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What is Blockchain for Business? OKC conference provides some context September 24, 2019

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Alan Dickman, IBM Blockchain Architect, delivers a primer on Blockchain for Business to an audience of OKC business leaders.

Editor’s note: I was invited by my friends at OCAST to attend the recent Blockchain for Business conference here in OKC. This is what I wrote about the experience and what I learned from the event about a subject that I know very little about.

By Jim Stafford

There is a huge gulf between the emerging blockchain-for-business technology and the cryptocurrency world, a group of 150 Oklahoma business leaders learned at the recent Blockchain for Business conference at the Baker Hughes/GE Energy Innovation Center.

The blockchain primer delivered to the Oklahoma audience by Alan Dickman, IBM Blockchain Architect, contrasted the two computing networks that are often confused for one another.

“Blockchain is really just a shared, distributed ledger that helps record transactions,” Dickman said in his keynote presentation. “Blockchain facilitates business processes that are shared among a network that is using the same ledger.”

What blockchain-for-business is not is a giant, worldwide computing network that requires every member of the network, or peer, to update their blockchain file with each transaction, Dickman said.

“That sounds like Bitcoin, where there are lots and lots of peers around the world, and what you are doing is updating each ledger,” he said. “Only a small number of blockchains have that infrastructure.”

Blockchain-for-business can limit the number of peers, and requires that each participant be identified and invited to the network. Transactions are recorded as an “immutable” record that can never be altered.

In contrast, Cryptocurrency networks are known as “permission-less,” which means that participation is unlimited. Participants can remain anonymous. The “permission-less” networks can grow unwieldy and consume large amounts of energy as each transaction is updated.

“You can have permission blockchains where you put up your own private networks,” Dickman said. “So, it depends on the use case and depends on the technology and whether you are using a permission or permission-less blockchain.”

The Blockchain for Business conference was presented by OG&E and IBM, with support from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; the Oklahoma Department of Commerce; the Oklahoma City Innovation District; the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST); the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma; Baker Hughes, a GE Company, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance; Zilker Technology LLC.; and the Energy Web Foundation.

“From OG&E’s perspective, the business purpose of this conference was two-fold,” said Richard Cornelison, economic development manager for OG&E. “We wanted to bring a better understanding of technology, and ways to communicate to the communities we serve and into the companies we serve.”

The conference featured breakout sessions for energy industry users, government, health care and supply chain, and oil and gas.

“Blockchain is one of those emerging, potentially enabling technologies that has the capability of impacting our economy,” said Mark Ballard, programs officer with OCAST. “We’re interested in this technology because it can give businesses another opportunity to compete more effectively in the economy.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Plumbing the limits of home repair Sticker Shock September 11, 2019

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The Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect truck parked in front of my house is a familiar site.

We had Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect out at our house (again) today to replace our kitchen sink and faucet, as well as repair a leak in the drain beneath the sink.  I almost choked when they told me what the cost would be to do the work.  

But I told them to go ahead, because, well, what else are we going to do?

We’ve had Hi-Tech out many times over the years, in part because of the awful polybutylene piping used on this house when it was built in 1989.  We sprang so many leaks over the years that we finally had all the hot-water run through the attic, bypassing the polybutylene pipes beneath the foundation. 

We used Hi-Tech on that project, of course, and it cost several thousand dollars.  Same thing on a recent hot water heater install.

You might ask why I keep going back to Hi-Tech if they are so expensive.  The reason is that we know that they will do a thorough job with nothing left incomplete.  Not once have we had to call them back out to redo a job.   

But the price we pay is still so embarrassingly high. While I do have confidence in Hi-Tech, I feel as though I’m being ripped off in the process. 

I think it’s called buyer’s remorse.

My question for readers is what has been your experience with plumbers and what are my alternatives for future issues?  

 

 

OK-WISE panel: Internships provide entry into Aerospace industry for young women September 3, 2019

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Panelists in a Women Impacting Aerospace discussion are (from left): Heather McDowell, OCAST, Alexis Higgins, CEO of the Tulsa International Airport; Brenda Rolls, Ph.D., CEO of Frontier Electronic Systems; Sara Shmalo, material and process engineer at Spirit Aerosystems; and Haley Marie Keith, CEO of MITO Material Solutions

 

Editor’s note: I was invited by my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to attend the recent OK-WISE conference in Tulsa, where I sat in on a couple of panel discussions.  The topic of internships as a way to gain experience and an entry into the Aerospace industry (and others!) caught my attention.  So, I filed this report.

TULSA – Heather McDowell shared some bleak industry employment numbers as moderator during a panel discussion entitled Women Impacting Aerospace at the recent 2019 OK-WISE conference at the Hyatt Regency Tulsa.

The conference focused on helping women advance their careers in STEM fields such as cybersecurity, manufacturing, technology and economic empowerment.

“We see statistics all the time about STEM industry and how women are under represented in this field,” said McDowell, associate director of Programs at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

“Overall, about 25 percent of our workforce are women, but particularly in aerospace only about 10 percent of the workforce are women,” she said. “How can we get more women involved in aerospace?”

The OK-WISE – Women Impacting STEM & Entrepreneurship – conference was produced by the Oklahoma Catalyst Programs that is headquartered at the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma. Organizers sought to inspire and encourage an audience of about 300 women aspiring to STEM careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or entrepreneurship.

So, how did the panel of female aerospace professionals answer McDowell’s questions of bringing more women into the industry?  

Internships can be an important component to bringing more women into aerospace – and any STEM profession — panelists suggested.

And that can begin with high school, students, said Sara Shmalo, material and process engineer at Spirit Aerosystems in Tulsa.

“One of the things that Spirit does is we partner with high schools and started bringing in high school students who have a passion for aviation,” Shmalo said. “They can watch the processes in place, and some of them have come up with great ideas that have saved time, and they are offered jobs out of high school. We train them to work there.”

Seated next to Shmalo on the panel was Brenda Rolls, Ph.D., CEO of Stillwater’s Frontier Electronic Systems, a company that manufactures sophisticated electronic components for advanced military aircraft and for the U.S. space industry. Frontier employs more than 50 engineers among its workforce of about 120 people.

Potential interns are recruited and evaluated for the positions as if they were being hired for full-time Frontier Electronic positions, Rolls said.

“We try to give the interns real hands-on experience of what it would be like to work in an aerospace company like ours,” Rolls said. “We have had a number of female interns, and one of the great things that happens is there have been a number of interns who have stayed with us after they graduated. So, we have three women that have continued with us as full-time employees, and we have a number of men.”

OCAST manages a statewide cost-share Intern Partnership program that places college students in real world work environments like Frontier Electronic Systems across Oklahoma.

“I think Oklahoma is trying really, really hard to improve the hands-on learning opportunities for students at all levels,” Rolls said.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).