Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Internet of Things: Primer

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Well, for one, it is a technology that can enable your dinner plate to post to Facebook or Tweet to Twitter exactly what you are eating as all the hip foodies do nowadays. Or, the IoT might enable a robot to go to the office for you, while you stay at home in your PJ’s. Even today, the IoT enables your refrigerator to connect to the Internet and auto-magically order groceries for you when you run low.

Indeed, this refrigerated IoT capability prompted humorist Dave Barry to write, “I frankly wonder whether the appliance manufacturers, with all due respect, have been smoking crack … we don’t need a refrigerator that knows when it’s out of milk… we could use a refrigerator that refuses to let us open its door when it senses that we are about to consume our fourth Jell-O pudding pop in under two 2 hours."

And all of this begs some of the biggest questions facing an IoT-centric technological future: Where did the term come from? What is it? And, why should you care?

Let’s start with where the term “Internet of Things” came from. 

Way back in the pre-dot-com bubble days, a fellow by the name of Kevin Ashton, who worked at Procter & Gamble, created the term “The Internet of Things”. He used the phrase in a presentation entitled, in part, “…In The Real World, Things Matter More Than Ideas.” Beyond credit for being able to create a pithy headline, Kevin thought our economy, society, and our very survival are not based on ideas or information; rather they are based on things! He would remind you that you can’t eat digital bits and bytes, and you can’t bring them home to heat the house. Instead, you need things. He would agree that ideas and information are important; it’s just that things matter more.

Kevin recognized that the Internet, back in 1999, was coming into its own and that it was really a network of human ideas and information that was fed into computers by humans. What he longed for was an Internet of Things that could see, hear, and even sense the world for itself, and then take action without human input. Such an Internet of Things, as Kevin Ashton saw it, would transform every industry, even the very way we live, work, and play.

Now, if that’s how the term came to be, what is the IoT today?

First of all, the Internet of Things is no fantasy. It has already arrived on manufacturing floors, in energy grids, in healthcare facilities, in transportation systems and in everyday consumer lives, because all manner of things, from your Fitbit device to your hospital bracelet, to valves that automatically control the flow of fluids and power, are connecting to the network. When a thing can represent itself and communicate digitally, it can be remotely controlled and it can feedback data and provide new capabilities from anywhere it can connect.

So, yes, indeed, the Internet of Things is very real today.

Perhaps a few specific examples will better illustrate the “What is the IoT” question.

Seven or so years ago, a USA executive spent a fair amount of time in South Korea at a large manufacturer’s consumer electronics research and development facility. On one particular trip, he realized that the security access badge he was given was different than those issued on prior trips. When he asked about the difference, it was explained that these new security badges, like the badges employees wear, now contained a tiny little radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. He chuckled and said, “So, is someone monitoring my every move on a radar-like screen somewhere?” They were not sure why he had chuckled and went on to politely explain that the RFID chip in each badge allowed such tracking and that in fact, employees find it most helpful.

For instance, if an employee is seen spending lots of time in the restroom, an automatic e-mail inquiry is sent to see if they need to schedule a doctor’s visit. And if anyone is spending too much time talking to someone outside of their direct area of expertise, well, an e-mail goes out reminding them of the rules against inappropriate fraternization. The executive just shook his head and asked, “How do your people like the system?” At that point, a senior person stood up and said, “They like their paychecks just fine,” and with that he proceeded to exit the room. Ooops, the executive realized he had just made his first IoT faux pas.

Here’s another example: Many of you may remember the San Diego power outage and cascading failure that put the region in the dark a few years ago. Well, with the help of a Colorado State University research effort, a start-up by the name of Introspective Power, Inc. (www.introspectivepower.com) created a test that deployed sensors across the power grid (in a simulation) and then emulated what would happen in a glitch situation like the San Diego event. It turns out that with the right sensors, in the right places, and with real-time connectivity (all feasible elements of the IoT) their solution was able to act far faster than human monitors, detect the initial fault with sub-second diagnostic times and trigger machine-to-machine actions that isolated the issue and enabled the power grid to avoid a cascading failure. (See the Introspective Power case study athttp://tinyurl.com/kmbdkjy).

So, now the question remaining is, why should you care about IoT?

Perhaps a not-yet-implemented, though quite feasible example might make for a good visualization and explanation as to why the average consumer should care.
Imagine for a minute, if your company embraced the Internet of Things for everyday meeting management.  Your company ID card would signal your manager or human resources of your attendance and timely (or not) punctuality at meeting time.  As you speak at the meeting, it would query the IDs of all the others in the room and give you a soothing, happy heart beat spark when everyone is enthralled with your subject or a little jolt if the audience is adrift.  Of course, the company would no longer need someone to hold all attendees to the agenda as the ID card would just shock the speaker every time someone dove into the weeds. And every once in a while, the ID card would signal the company’s bank account to add a little something to your paycheck without a boss having to even think about it. Quite a difference versus today’s typical meeting process.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Internet of Things. Now you know where the term IoT came from, what it is today, and why you should care about it.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

“Taming the Violence of Faith” & A 911 Reflection

"The world today is not so gay. Fighting and bickering all the way. Who knows when war may start and tear this mad old world apart? Some men fight to show their might; others still for the want to kill. If countries shall make war again, I promise you, no one will win."

