Fri, 7 Jul 2017

Wow! What an entrance!

I’d have to say that screaming in at 6 km/s (13400 mph), while glowing a red-hot 2400 K (3800 F), followed by a Mach 2 parachute deployment and then, the piece de resistance being lowered down from a rocket-powered hovercraft is quite possibly the coolest entrance anyone could make to a party.

Not only that, the Mars Science Lab (aka Curiosity rover) landed with pinpoint accuracy, well within its 20 km x 7 km target landing ellipse in the Gale Crater.  To put this in perspective, considering that the journey took 570 million km, an imperfect analogy would be playing a game of darts and trying to hit the bulls eye target in New York… except you’re standing on the Moon.

And, this was all done autonomously using sensors, feedback and control loops and some pretty fancy decisioning logic.  Sounds like the folks at NASA and all the contractors who supported this effort deserve an enormous pat on the back!

My favorite picture, by far, shows Curiosity with its parachute gently floating down about 6 minutes into the 7 minute entry, descent and landing sequence.

Not only is it a cool picture, but think about it… who took the picture? And how?  Think about the complexity in perfectly timing the orbiting spacecraft Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) (which was launched in 2005 and has being orbiting Mars since 2006) to be passing by overhead just as Curiosity is entering Mars, having the MRO spacecraft automatically detect Curiosity in its landing sequence and take a picture.  Their margin of error was 1 second.  That’s right – they had to time this to within 1 second to get the picture.  And once again, all done autonomously.  Unbelievable.

And this is just the beginning.  The mission is baselined for 1 Martian year (about 687 Earth days) and its primary mission is to analyze the local rocks and soil looking for organic carbon compounds that could potentially be biologically generated.  Not to mention the amazing pictures!  Pretty exciting!  I can’t wait to hear more as we get scientific results over the next 2 years.

My colleagues across the research center wanted to congratulate NASA on a killer landing. See below for some photos and thoughts from scientists and engineers across GE Global Research!


Brilliant landing, from the Global Research Cleanroom!
Great Job NASA, from the Materials Characterization Lab!
Congrats to NASA, from the Airspace Efficiency Team!

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

At MIT they’re serious about “hacking” together ideas for innovation, invention, and new businesses. This weekend a team from GE Global Research and GE Aviation will attend hackMIT and provide students access to GE’s Crowdsourcing Environment for Evolutionary Design (CEED) platform built for next-gen manufacturing.

hackMIT brings together more than 1,000 students from colleges and universities all over the world for a 30 hour innovation marathon! Students will be working around the clock, creating, inventing, and kicking around concepts for web, desktop, mobile, and hardware projects. The students can build products and services on top of the CEED platform in the cloud, while also utilizing it as a collaboration tool to help formulate and organize their ideas. Crowdsourcing is all about the democratization of ideas – the best concepts rise to the top.


 For us at GE this represents a huge opportunity to foster and encourage the creativity of these budding inventors and entrepreneurs.  We’ll not only be there to teach them how to bring their ideas to life using our platform, we’ll act as mentors, explaining how innovation spawns new products and businesses models.

The undergrads gathering this weekend at MIT truly represent the best and the brightest and I am proud to be a part of it. I look forward to introducing these next generation software engineers to all that GE has to offer. Follow me on twitter (@jjsalvo), I’ll be tweeting throughout the event!

UPDATE: I wrote the below poem last night and thought I’d share!

‘Twas the night before Hackathon and all through the city
Not a Geekster was stirring, Oh what a pity!
The programmers were all safely tucked in their beds
While visions of IPO’s danced in their heads.
When out on the net there arose such a ruckus
I sprang from my bed to see who just retweeted us.
Away to the Windows I jumped with my flash
Tore open the folders and emptied the cache
With a little old driver so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be a trick
More rapid than eagles his cursor did fly
Yet not for a moment did his batteries die.
Then he leaped to the keyboard and let loose the code.
And away we all jumped like a caffeine soaked toad.
But I heard him exclaim as he took to the cloud
Merry Hacking to all you make me so proud!



Fri, 7 Jul 2017

“The Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart.
And when it becomes a reality,
It’s a dream come true for you and me.”

