ERC: Not Looking Far Enough Forward?

I try to attend the monthly Nevada County Economic Resource Council Board meetings to get a sense of economic development in Nevada County. The ERC Board includes local members of the business community (retail and industrial), healthcare, banking, education and of courses a plethora of government agencies are represented. In addition to the Board their are about 20-30 observers in the room with the same interest I do, where is economic development in Nevada County going, and how does it fit with our businesses, non-government agencies, non-profits foundations, or lifestyle.

At the last meeting there were about 45 people in the room. Steve Monaghan, County CIO gave an excellent Broadband 101 presentation, with an update on where it is in Nevada County now and where it will be in 10 years. A copy of Steve’s Presentation is HERE:  2014-06-14 ERC Broadband Presentation Slide #13 from the presentation is below.
Steve's Slide 13

Steve asked for a show of hands when he showed this slide. “How many people in the room have heard of the “Internet of Things” Steve, noted that I was the only one of the 45 people in the room that raised a hand. I have been puzzling over that omission. Were people too lazy to raise their hand? Did Steve not see someone with a half raised hand in the gloom of the room? Were there that many people interested in local economic development in the room that were totally clueless about the “Internet of Things”?

It appears that most ERC Board Members and Observers, claiming to be interested in economic development,  were not up on the latest innovations that will be taking advantage of the broadband we have in Nevada County.

Broadband access is sweeping the country, funded in part by government grants and growing public demand for more bandwidth and more access to data important to users lives. Hey, ERC people think about how this access is now and will continue to change people’s lives. Think opportunity!  Think business development opportunity!

Why did I know about the “Internet of Things”? Because, I am curious and like to tinker with things. The introduction of the $35.00 Raspberry Pi microprocessor by the Raspberry Pi Foundation caught my attention. The Raspberry Pi is an open source computer which is a little larger than a deck of cards, that has a high definition video output for most flat screens, an Ethernet-port, two USB ports and a Linux distribution, with two programing languages, Scratch and Python. All open source software with strong support communities. Any USB keyboard and mouse will work with the processor. A truly low cost computing platform, which every household  could afford.

Shortly after my Raspberry Pi was full functional, Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica, announced Wolfram Language that is designed to work with the “Internet of Things”. The distribution was free to Raspberry Pi Foundation members, and was added to their FREE software distribution bundle. More on Wolfram and the Internet of Things can be found HERE. A low cost home and school edition of Mathematica  is now available for most laptops HERE.

Since my Raspberry Pi introduction I have been reading about the Internet of Thinks in magazines and journals that target geek and business audiences, plus watching TED and YouTube videos on the Internet of Things.

In February of 2012, the Sierra Economics and Science Foundation sponsored TechForum2012, inviting Dr. Hadley, Cisco VP for Innovation, to come as speak to our community. He outlined the future of connectivity in the office, the hospital, and the home, giving attendees a peek into the future of how things are going to be connected. He did not use the term “Internet of Things”, but that is in essence what he was presenting to the audience, the ubiquitous connection of everything.

We have been seeing the Internet of Thing in the news, though we may not have recognized the implication. When a Air France Airbus when down over the Atlantic, it was sending engine data to the maintenance facility in France via satellite. When the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished, it was sending engine data to a maintenance facility. This data was used to detect early failure of the engines and components. There are millions of devices could be monitored for early failure beside aircraft engines. Many are in our homes, and supporting infrastructure.

The Internet of Things is appearing in the market place every where, security systems controlled and monitored by smartphones, remote heating and air conditioning management systems, door locks that can be controlled remotely.

The next step is monitoring things for early failure, it does not have to be aircraft engines, it could the home freezer, the furnace, the refrigerator, the hot water tank, the big screen TV, the well pump, etc.

Look at the 1,000 of devices listed on the Wolfram site that can communicate with other devices. Where are the thinkers, the tinkers, in Nevada County who are going to envision new ways to use this information and the control opportunities provided by the Internet of Things?

My read is the Internet of Things is a better future to pursue than trying to recreate our lost industrial base in a world that is being driven by communications and the flow of bits and bytes.

The question that keeps troubling me is, with the Tech Forum presentation in 2012, TED Presentations on the Internet of Things, YouTube Tutorials, free software distributions, articles in magazines and journals, why were so few hands raised at the ERC Board Meeting?

We are never going to jump-start our economy if the ERC does not start looking forward and not backward to our former days of glory. Go Internet!

This is the first in a series on economic development.

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Economics, Education, Jobs and Economy, Local, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ERC: Not Looking Far Enough Forward?

  1. Russ Steele says:

    Intel Delivers on the Promise of IoT

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be a multitrillion-dollar market with an install base of 50 billion connected things by the end of 2020. It is a technological transformation that will fundamentally change the way the world interacts; however, there are four key areas that are crucial to the success of the IoT: interoperability, security, standards, and ecosystem scale.

    To help address interoperability and security challenges, Intel is offering a foundation of building blocks for IoT, integrating technologies including hardware and software, WindRiver* solutions, McAfee* security, and APIs to enable edge-to-cloud solutions.

    Additionally industry IoT leaders AT&T, Cisco, GE, Dell, and IBM are working with Intel to create solutions that give developers and customer flexibility to help drive market adoption.

    Intel and IBM collaborate on IoT

    Dell opens Internet of Things lab in Silicon Valley Solution Center


  2. Todd Juvinall says:

    Without simple business friendly General Plans with plenty of appropriate zoning districts allotted, and a overhaul of CEQA, there is no hope except for the “already rich” in California.


  3. gjrebane says:

    Good piece Russ. But are we putting too many of our economic development eggs in the ERC basket? What is the evidence that the ERC has ever been a significant contributor, let alone leader, in the county’s economic development? Time for a Plan B?


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