Technology Drivers for Trends 2012

December 29th, 2011 by tbledsoe in Technology, Trends

Every year about this time I try to predict the technology trends for local government that will influence how we do business in the coming year.  This year, I am doing something a little different.  I am starting with an article that covers some of the changes that we have seen in the past few years that will define trends for 2012.  This is the first of two articles for Trends 2012.

We are living in one of the most exciting times in technology. Products and services introduced in the last few years have truly changed the way we live, work and play.  We have information, entertainment and communication all at our finger tips.  Computing has become powerful and ubiquitous.

As I look over the past ten years, there are many companies that have introduced new and amazing technology.  However, I feel four companies have really changed the way we live and interact with that technology.  These are Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

I think there is little doubt that the iPhone and iPad have changed the way we use and interact with technology.  These powerful devices have defined the user experience and moved it to new levels of power and ease of use.  One only has to watch a two year old with an iPad to see how intuitive it is to use.  That and the lightness of the device have made it a choice of many from business to the home.   Steve Jobs even went on to propose that we have entered the “post-pc” era.  The initial reaction was heated and filled with resistance, but that seems to have changed as time is proving him correct and more people are using tablet devices as opposed to desktops.

And Google, what would today’s world be like if we could not “Google it”?  Google has literally become a tool that we cannot live without.  It allows us to search and find information on any topic we can imagine. But in addition to being a search engine, Google has introduced a lot of technology that has been game changers.  They were one of the first to introduce the cloud and hosted products for the office.  They are in the operating system business with Android and the major competitor for the Apple iPhone. And they are one of the few that can seriously challenge Facebook in the social media world with Google+.

That leads me to the third company, Facebook.  They have changed the way we interact with one another.  Developed as a tool for college students, people from all age groups, and backgrounds, now use it to communicate and share information.  Facebook has led and dominates the social media world.  With over 800 million users, their services are engrained into the lives of many of us.  And with every update of their software we share a little more of our lives with the world.  With Skype partnering with Facebook and Google + having built in video, we are moving to a social world online in which friends may never be in the same place. Face to face video is here.  Combine this with Timeline, and all of a sudden we are close to having our entire lives stored and available to the world in a digital format.

The fourth company is Amazon.  They have definitely changed the way we shop. Order something today; enjoy it being delivered to your door tomorrow.   They have removed the hassle of going to the mall and offer better prices.  They have also revolutionized the book market and how we buy and read books.  Their latest reader is designed to deliver all types of content right to our finger tips. And if you will note, all four of these companies are poised to deliver content to our devices.

And what about technology itself, what is changing there? Let me start with a controversial one, email.  Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook made the statement that email is probably going away. She was citing the fact that the younger generation is using other means to communicate.  However, there are also other signs that indicate this may be true or at least, email in the way we know it now may have to change.  There are several CEOs of major tech firms stating that it is inefficient and wastes precious resources in its present format. CEO Thierry Breton of Atos has banned his employees from sending internal email forcing other communication tools to surface. This is a technology that is changing.

Another technology is the cloud.  It was the rage in 2011 and it is definitely changing the way we currently do and will do business.  There are many successful players in this arena and lots of great technology services.  As I mentioned above, Google was one of the first companies to really be recognized for its cloud offering.  However, Microsoft with the most used Office products are there too.  Apples iCloud offers services that are a little different and offer more of a consumer touch. Regardless of the provider, this technology offers tremendous potential for the future.

Wireless devices are also changing our world in ways they never did before.  In 2011, the number of wireless devices in the US exceeded the entire population of the US.  These include smartphones and tablets.  They allow us to be in constant contact and access information from anywhere. Current numbers for the end of 2011 indicate sales in excess of a 100% increase over 2010.  They will definitely have a big impact in the coming years.

2011 also saw Internet Explorer (IE) fall below 50% of the browser market.  Web developers in the past could program to this standard and not worry.  However, IE is now being challenged by Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on the desktop. In the mobile world, IE is rarely used.  This market is dominated by Safari Mobile, Opera Mini, and Android browsers. This offers a challenge for providing services via the web.

