Category Archives: How to

How to Build Better Sidewalk Connectivity

TI is working to improve near the sidewalk edge connectivity for household wireless devices.
By John Blyler – Late last year, Amazon announced their “Sidewalk,” a neighborhood network designed to help customer devices work better both at home and beyond the front door. A little less than a year later, the company announced additional details on the Amazon Sidewalk, which highlighted the low-power, long-range connectivity benefits for IoT devices. For anyone who has attempted to install a smart security camera or a connected doorbell at the edge of their Wi-Fi connectivity range, this announcement came as a welcome respite from the difficulties in getting IoT devices to connect and stay connected.

Texas Instruments (TI) is among the chipmakers working with Amazon to make Sidewalk a reality. When TI announced its support for Amazon Sidewalk, it highlighted several low-power, multi-band devices that enabled developers to build applications that leveraged the Sidewalk protocol as well as Bluetooth Low Energy.

To learn more about these multi-band wireless devices and how they support the Sidewalk, Design News talked with Casey O’Grady, marketing manager at Texas Instruments. She focuses on removing barriers for the global deployment of Sub-1 GHz connectivity to achieve greater distances with ultra-low power.

O’Grady: Amazon Sidewalk can extend the range of low-bandwidth devices and make it simpler and more convenient for consumers to connect. Ultimately, it will bring more connected devices together into an ecosystem where products such as lights and locks can all communicate on the same network. Sidewalk can enable devices connected inside the home to effortlessly expand throughout the neighborhood. more>

The EU’s credibility is at stake

By Otmar Lahodynsky – In July, after a four-day marathon summit in Brussels, there was agreement on the EU budget for 2021-2027 and a recovery fund for the EU’s 27 members following the COVID-19 crisis.

Together, almost €2 trillion have been reserved for this purpose. The €750 billion corona aid package is intended to help those countries that have been the most affected by the disease, including as Italy, Spain and France, but also the other Member States as they will need to rebuild their economies.

At the EU summit, a typical Brussels-style compromise was reached – each head of government presented themself as a winner at home if they will receive a lot of money for economic recovery. It was then that the so-called “frugal four” – Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden (plus Finland) – forced a reduction in the number of grants in exchange for an increase in the share of loans and a cut in their membership fees. The heads of Poland and Hungary also celebrated at home after the successfully de-linked their access to EU funding from their records on the rule of law.

Subsequently, however, the other EU states introduced this clause by a clear majority.

The Poles and Hungarians felt pressured and they vetoed the seven-year EU budget, which requires unanimity despite the fact that they were not bothered that they had previously approved it.

In his explanatory statement, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki railed against an “attack on Polish sovereignty” and adding that the EU was no longer the same as when Poland had joined the bloc in 2004, a generation after the end of Communism. Morawiecki said the Polish economy was so strong that it no longer needed any subsidies from Brussels (more than €12 billion each year). Morawiecki said that Poles were even considering an EU withdrawal along the lines of Brexit.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Brussels’ bête noire, went even further. In his view, the EU is acting like the Soviet Union once did. It wants to blackmail Hungary and force it to accept Middle Eastern refugees. In the future, Orban added, the European Commission would have the power to meddle in the internal politics of all of the Member States, as it sees fit. Orban also emphasized that the EU’s previous accusations against Hungary were all unfounded and that the concept of the rule of law was not precisely or universally defined.

The reality is that these core concepts of the bloc were long-ago enshrined in the EU treaties and in Europe’s charter of fundamental rights. Conditions for EU accession were already laid down in the 1993 Copenhagen criteria and include the stability of institutions, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and respect and protection of minorities.

The Commission has, for too long, turned a blind eye to the transgressions of the nationalistic populists in Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries. The isolated attempts to bring about punitive proceedings under Article 7 of the EU Treaty did not act as a deterrent, because sanctions were not imposed. For this reason, the governments of Hungary and Poland mutually helped each other.

But now the basic principles of the EU, above all the rule of law, are being put to the test. more>

Updates from McKinsey

E-commerce: How consumer brands can get it right
Consumer brands need to make direct-to-consumer economics feasible and the customer experience seamless.
By Arun Arora, Hamza Khan, Sajal Kohli, and Caroline Tufft – Consumer brands have been seeking to establish direct relations with end customers for a range of reasons: to generate deeper insights about consumer needs, to maintain control over their brand experience, and to differentiate their proposition to consumers. Increasingly, they also do it to drive sales (see sidebar, “Why go direct?”).

