Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Project management's correlation to research and technology

It is necessary to understand how the research on the topics of project management and in specific, enterprise resource planning are being is suggesting its evolution. Using a database as basis for information, enterprise resource planning systems can make use of different computer networks and resources to manage the communication between critical parts of a business (Khosrow–Puor 2006). Additionally resources like “Advanced planning and scheduling” supplement the enterprise resource planning as sets of technologies that ensure hardware compatibility of planned communication - the business processes and technologies are meant to make the company self sufficient (Naden 2000). Another possibility as per literature recommendation is the merging of project management theories through technologies. What if exotic project management theories from total quality management and enterprise resource planning were to be merged to ensure effective communication and quality assurance at the same time? Having critical effect on the business, these two practices as organizational planning efforts in combination with software applications based on cloud computing and total assurance of cooperation of everyone involved in the system based on quality control can help the business gain cutting edge competitive advantage in the market (Laframboise & Reyes 2005).

Research alludes wide range of sources that talk about the total quality management triggers to gain competitive advantage in a situation where they have been implemented together with communication and collaboration solutions like enterprise resource planning (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). The collaboration over the internet, even with the remote parts of the business, has been made easy due to cloud computing where the data is being stored and accessed from a central computer and allows multiple users to work together in the same environment with online collaboration tools. This can significantly benefit business communication (Clive 2008). Further hiring the right kind of staff for each project makes the project management less complex and more delegated; instead of wasting time over choosing the right qualifications, the focus on talent can help the projects be adequately equipped with excellent staff (Kathleen 2009). Enabling the organizations to use tools based on project management theories, the organizations can cope with the complexities of modern day market and competitive environment (Thamhain 2004). The advances in information systems and information technology presents project management with complete and optimal execution of projects in such a way (Thamhain 2004). The knowledge transfer is significantly affected by the incorporation of information technology in project management (Thamhain 2004); fast transfer of knowledge generally speeds up the process and helps achieve the desired outcomes in a shorter period of time. The modern project management culture based on project teams (Thamhain 2004) is further supported by collaboration systems that enable the technical staff to communicate with adequate tools over long distances. This makes it easier for physically manage projects at the desired sites as well as collaborate for technical assistance from the head quarters (Clive 2008; Computer News Middle East 2011).

Successful implementation of enterprise resource planning systems does not go without its perks, a multitude of companies in United States have started to implement the strategy and as a result reduced their business costs by automating information sharing enterprise wide (Krumwiede & Jordan 2000). Companies basing their projects on pricing strategies like those of low price and high volume, get to benefit the most from this implementation (Krumwiede & Jordan 2000); in short all companies managing mass production projects can get the most of this (Krumwiede & Jordan 2000). Research alludes to ease of processes like shipping, managing suppliers and paying for logistics to be enhanced by this strategy (Krumwiede & Jordan 2000). By successfully managing project oriented production; mass production or prototyping alike, information technology gives decreased project timings and costs with increased profits for the company. By developing accurate softwares that can manage the pre requisites as well as the in-processes resources, designing products can become a very simple task (Stellman & Greene 2005). The fast knowledge creation and sharing is a good resource that can be merged with project management theories like six sigma (Nold 2011). Research attributes it as a “Tell fast, fail fast, adjust fast” process, as quoted by Tom Peters, to improve the quality with speed (Nold 2011). This concept strains on the six sigma theory that the high speed change and dynamics of business evolution often have a slowing effect on businesses and adjusting to them in real time is critical for a business to succeed (Nold 2011). This drawback of dynamic business environments (ironically created by the modern technology’s speedy production) can be countered by employing project management strategies with technology supporting the fast generation, sharing and collaboration with respect to knowledge, technical know how and staff training (Clive 2008). Significant literature reports; academic and industrial, make it clear that a blend of project management strategies with latest technologies of information technology (possibly ones that merge with hardware like in the case of CNC machining) makes the project management succeed per se. The ‘inherent uncertainty’, as the research names it, becomes the main task that has to be correctly handled for the survival of the business in modern world dynamic economy and puts all its burden on the project leaders and managers (Nold 2011). The literature study in this regard supports a research based on project management & its communication with respect to evolving technology.

