WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THAT?

February 17, 2018


Portions of this post were taken from Design News Daily.

How many times have you said that? It’s called the Eureka moment – a sudden flash of intuition that leads us down a path to a wonderful, new, productive solution. Most of us have had such moments, but a select few have parlayed them into something grand, something that changes the world. That was the case for Arthur Fry, inventor of the Post-It Note and Richard James, inventor of the Slinky toy. They took simple ideas – such as a sticky note and a coil spring — and touched hundreds of millions of lives with them.  Given below are nine Eureka Moments that actually produced workable and usable devices that have revolutionized and made life easier for all of us. Let’s take a look.

If you could see my computer and associated screen, you would see a “ton” of post-it-notes.  Most with scribbles, PIN numbers, telephone numbers, etc etc.  We all use them.

Legend has it that Post-It Note inventor Arthur Fry conjured up the idea for his product when the little scraps of paper in his Sunday hymnal kept falling out. To solve the problem, he used an adhesive developed by a 3M colleague, Dr. Spencer Silver. Silver’s reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive was failing to stir interest inside 3M until Fry came along and made the mental connection to his hymnal.

In 1974, the two partnered to put the adhesive on small sheets of yellow paper and … a mythic product was born. They passed their sticky notes to fellow employees, who loved them. “I thought, what we have here isn’t just a bookmark,” Fry said. “It’s a whole new way to communicate.” They later put their product on the market, receiving an even stronger reaction. Lee Iacocca and other Fortune 500 CEOs reportedly wrote to praise it. Post-It Notes, as they soon became known, eventually were sold in more than 100 countries. At one point, it was estimated that the average professional received 11 messages on Post-It Notes per day. Fry received 3M’s Golden Step Award, was named a corporate researcher, became a member of the company’s Carlton Society and was appointed to its Circle of Technical Excellence.

(Image source: By Tinkeringbell – Own work, Public Domain/Wikipedia)

Ansa baby bottles are virtually impossible to find today, but they were all the rage in the mid-1980s.

The bottles, which have a hole in the middle to make them easy for babies to hold, were the brainchild of William and Nickie Campbell of Muskogee, OK, who designed them for their infant son. After filing for patents in 1984, they took out a loan, launched the Ansa Bottle Co., manufactured the plastic bottles, and enjoyed immediate success. They received editorial coverage in American Baby and Mothers Today, while inking deals with Sears, K-Mart, Walgreens, and Target, according to The Oklahoman. Their bottles even went on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

(Image source: US Patent Office)

Rolling luggage is an accepted fact of air travel today, but it wasn’t always so and I’m not too sure what we now would do without it.  The concept was slow to take hold, and achieved acceptance in two distinct steps. The first step occurred in 1970, when inventor Bernard Sadow observed an airport worker rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid. Sadow, who was at the time dragging his own luggage through customs after a trip to Aruba, had the proverbial “eureka moment,” according to The New York Times. Sadow’s solution to the problem was a suitcase with four wheels and a pull strap. To his surprise, however, the idea was slow to take off. That’s where the second step came in. In 1987, a Northwest Airlines pilot and workshop tinkerer named Robert Plath took it to the next level — developing an upright, two-wheeled suitcase with a long stiff handle. Plath’s so-called “Rollaboard” was the missing ingredient to the success of rolling luggage.

Today, his 30-year-old concept dominates air travel and is built by countless manufacturers — any patents having long since expired. The initial slow acceptance remains a mystery to many, however. Sadow, looking back at it years later, attributed the consumer reluctance to men who refused to take the easy way out. “It was a very macho thing,” he said.

(Image source photo: Design News)

OK, who on the planet has NOT owned and/or played with a slinky?  In 1943, Naval mechanical engineer Richard James was developing springs for instruments when he accidently knocked one to the floor, permanently altering the future of toy manufacturing. The spring subsequently stepped “in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it recoiled itself and stood upright,” writes Wikipedia. James reportedly realized that with the right steel properties, he could make a spring walk, which is exactly what he did. Using a $500 loan, he made 400 “Slinky” coil springs at a local machine shop, demonstrated them at a Gimbels department store in Philadelphia, and sold his entire inventory in ninety (90) minutes. From there, Slinky became a legend, reaching sales of 300 million units in 60 years. Today, engineers attribute Slinky’s sales to the taming of the product’s governing physical principles — Hooke’s Law and the force of gravity. But advertising executives argue that its monumental sales were a product of clever TV commercials. The song, “Everyone knows it’s slinky” (recognized by virtually everyone who lived through the 1960s and 1970s), is considered the longest-running jingle in advertising history.

