare, poverty, famine, and unrest.  Heroes are beacons of light amidst this vast darkness. Heroes prove to us that no matter how much suffering there is in the world, there are supremely good people around whom we can count on to do the right thing, even when most other people are not. Heroes bring light into a dark world.

Hope you enjoy this one as always—I would love to receive 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.


Forbes Magazine recently published what they consider to be the top ten (10) trends in technology.  It’s a very interesting list and I could not argue with any item. The writer of the Forbes article is David W. Cearley.  Mr. Cearley is the vice president and Gartner Fellow at Gartner.  He specializes in analyzing emerging and strategic business and technology trends and explores how these trends shape the way individuals and companies derive value from technology.   Let’s take a quick look.

  • DEVICE MESH—This trend takes us far beyond our desktop PC, Tablet or even our cell phone.  The trend encompasses the full range of endpoints with which humans might interact. In other words, just about anything you interact with could possibly be linked to the internet for instant access.  This could mean individual devices interacting with each other in a fashion desired by user programming.  Machine to machine, M2M.
  • AMBIENT USER EXPERIENCE–All of our digital interactions can become synchronized into a continuous and ambient digital experience that preserves our experience across traditional boundaries of devices, time and space. The experience blends physical, virtual and electronic environments, and uses real-time contextual information as the ambient environment changes or as the user moves from one place to another.
  • 3-D PRINTING MATERIALS—If you are not familiar with “additive manufacturing” you are really missing a fabulous technology. Right now, 3-D Printing is somewhat in its infancy but progress is not just weekly or monthly but daily.  The range of materials that can be used for the printing process improves in a remarkable manner. You really need to look into this.
  • INFORMATION OF EVERYTHING— Everything surrounding us in the digital mesh is producing, using and communicating with virtually unmeasurable amounts of information. Organizations must learn how to identify what information provides strategic value, how to access data from different sources, and explore how algorithms leverage Information of Everything to fuel new business designs. I’m sure by now you have heard of “big data”.  Information of everything will provide mountains of data that must be sifted through so usable “stuff” results.  This will continue to be an ever-increasing task for programmers.
  • ADVANCED MACHINE LEARNING– Rise of the Machines.  Machines talking to each other and learning from each other.  (Maybe a little more frightening that it should be.) Advanced machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. This feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.
  • ADAPTIVE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE— The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy, combined with an emerging “hacker industry,” significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. I don’t know if you have ever had your identity stolen but it is NOT fun.  Corrections are definitely time-consuming.
  • ADVANCED SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE–The digital mesh and smart machines require intense computing architecture demands to make them viable for organizations. They’ll get this added boost from ultra-efficient-neuromorphic architectures. Systems built on graphics processing units (GPUs) and field-programmable gate-arrays (FPGAs) will function more like human brains that are particularly suited to be applied to deep learning and other pattern-matching algorithms that smart machines use. FPGA-based architecture will allow distribution with less power into the tiniest Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints, such as homes, cars, wristwatches and even human beings.
  • Mesh App and Service ArchitectureThe mesh app and service architecture are what enable delivery of apps and services to the flexible and dynamic environment of the digital mesh. This architecture will serve users’ requirements as they vary over time. It brings together the many information sources, devices, apps, services and microservices into a flexible architecture in which apps extend across multiple endpoint devices and can coordinate with one another to produce a continuous digital experience.
  • INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT) and ARCHITECTURE PLATFORMS– IoT platforms exist behind the mesh app and service architecture. The technologies and standards in the IoT platform form a base set of capabilities for communicating, controlling, managing and securing endpoints in the IoT. The platforms aggregate data from endpoints behind the scenes from an architectural and a technology standpoint to make the IoT a reality.
  • Autonomous Agents and ThingsAdvanced machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. This feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.

CONCLUSIONS:  You have certainly noticed by now that ALL of the trends, with the exception of 3-D Printing are rooted in Internet access and Internet protocols.  We are headed towards a totally connected world in which our every move is traceable.  Traceable unless we choose to fly under the radar.


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.

Batteries

energy-storage

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.

Genomics

genomics

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.

Material Science

advanced-materials

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

self-driving-vehicles

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

reneuable-energy

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.

Robotic Systems

advanced-robotics

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.

3-D Printing

3-d-printing

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.”

Mobile Devices

mobile-internet

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.

Artificial Intelligence

automation-of-knowledge

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)

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.

Cloud Technology

cloud-technology

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.”

Oil Production

advanced-oil-technology

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.

Big Data

big-data

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.

BMW I NEXT

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.

i-next

i-next2

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.

Krueger concluded:

“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.

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