News Releases - Business
Blogs - Business
Byline Article - Business
Executive Speeches - Business
Letters to the Editor - Sports
Blogs - Sports
Short Story - Sports
Charles Hartley – Writing Samples
Business news releases, business blogs, byline articles, executive speeches, letter to the editor, an essay, and a short story
News Release -- Business
January 05, 2016
Heightened Security Concerns and Falling Smartphone Demand Stymie Consumer Technology Market Growth, Accenture Survey Reveals
NEW YORK; Jan. 5, 2016 – Heightened data security concerns, falling demand for smartphones and tablet PCs, and stagnant growth in the Internet of Things (IoT) market are stymieing the consumer electronics industry and will continue to do so over the next year, a new Accenture (NYSE: ACN) survey reveals.
A polling of 28,000 consumers across 28 countries, the Igniting Growth in Consumer Technology survey finds that for nearly half (47 percent) of respondents, security concerns and privacy risks rank among the top three barriers to buying an IoT device and service. IoT devices include smartwatches, wearable fitness monitors, and smart home thermostats, among others.
Of the survey respondents who indicated they either own or plan to buy an IoT device this year, nearly three-quarters (69 percent) said they know these products are capable of being hacked and therefore can result in stolen data or device malfunctions.
Within the groups of IoT device owners or those planning to buy one in the next year, more than one-third (37 percent) decided to be more cautious when using these devices and services; 24 percent chose to postpone buying an IoT device or subscribing to an IoT service; and 18 percent quit using their IoT devices or terminated their IoT services until they can get safer guarantees.
Declining demand for smartphones and tablets
The survey also highlights sluggish demand for traditional consumer technology devices. For example, less than half (48 percent) of respondents said they intend to buy a smartphone this year, down six points from the 54 percent who said they planned to buy one last year. Consistent with this, the number of people who said they plan to buy a new TV or a tablet PC this year – 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively – also dropped from 38 percent last year for both device types.
“The slowdown in the consumer technology market is irrefutable, serious and global,” said Sami Luukkonen, global managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High Tech group. “The market is not about the glitzy gadgets anymore – rather, it’s about providing secure, innovative and practical digital services and more open collaboration. As device demand tapers off, the industry needs to make a sharp turn toward providing innovative, value-added services that consumers can use with confidence.”
Flat market for IoT devices
The survey also reveals lackluster demand for IoT device markets, which the industry has been counting on to drive growth as other device markets such as smartphones mature.
Only 13 percent of respondents, for example, said they plan to purchase a smartwatch in the next year, up only 1 percentage point from last year. The survey found similar stagnation in demand for a range of devices, including fitness monitors, wearable health devices, smart thermostats and connected home-surveillance cameras – with each only cited as a planned purchase by 9 percent of respondents, about the same percentage as last year. Smartwatch sales have been particularly challenging for manufacturers and retailers because the products are failing to meet consumers’ battery-life, ease-of-use, and design expectations.
“Despite all its promise, the Internet of Things market has revealed itself to be a double-edged sword,” Luukkonen said. “The market opportunity is enormous, but security and ease-of-use concerns are hindering its near- and long-term potential. To ignite this market, consumer technology companies should consider getting serious about ecosystems, sharing data, and creating integrated services across multiple companies, such as building a connected home through an integrated home security camera, thermostat, and door lock.
“Furthermore, these companies need to consider investing more in innovative services and make consumers’ online lives more secure, convenient and enriching,” Luukkonen added. “Until the promise of IoT meets consumers’ expectations, the IoT market will remain more promise than profit and do little to reinvigorate the overall digital consumer market.”
Between October and November 2015, Accenture conducted an online survey with 28,000 consumers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The sample in each country was representative of the online population, with respondents ranging in age from 14-to-55 and over. The survey, and related data modelling, quantify consumer perceptions of digital devices, content and services, purchasing patterns, preference and trust in service providers, and the future of their connected lifestyles.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 373,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.
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News Release -- Business
JUNE 12, 2018
Vast Majority of Aerospace and Defense Companies Plan to Integrate Blockchain by 2021, Accenture Report Finds
Promising new technology could help improve performance of the industry’s complex and globally connected supply chain
NEW YORK; June 12, 2018 – Approximately six in seven aerospace/defense companies (86 percent) expect to integrate blockchain into their corporate systems within three years, according to a new research report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
One of the world’s newest and most promising technologies, blockchain is a type of distributed ledger that maintains and records data in a way that allows multiple stakeholders to confidently and securely share access to the same information. According to the report – titled “Launchpad to Relevance: Aerospace & Defense Technology Vision 2018” – blockchain’s secure, immutable and decentralized features can help aerospace companies reduce maintenance costs, increase aircraft availability, and minimize errors in tracking aircraft parts.
The 86 percent of respondents from aerospace and defense companies who said they plan to integrate blockchain in their corporate systems by 2021 was higher than the percentage for all but two of the 18 industries surveyed as part of Accenture’s broader Technology Vision research.
“Blockchain is well-suited to improve the performance of one of the world’s most complex, globally interconnected and security-dependent supply chains,” said John Schmidt, who leads Accenture’s Aerospace & Defense practice globally. “This elegant and paradigm-shifting technology has the potential to deliver profound benefits for the hundreds of suppliers typically involved in the manufacturing of a single aircraft.”
The survey findings point to numerous data challenges that blockchain technology can help address. For instance, Accenture’s research found that more than two-thirds (70 percent) of the aerospace and defense executives surveyed believe that companies will be grappling with growing waves of corrupted insights as more falsified data infiltrates their data-driven information systems.
In addition, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of them believe that organizations are basing their most critical systems and strategies on data – yet many have not invested in the capabilities to verify the accuracy of that data. And the same number (73 percent) also believe that automated systems create new risks, including fake data, data manipulation and inherent bias.
Blockchain can help ferret out falsified data and verify its veracity because it provides a secure and unchangeable data chain. The technology can also help track and provide consistent aircraft configuration data throughout the supply chain, as aircraft manufacturers, maintenance providers and airlines currently keep track of configuration data in their own systems yet rarely if ever integrate that information with other companies’ data.
“Knowing the actual configuration of an in-service aircraft at any point time is important,” Schmidt said. “Blockchain enables aerospace and defense companies to securely share, capture and authenticate data from a single source.”
In another Accenture report, titled Extending the Digital Thread With Blockchain, Accenture found that blockchain can be used in tandem with digital twins – which are digital representations of physical objects – and can be a supporting technology within a powerful tool known as a digital thread.
A large and diverse collection of interwoven data flows, a digital thread can provide more-efficient methods of sharing data throughout the product design, manufacturing and maintenance lifecycles, translating to faster and less expensive production, superior maintenance, and on-time upgrades.
“Blockchain, digital twins and digital threads are coalescing into a powerful combination of technologies that will launch the industry to higher levels of performance, data veracity, security and efficiency,” said Craig Gottlieb, a principal director in Accenture’s Aerospace & Defense practice and co-author of the blockchain / digital thread report.
Launchpad to Relevance: Aerospace & Defense Technology Vision 2018 is derived from Accenture Technology Vision 2018, the company’s most-recent annual technology report that predicts key technology trends likely to disrupt business over the next three years, including artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual/augmented reality. Among key findings from the aerospace and defense executives surveyed about these technologies:
· Two-thirds (67 percent) said their companies will invest in AI in the next year, with many focusing initially on production, security, and research and development.
· Four in five (80 percent) said they expect that every human in their workforce will be directly affected daily by an AI-based decision by 2021.
o More than half (57 percent) will invest in augmented reality and virtual reality in the next year, and nearly all (96 percent) believe extended reality will help close the physical distance gap when engaging employees or customers.
The Accenture Technology Vision 2018 is developed annually by the Accenture Labs and Accenture Research. For the 2018 report, the research process included gathering input from the Technology Vision External Advisory Board; interviews with technology luminaries, industry experts, and Accenture business leaders; and a global online survey of more than 65,300 business and IT executives across 25 countries and 18 industries.
Respondents were mostly C-level executives and directors at companies with annual revenues of at least US$500 million, with most having annual revenues greater than US$6 billion. The Technology Vision for Aerospace and Defense 2018 report is based on responses from 30 aerospace and defense executives.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 442,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.
