More recap of cool tech 2016

I posted my cool tech for 2017 post yesterday. So far, a great response to the overall tech I think is coming. I did trends this year because there are so many cool products in a couple of the categories that it is hard to pick only one. There are some trends from last year that haven’t really run their course yet as well and I thought I would cover some of those today.

The world of IoT continues to be interesting. How billions of devices will be secured and managed is now a considerable concern. In part because there are no clear standards, which means everyone can and does build their IoT devices separate and self-contained. The reality of security is communication. Systems that communicate need to be secure at the point of origin and also at the point of data collection. That is more overall security than simply securing a computer sitting in your office at work. There you secure the site, both physically and electronically.

Another interesting tech from last year that has not caught on at the level I thought it would is that of 3d pens. They are interesting, in that you can write/draw in plastic and other materials. That makes them incredibly easy to set-up and use. Printing in brass or wood is interesting. I am not as skilled using the 3d pen as I would like, but you can do some pretty cool things freehand, or you can pre-draw the object you want and make it.

Crowdfunding is a process and a concept that is maturing. Today there is much less risk in the overall reality of crowdfunding. There are still projects that fail and disappear, but they are few and far between now. They exist, but nowhere near as many as in the early days. Additionally, there are a number of fun checks and balances that manage the crowd funding reality. There are the pirates who wandered the many crowd funding sites in the early days. Most of them have been revealed and removed. Crowdfunding is a trust exercise though. The important thing to remember is that you are placing your money to back and innovation that does not exist today. That innovation may, or may not become reality. It is important that in backing a project you remember that failure is an option!

Medical scanning devices are increasing and did throughout all of 2016. Some came long before 2016 but the rise of acceptance has increased the overall market. Blood pressure, body temperature and other quick tools to access your current health are increasing. The increased tools available for every minute of the day (iWatch takes your pulse constantly) allows you to have a better idea of the things that stress you, and the things you are relaxed about. Health will continue to expand as both a part and a continuation of IoT, but also of your devices and your medical status.

Television is changing, has changed, and continues to change around us. When I first watched television now more than 40 years ago, we had 4 and on a clear day 5 TV stations. Now there are 100’s, plus you can record TV to watch whenever you want, stream TV to any device you own and you can watch TV on televisions with 4k resolution. Just amazing how much the television has and continues to evolve.

Home entertainment as a whole has changed racially in the past few years. The rise of wireless speaker systems that connect not only to your existing media sources but also to the internet has changed home entertainment. You can see, listen and hear just about anything anywhere in your home. Simply put a speaker into the room and away you go!

HoloMeVoice control was the big thing launching in 2016 from Google Home, Cortana and Alexa we now have a continued, and growing reality of voice controlled devices. Each of them is good a specific thing, and those specific things continue to expand weekly. Additionally, Google Home and Amazon Echo (Alexa) both have very nice speakers included with them. Amazon’s Echo is the better overall speaker but Google home is pretty good.

I leave Siri out, because frankly of the top four voice control systems it is the lowest in terms of functionality, ability to listen and integration. Sometimes being first is not the best answer.

The last 2016 innovation I would like to talk about is the iPhone 7 plus. In part because of the memory improvements. I now actually have free space on my phone and was able to download my entire audible and movie (iTunes) library. With the new iPhone based storage keys I also have my entire library of MP3 files stored on a memory key. It makes the integration of my phone, car and media even more important. There is nothing finer than listening to an audible book as I sit in DC traffic!



Cool tech trends 2017

Yesterday I talked about my 2016 cool tech predictions. Today I am releasing on LinkedIn my cool tech trends for 2017 post. It has become an annual tradition and I am really pleased with the overall list this year. Lots of things that are game changers coming in the next year or so.

There are a few things shipping this year that I believe will be trend setters but it will depend upon when they arrive as to their impact. IBM announced this last week before New Year’s that they are working on a robot that is designed to support senior citizens. Jibo has already started down that path so when it ships will be critical as to how successful it will/can be. Hard to compete with IBM, except JIBO was built by a bunch of MIT folks, so they may produce a better device than IBM in the end.