The purpose of detailing the project management tasks is to understand how project management is affecting a business so as to develop the basis for technology’s effect on these processes. To gain competitive advantage in the long run, companies need to be successful in project management (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). To gain the best out of project management, it needs to be employed at all levels of hierarchy in a business. Currently, project management is being used as an executive level function in a few organizations only but it is expected to be one of the standard practices in the future businesses (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Project management is not solely meant for manufacturing purposes and has its applications at much versatile levels. Objectives like product development and services are also a major part of project management and now the information technology itself has also become a part of project management other than contributing to it as a tool (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Businesses need to apply strategic practices and thorough planning so as to succeed in the enterprise competition. Project management involves detailed business management programs that cater for all the needs of the stakeholders and capturing product or service value by the use of project activities (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Where project management was once just about optimizing project timings and costs, it is now much more than that. It contributes to competitive advantage of the enterprise as well as gives it the opportunities for managing all other business task and might also involve business process re-engineering (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Project management is often deployed as an enterprise wide project. This means that the managing of ‘projects’ might be actually the managing of major components of business itself. Project management on the other hand is not a lone wolf. There are many other business processes that are going on in an enterprise. For example, operations management is one of the key process that controls a running business. Where the project management details how each categorized project is being (or is to be) managed, operations management focuses on the actual day to day tasks that are being carried out to fulfil the business or project requirements. These two often need to run smoothly in synchronization. To achieve this, project management has to be streamlined with operations management. Furthermore, processes from both sides; project management and operations management, need to be integrated to facilitate this (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Project management as a whole might be divided into sub concepts of governing the project to see if and how well the enterprise is involved in project management and how difficult related implementations are. The use of project management as a business process and furthermore as a competitive tool for the business as explained before is also a part of this understanding (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). The above mentioned integration of operations management and project management on the other hand are actually a standardization concept. This also involves the business or project level plans and policies as well as finding out what kind of procedures are required to support a level of project management that can be implemented enterprise wide (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). The next core concept of project management is the capability of the implementation. Can the project managers cater for the knowledge and skills that are required for effective completion of tasks and the project’s management and if the organization itself has the capabilities to either support technically or fund the project establish facts that decide of the project management is going to be successful. This also involves introducing career oriented campaigns that help to maintain a sturdy approach to education and training of involved staff, managers and practice of technical staff as well as acquisition of capabilities on par with organization’s acquisition of a portfolio (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Once the project manager is aware of the capabilities of the organization, the team and the equipment available, execution of the project takes over. Each project management process has to be translated into operations management procedure with clearly stated business objectives and all programs and portfolios need to be overseen. With operational planning taking care of day to day activities and the organization’s vision and policy dictating the long term aim, tactical and strategic planning take care of what more the project has to offer (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). A strategic leader is better defined as an entrepreneur than as a steward (Hargrove 2001); the aim is not to just bring equilibrium to the organization but also take risks. The modern advancements like internet and a connected economy do not threaten adequately equipped strategic leaders, rather they take it as an opportunity and take a plunge into the open door that invites the company to success (Hargrove 2001). In a connected economy of uncertainty and interdependence, managing the organization strategically is enables rapid deployment of corporate techniques to balance the worker motivation and business environment to ensure productivity (Hargrove 2001; Georgantzas & Acar 1995). The examples of those who have successfully managed organizations of different prospect; business and political alike, have known to have purposeful ideological concepts and management approaches that are not just theoretical but also support realistic and practical implications (Storey 2004). This puts the strategic leadership with regards to project management to be an essential task as well. After the execution per se, maturity of the project has to be taken into consideration. This includes evaluation and analysis of the project on the enterprise wide basis and the control of the enterprise’s operational costs with regards to the project in question (Bolles & Hubbard 2007). Knowing how project management proceeds conceptually in an enterprise, the project management’s improvement with technology can be understood in analytical terms. Whether or not, and to what extent, technology has favoured project management solutions in these conceptual terms and for improving strategic leadership advantages in projects or business as a whole can be compared against the core concepts of project management as explained above.

Looking at what traditional approach has been used to manage projects is the next step. The basic stepwise or phase wise project management techniques that are used in project management even without the use of technology are mostly business techniques or tools. For example phasing the projects in such a way that it is systematically phased in by initiation of the project follow by a detailed planning and design time and resource allocation, execution and construction of the actual project, controlling the system and then completing the project. This somehow turns out to be inline with the basic core project management aspects explained. Infact, this is simply to follow those procedures in the same order in a traditional approach without the use of any extra technological tools to complete the project as defined, satisfying all the core processes on the way. Industries use schematic design phases to depict project management into the way it is being phased. This approach, known as the ‘waterfall model’ in software development (Royce 1970), makes the linear sequence help the project manager align the project phases into a sequence. Comparing this traditional approach although possibly software aided (Royce 1970), with the more technologically supported methods gives a critical overview of technology’s contribution. Prince2 is a method that was released in 1996 as a project management methodology and tool for genericized purposes. Prince2’s combination of technologies provided a framework which provided full control over how to coordinate, supervise and manage the project (Science Letter 2009). Prince2 proved to be a successful tool that was later relaunched in 2009 with accredited trainings in order for related personnel (Science Letter 2009). On par with the traditional approaches to project management, Prince2 was used in 150 countries and 20,000 organizations with daily growth in its utilization (Science Letter 2009). Prince2 as a tool is also considered to be a lingua franca for the organizations and suppliers who might be having different internal procedures but are using Prince2 for their project management (Science Letter 2009). This helps them to deliver projects on time as well as accurately manage the quality, timing, risks, advantages, coverage and scope and costs of the projects (Science Letter 2009). Prince2 like other technological advances had its share of criticism which was duly addressed and remedies incorporated in the 2009 launch so as to satisfy the project managers. Such continuous improvement in project management technology which went so far as being lingua franca between organizations also became the best practice (Science Letter 2009). Additionally, 170 organizations are dedicated to delivering training required for Prince2 with examinations for this methodology being taken in 150 countries around the world (Science Letter 2009). As such this is a reknown technological improvement with significantly visible impacts on project management and communication. When a project management tool which is built and designed to improve project management per se, becomes the bridge language just because of standardization of the system, it might be a hint of the scale at which the technological advancements and standardizations would help inter-organizational project management communication even when the internal policies significantly differ, not to mention the improvement in internal project management communications and the usage of the tools which are actually made to improve project management communications (Science Letter 2009).

