Lockheed Martin’s Anti-biofouling Customer Focus

Businesses exist to serve their customers, something Lockheed Martin says when talking about itself.

Lockheed Martin’s customer-first mentality is a big way the company stands out from its competitors. 

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

It’s nice to claim a “customer-first mentality,” but Lockheed Martin has provided an example of how it demonstrates customer focus.

The problem

Here’s how Lockheed Martin defined the problem that one of its customers was facing.

Barnacle on a boat propeller. By Foto: Jonn Leffmann, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23069484

Biofouling is the buildup of barnacles and microorganisms on ocean-going vessels such as ships and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). This buildup is a naturally occurring process which can increase drag and decrease ship fuel economy, ultimately costing customers hundreds of millions of dollars. The United States Navy needs to eliminate biofouling growth along the underside of its ships, which involves a cleaning process that requires a ship to be out of commission for up to 18 months and hundreds of hours of manual labor. 

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

Maybe your customers aren’t quite as big as the United States Navy, but your customers have problems also, and they’re relying on you to solve them.

A solution from nature

For aeronautical engineer Joseph Keegan, the solution to the Navy’s problem lay in the sea snake.

Because defense contractors think about sea snakes all the time. Or at least Keegan did.

Keegan decided to apply for funding for a project that mimicked how a sea snake mitigates biofouling growth. The sea snake has a clever way to mitigate growth by organically shedding its skin to rid itself of biofouling growth and disease when the growth begins to affect its movement. 

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

OK, an ocean vessel isn’t going to literally shed its hull. But that’s why Keegan needed research funding. And the researchers came up with a solution, and started to test it.

Ventura Harbor in the sunshine. By Platinummedia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110032114

A Lockheed Martin team took the idea from paper to prototype and went to Ventura Harbor, California to conduct static testing of a multilayer mylar skin on various surfaces including fiberglass, steel and aluminum. After leaving the prototype in the harbor for a little over a month, results confirmed that the films were effective in demonstrating that biofouling growth could be easily removed by peeling a layer of the film. The test was also successful in proving that the films did not allow for biofouling growth to occur between the multiple layers of film or underneath the four-layer prototype. No degradation to the films has been observed in the five months of testing.

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

Anticipated benefits

While Lockheed Martin’s write-up includes the common researcher statement “further efforts are needed to successfully implement this biofouling film technology,” it looks like the project is moving forward.

And Lockheed Martin has already identified the benefits of the completed project. Not the benefits to Lockheed Martin, but the benefits to its customer, the U.S. Navy.

With the potential to reduce the time a Navy ship remains out of commission for cleaning, this nature-inspired design idea could…save money and enable greater mission readiness…

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

Saving money and getting ships out to battle more quickly. Stuff that the Navy likes.

Of course this benefits Lockheed Martin also, but the company kept the focus on the Navy.

How does this apply to my company?

Even if your customers don’t battle biofouling barnacles, and even if your customers don’t face problems that put their equipment out of commission for 18 months or cost hundreds of hours in labor, there’s a lesson to be learned from Lockheed Martin’s customer focus.

  1. Keep your focus on your customer, not you.
  2. Describe the problem your customer faces.
  3. Define your solution to the problem.
  4. List the benefits your customer receives from your solution.

If your solutions benefit your customers, then you’ll receive benefits also.

I’m still the biometric content marketing and proposal writing expert…but who benefits?

Beginning about a year ago, I began marketing myself as the biometric proposal writing expert and biometric content marketing expert. From a search engine optimization perspective, I have succeeded at this, so that Bredemarket tops the organic search results for these phrases.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And maybe it still is.

Let’s look at why I declared myself the biometric proposal writing expert (BPWE) and biometric content marketing expert (BCME) in mid-2021, what happened over the last few months, why it happened, and who benefits.

Why am I the BPWE and BCME?

At the time that I launched this marketing effort, I wanted to establish Bredemarket’s biometric credentials. I was primarily providing my expertise to identity/biometric firms, so it made sense to emphasize my 25+ years of identity/biometric expertise, coupled with my proposal, marketing, and product experience. Some of my customers already knew this, but others did not.

So I coupled the appropriate identity words with the appropriate proposal and content words, and plunged full-on into the world of biometric proposal writing expert (BPWE within Bredemarket’s luxurious offices) and biometric content marketing expert (BCME here) marketing.

What happened?

There’s been one more thing that’s been happening in Bredemarket’s luxurious offices over the last couple of months.

I’ve been uttering the word “pivot” a lot.