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+1 973 590 9920
Business Blog -- Published
How IoT Technologies Improve Data Quality and Operational Reporting For Businesses
The Internet of Things (IoT) market is changing the business world. It’s a market shift comparable in scale and importance to when the initial Internet phenomenon of the 1990s transformed how businesses functioned, sold, and competed.
“Here’s an easy way to think of what’s going on,” writes Maciej Kranz in his book Building the Internet of Things. “The first stage of the Internet connected people to networks, data, each other, and processes. With IoT, we’re now connecting anything to anything -- or, if you prefer, everything with everything. The business impact of IoT makes it revolutionary; when everything can communicate with everything else, it essentially redefines and creates new business value chains”1.
IoT Data: the Center of IoT Universe
At the center of the growing IoT universe is data -- enormous amounts of data. This IoT data gets tracked, collected, organized, consolidated, stored, analyzed, and manipulated. Data is the IoT asset that businesses use to generate faster insights for making informed business decisions.
Companies leverage IoT data to operate more productively, detect fraud, alleviate wasteful spending, shift investments to generate more revenues, and reduce operational costs. As a central driver of this market, there are two key questions about IoT and data of paramount importance: how does IoT improve data quality and affect operational reporting?
Generate accurate insights with IoT data
IoT improves data quality because it generates in real time and with greater accuracy and reliability. Similarly, IoT data improves operational reporting because the data -- and insights generated -- can be trusted to improve accuracy and timeliness of reporting on business activities. Equipped with better data, businesses can elevate the performance of supply chains, customer service, and manufacturing.
These organizations can achieve this while improving safety and reducing risks and errors. Fueled by the IoT, these data quality and operational reporting improvements are being achieved in a wide range of industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, health care, logistics and fleet management.
Improve operational efficiency with IoT data
IoT in manufacturing
The Internet of Things assists businesses with their operational reporting in the manufacturing arena. For example, IoT technologies can track electricity consumption of manufacturing machines to ensure the equipment is using an appropriate amount of electricity without wasting energy and accumulating unnecessary costs.
IoT technologies can also track the speed of these machines to prevent them from executing too fast, so they don’t malfunction, and not too slow, so productivity remains high.
IoT technologies can also monitor and improve environmental factors, such as air quality, humidity, and temperature in the manufacturing plants. These capabilities are crucial for sustaining high product quality and ensuring safe health conditions for factory workers.
Without these IoT technologies, a manufacturer’s operational reporting would be less complete, accurate, and useful. The company would be unable to generate insights based on data about the IoT devices and whether to take actions to improve manufacturing operations.
IoT data tracks water, light, and humidity
IoT in agriculture
Improvements in operational reporting can also be achieved when IoT technologies are used to track a range of sensing technologies such as soil scanning, water, light, humidity, and temperature management. IoT sensors embedded within farm soil could alert farmers that the pesticide levels climbed too high and could damage the vegetable crop. The farmers could in turn lower the pesticide levels so prevent damage to the vegetables.
Without this IoT data farmers may not be able to take actions to prevent their crops from spoiling. The IoT technologies can help report, for example, whether a farm’s sprinkler system is operating on the appropriate schedule and water pressure to ensure proper crop nourishment and growth.
IoT data improves quality of medical information
IoT in healthcare
In the healthcare market, IoT could improve the quality of the data about various medical applications, solutions, and devices. For example, IoT data could provide a more accurate and swift notification about a change in the temperature of a container of blood stored in a hospital refrigerator for a patient needing a blood transfusion. Without this higher-quality data, it wouldn’t be possible for a nurse or doctor to receive updated information about the temperature shift, in real time. As a result, the blood could be deemed unsuitable for the patient or spoil and be wasted.
IoT's fuel: data
There are numerous other ways that the IoT bolsters data quality and operational efficiency. And this is possible because of data, which fuels the IoT engine.
“IoT embraces much more than just technology,” writes Maciej Kranz on Building the Internet of Things. “Ultimately, as important as it may seem now, technology will turn out not to be the least of it. Data, meanwhile, will fuel the essential analytics and automation required to efficiently handle the massive volumes of expected activity that must be considered for fast, sound decision-making.”
Business Blog -- Published
What 4 IoT Technologies Will Change Manufacturing the Most in 2020?
Workers in manufacturing facilities are facing various challenges. These include operational inefficiencies, high costs, lack of visibility into timely data, and undocumented business processes. But these managers are starting to gain relief from these challenges by the growing proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. These technologies facilitate IoT data exchanges between manufacturing equipment, devices and associated sensors, networks, and software.
In 2020, the technology ecosystems for IoT that will be particularly beneficial to manufacturers will be:
- Predictive Analytics;
- Machine Learning;
- Robotics; and
These IoT technologies will drive the spending rate in the IoT worldwide market. According to BCG, IoT spending on discrete manufacturing will increase from $10 billion in 2015 to $40 billion in 2020.
Predictive Analytics Alert Humans to Problems
The ability of IoT technologies to predict upcoming needs for product maintenance, forecasts of production output, and imminent product or machine malfunctions in a manufacturing plant will be a major application next year. Sensors embedded within equipment such as a conveyor belt can alert a human being that the machine will stop operating in 24 hours if not repaired.
This notification enables that person to take action to repair the belt before it stops so manufacturing disruption and downtime are minimized or avoided altogether. When manufacturing perishable foods, predictive analytics will be able to alert plant workers that a food has gone stale, so they don’t ship it to stores. In an aerospace manufacturing plant, predictive analytics could notify a maintenance person that an airplane engine has mechanical flaws.
Machine learning gets smarter as it processes more data
Machine learning technology will play a central role in manufacturing in 2020. The beauty of this technology is it continually learns and gets smarter as it receives and analyzes more data. Armed with more information, machine learning generates better insights and recommendations for humans to consider acting on.
For example, machine learning could inform a manufacturing employee that a car being produced has a flaw in its engine. The mechanic would then fix the pump before installing it in a car. The machine learning technology could also inform the mechanic that the flawed engine is a result of a design mistake earlier in the manufacturing process.
Blockchain alerts suppliers to manufacturing problems
Blockchain is a digital ledger technology that enables a group of people to simultaneously share and view the same set of database information. In the pharmaceutical manufacturing arena, for example, blockchain could be used to alert various suppliers that a pill package is flawed and give them information about who last maintained the package and manufactured it.
This eliminates the need for the various suppliers to spend time checking their various sources to find this information. It’s all on the blockchain for easy access and faster problem solving.
Robotics can automate dangerous manufacturing tasks
It is inevitable that robotics technology will be used more within manufacturing plants over the next few years. There are already some plants that are operated almost exclusively by robots. Robotics is a key part of the IoT ecosystem. It will enable manufacturers to respond to changes in demand, use interchangeable tooling that can be switched between different models and variants with no loss in efficiency, and reduce manufacturing errors.
Robotics will also be increasingly used for dangerous tasks that human workers have been responsible for in the past. This will reduce worker’s compensation claims and improve safety of manufacturing jobs across the globe.
Many more IoT technologies
The Internet of Things is much more than one technology or manufacturing application. It is a collection of software, sensors, network infrastructure, devices, and objects (such as manufactured products) that are all interconnected and share IoT data. There are many other technologies besides these six that will be used in manufacturing next year. But these are four that will be particularly instrumental in changing manufacturing in profound and beneficial ways in 2020.
Business opinion article – published
Media and Entertainment Services Alliance News, April 07, 2017
NAB 2017: Accenture’s Five Stories to Watch
During the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2017 event in Las Vegas, broadcasters will be focused on several strategic, technological and competitive challenges that need to be overcome to grow their businesses.
One of the biggest challenges is the need to make broadcast services more resilient to cyberattacks. Other challenges include the rising costs of creating content, delivering differentiated hyper-personalized services that employ data analytics, and developing strategies to improve advertising efficiencies with artificial intelligence.
Here are more details about each:
• Story One: Data Piracy is the New Piracy
• Story Two: Rising Costs to Create Content
• Story Three: Hyper-Focus on Hyper-Personalization
• Story Four: Consolidating to Succeed
• Story Five: Getting Smarter About Artificial Intelligence
Story One: Data Piracy is the New Piracy
Concerns about data piracy and other cyberattacks are rising in many corporations. An Accenture survey of 2,000 enterprise security professionals finds that the average company experiences two-to-three successful targeted cyberattacks per month. The survey’s results are summarized in a report titled “Building Confidence: Facing the Cybersecurity Conundrum.”