Where comparing project management concepts with technology development explains how the technology is blending into the project management, looking back again to see how project management changed with technology instead of how technology emphasized this change gives another perspective to view the scenario of technology contribution; that is, a reverse perspective. Project management was already trending with advancing modern age where more and more complex tasks were to be done under yet more complex circumstances. Understanding project environment and other project variables like product life cycles and systems approach are necessary to get a grasp of technology changes chronology (Schwalbe 2008). In 1950s, when holistic approach was needed to analyse and describe the problems that were complex in nature, systems approach was developed (Schwalbe 2008). It requires stepwise definition of the system and the problem, categorizing the problem into important and essential components, evaluation and identification of the issues, requirements, opportunities and drawbacks or limitations (Schwalbe 2008). With a complete analysis of this, systems approach aims to explore alternative solutions to provide the best for project management and resolve the issues (Schwalbe 2008). The target is to optimize, analyze and improve the situation of the system with the intention of changing the system itself for the improvement of the system (Schwalbe 2008). It might safely be assumed that the contribution of technology or information technology to effective project management is not a one way processes. It would be better identified as a two way recurring process where information technology is re-gaining from the improvement in project management. On contrary to other industrial projects, information technology projects can be versatile and diverse. They might involve a few hardware or software installations or they may involve a major analysis of a multitude of people, processes and organizations to design custom built software solutions or bespoke solutions (Schwalbe 2008). Improved project management technologies in this regard help the sophisticated information technology implementation and often even make it possible at all. It might safely be said that project management now overlaps with software based business process automation and solution provision with a unique context and a whole different set of issues and studies to be carried industrially and academically (Schwalbe 2008).

Looking further into research for how project management’s technological effects influence business, it is revealed that reinventing and improving project management is essentially a research and development process (Markham 2007). The reason for this is not the reinvention of the project management processes, it might not even cover the topics of actually managing projects, rather what reinventing project management results in is more critical than this; it relates project management to strategy (Markham 2007). Project management being a linear world of processes needs to be well integrated with comparatively complex world of strategic planning. As described, strategic planning is the way to make sure that realistic approaches are involved in managing the organization or the projects. Strategic leaders who are also to be taken as entrepreneurs (Hargrove 2001), when crossed over the redline to be the project managers would be able to reinvent strategies that would then be integrated at project levels keeping the projects on time with market requirements, keeping budgets in line and in control as well as managing projects retrospectively (Markham 2007). Improvement in project management technology is, hence, taken as the factor which dictates the fate of the project management. Based on what kind of technological improvements project management has gone through in an area, strategic planning’s incorporation into project management reduces uncertainty. This might more precisely be known as ‘Managing Project Management’ (Markham 2007). After seeing how technology and project management co relate in a cross knitted manner, it would be best to see how project management is best contributed to by the information age’s most favoured benefit - collaboration and central computing. Project management tools, as a result of information age technology, enable project managers to provide their staff with training, practice, education, online programs, workshops and online courses remotely. These tools enable sharing and collaboration of information no matter how far team members are from each other (Milman 2011). By using project management collaboration tools, effective communication is directly made possible where the mode of communication increase and provide a diverse set of choices (Milman 2011). Each choice suited for the required task, mode of communication is not limited to voice communication and file copying anymore. The computerized collaboration tools that allow voice and text chat in addition to file sharing go a step ahead to provide additional modes of communications to facilitate project management. The top benefit of these additional features are synchronous tools that enable simultaneous editing of the same content by the team members allowing them to edit together in collaboration or review later at will. Creating draft project presentations and discussing and analysing the efforts are seen to be effective tools to improve project handling by team members (Milman 2011). As such, information technology’s direct contribution to improving project management communication has been very significant (Milman 2011). Furthermore, project management tools help individuals project management tools also act as trackers that allocate suggested time to the tasks and facilitate project management communication by keeping the tasks on time and optimizing the communication gap (Milman 2011).

Information systems across organizations have been the most important factor in intra organizational communications. To improve this, enterprise resource planning systems and information management systems have been developed over the past decade (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012). These systems integrate business features and activities across different platforms. They might be used to integrate finance and accounts related information flow to coordinate human resources against them or managing technical aspects of manufacturing in light of this information flow (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012). Bringing the key aspects of the business to a common platform where the project manager or the relevant managers can manage all these aspects simultaneously and with insights about their counterparts, integration and linking of information in this manner provides valuable information to achieve goals at both inter and intra organizational level (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012). To meet high flexibility and customer demands or to improve and enhance operational performance, communication across the production floor might be an important factor; communication across multiple departments, however, might be the factor that would just get the company the right kind of competitive advantage in the market (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012). Improved communications in an organization also improve other aspects like making plans, controlling the processes, monitoring the business, and real-time reporting of financial factors (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012). The gain of competitive advantage in the market by such factors is based on improving project effectiveness and efficiency by improving operations and strategies. Enterprise resource planning system, in this regard, is considered by academic literature to be an organization’s fundamental for survival in the market and growth as a business (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012). Project management is often to manage the resources and deploying them in the right manner. Enterprise resource planning defines the organization’s business processes by giving them the ability to deploy, manage, select, combine and integrate resources with input from all departments (Laonamtha & Ussahawanitchakit 2012).Strategic initiatives are basis of all business planning and go hand in hand with all kinds of modern project management. Integration being one of the modern enablers of communication through modern project management technology also suggests that the most critical processes be integrated in such a manner that the communication gap is removed and the efficiency of the underlying processes is increased (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). Total quality management’s aim in the business is normally to make the best of the quality resources in such a way that the products or services exceeds customers’ expectations. Process management and strategic planning also happen to be total quality management’s main aspects. Knowing that they go together with project management, it would be wise to integrate all these processes for a better cross platform management (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). As suggested and explained in the beginning of the literature review, such a merger would provide the best of two worlds. Total quality management and enterprise resource planning, both, have wide scopes and cover many major areas of a company’s processes (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). Combining systematic research and technology driven communication is a certain way to get the best quality with minimum expenditure. Where the main aim was to improve the quality, this integration will now enable to improve quality in a more efficient way where total quality management is actually also a way to cut budgets. Strategic resources can better be utilized with resource based review and hence gaining key competitive advantage in the market as a business (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). Such implementation of technology contributes to procurement, manufacturing and distribution related activities, all, being networked in a way where they are collectively responsive (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). As a positive side effect of this implementation and contribution of technology to project management communication, supply chain processes improve and strategic decision making and manufacturing ability of the firm is established in the market (Laframboise & Reyes 2005). Information technology’s integration into a single solution makes processes like materials requirements planning, total quality management and enterprise resource planning a single central management unit with enhanced functionality and better communication (Laframboise & Reyes 2005).


