Terra Sound, Patterns of Life from Patterns of Light – Part 2
The ground has ears w/ fiberoptics & AI to provide data to Intelligent Traffic Systems and Smart Cities
Imagine having an underground system that can continuously collect data related to traffic, earthquakes, and other vibration-causing activities.
One of the biggest advantages that such a system would present is its ability to work all day, and all night, uninterrupted. It would not require light or regular removal of obstructions. That’s exactly what Terra Sound’s acoustic system does for cities and organizations that have ground as well as underground assets. The fact that the data is collected consistently makes it easier to gain fast actionable insight from it.
In this episode, the second part out of two, Ed Bernardon interviews two brothers, Brian Borkowski, founder of Terra Sound, and Craig Borkowski, a board member and former CEO of Terra Sound. They’ll help us understand how and why they choose the products they are currently offering. They’ll also share some details about the existing use cases of their technology as well as possible future use cases.
Some Questions I Ask:
- What was your inspiration when you were young? (01:21)
- How did Terra Sound move from being in the military to being a start-up? (09:30)
- Which of your three products has the biggest potential for growth? (14:05)
- What do you think this technology could evolve into doing beyond what you’re doing today? (22:53)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The most valuable lesson that Brian learned from being in the military (05:37)
- How Terra Sound chooses which products to develop (12:52)
- The progress their product has made in terms of smart city applicability (15:46)
- The future application of Terra Sound’s technology according to Craig and Brian (24:56)
Connect with Brian Borkowski:
Connect with Craig Borkowski:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
Ed Bernardon: What if I told you that there is technology currently in existence with the potential to detect earthquakes before they happen, provide alerts to accidents on deserted roads, or provide security by detecting unwanted footsteps!? This is all done with a technology that combines fiber optics with AI. So, how do we harness this capability to detect changes in life patterns in an inconsistent world of cities, highways, and rural areas in order to secure and protect?
Ed Bernardon: We’re back with Part 2 of my interview with brothers Craig and Brian Borkowski of Terra Sound technology. In this episode, we continue our discussion on Terra Sound technology with a focus on current and future-envisioned Smart City applications. My guests also tell me more about what that transition from military to commercial applications looked like and walk me through their earliest inspirations and their respective career paths. Join me, Ed Bernardon, on this episode of the Future Car as we dive deeper into Terra Sound technologies and what their technology could mean for our future. Craig and Brain, welcome to the Future Car Podcast.
Ed Bernardon: You both have different career paths: Brian, in the military; Craig, in the business world, a lot with materials and electronics and all that kind of thing. When you were young, what was your inspiration? What were you thinking you would be when you grow up?
Craig Borkowski: Brian, I’ll let you handle this one first.
Brian Borkowski: I always kind of knew I was going to go to the military for some part of my time. I didn’t know how long. I honestly didn’t expect to stay as long as I did. I’ve always liked new things, that’s a product of my ADHD. I now tell people I have professional ADHD because I run four different companies that do very different things. For me, I always knew I was going to take a stint in the military. My father was in the military, my grandfather on both sides was in the military. So, I always knew I was going to stop there and get that in. And I stayed a little longer than I thought it would. But after that, I just knew I wanted to kind of do new things. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. And I kind of found this research and development thing with my last job in the army and I really realized that the part I’m good at is the part where the researchers end and it hasn’t become a full product yet. It’s that middle of it. In the military, they call it “the valley of death” because that’s where so much good technology dies because no one can help transition it. That’s where I do my best work; is helping that technology transition. I’m not the guy you want running a company, that’s why I brought my brother in. I’m the guy you want thinking up the new things, I’m the guy you want helping implement the new things and fixing all the challenges. And really the culture is the biggest challenge; you have a culture that’s not used to using something.
Ed Bernardon: Well, before Craig answers, I want to ask you, it sounds like you’re in a position where somebody would hand you a technology and say, “Hey, see if you can make this thing really work.” Tell me about one of the times when you said, “You want me to make this do what? You gotta be kidding me.” Was there ever a moment like that?