Keecker is another system, a home pod that has the potential to be a game changer. I know for myself I am looking forward to being able to leverage the external projection and speakers Keecker will offer me as far as projecting web meetings and other events anywhere I am. At night, outside the house on the side of the hosue, inside the hosue in my living room or just another anywhere. The technology is interesting and they have spent a lot of time getting it right!

The reality of assisted driving continues to expand. While I do not think, it will impact 2017 the way it will in 2020 or beyond, it will begin to appear in more and more cars. There is a value in having the car driving with you, assisting you. No one can see everything. I do wonder when the courts will mandate assisted driving for some aggressive drivers. We can add a don’t allow rapid acceleration option to their cars. Don’t allow them to physically cut off other cars. This would increase their stress, but would decrease the stress for those driving around them. Sadly, they also tend to be the people that act on their road rage so many not the best possible outcome.

In the world of Drones and other ROV’s (Remotely operated vehicles) there are many products shipping this year that are interesting. First off, my concept (published on CloudTweaks) about the concept of a modular drone is expanding. While it didn’t reach its funding goal, there was a very cool drone project that included a drone, water proof camera, sonar all interchangeable. Additionally there was the option to carry a lure and fishing line with the drone, no more casting just send the drone and drop your hook exactly where the fish are (sonar being a fish finding system).

Secondly the world of underwater ROV systems are coming. The underwater ROV world is a hobbyist play today, but the OPENROV release of their new product as well as other vendors releasing new products in the space will move the market. Once it is easy to operate a drone underwater who wouldn’t want to know what their fish were just doing before they catch them for dinner! The image above is of the OpenROV Trident project. A solution that was both very cool, and a huge crowdfunding success!!!!

Drones as well beyond ROV’s that operate in and below the water’s surface continue to expand. There are drones that have built in sonar, built in metal detectors and another functionality. I suspect drones with integrated 3d laser mapping will arrive this year. They will provide an incredibly valuable service for cities and other organizations that manage roads.

Tomorrow is a great place to start. It always offers options and guesses. My guess in my LinkedIn post are based on years of experience and lots of evaluating technology. I spend a lot of time considering the what and how of technology. In part because it is part of my job, but for the most part because it is my passion and has been for many years now.

I hope you enjoy my cool tech 2017 posts!



Reviewing my tech predictions for 2016…

I will, in a couple of days post my annual top thing to watch from a personal technology perspective in 2017. I have done that every year for many years now. I think, as has been my tradition the past three years that I will post it on LinkedIn.

Over the course of the 12 month’s that were (2016) there were many interesting changes in the world. Not all of them were good. The one that stands out for me is the Cubs. As a lifelong Cubs fan, that victory really made me feel better. The other thing that 2016 brought was an end to the championship drought in Cleveland. I enjoyed watching LeBron James bring home the NBA title.

But this is a technology focused blog so let’s talk about at a high level some of the things that came about this year. One cool tech innovation was the Bloomsky weather station. While remote and connected weather stations have been around for years, the Micro weather concept of time-lapse weather video that Bloomsky adds is incredible. With the second module of the system shipping early this spring (wind and rain amount) it will be a great addition to any home.

From the compute power world in 2016 there were a couple of other interesting developments. Sirius-B shipped, a pocket-sized computer. All you need is a screen and you can compute anywhere. Other items that were incredibly interesting shipping this year are listed below:

· Shake – a Raspberry PI based Seismograph was an interesting project on Kickstarter, it shipped in November and is really quite interesting.

· VUFINE squeezed its real-life picture in a picture wearable monitor in at the end of the year (December 2016) but it is an intriguing technology.

holome Saturday edition· Hololens made it out the door to developers. The next release of Windows 10 will include more support for Hololens and really looks promising!

· The iWatch series 2 shipped – a huge improvement on the iWatch capabilities.

Pebble disappeared as an independent company this year. That was sad. There were also a number of other companies in the technology world that rose and fell. More and a wider variety of modular drones appeared (that was my prediction for 2016 tech). It wasn’t a bold prediction but since it was the one I nailed, I am claiming victory!

The arrival of Oculus Rift has been incredibly interesting. First off because it is quite simply a blast to use. My overall impression of VR was good before the Rift, now it is with the addition of the capabilities of Windows 10 and the Hololens sky high! There is much that can and will be done in the world of VR. We got the Sony PlayStation VR kit as well, we have only played with it a little, but Sony did a good job with that.

