B&B Meets the Space Time Continuum

Everything's relative. This morning I spent two hours vigorously paddling the Illinois River, upstream and back again. I doubt that I was ever more than four or five miles from my starting point. But when you're traveling by muscle power alone, that's enough to make you feel like you've been somewhere.

Two weeks ago I spent the same amount of time on an airplane. It took me all the way to a wireless conference in New Orleans, yet I felt like I had barely crossed the street. Distance is relative.

Time is the same way. I thought about that when a friend of mine was mourning the loss of the white pines to European blister rust up in his corner of the Rocky Mountains. Measured against a human lifetime, the accidental introduction of blister rust has been a disaster. But some of the pines are naturally resistant. They'll scatter their cones, new trees will grow, and the majestic stands of white pine will eventually return. When measured against the age of the Rocky Mountains, this will happen in the blink of an eye. Time is relative.

What about bandwidth? Can you really say that 9600 baud is all that slow? I would argue that it depends upon what you are trying to accomplish. At 9600 baud you're transferring about one byte per millisecond. A single byte can contain one heck of a lot of information about the status of pumps, drives, sensors, actuators and other devices, and it can get one heck of a lot done in a millisecond.

Granted, some applications genuinely require a lot of bandwidth; video being the perfect example. But what about the applications that don't? As speed goes up, transmitting distance decreases proportionally. A RS-485 cabling run may look impossibly long at 250 kbps. But it's a breeze at 9600. Suddenly 9600 baud doesn't look too bad. Everything's relative.

So far, so good. But what happens when you need wide bandwidth with great range and reliability? Fiber optics enter the picture. Fiber optics are immune to the noise issues that creep into copper and wireless installations, and they let us connect, monitor and automate devices that are a long way from home. Think about well heads, traffic intersections, tollways, wind/solar farms and environmental monitors. More and more devices live in the Land of Far, Far Away these days, and fiber optics give us the bandwidth and reliability that we'll all need to meet their needs well into the distant future.

Fiber optics will be a vital component in extending the network edge. And B&B is determined to lead the way. Just a couple of weeks ago we acquired IMC Networks, a company completely dedicated to the design and manufacture of fiber optic solutions. For those of you keeping score, this is our third acquisition in eight months, and once again the purpose is to maintain our high standards while saving ourselves time on research and development. We're pressing the fast forward button and launching ourselves into the future.

Happy Connections,

Mike Fahrion

But paddling five miles upstream and back in two hours still feels like an accomplishment, too. Everything's relative.