World Technology Summit 2013 reveals exciting technology

Last week, on November 14th, I had the privilege of attending the first day of the 2013 World Technology Summit. This conference gathers many of the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world to celebrate each other’s accomplishments; to explore what is imminent, possible, and important in and around emerging technologies; and to create the kinds of serendipitous relationships that create the future. www.wtn.net

The day was a fascinating chance to hear from and meet with some very exciting people and listen to their (thankfully short) pitches. Some were from larger well-established firms, while others were at the earliest stages of their products. The venue and the breaks allowed me to casually meet and chat with many of the principals.

I have summarized below some of the notes I took at the presentations and recollections from more casual meetings. The standouts were RelSci (Relationship Science), Hidalgo (Human Performance Monitoring) www.hidalgo.co.uk, Planetary Resources (Asteroid Mining), Interaxon (Brainwave Monitoring), and ViaSat (High speed satellite communications).

Ariel Garten, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, InteraXon Inc.

(Brainwave control for the masses)

In 2007, Ariel co-founded InteraXon, one of the world’s leading companies creating brainwave controlled products and experiences. Her team is merging technology, neuroscience, art and design. Muse, InteraXon’s brain-sensing headband allows consumers to interact with their computing devices using the power of their mind.

I had a chance to try out a demo headset, which contained three sensors that monitored alpha brainwaves. Attached to an Apple MacBook, two readouts were displayed on a screen. One monitoring my focus and the second monitoring my calmness. While the system was a bit balky I seemed to be able to control the readouts. The headsets are going on sale for $249 at www.getyourmuse.com soon. My impression was wow! This seemed an amazing system for bio feedback control, particularly for anxious individuals. http://www.interaxon.ca

Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief and Publisher, MIT Technology Review

(10 trends to watch in the next year)

The editor in chief and the publisher of MIT Technology Review, Pontin directs the editorial, platform development, and general business strategy of the company’s digital and print publications, as well as its events.

Here are what Pontin calls 10 breakthrough technologies (as best as I was able to record them) that will deform the world:

  1. Deep learning
  2. Ultra efficient solar power by changing light beams to improve the efficiency of solar panels, as have been explored using prisms at CalTech.
  3. Data extraction from cheap phones for poor country data gathering leading to better information, for instance, on disasters.
  4. Temporary social media — like Snapchat?  Creating space for making mistakes.
  5. Smart watches: need a less socially intrusive way to interact with the web
  6. Memory implants to reduce mildly cognitive memory problems.
  7. Robotic manufacturing. Today’s robots are too fixed in nature. Need more flexible robots. Automate new areas of manual work. For example – serving up burgers. What might be the impact on society and employment?
  8. Additive manufacturing. At industrial scale using metals, where the output compares in durability to machined objects.
  9. DNA sequencing. This is becoming cheap (hundreds of dollars rather than thousands) using mothers blood with little danger to the fetus. Troubling because may promote abortion. How to make decisions based on statistical outcomes?
  10. 10.Super power grids. Could conceive of DC grids with less power loss transmission.

Eric Brown, Director, Watson Technologies, IBM Research

(Moving from Jeopardy to medical science)

Eric Brown, the Director and Principal Investigator for Watson Technologies at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center joined IBM in 1995 and has conducted research in information retrieval, document categorization, text analysis, question answering, bio-informatics, and applications of automatic speech recognition. The goal of Watson is to achieve human-level question answering performance and Brown is currently focused on applying Watson to clinical decision support in Healthcare. Efforts to move Watson to the cloud are taking place now. I am not sure about deployment, but it seems that this could go a long way towards improving physicals and emergency care. Sounds very exciting!

Neal Goldman, Chairman/CEO, Relationship Science (RelSci)

(LinkedIn on steroids)

Relationship Science (RelSci), an information services business headquartered in New York City provides a “six degrees” type of business development tool that helps users see connections between – and make connections with—influential people based on their profiles in the system’s database.

RelSci has compiled over two million influential names and their connections, charity work, work and board associates, and education to find pathways between dealmakers, power brokers, and business executives. The company has been called the “ultimate business development tool.

RelSci is relatively new, having rolled out product early this year. How does the company do this? Apparently with a herd of people in New York and India going through all sorts of publically available sources and inputting the data into their database. Designed for companies selling high value items to other businesses, a single sale might pay for the service. No service costs were discussed, but I certainly could have used such a tool in my former account executive jobs at IBM. I would be intrigued as to how the data is filtered for accuracy, since there might be substantial changes over time. It seems an ideal service business. www.relsci.com

Dan Harden, Industrial Designer, President/CEO Whipsaw Inc.