That little poem, entitled "A Losing Fight" was written by Jay Stuart Snelson when he was a mere 8th grader back in 1950 Los Angeles. And it has been rattling around my head all week as I contemplated today's anniversary of the 911 terrorist strikes.

Those simple words written by a 14 year old, sent me back to reading the more complex words he wrote as an adult, in "Taming the Violence of Faith". The book was published in early 2012 just a few months after his death at the age of 75. As I began re-reading his book, while thinking of 911, I was reminded of both the complexity of human violence and the simplicity of the alternative. Of course, as Steve Jobs reminded us, “simple can be harder than complex.”

Foreshadowed in Jay’s teenage poem and developed more fully in his adult writing, he clearly realized the escalated killing power inherent in the introduction of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  In “Taming the Violence of Faith”, he discussed the history of violence and war over the centuries; tracing how it moved from a one on one, or one on few form of destruction, from which the human race could always survive and recover via procreation, to the modern and very real possibility of mass destruction made feasible with newer weapon systems for which survival and recovery by the human race remains highly suspect.

Even with the dramatic reduction from a peak of almost 70,000 active nuclear weapons in 1985, the triggering of less than 1% of today’s remaining 17,000 nuclear warheads is estimated to be enough to induce an end-game, global, nuclear winter.  And even if there were no nuclear option, weapons of mass destruction, from bio-chemical to hijacked airliners, pose a one to massive killing potential, as we recall with solemn certainty on this very day.

Jay’s writing pondered why the very same people who are aghast at dis-organized-violence, the often random acts of violence that happen in everyday life played out on the news and social media, can simultaneously be pro-organized-violence in the name of a religious or political doctrine.

Personally, I am an advocate for a strong defense and I consider myself a peaceful person. Yet, I humbly recall the feeling and desire for retaliatory action, beyond defense, in the heat of 911.  History tells us that is a typical response. And it almost always ends in more destruction followed by a seemingly-peaceful lull that belies the battle still broiling in the background.

History also tells us that the violence waged against the human race in the name of religion and politics goes back to nearly the dawn of our civilization. To illustrate, Jay quotes biblical examples of such horrendous violence that I found myself reaching for my bible to see if the brutality he quoted was truly written therein.  It was.

We have been conditioned to operate in a win-lose paradigm. For one to gain, others must lose.  For one religion to be the true religion, others must perish. For one political agenda to be the truth, the others must be lies.

However, the science of observation would show us that it is not our human nature that drives this win-lose agenda, rather it’s our learned paradigms founded on imagination, rather than the actual observation, of causality.  And in matters of causality, unless you are very lucky, action driven by what you imagine as opposed to what you can observe and know, generally leads to trouble. Any good problem solver knows that true root-cause analysis is always the first step in solving a problem.  For even when your intentions are good, acting without causal understanding can prove disastrous. The universal law of unintended consequences always bites and yet, we continue to think it won’t.

Jay Stuart Snelson
As you ponder today's 911 anniversary and consider the turmoil the world is in across nearly every region, Jay would urge that the key challenge for each of us is to ask “can you identify, clarify, and verify which social causes lead to which social effects?”
“To follow a leader by default without verifying the equity, utility and morality of the leadership, through observational analysis, is to bury our heads in the sand and thereby risk human extinction.”  Jay’s not with us today though his book “Taming the Violence of Faith” remains.

On this the 13th anniversary of 911, a simple prescription for our violent world, one which Jay would likely applaud as it cuts to the heart of the root-cause issue, actually comes to us from readings of faith; simply, "love your neighbor as yourself."

May peace be with you as we all reflect on the loss and lessons of 911.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Think We Do Well at Educating? Think again!

USA, USA…

We’re number one, we’re number one…

We have all heard these chants of national pride many times.  The next time you hear them though, I ask you to consider not the number one, rather the numbers 17, 23, and 31.

According to a world ranking of 15 year old students, the good ol’ USA ranks
  • 17th in reading abilities (Honk Kong, Finland & South Korea tie for #1)
  • 23rd in science abilities (Finland & Japan tie for #1)
  • 31st in math skills (Finland is #1)
Do these numbers fill you with national pride?

Before you go there, it’s not a simple matter of money.  Americans already invest nearly one trillion dollars each year in our educational system. The return on our investment? A failure to serve adequately a significant percentage of our youngest citizens.

Approximately four million young people begin the trek through high school each year.  How do they do?

In 2012, 1.65 million students took the SAT exam.  Of that number only 43% or 710,000 scored well enough to meet the college and career benchmark.  That means 57% of SAT test-takers are not meeting the benchmark.  That's almost one million, soon to be declared ready for college, students whom are simply not academically ready.

Additionally, two and a quarter million students simply never take the test.  In part, because one and a quarter million of them drop out entirely while the remaining one million graduate high school but are not qualified to take the test.

Thus, using college and career readiness as the benchmark for measuring our one trillion dollar investment's success, only 18% who enter high school each year, exit in a college and career ready state.  Not exactly pride inducing results.

While it’s one thing to digest such stats and another to feel sorry for the students involved, the issue here is much larger than just a poor educational investment result.

