Tag Archives: transportation

Eclipse Viewing

I am looking forward to the total solar eclipse that will travel across the USA next month. My house lies just south of the path of totality so if it is a sunny day I should be in for a treat. While a total solar eclipse is visible from somewhere on earth every 16 months, the August eclipse is rare in that it will pass over a highly populated area as it travels coast-to-coast from Oregon to South Carolina.

So how does current technology change how we observe and experience this particular solar eclipse? I expect that it will be the most photographed eclipse ever but I set out to find out what else will be different in our modern connected world.

Eclipse Megamovie

The good folks at Berkeley, Google, The Astronomical Society of the Pacific and others are using crowdsourcing to recruit 1000 photographers to take pictures of the eclipse along the path of totality. They will then combine those pictures into what they call an Eclipse Megamovie. These combined photographs will be valuable not only to casual observers but also to scientists. This is a great application of current digital photography, data storage and photo editing capabilities.

Viewing Choices

Modern transportation will also change how some people observe the eclipse. Alaska Airlines has chartered a plane to follow the totality. It will be open to astronomy enthusiasts except for two seats that will be given away through a social media contest. This will give some lucky observers a chance to see the event from 30,000 feet and should eliminate any chance of clouds obstructing the view.

This is not the first time that an eclipse has been seen from the air. A group of astronomers chartered a supersonic transport in 1974 and flew in totality for 74 minutes in order to observe a similar solar event. They were able to fly across the African continent at twice the speed of sound so that they could stay in the path of near darkness as long as possible. We have available to us great tools for expanding our understanding of the universe.

Thoughts

This upcoming solar eclipse may well be the best observed, recorded and analyzed event. There will no doubt be many terabytes of photos taken and shared on social media. Scientists will likely use modern computing power to reconstruct the event and study it for years to come. This is all part of our modern observed life using technology.

Are there technologies that you think will enhance the upcoming solar eclipse? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The New Face of Retail Delivery

The Future of Transportation

I recently ran across an interesting collection of YouTube videos called the Dead Mall Series. This series is filmed and narrated by Dan Bell and has nothing to do with suburban zombies but highlights our changing shopping habits. Bell tours and films shopping malls that have an 80 to 90% vacancy rate and then dubs in a personal narrative about his experience. It is a stark reminder that our buying habits have changed significantly since the 1960s, partly due to the popularity of online shopping. In watching these videos, I think not only about our changing retail experience but also about how the entire supply chain has evolved. Instead of driving to suburban shopping malls supplied by large trucks, we place orders online and our purchases are delivered to our doors by UPS or FedEx or USPS. While the video series shows declining retail shopping, this blog examines how transportation is changing to keep up with our new demands.

Trains

In the U.S. trains are used primarily for transporting industrial products such as lumber and chemicals, but are seldom used for retail products. Part of the reason is that we do not have an extensive infrastructure of stations, unlike in Europe. In Europe, the German Aerospace Center is working on next generation trains for both passengers and freight. They are proposing a train system that is more flexible and can get closer to filling retail orders. There the train is the backbone of retail delivery not the large trucks we see on our highways. In the U.S., the nearest train station may be 50 or 100 miles from the customer.

Trucks

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently revealed that Tesla plans to unveil an electric semi truck in September 2017. The company previously announced it is working on vehicles other than autos. It makes sense Tesla would go after this market, but I think they will need to somehow extend the battery range in order to make it viable. The Model S runs 265 to 300 miles per charge. Large trucks travel constantly with two drivers and can go approximately 1000 miles between stops. Batteries are generally heavier than fuel for the amount of energy output, so electric planes don’t make sense yet and electric semis may need some newer technologies to make them mainstream.

Now, if you could outfit an electric semi truck with autonomous or semi-autonomous capability then you would have something. An autonomous truck made a beer delivery from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs, CO in October 2016,  so it has been done. This could be the next wave of truck delivery.

Drones

Amazon launched Prime Air in December 2016 and completed the first two deliveries via drone. An Amazon video shows a small package that took 13 minutes from purchase to delivery. Amazon plans on increasing the customer count eligible for this service to dozens and then hundreds. A customer would have to live close to a fulfillment center in order to get the prime service. Apparently, next day or even same day delivery is no longer fast enough.

Thoughts

There are many pieces that make up retail sales and delivery, and companies are using technology to efficiently move goods to customers. Whether in the future we see a sky full of drones or a road full of electric autonomous trucks is anyone’s guess. Shopping options are definitely changing and the supply chain will have to change as well in order to keep up. What do you think the future holds? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Our Shrinking World

Hand holds the worldI spent the past few days in New Jersey and New York City. As I walked around, I heard some languages that I speak, some that I recognized, and some that were totally foreign to me. I was born and raised in a small town and still live in a relatively small town, so hearing this array of languages is unusual for me. As I thought more about this, I realized that the world is becoming smaller. Due to advancements in communications, transportation, and technology, I can easily go to New Delhi or Sao Paulo, or I can meet those citizens who have traveled to my own town. It is possible to communicate with people of the world either face to face or through electronic means. I wonder though, with everything we have in place, are we really tapping the potential of a shrinking world or still limiting ourselves to the familiar surroundings and friends to supply us with answers and advice?

Communication

We have come a long way in terms of communications in the past 150 years. We sometimes think that we have always been able to communicate with someone instantly, but that is not the case. The first telegraph message was sent by Samuel Morse in 1844 between Baltimore and Washington D.C. Never before could a message go from point to point without having to be carried by runner, horse, or boat. The first voice broadcast over wire took place in 1876 and shortly after, in 1901, Guglielmo Marconi followed with the first transatlantic wireless broadcast. These technologies allowed communication from ship to shore. Wired telephone communications turned wireless and transformed into the phones that we all enjoy today. Our smartphone has an incredible heritage and now doubles as a data communication device.

Transportation

Transportation has also developed rapidly to allow us the freedom to move easily about the world. Early maritime travel was hampered by the notion that the world was flat, but once that was disproven, explorers could reach out to new lands and new people. Voyaging over land and water advanced dramatically after the invention of the steam engine, enabling people to go great distances on steam ships and trains. This led to similar inventions in personal transportation by giving us the internal combustion engine that allowed for automobile travel. The world got even smaller with the advent of air transit and it has only gotten faster over the past 100 years. With our modern infrastructure, we can make a journey to the next town or around the world with very little effort on our part.

Technology

Technology has also made our world smaller. It has completely changed the way we communicate with each other and how we organize work. Work groups, by necessity, were originally created around developing, manufacturing, and distributing physical goods. People in the group could see each other, speak with each other, and create products together. Many knowledge workers today are separated from their teams by miles if not continents. We can now take advantage of the moving sun by shifting work around the globe. In essence, a team could, with the right coordination, work on an idea or a product twenty-four hours a day. Even with the great advancements in transportation, we are no longer bound by those constructs. We can create a team of people from far-flung places of the globe and generate incredible new ideas and products. I think that this is the promise that was launched by Morse, Marconi, Bell, Fulton, and other pioneers.

Thoughts

Are you using advanced technologies to your advantages or are you stuck in an old paradigm? How has communications changed for you over the past ten years? Have you changed the way you organize work and recruit the best people for your project? The power is in your hands if only you will use it to develop and create something great. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at nigh