NATIONAL TELEPHONE DAY

April 25, 2017


OK, are you ready for a bit of ridiculous trivia?  Today, 25 April 2017, is National Telephone Day.  I do not think there will be any denial that the telephone has revolutionized communication the world over.

It was February 14, 1876, when Marcellus Bailey, one of Alexander Graham Bell’s attorneys rushed into the US Patent office in Boston to file for what would later be called the telephone. Later that same day, Elisha Gray filed a patent caveat for a similar device. A caveat is an intent to file for a patent. There is also a third contender, Antonio Meucci.  Mr. Meucci filed a caveat in November of 1871 for a talking telegraph but failed to renew the caveat due to hardships. Because Bell’s patent was submitted first, it was awarded to him on March 7, 1876. Gray contested this decision in court, but without success.

Born March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Bell was an instructor at a boys’ boarding school. The sounds of speech were an integral part of his life. His father developed a “Visible Speech” system for deaf students to communicate. Bell would later become friend and benefactor of Helen Keller. Three days after his patent was approved, Bell spoke the first words by telephone to his assistant. “Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!”  By May of the same year, Bell and his team were ready for a public demonstration, and there would be no better place than the World’s Fair in Philadelphia. On May 10, 1876, in a crowded Machinery Hall a man’s voice was transmitted from a small horn and carried out through a speaker to the audience. One year later, the White House installed its first phone. The telephone revolution began. Bell Telephone Company was founded on July 9, 1877, and the first public telephone lines were installed from Boston to Sommerville, Massachusetts the same year.  By the end of the decade, there were nearly 50,000 phones in the United States.  In May of 1967, the 1 millionth telephone was installed.

Growing up in in the 50’s, I remember the rotary telephone shown by the digital picture below.  We were on a three-party line.  As I recall, ours was a two-ring phone call.  Of course, there was snooping.  Big time snooping by the other two families on our line.

Let’s take a quick look at how the cell phone has literally taken over this communication method.

  • The number of mobile devices rose nine (9) percent in the first six months of 2011, to 327.6 million — more than the 315 million people living in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Wireless network data traffic rose 111 percent, to 341.2 billion megabytes, during the same period.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world. Sixty-four percent( 64) ofAmerican adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from thirty-five percent (35%) in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.
  • Ten percent (10%) of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phone’s data plan.
  • Using a broader measure of the access options available to them, fifteen percent (15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone.
  • Younger adults — Fifteen percent (15%) of Americans ages 18-29 are heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access.
  • Those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment — Some thirteen percent (13%) of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 per year are smartphone-dependent. Just one percent (1%) of Americans from households earning more than $75,000 per year rely on their smartphones to a similar degree for online access.
  • Non-whites — Twelve percent (12%) of African Americans and thirteen percent (13%) of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, compared with four percent (4%) of whites
  • Sixty-two percent (62%) of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) have used their phone to do online banking.
  • Forty-four percent (44%) have used their phone to look up real estate listings or other information about a place to live.
  • Forty-three percent (43%) to look up information about a job.
  • Forty percent (40%) to look up government services or information.
  • Thirty percent (30%) to take a class or get educational content
  • Eighteen percent (18%) to submit a job application.
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally to follow along with breaking news events, with thirty-three percent (33%) saying that they do this “frequently.”
  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) use their phone to share pictures, videos, or commentary about events happening in their community, with 35% doing so frequently.
  • Fifty-six percent (56%) use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities, with eighteen percent (18%) doing this “frequently.”

OK, by now you get the picture.  The graphic below will basically summarize the cell phone phenomenon relative to other digital devices including desktop and laptop computers. By the way, laptop and desktop computer purchases have somewhat declined due to the increased usage of cell phones for communication purposes.

The number of smart phone users in the United States from 2012 to a projected 2021 in millions is given below.

CONCLUSION: “Big Al” (Mr. Bell that is.) probably knew he was on to something.  At any rate, the trend will continue towards infinity over the next few decades.

 

RETURN OF X-PLANES

April 22, 2017


In the April 2017 issue of “Machine Design” a fascinating article entitled “NASA’S Green Thumb for Green Aviation” was presented. This article was written by Carlos M. Gonzales and encouraged me to explore, at least through NASA’s web site, the status of their “X-Plane” program.  Aviation is definitely a growth industry. Millions upon millions of individuals travel each year for business, recreation, and tourism.  There is no doubt that aviation is the “Greyhound Bus” for the twenty-first century.

