June 23, 2005

A non-techie’s explanation of IDEA

Before IDEA was created, the electrical channel’s information highway was a lawless place. Picture the data as cars-and trucks and motorcycles and bikes and anything else that can move-going in every direction, at any speed. Movement was based on whim, with no lane markers, traffic lights, signs, or regulation whatsoever. Women couldn’t tease men for not asking for directions because there were no directions to be had; everyone was equally lost.

It was a pretty dismal place, littered with information that started the journey with the good intention of being communicated to a manufacturer or a distributor but ended

up lost, dead-ended, or smashed by the side of the road. Getting lost in backedup traffic was the rule-not the exception. From the business person’s point of view, trying to use this highway became an expensive and undependable proposition. Something had to be done.

There was a map service, apparently, but it lived far away and didn’t really feel like traveling the electrical information highway to figure out where anything went. Accurate information wasn’t its business-selling maps was. And if a few exits or streets on the maps weren’t accurate, well, that was that.

Certainly, for those who wanted to travel on the information highway, it was a dicey proposition.

Then some distributors and manufacturers from NAED and NEMA decided that if there wasn’t order, all of their businesses would go to hell in a handbasket, and in short order. So they created IDEA to make sense out of what had become a pretty senseless road.

Mike Rioux, Beth Badrakan, Pat McCarten, and the rest of the IDEA staff were brought on board to make sense out of this highway. Suffice to say, it was a challenge-no traffic lights, no lines, cars going every which way, trucks and scooters abandoned all over the place, and not a useful map in sight.

Others might have given up, but not these people. Gluttons for punishment all, they armed themselves with paint, signs, and traffic lights, and began to rebuild the electrical distribution information highway. They hired a very good company called Activant, and together they made rules and created accurate maps.

It was a tortuous process. At first, money for paint, signs, and about everything else was in short supply. When lines were painted, some drivers complained that they didn’t like driving within them. When traffic signals were built and speed limits were set, some didn’t like obeying traffic signals and others missed hurling down the highway dodging oncoming traffic like a mad game of bumper cars. A few didn’t want to have their cars and trucks inspected for safety. Lots of people had the old maps, and even though the maps weren’t accurate, they elt that a map is a map.

Still, the IDEA staff persevered. And while, like all useful roadways, the highway will be continuously renovated and updated, it is now safe to travel. Data can go from one place to the other without getting lost, traffic jams don’t exist, and insurance rates are falling. And, keeping it all moving smoothly, are IDW2 and IDX2-two products and services powered by Activant-NAED, NEMA, and the truly dedicated staff of IDEA.