Don’t we all wish we had a crystal ball we could gaze into to “divine” the future?  Sure we do!!   Because technology is generally evolutionary and not revolutionary, it does become easier to look at where we are and consider where we might be in the near or even distant future.  The following digital photographs were provided by Elizabeth Montalbano, contributing writer for Design News Daily.  The descriptive texts are mine.  Let’s take a look and several projections for important technologies that just might touch our daily lives.  I chose these technologies because they seem to be the most promising and varied to play key roles in the engineering profession next year. From developments in electronics to materials to robotics, these technologies, I believe, will make a difference as the source of innovation for design and engineering projects globally.

Printed-Flexible Electronics

Over 3,000 organizations are pursuing printed, organic, flexible electronics, including printing, electronics, materials and packaging companies. While some of these technologies are in use now, there are three sectors which have created billion dollar markets – others are commercially embryonic.   The benefits of these new electronics are numerous – ranging from lower cost, improved performance, flexibility, transparency, reliability, better environmental credentials and much more. Many of the applications will be newly created, and where existing electronic and electrical products are impacted, the extent will be varied.  The total market for printed, flexible and organic electronics will grow from $26.54 billion in 2016 to $69.03 billion in 2026. The majority of that is OLEDs (organic but not printed) and conductive ink used for a wide range of applications. On the other hand, stretchable electronics, logic and memory, thin film sensors are much smaller segments but with huge growth potential as they emerge from R&D.

A Michigan State University research team has finally created a truly transparent solar panel — a breakthrough that could soon usher in a world where windows, panes of glass, and even entire buildings could be used to generate solar energy. Until now, solar cells of this kind have been only partially transparent and usually a bit tinted, but these new ones are so clear that they’re practically indistinguishable from a normal pane of glass.

Previous claims toward transparent solar panels have been misleading, since the very nature of transparent materials means that light must pass through them. Transparent photovoltaic cells are virtually impossible, in fact, because solar panels generate energy by converting absorbed photons into electrons. For a material to be fully transparent, light would have to travel uninhibited to the eye which means those photons would have to pass through the material completely (without being absorbed to generate solar power).

So, to achieve a truly transparent solar cell, the Michigan State team created this thing called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which employs organic salts to absorb wavelengths of light that are already invisible to the human eye. Steering clear of the fundamental challenges of creating a transparent photovoltaic cell allowed the researchers to harness the power of infrared and ultraviolet light.

The TLSC projects a luminescent glow that contains a converted wavelength of infrared light which is also invisible to the human eye. More traditional (non-transparent) photovoltaic solar cells frame the panel of the main material, and it is these solar cells that transform the concentrated infrared light into electricity.

Versions of previous semi-transparent solar cells that cast light in colored shadows can usually achieve efficiency of around seven percent, but Michigan State’s TLSC is expected to reach a top efficiency of five percent with further testing (currently, the prototype’s efficiency reaches a mere one percent). While numbers like seven and five percent efficiency seem low, houses featuring fully solar windows or buildings created from the organic material could compound that electricity and bring it to a more useful level.

Researchers on the Michigan State team believe their TLSC technology could span from industrial applications to more manageable uses like consumer devices and handheld gadgets. Their main priorities in continuing to develop the technology appear to be power efficiency and maintaining a scalable level of affordability, so that solar power can continue to grow as a major player in the field of renewable energy.

Interactive Industrial Robotic Systems

For decades, manufacturers have had very few cost-effective options for handling low volume, high mix production jobs.  No longer.  Meet Baxter – the safe, flexible, affordable alternative to outsourced labor and fixed automation.  Leading companies across North America have already integrated Baxter into their workforce, and gained a competitive advantage for their business in the process.

Baxter is a proven solution for a wide range of tasks – from line loading and machine tending, to packaging and material handling.  If you walk the floor of your facility and see lightweight parts being handled near people, you’ve likely just found a great job for Baxter.  This smart, collaborative robot is ready to get to work for your company – doing the monotonous tasks that free up your skilled human labor to be exactly that.


In my opinion, graphene has remarkable possibilities for development of future products.   Graphene has many extraordinary properties. It is about 100 times stronger than strongest steel with hypothetical thickness of 3.35Å which is equal to the thickness of graphene sheet.  It conducts heat and electricity efficiently and is nearly transparent. Researchers have identified the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges and large quantum oscillations in the material.

