Cisco Systems is viewed as a sort of barometer for the tech industry, and when it announces its profits on Wednesday, Silicon Valley will be paying attention to the company's latest push into the "Internet of Things," aiming to link cars, machines, devices and everything in between.
"It's pretty much this notion of connecting anything that has an on-off switch," says Jacob Morgan, co-founder of Chess Media Group, a consulting firm that helps organizations understand the future of work.
For now, the "Internet of Things" is a long-term strategy for the company.
"In terms of selling cars to people, it may be a little bit trickier because its such a a really big vision, it may be hard to make the benefits obvious to all customers," says Michael Endler, an associate editor with Information Week.
But Cisco says this sector of technology could be worth $19 trillion.
The U.S. and EU have disagreed on everything from the regulation of genetically-modified foods to the appropriateness of violence in the movies.
"In the European Union, they're very heavy on violence being what they consider offensive," says Cameron Camp, a security researcher with ESET. "In the U.S., you can shoot anything."
So perhaps it comes as no surprise that they'd diverge on big data as well.
"The European Union has taken a very strong stance, and strong leaning, on privacy," says Camp.
In the U.S., what's stronger is "a commitment to free speech, free communication, free content, which very often has deleterious effects for individuals' privacy," says Ken Bamberger, a professor of law at UC Berkeley, says much of the disagreement is rooted in tradition.
A possible solution? Companies could great a global code of conduct that attemps to comply with everyone's laws.
American manufacturing has an image problem. Many potential workers don’t want to go near it because they think it’s dirty work. They also worry about job security, remembering outsourcing and plant closures. Now that manufacturing is having something of a comeback in this country, its bad image threatens to block it from getting the talented workers it needs to grow.
Industry efforts to change that image were on display in Hartford recently, where the Mfg4 convention took place. The scene is largely polo and khaki-wearing dudes networking and checking out machines. But those who gazed lower, noticed a sizable contingent of much smaller conference-goers.
Young students were there on a field trip. Among them was sixth grader Isabella Galm. Asked what she thought manufacturing was, she gave an answer that won’t thrill the industry: “Um, boring stuff, like making clothes and stuff,” she ventured.
She’s in a magnet school engineering class, the kind of brain the industry needs. So manufacturers are starting young, hoping tech-savvy students who get an early close-up look might consider it as a career, and take the math and science classes they’ll need to get started in it.
“We encourage manufacturers to open up their doors,” says Debbie Holton, managing director of SME, the manufacturing group that puts on this convention.
The students get access to the whole convention floor and are wowed by the whirring robots, lasers and 3D printers. Their day includes a visit to TRUMPF, an industrial laser plant not far from the convention site. Students get a kick out of the light show as a superfast machine sears a pattern into metal.
The industry says it just needs to get people inside its facilities so it can show them that modern American factories are clean and safe, not the grimy assembly lines of the past.
“A lot of people, it seems to me, still have pictures out of history books in their minds when it comes to manufacturing,” says TRUMPF machine assembly manager Annette Doyle.
The tour seems to be a hit, with students pushing past each other to get a closer look at all the high-tech equipment. They also ask questions, without prodding from their teachers.
Manufacturing also has another image problem. It was among the topics on the table at a recent strategy meeting of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. The group, a collaboration between industry and labor, is headquartered in Washington, where office managers work to ensure furniture is American made. The group’s thinking is that the image of manufacturing as dirty or dangerous isn’t the biggest problem. Its polling shows a more pressing image issue is job insecurity.
“The kids I talk to are not dumb,” says AAM president Scott Paul. “They have seen waves of manufacturing layoffs including, in many circumstances, some of their parents.”
Some 6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared between 2000 and 2010. Only half a million new ones have come back since. Robot laser show-and-tells won’t work if folks don’t believe those jobs will stay and more are coming.
As for the young student Isabella Galm, a full day of high-tech has clearly changed her view of manufacturing.
“I think it’s basically the future,” Galm says as she prepares to board her school bus.
That’s one young mind changed. But if manufacturers expect to have a future workforce, they’ll need a lot more converts.
Mark Garrison: The Mfg4 convention in Hartford is mostly dudes in polos and khakis, networking, checking out machines.
But gaze lower and you’ll notice smaller conference-goers.
Young students are here on a field trip. Here’s sixth grader Isabella Galm’s (GAHLMS) idea of manufacturing.
Isabella Galm: Um, boring stuff, like making clothes and stuff.
She’s in a magnet school engineering class. Debbie Holton, of the manufacturing group SME, wants tech-savvy young people like her to get a different view.
Holton: We encourage manufacturers to open up their doors.
The students’ day includes a visit to TRUMPF, a nearby industrial laser plant. They get a kick out of the light show as a superfast machine sears a pattern into metal.
TRUMPF manager Annette Doyle says she just needs to get people inside and show them that modern American factories are clean and safe, not the grimy assembly lines of the past.
Annette Doyle: A lot of people, it seems to me, still have pictures out of history books in their minds when it comes to manufacturing.
But manufacturing has another image problem. Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul believes the more pressing image issue is job insecurity.
Scott Paul: The kids I talk to are not dumb. I mean, they have seen waves of manufacturing layoffs including, in many circumstances, some of their parents.
Some six million U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared last decade. Only half a million new ones have come back since. Robot laser show-and-tells won’t work if folks don’t believe the comeback is real.
After a full day of high-tech, Isabella Galm boards her school bus with a new view of manufacturing.
Galm: (What do you think it is now?) I think it’s basically the future.
Ok, one down. But manufacturers will need a lot more converts. In Connecticut, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.
One of the most vocal supporters of Network Neutrality, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota recently spoke about the issue in even starker terms, calling the fight over net neutrality the "Free Speech Issue of Our Time."
Sen. Franken argues that if given the chance to monopolize access to higher speed, large corporations will dominate the internet, which up to this point has been an equal opportunity space. It's why he and fellow Net Neutrality believers argue that internet providers should be reclassified as "common carriers," subject to the same restrictions as other public utilities.
With FCC chair Tom Wheeler reportedly playing around with the idea of an internet "fast lane," Sen. Franken says he would most likely work on counter legislation if, in fact, the FCC moves forward with the idea. He believes that at the end of the day, the idea of providing faster service for those who can pay infringes on the constitutional rights of American citizens.
"You want someone’s individual blog to travel as fast as the New York Times. It’s a first amendment issue. That should be non-partisan."