Brian Borkowski: There were a lot of those moments. When I first started in the lab, I’ll put it this way, there was a lot of money flow into these places to build things for the counter IED. The people in the labs are huge, big-brain people, but they’ve never been to Afghanistan, they’ve never been in the combat environment; most of them have never been in the military. So, there was kind of a disconnect of things they thought would work, which technically would probably work, but they wouldn’t integrate well into the culture or the way we did things in the military. So, there were many of them where I first sat down and I went through their portfolio, if you would, and I was like, “Hey, this one looks great. This one, no one’s gonna use it.” So, they have funding streams, they’re not going to drop it. But I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not gonna go represent that when. No one’s gonna want that.” And I would tell them that. In the beginning, it was kind of like a punch in the face to a couple of guys because people take it — it’s their product. I would usually follow that with “But if you did this, or you pivoted this way, here’s how you can be useful and here’s how people would consume it.” So, there was more than once where I had to say, “No, that’ll work here in the laboratory, but it’s never going to work out in the real world.”
Ed Bernardon: Can you give us an example of one of the ones that was like, “Oh, this has absolutely no chance”?
Brian Borkowski: Probably not without making some enemies publicly.
Ed Bernardon: Okay. We will let you go on that one.
Brian Borkowski: I’m gonna plead the fifth.
Ed Bernardon: About wise to do that, I think. Craig, you’re an inspiration because you went more to the commercial, business side.
Craig Borkowski: Yeah. And before that, I have to say, I really think my brother enjoyed fireworks growing up. And he gave me the long version, but when he heard he can blow stuff up and get paid for it, that’s when he joined the military. But from my perspective, for whatever reason, I don’t know how this got into my head, but I was always thinking kind of lab, mad scientist type of career for me. And I ended up going chemical engineering, and it wasn’t quite a mad scientist type of route, but that’s kind of how I got moving down the track that I am. And I think a lot of my motivation was we grew up with not a lot of money, and so my first job was washing dishes at a Friendly’s. My real motivation was “I don’t want to be doing this in 10 years.”
Ed Bernardon: It was the same thing for me. When I was growing up, I was a concrete finisher with my dad. He says, “If this doesn’t make you want to go to college, nothing will.” Brian, you were Company Commander, 2007-2009. Can you tell us what’s the most valuable lesson you learn from being in the military?
Brian Borkowski: Just on a people-level, I’ll say you take care of people and they’ll take care of you. That was what my dad taught me. He was a guy that was drafted into Vietnam. And he had finished college and they made him an E5 squad leader — just boom, you’re automatically leading people. He didn’t get much leadership training or anything like that. But that’s what he told me when I got commissioned as an officer — he said, “Look, if you take care of the people, you don’t have to take care of yourself because they’ll all make sure you’re taken care of and everything goes where you want it.” So, on a people-level, that’s what I’ve always tried to do, I’ve always leaned a little too much in that way, probably. So, that’s probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned on that side. On the technology side, the lesson I learned is that the culture of an organization can often kill technology that would be good technology. It can also let bad technology in. I’ll use one example, we do a lot of work with utilities with our drones — one of my other companies is just drone work. There was no drone department at the utility. There was an aviation department that had helicopters. Guess what the drones are going to do? They’re going to get rid of the helicopters, eventually, 90% of them. But there was a whole department and a whole group of people, basically, that their whole livelihood was against this new technology coming in and helping their company. The culture inside that company was keeping a technology that could immediately help them out. In other ways, I’ve seen where people embrace certain types of technologies and not others. At the end of the day, technology has to integrate with culture first and then with the rest of the technology. Everyone only ever talks about the integration with the rest of the technology. But honestly, you’ve got to integrate with the culture first and find ways, and that might make you change your tech a bit. The model of “Here’s what I make, take it, eat it, go forth.” That doesn’t always work. You have to be flexible enough with your technology to make adjustments to meet the culture that you’re trying to give. And I didn’t learn that through tech, but I learned that through trying to work with Iraqis, trying to work with Afghans in the middle of the desert. Me showing up and saying, “I have this wonderful solution for you.” They can’t take it, they can’t consume it within their culture, even though it’s amazing technology that could help them. That’s how I learned it. And I just kind of figured it out that big organizations work like that, too.
