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Source: Page 78, NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability. This diagram is useful for identifying places where cybersecurity requirements must be defined.

What’s new?

On 18 February, NIST (the US National Institute for Standards and Technology) announced Release 4.0 of the NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability.

What does it mean?

History shows us that the world has become more interconnected. The future of technology lies in even more networks and systems. Exhibit A is the Internet, which has revolutionized information flow and communication, but, looking further back in history, electrification, the interstate highway system, the telephone system, the railroads, and many more examples demonstrate the powerful effects of interconnection. But each of those networks is littered with the detritus of failed interconnections due to lack of compatible standards: train track width, DC or AC electricity, and so forth.

Beneficial electrification has great potential for reducing climate effects of electricity generation if the electricity can be generated from renewable energy. While the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow in one location, renewable energy (including hydropower and geothermal sources) is reliably available somewhere not far from where you need that electricity. Thus, interconnection, along with the many types of storage of energy being developed, hold promise for reliable electricity generation that may help us save the planet. But such interconnection relies on compatible standards for electricity flow, for communication about needs and availability of electricity, and for control of the devices that consume and produce electricity.

Interoperability focuses on the communication part of those interconnections. From page i of the NIST report, “Interoperability — the ability to exchange information in a timely, actionable manner — is a critical yet underdeveloped capability of the power system. Significant grid modernization has occurred in recent years, but the proliferation of technology and associated standards has only modestly improved interoperability.”

Also, from the same page, “The benefits of interoperability are broad and reach all stakeholders at all scales. … by allowing coordinated small actions across diverse stakeholders and devices to have grand impacts.”

We’ve been through this before, many, many times. We know how to have the many stakeholders work together to set standards and create regulations that ensure interoperability, while still allowing, in fact encouraging innovation to flourish.  We also know how to break the standards apart so that an engineer designing, say, an inverter, can refer to standards that cover the interoperability issues for inverters and not need worry about interoperability issues that affect only high voltage transmission lines or electric vehicles.

The increasing variety of generation sources and locations means that the grid needs to have more communication among these devices. Also, consumer devices (refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, etc.) increasingly come with sensing and communication capabilities that allow the owner – or the utility – to control when and how that device operates. While the electric utility industry refers to these devices as being “behind the meter,” that is, on the user’s side of the electric meter, they really are part of the grid because their communication capabilities offer huge potential to dynamically balance the supply and demand for electricity. Again, the grid needs more communication interoperability.

What does it mean for you?

Interoperability is an issue for all information technology. You can use any mouse with any computer (well, not quite, make sure the plug is compatible, and you may need an adapter) because there are standards for how the devices communicate. You, as the consumer, just shouldn’t have to worry about interoperability.

Your relationship as a consumer, as a manufacturer, or as an operator of any organization, with your electric provider is changing. If, for example, you have solar panels on your home, you may buy electric power but also sell it to your utility. If your organization has equipment that uses large amounts of power, you should already be working closely with your electric provider and you will be working even more closely with them in the future. For example, you might implement a soft start for your machines after down time in order to avoid adverse impacts on the grid. These interrelationships will increase with increasing abilities of new devices to sense, communicate, and be controlled.

Just as we have become providers of information used by others through our activities on social media, our devices will be wired to provide information, raising the same issues as those raised by our use of social media, most notably, who owns, benefits, and controls the information generated by the devices in our homes and factories. The NIST report states (page 6) “An empowered energy consumer has many opportunities to obtain value and can optimize their interactions with the broader energy system to maximize their preferred benefit,” but I fear that the consumer may not be the one defining this new relationship. The NIST report notes on page 58, “Absent an environment that allows universal access to the full range of opportunities, customers may be required to select devices and systems for feasibility of integration rather than the operational or economic value propositions they offer.”

Interoperability is necessary for this improved communication in all parts of the electrical grid, but it comes with its evil twin, a possible lack of security. Thus, this report also covers the need for security aspects in this new interoperability.

Where can you learn more?

The NIST statement concerning the new report has helpful information on interoperability. The report itself has a summary called Key Messages, which I have quoted from. The US Office of Electricity (part of the US Department of Energy) has a helpful page on grid modernization.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF, “The leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation for 30 years and counting!”) has noted the privacy threats of the smart grid, but with a focus on households. I cannot find that any business or manufacturing group (for example, the National Association of Manufacturers) is watching the developments in interoperability of the electrical grid.

An article on the McKinsey website argues that utility companies have not described clear benefits for consumers from grid modernization.

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Audio of this post

Notes from February 2021 meeting of Pueblo Makes

The meeting focused on the topic of teaching online classes and creating videos. At our January meeting we identified this topic as one we want to work on. As Karen said then, “consider offering short courses; while others may already be teaching such a course, your voice might reach someone. “

Pat Montoya (see Before You Forget: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkCJj6xiMvi3jsf33hnCOjA) uses his channel as his outlet for creativity, including episodes in a father/son adventure blog. The YouTube collection of videos and its user base are huge; YouTube is the second largest search engine after google. He urged us to stay as genuine as possible, to start with an idea and then make videos. Get the first few videos up, get off the ground, and then gather momentum. Many people have anxiety about starting. Get the foundation right and then you can pivot to different topics later. You can also have two or more channels for different topics. He said that a lot of people reuse content but he advocated for making organic content. You can also use YouTube to draw people’s interest to other platforms, but be sure to be honest and genuine with everything. People want lifestyle stories, for example, healthy practices. Videos can be made from your phone, your tablet, your laptop, or with a simple camera; Pat uses a GoPro Hero8, but started with his iPhone. If you use audio content from someone else, make sure it is not copyrighted. You can subscribe (follow) other people and that list shows up on the left side of your YouTube page.

YouTube videos are available for free, although they can be restricted to be available only to people who have the link. Various platforms are available to sell your short course: Activingo, Teachable, Patreon.