Broadcasters are facing these same issues, especially data theft attacks. An Accenture survey of media and entertainment professionals reveals that 77 percent indicated their companies experienced an attempted or successful theft or corruption of data by insiders during the previous year.
A leading entertainment company experienced multiple attacks that breached nearly 77 million customer records, unpublished movies, and internal confidential information. These findings are cited in an Accenture report titled “The New Security Challenge: Are Media and Entertainment Companies Ready?”
As broadcasters engage more directly with consumers, offer more personalized digital services, and collaborate with communications companies, they acquire a new asset equally as valuable as content: extensive customer data. Their use of open and standards-based Internet Protocol networks allows them to tailor content to specific consumer’s interests. But the inter-connected nature of these networks and services creates more security risks.
The growing amount of consumer data broadcasters are collecting makes these databases more vulnerable targets for computer hackers looking to steal much more than the latest movie. And because all this information is being generated through digital channels and mobile devices, it’s much more accessible to hacking.
This problem is bound to get more serious because of the accumulation of more high value data. Broadcasters are going to spend an increasing amount of money and energy to protect their companies, networks, and customers from security breaches. Ensuring end-to-end security is no longer just an IT issue. Protecting customer privacy, critical infrastructure and brand value is a daily agenda item.
Story Two: Rising Costs to Create Content
A central revenue driver of the broadcasting industry is content. While a plethora of storylines about content will emerge at NAB, the most important could be the rising costs to create, acquire and distribute content.
A new Accenture report summarizes findings of its research and analysis of several key U.S.-based broadcasters. The “Future of Broadcasting VI” report reveals that from this year through 2020, the rate at which their costs will increase to create, acquire and distribute content will accelerate twice as fast as their revenues. This could intensify pressure to change their business models to compete more effectively and to drive more rapid industry consolidation.
The research forecasts that content costs will increase from $100 billion this year to $136 billion in 2020 – a 36 percent increase. By contrast, video revenues will increase from $184 billion this year to $217 billion in 2020 – up only 18 percent.
To reduce costs and increase revenues, broadcasters will increasingly focus on ways to more efficiently manage their costs by selecting which content they will and will not produce and delivering more personalized services to customers.
Story Three: Hyper-Focus on Hyper-Personalization
Consumers want broadcasters to increase the contextual and personal relevance of all content, including ads, to make every viewing experience engaging and meaningful. This is hyper-personalization.
One broadcaster taking a pioneering approach to hyper-personalization is the British Broadcast Company (BBC). In 2015, the BBC launched “myBBC,” a strategic platform to harness insight from audience interactions across the breadth of its digital properties.
Empowering the BBC to build direct relationships with its audiences, the new platform increases engagement and consumption, and underpins a new data-driven approach to its operations across key departments including content commissioning. More details about the platform are summarized in a report titled “The myBBC Story.”
At NAB 2017 broadcasters will be hyper-focused on hyper-personalization because it’s an imperative for remaining competitive with digital natives, such as Internet platform companies. Focusing on hyper-personalization is also an opportunity for them to reinvent themselves using data, delivering true personalization to every person in their audience while increasing their brand value, viewer satisfaction and revenues.
Story Four: Consolidating to Succeed
Consolidation of companies, platforms, services, and technologies among telecommunications, media and entertainment companies will be an important NAB story. Consolidation is increasing because growth among many of these companies is either decreasing or flat, and low-cost digital natives are intensifying the competitive landscape with compelling video platforms, content, services, and disruptive business models.
Stand-alone content providers are finding it challenging to compete with digital native platform providers that have larger scale, more customers, and global content. As the media habits of consumers continue to shift and become more liquid, many broadcasters lack the resources to compete head-to-head with digital natives.
Through consolidation, however, communications, media and entertainment companies can create mutually beneficial opportunities. Content creators such as broadcasters can merge or collaborate with communications service providers that have the infrastructure pipes to deliver that content. Combining platforms, distribution, advertising, programming, and customers will help them be more competitive.
Story Five: Getting Smarter About Artificial Intelligence
The advertising and broadcasting industries are confounded by an avalanche of disaggregated and unreliable data about consumers. To address this problem, they are increasingly using machine learning — the ability to program machines to learn from new data — to improve targeting and reach of advertising.
A type of artificial intelligence, machine learning enables advertisers to more accurately predict customer advertising preferences and serve them targeted ads more effectively. Processing large amounts of historical user data, the technology can predict users’ interests, behaviors, and purchasing actions with more precision.
Recently, M6 Publicite and M6 Web selected Accenture’s new advertising offering that uses artificial intelligence to more accurately predict customer advertising preferences and serve targeted ads more effectively. M6 Group is the largest private TV Group in France with major traditional TV channels such as M6, W9, and 6ter, as well as 6play, a free digital TV platform. At NAB there will likely be storylines focused on the use of machine learning to improve advertising. Advertisers recognize its potential for focusing sales efforts and forecasting sales, as well as targeting messages with personalized and relevant content and increasing revenues.
Executive Speech -- Business
“Riding the Next Big Technological Waves: Company To Invest in Digital Transformation, Internet of Things, and Blockchain”
Chairman, President and CEO
How is our company going to deliver safe and affordable energy to people over the next several years? How are we going to restore power swiftly when hurricanes hit our areas and power outages occur? How are we going to keep our customers’ houses warm in the winters?
These are pressing questions we think about constantly at our company. We are looking for better answers.
And we have found them.
The answers are to invest in three major technological arenas over the next several years. We will be investing more in digital transformation, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.
We believe these investments will elevate the company to unprecedented levels of operational performance, affordability, safety, and reliability. The key beneficiaries will be our customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
As a group of technology professionals in this audience today, we thought you would like to be aware of what we are doing in these technology arenas and why. We hope it influences your thinking about the benefits of these technologies and whether your organizations will invest, or invest more, in these exciting technological evolutions.
We will cover three main points.
Let me share, first of all, some color on digital transformation. It’s a term that has been gaining considerable traction in the business world over the past few years. But what does it mean? And how will it affect the future of our company and its customers and stakeholders?
Imagine digital transformation as a company looking through the same lens to study and make all its decisions. When they think about their strategy, they think digital first and foremost. When they think about investments, they think digital first and foremost. When they think marketing, they think digital first and foremost.
Their marketing is digital. Their operations are digital. Their customer interactions are digital. The entire company’s mindset is digital first and digital all the time.
Digital transformation is a singular focus. Imagine an all-encompassing way of thinking and doing business and serving customers. An entire company’s philosophy and culture are tightly aligned with digital technologies, digital connectivity, and digital business models.
Digital transformation is a coherent mission that accelerates delivery of the fastest, most reliable, and most personalized services to our customers.
So, here’s the lesson: From now on our company will be making all its strategic decisions with a digital transformation mindset. Every aspect of our business – from engineering, to sales, to human resources, to customer service, to strategy, to social media, and everything else -- will align with digital transformation.
Some say digital is just a buzzword. Some say it lacks substance. Some point out that digital technology has been around for decades.
But digital transformation is about much more than digital technology per se. It’s about every way it can be used. It’s about every way it can be a competitive differentiator. It’s about how companies are structured. It’s about how they go to market. It’s about the quality of the experiences consumers have when they receive their energy services.
This brings us to the Internet of Things. Think of this as one of the main digital transformation engines. The Internet of Things is all about connections and data transfers between a wide array of electronic devices, networks, and technologies. Think smartphones. Think electric smart grids. Think sensors. Think digital voice assistants powered by artificial intelligence. Think home security devices. Think smart meters. And so on and so on.
Our company’s Internet of Things ecosystem is large. There are smartphones used by our employees. There are sensors in our wind solar mirrors. There are sensors in our pipelines. There are home thermostats in our customers’ homes.
Sensors are central engines in this IoT technological tidal wave. The typical smartphone houses eight to ten sensors. A leading-edge home thermostat contains four to five. Beyond these are many home devices containing hundreds of sensors.
Sensors store and transmit important data. The Internet of Things provides the infrastructure for sharing huge amounts of data between these Internet of Things devices. Between them emails can be sent and received. Alerts, text messages, videos, podcasts can be sent and received.
IoT devices collect, analyze, and send data to businesses, devices and people to improve decision-making, business outcomes and customer experiences.
What does this mean?
Our company plans to use our Internet of Things network and devices to do predictive analytics. This technology capitalizes on the fast availability of relevant and timely data.