(Image source: Wikipedia)

The Band-Aid (or “Band-Aid brand,” as Johnson & Johnson calls it) is in essence a simple concept – an adhesive strip with a small bandage attached. Still, its success is undeniable. The idea originated with Johnson & Johnson employees Thomas Anderson and Earle Dickson in 1920. Dickson made the prototype for his wife, who frequently burned herself while cooking, enabling her to dress her wounds without help. Dickson introduced the concept to his bosses, who quickly launched it into production.

Today, it is copied by many generic products, but the Band-Aid brand lives on. Band-Aid is accepted around the world, with more than 100 billion having been sold.

(Image source photo: Design News)

Today, it’s hard to imagine that an upside-down bottle was once considered an innovation. But it was. Ketchup maker H.J. Heinz launched a revolution in packaging after deciding that its customers were tired of banging on the side of glass bottles, waiting for their product to ooze out. The unlikely hero of their revolution was Paul Brown, a molding shop owner in Midland, MI, who designed a special valve for bottles of ketchup and other viscous liquids, according to an article in the McClatchey Newspapers. Brown’s valve enabled ketchup bottles to be stored upside down without leaking. It also allowed liquids to be easily delivered when the bottle was squeezed, and sucked back inside when force was released.

Brown was said to have built 111 failed injection-molded silicone prototypes before finding the working design. To his lasting delight, the successful concept found use with not only with Heinz, but with makers of baby food, shampoo, and cosmetics, as well as with NASA for space flights. In retrospect, he said the final design was the result of an unusual intellectual approach. “I would pretend I was silicone, and if I was injected into a mold, what I would do,” he told McClatchey. The technique apparently worked: Brown eventually sold his business for about $13 million in 1995.

Players of pinball may take the games’ dual flippers for granted, but they were an innovation when Steve Kordek devised them in 1948. Working for the Genco Co. in Chicago (a company he became acquainted with after stepping into its lobby to escape a heavy rain), Kordek became the father of the two-flipper pinball game. His lasting contribution was simple, yet innovative — the use of direct current (DC) to actuate the flippers, rather than alternating current (AC). DC, he found, made the flippers more controllable, yet less costly to manufacture. Over six decades, Kordek reached legendary status in the industry, producing games for Genco, Bally Manufacturing, and Williams Manufacturing, always employing his dual-flipper design. He worked until 2003, designing the Vacation America game (based on the National Lampoon Vacation movies) at age 92. But it was his DC-based, dual flipper design that shaped his legacy. “It was really revolutionary, and pretty much everyone followed suit,” David Silverman, executive director of the National Pinball Hall of Fame told The New York Times in 2012. “And it’s stayed the standard for 60 years.”

(Image source: By ElHeineken, own work/Wikipedia)

It’s difficult to know whether any individual has ever been credited with the design of the ergonomic bent snow shovel, but the idea is nevertheless making money … for somebody. Bent-handle snow shovels today are sold at virtually every hardware store and home center in the northern United States, and they’re a critical winter tool for millions of homeowners. The idea is that by putting a bend in the shaft, the horizontal moment arm between the shovel handle and the tip is shorter, putting less strain on the user’s lower back. Although there’s some argument on that point, it was recently proven by engineering graduate students at the University of Calgary, according to a story on CTVNews.com.

Studying the bent-handle shovels in the school’s biomechanics laboratory, engineers concluded that they require less bending on the part of users, and therefore reduce mechanical loads on the lower back by 16 percent. “I think that’s a pretty substantial reduction,” researcher Ryan Lewinson told CTVNews. “Over the course of shoveling an entire driveway, that probably would add up to something pretty meaningful.”

(Image source photo: Design News)

Erno Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture, invented his famous game cube while trying to solve a structural problem. Although his goal had been to put moving parts together in a mechanism that wouldn’t fall apart, it gradually dawned on Rubik that he had created a puzzle of sorts.