Scientists have theorized about graphene for decades. It has likely been unknowingly produced in small quantities for centuries, through the use of pencils and other similar applications of graphite. It was originally observed in electron microscopes in 1962, but not studied further.  The material was later rediscovered, isolated and characterized in 2004 by Andre Geimand Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester.  Research was informed by existing theoretical descriptions of its composition, structure and properties.   High-quality graphene proved to be surprisingly easy to isolate, making more research possible. This work resulted in the two winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 “for groundbreaking experiments regarding thetwo-dimensional material graphene.”

Self-Driving Automobiles

Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea. Companies like Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla have already released, or are soon to release, self-driving features that give an automobile some ability to drive itself.

Tech companies are also trying to pioneer the self-driving car. Recently, Google announced that it would be testing its prototype of a driverless car on roads this summer in California.  Here are several bullet points that may aid our efforts in understand the status of this technology.

  • Self-driving cars are not some futuristic auto technology; in fact there are already cars with self-driving features on the road.  We define the self-driving car as any car with features that allow it to accelerate, brake, and steer a car’s course with limited or no driver interaction.
  • We divide the self-driving car into two different types: semi-autonomous and fully autonomous. A fully autonomous vehicle can drive from point A to point B and encounter the entire range of on-road scenarios without needing any interaction from the driver. These will debut in 2019.
  • By the end of the forecast period, we expect there will be nearly 10 million cars with one of our defined self-driving car features.
  • Fully autonomous cars are further divided into user-operated and driverless vehicles. Because of regulatory and insurance questions, user-operated fully autonomous cars will come to market within the next five years, while driverless cars will remain a long ways off.
  • The biggest benefits of self-driving cars are that they will help to make roads safer and people’s lives easier. In the UK, KPMG estimates that self-driving cars will lead to 2,500 fewer deaths between 2014 and 2030.
  • But the barriers to self-driving cars remain significant. Costs need to come down and regulations need to be clarified around certain self-driving car features before the vehicles fully take off among mainstream consumers.


This post has only considered engineering technological forecast for mostly mechanical and electrical systems.  We have not looked at medical, civil, infrastructure, etc forecasts, of which I’m sure, there could be comparable lists structured.  It might be a good exercise for you to list your own projections and take a look at the end of 2016 to see how many have come to fruition.


January 6, 2016

If you are fortunate enough to have a job during these trying times you probably work for or at least report to someone who is presumably in charge. By that, I mean an individual responsible for giving you a performance review.   This scenario seems to fit most of us but even if you are the boss you may be surprised as to the following classifications of personality types indicated by “Industry Week”.  This is an excellent publication and I recommend you log in to their on-line website if at all possible.

I have served in both capacities; i.e. employee and employer, during my fifty (50) plus years as a gainfully-employed engineer so I do have some experience with management and the peccadilloes of  various management styles.  In my opinion, no two managers are just alike; although most do fit into one of the twelve (12) management styles given below.  I used the headings from Industry Week but have structured the text under each heading from my experiences over the years.  Any names have been changed to protect the guilty and preclude lawsuits against my company and me.  Let’s take a look.

