January 30th, 2014
New technologies have made workplaces more efficient. It’s easy, for example, for employees to use video conferencing technology to hold meetings with their fellow workers around the world. But new tech can also leave employees feeling isolated. Not surprisingly, new communication technology has taken away much of the face-to-face aspect of the business world. But Natalie Burg, writing for tech provider Unify, says that tech doesn’t have to make the workplace a less human place. It’s all up to companies to deploy their technology properly.
As Burg writes, many employees bemoan the fact that little communication today happens in a face-to-face setting. Instead, conference calls and e-mail chains are the primary ways in which employees communicate with one another. Workers log long hours working as part of a virtual team. While some workers may be dissatisfied with this, Burg writes that the dependence on tech doesn’t have to be a negative thing…if companies use the tech in the proper way.
Companies don’t need to abandon new tech. They just need to evolve to take advantage of it. Think of companies with offices spread throughout the world. An employee in the United States doesn’t have to sit in an office until 8 p.m. to convey a key fact to a fellow worker in Hong Kong. Instead, that employee can send a quick e-mail from the dinner table at home. That’s using technology to make life a bit easier for workers.
As Burg writes, employees who are happier are often more productive, too. Employees today don’t really want to be tied to a desk all day. They’d preferably depend on mobile tech to do the work they do on the road, at whatever schedule fits them best. It makes sense for companies to find ways to make their workforces more mobile. If their workforces are happier, you can bet this will show up in their bottom line.
January 28th, 2014
Tablets have given a major boost to retailers. All things considered these devices, which have turned into mini computers that you can easily carry in your hand, are huge business. Forbes columnist Ethan Gach writes that Walmart sold more than 1.4 million tablets during its Black Friday sale in November. But Gach also pointed out another surprising beneficiary of tablet sales: the producers of comic books.
The tablet, comic book match
The publishers of comic books understand just how popular tablets are with consumers. They already know that tablet sales are expected to meet or exceed the combined sales of desktop computers and laptops in 2015. Furthermore they realize that consumers like reading comics on tablets. It’s a natural fit.
The rise of Comixology
Apps that make reading comics on tablets available have seen huge growth, as well. Gach highlights Comixology, an online comic book retailer that is leading the way in this field. The company reached 200 million comic downloads a few months ago, Gach writes. That’s a remarkable number.
Because Comixology offers comics in the digital space, the company doesn’t have to worry about space issues. That’s a challenge that hits brick-and-mortar comic shops: How do they find room for all of the titles that their customers might want? Comixology, of course, can afford to offer lesser-known titles that don’t come from the powerhouse DC or Marvel brands. This is very good news for comics fans, and for comics publishers. Digital reading and comics may be a perfect match.
January 23rd, 2014
Think the nation’s largest retailers don’t know exactly what you like to purchase and how much you typically spend on a shopping trip? Think again. According to a recent story by the Wall Street Journal — one that is both intriguing or horrifying, depending on your perspective — retailers are relying on technology to keep track of your shopping exploits.
The Journal story says that in U.S shopping centers across the nation, small electronic gadgets — often tucked into areas where shoppers congregate — keep track of shoppers’ cellphones. Other trackers located around the shopping centers will chart shoppers’ movements, giving mall operators and retailers information on how long customers stand in lines and where they frequently shop.
An ongoing trend
The Wall Street Journal states that this shopping technology is far from rare. The story cites data from The Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank, saying that about 1,000 retailers have equipped their stores with sensors that monitor the activities of shoppers. The explanation for this snooping? Retailers hope they’ll learn enough about their customers’ shopping habits to gain an edge over their competition.
Consumers, of course, aren’t thrilled to hear about this high-tech monitoring. The Wall Street Journal reports on the negative reaction from customers of Nordstrom once they discovered the retailer’s tracking technology. It’s not clear whether or not Nordstrom will continue their tracking program, with a company spokesperson telling the Journal that the program was merely intended as a trial run. One thing’s certain, however, today’s shoppers should not expect any sort of privacy when they’re browsing the store.
January 21st, 2014
Do we really need a high-tech shower curtain? What about snow gloves than enable you to answer phone calls and listen to music while you’re shoveling your front walk? Thanks to new technology, we can now actually get these devices.
