Wandering the edges of cool tech and presentations…

I at times play beyond the bleeding edge of new technology. Based on that I am going to be more up front about cool Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects. I am willing to risk money on something that may never come to be. Based on that if you are not willing to risk money, do not back the more extreme projects I back.

The ones that interest me right now have to do with supporting my wife in her job. She at times works with patients from a number of nationalities and language barriers can be huge, when your job is helping someone prepare for the death of a family member. The translation systems that plug into your ear and allow you to hear and speak another language are interesting to me. It is an extension of the cellular device and using translation as a service. There are companies such as Language Line and other’s that provide this as a physical service, but the cost of those services is pretty high, and at times the speed is a limiting factor. Plus, you are speaking into a phone, getting a translation and there is by default always a slight delay.

Another area of technology that has peaked my interest for years is that of Robotics. The upcoming Aibo, Jibo and Keecker products are interesting. All three have extended development projects that led to their existence. Each is looking at the problem from a slightly different angle so it is interesting to see where they end up. Keecker is more a personal entertainment device, or as they call it a home pod. A device designed to make your entertainment experience that much better. Jibo is a static robot, in that it doesn’t move, but offers a number of potential interactions for the elderly and for children. When I was traveling years ago, I recorded myself singing the song I wrote for my kid’s bedtime. That way they would always hear me signing the Moon song before they went to bed. Finally, Aibo is another interesting project that is more aligned with the traditional robot. Both Keecker and Aibo are not fixed in one place and can move.

I did an IoT/drones/robotics talk for high school students a couple of years ago, in that talk I had a number of IoT devices that I shared with the kids, plus a look at the art of the possible. The art of the possible changes virtually every single day so that talk was always a blast. The last one I gave I had a line of kids waiting to talk to me well after school ended. The teachers had to come in and tell the kids they had to get on the buses, but that I would come back. So, I did go back and sat in the lunch room talking to some of the brightest people I’ve ever met. The best part of the talk was the very first time I gave it, when I launched the drone and played back the video of the drone watching the audience. Some principals were not comfortable with a drone flying in their auditorium so I only did that a couple of times. But the concept was cool and I showed the video of that to the kids that didn’t get to see the live drone.

Keecker will change that presentation I am sure. Having a portable projector that comes when you call it (via your cell phone for the connection and communication) will be pretty cool. Since it is also a device living in that connected Internet device space it will also fit in nicely.

Perhaps in a new presentation I can call Jibo from Keecker and have a conversation with someone sitting in my house. The only thing that worries me in the end is all the bandwidth. I am 1 step away from the maximum bandwidth Verizon offers via FIOS. (No cable modems are not as fast as fiber. I know they advertise that they have the fastest in home wi-fi but really? You are interested in things that live in your house only? You don’t connect to Netflix, Amazon instant video or Hulu? Because while the fastest in-home wi-fi is great for the family history pictures on your network, it does nothing for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon instant video).

Plus, I can also demonstrate the Hololens.

See, already rewriting my IoT presentation to share more things that are here, the art of the possible a lot more today than it was just a year ago,

.doc

Futurist

The Rise of Cloud Brokers….

cloud brokerI had a discussion yesterday with someone that I wonder about. It was one of those discussions that afterwards you wonder, what exactly started the conversation. We ended up talking about the concept of cloud brokers. Yes, I know that is not a topic of conversation that most, if in fact any people bring up or have. Even at the geekiest holiday parties. The conversation was around technology and what is coming, I postulated as I have been for the past several years that brokers will rise. In fact, for the most part they have, but the overall concept left now is the automation.

The person in question does not see the value in brokers. I understand that, although I don’t understand the market logic of denying brokers. I think there are many organizations that will benefit from broker technologies. In fact, I think personally that my concept of the City Broker remains a variable way to solve the initial implementation problem. I also see value in a US Federal Cabinet level agency have its own broker to build and deploy solutions.

Most people today look to the market as it has been for the past 10 years. It is evolving and as is often the case those who spend to long standing at the edge of the cliff looking at the sunset are the ones that get left there when the tour bus packs up and drives away. For a variety of reasons brokers are coming. The what and who of that eventual automation is the question.

EvolutionI believe it is critical that cloud brokers be of two distinct natures. The first is the inward facing broker, not that it only has internal services. Rather than for large companies or US cabinet level agencies the broker is run within the organization, both owned and managed by that group. The second broker is a broader municipal or regional government broker service. The goal of the second is to create a safer stronger overall computing environment.