  • VISIONARY—You are very fortunate to have a manager that has vision.  Someone who can plan one, three, five or ten years ahead and one who knows where the company should go relative to resources and competition.  Equally important, is a manager that can call an audible when necessary.   This quality is so very rare today and yet is absolutely necessary for progress in any company. Times change; technology changes; necessary skill sets come and go; turnover is inevitable.   In my entire career, I have worked for only one true visionary.  He was definitely ahead of the curve relative to products that would excite and sell.  One caution, some visionaries, being before their time, cannot obtain technical support or financing quickly; consequently, the products may not meet expectations or may fail outright. Visionaries simply are before their time.
  • THE CLIMBER—This person is all about me and is obsessed with his own career.  He will use you to his advantage, obtain his raise or promotion and when you serve his purposes, he will discard you like a wet paper towel.  Some employees; i.e. direct reports, do survive but it is advisable to always have a “plan B” in your back pocket at all times.  He can be ruthless when he does not get his way or when things go “south”.  He will never hesitate to throw you under the bus to save his own skin.  I have worked for two climbers over my career, one male and one female.  Both were dangerous relative to their direct reports.  It was not a fun situation.
  • THE BUREAUCRAT—Everything is by the book.  If there is no written policy, no procedure, no course of detailed action, etc. he or she will panic and “time will stop”.  Thinking “outside the box” never happens.  Innovation never occurs. Creativity is stiffled.  Most actions taken are accomplished by “group-think”.    This type is the furthest thing from adventurous when it comes to decision making.
  • THE PROPELLERHEAD—This type of manager is tech all the way.  No “gut-feel” here. If he cannot put numbers to the problem or an explanation of the problem using a generated formula or computer code, delays definitely occur.  A great concern—he always feels he does not have enough information to make a decision even when a decision was needed to be made two weeks ago.  Procrastination can be a huge issue for this management type and, generally, the team gets blamed. (NOTE: If you combine the propellerhead with bureaucrat styles you can get a very difficult situation.)
  • THE FOGEY—OK, an “old guy”.  Someone who has been there, done that and knows where all of the bones are hidden.  “We tried that back in the ’80 and it did not work then and it won’t work now”.  He, seemingly, does not compensate for newer technology or listen to those younger members of the team. He refuses to incorporate additional team members or outsiders to solve problems.  He is not a self-starter. He always plays it safe because retirement is in his front window.  I would say look at Congress but I know that’s not PC.
  • THE WHIPPERSNAPPER—Just the opposite to the Old Fogey.  A young person, generally right out of college, who knows it all.  (His father probably owns the company so now he is a brand new manager.)  This type can be a dictator also due to his network and connections.
  • THE SOCIAL DIRECTOR—He values personal interactions and demands the “right chemistry” between all members of the team.  He needs to know “how the wind blows” relative to the people he manages and spends an inordinate time on Facebook, Twitter, U-Tube, etc etc checking up on his employees.  Meeting after meeting is called and they are extremely time-consuming.   One of my first positions as a working engineer was reporting to a social director.  She was a lady.  Very nice lady but a social director.  This was before social media but made no difference.  If you came in looking like you had a problem you were in her office in a heartbeat.  She was the “mother-confessor”.  The lady priest that took all confessions.  Now, to her credit, I never heard of her discussing private matters in a public fashion.  I suspect she took some information to her grave.
  • THE DICTATOR—We have all worked for a manager like this one.  I have experienced this three times in my career.  “My way or the highway”.  “ We don’t do it like that, son.”  They cannot stand for individual thinking and veto any thought that is not theirs.  One difficulty, if your dictator is on drugs or drinks excessively like one I had, you are in trouble day one.   The “druggie” owned a small company and his actions were instrumental to his having to declare bankruptcy.  He talked a good game and that’s why I came on board.  The product was very interesting also and my skill sets fit right in.  I lasted about seventeen months.
  • THE SALES STAR—This person is a great salesman but only knows how to sell.  He is not hands-on and probably has difficulty tying his shoes.  He cannot solve problems that are not sales-related and you will need to cultivate other sources if you cannot extricate yourself from difficulties.
  • THE HATCHET MAN—This guy was hired to purge the department and reduce “fat”.  He, many times, throws the baby out with the bathwater.  He only sees what he wants to see and sometimes reduces staff to levels requiring other employees to work horrible hours to compensate.  I have experienced only one hatchet man in my career. He was hit-and-run and eventually eliminated most of the working class in the facility.
  • THE LOST LAMB—This management type is totally lost.  He is clueless.  He talks a good game but cannot play a good game.   He has no vision. He is horrible at delegating.  He does not surround himself with competent individuals and depends upon a small and select group to receive advice. They are mostly “yes-men or yes-women”.   He misses deadlines.  He is frequently over budget.
  • THE HERO—He coaches others. He brings people together. He shares. He is instrumental in surrounding himself with people possessing skill sets leaning towards accomplishment.  He is the furtherst thing from being a dictator. He is not a busybody.  He reaches a consensus by listening to his people and lets them perform at their level of capability.  He stays in touch and is always available when needed.  He is decisive and never waivers from his responsibility as a manager.  He promotes. He is gracious in his applause and never condescending even when a direct report screws up.  He never scolds in public.