His puzzle consisted of 26 miniature cubes, each having an inward extension that interlocked to other cubes, allowing them to move independently and in different directions. Initially called the Magic Cube, it was released in Budapest toy shops in 1977. It was later licensed to the Ideal Toy Co. in 1980, which changed its name to Rubik’s Cube to make it more distinctive. Its broader release started a craze in the early 1980s. Rubik’s Cube won Toy of the Year Awards in Germany, France, the UK, US, Finland, Sweden, and Italy. Between 1980 and 1983, 200 million cubes were sold worldwide. Clubs of “speedcubers” popped up around the world, it appeared on the cover of Scientific American, books were written about it, and The Washington Post called it “a puzzle that’s moving like fast food right now. “Today, Rubik’s Cube continues to sell and enthusiasts continue to test their skill against it. Total sales are said to have passed 300 million. In 2017, a speedcuber named SeungBeom Cho set a world record for solving the puzzle in 4.59 seconds.

(Image source photo: Design News)

CONCLUSIONS:  We all have ideas.  The difference is persistence in developing and marketing those ideas.

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The convergence of “smart” microphones, new digital signal processing technology, voice recognition and natural language processing has opened the door for voice interfaces.  Let’s first define a “smart device”.

A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.

I am told by my youngest granddaughter that all the cool kids now have in-home, voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. These devices can play your favorite music, answer questions, read books, control home automation, and all those other things people thought the future was about in the 1960s. For the most part, the speech recognition of the devices works well; although you may find yourself with an extra dollhouse or two occasionally. (I do wonder if they speak “southern” but that’s another question for another day.)

A smart speaker is, essentially, a speaker with added internet connectivity and “smart assistant” voice-control functionality. The smart assistant is typically Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, both of which are independently managed by their parent companies and have been opened up for other third-parties to implement into their hardware. The idea is that the more people who bring these into their homes, the more Amazon and Google have a “space” in every abode where they’re always accessible.

Let me first state that my family does not, as yet, have a smart device but we may be inching in that direction.  If we look at numbers, we see the following projections:

  • 175 million smart devices will be installed in a majority of U.S. households by 2022 with at least seventy (70) million households having at least one smart speaker in their home. (Digital Voice Assistants Platforms, Revenues & Opportunities, 2017-2022. Juniper Research, November 2017.)
  • Amazon sold over eleven (11) million Alexa voice-controlled Amazon Echo devices in 2016. That number was expected to double for 2017. (Smart Home Devices Forecast, 2017 to 2022(US) Forester Research, October 2017.
  • Amazon Echo accounted for 70.6% of all voice-enabled speaker users in the United States in 2017, followed by Google Home at 23.8%. (eMarketer, April 2017)
  • In 2018, 38.5 million millennials are expected to use voice-enabled digital assistants—such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana—at least once per month. (eMarketer, April 2017.)
  • The growing smart speaker market is expected to hit 56.3 million shipments, globally in 2018. (Canalys Research, January 2018)
  • The United States will remain the most important market for smart speakers in 2018, with shipments expected to reach 38.4 million units. China is a distant second at 4.4 million units. (Canalys Research, April 2018.)

With that being the case, let’s now look at what smart speakers are now commercialized and available either as online purchases or retail markets:

  • Amazon Echo Spot–$114.99
  • Sonos One–$199.00
  • Google Home–$129.00
  • Amazon Echo Show–$179.99
  • Google Home Max–$399.00
  • Google Home Mini–$49.00
  • Fabriq Choros–$69.99
  • Amazon Echo (Second Generation) –$$84.99
  • Harman Kardon Evoke–$199.00
  • Amazon Echo Plus–$149.00

CONCLUSIONS:  If you are interested in purchasing one from the list above, I would definitely recommend you do your homework.  Investigate the services provided by a smart speaker to make sure you are getting what you desire.  Be aware that there will certainly be additional items enter the marketplace as time goes by.  GOOD LUCK.

MOST HATED COMPANIES

February 3, 2018


The list of the “most hated American companies” was provided by KATE GIBSON in the MONEYWATCH web site, February 1, 2018, 2:20 PM.  The text and narrative is this author’s.

Corporate America is sometimes, but not always, blamed for a number of misdeeds, swindles, “let’s bash the little guy”, etc. behavior.  Many times, those charges are warranted.   You get the picture.   Given below, is a very quick list of the twenty (20) most hated U.S. companies.  This list is according to 24/7 Wall St., which took customer surveys, employee reviews and news events into account in devising its list: ( I might mention the list is in descending order so the most-egregious offender is at the bottom.