For any brands that have considered establishing a direct-to-consumer (DTC) channel in the past and decided against it, now is the time to reconsider. COVID-19 has accelerated profound business trends, including the massive consumer shift to digital channels. In the United States, for example, the increase in e-commerce penetration observed in the first half of 2020 was equivalent to that of the last decade. In Europe, overall digital adoption has jumped from 81 percent to 95 percent during the COVID-19 crisis.

Many companies have been active in launching new DTC programs during the pandemic. For example, PepsiCo and Kraft Heinz have both launched new DTC propositions in recent months. Nike’s digital sales grew by 36 percent in the first quarter of 2020, and Nike is aiming to grow the share of its DTC sales from 30 percent today to 50 percent in the near future. “The accelerated consumer shift toward digital is here to stay,” said John Donahoe, a Silicon Valley veteran who became Nike president and CEO in January. 1 Our consumer sentiment research shows that two-thirds of consumers plan to continue to shop online after the pandemic.

The vast majority of consumer brands are used to selling through intermediaries, including retailers, online marketplaces, and specialized distributors. Their experience with direct consumer relationships and e-commerce is limited. As a result, they often hesitate to launch an e-commerce channel despite the obvious opportunity it offers. Just 60 percent of consumer-goods companies, at best, feel even moderately prepared to capture e-commerce growth opportunities. more>

Updates from Adobe

Build dynamic cityscapes with Brian Yap
The Adobe creative director and illustrator demonstrates how to make a complex metropolis using very simple shapes and lines.
By Jordon Kushins – Two rectangles and a triangle. Those are the basic building blocks Brian Yap uses to form the foundation of one of myriad structures in a dynamic cityscape he brought to life with Adobe Illustrator on the iPad.

As a creative director and illustrator here at Adobe, Yap knows his way around Creative Cloud, and his portfolio is a testament to the capabilities of a variety of apps and programs. “I’m almost entirely mobile now,” he says. “I’ll sometimes scribble in a notebook, or finish something off on desktop, but the tablet is my main tool.”

Downsizing from desktop to tablet hasn’t made him any less meticulous. “I’d describe my work as over-detailed,” he says with a laugh. “Or maybe ‘complex’ is a better word. I like to work in a variety of different digital styles — everything from what feels like classic ink drawings to music posters to very graphic and sometimes even sculptural works — as well as experiment with different materials.” more>

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Updates from Ciena

Can utilities have their multi-layered cake and eat it too?
Utilities are facing increasing bandwidth demands on their communications networks. Ciena’s Mitch Simcoe explains how modernizing networks to a private packet-optical fiber architecture can help utilities scale to support new smart grid applications.
By Mitch Simcoe – Utilities are increasingly in the eye of the storm these days. Whether it’s having to deal with hurricanes in the Gulf Coast over the last few months or wildfires on the West Coast, utilities have had to put more sensors out in the field to keep abreast of changing weather conditions and potential risks to their power grids. The increasing demands for utilities to show that they are carbon-free is also changing the way they generate and distribute energy. The one common denominator that utilities have is more data to collect and backhaul from their power grids, which is driving increasing demand on their communications networks.

Many utilities may not realize it, but recent advancements have resulted in several bandwidth-intensive applications and processes driving up demand on their networks:

  1. Video Surveillance
    Security continues to be top of mind for utilities and security surveillance in the past has been more “after the fact”; where video surveillance is stored locally at the substation and only accessed after a security breach. Today’s approach is to backhaul all security video footage to a centralized data center and apply artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to proactively determine if a security breach is in the process of occurring. In those cases, security personnel can be dispatched on site in near-real time. Each video camera at a substation can generate 9 Gigabytes of data per day and a typical substation could have a dozen video cameras to surveil.
  2. Synchrophasors
    Prior to the big power outage of 2003 in the Northeast United States (where 50 million households lost power for two days), sensors on the power grid using SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) would sample the state of the grid about once every four seconds. This significant outage could have been avoided had the grid been sampling data more frequently. To address this, a device called a synchrophasor (not the Star Trek type!) was introduced, which would sample the state of the grid 30 to 60 times per second. This has allowed the grid to be more reliable but produces significantly more data to backhaul and process. Each synchrophasor PMU (Performance Measurement Unit) can generate 15 Gigabytes of data per day and all of that must be backhauled to a central data center for analysis.
  3. Smart Meters
    In the US, over 50% of households are now serviced by a smart meter that measures your household’s power consumption every 15 minutes. Beyond their billing function, they help utilities track power consumption hotspots during peak usage. For a utility of 1 million households, which would be the middle range for most US Investor-owned Utilities (IOUs), this can generate 1 terabyte of data per day that needs to be backhauled to a central data center for processing.
  4. Internet of Things (IoT) devices
    These include what we mentioned earlier: weather sensors and sensors on power equipment to proactively identify issues. Smart thermostats in homes is another growing trend which utilities are using to offer smart “on-demand” billing plans where you allow the utility to raise your thermostat during periods of peak usage during the hot summer months in exchange for a lower cents per kWh price.