Since March 2022, I’ve made a number of changes at Bredemarket, including pricing changes and modifications to my office hours. But this post concentrates on a change that affects the availability of the BPWE and BCME.

Let’s say that it’s December 2022, and someone performs a Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo search for a biometric content marketing expert. The person finds Bredemarket, and excitedly goes to Bredemarket’s biometric content marketing expert page, only to encounter this text at the top of the page:

Update 4/25/2022: Effective immediately, Bredemarket does NOT accept client work for solutions that identify individuals using (a) friction ridges (including fingerprints and palm prints), (b) faces, and/or (c) secure documents (including driver’s licenses and passports). 

“Thanks a lot,” thinks the searcher.

Granted, there are others such as Tandem Technical Writing and Applied Forensic Services who can provide biometric consulting services, but the searcher won’t get the chance to work with ME.

Should have contacted me before April 2022.

Sheila Sund from Salem, United States, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Why did it happen?

I’ve already shared some (not all) details about why I’m pivoting with the Bredemarket community, but perhaps you didn’t get the memo.

I have accepted a full-time position as a Senior Product Marketing Manager with an identity company. (I’ll post the details later on my personal LinkedIn account, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jbredehoft/.) This dramatically decreases the amount of time I can spend on my Bredemarket consultancy, and also (for non-competition reasons) limits the companies with which I can do business. 

Those of you who have followed Bredemarket from the beginning will remember that Bredemarket was only one part of a two-pronged approach. After becoming a “free agent” (also known as “being laid off”) in July 2020, my initial emphasis was on finding full-time employment. Within a month, however, I found myself accepting independent contracting projects, and formally established Bredemarket to handle that work. Therefore, I was simultaneously (a) looking for full-time work, and (b) growing my consulting business. And I’ve been doing both simultaneously for over a year and a half. 

Now that I’ve found full-time employment again, I’m not going to give up the consulting business. But it’s definitely going to have to change, as outlined in my April 25, 2022 update.

So now all of this SEO traction will not benefit you, the potential Bredemarket finger/face client, but it obviously will benefit my new employer. I can see it now when people talk about my new employer: “Isn’t that the company where the biometric content marketing expert is the Senior Product Marketing Manager?”

At least somebody will benefit.

P.S. There’s a “change” Spotify playlist. Unlike Kevin Meredith, I don’t use my playlists to make sure my presentation is within the alloted time. Especially when I create my longer 100-plus song playlists; no one wants to hear me speak for that long. Thankfully for you, this playlist is only a little over an hour long, and includes various songs on change, moving, endings, beginnings, and time.

Is Calendly customer focused?

Blake Morgan of Forbes just released his list of the top 100 most customer-centric companies of 2022. Why does he do it? Because he’s identified a benefit in a company having customer focus.

What is it they do? They make customers feel GOOD. That is why recent research shows that 89% of companies that lead with customer experience perform better financially than their peers.

From https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2022/05/01/the-top-100-most-customer-centric-companies-of-2022/?sh=244040502b38

If you want to initiate something at your company, it’s always good to note that it will help the company make money. Focusing on customers seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to learn how many companies focus on themselves rather than their customers.

I perused Morgan’s list of customer-centric companies and noticed that Calendly was on the list, in the B2B category. Since I use Calendly to set appointments for Bredemarket (more about that later, I promise), I thought I’d read further.

Calendly. Calendly was created to solve a common business problem: the hassle of scheduling meetings and appointments. The simple interface makes it easy for companies to schedule any type of meeting or appointment. Calendly saw huge growth during the pandemic as teams worked remotely.

From https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2022/05/01/the-top-100-most-customer-centric-companies-of-2022/?sh=244040502b38

Since Morgan was covering 100 companies, this three sentence description had to suffice. So I dug deeper and found a story (or, if you will, a case study) that showed how Calendly exhibits customer focus.

The problem with making connections at Conductor

Calendly’s website includes a case study page entitled “Enhanced customer support at Conductor adds value, boosts retention.” Conductor, one of Calendly’s clients, improves the organic marketing of its own customers.

As any good case study (casetimonial) does, the Calendly page begins by talking about Conductor’s problem. Here’s an excerpt:

Mergim Selimaj worried he had a problem. As the customer success manager at Conductor, he could see the company’s small accounts weren’t getting the personalized attention they really needed. As a SaaS company specializing in intelligent content and SEO improvement, Conductor helps companies customize marketing to fit their needs. Mergim needed to find ways of helping his reps deliver tailor-made service to match.

