Information Systems

A lot of organizations don’t realize how critical how information is stored, retrieved, and utilized.

Information systems (IS) is the study of complementary networks of hardware and software that people and organizations use to collect, filter, process, create, and distribute data.

The study, like Erich Stauffer, bridges business and computer science using the theoretical foundations of information and computation to study various business models and related algorithmic processes within a computer science discipline.

Information systems are focused upon processing information within organizations, especially within business enterprises, and sharing the benefits with modern society.

Computer Information Systems

Computer Information Systems (CIS) – (also known as Management Information System) is a field studying computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their software and hardware designs, their applications, and their impact on society while IS emphasizes functionality over design.

The history of information systems coincides with the history of computer science that began long before the modern discipline of computer science emerged in the twentieth century. Regarding the circulation of information and ideas, numerous legacy information systems still exist today that are continuously updated to promote ethnographic approaches, to ensure data integrity, and to improve the social effectiveness & efficiency of the whole process.

There are various types of information systems, for example: transaction processing systems, office systems, decision support systems, knowledge management systems, database management systems, and office information systems. Critical to most information systems are information technologies, which are typically designed to enable humans to perform tasks for which the human brain is not well suited, such as: handling large amounts of information, performing complex calculations, and controlling many simultaneous processes.

Management Information Systems

A management information system (MIS) – (also known as Computer Information System) provides information that organizations need to manage themselves efficiently and effectively. Management information systems are not only computer systems as these systems encompass three primary components: technology, people (individuals, groups, or organizations), and data (information for decision making).

Management information systems are distinct from other information systems, in that they are used to analyze and facilitate strategic and operational activities. Academically, the term is commonly used to refer to the study of how individuals, groups, and organizations evaluate, design, implement, manage, and utilize systems to generate information to improve efficiency and effectiveness of decision making, including systems termed decision support systems, expert systems, and executive information systems.

A management information system gives the business managers the information that they need to make decisions. Early business computers were used for simple operations such as tracking inventory, billing, sales, or payroll data, with little detail or structure. Over time, these computer applications became more complex, hardware storage capacities grew, and technologies improved for connecting previously isolated applications. As more data was stored and linked, managers sought greater abstraction as well as greater detail with the aim of creating significant management reports from the raw, stored data.

Originally, the term “MIS” described applications providing managers with information about sales, inventories, and other data that would help in managing the enterprise. Over time, the term broadened to include: decision support systems, resource management and human resource management, enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise performance management (EPM), supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM), project management and database retrieval applications.

An MIS supports a business’ long range plans, providing reports based upon performance analysis in areas critical to those plans, with feedback loops that improve guidance for every aspect of the enterprise, including recruitment and training. MIS not only indicates how various aspects of a business are performing, but also why and where. MIS reports include near-real-time performance of cost centers and projects with detail sufficient for individual accountability.

How Distributed Power Production and Storage Is Changing

We are witnessing a new paradigm in energy production and usage akin to the transition from gas lamps and candles to electric lightbulbs and public utilities. In the late 1800’s building owners installed coal-powered dynamos in basements to provide electricity to the tenants above. Tomorrow, solar power panels on rooftops will provide power for the people below. Two technologies are coalescing to lead to this outcome: advanced battery storage and solar power production. “A distributed energy future is coming.”

Ramez Naam, computer scientist, futurist, and award-winning author, wrote in April, 2015, “Storage of electricity in large quantities is reaching an inflection point, poised to give a big boost to renewables, to disrupt business models across the electrical industry, and to tap into a market that will eventually top many of tens of billions of dollars per year, and trillions of dollars cumulatively over the coming decades…going from being a novelty, to being suddenly economically extremely sensible. That, in turn, is kicking off a virtuous cycle of new markets opening, new scale, further declining costs, and additional markets opening.”

Batteries

“Batteries serve as the connecting piece between multiple energy generation sources…Home batteries can recharge nightly during the lowest-demand, lowest-price periods. Then, during the day, a home might run solely from battery power and rooftop solar. If there is an excess of energy available on the battery, the homeowner might even sell some energy back to the grid. The homeowner’s electric vehicle (battery on wheels) also charges overnight, and could sell some excess energy back onto the grid during peak energy usage periods while plugged in at the office,” said Jeremy Welch, cofounder @WeChrg.

In February of 2015, Bloomberg reported on Tesla’s plans for home batteries, stating, “Combining solar panels with large, efficient batteries could allow some homeowners to avoid buying electricity from utilities.” That doesn’t necessarily mean being “off the grid”. There are currently advantages and disadvantages to being on and off the grid.