Let’s look for a minute at the one and a quarter million students who each year fail to graduate because they drop out of high school.  One year’s worth of dropouts denies society more than $319 billion - $260,000 per dropout in lost incremental wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetime.  A decade’s worth of dropouts cost our nation almost four trillion dollars according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Let’s bring the math a little closer to home though.  It is reported that the Los Angeles Unified School District costs, all-in, $330,000 per student to go from kindergarten through just 10th grade.  The incremental lost wages, taxes and productivity over the lifetime of a dropout, we already know is $260,000.  That means it costs society $330,000 plus $260,000 or more than half a million dollars to produce a high school dropout!  Simply shameful.

Is there a core issue, a root-cause to focus upon?

Did you know that a child’s reading proficiency by third grade has a direct correlation with his or her success in high school and beyond?  I have come to believe that a key cornerstone to addressing our poor educational performance resides in changing how we teach our youngsters to read.

Until about third grade, a young student is supposed to be learning-to-read. Beginning in fourth grade however, they are expected to read-to-learn.  What happens if the student is not taught to read proficiently by third grade? 

Can they readily read-to-learn in fourth grade and beyond?  Some can overcome a poor start. The statistics however suggest the majority do not. 

According to the National Right to Read Foundation, only 32% of all 4th graders and only 31% of all 8th graders read at their respective grade level.

Of course, it’s hard to blame the children if it's really a teaching issue.  And it's hard to blame the teachers if they have not been provided the right tools. A review by the National Council of Teacher Quality covering 222 reading courses from 72 institutions serving teachers in training, found that 85% of the teaching-to-read courses simply ignore current scientific research on reading and the best way to develop reading skills.  In other words, our upcoming teachers are not being taught to teach reading with the latest understanding of how to best promote such skills.

Now what?

I hope the tidbits I have shared here today, strike a chord with you and leave you wanting to learn more. An excellent resource can be found in the book “Blueprint for a Literate Nation” by Cinthia Coletti.  I’ve met Cinthia and I know that her children’s struggle to learn put her on a path toward raising awareness as to just how abysmal our educational system is at serving students – not just the best and brightest – but all students, citizens who will determine the future of our nation.

The next time you hear, “We’re #1, we’re #1” remember we are really 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math.  Then tell someone about it.  If we spark enough conversations, we might also spark action toward becoming a truly Literate Nation.

Literate Nation's web site: http://literatenation.org/

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Overnight On The USS Carl Vinson

The rushing sound of steam building to pressure, the straining roar of jet engines at full throttle, and then, the clang of the catapult hurling it all skyward within 2 blinks of an eye, makes for the short summary of my recent Embark Tour of the USS Carl Vinson at sea, 120 miles off the coast of San Diego in April, 2014.

As a tiny plane (mostly 172 and Piper) pilot, the thrill of being on the flight deck of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier was quite simply, a boyhood dream come true.  However, it took all of my 54 years of supposed maturity to stand in apparent calm, just feet from the wingtips of the beautiful F/A-18 fighters, as they thundered off the short deck and into the air under full military power.  What I wanted to do was whoop, holler, and jump for joy as an eye-witness to an event I had only previously seen in magazines, movies, and my own imagination.  My bones and the fillings in my teeth were rattled time and again as I watched the dance of the catapult and the jet in full opposition and concordance, as jet after jet took to the sky.

My excitement however, melded into pure admiration for the flying skills required as we moved aft into the landing area and watched pilot after pilot, slide down short final and catch (or occasionally not) an arresting wire trapping all their machine’s fury within just several hundred feet.  What a treat.

Slowly, as my mind and my eyes started to settle into the rhythm of the deck sway and the jets coming and going, I began to notice and then pay particular attention to the human fury going on all around as young sailors swarmed the planes on both launch and recovery; preparing, coaxing, and guiding man and machine through the carrier qualification exercises I was observing.  So much activity and such teamwork was a truly an awesome sight to witness.

Later as our small group moved throughout the USS Carl Vinson, touring areas of the ship that some of her younger inhabitants had likely not yet seen, that same impression of immense activity and strong teamwork was displayed at every turn.  In fact, I quickly realized that from the briefing at North Island Naval Air Station, before we even boarded the C-2 Greyhound for our flight to the carrier, (my first trap landing and I have the patch to prove it) strong teamwork was the norm.

Seeing the eyes of young sailors light up with true, heartfelt pride as they answered questions explaining various processes and efforts they each contribute to the carrier’s mission and success, made you realize what a profound and positive impact the Navy has on these young people. At the same time, exactly how dependent the Navy’s ongoing success relies on 18-22 year old sailors was also very apparent.

On board, under the guidance of Commanding Officer Captain Kent WhalenExecutive Officer Captain Walter Slaughter, and Command Master Chief Jeffrey Pickering, the crew allowed us to view tasks in action throughout most of the ship. The sheer variety and complexity of life on-board was really something to witness firsthand.  Read all you want (and I try) but seeing things first hand was just powerfully inspiring.

Beyond a renewed sense of gratitude for all members of the military who willingly tackle such difficult work, an even bigger takeaway was a much more clear understanding as to the need to properly and continually fund our military.  As a country, once we decide to field military assets and task them with projecting power, providing defense, and even emergency humanitarian aid, we owe the very real people on-board as well as those supporting the endeavor, every point of advantage needed to deliver on our goals.  Anything less is simply shameful; especially when the lack of support is due to budgetary gamesmanship as an offshoot of our current political process.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, which came via my recent membership in the San Diego Navy League, and I offer my sincere thanks to the USS Carl Vinson officers and staff for a truly eye-opening experience.