The last technology that I would like to highlight is Siri.  Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4s in October.  While some would argue that this is just another voice recognition software, Siri is a lot more sophisticated.  Siri builds real intelligence into the voice recognition.  Siri is able to look at services on your smartphone and interact with them.  If Siri cannot find your request on the smartphone, it will look to the Internet for help.  This includes huge databases at Apple that are tied to Google and other search engines.  One of those , WolframAlpha, is a powerful search engine from the mathematics world. This is another game changing technology that will have a huge influence on how we interact with our devices.

As I stated in the beginning of this article, these are some of the companies and technologies that I see influencing government technology in 2012.  They definitely do not represent all of the fantastic products on the market but they do represent some of the ones that have significantly impacted our lives and how we deliver services.  Check out the next blog for my predictions for 2012.

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I Wonder if the Jetsons Had Google?

March 11th, 2010 by tbledsoe in All, People, Technology

In the last blog I asked “What could you do with a gigabit connection?”  Since that time, many groups across Caldwell and Catawba Counties have met and discussed this very question in preparation for responding to the Google RFI. The participation and the excitement this has generated in our area is amazing.  If you have participated in any of these sessions, thank you for supporting this community initiative.  If you have not participated, there is still time.  Check the websites listed at the end of this blog for more information.

Now, who are the Jetsons? The boomers will immediately remember the 1960′s cartoon based on a futuristic family that had all the modern conveniences. Their home was connected to everything; they had a robot maid, and traveled in flying cars.  I hadn’t heard anyone speak about the Jetsons in years until last week when I heard them mentioned in at least four different meetings.  Will a gigabit connection make the Jetson’s world a reality? To give you an idea of what has been discussed, here are some of the ideas that have been shared as to “What could you do with a gigabit connection?” 

  • Smart Meters/Technology (monitor power consumption) could be placed on the network to monitor appliances in the home and turn them on and off based on times when there is low power consumption on the grid (ie. In the middle of the night.) Smart technology can also be used for all types of monitoring like reporting an appliance with a bad part that needs to be replaced.
  • Control heating/lights/appliances in home. Basically a technology that already exists but this could be taken to a higher, much more interactive, level with a gigabit connection. Instead of programming for set times and set levels, the system could be combined with your car’s GPS to turn the lights on when the car gets close to home, to open and close blinds based on outside conditions like heat intensity, to conserve energy based on your calendar. The potential is unlimited.
  • Groceries: RFID Tags – keeps inventory. RFID technology could be used in the home to track inventories like food, toiletries, medical supplies and other daily essentials and pass this information on to smartphones, email, or even directly to merchants for automatic restocking.
  • Easier to work from home (more access). With a gigabit connection, the home office becomes equal or better than the physical office at work. Resources can be stored and retrieved from anywhere. Cloud computing takes on a whole new dimension. Face to face real time conferencing would be the norm. Office space that is sometimes a premium could become a non-issue. Travel time and road congestion would be reduced or possibly eliminated.
  • Download kid’s videos. A gigabit connection opens up a whole new realm of entertainment delivery. Movies, shows, meetings, music – all can be delivered to the home faster. But other options open up. Kids can view and interact with the local children’s theater and see a real-time production of a play while interacting with the actors. They can ask questions at the science center, participate in fire safety for kids from the local fire department, be introduced to and ask questions of the police chief. Download videos yes, entertain (or should we say, educate) kids to a new level, definitely.
  • Plug in Automobile Inspections from Home: You probably noticed that a major part of your car inspection comes from digital readouts from the car’s computer. With stickers no longer required. It may be possible to do inspections automatically from the home network. Taken a step further, your car could connect to service centers and receive service over the network. If parts are needed, appointments to take the car in could be automatically scheduled.
  • Video Conferencing (Skype) – widely used. This is a technology that is already in place and millions use Skype or similar services. With a gigabit connection, face to face video conferencing from home computers, televisions and other devices would become the norm. Recently, several large TV manufacturers announced that they are adding Skype technology to their sets. The constraint is the bandwidth and Google’s gigabit connection would remove this barrier.
  • Educational Opportunities: It is hard to imagine the number of education opportunities this would provide to the home: Classes in real time from any school in the world, direct connection to your instructor, the ability to monitor classes from home when you are sick, the ability to have a tutor in a distant location, the ability to quickly search and download any type of resource, real time interpretation of classes in different languages, virtual classrooms that are completely interactive. The possibilities are limitless.
  • Life line program: Transmit vitals from home. Many of today’s health conditions require constant monitoring. Some require this to be done in the hospital or other medical facility. With a gigabit connection, real time monitoring of vital signs could be sent directly to health care providers and changes could be responded to immediately. This could extend to monitoring and reminding the elderly to take their medicine at the prescribed times and dosages. Combine this with the RFID tags for groceries and eating habits for a healthier lifestyle can be tracked. This is another area where the opportunities are limitless and the benefits are measured in the lives of the people.
  • SETA: Shared computing with neighbors. From a technical standpoint it is not hard to share computing power. Connect enough computers together and you essentially have a super computer. A gigabit connection makes sharing computing power easier and more feasible. But what about small amounts of computing power? Think of all the appliances that have microprocessors. Just about all of them have some type of computing power. Could they be connected together and provide an inexpensive way to extend computing power in the home and beyond?

