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Internet of Things - Global SummitIn the last issue of eNews, I wrote about GE's Industrial Internet. It's the biggest identified market that I've ever come across.
The cover story in the latest Wired magazine (May 2013) is about the Internet of Things, what GE calls the Industrial Internet. It's superbly written by Bill Wasik and I recommend you get a copy. It starts this way:
"Imagine a factory where every machine, every room, feeds back information to solve problems on the production line. Imagine a hotel room (like the ones at the Aria in Las Vegas) where the lights, the stereo, and the window shade are not just controlled from a central station but adjust to your preferences before you even walk in. Think of a gym where the machines know your workout as soon as you arrive, or a medical device that can point toward the closest defibrillator when you have a heart attack. Consider a hybrid car that can maximize energy efficiency by drawing down the battery as it nears a charging station."
The 2013 M2M & Internet of Things Global Summit will take place in Washington DC on October 1-2, and will provide a high-level meeting point for all representatives from the global M2M & IoT communities.
With contributions from all of the main stakeholders at both an industry and policy level from the US and beyond, this conference will take a comprehensive look at the latest technologies and innovations in the field of The Internet of Things.
This event offers the chance to exchange views on the current IoT ecosystem and the opportunity to see what M2M and IoT technologies are available to industry, businesses and end users.
I hope to participate in the event. Hope to see you there.
The decline of Corporate IT DepartmentsAt the Automatech event in Baltimore 2 weeks ago, I openly predicted the demise of IT departments in large organizations. This became a hot topic, because IT is a dominating influence in many companies.
In most large corporations, when people talk about IT departments, they always talk about the things they're not allowed to do, and the long time it takes to get anything done. IT always generates rigid and inflexible policies which generate animosity.
IT departments are legacies of the old main-frame days, when IT was the domain of specialists. The departments became very large and powerful and usually grabbed control of all the computers installed in the factory and on the plant floor.
Industrial DCS and PLC systems are completely different from office hardware, but IT always tried to expand to those domains. The politics of many large companies helped them succeed. To most other departments IT became a forced internal vendor, with a monopoly on all computer activity. There was seldom any feedback loop for improvement.
But change is here. Computer expertise is no longer just the domain of a select few. Today everything that previously required computer expertise is available via the web. The companies that have no official IT departments are growing in number and size.
Employees today want to use the same technology devices at work during the day that they play with at home at night. The old command and control rules don't apply in the new "bring your own device" world.
The Cloud will largely eliminate the need for in-house IT people. It dismantles the traditional relationship between physical devices and content. There will be no need to make big investments for in-house computers, hardware, software and personnel. Indeed, this is the strong financial incentive that's driving change.
The key challenge for IT organizations will be to understand emerging services and what job roles will be needed. They need to redefine the value proposition and do the things that are important to the business.
The old "IT" will not just disappear. It will change and fragment into different arenas. In a sense it will actually grow, not as a central Department, but more as extensions of every other department.
Smart IT personnel see the handwriting on the wall, and many of them are already moving to different support arenas - some to Manufacturing, where future power lies.
New Eric Drexler book - Radical AbundanceBack in 1986 K. Eric Drexler coined the term "Nanotechnology" in his first book, "Engines of Creation". He defined Nanotechnology as having these characteristics: "manufacturing using machinery based on nanoscale devices, and products built with atomic precision".
In Drexler's latest sequel, "Radical Abundance: How A Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization", he expands on his prior thinking, and corrects many of the misconceptions regarding the exact nature of nanotechnology, dismissing fears of a dystopian future replete with nanobots and evil outcomes.
Drexler offers readers a most compelling, optimistic vision as to how nanotechnology can be used to benefit humanity. He insists that Nanotech addresses issues as vexing as dealing with pollution and climate change and writes that Nanotech will make tremendous strides in improving medicine so it can benefit much of humanity.
Drexler's new book gives a great overview of nanotechnology and what it can do. If anything, he is being too conservative. By the time we can make molecular replicators and assemblers, quantum control of matter through quantum entanglement technology may be feasible. Mechanosynthesis is proven to work by the laws of chemistry, physics and biology.
In a recent interview, Drexler was explicitly asked about the potential economic disruptions caused by a shift away from scarcity. His response:
"I think we need to begin a more serious conversation on the implications of this kind of technology, and to explore scenarios that lead to a different kind of future from what's now expected."
Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization
3D scanning & printingI'm continuing to follow 3D printing because of the impact on almost everything we do.
In his new book, "MAKERS: THE New Industrial Revolution", Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson describes the new industrial revolution as people everywhere using open-source design and 3-D printing, bringing manufacturing to the desktop.
In an age of custom-fabricated, do-it-yourself product design and creation, the collective potential of a million garage tinkerers and enthusiasts is about to be unleashed, driving a resurgence of American manufacturing.
A generation of "Makers" using the Web's innovation model will help drive the next big wave in the global economy, as the new technologies of digital design and rapid prototyping gives everyone the power to invent - creating "the long tail of things".
Here's another new twist: Now 3D scanning is becoming practical. A 3D scanner analyzes real-world objects to collect data on shape, color and appearance. The collected data can then be used to construct digital, three dimensional models.
Many different technologies can be used to build 3D scanning devices, each with its own limitations, advantages and costs. There are still limitations in the kind of objects that can be digitized; example, shiny, mirrored or transparent objects.
The scanned 3D data is useful for a wide variety of applications. Common applications include industrial design, orthotics and prosthetics, reverse engineering and prototyping, quality control/inspection and documentation.