This is an excerpt from “It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow” by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman (theme song from the GE Carousel of Progress Exhibit in the GE Pavilion “Progressland,” 1964 New York Worlds Fair).

Have you ever been part of a revolution? No? Well, now we all have a chance. It seems like every generation has something really, really big come along that appears so logical that we wonder why it didn’t get invented sooner. Satellite communications and cell phone networks immediately come to mind. But having the idea isn’t enough to make it so.

Joe Salvo_NEXT_blog
Joe Salvo, Founder & Director, Industrial Internet Consortium, GE

I read Dick Tracy when I was young, and like most of my friends, I wanted a wrist-radio just like the character. It was incredible! Of course the technology seemed otherworldly in the 1950s, but it inspired a generation of technologists to think without limits.

Now, in the past 40 years or so, the Internet has rewritten our expectations of what is possible, and our definitions of who we can meet and share ideas with have broadened exponentially. Knowledge and data are becoming ubiquitous, and the access to low cost menus of all-you-can-eat print and audio-visual media is changing how we spend our free time, how we interact in a knowledge economy, and how we ultimately invest in ourselves.

In the last few decades, we have been witness to the connection, in near real-time, of billions of people and the creation of more data, information and knowledge than in all of recorded history. What could possibly be coming next that would make us blink?

As the cost of computing power is driven closer and closer to zero compared to the cost of electrons needed to drive the algorithms, we are beginning to see the slow but unstoppable transfer of intelligence into things that were once considered simple and boring. At first they were curiosities like the rice cooker, with fuzzy logic that always cooked rice to perfection no matter how untrained the chef was at the controls. Then along came the smartphone and people started to really take notice. We now have “smart” thermostats, light bulbs, TV’s, and wearables.

Things that think are the next step in automation that will move us from the mechanical to a more cerebral plane.

Currently, we are in a race to blend digital sensors backed with computing power into everyday objects. It’s exciting, still surprising, and an incredible platform for innovation. Looking back, we realize how the ability to connect millions of devices with sources of electricity via a reliable power network in the 1900’s was a true revolution and set us on this current trajectory.

So what is the next logical step in our “Pathway to Progress”?

We are preparing to begin the transformation of some of the most complex machines and industrial systems ever created, namely; aircraft engines, power generation equipment, locomotives, medical equipment — you get the idea. These are the things we depend on every day and every night that make our world run smoothly.

We are about to infuse these collections of amazing machines with real intelligence and insight that will create a hyper-connected network of incredible value and potential to improve productivity, efficiency and creativity at a scale never before seen. Recent estimates suggest that upwards of 50 -75 billion objects will be connected to this network over the next 10–20 years.

Can you imagine when the physical world really starts to evolve at the speed of software and computing power?

I mean not just the objects, but the systems of how we get things done, how we operate the basic infrastructure of our world, how we light up the cities, manage the traffic, deliver healthcare, and how we move trillions of dollars worth of goods and transport millions of people every day.


Now I dream of a time when all these computer-enabled things will be able to talk to each other and get along while sharing information, anticipating problems and solving them before we notice — maybe even teaching us a thing or two in the process. I am doing my best to get things off to a good start by working with some colleagues who share this vision and want to build an Internet where industrial strength objects can interact safely and efficiently for everyone’s benefit. We are calling it the “Industrial Internet.”

We just formed a consortium to talk about what we can achieve if we all work together and intelligent complex machines can talk with us and each other. No “Tower of Babel” (or should I say babble) allowed. Of course there are skeptics, but that’s natural and healthy. All I want is the industrial equivalent of Dick Tracy’s watch with some state-of-the-art capabilities. To start, let’s say real-time data analysis and connectivity to every industrial piece of equipment linked to a robust and secure communication network, easy to use and pervasively connected around the globe. In a few years, I hope it will seem so obvious that we wonder why it didn’t happen sooner!That’s what we are calling the “Industrial Internet” and we think it might just start the next “Industrial Revolution.”

