JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 63 : October 5, 2001
Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- Anti-terrorist technology - 3
- Companies in trouble:
- Rockwell amputations
- Invensys: What's for sale
- Real-Life TechnoHuman challenges Reality
- Fashion: Wearable Communications
- Binch poem - read it to your kids!
- Biometrics effectiveness
- Wisdom from The Barn
Anti-terrorist technology - 3
The awful events of 9-11-2001 are being discussed overwhelmingly in all the
media. JimPinto.com will not presume to add comments and opinions. However,
we will continue to bring up technology that can yield significant results
in the fight against terrorism on all fronts.
The Bush administration has promised to "look at all kinds of
technologies", a commitment that could transform today's metal detectors
and passport checks into old-world curiosities.
In the latest (8 Oct.'01) issue of Newsweek Stephen Levy writes (summary):
Inevitably, in its efforts to stave off terror, America will turn to a
familiar friend, one it has long regarded as a panacea: technology. A host
of sophisticated devices and software programs are being enlisted in the
nation’s defense. Some of them will be quite visible, and presumably
reassuring to a jittery population. Others will grind away in stealth, at
least until someone is pulled into an interrogation room on the basis of an
obscure database link. Though adopting many of these schemes will be
costly - in cash and, in some cases, privacy - they offer the irresistible
promise of higher security without oppressive inconvenience.
For several years, cutting-edge identification and detection technologies
have helped specialists in the battle against terrorism. But now, these
once exotic gadgets may become everyday tools of airport safety. One
machine can detect stress by reading flickering eye movements. Another uses
X-rays to conduct virtual strip-searches that can spot a razor blade taped
to a person's inner thigh. A third videotapes faces in a crowded room and
matches them to known terrorists. Face-scanning technology is already being
installed in stadiums and on public streets in an effort to identify
criminals among the crowds. Some systems can crosscheck surveillance-camera
footage with criminal mug shots.
Newsweek : High-Tech Home front
Airports to install face-scan systems
Viisage Face-scanning system
Companies in trouble
You know, I am not naturally a pessimist, or a devil's advocate. Indeed,
I'd rather think positive. I don't really like to pick on the companies
that are down in the industrial automation business. But, I get tons of
email (hey, email doesn't weigh anything - hmmm, maybe if I printed it?)
which encourage me to do what I'm doing - pointing out some of the BS that
occurs in this business.
In JimPinto.com eNews (3 Sept.'01) I quoted the RIF Rules :
Nothing destroys morale more than RIFs and pay cuts occurring while
executives continue to collect big salaries and bonuses. The top-people
must set the example by taking the biggest cut.
- 1st. cut - Liposuction
- 2nd. cut - Amputation
- 3rd. cut - Dismemberment
During a period of decline, the first cutback (liposuction) is clearly an
acceptable - and even necessary - alternative. But, there are many, many
alternatives that any good company can explore before they resort to
further reductions. The penalties for amputation and dismemberment are
I got a storm of protest after the coverage of the Huber-Mills Report which
lauded Rockwell Automation for pioneering "the digital factory",
exemplified by these comments from Lee Ward, of Modicon [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
"What Rockwell are trying to expound the benefits of to the world is
nothing new. We here at Schneider Electric have been playing this trumpet
since late 1998 with our Transparent Factory initiative."
Several others came up with similar noises, indicating clearly that George
Gilder's cohorts are rookies in the industrial automation business and
simply don't know what they're talking about.
Meantime, Rockwell is reported to have laid off another 750 people
(insiders reported 2,500). Several people got cut from R&D immediately
after arriving back from Interkama last week. One disheartened good guy
(not yet departed) reported that there are only 900 employees left in
Mayfield Heights, with 100 "amputated".
It doesn't help Rockwell to blame "industry slow down" for their woes.
(Note : Others in the automation business report that orders are up about
17% year over year). Rockwell is losing gobs of market share and as they
respond with knee jerk reactions and heavy handed staff reductions that
inevitably "amputate" those who are core to their success - the best
engineers, the best managers, the best marketing and sales people. In spite
of Huber-Mills' eloquent praise, Rockwell appears to be yet another
mismanaged enterprise where the loyal employees pay the price for poor
management that continues to reap unwarranted largesse.
Experts now indicate that Rockwell's PLC market share (while touted to be
48% by ARC) has dropped 3% over the last 12 months and is now 42%. In my
opinion, the CEO Don Davis is an ineffective leader who has reached his
Peter Principle and is looking for an exit.
When I asked one industry guru who would buy Rockwell, this was his response :
"Rockwell is a melting iceberg. Siemens is a natural, but there'd be
anti-trust issues. Emerson is too well-run to be interested. Perhaps TYCO -
they are a bottom fisher and are adding in the automation and control area
(as is Danaher). Schneider is another that may be unenlightened enough to
buy Rockwell. Perhaps Mitsubishi or Toyo or another Japanese firm.
Rockwell Lowers estimates - to cut 750
"It would have to be someone with low operating profit and
return-on-capital aspirations, plus an urge to get in the US market. They
would have to have a very, very low cost of capital, and be used to the
slim or negative margins in the market as a whole. And a misunderstanding
of how much trouble Rockwell is in."
Invensys - what's for sale
The new CEO, Rick Haythornthwaite sent this personal message to all his key
"Stay focused on your customers, chase down every order, make that sale,
save money wherever you can. Remember that seven days can bring a lot of
income into a Group as big as ours. There is work to be done and a
significant prize to play for."