People have already been 3D printing everything with small desktop 3D printers. Now the technology becomes even more accessible as low-cost 3D scanners make their way to the market.
Lightweight scanners are small enough to fit on a desktop, powerful enough to scan a 3D object quickly and easily. Using lasers, they can scan in high resolution, then transfer the data to either a file which can be manipulated, or sent directly to a 3D printer.
MakerBot says it has a 3D scanner in the works, but Canadian company Matterform is beating them to the punch, already offering consumers the lightweight Photon 3D scanner at a price that's cheaper than a tablet: $399. It doesn't take up much space; easily storable, folding up into a thin case so that it can be transported easily.
With a Photon and 3D printer on your desk, work life is propelled into the future, with an actual replicating system.
Wearable Technology everywhereWearable technology is not a new concept. It's been sort of the holy grail of the evolution of human interaction with computing devices. It goes back to people wearing glasses to enhance eyesight. Now Google Glass gives the wearer significant new powers.
Previously in the realm of science fiction, human enhancement with superpowers is quickly becoming common, with wearable technology.
Till recently, wearables have been very much vertical markets and highly specialized products, used to some extent in the medical business - sensors and electronics built into clothes to keep track of heart-rate, blood pressure and other vital signs.
In May 2006, Nike released Nike+, a wireless chip embedded in select shoe models, melding fashion and technology. The chip synced with the iPod, and later the iPhone, to track fitness activity and sync music to workouts. In 2012 Nike released the FuelBand, transitioning its technology from a chip hidden inside a shoe to a bracelet that became its own fashion statement.
Just as new automobiles have become collections of advanced gadgetry, everyday clothing and accessories will include advanced electronics with practical, utilitarian functions.
The digital watch, first introduced in the 1980s, was perhaps the first widespread wearable item. It has so much utility that I, personally, still cannot do without one. I've looked everywhere for a stylish, slim digital dress watch, but the only ones available are cheap and clunky. I can't do without my $20 Casio digital watch.
I'm waiting for the iWatch - that's what a lot of people are currently calling Apple's latest expected gadget - a connected timepiece that will put smartphone-type functions on peoples wrists. It's rumored that Apple has 100 engineers working on the product.
There are certain features in a Wrist Computer that are inherently desirable and make a lot of sense. This is not a new a concept: smartphone manufacturers are always working on smart-watches.
There are lots of other stylish, useful wearable gadgets: Bluetooth headset in a pair of earrings with a hidden microphone; headphones in caps and headbands allowing people to stay connected, hands-free, always.
The wearable technologies market is expected to grow to 485 million annual device shipments by 2018.
eFeedbackSteve Ward, [firstname.lastname@example.org] from GE, responds to Bill Ellerton's comments published in our recent eNews:
"GE knows from experience in our own factories that simply having data available can lead to improvements. You can't improve without data and having data already available (over the Industrial Internet) can save months of data collection time.
"GE's Proficy Historian can store hundreds of thousands of values per second and allow it to be retrieved and analyzed (this is 'big data'). Proficy Advanced Analytics can perform Multi-variate Data Analysis (MVDA) to allow users to understand their process.
"We also have analysis software that can be used to monitor performance and prevent downtime for expensive rotating assets (e.g. Gas turbines). GE has client tools to allow data to be retrieved over the 'cloud' and onto portable devices where it can be used to resolve problems and assist decision making.
"GE has low cost, high performance industrial hardware to allow all the above to be connected. GE is developing a cloud-based programming tool for industrial controllers. This will particularly suit small and medium businesses who are already migrating to online applications.
"As older engineers retire and are replaced by younger engineers who are used to doing things in different ways, I think we will see a big change in the next few years. We tend to think of life as fairly slow, but things we take for granted now - like smartphones, Apps, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. have all arisen in the last ten years or less.
"Regulatory and security issues will increasingly drive users towards large, well-known suppliers, although there will still be a place for small, agile startups and for services and consultancy.
"In the unlikely possibility of a Constitutional Convention occurring, who would be the members and with what purpose? Certainly no one would accept selection made by the present government. Even appointments by state legislatures would be along party lines and be suspect. I don't know of anyone with the level of knowledge which characterized the drafters of the first Constitution.
"When half of the population believes that not only does the government owe them a living but must continue to do so, an election will not be decided on character and principles. TV advertising, poisoned with false claims, and devoid of real content, buys elections. This is not a good way to pick leaders.
"We must repeal the XVII Amendment and get the Senators back to their intended function and not be handed a lifelong career. How do we return to principle-based and honest government? Not easily.
"These shortcomings are human emotion driven and are built into the DNA; we would have to be a different species to stop it happening. So while I applaud the intent to grapple with corruption and fix it, it will not succeed.
"Having read your corruption note, imagine my surprise when reading your second eNews item which I believe will provide solutions.
"Nuclear fusion is the one thing that can really save us. I am convinced that the reason fusion is not in daily discussion everywhere is because very few people really understand how big the change will be when it comes. They do not see how it will influence every single problem we face.
"Fusion means infinite power, i.e. an infinite rate of doing work. Becoming wealthy, the biggest malaise of the West, will be irrelevant. Sure, there will be many powerful people who will do exactly what we expect them to do. But, unless I am mistaken, they will be unable to stop the common man benefitting on a massive scale.
"Whatever problem you can imagine will be solvable once Fusion power is here. It all goes away, with solutions, solutions, solutions everywhere. No problems, just solutions.
"Now I have to ask, I wonder why America, given it's wealth and power, walked away from the golden egg. Interesting that."
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