DaVinci's Motorbike

  • In tying together the themes of control systems and the rules of interoperability as interpreted as standards and practices, we here at SCN called upon the master of invention, Leonardo DaVinci, to set the tone of grand visions of standardized components working in unison. As a visionary for machines that require components to act and react in synch, his notes and drawings offer tons of inspiration for a system that requires all of its components to speak the same language, no matter what protocol it follows or what manufacturer's factory it came from.
  • As it happens, pop culture has lent a hand in inspiring a takeoff on the latest Tom Hanks movie as well.
  • However, we're not trying to crack any code this month, but rather get a handle on what's involved. Permanent installations take cues from what's been established in the broadcast world and when it comes to standards for new inventions, Michael Heiss has plenty of insight in the world of the FCC, Underwriters Laboratories, and what Canada has to do with it on page 36.
  • Heiss covers a lot of ground originating in the broadcast definition of "standards and practices" and outlines the important concepts that systems integrators need to be mindful of. When products migrate from one trade to another, standards need to be in place to assure that it's going to work and play well with others. Where the regulating bodies serve their purpose is where standards-based codecs are used or communications protocols or pre-recorded media needs to be interchanged. It helps to understand the details behind how the organizations function that say aye or nay to whether or not the technology complies with the law.
  • Much like the way control systems tie audio, video, curtains, and optimum temperature together, the goal of instituting a system of standards is to take disparate factors, conditioned to speak the same language and make them all talk to each other. Carolyn Heinze takes some real day-to-day translation issues for integrators like digital audio networking and open architectures for touchpanel programming on page 36 and presents the technological equivalent of making sure components are dealing with apples and apples.
  • Whereas DaVinci dealt with machinery parts working together and cooperating, the collective personification of this concept comes by way of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its motorcycle mayhem team known as the Torres Brothers. For a life-size visceral experience of a perfectly functioning system to drive home an idea, it was as close as a block away from SCN's new office around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater where the Late Show With David Letterman is shot. The Globe of Death was a lunchtime spectacle, the likes of which I hope to get used to.
  • The Torres Brothers ride seven motorbikes around the inside of a globe 16 feet in diameter. All seven of them twirl around and around in a perfectly complementary pattern. So perfect that one of them is then able to time it so that he can ride vertically up and over, looping this one loop while his six teammates ride horizontally around the inside of the Globe of Death's equator.
  • It's a pretty intense sight and the parallels to a well-oiled systems integration project are uncanny. Humans working together as a system with predictable-but not stagnant-motions like the Torres Brothers provides proof that systems and people can find ways to get separate components to act in a uniform way, adhering to certain standards, and clear a path for that brave daredevil to do 16-foot loops inside a steel sphere.