Ed Bernardon: I love your example of the helicopter department. They look at themselves as a department that operates helicopters, rather than looking at themselves as “We’re a department that gathers information from the air. I don’t care if it’s a helicopter or a drone.” And the same thing would apply, like you said, to the Iraqis or to the Afghanis that you would encounter is it’s not about that technology; it’s about “Well, what are they trying to accomplish? Trying to keep people safe.” I guess one would never think about that because that’s a big part of the military; is being able to feel like the people you’re working with or around in wherever you’re stationed see you as someone that is helping them.
Brian Borkowski: Yeah, and that was super important for us over there. Coming back to the helicopters, maybe their job is not even to find stuff from the air; their job is to give this piece of intelligence because maybe you can do it from space with satellites, maybe you can get it from the ground in the future. Something’s going to take the drones that we provide and throw those to the side. What you really wanted was intelligence that’s actionable from this, and you technically get it this way right now. But everyone grows up because how long does it take to bake a contract? How long does it take to do all these other things? That becomes the building blocks of your organization instead of the root thing you really want.
Ed Bernardon: We see this also in designing, say, electric cars, where you have people that have designed battery systems all their life, and then other ones that designed car bodies, and suddenly the batteries are part of the car body. So, you have to have an understanding of both sides of the situation. So, Craig, how does this thing get from the military to becoming a startup? What’s that transition?
Craig Borkowski: I think my brother had this idea of while he was over there, “Wow, how can we use this? This is amazing technology, first off. And is it in use in the US right now?” And I think he did a little bit of research and found out that there was no one in the US making these systems. Most of them were coming from overseas and the ones that were in production were all coming from the Naval Research Labs for specific uses overseas, but nothing really commercial out of it. He took it upon himself to say, “Hey, I think this is going to be a great technology. I’ve deployed it all over the place, so I’m kind of an expert in this technology, which isn’t very well known.” And he said, “We should start a company here, because it’s a viable space.” He went and did that. He took a lot of risks and set up the company and started pushing in R&D directions, to begin with, to make sure that the technology was right and started going out to market use-case places just to prove it out, and get got acceptance from at least one big customer in each one of these different markets to get the ball rolling and here we are today, just trying to continue to push it forward.
Ed Bernardon: And I believe there were some steps in between. Brian, you had, I think, Asymmetric Technologies was a company that you started right out of the military and that evolved into Terra Sound over time.
Brian Borkowski: Yeah, Asymmetric came out of my time in the lab and seeing what was needed to help technology transition. And then I used, of course, the fiber optic sensing in the military. I stopped using it for some years. I built Aymmetric. And then I was working for some Homeland Security folks, and they talked to me about wanting to build one for the border. And I said, “Well, yeah, I got all this experience, I did it.” So, they contracted us to help them design and build the system that went on to be on the border. So, that’s kind of how I got back into it. I had always seen, “Hey, this isn’t in the US.” But every pipeline that’s gone in overseas in the last five to 10 years has had this technology on it. Why? Well, they have hot tapping problems; they have people coming and stealing the product from them; they’re losing dollars every day; they have terrorist threats; they had much more active threats there than we did in the United States. So, the hardest challenge for us, as a company, was how do we show value for this to the companies in the United States. And really, the third-party intrusion on the pipeline side really became the first thing. And the perimeter security stuff, those became the places we could show the value. And then we started dealing with the smart cities. We can see how fast cars are going at any given point along this highway in real-time. We can give you a heat map that says, “Hey, your traffic’s flowing,” or “No, it’s not.” So, it just starts out of that one thing, and then it just keeps going. In the future, 30 years from now, we could be looking at all kinds of crazy things with tech like this.
Ed Bernardon: A challenge with any startup, especially one like this, where it could have so many applications, what was your criteria? Or how did you figure out what to go after first? How do you find your sweet spots?
Brian Borkowski: The people who were paying. I mean, that’s the honest answer, just because you need it to keep moving down the line. But really, my brother coming in — he gave it a lot more strategic look, tampered down my ADHD, and said, “Hey, let’s focus in these types of places.” I think that the easiest adaptation was probably in the security world. Just because they consume them on a rotating basis, there’s always a need for new security. In the pipeline world, it’s amazing to help them, but they have very long cycles. So, they’re not buying it every other day; they’re doing major things that go for years. And the smart city is just emerging right now. So, to me, they all have their different cycles and they all have their different timelines, and we’ve gotten a little diversified to have a little piece of each one of those.
