Tag Archives: Gadgets

Tech Enlightened

$ Lightbulb

Progress! By definition, smart technology implies intelligence and enlightenment.  Used responsibly, it improves life on a global scale and it begs the question, what happens when a lightbulb is unscrewed?

Once upon a time, people worried that electricity would leak from an empty socket.   And we can understand how they might’ve reached that conclusion, it seems reasonable.

Most great technology that improves life also has the potential to be harmful. There’s a dark side that if left unmonitored could present a real danger. From x-rays to Big Data, we’ve become increasingly powerful and vulnerable all at once.

Technology has become incredibly small, invisible to most microscopes and yet, quantifiably humongous. Usurping our lives but also improving it, making everything we do in real-time tangible and with results that can be analyzed, understood and used for good.

And all the while, our footprints can be tracked, stacked and gathered.  How we do what we do, when we do it, where we’re doing it, analyzed and visualized.  The right questions asked, the algorithm applied and the data collected.

Smart cities that measure pot holes and compute their own capacity-duress until repair, can schedule that pavement crew and reroute traffic, anticipate patterns and give curbside bus arrival updates, all in real-time.   Smart cars can intuitively not start when their drivers are inebriated, and likewise won’t start when they’re not road worthy, offering alternate modes of transportation, in some Uber- Lyft social good package, for free!

Smart  smart technology won’t lie, won’t hide, but what if it could be programmed to monitor the good it does?   Like fear is good.

Being cautious doesn’t mean we won’t proceed, just that we’re mindful in its use, the way we might lean over a window sill; seeing so much and yet careful not to fall out.  we can have the great technology and maintain a survival technique, the flight and fight adrenaline that propels us into action, not darkness.

In a digital world that’s spinning incredibly fast, having a sense of fear might preserve a culture.   Might remind us that we’re a learned society, one that has long been enlightened and free of walls.

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Filed under Big Data, innovation, tech, technology

Unplugged: The Power of a Washing Machine

# Tenement Laundry
What would be the fate of tens of thousands of women, if their washing machines were left unplugged? Or what if the washing machine hadn’t been invented?

Having power doesn’t make us powerful. And it seems, if we’re talking about electricity, using it may in fact, lead to us being powerless or nearly so.

Welcome to the digital world, where recharging cellphones and smart devices is as common as opening up a window to let fresh air in. No one looks sideways. In fact, it’s so common and relatable, that our apathy when someone mentions a dead cell battery is genuine.

From mega-watts to the kilo-watts. From our smart-cities to smart-homes. From our smart-devices to our cellphones. We are all bound to electricity. Our factories and businesses are increasing usage, from the “internet of things” to artificial intelligence (AI) to Clouds and virtual servers, all of these use and require, power. And we need more.

And that’s the other side, the flip side, where one is forced to think about life without power. We’d have to rethink our priorities, from lighting to cooling to where we lived. What need would the upper floors of a skyscraper have, if you had to always climb it’s stairs? And what about our washing machines?

Now that would tell quite a compelling story. The gift of time, both given and taken away. Women would return to the status of a laundress, those 19th century women who spent a day washing laundry, their own or someone else’s. Paid or unpaid, the work would be structured around childcare, because it took so long to complete.

Last month I had a little sampler, when my top load washing machine broke in mid-cycle. By mid, I mean once the washing machine filled with water, it broke. Getting the sopping wet sheets and clothes out of the machine was one part of the equation. It became an equation as I realized just how much of a task I had in front of me, when the bucket didn’t work. I transferred the load to a kid’s wagon, and made multiple trips to the upstairs bathroom. Once there, I sat on the edge of the tub wringing water out for what seemed to be days! My fingernails softened and broke, my hands ached and I lost my mind!

Which brings me back to our problem, that is we have power, but we’re not powerful. And it seems we’re getting weaker.

Technology has spoiled us with gadgets and machines that have improved our lives, but they’ve also lulled us into a false sense of security. With a soft hum of joules per second, the amperage of electricity has carried our load for us, but that’s not always going to be an option to keep our gadgets running and our smart devices powered up.

We’re going to have to look at new ways of doing the old things and let’s be clear, unplugging my washing machine is not an option.