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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Is research perfect?

Research is one of the most essential sources of human growth into an advanced civilization. Time and again, man has used research as his tool to organize and optimize his resources, both as individual and as civilization. The research per se can be on any topic at all, regardless of the results being positive or negative; research is of as much benefits with negative results, telling the researcher either not to choose a specific route or to categorically prevent catastrophes. Research, being an iterative process, continues over time and has to be repeated while it corrects the previous data available and as well as providing new theories. The acceptance of this fact alone is enough to say that research is not only “not-perfect”, but also not supposed to be perfect in order for more research to occur.

The reasons for a research not being perfect can vary from simple facts and figures themselves, their accuracy, the proportions of them being used in the samples, present theories and relative science to mere possible existence of the facts and scientific processes physically.

It is the most often made unavoidable error in population research that the sample size and group being used from the population can not be perfect. The data obtained from a sample size can not accurately represent the whole population even if taken in the same proportion and group format. The reason for this can simply be human diversity, if it is about a human population, or mathematical variability in probability. Perfection in this respect can only be assumed if the research takes into account the whole population of things/species into account and yet other types of imperfections will be there.

Human error is the next most repetitive one. A scientific research done by different individuals often yields different results and this kind of error is curbed by comparing results and doing further research, hence going in to the same iterative cycle of research. This might also tangentially involve deliberate bias from the researcher. Such imperfection, though not known as “human error”, is attributed to humans for not having a neutral point of view as each individual and then each society see things from their own perspective be it morality, politics, sociology or simple interpretation as a society. Such diversity in human societies and individuals results in the research being non homogeneous but on the contrary it provides break-through in ways that a homogeneous research could never have provided.

Systematic errors from the equipment and tool issues are often there as well which can be easily removed in case of simple tools having zero errors but are much more difficult to track and eliminate in complex algorithms involving space and computational technology. Such errors have further amounted to imperfections in research mostly in the modern and information age. From the start of time, human use of tools is significantly notice able and the research work has been continued and repeated by civilizations often while others diverge into their own unique ways.

Imperfection is the beauty of the universe. With nothing created perfect and imperfections making everything stronger, starting from the micro level of the materials physics to the macro study of the human diversity, research’s very own imperfection makes it a perfect process to develop in to uniquely diverse directions where mistakes develop into new foundations of a different branch of science. Evidence from these facts not only support the fact that research can not be perfect but also provide insight on the perspective that imperfect research is the bases of leaping ahead.


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Highbrows at Clean Energy Programme by UNIDO

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) presents Highbrows Engineering & Technologies a shield for its initiatives towards innovation and R&D in Pakistan at the clean energy programme; Global Cleantech Innovation Program 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Seismic engineering: Causes of earthquakes in relation to geology

Being the main reason for the cause of earthquakes, the geological setting and plate tectonics are a key to understanding the mechanism of earthquakes. Seismic engineering as a subject has long been motivated by the need to detect explosions such as nuclear testing as well as to develop earthquake early notification systems. This has enabled the science to develop into the modern age on par with other sciences. The basic reason behind the occurrence of earthquakes is the push and pull forces inside the earth’s mantle. The forces are high enough to swivel and twine the tectonic plates on the top causing earthquakes (Walker 2007). The occurrence of earthquakes is mainly in the areas that happen to be on the edges of tectonic plates. As the brittle structure of the plates hit each other in its movement over the softer lower layers, the shock waves travel through the crust of the earth in the form of earthquakes (Walker 2007). This is now detailed event specific on how an earthquake happens. There might be a variety of ways that plates brush against each other causing an earthquake. This is directly in relation to the geological setting of these plates which will be described in the specific case ahead.