Joe Salvo is also the Manager of the Complex Systems Engineering Laboratory that builds systems based on advanced associative memory and computing technology.This blog was originally published in GE’s “What’s Next” collection that gathers perspectives from the makers of tomorrow. Follow the series on Medium.

Mon, 22 Feb 2016

Technology and abstraction with symbolic reasoning have defined the human species from the beginning of historical times to present: language, art, mathematics, software, artificial intelligence, cognitive computing.  The Babylonians used an abstract system of symbols and a novel and ubiquitous recording medium to record the “Big Data” of the day — namely financial accounts and political records. Some of the brilliant minds of 2,000 years ago even dared to relate how a mathematical abstraction could be used to describe the movement of Jupiter across the heavens and dutifully pressed the ideas into a most durable and convenient recording medium, the clay tablet.

A Babylonian-era clay tablet. According to a paper published in Nature, analysis of the tables "revealed that astronomers working between the fourth and first centuries bc used geometry to calculate the motions of Jupiter — a conceptual leap that historians thought had not occurred until fourteenth-century Europe.” Read more at:
A Babylonian-era clay tablet. According to a paper published in Nature, analysis of the tables “revealed that astronomers working between the fourth and first centuries bc used geometry to calculate the motions of Jupiter — a conceptual leap that historians thought had not occurred until fourteenth-century Europe.” Read more at:

Learning the Cuneiform script took scribes years of study and some of  their practice and lesson tablets have survived to this day but few people can read them anymore – we have moved on to ever higher levels of language and technology abstraction. But the Babylonian mind map still deeply effects how we perceive one of the most important abstractions of all – time. Wait a minute, yes that’s 60 seconds worth of the fourth dimension and what about that hour of waiting that sometimes seems to take forever – that’s 60 minutes. Of course our minds can estimate time passing and project forward and backwards through our memory space, but why do we carve it up in fractions of 60? And why do circles define 360 degrees of the plane? Abstractions are powerful tools for thought and literally shape how we perceive reality. The Babylonians chose a mathematical system based on 60 to take advantage of its many divisors (1,2,3,4,5,6,10,12,15,20,30,60) which made calculations much easier, more efficient  and accessible in a very practical sort of way. There are biological and preferential limits to memory and the history of technology is a history of our attempts to magnify and augment both our mental and physical abilities. We are still looking at the world in part via a Babylonian mind construct.

Innovation is Never a Solo Mission

Our minds are a galaxy of connections (estimated at 100 billion synaptic junctions) about the same size as the Milky Way (if you consider its 100 billion suns) and the conceptual gravitational field that holds it together in a dynamic evolving cosmic computing structure.  There is an overwhelming tendency to use analogy and simile to explain the meaning of everything. Our associative memory is the root of this obsession. Consciousness is built out of many pattern recognition engines that process an almost infinite amount of sensory data (balance, sight, audition, touch, smell and taste) then try to make predictions and decisions second to second, hour to hour, decade to decade and now even century to millennia. Today, our synthetic high performance computing architectures (high performance computers and the cloud) can rewind time back to the “big bang” some 14 billion years ago and fast forward to the conceptual “big freeze” or maybe another singularity. Computing has become a mind extension tool to explore abstractions that exceed the physical limitations of our internal processing power, but not our imaginations. We are pattern processing beings and look for order even when it’s not really there.

We are in a way defined by our patterns of connections to people, resources, transportation and ideas (for an unusual analysis see Karl Marx’s 1845 The German Ideology). Whenever and wherever we reduce the friction between our connections, our overall productivity tends to soar upward. Whether we have access to the writings of the royal scribes, the mass produced books enabled by Gutenberg technology, or the seemingly limitless internet-enabled digital libraries, our personal and social value has the potential to rise dramatically. This analogy clearly extends to the physical world where the transcontinental railway and interstate road networks led to “creative destruction” (see Joseph Schumpeter’s 1942 Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy) and a big burst in value creation just as the transatlantic communication cables did. Commerce and discourse changed in an irreversible manner. But so did perceptions and expectations.

An image of an unborn baby produced by a GE 3D ultrasound machine.
An image of an unborn baby produced by a GE 3D ultrasound machine.

