Digital Power

Welcome to the Digital Power blog. I’m Gary Box, CTO of Software Defined Power and I’ll be blogging from time to time on all things related to converting energy digitally. Note I’m not limiting myself to just converting electrical energy to mechanical energy (or vice versa), but I’ll be stepping back to look at the bigger, broader system picture. Occasionally, I may go all the way to a “clean sheet of paper” look at a problem. As my mentor, Erland Persson, once told me “The laws of physics are immutable, everything else is negotiable”.

I’d like to congratulate the folks over at Webcom on putting together a great Motor and Drive Systems conference in Orlando, and not just because it was in Orlando, it was February, and I live in Minnesota. This was my third Motor and Drive Systems conference and I could sense confirmation of trends I heard of in my first eDrive conference in San Antonio.

First there is the expected bounce back of the industry from the Great Recession, but with that comes change. Every recession I’ve experienced in my 40 years in power electronics product development involved a sort of corporate Darwinism. But this recession was different. Business models that stood for a century or more like print media crumbled. Recovery scenarios where everyone simply went back to work collapsed as surviving organizations discovered they could get by with less staff by using more software or outsourcing, sometimes to startups founded by the very people they downsized. The new job recovery model isn’t going to be a dozen companies hiring thousands, but thousands of small companies hiring dozens.

For our industry one of the “casualties” of the Great Recession was the reduction of resident system engineering staff. These were the people who did the in house integration of motors and controls. Now, as evidenced by more than one speaker at this year’s conference, users are looking for system solutions. For the big boys, this is an opportunity to sell packaged systems. For the smaller, more nimble player it opens the opportunity to provide application specific systems. A win-win for all.

Something else I sensed at the conference is, finally, there is more of a connection between the motor buyer and the utility bill payer. We’ve known for years that the initial purchase price of a motor is only a fraction of the lifetime cost, but it’s taken an incredibly long time for that concept to sink in.

Finally, I found a good dose of innovation from a number of presenters and exhibitors in new motor technology, components and systems. I’m looking forward to what the 2014 conference has to offer.

I think a good blog is actually a two-way street, so questions, comments and suggestions are all welcome. I can be emailed at You can also read about of what we do at Software Defined Power at

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