The aviation system is the high-speed transportation backbone of the United States and global economies. Global aviation is forecast to grow from today’s three point five (3.5) billion passenger trips per year to seven (7) billion passenger trips by the mid- 2030s, and to eleven (11) billion passenger trips by mid-century. Such growth brings with it the direct economic potential of trillions of dollars in the fields of manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and the high-quality jobs they support.

At the same time, international competition for leadership of this critical industry is growing, as more nations invest in developing their own aviation technology and industrial capabilities. Such massive growth also creates substantial operational and environmental challenges. For example, by mid-century the aviation industry will need to build and fly enough new aircraft to accommodate more than three times as many passenger trips while at the same time reducing total emissions by half from that new hardware. Moreover, large reductions in emissions and aircraft noise levels will be needed, if not mandated. To meet those demands, revolutionary levels of aircraft performance improvements – well beyond today’s technology – must be achieved. In terms of air traffic control and the National Airspace System, maintaining safe and efficient operations is a continuing and growing challenge as the system expands, and especially as new business and operational models – such as unmanned aerial systems – are introduced. Enabling aircraft (with pilots aboard or not) to fly optimized trajectories through high density airspace with real-time, systemwide safety assurance are among the most critical operational improvements that must be achieved.

In looking at global growth, we see the following:

These numbers would be very frightening without the aviation industry deciding to be pro-active relative to the sheer numbers of passenger miles anticipated over the next two decades.  That’s where NASA comes in.

NEW AVIATION HORIZONS:

In FY 2017, NASA plans to begin a major ten-year research effort to accelerate aviation energy efficiency, transform propulsion systems, and enable major improvements in air traffic mobility. The centerpiece of NASA’s ten-year acceleration for advanced technologies testing is called New Aviation Horizons, or NAH. It is an ambitious plan to build a series of five mostly large-scale experimental aircraft – X-planes – that will flight test new technologies, systems and novel aircraft and engine configurations. X-planes are a key piece of the “three-legged stool” that characterizes aviation research.

  • One leg represents computational capabilities – the high-speed super computers that can model the physics of air flowing over an object – be it a wing, a rudder or a full airplane.
  • A second leg represents experimental methods. This is where scientists put what is most often a scale model of an object or part of an object – be it a wing, a rudder or an airplane – in a wind tunnel to take measurements of air flowing over the object. These measurements help improve the computer model, and the computer model helps inform improvements to the airplane design, which can then be tested again in the wind tunnel.
  • The third leg of the stool is to actually fly the design. Whether it’s flying an X-plane or a full-scale prototype of a new aircraft, the data recorded in actual flight can be used to validate and improve the computational and experimental methods used to develop the design in the first place. This third leg makes it possible to lower the risk enough to completely trust what the numbers are saying.

With NAH, NASA will:

  • Demonstrate revolutionary advancements in aircraft and engine configurations that break the mold of traditional tube and wing designs.
  • Support accelerated delivery to the U.S. aviation community of advanced verified design and analysis tools that support new flight-validated concepts, systems and technologies.
  • Provide to appropriate organizations and agencies research results that inform their work to update domestic and international aviation standards and regulations.
  • Enable U.S. industry to put into service flight-proven transformative technology that will solve tomorrow’s global aviation challenges.
  • Inspire a new generation of aeronautical innovators and equip them to engineer future aviation systems. Of the five X-planes, NASA has determined that three subsonic aircraft will be enough to span the range of possible configurations necessary to demonstrate in flight the major enabling fuel, emissions and noise reducing technologies.

The graphic below indicates possible designs for aircraft of the future.  All of these craft are now on the drawing board with computational prototyping underway.

INDUSTRY:

U.S. industry plays an integral role in the NAH initiative, leading the design, development and building of all X-planes under contract to NASA. Industry will be a research partner in the ground test and analysis, as well as the flight tests of the X-planes. Industry also partners in the advancement of the physics-based design and analysis capabilities. Through the lead and partnering roles, U.S. industry will be fully capable of confidently taking the next steps in commercializing the transformational configurations and technologies. The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has already been awarded a preliminary design contract for the Quiet Supersonic Technology demonstrator. As indicated in a white paper published by the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The U.S. government must support robust, long-term Federal civil aeronautics research and technology initiatives funded at a level that will ensure U.S. leadership in aeronautics. Congress should support NASA’s ten-year Strategic Implementation Plan at least at the levels recommended in the fiscal year 2017 NASA Budget request to sustain a strong economy, maintain a skilled workforce, support national security, and drive a world-class educational system.”