This technology equips our company’s professionals with the ability to more rapidly and accurately predict, for example, when and where a power line is about to fall or malfunction in some way. We could then take action to prevent it. Our customers would not lose power. Their lights would say on. Our customer service would remain strong and intact. We would reduce our expenses.
This technology could also inform us in advance of locations of clean energy sources. We could use this information to serve our customers more effectively and reliably. This technology could alert us in advance that parts of our energy grid will need to be repaired -- before they cause problems for our customers.
This brings us to blockchain. This is another major technology trend permeating the business world. At an amazingly fast pace, I might add. Over the past two years, you would be hard pressed to name another technology that has been more talked and written about. Make no mistake about it: blockchain is hot.
But what is blockchain? And why does it matter?
In simple terms, blockchain is a digital online database. It’s accessible by people viewing their computer screens. They can access an enormous about of highly relevant information stored in one place. Our executives, engineers, customers, and other associates can access and use the same blockchain simultaneously. Data on the blockchain is secure. No one can change it once it’s up on the blockchain. Everyone knows the information is reliable and timely. Information on the blockchain is the undisputed “single version of the truth.”
This is fundamentally different from databases that can be changed and manipulated by many different people. Or databases that are inconsistent and disconnected. Users of those disaggregated databases cannot be sure the information is secure and reliable.
Let me tell you about one intriguing use for blockchain we are exploring. Let’s say one of our major solar power mirrors suddenly malfunctions. We could go to the blockchain. We could figure out quickly and easily the name and contact information for the person who installed the mirror and when. We could pinpoint the dates when the mirror had been inspected and checked for reliability and viability. We could ascertain whether the mirror should have been inspected. If so, what were the results?
Using the blockchain is much faster, easier, more secure and more reliable than traditional technologies. Without it we might have go through extensive research to find out who the installer’s name is and contact information. This takes too much time and costs too much money. Or we would have to search on a vast array of disconnected and inconsistent computer databases. Those would be housed within many different organizations. This also takes too much time and money.
The less time it takes to diagnose the mirror problem and find information about it, the less it costs our company. And the less it costs our customers.
Some are skeptical about blockchain. They say it’s over-hyped. But I ask you to consider this: In a recent TED Talk presentation, a well-respected technology consultant named Don Tapscott said: “The technology likely to have the greatest impact over the next two decades has arrived. And it’s not social media. It’s not big data. It’s not even artificial intelligence. You’ll be surprised to learn that it’s the underlying technology of digital currency called blockchain. I believe this is now the next generation of the Internet.”
Tapscott is not alone in his belief. Blockchain beckons big business opportunities. Major corporations around the world are hopping aboard the blockchain train. A gaggle of blockchain start-up companies are forming. Within three years many industries -- including electric utilities -- will integrate blockchain in their corporate systems. Count on it.
Our company intends to lead the energy utility industry in blockchain investments and strategic implementation. We intend to capitalize on its benefits. This technology will lower operational costs and provide more reliable and more personalized services to customers.
This brings us back to the big picture.
Over the next 10 years our company plans to invest $25 million in modernizing our energy grid and generating cleaner energy. We are investing $11 billion investment in clean energy and expanding natural gas infrastructure.
Our investments in digital transformation, the Internet of Things, and blockchain will be pivotal in helping us achieve these goals; pivotal in helping us upgrade our assets; and pivotal in serving our customers with more affordable, cleaner energy. These new technologies are coming. The key is prioritizing the ones that will deliver the greatest value to our customers.
It’s time for our company to boldly invest in the future. It’s time we do the right thing for our more than seven million retail customers, employees, and numerous other stakeholders. It’s time we move ahead with passion and persistence. It’s time to be courageous, to abide by our company’s guiding principle to do the right thing for our customers.
It’s time our company fully embraces this brave new world of digital transformation, the Internet of Things, and blockchain. It’s time to explore the art of the possible.
It’s time for us to ride these big technological waves to create a smarter, more reliable, and more affordable energy future for our customers.
Executive Speech -- Business
APSENA Information Technology Conference
George Washington University Auditorium
“Life After the Worst and Fastest Downturn in History: Global Opportunities in the Optoelectronics and Semiconductor Markets”
Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I am honored to be here.
I want to begin my talk today by telling you a story about myself. The story begins with me speaking at this same event about 12 months ago.
During that speech, I told you about Lucent Technologies and the communications industry. You may recall, if you were here then, that the story I told was about an industry that was as hot as a typical August afternoon in Washington, D.C.
The dot.com mania was still at a fever pitch. Stock prices of high-tech companies were still soaring skyward. And it seemed that everybody kept talking – at work, at cocktail parties, wherever – about money to be made in high-tech stocks.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. My personal story now fast-forwards to today. I am speaking at this same event but in a much different environment. It starts with the fact that I now work for Agere Systems, formerly the Microelectronics Group of Lucent Technologies.
Six months after the spin-off announcement in July last year, the telecommunications industry began a swift decline that continues today. The industry in which my company participates, providing optical components and integrated circuits to the communications and computer industries, has seemingly been blind-sided by a car accident. Almost no one saw it coming. And almost no one had enough time to react.
Many factors have contributed to the industry’s precipitous decline. Among them have been dramatically reduced spending by telecommunications services providers for network expansion, which has led to a slowdown in telecommunications network equipment purchases. This has been caused by a rapid decline of dot.coms and networks overbuilt for communications traffic that has not yet materialized.
This has caused a huge reduction in orders of our products and those of many of our competitors. This has triggered a massive inventory build-up of both network equipment and the components within them. Many of these products may never be used because the pace of technological change can make products obsolete within months.
The industry slowdown has affected this industry seemingly like a tidal wave. In this year alone, over 200,000 people have lost their jobs in the telecom service provider and telecom equipment industries. The market value of local, long distance, and wireless companies and telecom equipment makers have declined by more than 1.45 trillion dollars.
Some are predicting a semiconductor industry decline this year of more than 20 percent and more than 30 percent for optoelectronics. That would be the industry’s largest decline ever. Estimates for wireless handset sales worldwide this year have plummeted to as low as 400 million – about 100 million less than experts predicted before the slowdown.
Some industry observers are saying this is the worst and fastest decline the semiconductor industry has ever experienced. I assure you that in my 25 years in this business, it’s by far the worst decline I’ve seen. (PAUSE)
However, despite all these troubling events, trends and statistics, I am still confident that the industry will bounce back. There are some early signs that the worst of the downturn may be over.
It’s important to understand that the current market environment is related to reduced spending by telecommunications companies. Essentially, what has happened is an inventory cycle had to be worked through and telecom companies needed to clean up their balance sheets by cutting spending.
Demand remains robust for faster, more versatile, and more powerful information-carrying capacity, also commonly referred to as bandwidth. Telecommunications bandwidth is expected to increase 35 times in the next three years! Consumers still crave products and services this industry produces.
My opinion is that the glut in the inventory channel will eventually be eliminated. Supply and demand will come into balance. Along the way, however, the landscape will have changed by mergers and acquisitions and the elimination of companies who could not survive the downturn. Many industry players will be gone. And there will be fewer companies to enjoy the market’s upswing. And of course, I believe one of those surviving companies will be Agere Systems. I believe the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth will lead to an industry recovery. Without a double, this industry has very healthy long-term prospects. (PAUSE)
Now that I have shared my personal story, I will move on with the rest of my talk. It will address a number of important growth opportunities and emerging trends.
First, I will talk about growth opportunities. Yes, from here to Finland, from Finland to China, and from China to Pakistan, this industry has opportunities that stretch across oceans. For entrepreneurs this industry has great potential. One key reason: communications network bandwidth.
The Four Major Industry Groups
Let me tell you about this industry and how it plays into this bandwidth trend. Agere Systems participates in an overall industry involving four groups: consumers; network service providers and Internet service providers; equipment manufacturers; and optoelectronics and semiconductor component manufacturers.
The opportunities for consumers are enormous. Using their cell phones, these consumers will be able to play interactive games, access live news broadcasts, and use banking services. They may be able to watch videos or download compact disc-quality music. The list of possibilities goes on.
Today, business travelers can check their emails from their laptop computers at airports without having to locate a modem jack. These consumers can send high-speed data to their office local area networks while from a multitude of different locations outside of the office. Wireless connectivity to the Internet is expected to become widespread at hotels, malls, and coffee shops.