Jane has created a channel for Pueblo Makes (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY4FwJymbXk8p7A14UEvVUQ) but she is not sure about how she intends to use it. She mentioned perhaps having makers interview each other or spotlighting a maker each month. and Pat liked that idea. The Arts Alliance also has a channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOeC9mlQDWHHdCshZ5g4bhA.

LaDoris announced that her business Designs by LaDoris will have a grand reopening with the Pueblo West Chamber of Commerce at Project Inspire, 19 March, 5 PM. Gregory is working with Ladoris through Project Inspire to create master classes, starting with three on how to sew a hem, how to sew a button, and how to put in a zipper. Gregory said that classes can be a source of revenue. You can charge a fee per class. You can put short videos on YouTube as a teaser and then in the information section on YouTube for that video, you can have a link to take people to register for the class. There are appropriate places for a tutorial and for paid content. He mentioned Vimeo and said Project Inspire is using Squarespace as a platform. He said that 1 March he will have an announcement concerning Masterclasses. Other useful platforms are Activingo and Teachable. Each has nuances for how they can be used and they differ in costs.  Gregory recommended that the Pueblo Makes web page could have a section on these resources.

We discussed the role of the library and possible studios for making videos. Karen is working on one to be located at the Arts Alliance. There is also equipment available at the library, which is not reopened yet, but should be soon. Contact Sharon Rice for information.

Gregory discussed embedding story tellers in Pueblo’s organizations as a guerrilla operation. For example, Pat is doing that at Evraz and Gregory asked us to let him know of other organizations that need story tellers.  “Someone has to tell that story.” Pueblo doesn’t tell its own story well and we need to do that.

Caroline, CSU-Pueblo art professor, demonstrated techniques she is doing to teach studio classes during COVID. She said everyone is stressed, but she was excited and “I love disruption” because opportunities will emerge. The Arts have become prominent with lockdown. People want to watch ballet online, read books, see art. Since General Education courses require including seven topics, including wellness, she recognizes the anxiety, stress, and illness of students but also the opportunity. To create you have to be well. Everyone is in a different situation but coming together via zoom. She teaches drafting, drawing. perspective, shade, creativity. Don’t expect online to be like studio, but in some ways it is better. Since students are used to getting information from the computer anyway, she builds on that. As a student she looked at art in books or had to pay a lot to visit the Art Institute in Chicago, but now students have art works at their fingertips.

For figure drawing, she doesn’t use a live model, but she uses YouTube to show, for example, a sumo wrestling match. She then stops the video and everyone draws the same view. Then everyone shows their work and gives suggestions. On the screen she can show students postures, angles of body parts, and measurements.

She uses the street view on Google maps to teach when and how to use one-point and two-point perspective. Usually in such a class everyone has a different perspective of the view of an artificial object such as a cube, but with Google street view everyone has the same view of a real object such as a building. Everyone can stand at the same point in the road.

Since not everyone has access to the same materials (such as painting tools) she wants to promote wellness and creativity by enabling everyone to participate and feel good. She showed a color wheel created with home objects and a portrait created from found objects, which takes imagination. For her art appreciation class, she had students go outside and draw a map of sounds you hear and where they are coming from. Show us your perception from your location. She praised Zoom for helping us lose sense of place and for it as a way to connect to one another.

Pat echoed the role of creativity in creating happiness. LaDoris said she has her granddaughters draw something in nature. Caroline talked about being energetic with what you are doing, getting a sense of place back while crazy things are happening. She showed artist James Ensor’s painting self-portrait with mask and then asked the students to make masks.  

She has experimented with what she looks like using a green screen without a green screen. She showed a video of moving with a tree background, which could then be made into a drawing. She used a mushroom background video to be part human and part mushroom and another from a moving car to eat the road. (Karen called these examples “the best use of zoom I’ve ever seen.”) Caroline urged us to work with you have, with what you can do.

Caroline challenged her students to devise the best way to convey a drawing. In person, a student would just show a charcoal drawing to classmates but in digital format, features like texture are missing.  Some made drawings into videos. Others turned poems into animation with drawings. All students read the same story, then drew their impressions.

Caroline uses the game exquisite corpse. In person, each draws a part of a body on a folded up piece of paper, which is then opened up to reveal the whole drawing. Online, students put sections in chat, then put them together. Then students redraw the drawing as a whole

Caroline doesn’t spend the whole class on zoom. There can be time to work on your own and come back with questions. Don’t take up all their time.  If they have questions, they will come to you.

Elliott, who does online coaching, said that not having face-to-face contact means he has to rely on other mental faculties including intuition.  Caroline said she feels a little closer to the students because they’re not distracted, they are right here. We talk about the pandemic, my neck is killing me, we trade stretches. Standing in front of classroom, I’m the expert. How do you believe what I say? Working via zoom is more equal; the person who is talking is the expert. It is very freeing because we can focus on the matter at hand and make the best artwork possible.  I don’t like what it does to the body. I miss people. But there are benefits.

Drew thanked the members of Pueblo Makes who served as judges for the remote STEM fair., this year all in individual, not team, projects. 24 students are moving on to regionals.

Next month at our meeting on 16 March, Paula Robben will lead us in a Vision Lab using the Dream Builder program in which we consult our hearts and minds to create a vision for makers and making in Pueblo.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Decision_Tree_Elements.png “A simple decision tree showing the major elements: Squares, circles and triangles (decisions, chances, end nodes)” This image is in the public domain.

What’s new?

In May 2020, Lori Beckman wrote at Production Machining about the company MachineMetrics. She quotes Eric Fogg, co-founder and COO of the company: “MachineMetrics can collect any data that is useful to a customer,” he says. “That data can be whether the machine is running, how many parts it has made, and its alarm history, for example. We take all the data, encrypt it and forward it to our cloud service where we perform analytics and create dashboards for our customers to use.”