The link to my post for last year is here. My number one items, Keecker and Jibo are still in process of shipping and probably this spring will arrive. I was off by a year. It was however as predicted a very existing year in Technology. Many things changed and of course, continue to change.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have developed significant followings now. There are still delivery issues with most projects in terms of time promised and time delivered. More and more projects are delivering really close the original time. There are projects that continue to struggle along. Those are the ones that you root for, knowing how hard it is to keep going long after the funding is gone. There are projects that just went dark, those are sad but part of the risk of crowd funding.

The reality of time is that it passes. The reality of change is that once change starts it doesn’t always finish. The world is a funny place.

Watch for my cool tech trends of 2017 post – coming soon!



Ah USB you clogged my computer again!

USB hubs and cables, there are times I miss SCSI. I used to have a SCSI device chain of 6 devices. One scanner, one hard drive and a couple of other devices connected to it. But the Macintosh system of the time was quite effective at managing the impact of multiple SCSI devices. I do not miss SCSI from a functionality reality, USB is much better.

It is a simple, more device and in theory less problematic reality. That said, there are still issues. For example, SCSI, like USB has limits on data movement. That reality is further impacted by the nature (1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 as well as the newest USB beyond 3.0) as to the available bandwidth in the first place. 3.0 offers up to 400 MPs which is significantly faster and a wider pipe for devices.

Now there are some things you can do to reduce the chatter and increase the throughput of your computer systems. The first is don’t boot from a USB drive (other than a USB key to complete the initial set-up of a computer). Boot from an internal HD. The faster your OS drive the faster your computer will be. An old computer with a new SSD boot drive will seem much faster than it was before without forcing you to buy a new computer.

The other thing is the reality of camping. Camping is how many drives you have hanging off any one USB hub or USB port. The more drives the more likely you are to have issues. The reason for that is drives chatter a lot. It would seem illogical but USB drives send information to the motherboard and then back to the USB drive. If you are transferring information between two USB connected drives you are better off attaching them each directly to your computer via a USB connection. That simple reality will increase the speed of transfer considerably.

One of the realities of USB devices is the nature of their connection (as mentioned). 1.0 devices and 3.0 devices send and receive data at different rates. That has to do with the overall capability of the connection. 1.0 hubs therefore are able to handle less data per second than 2.0 hubs and 3.0 hubs are. While 1.0 hubs are cheaper and easier to find, they are also bound to the limits of 1.0.

All of this leading to the reality of USB. It requires the same design as your home network does. You need to think about where devices are, who is using them and what are they using them for. If someone is moving a lot of data, like on your home network you need to isolate that data movement to one section of your computer.

External Hard Drive Duplicator Services | Custom Hard DrivesI am saying this because of an email I got from a dear friend. He was frustrated with the process of making his family copies of his picture files. He pinged me because I’ve been posting about building and sharing my family history project for the past two years. He asked how I was able to build so many drives so quickly. I told him the easy answer, I had a computer with a local copy of all the pictures on it, and I simply plugged the USB drive into that computer and was able to quickly copy the drives. He realized the error of going from cloud to computer to USB and pulled the files local for a short time for that work. As I pointed out after he did that, he also now had multiple copies of his picture files. I try to have between 5 and 7 copies of all my pictures at any one time.

On an average year, I add between 12,000 and 15000 new pictures. So, every year I creep upward on the overall picture storage requirement. Its why Amazon prime and Carbonite are huge friends of mine. Both provide me with unlimited picture backups! That alone gives me two live copies of my pictures at any one time.

Anyway, the reality of USB is that it is so much easier than SCSI was. SCSI in and of itself had quite a few problems. USB has solved most of them. Just be careful what type of USB plug you are putting your USB hub into!


Long time daisy chain creator

How far ahead can you see? As far as I can hold my device!

14I got a great email yesterday from a long-time reader. They said – Scott you seem to hit so many trends correctly how do you do that. Well I guess the easy answer is I am really, really good. That wouldn’t be the honest answer and it wouldn’t be the right answer, but it is the easy answer. I hit on trends because I am really good.

