Using tech to create happier workers

On January 30, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Are you annoyed by the long chain of e-mail messages in your inbox each morning? Do you wish you could speak to your co-workers in person rather than over Skype? You’re not alone. Many employees lament that new technologies have removed much of the face-to-face work of the business world. But Natalie Burg, writing for Unify, says that new tech does not have to make a workplace less people-friendly.

Isolated

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 main ways in which workers communicate with one another. Employees log long hours working as part of a virtual team. While some workers may be unhappy with this, Burg writes that this reliance on tech doesn’t need to be a negative thing…if companies utilize tech in the proper way.

Evolve

Burg says that companies don’t have to abandon technology. Instead, they need to make sure their tech evolves to help keep the human element in the business world. For example, companies often mention work-life balance. Technology might actually help employees make that happen. As Burg writes, it can be a a valuable thing if employees have the ability while sitting at the dinner table to send a quick e-mail message to a colleague across the country. This tech allows the employee to leave the office an hour earlier, definitely a good thing.

Happier employees

As Burg writes, employees who are happier are usually 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 their work on the road, at whatever schedule fits them best. It makes sense for companies to figure out ways to make their workforces more mobile. If their workforces are more content, you can bet this will show up in their bottom line.

 

Digital comics are hot

On January 28, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Tablets have become hot sellers. Consumers seem to love these devices. As Forbes columnist Ethan Gach wrote in a recent column, consumer experts estimate that tablet sales will outpace the sales of laptops and desktop computers combined by 2015. But tablets aren’t just a boon to the retailers who sell them. They’re also giving a boost to a fairly sluggish comic-book industry.

Spider-Man on your tablet

The big comics publishers – Marvel and DC – along with smaller companies have, after initial reluctance, adopted the digital publishing of their books, Gach writes. That’s smart. Reading comics on a tablet is actually a pleasurable experience. Comics and tablets, in fact, seem like a match made for one another. And comics publishers can’t afford to turn away any prospective revenue streams.

Comixology

Apps that make reading comics on tablets available have seen huge growth, too. Gach highlights Comixology, an online comic book retailer that is leading the way in this industry. The company achieved 200 million comic downloads a few months ago, Gach writes. That’s a remarkable number.

Unlimited space

Comixology operates in the digital arena. Which means it can offer a greater variety of comics than your average comic-book shop. Brick-and-mortar retailers face limited space. Digital sellers like Comixology don’t. They, then, can provide more obscure titles, benefitting the comics industry as a whole. And for fans? Digital comics are a great way for them to read most any title they would like.

 

The controversial tech of shopper-tracking

On January 23, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Privacy is becoming a rare commodity. And shoppers really shouldn’t expect any when they’re browsing malls and department stores. But new technology that enables retailers to track shoppers’ movements and spending habits in real time is raising new questions about privacy. A new story in the Wall Street Journal has a detailed look at the tracking technology that retailers are using.

High-Tech

As reported by the Wall Street Journal story, retailers today rely on a host of small electronic gadgets to track where their customers are traveling inside their stores, how much they purchase and how long they’re standing in lines. As the Journal says, some of these devices track consumers through their smartphones. Others simply scan the aisles of your favorite retailers to see where shoppers tend to congregate.

A common trend

According to the Wall Street Journal story, this shopping technology is gaining popularity. The story points to The Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank that claims that about 1,000 retailers have outfitted their stores with sensors that track the movements of customers. These retailers claim that the tech will offer them important info about their consumers’ shopping habits, in an effort to gain an advantage over their competitors.

Privacy issues

This tracking might help retailers. But shoppers aren’t always happy with it. The Journal story cited complaints made on social-media sites from Nordstrom shoppers who weren’t happy that they were being spied on. A Nordstrom spokesperson stated that the experiment was just a test. The makers of tracking tech suggest that retailers post information telling consumers that they are being tracked.

 

Ever get the urge to call your boss while you’re showering? Ever want to talk to your spouse and keep shoveling snow at the same time? You’re in luck: Manufacturers have created two new tech gadgets which give you the ability to tackle these dubious tasks.

High-tech in the shower

The Huffington Post recently took a look at some products that we never knew 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’re enjoying your hot shower. The device incorporates waterproof touch controls inside the curtain than enable you to control your iPad or smartphone and answer phone calls. That’s right, now you have to answer calls from your boss even while you’re showering.

Snow removal, the high-tech way

Frustrated that your gloves just keep your fingers warm? Well, Beartek has got the product for you. The company’s Snow Gloves from Beartek, which cost $120, wirelessly connect to your smartphone. This means, according to the Huffington Post story, you can talk to your boss without taking a break from your snow-shoveling duties. You can also use the gloves to make phone calls and listen to music.

Too connected?

These devices beg the question: Are we so reliant on our gadgets today that we can’t take even a small break for shoveling show or showering? And if that’s true, what does that say about us? Do we really want to talk about aluminum siding with that telemarketer while rubbing Head and Shoulders into our scalp?

 

Can Samsung dominate the business market?