For the first three categories we mentioned above, a utility of 1 million households would result in a daily requirement for data backhaul of 6 to 8 terabytes. With this amount of data to backhaul and process, it is no wonder utilities are exhausting the available capacity of their legacy communications networks.

The Information Technology (IT) group in a utility is tasked with managing many of these new applications associated with a smarter grid. Some utilities have been leasing copper-based TDM services for many years from service providers for smart grid, IT and substation traffic. The cost of this approach has been onerous and only gets more expensive as service providers are migrating their networks away from copper to fiber and wireless options. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

This one ubiquitous job actually has four distinct roles
The avatars of the strategist
By Ram Shivakumar – Among the occupational titles that have become ubiquitous in the 21st century, “strategist” remains something of a mystery. What does the strategist do? What skills and mindset distinguish the strategist from others?

Is the strategist a visionary whose mandate is to look into the future and set a course of direction? A planner whose charter is to develop and implement the company’s strategic plan? An organization builder whose mission is to inspire a vibrant and energetic culture? Or is it all of the above?

Academic scholarship does not settle this question. Over the past 50 years, many competing schools of thought on strategy have emerged. The two most prominent are the positioning school and the people school. The positioning school, closely associated with ideas developed by Harvard’s Michael Porter, argues that strategy is all about distinctiveness and not operational efficiency. In this view, the acquisition of a valuable position depends on the unique combination of activities that an organization performs (or controls). The people school, closely associated with the ideas of Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, posits that the principal difference between high-performance organizations and others lies in how each group manages its most important resource—people. In this view, high-performance organizations foster a culture that reward teamwork, integrity, and commitment.

Because these two schools differ in their doctrines (assumptions and beliefs) and principles (ideas and insights), each envisions a distinct role for the strategist. more>

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Democracy’s biggest challenge is information integrity

By Laura Thornton – As the world watches the United States’ elections unfold, the intensity of our polarization is on display. This election was not marked by apathy. On the contrary – citizens turned out in record numbers, some standing in lines all day, to exercise their franchise with powerful determination and the conviction of their choice.

What is notable is how diametrically opposed those choices are, the divergence is not only voters’ visions for America but perceptions of the reality of America. It has long been said that Americans, like citizens elsewhere, increasingly live in parallel universes. Why is this? I believe quite simply it boils down to information.

While there are ample exceptions and complexities, in one universe, people consume a smattering of different news sources, perhaps one or two newspapers, some journals, television and radio broadcasts and podcasts. Many of the sources are considered left-leaning. These Americans tend to hold university degrees and vote for Democrats.

The other universe includes those who primarily get their news from one or two sources, like Fox News, and rely on Facebook and perhaps their community, friends, and family for information.  They lean Republican, and many are not university educated — the so-called “education gap” in American politics. The majority of Republicans, in fact, cite Fox for their primary source of news, and those who watch Fox News are overwhelmingly supportive of Republicans and Trump.  Both universes gravitate toward echo chambers of like-minded compatriots, rarely open or empathetic to the views and experiences of others.

There are obvious exceptions and variations. The New York Times-reading, educated Republican holding his nose but counting on a tax break. Or the low-information voter who votes Democratic with her community.

In the two big general universes, sadly the divide is not just about opinions or policy approaches.  They operate with different facts.  As Kellyanne Conway, former Trump advisor, famously put it, “alternative facts.” more>

Updates from McKinsey

The future of payments is frictionless—now more than ever
Amrita Ahuja, the CFO of Square, explains how the company’s payment platform and services have helped small enterprises stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.
By Amrita Ahuja – Cash is king when it comes to maintaining corporate liquidity. It is in a somewhat less prestigious position when it comes to fulfilling consumer-to-business transactions. The onset of the COVID-19 crisis and ongoing fears of infection have prompted consumers and businesses to rely more on digital and contactless payment options when buying and selling goods and services.

How have the past few months been, and what’s changed for Square as a result of the crisis?