Taking the 2005 Kashmir earthquake as an example, it is simple to understand how geological settings of plates influence the earthquake zones and the damage caused. Killing over 80,000 people in Pakistan and over 1,000 in India as well as leaving over 4 million people without homes, the earthquake was one of the devastating contemporary earthquakes (The World and I 2005). Earthquakes matching the size of this one impact human civilization at range of fronts (The World and I 2005). Pakistan has been labeled as being vulnerable to seismic events in general and has experienced earthquakes from time to time (Kakar 2008) because of its position over the edge of the Indian plate (Khan 2000). The Indian plate runs through the full length of the country (Khan 2000) making many areas of the region in the most affected zones of the earthquakes. Research alludes, the higher the presence of plates (and hence the plate boundaries) is, the higher the earthquakes occur in the region (Ford & Taylor 2006). This has been exemplified by the comparison that Pacific ocean has more earthquakes since it has more tectonic plates than the Atlantic ocean (Ford & Taylor 2006). The plate movement is slow enough to be measurable in centimeters a year yet the interaction, scraping and the hitting of plates even at that pace is enough to cause seismic events that have significant effect on the earth’s surface (Ford & Taylor 2006). The Himalayan mountain range, which itself has been born out of the seismic instability from the plates’ interaction, has had the same reasons for its birth in that specific region as that of the plate tectonics. The geological tectonic setting is such that any plate collision results in earthquakes along the fault lines which go right through the length of the country (Khan 2000). Reports attributed more than 978 aftershocks to the earthquake on daily basis (ReliefWeb 2005) that were at times of greater magnitude than the earthquake itself. Sudden slip events at the plate edges cause the shocks that travel through the length of the fault lines (Hubenthal et. al 2008). The elasticity of the earth’s crust causes the shock’s to, first be generated from the hit, and then to follow through the fault line (Hubenthal et. al 2008). Understanding the earth’s geological design is similar to understanding simple engineering structure. The structural engineering involved in the earth’s crust can simplify the explanations to a great extent (Hubenthal et. al 2008). In addition, looking at it from a materials engineering perspective, the elasticity and rigidity of the earth’s crust define the types and strength of shocks that will follow the slip event (Hubenthal et. al 2008). The earthquake will, hence, be a direct result of the slip and the magnitude of the earthquake will be directly proportional to the amount of the slip (Hubenthal et. al 2008).

Damages caused by earthquakes on the surface range from ground rupture and landslides to soil liquefaction and tsunamis. These effects are often catastrophic and are seen right after the event. The 2005 Kashmir earthquake was of magnitude 7.6 with a focal depth of 26 km (ReliefWeb 2005). The severity of the earthquake was such that the buildings 25 km away from the epicenter collapsed on themselves or damage to an irreparable extent (ReliefWeb 2005). The buildings being mostly of unreinforced stone, collapsed with the shear forces of the earth’s movement (ReliefWeb 2005). The types of structural engineering used in the buildings is of rural trend; unreinforced stone, concrete blocks and brick masonry or a combination of these (ReliefWeb 2005). The shear stress on the unreinforced stone buildings could not be withstood by the structure which, as a result, completely collapsed (ReliefWeb 2005). The common village and rural trends of such building structure which does not, at all, take into consideration any civil or structural engineering with regard to earthquakes, makes even the single story buildings vulnerable (ReliefWeb 2005). Shear stress on the weak construction has been one of the main processes for the widespread destruction. The mortars used in the construction was of technically unskilled labour with a shear strength of 5 Psi and the crushing strength of 300 Psi (ReliefWeb 2005). This type of - rather lack of engineering insight - made the houses and buildings extremely vulnerable to collapsing under seismic shocks (ReliefWeb 2005). On the other hand, the landsliding at a massive rate and scale occurred in the affected area which was already a hilly terrain (ReliefWeb 2005). The landsliding during an earthquake is due to the seismic shaking of the earth. Seismic waves that pass through the region cause net accelerations that counter the normal forces on the previously stable terrain and shift the gravitational load towards vectors not being countered by normal forces from the current placement. This, in addition with shear stress from horizontal seismic effect, cause the landslide that run through the top of the mountains. From the shear stress caused by these landslides, slopes not actually affected by the seismic forces might also come into the inertial landslide causing even more damage. This was the case in the case study earthquake. The massive landslides totally changed the terrain in multiple areas of the rural Pakistan with parts of mountain ranges being lost (ReliefWeb 2005; Naranjo 2008).

One of the reasons for such sudden slip movement is that the pressure from the slip movement is not gradually released, rather in a catastrophic sudden way when the rocks can not bear the pressure anymore and break under the load of the moved plates. The cities being on the boundary of the plates get seismic shocks that are devastating to the buildings and structures that do not incorporate proper seismic engineering (Naranjo 2008). Although the geological deformations provide relief related data to support rescue efforts, there is also an aspect of technical and scientific study in observing the damage caused by the earthquakes (Naranjo 2008). The 2005 Kashmir earthquake caused a land rupture that was the first one to be produced by the Himalayan mountain range and was visited by geologists to be studied first hand (Naranjo 2008). Although soil liquefaction was not reported in the case of this earthquake (ReliefWeb 2005), the earthquake induced rotational failures cause the porous soil to act like a liquid and flow under the seismic shock sinking the buildings into the earth or leaving no basis for them to stand on.