What does it mean?

Most machines on manufacturing floors are ready to be part of the IoT, Internet of Things, that is, a network of devices that share information; they include sensors and data collection. MachineMetrics can easily connect its device (MachineMetrics Edge) to almost any machine (through the machine’s ethernet port). The device reads the data from the machine and sends it wirelessly to software that will store, analyze, and display the data, combined with data from other machines. Data as simple as status of the machine can be used for asset management, machine utilization monitoring, and real time alerts when repairs or adjustments are needed.

What does it mean for you?

Collecting and analyzing data is done for two major reasons. The first is to make better decisions. One of my areas of expertise, decision analysis, stresses this purpose for data. Decision analysis even has methods for determining the expected value of information, and for determining if collecting data is likely to be worth the cost of doing so.

The second major reason for collecting data, somewhat in contradiction with the points I just made, is to achieve understanding, often for long run purposes and not for any immediate improvement in decision making. One of my first professional jobs, while I was in graduate school, was for the corporate planner for a large medical group. One of his overall goals was to use data to reach a solid understanding of the organization as a system and of the organization as part of the larger medical system. For example, in one study I analyzed employment records to seek to understand the plausibility of some commonly held beliefs about physicians using the organization to establish themselves in a new geographical region before setting up their own practice. We found only weak evidence to support the belief, not enough to worry about the impact of this behavior on the organization. This study was just one small piece adding to the understanding of the system.

Collecting data to make better decisions gives a focus and structure to thinking about data. What decisions do you or others in your organization make? They range of course from strategic (should we acquire that company?) through major (should we purchase a new piece of equipment?) to daily (which job should be done next on which machine?). Decision analysis focuses your thinking by requiring you to explicitly state the alternatives, the uncertainties concerning what occurrences will follow, and then ensuing decisions and occurrences. A decision tree (see the small one at the top of this article) is a visual representation of that sequence of decisions and occurrences. With such a visual representation, you can then ask what type of data would reduce uncertainty about future events and enable better decisions to be made now.

Collecting data to achieve understanding can also be valuable, but it is sometimes a way to bury oneself in data and confusion. In my job with a medical group, I learned a lot about data analysis, but I also learned a lot about system modeling. The tools for data analysis 50 years ago did not allow the powerful search for patterns in large databases, so we rarely (probably never) simply looked for patterns, nor did we often collect new data. Instead I learned a lot about how to formulate a good question about how a system works and then to use existing data bases to explore answers to that question.

Data collection tools like those offered by MachineMetrics can help your decision making and can help your understanding of your organization as a system, but data can also bury and confuse you. For example, what is measured and monitored may become a goal that distracts from what cannot be measured or monitored. If you are measuring and focusing on productivity but not on job satisfaction, you may have good short term and poor long term results. Monitoring of machine utilization might lead to an incorrect focus on increasing machine utilization to the detriment of other organizational goals.

The first example in the MachineMetrics article at Production Machining can, in fact, be read as a cautionary tale in which the newly collected data made the shop’s managers finally listen to the machine operators’ insistence that machine break downs were slowing productivity. Isn’t this story really about communication between people, not between machines?

Always ask yourself about any data collection: will it help me make better decisions? If not, will it help me understand my organization as a system? Don’t just collect data because you can. Don’t be misled into thinking that gathering more data is always good.

Where can you learn more?

An Internet search on “decision tree” or “decision tree analysis” will lead you to many useful pages with an introduction to this technique, such as here (a 1964 Harvard Business Review classic), here, and here. Decision tree analysis relies on the question “What happens next?” Many business degree programs and probably all MBA programs include decision analysis. I still think the best introductory book is the 1968 Decision Analysis: Introductory Lectures on Choices under Uncertainty, by Howard Raiffa. When I wrote this blog posting, Better World Books had used copies for $5. Software exists to help you create and analyze decision trees. My favorite is TreeAge.

The IoT, Internet of Things, doesn’t necessarily mean connecting everything to the Internet. The “Things” in the Internet of Things are devices that have built-in sensors, communication capabilities, and controls. These are connected with each other to collect data and to enable control of this network of devices.  A simple example is when your mobile phone connects to your car so you can take a call hands free. The IoT relies heavily on shared protocols for data format, so interconnectivity is a crucial capability of any device your organization acquires; interconnectivity’s evil twin is computer security, also a crucial capability.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Justice

“Cover illustration shows mine worker firing a gun after his wife and children were killed in a massacre at their tent camp by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards.”
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, https://www.loc.gov/item/2016652761/,. “No known restrictions on publication.”

What’s new?

This week I read three articles on materials and thought about justice.

The website Interesting Engineering reported on a new method to make transparent wood. The previous method, which removes the lignin from the wood, requires excessive time and high temperatures, produces excessive liquid waste, and weakens the wood. The new method uses hydrogen peroxide and light to change, rather than remove the lignin molecules. Transparent wood has potential application in stronger windows and roofs with better insulation properties.

NIST (the US National Institute of Standards and Technology) reported on a new method using nanoparticles of silicon dioxide (quartz) to create a gel of oil and water, two liquids notorious for being difficult to mix. The resulting gel has many potential applications, for example in filtration, in smart windows, in battery technology, and as scaffolds for cell growth. The new method can potentially be used with other nanoparticles to create other useful gels.

The 30 January 2021 issue of the science news magazine New Scientist contains a review by Simon Ings of a new book The Rare Metals War, by French journalist Guillaume Pitron, about the environmental, social, and political consequences of human success in creating and using materials. The review contains these intriguing sentences: “Before the Renaissance, humans had found uses for seven metals. During the industrial revolution, this increased to a mere dozen. Today, we have found uses for all 90-odd of them.”

What does it mean?