For network service providers such as AT&T, Sprint, Worldcom, and American Online, speed rules. They’re about offering faster data speeds faster with less hassle and cost. They’re about offering better quality of service and customizing those services for specific customer desires. They’re about offering new, more profitable, higher-bandwidth, and differentiated features and services without increasing their network equipment costs.
And then there are the network equipment providers. You’ve probably heard of them. The Lucents. The Ciscos. The Nortels. What do they care about? In a word: speed. Faster optical networking systems. Faster wireless systems. Faster telephone switching capabilities. Faster Internet connections. And faster product deliveries.
And then there are components manufacturers. They include Agere Systems and other such as PMC-Sierra, JDS Uniphase, Broadcom, and Texas Instruments. You can think of us as the makers of the communications engines and accelerators. At Agere we design and manufacture optical components and integrated circuits for communications applications.
Communications semiconductors occupy the sweet spot of the entire semiconductor industry. Intel, IBM, and many other semiconductor companies are hotly pursuing this market in which we are a world leader. What we make goes into networking equipment made by Ericsson, Cisco, Nortel, and more than 250 other equipment manufacturers.
More specifically, our components go into network infrastructure gear such as optical networking equipment, wireless base stations, and Internet routers. They also go into what we call client devices such as cell phones and personal computers. Reducing costs and improving performance of communications equipment all begins at the component level of the food chain.
We’re all about creating the next-generation communications network and developing applications such as the wireless Internet in order to access the huge amount of information moving across the network.
I don’t have to tell you how fast and large the Internet and wireless market explosions have been in recent years and will be in the future. Let me share with you some of the latest statistics about the magnitude of their growth potential because Internet and wireless technologies are so central to the future of this industry and to the message, I want to convey to you today.
Fifteen percent of the world’s population – more than one in seven people on Earth – will be using the Internet by 2005. That’s almost one billion people. It’s amazing to think that this many people will be connected to a technology that didn’t really exist for the masses a decade ago. The increase in Internet use will drive commerce on the Internet to more than $5 trillion in the next five years.
Last year, only 10 percent of Internet users connected by cell phones. By 2005, that number is expected to expand to greater than 50 percent. To put the 2.5G and 3G wireless potential in perspective,
I quote from a recent issue of Upside Magazine on its report about the semiconductor market. “We believe in the shift to 2.5G and 3G wireless technologies, and we know that this market is so large that is dwarfs the billions made when personal computers finally took off.” The cell phone is, arguably, becoming the Internet appliance.
I am also a believer in the usage of high-bandwidth wireless networks. In fact, my company delivers high-speed, always-on wireless local area network (LAN) solutions through our ORINOCO products. The idea that you can take your laptop wherever you go, turn it on, and get instant, high-speed access to the Internet – without having to plug in your PC – is very powerful. And these wireless LAN speeds are about five times faster than they were only two years ago and only a little bit slower than many wired Ethernet LAN connections.
The optoelectronics market longer term has plenty of upside. Again, one of the reasons is the appetite for more bandwidth and faster speeds. You may want to know that the capacity of a single fiber continues to double every 12 months. More importantly from Agere’s perspective, you may need to know that the optical component growth rate is expected to be higher than optical system sales. This is because MORE optoelectronics components are being used in these systems than previous systems. That translates to more revenue and profit opportunities for optoelectronics component manufacturers.
Now I want to talk about globalization as it applies to this industry. Our focus is global. In fact, about half of our sales are outside North America. There are great entrepreneurial opportunities for this industry in major regions such as North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific. The United States is an Internet and communications trend-setter. Europe leads in wireless technologies. And Asia is leveraging all of this.
But most of the growth trends indicate that the fastest and largest growth in Internet and wireless traffic, for example, will occur outside the United States during the next several years. That means a large amount of the business opportunities for this industry lie beyond U.S. borders.
If I had to pick one country that stands out for its growth potential, it would have to be China. For Agere, this is probably our greatest opportunity for the next several years for sales of BOTH optoelectronics and semiconductor components. The country is so vast. The needs are so great. The timing is so right.
We view the Chinese cell phone business to be particularly intriguing and fruitful. We have been working with several Chinese cell phone manufacturers on projects that have changed the dynamics of the way the cell phone business is run. The typical model of the business has been for semiconductor manufacturers to provide cell phone manufacturers with our chips. The manufacturers would take our chips, add some design, software, and packaging, and put the phone on the market.
In this new business model, we produce most of the hardware and software for the phone. And we design it. Then we give that set of technologies to Chinese cell phone manufactures. They, in turn, quickly put packaging around our technology, add some differentiating features to their cell phones such as color displays, and swiftly get the phone on the market.
The reason for this new way of doing business? Speed, of course. The manufacturers want to get to market with phones faster than they can by building them from scratch. And the Chinese government actively supports this activity to promote the deployment of high-tech information technology in the country.
These relationships with China’s cell phone manufacturers not only illustrate the global nature of this business They also underscore the importance of relationships and acquisitions as a means of survival. Put simply, this business is moving too fast, is too competitive, and is too technically sophisticated and challenging for any one company to do it themselves. There are many pieces to this puzzle. And nobody has them all.
We learned that providing the semiconductor AND software expertise for a GSM cell phone all with one company was crucial to succeeding in the market. So, we bought a company based in Munich, Germany called Optimay, which does just that. Buying Optimay gives us the ability to be one of the first companies in the industry to deliver a chip and software solution for enabling high-speed Internet access on cell phones.
These always connected, always online phones, using what’s called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technology, can enable Internet data transmission at up to five times faster than today’s cell phones. This acquisition of Optimay has been crucial to our success selling system-level GPRS solutions for the cell phone market. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all GSM cell phones will be equipped with GPRS technology by 2005. Someday, Internet access could be in every person’s pocket.
As strange as it may sound, striking up some relationships makes a lot of sense and is becoming more commonplace in our industry. These relationships can be with larger companies as well as small companies as long as they bring some value and unique expertise. This is creating opportunities for aggressive entrepreneurs to play in this segment.
Three Key Opportunities Agere Systems is Pursuing
Focusing on the global market and forming strategic relationships are definitely key. Complementary to these general approaches to the market are a few, additional, more specific trends I see unfolding in this industry.
The first trend is the fact that more electronics and optoelectronics technologies are being integrated.
Because of the need for both technologies, we believe integration within the same sub-systems, called transponders, is a fundamental industry trend. Such integrated and value-added sub-systems have a crucial role to play in increasing bandwidth, lowering production and system costs, and accelerating product delivery times for equipment manufacturers.
In addition to transporting Internet data at high speeds within telecom equipment, these transponders can cut circuit board space by up to 50 percent, reduce power consumption, and could save transmission system manufacturers up to six months of design time.
A second major trend is the automation of manufacturing optoelectronics components. Historically, manufacturing optoelectronics components has been a time-consuming and often tedious process. It involved many people working along an assembly line to put the components together and package them. The trend is toward eliminating many of those costly processes by using sophisticated automation technologies and integrating active and passive components, a key differentiating capability of our optoelectronics business.
A third key trend we see is a movement towards system-level and system-on-a-chip expertise. Put simply, the pure commodity components business is becoming less appealing. The best opportunities are going to be ones where semiconductor companies provide true systems knowledge and value-added intellectual property.
Our customers want us to add differentiating features to our chips that amount to complete solutions to their problems of lowering costs, increasing performance, and accelerating their product delivery times. And they want blended semiconductor and optoelectronics capabilities. They want them to enable faster speeds, and they want them faster. (PAUSE)
This industry is all about speed and fulfilling consumers’ communications needs and desires. As I reflect on those needs and desires in the context of the current industry downturn, I conclude that the future of this industry boils down to a fundamental question: What do people want and when do they want it? I think the answer centers on what you believe about people, about human nature, and about technological process itself.
In my opinion, you’ve got to believe that hundreds of millions more people are going to want to and use the Internet. You’ve got to believe that hundreds of millions more people are going to use cell phones. You’ve got to believe that hundreds of millions more people will connect to the Internet using their laptop PCs without wires.
You’ve got to believe that hundreds of millions will enjoy the benefits of fiber optics as the technology gets deployed closer and closer and, one day, inside peoples’ homes. You’ve got to believe that hundreds of millions more people will want to make phone calls and send emails, photos of their grandchildren, download music, whatever, from one side of the Earth to the other – at faster and faster speeds.
You’ve got to believe that hundreds of millions of people will want to continue to do more things in less time. You’ve got to believe service providers and equipment manufacturers are going to continue to make products that shave time to market deliveries to meet those needs.