High-tech in the shower
The Huffington Post recently took a look at some products that we didn’t know needed high-tech upgrades. First, the Post covered the iPad Musical Shower Curtain, retailing for an affordable $39.95 from Hammacher Schlemmer. The curtain includes built-in speakers that deliver music from your smartphone or iPad while you are enjoying your hot shower. The device comes with waterproof touch controls on the inside of the curtain that let you control your iPad or smartphone and answer phone calls. That’s right, now you have to answer calls from your boss even when you’re showering.
Snow removal, the high-tech way
Shoveling snow has never been a particularly high-tech task. Until now. The $120 Snow Gloves from Beartek allow you to listen to music, make calls and receive them. That’s because the gloves connect wirelessly to your smartphone. You can chat up your spouse without taking a break from your shoveling work.
These devices, nifty as they are, beg a question: Are we too preoccupied with technology today? Do we honestly need shower curtains that let us talk on the phone while soaping up? Can’t we shovel snow without taking a break to chat with someone on our smartphones? These are big questions, ones to consider while calling into the office while you’re rinsing shampoo out of your hair.
January 16th, 2014
No one would argue that Samsung is not a dominant force in the smartphone and tablet industry. Consumers are flocking to these devices. But the word “consumers” is the key one in that last sentence. Despite Samsung’s successfulness in selling tablets and smartphones to consumers, it still has a lot of work to do to lure business leaders to consider its phones.
A recent story in the Wall Street Journal took a look at Samsung’s successes in the consumer world and its struggles in attracting business leaders to grant their smartphones a shot. The Wall Street Journal says that, if Samsung wants its big growth spurt continue, it’ll need to change this. The company will need to convince the business world that its smartphones are ideal for both executives and employees.
But to accomplish this, Samsung must first boost its mobile security measures, according to the Wall Street Journal. Samsung’s mobile security system, known as Knox, hasn’t earned rave reviews from the business community to date. The system has been hit with delays and operating problems. This, understandably, has made business execs skeptical.
Taking aim at BlackBerry
But there is reason to believe that Samsung can improve its smartphone presence in the business world, according to the Journal story. BlackBerry, because of its security system, had long dominated this market. But the Canadian smartphone maker is experiencing well-documented problems of its own. If Samsung can boost its mobile security, according to the Journal story, the chances are good that it could steadily increase its share of the business market.
January 14th, 2014
Why does the federal government struggle so mightily with technology? That’s the big question following the disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. Even though this healthcare website was especially troubled, it’s definately not the first example of the government falling when rolling out new technology.
A dismal history
The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story displaying some of the problems the federal government has had when it comes to debuting technology. Problems with Healthcare.gov are well-known. But a lesser known, though still shameful, disaster occurred last year when the government’s General Services Administration released its SAM.gov website. This website was designed to combine nine different contracting databases into one website. Not only was SAM.gov’s launch eight weeks behind schedule, the site didn’t work correctly once it finally went live. The General Services Administration was forced to take the site offline to fix its many problems.
Again, as the Times story shows, the struggles of SAM.gov and Healthcare.gov should come as a surprise to no one. The federal government has shown that it has little to no ability to properly roll out new technology. Based on the Times story, government websites crash much too often. And the federal government is often failing in its efforts to modernize outdated tech. Just as frustrating? The U.S. Military has spent millions of dollars on new tech which it never even uses.
The Times story says that website problems occur in the private sector, as well. Government failures, though, seem more egregious. Based on the story, the federal government will spend more than $76 billion this year on information technology. But a federal report released earlier this year found that 700 government tech projects were suffering problems. Those tech projects account for a combined $12.5 billion.
January 9th, 2014
Here’s some bad news straight from InformationWeek: It turns out that the United States is no longer the leader in the world of technology. The truth is, the country has started to become a laggard, as per InformationWeek commentator Kevin Coleman.
According to Coleman’s column, the United States is losing pace in comparison to other countries when it comes to making significant investments in technology, research-and-development and science. The United States also faces an ever-growing threat from savvy cyber criminals. It results in a big concern if the United States wishes to remain a predominant force with regards to technology.