On January 16, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Samsung is experiencing a huge boom in its consumer smartphone business. The company today ranks as the top seller of smartphones to consumers all around the world. But the smartphone giant hasn’t done quite as good of a job breaking into another lucrative market: the business world.

Big business

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal says that Samsung is already the globe’s top seller of smartphones to consumers. The story, though, also says that if Samsung is to keep growing it must master a new talent: Selling its smartphones to businesses, too. That is an area in which the smartphone giant is not yet booming.

Security problems

Part of the reason for Samsung’s struggles to crack the business world lies in its security system for mobile devices, a system known as Knox. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the system has been hit with delays and programming bugs. This has frustrated clients, including a big one, the U.S. Defense Department.

The future?

Samsung is capable of reaching BlackBerry-level heights in the business world, the Journal story says. BlackBerry, of course, had long dominated the business world thanks partly to its superior mobile security systems. BlackBerry today, though, has fallen on hard times. This leaves an opening for Samsung, if the company can improve its mobile security.

 

Government tech failures all too common

On January 14, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Why does the federal government struggle so much with technology? That is the big question following the disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. Even though this healthcare website was particularly troubled, it’s definately not the first instance of the government falling in regards to debuting new technology.

A dismal history

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story highlighting 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 launched its SAM.gov website. This website was meant 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 properly once it finally went live. The General Services Administration was forced to take the site down to fix its many problems.

Same old, same old

Again, as the Times story shows, the struggles of SAM.gov and Healthcare.gov may come as a surprise to nobody. 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 far too often. And the federal government is always struggling in its efforts to modernize outdated tech. Just as troublesome? The U.S. Military has spent millions of dollars on new tech that it never even uses.

Shocking numbers

The Times story says that website problems occur in the private sector, also. 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 battling problems. Those tech projects account for a combined $12.5 billion.

 

Is U.S. tech output starting to lag?

On January 9, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Want something to feel discouraged about? What about the recent column in InformationWeek from commentator Kevin Coleman? In it, Coleman writes that the United States is slowly falling from its perch as the world’s technology leader. Instead, the United States is becoming a tech laggard, according to Coleman’s remarks.

The problem

Coleman comments that research-and-development, science and technology investments in the United States are not keeping pace with those made by other nations. In addition, the United States faces an constantly growing threat from smarter and more unrelenting cyber thieves. These two factors are chipping away at the United States’ long held dominance of the technology world.

A change

There was a time, not long 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

Part of the reason is that other countries, such as China, are investing more in technology. As Coleman writes, the BBC has reported that by the end of this year the United States would no longer be the top country for scientific output. Instead, that country will be China. Coleman also cites a U.S. Intelligence Community report stating that the United States’ technological superiority is diminishing in important areas. The solution? Coleman states that we need to invest more in education, something that would turn out more scientists and engineers.

 

The limits of new technology

On January 7, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

How excited do many of us get when a new technology appears? Very. We immediately imagine how this new tech can improve our lives, change society and eradicate most of the problems facing the planet. The problem? Most new technology doesn’t ever do this. Yes, Pinterest can be fun, but it won’t change the whole world.

Stop the hype

The website Gizmodo recently ran a story on the hype that inevitably accompanies new technology. As the story says, the advent of new tech is frequently covered with breathless prose stating that the new product will revolutionize our lives, make us more empathetic or create a more productive and peaceful planet. Unfortunately, as the Gizmodo story says, most new tech does little of this.

No big changes

As Gizmodo says, new technologies have the potential to change the lives of individuals…maybe. But they won’t change the entire world, for better or worse. And that’s probably something that’s good. Do we really want the world to change every time a new technology shows up?

One thing never changes

However, Gizmodo does offer one universal truth regarding technology, though the story does so in a tongue-in-cheek way. According to the story, no matter what new tech appears, teens will use it to boost their sex lives. Gizmodo, though, offers parents some advice: These same teens would do anything within their power to have sex even if the new technology popped up on the scene.

 

Chromebooks don’t do enough

On January 2, 2014, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Does spending your hard earned money into a new Chromebook make sense? Larry Seltzer, a writer with ZDNet, believes that it doesn’t. Seltzer’s concern with the Chromebook? The device just doesn’t do enough.

Sluggish

The fact is, the sales of Google’s Chromebook are disappointing. Consumers still haven’t embraced the product. The way Seltzer sees it, this is far from unexpected. As Seltzer writes, consumers today are smart. They want solutions to do several different functions. Unfortunately, the Chromebook doesn’t do this, making it an imprudent purchase.

Laptop/tablet hybrids

Seltzer writes that consumers would be wiser spending their dollars on a hybrid laptop/tablet device. These devices just do more. Seltzer points to Microsoft’s Surface hybrid, which allows consumers to run Office software, edit documents, search the Web and watch movies and videos. Chromebooks can’t do all of this. So, Seltzer writes, why would anyone even consider purchasing a Chromebook rather than a hybrid device?

Limited functions

So, what exactly does a Chromebook do? Seltzer points out that its main purpose is to run the Chrome Web browser. The problem is, laptops can do this, as well. So this again begs the question, why would consumers use Chromebooks when so many other devices do what they can do plus more.