From https://calendly.com/blog/customers/conductor

Yes, a company that “helps companies customize marketing” faced a problem in customizing its own marketing for its small accounts. More importantly, it recognized the problem and realized that the problem needed attention.

So how was Selimaj going to focus on its smaller customers?

First, Selimaj had to identify the problem(s) to solve.

Reps spent hours just scheduling — not to mention re-scheduling — calls. A week of hectic service calls would come on the heels of months of limited activity.

Even when the service finally did connect with customers, they rarely had a clear picture of their individual needs. Some clients only needed to speak once per year, while others had hoped for many more touchpoints. There just had to be a way to spread meetings more evenly, Mergim thought. Meanwhile, the customer care team needed a way to know more about the needs of each client. If only there were a way for clients to specify the kind of help they needed, whenever they wanted.

From https://calendly.com/blog/customers/conductor

There’s at least three problems that Mergim identified:

  1. It was hard to schedule calls with Conductor’s small accounts.
  2. It was hard to know the customers’ desired frequency of contacts.
  3. It was hard to know the specific help that Conductor’s customers desired.

How would Conductor benefit by solving these problems?

Improved experience, and simpler ways of interfacing with customers, would only aid Conductor’s ability to deliver organic traffic and higher returns on customers’ tight marketing budgets.

From https://calendly.com/blog/customers/conductor

You probably noted that these were stated as benefits rather than features. If Calendly were to say, “We offer Scheduling Gizmo 2800,” Conductor could reply, “So what?” But when Calendly said that its solution delivers organic traffic and higher return on investment, Conductor paid attention.

The solution that Calendly provided to Conductor

So what three things did Selimaj do in an attempt to solve the problem?

He started by embedding a Calendly customer success scheduling page on the Help page of Conductor’s website.

From https://calendly.com/blog/customers/conductor

(Apparently you have to log in to see this page, because I couldn’t find it on any publicly available page. I’ll take Calendly’s word for it that this page exists.)

Second, Selimaj also created a scheduling link in Conductor’s app itself, to ensure that Conductor’s customers had easy access to meeting scheduling.

And third, he did one more thing: he instructed each of the company’s customer success reps to include a scheduling link in their email signatures.

I’d like to highlight two things:

  1. Now, rather than requiring the reps to spend huge amounts of time scheduling meetings, the scheduling process was now driven by the customers. When customers needed help, they could easily schedule meetings. When they didn’t need help, they wouldn’t schedule meetings.
  2. Also note that there were three ways for customers to access the scheduler: the web page, the app, and the email signature. Selimaj didn’t tell Conductor’s customers that there was only one approved way to schedule meetings. (And I’d be willing to bet that if a customer called a customer success rep on the phone, the rep would answer.)

So what happened?

The results

The article lists the benefits of Conductor’s Calendly implementation.

  • More tailored customer solutions via available information from integration with Salesforce, Slack and Trello.
  • Better service of large accounts as reps spent less time servicing small accounts.
  • Better engagement through quadrupling of customer contacts.
  • Maintenance of high customer quality, even as quantities increase.
  • Those quantities are increasing because of a 30% boost in renewals.

In short, Calendly’s focus on Conductor allowed Conductor to better focus on the needs of its own customers, thus letting Conductor make more money. And Conductor’s customers presumably made more money also. Customer focus benefits everyone in the B2B chain.

Can a customer focus benefit YOUR company?

Perhaps you own a business, large or small, that could use an increased customer focus and an elaboration of benefits that your company can provide to your customers. Part of this is the need to create customer focused content.

Maybe you, like Calendly and Conductor, have a story of your own you’d like to share with your customers. If so, consider working with Bredemarket (the Ontario, California content marketing expert) to create a case study.

Bredemarket uses a collaborative process with you to ensure that the final written product communicates your desired message. Bredemarket’s content creation process ensures that the final written content (a) answers the WHY/HOW/WHAT questions about you, (b) advances your GOAL, (c) communicates your BENEFITS, and (d) speaks to your TARGET AUDIENCE. It is both iterative and collaborative.

Often my clients provide specific feedback at certain stages of the process to ensure that the messaging is on track. I combine my client’s desires with my communications expertise to create a final written product that pleases both of us.

If you’d like Bredemarket to help you create a case study or other content, you can go to calendly.com/bredemarket to book a meeting with me. Or if you don’t like Calendly, there are two other ways to contact me:

Iterating Bredemarket’s first pillar page

I’ve spent this afternoon posting messages to selected Facebook and LinkedIn pages, showcase pages, and groups talking about updates to blog content (and in one case a LinkedIn article).

