Obviously, I am a technology aficionado, but there is none more awesome than technology, which saves lives.
So to me, defense systems (a topic for another blog) and emergency management systems are two of the most fascinating and compelling areas of technology.
Recently, I have been closely following the story of the Chilean miners trapped beneath 2,200 feet of rock and earth due to a cave-in on 5 August.
It took 17 days to even find the miners in the winding underground mineshaft, and since then the ongoing determination and ingenuity of the emergency rescuers has been incredible.
The Wall Street Journal, 1 October 2010, in an article called “Inventions Ease the Plight of Trapped Miners” describes this unbelievable rescue effort.
Here are some of the technologies making their way a half-mile underground to the 33-trapped miners:
– The Paloma (or Pigeon)—supply pod that is “a five-foot-long hollow cylinder that works like a pneumatic tube.” Rescuers stuff it with supplies and lower about 40 of these every day through a 4 inch diameter shaft to supply the miners food, medicine, electrical supplies.
– The Phoenix—rescue capsule, 10 feet tall, 900 pounds, with its own oxygen supply and communication systems designed to extract the trapped miners and bring each of them for the 15-40 minute ride it will take to get them to the safety of the surface.
– Fiber Optic Communications—the miners are using a fiber-optic video camera and telephone link hooked to videoconferencing equipment. This has been cited as one of the biggest boosters of the miner’s morale.
– Video Projectors—cellphones with built in projectors have been sent down to the miners allowing them to watch films and videos of family and friends.
– iPods—these were considered, but rejected by the chief psychologist of the rescue effort who feared that this may isolate the miners, rather than integrate them during this emergency.
– Modern Hygiene Products—Dry shampoo, soap-embedded hand towels, and self-sterilizing socks, have helped reduce odor and infection from the miners.
NASA engineers have exclaimed about the innovation shown by the Chilean emergency rescuers: “they are crossing new thresholds here.”
There are some great pictures and graphics of these devices at an article in the U.K. Telegraph.
What was once being targeted as a holiday rescue, by December, is now being envisioned as an October-November rescue operation. And with the continued application of innovation and technology, the miners will soon we back safe with their families and loved ones.
Also, ongoing kudos to the heroic rescuers!
Fortune Magazine (23 November 2009) named Steve Jobs of Apple, the CEO of the decade.
Steve Jobs’ unveiled his “digital lifestyle” strategy in 2000 when Apple was worth about $5 billion. Now almost a decade later, Apple is worth about $170 billion—slightly more than Google. Apple has revolutionized the markets for music, movies, mobile telephones, as well as computing.
Steve Jobs embodies User-centric leadership in every way:
Customer is #1—Apple’s products satisfy customers. “He may not pay attention to customer research, but he works slavishly to make products customers will buy.” There is intuitiveness to Steve Jobs’ understanding of people and technology. He knows what customers want even if they don’t or can’t articulate it and he designs the technology around the customer. Think iPhone, iPod, and Mac—they are some of the easiest and most customer friendly technologies out there; hence 100,000 applications for the iPhone, 73% of the MP3 player market, and some of the best PCs on the market today.
Innovation is key—Apple is consistently ahead of the curve. Their products are leaders, not follower-copycats. Despite losing the PC wars to Microsoft Windows, the Mac operating system, functionality, and design has been the one setting the standard for ease of use, speed, and security. The iTunes/iPod completely upended the music and movie industry, and the iPhone is the envy of just about every professional and consumer out there who doesn’t yet own one.
Holistic Solutions Delivery—Steve Jobs delivers a comprehensive solution’s architecture for the customer, and it shows with his merging of hardware, software, and service solutions. For example, “over the course of 2001…Apple launched iTunes music software (in January), the Mac OS X operating system (March), the first Apple retail stores (May), and the first iPod (November).” In 2002, Jobs told Time, “We’re the only company that owns the whole widget—the hardware, the software, and the operating system. We take full responsibility for the customer experience.”
Design Genius—The design of Apple’s products are sheer genius. They are sleek, elegant, compact, mobile, yet user-friendly—they are timeless, and pieces such as the G4 Cube have actually been showcased in The Museum of Modern Art and The Digital Design Museum. Even the Apple store in Manhattan with its winding glass staircases and cube entrance is a tourist destination in NYC.