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

1. Complete a written or on-line survey: www.googlehickorylenoir.com

2. Create and participate in community support

 a. Twitter (WoogleHKYLR!)“| Facebook (become a fan of page Woogle Hickory Lenoir! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Woogle-Hickory-Lenoir/320169308805

3. Organize or participate in various community group meetings – Talk it UP!

4. Create YouTube videos on one or more of the following topics

  a. Why should Google choose Hickory/Lenoir?

   b. How would you use a gigabit connection?

5. Upload photos supporting Woogle Hickory Lenoir at WoogleHKYLNR.woogle@picasaweb.com.

6. Submit a personal or group nomination for Hickory/Lenoir directly to Google at

http://www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi/public/options

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What is Apple Up To?

November 5th, 2009 by tbledsoe in Technology, Uncategorized

That has been the big question since Apple announced plans to build the biggest data center in the world here in Catawba County.  Apple has stated that it will deliver iTunes out of the center but industry analysts say that Apple does not need that large of a facility to just deliver iTunes.

Well maybe they do if iTunes becomes more than the music market that has made it so successful.  Rumors have it that Apple wants to deliver your favorite TV shows through iTunes.  If so, Apple could change or let’s say, revolutionize how we purchase entertainment services.  The service, which is expected to be via a-la-carte, would allow subscribers to pick the programs they wanted to view and pay accordingly.  The price is expected to be about $30 per month and serve as many as 65 million users via iTunes.

Success of the project requires Apple to get buy in from broadcast and cable TV programmers.  Industry experts say that changing the model will be difficult but acknowledge that Apple changed the model with iTunes and made  that industry profitable. 

Getting the first network will be the toughest but Apple may have an advantage here.  Industry executives believe the first to sign with Apple will be Disney.  Not hard to imagine since Steve Jobs is Disney’s largest single shareholder.  Jobs received the stock when Disney acquired Pixar animation studio in 2006.

Apple is very secretive with their plans so the future of Apple’s data center is still to be revealed.  However, changing the way something is delivered, simplifying the experience, and marketing at a price point that is beneficial to both the customer and Apple is what makes the company strong.  Delivering TV over iTunes follows that pattern, so could that be the plans for the data center?  We will be eagerly watching as the center goes up.

For more information about Apple’s iTunes rumor check out these postings:

All things Digital and Fast Company:

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Can you find me?

November 4th, 2009 by tbledsoe in Public Safety, Technology, Uncategorized

Sherrills-Ford Google Map 

Last week it was my pleasure to meet with a group of citizens at the Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire Rescue base.  We were discussing 911 and emergency calls when one question came up.  “It is sort of hard to get to my house, could you find me?”  In today’s world of GPS’ and Google maps, that question sounds trivial.  However, if you look at the map of the Sherrills Ford area from Google, you can see all the little fingers of land and coves that attract people to live on the lake.  Finding some of these are difficult and add the fact that many GPS providers only update their map once every few years, the concern becomes very real.