It is more the truth that I focus on certain technology areas and considerations. In focusing on those areas, I am able to figure out what will and what will not work. The way I do that is to acquire the tech myself and play with it. I was an early adopter of Smart Watches in particular the Pebble’s. I’ve moved on because the goal of the smart watch technology was doing more with what you have, quickly and the iWatch does more. Simply selecting the control4 application and controls my house is worth the time to learn the new watch interface. CMRA, a device that replaces your watch band adds two cameras to your iWatch (front and rear facing). Your smart watch becomes a camera. You can already answer calls and talk to the person using only the watch so the evolution is great!

There are trends I have whiffed badly on though. For example, I am a huge fan of the interesting new add on projectors that offer additional functionality traditional projectors don’t have. Such as an integrated OS so you can operate the projector as a standalone device. Or the Keecker, a rolling home pod that comes when you call it and interacts with the world around it. The OS integrated projectors are shipping but at nowhere near the volume I was thinking. Keecker is stuck forever between development and production and now, three years later I have come to realize may never ship. That makes me sad, that product is still, three years later, the coolest innovation I’ve seen.

15In fact, I have whiffed on many technologies. I played with the laser keyboards for a while. They are interested for someone that doesn’t do touch typing. If you learned, many years ago, to be a touch type, then they are much harder to use and significantly less valuable. I average about three typos per 100 words written when I am writing. With the laser keyboards that moves to about 30 per 100 words. A much higher and far less effective rate. The rise of small keyboard cases for the iPad changed my need for having a laser keyboard. I still have a couple and I still use them from time to time but nowhere near as often as I thought I would.

I still consider the leap motion detection system to be a worthwhile consideration. I have played with the controller on both the Mac and PC. It works well with both. Positioning of motion sensors is critical and many workspaces just don’t really support motion as effectively as you would need.

Voice, such as Dragon naturally speaking, seems to be slipping out of the market. Alexa, Google Home and Cortana make the voice dictation systems much less valuable than they were in the past. I find that sad, as a long-time Dragon user the computers we have, even laptops are finally powerful enough that voice recognition is really effective.

Another area is the world of OCR. It is still there but instead of scanners and scanning in, now it is all about converting pictures taken by your cell phone. Specialty scanners are now available that can scan in one language and present to the user in another language. But again, those are smaller niche products that will never be mainstream.

Effectively I think my hit to miss ration is about 2 to 1. So, figure 66% of the time I am going to be right about a cool tech. 33% of the time I am likely to be wrong and the finally missing 1% is for those times when I geek way too far out and miss by a mile (would you believe, that much?)

Mark Twain sought the next great thing his whole life. It cost him his fortune (I don’t have a fortune so I do have to be a little more careful). The end game of chasing what is possible is that there is always a chance of failure.

If you learn from your mistakes though, you can find the next great thing!


Limping futurist

Goodbye my friend, I will miss you

I10 haven’t posted until today about the end of the company formerly called Pebble. In part because for the longest time I didn’t want the end to be real. I have been a watch lover for many years. Back into the early years of my life as a teenager and the first watch I got (right on the cusp of being a teenager). I love the technology of watches. I’ve backed a number of cool watch projects over the years. But the one that was always the best one was Pebble.

I rode the first Pebble wave up and now I am riding the last wave as it crashes into shore. The devices started out on Kickstarter as an idea. The campaign exploded and they became a sensation. So much so that they were for a time the top all time technology campaign on Kickstarter. The smart watch craze was beginning, and Pebble was out in front.

The problem with a great idea and no ability to create exclusivity or a permanent patent on the concept of smart watch, Pebble would soon face competition from some very large R&D budgets. Samsung and Apple both soon released smart watches and the dominance of Pebble was ending.

Sad to see the company go, they were, are a great example of the dream Take your idea to the world and see if it is the best way to do things. It was Pebble and I am going to miss you. I am going to miss the cool apps and the cool watch faces. While the new apple watch can do more, it doesn’t have the open source community creating incredible watch faces. The day after the horrible events in Paris there was a watch face. Solidarity went beyond simply caring, you could show it on your wrist. Not by the way that caring isn’t enough ever, it is, just being able to express that care constantly was a good thing.

Pebble was iconic.

Pebble was the first.

11As that door opened and the competitors popped through things began to change quickly. With change comes innovation. As I said the Apple iWatch can do a lot more now, than Pebble could in the end but in the begging, it was the story. I still have my slightly damaged Kickstarter Pebble. It is a watch I keep in my watch case along with many others. I am someone that loves watches anyway. But Pebble gets a place next to my heart.