  • The Weinstein Company. I think we can all understand this one but I strongly believe most of the employees of The Weinstein Company are honest hard-working individuals who do their job on a daily basis.  One big problem—you CANNOT tell me the word did not get around relative to Weinstein’s activities.  Those who knew are definitely complicit and should be ashamed of themselves.  This includes those holier-than-thou- actresses and actors pretending not-to-know.
  • United Airlines. The Chicago-based carrier is still in the dog housewith customers after a video of a passenger being forcibly removed from his seat on an overbooked flight went viral last year. You simply do NOT treat individuals, much less customers, in the manner in which this guy was treated.  I wonder how much money United has lost due to the video?
  • Fake news, deceptive ads, invasion of privacy.  You get the picture and YET millions subscribe.  This post will be hyperlinked to Facebook to improve readership.  That’s about the only reason I use the website.
  • I don’t really know these birds but apparently the telecom, one of the nation’s biggest internet and telephone service providers, reportedly gets poor reviews from customers and employees alike. I think that just might be said for many of the telecoms.
  • This one baffles me to a great extent but the chemical company has drawn public ire at a lengthy list of harmful products, including DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange. Most recently, it’s accused of causing cancer in hundreds exposed to its weed killer, Roundup.
  • I’m a Comcast subscriber and let me tell you their customer service is the WORST. They are terrible.  Enough said.
  • I have taken Uber multiple times with great success but there are individuals who have been harassed.  Hit by complaints of sexual harassment at the company and a video of its then-CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver, the company last year faced a slew of lawsuit and saw 13 executives resign, including Kalanick.
  • Sears Holdings. Sears plans to close more than one hundred (100) additional stores through the spring of 2018, with the count of Sears and Kmart stores already down to under 1,300 from 3,467 in 2007. Apparently, customer satisfaction is a huge problem also.  The retail giant needs a facelift and considerable management help to stay viable in this digital on-line-ordering world.
  • Trump Organization.  At this point in time, Donald Trumpis the least popular president in U.S. history, with a thirty-five (35) percent approval rating at the end of December. That disapproval extends to the Trump brand, which includes golf courses, a hotel chain and real estate holdings around the globe. One again, I suspect that most of the employees working for “the Donald” are honest hard-working individuals.
  • Wells Fargo. At one time, I had a Wells Fargo business account. NEVER AGAIN. I won’t go into detail.
  • The insurance industry is not exactly beloved, and allegations of fraud have not helped Cigna’s case. Multiple lawsuits allege the company inflated medical costs and overcharged customers.
  • Spirit Airlines. I’ve flown Spirit Airlines and you get what you pay for. I do not know why customers do not know that but it is always the case.  You want to be treated fairly, fly with other carriers.
  • Vice Media The media organization has lately been roiled by allegations of systemic sexual harassment, dating back to 2003. One of these day some bright individual in the corporate offices will understand you must value your employees.
  • The telecom gets knocked for poor customer experiences that could in part be due to service, with Sprint getting low grades for speed and data, as well as calling, texting and overall reliability.
  • Foxconn Technology Group. Once again, I’m not that familiar with Foxconn Technology Group. The company makes and assembles consumer electronics for entities including Apple and Nintendo. It’s also caught attention for poor working and living conditions after a series of employee suicides at a compound in China. It recently drew negative press for a planned complex in Wisconsin.
  • Electronic Arts. The video-game maker known for its successful franchises is also viewed poorly by gamers for buying smaller studios or operations for a specific game and then taking away its originality.
  • University of Phoenix. I would expect every potential student wishing to go on-line for training courses do their homework relative to the most-desirable provider. The University of Phoenix does a commendable job in advertising but apparently there are multiple complaints concerning the quality of services.
  • I’m a little burned out with the NFL right now. My Falcons and Titans have had a rough year and I’m ready to move on to baseball. Each club sets their own spring training reporting dates each year, though all camps open the same week. Pitchers and catchers always arrive first. The position players don’t have to show up until a few days later. Here are this year’s reporting dates for the 15 Cactus League teams, the teams that hold spring training in Arizona.
  • Fox Entertainment Group. If you do not like the channel—do something else.  I bounce back and forth across the various schedules to find something I really obtain value-added from.  The Food Network, the History Channel, SEC Network.  You choose.  There are hundreds of channels to take a look at.
  • The consumer credit reporting was hit by a massive hack last year, exposing the personal data of more than 145 million Americans and putting them at risk of identity theft. Arguably worse, the company sat on the information for a month before letting the public know.

CONCLUSIONS:  In looking at this survey, there are companies that deserve their most-hated-status and, in my opinion, some that do not.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As always, I welcome your comments.

