Virginia Technology Today

Perspectives is a blog designed to discuss future trends in technology.

Friday, August 30, 2019

It was good to have Senator Warner in town on Tuesday.  I had the opportunity to join him for a lunch meeting and briefly discuss various technology projects happening in Virginia, including the new AWS campus in NOVA.  Mark is perhaps the most technology savvy member of the Senate and is deeply invested in the tech community.

During his wrap-up, Warner, dropped two ideas that moved beyond the current political dialogue: designing a benefits system that attaches to a person, not a job, and creating tax credits that reward businesses that invest in workers.

“Let’s fix the Affordable Care Act and improve it, but we are in a time in our country and the economy that the old 20th-century notion that you get out of school and you go to work, and work at the same company for 35 years for your whole career — that world is gone,” he said. “My kids are going to have 10 different jobs before they are 35.”


Today is my last official day at GE.  We announced my retirement internally to the team in late June. Since then, I’ve been wrapping up loose ends and working on the transition plan with the new leadership team.  What an incredible learning experience.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best minds in the industry and can honestly say GE has some of the smartest most dedicated individuals on the planet.   This organizations dedication and focus on the customer is second to none.

I would like to thank Bonz, Khozema, Jenn, Katherine, Steven, Larry, John, Jeff, Dan, Kathleen, Bill, Simon, Russ, Joe, Kim, Jane, Mark, Richa, Mike, Jason, Chris, The Rocker, JeremiahC, MYoung and a host of others for your leadership and inspiration along the way.  

To my GE family – stay in touch and never lose focus on what’s important – the customer.


Below is an edited version of the note that was sent to the team in June.


As you heard on the call this morning, I’ve decided to retire from GE.  For those who know me, this should not come as a surprise since it has been in the works for a couple of years.  I postponed the decision as we started the GED journey to help work on the future direction of the group.  Now that the process is complete, I feel comfortable handing over the reins to the new leadership who will take you to the next level. I want you to know that I’m incredibly proud of your accomplishments and know your best days are still to come.  

What’s next?  I will be around in an advisory role through August, and after that - I will be spending a lot of time with my wife Susan (long overdue), finish a book that I’ve been writing, completing an OSS CMMS project that I’ve been coding for a while and doing a lot of volunteering. In addition to these endeavors, I have been asked to serve on several boards, teach and help the start-up community in the Blacksburg and NOVA region (Ut Prosim is a way of life for my family). 

Remember to always focus on the customer, deliver positive outcomes, and build software consistent with proven industry norms.  In the words of Steve Jobs, “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.”  I think we are crazy enough to change the world if we continue to focus on what’s important – the customer.  My parting request for everyone is to focus on true north, remember the basics, check your ego at the door, hold close the idea that domain knowledge wins, always challenge assumptions if they negatively impact the customer and never stop innovating.

I have so many people I’d like to thank, it’s almost an entirely separate letter. At a minimum, I need to thank Meridium founder Bonz Hart for introducing me to the space and getting me – frankly all of us - started on this journey.  This is the man we should all thank for having the vision. There are so many others to thank, from the people I see every day to the customers we serve.  Your dedication and innovative spirit inspire me every day.

Thank you GE for the opportunity and my incredible team for joining me on this journey.

Take care, and thanks for all you do.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

APM and Field Service Management

Field Service Digital caught up with Eddie Amos, corporate vice president of Predix Platform and industrial applications at GE Digital, as the company’s acquisition of ServiceMax nears the two-year mark. Below, Amos discusses how service organizations are already using GE Digital’s asset performance management (APM) and field service management (FSM) applications—and his vision for how the technologies will empower technicians to work smarter and more efficiently.

Can you briefly explain APM is, and how it pertains to field service?

Eddie Amos: Predix APM is a suite of software and service solutions built to optimize the performance of industrial assets by increasing reliability and availability, while optimizing maintenance costs, mitigating operational risks and reducing total cost of ownership. APM pulls together data from a variety of sources, such as sensors and service records, and then uses advanced analytics to turn that data into actionable insights. Predix APM works across all equipment, all OEMs and all industries—across the plant, and across the fleet.

How do customers bring this data to bear on their service businesses?

One recent customer decided to work with us specifically because our combined APM and FSM offering opened a variety of doors to performance improvement opportunities they’d never considered. GE has a history of designing, manufacturing, operating, and servicing equipment, which gives us unique perspective into the lifecycle of assets. That perspective and knowledge is infused in—and amplified by—GE Digital’s portfolio of products.

What  unique value do APM and FSM applications bring when paired together?

