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Opinion Editorials

Why this is the year the “Internet of Things” will explode

(Tech News) Your fridge, thermostat, car, and sprinklers can all talk to the web now, representing the “Internet of Things,” and it’s about to explode in a huge way.

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From 0 to 60 in 20 short years

Can you imagine life without the internet? I can’t. But 20 years ago most of us (except for you geeks out there) were perfectly fine without it. That was 1994.

A few years later we couldn’t imagine doing business without email and the world wide web. And a few years after that, we couldn’t imagine not having broadband internet in our homes.

What made the internet so critical to our lives?

I sat down with my friend Antonio Rodriguez, a serial tech entrepreneur originally from Monterrey, Mexico (he founded Mexico’s first internet portal as CTO of Mexico’s Reforma newspaper) who now calls Austin home.

We talked about the coming age of the Internet of Things, but to understand where we are now, he had to give me a quick economics and history lesson on the internet. The rapidly falling cost of modems and internet access coincided with tremendous advances in technology to make the internet ubiquitous. It quickly became an essential part of our lives.

Well, we’re at that point again.

The Internet of Things is about to explode

Pretty soon, says Rodriguez, we’ll be living in fully automated homes made possible by internet connected appliances, doors, windows, garages and little devices everywhere, all controllable by apps on our smartphones.

Rodriguez pointed out Austin company WigWag, which has already gotten in on the act. Combining low-energy internet protocols, motion and temperature sensors, and smartphone apps, here are a few things they say you can do with their smart device:

  • Your house lights will turn on automatically when you walk in the house, and turn off when you walk out.
  • If you’re about to walk into a sprinkler watering the sidewalk, the sprinkler will temporarily turn off.
  • You’ll be alerted when the (snail) mail gets delivered.
  • When you walk up a dark staircase or down a dark hallway, your path will light up automagically.

WigWag’s device is not a ready-to-go appliance, it’s the building block for a build-your-own approach – great for geeks and hobbyists but not entirely practical for your average consumer.

But that was last year. Rodriguez told me that 2014 is the year the internet of things will really take off.

Why now?

4 Reasons the Internet of Things will explode this year

Rodriguez is a developer, an engineer, and a tinkerer at heart. He’s a huge fan of the Maker Movement, and he’s fully immersed in 3D printing and the low-cost technologies that are making this possible. Here’s what he told me:

1. Energy consumption for internet connectivity for devices has gone way down
In 2013 Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), or Bluetooth 4.0, was introduced into the market. If you have an iPhone 4, you probably have it. Battery life for those little miniature batteries that power this new Bluetooth technology can be extended to a year or more. A huge improvement over previous generations of Bluetooth.

How is this possible? These devices remain dormant until a sensor turns them on just long enough to send a signal, and then they immediately go back into sleep mode. They only use energy during those little nanoseconds when they’re needed.

2. The price of technology has gone way down, just like modems in the 90s
The little chips and sensors used to manufacture these new devices are now down into single digit territory, meaning aspiring entrepreneurs can manufacture their products affordably, offer them at consumer price points, and still make a decent profit.

3. The Maker Movement has exploded
3D printing and the falling cost of sensors, chips and other critical components for the internet of things have made sophisticated high tech items accessible to everyone. Well, accessible to geeks that is. For example, Austin already has it’s own Maker gathering point, the ATX Hackerspace, with 8,000 square feet of space for “artists, designers, engineers, makers and hackers…” It’s equipped with soldering and welding equipment, 120V, 240V and 3-phase power. Essentially, it’s a geek’s wet dream come true.

4. Crowdfunding has become mainstream
Most would-be “Internet of Things” entrepreneurs are going straight to their market through Kickstarter campaigns. Check out these cool projects:

  • The Ring, a gesture controlled, wearable input device
  • Bringrr™, a tracking and reminder device to help you track what you’ve lost or remind you to not forget things you need

No waiting for VC funding, or even angel funding. Go straight to the market, prove your concept with real customers, and deliver. That’s market validation!

Rodriguez is planning a really cool Austin-based internet connected device too, but I can’t reveal it here – not yet. He’d have to kill me.

As we finished our conversation, Rodriguez told me it’s only a matter of time when our homes and workplaces will be completely automated by little web-connected devices. We won’t be able to imagine life without our connected spaces. 2014 is the year it starts to happen on scale.

Fernando Labastida has been writing content in both Spanish and English for the last seven years, starting with his first Spanish-language effort, LatinITMarketing.com. He is the founder and CEO of Content Propulsion, a content marketing agency whose mission is to help Latin American companies enter the U.S. market, U.S. companies enter the Latin American market, and Austin companies conquer the world, with a content marketing approach.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gabe Sanders

    March 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    OK, call me old and maybe not completely in touch with the Internet generation, though I think I’m somewhat tech savvy. But, the thought of everything being connected to the web scares me. The possibilities of third party attacks and intrusions is the problem.

  2. Pingback: How to Live Healthier? Monitor Your Sleep via #IoT | iTelNews

  3. Pingback: EarlySense & SAP HANA Cloud Platform Can Improve Your Sleep - SAP HANA

  4. Pingback: A fun, brief overview of the History of the Internet - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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