PINK

January 28, 2018


On Saturday January 27, 2018 the City of Chattanooga held the thirteenth annual Pink Gala.  This remarkable event is held to benefit the MaryEllen Locher Breast Cancer Center at Chattanooga Memorial Hospital.  Pink, honors the legacy of Mary Ellen, and remembers all of those who have lost their battle with cancer, and celebrates those survivors that continue after their illness is cured.   This event provides additional funding to maintain the most comprehensive breast cancer center in the region and in the state of Tennessee.

Breast cancer has affected each of us in some manner.  The American Cancer Society estimates that breast cancer in men in the United States for 2018 estimates are:  approximately 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed.  About 480 men will die from breast cancer.  The lifetime risk for women:   Women in the U.S. have a “1 in 8” (or about 12 percent) lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. This means for every eight (8) women in the U.S., one (1) will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.  HUGE NUMBERS.  The diagnosis of cancer affects not only the individual’s health but every aspect of family life.  As a comprehensive breast cancer center, the MaryEllen Center receives patients and provides state-of-the-art treatment while supporting then with nurse navigators, social workers, genetic counselors, and dieticians.  The Pink event has raised over $3.4 million dollars since its inception in 2006.  All money raised is used locally and directly affects impacted families in the Chattanooga Community.

We are going to take a pictorial visit to the event last night starting with the program.  As you can see, the theme for this year’s event was “A Night in Old Havana”.  I have to believe the day after the 2017 Pink Gala the organizers started working on the 2018 event.  The planning was absolutely flawless with every detail covered.  There were one hundred and thirty-seven (137) tables with ten (10) chairs per table.  Every chair was filled.  Each table had a “captain” responsible for inviting guests.  There were no empty chairs that I could see.

The program for the evening is given below.   As you can see, included was a remarkably great dinner including a delicious Cuban sandwich offered as appetizer.  It was GOOD.

As we entered the Chattanooga Convention Center we heard the Cuban band playing loud and clear.  No mistaken the origin of the music.  Accomplished musicians doing what they do best—warming up the attendees.

You can see from the digital picture below, the auditorium was decorated remarkably well with table cloths and napkins, obviously, PINK.  The size of the auditorium easily accommodated the fourteen hundred (1400) people in attendance.

The two best words any party-goer can hear, “open bar”.  There were no fewer that four bars open for business that night with no charge to the party-goers.

After a GREAT dinner, a silent auction was held to raise additional funds for the Center.

I want to give you an idea as to what items were offered for the auction.

  • A painting of the auditorium by noted Chattanooga painter Liz Lindstrom. The value of that painting was set at $3,500. Lindstrom was painting when we arrived so the finished work is not shown below but you can get some idea as to the quality of the piece.

  • QUARK Sculpture—Value, $30,000. (NOTE:  The final bid was approximately $38,000.)
  • Diamond necklace valued at $6,500.00
  • Hammerstein Highland Lodge in Jamaica. Six nights–$15,500.00. This is a gated community with every amenity you can think of.  Great place to escape—but with a price.
  • EPB (Electric Power Board) of Chattanooga Small Business Advertising Package—Valued at $9,000.00
  • Custom Men’s Suit by Bruce Baird—Valued at $1,000.00
  • Whirlpool Stainless Steel Refrigerator—Valued at $2,200.00
  • Porsche Driving Experience—Valued at $500.00.
  • Black Cashmere Cape with Fox Trim—Valued at $3,000.00
  • BMW Baby Racer—Valued at $129.00
  • Wine Cellar with Cooler—Valued at $1,550.00
  • Alabama Football Tickets—Valued at $600.00
  • Destin Condo at Breakers East—Valued at $3,400.00
  • Personal Jet Experience—Valued at $3,700.00

There were eighty items auctioned off that night during the benefit.  All items were sold. Nothing left.

After the auction, a terrific band called dancing to Party on the Moon.  I have no idea as to where this band came from but they were not local.  Eight members banging it out.

All-in-all, great event for a GREAT cause.  Everyone had a marvelous time.  We left at 10:45 which is later than I stay up 364 days each year but that’s ok.  None the worse for the wear.

WORST POSSIBLE

January 26, 2018


There is an expression you have heard time and time again: “You have to bloom where you are planted”.  I think this means you are encouraged to flourish where you are and try to make the best of any situation until you can change that situation.