With Pakistani cities constantly vulnerable to earthquakes from the Indian plate tectonic movement, the area needs to be revamped for protection against earthquake (Hindustan Times 2007). Any new buildings to be constructed should especially be constructed with the earthquake effects kept in mind. In addition to this, early warning systems should be placed to avoid serious repercussions (Hindustan Times 2007). Revelations from analysis of the damaged or collapsed structure tell that there have been several engineering flaws even in the reinforced and framed buildings that were damaged in the event (ReliefWeb 2005). These flaws ranged from structural failures of column beams that were weak to design flaws that didn’t cater for seismic waves inherent to the geological perspective of the region (ReliefWeb 2005). Keeping such factors in mind, future construction can significantly influence the disaster management as well as total prevention of loss in seismic events by the help of appropriately designed structures. Mitigating damage from seismic event is possible and necessary to prevent foreseeable loss of life. Starting from the early warning systems, experts state that technologies advanced enough to tell about a seismic event before hand so as to arrange for precautionary measures or prepare for rescue efforts (Hindustan Times 2007). The fault lines through Pakistan are well defined and observed, passing through the cities of Karachi and Quetta where locking points are present and observatories can be set up. The Indian plate is moving towards the Himalayas and pushing on the mountain range, however this movement is slowing down with energy forming up at the locking points of the mountain range, Quetta and Karachi. This implies that this plate movement towards the north will stop and then subsequently reverse which will cause an ‘unzipping’ effect unlocking all the energy stored in the locking points. Such a seismic event will again trigger major earthquakes and tsunamis that are well predicted and can be monitored and evaluated in advance (Hindustan Times 2007). The stored energy in the locking points would then affect all the weak points or structurally stressed points of the earth’s crust around the country making those areas, the most affected (Hindustan Times 2007). Known plate movements and general predictions like this can prevent further loss of life and help set up appropriate tectonic and geological monitoring that can mitigate damages from earthquakes like this one in general (Hindustan Times 2007).

Other than the mitigation efforts through monitoring and prediction, the best defense against seismic events is to incorporate necessary engineering design to withstand the effects of earthquakes. Seismic engineering or earthquake engineering in this regard is an important subject that can help consider the structural designs with respect to these events and forces in the structures. As compared to early warning systems and the data obtained from the previous earthquakes, a software simulation might also help predict the destruction; type and scale, of a future earthquake or simply act as a test event for modeling structures for the future. For the construction to be earthquake resistant, certain parameters have to be considered in the design and the design of the buildings has to be modified accordingly both material wise and structure wise. This involves adequate use of structural engineering inline with materials engineering to optimize for resistance to seismic forces on the structure. From ancient to modern designs, structural and material considerations for these achievements have long been considered. The use of mortar, as explained in the chosen case study was one of the major reasons for structural failure. The use of mortar made the structure vulnerable to the resonating seismic forces which has been seen as an ancient design incorporation by the Inca civilization in the form of mortarless stone structures which are firmly placed in designs that do not let them fall apart and in geometry that does not leave any space or gaps in the stones (Clark 2013). Modern age techniques that involve earthquake resistant design in the structural engineering include base isolation. Base isolation aims to isolate the building structure itself from the substructure of the building so as to avoid the building from being affected by seismic forces (Pressman 2007); this is a type of vibration control technique that reduces the effect of seismic waves on the structure. Often tested on shake tables, the base isolation proves to be a formidable precaution against the earthquake and has become one of the most popular design modifications in the earthquake affected regions (Reitherman 2012). Taller buildings, on the other hand, can incorporate frictional pendulum bearings (Zayas et. al 1990) or building elevation control designs. A better control of the elevation will result in a better stability of the structure as a whole. The buildings in the rural areas can be sufficiently built to be earthquake resistant by fixing minor flaws like that of mortar usage and beam connections and strengths as well as base isolation if needed. Skyscrapers on the other hand need to have more complex design modifications to prevent any future seismic damage. Although skyscrapers often make use of elevation control, space on the ground might not allow for such to a free extent simply due to urban agglomeration. This brings in the need and usage of tuned mass dampers. These devices act as a structural enhancement that absorb or damp seismic vibrations and resist any kind of damage caused by seismic shocks. The technology from aeronautical engineering borrowed into structural engineering as a seismic wave absorbing tool, a tuned mass damper is now found a frequent usage in skyscrapers (Reitherman 2012). Using tuned mass dampers is one of the technological design modifications that should specifically be kept in mind to mitigate the damages from future seismic events as a design incorporation (Reitherman 2012).

Where structural engineering has found its way to support the damage mitigation, materials engineering has taken a step further in the basic material design and properties that, when used in structures, are themselves a design modification on the material level to mitigate seismic impacts and waves. Use of metallic foams is one of such materials engineering technological advancements (Romero 2008). Being light weight and acoustically insulating, metallic foams act, towards seismic waves, just like normal foams act towards falling objects; they damp the vibrations and catch the fall - absorb all the energy (Romero 2008). The use of such materials in construction can significantly mitigate any future seismic disasters. Especially when considered in construction along the fault lines like that of the Indian plate and at the locking points and other cities, Muzaffarabad for instance (Naranjo 2008), that lie near the focal points of such earthquakes, the use of metallic foams in construction along with structural design modifications can prevent any structural damages or even discomfort of the residents during the seismic event (Romero 2008).Once the involved stakeholders, especially the design engineers, have learned to appreciate the causes of the earthquakes and geotechnical design of the earth’s crust as well as the type of forces that act on the buildings and structures on the surface as a result of seismic events, the risks related to these, per se, uncontrollable events can be mitigated or even totally be removed. Geotechnical engineering’s adequate usage in this regard has a direct impact on the modern day civilization; where earthquakes once wiped civilizations off the face of the earth, they might not now even feel uncomfortable to those with proper precautions in structural and material design as well as early information systems.