(Designing for users)

Whipsaw Inc., a highly acclaimed design firm in the Silicon Valley. Whipsaw designs products and experiences for major companies around the world including Google, Cisco, GE, Intel, Merck, Nike, Olympus, Samsung and many others. Dan directs the strategic and conceptual direction of most accounts and his focus is in technology design where he strives to make complex products simpler, friendlier, more meaningful, and more beautiful. He recently designed many hit tech products including the Google Chromecast, Dropcam security cameras, Livescribe computer pens, Eton emergency radios, Cisco Telepresence systems, Intel healthcare tablets, and Pano Logic, the first “zero client” computer.

Dan discussed how he always approaches designs from a user’s point of view and concentrates on simplifying the UI. This seems a badly needed approach to much of what design engineer’s face using their overly complex software. http://www.whipsaw.com

Ian Webster, Software Engineer at Planetary Resources

(Asteroid mapping simplified and mining TBD)

Ian Webster is a Software Engineer who founded Asterank, which was acquired by Planetary Resources in early 2013. Asterank pioneered techniques for asteroid discovery, analysis, and visualization of over half a million objects from sources such as NASA/JPL, the Minor Planet Center, and world markets. My impression: Just viewing the data on a laptop was astounding. Spinning the solar system around in real time while viewing the location of these half million objects made me realize the fascinating planarity of the planets, moons, and asteroids. Webster stated that most objects fall within 20 degrees of planarity.

Even more fascinating is the opportunity for asteroid mining. Webster stated that there is one asteroid that contains more platinum than has ever been mined on earth. That alone might seem a worthwhile target. It seems that there are a few obstacles to overcome. Besides the technology, spacecraft, methods and processes, who owns and controls these asteroids? First come, first served? How do you fend off competitors? Who determines the laws? Hmmm, interesting! www.planetaryresources.com

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What’s up with Belmont Technology?

9 Sep 2013: Last week Siemens PLM Software announced that “Belmont Technology, a venture backed software start-up founded by CAD industry veterans, has licensed Siemens’ Parasolid® software and D-Cubed™ software components to be the foundation of a new generation of cloud-based applications for the computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market. The Belmont team, which includes Founder and Chairman, Jon Hirschtick, and CEO John McEleney, will use Parasolid and D-Cubed components to provide the solid modeling and geometric constraint solving capabilities that are fundamental to modern CAD/CAM/CAE applications. Parasolid and D-Cubed components are developed by Siemens’ PLM software business unit.”

So that’s news. We have not heard from Belmont in some time. Note this verbiage: “a new generation of cloud-based applications for the computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market.

As I recall, this mirrors the way SolidWorks started – a long time development followed by a brilliant piece of software, delivered at the right time and making the best use of existing and soon to be future computing technology. The company, in its early stages also was brilliantly managed and established new ways to market along with a close customer-vendor relationship. Today, SolidWorks – the company, for many reasons no longer has the many of these characteristics.

So, I am speculating about the possible new product. Perhaps my 20+ years in the CAD/CAM market allow me some perspective on what might be coming. Also, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what the sticking points are in existing products. So here goes:

  • Cloud based
  • Much easier to use
    • Model building guidance that encompasses user methodology
    • Speech recognition for commands
    • Automatic initiation of model veracity as you build
    • Real time collaboration with other designers
  • Automatic management of major topology changes
  • Fully integrated with PLM from the start
  • Easy upward migration from existing CAD systems and data formats
  • Built-in simulation and analysis software
  • Real time, full time shading and visualization
  • A flexible pricing structure
  • Combines both history and non-history based modeling
  • Easier use of vendor libraries
  • A new collaboration schema among internal and external designers
  • More flexible modeling allowing easier to redesign models
  • Incorporation of requirements at the early stages of design

Even if Belmont incorporated all of these, would it be enough to convince users to move or even migrate to a new system? After all, today’s CAD systems work and pretty much can design anything. Let’s take a quick look at the past.

What convinced new customers to migrate to SolidWorks at its introduction, was its new use of variable driven modeling and history based design. The logic was that if you correctly designed the model, than changing a few variables could change the resulting design, possibly resulting in a massive savings of design engineering. Many users bought into this, including me.