Most know what Haythornthwaite's prize is, though they don't know what's in
it for them, and are doubtful whether they'll be around to collect anything
other than a pink-slip.
Industry analysts remained glum and confusion remains over Invensys' GBP 3.2
billion debt position and banking covenants.
Haythornthwaite has said he plans up to GBP750 million of asset disposals.
But, since most buyers are aware of Invensys' need to raise money quickly,
they'll simply offer fire-sale prices. So, it's no small task.
Someone at Alchemy (the bottom-fishing UK vulture-capitalist which bought ICS)
reported that the breakup process is already well underway and that the
divestment of several units is already proceeding to the due diligence
stage. The process they are using is to basically put everything on the
block and find the businesses/sectors that offer the highest gain
potential. Once a business has been set up for divestment, other units
that are similar will also be divested. Those divested will be publicly
declared "non-strategic" and the residual balance of undivested elements
will be spun under the cover of "we are retrenching to our core
competencies". Of course, the core competencies in this process are only
those they cannot sell on a net-gain basis.
Meantime, within Foxboro, APV and others, speculation is mounting over
which units will be sold.
One insider reported :
"We have heard that Foxboro is for sale and there are several interested
parties. But, Foxboro is being bundled with Wonderware and (are you ready
for this?) BAAN - that wonderful company that Yurko wasn't sorry he
RIF Rules: "The penalties for amputation and dismemberment are severe!"
FT (UK): Cool head takes charge to guide Invensys forward
FT (UK): Invensys plans up to GBP 750m asset disposals
Real-life TechnoHuman challenges Reality
Dr. Steve Mann, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of
Toronto, is one of the world's first advanced TechnoHumans.
Steve Mann can manage to look almost normal. Dressed in a vintage sport
coat over a sweater and wrap-around shades, and with a perpetual two-day
beard, he could easily pass as an artist, a geek or a nerd. But mounted on
the frame of the glasses are the tiny video cameras, and beneath the sports
coat, strapped against his body, are the half-dozen computers that help him
record, reinterpret, augment and share his experiences.
Steve’s everyday headgear is an aluminum frame, studded with lasers,
cameras and tiny electronic parts. A thick bundle of colored wires runs
from his headset to a computer in his belt-pack. In one hand he clutches a
small "chording keyboard" that allows him to type commands or compose
messages with one hand. A wireless connection provides a constant Internet
link. With his wearable computer, he can see and hear things invisible to
Steve Mann expects wearable computers to become common in 10 years. "I just
see it as the thing that replaces all the things you normally carry around:
cell phones, pagers, wristwatches, all those things become subsumed into
NY Times: Real-life Cyborg Challenges Reality
Now, I'm no Steve Mann, but my wife complains regularly that I always carry
too much "stuff" - my cell-phone, PDA, digital-camera, GPS, pen, wallet,
papers, keys. You know, I really seem to need all those things and always
miss the ones I leave behind.
Well, it turns out that "technology enabled clothing" is now available for
people like me.
The Scott eVest is a lightweight, 15-pocket vest designed for mobile
professionals. It includes a PAN (personal area network) with wires in
place to connect all your devices. At $119.99, it even has a cup holder.
Playboy calls it "gadget-friendly clothing that doesn't make you look like
a total geek".
If you don't yet need a PAN, then perhaps you'd like to upgrade to "Dockers
Mobile Pants". Dockers did more than simply add 7 extra pockets - they
enlarged the standard pockets to be big enough to hold airline tickets or
even a checkbook. The pants will be available in khaki, black, and olive
and will sell for $52, which is slightly more than the average price of
Look at the Scott eVest
Smarty Pants fits techies to a T
A lottttt of people asked me for a complete copy of Rob Suggs' poem "How
the Binch Stole Freedom". John Vales [email@example.com] wrote:
"I've got goose bumps from reading the two stanzas you showed in your
latest newsletter! Please send the complete poem."
If you'd like to read this moving poem to your kids, send me an email:
Alex Pavloff [firstname.lastname@example.org] commented on the use of Biometrics in
terrorist detection, with a link to an interesting article :
Face recognition useless for crowd surveillance
Alex Pavloff's summary :
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
sponsored a facial recognition vendor Test. With indoor light, the best
false detection rate was 33 per cent, with a false acceptance rate of ten
per cent. This means that to detect 90 per cent of terrorists we'd need to
raise an alarm for one in every three people passing through the airport.
It's absolutely inconceivable that any security system could be built
around this kind of performance.
Yes, current performance may be poor. But, we must recognize 3 points :
It is enlightening to note that the terrorist who was crossing the border
into the US from Canada, who was found with explosives that he planned to
use to blow up Los Angeles International airport, was apprehended simply on
the "hunch" of a customs agent that he "looked nervous". The question
remains - can technology replicate that "hunch" ? There are many experts
who believe that it can!
- The technology is improving very, very rapidly;
- In the current situation, innocent people would NOT mind being stopped for
questioning which will quickly remove them from suspicion;
- Facial recognition can be used to support other means of scanning and control.
Recognizing all the layoffs across a wide range of industries and business,
Debbie Morrison [email@example.com] from guru Dick Morley's barn, came up with
this motivating thought :
"Everybody is worried about the turbulence in the stock markets. My daddy
said something to me that made sense. He said, "The entire payroll
of the United States is $8 trillion dollars. It doesn't matter whether it's
7.5 trillion or 8.5 trillion, it's a lot of money. That money is
spent every year. If you can't get any of it, you're standing in the wrong
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