I hope this helps you identify the type of manager you work for or the management style you have. It’s never too late to change and become a hero.   If you love your job and find fulfillment in your job, you can tolerate just about any management style—maybe.  Things get tough when management plays employees and become less than transparent.  I had one manager who gave the entire team less than stellar reviews because he did not want to provide bonuses or raises for his people that year.  He owned the company and the first quarter of the following year he drove in with a new Mercedes-Benz.  We all noticed!!!!!!!!


December 10, 2015

In recent weeks the Export-Import Bank has been in the news—some positive and some negative.  I have never interfaced with the bank or had cause to contact the bank so I was very interested in doing cursory research to see just what services they give.  Here is what I found.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) is an independent, self-sustaining agency with an eighty-one (81) year record of supporting U.S. jobs by financing the export of American goods and services. Established in the wake of World War II, when crippled foreign markets were strong enough to purchase American products, the Export-Import Act of 1945 has been renewed by Congress sixteen (16) times without a political fight.  This year (2015) that fight has been intense due to some feeling the bank is unnecessary and caters to the largest of corporations.  According to some, the bank is unsustainable, and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is set to cost taxpayers $2 billion over the next ten years.  This figure doesn’t take into account the opportunity cost of diverting these taxpayer dollars, money which could be utilized elsewhere in the economy.  Tax dollars should go toward fixing roads and infrastructure, funding troops and national security, not toward funding private transactions for America’s largest Fortune 100 corporations.  After a five-month hiatus–one that cost businesses billions of dollars worth of credit guarantees and insurance for overseas business opportunities–the 81-year-old agency regained authorization to once again begin supporting the export operations of thousands of its business customers. The bank had been forced to suspend operations following a long campaign by Republican lawmakers, who want to close the financing agency because they see it as an example of “crony capitalism” that assists only the nation’s biggest businesses.

With that being the case, on December 4, 2015 President Obama signed legislation reauthorizing the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (“US Ex-Im Bank”) through 2019. The reauthorization is part of a 5 year, US $305 billion transportation funding approved by both houses of the US Congress. As a result, US Ex-Im Bank will begin doing new business again, ending for now a long and well-publicized debate about the future of the US’s official export credit agency.  There still is controversy.

On the plus side, by financing the export of American goods and services, EXIM Bank has supported 1.3 million private-sector, American jobs since 2009, supporting 164,000 jobs in FY 2014 alone.

With nearly sixty (60) other export credit agencies around the world trying to win jobs for their own countries, EXIM Bank helps level the playing field for American businesses. “Made in America” is still the best brand in the world, and EXIM Bank ensures that U.S. companies never lose out on a sale because of attractive financing from foreign governments.

In FY 2014, Export-Import Bank financing supported $27.5 billion worth of U.S. exports. $10.7 billion of that total represents exports from U.S. small businesses, making small business exports the top category for EXIM Bank supported exports last year.

While the Ex-Im Bank projects to save the US government $14 billion over ten ( 10 ) years, an alternative analysis from the Congressional Budget Office found that the program would lose about $2 billion over the same period, partly due to discrepancies how credit risk is accounted for. Both conservative and liberal groups have been critical of the bank, and some continue to call for its closure.  President Barack Obama was critical of the bank during his presidential candidacy, but has since become a supporter of the program. Let’s take a look at where the money goes by  category.

Bank Segments

The three largest beneficiaries of Ex-Im financing are Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar, not small businesses by any definition of the word.  In fact, those three are multinational conglomerates that can most certainly find private financing elsewhere.  That goes directly against the bank’s own charter, which states that the bank should provide export financing only for “export transactions that are unlikely to proceed without Ex-Im support.”  In 2012, Boeing alone received 83 percent of all loan guarantees, and in 2013, just five corporations received 93 percent of all Ex-Im loan guarantees.

Private lenders, like JP Morgan Chase, and Citibank, benefit as well.  When Ex-Im finances transactions, a private lending institution holds the debt for the transaction and is able to charge an interest rate to the borrower.  Because the transaction is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, they hold this debt practically risk-free.  These giant lending institutions churn a profit, without housing any of the risk.

Nearly 99 percent of all U.S. exports are financed without the bank’s help. In fact, the bank penalizes those other 99 percent of U.S. exports by distorting the market and putting them in an anti-competitive position, forcing them to compete with companies who do receive federal loan subsidies at more favorable rates.

