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RFID: Context Aware and Location – a Brief History & Introduction

My distant relative - Flight Lieutenant KJP Granger (Royal Air Force) and his DH82A Gipsy Moth - did the forerunner of RFID save him from being shot down?

Some of the best technological advances are made during times of conflict. Sad that it should be so, but the silver lining is that many of the advances are focused on defending, protecting and shielding people. Active RFID, the kind of solution provided by Cisco and AeroScout, in many ways started out that way.

Looking back decades to WWII, radar was already being developed in ernest by the British in the run-up to the second world war. Many countries were developing radar at that time, but most folks agree that Robert Watson Watt, later Sir Robert, was the prime mover-and-shaker.  It took US marketing (in the form of the US Navy) to coin the term RADAR, for radio detection and ranging.

So where does Context Aware Location RFID come in? Well, whilst radar itself was useful, the  British needed to know whether those planes coming over the English Channel were returning Spitfires and allied bombers, or attacking Luftwaffe aircraft. It was the same Watson-Watt that helped produce the ‘Identification friend or foe’ (IFF) system that  used a transponder on the allied aircraft that was ‘excited’ by the radar system and actively sent back a signal to the base saying friend. My own cousin, Flight Lieutenant KJP Granger, Officer Trainer RAF, was grateful for that!

Now fast forward decades to today. The technology for today’s RFID is a little different, but the concept is the same. So let’s keep the aeronautical theme going and talk about Boeing and its use of RFID.      Read More »

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Innovation: The Cisco and Librestream Video Collaboration Solution

I’m really excited by this new Cisco and Librestream MMVC solution. Lots of information out on the web, and lots of questions so I thought I’d put a brief video together to give you an introduction and to see if we can get a discussion going and also to see if we can answer some of the questions for you. The video starts talking about what really matters. What are the pain-points that manufacturers and industry have today? How do they get hold of the right people to fix things if something goes wrong, and how can they say ‘I see what you mean now’ – and really mean it?

All this matters because keeping things running matters. Being able to communicate effectively in real time using video, speech and pictures – globally, if need be – matters. Knowing what’s going on and having clearer visibility matters. Working out what to do next, whether it’s developing a new product or fixing an operational problem fast, matters a lot.

I was fortunate to catch up with Librestream’s Vice President of Marketing and Client Services, Marieke Wijtkamp, and let her answer some of your questions. You’ll see what Marieke has to say and find out more about the solution in a moment… Read More »

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Santa’s Supply Chain – Get Something NEW and EXCITING!

I was thinking about all the supply chain agility issues Santa would have this year – probably the same every year. Like the fact that he has to deliver to hundreds of millions of folks on one particular day of the year.

He’s been doing this for hundreds of years with only one workshop – not located anywhere near any major distribution routes and with a small but obviously highly productive workforce. Add to this his orders come in only a few weeks before 25th December – some on the 24th! And somehow he hasn’t any carry over stock on the 26th. Miss the 25th and you’ve had it!

Downside of this squeeze is that you can often get that same ol’ pair of socks, that boring polyester tie or that colorful sweater that you’ll never wear. Maybe even a lump of coal if you’re really unlucky. So here’s a message to  Santa… Read More »

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The Automation Imperative

So what’s with the increased interest in automation lately?  No doubt you’ve noticed there have been more than a few blogs already written on this site and others espousing the importance and value of automation.  (“Meet the Newest Member of Your Data Center Operations Team,” Tere’ Bracco, November 8, 2010 and “Mad Scientist Alert,” Christopher Kennessey, October 27, 2010) What trends lie behind this demand?  Three come to mind:

1)     Disappearing cost-benefit of offshoring

2)     Increasing skills shortage

3)     Growing adoption of virtualization/cloud technologies

And each of these deserves a bit more exploration. Today, I will focus on offshoring and leave the other two for future blogs.

Moving IT operations to low-cost parts of the world has been a very lucrative exercise for the past two decades.  However, the financial benefits that were obvious 10 years ago are mostly gone thanks to increasing salaries in India, China, and other emerging countries combined with rising hassle costs (compliance, regulations, security, communications, language, and management) associated with off-shoring.  Here is a quote from Sramana Mitra who wrote a very well publicized and much debated article in 2008 titled “The death of Indian outsourcing” (  She writes “Rising wages in the most popular offshore centers (especially Bangalore), are eroding the cost advantage that drove this business to India in the first place. When the practice began, there was a 1:10 cost advantage. Today, this has dropped to 1:3. Over the next 5 years, perhaps, it won’t make sense to send work to India anymore.”  Further complicating the offshoring play is the 20-40% attrition rates seen in many of these low-cost countries.

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Meeting Old Challenges in the New Normal

So it’s more or less official: the recession ended in June 2009. Anyone watching IT departments this year could have told you that. When the economy ramps up, there’s a shift in focus from cost savings and maintenance (back when I was an IT manager, we called it “bunker mode”) to innovation that moves the business forward. And in 2010 we’ve certainly observed that. IT departments are concentrating not only on streamlining operations and lowering costs—an absolute mandate of the recession—but also on innovation that leads to better business operations, greater productivity, and increased revenues—a clarion call of recovery.  Now, this innovation can be in business practice or improved technology—and most likely both—but it almost always begins with IT. Streamlining IT functions, managing assets carefully, and ensuring uninterrupted operations can lower costs, increase reliability, and free resources for research, development, and innovation.

 So it’s back to business as usual running IT departments and data centers in an expanding recovery, right? Wrong.

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