One of the best books I have read recently is “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance.  It details the story of a family having to move from Appalachian Kentucky to Ohio.  In his words, their family was “dirt-poor” and when jobs vanished they had to move just to survive.  Mr. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister and most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life.  It’s a very insightful book and one I can highly recommend to you.

Let’s face it, there are good places to live and not-so-good-places to live in the United States.  A recent Gallup survey basically tells the tale.

If you live in Illinois, Connecticut or Rhode Island, the chances are you know someone who is not happy. Not happy at all. Around a quarter of the population living in these regions have described them each as the ‘worst possible state to live in’, according to a Gallup survey. The map data doesn’t explain the nature of the residents’ grievances but that map, according to the Gallup Survey, is given below.

While twenty-one to twenty-five (21-25) per cent of people ranked these three states as the ‘worst’, Louisiana and Mississippi also featured prominently – with seventeen to twenty (17-20) per cent describing the two southern states as the worst.

On a positive note, ten states had only one to two (1-2) per cent of their population who weren’t happy: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Maine. Apparently weather was not a significant factor in their happiness.  If you look at individual cities, we find the following, again according to Gallup in the list below.

If you want to lead a happy life, Boulder, Colorado, it seems, is the place to be – because it was named as the happiest city in the U.S. last October.  It topped a list of twenty-five (25) of America’s happiest cities, revealed in the book The Blue Zones of Happiness, by National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner.

Along with National Geographic and Gallup, he developed an index to measure a population’s happiness based on fifteen (15) metrics including civic engagement, walkability and healthful food options.  Boulder tops the list with walkability, access to nature and sense of community being contributing factors to its residents’ happiness.  The metro area of Santa Cruz-Watsonville California came second in the list, followed by Charlottesville, Virginia, Fort Collins, Colorado, and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande in California. California is clearly a dreamy place to live, as eight of its cities, including the metro areas of San Diego-Carlsbad and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, make the happiness list.  Let’s now take a look at that list.

If we look at population densities by city, we find the top ten (10) as follows:

You will notice that number seventeen (17) on our most popular list is also on the most-dense list. San Fran must be a great place to live. I know, having repeated experience with Atlanta traffic, LOVE TO VISIT, but would not want to live there.  Great place with lots to do but the traffic is a real bummer.

As always, I welcome your comments.

AUTOMOTIVE FUTURE

January 25, 2018


Portions of this post are taken from Design News Daily Magazine, January publication.

The Detroit Auto Show has a weirdly duplicitous vibe these days. The biggest companies that attend make sure to talk about things that make them sound future-focused, almost benevolent. They talk openly about autonomy, electrification, and even embracing other forms of transportation. But they do this while doling out product announcements that are very much about meeting the current demands of consumers who, enjoying low gas prices, want trucks and crossover SUVs. With that said, it really is interesting to take a look at several “concept” cars.  Cars we just may be driving the future is not the near future.  Let’s take a look right now.

Guangzhou Automobile Co. (better known as GAC Motor) stole the show in Detroit, at least if we take their amazing claims at face value. The Chinese automaker rolled out the Enverge electric concept car, which is said to have a 373-mile all-electric range based on a 71-kWh battery. Incredibly, it is also reported to have a wireless recharge time of just 10 minutes for a 240-mile range. Enverge’s power numbers are equally impressive: 235 HP and 302 lb-ft of torque, with a 0-62 mph time of just 4.4 seconds. GAC, the sixth biggest automaker in China, told the Detroit audience that it would start selling cars in the US by Q4 2019. The question is whether its extraordinary performance numbers will hold up to EPA scrutiny.  If GAC can live up to and meet their specifications they may have the real deal here.  Very impressive.

As autonomous vehicle technology advances, automakers are already starting to examine the softer side of that market – that is, how will humans interact the machines? And what are some of the new applications for the technology? That’s where Ford’s pizza delivery car came in. The giant automaker started delivering Domino’s pizzas in Ann Arbor, MI, late last year with an autonomous car. In truth, the car had a driver at the wheel, sitting behind a window screen. But the actual delivery was automated: Customers were alerted by a text; a rear window rolled down; an automated voice told them what to do, and they grabbed the pie. Ford engineers were surprised to find that that the humans weren’t intimated by the technology. “In the testing we did, people interacted nicely with the car,” Ford autonomous car research engineer Wayne Williams told Design News. “They talked to it as if it were a robot. They waved when it drove away. Kids loved it. They’d come running up to it.” The message to Ford was clear – autonomous cars are about more than just personal transportation. Delivery services are a real possibility, too.