I’m not a finance “guy” so I can’t pass judgment on the bank and its operations.  I do know much greater “advertising” needs to be accomplished to alert small businesses that financing is available through the bank.  You would think the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would lead this effort and spread the work.   If we consider our trade deficit, we find a huge imbalance. The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that the goods and services deficit was $43.9 billion in October, up $1.4 billion from $42.5 billion in September, revised. October exports were $184.1 billion, $2.7 billion less than September exports. October imports were $228.0 billion, $1.3 billion less than September imports. The October increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $2.1 billion to $63.1 billion and an increase in the services surplus of $0.6 billion to $19.2 billion. Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $22.2 billion, or 5.3 percent, from the same period in 2014. Exports decreased $84.7 billion or 4.3 percent. Imports decreased $62.5 billion or 2.6 percent.

Exports of goods decreased $3.1 billion to $123.8 billion in October. Exports of goods on a Census basis decreased $3.0 billion.  Industrial supplies and materials decreased $1.6 billion.

  • Fuel oil decreased $0.4 billion.
  • Other petroleum products decreased $0.4 billion.
  • Capital goods decreased $0.9 billion.
  • Industrial engines decreased $0.5 billion.

As you can see, we are losing the trade balance battle.  As I mentioned, maybe greater emphasis should be placed on alerting small businesses that the “bank” is ready and willing to work to enhance exports from small and mid-cap companies.  Just a thought.


November 14, 2015

I don’t really know when my love for aviation began but I am sure it was very early in life.  As a kid, I built tens of plastic airplane models.  My biggest challenge was the “Spruce Goose”; eight engines, four per wing.  I discovered that painting and decal “fixing” was my biggest and most time-consuming chore.   I’ve sniffed enough Testors glue to classify as a junkie.   I would then carefully display the models in my room either hanging from the ceiling, always in attack mode for the fighters, or positioned squarely on a shelf available for all to see.

Later on, I graduated to “U” controlled balsa wood models.   I realize this takes most of you way back so I’ve included a JPEG of a “U” controlled plane.  As you can see, the planes are tethered by two wires, each controlling the vertical climb/dive motion of the aircraft.  The control is a hand-held plastic or wooden “U” device shown by the second JPEG.

U-Controlled Airplane

U- Flight

As you can see, the wires are attached to the upper and lower “U”.  The “pilot” will rock the controller to facilitate climb and descent motion.

We loved to dog fight these balsa wood planes.  You do that by tying streamers to both wings, then have at it.  Both pilots stand back to back, crank the engines and have at it.  The first one to cut the streamer of the other is obviously the winner.

Then came remote-controlled model airplanes.  This was the third phase in the development of flying models.  By that time, I was attending my university so I missed out on this fun-filled activity.  Too little time and too little money.  After graduation, I was commissioned into the United States Air Force.  You get the picture.  I’m a real fan.

Several weeks ago, I attended the “Wings Over North Georgia” air show in Rome, Georgia.  It was a miserable, rainy, cold, muddy day but we enjoyed every minute of it.  The next slides will illustrate the day and the airplanes we saw.  The “feature” event was an F-22 Raptor.  This is one beautiful machine.  Let’s take a look at several “heavier-than-air-aircraft” on display that day.



I told you it was wet.  I had never seen an Osprey before and after seeing the cockpit, it’s the real deal. Let’s take a look.

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is an American multi-mission, tilt-rotor military aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.

The V-22 originated from the United States Department of Defense Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program started in 1981. The team of Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopters was awarded a development contract in 1983 for the tilt-rotor aircraft. The Bell Boeing team jointly produced the aircraft.  The V-22 first flew in 1989, and began flight testing and design alterations; the complexity and difficulties of being the first tilt-rotor intended for military service in the world led to many years of development.

The United States Marine Corps began crew training for the Osprey in 2000, and fielded it in 2007; it supplemented and then replaced their Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knights. The Osprey’s other operator, the U.S. Air Force, fielded their version of the tilt-rotor in 2009. Since entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed in transportation and medivac operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Kuwait.  A better look with the aircraft going from VTOL to level flight is given as follows:



One other aircraft on display was the C-17 Globemaster transport.  The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft. It was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) from the 1980s to the early 1990s by McDonnell Douglas. The C-17 carries forward the name of two previous piston-engine military cargo aircraft, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster and the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II. The C-17 commonly performs strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; additional roles include tactical airlift, medical evacuation and airdrop duties.

Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s, continued to manufacture C-17s for export customers following the end of deliveries to the U.S. Air Force. Aside from the United States, the C-17 is in service with the United KingdomAustraliaCanadaQatarUnited Arab EmiratesNATO Heavy Airlift WingIndia, and Kuwait. The final C-17 was completed in May 2015. Let’s take a look.

C-17. Todd and Bob(3)

OK, so I’m not the HULK, but this thing is huge.  I’m the one in the yellow rain jacket and you can see how “petite” my buddy Todd and I are in comparison to this monster.   The following JPEG is courtesy of the USAF and will show the internal size of the C-17.

C-17 Internal

I told you it was big.

F-22 Raptor

I don’t have any JPEGs of the Raptor I took personally.  There was a four-hour delay due to weather and the Raptor made a low-level run to demonstrate maneuvering capabilities.  The JPEGs below were obtained (again) from the USAF.  I can tell you from witnessing the flight, it has impressive sharp-turn capabilities and deserves to be called state-of-the-art.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities including ground attackelectronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles.  Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor and was responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems, and final assembly of the F-22, while program partner Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 prior to formally entering service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted development as well as operational issues, the USAF considers the F-22 a critical component of its tactical air power, and states that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter.  The Raptor’s combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and situational awareness gives the aircraft unprecedented air combat capabilities

The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air missions due to delays in Russian and Chinese fighter programs, a ban on exports, and development of the more versatile and lower cost F-35 led to the end of F-22 production.   A final procurement tally of 187 operational production aircraft was established in 2009 and the last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012.

F-22 Raptor

The Raptor cockpit is a digital marvel.  Please note the “heads-up” display.

F-22 Raptor Cockpit

There were other aircraft on display including several that would qualify as “oldies-but-goodies”.  The most impressive was the B-25 bomber.  It was in pristine condition and flew to the air show from its “home” in Arizona.  Unfortunately, it left the show before I had time to make a picture.  We frequently had to duck for cover during several periods of driving rain.  Good day—but wet day.

Hope you enjoy this one.  As always, I welcome your comments.


November 2, 2015

The holiday season is fast approaching and that means shopping for gifts and holiday buying.  It’s difficult to imagine another year is just about in the bag.

For the first time in history, the majority of holiday shopping will be accomplished on-line; shoppers turning to their mobile devices to browse and purchase items for family and friends.   According to the National Retail Federation, forty percent (40%) of consumers used their Smartphones to make purchasing decisions in 2014 during the holiday season.  This trend is now known as mobile commerce or m-commerce.  Smartphones will, for the most part, be their device of choice for this activity.  According to Adobe, one-third of the holiday sales will be consummated online.  This blows my mind but certainly follows trends solidly established in our country and over the world. People LOVE their Smartphones.   Let’s take a quick look:

  • Total online sales are up eleven percent (11%) from last year and e-commerce using mobile devices is projected to be eighty-three billion dollars ($83 billion) by the end of this year.
  • Cyber Monday is projected to produce three billion dollars ($3 billion) in sales alone.
  • The average Internet shopper will spend $305.00 in November and December alone. This is an all-time record for online mobile shopping.
  • Shopping by mobile device is estimated to be one trillion dollars ($1 trillion) by the year 2019. This represents a thirty-eight percent (38%) growth rate.
  • According to Master Card, more than one-quarter of the global community will use Smartphone in 2015 for browsing and on-line purchases.

This trend is producing significant identify theft and outright fraud.  Thieves hacking into mobile devices and scams being perpetrated against on-line users, but there are processes that can be accomplished to minimize and even eliminate mobile fraud.  The list may be somewhat commonsense but bears producing.