As the USS Carl Vinson continues preparation for an upcoming deployment, my thoughts, prayers, and best wishes go with them for success. Godspeed!

View more pictures from G2 here and from the Navy here.

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Aviation Advertising Needs a Checklist Too

The aviation world lives by the checklist. Of that there is no doubt. Yet, when the aviation industry spends advertising money to tell us about the latest technology, the power of the checklist seems to go right out the window costing advertisers a poor return on their money by not effectively engaging the reader. As examples, advertisements from Aspen Avionics, BendixKing, and J.P. Instruments from a recent aviation magazine are reviewed in this series of posts along with a checklist to ensure future improvements.

But first, one might ask, what’s the goal of any advertisement anyway?  Some say it is to create a set image, counter competition, and/or provide information.  While all of those points might be relevant, the real goal of any advertisement must be to capture a reader’s attention, inform them, and then persuade them to take a next step forward in an action chain that will ultimately result in a sale.

Just as every takeoff ultimately needs to lead to a landing, every advertisement needs to lead to a sale.  Ignoring this basic advertising reality leads to a failure to engage the reader and un-engaged readers fail to become customers. The checklist to utilize for improving returns on advertising is I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer).
  • Every effective advertisement must first INTERRUPT the reader and get their attention.  Just as you call “clear” before turning the key of an airplane at startup in order to catch the attention of those around you, in advertising, the interrupt must be a call-out that will catch the reader’s attention.
  • Once the reader’s attention has been secured, the next step is to ENGAGE the reader with a promise to teach them about a solution to the interrupt.  This can readily be done by asking a pertinent question and then suggesting an answer.  The successful “Got Milk?” campaigns are good examples of the interrupt then engage step of an effective advertisement.
  • Now that the reader is involved, the EDUCATE step needs to set the hook by identifying key issues the reader can relate to and demonstrating how the advertised product or service can uniquely solve for those issues.
  • Finally, every advertisement must serve up an OFFER strong enough to reel the reader in and drive an action to learn more. Without an offer, an advertisement is just noise in the wind.
Just as using a checklist can help ensure the desired result of a flight, use of the I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) checklist in preparing an advertisement will ensure that the right message is conveyed in a manner that results in sales as opposed to noise.  As you can see from the results table, in this review, Aspen Avionics performed best versus the checklist.  BendixKing tried but missed the mark. And J.P. Instruments seems to have forgotten the checklist entirely.

Back at the beginning of the last century, not long before the Wright Brothers 1st Flight, the retailer John Wanamaker uttered, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.”  Those words are still true today unless advertisers follow the Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer checklist.  Just imagine … more effective advertising expenditures leading to more involved and well-primed readers who want to become buyers.  You see, just as in flight, following a checklist helps to ensure success in advertising too.


About the Author

Greg Gudorf is an avid pilot and experienced technologist/marketer based in San Diego, California.  As the founder of The Gudorf Group, Inc. (g2speaks.com) Greg works with Start-Ups, Innovators, and Re-Starts to strategize, build, and bring to market hardware, software, and service-based solutions for the real world.  Learn more with an e-mail to success@gudorf.net.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

J.P. Instruments “EDM-900” & The I-E-E-O Checklist

In a magazine alongside advertisements from Aspen Avionics and BendixKing, the J.P. Instruments (JPI) “EDM-900” effort, like that funky little airplane you’ll find at every airport, is visually a “whole other can of worms.”  The shame is there is plenty of potential in the presented material if JPI applied the I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) checklist toward creating a successful advertisement.

The overall look of the “EDM-900” advertisement itself serves as the primary Interrupt in much the same way a burst of static on the radio interrupts the quiet of flight, or multiple pilots keying their radios simultaneously results in a noisy mess.  The issue is that the reader’s eye does not know where to focus on this advertisement. Thus, the easiest thing to do is to turn the page (in spite of the hard-earned money JPI spent on placing the advertisement in front of the reader).

Think about this from the reader’s point of view.  Should you look at the product, the little disconnected green fuel pump handle floating in the sky, the fading into gray model number and the tiny “Engine Analyzer” text that serves as the headline, or maybe the variety of red or yellow text highlights?  Geez!  It is exhausting just describing it all.

Ok, cutting to the I-E-E-O checklist chase, this advertisement simply fails on the Interrupt, Engage, and Educate parts of the advertising process.  However, there are a lot of great nuggets to be mined here for a future series of advertisements that could be useful in creating a unique market position for JPI.  The built in America theme, the fuel saving storyline, the more than 1,000 aircraft STC approval point, the no panel rework advantage, and the proven data recording ability, are all examples of different elements around which JPI could build an excellent advertising message.  These are messages that can capture a reader’s attention and help to differentiate JPI from the Aspen and BendixKing advertisements a reader will find in the same magazine.