Unknown to us at the time, were the inherent drawbacks to such designs. The primary one being that this only worked for MINOR changes in the variables: one that caused few topology changes. There was no way to account for major topology changes without extensive programming, an undesirable way to manage the problem. Many confusing workarounds were built to significant CAD systems that are in use today.

Another problem was how to “unwind” the history and variables when changes are desired that cannot be handled parametrically. Thus, design re-use became only marginally workable. SpaceClaim solved this by totally eliminating design history, sacrificing much of its power, yet allowing users to manage deigns more easily.

Conclusions

Belmont Technology needs to hit a home run in making mechanical design engineering and re-design engineering better than today’s systems by orders of magnitudes.

Let’s see where we stand today with major mechanical CAD software:

  • Siemens PLM Software with NX, Solid Edge and Teamcenter.
  • Dassault Systemes with CATIA, SolidWorks and Enovia
  • PTC with Creo and Windchill
  • Autodesk with AutoCAD, Inventor and Autodesk PLM 360

Each has strong offerings and are large well funded companies with global sales and marketing, large well-funded development teams, and many customers. Can a newcomer easily overturn them? It has certainly been done in the past and certainly some are more vulnerable than others. All but Autodesk have made only limited accommodations for cloud based computing, while Autodesk has gone “whole hog.” Just today, Autodesk announced monthly pricing for its entire design suite, a big change from past pricing models.

IMHO, all of these vendors MAY be vulnerable to a fundamental change in technology. But it will have to be huge or promise to be huge, while at the same time require a unique difficult to copy technology.

I look forward to hearing more.

What are your thoughts?

Why I’m Grateful for America the Great

I received this from a publicist, but I thought you all might enjoy reading it also. It was written by Todd Patkin. His bio is below.

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America’s “birthday,” July Fourth, is coming up soon. All across the United States, this holiday is a chance to grill out, watch parades, admire fireworks, and hang flags on our front porches. I would venture to say that most of us feel a swell of patriotic pride as we look at all of the red, white, and blue surrounding us. Yes, even though we all have our personal beefs with aspects of American life (just turn on a political talk show if you’re skeptical), I think that overall we know we’re fortunate to live in this great land.

In honor of July Fourth, I have written down seven reasons why I’m grateful to live in the United States of America. My list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it does represent aspects of our country that we often take for granted. This Fourth, in addition to enjoying a holiday with your community, I encourage you to reflect on how living in America has shaped your life specifically.

As an American, I’m grateful for:

• Our security. While attacks from terrorists (both foreign and domestic) have proven that the United States is not completely invulnerable, we do live very secure lives compared to many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Wars are not being fought on our soil, and our neighbors are friendly. Can you imagine what it would be like to not feel safe walking out of your own front door, or to live in a city that has been literally and figuratively torn apart by conflict? Furthermore, our fabulous law enforcement professionals are constantly on duty to make sure that our communities are safe, fair, and just places to live.

• Our standard of living. Compared to so many other people on this planet, Americans live comfortable, secure, and even luxurious lives. Most of us live in our own homes, drive our own cars, have plenty to eat, and enjoy amenities ranging from smartphones to laptops to grocery stores to movie theaters. However, I think our high standard of living can be difficult to fully appreciate unless you have traveled to other parts of the world and seen what “normal” is like in various other countries.

• The American Dream. It’s still alive and well! This is a country where you can do what you want, build a comfortable life, and even rise to impressive heights if you are positive, honest, and work hard. You do not have to be confined to a certain place or profession if you do not want to be.

• Diversity. America continues to be The Great Melting Pot, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Even in my own community, and especially around the country as a whole, there is so much variety in terms of culture, food, background, beliefs, etc. Every person and family is different, and each lives a unique life. I truly wouldn’t want to live in a place where everyone looked, behaved, and thought similarly. Over the course of my life, I have grown so much as a person because I have been exposed to new viewpoints, traditions, ideas, and experiences thanks to people around me.

• Medical care and education. Again, you may have your complaints about medical care and the education system in the United States, but comparatively, both are very high quality. People come to our country from all around the world specifically to take advantage of them. I am glad that there are professionals ready to safeguard my health around the clock, and that we are guaranteed a top-notch education at least through age 17 or 18—and longer if we choose to pursue a higher-education degree.

• Water. You can drink it whenever you want without worrying about getting sick. You can buy it bottled and by the case in many stores. You can take long, hot showers and baths. You can even immerse yourself in it if you go to a pool, river, or lake. By comparison, many countries around the world have contaminated, non-potable water and/or have to deal with major water shortages.