Not always this way
There was a time, a short time ago, when all countries looked up to the United States when it came to technology and innovation, Coleman writes. And it’s true that the United States spends more on technology and research-and-development than does any other country. Even so the gap between the United States and its closest competitors is shrinking, Coleman writes.
China on the rise
As Coleman writes, the BBC has forecasted that by the end of this year China will rank in front of the United States when it comes to scientific output. China has now bypassed Japan to rank second in the world in this category. Coleman’s column also points to a U.S. Intelligence Community report stating that the United States’ dominance in technology is slowly but steadily fading. So what can the United States do to reverse this trend? As Coleman writes, investing more in high-tech education can help. Only by doing this, can the United States create the next generation of great scientists and researchers.
January 7th, 2014
The arrival of a new technology always comes along with plenty of excitement. And why not? We always envision how new technology will alter not only our lives but the world, too. However, most new technology has a smaller impact on the world than we envision. That’s the unhappy truth about new technology: Regardless of how cool it is, it hardly ever changes our world substantially.
The truth about tech
The website Gizmodo recently took a amusing look at new technology and its impact, running a chart on its website listing all the possibilities that come with a new technology. Can it make us geniuses? Will make us more empathetic? Could it bring world peace? Could it make us all morons? The answer to these questions? According to Gizmodo, it’s “no”.
Consider the social media boom. Yes, Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we talk with our family members, friends and co-workers. But social media has hardly changed the world. The world still faces serious problems. And there aren’t many forms of new technology that can change that, which the Gizmodo story shows.
One thing never changes
Of course, there’s one thing that never changes. As the Gizmodo story says, teens makes use of new technology to get into trouble and irritate their parents. Just think, after all, of how much trouble teens have gotten into with Facebook and Twitter. That, Gizmodo says, won’t ever change, regardless of what new technology shows up.
December 30th, 2013
Want to go to the moon? Want to journey through the deepest recesses of outer space? Maybe you should a Kickstarter campaign to fund your dreams? Surprisingly, crowdfunding is becoming an key part of the private space race. A recent story by PCMag illustrates how.
An elevator into space?
The PCMag story details the efforts of Michael Laine, former NASA engineer and the founder of LiftPort. He’s working to develop a new, rocket-less way to get to the moon, what he calls a lunar elevator. Will it work? Who knows? But Laine has attracted the eye of investors through a Kickstarter campaign. His goal for the campaign had been to raise $8,000. Instead, it raised a remarkable $110,000.
Why it’s needed
NASA provided an opportunity for private entrepreneurs to get into the space race after it killed its shuttle program and put a hold on its own space plans. Entrepreneurs are now hitting the market with their own plans to explore the cosmos. And, as the PCMag story says, crowdfunding is increasingly providing the seed funds for these efforts.
For another example of space-age crowdfunding, PCMag spotlights asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources. This company ran a Kickstarter campaign to generate $1 million to develop a low-Earth orbit telescope. The campaign earned more than $1.5 million from 17,600 supporters in just 32 days. The company plans to use the excess funds to search deeper into space, perhaps for alien worlds.
December 26th, 2013
Think this holiday season is the very first time that big-name video-game makers have fought for the dollars and hearts of shoppers? Not a chance. Yes, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are set to fight it out this holiday season. But, as a recent story by PCMag.com shows, video-game console wars are nothing unusual. Here’s a brief history of the battles between video-game companies.
The Atari 2600 dominated the home video-game industry in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. As PCMag says, this console — despite its rather limited graphics and game-play power — didn’t have many serious contenders. Mattel experimented with the Intellivision, taking on the Atari in a series of attack ads. Nevertheless the Intellivision never caught on like the Atari 2600.
The brawl: Sega vs. Nintendo
From 1989 through 1994, Nintendo was the number-one video-game maker in the us with its NES and Super Nintendo. The company, though, had a respectable challenger with the Sega Genesis, which used the famed attack ad “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” to take on its rival. Sega never did surpass Nintendo, but it sure made an appealing challenger.
Microsoft vs. Sony
Today, the home-gaming war is a three-way battle. Microsoft, with its Xbox series, and Sony, with its PlayStations, typically fight for the dollars of hardcore gamers. Nintendo has taken a different approach with its Wii consoles, targeting casual and family gamers. Which system is the fan’s favorite? We’ll find out more this holiday shopping season.