Category Archives: Technology

New Tech Allows Researchers to Simulate

Tabletop role-playing games are about making strategic movements within an imagined environment, where small game pieces signify players and points that can be moved across a space to different outcomes. Think the kids in Stranger Things playing D&D in Mike’s basement.

But these games can help solve real-world problems, too. Open-source modeling software called Tangible Landscape, for example, allows landscape architects to combine augmented reality and spatial data to create and modify a simulated section of land, something researchers have used to control diseases like sudden oak death.Tangible Landscape was developed at North Carolina State University by landscape architect Brendan Harmon, associate director of geovisualization Helena Mitasova, and statistician and geographic information system (GIS) programmer Francisco Tonini.

Using current map data and — in some cases — drones to create new map data, the system produces a CNC-cut miniature replica of an area researchers plan to study. A projector overlays data on top of the replica, and might include spatial data about tree density, water flow or past wildfire paths. Small wooden pegs placed on top of the replica can represent waymarks or new areas of development.If a researcher is curious about changes in tree density, for example, they can use gestures on the replica to instantly create values that are sent back to the simulation program to model. While the models aren’t yet 100 percent accurate for future predictions, the layers of geospatial data gives a very close guess.

“The accuracy depends on how well the model has been validated against empirical data,” Tonini says.
Modeling the spread of disease, for example, requires accurate spatio-temporal empirical data to ensure its validity. “Sudden oak death was particularly hard because the symptoms do not show immediately on trees and that can bias the validation process. However, we built our work on a previously peer-review modeling framework that had a good amount of validation already tested on it.”In a recent application, Tonini and the team role-played as a forest manager, a landowner and a conservationist who were concerned about a section of oak trees within Sonoma Valley, Calif., that might be susceptible to sudden oak death. The team mapped out the locations of bay laurel trees, which are a known host to the disease, and began simulating their removal. Factors like money, time and spread of disease were then generated once the trees were removed from the area. One wrong move can derail a campaign, requiring costly fixes.

Android Takes Backseat to Machine Learning

Google I/O is ostensibly about the future of Android, but that changed in 2016 when CEO Sundar Pichai put the AI-powered Google Assistant and machine learning at the forefront, a trend that continued at this year’s show.

At I/O 2017, the phrase “going from mobile first to AI first,” was repeated throughout the opening sessions and definitely set the tone.

In addition to adding to its collection of open-source neural net technology, Google also introduced a more advanced Tensor Flow Unit (TCU), a piece of hardware designed specifically for running and training neural nets. This technology has been made available to developers and researchers on the cloud, and Google doubled down with 1,000 units available for research organizations.The average consumer, however, will likely experience Google’s machine-learning efforts via the Google Assistant. Developers can now build special Actions for this super-powered chatbot, which expands what the Assistant can do. Google unveiled new tools to make interactions like purchases seamless, opening the door for the Assistant to become a money-making platform for developers.

In addition to the ascendance of the Assistant, it was interesting to see all the places where mobile phones were absent. A new Android-based, in-car control system highlighted the Assistant, but doesn’t require a phone. Google Home is getting a slew of updates, but voice calls don’t require a phone; Home will now simply call numbers, for free. It’s a startling move, partly because of its convenience but especially because this is exactly the context where we would expect to see crossover with Android devices.

Popular Google platform iPhone
One noticable point was the number of times the iPhone was mentioned during the series of keynotes at Google I/O. These weren’t offered as points of comparison to show Android’s superiority. Instead, Google treated the iPhone almost as if it were another platform for its developers.
It started when the Google Assistant debuted in the less-than-popular chat app Allo, which launched simultaneously on iPhone and Android. The Assistant next appeared exclusive in the Pixel and Pixel XL phones, but now the Assistant will be everywhere: in cars, in TVs and, yes, in the iPhone. Now that developers can write Actions for the Assistant, it effectively turns the iPhone into an extension of Google’s existing platforms.

The pieces of Android
Android isn’t going away, clearly. Sessions focusing on the changes coming in Android O highlighted new tools and efforts to make developing for Android easier. But there was also a sense of tension as Google starts to take back more and more control of the Android platform. If developers want to target their apps for the new Android O, they have to use the OS’s new notification channels. If not, developers were told in a session, notifications will be dropped.
Android is also popping up in more places beyond the phone. A stripped-down, hardened version of Android will power Google’s IoT platform called Android Things. Several of the changes coming to O regarding power and processor use are also coming to Android Wear, with additional restrictions.
The real question is not what the future of Android will be. With 2 billion active monthly users on Android, it’s clearly a major player in the Googleverse. Rather, Google is pushing hard to turn Android developers into Google Assistant developers, Google Home Actions developers and web developers using the latest tools available in Chrome. That transition is going to be key toward Google becoming an AI first company.