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Filed under cellphone, gadget, solarpower, technology, Wearables, Wi-Fi, Women

Mixing Technologies with Metaphors

$ eggbeater right

As revolutionary as the eggbeater was, it was innovation that freed her from the kitchen!

Technology has a certain knack for curbing and flexing time, so that even if we can’t create it, regenerate or domesticate it, we can work to get around it. By getting a task done in less time or arriving at our destination faster and faster.   We’re constantly working in a timeframe, trying not to lament or anguish over the loss of it, but to enjoy life.  After all, there are no life instructions, but if there were one would read:  “Absolutely No Do Overs”.

So gadgets, like the eggbeater, invented with good intentions and far-reaching implications have always been welcomed.  Not only did it efficiently mix ingredients, but it helped to make baking easier, cutting the cooking time to bake a cake in half!

Additional improvements were made to foods, which helped in preparation, including storage and processing.  Key products like sugar, that had proved difficult to use, sold in blocks or sugar cones that had to be cut and then broken into useable pieces were now being purchased in granulated sweetness!  Flour was now being sold pre-sifted, and the ice box, long vulnerable to melting in the summertime, was being replaced with an electric refrigerator.  Fresh eggs stored indoors!

Cooking ovens became more efficient, with a knob that controlled the temperature of the heat.  Gone were the days of baking disasters– open fires and damp fire wood, that flameless smoky soot.  Now the modern woman had the convenience of coal, gas and electricity with which to run her kitchen.  This ease of cooking led to clichés and it changed pop culture, “If I’d knew you were coming I’d a baked a cake,” was not only a song, it was her carefree attitude.

Women were no longer slaves in America’s kitchens chained to temperamental cast iron stoves.  With her new freedom came time to think and she began to join clubs.  Book clubs, garden clubs, philosophical and reading clubs, these seemed to form and sprout up everywhere.  She had time to think, to discuss her thoughts with other women and to reconsider the world, and her place in it, she became politically aware.

That’s innovation!

From electricity, the eggbeater was redesigned with two separate mixing arms and an ejector button that popped them off for easy cleaning.  Women found an additional use, she could quickly release the mixers and use them to pacify a baby.  Many a toddler was plopped in the middle of a kitchen floor and allowed to lick the cake batter from the mixers.

Technology has always valued time, with a monetary value established for a “by the hour” workforce.  Among men there has long been an equal day’s pay for equal work.  Unions made certain that compensation was fair.  But for some odd reason, that hasn’t had cross over appeal, call it gender inequity.

Hmmmm, maybe we’re mixing technology with our metaphors…

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Filed under gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, innovation, technology

Where the Graphene Sneakers Are

Running on track

“Run faster! Jump higher!” claimed an ad for PF Flyers.  In the 1950’s PF Flyers were the Holy Grail of footwear.  And we bought into the hype, as if wearing sneakers meant we’d be able to walk across water!

Ads convinced us that we could be play better and athletes like Bob Cousy, the basketball player endorsed them.   We were young and a boost in our confidence was like that “Magic Wedge” inserted in the Posture Foundation insole, it was a bit of a lucky charm.

Tire manufacturers found new uses for vulcanized rubber and literally, changed the way games were played.   Sports that required agility and sure-footedness benefitted from sneakers, and in a best case scenario of innovation gave birth to new businesses– sports medicine, physical therapy and fitness programs, which all owe their success to rubber footwear.

Recently, Nike the sneaker guru announced plans to release a new hi-tech power-lacing sneaker and I sighed at the mediocrity of the design.  Because power-laces sound fine when you’re having difficulty bending down to tie a shoelace, but they’re lame and not a worthy of the PF Flyer legacy.

New smart sneakers should exist.  They should be interactive and efficient; offering counter-balance on uneven platforms and compensation of traction on slippery slopes.  Wearers should be free of worry, and be exposed to minimal chances of twisting an ankle and no fear of a torn ligament.   In a Digital Age, hi-top or lo-top techie sneakers should come standard with GPS, as well as muscle pulsation that tones and data gathering processors, all in real time.

Is my idea worth talking about?   It is, if it generates thought.   Whether it’s a lively discussion of data, innovation or sustainability, who really knows, but we do use the task driven, all motivating, action word a lot — RUNNING.

We sure do a lot of it:  running programs, running Apps and running updates.