The reality of hackers is that they will find weakness in systems. Therefore, the stronger the walls of the system the better everyone will be. The security framework that a municipal broker can offer is pretty big. It won’t solve the problem, but it will start the process of moving a little further and a little faster towards a better place.

For large corporations or cabinet level US Federal, or for large government sponsored agencies throughout the world having a broker internally gives them a couple of layers of control. They can enforce strict you cannot build in the cloud without approval rules. They can also manage the cost and the reality of systems. Look, I’ve moved applications to the cloud at the request of customers many times. I’ve told the customer at the time that the applications didn’t need three, four or more VM’s but I was over ruled. With a metering system in place such as what a broker can offer, you gain the ability to know which systems are over preforming (need to increase the number of VM’s) and which ones are under performing (reduce cost by releasing machines).

DevOpsEffetely and in reality, brokers are inevitable. I believe given the concepts laid out in this paper the broader reality of cloud brokers will become real in a short-term view. By short term I figure 24 months for the rise of the internal agency and large corporation brokers. That is just a good financial decision for the two to make. The city broker is one that will take longer, but is one that will benefit many more people throughout the world.

The last component of the overall concept of brokers is the reality of the coming tide, IoT. The value proposition of the IoT explosion is amazing information. The really bad thing is security and data management. Not traditional data storage, but live feed massive data what do we do with it? That data management layer begs for an IoT broker, given the reality of how devices connect it also calls for an integrated gateway layer that sits in the cloud (there are three available right now, Azure’s IoT device gateway, the IBM BlueMix and the Amazon IoT gateway).

I walked away from the conversation realizing that the distance between where someone is, and the future isn’t how far can they see. It is ultimately being they willing to actually look.

.doc

Broker lover, cloud dreamer

So the refrigerator said to me…

Image result for smart appliancesEveryday connectivity sending and receiving data. It is part of the definition of the Internet of things and the devices that are connected. Every day you can get and receive more information and the day before because you still have yesterday’s information.

We don’t think about a lot of the information that is for sure. Who thinks about the information their car provides them on the commute to work? Current oil temperature, performance of the engine. If you have Navdy, Automatic or other of the driving tools that leverage the management port of your car you may pay attention to more information, but usually after driving. Or when you are sitting in traffic. The faster you have to go the less you look at the information connected and provided.

The same is true of your home network. You get data all the time, but who has time to look at it. You don’t know that there are bits of malware and other bad actors on your home network. They are using your freely provided bandwidth to do other things. Some of the bad actors are items that are stupid, in that they are simply not acting the way they were designed. Some are struggling to phone home, the ET of your home network. Others were put there with malicious intent, using your bandwidth to support the goals of a hacker.

Image result for smart appliancesAll of this happening all day, every day right under your own nose.

In fact, we can break devices into traditional categories. There are dumb devices that are not aware of if they are off or on. They consume power and waste your money regardless of there being on or off. Televisions are often huge power vampires. You don’t realize that when that really cool flat screen is off it is siphoning power.

Then there are connected devices that don’t have a lot of device security, so hacking them isn’t horribly hard. They are connected dumb devices. Dumb in that they are easily altered without you knowing that they have been altered. You lose a portion of your bandwidth to these devices because they are providing that IoT, all day every day data to someone else.

Another type of device sitting on your network is the ET, the phone home devices. These are devices that even when you aren’t using them are talking to the mother ship. There is some devise that you want talking all the time. Home weather stations should communicate with their publication system all the time. But there are devices that chatter too much. Refrigerators should know that they can publish their information once a day. Not 100 times a day. The goal of new age smart appliances should always be minimizing the impact on the home network. In fact, you should be able to set the times the devices update the Internet. The contents of you frig are critical when you connect to it, and right before you go shopping. Otherwise who needs to know that you have 4 lonely eggs sitting in the egg tray? Well you do if you are making Quiche for dinner and you only have 4 eggs. Then you have to stop at the store, but you can ping the frig and ask it as you are preparing to head home. How many eggs do I have.

So, the definition of IoT includes everyday communication. But the concept of communication has to be built into the connection and data. Everyday means truly the data the device has is provided every day it is needed. When the data is critical path, it is available. When it is no longer critical path, then it is not provided. The intelligence of synchronizing data with intent and purpose is critical. Telling me I left the iron or my coffee pot on – critical. Telling me that the light in my closet is on not so much.