  • Look for indicators that a retailer’s website is secure, such as a lock icon on the status bar or a web address beginning with http://
  • Use caution when shopping on a Wi-Fe hot spot. If you are on an unsecured network, other users can see what you see and what you send.
  • Remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Know the seller before you commit to purchase.
  • Do not click on pop-up ads or links in unsolicited e-mails.
  • Do not provide personal information via e-mail. Instead, call the business at the number given on their web site to confirm the request.
  • Consider checking your accounts on-line periodically to make sure you can spot any fraudulent activity. (Do this frequently.)
  • Make sure your phone is password protected. Use strong passwords, and change them frequently.
  • Make sure the virus scan detection software on your Smartphone is current.
  • Use a find-your-phone app to recover a lost Smartphone. There are several instances of Smartphones being recovered even due to theft.
  • Disable automatic connections from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Be very careful of vendors you do not know or recognize. Before purchase, check them out.
  • Beware of the “package tracking scam.” The e-mail looks like it’s from the U.S. Postal Service — but it’s not. The email says you missed a delivery but, if you print the attached form and take it to your local post office; you can pick up your package and avoid penalties. The message might also include a link for more details. OK, here’s the truth: the email is bogus and there is no package. And if you download the attachment or click on a link, you’re likely to end up with a virus or malware on your device. Con artists often use the names and logos of familiar organizations to get under your guard. So how do you tell what’s legit and what’s a scam? Here are some ways to spot a bogus email:
    • It tells you to click on a link or download an attachment
    • It urges you to take immediate action
    • It asks you to “re-confirm” personal or financial information
    • Another sure sign an email is a scam? If you hover over the link in the email, it won’t show the official website of the supposed sender — in this case, the U.S. Postal Service website.
  • Only install trusted apps on your Smartphone and mobile device. Check them out prior to installation.
  • Stop advertisers from tracking you. Both Apple and Android have recently introduced new ways for advertisers to deliver targeted ads to us. This sounds like bad news, but the good part is that, given widespread consumer outrage on the issues, both companies have shown backbone and designed the new protocols to keep the data anonymous and to make it easier for individuals to opt out from tracking. If you’re an iPhone user, you need to go into Settings, then click Privacy, and then scroll all the way down to Advertising. You’ll see a button labeled says, “Limit ad tracking.” If it’s not showing a green color, click the button so that it shows green. This will stop ad companies from tracking what you do with your phone and serving up targeted ads.  Right underneath that, incidentally, you’ll see the “Reset Advertising Identifier.” Clicking on that will zero out the anonymous identifier as relates to your personal data. To trackers, you will then appear to be a new user. Now let’s go to Android. The new Google “AdID” system has similar intents – and is similarly difficult to find. Here, you don’t go to your Android phone settings, but your Google Settings app. Look for the Ads link. There, as with the iPhone, you’ll be able both to reset your advertising ID and click on a box to “opt out of interest based ads.”
  • Wipe your old phone before donating or selling. (This is big—don’t forget.)
  • None of the on-line vendors require your social security number or your birthdate to consummate a purchase. Don’t give it to them.

I certainly hope all of your shopping, holiday and otherwise, is less than challenging and you have no issues with identify theft and fraud.  Take care and as always, I welcome your comments.


October 27, 2015

We often hear about STEM professions and how important they are to our society.  With this being the case, I thought just how many non-STEM professionals know the meaning of the acronym and the disciplines within the STEM family.  I conducted a very unscientific survey and here is what I found.

  • CPA—“I’ve heard of STEM but don’t really know very much about what professions fall under that umbrella”. (His word.)
  • 7th Grade Student—“I have no idea what that means. Does it have something to do with plants?”
  • 23 Year Old Business Major—“Science and Technology.  I’m pretty sure it involves at least those two.”  (With a little coaching she remembered the engineering and mathematics.)
  • Switchboard Operator at Assisted Living Facility—Blank stare followed by: “I have a call coming in. I’ll get back with you on this one.”
  • 14 Year Old Boy Scout with 23 Merit Badges—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. (He obviously nailed it.)
  • Registered Nurse—“Not too sure but I know it has to do with technology”. (I then ask what professions lie within the STEM block.)  “Everything technical—I think.”

It became obvious greater detail is needed in defining just what are we talking about when we use the term:





In this post, we will briefly look at STEM “makeup” and projections for employment through the year 2022.  First, let us define a few terms in a very broad sense.