If you look at the updated blog posts/LinkedIn article in question, you’ll see that they now start with this statement:

(Updated 4/16/2022 with additional benefits information.)

Then, when you scroll down the post/article to a benefits discussion, you’ll see this insertion:

(4/16/2022: For additional information on benefits, click here.)

This post explains

  • why I made those updates to the blog posts and the LinkedIn article,
  • how I added a new page to the Bredemarket website, and
  • what I still need to do to that new page to make it better.

(Why, how, what: get it?)

Why I updated selected blog posts and a LinkedIn article

I talk a lot about benefits on the Bredemarket blog, but all of the conversation is in disparate, not-really-connected areas. I do have a page that talks about the benefits of benefits for identity firms, but that doesn’t really address the benefits of benefits for non-identity firms.

Then, while I was taking a HubSpot Academy course, I found a possible way to create a central page for discussion of benefits.

A pillar page.

By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=638837

According to HubSpot, the need for pillar pages arose because of changes to Google’s search model.

Google is helping searchers find the most accurate information possible — even if it isn’t exactly what they searched for. For example, if you searched for “running shoes,” Google will now also serve you up results for “sneakers.” This means that bloggers and SEOs need to get even better at creating and organizing content that addresses any gaps that could prevent a searcher from getting the information they need from your site.

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page

What does this mean?

Now, your site needs to be organized according to different main topics, with blog posts about specific, conversational long-tail keywords hyperlinked to one another, to address as many searches as possible about a particular subject. Enter the topic cluster model.

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page

How I added a new page to the Bredemarket website

So I created the page https://bredemarket.com/benefits/ to work as the hub of a wheel of content regarding benefits.

But not all the content that I’ve written on benefits.

I’ve curated links to selected content (both on the Bredemarket website and on LinkedIn), provided a brief quote from the content in question, then provided a link to the original content for more information.

After that, I went out to each of the “spokes” in the topic cluster and linked back to the new content hub on benefits as illustrated above.

What I still need to do to the new page on the Bredemarket website

At this point the people who REALLY know search engine optimization are shaking their heads.

“John,” they are saying to me, “that’s not a pillar page!”

They’re right.

It’s just a very crude beginning to a pillar page. It lacks two things.

Multi-layered keywords associated with the “hub” topic

First, simply linking selected “benefits” pages together in a wheel is extremely simplistic. Remember how search engines can now search for both “running shoes” and “sneakers”? I need to optimize my wheel so that it drives traffic that isn’t tied to the specific word “benefits.”

Choose the broad topics you want to rank for, then create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other, to create broader search engine authority….

For example, you might write a pillar page about content marketing — a broad topic — and a piece of cluster content about blogging — a more specific keyword within the topic. 

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page

A logical organization of the pillar page

Second, a pillar page needs better organization. Rather than having what I have now-a brief definition of benefits, followed by a reverse chronological list of posts (and the article) on benefits, the pillar page needs to address benefits, and its relevant subtopics, in an orderly fashion.

Pillar pages are longer than typical blog posts — because they cover all aspects of the topic you’re trying to rank for — but they aren’t as in-depth. That’s what cluster content is for. You want to create a pillar page that answers questions about a particular topic, but leaves room for more detail in subsequent, related cluster content.

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page
Example of a REAL pillar page. From https://www.hubspot.com/instagram-marketing

HubSpot directs its readers to HubSpot’s own pillar page on Instagram marketing. Frankly I don’t know that I’d want to write something that long, but you can see how the pillar page provides an organized overview of Instagram marketing, rather than just a reverse chronological list of content that addresses the pillar topic.

More to come

So my pillar page on benefits certainly has room to grow.

But at least I’ve made an agile start with a first iteration, and the search engines can start processing the existing cluster of links as I make improvements.

And as I create additional pillar pages. I already have an idea for a second one.

Four truths and a fable about the Ontario-San Antonio Heights “Mule Car”

Even people who live in Ontario, California may not know the story of the “mule car” in the median of Euclid Avenue at B St. You can see the mule car behind me in the “Cloudy days at the mule car” video below.

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw5Uc2VKCI8

(And yes, sometimes the sun DOESN’T shine in Southern California.)

Four truths about the Ontario mule car

There are four things about the mule car that we know as fact.

1. The Ontario mule car began service in 1888

The single-car train line connected Ontario, North Ontario (North Ontario was later known as Upland), and San Antonio Heights (near 24th and Mountain today), and benefited local residents by providing an easy way to travel between the three establishments. As the Historical Marker Database website notes, more and more people settled on the master-planned Euclid Avenue in the years after Ontario was established in 1882, and the train line provided an easy way to travel north and south.