Bringing together our APM offering with the ServiceMax products is a powerful idea. Two key benefits come to mind: First is strategy, and, more specifically, providing insights into the optimal equipment maintenance regime, balancing factors like risk, asset criticality, and cost. As an example, determining whether a break/fix or preventative-maintenance approach is appropriate based on historic failures, cost of downtime, or demand predictions can result in significant savings and productivity gains. Over time, as relevant data is gathered and aggregated from across APM and FSM applications, the operational and maintenance logic can be extended to allow a shift from preventative to predictive maintenance, which drives exponentially greater performance improvements.
This leads us to a second benefit: providing the tools and techniques to detect failures before they happen. This includes deep machine learning and intelligent systems that can effectively “predict” issues and failures, both in individual assets, as well as across a fleet or system.
These kinds of built-in capabilities deliver recommendations to operators and technicians, helping to minimize repair costs for the OEM or field service teams and increase asset output by almost “seeing around corners” with regard to operations and service.
For example, consider a technician dispatched to a wind farm. Typically, the technician would receive the work order with enough detail to conduct the necessary service or repairs. The tech brings tools and parts, and logs work performed in the ServiceMax app. APM provides an entirely new layer of richness to that work order. Historical data about things like bearing or brush life, part information, and even weather data—all of that data can provide additional insights and inform other work that a technician might perform while there. Even better, there may be data available from other units in that same wind farm that, when aggregated, can help to drive performance improvement across the fleet. That puts more power in the hands of the operators and technicians, and more profits in our customers’ coffers.

What is a best practice you would recommend to a company that is already on its digital transformation path, but hasn’t yet finalized all of the pieces?

Small wins are important to keep the momentum going. Transformation is a huge undertaking, but gradually improving your assets or field service team’s performances can be just as powerful. Understanding your stakeholders’ priorities and focusing your efforts on small but meaningful steps is the best way to progress. It’s often much less about the big technology initiatives, and more about the balance of technology and culture that drives success. We’ve learned this by doing it ourselves inside of GE—before going out to customers. Transformation will be different for all businesses, and customers will be at different stages of maturity when they start their digital journeys.

What are you most excited about for the future of APM?

Our portfolio is unlike anything out there. We literally touch every part of the asset lifecycle, and the market has barely been cracked. There are billions of assets and systems that can run so much better with the help of digital. Whether we’re talking about moving manufacturing data to the cloud or laying the groundwork for advances in supply chain and on-demand part production with additive manufacturing, there is a massive amount of opportunity, and we have the right team and the right portfolio to lead.

The Great Reboot

When you think about the future of technology there are many interesting points of view from various futurist, scientist and dreamers. Juan Enriquez shares his views on what’s next in his TED Talk entitled “The next species of human.”  In the talk, Juan starts by summarizing the current financial situation facing America today.  He does a nice job holding your attention by discussing our current financial situation in a rather humorous manner.  This discussion is necessary to frame-up his point that we are going hit by two waves of change in the very near future.  The first wave will be the crescendo of the current financial crisis and the second will deal with the next set of advancements that will happen in technology.  The dilemma that we all face is how to address the current situation while still investing in the future.  After all it’s the innovators, dreamers and small entrepreneurs that will drive the economy moving forward. 

Enriquez discusses three trends that will have a major impact on how we think about technology and the evolution of the human species.   I find his quote from Louis L’Amour very appropriate for his thesis, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning. “ There are three trends that are driving the next wave of technology that may “refine” what it means to be human.  The three trends are the ability to 1) engineer microbes, 2) the ability to engineer tissue and 3) the ability to engineer robotics.   These items may lead to a reboot of the human race, as we know it today.

It was fascinating to discover that we already have programmable cells and that MIT has a Registry of Standard Biological Parts.  They are bringing together students to build microbes like a circuit board.  These activities have turned into a global competition where on teams are working on projects that are taking the health benefits of wine and engineering them into beer.  Just think of the possibilities.  I guess if I can hold out long enough maybe they will engineer a solution for us to reverse the aging process or eradicate cancer.  Even with these incredible feats, Enriques has other ideas on what the future will look like.  Scientist are now experimenting with growing new body parts using stem cells.  A group recently regrew a heart. 

The third trend is robotics.  We are getting to the point where you can have a conversation with a computer and not know if the output is from a machine or a human being.   There have been incredible advancements in Robotics to the point that we can combine mechanical movement with the intelligence of the computer to produce stunning results.

When you consider the three trends merging it poses a couple of interesting thoughts in terms of what is possible. Imagine hearing implants that allow you to hear better than the ears that you are born with.  At what point will the human beings we are today simply be replaced by beings that are technically superior.  Hopefully this vision is still a ways off.  Hopefully resistance will not be futile. 

The Forest of Confusion - Tree of Meaning

In the New Agora: New Geometry of Language And New Technology of Democracy: The Structured Design Dialogue Process by Vigdor Schreibman and Alexander N. Christakis discuss various aspects of the Structured Design Dialogue Process (SDDP).