Going forward devices will get smarter. The smarter devices will reduce their impact on your home network. Additionally, they will also be being to include security that will notify you of bad actors. For example, they will have the ability to tell you that your coffee pot is secretly talking to someone that your refrigerator doesn’t know. Or that your toaster is actually watching you.

.doc

Network lover, smart appliance fan

Information age not here yet. Information for that age, h3ere now but well…

One of the things that always interests me is the concept of measurement. There are a number of types of measuring devices including Geiger counters, wind meters and infra-red cameras. Each measures a specific thing. Each thing, impacts you in a different way so knowing what is, is important. As a boater, I am also interested in Radar because it tells me how close things are to my boat. I am also interested in the downward looking sonar that tells me how much water I have under me. With a boat, you don’t want to venture into water that is well too shallow for the boat you are in.

All of these things provide both visual and auditory feedback, they are the seniors that make up part of what we now call the Internet of Things. Some of them are not connected today and therefore are not IoT devices. But the number of connected devices in the various spaces around us are increasing every single day.

It is something I have changed since getting my first pocket pc phone, now more than 15 years ago, what additional measurements can I take, have or make available via the devices connected to my phone. I realize that the path I was on originally (sleeves for my pocket pc) was not the right path. Stopping what you are doing to add a different sensor or sleeve isn’t optimal. In fact, the evolution of what is in the phone has been incredible. Accelerometers make great seismographs. Well not great but they can tell you if that is you shaking or the ground under you shaking.

One of the problems with more functionality on devices is the reality of usage. If the device becomes too complex to use, people won’t use it. That is why the world of bite-sized software has exploded. Software that uses one feature or function of your phone, really well. An easy to understand and consume interface that results in your quickly catching on to how and what to do.

The other side of bite sized software for me, is the concept of integrated messaging. Where the data from a variety of device sensors is presented to me, as the consumer, in a single unified screen. There are a number of systems that have this capability today. Android and iOS offer this natively. The problem I have is my social feed overwhelms the traditional sensor data screen so I have a secondary application I can launch that forces the social feed to the device pop-up window.

All of this to collect data. All of this creating the concept of Micro Data systems. Micro being the new IoT Buzz word, from Micro Grids (localized power grid) to Micro Weather (localized weather information). All of the data we have moving to the Micro delivery model. Start small, build and share information, eventually the data will show not only the reality of weather (Micro Weather stations show the fluctuation within a small to large geographic area). But also, the direct impact (what the Micro Grids generating power during the day and consuming power during the night with little to no generation).

It can be like drinking from a fire hose. What seems like a funny idea. But a firehose pushes out water at more than 60 psi. That is way more than your facet and way more than you can drink. So, the inundation that occurs when trying to drink from a firehose leaves more water outside of you than the small amount you are able to consume.

The flood (inundation) is a scary reality of both the devices we carry and the future state of IoT. The evolution of humans to absorb that type of information quickly is occurring but it takes 3 to 4 generations (or roughly 50 years) for that to occur. For now, we have those who struggle to stay with the pack and those who are left behind.

You see that flood is only going to increase. Today you can measure a lot of the world around you. Spike, a measurement tool by Ike is a great tool that lets you take your cellular device and measure distance in fairly large areas. Dario allows you to measure your blood sugar using your cellular device. Withings has a series of exercise and measurement tools you can connect to your cellular device (I love their blood pressure cuff). The world of data connected to your device is increasing. Now to a degree using connected versions of devices can help you cut down the noise (you only care when the readings are outside the range you set) but it does increase the amount of data you consume.

The future of information is coming. The information age is near. Not here yet though, so please post on every single analysts post that says the information age is here, NOT HERE YET.

.doc

Anti Informationageistic blogger

Some of the why behind my reviews and my love of technology…

IMG_0158I got an interesting comment yesterday to my Bloomsky weather station review. The first question was easily dispatched and I sent the person an email with my explanation. The easy answer why a home weather station is as follows.

1. The NWS tends to place sensors in large metropolitan areas. It is always 4 or more degrees hotter in DC than it is in Germantown Maryland.

2. The NWS sensor in Germantown is actually in the middle of a fairly large area of buildings, and is on average 2-5 degrees warmer than the more suburban area I live in.