Ed Bernardon: Sounds like you’ve dabbled in two or three different areas or at least three different areas. Which one do you think is the one for the best growth, the biggest growth in, let’s say, the short term? And then maybe, how do you look at it in the long term?
Craig Borkowski: How I usually look at this is, you’ve got to eat today, you want to eat tomorrow, and you want to make sure you can eat a year from now as well. And I think when we looked at the markets, that’s kind of how we broke things out and why we chose these three different ones. I think the perimeter security one, my brother was already the farthest along on, and that was providing us the food for today. The sales cycle for oil and gas or underground utility companies tends to be a lot longer. So, from our perspective, that’s our food for tomorrow. We’ve got to start it now because it’s going to take a long time. Kind of funny, we’re a startup, we like to move fast. You’ll send an email that says, “Hey, where is this?” And three weeks later, they’ll send you an email back and say, “Yeah, well, we’re working on getting approval.” And that three weeks for us is an eternity. And for them, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, that was like a super fast response time.” So, it’s just different. It’s going to take us a little bit longer to get into, but it’s important. And then you’ve got to be able to eat in a year or two from now. And that, really, for us is the smart city area. We’re just starting to get data there. It tends to be very dependent upon budgets of cities and states. And particularly during COVID times, it was a rough patch; no one had any money, everything was going towards other stuff. But we’re seeing now coming out of that, that people are interested in it. The technology can provide them useful information that they’re interested in, and that’s kind of our market of the future, how do we get into that. So, that’s kind of how, at least, we view it from a company’s internal perspective.
Ed Bernardon: In the smart city area, can you tell us a little bit about the customers you have now, and what they’re using this technology for?
Craig Borkowski: Mainly it’s the Department of Transportations that are our test use cases. I think our first customer in that space was ODOT, particularly an organization, they’re called Drive Ohio, which is looking at future generation stuff. And they’ve got what they call a smart highway kind of a testbed for all sorts of technologies. And we work closely with them to put our technology on one of those highways. We started off first on… Do you remember the route?
Brian Borkowski: Yeah, we started i670 and i71 going through Columbus is where we started.
Craig Borkowski: Yeah, after we got some initial data and proof of concept data from that, they transitioned us over to the smart quarter, US33, which is what we’re currently on now. And we’re working with them to figure out what’s of interest to them. Right now, it’s a lot of data. And when you’re able to provide this data, a lot of times, the cities don’t know what to do with the data yet. They know it’s useful; they know, “Hey, for sure, we’re going to be able to use this data.” But those pathways aren’t quite linked yet. So, it’s a lot working with them to say, “Hey, here’s this data in a format that’s going to be consumable for you, that’s not going to overwhelm your existing systems, and that’s gonna work for you.” So, a lot of it’s not only gathering the data and processing the data but also working with the customers to figure out how to get it to them in a consumable fashion.
Ed Bernardon: I want to go back to something Brian said earlier; is you can fall in love with the technology. And look at all this great data that you’re providing, and you’re providing them all this great data for the first time, so they don’t really even know what to do with it. If I was a city, can you give me an example of how they’ve used a portion or some aspect of this data? Is there any examples like that you can give us?
Brian Borkowski: I wish I could. It’s all very manual right now. It’s all very proof-of-concept-y. What they’re doing is they’re socializing inside their organization to show other people what they can get. If I literally had 10 bucks for every meeting I had where I blew the minds of engineers by showing them what I could do, I would be retired already — every one of them is wow-ed. But then they have to go back, like you said, and find a way to integrate that into the traffic management system, integrate it into the rest of the things. They told us in the first meeting, “We’d love to be able to see this, this, and this.” Well, okay, we showed them two of the three. And then they’re like, “That’s really good. Now what?” And people just don’t know how to use it yet, they don’t know how to integrate it yet. It’s a cultural thing. I wish I had a great example of it, but I don’t yet.
