Cool Tech Mid-Year Review Wrap-up

I pulled all twelve forward for you, and of course included lengths to the more in-depth discussion of each of the categories.

First post with categories 1-3

Second post with categories 4-6

Third post with categories 7-9

Fourth post with categories 10-12

  1. Personal Interaction Devices
  2. Home Theater
  3. Mobile Device Add on
  4. Micro-weather
  5. Home Automation
  6. Motion
  7. 360-degree cameras
  8. Digital Cameras
  9. Tablets
  10. Navigation
  11. Headset
  12. Storage

In the review, I didn’t include two categories in part because they are maturing and in part because I just don’t see them having the same level of impact on a person as on business. The first of these is remote compute or cloud computing and the second is the ever-expanding reality of data management (Data Analytics or what was once called big data).

I did not include Drones or ROV’s, but they fit into the digital camera category. The abilities of Drones and ROV’s to output 4k video and operate in places where humans often struggle to operate (when is the last time you saw a person flap their wings and fly over the roof of their house).

The area where I see Drones increasing rapidly right now is that of modular drones. That would span a number of the categories that I have listed above, in particular, the areas of device interaction, digital cameras, and cellular device add-ons. Although the last one is a stretch, you are receiving video to your cell/tablet from the remote operating vehicle.

There are a couple of items in my original LinkedIn post earlier this year that are interesting. The first is the CMRA band for your iWatch. It gives you added functionality including the ability to take pictures with your iWatch directly. The other are that I didn’t dive into for this is AR/VR as a specific category. AR/VR is growing rapidly and would be category 13. Right now the applications for VR and AR are in the gaming space only. As we move more and more towards the abilities to add augmented (Gamification) reality to business solutions, I suspect this category will move further up the list.

I enjoy making these lists from time to time. First off to see if I was even remotely close to right when I did the one at the beginning of the year and secondly because it is fun to evaluate what is happening in the technology world.

Now if we could only get one definition for what Hybrid Cloud is, life would be perfect.



Cool Tech Mid-Year Update issue 4

This is my 4th and final mid-year Cool Tech category post. I have covered 1-9 in my three previous posts and you can find links to those below.

First post with categories 1-3

Second post with categories 4-6

Third post with categories 7-9

10. Navigation Tech

First off the category is changing faster than any other I’ve seen in a long time. There was a time, now more than 15 years ago, when I carried a portable GPS with me when I was traveling. The first version of the product was Co-Pilot and it required my laptop and an external antenna. That meant I also had to have a DC to AC power supply because back then my laptop had at most 1 hour of battery and often landing at the airport was the start of a 2 hour or more commute. That moved to a Pocket PC sleeve that allowed me to leave my laptop off and use that device. Then it became/was integrated into the cell phone and the handheld, portable GPS world changed forever. Now it is all about the software.

Products I use today include Tom Tom, Copilot, Mbrace, Apple Maps and Google Maps. From time to time I also use Waze and Inrix. But the primary tool I use remains Co-Pilot and MBrace. I trust both of them because so far they have never led me to the wrong place.

11. Headsets

Now, this is an interesting category. I actually find that headsets have evolved and what you need them for is vastly different. Which means that that category continues to evolve. But the capabilities within the category are tremendous.

The products I use today include Hololens, Glyph, Parrot Noise Cancelling Headphones and the Jabra Evolve 80. Each of them has a specific function, Hololens I use during conference calls where I need to look things up. The Jabra is my primary go-to conference call setup when I am in a loud environment. The Glyph is great for watching training videos and well movies and TV. Finally, I have my reliable Parrot Noise Cancelling headsets for when I want to listen to music and not hear the world around me!

12. Storage

The last category and most likely the broadest. In part because this category represents a lot of moving pieces. Storage in and of itself can be integrated with the computer or device you are using. Like the headsets, it can also connect to the device you are using. Unlike headsets, however, storage can also be remote or “cloud” or network based. The what and why of storage involves a lot of questions.

The products I use in this category are in three buckets including direct attached storage (Or DASD), network attached storage (or NAS) and finally Cloud storage. The three are Western Digital USB drives directly attached to my computers. A WD My Cloud device sitting on my network (one is always on, the other is always off but they are full backups of each other). Finally, i use Carbonite to backup my PC.

All of this said for storage I do have one thing to save beyond the what I am using statements. That is if you have digital copies of your family memories, have multiple copies of them. Disk drives only fail when they are on. They are even more likely to fail right after you put the only copies of all your digital pictures on them! Make multiple copies of your family memories!!!



Cool Tech Mid-Year Review Part 3

The third edition of my mid-year 2017 Cool Technology trends update. We have made it from 1-6 so far. The big change for me, mid-year is I am reviewing technical categories rather than actual products only. It is different than I have made my cool tech projections in the past.

Link to my first post in the series.

Link to my second post in the series.