Transparent wood? Mixing oil and water? Those two stories sound, at first, like science fiction or a joke. What is next, liquid dirt? Or solid air? The existence of new processes for making transparent wood and for mixing oil and water amazed me, but I was amazed even more to learn that other processes to create those products already existed. The inventions described in the first two articles are new processes, not new materials.

Two points are relevant to almost any discuss of materials. First is that the history and future of science, technology, and engineering involves new uses of old materials and the creation of new materials from the limited number of elements that exist in nature. Second is that the creation of new materials requires also the invention and improvement of methods to manufacture the new materials. Note that those two points meet where scientists manufacture new elements, extending the periodic table.

I am excited by these developments about new materials and their importance in so many fields, including battery technology, renewable energy, medicine, building construction, and communication and computing technology. With the removal of hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the US farm bill at the end of 2018, I think that new uses of hemp will explode. Scientists and engineers are creating amazing new materials and amazing new process for making those materials.

Returning to Pitron’s emphasis on metals, rare or otherwise, prehistoric human use of gold, copper, silver, lead, tin, and iron was accelerated by an explosion of discoveries of other metals and a parallel explosion of inventions that often relied on creating new combinations and thus new materials.  The development of the first metallic alloy, bronze, from copper and tin, is so important it has an age of human development named for it. The Bronze Age was named for an alloy and was succeeded in human history by the Iron Age, named for an element, but really only taking off when humans developed alloys of iron, notably steel, an alloy of iron and carbon. The timeline in this history of metals is fascinating.

The word for each of those metals (gold, copper, silver, lead, tin, and iron) can be and is almost naturally followed by the word “mining,” and human history can be described, with perhaps only some exaggeration, as digging stuff out of the ground, creating an object that to use for a while, and then throwing it back into the ground. Our knowledge of early humans to a large part relies on the fact that we seem to be continually shedding objects.

The review of Pitron’s book makes clear the costs to humans and the environment of this obsession with making new stuff and also makes clear that the geographical dispersion of those effects has political impacts. But even more, the review summarizes Pitron’s argument that our worthwhile efforts to be more responsible through the new of renewable energy may exacerbate these impacts. Many of the new technologies, especially for batteries, rely on the mining and refining of the so called rare earths (actually metals) and other elements such as tellurium, cobalt, and lithium. Those processes have been dominated by China, fueling both its economic success and its horrible air pollution. In his review, Ings writes that these effects on China “wouldn’t have been possible had the Western world not outsourced its own industrial activities, creating a planet divided, as Pitron memorably describes it, `between the dirty and those who pretend to be clean.’”

Ouch.

The historic steel mill in my hometown of Pueblo already uses only recycled steel and, with a solar field under construction, will be powered only by renewable energy by the end of this year. Our newly elected Congressperson recently objected to the US rejoining the Paris Accord with the tweet “I work for the people of Pueblo, not the people of Paris,” a laughably ignorant remark which resulted in predictable push back from a city that can be plausibly described as a renewable energy hub  and “as a place that is leading the way in the transition to a clean energy economy.” We already host a factory manufacturing towers for wind turbines.

But Pueblo also hosts the Comanche power plant which burns coal to power Denver, 100 miles to the north. The electricity powering the computer on which I am writing this blog comes from my rural electric cooperative, but almost all of that energy comes from a cooperative of cooperatives, Tri-State, which is frantically trying to meet demands to move from coal to renewable energy. The State of Colorado is also struggling with how to help coal-dependent communities make a just transition.  About 70 miles to the south of Pueblo is the site of the Ludlow Massacre, commemorating the deaths of 25 people in 1914 in the Great Coalfield War, described by George McGovern in his 1972 book with that title.

What does it mean for you?

At this point I want to energetically wave the word “system” and throw up my hands in frustration. Even if all actors are genuinely honest and caring and want to save our planet, the path for these necessary transitions is sometimes hard to discern because of effects both near and distant – in time and geography – of any action we take. I am, however, increasingly convinced that “justice” is a key word in that path. To state the obvious: different paths forward affect different people around the globe in different ways.

I joke that unless we do better, the pitchforks and torches will come out. I urge you to study the picture at the top of this article.

Where can you learn more?

An Internet search on the phrase “climate justice” will lead you to excellent material supplied by websites such as the NAACP (if you click on only one link from this blog, choose this one), the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Climate Justice Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and many more. I am resisting my urge to quote at length from all of them.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Big ideas for you?

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_Street_Sign.jpg. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. The image has not been altered.

What’s new?

The 2 Feb issue of the newsletter The Hustle contained a link to the 26 January report “Big Ideas 2021” from ARK Investment Management LLC. You can register with ARK to get a copy here or download from The Hustle here. The Hustle newsletter describes the top idea of the 15 ideas in that report: deep learning.

What does it mean?

Besides deep learning, the other 14 ideas are: the re-invention of the data center, virtual worlds, digital wallets, Bitcoin’s fundamentals, Bitcoin, electric vehicles, automation, autonomous ride-hailing, delivery drones, orbital aerospace, 3D printing, long read sequencing, multi-cancer screening, and cell and gene therapy.

For each Big Idea, the report explains what it is, assesses the potential for investors, and discusses related trends and effects. For example, deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence (AI), “uses data to write software,” and is aiding in the creation of conversational computers, self-driving cars, and consumer apps. It requires “boundless computational power,” “is creating a boom in AI chips,” and is “expanding from vision to language.”

The report goes into depth on the development of new computer chips to challenge Intel’s dominance, the effects of virtual reality and augmented reality on gaming, trends in financial services (digital wallets such as Venmo, and digital currencies such as Bitcoin), two technologies I have written about frequently (electric vehicles and 3D printing), the movement from automation from its success in manufacturing to other parts of the US economy, trends related to moving people and consumer goods (autonomous ride-sharing and delivery drones), and the growth in satellites to provide ubiquitous Internet connectivity.