Craig Borkowski: I think they’re figuring that out. And I think they’ve got, in their heads, a lot of great ideas on how to use it but they haven’t been able to get the connections fully vetted yet. And I know when we were talking to them, for example, one of the use cases that they were kind of excited about was for us to be providing speed data, and then they wanted to correlate that in with weather data. For example, if we’re providing data that says the average speed on a highway, “This section of highway is 55.” Even though the speed limit is 45, and it’s always okay. And then it rains one day, or it snows one day, and suddenly there are three accidents. And we can say, “Yep, the average speed was still 55.” That would tell them, “Hey, we need to either go slow the speeds when it starts raining or snowing, or roughen the road surface a little bit more to provide better grip.” And we know the exact locations where we need to do that and the speed of those people. And then we could see did it work or not. Now is the speed being reduced when these conditions happen? And are we actively reducing accidents? So, I think they’ve got a lot of great ideas on how to use it. It’s just, practically speaking, they need to put together all these pieces and parts because it’s not just the guy with the idea; it’s how do you fundamentally implement it, and that involves a lot of different pieces of the city and of the Ohio Department of Transportation. It’s not just one group. They’ve got to span this out in a bunch of different groups, and that takes time.
Ed Bernardon: When you have a technology like this, it seems that you have thought about how it could be used much more than the cities have because they’re not necessarily even aware about. So, based on that experience and the amount of time you put into thinking about it; if you were to go to a city and tell them, “Why don’t you start off by doing this?” In other words, you would bring the most value for the least amount of expense on their side, and also there are these headaches of this department talking to that department. So, if you can come up with something that could be easily implemented without having 10 departments involved, what do you think that sweet spot is for this? I’m the mayor of a major city, and I said, “Craig, Brian, tell me what’s the easiest thing you can do for me that I can implement and show the value for this so we can convince everybody that they should use this even more in the future.” What would that sweet spot be?
Brian Borkowski: Real-time monitoring on their existing fiber along highways, real-time monitoring of speed, for instance.
Craig Borkowski: I think that traffic flow data as well. Because with that, you can have immediately actionable items: “Hey, the traffic is congested all the time for exactly 2.5 miles between the hours of 9 and 10.” And come up with solutions on how you manage that. You either redirect people in other routes. So, I think that’s probably the fastest and easiest use of the technology.
Ed Bernardon: How would it be better than the traffic data that we see when we’re using Google Maps or Waze?
Brian Borkowski: Again, that’s all gotten from everyone’s separate phones. That information, usually it’s pulling it all together. From our perspective, you’re getting it from your asset. You’re getting it from one spot in real-time. What if something happens there and you don’t have enough phones to tell you what happened? What if there’s a delay on those phones?
Ed Bernardon: Well, it’s also a phone. You can’t distinguish if it’s a truck putting its brakes on or a pedestrian or whatever – it’s a phone in a vehicle.
Brian Borkowski: Yeah, and you’re not going to get the accident data from a phone. You’re not going to get all that other data about your asset from the phone; the condition of the pavement and things like that.
Ed Bernardon: And I would imagine, you’re in control of your data collection, rather than relying on someone to have a phone and have it turned on.
Brian Borkowski: I guess, on that part of the traffic, I don’t know, the states probably get some of that for free. But other ones, I’m guessing, they have to pay for data feeds. I’m sure they can open Google Maps and look at red, amber, green. But I’m sure for other data, they’re going to be paying for that. And with this model, you own the data as that organization on your asset, as opposed to paying for somebody else’s data.
Ed Bernardon: Let’s look into the future. You could use this to monitor all sorts of things: weather, animals, and look for anomalies into, like you say, the pattern of life. The pattern of life is in many, many different levels. So, open up your mind, what do you see for the future? What do you think this technology could evolve into doing beyond what you’re doing today?