So how do we find you?  Each EMS unit and Law Enforcement unit is equipped with GPS tracking and AVL (Automated Vehicle Location).  Just like the GPS in your car, the onboard GPS keeps constant track of the vehicle location.  Information from the unit, for example  location and speed, is sent back to a central data network.  How is this different from the GPS in your car?  Back at the central database, the GPS is integrated with the county’s GIS and complete up-to-date maps.  If a new road is added it will be available to our units in a few days.  New developments and new homes are added from the building services database.  Maps and data in the EMS and Law Enforcement units is constantly being updated.  At the same time, the location of each unit is being sent back to shift supervisors and to the 911 Center.

So how do we find you?  Let’s walk through the entire process.  You have just called 911 and stated that someone in your house is having chest pains.  Time is critical.  The 911 telecommunicator dispatches EMS to your location.  When you called, your phone number and address were displayed on the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) screen.  The 911 telecommunicator will always verify with you that this is correct.  When the call is dispatched, the 911 telecommunicator will call the EMS unit by radio.  At the same time, the information is being sent to a computer in the EMS unit.  The computer in the EMS unit displays the address and the emergency details  for the responders.  It also displays a map with the location of the EMS unit and the location of the emergency.  The responding unit can then choose to map to the location and the best route will be displayed on the computer screen.  As the unit travels to the location of the emergency, icons on the screen track progress.  Once at the scene, if  transport to a hospital is necessary, the system will map the best route to the hospital.

So how do we find you?  Thanks to GPS and AVL integrated with GIS, our units have up-to-date maps and routing information to save precious seconds when responding to your emergency.  So whether you live on a beautiful hard to reach cove on Lake Norman or small farm down a country road, relax, we should be able to find you.

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The Lucille Pitts Technology Timeline 1944 – 2009

June 4th, 2009 by tbledsoe in All, People, Technology, Uncategorized

Many of you have seen the news about Lucille Pitts retiring.  For those of you who haven’t, Lucille retired a few weeks ago after serving Catawba County for 65 years.  Most of us can’t imagine working for one employer for that long and even more amazing, most of us were not even born when Lucille came to work in 1944.  That fact started me thinking about the technology and changes that Lucille had experienced during her employment with Catawba County.

 Lucille worked in the Register of Deeds office and you can look at records from 1944 that were recorded in Lucille’s very neat handwriting.  Through the years things progressed and records were scanned, digitized and everything transferred to electronic format.  From writing to complete records delivered online, from interoffice mail to email, from turning on the lights in the morning to booting up a dozen or so workstations and connecting them to the network, Lucille did it all.  Yes I hear she didn’t really like email to start with but she learned to use it and mastered what she needed to do her job.

So as Lucille worked away in the Register of Deeds office, how did the world change?  The list below contains some of the inventions and technologies that came about during Lucille’s time with us. Some reflect major inventions, some minor but life changing and some are just for amusement.  They are listed in chronological order and some are hyperlinked to give you more information.  Enjoy the changes that occurred while Lucille served Catawba County.  And for those folks that tell me the world is changing to fast and they can’t understand the new technology, trace the timeline, Lucille had already worked 50 years before she learned to use email.  Unless you can break that record, you are still young enough to learn so dig into the new technology…….