A Different Kind of Space Race

Since its inception in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has affected consumers’ everyday lives without many of us knowing. In fact, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 ensured this quiet influence by including the stipulation “that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.”

Developments in space travel remain crucial to the technological advances we enjoy daily. Long-distance communications, solar energy, artificial limbs, memory foam and household smoke detectors all were first used in space. The smartphones we carry in our pockets are up to a million times more powerful than all of NASA’s computers combined in 1969. Imagine what we’ll hold in our hands 20 years from now.

New horizons, new challenges.
All this advancement brings a different set of challenges. Among these: overheating. It’s a critical operations problem for electronic devices because it can lead to poor performance and — in some cases — dangerous situations.

Samsung made the unprecedented decision to recall all Galaxy 7 phones after 35 of them overheated. Some exploded, rupturing their cases. The number of overheating incidents reported quadrupled after Samsung announced the recal

Opportunities within change.
KULR Technology is among the companies looking to leverage what it’s learned in space and apply those lessons to innovations here on Earth. Michael Mo and Timothy Knowles cofounded KULR (pronounced “cooler”) in 2013. Their basic premise: solve the challenges to keep electronics cooler, lighter and safer in an ethical and environmentally sustainable manner.
KULR’s technology traces its beginnings to the high-performance aerospace industry. The San Diego-based firm has won more than 500 contracts with agencies and companies including NASA, Raytheon, Boeing and JPL. KULR also provided the carbon-fiber-based thermal-management solutions used in the International Space Station, Mars Rover and Mercury Messenger.

Increased demand for computing power.
On a larger scale, the advances made during the past decade require tremendous computing power. Over the next 5, 10 and 15 years, these and other emerging technologies will change how we live.

Focus on performance and sustainability.
Over time, these technologies will increase in consumer base — and consumers will focus more and more on performance. As a device’s number of transistors multiplies, its computing power increases exponentially. In turn, its form factors shrink. But increased density of transistors on a chip has led to performance issues including overheating. That can cause slowed or even broken-down connections.The cycle feeds the need for continued evolution. KULR’s proprietary carbon-fiber-based architecture replaces older aluminum- and copper-based head spreaders and exchanges that were the standard for years. Unfortunately, those earlier particle-based thermal-interface materials are inefficient as well as energy-intensive and less environmentally friendly to produce.

Every Small Business

As business owners, we all know that in one form or another, at least one of our company computers is either going to completely crash, be lost/stolen or will fall victim to virus problems. When most people think of data loss, they think of a crashed hard drive. I did a little digging into hard drive failure rate. Credible and easy to understand research was surprisingly hard to find. But, I did find a self-study conducted by Backblaze. Backblaze is the company I choose to utilize for online backup storage. (Note: I do not receive any compensation for this mention. I just found them to be the best.) The summary from their study is that hard drive failure rate grows to more than 50 percent after 4 years.But what about laptop loss, dropping a computer, getting hacked and/or held hostage or falling victim to virus problems? These events happen on a daily basis. Having an ongoing and easy to manage computer backup plan is critical. Imagine what would happen if your data suddenly became inaccessible for even a whole day, much less multiple days. Your strategy should be to prevent — not fix — an issue.