You’ve got to believe technological process, like the passing of time itself, is unrelenting and inevitable. You’ve got to believe that one day a person will be completely and always connected to the Internet and to everyone else with the capability of anywhere, anytime communications with anyone else. You’ve got to believe that entrepreneurs, engineers, computer scientists, and others in this audience have a key role to play in making all this happen.
You’ve got to believe that human beings expect all of this to happen and want all of this happen NOW.
Just ask your children!
You’ve got to believe in the great future of this industry despite the current downturn.
Letter to the Editor – Inspirational Sports -- Published
March 13, 2008
“A Salute to the Bernards High School boys’ basketball team”
I’m a malcontent when it comes to gardening. I never understood much about China’s Ming Dynasty. And I still can’t fathom that there really were Vikings walking this Earth at one stage.
I don’t even know that much about lots of sports. I don’t play golf well and don’t dare try anymore. I figured there’s not enough cash in it for a guy who has never scored lower than a 125 for 18 holes.
And I’m ashamed to admit that roller skating and ice skating expose my clumsiness. Fencing – nah. I don’t know anything about it and surely couldn’t do it.
What I do know, however, is basketball. It’s the one thing in life I don’t have to wrestle to the mat to understand. I played hoops competitively from third through 12th grade in one of America’s basketball meccas, the Washington, D.C., area. And I’ve watched on TV or in person, or coached, about 9,898 games give or take a few hundred.
I “get” basketball’s nuances such as the cross-over dribble, step-back three-pointer, and back-door cut. I also possess a visceral grasp of the short- and long-term emotional and psychological aspects of this great game.
So when I write what I am about to write, take it as educated and experienced insight from a middle-aged guy who has lived through what I believe were similar emotions and reactions that you, the Bernards High School boys basketball team, experienced Friday, Feb. 29, in your playoff game “loss” against Orange High School.
I offer these observations. Don’t believe people who say you guys lost your last high school basketball game this season. I know that you, and everyone in Bernardsville knows, the scored ended 73-55 score in favor of Orange. But I know forever that what you and your teammates did in that game was the antithesis of lose.
Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t make excuses. With my eyes I learned you’re better than that. Believe me when I say you were inspiring and unforgettable. You played like a tight group of winners where it matters most: in the heart. No matter how far behind you fell, your effort, energy, and guts were staggering. Maximizing effort trumps maximizing winning every time.
So, you had an off-shooting night. So did the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team last season against Georgetown University in the March Madness tournament. An acute case of errant shooting cost them a chance to win the national championship they could have won.
The best teams sometimes just can’t score. Remember, only one out of 65 teams in March Madness ends its season with a scoreboard win.
Similarly, in one of the biggest high school games of my life with a gaggle of friends and family watching, I couldn’t put the ball in the hoop no matter how hard I tried. When your shot won’t go in, all you can do is keep shooting, hustling, and playing with passion. On a basketball court and many other life venues, things eventually turn around for those who don’t quit.
Your attitudes amid adversity in Friday’s game made me proud to be a Bernardsville resident. It’s nice to be impressed with the kids at the local high school.
Seriously, your full-court defensive pressure could not have been more furious and lightning quick. You believed you could come back and win no matter the score. This was written on your faces as clearly as the red paint on the chest of the Bernards High School students in the crowded cheering section.
I have another observation that is more futuristic and preachy. I’ll take the chance of being booed and rejected. You will learn, probably 10 to 20 years from now, that your audacity to risk being booed and rejected will prove crucial to success in life.
Often you will fall behind in various ways the rest of your life. Like on Friday, almost none of the “shots” you take in life will go in. College classes may challenge your intellect and cause you to get a lower grade than you hoped and were used to. Your boss may be unhappy with your performance and fire you with no pre-notification.
You may be raising children and find that one of them doesn’t want to be in advanced math classes when you think it would be good for him or her. Your child may not want to be a star in the sport you want him or her to be.
These or similar things happen to everyone. How you handle them will be paramount in determining the quality of your life. Sometimes you may feel like giving up, wearied by so many failed attempts. You may feel so weighed down you just want to drive your car far, far away, all alone. But you will not, should not.
This is because you will remember that basketball game in high school when your team couldn’t score enough, when the referee seemed to be calling a lot more fouls on your team than your opponents. In one of the biggest moments of your life, everything seemed to be coming undone, so unfairly. Dreams of a championship season were evaporating like water droplets on a scalding stove.
Despite all this, you will remember how your entire team, your band of brothers, scrambled to come back by diving for loose balls, risking pain and injury, over and over and over. You will remember all the times you and your teammates trapped the other team in the full court press, then swatted, tipped, deflected and stole passes.
You did everything you could even though you knew the end of the game, end of the season, end of a high school career in some of your cases, end of a boyhood fantasy, and end of one of the greatest Bernards High School boys’ varsity basketball seasons of all time, was accelerating full throttle towards imperfection.
You’ll remember how you wanted the clock to stop for about 30 seconds so your team could catch up and take the lead. You’ll remember how your team probably would have done that because it was shaving the lead in the second half already.
You and your teammates -- the ones you spent countless hours in the gym sweating with for dozens and dozens of days and hours – were wearing the other team out with your persistent, swarming pressure, everywhere on the court.
You’ll remember how your team won 20 of 26 games. You’ll remember how your team whipped the student body, parents and other town basketball fanatics into a frenzy. You’ll remember that you and your teammates motivated hundreds of them to cheer for you in person, to take a break from schoolwork, to be high school kids on a Friday night, sipping sodas, being entertained, being inspired – yes, inspired – by you.
You’ll remember reading this letter, I hope. You’ll remember that it had lessons in it that helped you overcome obstacles the rest of your life. You’ll remember that the letter communicated to you the truth, that you played like winners that night even though you scored fewer points than the opponent.
You’ll remember that one man you didn’t know – me -- informed you that he had never witnessed more genuine and deserving winners in a game that they technically “lost.” You’ll remember the writer expressed honest reaction to your grit. And you’ll remember, most importantly, that he was serious.
Congratulations to your winning basketball team: Mark Kolb, Matt Pfingst, Chris Polster, Sean Connor, Shane Painter, Augie Stadmueller, Lee Peters, Michael Berezny, Sam Stires, Chris Fry, Bobby Kdoda, Patrick Williams, Chris Feuer and Cory Barfuss.
Letter to the Editor – Inspirational Profile -- Published
November 22, 2007
“Writer lauds B’Ville ‘Dude” as ‘once-in-a-lifetime human being’ “
In quaint Bernardsville roams a human treasure, a person as rare as 80-degree January weather in America’s Northeast.
On a recent Saturday night at a local night spot, about 100 of this man’s friends threw him a surprise 40th birthday party. As the live band rocked, he bounced for hours across the dance floor.
Slapping high fives with pals who came in his path, and kissing and hugging them, this guy was being, as he always is, the quintessential “social butterfly.”
For hours he smiled, talked, and sang. At one point he reclined on his back in the center of the dance floor and kept moving as the crowd clapped and danced around him looking in adoration.
At one point he sauntered over to the microphone, clenched it, and sang along with the crowd: “Take Me Home, to the Place, I Belong, West Virginia, Mountain Momma, Take Me Home.” Karaoke was invented for this guy. He makes Oprah seem reclusive.
One of his friends in attendance streamed a non-stop video presentation showing pictures of this guy as a baby; high schooler; college lacrosse player; in his college graduation gown; and hugging his wife.
These must have been more than 200 pictures of him. In each one he smiled big with pink cheeks and bleach-blond hair.
As for attire at the party, he wore his double extra-large black T-shirt that spelled “College” in white letters. Think beefy-chested offensive lineman on a college football team and you’ve got the image. As usual his T-shirt had wet blotches on the front and back. He never seems too far away from his next sweat.
Earlier that evening before the party, he had been standing in the announcer’s press booth at Ridge High School. He was broadcasting, as he does for each game, the tackle football contest played by the Somerset Hills Bulldogs grade school team. His sons, Conner and Colin, play on the squad.
From that morning’s sports page he read a wide assortment of scores of football games played the night before at schools scattered all over New Jersey. He shared girls’ field hockey scores; some flag football results were thrown in. And he sprinkled in comments about the game itself on just about every play. All the while he tweaked the audience by asking trivia questions about 1970s TV shows.
