The new Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, located just outside Washington DC, hosted the 2008 Emerson Users Exchange, which ended earlier today. Emerson personnel, members of the media and, of course, the users themselves, arrived Sunday night for a week's worth of speeches, workshops, demonstrations and invaluable networking.
Most frequently heard word? "Wireless." Not only were numerous sessions dedicated to wireless applications, the folks at Emerson actually installed a wireless network throughout the Gaylord Hotel last weekend with a two-fold goal: to help the Gaylord management monitor temperature fluctuations throughout the huge atrium and to demonstrate to users how simply and quickly a complete wireless system could be installed and working in a huge facility.
On Monday, Emerson Process Management Chairman Jack Berra opened the event with an emotional speech detailing his 40 years in the automation business before literally and ceremonially handing the keys over to Steven Sonnenberg, whom Berra called "the father of wireless." Emerson had recently announced that Sonnenberg would become president of Emerson Process Management, while Berra would remain as chairman, continuing to work on a variety of special projects. But before the new president of EPM had a chance to speak, Berra received a standing ovation when he returned to the stage to retrieve his trusty slide rule (his reminder of how things have changed over the decades).
Some numbers: In 1998, 252 users attended the Emerson Users Exchange. A decade later, attendance has ballooned ten-fold, to about 2,600. Attending this year's exchange were process professionals from 55 countries, 70 exhibitors showed off their products and technologies at the sold-out trade show, and attendees were able to choose from more than 300 different technical sessions. As for EPM sales, Berra announced this week marked the end of the fiscal year, and thus far sales are up by 18%. When the final figures are tallied, $1 billion in growth this year is not out of the question, said Berra.
NASA's Dr. Jack Bacon, the keynote speaker, had a number of interesting stories to tell about his life and the U.S. space program. Bacon's grandfather actually worked with Orville and Wilbur Wright during the early 20th century. Prior to this year's Exchange, Dr. Bacon has been in Rwanda building water purification systems.
Bacon reminded the audience that, while we may not hear a lot about it, space history is being made on a daily basis. Only days ago, the first commercial rocket was launched into outer space with relatively little fanfare. And the International Space Station may not look like much from the comfort of our living room, but it's actually 17x21 stories (Sputnik was the size of a basketball) and is the most complex machine ever built in human history.
Next year’s exchange is scheduled to take place at the Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel & Convention Center, Sept. 28 through Oct. 2, 2009.