Big Picture, Little Picture—Jobs is a master of balancing the strategic and tactical aspects of product execution. Jobs set the vision, but is also involved in the execution. “He’s involved in details you wouldn’t think a CEO would be involved in.” Apple is his passion and his desire for virtual perfection comes across the spectrum of both product and service from the company.
“Mastery of the Message—he rehearses over and over every line he and others utter in public about Apple.” And it’s not only the contents of the message, but also the timing. Jobs knows how to keep a product launch secret until just the right moment. MacWorld, for example, has been used to strategically communicate the launch of new products, and this has kept both Apple fans and competitors closely tuned to these events.
Steve Jobs is a true model of leadership excellence due in no small measure to his relentless pursuit comprehensive product solutions based on innovation, design excellence, and customer service excellence.
It used to be the military technology often found application in the consumer world (like the development of the Internet from DARPA). Now, consumer technology is being used in battlefield theatre (for example, iPods and iPhones).
Enterprise architecture is being turned upside down in terms of the traditional migration path of technological innovation.
Perhaps, the practice of applying technological innovation to other areas regardless of from where they originate is the best model of them all!
In this way, we share and match the best and brightest ideas and product designs to new areas of applicability, opening up more uses and markets for successful product launches.
Isn’t it every kids’ dream to own a car? And who can’t wait to take their first driving lessons?
The Wall Street Journal, 29 February 2008 reports that “Japan’s Young Won’t Rally Round the Car.”
“Since the peak in1990, Japanese car makers’ domestic sales have dropped 31% to nearly three million vehicles in 2007.”
Why is this happening?
- The Internet—“Unlike their parents’ generation, which viewed cars as the passport to freedom and higher social status, the Internet-connected Japanese youths today look to cars with indifference…having grown up on with the internet, they no longer depend on a car for shopping, entertainment, and socializing and prefer to spend their money in other ways.”
- Preference for electronics—“Young people can borrow their parents’ car and I think they’d rather spend their money on PCs and iPods than cars….trains will do for now.”
- Green movement—“Many youths worldwide felt cars were unnecessary and even uncool because they pollute and cause congestion.”
Kids’ priorities are changing and with that car manufacturers are having to re-architect the way they design and sell cars.
How is the auto industry responding with new architectures?
- New car designs for the Internet generation—these include smaller, eco-friendly vehicles; cars for hanging out together with convertible interior space designed to feel like a sports bar with large touch-screen displays that can be used by the group like; cars with rotating cabins “capable of driving sideways to easily slips into a parking space;” vehicles with “‘robotic agents’ shaped like a head with two eyes that s mounted on the dashboard abd provides driving directions in a soothing voice.”
- New marketing for the computer-savvy— Drive date videos: “downloads filmed from a drivers perspective, the video lets a viewer go on a day drive with a young, female Japanese model as they drive together along scenic, congestion-free roads.”
The automobile is changing to meet new consumer demands: The cars’ purpose “isn’t to get from point A to point B, but is to provide a social space for the driver and passengers. It doesn’t convey status except the status of being together.”
A lesson for enterprise architects is that function certainly drives architecture. However, functional requirements change along with culture, and the architect needs to be ever vigilant is searching out and spotting new trends, so that the enterprise can be proactive in meeting user expectations. Further technical requirements change based on innovations, and these must be aligned with functional requirements to optimize EA solutions.
In Fortune Magazine, 17 March 2008, Apple was rated in Fortune the #1 most admired companies in America and in the world and it won the highest mark for innovation too.
“In an industry that changes every nanosecond, the 32-yer old company has time and again innovated its way out of the doldrums. Rivals always seem to be playing catch-up.”
And Apple certainly knows innovation and mass appeal. “Invention is the creation of something new. [But] innovation is the creation of something new that makes money; it finds a pathway to the consumer.” Apple is great at creating consumer hits–just think iPod, iPhone, and MacBook.
“The iPod is to music what Kleenex is to tissue or Xerox is to copiers.”
“Almost everything Apple makes transcends gender, geography, and race.”
“In the last five years, “sales tripled to $24 billion and profits surged to $3.5 billion.”
What is Apple’s enterprise architecture (business and IT strategy)?
- Thinking big—with Apple, the sky’s the limit or there really isn’t any limit at all; “every endeavor is a moon shot. Sometimes the company misses, but the successes are huge.”