And just to be clear, the fact that a lot of text is presented in this advertisement is not the core problem.  If you have successfully interrupted and engaged a reader, they will invest their time to read about and educate themselves as to the product story.  However, it has to be a story; not just a list of bullet points in a difficult to read typestyle. Imagine a conversation as a list of bullets with a bad accent.  It is not much fun. Trapped participants usually cannot wait to leave.

Lastly, the JPI “EDM-900” advertisement simply fails on the Offer section of the checklist. There is no offer of a low-risk next step for the reader to take to learn more about or to buy JPI products.  Yes, there is a web address, which one might suggest is an offer, but the link is literally buried at the end of a tiny mouse-type line of 21 numbers, 7 dashes, 2 commas and a colon.

Sorry, JPI.  This advertisement needs to be grounded as inoperative.  Start again and use the I-E-E-O checklist to fly right with success.

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BendixKing “On Course” & The I-E-E-O Checklist

Checklists are simply a fact of life in the aviation world.  Why then does the industry forget the power of the checklist when creating advertisements to inform us of new technologies to buy?  The I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) Checklist as illustrated in this example from BendixKing and their recent “On Course” advertisement clearly highlights the value of the checklist for improving advertisements.

The BendixKing “On Course” advertisement uses dual beauty shots of a runaway and product to interrupt the reader.  It’s not a bad idea as most any pilot would likely be drawn into the threshold crossing view of the runway.  However, the eye will naturally want to look down the runway (can’t you just hear your earliest instructor telling you to do that?) and thus the eye fights to look away from the meat of the advertisement.  If your gaze heads to the end of the runway, the next natural step is to fly off the page and onto something else entirely.

Just as a checklist may requires a double review of a critical task, this advertisement tries to counter the wandering eye tendency by making sure the second beauty shot, the product, is large and crisply rendered (though the image on the display doesn’t directly support the image at the threshold).  This attention battle leaves the reader in a tug of war between allowing their eye to flow down the runway and off to the next page, versus zeroing in on the eye-candy of the product itself.  The approach works in the end, but it is far better if the interrupt stage of an advertisement does not initiate such a conflict.

As to the engage stage of the I-E-E-O checklist, the “On Course” advertisement promises to educate about “value … without costing a premium”.  In fact, of the four text blocks in the advertisement, the cost/value point is hit upon at least once in each block.  However, not one shred of evidence is offered to back up the promise.  The advertiser crossed off the checklist item but never realized what was missing.

So, even if the idea of value and cost savings served to engage the reader, the education phase of the advertisement totally drops the ball by not offering proof points to back up the claims.  Ironically, two very strong points to build the information around already exist in the advertisement at some level; the BendixKing legacy with its near omnipresence position in so many planes and the hinted at trade-up program.  These two features enable strong and unique ways to leverage the BendixKing legacy into new sales.  Unfortunately, no meaningful details are exposed for the interested reader who might be thinking about and wanting to trade-up, except of course for the bottom line print that suggests the restrictions and limitations.  Such a missed opportunity!

As to the Offer stage of the I-E-E-O checklist, while the “On Course” advertisement suggests the reader contact a BendixKing dealer, there’s no suggestion as to how best to do that or where to find a dealer.  Yes, there is a web address below the company logo but that is a pretty weak offer for a message that has such potential.

In summary, the BendixKing “On Course” advertisement is a bit of a missed opportunity.  It starts with dueling Interrupters, begins to engage but then fails to deliver a real education as to the advantage of working with BendixKing. Finally, it misses the landing and forces a go-around by not having a clear and compelling, low-risk next step offer for the reader to take. 
One last point, while all pilots possess excellent eye-sight (without a doubt), the reality is that white/grey text on a blue background should be avoided as a general advertising design element.  Young advertising designers tend to love the look.  Older buyers simply cannot easily see such text.

About the Author

Greg Gudorf is an avid pilot and experienced technologist/marketer based in San Diego, California.  As the founder of The Gudorf Group, Inc. (g2speaks.com) Greg works with Start-Ups, Innovators, and Re-Starts to strategize, build, and bring to market hardware, software, and service-based solutions for the real world.  Learn more with an e-mail to success@gudorf.net.

Aspen Avionics “Two Heads Are Safer” & The I-E-E-O Checklist

Checklists are found everywhere in the aviation world.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that advertising in the aviation world can be significantly enhanced and improved with the use of a checklist. The I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) Checklist as illustrated in this example from Aspen Avionics and their recent “Two Heads Are Safer” advertisement clearly highlights the value of the checklist for improving advertisements.

The Aspen advertisement makes efficient use of white space with a clean design. It interrupts with a beauty shot of the product itself along with a headline that has a familiar ring to it.  And while the interrupt could be stronger, the “Two Heads are Safer than One” headline positioned directly above the dual displays of the featured product is just intriguing enough to catch the attention of a reader thinking about a potential avionics upgrade.  So, Aspen successfully checks off the interrupt stage of our I-E-E-O advertising checklist.

Next, Aspen’s engage statement is the first paragraph of text in their advertisement.  In reminding us “the cornerstone of aviation safety is redundancy” they nicely link the interrupt headline and product shot with the engage step of the checklist.

However, as they move into the EDUCATE phase, Aspen’s diligence with the I-E-E-O checklist begins to slip.  First we learn that their product is the only GA EFIS display providing “total system redundancy” at “less fly-away cost” than the competition. 
Additionally, they add two seemingly important and relevant issues when they point out that their product can “effectively eliminate heavy, unreliable steam instruments” and provide “window layout flexibility” allowing the user to customize the product to “prioritize critical flight data.”