2. The Ontario mule car benefited from gravity

For those who are not familiar with San Antonio Heights, Upland, or Ontario, the northernmost community (San Antonio Heights) is near the mountains, and (according to the Electric Railway Historical Association) there is an elevation drop of 1200 feet over the ten miles from San Antonio Heights to Ontario.

Of course, from the southern perspective of Ontario (see this Pacific Electric Railway page for a picture of the railway looking north), there is an increase in elevation of 1200 feet, which is why the mules were needed to pull the train up the hill. The uphill climb took about an hour.

Once the train reached San Antonio Heights and began its descent back to Ontario, the mules were no longer needed to pull the car.

[O]n the return trip the motive power climbed aboard a tiny trailer and coasted down with the car.

From http://www.erha.org/peeosah.htm

The downhill descent for the passengers (and the mules) took only 20 minutes. We’ll return to this later.

Mule use was not confined to the Inland Empire West. Mules were famously used in Death Valley. By NPS image from [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=124025

Since this is the Bredemarket blog, I can’t let this story pass without discussing the benefits of this system:

  1. Faster travel to on the southbound route to Ontario due to the faster downhill time.
  2. No use of power for the southbound route.
  3. Greater energy on the northbound route due to the rest that the mules received on the southbound journey.

(For additional information on benefits, click here.)

3. After electrification in 1895, the mule-less train line continued service until 1928

After several years, the train was electrified and the mules were no longer needed to power the train. This is when the train celebrated its heyday.

A thirty-acre amusement park was built by the company of San Antonio Heights, with a powerhouse adjoining. Heavy crowds were transported along Euclid Ave. in the early days, for the line connected Ontario with Upland, provided connections between the (Southern Pacific) Station at Ontario and the Santa Fe Station at Upland, and cared for the thongs bound for pleasure-seeking at the Park. 

From http://www.erha.org/peeosah.htm

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any additional information about the original 30-acre amusement park. Today’s “San Antonio Park” has ball fields, BBQ, picnic tables, a picnic shelter/gazebo, a playground, and restrooms, plus the historical San Antonio Heights Railroad Company Waiting Station. Fun, but not THAT fun.

And, of course, this provided benefits to various stakeholders:

  1. The rail line benefited from increased revenue from passengers who wanted to connect from other rail lines to get to destinations on the route, most notably the park.
  2. The park benefited from a convenient way to arrive, something that we seem to have lost today, since neither Ontario International Airport nor Los Angeles International Airport enjoy direct train service. (The Omnitrans 61 bus route goes to Ontario Airport every 20-30 minutes, and some day the Boring Company may establish a train connection.)
  3. Passengers benefited from an easy way to get to this park.

(For additional information on benefits, click here.)

Ownership of the train line passed from the Ontario Electric Company to the Pacific Light & Power Corporation in 1908, and eventually to Southern Pacific in 1912, where it became the Pacific Electric Ontario & San Antonio Heights Line.

Eventually this rail line, like all rail lines in Southern California, ran into hard times because of our growing adoption of motor bus and automobile travel.

Line cut back to La Cima on 4 July 1924; on 1 November 1924, cut back to Upland. On 6 October. 1928, Ontario-Upland Line abandoned…. In the abandonment hearing in 1928, PE produced records which tended to show that this line was hopelessly incapable of earning even operating expenses.

From http://www.erha.org/peeosah.htm

4. Today’s mule car at Euclid and B is a replica

If you visit the mule car at Euclid and B and wonder at how well-preserved it is, that’s because this isn’t the original 1887 mule car, which was lost to the winds of history. This is a replica, built in 1956-1957 and restored in approximately 1974. As the inscription on the plaque notes:

Photographed By Joseph Beeman, April 9, 2006. From https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=37512

In 1956, William Richardson headed a group of citizens to have a replica of the original Mule Car constructed for the city’s 75th anniversary in 1957. With donated funds “a couple of prop guys from the MGM Studios in Hollywood” recreated it, working from old photos. After the 1957 Mule celebration, the Mule Car was stored in the City Yards, abandoned and forgotten.

In memory of their son Donald, who worked for the City of Ontario, Kip and Elinore Carlson and their friends restored the Mule Car and constructed this facility. On April 28, 1974, this Mule Car was dedicated “to the whole community.”

From https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=37512

One fable about the Ontario mule car

There is one thing about the mule car that may or may not be true, but it makes for a good story. Both hmdb.org and erha.org, as well as other sites such as our local Best Western website, tell the story of what happened to the mules after the train route was electrified and the mules were no longer needed.