Here are seven easy to implement tips to prevent a computer crash crisis.
1. Keep critical files on a cloud-based hard drive.
This will create and almost real-time offsite backup for your critical files. I prefer DropBox because I feel they don’t profit as much as Google from indexing and sending advertisements based on personal data. Have you ever tried to store an encrypted file on GoogleDrive? It rejects it. This is because Google makes money reading your data. I spend the $99 for DropBox. It’s easy to use, and I feel more private.
2. Have a local computer backup solution.
On the Mac, this is a no brainer. Buy an external hard drive, plug it in, and use Apple’s built in Time Machine solution. This works amazingly well. If you’re on a Windows 10 machine, have a look at Windows File History and Windows Backup and Restore solutions. These are bare-boned and basic, but they also work very well. For Windows users, take a look at an article by LifeHacker that walks you through it.
3. Have an offsite computer backup solution.
What happens if your computer and external hard drives are stolen, burned or something similar. You’ve still lost all your data because the computer and backup drive are in the same location. This is why you should have an offsite backup solution. I personally use BackBlaze. I tested the various solutions and found them to be the best. They have awesome customers service too.
4. You should have virus protection on both your Mac and your PC.
I use Sophos Personal for my personal machines and Sophos Business for my company computers. It works very quietly in the background. It’s also free for personal machines. I pay for my work machines and no, I’m not receiving any payments for promotion. I never really know this is working, and it never gets in my way. Once in a while, it will give an alert about suspicious activity, but it’s very rare.
5. Ensure you have a modern router and all your firmware is up-to-date.
This is very important. Most people install their routers and just forget about them. It’s nice not to think about them, I get it. But, once a month or once a quarter, log into your router, and ensure you have the latest firmware/software updates. In most cases, these updates will add security features and increase performance. It takes just a couple minutes and is usually a breeze to complete.

Teamwork and Collaboration

I recently wrote about the ways AI and machine learning will impact productivity. For this article, I’m focusing on teamwork and collaboration. I reached out to founders, productivity experts and futurists who work in this space every day to ask what their predictions are for the next five and 10 years. Their answers were enlightening.

The future isn’t just coming for personal productivity; experts also believe that advances in technology will strongly affect teams and organizations. From productivity platforms that seamlessly integrate the tools we depend on, to new ways to collaborate in an ever-more diverse and distributed workforce, here’s how the future will affect team productivity.

Embrace the power of teams.
When I asked Dom Price, the head of R&D at Atlassian, he said, “The future of productivity is all about unleashing the potential of your teams.” According to him, “90 percent of organizations claim to be tackling issues so complex they need teams to solve them.” This doesn’t bode well for organizations in which collaboration has not become a priority.
Price further stated that, “Diversity, distribution, timezones, cultural differences and hierarchical reporting lines all make teamwork hard. We all need to unlearn some old ways of working, and embrace diversity, inclusion and better collaboration to drive team productivity in this new era of work.” I think that as teams become more distributed in the modern workforce, wether its because of politics or the war for talent, collaboration is the number one factor that companies need to implement.

It started with email.
Bret Taylor, former CTO of Facebook, inventor of the “Like” button and co-founder of productivity suite Quip, sees a solution to this challenge in the way communication has changed to become less formal in recent years. He believes that “connected, mobile and social — work is about communication. It’s about people sharing work, ideas and opinions.”
Like many of the experts I spoke to, Taylor sees the future in the form of modern productivity suites that are no longer just “designed to augment email.” “Combining content and communication into a single, seamless experience — word processing, spreadsheets, chat, checklists, live editing and much more. Everything will happen in one place, vastly reducing the need for teams to send long email threads with clunky attachments, or waste time in endless meetings.”

Visual communication moves up.
Others see the solution to this challenge in the form of even more casual communication techniques. Wendy Hamilton, CEO of TechSmith, sees the future in video and screencasting.
“As younger workers progress higher in their careers, they are setting the standard for communication in a workplace and they are leading with a preference for visual communication.”
She believes that “from corporate training to marketing, video will become ingrained in the fabric of how companies operate, both internally and externally.”
“Businesses both small and large are using this technique to demonstrate processes, improve communication efficiency and effectiveness, increase productivity and eliminate unnecessary meetings,” she adds.

Enterprise App Improvements to Watch For

If you are an entrepreneur, chances are you have been courted by numerous enterprise software companies, pitching how their solution can boost your sales, increase your user engagement or maybe even reduce budget expenditures. If you have worked in larger corporate settings, you are also likely to know that enterprise software, while useful, often ends up creating more work for the end user.

You are not alone. In fact, more than 96 percent of executives admit that at least some of the enterprise software they have purchased over the years has been shelved due to obsolescence or challenges using the product. While products naturally become outdated, SaaS products should retain their value through consistent management and updates. Unfortunately, this is also rare.

1. Consumer grade enterprise apps.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are notoriously clunky and hard to customize. The consumer app revolution, however, has brought a new wave of innovative tech startups to the scene, showing how easy it can be to manage systems and data through modern apps. “Business and IT should be able to work together to address the needs of human beings quickly and efficiently,” McElrath explained. “Instead of using software that forces people to behave like machines (or like a vendor wants them to behave), together, business and IT can force software to behave more like humans.”