3. Because of the first two knowing the temperature actually outside my house, important!

The second question asked is a little harder. Why am I such a gadget person? Well not just gadgets but what got me started in the world of technology. I began my career as a school teacher many years ago. At the time I entered education two things were happening. I had grown up in the house of one of the most unique educators in the country. I also grew up in the age of the birth of personal computers. Those two things combined to give me a view both on my future profession, education as well as life in general. Test it using the scientific models I was raised with. Explore it using the reality of what is possible with technology.

IMG_0363But beyond my father there were other people who influenced me. There were two other huge impacts on my life that led me to both portability and technology. The first was my love (also sparked by my father) of NASA. He and I watched the moon walk live. Staying up until 2 am to see Neil Armstrong first step foot on the dusty surface of the moon. NASA enthralled me, drove me and interested me. There is little in my current job you can point to, that doesn’t come from NASA’s direction in the 1960’s and 1970’s. From computing power, computing size, graphics and storage much of that was driven by the quest to land a person on the moon and return them safely.

Another influence in my personal gadget quest was living overseas. As a young man in the US I had access to television (yes there were 5 stations we didn’t have cable in the house until 1971). But I could watch different stations and different shows. When we lived in Thailand there was no television in our apartment. I loved to read anyway. But now reading was everything. I was introduced to the ever-growing world of fantasy, via The Lord of the Rings. But I was also introduced to the works of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and others. Those two come to mind because my love of technology was further expanded in reading their works. Arthur C Clarke was someone I read everything he wrote and the gadgets and items he talked about in his fiction were things I thought would be incredible to have.

You see who I was to be, was shaped by who I was. Growing up exposed to the scientific model developed by my father (the Inquiry Method), exposure to NASA and the amazing feats of space travel the organizations has and continues to perform. Plus, the open door created by Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. A door that led me beyond what was possible to the dream of the possible.

IMG_0386All of that making me extremely interested in new Technology and the impact of that on the world around me. That my view of the world is less colored by people than technology. I believe that technology has made our world a better place. I believe technology will continue to show us a path that continues to help us grow as human beings. Technology doesn’t care what you believe, what you are wearing, who you talk to or for that matter where you live. Technology is truly agnostic. Holding no belief better. Holding no place better. Holding no one person better than another. All of them are equal in the eyes of technology.

As a person, I believe that as well. I believe in the equality of all via technology. I believe not in the dysphoria of tomorrow. I believe in a brighter future where technology shows us how we can all “just get along” to quote Rodney King. To quote the other King, the Doctor, I have dream. That someday people will be connected. That someday we will cherish the contents of children’s minds and make education the priority globally. A world where all doors are open and all people taught how to pass through the doors equally!

.doc

Technologist

Just another shameless IoT review Bloomsky weather!

IMG_0157In the best sense of customer service, I have to acknowledge that I am a massive weather geek. Probably well beyond what would be considered normal for weather aficionado. Well into the geeky overkill range.

That said, a new weather station has appeared. I have XM weather for my car. It is great and I love getting weather warnings on the information screen of my car. But this new weather station is different and frankly amazing.

It is just another shameless review, Bloomsky! When I read the original Kickstarter campaign for Bloomsky I was interested. A weather station that had solar power (I still have to from time to change the batteries in one of my weather stations. It tells me the batteries are low, but I still physically have to change them so solar is nice). But let’s also not just have a weather station. Let’s add a time lapse camera to the system.

Temperature – check. Barometric pressure – check. View of the sky during the daylight hours – check. So, as you see from the images I was playing with the camera position (still not done) yesterday. I took a few pictures including one of the predawn sky this morning (the last day of November 2016).

First off weather stations are as much about location and use as any IoT device. In the case of weather stations the win or lose is the software. I love my Davis Weather station but the software is at best hard to use and configure. NetATMO is awesome (still have to change the batteries) but the software is amazing.

IMG_0158When I backed Bloomsky I figured it would be in the middle. Decent hardware and decent software. I can honestly say I was doubly wrong. The hardware is awesome, well designed and very flexible. I mounted it off the back deck of my house. Partially because I wanted to verify the readings against the other two weather stations. Partially because I am lazy and that was the easiest location to mount it.

Hardware – amazing – even easier to set-up the hardware for the Bloomsky than my previous favorite in the easy set-up space NetATMO. The Davis was the hardest to set-up but provides you with the most information. NetATMO was the next hardest to set-up and has a number of standalone sensors. Bloomsky has the easiest set-up and also the most interesting software. Plus, you get pictures taken of the sky throughout the day.

