Robots, They Are Coming

Robot.jpeg

I was so excited by this photo in the Wall Street Journal today.


YuMi, an industrial robot by ABB, is adroitly writing Chinese calligraphy. 


If you look at the photo and think for a moment, the notion of the robot doing and the person watching is truly prophetic of how we are evolving technologically and as a species. 


Yumi is made by ABB, a leading robotics company headquartered in Switzerland, that on one hand has over 300,000 robots installed worldwide, but on the other hand needs only 4,600 employees in 53 countries to produce all these fantastic and productive droids.  

This robot is a work of not just incredible science and engineering, but of art and beauty. 


It’s sleek black and white build with two incredibly agile arms and hands plus a viewing camera, enables it to do small parts assembly or even fine calligraphic work. 


YuMi stands for “You and Me” working together, collaboratively. 


While we surely will work together, the flip side is that with robotics, some people (who don’t make the transition to STEM) may not be working much at all. 


But of course, the positive side is that we are looking at an incredible capacity to do more and better with less! 


Leaving the innovation to humans, and the assembly and service to the bots, the bar will be raised on everything–both good and bad.


We will build greater things, travel and explore further, and discover ever new depths of understanding and opportunities to exploit.


But we will also edge people out of work and comfort zones, and be able to engage in new forms of conflict and war that only the power and skill of (semi-) autonomous machines could inflict. 


The robots are here, however, they are coming in much greater numbers, capabilities, and impact then we can currently fully comprehend. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via WSJ)

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Agile Processes As An Enabler

Bridge Up

So something that I’ve learned is that processes can be an enabler or a hinderance to progress depending on how it’s used.


On one hand, without a standardized and clear process where people know what they are supposed to do and when, we are likely to end up with a lot of chaos and not much getting done for the customer or organization.  


This is especially the case where tasks are complex and numerous people are involved requiring there to be solid coordination of team members, sync of activities, and clear communications.  


On the other hand, rigid processes that are so prescriptive that no one will get out of step for any rhyme or reason can be counter-productive, since this can hinder productivity, time to resolution, and customer service. 


For example, we all understand the importance of a help desk ticketing system in IT to document issues and deploy resources for resolution and measure performance. However, when customers, especially VIPs are in a bind and need help ASAP, it may not make sense to tell them to go open up a ticket first and foremost, instead of helping them to quickly get back online, and even opening the ticket for them and in parallel or as we get to it afterwards. 


Process should be an enabler and not obstacle to progress. Process should be followed under normal circumstances, but rigidly adhering to processes without adapting to conditions on the ground risks being out of step with the needs of the organization and a customer service model. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Winning Letter

Winner

So everyone with management responsibility whether in business or government gets their share of sales calls. 


People are competing to get their “foot in the door” and at the same time not get the “door in the face” to do business and of course make money–it’s called capitalism and “it’s the American way!”


Most of the time, managers don’t have time to respond to all the calls they get. 


But this week, I received the most brilliant introductory letter from a 26-year old in technology services. 


I think it’s important to share from this, because it’s really the best I ever received from anyone looking to make a contact. 


First, the letter is handwritten, which right away made it more personal and so got my attention in the first place to even read it. 


Second, the person mentions some things that they know and like about me–demonstrating that they did their homework and was also subtly ingratiating about it, but not seemingly in a b.s. or over the top way.


Third, the person shows flexibility to any venue to get an opportunity to touch base (along with a sense of humor throughout), “over lunch, coffee, water, a warm glass of milk, etc.”


Fourth, the specifics of what he’s looking for…”I want to ensure I stay ahead of the curve. I am thinking you can provide some great knowledge.” Elaborating later in his letter, he says, “what keeps you up at night, what will keep you up tomorrow and how will you overcome it.”


Fifth, he tries to make it a win-win for a meeting and says what he can bring to the table…”Well, I can tell funny stories from my weekend, my budget to buy a Tesla one day or my engagements with other gov’t agencies. You pick!”


Sixth, he provides a form of disclosure with a sense of trustworthiness saying, “I am in sales. However that is not my objective with you so I promise not to sell sh*t.”  


Seventh, he works to connect to me personally again by referencing a funny blog I wrote about ties, and he says, “I promise not to wear a tie–I hate them too.”


Eighth, he frames this cold call as completely casual, offering again to “steal some time…[or] if not I understand.”


Ninth, leaving it open to get back with him, he writes, “Feel free to email, call, tweet, or carrier pigeon me.”


Tenth, he wishes me well, “Take care Andy”, and he signs it and includes his business card. 