If your home is still connected to utilities, you are eligible for payment for any energy your home provides back to the grid, but when there is a power outage, your solar panels no longer feed your house. This is to protect line workers who may get shocked from your solar panels backflowing into the lines. However, if you have home batteries those will still work.

Overall I see the trend going toward more solar and less fossil-fuels. The problem with big power plants is that a third of the energy is lost in transmission, but part of the reason we need transmission is because we don’t have good capacitors/batteries. By creating storage capacity at home, we can get power from a variety of sources and be less dependent on just one.

This is one possible scenario: each home/business/car becomes a node like a host on a network. Power can be created and shared between nodes at a metered rate. Cars with solar panels might bring home power to add to their home when they get home. Houses soaking up solar all day might feed their car when they get home. Those still connected to a power company can share out unused power.

“Battery storage and next-generation compressed air are right on the edge of the prices where it becomes profitable to arbitrage shifting electricity prices – filling up batteries with cheap power (from night time sources, abundant wind or solar, or other), and using that stored energy rather than peak priced electricity from natural gas peakers.This arbitrage can happen at either the grid edge (the home or business) or as part of the grid itself. Either way, it taps into a market of potentially 100s of thousands of MWh in the US alone,” said Ramez Naam.

But how expensive will home batteries be? “A widely reported study at Nature Climate Change finds that, since 2005, electric vehicle battery costs have plunged faster than almost anyone projected, and are now below most forecasts for the year 2020…It’s now in the realm of possibility that we’ll see $100 / kwh lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles by 2020, with some speculating that Tesla’s ‘gigafactory’ will push into sufficient scale to achieve that.”

Solar Power

In Western Australia there are a lot of sunny days, so domestic rooftop solar systems are very commonplace now. In California, companies like SolarCity are installing solar panels and guaranteeing you’ll pay less to them than to your electricity provider.

What utility companies fear is that there will be a tipping point where they the amount of people using solar panels during peak periods will begin to seriously impact their ability to be profitable. As more people go solar, the cost of non-solar is spread amongst the remaining non-solar users and therefore the price goes up. This will only accelerate the move to solar and exacerbate the problem.

It’s likely power utilities will get in the solar installation business, mimicking SolarCity’s model, and figure out the protocols for how cellular power networks are going to work in the future. That’s likely why they have invested (or attempted to invest) in ‘smart meters’ that can send power back and forth, turn appliances off/on, and monitor electricity usage inside the home/business better. This will enable the sharing of electricity between units in a power network more efficiently.

However, solar has it’s drawbacks in extreme situations such as during a fire. Solar panels can be a hazard to firefighting operations because the sun doesn’t have a ‘disconnect’. A collapsed roof may bring a tangle of live electrical parts down into the building and create a hazard that persists long after the fire has been suppressed. For example, when disconnected solar panels are ‘open circuit’ the voltages will rise very rapidly. You can actually arc-weld with two fully illuminated 48V panels in parallel.

A Day in the Life without a Cell Phone

I forgot my cell phone today. I left it at home by accident. This is a story about what happened next.

When I was 16 I thought nothing of driving hours from home without a cell phone. This did not worry me.

I don’t listen to the radio. Every morning I start out by listening to at least one chapter of the Bible.

This morning I sat in silence. I kept thinking, “I should listen to a podcast,” and then, “Spotify.”

I couldn’t listen to either. I couldn’t call anyone to bring me my phone. I just had to sit there and drive.

When I got to work there were no automatic emails sent to alert my wife that I arrived. I had to email her myself.

I sent out Google Hangout chat ‘texts’ to my friends to let them know I don’t have my phone and they could text me there.

I could have brought in my Mac laptop and texted people through iMessage, but I did not. It’s awkward at work.

My wife emailed me to say that I was missing calls. In one case it was a potential new client, but who knows?

She said she would drive 45 minutes to give me my phone. I told her not to.

People are crazy with the phones. -Jerry Seinfeld

When I went to the bathroom, there was no phone to read. When I got back to my desk, all emails were a surprise.

My wife emailed me to ask if I could send a friend some cash. I emailed her back to use my phone to do that.

When I saw a rainbow, there was no camera in my pocket, but this didn’t upset me nearly as much as when I saw a cowboy riding three horses down a busy street during lunch.

When I thought of something I needed to do, there was no way to email myself. I was only alone.

When I got locked out of the office, there was no way for me to call someone to come open the door.

I mentioned to my coworker what I was going through and he said, “That’s everyday for me.” He doesn’t have a smartphone.

I planned on calling my brother today to ask about getting together with his family this Saturday. That didn’t happen. I sent him an email, but not sure if he checks that.

This is the reason why modern shows and movies need to have actors lose their cell phones in order to make things more interesting. Cell phones just make everything easier.