Walker, Sally M. (September 1, 2007). Earthquakes. LernerClassroom. Book. Print.
The World and I, Ed. (December 2005). Introduction. Vol. 20, No. 12. Journal. Print.
Kakar, Sattar (October 29, 2008). Pakistani quake leaves 150 dead, 15,000 homeless. AP Online. Periodical. Web.
Khan, M. Asif (2000). Tectonics of the Nanga Parbat syntaxis and the Western Himalaya. Geological Society of London. Book, p. 375, ISBN 978-1-86239-061-4. Print.
Ford, Brent; Taylor, Melanie (September 2006). Investigating Students' Ideas about Plate Tectonics. Science Scope. Journal. Print.
ReliefWeb (November 7, 2005). Pakistan: A summary report on Muzaffarabad earthquake. Retrieved: March 28, 2013, Web.
Hubenthal, Michael; Braile, Larry; Taber, John (January 2008). Redefining Earthquakes and the Earthquake Machine: Students Use the Earthquake Machine Lite to Refine Their Ideas about the Causes of Earthquakes. The Science Teacher, Vol. 75, No. 1. Journal. Print.
Naranjo, Laura (October 22, 2008). When the Earth Moved Kashmir. Nasa Earth Observatory. Retrieved: March 28, 2013, Web.
Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India) (January 1, 2007). Pakistan cities in constant danger of quakes: expert. News Wire.
Clark, Liesl (Retrieved: March 28, 2013). Pioneers of Easter Island. NOVA. Web.
Pressman, Andy (2007). Architectural graphic standards. John Wiley and Sons. p. 30. ISBN

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Flame in gravity vs flame in space

This is how a flame looks like in space (ie. in microgravity in orbit).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Passive solar building design

The world being more and more carbon constrained, needs means of energy that are environment friendly and produce minimum emissions. Along with acquisition of better means of energy and resources, reducing the emissions themselves by reducing environmental impact of emission sources is another essential factor to consider. As in case of buildings and construction, most buildings and infrastructures have a high impact on the environment and has been deteriorating to the environment since the industrial age. Modern buildings need to be built with environment friendly and resource efficient technologies. The strategy proposed for a building to keep its carbon emissions near zero is to make it a passive solar building. Such a design will reduce the cost of heating, ventilation and air conditioning to a new minimum and further reduce the building’s environmental impact (Doerr 2012). Passive solar concept aims to put the climate to its advantage. The building is constructed is such a way that the climate conditions favour the heating and cooling of the building which is well distributed throughout the structure by design (Doerr 2012). Many factors can affect the design of such concept, some being thermal insulation, thermal mass, shading, insulation type, glazing type and window placement. Correct use of these factors can help attain a balanced construction that can admit sunlight in winter, and reflect it in summers.

Keeping in mind that the winter sun is low on the horizon while the summer sun is high in the sky, the windows of the building are proposed to be constructed in angles that are facing the equator for maximum solar gain from the low winter sun. With a well insulated window pane angled south (towards the equator) the solar gain will further by complemented by preventing the loss of warm air through convection currents. Additionally, the building walls are proposed to be constructed with preplanned insulation to retain maximum warmth in winters and to avoid letting the summer heat in. The construction material can either be used in combination with insulation or the whole building can be constructed of insulative materials. Where the building interior is being kept warm in winters, summer sun’s glare can act like a furnace for a well insulated building. Although prevented by the window angles that are facing the sun in winters but are relatively at an angle of reflection to the sun in summers so as to act as reflective mirrors to prevent solar gain, the windows are to be complemented by correct shading from above that do not allow direct illumination from the sun when it is high up in the sky.

An affective design under this proposed strategy will assure the building’s environmental impact to be minimum and will lessen the need of energy wastage on heating and cooling. Operable windows and shading might just appear to be the only thing missing in this setup. To add comfort and avoid extra bright rooms in the building at times of year when sun directly faces the windows, the movable or rollable shades can help control the interior heating and lighting. The north side of the building does not get to benefit by the strategy directly as it doesn’t get direct sun light at right time of the year. This area can benefit from a implementing a good heat distribution design throughout the building. The central and the northern sides will still be identified as the areas needing mechanical ventilation and air conditioning though, due to limitations of passive solar strategy. The northern face of the building is proposed to be fitted with air conditioning equipment that follows the corridors or rooms to the central part. These areas will be equipped with suitable ductwork to distribute mechanical ventilation and air conditioning. As an additional strategic measure, it is also proposed that the seasonal wind flows be considered for the facing walls knowing which face of the building will be kept cooler by the natural wind flow and the roof might be lined with ‘through hole bricks’ that allow airflow through the roof to keep it cool, yet insulated (given that air is a good insulator as well) by the air gap. This kind of solar gain and insulation can also benefit from solar radiation by using a convection current through ductwork to allow warm air to reach the central parts of the building. The solar gain from one side or the roof of the building can be transferred to the central areas by passive heating techniques.The low energy strategy proposed also involves the ‘Green Building’ concept (Bauer et. al 2010; Mortgage Banking 2009).