Brian Borkowski: Let me start with an example of somebody. This wasn’t us, by the way, this was somebody else using this. They have an orchard where there’s a certain type of beetle affecting this orchard, and they used fiber optic sensing in that orchard to tell when the beetle shows up because the beetles all communicate on– they basically have a certain frequency where their wings rubbing together or whatever makes a certain frequency, so they can tell exactly when these beetles show up, if they show up, and then go treat the plants immediately. I would have never thought that one up myself. I thought that was fascinating. You’re basically finding insects on trees with a fiber optic cable in the ground. I was very happy to see it because those are the types of things in the future. What do I want to see? I want to see if there’s the transformer blows out on a utility. Well, everyone knows when it blows out because the power goes off and all these things. But what happened before it blew out? Was there a resonance to that transformer that changed? It’s normally at 60 Hertz and now it’s at 58.4. Does that have something to do with it? I don’t know, it might not. But if we can correlate it and see it did, the next time we see one go to 58.4, boom, we shut it down immediately and save the transformer. So, I want to get ahead of things, I want to get early indicators to get me before actions happen. I won’t call it predictive because it’s more reality; it’s early indicator. I want to be able to cue in on early indicators across machinery and bridges; what’s the vibration on that roadside? Everything to give me early indicators, basically, of what’s going on. And that becomes very powerful, I think, and clear monetary value.
Ed Bernardon: Craig, what do you see here? What do you think, 20-30 years out, if this gets installed on bridges and roads, zoos, wherever it might be; how do you think it’s going to make our lives better?
Craig Borkowski: The predictive stuff that my brother was talking about, I think, is going to be really important. And I share a lot of the same thoughts around how do you get to a point where you can understand before something critical happens that it’s probably going to happen, and stop some of those things? And if I related a little more to oil and gas, or underground utilities, where we’re always seeing these pipelines getting hit or explosions in pipelines that are happening. A couple of cities down from me, there was a massive oil leak that nobody knew about it. It was going on for three months before a couple of kids on ATVs drove through the wetlands and were like, “There’s a lot of oil in the wetlands, what’s going on?” But stopping stuff like that, and knowing immediately, “Hey, something hit your pipeline and it’s now leaking.” Signal, it should be shut off immediately. Because we’re detecting sound, it can become so ubiquitous. It can be out there to sense whatever it is that’s most important for you. So, the end use cases of this are tremendous. And I think it’ll be adapted more and more as people understand how to use it, and in what circumstances it’s going to provide the most value.
Brian Borkowski: I think, in 20 years, this will be absolute standard on pipelines in the United States. I think it will be mandated. And I think it’ll be everywhere. I think it’ll just be very mainstream. The benefits are just way too big. It can help them too much. Just a conversation I’ve had recently to give you the other things you could do is US geological survey about early earthquake detection and monitoring and response in places like California and places with active fault zones. So, if you can get distributed data of what’s going on across the entire thing, maybe you find that beginning shaking that you know is going to lead to an earthquake, maybe you can find that 30 seconds early. And then what can that do? How many people can get that to cover? Because they have this amazing system that can give alerts right now that they’ve already built themselves. This is just something else to put more data into that system. Fiber, without our company, we don’t ever exist, the technology doesn’t exist — fiber is going in everywhere anyway. More and more fiber is being put in as data becomes more of a thing, as smart cities become a thing, fiber is going to be everywhere. We’re just saying, “Look what you can do with that fiber.” You can do all this other stuff with that fiber. We’re not driving the fiber. But boy, can we give you a lot of capability from the fiber you’re already putting in?
Ed Bernardon: Well, this then certainly opened up our eyes, is what you can do is what if we had sensors everywhere? It didn’t cost that much, we could get them out there. And it sounds like you’ve even done that; you’ve figured out what you can do with the signals and the data that you’re getting. And now it’s just a question of trying to figure out how you get to that vision you were just talking about: step by step. So, thank you so much for joining us here on the Future Car Podcast. We always finish off with a rapid-fire section. So, typically, I don’t have two brothers on this, so I’ll throw the questions out there, real quick answers or however long you want, but either one of you can jump in. For both of you: What’s the first car you ever bought or owned?
Brian Borkowski: Ford Taurus. I loved it. It was amazing. I loved that thing. It was a sleeper.
Craig Borkowski: Mine was Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser, the station wagon. Inherited that from my parents.
Ed Bernardon: Are you located in Detroit? Are you in that area?
Brian Borkowski: Cleveland. We grew up in Cleveland. Neither of us are there anymore, but that’s where we grew up.
Ed Bernardon: Did you pass your driver’s tests on the first try?