According to the sources, the mules were sold to a farmer, who put the mules to work on his farm. This worked out for the farmer…half of the time. When the mules were required to plow uphill, they did so with no complaints.

However, according to the story, the mules refused to work downhill.

They expected a ride for the downhill part.

Two Benefits of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs)

(Updated 4/16/2022 with additional benefits information.)

Everything is virtual

Many of our lives changed significantly in March 2020, when we left our offices and cubicles and decamped to makeshift desks in our homes. Since that time, those of us who are still working from home (WFH) have interacted with others via telephone, Cisco WebEx, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, and other virtual collaboration tools.

At the same time, some people have plunged neck-deep into the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) for applications ranging from joining the Bored Ape Yacht Club to using NFTs for decentralized digital identity.

And I haven’t even gotten into Second Life v2.0 and its ilk.

In short, we’re doing a lot of things virtually.

We live in an increasingly virtual world. You can hold virtual meetings with virtual friends using virtual reality systems hosted on virtual servers. 

From https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/so-what-exactly-are-virtual-power-plants

Virtual power plants (VPPs) and the Shelter Valley VPP project

Oh, and there’s one more thing that we’re doing virtually.

And in energy circles, one of the biggest buzzwords in recent years is the virtual power plant, or VPP.

From https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/so-what-exactly-are-virtual-power-plants

What is a virtual power plant (VPP)? Let me provide an example of a test implementation of a VPP by Alternative Energy Systems Consulting, Inc. (AESC) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

Shelter Valley. By Stalbaum – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15825812

This 18 month pilot project is described by SDG&E on its page about the Shelter Valley Virtual Power Plant Project.

As part of our Sustainability Strategy and commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, SDG&E is launching a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) Pilot Project in 2022, an initiative to strengthen community resilience and electric reliability in the unincorporated community of Shelter Valley in East San Diego County. 

From https://www.sdge.com/major-projects/shelter-valley-virtual-power-plant-pilot-project

Two benefits of virtual power plants

SDG&E realizes that you can’t just talk about the features of virtual power plants. SDG&E’s customers don’t care about features. Its customers only care about what’s in it for them. So SDG&E collected some benefits of virtual power plants.

(4/16/2022: For additional information on benefits, click here.)

The first benefit: community resilience and electric reliability

The first benefit that SDG&E identified for VPPs can be found in the text above, where it noted that virtual power plants can “strengthen community resilience and electric reliability.”

Now I’ll grant that Californa isn’t Texas, but there are more and more times where California’s electric power goes out, due either to very high temperatures, very high winds, or very high fire danger.

So SDG&E consumers (and consumers from other electric utilities) are more interested in electric reliability. If VPPs can provide that reliability, great!

So how does a VPP strengthen community resilience and electric reliability?

A key element of a VPP is its distributed energy resources, or DERs. With home-based solar power, batteries, smart thermostats, and other energy technologies, the days of a single centralized power source are over.

The second benefit: lower investment and operating costs

But rather than siloing these DERs, a VPP arranges to have them work as a single unit, just like a conventional power plant, but with a difference.

In other words, a VPP can mimic or potentially replace a conventional power plant and help address distribution network bottlenecks, but with lower investment and operating costs.

From https://www.sdge.com/major-projects/shelter-valley-virtual-power-plant-pilot-project

Note that SDG&E doesn’t take this a step further and say that this will result in a reduction in building of conventional power plants.

St. Clair Power Plant.
Since VPPs look like residential/commercial communities (because they are), most of us think that VPPs are prettier than many conventional power plants such as this one. By Cgord (talk) – (Cgord (talk)) created this work entirely by himself. Transferred from Wikipedia., GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19912142

And SDG&E definitely doesn’t say that this will result in lower rates for energy consumers. But maybe some energy utility will make this commitment.

A musical postlude

A major component of a VPP is the solar energy that is generated by solar cells on people’s homes. Of course, solar energy is nothing new, as those of us who recall a certain song know all too well.

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y43XLVqjytQ

I’ll grant that there are differing views

Case study example (that I didn’t write)

(Updated 4/16/2022 with additional benefits information.)

In my prior post about case studies, I observed:

Case studies are effective because they speak to the needs of the readers. The reader has a problem, and the case study tells how a similar entity solved that same problem.

After I wrote that, I happened to read this case study from Honeywell.