The last three trends focus on biology and medicine. I learned that I need to read more about those areas. I need to learn more about what improvements will be enabled by long-read sequencing of genomes and about the technology of gene editing.

Their summary of EV trends (battery prices, range, performance, and sales) is succinct and persuasive that a roughly 20-fold growth can happen in the next five years. They connect 3D printing with improved drone technology and with the use of AI to optimize design.

I am surprised by some of their conclusions. The report has two trends related to Bitcoin, but a friend who invested early in Bitcoin tells me investors have moved onto other digital currencies. I find the potential applications of virtual reality in training to be more interesting than the report’s emphasis on gaming. I remain skeptical about autonomous vehicles without changes in the transportation system. Multi-cancer screening of asymptomatic populations faces, I think, the reality of signaling many false negatives (as driven by Bayes’s theorem). However, ARK is focused on where the money is and certainly has more knowledge than I do concerning that focus.

The report has no mention of climate change.

What does it mean for you?

What is ARK? Page 2 of the report states that ARK is an investment firm that “specializes in thematic investing in disruptive innovation and strives to invest at the pace of innovation.” What is a Big Idea for ARK? Page 4 states: “ARK requires a big idea to be investable and long-term.” My goal is not to give investment advice, but rather to help you be aware of and benefit from technological developments that may affect your organization in the future. The report focuses on how an investor can make money from these trends, but the report is still very helpful in pointing out trends for you to watch.

I have an engineer’s instinctual attraction to things that actually make better the lives of people and thus I find the report’s emphasis on making rich people richer (such as applauding the decline of labor’s share in the rewards of productivity) and its emphasis on the benefits of monetization of human activities not to my taste, but I recommend you read this report for some well written and researched information on trends. Perhaps you should view my engineering sensibility as merely resentment that the financial folks get much richer than engineers do from their own work.

Where can you learn more?

You can subscribe to The Hustle daily newsletter here. I find its over-the-top, well, hustle, wearying, but it is an interesting read for trends.

Regarding the 15 trends, I plan to spend some time doing Internet searches to learn more.

My money is invested through a fee-only financial advisor.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

I’ll print that for you

Shipping containers. Source: Wikimedia. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

What’s new?

On 27 January I attended an online webinar presented by Daniel Lazier, a mechanical engineer with the additive manufacturing company MarkForged, titled “Environmental Impact – Supply Chains.” Mr. Lazier discussed climate change, the impact of personal decisions as compared to the much larger impact of what he called “group choices,” the need to reduce the carbon footprint of supply chains, and the way in which additive manufacturing can have positive environmental effects.

What does it mean?

Mr. Lazier used an example of a MarkForged client who needed to manufacture and send a redesigned emergency part to various locations around the world. Because of the time pressure, the items were sent by air, which creates a large amount of carbon emissions. The alternate solution of sending a digital file to be printed closer to the places where the part was needed dramatically decreased the environmental impact and also made more economic sense.

Additive manufacturing can reduce carbon emissions by using material more efficiently (adding rather than subtracting material and the internal design of additive manufactured parts both reduce the waste of material), by requiring less electricity as compared to conventional machining, and by allowing slower and more efficient transportation (that is, by ship) of spools of feedstock. That feedstock can be used to create many products.

The ability to print at locations near the demand will be enabled by local companies but also by networks of printers. For example, MarkForged equipment is behind Project DIAMOnD, a State of Michigan initiative to create a distributed network of 3D printers able to print critical parts (for example, Personal Protective Equipment) quickly. The Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network is just one company offering to print your products in different locations around the world.

Even the supply chain of feedstock can be reduced by using local recycling to gather waste material, shred it, and extrude into filament for additive manufacturing, as described in this article “How to turn plastic waste in your recycle bin into profit.” See yeggi, thingiverse, pinshape, NASA, and many other sites for free or paid STL files for items to print.  

What does it mean for you?

In response to a question during the webinar, Mr. Lazier was quick to acknowledge that additive manufacturing makes economic (and environmental sense) for only some applications. If, for example, you are making millions of smartphone connectors a month, conventional manufacturing is better.

Additive manufacturing near to the place of use means that many products may be able to be printed on demand, with customization, creating a pull manufacturing process, rather than push. A 28 January 2021 article in Total Retail describes this on-demand economy, which reduces the need to forecast demand, reduces the need to store products until needed, and reduces the waste of products that were never sold. Even if your products are not ones that can be produced using additive manufacturing, you may find that some of your suppliers are using these processes.

With the announcement this week that GM will be carbon neutral by 2040 (driven by trends such as the amazing drop in batteries for vehicles) with the continued trend making renewable energy the cheapest source of electricity for utilities, and with the accelerating trend toward electrification in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, our world seems poised to look very different – and much greener – in the future. Add supply chains to the list of business functions that are going to be redesigned in the not-that-distant future.

Where can you learn more?

These changes to supply chains are so new that no standard term has yet emerged, but “distributed manufacturing” or “distributed production” is the best I have found. See, for example, this article from the 3D printing company EOS, or this article from 3Dprint.com.

It’s the system

“Autonomous delivery vehicles stuck in one place by attempting to avoid one another.”
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-driving_car#/media/File:Autonomous_Delivery_Vehicle_Pileup.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

What’s new?

In a 15 Jan 2021 article in EE Times (Electronic Engineering Times), automotive technology expert Egil Juliussen analyzed the 9 November 2020 advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning autonomous vehicles.

What does it mean?

As stated on the NHTSA website, “Our mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards, and enforcement.” Also,  “NHTSA issues Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to implement laws from Congress. These regulations allow us to fulfill our mission to prevent and reduce vehicle crashes.” Thus, the purpose of this advance notice is to seek input on the development of FMVSS to regulate autonomous vehicles in a way that promotes safety.