(the distortion is from rain drops – really cool effect)!

I am sharing those pictures with you, they come from the backyard of my house. Actually, from the corner of the deck off the upper level of the hosue. I am really impressed with the software. I love being able to send pictures of right now, to myself. Yesterday was the first day in IMG_0159November this year when it actually measurably rained so that was interesting to see. I can’t wait to see the time lapse photos of an entire day. I have the unit pointing in the direction of the sunrise and sunset. Although sunset will be behind our house so it won’t be quite as cool.

Overall this is a great first, second or third weather station. It adds the ability to have time lapse day time sky photos. It includes a solar power cell so you don’t have to change the batteries. It shuts its camera down at night to concessive power. I have a telescope with a camera attachment for night time pictures anyway!

Oh yeah, and the unit looks cool. It is fun playing with Camera angles and seeing what you see!

.doc

I am a weather geek

So I read this horrible study today…

Image result for iphone vs androidI read a study today that ticked me off. I’ve seen studies like this one before and they annoy me but this one was wrong day, wrong time. The reality of smart phones and their users. A recent study released in the U.K. talks about the difference between iPhone and Android users. The bias of the study was pretty evident and the missing pieces in the study were wide enough to drive a truck through. Smart phone users should be classified first, then from there evaluate the impact of the device on the person.

The first type of smart phone user is the evolutionary smart phone user. They started with the Pocket PC phones of the 2000’s and either moved to Windows Phones, or left the devices and went to either Android or iPhone (or both). This user may have two distinct characteristics that changes how they operate and include a smart phone in their lives. They may be the cutting-edge person, the technologist who loves technology for technologies sake. Or they may be an innovator who sees value in the new platform. Either way their evaluation and use of smart phones is very different.

Next you have the person who didn’t use a smart phone until 2008. They jumped on the iPhone or Android platform with its release. They are interested in applications and didn’t experience the high cost of software on the Pocket PC platform, they are used to 99 cent applications. They use their smart phone as a personal extension taking lots of pictures and sharing on social media. They are neither young or old (I know people in both categories that are well in this category of user).

Finally, you have the platform lovers. Their bias is for the platform. You know them (I’ve been one since switching off the windows phone platform to the android platform first (and then realizing what a pain it was moving to the iPhone). I know the windows phone platform is dying. I am not a huge android fan but I do have an android tablet. I use it frequently because it has a couple of applications that I find really cool. But for the most part I am an iPhone user.

There is no easy classification for smart phone users. Mostly because the way people consider and use phones is vastly different. My favorite line was my mother at dinner with my family while visiting us asked a question. Everyone at the table grabbed their phones to get her the answer. That is the modern smart phone world. The relevance of platforms today is that there are two. As a cutting-edge technologist, I can honestly say that I can do the same things with Android devices that I can with iOS devices. I cannot do as many of the things with the Windows Phone platform devices, but that is because that is a dying platform.

Image result for iphone vs androidThe difference between the devices? Frankly it comes down to what you need from a phone. Android devices (I had one for nearly a year as my only phone) are excellent quality and deliver great service. The recent battery issues could happen to any smart phone. The more battery (and everyone wants longer battery life in their smart phone) you have the greater the risk can be. There are design things that can be done that will alleviate some of the risk but for the most part batteries get warm. Some of the devices have really high end cameras (although they are not the optimal camera form so using them as your only camera is well, not the best idea). Some of them have amazing audio that is awesome. The end game is they are smart phones.

I interact with the world via my smart device. But I view the world through the lens I’ve created over the years. My smart phone is an extension of who and what I do. It is not me. My choice of smart phone is more focused on what I need the device for. For nearly 10 years I was on the cutting edge of phone technology pushing the edges of capabilities. Seeking more than was there often and pushing the hardware to its limits. Now, I want to be able to sit back and rely on my phone. It is a tool I use frequently but I no longer push the edge. I add devices that push the edge, but I can upon their failure remove them from my device and be back to fully operating.

The post that offended me talked about and labeled phone users in a way that I found demeaning and at best erroneous. The bias of the observer modifying not only the observation but also the decision and actions that were produced. It bothered me, this study that was released. I don’t really care either way in the end. It just makes me frustrated that people spend time building a case based on bias. Without a proper classification system, the phone user is not representative of more than one person. So, building and extrapolating beyond that is simply wrong.

I guess it bugged me more than I realized.

.doc

Reformed Windows Phone user…