The amazing connection machine that comes standard in every human being is only provided with the most basic of innate abilities. The brain and the body must be exposed directly to sensory data, significant training and social feedback to develop the ability to explore the depths of a piano concerto or imagine in abstraction a way to peer into the human body with X-ray, magnetic or ultrasonic fields. Innovation is never really a solo mission.

Our ability to form connections and to process information flows always comes with a series of direct costs: a data acquisition cost, a processing cost, a training cost and maintenance costs. Our open and democratic society continues to try to lower these costs and increase the ability of each individual to access the knowledge, resources, transportation and tools that magnify our ability to interact with ever more complex networks of physical and digital objects that are forming the biggest cognitive abstraction of all time — the Industrial Internet.

Joseph Salvo, Founder and director of The Industrial Internet Consortium.
Joseph Salvo, Founder and director of The Industrial Internet Consortium.

Technical innovation has certainly been proven to lead to many types of disruptions in business and society at large, but what might lead in the direction of continuity and longevity of influence?

  1. The ability to conceptualize complex ideas symbolically and recognize ever more complex patterns dynamically at all levels of hierarchical structure is critical.
  2. So is the ability to calculate over n-dimensional spaces of connections in a universal cognitive fabric that will extend the capabilities of individuals and groups alike.

Successful Inventors, explorers, and leaders dare to make connections from abstract idea to real world implementation where the true measure of its value is tested. The unwanted, inefficient or forced manifestations are weeded out through a relentless search to connect, process and produce in both our physical and brain-based worlds. Virtual reality promises to open up an infinite space of possibilities.

The value of connections

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding, and Harvey Firestone pictured from left to right.  Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding, and Harvey Firestone pictured from left to right.
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding, and Harvey Firestone pictured from left to right.

Thomas Edison understood the value of network connections and the power of magnifying the tools of production, knowledge and imagination on a global scale. He changed the shape of the city skyline and the nature of work by introducing electrical grids, electrical lighting and motors and appliances of all shapes and sizes. He influenced human imagination and perspectives through the introduction of audio and visual transmission and recording technologies and fostered the creation of entire industries. His curiosity was insatiable and his connections, influence and impact legendary (His friends included Ford, Firestone, and even President Harding ) while millions of customers felt they knew the “Wizard of Menlo Park” through his inventions and, in a way, his mental fabric.

The potential of a human mind to shape subsequent generations through the creation and extension of physical mediums that define and control our power, manufacturing,  transportation, healthcare and knowledge networks is the “Innovator’s dream come true.” It is definitely not a dilemma to fret about (see Clayton Christensen’s 1997 The Innovator’s Dilemma).

President Obama announces the award of Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute (DMDI) funds at the White House in 2015.
President Obama announces the award of Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute (DMDI) funds at the White House in 2015.

The next generation of innovation

GE Global Research still sits at the nexus of these forces and reducing friction to move the world’s physical and digital cargo remains our mission.

GE and Dr. Salvo’s team will provide the Digital Manufacturing Commons that will connect millions of innovators and manufacturing machines on a high speed optical fabric to an unprecedented open-sourced collaboration engine and digital marketplace.
GE and Dr. Salvo’s team will provide the Digital Manufacturing Commons that will connect millions of innovators and manufacturing machines on a high speed optical fabric to an unprecedented open-sourced collaboration engine and digital marketplace.

At the same time we provide the electrical and mental power necessary to operate and make sense of it all through industrial strength machines, analytics and non-deterministic cognition systems.Feb. 11 marked the 169th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s birthday, in recognition of that milestone, I dedicate the future of our cognitive journey to the next generation of Innovators who will connect, stimulate and transform the minds and societies of tomorrow. Revel in the connections and the digital fabric you are creating – you are literally changing the world’s minds. As some people will continue to define themselves in the ways they shape the bits and atoms of the world, I prefer to focus my attention on the most elegant connection pattern of all – the growing and complex non-deterministic network of intelligent brains in all forms.

If you have made it all the way through this article your physical brain will never be the same. Just as our bodies are what we eat, our brains are what we process. Thank you for making this connection.