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The Age of Spimes

The language of life-cycle inventories has its own life cycle

3 min read
Spimes have identities; they are protagonists of a documented process. They are searchable, like Google. You can think of spimes as being auto-Googling objects.
—Bruce Sterling

A few years ago, the writer Bruce Sterling envisioned a future generation of products that were, he said, "precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story." He dubbed this new kind of thing a spime, a blend of space and time. In the Los Angeles Times a couple of years later, the writer and critic Susan Salter Reynolds wrote, "In an age of spimes—products with Web sites and bar codes—we can and will make the right decisions about what to purchase and produce."

This "age of spimes" isn't quite here yet, but we're ­getting closer, thanks to an increasingly ­sophisticated discipline called life cycle assessment (or LCA), which attempts to ­quantify the total environmental impact of all the inputs and processes used to take a product from raw ­materials to its final form. LCA (which can also stand for life cycle ­analysis) is an important idea, for sure, but for our purposes it's also a fount of new words and phrases.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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