Posts Tagged ‘GPS’

I just finish talking to a friend and mentioned my last post. As we discussed it I realized it was about the individual engineer. Missing was how the concept of “good enough” affects business. That was a very big omission on my part. It’s time to fix that mistake.

When it comes to business, the idea of being “good enough” has a huge impact on decision making and the future of companies. This is best illustrated by discussing an area I am intimately familiar with – the semiconductor business. Imagine you are running the fictitious company GPScom. GPScom makes the world’s best GPS chips. They are WAAS and LAAS capable, very sensitive, and simply the best GPS chips by far. They own the personal navigation device, PND, market along with being in most other GPS based devices. However, companies like Broadcom and Qualcomm start producing mobile phone chipsets with relatively poor GPS receivers in them. These chipsets have only basic GPS circuitry that lacks not only LAAS but WAAS. They aren’t very sensitive and the GPS might say you are in the parking lot when you are really in a cafe having a bowl of soup. The problem is, these receivers are mostly good enough. With proper software the mobile phone becomes a decent navigation device. Furthermore, after a couple of generations, these phone chipsets have GPS receivers that are more than good enough. Since they are integrated into the mobile phone chipset they burn less power, take less precious board real estate and cost less. This means they do a better job of meeting the needs of the consumer. The PND market begins to fade as mobile phones take it over. This is happening today. GPScom engineers can tell themselves all day long how their circuitry is superior. The problem is that sales, and hence revenue, are going to Broadcom and Qualcomm. GPScom will have to either diversify, get acquired, or watch itself become less and less relevant until it fades into the sunset.

As an area of technology moves forward there gets to be a tipping point when what can be put into a CMOS chip is good enough. At that point the technology gets integrated and becomes part of a bigger solution. Companies that fail to recognize this risk becoming irrelevant. This is why the idea of “good enough” isn’t just about the individual engineer. It affects core business strategy. Every company needs to be worried that their area of core competency will evolve to the point where “good enough” marginalizes their value. These companies must either diversify so that they make the chips with the broader functionality, acquire technology that can be integrated in, or get acquired themselves. Is your company aware of just what “good enough” is when it comes to their specialty areas or does hubris cloud their thinking?


Another Blow to Privacy

Posted: May 30, 2011 in Aviation, Privacy
Tags: , , , ,

The FAA is ending the Block Aircraft Registration Request, BARR, program. This program allowed flight information of general aviation aircraft to be blocked from viewing by the general public. The elimination of this program is not an issue of national security. At all times, government agencies had access to the blocked flight information. Some will see this as a strike against corporate CEO’s cavorting about in corporate jets. In reality it is another blow to privacy for all of us. No longer can a celebrity block flight information to prevent a stalker from tracking a flight. This won’t directly affect most of us. I have never made use of the BARR program. Despite that I mourn the passing of one more bit of privacy. Bringing this closer to home is an idea that keeps popping up and that is taxing automobiles based on how many miles they are driven. This isn’t new. It has been proposed before. What isn’t mentioned is how this would be done. GPS tracking is the usual answer. This means the potential to have the government tracking everywhere you go. Now do you feel a little more sympathetic to those people losing the right to limit tracking of their aircraft?