This is not a bad start to the educate/teaching phase; they have raised four relevant issues redundancy, cost, reliability, and customization.  The problem is they explain or educate only the tiniest bit about the redundancy and customization elements. Further, they leave no educational proof as to how their solution delivers on the cost or reliability promises.

In advertising, if you are going to raise issues with a reader, you must provide proof points or risk being seen as “all talk, no action” instead of a seasoned voice of reason with which a reader will spend their hard-earned money.  A better approach would be to narrow the issues and expound upon them one by one. Better yet, change the design of the advertisement to provide more space for details about multiple issues, so the reader comes to better understand Aspen’s unique product offering.

Where Aspen misses the mark though, is at the OFFER stage of the I-E-E-O checklist.  It’s here that a low risk offer should be made to motivate the reader to take further action; just reading an advertisement will not a sale make.  After all, if you’ve managed to Interrupt, Engage, and Educate a reader with any success, the next logical step is to Offer the reader an action that will move them closer to a purchase decision. If not, then the advertisement is just a noisy statement piece instead of a tool meant to ring the cash register.

So, while Aspen’s advertisement started out boldly enough, it finishes with a mere whimper by not making an offer to the interested reader.  Oh yes, there is a web address in the lower right hand corner that links directly to an information page about the product but it is listed in tiny type.  Even worse, there is not an invitation, direction, or promise surrounding the link other than the company’s logo.

On the positive side, Aspen is using a “live-link”, so readers viewing the advertisement on a tablet, phone, or computer might touch the link and be delivered to an extensive, product web page that is well made.  Imagine how many more readers would experience that extra information if an offer hinted at the glorious detail behind the “live-link”.  Closing an advertisement without an offer is similar to missing the fuel level part of the pre-flight checklist and then wondering why you’re flying on empty.

One more thing, almost as an afterthought, Aspen’s “Get Connected” effort is included in the advertisement.  This is an intriguing program and a key element that can be used to set Aspen apart from the competition.  However, by including it in the layout of this advertisement, the reader is left wondering how the “Get Connected” story, links with the main “Two Heads are Safer” story.  It would prove far more effective to integrate the message of “Get Connected” into the Engage and Educate step or keep it out of the advertisement completely.  Usually, when a company places two, non-integrated elements in an advertisement, it is done to satisfy internal company politics trying to economize around a budget, instead of thinking about the reader’s interest and how best to make a sale.

In summary, the Aspen “Two Heads are Safer” advertisement starts out strongly enough in the Interrupt and Engage stages of the I-E-E-O checklist, but then slides slowly down the success stack toward a whimper of a landing by cheating through the Educate part of the checklist and blowing off the Offer stage completely.

About the Author

Greg Gudorf is an avid pilot and experienced technologist/marketer based in San Diego, California.  As the founder of The Gudorf Group, Inc. (g2speaks.com) Greg works with Start-Ups, Innovators, and Re-Starts to strategize, build, and bring to market hardware, software, and service-based solutions for the real world.  Learn more with an e-mail to success@gudorf.net.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yuneec With a Passion For Flying

One of the surprises at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the airplane I found in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Being one of those folks who have to look skyward anytime an airplane flies overhead, spying an airplane sitting in an automobile parking lot pretty much guarantees I will stroll over to see what might be learned.  As it turns out, this particular airplane was parked in the parking lot show booth of Yuneec Aviation Technology.

Parent company Yuneec International (www.yuneec.com) is a leader in developing and manufacturing electric propulsion systems for planes and other personal transport systems.  The airplane in the parking lot was Yuneec’s all electric, light-sport-aircraft (LSA), two-seat flyer.  Cool!

As I was admiring the sleek lightweight looking lines of the new airplane, one of the booth personnel strolled over and asked if I had any questions. With an opening like that, how could I resist?  And so, I began quizzing the young man about the performance factors of the airplane. To my pleasant surprise, I quickly learned I was actually speaking with, not your ordinary CES booth worker, but rather the test pilot himself.

Full of energy and of course a passion for flying, this gentleman wanted to tell me everything possible about the airplane’s impressive accomplishments. In rapid fire order, I learned that the Yuneec GW430 airplane can haul a max weight of 1,041 pounds skyward, cruise at 100 MPH (max), glide with a 24:1 ratio and land at a stall speed of just 40 MPH.  The all-electric motor cranked out 64 horsepower, weighed just 42 pounds and could recharge in 3-5 hours on 110 or 240 volt supplies.

Given a max flight time of just about 90 minutes before needing to return to the charger, I suggested that the flight to recharge cycle time was a little long.  My comment merely elicited a big smile and a full explanation of how the battery pack was designed to just drop down for disconnection so another fully charged battery pack could be bolted right in taking no more time than a typical refueling effort.  Thus, the test pilot explained that one airplane and maybe two spare batteries could easily serve as the perfect training choice for most flight school situations.  No gas costs and none of the typical gasoline engine related operating costs sure seem to be great advantages Yuneec can win in the market with.