I’m reminded of a guy, who back in the early 1970’s was out wearing a tee-shirt, shorts and a pair of sneakers in Central Park.  Someone asked him, “What are you running from?”  He spun around and looked behind himself.  He half expected to see a mugger, someone with a dark cap on, lurking in the shadows of the overgrowth, but there was no one.   The question was repeated, “What are you running from?”

“A heart attack,” he replied and kept running.

Innovation is like that, transforming the mundane and making it loom larger than life.  I for one need a pair of hi-tech sneakers, something that makes me run for my health, not after it and I’d like for it to be worry free.

Oh and please let them come with a free shiny brass decoder ring; because that should be a part of the Internet of Things.

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Filed under Apps, Baby boomers, Consumers, Internet of Things, sneakers, technology, Wearables

BigData’s Invisible Hand

binoculars bird eyes2

Technology is wonderful, especially for us, the nation of consumers.

We have a flair for commercialism, created by businesses that once mailed catalogs to our homes, for free.  Thoroughly enticed by their colorful pages of merchandise, we became browsers and took turns flipping through the pages, earmarking the most viewed pages with sugarplum wishes.

It comes as no surprise, that as the holidays approach, technology’s Internet of Things is offering a smorgasbord of possibilities to further delight us, and to make our lives better!   Some finger swipes across a touchscreen, from social media to products purchased to services rendered, will organically link us together, without a common purpose.

Because in a digital world, engaging impressions like Selfies, Tweets and Likes, will be collected and gathered.

Bigdata, the invisible hand of real time analytics, will store, sell and re-distribute free consumer swipes of  creature habits once unattainable due to privacy rights.  Now freely associated with intimate interests, it will link us into smaller demographic groups and create marketing tools in “Consumer Nation”.

Disruption is good when it separates the mediocre, that which isn’t sustainable from the bad, that which might’ve been overlooked.   Sometimes, being lulled into a false sense of security isn’t the worse of it; things like changing your password each month, might be the least effective thing to be done.  Not because of peeking eyes, but because we keep forgetting the new password.   Use your big eyes to see a bird’s eye view.

We are, after all a nation growing older and that’s another issue…  pitfall.

But at some point, when new technology has replaced all of our passwords with retina and fingerprint identification, the old patterns that made us feel secure, will also come back.   Cataracts and wrinkles might undo what’s achieved, but by then we might be backwards compatible.  Bringing back the need for stronger passwords.

Disruption can be like that…

It’s like being asleep in your warm bed, having a lovely little dream.  When suddenly, you’re violently shaken and forced awake by screams, “the house is on fire!”    You’re not mad, you’re grateful.  It’s that scenario that makes you realize that disruption can be a good thing. That the dream, as lovely as it was, was simply in your head… the same place where technology began.

Today’s petri dish for successful startups with new products and new ways to do old things is a joy.   So internet sales rejoice, there’ll be less cars on the roads; less pollution in the air and gas prices will go down.  Less travel on the road equates to more time that we can stay home and watch television, mindlessly swiping our touchscreens and learning the words to catchy jingles.

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Filed under Big Data, Consumers, Eyegalsses, facebook, gadget, Internet, Internet of Things, Marketability, small business, social media, tech, technology, Telephone, Television, Twitter

Thinking Outside The Bubble

1 Internet of everything

 

What’s in a name?

I was thinking that we humans have a tendency to forget things. That is, we walk into a room and fully forget what we came in to get; we drive our car home and forget where we put the car keys.   Well, we should all be able to remember this name.

“The Internet of Things”

Lazy and rather unimaginative, this name does what most names don’t actually do, it defines, describes and categorizes, then answers the question: “What is it?”

Once a theory and quickly realized, anything equipped with a sensor could be in constant communication with a computer processor.  I can almost imagine the first MIT scientists throwing their hands up in technological glee, fully inspired by the sheer volume of their discovery!

Now a coffee pot in their office could “talk” to the refrigerator down the hall.  And both could be programmed to “talk” to humans, as well as machines and more, these enchanted objects would be able to add cream and milk to your grocery list, as well as perform “yet to be thought of” applications.  Big Data (with it’s equally unimaginative name) would gather and collect executable data, which could be analyzed in real time.

