Escaping From A Submerged Vehicle Gets Easier

Of all things, here’s an innovation to the seat belt. 

In the movies, we’ve all seen cars plunging into the water and submerging with people trapped inside. 

Wired Magazine (11 December 2012) reported on a new escape belt that helps people get out of the vehicles and to safety. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administation, almost 400 people die a year from car accidents that result in accidental drowning. 

Now Dutch company, Fijen TMLS has developed a seat-belt that releases when water goes in the interior and dissolves a salt pill in the latch. 

The mechanism costs as little as $40 and according to the company’s website can “be assembled on all seatbelt releasers in just a few simple steps.”

From the pictures of the assembly instructions, I am not sure it is quite so easy. 

Also, it is unclear how long the device is good for, since on one hand, their website states that the “Escape Belt lasts 6 months” and on other hand that “the cartridge will need to replaced after 2 years.”

In any case, I think the idea is a good one as long as the belt remains secure when not submerged and will not release accidentally with any simple spill or splash. 😉

Prefabricated Skyscrapers

Prefabricated_houses

Eleven years after the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centers, we are still waiting for the new Freedom Tower to go up.

Yes, there were political disputes on what type of building and memorial would be erected, what security features would be included, what the insurance would pay, and so on.

But then there is also just the shear length of time it still takes us to build a building—a skyscraper, but also other smaller and simpler structures too.

Wired Magazine (October 2012) is reporting on a new method for building construction coming out of China.

Unfortunately, China has been known for some time for unsafe building practices—perhaps doing things on the cheap and then paying for it in terms of consequences later.

Yet, this new technique promises to increase safety, as well as speed, while lowering costs.

If you are willing to give up some building pizzazz, then Broad Sustainable Building is perfecting the prefabricated skyscraper—and these have tested “earthquake-proof” for a 9.0 quake, cost only $1,000 per square foot (versus $1,400 normally)—a 40% savings, and a 30 story building can be built in just 15 days!

Now, Broad says that they even want to erect a 220 story mega skyscraper in 6 months—by March 2013.

Here’s how they do it:

  • Identical modules—each section is prebuilt in identical modules in the factor.
  • Preinstalled fixtures—Pipes and ducts are threaded through each module in the factory for AC, hot and cold water, and waste.
  • Standardized truckloads —with two stacked pallets, each pallet has everything needed to erect a section including wall panels, columns, ducts, bolts, and tools.
  • Lego-style assembly—sections are lifted by crane and installed quickly in snap-like fashion, including pipes and wires.
  • Slotted exterior—heavily insulated walls and windows are hoisted by crane and slotted into the exterior of the building.

Aside from a standardized, consistent, high quality building—it is energy efficient, generates less than 1% the construction waste, and is safer to construct.

As with the rest of the industrial age, this is just the first step in mass producing—in this case buildings—and like the Ford Model T, which came in only one color black and evolved to meet consumer tastes and needs, these building will soon come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but at a fraction of the cost and the time to build.

This is enterprise architecture applied to building architecture making use of modular design and construction, standardization, and consolidated engineering, manufacturing, and assembly to develop next generation products.

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

IT Security, The Frankenstein Way

Frankenstein

Here’s a riddle: When is a computer virus not a dangerous piece of malware? Answer: when it is hidden as Frankenstein code.

The Economist(25 August 2012) describes how computer viruses are now being secretly passed into computers, by simply sending a blueprint for the virus rather than the harmful code itself into your computer–then the code is harvested from innocuous programs and assembled to form the virus itself.

Like the fictional character, Frankenstein, that is stitched together out of scavenged body parts, the semantic blueprint pulls together code from host programs to form the viruses.

This results is a polymorphic viruses, where based on the actual code being drawn from other programs, each virus ends up appearing a little different and can potentially mask itself–bypassing antivirus, firewall, and other security barriers.

Flipping this strategy around, in a sense, Bloomberg Businessweek (20 June 2012) reports on a new IT security product by Bromiumthat prevents software downloads from entering the entire computer, and instead sets aside a virtual compartment to contain the code and ensure it is not malicious, and if the code is deemed dangerous, the cordoned-off compartment will dissolve preventing damage to the overall system.

So while on the offensive side, Frankenstein viruses stitch together parts of code to make a dangerous whole–here on the defensive side, we separate out dangerous code from potentially infecting the whole computer.

Computer attacks are getting more sinister as they attempt to do an end-run around standardized security mechanisms, leading to continually evolving computer defenses to keep the Frankensteins out there, harmless, at bay.

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Dougal McGuire)

>Breaking Down Organizational Bottlenecks

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Improving organizational performance is often grounded in identifying bottlenecks (constraints) and fixing them, so that the firm runs better, faster, cheaper than before and at an advantage to it’s competitors.

Enterprise architecture helps us to locate the bottlenecks through an understanding of our business processes, information flows, and systems and then facilitates our reengineering these though business process improvement and the introduction of new technologies.

Harvard Business School (HBS) put out a working paper in February 2010 called “The Strategic Use of Architectural Knowledge by Entrepreneurial firms,” by Carliss Baldwin that describes how “an entrepreneurial firm can use architectural knowledge to unseat a larger incumbent.”

The premise is that knowledge is a firm’s most critical resource, “including knowledge about how to assemble resources to pursue an opportunity.”

We can architecturally disassemble and assemble our resources and processes whereby we—“isolate the bottlenecks” and then “alleviate the bottlenecks.”

This process is grounded in modularity theory, where we use architectural knowledge to modularize (or breakdown) a complex system into its functional components as well as address how these components are related (through their interfaces).

Once we decompose the firms business, data, and systems into its modular components, we can then “remodularize” (or assemble) them into strategically more effective systems for doing business.

Moreover, the paper suggests that the firm “insources bottleneck components and outsources non-bottleneck components,” so as to focus resources (and innovation) on the trouble spots—the areas that are potentially a source of competitive advantage.

Fixing bottlenecks can produce valuable differentiators for a company that we would not want shared with those outside the organization and made available to competitors.

In my opinion, bottleneck functions can also be outsourced, whereby we decide to “let the experts handle it,” when the functions are not strategic in nature. For example, many companies outsource things like payroll and basic call center functions, and it enable the organization to focus its energy and efforts on its core mission.

The notion that enterprise architecture itself is a strategic differentiator for organizations that know how to wield the architecture knowledge is critically important. Through decomposition and assembly of processes and enabling technologies, we can create stronger organizations that not only reduce bottlenecks, but also drive improved decision-making in terms of what to invest in and how to source those investments.

While many organizations treat architecture as a compliance only mechanism and reap little to no benefits from it, those that understand EA’s strategic significance can use the knowledge gained to their organization’s competitive advantage.