Most of today’s autonomous cars use unsightly, spinning Lidar buckets atop their roofs. At the auto show, Toyota talked about an alternative Lidar technology that’s sleek and elegant. You have to admit that for now, the autonomous cars look UGLY—really ugly.  Maybe Toyota has the answer.

In a grand rollout, Lexus introduced a concept car called the LF-1 Limitless. The LF-1 is what we’ve all come to expect from modern concept cars – a test bed for numerous power trains and autonomous vehicle technologies. It can be propelled by a fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric or gasoline power train. And its automated driving system includes a “miniaturized supercomputer with links to navigation data, radar sensors, and cameras for a 360-degree view of your surroundings with predictive capabilities.” The sensing technologies are all part of a system known as “Chauffeur mode.” Lexus explained that the LF-1 is setting the stage for bigger things: By 2025, every new Lexus around the world will be available as a dedicated electrified model or will have an electrified option.

The Xmotion, which is said to combine Japanese aesthetics with SUV styling, includes seven digital screens. Three main displays join left- and right-side screens across the instrument panel. There’s also a “digital room mirror” in the ceiling and center console display. Moreover, the displays can be controlled by gestures and even eye motions, enabling drivers to focus on the task of driving. A Human Machine Interface also allows drivers to easily switch from Nissan’s ProPilot automated driving system to a manual mode.

Cadillac showed off its Super Cruise technology, which is said to be the only semi-autonomous driving system that actually monitors the driver’s attention level. If the driver is attentive, Super Cruise can do amazing things – tooling along for hours on a divided highway with no intersections, for example, while handling all the steering, acceleration and braking. GM describes it as an SAE Level 2 autonomous system. It’s important because it shows autonomous vehicle technology has left the lab and is making its debut on production vehicles. Super Cruise launched late in 2017 on the Cadillac CT6 (shown here).

In a continuing effort to understand the relationship between self-driving cars and humans, Ford Motor Co. and Virginia Tech displayed an autonomous test vehicle that communicates its intent to other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Such communication is important, Ford engineers say, because “designing a way to replace the head nod or hand wave is fundamental to ensuring safe and efficient operation of self-driving vehicles.”

Infiniti rolled out the Q Inspiration luxury sedan concept, which combines its variable compression ratio engine with Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous vehicle technology. Infiniti claims the engine combines “turbo charged gasoline power with the torque and efficiency of a hybrid or diesel.” Known as the VC-Turbo, the four-cylinder engine continually transforms itself, adjusting its compression ratio to optimize power and fuel efficiency. At the same time, the sedan features ProPilot Assist, which provides assisted steering, braking and acceleration during driving. You can see from the digital below, the photographers were there covering the Infinity.

The eye-catching Concept-i vehicle provided a more extreme view of the distant future, when vehicles will be equipped with artificial intelligence (AI). Meant to anticipate people’s needs and improve their quality of life, Concept-i is all about communicating with the driver and occupants. An AI agent named Yui uses light, sound, and even touch, instead of traditional screens, to communicate information. Colored lights in the footwells, for example, indicate whether the vehicle is an autonomous or manual drive; projectors in the rear deck project outside views onto the seat pillar to warn drivers about potential blind spots, and a next-generation heads-up display keeps the driver’s eyes and attention on the road. Moreover, the vehicle creates a feeling of warmth inside by emanating sweeping lines of light around it. Toyota engineers created the Concept-i features based on their belief that “mobility technology should be warm, welcoming, and above all, fun.”

CONCLUSIONS:  To be quite honest, I was not really blown away with this year’s offerings.  I LOVE the Infinity and the Toyota concept car shown above.  The American models did not capture my attention. Just a thought.


According to the “Electronic Design Magazine”, ‘Electronic waste is the fastest-growing form of waste. Electromechanical waste results from the Digital Revolution.  The Digital Revolution refers to the advancement of technology from analog electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technology available today. The era started to during the 1980s and is ongoing. The Digital Revolution also marks the beginning of the Information Era.