UNIVERSITIES:

NASA has already launched the University Leadership Initiative, which provides U.S.-based universities the opportunity to take full independent leadership in defining and solving key technical challenges aligned with the NASA Aeronautics strategy. Solicitations and proposals are managed through the NASA Research Announcement process; the first round of awards will be made in Fall 2016. These awards could lead to new experiments that would fly onboard one or more X-planes. In addition, NASA is formulating new mechanisms for direct university and student participation in the X-plane design, development and flight test process. The objective is to ensure U.S. universities remain the leading global institutions for aviation research and education, and to ensure the next generation workforce has the vision and skills needed to lead aviation system transformation.

POSSIBLE CONFIGURATIONS:

As mentioned above, NASA, industry and universities have already begun looking at possible configurations.  The most promising on-going programs are given below.

As you can see, the designs are absolutely striking and “doable” relative to existing technology.  The key goals are to:

  • Produce environmentally sound or “GREEN” designs lessening air pollution.
  • Create better fuel usage and conservation.
  • Extend flight range
  • Structure designs so minimal airport alternations will be necessary
  • Improve passenger experience

Tall orders but keep in mind NASA got us to the moon and back.  Why do we feel they will not be able to meet the goals indicated?  As always, I welcome your comments.

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.

DODD-FRANK

December 26, 2016


WARNING—This might be a little, if not a lot, boring to some of you maybe most of you.

O.K., with that said, what is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act? I hear many people indicate the restrictions placed on banks, both national and regional remain THE reason for significantly tight credit since its passage in 2010.   Let’s take a look at the Act, the basics and how bankers feel it is crimping their style.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is a massive piece of financial reform legislation passed by the Obama administration in 2010 as a response to the financial crisis of 2008.  There were early signs of distress relative to the impending crisis: by 2004, U.S. homeownership had peaked at seventy percent (70%); no one was interested in buying or eating more candy. Then, during the last quarter of 2005, home prices started to fall, which led to a forty percent 940%) decline in the U.S. Home Construction Index during 2006. Not only were new homes being affected, but many subprime borrowers now could not withstand the higher interest rates and they started defaulting on their loans.  This caused 2007 to start with bad news from multiple sources. Every month, one subprime lender or another was filing for bankruptcy. During February and March 2007, more than twenty-five (25) subprime lenders filed for bankruptcy, which was enough to start the tide. In April, well-known New Century Financial also filed for bankruptcy.   According to 2007 news reports, financial firms and hedge funds owned more than one trillion ($1 T) in securities backed by these now-failing subprime mortgages – enough to start a global financial tsunami if more subprime borrowers started defaulting. By June, Bear Stearns stopped redemptions in two of its hedge funds and Merrill Lynch seized $800 million in assets from two Bear Stearns hedge funds. But even this large move was only a small affair in comparison to what was to happen in the months ahead.

1.) In simple terms, Dodd-Frank is a law that places major regulations on the financial industry. It grew out of the Great Recession with the intention of preventing another collapse of a major financial institution like Lehman Brothers.

2.) One of the main goals of the Dodd-Frank act is to have banks subjected to a number of regulations along with the possibility of being broken up if any of them are determined to be “too big to fail.”

3.)  To accomplish the goal stated in item number two above, the act created the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). It looks out for risks that affect the entire financial industry. The Council is chaired by the Treasury Secretary, and has nine members including the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPA. It also oversees non-bank financial firms like hedge funds. If any of the banks gets too big in the council’s determination, they could be regulated by the Federal Reserve, which can ask a bank to increase its reserve requirement—the money it has ‘saved up’ and is not using for lending or business costs.

4.) Under Dodd-Frank, banks are also required to have plans for a quick and orderly shutdown in the event that the bank becomes insolvent—or runs out of money.

5.)  The Volcker Rule is part of Dodd-Frank and prohibits banks from owning, investing, or sponsoring hedge funds, private equity funds, or any proprietary trading operations for their own profit.  The Volcker Rule does allow some trading when it’s necessary for the bank to run its business. For example, banks can engage in currency trading to offset their own holdings in a foreign currency.