Brian Borkowski: Absolutely.
Craig Borkowski: Yes.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, very good. So, who has the best speeding ticket story? You must have gotten speeding tickets.
Brian Borkowski: That’s me.
Ed Bernardon: You’re the troublemaker.
Brian Borkowski: I got lots of them, unfortunately.
Craig Borkowski: He once got pulled over by a cop on a horse.
Ed Bernadon: It must have been a slow car then.
Brian Borkowski: See, that one wasn’t speeding. The best speeding ticket story I ever have. I was underage at the time and was probably a little more reckless, which scares me because my son’s now 16. But yeah, middle of the night, blew a stop sign, pulled out on the highway, on the road. There was only one set of lights. He was kind of far off, but I’m like, I can beat him. And I’d safely did beat him, and it turned out to be a police officer. And the police officer, took him a long time to pull me over because he kept pulling up alongside me and looking at us. And finally pulled me over, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Boy, I didn’t think anybody could be that stupid.” And then from there, he said he thought that we were his police buddies messing with him. That’s what he first thought. And in the end, he just gave me a long lecture and then they peeled their tires and sped out while I was sitting there with a wide open mouth. Yeah, there was a little more to that exchange, but that’s the cliff notes.
Ed Bernardon: Well, if your son is listening, I want him to know that you were lucky with that outcome; it could have been much much worse.
Brian Borkowski: I was insanely lucky with that — so, yes.
Ed Bernardon: We always ask about — with the future of autonomous cars on the way — no driving. So, you have what’s called a living room on wheels. For each of you, Craig, you go first. What would you have in your living room on wheels?
Craig Borkowski: I think everything my living room has: big screen TV, and I want a refrigerator, and somewhere to put my feet up, and probably somewhere to plug in my computer as well. You give me those couple of things and I’m happy.
Ed Bernardon: How about you, Brian?
Brian Borkowski: I think it’s going to be sleep-related. Yeah, I want to plug in my computer and that kind of stuff, but I want to sleep because right now that sleeping time, I’m going to move and travel at night now, and I want a comfortable place to sleep to do it because I’m going to wake up in a new city. I’m not going to spend my daylight hours that I could do other things. I’m going to spend my sleep time whether that be day or night, that’s what I’m going to do in the car as opposed to moving between places.
Ed Bernardon: So, Brian, if you could have anybody, living or from the past, with you on that five-hour trip, when you are awake, who would you pick?
Brian Borkowski: I’d have to go with– We had a grandmother that we never got to meet. She died of cancer early. So, that’s the sappy answer. Because I’d just like to talk to her. I never got to talk to her. But if I had to go into history stuff, I would love to just pick the brain of Nikola Tesla or Einstein. Honestly, just listen, broaden the mind from a totally different perspective, I would love that.
Ed Bernardon: Craig, who would you have on the trip with you?
Craig Borkowski: If I had a translator, it’d be probably Leonardo da Vinci. He was so far ahead of his time. And I just love to understand what’s floating through his head for five hours.
Ed Bernardon: So, for each of you: If could un-invent one thing and magically invent one thing, what are those two things? One, you’d un-invent this thing, and I’d love to invent this; what would it be?
Craig Borkowski: Un-invent for me is social media.
Brian Borkowski: Social media, I agree with him, 100%.
Ed Bernardon: How about invent?
Brian Borkowski: This is getting a little mad scientist, but people build these very elaborate models in 3D spaces, and they test things in those test environments: modeling and simulation. I’ve always wanted to build detailed models of the world, and then test your stuff in that; of real-world spaces in almost real-time. So, if you can imagine through LiDAR and through other technologies, getting an active, evolving 3D model, and then running simulations in those. So, almost like you were putting the thing in the real world. I’ve never understood why there’s a discrete breach, and I’m sure somebody could explain that to me, who’s smarter than me on that stuff. But I’ve always really wanted to merge modeling and simulation and real-world stuff.
Ed Bernardon: Craig?
Craig Borkowski: My brother just going practical, I’m going teleportation.
Ed Bernardon: There you go. The number one most popular answer to that question. All right, final question, and we’re going to let you go. Each of you is going to get the same question — one at a time. Who wants to go first?
