Not All Tech is in Silicon Valley

Riffing on Benedict Evans’ latest podcast called Another Podcast. He is a long time technology analyst whom I’ve followed for perhaps 20 years.

He was at an upscale restaurant in Italy recently and noticed the lights on the table. Not traditional candles, these were LED lights, with a battery and USB port for charging. 

LEDs are now everywhere. Not long ago, LED screens were prohibitively expensive. Lights were rare. This isn’t a Silicon Valley phenomenon. People who make interior decorative lighting saw the possibility, hired an engineer or two, and developed the product. They had the channel to market and relationships with customers.

Some 40 years ago while I was Quality Manager at a manufacturing plant for juvenile furniture, the general manager had a vision of lights (LED would have been perfect) on a high chair tray. There would be several. Perhaps they illuminated randomly and the child could slap at them. Maybe turn them on and off. We could have hired an electronics engineer (or I could have switched roles?) and done that back then.

It wouldn’t have taken Silicon Valley. 

Think also of the company who makes Tasers. It has relationships with almost all police organizations. They thought about products. Noticed they could combine small cameras that were now ubiquitous packaged with networking, audio, rugged packaging, and sell body cameras to those same police customers.

I’ve had jobs like that in my career where I scanned the environment for ideas from other places that we could use in our market.

We have had process and manufacturing engineers in our industry for years who absorbed technology in order to solve a problem. We needed “Silicon Valley” perhaps to design and manufacture components and provide foundational software. I’ve known many chemical engineers who became also computer engineers who then became also networking engineers all in order to solve process problems.

Yet, media reports would have us thinking that it’s all about Silicon Valley. It’s not.

So often it is not about the technology. It’s all about the problem we’re trying to solve.

Remember the Customer

Om Malik’s writing has inspired and influenced me for decades. He’s a thoughtful observer of the technology scene and a good photographer. He recently posted a piece about Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the new Meta–his replacement for Facebook when it finally fades. After quoting from Zuckerberg’s talk about where Meta is going, Om points out that it’s all about what Meta can get from its customers. Nothing about serving customers and society.

During this morning’s workout, my podcast picked up Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast. His theme began with a story from a management meeting at Chick-fil-A many years ago. A new restaurant chain had popped onto the radar. Executives viewed it as a threat. The discussion centered on growth. Like a race, they wanted to grow faster than the opponent.

Founder and chairman Truett Cathy pounded on the table to obtain attention. The room quieted. He looked around the room and said, “First, we work on improving quality. If we are always improving quality, then our customers will tell us to grow.”

Two polar opposite views of the market.

Do customers serve us? Do we serve customers?

I am weaning off Facebook. It truly is evil making money by trying to entice us toward posting ever more extreme (and stupid) stuff to capture attention. I have never been in a Chick-fil-A. That’s because I don’t eat chicken. But if I did, I’d patronize the place that is trying its best to serve me. I’d shun the place that is cynically using me to make more billions.

Now–you are going to glance at this brief essay and return to work. What are you going to do? Figure out how to improve quality in order to better serve customers? I hope you choose wisely.

5G Marketing Failures

5G has potential for industrial and manufacturing applications, but when have we heard that much about it? Analyst firm Global Data’s recent study says mobile operators are failing to come up with a strong marketing story.

The study by GlobalData Technology, which involved a July 2022 audit of around 30  standalone 5G  commercial deployments worldwide, concluded that although operators are keen to flag the adoption of standalone 5G in general marketing messages—largely focusing on the improved network quality and capabilities for enterprises—the number of standalone 5G references within consumer 5G service portfolios are few and far between.

Emma Mohr-McClune, Service Director at GlobalData, comments: “The lack of effective standalone 5G promotion is a real problem for the future of 5G monetization. Standalone 5G will be a vital requirement for a lot of the more exciting 5G use cases, from autonomous devices to commercial augmented and virtual reality.”

Mohr-McClune continues: “The few exceptional cases—in Singapore, but also in Germany and elsewhere—make for fascinating study. In the future, we could see more operators position standalone 5G as greener, safer, and more reliable than future generations of wireless technology, but the current industry is still waiting for signature use cases to give the upgrade meaning to consumers. In the meantime, we believe that most operators will focus on marketing the technology to the business sector, where there are more immediate and distinctive use cases emerging.

“In the Enterprise sector, it’s an entirely different story. Standalone 5G enables enterprises to set up their own, closed Private 5G networks, to better manage connectivity in ultra-connected working set-ups, such as ports and mines–or even ‘slice’ the network for prioritized levels of service for mission-critical operations. The benefits, use cases, and return on investment (ROI) are far clearer. However, in selling standalone 5G to consumers, operators are going to have to make sure they don’t repeat the same promises they spun out for non-standalone 5G, or risk appearing to contradict themselves.”

Patented Lithium-Sulfur Battery Technology

This was a strange press release that I almost just trashed. The lede, the news, was about a PR agency getting work. PR is never the news. PR executives and agents do not want to be quoted. Their job is to help people like me get to the news. They help point out new things and help us get interviews with the right people.

However, the real news concerns battery technology for electric vehicles. That news is timely and relevant. Batter technology constrains the utility of all electric vehicles from automobiles we drive to autonomous guided vehicles in warehouse and factory settings.