Making Better Business Decisions in Harris County, Texas. https://buildings.honeywell.com/us/en/solutions/case-studies/harris-county

I’ve worked with Honeywell’s customer, Harris County, Texas, but not on its security systems per se.

The case study follows a standard problem-solution format. After explaining the size and complexity of Harris County (the county where Houston is located), the problem is presented:

The problem? A lack of consistency in security products and transparency in systems used throughout the various buildings, which resulted in decreased operating efficiencies and more work for employees.

You’ll also note the use of “detriment statements,” or the reverse of benefit statements. Lack of consistency itself is NOT a detriment. More work for employees IS a detriment.

(4/16/2022: For additional information on benefits, click here.)

So the county called in a Texas-based integrator, ESI Fire & Security Protection, to help it solve the problem.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but if you want to find out what ESI recommended, read the rest of this case study on the Honeywell website.

And here is more information on case studies.

Shorter and sweeter? The benefits of benefits for identity firms

Repurposing is fun.

Remember the four posts that I wrote earlier this week about communicating benefits to identity customers? Well, I just summarized all four of the posts on a single page on the Bredemarket website, The benefits of benefits for identity firms.

(And now I’m repurposing that page into a single, short blog post.)

The page concludes with a question:

Why is Bredemarket the best choice to help your identity firm communicate its benefits?

  • No identity learning curve.
  • I’ve probably communicated in the format you need.
  • I work with you.
  • I can package my offering to meet your needs.

For the complete page, click here. And if you are an identity firm that needs my services, contact me.

Communicating benefits (not features) to identity customers (Part 4 of 3)

[Link to part 1] | [Link to part 2] | [Link to part 3]

I knew I’d think of something else after I thought this whole post series was complete. But this post will be brief.

Benefit statements are not only affected by the target customers, but are also affected by the “personality” of the company stating the benefits.

As we all know, different companies use different tones of voice in their communications. A benefit statement from Procter & Gamble will read differently than a benefit statement from Apple, for example.

With that in mind, let’s turn to the example that I used in the third post in this series-namely, that the benefit of a one-second response time for computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems is that it keeps people from dying.

Death personified in Punch. By Punch Magazine – Original: Cartoon from Punch Magazine, Volume 35 Page 137; 10 July 1858 This copy: City and Water Blog, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4465060

Not all companies are going to be that blunt about this particular benefit.

To my knowledge, SCC, Printrak, or Motorola have never explicitly talked about avoiding death as a benefit or their computer aided dispatch systems. Perhaps there IS a CAD company that does this, though.

This is why the development of benefit statements is often a collaborative affair, in part to ensure that the benefit statements align with the character of the company issuing them. Imagine the reaction if P&G promoted one of its soap products with a high-tech advertisement loudly proclaiming “PURPLE!” like the recent Apple ad.

Procter & Gamble ads are usually a bit more restrained.

Well, at least they used to be.

To be frank, Procter & Gamble is better at explicitly stating benefits than Apple is. Saving $100 a year on your energy bill is a benefit; purple is not. But Apple is communicating an implicit “Apple owners are cooler than mere mortals” benefit. Cold vs. cool, I guess, as well as an entirely different definition of “identity” that doesn’t rely on individualization. (If thousands of people have purple iPhones, this fact cannot be used to individually identify them.)

So you not only have to know your customer, but you need to know yourself so that you can describe benefits that are important to your customer in a voice that is accurate to your company’s “personality.”

This is why Bredemarket uses an iterative process in developing communications for its clients. If you’re an identity product/service provider that needs help in communicating customer benefits in proposals, case studies, white papers, blog posts, and similar written output, Bredemarket can implement such an iterative process to help you develop that output. Contact me.

Communicating benefits (not features) to identity customers (Part 3 of 3)

[Link to part 1] | [Link to part 2] | [Link to part 4]

(Updated 4/16/2022 with additional benefits information.)

NOTE: After publishing the second post in this series, but before publishing this third post, I ran across other people in the identity industry who were asking the “So what?” question, but from a strategic perspective rather than a sales enablement perspective. I discuss this in my personal JEBredCal blog, in this post.

This is a continuation of two previous posts. In the first and second posts in this series, I initially explained the difference between benefits and features, and why you sometimes have to act like an irritating two-year old to convert a feature into a benefit (the “so what?” test). I also explained how benefit statements need to be tailored to particular stakeholders, and how there can be many stakeholders even for a simple procurement.

I promised in the second post that I planned to dive into issues more specific to identity customers, such as when a two hour response time matters, when a one minute response time matters, and when a one second response time matters. Unfortunately, I spent so much time talking about all the stakeholders that I never got around to that particular question.