Brian Borkowski: Go ahead, Craig.
Ed Bernardon: All right, Craig, tell your brother something about yourself that he doesn’t know. Some deep secret that you’ve been keeping from him that you’ve got to reveal right here in the Future Car Podcast
Craig Borkowski: I’m trying to think of a couple that I could safely say for our family audience, but take a stab at it because I’m struggling on that one. We talk almost every day.
Brian Borkowski: We talk almost every day, so we’re pretty close. I honestly can’t think of something.
Ed Bernardon: A slight variation on the question. For each of you, tell me something that your mother doesn’t know about yourself — that’s got to be easy.
Brian Borkowski: Well, we used to always say that there was a statute of limitations, so we mostly told our parents about all the crazy things but we probably waited five to 10 years. I don’t know if she’s ever gotten the full story about the scavenger hunt, Craig, back in the day.
Craig Borkowski: She got that story, yeah. If I had to go with one because the statute of limitations is over, I once broke into my school building, stole all the test answers for a test, and distributed to the entire class.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, that’s a great one. I hope you got something in return.
Craig Borkowski: I did not, no, it was just something to do.
Brian Borkowski: And similarly, I used to borrow all kinds of chemicals out of the chemistry room at school so I could make set explosives, my brother used to say. I look at that now and think, “My God!” With what’s going on in the world now, the FBI would be involved, and the police and everybody. But it was harmless kid fun of me making concoctions to blow up down in the woods.
Ed Bernardon: Maybe that’s what inspired Craig to get into chemical engineering. Hey, listen, thank you so much for joining us on the Future Car Podcast. It was great.
Brian Borkowski: Thank you, Ed. And can I make one comment that you made me think of? When I mentioned my 16-year-old son, I had a thought the other day as I was teaching him to drive, he’s probably never going to teach his kids to drive. Think about that one for a second.
Ed Bernardon: Yeah. And that’s the things we’re thinking about now. I remember giving talks, maybe even 10-15 years ago, where somebody said, “Oh, the stick shift is going to go away. That’s ridiculous. That’ll never happen.” And now people don’t even make stick shifts anymore. But yeah, you’re right. And does it really matter? It probably doesn’t really matter because if he wants to drive a go-kart or a race car, he’s going to drive it and it might even have a stick shift.
Brian Borkowski: Absolutely, Ed. Thanks so much for having us.
Ed Bernardon: Thank you so much. It’s been great having you on the Future Car Podcast.
Brian Borkowski – Founder, Terra Sound
Brian Borkowski founded Asymmetric Technologies when he left the Army in 2011. Over the last decade he has grown that company and launched two new companies, Asymmetric Unmanned and Terra Sound. He has bootstrap funded all these endeavors and retains sole ownership and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned status of the companies. Brian has recently delegated leadership for the day-to-day operations of all the companies to their respective presidents and is transitioning himself into a founder’s role. His new role will involve managing strategic efforts and resourcing of his portfolio companies.
Craig Borkowski – Board Member and Former CEO, Terra Sound
Craig Borkowski is an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in the specialty chemicals business. Previously he worked for 12 years at Henkel in a variety of roles starting in operations and ending in the M&A group. He then spent 10 years at Momentive, including 6 in Korea, building a global Electronic Materials business before coming back to the US as Chief Strategy Officer. He more recently has focused on niche companies, serving as CEO of TerraSound Technology, LLC, a software services company.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership including hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011. Ed holds an M.S.M.E. from MIT, B.S.M.E. from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
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- The Next Leap for Electric Vehicles with Will Graylin, Indigo Technologies – Part 1
The Future Car Podcast
Transportation plays a big part in our everyday life and with autonomous and electric cars, micro-mobility and air taxis to name a few, mobility is changing at a rate never before seen. On the Siemens Future Car Podcast we interview industry leaders creating our transportation future to inform our listeners in an entertaining way about the evolving mobility landscape and the people that are helping us realize it. Guests range from C-Level OEM executives, mobility startup founders/CEO’s, pioneers in AI law, Formula 1 drivers and engineers, Smart Cities architects, government regulators and many more. Tune in to learn what will be in your mobility future.