KIDNAPPED


Clamps and Bone TBy Mark T. Wayne

Weeks have passed since my last conscious memory. Weeks, I say! A man can lose his hat and perhaps even his pants, but to lose several weeks is inexcusable. Think what mischief might transpire over such a span of time!

I find myself crammed in the back seat of a slow moving vehicle on an unfamiliar and crowded freeway. How did I get here? I know the date by the prominent display on that infernal wireless device issued me by my employer. Continue reading KIDNAPPED

How Technology Can Influence Social Change


There are currently 1.393 billion monthly active users on Facebook and roughly a billion registered Twitter users. To put this is in perspective, if Facebook were a country, it would be the most populous nation on Earth. Because social media tools and platforms have made it so simple to produce and broadcast a message via smartphone, the faces of activism, journalism and humanitarian efforts have been changed dramatically. Let’s take a look at some of the more remarkable instances where technology has enabled people to get their ideas out to the world and influence social change.shutterstock_272659268

The Haiti 2010 Earthquake

When a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 17, 2010, it killed about 220,000 people, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, and left roughly 30,000 commercial buildings destroyed in its wake. As soon as word got out on Facebook and Twitter, fundraising support campaigns were launched to support the American Red Cross relief efforts. CNN Money reports the American Red Cross was able to raise about $7 million for Haiti in 24 hours via $10 text donations. Because this money was raised so quickly, the American Red Cross was able to provide an influx of support to the Haitian people.

The Arab Spring 2010

In 2010 when Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and many other Arab nations were experiencing political unrest, it was one of the first times in history when average citizens could share their experiences directly with people across the world via Twitter and Facebook, rather than being remediated by a news organization. Young people in Europe and America were able to connect with the youth involved in the conflicts of the Arab Spring, which fostered a social rapport. Much of the Western world became more invested in the outcome of the Middle East’s political struggles.

One University of Washington study found that tweets about political change went from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day during the week of former Egyptian President Honsi Mubarak’s resignation. Throughout the period of instability in the Middle East, traditional news organizations struggled to keep up with the exchanges happening online, and people grew more accustomed to finding their news from social media sites and other alternative sources.

The Hong Kong 2014 Protests

In 2014, thousands of Hong Kong citizens took to the streets to protest a Beijing proposal that would restrict any anti-Chinese Communist Party members from running for office. The activists used Facebook to share videos and photos and an application called WhatsApp, which enabled users to send text messages, images, videos, user location and audio messages across different cellular platforms. Most innovative of all was the use of an application called FireChat, which won the Interactive Innovation Award at this year’s South by Southwest conference, according to the Dish Network blog. FireChat enables phones to create their own network outside of the Internet via Bluetooth technology. Unlike mobile and internet networks that become sluggish or break down completely when users overload the system, the Bluetooth network created by FireChat actually gains strength as more people join. With their creative use of technology, Hong Kong protesters were able to coordinate their movement and stay organized while the occupy-style demonstrations continued for over three months.

How Drones are Changing Industries Worldwide


The drone controversy has been raging for years and will likely continue for many more, but recent proposals by the FAA regarding drone regulations have started to open up and clarify when and where drones can be used. And as technologies continue to advance in the fields of miniaturization, the use of drones becomes more and more appealing in a surprisingly wide range of industries.

Search & Rescue

Search and Rescue operations are one place that the use of drones is obvious. Not only can drones search more efficiently, they can cover more ground in less time. Companies like SAR Drones works in conjunction with S.W.A.R.M. (Search With Arial RC Multi-rotors) to help find missing people all over the world. The advantage of the drones is that once those people are found, Search and Rescue can use the drones to drop off items like food, water, two-way radios, and medical supplies.

Roofing

Drones are now part of the construction industry, as commercial and residential roofing companies use the technology in several ways; a drone can help inspect large areas much quicker, which means that problem areas and possible defects can be identified and repaired faster, decreasing overall costs. A drone can also assist with measurements for roofing cost estimates, as well as laying out designs for customers.

Real Estate

Agents all over the country have been using drones as a tool for real estate marketing and advertising. Drones give agents the opportunity to get videos and pictures from various angles, giving clients and potential buyers a view of the entire house as well as the neighborhood. They can also do video tours of the house, using the drone to fly from room to room in an imitation of someone walking the property, ideal for people wanting to see a home but not able to visit it in person.

Atmosphere

NASA has jumped on board with the drone craze, commissioning several drones for high altitude atmospheric tests to help scientists better understand our environment. The large drone flies 12 miles above the ground and can carry hundreds of sensors and equipment. Alternatively, several scientists in Florida have created tiny but durable drone sensors that are thrown into the path of oncoming tornadoes and hurricanes to help study the destructive storms in an attempt to better understand how they occur and how to better predict them.

Safety

Several police agencies across the country have started using specialized drones in place of helicopters in dangerous situations. These drones are equipped with incredibly powerful cameras containing night vision and heat sensors to help officers in dangerous confrontations such as when search for or diffusing bombs, resolving hostage situations, and chasing armed criminals.

Deliver

Amazon and Google have both been playing with the idea of using drones to deliver products directly to customer’s homes with no need for delivery drivers. These sophisticated drones are equipped with highly accurate GPS devices to drop your packages off right at your front door and can operate 24 hours a day, leading to faster delivery and lowered costs for both the companies and the customers. Companies like Delivery Drone are looking to take it one step further, imagining countrywide transportation and delivery services for everything from holiday gifts to daily groceries.