2. Unifying apps and platforms.
Most companies use several ERP solutions and struggle to piece together all the data they collect. That is why software companies are working to build platforms that sync various tools and systems in more useful ways. “Most companies use several systems of record, but struggle to piece together all the data they collect. It is worthwhile to use the technology you have in place already, working in tandem with existing systems to add huge value,” McElrath said.
Companies that can offer new solutions without forcing people to archive old software stand to gain significant market share by reducing the cost and risk associated with taking on a new ERP platform.

3. Internet of Things on the rise.
With the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices growing each year, many companies are already considering how connected objects can help them gain actionable insights for enterprise use. The challenge will be finding scalable solutions that can work together.For entrepreneurs, it is essential to find the right partners who can leverage existing software they already own, while upgrading efficiency and usefulness. Taking time to research and find the right solutions will no doubt result in increased adoption of new enterprise solutions without the stress that usually accompanies such decisions.

Technology Is Shortening the Road to Fame

It wasn’t that long ago that Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube by Usher. Katy Perry, Macklemore, Psy and Lana Del Rey are others who used this online video platform to get noticed when music industry executives wouldn’t pay attention to them. Thanks to this social media platform and mobile technologies, the road to fame has changed and helped many artists, including musicians and voice-over talent, get the attention they deserve while winning a fan base in the process.

Apps that find gigs.
Voice-over actors now don’t have to rely on jobs coming to them or hoping an agent lines up gigs. Saving time and money on not having to race to various in-person gigs means these talented individuals can locate more voice-over work and carve out a career they define. Previously, they had to depend on agencies and share their earnings in exchange.The actors are now using available apps much like those used by other types of freelancers for locating work. is one example of how digitizing the voice-over industry is removing layers of paperwork and putting the talent in contact with gigs directly. Voicebunny is another site where talent is able to conveniently find work while various types of companies can also be assured they will connect with the talent they seek.

Apps that “discover” talent.
Seeing what YouTube has been able to accomplish led to the idea that a special platform could be created that would help aspiring singers make much more polished and professional videos that improve their chances of getting noticed. StarMaker has become the largest online talent network in the world with over 45 million users. The platform works with the major record labels, publishers, agents, and agencies to also connect this talent with those forces in the music industry who can help to make them famous.
Recently, StarMaker partnered with the new season of American Idol, set to launch in 2018 on ABC, to develop a contest that gives 10 talented individuals a front-of-the-line pass to go directly to an audition with the producers of the show.

Platforms that fund bands.
Musicians have also discovered that crowdfunding is something that can work for them so they can independently produce their own music and make it available for sale rather than hoping to convince a music label to sign them. All types of bands have done successful campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo among others, building a fan base and giving them direct access.

Accelerating a Boom In the Food Business

As diets change, food prices climb and corporations fail to come up with innovative ideas, investment in the food tech industry is still a valuable prospect.

Advancements in data and technology have led to incredible developments not only in the way we grow and harvest our food, but also in the way we obtain and consume it. From seed to table, technology is affecting the entire food supply chain in remarkable ways.It’s time for entrepreneurs in the industry to reap the benefits. By leveraging the latest advancements from agriculture to food service, restaurateurs can craft a top-quality experience that’s sure to keep hungry customers coming in.
Aggregating agriculture.
Much like fintech or martech, advancements in the food sector are increasingly based on technologies that enhance our relatively newfound ability to collect, store and analyze data.For restaurateurs looking to cash in on this new frontier, these three avenues could give their establishments a high-tech advantage over the competition:
1. Source ingredients from “smart” farms.
While many of the factors affecting a restaurant’s success or failure can’t be controlled, one that can is the food itself. Serving a high-quality meal begins with sourcing high-quality ingredients, and there’s no better way to ensure quality than through the latest tech.Many farms today are highly sophisticated, tech-driven operations, whether they’re family-owned or run by large corporations. Telematics products offered by companies like Trimble, John Deere and AGCO help farmers get more out of their expensive equipment by enabling them to easily transfer location, navigation, prescription application and other data between machines.
2. Minimize farm-to-table tampering.
Food safety has been a hot topic over the past few years, and for some companies — Chipotle, for example — public food safety concerns have led to PR nightmares. In response to the public outcry that erupted after several cases of E. coli and norovirus were linked to the chain in 2015, Chipotle temporarily closed all of its franchises for a companywide health safety meeting last year.
3. Go hands-off and tech-on with restaurant management.
Like farms, restaurants are increasingly becoming tech-driven operations, and like farmers, restaurateurs have a growing array of tools at their disposal to maximize efficiency and food quality.

