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February 29th, 2012

Mouse-free computing is not really unknown to us. We navigate on our smartphones, tablets, and e-reader using touchscreen technology. And I’m sure this is just the beginning of interacting with computers without a mouse. So, can we ever ditch the mouse completely for more hands free technologies?

Gesture sensing

Consumers who play video games have used this for a while. The Wii and the PlayStation employ gesture-sensing technology. This technology allows users to grasp a wireless remote and use their body movements to swing a racket, jog in place, or shoot menacing robots on screen. Although this technology has not been perfected it’s not difficult to imagine how gesture sensing could be applied to computing.

Multi-touch technology

Multi-touch technology is yet another interactive innovation that is being utilized in a few common devices, namely, tablets, e-readers, and smartphones. This technology allows users to tap icons to open program, pinch or extend their fingers to zoom or minimize the images on their screens. Since this is a relatively new technology it’s still being refined. How do you think this will be used in the future to allow us easier navigation around our computers?

Voice recognition

Another possible technological advancement that could replace the mouse involves voice recognition. Rather than clicking on a mouse button to open up a program, users can merely tell their computers to open an individual word file or close iTunes. Some of this already exists, most notable is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which allows users to dictate reports and stories to their word-processing programs. Again, the tech still needs refinement, but a future where we talk to our computers isn’t all that far-fetched.

While there are lots of ways computing can be improved through hands free navigation technologies. It’s likely we will not see the well known mouse disappear for some time.

February 20th, 2012

Heard of BYOD, or "bring your own device", to work before? More and more companies are letting or even asking their employees to bring their phones or laptops to work. There are obvious benefits, but also dangers that may not be as obvious. Read on to find out what they are.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the "consumerization" of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a "bring your own device" or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today's younger generation of workers (a group called "millenials") not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.
However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:
  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don't employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn't belong to them, or it's against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.
Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2012

While there are a lot of free tools, applications, and software available on the Internet, it can be a chore sorting out the good from the bad. To make things easier for you, here are a few handy tools you can use to boost productivity while saving on costs.

It is a constant challenge for small businesses to meet ever-changing and ever-evolving IT requirements while balancing a budget and keeping costs reasonable. And with software applications being one of the major factors that contribute to IT maintenance costs, it is always welcome news to come across free tools that work well and efficiently despite the lack of a price tag.

ThinkFree Online Office One of these applications is ThinkFree Online Office, which is a cloud application that enables you to create and edit documents in common formats. It also comes with free 1GB of storage and allows you to work from anywhere, since the documents are stored online. And with its own app for Android users, ThinkFree is particularly advantageous to people who need to work on the go.

ReqMan Another free cloud-based application that can prove useful is ReqMan, an online project management tool. You can use this to manage and track your different projects using various templates the service provides. And since it's in the cloud, mobile personnel and staff who are given access to your ReqMan account can work even when they're out of the office.

Gliffy Gliffy is a free tool that you can use to create all sorts of technical illustrations – diagrams, floor plans, flowcharts, and more. The basic plan is free, but you also have the option to subscribe to their more fully featured plans for a minimal fee.

ScheduleOnce For managing schedules, calendars, and the like, ScheduleOnce allows you to keep better track of all your appointments, meetings, and deadlines through a single tool. It integrates with your calendar on Google, and then allows other people to see your open times when they can schedule a meeting with you. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for your scheduling needs.

If you want to know more about these tools and how you can best utilize them, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to guide you and help you make the most out of these types of applications to improve your efficiency and bottom line.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 19th, 2011

With mobile devices becoming more accessible, many are finding it more comfortable and more productive to use these devices not only for personal purposes, but also for work. This may seem to be a good thing initially, but it also means that you have less control over the way these devices access your IT system. The best thing to do is to have a good IT security policy in place to make sure that important company data is not compromised.

As technology continues to become more affordable and accessible to consumers, it's an inevitable fact that employers will see more and more of their employees using their own personal devices such as laptops and mobile phones to access the company's IT system.

This can be a dangerous thing. Since these devices aren't company owned and regulated, you have limited access and control over how they are used. Employees could download all sorts of malware and viruses on their devices and pass the infection along to your IT system when they access it.

The solution: a comprehensive IT security policy. It's important that you find a compromise between the freedom of the employee to use the device as desired and your need to keep your IT system safe from viruses and other threats to your data's security. Steps such as having employees run mobile device management (MDM) software on their devices is one of many actions you can take to lessen the risk of security breaches. You may also want to implement applications and software that check and screen for malware, both for laptops and mobile devices. And don't forget that while Android seems to have a bigger problem with malicious software, Apple isn't exactly virus-free, either.

Employees have a right to use their personal devices as they see fit, but not at the expense of important company information stored in your IT system. Running a tight ship in terms of security is an effective way to protect your business interests and your sensitive company data. If you are interested in knowing more about developing a concrete and effective IT security policy for personal device use as well as general system access, please don't hesitate to give us a call so we can sit down with you and discuss a custom security blueprint that's just right for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 15th, 2011

QR Codes DemystifiedHave you noticed those odd black, square-shaped symbols popping up all over the place lately? They’re called QR codes, and they’re a very sophisticated version of the common grocery store barcode. Originally created in Japan to help keep track of car parts, the QR code is quickly becoming a universally recognized interactive advertising tool. 

What is a QR code?  

    QR (short for quick response) codes are complex matrices that are readable by scanners and, more specifically, smartphone cameras. Because these codes are so intricate, they can hold an incredibly large amount of information.  This makes them practical tools for business since they can transfer so much information at once. 

    When you scan a QR code with your smartphone, for instance, the information transferred to your phone activates the web-enabled data saved in the code. Think of it as a step up from the common barcode. A barcode works by scanning the code and accessing a computer network to gather product data. QR codes work in the same way, except by using the Internet as their database instead of a simple computer networks. This makes QR codes multidimensional and capable of holding much larger amounts of information. 

How are QR codes used in Business?  

    Making a QR code couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is enter the data you want to make accessible and click “generate.” There are several great QR generators online; many of them are free to use. If you’d like to try a QR generator, consider the Kaywa generator

    Once the QR code is generated, make sure to use it effectively. Putting the code on resumes, business cards, posters, flyers and even billboards is a great way to get information out there. 

Why it works 

    A QR code is a fun and interesting way to get information to an audience. Because using a QR code is enjoyable, it gives extra value to the information transmitted. Understanding this makes using QR codes for interactive marketing easy. Though these codes are new to America, they have been effective tools for over a decade in Japan.  If you are looking for a creative way to get information out there, consider using a QR code.