• The postal service. Talk about something we really take for granted but still rely heavily on even in the digital age. When you think about it, it’s amazing that you can put a letter in your mailbox and be pretty sure it will end up where you want it to go in a short period of time. I want to extend my thanks to all postal service workers who help ensure that this process remains reliable and quick.

So, who can we thank for all of these things (and many more)? Well, the America we know today is here because our ancestors came to this land—often with nothing—and worked hard to build better lives for themselves and their children. From our Founding Fathers to America’s great businessmen and inventors to the millions of individuals who crossed oceans to become citizens, we owe those who came before and paved the way for us to enjoy the comfortable lives we know today.

We should also thank America’s military, past and present. Since before the United States was officially a nation, soldiers have fought and died for our freedom, security, and national interests, and their families have borne the heavy burden of sending loved ones to war.

Lastly, we can all thank the individuals who, in large or small ways, make our own corners of America a great place to live. Teachers, medical professionals, government employees, and many, many more provide essential services without which our lives would be very different.

So, Happy Birthday, America! On July Fourth and every other day, here’s to the U.S.A.!

About the Author:
Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine InTwelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People, and The Sunny Days Secret: A Guide for Finding Happiness(coming 2014), grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.

patkin-1230-hires-s

About the Books:
Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and atwww.findinghappinessthebook.com.

Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People (New Focus Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-9885092-0-7, $13.99) is available from Amazon.com.

Kenesto 2013 now focuses on Social Business Collaboration

28 Jan 2013: Last week I had the opportunity to meet, via the web, with Stephen Bodnar and Maya Olsha-Yehiav of Kenesto, the startup featuring Mike Payne as CEO. Bodnar is Vice President, Products and Marketing; Maya Olsha-Yehiav is Director of Customer Success.

The topic under discussion was the announcement yesterday of what Kenesto calls their Unified Social Business Collaboration Platform, a substantial change from their former business strategy offering a cloud based workflow based system.

For some background information readers can review my two previous blogs about Kenesto.

Kenesto was formerly a cloud based workflow system. Here, from my previous “what is it” blog, is a description of what they formerly did. “Aimed at the category called business process automation, this cloud-based application allows asynchronous spawning of processes. Different from similar systems that try to model processes, Kenesto builds processes on the fly. Users wanting to track a process they are initiating, for instance an ECO, initiate a process, attach documents to it, and add users to the next process by adding their email addresses. Different types of “next processes” can be defined, such as “review and approve.” At each step in the process the recipient can add additional processes that add steps to the overall process. Kenesto builds the process diagram as steps are added. Note that this differs significantly from the BPM (Business Process Modeling) approach that models processes using a cumbersome programmatic approach. Kenesto calls it Business Process Automation (BPA).”

Kenesto 2013′s Kenesto Social Business Collaboration platform expands on their workflow system by adding extensive capabilities that vastly expands their offering by adding collaboration on documents, document storage sharing and control, team building and messaging collaboration among the team, and a text based team capture and audit trail. Users can also build multiple teams, and invite users to teams. Documents automatically link to related viewers and more than 200 are currently offered, including special extensions for viewing of Revit documents.

Pricing

Pricing has now changed from buying of bundles of processes to a more traditional user based pricing. This chart is taken directly from the Kenesto.com website.

Kenesto Pricing chart

Definitions of interest (from Wikepedia)

  • Social collaboration refers to processes that help multiple people interact, share information to achieve any common goal.
  • A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on facilitating the building of social networks or social relations among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life connections.

Conclusions

Bodnar described what they are doing as both social business and collaboration. For companies to realize social business they usually have to deploy 3 to 7 separate technologies. For example: specialty social business sites include: Yammer, Chatter, Socialtext, Nuage, file sharing sites like Dropbox, etc. Kenesto incorporates many of these into one.

While I am a CAD/PLM guy, not a social collaboration expert, I can see quite a few things in the Kenesto demo that seem really useful. You can organize teams, add people to it, add documents that can be shared, and record textual comments of the entire team. Of course, documents can be any type of document. Different than a doc sharing site such as Dropbox, you have limited control of access to the document, for instance, viewing only. Other elements can be added, such as workflow. Bodnar states that Kenesto is “**highly** complementary to the existing PDM/PLM tools.” It seems to me that this offers more ready access to design data than many PLM systems of today. While PLM systems are more rigid in document control, they are often very difficult to navigate. Perhaps there might be some middle ground by coupling the two systems.