Mind boggling and still evolving into what just might be “the internet of nearly EVERYTHING”.

The Digital Age has jettisoned technology closer to a television cartoon with a similar name (The Jetsons).  We don’t have flying cars, but who knows?  Everything seems possible with sensors and a computer’s magical little black box, that processes code.  That leads to technology getting smarter and smarter.

Change is coming, both progressive and disruptive.   It can decimate confidence, shake up the bottom line and place a strain on long standing traditions.  And we’re all prone to its “Goosies”,  that skin tingling sensation induced by excitement or fear or disbelief.

Mature businesses, like older people will feel it acutely, maybe more so than start-up companies and younger, tech savvy people, who never used letterhead on bond paper and couldn’t tell the difference.  But having different efficiency levels shouldn’t be a license to feast, one on the other.

It’s wiser to work together; bartering and collaborating like our ancestors did when they first discovered fire.  And again, when they put fire to a best use practice, smelting iron and forging steel.   Factoid, teamwork will always lessen a load.

We’ll have to use technology smartly, because finger swipes across a screen is not a measure of intelligence.   We’ll also need to put on our thinking caps, which will act as a protective helmet in the event of a crash.

The mind is a powerful bubble making machine, full of ideas.  So, what happens when a thought bubble pops?

I say we harness the gases for propulsion, fasten your seatbelt.   It’s gonna be a helluva ride!

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Big Data, cellphone, Code, Coding, gadget, Internet, ipad, iPhone, tech, technology, Twitter

Park-O-Meter Blues

2 trolley
Who thought it would be possible to miss a parking meter! But I do.

Last week, I watched as two city workers uprooted a few old parking meters. For years, these citadels of curbside spaces had collected coins and kept track of time as it expired. They were mainstays.

Unceremoniously, the two men cut the meter’s pole nearly flush with the sidewalk. They’d push it back and forth to snap the final shred of metal from its base, then they’d lean it up against a shoulder and chuck it up into the truck. One of the men would climb in behind it, while the other hopped into the truck’s cab and they’d drive a little more than a car’s length to the next meter and did the same, then onto the next and so on.

Two city blocks later, each stump was capped and roped off with yellow tape. A temporary sign read “No parking” and the tape, the kind used by the police to mark off crime scenes was knotted tightly.

And so the last of the fully coin operated parking meters, first introduced in 1935, were taken out of commission. It happened without fanfare, no bells were tolled, no military taps were played and no mourners gathered in black to wave goodbye to the Park-O-Meter era.

The notion of a city with “Free parking”, that coveted safe haven on a Monopoly game board, was swiftly removed; as the old poles were retrofitted with new hi-tech meters that seemed to have sprouted overnight. They’re no taller, but stand a little prouder than their predecessors.

These new meters accept all manner of payment, as well as coins. They’re solar powered, wireless, and I’m almost certain that they’ll alert a nearby meter maid of a pending infraction, and worse… they’ll self-generate a virtual ticket that can be e-mailed!

Parking meters are one of society’s greatest motivators. Capable of getting people in and out of stores at break-neck speeds because time does expire. Oh, I’ve known meters. But not like these.

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Filed under Baby boomers, Consumers, Parking, social media, tech, technology

Tech Savvy and Served

1 Tech Platter
Word of mouth sales are no longer limited to the “picket fence” conversation between neighbors. Social media has empowered consumers, but it also weakened the position of “the customer is always right”.

Not so long ago, when you purchased a gadget and it didn’t work, you’d complain. There was an expectation of satisfaction; and sometimes this was guaranteed in writing. It was understood, that if you kept the store receipt, a return within seven days of the purchase, with original packaging would guarantee you an equal exchange or a full refund. No questions, no arguments and without a restocking fee.

Back then, the link between a business’ success and a customer’s satisfaction were closely woven. It was a mature market that kept loyal customers loyal by making good products. The operative word “good” implied integrity– a Maytag machine, a Craftsmen tool and a Peterbilt truck were made to last.

I can’t say when this changed, but it did. Technology with its lightening pace warranted change, and miniscule sizes pushed out products that had their own legacies, called generations. And while the housing remained the same, the processor inside changed.