There are many financial types that see real issues with Dodd-Frank.  These are as follows:

  • Codifies Too-Big-to-Fail. Rather than eliminating the market’s expectation that certain big financial firms are too big to fail, Dodd-Frank creates an explicit set of too-big-to-fail entities—those selected by the Financial Stability Oversight Council for special regulation by the Fed.
  • Threatens Small Businesses.Dodd-Frank’s complex web of regulations favors large financial firms that can afford the lawyers to analyze them. New requirements will be disproportionately costly for small banks and small credit rating agencies. Dodd-Frank’s complex derivatives rules will further concentrate an already concentrated industry. (I can attest to this fact.  My company has been trying to obtain financing for a local CNG project for over two years.  Just now getting that financing in place.  We are not asking for millions of dollars but even that has come under intense scrutiny.)
  • Hurts Retail Investors.Dodd-Frank gives the Securities and Exchange Commission a new set of responsibilities that distracts it from its core mission. New rules impose costs on nonfinancial companies that will be passed on to investors and consumers. Commission resources will be diverted to protecting the wealthiest investors.
  • Consumer “Protections” Harm Consumers. The consumer financial products regulator established by Dodd-Frank, rather than helping consumers, threatens to raise the prices consumers pay and limit the products, services, and providers available to help them achieve their financial objectives. Various rules, such as price controls on banks’ debit charge fees to merchants, are likely to increase bank fees for consumers and drive low-income customers away from basic banking services.
  • Sows the Seeds for the Next Financial Crisis. Dodd-Frank forces complex derivatives into clearinghouses. These entities will be large, difficult to manage safely, and very deeply connected with the rest of the financial markets. If one of these clearinghouses runs into trouble, the economic ramifications could be massive, which means the government will be tempted to engineer a bailout.
  • Creates New Unaccountable Bureaucracies. Dodd-Frank establishes several new bureaucracies, including consumer protection, data management, and stability oversight agencies that operate with limited transparency and little accountability to the American people.
  • More Power for Failed Regulators. Despite their past regulatory failures, Dodd-Frank gives the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Fed broad new regulatory powers.
  • Unchecked Government Power to Seize Firms. Dodd-Frank allows the government to sidestep bankruptcy and instead seize and liquidate companies. Vague criteria define which companies may be seized, and there is limited judicial oversight of the whole process. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation might use the process to prop up failing firms and to favor particular creditors.
  • Interferes with Basic Market Functions. The Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from engaging in proprietary trading and limits their investments in hedge funds and other private funds, is proving to be difficult to implement. It will be more difficult to comply with and will interfere with the functioning of the market.
  • Replaces Market Monitoring with Regulatory Monitoring. Dodd-Frank relies on the hope that regulators that failed before and during the last crisis will be able to spot problems in the future. For example, Dodd-Frank gives broad new systemic risk oversight responsibilities to the Fed and the Financial Stability Oversight Council. It also raises the deposit insurance cap to $250,000, which will discourage large depositors from monitoring banks and correspondingly increase the likelihood of regulatory intervention.

If you aren’t asleep by now I can’t help you.  This is the long and short of the Dodd-Frank Act.  I would say reform was needed to reign in banks and financial firms that had grossly overstepped their mandates.  GREED was their goal.  They achieved that goal for a short period of time with consequences that have shaken our country and global finance.  Please not that now one banker, insurance company, hedge fund manager or other individual was charged with criminal activity.  Heavy fines were assigned but no one is now doing time for their misdeeds.

 


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.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

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.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY:

nuzzle

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.

tom-tom

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.

x-metrics

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.

the-void

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.)

life-saving

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.

fitbit

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.

veriley

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.

smary-watch

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.

hearables

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.

medical-grade-consumer-tech

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.

invisibles

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.

apple-watch

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.

wearable-payment

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.

CONCLUSIONS:

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.

IOT

September 17, 2016


The graphic for this post is taken from the article “The IoT is Not a DIY Project”, Desktop Engineering, June 16, 2016.

OK, I’m connected.  Are you really?  Do you know what completely connected means?  Well, it does appear the numbers are truly in.  The world’s top research firms and business technology prognosticators all agree that the Internet of Things or IoT, is growing at an amazing pace.  This very fact indicates there are new revenue models for business that any executive would be extremely foolish to ignore.  The possibilities for additional revenue streams is staggering. Every design engineering team across the globe has been asked to design products that build connectivity into their structures and operating environments.  Can your product “talk to and through the internet”?   To prove a point, let’s look at several numbers that represent reality.

by-the-numbers

This IoT chart indicates where we are and where we might be going over the next few years and decades. Over six and one-half billion, (6.6 billion) connected “things” by the end of 2015.  Everything from refrigerators to automobiles is in the process of being connected or will be connected to the internet.  This connectivity allows communication from the device to the user of the device.  This connectivity can tie the device to GPS tracking, thereby detailing its location down to mere feet, if not inches. (NOTE:  The desirability of this feature is somewhat in question but it is definitely possible.)