Minutes before the game when I arrived, he showered me with his usual greeting from about 100 feet away – a shouted proclamation to all within earshot: “Charlie Hartley’s in the house, Charlie Hartley.”
Whether at football, lacrosse, Little League baseball, or other venues, he announces dozens of people as they arrive at the games. He seems to know everyone. If you don’t know him, I suggest you check out his deal. The quality of your lives will soar towards the sky.
This Bernardsville dude remembers where you went to high school and what town you’re from as if needs to recall it to continue breathing.
As a coach, consider this blend: He’s caring, demanding, selfless, fun, hilarious, tremendous, tough, and intelligent. He’s the best coach of kids I’ve ever seen.
He achieves skyscraper-sized success in teaching boys how to learn and grow. During the past two seasons as coach of the Somerset Hills boy’s lacrosse team, his record stands at more than 40 wins and three losses. He played lacrosse in high school and at Rutgers University. The game flows through his veins.
One reason his teams excel is because of how much and how hard he gets them to practice. Their season begins in the ice and show on open parking lots around town in February many weeks before the first game. He doesn’t wait for fields to open.
In one game last spring they tied. He gathered them and said: “I want you to know you are all winners because you played your best. You are all winners.”
No anger. No blaming anyone. Nothing but encouragement, words to make the kids feel good about themselves. No bragging. No pettiness.
It’s obvious what kind of father he is, too. His sons stand out for their exceptionally polite and respectful manners with adults.
In the adult world this man is exactly the same. Last Spring when I arrived at a Bernardsville Little League baseball field, I noticed him standing, as usual, outside the center field fence roaming back and forth looking for people to whom he could shout greetings. Standing about 200 feet away, he noticed that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland As were the names of the two Little League squads that would be competing in the next game.
“Hey, Hartley,” he yelled at me. “Dodgers and As, 1974.”
For a few seconds I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then I thought: Is he really referring to the 1974 World Series that pitted the Dodgers against the As, which happened 33 years ago?
This guy knew my passion for sports. He sensed what button to push to make me smile, laugh, and feel connected to him.
This guy, this man, this father, this friend, this coach, this social genius, lives in our town. Feel fortunate. Soak in his rarified charisma.
Allow me to introduce this once-in-a-lifetime human being in a way he introduces everyone else.
“Hey everybody. Kyle Kirst is in the house. Rutgers. Long Island. Lacrosse, Bernardsville, Dodgers against the As. Kyle Kirst. Rock on.”
Blog Essay – Published
Thank you, March Madness.
Thank you for saving us from ourselves, for distracting us from life’s more serious issues. Thank you for being predictably unpredictable, for being a way to forget about ourselves and our lives and get caught up in the excitement of these games, the compelling stories of teams and players and coaches.
Thank you, March Madness, for being a single elimination tournament in which when a team loses their season – and often individual basketball careers – end abruptly. This is drama. This is sadness. This is life, in a nutshell, a bunch of endings and survivals and giddiness and profound sorrow.
Each team gets promised only one game. If they lose, their season is over. Plain and simple. It’s rough on the losers. Each team gets one chance. If they win, they move on to live another day. Their basketball fantasies continue.
They get to imagine what it would be like to win the whole thing even though they know the chances of that are small. Even the best teams don’t have a real good chance of winning the national title. It is set up for 63 teams to fail and only one to win. Almost every team in this tournament ends their season on a down note. They get defeated.
This is the beauty and the sad part of March Madness. The tournament creates conflicting emotions, some highs, and some lows. It’s all about winning one game and moving on. It’s so simple in that sense yet so difficult to cope with emotionally. One missed shot, one turnover, one bad pass could ruin the dream – and they often do. One made shot can lift a team’s spirits into the sky.
Thank you, March Madness, for occurring every year when you do. It’s been a long cold winter and we’re ready to be uplifted and go outside and feel like life is fun again. The timing of this tournament is perfect because it carries us out of winter and into spring. The tournament is a time of renewal and hope for better days, more sunshine, less snow shoveling and shivering in the cold. March Madness is the sign of life beginning again.
It is like a flower blooming, grass growing again, leaves re-appearing on tree limbs. March Madness energizes our souls. It tells us things are going to get better, that there is hope up ahead. That is nice to know.
Thank you, March Madness, for being consistent. You are there for us every year without fail. We can count on you every March. You keep the beat of our lives steady. You comfort us. You excite us. You make us emotional. You make us feel alive and part of something that America holds dear to its heart.
Blog Essay -- Sports Humor -- Published
Enough Winter Olympics, Pivot to 2020 Summer Olympics
February 28, 2018
Enough speed skating. Enough skeleton-ing. Enough about Norway.
Enough triple toe loops.
Enough Winter Olympics.
It’s now time to focus on the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Japan. We have two years to get ready, and this is the starting point. Here and now we make the pivot.
Look into that Japanese Olympic swimming pool and visualize the guy who won’t be there – or so he says – Michael Phelps. Even if he’s not, we will feel his presence. Michael Phelps permeates all aspects of swimming present, past, and future.
If he’s not there, who will be there to haul in all the Gold Medals for the U.S. team? Katie Ledecky, probably. That will be cool. Maybe she can make progress towards breaking the Phelps Olympic Gold Medal record of 18. That would make for good theatre. We would all get captivated by that.
What about Ryan Murphy? Will he break his own Olympic record in the 100-meter backstroke? Is Libby King on her way to back-to-back Olympic Golds in the 100-meter breaststroke? What medal ceremonies will be as emotional as the one with Ryan Heald at the 2016 Games. Out of nowhere, he made it onto the Olympic freestyle relay team that won Gold. He cried. It was exquisite. The tears remain fresh.
All this notwithstanding, we have to ask ourselves this serious question: If Phelps doesn’t participate in the 2020 Olympics, should the entire event be canceled? Without him, the Olympics are just a few track and field races and some hammer throws plus a steeplechase.
Without Phelps, swimming is just another sport. Without Phelps – the greatest swimmer of all time – we are left grasping for somebody in the swimming world to pull us into the drama. It could be Ledecky. It could be Phelps, but he says he’s not participating and that he’s retired. But he’s said that before and come out of retirement.
You might be thinking that the Summer Olympics of 2020 are too far away for us to care. So why write about it over 600 days ahead of time? Because life is about looking forward. We have our futures and they should be embraced with intense contemplation.
Look beyond yourselves. See what the 2020 Summer Olympics could be. Find a way to care about something that you have no reason to be thinking about right now and are not particularly interested in any way. Just dig in. Focus your thinking.
Read some books about Phelps. His is quite the story. Check out some of the Gold Medal races on YouTube. Find any reason you can to start caring about the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Cogitate about swimming. Start making big splashes as you shower. Watch some YouTube videos of Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines broadcasting the Jason Lezak comeback for Gold to beat the trash-talking team from France several years ago.
Remember how much you love watching the 400-meter individual medley, the ultimate test of swimming skill and grit.
Picture yourself already there in the stands, watching the U.S. team race for Golds at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Short Story – Published
A Story to Remember Forever
Many people spend hours by themselves practicing a craft. A painter might wipe a brush on a canvas. A pianist may tap on the keys in the studio. Or an actor may rehearse his or her lines alone at night in an empty theatre.
Often these people must push themselves while alone. They discipline themselves to work on something today so they will be ready in the future – when the big moment arrives – to execute. This requires practice and commitment with no guarantee the work will pay off.
Despite this they cling to the hope that perhaps all the hours of practice will bring them rewards and be worthwhile after all. They must keep improving their shots while accepting that their only gain may be the practice itself. But such constant refinement of a skill, not necessarily achieving perfection, is what successful hitting is all about.
I learned this lesson while growing up. Just as Tiger Woods played an extraordinary number of hours of golf as a kid, I spent enormous amounts of time playing basketball. From age eight to 18, I played in hundreds of games, scrimmages, and practices at a wide assortment of gyms, playgrounds and home driveway courts in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding suburbs. I had a court in my front driveway where I shot the basketball thousands of times, maybe hundreds of thousands.
I often fantasized about what would happen on a January night in 1981 during my senior year of high school. On that night my team vied with the best high school basketball team and program in the Washington, D.C., area and United States – Coach Morgan Wootten’s team, DeMatha High School’s powerhouse team.
To generate excitement for this major match up, my school held a pep rally immediately after school in the gym where the game would be played later that Friday. A few hundred students filled the grandstands. My eleven teammates and I sat on chairs on the gym floor underneath one of the fiberglass backboards. As one of the team captains, I was assigned to share a few thoughts with the scores of students.