The legal website Lexology provides a helpful summary of the ANPRM, noting that the NHTSA proposes to focus on the capabilities of the automated systems in four functions: sensing (receiving information), perception (analyzing that information to reach conclusions about what it sees), planning (making decisions), and control (actually driving).

What does it mean for you?

The most important statement in the EE Times article is this seemingly innocuous explanation of terms: “To describe autonomous vehicle hardware and software, NHTSA is using the terminology, `Automated Driving System (ADS).’ I will also use `ADS’ instead of autonomous vehicle (AV) in the rest of this column.”

If an engineer is designing an autonomous vehicle (AV), the assumption is that the vehicle will function within the existing driving infrastructure. The phrase Advanced Driving System (ADS) contains that wonderful word “system” suggesting a new approach in which the entire transportation system is changed to support autonomous driving.

As early as 2005, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) were introduced into factories by laying down magnetic tape they can follow. While current versions do not require such support, they still function within a limited environment and their use is accompanied by five key rules: keep travel routes clear, never walk directly in front of an AGV, always allow them the right of way, stay out of the danger zone, and raised objects may not be recognized. Despite ambitious claims, the environment must still adapt to the AGV and it does not operate in the same environment as a human driven vehicle.

Thus, driving long distances could be more easily automated though designing lanes to be used by automated vehicles, as is being explored in Michigan (certainly an automobile friendly location) and other places.

One of the difficult parts of autonomous driving is to predict what other vehicles will do, especially ones being driven by humans. Limiting the environment to only automated vehicles provides an easier problem to solve. The word “system” also suggests coordination among automated vehicles, in which they share navigation information, but also share information about their intentions.

The NHTSA’s announcement of the ANPRM does not give any indication that NHTSA is thinking about the larger transportation system in their use of the phrase “Advanced Driving System,” since the announcement uses phrases like “ADS-equipped vehicle” implying that the system lies totally within the vehicle. Also, its definition of ADS (“the hardware and software that are, collectively, capable of performing the entire dynamic driving task on a sustained basis, regardless of whether it is limited to a specific operational design domain”) does not support the interpretation of “system” that I am using.

However, I confidently predict that automated driving will be successful – and safe – only to the degree that changes to the transportation system are made to support this new technology and to the degree that such vehicles are operated in autonomous mode only in environments that have been adapted to them.

Interestingly, the National Society for Professional Engineers (NSPE) issued a statement and several policy guides on autonomous vehicles which emphasizes the systems aspects embodied in the transportation infrastructure: professional engineers must have “a leading voice in ensuring that the same attention to safety and reliability that went into the built transportation infrastructure is incorporated into autonomous vehicles and smart transportation systems.”

The lesson is that every new technology requires changes to a larger system to be successful. Any decision maker contemplating the introduction of a new technology into an organization should always be asking questions about how that system – especially the humans in the system – will have to adapt to the technology.

Where can you learn more?

The NHTSA has a web page dedicated to Automated Driving Systems. The US Department of Transportation also has such a page.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (ah, there is that word again) is a professional organization supporting professionals in the field and publishes a magazine called Unmanned Systems.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has an Autonomous Vehicle Information Library.

January 2021 meeting of Pueblo Makes

Drew reminded people of the PSAS virtual STEM Fair this Thursday 21 Jan. If you signed up to be a judge, you will receive an email on Wednesday giving a link to the videos with a Google form to assess each video from Thursday through Sunday. Three judges will judge each video, by grade level. This year, due to COVID, all students did individual projects, not teams.  

Nathan Stern (nstern@broadstreetrealty.com) from Broad Street Realty in Denver spoke to us about planned development in the old Holmes Hardware Building (44 S Union Avenue), down Union Avenue from the Rawlings Library. He described his Pueblo connection (his great aunt worked for the steel mill) and the way he fell in love with Pueblo. He and his business partner Zach did various brokerage arrangements here, and he has sold property here, but after noticing the success of food halls in nurturing new restaurant in Denver, he decided to work on a food hall as a way for restaurateurs to get a concept off the ground, then open in their own place. On 3 March 2020 he put the Holmes Hardware Building under contract and shortly after that every restaurant in Pueblo shut down. This delay turned out to be a blessing since it gave him time to work on this project.

He showed us a presentation on the project (https://www.dropbox.com/s/gjjgv9vblnyg26x/Concept%20Deck%20-%20Fuel%20%26%20Iron%20-%2011.23.20.pdf?dl=0) including the history of the building.  Its location is ideal for drawing people down Union Avenue from the Riverwalk. He described the phases, starting with residential units (18 1-bedroom apartments, 18 2-bedroom, and 2 studios, unfurnished) on the top floors of the building, then the food hall, event space, urban farm, performing arts space (under the Union Ave bridge) and more residential units (working with IndieDwell). He hopes that the project will be catalytic. As people see this success, it will encourage more housing in the urban core. The downtown can’t be successful if no one lives there. The project will include many spaces for public art, including public art in the plaza, ornamental metal gates, an art wall, and more. The urban farm will include a playground.

The food hall will be all local companies. The project will operate the bar in the center of the food hall, leasing out five restaurant spaces and a coffee shop. It is intended that restaurants would be in the food hall for 2 to 3 years, and then open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Pueblo. Since the food hall will include kitchen facilities and equipment, a start-up food vendor will need only signage, a menu (usually about six items), and specialty equipment, requiring roughly $20,000 to start instead of millions. Food halls tend to be profitable, allowing the start ups to establish a concept, gain a customer base, and save up money to open a restaurant. With housing on site, employees could live nearby.

Contractor bids are due back 5 February. Depending on those bids, he thinks they have sufficient investment to proceed and plans to close on the building on 7 April. The construction will be done in two phases to comply with requirements for state tax credits for historic buildings. The residential units should be done in January 2022 and the food hall in July 2022.