I promise that I’ll get into it right now.

Two hours vs. one minute vs. one second

You may remember that in the first post, I listed several things that some people thought were benefits, but were actually features. The final three items in that list were the following:

  • This product can complete its processing in less than two hours.
  • This product can complete its processing in less than a minute.
  • This product can complete its processing in less than a second.

These feature statements are very similar, yet at the same time very different. As you might have guessed, these feature statements are associated with three different products that are targeted to different markets.

Two hours: rapid DNA

I already alluded to the first of the three feature statements, two hour response time, in an earlier post in this series. Although I didn’t say so that the time, this is an important feature for the “rapid DNA” systems sold by Thermo Fisher Scientific and ANDE. These systems are used for multiple purposes, including

  • examining crime scene DNA evidence,
  • identifying deceased disaster victims, and
  • checking to see if arrested individuals are wanted for more serious crimes.

The two hour rapid DNA processing time offers different benefits for these different use cases.

  • As I previously stated in my first example of a “so what?” test, the ability to run rapid DNA at booking keeps dangerous criminals from being released by identifying those who are wanted for serious crimes.
  • A two hour processing time for crime scene evidence solves crimes more quickly, and again potentially puts dangerous criminals in jail more quickly.
  • A two hour response for disaster victim identification brings peace of mind to family members whose relatives may have perished in a disaster.

(4/16/2022: For additional information on benefits, click here.)

Depending upon the target audience, a rapid DNA vendor must tailor its benefit statements accordingly.

One minute: real time AFIS

Next, I want to look at the one minute response time, which is something that I used to talk about over twenty-five years ago when “real time AFIS” became a reality.

Because of the limitations of early computers, it used to take hours or days to compare the features from a latent fingerprint against the features of fingerprints in a database of known criminals. The old computers, even when souped up with special processing equipment such as hardware matchers and hardware fingerprint processors, took a long time to perform all of the calculations needed to compare a fingerprint’s features against hundreds of thousands of other fingerprint features.

Around the time that I joined Printrak, real time AFIS became a reality, where it became cost-effective and technologically feasible to size systems to deliver those fingerprint matching results in a minute. Today, the FBI’s Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) advertises that it can identify high-priority criminals within seconds.

At the time (1994), real time AFIS was a big deal, and the proposals that I helped to write emphasized that crimes could be solved more quickly (for latent/crime scene fingerprint searches), and individuals could be identified more quickly (for tenprint/booking searches).

One second: computer aided dispatch

To explain the third feature statement about one second response times, I have to fast forward three years to 1997, when the company then known as Printrak acquired the computer aided dispatch (CAD) and records management systems (RMS) unit of SCC Communications Corp. Printrak acquired other companies that year, but the SCC acquisition ended up being the most important, since it led to Printrak’s acquisition by Motorola.

(Allow me to go off on a tangent for a minute. When Motorola sold the biometric part of the business to Safran, it chose to retain the CAD and RMS portions, which remain part of Motorola Solutions’ portfolio today. One other tidbit: one of the key SCC people who joined Printrak at the time eventually left Motorola, and now works for rapid DNA vendor ANDE. As we Californians would say, it’s a small world after all.)

Now while there are some parallels between CAD and the systems then known as automated FINGERPRINT identification systems (AFIS), there are some key differences in the markets that the two products address. We on the AFIS side learned this the hard way when we introduced ourselves to our new colleagues.

“Hi, SCC folks, welcome to Printrak. You’re joining a company that sells REAL TIME AFIS that delivers results within one minute! Aren’t you impressed?”

A screenshot of computer-aided dispatch as being used by Toronto Fire Services. By Hillelfrei – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88913432

The ex-SCC people responded, gently disabusing us of our pretensions to speed.

“Hello, new corporate overlords. We provide computer aided dispatch systems that send police, fire, and medical personnel to crime scenes and emergency sites as soon as possible. If our CAD systems took AN ENTIRE MINUTE to dispatch personnel, PEOPLE WOULD DIE. We use really powerful computers to get personnel dispatched in a second. Enjoy your real time AFIS…amateurs.”

So the company Printrak learned that it needed separate benefit statements, depending upon the product line the company was promoting at any given time. The CAD customers received one set of benefit statements, while the AFIS customers received a separate set.

Conclusion (finally)

In short, you have to know your customer so that you can describe benefits that are important to your customer.

And if you’re an identity product/service provider that needs help in communicating customer benefits in proposals, case studies, white papers, blog posts, and similar written output, Bredemarket can help. Contact me.