We’re taking it a day at a time. We serve merchants, who we call sellers, and individual consumers. And we know that this has been an incredibly trying time for everyone, where a lot of people’s livelihoods have been in question. The first thing we did was focus on our employees and their health. We shut down our offices on March 2. We wanted to do right by our communities and do our part to halt the spread of the virus. We took an all-hands-on-deck approach to understand what was happening in our customers’ businesses and what was happening in our own business. Every single day in March and April felt like a year, frankly, in terms of our understanding and how fast things were moving. We ran through scenarios, and asked ourselves, “OK, if the situation resembles a V, or if things look like an L, or if it looks like a U, what does that mean for us and our ability to serve our various stakeholders, employees, customers, and investors?”

We’ve had to be fast and clear with our communications during a time in which there are still so many unknowns. It was important to own up to this uncertainty and yet not downplay the severity of the situation. We met far more frequently with the board than the typical quarterly cadence. We held an update call with [investment bankers and analysts] outside the typical earnings cadence. We suspended our formal guidance to Wall Street, but we actually shared more information about the real-time views that we were seeing in our business across a number of different metrics and geographies. And with employees, we had a far more frequent and transparent mode of communication. We were sending weekly email updates, we built comprehensive and regularly updated FAQs, we set up a Slack channel for questions, and we held biweekly virtual all-hands meetings. We didn’t know everything, but we had a process for learning things over time and communicating them transparently. Ultimately, that has served us well, in terms of motivating our employees, serving our customers, and giving stakeholders a clear understanding of where we are as a business and how we are proceeding. more>

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Updates from Siemens

Designing large scale automation and robotic systems using Solid Edge
By David Chadwick – Precision Robotics and Automation Ltd (PARI) is a leading developer of automation and robotic systems globally. Their customers in the automotive sector include established giants like Ford, Chrysler, PSA, Daimler-Benz, Tata Motors, Mahindra, and new significant players like VinFast. PARI designs, manufactures and installs complete, automated systems including multi-station lines for machining and assembly of powertrain components and assemblies.

PARI has been a major user of Solid Edge for 15 years with 160 licenses deployed at their headquarters near Pune in India. Typical automation solutions deployed by PARI incorporate a wide variety of robots, actuators and sensors and other mechatronic items. These systems can comprise over 25,000 unique components.

Mangesh Kale, Managing Director of PARI describes their design process. “If a six-axis robot is required for a specific application then we use robots from major suppliers like FANUC, ABB and Kuka, or other makes specified by the customer. We typically receive 3D models from these manufacturers and we integrate these into our automation system designs. However, many applications demand gantry type robots that we design and manufacture ourselves. In a typical solution, about 60% of the design is using standardized commodities of PARI. However, custom parts are typically 40% of the design. For example, the gripper sub-assembly for any material handling solution is typically a custom design. This design meets specific application needs to handle components at different stages in the machining or assembly process. The customization required for assembly processes is even higher. We find that Solid Edge is a very powerful and flexible solution for designing these sub-systems.” more>

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Keep science irrational

By Michael Strevens – Modern science has a whole lot going for it that Ancient Greek or Chinese science did not: advanced technologies for observation and measurement, fast and efficient communication, and well-funded and dedicated institutions for research. It also has, many thinkers have supposed, a superior (if not always flawlessly implemented) ideology, manifested in a concern for objectivity, openness to criticism, and a preference for regimented techniques for discovery, such as randomized, controlled experimentation. I want to add one more item to that list, the innovation that made modern science truly scientific: a certain, highly strategic irrationality.

‘Experiment is the sole judge of scientific “truth”,’ declared the physicist Richard Feynman in 1963. ‘All I’m concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements,’ said Stephen Hawking in 1994. And dipping back a little further in time, we find the 19th-century polymath John Herschel expressing the same thought: ‘To experience we refer, as the only ground of all physical enquiry.’ These are not just personal opinions or propaganda; the principle that only empirical evidence carries weight in scientific argument is widely enforced across the scientific disciplines by scholarly journals, the principal organs of scientific communication. Indeed, it is widely agreed, both in thought and in practice, that science’s exclusive focus on empirical evidence is its greatest strength.

et there is more than a whiff of dogmatism about this exclusivity. Feynman, Hawking, Herschel all insist on it: ‘the sole judge’; ‘all I’m concerned with’; ‘the only ground’. Are they, perhaps, protesting too much? What about other considerations widely considered relevant to assessing scientific hypotheses: theoretical elegance, unity, or even philosophical coherence? Except insofar as such qualities make themselves useful in the prediction and explanation of observable phenomena, they are ruled out of scientific debate, declared unpublishable. It is that unpublishability, that censorship, that makes scientific argument unreasonably narrow. It is what constitutes the irrationality of modern science – and yet also what accounts for its unprecedented success. more>