Drilling down a little deeper, we may list the following for each broad category:




Drilling down a little deeper, we may list the following for each detailed category:








As you might suspect, these professions require post-secondary training. If you want to earn the “big bucks” you have to prepare yourself.  This is definitely not easy and will require focus and intensity on your part, but the rewards are definitely there.  Let’s take a look.



Earlier in this week, I posted the results of a survey taken by Machine Design Magazine.  This post is “engineering specific” and details information relative to the field of engineering and the engineering profession.  You can find information of this nature for job-related professions.  It’s out there.

Hope you enjoy this one.


October 21, 2015

The following information was taken from the 2015 Salary Survey conducted by the Machine Design Magazine and The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce by the Congressional Research Service Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment.  The text and descriptions are mine.

The engineering field is an ever-changing environ­ment. To better understand the world we live in—and to help you better understand the state of the industry—Machine Design recently published its 2015 Salary Survey. More than 2,000 engineers responded to the annual survey regarding salary, work environment, benefits, and their views on where the field of engineering is going next.  This sample size is statistically significant and gives a snapshot of the engineering profession as it exists in the United States today.  The digital photographs given below, plus text, will aid your efforts in understanding the “state of engineering” in the 2014/2015 years.

Let’s first look at the breakdown of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions.


As you can see, the engineering profession represents approximately twenty-five percent (25%) of the STEM categories. Quite frankly, I was very surprised to see the fifty-six percent (56%) number for the computer occupations.  This definitely shows how greatly this profession has grown in the last decade.

According to the ASME survey, 54.3% of the respondents are fifty-five (55) years old or over and predominantly male. Just over three-quarters are college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The most common principal job function is design and develop­mental engineering at 61.7%.  A much smaller percentage (11.8%) work in engineering management. The most common job title is design/project/R&D engineer at 24.7%. Others include manufacturing/product engineer and chief/senior/ lead/principal engineer at 6.0% and 12.9%, respectively.  Fifty-five years of age will indicate a looming shortage of engineering talent for our country.  A situation that will see companies relocating to other countries or our “importing” qualified foreign nationals to work as engineers for state-side companies.  Greater numbers are entering the profession but those entry-level positions do not equal or exceed the number retiring.



Also very surprised that the number of MS degrees is just about the same as BS degrees.  This is also an ongoing trend occurring just in the last decade or so.  As technology advances, the need for a higher level of education becomes necessary for some engineering disciplines.



The chart above also indicates a significant change in demographics.  Generally, engineers stay at one company for a lengthy period of time.  This apparently is no longer the case unless there was a significant influx of new graduates in 2015.  Trust me on this one—this is not the case.  Engineers are moving around to find higher salaries and better working conditions.  The possibility for advancement must not be ignored either.


I definitely agree with the graphic above.  Generally, engineers enjoy the work they do so they stay in the profession for a lengthily period of time.  This chart reflects that fact.


The chart above indicates approximately thirty-eight percent (38%) of engineering professionals are over the age of sixty and contemplating retirement sometime in the very near future.  Their positions are not being filled quickly enough.  Many engineering jobs remain open seeking candidates with the proper skill sets.



The chart above speaks for itself.  Engineering is a rewarding profession not only relative to project work but also compensation.  Engineering positions represent one of the highest paid professions available to an individual and entry level salaries can be quite impressive.


Due to economic conditions, sixty percent (60%) of the companies indicate hiring will be reduced or remain stagnant.  Our economy and tax structure is forcing more and more companies to locate abroad.  This is extremely detrimental to engineers during job searches.


As you can see from the above graphic, the computer science field provides the greatest salary level.  This is due to the skill set necessary for the design of hardware.


Once again, the New England and West Coast areas provide the greatest salary levels.  This has been the case for over two decades and will probably not change soon although very high taxes may cause companies to relocate to other states.


The next three slides speak for themselves and indicate job satisfaction.  By and large, we are a content group of professionals.  There is definitely an indication as to “off-shoring” and the effect that has on job markets in the “states”.





Continuing education for the engineering profession has always been a requirement for maintaining a PE license.  There are thirty-six (36) states that require at least twelve (12) hours per year of continuing education.  The next two slides indicate how engineers obtain that education and where they go for it.



I certainly hope you have enjoyed this write-up and it will be beneficial to you.  As always, I welcome your comments.


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