Platforms like Upserve represent a new generation of restaurant technology that takes some of the guesswork out of managing an eatery, empowering restaurateurs to make decisions based on customer data. Upserve’s restaurant management platform produces a wealth of data, enabling restaurants to analyze what types of meals keep customers coming back and emboldening managers to build menus that make the most of the ingredients on hand and drive more revenue

Protect Your Business From Cyber With These Tools

Cyber crime damages are predicted to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015, according to a report from my company, Cybersecurity Ventures. Nearly half of all cyber attacks are committed against small businesses.Considering the statistics, it’s not a question of if a small business will be hacked, but when. Small businesses don’t have big budgets for cybersecurity, but there’s a myriad of free tools they can use to protect themselves against digital intruders.

Free email security protection
Email theft is one of the most popular cyber crimes, and it exposes small business login IDs and passwords to hackers.
The recent Equifax breach caused roughly 143 million U.S. consumers to have their email credentials and other information accessible to hackers. That equates to around 55 percent of Americans age 18 or older who have been affected. Last year’s Yahoo and LinkedIn hacks exposed hundreds of millions of user accounts to hackers.A large chunk of the email addresses that are stolen and sold as a result of these hacks belong to small businesses, and their employees. Stolen email addresses are for sale on the dark web, a part of the world wide web that requires special software to access. Cyber criminals buy and sell login IDs and passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card digits and other on darknet sites. If a small business has its email addresses accessible to hackers, the results can be devastating.It’s frightening to think of the confidential information that a cyber thief will find when browsing through inboxes, sent messages and folders.But, there’s free email protection that takes less than five minutes to set up.n a nutshell, two-step verification means that in order to gain access to an email account, an extra step is required.

Free cybersecurity tools
Global spending on cybersecurity products and services is predicted to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the next five years, from 2017 to 2021, according to another report from Cybersecurity Ventures.
The thought of spending money they don’t have scares off small-business owners when it comes to cybersecurity. They just deal with the fallout after they get hacked. But, cyber protection doesn’t have to break the bank.

Free cybersecurity glossary
For small-business owners and IT managers who want to bone up on cybersecurity, check out The A-Z List of Computer Threats from Sophos.

If that’s not enough, Cybersecurity Ventures maintains a list of glossaries for looking up more advanced cybersecurity and cyber warfare terms.

Learn Wireframes Before Hiring a Web Developer

As someone who has been on both sides of the contract, as a freelancer and as a client, one of the most welcome things you can possibly do for a freelancer is assist them with their job in a meaningful way.

Are you the client from hell?
When it comes to web development, that means two things. First, read through Clients From Hell and strive to never be “that guy.” Second, be ready to present your web developer with a wireframe.
When I say the word wireframe, what do you picture? If you’re thinking 80s CGI and polygonal models, you’re a bit off the mark. A web design wireframe is like that polygonal skeleton, but for a website.

What’s a wireframe?
It’s a graphical layout and design that doesn’t require any coding, image manipulation, or even anything more than putting a pencil to a sheet of graph paper. Just check out some of these examples.
A wireframe is an incredibly useful tool for a web developer. It shows them exactly what you have in mind and gives them an idea of the scale of various elements, the crucial elements you want included in your pages. The wireframe is sort of the coding trickery they might need to implement to make it all happen.
This way you don’t surprise them with “oh, and by the way, I want the navigation on the sidebar” or “hey, actually, can you make that static image a slideshow?”
You’ll save time, you’ll save money, and you’ll save the blood, sweat, and tears of both you and your web developer.

But wait! I’m scared.
If you’re scared about the complexity of a wireframe, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to make a full-scale design of every page on your site. All you really need are the basics. You’ll want to know where you’ll have your navigation and what sort of layout you want for product pages.
You’ll want a couple of details about how many extra slots you need for article thumbnails or the other related products. Some of the wireframes in the gallery above are very simple, no more than a handful of boxes nested in other boxes, but it’s still enough for a web developer to get started.
Plus, remember, it’s part of the developer’s job to help you refine the design. They can tell you “hey, this design is a little cluttered, what if we cut this and moved that over there?”

Modern design is a key.
They can tell you that modern design standards suggest you shouldn’t have your navigation on the right side in the gutter. They can use your wireframe as a base. It just cuts out the first five or six back-and-forth prototyping phases the developer would normally have to go through to get to this stage with you.