In summary, different than many other social business sites, Kenesto provides multiple capabilities. It’s a cloud based, secure document sharing site, has team groups, document (including CAD) viewing for team members, task management, and a history audit trail of team communication.  Yet, the solution is a general solution applicable to many areas other than engineering and design.

Try it yourself by joining the free Kenesto Community at http://www.kenesto.com .

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Wallet theft causes major distress

Last Friday my wife had her wallet stolen from her shopping cart. Her wallet was in one of those large, heavy purses that women commonly carry today. Naturally the purse was unzipped.

During her shopping she was distracted for several minutes by a seemingly friendly fellow shopper asking her questions about a product. When she went to check out she discovered her wallet missing, but thought she might have left it home or in the car. After returning home and fruitlessly searching for the wallet, she returned to the stores she had visited; they did not have the missing wallet.

Just 40 minutes after noticing the missing wallet, we received a phone call from American Express advising us that there was a potential fraud on the card. Over $4500 had been charged on the card at Apple and Best Buy!

What a mess this became to notify and card issuers and cancel the cards; to notify the police and fill out the crime reports, and to notify the credit agencies to alert them of a possible fraud and to lock our accounts against future credit card applications.

In addition, the thieves now had our home address, social security number, medical cards, and driver’s license, making us an ideal candidate for identity theft.

So in addition to the above we now have to sign up for identity theft protection for both of us.

Here is my advice as to how to prevent or ease this process for you in the future:

  • Keep copies of the front and back of all your credit cards
  • Sign the back of all credit cards immediately
  • Never put your wallet or purse in a shopping cart; instead keep it tucked under your arm
  • Keep copies of your drivers license at home
  • Beware friendly strangers while shopping

Be alert, be aware, and be prepared!

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Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy hits TechniCom and NJ hard!

Guess I was wrong about the early intensity of Hurricane Sandy!

It started slowly, but rapidly gained intensity. We lost power a few times during the day Monday, but it came back within a few minutes — until Monday night. We do not live near a train track, but in the early evening Monday it sounded like we were living right next to a railroad! at 9:05 PM the power went out and stayed out. As of Thursday evening it is still not back on and we have no idea when it will be back.

I ventured out late Tuesday for a drive around the neighborhood, but was very frequently detoured by downed trees and along with them the overhead power lines. With the wind speeds at over 40 mph, the work crews were on hold.

The only way I was able to keep in touch was with my cellphone.

It sure makes one realize the utility of what we normally take for granted. A few days without the Internet, heat, television, and lights makes me feel like a farmer, but without the satisfaction. I was prepared, with flashlights, spare batteries, and a full gas tank in both cars. But, hey, this is the third time in three years this has happened. It looks like those 100 year storms are coming every year lately.

Not only were we without power, but virtually all our fiends and neighbors were in the same state. Of course it became impossible to find any hotel rooms. After two days my wife and I decided to drive 240 miles to our son’s home in Massachusetts – he had power. Soon other relatives began clamoring for shelter also. We are getting real crowded now and things are becoming testy.

It turns out that a major problem is finding petrol for cars. With most gas station pumps powered by electricity, few stations are left that have generators. Lines often extend more than a half mile waiting to fill up.

All we know now is that more than 2 million residence still do not have power and it could be another 7 to 10 days before we see power again.

In the meantime I am busy searching for the right type generator to buy. Any recommendations?

———–

SolidWorks founders start new company

11/01/12: You heard it first here! Earlier today I received a call from John McEleney, the former CEO of SolidWorks. John explained that he and five of the original founders of SolidWorks started a new company that will explore and develop solutions for the product development space. He shared with me that this includes: Jon Hirschtick, Dave Corcoran, Scott Harris, and Tommy Li.

Hirschtick, Harris, and Li were among the original founders of SoldWorks. McEleney joined a few years later. Corcoran led product development, while Harris was a key architect. In the early years, I was most impressed with the way the entire team was focused on a single perspective and all pulled together to accomplish their common goal. Since then I have seen many a company flounder, not because their product was flawed, but because the team was unable to work cohesively together.

McEleney further explained that the company has just been initiated today. They are obviously, in the super early stages of development. John would not discuss their products. He said they are still exploring many alternatives.

He went on to say that he was contacting many of the people in the CAD and product development space who will be able to promote the fact that their company was beginning its development. People like myself.

With a team like this, I don’t doubt that they can be successful. Hmmm, but what will they turn out? Keep tuned for further information.

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