It is proposed that the building be made suitable for the green building concept for a minimum CO2 impact on the environment. This includes installing well shading trees in front of windows that gain heat during summers. This can be optimized through making the best use of nature. Installing trees that shed leaves in winters will be the best optimization in this case. The trees will effectively act as season operated curtains that will gave way to sun light only in winters and provide efficient shading and cooling in summers. The approach to be considered is sustainability (Bauer et. al 2010) in terms of energy utilization. The building being energy efficient can further allow for more suitable ‘green’ or even zero energy integration. The green building concept is now not anymore a part of the future. Easily and cost effectively doable in the present, the concept can be used as a strategy to eliminate energy requirements for most situations significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the building in question (Anderson 1994).

Anderson, Katherine (1994). The Green Building - No Longer Just a Mirage? Journal of Property Management, Vol. 59, No. 4.
Bauer, Michael; Mèosle, Peter; Schwarz, Michael (2010). Green Building: Guidebook for Sustainable Architecture. Springer.
Doerr, Thomas (2012). Passive Solar Simplified. 1st ed. Alithea Press.
Editorial (2009). Reports Spotlight Growing Popularity of Commercial 'Green' Building. Mortgage Banking, Vol. 69, No. 4.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ad hoc on the go Wifi from Evo Wingle without a power socket

At Highbrows Engineering & Technologies, we love staying connected to the internet. As we go for developing engineering products, we never forget our core vision of creating an internet of things in Pakistan. This is why we  never stop experimenting on anything that we get our hands on to make the technology dirt cheap to pay for and easy to access whenever it comes to the domestic gadgets without compromising on essentials.

Our Chief Engineering Executive, Shehryar, has recently taken on an out-of-the-box approach for getting connected to mobile WiFi. You might have seen people connecting to the internet with PTCL Evo and other such products making use of the wireless internet. One of such products that has become Shehryar's favourite is Evo Wingle - so he decided to experiment. Why carry the laptop everywhere, or search for power sockets, why pay for GPRS / 3G and why go searching for WiFi hotspots when Wingle could provide internet to external devices.

All it needed was power... so the need was to give it on the go battery operated power... and that's exactly what was given to it. Shehryar created a hardware interface that connected an 'off-the-shelf' battery with Wingle letting it power up and create a local WiFi network for his cell phone. Now a laptop or a power socket is not needed to be hurled around to make use of the high speed internet you already paid for; just a pocket interface gadget, Wingle device, the battery and ofcourse the cell phone which one would never leave home anyway. Once the device powers up, you can connect to the WiFi with the cell phone or a tablet (or even let your friends connect to it on the go).

Check out some of the images we took for sharing with you and drop your comments:

If you would like us to create custom gadgets or develop specific products based on your need, you can leave us an email at info@highbrows.pk.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Quantum Dot Nanosensors for Visual Sensing

As we advance into artificial sensing technology, it is pertinent that use of such technology be made to advance the interests of humans in general and improve the quality of life. Such motives have mostly been the driving force of technologies. For what is invented for space exploration helps fight diseases on earth and other examples include what was designed for war later supplementing great engineering technologies. The end result is usually the driving force or as a side motive at minimum. The advancement of nanotechnology means much more components in the same space and hence much smaller equipments. Sensors, were they small enough, could be used to replace the complicated biological and natural sensors in humans or animals and even be given to computers and robots.

Usage of Quantum Dots explore such a use of a nanosensor and design it so as to restore the vision of visually impaired humans or give eyesight to computers; not using something as crude and huge in size as a camera or a lens rather targeting the core of sensing itself. Inherently, this research targets the retina itself. An artificial replacement for retina would enable humans to benefit from a restored vision without invasive brain surgeries. Computers, at the same time, will be able to detect photons with a much much greater sensitivity than a normal digital camera based optical detection method. Photo-detection needs a complicated device or materials engineered to the extent that the sensor would not be a physical obstruction in terms of its size when placed in the human eye or as an attachment to it as well as be biocompatible. To keep up with both these de facto requirements and many others implications of them, extensive study of the mechanism and biocompatibility has been done in research work for the selection of the materials and the literature shows an in-depth detail on why the materials chosen would make graphene and graphite based quantum dots a great candidate combination for such sensors. They can be used with two routes in the basic design; the generation of photocurrent via quantum dots on detection of photons or polarization of human nerves to fire neurons via quantum dots whenever photons are detected.

Works on the topic:

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Katherine Lugo et al. . Remote switching of cellular activity and cell signaling using light in conjunction with quantum dots. Vol 3.(2012)
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K. S. Novoselov, A. K. Geim, S. V. Morozov, D. Jiang, Y. Zhang, S. V. Dubonos, I. V. Grigorieva, and A. A. Firsov, Electric field effect in atomically thin carbon films, Science 306, 666 (2004)
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Chaoxu Li, J. A.. “Biodegradable nanocomposites of amyloid fibrils and graphene with shape-memory and enzyme-sensing properties”, Nature Nanotechnology, 421–427 (2012)
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Zhang, D., Gan, L., Cao, Y., Wanghttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png, Q. & Guo, X. Understanding Chargehttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png Transfer at PbS-Decorated Graphene Surfaces toward a Tunable Photosensor. Adv Mater. 24, 2715–2720 (2012).
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