Let’s say you are examining a future technology like a quantum network router that would give you the ability to move data between two quantum systems without a physical connection.  To create a set of possibilities, one could use the Stages of Inquiry.   The well-defined steps and graphical representation walks one through the process from the initial problem to understanding the final impact of your choice.

The feature or method that I found most interesting is Tree of Meaning that may emerge once one goes through the Stages of Inquiry.  Dr. Alexander N. Christakis suggested using a Tree of Meaning using the 6 Dialogue Laws to aid in the resolution of the constraints and difficulties described as Spreadthink, while also promoting the pursuit of meaning and wisdom in dialogue (Schreibman and Christakis).

The 6 Laws of Dialogue are:

1. Appreciation of the diversity of perspectives of observers is essential to embrace the many dimensions of a complex situation. 
2. Disciplined dialogue is required so that observers are not subjected to information overloaded.
3. The relative importance of an observer's ideas can be understood only when they are compared with others in the group.
4. Meaning and wisdom of an observer's ideas are produced in a dialogue only when they begin to understand the relationships such as similarity, priority, influence, etc., of different people's ideas.
5. Every person matters, so it is necessary to protect the autonomy and authenticity of each observer in drawing distinctions.
6. Evolutionary learning occurs in a dialogue as the observers learn how their ideas relate to one another.

SDP for Support Planning and Innovation

Using the 6 Laws of Dialog and the Stages of Inquiry one could step through an orderly process to examine the various factors that could be impacted by going down a certain path.  Let’s assume that the conclusion is that if you believe in the notion of quantum computing then you will likely need quantum routers to connect entities together or basically have a standalone computer – which does little good in a global community. This would likely spark intense debates over the role of computing; networking and innovation.   Which in turn will likely have major political and socioeconomical ramifications.   

During this process, one will likely encounter Spreadthink and Groupthink before rational thought prevails. Questions will be asked like - is this going to be a breakthrough that benefits everyone or simply the playground of the privileged few. Hence this approach gives you another way to think about the possibilities and make a larger part of the community an active participant in the conversation to discuss the alternatives.

Lean more about Harnessing The Collective Wisdom visit

Schreibman, V. and A. N. Christakis. New Agora: New Geometry of Languaging And New Technology of Democracy: The Structured Design Dialogue Process. Retrieved August 12, 2012, 2012, from

Building a Better Brain

OK that’s likely a stretch but what about being able to build interfaces into the human brain that will allow one to be more efficient in certain operations or maybe help individuals who may have various handicaps live more productive lives.  The human brain is a pretty remarkable machine.  The average brain packs a hundred billion or so neurons, connected by a guadrillion constantly changing synapses in to the size of a cantaloupe (Furber 2012).  With this level of complexity, is it even practical too think one could even attempt to build a better brain. 

This idea has fueled science fiction writers and brain-mind-computer researchers such as Ray Kurzwell for decades (Hiemstra 2003). Imagine that one could replace part of a damaged brain with a computer chip that perfectly replicates the brain or use instrumentation to ‘read’ brain activity and the use that information to program a computer chip.  Could this be the beginning of the downloadable brain (Hiemstra 2003).

Individuals like Steve Furber are starting to experiment with ARM chips to help facilitate this process.  Today’s implementation takes over 600 chips and is far from being able to simulate even the simplest task but if one dares to dream, you can see that today’s research is like the first mainframes of the 1970’s. 

The work of Mr. Furber may be setting the stage of what is possible within the next 30 years.  While we may not be able to replicate Mr. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation we may be able to build interfaces that will help individuals like Geordi La Forge regain his eyesight.  After all haven’t some of the most innovative solutions from our generation been influenced by popular culture and science fiction?

Below are a couple of interesting new articles and quotes about the Bionic Brain that I hope you find interesting.

                  The Future is Closer Than You Think


The Rise of Quantum Computers

The Rise of Quantum Computers

In William E. Halal’s Book  Technology’s Promise, various predictions about future technologies are examined as part of the TechCast Project.  The TechCast Project is made-up of various experts who express their views of what is likely to happen in regards to technology.  In the area of Information Technology the panel of experts predict that there is a 65% probability that Quantum Computers will be available by 2020.  

TechCast Project Information Technology Predictions

What are Quantum Computers?  These are computers that exploit the advantages of Quantum Physics. The basic unit of quantum computing is a“qubit”—an electron spinning either clockwise or counterclockwise, representing a 0 or a 1. 

Because electrons can coexist in two places simultaneously, a single electron can carry two qubits, two electrons can produce four qubits, three electron eight, and 20 electrons could perform a million computations. This exponential growth raises the hope of infinite processing power according to Halal.

This will allow scientist to complete task in seconds instead of years. Many individuals feel this will open-up the next round of major advancements in the field of computer science.  

A Short Video Explaining What Quantum Computers Are