What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Pessimists say that summer is over on Labor Day, but I’m in denial.  I say that we might very well have a month — maybe more — of glorious Midwestern weather left.  It’s not time to go into hibernation just yet.

As I do every year, when the kids have gone back to school and I realize that the meter is running, I tally up a list of any last items that I may need to squeeze in before the snow flies.  I wouldn’t want to think that I’ve been squandering the good weather. This year, though, I think that I’ve done pretty well.

I did a lot of pedaling, for example.  I commuted to work on a regular basis, and I took many pleasant countryside rides on the weekends.  Bicycle weather hasn’t ended just yet, so it will all add up to a couple of thousand miles before it gets too cold or too dark for cycling. I highly recommend this to everyone.  Starting and ending your workday with a good ride amps up your energy level on both ends of your day.  I’ve seen studies that say bike commuters are the happiest commuters, and I believe it.  (I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a study that says bike commuters are the best smelling commuters, mind you, but that’s a separate question.)

After too many summers away, I finally got back to Colorado this year.  I got together with some great friends, we did some camping up in the mountains, and we did some dirt bike riding. The rides and the views were epic. And I didn’t fall off the mountain and plunge to my doom, not even once.  That hadn’t seemed like a real possibility, back when I was pulling my trailer out of my driveway In Illinois and my kids shouted their parting advice, “Don’t fall off the mountain, Dad”.  In fact, I thought it was pretty funny at the time.  A few days later, as we rode a sketchy trail at 12,000 feet, bordered by a “cliff in the air”, it wasn’t quite so funny anymore.

Thankfully, in spite of ample opportunities to go careening off into the abyss, I managed to stay on the trails.  I can’t wait until next summer, when I can go back to Colorado and not fall off of the mountain again.

One outdoor activity that I could have done without was mowing the grass. We’ve had rain on a regular basis this summer, and so my lawn never achieved that wonderful, dormant state that I like so much. I feel cheated.  And I also feel that Google was going about things completely backwards when they decided that their first self-driving vehicle would be an automobile. Having to drive your own car isn’t so bad.  What the world really needs is a self-driving lawn mower.

I attended some great techie conferences this summer. Nobody was demonstrating any self-driving lawn mowers, unfortunately.  But there was lots of wonderful talk about things like wireless technologies, wireless sensing, and intelligent gateways. These are all great, geeky topics that are moving from concept to reality.  They’re even beginning to “disappear” as they are absorbed into the infrastructure of what we do every day – which is exactly what we want successful new technologies to do.

Our new SmartSwarm 351 is an excellent example of a technology that “disappears” into the background.  It’s an intelligent cellular router that gathers data from Modbus networks and sends the data wherever it may be needed.  Unlike older technologies, where a device would have needed to serve as the Modbus master if it wanted to gather the Modbus data, SmartSwarm 351 simply eavesdrops on the Modbus network.  The Modbus network isn’t altered in any way — it doesn’t even know that the SmartSwarm 351 is present.  That’s how things should be when you integrate a new technology with an older one.  The older one should be left alone to do its thing, and the new one shouldn’t interfere.

A few weeks ago I attended the annual cellular technology event in Vegas.  There was a lot of excitement and activity surrounding next generation LTE technologies. Love it or not, LTE has already been a transformative technology. Cellular technologies will continue to be absorbed into the fabric of our daily lives, and they’re only getting started.  I’m especially excited about the next generation low power, low bandwidth LTE technologies that are coming out.  They’ll make it practical to connect an entire new layer of useful stuff.

One of the pundits at the Vegas conference went so far as to proclaim that anything that uses current will soon have connectivity. That might be a bit farther away than he thinks, although it’s an understandable goal if you’re in the business of selling data plans.  But as fast as things have been unfolding, maybe that universal connectivity really is right around the corner.

It was a great summer, chock full of exciting trips and exciting new technologies.  I’ve had lots of fun with family and friends, and I plan to keep enjoying every minute of the nice weather, right down to the tail end of the season.

Inconveniently, it rained again while I was gone. I’m going to continue enjoying my summer, of course.  But first, l have to go mow the lawn. I’m talking to YOU, Google.

— Mike