My reaction is that this is either a young and brilliant salesperson seeking legitimately to network, learn, and make some possible future opportunity inroads unknown.  


OR


Of course, if I think more from a operational security (OpSec) and security awareness training perspective, I could be concerned about some smart “social engineering” going on here, but that wasn’t the feeling I got from this. 


My gut thinks this is one highly motivated and intelligent young man creatively getting into his profession, and I must say, it was impressively done. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Cloud Pleasing

Cloud Pleasing

Technology vendors have wised-up and are rushing to the cloud to give customers what they want. 


You want cloud?  


You got cloud!


Cloud Computing with the virtually infinite promise for flexible, cost-effective, on-demand computing–all centrally managed by the vendor–you can sleep easy at night, oh baby. 


CIOs love it. 


The only problem as everyone moves to the cloud is the promise of the cloud continues to fall short


Now how unpopular a thing to say is that? 


Take out the guillotine…


Seriously though, it was supposed to be flexible, but it isn’t so much as vendors contract with customers for multi-year deals and customers find switching vendors not quite so easy…anyone hear of vendor lock-in?


Also, cloud was supposed to be more cost-effective, but vendors still need to make their margins, so longer commitments, service bundling, minimum fixed costs, and variable month-to-month pricing–sure helps things add BIG DOLLARS for the cloud vendor. 


Then you have vendors that simply call everything cloud…ah, “cloud washing” that is.  If you think you are getting cloud (even if it ain’t so much so), yippee are you happy…you have drunk the cool-aid and it is sweet.


Technology leaders swooping into a new job want to come in with a bang…”Hey, look what I did to modernize, transform, reinvent, revolutionize…and save money too–thank G-d, they hired me.”


So cloud, cloud, cloud…it sounds so CLOUD PLEASING, I mean crowd-pleasing. 


Whether in the specific situation it’s better or not, that’s not the point, stupid. 


At least, it’s out of our hair–let the vendor worry about it!


One, two, three…everyone say “CLOUD!” 😉

Sit-Stand Computer Desk 1-2-3

This adjustable computer desk stand from Veridesk for sitting and standing is awesome. 


Someone got this in the office, and it is the talk of the town. 


It comes as one piece, no assembly required and you just place it under your computer–simple, easy!


Just push the handles on either side and the desk height adjusts variably up or down. 


I found it on Amazon for just $325-$400 depending on the size and whether you have a double monitor.


My colleague at work said just try it and you will feel so good–this seems like a good healthy deal. 😉

For The Love Of Pizza

For The Love Of Pizza
So I was at an eatery (not this one) in South Florida. 



I order a sandwich, and I must’ve been in a little mood.



The waiter says to me, “Do you want it with everything?”



And I smiled and said, “Yeah, especially the everything!”



Then when we were done eating, I get up to pay at the counter, and pull out my plastic. 



The cashier says to me, “We only take cash.”



I smile again and now playing with her respond, “Well, I only pay plastic, now what do we do?”



I was only joking around as I pull out the few bucks of cash I happen to have in my pocket (note: I rarely even carry paper money in the age of technology).



As I left, I thought about the brief exchanges and sort of laughed to myself. 



It doesn’t pay to take a hard and fast line with people…



Much better to be flexible like, “What would you like on your sandwich (we have X, Y, and Z)?” or “Cash or credit today Sir?”



Being all or nothing just provokes an occasional smart aleck to pay a little back. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Survivable Water Pipes

Survivable Water Pipes

When an earthquake strikes, it is not just the immediate loss of life that is a concern, but the longer-term damage to critical infrastructure and the effect on human survival.

As we know, water is critical to every living creature, and in an earthquake, when there is damage to the water infrastructure, such as the underground piping, people can be left without this basic life-sustaining commodity.

When traditional solid cast-iron piping is used, an earthquake can cause these to deform and buckle. However, with a new ductile pipe design by Japanese company, Kubota–the pipes are built in a chain-like fashion and expand and contract, flex and bend, but do not easily break.

According to the Wall Street Journal (14 April 2011), Kubota earthquake-resistant pipes even withstood the 9.0 quake in Japan in 2011, and it can withstand “shaking, landslides, and extreme temperatures.

Now Los Angeles is piloting this pipe along 2 miles of its 7,000 miles of piping–they are focusing on “the most vulnerable, fault-line-adjacent areas,” since the piping is 2 1/2 times the price of regular piping.

In the absence of having a device like the Star Trek Replicator to synthesize food and water on the fly, it makes a lot of sense to upgrade our water systems and other critical infrastructure to protect us from the disasters that come.

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” needs to be available not just in good times, but also in bad. 😉

(Source Photo: Kubota)