It’s hard to say where the world will land on drone use and laws. Obviously regulations will be created and modified as time goes on, but the truth is drones are only growing in popularity as more and more people find unique and effective uses for these unmanned vehicles across all industries worldwide.

Is wearable tech going to revolutionize mobile technology?


We’ve been talking about wearable tech for 20 years, but 2015 looks like the year when it’s going to break through in a big way. These are some of the most exciting products you can look forward to over the next 12 months.

 

Smart watches

The big piece of tech everyone’s talking about this year is, of course, the Apple Watch. Even though no-one really knows what it does yet, Apple’s marketing know-how means it’s sure to be a game-changer. It’s not the only smart watch coming out this year, however, so keep an eye out for others, such as Android’s revamped LG G Watch R, which promises to employ 4G technology, and Xiaomi’s eagerly anticipated budget version, which will probably be no less smart.

 

Viper

The ultimate in training aids, Viper was originally designed for soccer players but can be adapted to many different sports. Strapped across the chest, it monitors both your vital signs and the movements you make, providing you with invaluable downloadable data that you can use to track your performance with a view to improving next time around. Already adopted by top athletes, it’s now available on the mainstream market at a competitive price.

 

Skully

A smart piece of crowdfunded tech, Skully is a helmet you can wear on your bike that will give you up-to-date info in a digital display right before your eyes, jet pilot-style. You can see how fast you’re going, how much fuel you’ve used, how far you are from your destination, how to get there, and what the traffic’s like on the way – all without taking your eyes off the road. The helmet also meets the usual crash protection standards.

 

Mimo

In this brave new world, even babies are getting connected. Mimo is a smart onesie that comes with a green plastic turtle that lets parents know not only how well their babies are breathing but also how much they’re moving, how well they’re sleeping, and where they are in their sleep cycles. This can make it easier to optimize bedtimes and feeding times so that parents can enjoy a bit more uninterrupted eating and sleeping themselves.

 

The changing nature of mobile tech

All these new devices create challenges for the established app market. Will our old favorites still be able to work on smaller screens, or will they be superseded? The reality is probably a bit of both. With display technology also getting more interesting, thanks to flexible roll-up screens and mini projectors, small screens are no longer essential to portability. Specialized devices like the above are fantastic for specific sets of tasks, but many people are still going to want more flexible all-rounder devices that give them the power to build in new developments without making major new purposes. The sheer speed of advances in the quality mobile app market means flexibility is a big selling point, so we don’t expect to see more traditional mobile devices going away any time soon.

Watching the wearable tech market is going to be a lot of fun this year, but expect 2016 to be every bit as innovative.

Keeping your Business Up to Speed with Technology


No matter what type of industry you work in, to outpace the competition you’ll need to be able to stay up to date with the latest forms of technology. Whether this involves training your team in basic IT skills or bringing in outside tech consultants, there are a number of ways to make sure you don’t get left behind. Outdated technology can spell disaster for a small business, if important files go missing, your network crashes before a big client presentation, or your customers’ credit card information is stolen by hackers. And a failure to keep up with online and mobile marketing opportunities could cost you bigtime in terms of branding and revenue. So how do you stay up to speed as a small business owner? Here are a few ideas.

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Image Source: Pixabay

Keep up with tech upgrades

Nothing will slow your business’s progress down like outdated software or hardware. If you’re working with servers that are a good decade old, this could bring your whole business to a standstill. Keep in mind that PC hardware and servers have a general lifespan of no more than 5 years, or even less if used frequently. You should be upgrading these as needed. Software should also be upgraded to the latest version whenever possible. You can take advantage of auto-upgrade tools for this, conducting a company-wide IT audit once a year to make sure you’re working with the most recent, high-tech tools.

Create a staff training program

Even if you’re working with the latest programs and brand new servers, this won’t do you any good if your staff isn’t trained to use them. Training is a necessity for all businesses, even if you have a dedicated IT department. Staff members that know the basics of security, networking, and website maintenance can save you a bundle over time, even if you must pay for a useful certificate of training and assessment yourself. With well-trained, well-informed employees and relatively new equipment, you’ll already be miles ahead of many competitors.

Compare file storage systems

If you have amassed a high volume of files, think about finding ways to reduce the physical space needed to store these. Cloud storage can be ideal for small businesses, easing the strain on your networks while keeping important files safe.

Bring in the pros

It’s tempting to save costs as you’re just starting out by putting your computer-savvy friend in charge of the IT duties, but as your business grows you’ll have more complex needs. Whether it’s for training purposes or overseeing your new digital marketing strategy, hire a pro. Ask for certification, references, and credentials to make a good hiring decision.

Don’t skimp on security

Perhaps the most important tech factor for businesses to consider is online security. Just because you haven’t made it big yet doesn’t mean that someone won’t try to steal your data – in fact, it may make you a more appealing target. Don’t rely on a free security app; pay for serious anti-virus software and a pro to make sure there aren’t already problems in your system. You need the latest malware protection to avoid a costly security breach.

By paying attention to these areas, you can help keep your business ahead of the tech curve and avoid getting bogged down by glitches and viruses!

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