Yuneec aircraft is in their final stages of test flight at this point and looking to be in manufacturing and on sale later in 2014 with decisions being made now as to how come to go-tomarket, at what price, via what distribution means, etc.

With International corporate headquarters in Hong Kong, this particular test pilot and airplane were stationed in the Los Angeles area where my new found friend reported his only issue was the desire for more and more flight time (who among us has not murmured something similar!).

As my appetite for information about the Yuneec airplane was satiated, I began to wonder why, even though the product is an innovative and all electrical design, a company would take a booth with all the related expense to be at CES where they were the only airplane in the parking lot of the show.

That's about when I noticed the all-electric, motorized skateboards that were whizzing back-and-forth just outside of the aircraft's parking perimeter.  Also from Yuneec, the E-GO motorized skateboard was carrying folks up to 200 pounds at speeds up to 12.5 MPH with a range of about 3 hours’ time. While there were a few CES show goers who might have been better as crash test dummies, most of them took to the E-GO  skateboard with ease and with very big smiles and lots of laughter; a good sign for the company Yuneec. And while this year, skateboards were the only Yuneec product open to the show-goer for demo rolls, maybe next year, show-goers will be able to line up for demo flights in new GW430 aircraft. One can only hope!

I shook hands with the friendly test pilot, wished him and the company well, smiled again at the motorized skateboard fans zipping back and forth, and then wandered my way back inside the Consumer Electronics Show to see what surprise might yet be in the wings.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Apple, Google, Sony and Avionics? Oh My!

Apple, Google, Sony and the Avionics industry; what is the connection?

While an Aviation fan might initially shake off any connection, it might prove useful to the avionics world to consider potential lessons to be gleaned from Apple, Google, and Sony.
  • The Apple of the avionics world might just be Garmin In The Air.  Both companies have large market share positions in their respective fields. Both consider their design skills to be top-notch.  And both have a proprietary-based orientation to a world where their customer should prefer only using their brand of equipment and services.  Thus, both brands have “fan boys” who think only their brand counts!
  • Google might best be represented in the avionics world by Aspen Avionics.  Still young, fresh, a bit of an upstart, and wide open to getting all devices to talk together and share data to the user’s benefit.  Aspen’s “Connected Pilot” program is a great example of the free flowing data stream that can be enabled among whatever devices the aviator wishes to use.  How to maximize the benefit and value of all that data is the question.
  • Bendix/King might best be thought of as the Sony of this analogy.  Steeped in a rich legacy of being the very best and perhaps most widely adopted early cockpit technology, Bendix/King is striving to prove they are relevant in much the same way Sony is striving to be relevant anew to consumers who never knew a Trinitron, Betamax, or Walkman.  Both companies however, need to look and leap forward, resisting the pull of the rear view mirror and in-bred preferences to rely on the strength of past legacies.
Next, consider how certain key trends within the avionics world play to the above analogy. 
  • As with Apple iPhones, iPads, and Garmin screens, touchscreens are all the rage.  OK, so you have to support touch features.  However, new innovation is needed to smooth out the implementation.  Have you ever touched the wrong thing at the wrong time on an iPad while simply sitting on the couch?  It usually happens because you are not concentrating on landing your finger precisely on the screen as much as you are paying attention to something beyond the pad.  Sounds like flying in anything other than straight and level, smooth air.  Touchscreens need more innovative support bezels and maybe more tactile surfaces on the glass itself.  Oh, and maybe good ol’ hard buttons still have a role to play.
  • Google has learned lots about security between Chrome, Android, Gmail, etc.  The key lesson though is that no matter how attractive and useful connecting all these devices can be for the user, those connections must be secure ones or you are just asking for trouble down the line.  Aspen Avionics is likely learning of this reality with their Connected Pilot program, but as an industry, there is much yet to tackle security wise.
  • At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, one of Sony’s keynote announcements was an ultra-short throw laser projector meant to sit within inches of a wall and still project a bigger than ten foot image in ultra-high-definition.  Now, ten-foot screens are obviously not needed in the cockpit of a typical 172 but the same base level, laser technology showed up in a very small pair of micro-projectors in the Sony booth that suggest a glimpse of what could be possible beyond today’s glass panels.  Bendx/King is talking about the display from the perspective of possible heads-up-displays and even projectors that can place data where it needs to be in the cockpit (beyond the idea of a Google-glass, near-eye experience) instead of in the place of the old-time six-pack panel.
Might Avionics and the Consumer Electronics World play together?
  • Is Apple likely to be up for collaborating with Garmin?  Probably not.  Two 800 hundred pound gorillas rarely play together, or so one might imagine.
  • What about Google and Aspen Avionics?  Maybe.  Once Aspen gets all these devices talking to one another in the cockpit, the security issues and deciding what to do with all the data that gets generated, both suggest there may be some cool ways for the two to collaborate.  Besides, Google is already getting into the airport business with their $82M facility at the San Jose airport!
  • Sony and Bendix/King?  This combination could have some real potential if the conversation could just get started.  Sony’s expertise in video, audio, wireless networking, and projection as well as headset displays, could be fertile ground for exploration.  Not to mention Sony’s huge experience in sensors from wearables to image capturing technologies.  Collaboration might create the unique new offerings two legacy strong companies need to break out once again.
Summary

So, perhaps the Avionics industry does have a connection with Sony, Google and Apple.  At the very least, lifting one’s head out of the immediate challenge and looking to adjacent fields using similar technology may serve as a source of inspiration, new growth, and partnerships in worthy and potentially innovation producing activities.  Thinking even more broadly, the marketing and new business model explorations of the Consumer Electronics world are also worth review by the Avionics world - thought that is best as a thought for a future post.  Now, if only FAA regulations could be so readily innovated!
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Monday, January 20, 2014

2nd Screens. Location, Location, Location.