Imagine, $1.3 TRILLION in world spending by 2019 to accomplish connectivity of hardware with the internet.  This is a prediction by IDC Technologies. (IDC Technologies, Inc. is a Premier Technology Services Organization with primary focus in IT services. A very capable organization devoted to following IT services and market demands for IT services.)  This huge number reflects the fact, as shown above, that forty percent (40%) of the top one hundred (100) discrete manufacturers will rely on connected products to provide equipment and services to customers by 2018.

Now, connectivity does not come freely or without barriers. Some of these are as follows:

  • THE NEED: It’s all about the business. IoT is a classic example of organizations needing to take a step back and determine whether there is a strong business case for pursuing IoT before they get on board with implementation. Championing IoT simply because it’s the latest technology may be enough for engineers, but it means nothing to customers or the company’s financials unless there is a smart business strategy to back it up. The customer DRIVES incorporation of IoT into your product or your service.  If the entity does not need IoT—DON’T DO IT.  Who need a refrigerator that communicates with the internet?  Maybe yes—maybe no.
  • Resources don’t come cheap. IoT commands a great deal of expertise in areas where most companies are lacking. By some estimates, it can take over one hundred and fifty (150) months of manpower and an investment in eleven (11) unique long-term roles to sufficiently develop and support a full IoT-connected product development stack. Most companies evaluating the IoT space aren’t software development or connectivity experts and would be better served focusing engineering resources on core competencies. IoT for even the largest company is a definite commitment.  You probably cannot do-it-yourself in your spare time.  Don’t even think about it.
  • Growing pains come with scale. Even if the initial IoT implementation goes off without a hitch, scaling the system to accommodate a larger universe of “things,” additional features and product lines typically brings new, unanticipated challenges. It’s critical to make sure your system design is future-proofed from the start, and building for scale adds complexity to an already complex project. Plan for the future and future expansion of IoT.  Things in the business world generally increase if immediate success or even partial success is accomplished.
  • Security is a top concern. There are multiple vulnerability points in an IoT system, and many engineering organizations don’t have the internal expertise to address them sufficiently. Rather than staffing up a dedicated security organization, companies should consider aligning with external partners with proven, connected product security expertise. To me, this is the greatest concern. We read every day about web sites and digital systems being hacked.  It still represents a HUGE problem with the internet.  Encryption to lessen or eliminate hacking is a definite need.
  • Identity management challenges. Related to security, this is a critical step to ensuring users can control their own IoT devices, and there are limitations on who can make changes or initiate updates. Again, it’s an area where many engineering organizations lack sufficient competency.
  • Data deluge. Connected products spin off a massive amount of data, which requires competency in data management practices and new Big Data technologies. Not only that, but the IoT data needs to be organized and integrated into existing business systems. For engineering organizations light on data management manpower, this can be a problem, not to mention, a huge impediment to the success of any connected business. Data organization is the great need here.  Mountains of data can result from IoT.  Determine what data you need to further your business and improve customer service.  I feel the 80/20 rule might apply here.
  • Long-term maintenance. If you build an IoT system on your own, you’re probably going to have to support it on your own, which requires an additional investment in manpower. A system built in-house will require frequent updates over the course of its lifetime, which can quickly eat up entire budgets and consume already stretched engineering resources. Remember, if you build an IoT system you MUST maintain that system—always.
  • Time-to-revenue delays. It takes time and effort to build these systems from scratch, and every hour spent on engineering prolongs development and increases the time-to-market cycle. Companies trying to ride the IoT wave need to get products into the hands of customers as soon as possible to stay abreast of competition and maximize financial gain. I cannot stress too much the need for focus teams inquiring from potential customers their wants and desires relative to incorporating connectivity into products and services.  Ask your customers up front what they want.
  • On-going interoperability requirements. Maintaining full control of the IoT technology stack also means being responsible for on-going integration requests and keeping up with continuously changing standards. As the connected product business matures, this can be a lot of work that could be handled more efficiently by a third party.
  • Service distractions. The work involved in managing in-house solutions can distract from one of the more important advantages of IoT: Gaining a picture of product usage and customer requirements that can be leveraged for optimized, proactive service. If companies are spending all their time troubleshooting their own IoT hardware and software, they have less time to devote to customers’ problems or growing their IoT-enabled business.

If I were a stock trader doing business with the markets on a daily basis, I certainly would address those companies “folding into” and providing services to IoT methodologies.  Also, businesses need to listen to their customers a gauge the importance of incorporating internet connectivity into the products and services they provide.  This, apparently, is the way business is going and so as not to be left out or lose your customer base, you may have to yield to the wishes of your clients.  Just a thought.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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