The Digital Revolution is sometimes also called the Third Industrial Revolution. The development and advancement of digital technologies started with one fundamental idea: The Internet. Here is a brief timeline of how the Digital Revolution progressed:

  • 1947-1979 – The transistor, which was introduced in 1947, paved the way for the development of advanced digital computers. The government, military and other organizations made use of computer systems during the 1950s and 1960s. This research eventually led to the creation of the World Wide Web.
  • 1980s – The computer became a familiar machine and by the end of the decade, being able to use one became a necessity for many jobs. The first cellphone was also introduced during this decade.
  • 1990s – By 1992, the World Wide Web had been introduced, and by 1996 the Internet became a normal part of most business operations. By the late 1990s, the Internet became a part of everyday life for almost half of the American population.
  • 2000s – By this decade, the Digital Revolution had begun to spread all over the developing world; mobile phones were commonly seen, the number of Internet users continued to grow, and the television started to transition from using analog to digital signals.
  • 2010 and beyond – By this decade, Internet makes up more than 25 percent of the world’s population. Mobile communication has also become very important, as nearly 70 percent of the world’s population owns a mobile phone. The connection between Internet websites and mobile gadgets has become a standard in communication. It is predicted that by 2015, the innovation of tablet computers will far surpass personal computers with the use of the Internet and the promise of cloud computing services. This will allow users to consume media and use business applications on their mobile devices, applications that would otherwise be too much for such devices to handle.

In the United States, E-waste represents approximately two percent (2%) of America’s trash in landfills, but seventy percent (70%) of the overall toxic waste.  American recycles about 679,000 tons of E-waste annually, and that figure does not include a large portion of electronics such as TV, DVD and VCR players, and related TV electronics. According to the EPA, E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream.  Not only is electromechanical waste a major environmental problem it contains valuable resources that could generate revenue and be used again.  Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals, such as gold, and silver.  Americans dump phones containing more than sixty million ($60,000,000) dollars in gold and silver each year.

The United States and China generated the most e-waste last year – thirty-two (32%) percent of the world’s total. However, on a per capita basis, several countries famed for their environmental awareness and recycling records lead the way. Norway is on top of the world’s electronic waste mountain, generating 62.4 pounds per inhabitant.

Technology has made a significant difference in the ability to deal and handle E-waste products.  One country, Japan, is making a major effort to deal with the problem. Japan has approximately one hundred (100) major electronic waste facilities, as well as numerous smaller, local collection and operating facilities.  From those one hundred major plants, more than thirty (30) utilize the Kubota Vertical Shredder to reduce the overall size of the assemblies. Recycling technology company swissRTec has announced that one of its key products, the Kubota Vertical Shredder, is now available in the United States to take care of E-waste.

WHY IS E-WASTE RECYCLING IMPORTANT:

If we look at why recycling E-waste is important, we see the following:

  • Rich Source of Raw Materials Internationally, only ten to fifteen (10-15) percent of the gold in e-waste is successfully recovered while the rest is lost. Ironically, electronic waste contains deposits of precious metal estimated to be between forty and fifty (40 and 50) times richer than ores mined from the earth, according to the United Nations.
  • Solid Waste Management Because the explosion of growth in the electronics industry, combined with short product life cycle has led to a rapid escalation in the generation of solid waste.
  • Toxic Materials Because old electronic devices contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium, proper processing is essential to ensure that these materials are not released into the environment. They may also contain other heavy metals and potentially toxic chemical flame retardants.
  • International Movement of Hazardous Waste The uncontrolled movement of e-waste to countries where cheap labor and primitive approaches to recycling have resulted in health risks to local residents exposed to the release of toxins continues to an issue of concern.

We are fortunate in Chattanooga to have an E-cycling “stations”.  ForeRunner does just that.  Here is a cut from their web site:

“… with more than 15 years in the computer \ e waste recycling field, Forerunner Computer Recycling has given Chattanooga companies a responsible option to dispose end of life cycle and surplus computer equipment. All Chattanooga based companies face the task of safely disposing of older equipment and their e waste. The EPA estimates that as many as 500 million computers \e- waste will soon become obsolete.

As Chattanooga businesses upgrade existing PCs, more computers and other e waste are finding their way into the waste stream. According to the EPA, over two million tons of electronics waste is discarded each year and goes to U.S. landfills.

Now you have a partner in the computer \ e waste recycling business who understands your need to safely dispose of your computer and electronic equipment in an environmentally responsible manner.

By promoting reuse – computer recycling and electronic recycling – Forerunner Computer Recycling extends the life of computer equipment and reduce e waste. Recycle your computers, recycle your electronics.”

CONCLUSIONS:

I definitely encourage you to look up the recycling E-waste facility in your city or county.  You will be doing our environment a great service in doing so.

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