It was the first to mix technology that was flexible and a watch. To connect to the phone and create the screen as a service. Where the screen (Pebble) could be anything you needed it to be. Turn by turn directions? No problem there is an app for that. Sharing images? Sure, do it on your smart watch screen. Walking today? How many steps? Pebble can tell you.

I am going to miss the team from Pebble. I know, they have moved on to security and greater potential and I am a Fitbit users so I am excited to see what they can do in an established (albeit struggling) company that has a fairly established market. Fitbit is, has been a dominate player in the fitness wearable market for many years. The reality for Team Pebble that they will still be competing in a similar space they will just have a large company behind them for security.

12I am going to miss the pebble watch. I got a refund on the new Time2 watch I ordered. That I know was a legal act to finish up the campaign. I will miss that watch, that team and in the end I will miss the exciting moment when once again I was one of the few wearing something. There was a time when I was the only person on many flights with a smart phone. That hasn’t been the case for many years now but there was a time. There was a time when I was the only one walking around with a smart watch. Then there was a time I was the only one with pebble. Now the market has evolved, there are many more devices out there. No company is an island. We are all pieces of the continent and as pebbles roll unabated to the sea (sorry Mr. Milton for the destruction of paradise lost). My pebble has rolled now to the sea and I for one will miss it!


Pebble fan

The ghost of technology past hanging out with the ghost of technology future

5Many years ago, there was an event that happened. I have talked about that event many times. It was a changer for me. My father went on a trip for the University, when he got back he gave me a circular slide rule. It was nowhere near as easy to use as a calculator nor was it as easy to use as a traditional slide rule. But it was cool.

It had a card on the inside that had a bunch of information on the card. On the back of the circular device was a periodic table of the elements. I understand the reality of the situation. It was given to me by my father. It was a cool thing that was both practical and whimsical. Finally, it was the device that started me down the modify your cellular device capabilities many years later. I got that slide rule in 1975 or possibly a year after that.

Complex calculations are the first thing you use a slide rule for. Recreating those on my initial cell phone wasn’t likely. So, I got an HP programmable calculator. That gave me the ability to do all of that on my calculator. Eventually with the rise of the Pocket PC phone I was able to replace the HP Calculator (I actually still have it) with an application. Now, there is a great emulator for the iPhone that lets you run a virtual version of that HP calculator I had.

6The additional functionality (periodic table etc) was soon on the cellular devices as people created more and more useful table of the elements. In fact, now you can get even better versions on the Android or iOS devices. I really like the ones that are more interactive than the original I had (slide rule) and the first replacement (pocket pc).

That said and all laid out it was a quest for me. To first replace the circular slide rule, but also to find better ways to do things (for me). I have always been interested in technology. I find that it is something that can be used to improve and to change the world.

Technology is a game changer. It is a game changed as well. That change continues to permeate society. The reality of selfie’s and the instant state of update created by users of Facebook and other sites are driven not only by the fact that the potential is there, but because the connection is always there as well. It is the two sides to the coin.

Enabling connection allows more people to be, remain and expand their connections. Technology that enables both the connection and what to do when connected further expands the connection. Not only am I connected all the time but there is something I can do with that connection. It could be a chicken and the egg question for later generations. But for now, it is pretty easy to see that the reality of technology was creating the environment where sharing was more critical than it had been in the past. The act of sharing however was also changed by the technology used for the sharing. Together we have the brave new world.

7Still, all of this for me to replace something I once got. In part once it was lost (first the slide rule, and then my father) it changed things forever. Now, I seek the next big wave of change. What is coming beyond replacing that circular slide rule.

I like to think the future is like a prism. Many colors are available, it is the abilities of the system viewing the collars that determines what you see.

So, my quest continues. Now a larger quest (no I am not chasing giants that from a distance look a lot like windmills). It is just that now my quest is removing me from tasks where possible. I find that my GPS is right more than 99% of the time. The only errors it makes are when I make the wrong turn first. I am now trying to integrate more and more technology to replace me in the middle.

Once I sought to replace a circular slide rule. Now I am seeking to remove the errors of the former circular slide rule user!


Technologist, geek