A hot topic, at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), was the world of 2nd Screen applications.  These applications running on phones, tablets, and PC’s, revolve around TV everywhere, social TV, over the top services, multi-screens, and interactive television.

As exciting as it all is, the 2nd Screen world has not yet delivered to its potential as to consumer pleasure.  2nd Screen applications sit at the very intersection of three key trends from CES 2014; Wearables, Contextual Computing, and the Internet of Everything.  

Embracing this highly coveted industry intersection, and making the location work for the consumer by putting them in the center of it all, is the key to unlocking the 2nd Screen’s long-term value.  So, what does the 2nd Screen neighborhood look like?
  1. Wearables. Heavily reported upon by the media, sensor after sensor was showcased at CES in everything from watchbands to tennis rackets, and luxury cars to health monitors.  Developments in sensor technologies now enable the monitoring of motion, temperature, light, sound, and most any other activity one might imagine.  These sensors collect all sorts of data and make it available for analysis and further action.  The 2nd Screen world can benefit mightily from drawing upon these numerous data sources.
  2. Contextual Computing.  Using all the data collected by the world of sensors to “understand you and everything you care about”, at least as indicated by your presence and activities in the connected world, is the idea behind Contextual Computing; a sort of personal, sixth sense. The goal is to understand where you are, in what time, and with whom, and then help with suggestions or guidance based on the details of your past interactions.  Similar to a young child’s mother who stands by to suggest, warn, or scold, Contextual Computing intends to know you well enough, and be omnipresent enough, to be that voice in the back of your head “helping” you to do the “best” right thing.  Such detailed knowledge can be a boon for 2nd Screen abilities.
  3. Internet of Everything.  Connecting Wearables and Contextual Computing is the looming Internet of Everything.  John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, touts the Internet of Everything as a $19 trillion business opportunity.  He’s “all in … making this our cornerstone … to become the number-one information technology company” in the world.  Quite simply, the Internet of Everything is a tsunami of incoming data.  The 2nd Screen world is ideally located to embrace this wave and find the nuggets of value that can please the 2nd Screen consumer in numerous ways.
Sitting right in the middle of this big intersection, should mean the 2nd Screen world sits in a prime real estate neighborhood when it comes to business appreciation potential.  However, while 2nd Screen players have generated lots of buzz and some very individually interesting applications, especially in the field of sports and special events where Major League Baseball, The Grammys, and Victoria Secrets have all produced applications that have attracted much ado, the overall 2nd Screen experience is still lacking at the everyday consumer level.

There is no doubt that we have become a population of multi-taskers even when watching TV, as upwards of 75% of us use other devices (phones, PCs, tablets, etc.) while watching television.  What’s missing in the midst of all this activity and for which 2nd Screen is ideally positioned to provide, is a definitive, seamless, and integrated experience to make consumers smile with pleasure whenever they are in the embrace of the 2nd Screen world.  

Why should consumers have to go in and out of different apps as the TV show changes?  
What opportunities to serve the consumers and thus the 2nd Screen business world are being missed by the disjointed, one-off application approach requiring new individual apps which the consumer must learn about, find, install, and open … all at the appropriately relevant point in time?

In the early days of 2nd Screen, such a one-off application based approach was just fine.  

However, as the industry matures, especially in light of its location among the Wearables, Contextual Computing, and the Internet of Everything neighborhood, the 2nd Screen world needs to lift the target and re-aim its innovation efforts.

What if, a 2nd Screen app served more as your personal TV butler, concierge, or daresay a mother, to guide you forward with answers to your every question always at the ready.  “Where was that scene shot?  Who is that actor? What story line does that reference? Where can I buy that?  What’s on next?”  All of these perfectly valid questions and more can be served by the 2nd Screen world.  Unfortunately, as of today, each question requires its own application which needs to be ready and open to deliver such answers.

It is time for the 2nd Screen world to deliver a truly integrated solution as opposed to a silo’ed world of ever more one-off applications.  As we approach the 200 millionth connected TV mark, the 2nd Screen world should embrace this challenge and enable a seamlessly flowing user experience for multi-tasking consumers.

As Bob O’Donnel of Techpinions.com wrote recently, “we live in a multi-device, multi-platform world”.   Get over it.  Yes, it is easier to concentrate on a single device or a single platform strategy and grow a company with a one-off application, and in the early days, it is often the best way to grow.  However, a real consumer pleasure provider (and therefore lucrative business opportunity) resides in the 2nd Screen application that can pull all these realities together and serve the consumers in the integrated, seamless manner they desire.  

Put the consumer at the center of the 2nd Screen intersection of Wearables, Contextual Computing, and The Internet of Everything and thrive.

PS  See www.2ndscreensociety.com for more on the exciting field of 2nd Screen applications and abilities.

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