Nathan asked for feedback and ideas.

LaDoris asked about the connection with Watertower Place. Nathan said the two projects are complementary, since Watertower Place plans to have full scale restaurants, food retail, and a commissary kitchen, none of which will be in the Holmes Hardware building.  Keating School also plans to focus on retail. He said they want to be good partner and are also working with the Food Project. LaDoris and Nathan will talk about the potential for LaDoris to supply aprons and chef caps.

He said they have most of the money needed, but not all and they are providing an opportunity for people to invest as little as $100 through https://wefunder.com/fuelandiron. In response to Zach’s questions, Nathan explained the funding of the total cost of $14.5 million. $9 million through three different loans. Of the remaining $5.5 million in equity. $3 million is raised through tax credit equity programs, federal and state. Since state credits are capped at $1 million per phase and one phase must be finished before the next starts, the residential floors will open in January 2022, and then the Food Hall in July.  

Karen described to Nathan that the building is located within a portion of the Pueblo Creative Corridor (https://www.puebloarts.org/pueblo-creative-corridor/) and that the Pueblo Arts Alliance (https://www.puebloarts.org/) does group marketing for the area. She will help Nathan connect with creatives. The project will also have a gallery of historic photos.

Drew offered that his students at PSAS (https://www.psask8.org/) have expertise in designing playgrounds and can give him feedback. Nathan encouraged that connection since the playground will be in the urban farm which is viewed as an educational piece. Nathan is already connected with Deric.

Ryan Madic will be the first intern from CSU-Pueblo and there are plans to involve PCC and CSU-Pueblo. Pueblo students will be able to see a career path in food businesses. Paula suggested he connect with Brian Estrada, the new director of the SBDC, who did catering at PCC. Four of the six food hall locations are signed already. Amanda described the customized workforce training PCC can provide.

Nathan said he has already bought 48 mugs from Tuxedo Ranch. Jean discussed the potential to do events to coordinate volunteers to work on the playground and garden, involving adults and youth. Nathan liked the idea. The group suggested that Taylor Blanchard (https://www.facebook.com/Journeymans-Upholstery-168546867414064/) might be able to provide furniture. Nathan said there will be need for over 200 chairs and 50 to 100 tables. Formulary 55 might be able to provide products for the bathroom. Karen volunteered to provide another bath products business also.

Nathan is in Pueblo once a week so email him (nstern@broadstreetrealty.com) if you want to discuss collaboration on the project.

Karen updated the group on progress on the store to be opened in the lobby of the Arts Alliance Building, to accept donations of creative and making supplies: Creative Reuse Pueblo. Progress is being made in cleaning out the warehouse, creating a list of what we can take and not take, policies for volunteers, etc. The store will start with volunteer managers, eventually paid. A local artist is creating a logo. The official announcement will be at the end of February, but donations already coming in. Also, she reminded us that the Arts Alliance online store is up and running (https://www.puebloarts.org/shop-local-art/). To be listed there, send info to Karen (karen@puebloarts.org). For Pueblo Makes members, there is a 10% commission only on sales, not on shipping. The vendor must handle shipping.  

Jane described an opportunity to advertise online classes through Activingo (https://activingo.com/?i). She, Bill, and Elliott have their EJB Partners offerings on that website, and perhaps Pueblo Makes and the Arts Alliance could collaborate on a storefront there. Karen talked about the video studio being set up at the Arts Alliance which will help people make videos. Karen said she recently took a course on giving webinars and she encouraged all of us to consider offering short courses; while others may already be teaching such a course, your voice might reach someone. Russ pointed to Lucid Woodturners (https://www.lucidwoodturners.com/) as a resource to help learn about teaching online. Jane mentioned Gia Goodrich’s video on how to look good online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljySr6s6Lqk. The group was very interested in teaching online and we will focus the February meeting on resources for offering online classes.

Jane said she had checked with Alan of the City of Pueblo about the possible zoning change to allow small batch manufacturing in certain areas (for example, on Main Street); the proposal is on hold until an inventory of historic buildings is complete. She described the idea of making Main Street a maker/creative friendly location and there was interest in pursuing that idea. LaDoris described a vision including childcare for workers.  Paula volunteered to run a session to expand that vision, which we will plan to do at the March meeting.

LaDoris announced that Project Inspire (https://www.projectinspire.community/) will have an event on 6 Feb with a Valentine’s Day theme where vendors can sell products.

Pueblo Makes meets the third Tuesday of each month, 3:30-5 pm, via zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84158525191?pwd=K1lsQWRSQy83Q1NLVXZxQzlBOUw2Zz09)

The next meeting dates and tentative topics are:

  • 16 February – online teaching of art and making classes
  • 16 March – vision for creative/maker Main Street: Making on Main Street

And

GLOBAL LAND-OCEAN TEMPERATURE INDEX
Data source: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Credit: NASA/GISS
Source of figure: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

What’s new?

A recent article in the magazine IEEE Spectrum reports on a new facility to be built in Texas to capture and sequester carbon dioxide (CO2), “doing the air-scrubbing work of some 40 million trees.”

What does it mean?

NASA has a clear explanation of the causes of global climate change. Greenhouse gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons) in the atmosphere trap the sun’s warmth in the greenhouse effect, leading to global warming and global climate change. NASA cites “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations” for the conclusion that there is a greater than “95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.” The reports of the IPCC can be found here.

NASA also describes the probable effects of global climate change, including a continued rise in temperature, lengthening of the growing season, changes in precipitation patterns, more droughts and heat waves, stronger and more intense hurricanes, a rise in sea level of 1 to 8 feet by 2100, and an ice-free Arctic Ocean before 2050.

NASA states: “Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries.” Efforts to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases will eventually have effect, but some people are working to act take greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) out of the atmosphere using methods called Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS).

What does it mean for you?