In brief (and in the words of the new PR agency):

  • Nevada-based NexTech holds the patents in process and materials for groundbreaking lithium-sulfur battery technology
  • The semi-solid-state technology is set to revolutionize EVs, renewable energy, aircraft, personal electronics and more with unprecedented energy density, overall power and safety
  • DRIVEN360 will spearhead global launch – driving strategic communications and brand – emphasizing superior performance, push for U.S.-sourced materials and no reliance on expensive and/or foreign commodities

First point:

NexTech Batteries, the global leader in proprietary lithium-sulfur battery technology, has selected DRIVEN360 – a world-class integrated communications and brand marketing house – as its global public relations agency of record (AOR). With deep expertise across mobility, technology and a wide range of industries, the DRIVEN360 team will oversee NexTech’s disruptive entry into multiple markets, championing the most powerful, patent-protected semi-solid-state battery technology to date. Strategic communications efforts will also spotlight the company’s goal to maximize U.S.-sourced materials.

Key points:

Lithium-sulfur called “the most powerful semi-solid-state battery with unprecedented energy density. Emphasize US-sourcing.

From its research facility in Carson City, Nevada, NexTech will focus on creating a domestic supply chain prioritizing U.S.-sourced materials, reducing the use of foreign suppliers and without the need to source unethically mined or rare materials used in current generation batteries. The company has already inked deals with North American-based lithium suppliers.

NexTech Batteries was founded in early 2016 and initially was the result of the exclusive license to the rights and patents to the lithium-sulfur battery technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

But That’s Not All, You Can Get Twice As Many If

I wondered how long it would take for someone to ask. What happens when an independent software developer who has a widely adopted product sells out to a particular supplier? The supplier proclaims independence, but will it really not absorb it into their proprietary product?

Then GE Digital sent an email to me at a very old address that I still have forwarded (note to self: delete that old address).  Get Proficy Historian for up to 90% less than OSI—or swap your current OSI or eDNA license at no cost.

Wow. This sounded a bit like a late-night cable TV ad. “But wait, if you act now you can get two for this amazing low price of $19.99.”

Sorry to poke a little fun at GE Digital. The question is, does this ad reflect a real marketplace concern? Or, is it a weak marketing gimmick? I don’t know. But I have been curious. What do you think?

Gary,

We’re serious about helping you get the most from your OT data. So we’re giving you two offers to choose from: 

Offer 1: Get Proficy Historian at our lowest price ever—up to 90% less than OSI 

Offer 2: Swap your current OSI, AVEVA, or eDNA historian license for a Proficy Historian license at absolutely no additional cost. You’ll then also enjoy product support at 50% off your previous rate with OSI, AVEVA, or eDNA.

Thousands of companies worldwide depend on Proficy Historian for gathering their most important data. Take advantage of:

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Universal Robots Takes ActiNav Next-Gen Machine Loading on Tour

I guess we have entered the post-pandemic era. Universal Robots is taking its latest technology on tour this summer. By the time I got to this news item, the first date was passed. If you are close to one of these areas, check out this cool technology.

Automating machine loading traditionally means integrating conveyors, bowl feeders, custom trays, shaker tables or various other components and processes. These approaches can lead to a range of obstacles and challenges, including complex programming and setup, poorly-utilized manpower, inefficient machine utilization and decreased output.

ActiNav changes all that, combining intelligent vision and sensor software with the autonomous motion control of Universal Robots’ world-leading cobots in one seamless Application Kit that solves the random bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. To give manufacturers an opportunity to experience ActiNav hands-on, Universal Robots and its partners are now hosting live demos, inviting attendees to bring their parts to be picked, experiencing how easy it is to set up a sophisticated machine loading system.

“We want manufacturers to experience in person the “wow factor” as they see ActiNav effortlessly pick their randomized parts and place them correctly in a designated place,” says Bryan Bird, Regional Sales Director for Universal Robots’ North America division. “We look forward to working with our partners in providing this unique experience.”

The ActiNav Tour dates are hosted by Universal Robots partners and systems integrators on the following dates and locations:

FPE Automation: July 13, Elk Grove Village, IL

Southwestern PTS: July 22, Coppell, TX

NEFF Wisconsin: August 3, Mequon, WI

CIMTEC: August 5, Charlotte, NC

Shaltz: August 10, Flint, MI

In addition to meeting ActiNav on tour, manufacturers can now leverage an expanded network of ActiNav Solution Providers (ASPs), a vetted and carefully selected group of systems integrators across the U.S. to deploy the next-generation machine loading solution. Joining the ASP network are:

Muratec, Charlotte, NC, PCC Robotics, Germantown, WI, Computech Manufacturing Company, Washington, MI, and PrecisionForm Inc., Lititz, PA.

Bird explains that UR’s selection process focused on integrators with expertise in both vision and robotics, that deliver superior value, and on time/on budget projects for customers.

Dan Carney, General Manager at Wisconsin-based PCC Robotics, is looking forward to sharing the benefits of Actinav with manufacturers in his region. “As a systems integrator we find parts staging to be a key component of nearly every application,” he says. “We have reviewed a number of bin picking offerings and ActiNav is simply in a different class.”