“I remember standing last year on the court at DeMatha High School after we won that game. They were ranked among the city’s best teams,” I said. “Winning was a great feeling. I hope we can have that same feeling after this game tonight.”
My remarks concluded the rally and I headed home feeling hot. I was running a fever. It was either nervousness or the flu that caused my body to heat up. To this day I still don’t know which. I was as psyched up for this game, probably more so, than any of the hundreds I had played.
After arrived at my house, I fell into bed for a nap. This was my ritual for the afternoons before night games. I slept for a few hours and then woke up. I still felt hot, but the thought of not playing the game because of illness never entered my mind. I had waited and worked and obsessed about this opportunity for 10 years. This promised to be my “Night on Broadway” under the bright lights. At least I hoped it would be.
A few hours later as I entered the gym, I noticed the familiar, saliva-inducing aroma of French fries. The smell reminded me it was game night. I sat with my teammates in the grandstands watching the junior varsity teams from St. John’s and DeMatha play. The high school gym, one of the largest in the Washington, D.C., area, filled fast as if in anticipation of some rock and roll band’s appearance later that night.
In the locker room a few minutes later, I put on the gray-and scarlet home uniform and scarlet warm-up jacket. Shortly thereafter, my team jogged out of the locker room running between some fans who stood near the front doorway. We started layup lines, beginning the event I anticipated most every year. Playing this team, with my family of three brothers, two sisters, mom and dad, three sisters-in-law, and several hundred other fans yelling and clapping, psyched me up.
Ever since second grade, I had heard about the greatness of DeMatha. The nation’s best high school program always won the big games – the ones that really counted. This one counted. Ten years earlier, my brothers had learned as St. John’s players about the rich historic rivalry between St. John’s and DeMatha as St. John’s players. They were there that night during my senior year to watch me.
On that big night in 1981, the gym seemed as jammed with people as it had been during those games many years earlier. There must have been at least a thousand of them crowded in the doorways, underneath the baskets, up the aisles, seemingly everywhere. The court where I warmed up with my teammates seemed to be the only place where any open space could be found in the gym.
For many years I had been alone in a basketball gym or playground, shooting the ball, working on ball handling, and running wind sprints. In the Fall before my senior season, I had created a chart on a poster board listing all the drills I practiced about five days per week by myself to make me a more skilled basketball player.
I especially enjoyed a shooting drill in which I had to make 20 shots from four different spots on the court, the two baselines, and two wings. I forced myself to run after those balls, made or missed, and run back to the spot where I shot the ball. I played often in the afternoons at the elementary school near my house alone with my fantasies of beating DeMatha one day.
While practicing there, especially during the Fall before my senior year hoops season started, I envisioned how my senior season would unfold. I wanted to earn a college basketball scholarship and be selected All-Met, which meant being named one of the top 15 high school basketball players in the Washington area. Being selected All-Met was a lofty goal, which included only an elite group of players, but was not unreasonable for me to pursue. I was a good player.
Often while doing these drills, I thought about whether I practiced enough, overemphasized basketball, or neglected my studies. The questions of where to go to college wouldn’t go away. If I didn’t get a scholarship, I wondered if any other colleges would accept me. Did I want to go to college without playing basketball? I wasn’t sure. In baseball my junior year I earned All-Met honors so I thought I could play college baseball.
Bewildering choices, stresses and opportunities overwhelmed me. I found the most solace and escape from the heat on that elementary school court, practicing by myself, day after day, hour after hour. Life seemed simple there. If I practiced drills over and over, I would get better and better. There, the complexity of life could be distilled to that one easy-to-understand truism.
I also practiced the “hook drill” hundreds of times. To do it, a player stands facing the basket about three or four feet in front of it, and then shoots a hook shot to the backboard’s left side, grabs and ball, and immediately shoots a hook shot off the right side of the backboard.
I shot about 20 hooks shots at full speed. It’s a great drill to develop rebounding stamina, jumping ability, dual-handed coordination, and inside shooting touch. Practicing this drill again and again and again at full speed while pretending I was in game situations maximized its effectiveness. You must do this drill while imagining defenders are smothering you during the game’s most pivotal stage with the score close.
As big of a match-up as the DeMatha game was that night, I don’t remember much about the first three quarters. I know I shot poorly. My team felt out of sync. My conscious and subconscious mind has probably been kind by allowing me to erase those quarters from my brain. Remaining behind by about eight-to-ten points for most of three quarters, I embarrassed my team and myself. On this big night – the one I had envisioned for years and had practiced for day and night year-round – I missed lots of shots.
At some stage in the fourth quarter with about five minutes to go, I remember grabbing a rebound near the basket with several players around me. I shot the ball back up, made it, got fouled, and converted the free throw. A few minutes later, I made two more foul shots. The crowd got a little noisier. DeMatha’s players probably relaxed figuring they still had the game won.
But suddenly they led by only five points.
Two of my teammates then scored; one, I remember, did so following a steal. My team had the ball with five seconds remaining we trailed by only one. My coach designed a play for one of my teammates to take the last shot. I stood at the foul line facing another teammate assigned to pass the ball in from the sideline near our basket. I made a quick move toward my teammate passing it in. He tossed me the ball.
Instinct took over. I spun around to my left side and started dribbling toward the basket down the left foul line. As I headed toward the basket, it surprised me that no DeMatha players stood on that left side. It was wide open, although one slender, agile, six foot seven-inch-high school American, Adrian Branch, pursued. Five inches taller than me, he could jump about a foot higher and had arms a foot longer.
Branch glided down and across the middle of the foul line. The star, who would later play for the University of Maryland and Los Angeles Lakers, positioned himself to time his jump so he would block my shot from an angle after I put it up. This maneuver fit Branch’s personality. Showy, talented, and cocky, he gravitated towards the dramatic, spectacular players such as this game-winning shot block opportunity. I think he wanted to dazzle the fans.
Because I knew this showy side of his personality from having played against him and worked with him at summer basketball camps for a few years, I knew I had to put the ball high enough off the backboard to avoid the block.
Time ran down. Five seconds, four seconds, three seconds…there wasn’t much time for anything but shooting a layup off the left side. It turned to be a shot similar to the one I had practiced many times doing the hook drill. Branch missed the ball by about six inches and the ball bounced higher than usual off the backboard and went in for a clean layup.
Then the gym erupted in loud noise. Maybe it lasted 30 seconds, or maybe it was three or four minutes. I don’t remember. I know it got loud fast and felt a little like bedlam and that something akin to a little mischief had unfolded on a Friday night at a high school gym. At least two or three teammates rushed at me under the basket and hugged me. One of them yelled “You’re incredible.” The crowd erupted with loud cheering. It seemed like some wild dream, but I knew how I felt – stunned I had come through in the most dramatic and clutch situation.
But I was worried because DeMatha still had two seconds to make a game-winning miracle shot.
I understood the significance of what I had done. Some might wonder why this shot amounts to such a big deal to me. You just have to understand what it was like to make this shot, in this situation, and against this team after all I had seen and done in basketball over the years. I knew that for the rest of my life I would remember hitting the big shot as one of the highlights of my life if DeMatha didn’t pull off another last second, miraculous, game-winning shot. DeMatha’s was the best team I had seen in any sport at making last second shots to win games.
Well, they never made that last shot count. One of their players heaved a half-court shot that hit the backboard and bounced off. Within ten seconds or so after the buzzer sounded, a group of about 10-to-15 fellow students surrounded me. Two or three of them carried me around on their shoulders near mid-court.
I had come through in the clutch, when it really mattered and with everyone watching. I had not quit on myself even though I had been playing one of my worst high school games. I demonstrated the desire to grab important rebounds in the fourth quarter, when everyone on the court was tired and our legs felt sore and weak and sweat soaked our faces and jerseys.
This story is about the power and importance of persistence. No matter how bad a night I suffered through and felt frustrated and embarrassed about, especially with so many people watching, I didn’t quit. The thought never entered my mind. In practice, I prepared myself to take the game’s pivotal shot. Had I not practiced that shot thousands of times, I bet I would have missed it, and I bet I wouldn’t be writing this story right now.
If we prepare well and practice as hard as we play by simulating real game situations and never quit no matter how many times we fail, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. Because I practiced well and kept striving despite failures and humiliations, I have this wonderful memory to share with you.
I hit the big shot.