The Lucille Pitts Technology Timeline 1944 – 2009

The kidney dialysis machine, Atomic Bomb, microwave oven , Polaroid Camera, Mobile phones invented, transistor, Tupperware seal , electric Guitar, Frisbee, Velcro, Wurlitzer jukebox, Cake mix, credit cards, UNIVAC 1, Super glue, Power steering, video tape recorder (VTR), Mr Potato Headbar codes, diet soft drink, hydrogen bomb, Heart-lung Machine, Radial tires invented, musical synthesizer, black box - flight recorder, Transistor radio, the pillTeflon pans, solar cells, McDonalds, Nuclear Submarine, Optic fiber, computer hard disk, hovercraft,  Liquid Paper, Polio Vaccine, Fortran, Explorer I, computer modem, the laser, Hula Hoops,  integrated circuit, pacemaker,  Barbie Doll,  microchip, halogen lamp, Valium, nondairy creamer, audio cassette,  fiber-tip pen, Spacewar, silicone breast implants, video disk, Operating Systems, Acrylic paint, Permanent-press fabric,  BASIC,  Minicomputer, Astroturf, Soft contact lenses, NutraSweet,  compact disk,  Electronic Fuel, handheld calculator ,  Automatic Teller Machine, computer mouse,  first computer with integrated circuits, RAM (random access memory), Moon Landing, arpanet (first internet), artificial heart, bar-code scanner, Optical Fiber, daisy-wheel printer,  floppy disk, dot-matrix printer, food processor,  liquid-crystal display (LCD),  microprocessor, videocassette,  Pong,  word processor, Gene splicing,  ethernet, disposable lighter,  Barcode. post-it notesliposuction,  Microsoft, laser printer, push-through tab on a drink can, Magnetic resonance imaging, VisiCalc, artificial heart Jarvik-7,  Gossamer Albatross, Cell phones, Cray supercomputer,  Walkman,  hepatitis-B vaccine, Space Shuttle, MS-DOSIBM-PC, scanning tunneling microscope, Human growth hormone genetically engineered,  PC named Times Man of the Year, Soft bifocal contact lens, virtual reality, CD-ROM, super-conductor, Synthetic skin, disposable camera, 3-D video, Disposable contact lenses, Graphic User Interface, Digital cellular phones,  RU-486, Doppler radar,  Prozac, genetically engineered animals,  Indiglo nightlight, High-definition, Hubble Telescope, World Wide Web, Internet protocol, HTTP, WWW, HTML, digital answering,  smart pill,  Pentium processor, HIV protease, Java, DVD, Web TVfuel cell, Viagra, Tekno Bubbles, Segway,  Artificial liver, Self-cleaning windows iPod, Braille Glove, Wireless headsets, Mars Rover, virtual Keyboard, Breath strips, iTunes Music store, Digital guitar, hydrogen fuel-cell generator, camera phones, Prius, Infrared Fever Screening System,  Glowing fish,  Adidas 1, Translucent Concrete, Jawbone, GPS and more, YouTube, hypoallergenic cats, steam clothes dryers, Gorilla tape, iPhone, Ford/Microsoft Sync, Chevy Volt, $4 Gas, Camera pill, Blackberry Storm, Facebook, and Tweeting everywhere, not to mention the tanking economy, and last, a president holding press conferences on YouTube.

By the way, I’m not sure about Lucille and Twitter but rumor has it she was tweeting from the George Strait concert.

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A new cell phone could save your life……….

November 5th, 2008 by tbledsoe in All, Public Safety, Technology

So you like your cell phone.  You’ve had it for years.  You know how it works and you are comfortable with it’s features.  That’s great but if it doesn’t have the latest cell phone tracking technology, then you may want to consider a new phone.

A recent call to the Catawba County 911Center illustrates the point.  The telecommunicator that received the call did not get a response when he asked what the emergency was.  There was just silence.  After repeatly asking and trying to get a response, silence.  Finally, a faint moan, “Help me”.  No address, no identification, no information. Where is the caller?  Fortunately, the call was from a cell phone, a new cell phone and with the new technology the telecommunicator was able to locate the position within a matter of feet.  EMS, fire and rescue were dispatched to the location where a lady was found in a car having a seizure. Another few minutes and she would have died. 

Older cell phone technology does not provide for this kind of accuracy in locating the caller.  It locates based on tower location and that can cover a large area.  So even if you really like that old phone, you may want to consider retiring it for newer technology, it could save your life.

For more information about the technology used in your cell phone, contact your provider and ask about how they can locate callers and how accurate your phone tracks your location.  Also ask them what information is sent to the 911 Center in case of an emergency. Below you will find another story about a cell phone saving a person’s life. 

NC Woman saved by 911 call from car trunk

KERNERSVILLE, N.C. – A North Carolina woman who was kidnapped at gunpoint and forced into the trunk of a stolen car has been found safe, thanks to the GPS tracking of her cell phone.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported the Kernersville woman was kidnapped early Wednesday by two men in a residential area.

Forsyth County sheriff’s Maj. Brad Stanley said the woman called 911 from the trunk, which allowed authorities to use GPS data from the call to track the general location of the car.

Without that call, Stanley said authorities would have had no information to go on in the search.

A Kernersville police officer tried to pull the car over, but the driver sped away. The car was later found crashed in a driveway in Kernersville. The suspects had fled, the woman was found unhurt in the trunk. Her name hasn’t been released. Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com

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