I recently visited China for an eye-opening whirlwind tour and adventure. You can read some of my comments in the IS China 2006 report. It has been a wake-up call for me to the realization that indeed we are on the verge of a new era of globalization. Unfortunately for us in the west the media, educational, and political organizations are not giving us the real picture and instead are selling the illusion that we are and will forever be the most educated and progressive society on the planet. We give our children ribbons and stickers no matter how well they perform and tell them that it really doesn’t matter if you win – as long as you do your best and have fun participating. This is true as long as you are on a team that will carry you through to the finish. The sad thing is that if everyone on the team (i.e. the next generation) feels that they don’t need to win, then they won’t even finish. In fact, they probably won’t even enter the competition! Meanwhile, the rest of the world will be going for it, progress will be made, and let’s just hope that they keep the rules that we are used to playing by.
Creating the HomeToys and Earthtoys Web sites were and are to promote free exchange of information within an industry. With an engineering background, I was trained to break complex problems down into small manageable bits. Back in 1996 when HomeToys was started, it was said that the World Wide Web was like the New York Public Library – with all of the books thrown on the floor. Our task then was to pick one section of the library and try to organize it into a meaningful resource. Ten years later, HomeToys has quite a bit of information and in fact traces a small bit of history in the Home Technology Industry. EarthToys is a bit younger (2002) but already has a library with some wonderful articles about alternative energy.
Moving forward, it is ever more important that we build on our strengths and use them to change the way we do business in a global marketplace. In turn, those of us in business must ask the same question in order to survive the changes that are taking place. One way to do that is to look at how we arrived at where we are today, break our thoughts into small bits, and apply engineering principles to use those tools to build a strategy for our future.
Home Technology (HomeToys) and Alternative Energy (EarthToys) exist because of our belief that technology – not politics – will advance the energy industry and provide us with a viable future where many more societies on the globe can enjoy the kind of lifestyle that we enjoy. The home technology industry is perhaps the best example I have ever seen of how product and service development can advance rapidly via collaboration and cooperation. Not since the race to the moon has there been a more aggressive and rewarding advance of technology in my lifetime. Ten years ago there was an infantile Internet community of individuals sharing ideas and a handful of technologies available to a few do it yourself buffs to automate and enjoy top quality entertainment systems in their homes. Now millions of Internet users share information and collaborate via multitudes of networks resulting in the most amazing access to rich and affordable lifestyle options that we have ever experienced.
On the other hand, there has been virtually no adoption or effort to improve the accessibility or affordability of alternative energy products or services for the average person. Yes, billions are being spent by governments, philanthropists, and environmental organizations and associations each year, and, yes, everyone is talking about alternative energy and the environment. But do you own any products based on all of this jabber? Do you even know if there are affordable products you could use instead of that wasteful electric light bulb?
You thought the government was supposed to look after that complicated stuff. Well it hasn’t, nor does it really have any mandate to do so. And the only businesses really benefiting from all the hooplah are the hotels and conference organizers who sell high-priced meeting rooms so that bureaucrats and scientists can sit around and admire how well each other presents their fund raising cases. Engineering is about building things that work from concepts that are usually too complicated to communicate to the average man. A good example of this is the iPod! It downloads digital mp3 files from a computer or Web site and magically turns them into hundreds of tunes to enjoy anywhere. Just a few years ago the words download, digital, mp3 files, computer, and Web site would send many people screaming for cover! The point is that sooner or later someone has to leave the meeting, stop talking in jargon and acronyms, and go ahead and build something for people to use and enjoy!
Where do we go from here? What is the solution to this problem?
The solution is collaboration and cross-pollination between those of you who are wizards in the development, manufacturing, marketing, and installation of home technology products with those of you in the alternative energy industry. We need affordable products and services for our homes and businesses that can save us energy and get us off the oil bandwagon. The demand is there now and growing with each penny increase in the price of oil and electricity. We can’t wait for governments and policy decisions any more. To begin with, how about just an affordable and simple solar kit designed to power a small home network that provides not only information, education, and entertainment, but also control for the solar system? I know you can buy some bits and pieces and build one for yourself, but we need to see one available in Best Buy or Circuit City or Wal-mart, and it needs to be marketed to the average guy or, even better, to the average gal. Let’s break the big problem into little bits that we can understand and implement.
I would very much enjoy to hear your comments and ideas via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[tags]china,alternative energy,engineering,self-reliance,western industry[/tags]