- Excellence—Apple has become “a symbol of innovation” and there is a huge “degree of perfectionism. Apple hires people that are never satisfied.”
- Passion—“Emotive is a big word here. The passion is what provides the push to overcome design and engineering obstacles, to bring projects in on time.”
- Focus—Apple is anti-diversification. They believe that when companies make too many products, they get “mired in the mediocre. Apple’s approach is to put every resource it has behind just a few products and make them exceedingly well.”
- Consumer orientation—“We figure out what people want…we do no market research. We just want to make great products” for the masses. At Apple, they look at everyday consumer products and ask themselves what’s awful about them and how can they make them better.
- Democratize technology—“Apple’s approach has always been to democratize technology in the belief that if you make something ‘really great’ then everybody will want to use it.”
- Technology synthesis—“Apple’s the only company that has everything under one roof…not only do we control the hardware, but we control the operating system.” Apple does hardware and software and operating systems and “can tweed it all together and make it work seamlessly.”
- Design genius—As a company, Apple is the master of consumer electronics design. “This is not just engineering and science. This is art too.” At Apple, they understand that function is enhanced by form, and that the consumer wants a good-looking gadget.
One of the biggest lessons for me from Apple is to never give up. For years, Apple trailed the computer market with the Mac holding only a 4% to 5% market share. But they kept innovating, developing and designing the best working and looking products. Now they’ve captured 70% market share with the iPod and are targeting sales this year of 10 million iPhones. Apple is a super company with business and technology planning that others can only look at in sheer awe with their mouths hanging open.
>Zune has been playing catch up with iPod in the music player business, but from an User-centric enterprise architecture standpoint, they’ve got it all wrong!
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 14 November 2007 reports that Microsoft has retooled the Zune so that it “marks a vast improvement; however, it’s still no iPod.”
Where is Microsoft going wrong?
- An inferior product—“last year when Microsoft Corp. introduced its Zune music player to take on Apple’s iPod juggernaut, the software giant struck out. While the Zune had a good user interface, it was bigger and boxier, with clumsier controls, weaker battery life, and more complex software. Its companion online music store has a much smaller catalogue, a more complicated purchase process, and no videos for sale. And the Zune’s most innovative feature, built-in Wi-Fi networking, was nearly useless.” So much for competing on product quality!
- Underestimating the competition—Microsoft is “back with a second improved round of Zune’s…Apple hasn’t been standing still…the 80-gigabyte Classic, which costs the same as 80-gigabyte Zune, is slimmer than the Zune and has a flashy new interface, if a smaller screen. And the eight-gigabyte nano, which costs the same as the eight-gigabyte Zunem now plays videos and is much smaller—yet it has a larger screen. In addition, Apple has spiffed up its iTunes software…and Apple still trounces Microsoft in the selection of media it sells…more than six million songs, about double what the Zune marketplace offers, and dwarfs Microsoft’s selection of Podcasts and music videos as well.”
The WSJ concludes, “Microsoft has greatly improved the Zune hardware and software this time. But it seems to be competing with Apple’s last efforts, not its newest ones.”
In spite of these explanations, I think we’re missing something else here. If you compare the Microsoft desktop software to Apple’s, Microsoft also has a worse product, yet is the hands-down market leader. So why is Microsoft struggling with Zune?
Maybe functionality is part of the equation, but not the whole thing. It’s interesting to me that neither the article nor advertisements I see for Zune address anything about the interoperability of the product with Apple’s iTunes. Interoperability is not only a major enterprise architecture issue, but from a consumer standpoint, do you really expect people to dump their investment in their iTunes music library when they buy a Zune?
Looking at Yahoo Answers online, I see consumers share this concern:
“Can you use the iTunes’ software with the Microsoft Zune? I am torn between which to buy, if you can use itunes with the Zune then that’s the one I’ll get, but if you can’t then I’m getting an iPod, help me decide please.”
“Best Answer – Chosen by Voters
No you cannot. iTunes only works with the iPod, Zune is a completly different player made by Microsoft, it has its own music program and marketplace called the Zune Marketplace. The Zune Software can automatically copy songs that have not been purchased from iTunes (because ones that are have copy protection on them) and put them in the Zune Program.”
Until Microsoft acts as the architects par excellence that they are, and work out the all-important EA interoperability issues of its product, and communicates this with its customers, the Zune will continue to be second-rate, functionality notwithstanding.