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.
Stay e-tuned....

Contents :
  • Anti-terrorist technology - 3
  • Companies in trouble:
    • Rockwell amputations
    • Invensys: What's for sale
  • Real-Life TechnoHuman challenges Reality
  • Fashion: Wearable Communications
  • eFeedback:
    • 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.

Click Newsweek : High-Tech Home front

Click Airports to install face-scan systems

Click 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 :

  • 1st. cut - Liposuction
  • 2nd. cut - Amputation
  • 3rd. cut - Dismemberment
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.

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 severe…..

Rockwell amputations

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 [lee.ward@modicon.com]:
    "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.

    "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."

Click Rockwell Lowers estimates - to cut 750

Invensys - what's for sale

The new CEO, Rick Haythornthwaite sent this personal message to all his key people :
    "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 bought."
RIF Rules: "The penalties for amputation and dismemberment are severe!"

Click FT (UK): Cool head takes charge to guide Invensys forward

Click 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 others.

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 one item."

Click NY Times: Real-life Cyborg Challenges Reality

Wearable Communications

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 'regular' slacks.

Click Look at the Scott eVest

Click 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 [jfv@wes-tech.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:

Click Jim@JimPinto.com

Alex Pavloff [alex@pavloff.net] commented on the use of Biometrics in terrorist detection, with a link to an interesting article :

Click 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.
JimPinto comments:
Yes, current performance may be poor. But, we must recognize 3 points :
  1. The technology is improving very, very rapidly;
  2. In the current situation, innocent people would NOT mind being stopped for questioning which will quickly remove them from suspicion;
  3. Facial recognition can be used to support other means of scanning and control.
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!

Recognizing all the layoffs across a wide range of industries and business, Debbie Morrison [deb@barn.org] 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 place."

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