I am a fan of the word “and” – rather than “or.” Sometimes a situation demands picking one alternative, but often a solution to a problem may be made up of various components, all contributing to the solution. “And” reduces the risk of relying on one approach.

However, I am also a fan of actually solving a problem and not literally burying it in the ground. But, on the third hand, the global climate crisis is real and critical, so burying carbon dioxide buys us time. Read here journalist Ira Flatow’s discussion of how science works and why a one-handed scientist is not the answer.

My most hopeful view of carbon capture technology is the idea that these technologies can create a circular use of carbon dioxide. The IEEE Spectrum article mentions the development of technologies to use the captured carbon dioxide to produce synthetic fuels. Carbon dioxide can also be used in carbonated beverages or desalination plants.

Reducing the trash we produce (greenhouse emissions, plastics, etc.), capturing the trash we have already produced (see, for example, this technology to clean up plastic in the ocean), AND designing human activities to be sustainable, even regenerative, are all parts of the solution. We must do them all.

Where can you learn more?

I recommend highly the NASA website on climate change and the IPCC reports. The former is accessible, clear, and easy to read. The latter is more challenging to read, but I urge you not to let others tell you what the IPCC says without actually checking to see what they actually said.

Hold paramount

I always start with a relevant image, but I was unable to find an openly licensed photo of one of the Boeing 737 Max crash sites and I refuse to show a photo of an intact Max 737.

What’s new?

The Guardian reports that the US Federal Aviation Administration has fined Boeing $2.5 billion for its behavior, including fraud and conspiracy, concerning safety issues of the 737 Max airliner.

What does it mean?

Crashes of Max 737 planes in October 2018 in Ethiopia and in March 2019 in Indonesia killed a total of 346 people. As explained in this 2019 article from Vox, Boeing made the business decision to try to avoid a lengthy recertification process by redesigning an existing plane rather than design a new plane. “But because the new engines wouldn’t fit under the old wings, the new plane wound up having different aerodynamic properties than the old plane. And because the aerodynamics were different, the flight control systems were also different. But treating the whole thing as a fundamentally different plane would have undermined the whole point. So the FAA and Boeing agreed to sort of fudge it.” An attempt to fix the problem through software was never incorporated sufficiently into pilot training. “That let Boeing get the planes into customers’ hands quickly and cheaply, but evidently at the cost of increasing the possibility of pilots not really knowing how to handle the planes, with dire consequences for everyone involved.” People died.

What does it mean for you?

In 2015, when news broke about VW’s use of software to defeat the ability of EPA tests to accurately measure emissions from VW diesels, I met my engineering class of about 20 juniors, seniors, and graduate students. I intended to briefly comment about the VW actions, lament the ethical lapses, reinforce the importance of ethics and safety, and then turn to our scheduled topic for the class. The engineering faculty had long agreed on the importance of highlighting news events related to engineering. However, much to my shock, some of the students pushed back: everyone lies, it’s part of the game, and that’s just business.

I argued back and a lively discussion ensued. In fact, I yelled at them. At the next meeting of our departmental advisory board (made up of representatives from local companies that hire our graduates), I recounted this story; the members of the board told me I was correct in yelling at the students. They said that ethical lapses were fireable offences.

A failure in learning by a wide group of students generally indicates a failure in teaching, so a few class sessions later, I spent some time reviewing the stance of the engineering profession regarding ethics and safety, material we cover in the first year introduction to engineering course. I started with the first Fundamental Canon in the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) Code of Ethics for Engineers, which forms the basis for the codes of ethics of all engineering societies in the US: “Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.”

Next I described that ABET, which accredits all engineering programs in the US, requires programs to include as a desired outcome that graduates have “an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.” The achievement of that outcome must be assessed and evaluated, and that evaluation must be used for continuous improvement of the program. In addition, any safety lapse during ABET’s review of a program that is not immediately fixed, will lead to a negative review, involving a “show cause” decision in which the institution must argue why the program should not lose its accreditation.

I reminded the students that, as seniors, they would be invited to be inducted into the Order of the Engineer, by reciting the obligation (including the statement that “my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good”), and wearing a ring that reminds them of their obligation.

When I present this material to first year students in engineering, I tell them, that, if they are not ready to take on these ethical obligations, they should not become engineers. I invite them to leave.

I recently had a very bad experience with a national company (which left us for 5 days without propane) and a very good experience with a local company (Flow Right Plumbing, Heating and Cooling) that got our furnace and water heater running again after we got propane. When I complimented the local company, the repair person went on at length about the training they get – the first training he mentioned was ethics. I repeat: the first training he mentioned was ethics.

The fact that Boeing (and VW) did not receive the death penalty for their actions is an example of privileging the “lives” of corporations over the actual lives of living beings. If you are not prioritizing ethics, if you cannot make ethics and safety part of your business plan, if you do not make sure that every employee behaves ethically, then your business should not exist.

Where can you learn more?

Excellent material abounds for teaching engineering ethics, especially using case studies: for example, here, here, and here.

I am less familiar with such material for teaching business ethics, but an Internet search turned up similar business case studies here, here, and here. I cannot find that the standards of the leading business school accreditation body, AACSB, include a requirement that student outcomes include any knowledge or skill about ethical behavior, but I might have missed such a statement.  

An Internet search for “teaching ethics to employees” turned up many web pages with helpful material and many companies that offer such training or advice on how to train employees. I like this article from Training Magazine and this one from Strategic Finance Magazine.

Engineering culture constantly reinforces attention to safety and ethics, and every organization can do the same. Some companies start every meeting with a safety review. The pinky ring from the Order of the Engineer is designed to be a constant reminder of the obligation of the engineer to the public. I serve on the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pueblo County; every meeting has a report from our safety committee about how we are keeping kids safe. You can think of ways to make ethics constantly at the forefront of the minds of those in your organization.