Generally, the improvement wasn’t fully tested but the product was released and onto store shelves; along with slight glitches and other failings, that if passed under the consumer radar was an “oh, well” shrug of doing business.

Now we accept updates, even expect there to be a few with each new product. Those patches that fix new technology have effectively blocked my complaint in mid-sentence. So, the consumer’s displeasure mostly goes unnoticed, because the problem was already logged and acknowledged before the products were shipped out!

The only thing left for me to complain about is how my smartphone’s battery doesn’t hold a charge. And it’s not because I’m always talking, texting or checking status, but instead it’s the result of all those push notifications that the companies send out in an effort to patch and update my cellphone… to keep it smart and me dumb.

Customer service served.

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Filed under Consumers, Marketability, profitability, social media, tech, Telecommunications

Welcome to the Digital Divide

1 Range Circuit_Board
For years, the digital world seemed to be just up ahead; a futuristic place that existed beyond our dreams and over a mountain, like a rainbow. It culled our imaginations, and made us ask “What if?”

The digital divide seemed accessible by car and markings on the roadway, those dashes painted on the asphalt guided us along, by keeping us in our respective lanes. It was orderly, like life itself.

Trees flew past so fast that they didn’t resemble themselves, instead the blurred images helped fuel our curiosity. From the car’s window we pondered life and the big blue marble, called earth. Road trips had that effect. And when we returned to school we’d have questions, like “What does a cloud taste like?”

On Monday morning, we’d gather in the schoolyard and whisper; a discussion about which questions should be brought up in class; the probable, the impossible and the iffy-iffy.

One student would ask a question, the teacher would answer and then someone else would ask a question. Like a string of pearls in a leap frog fashion- a question led to an answer to a question and another and so on; until finally the bell rang. The class would end and the teacher wouldn’t have taught us anything; and somehow, we felt empowered by the disruption.

It was especially exciting when the teacher realized, albeit too late, that he’d been duped into answering pointless questions. It validated our cleverness and added meaning to our lives. A harmless prank, one in which we delayed progress, that is the day’s lessons and entertained ourselves.

And it’s about to begin again, but this time there’s more at stake. It’s not simply a question of what a cloud tastes like, but rather what exactly can a cloud do with big Data?

Deciding that and what questions to ask isn’t as provocative, as the next question, that is: “How do we protect our information?” and “What information is worth protecting?” and “Is a data breach the only way to know the difference?”

Welcome to the digital divide, a disruption in progress.

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Filed under Big Data, Coding, Consumers, social media, tech, technology

Subdued Technology – Part 2.

cable box circuit 2
I remember when tech stuff looked really cool. Stylishly sleek, with lights that blinked and buttons that created an adventure of discovery, the onset of Razzle-dazzle.

It was a moment that began in awe and quickly became a love-fest; well defined and vetted. Back then technology was exciting and ultra- thin. And that was part of its appeal; that “James Bond. Double “O”, Seven” kind of sleekness.

So cool that the company’s sales department was genuinely impressed by the brushed stainless steel faceplate, the chrome detailing and the black trim along the base. The knobs were replaced with rectangle push buttons, not the round ones. And the caveat of course was the bells and whistles, the added improvements to change one’s lifestyle.

It was awesome! Not only did cable improve television reception, but it came with a remote control and the cable box had a digital clock attached. The clock worked seamlessly and adjusted itself to daylight savings time. And we used it to set every other clock in the house by!

I’ve been a cable customer with the same cable provider for over 20 years. Last week they called and offered me a free upgrade. I like the word “free”. They assured me that there would be no hidden fees, I was simply being rewarded for being a loyal customer. Woot!

“Loyalty,” I smiled, has its perks.

A week later, a new smart box was installed. The technician gave me a quick tutorial, answered a few pertinent questions, and smiled.

Unfortunately the new cable box– a small black square that looks nothing like the old technology, doesn’t have a clock; the beloved time keeper of Day Light Savings in my home is gone!

Sure the new box has potential and it’s on-line to perform with the coming Internet of Things (IoT) and “Machine2Machine” (m2m) technology, but I’m not excited.

I miss the eye appeal; the technology is there but it doesn’t look good. Is there an app for that?

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Filed under Apps, Baby boomers, cable, gadget, Internet, ipad, tech, technology, Telecommunications, Uncategorized