7. 360-degree cameras

I would have had this category number one as an emerging technology just a year ago. But the reality of emerging changed rapidly. There is some products shipping right now in this space. Each of them adding additional and interesting features. The market for cameras that claim 360 images is exploding. The reality of these cameras is that most are 180 degrees or at most 270 degrees and allow you to stitch the image together. You can do that on your cell camera with panorama.

The products I use in this category include Bubl, Vyu260, and Camorama. The last two are interesting in that they include cases for using the cameras underwater. They (Vyu360 and Camorama) are action camera sized. Bubl remains the best 360-degree camera and truly delivers the full 360-degree experience. The other two offer incredible versatility as far as action cameras.

8. Digital Cameras

The category has also undergone a considerable change. The market, one of the few in the technology space is shrinking. The rise (as in the category above) of specialty cameras is forcing market change. Those forces feature into cameras that were traditionally pretty slow to evolve. The newest iteration of digital cameras now includes high-speed abilities, bursting, video and the steady cam option from the old video cameras. The evolution of digital cameras continues, and they are getting better and better. The best way to demonstrate it just take high-speed (slow-motion video) with your digital camera and your cell phone. The sheer jumping of the cell phone will convince you to get a digital camera.

The products I use in the traditional camera space are broken into the three primary categories. DSLR Canon 5ds, Point and Shoot Olympus TG-5 and video JVC.

9. Tablet or portable computing platform

A few years ago I would have only talked about computer laptops in this piece or category. But now, it is all about tablets. But just three years ago I would not have included a Windows tablet in this mix. Now the market and capabilities have shifted. Tablets offer increased flexibility as far as interaction not only via keyboard but touch screens and pens (pencils for iPads). The abilities and capabilities continue to expand in this category.

The products I use in this category are the Microsoft Surface Book, The iPad Pro and the Samsung Note. As stated the category has changed radically in just the past two years.



Cool tech trends 2017 (mid-year) continued

Yesterday I shared my initial starting point for top mid-year 2017 tech trends. I am continuing that post today now adding the next set of cool technology categories, and the additional products that fit the categories. Please note that I am the one selecting both the products and technologies so they reflect my interests.

My rules for technology trends are they have to be something that is changing the area they are in. Either impacting or altering the what and how of the area.

4. Micro-Weather

This is an extremely interesting category. In part, because it is evolving and in part because it is a very old category that until recently hasn’t changed much. The initial home weather stations had the capability to be shared but you had to have a weather underground account and a computer you could attach to the weather station via a USB dongle. The new Micro-Weather Stations have changed all of that. Now, you can view the weather from your station on your phone, tablet or computer anywhere without having to directly connect to your weather station.

The products in this growing category that I use and love are NetATMO (I’ve had their weather station for more than 3 years now) and Bloomsky (6 months and I am really enjoying posting time-lapse video of Yesterday’s weather!).

5. Home automation

Home Automation is undergoing an explosion right now. From adding capabilities to already existing products to expanding what you can automate. The quick home automation projects are video doorbells (then you know who is at the door even before they ring the doorbell) home door locks and lighting. There are a number of products and points of integration in the space.

The products in this even more rapidly growing technology area are Control4, Almond Routers, Amazon Echo, Google Home (Nest products and integration) and many others. The ones I use are the products listed but the category has doubled in just the past two years.

6: Motion input devices

The every expanding area of motion detection devices is one that is extremely interesting. Like voice control systems there is a limit to motion control. As you would not should Alexa to blank on a crowded subway car the same is true of making gestures to automate tasks. That said, at home, where these devices are normally deployed the value proposition of motion detection is really high.

The products in this area are the Leap Motion Controller, Myo and SingleCue. All three have different approaches to the concept of motion control. They are all three very interesting products. Motion control is expanding but not as quickly as the voice controlled devices are.

More to come!



Top trends 2017 Technology

Every year I publish my list of Tech Trends. What I do as a consultant is I consider what my customers are asking for, what I am researching and the trends that I see on the crowd funding sites that I use. Normally I actually list out technologies only but this time I am going to actually put in technology buckets and then within the buckets detail my listings of products that meet the created categories.

1. Personalized interaction devices:

This category represents devices you have that are in your home and interact with you in a personalized manner.

The products in this category are: Jibo, Amazon Echo and Google Home (more are coming and I may add them in my fall update)

2. Home Theater and projection products

These are products that help you by making it easier to connect, use and interact with media content. There are any number of projectors on the market.

The products in this category are Keecker and the H1 Projector. There are two other products that get honorable mention The Touchpond products and the Dos Owls projectors.

3. Mobile Device adds on for unique or customized video

These products are added to your cellular phone or connect to your cell phone and provide you with additional functionality your cellular camera does not have today.

The products in this category include The Infrared Cameras from Seek Thermal. The UV camera was Nurego and the wonderful Structure product from Ocipital. Each of these cameras adds a number of functions to your device. The Seek Thermal camera is a great for determining if you have leaks in your windows or the current heat products by an engine. The UV camera shows the impact of UV on human skin. Finally, The Structure Camera actually lets you scan in 3 dimensions and they now have a free software package that lets you scan a room!

There are more future tech trend posts to come. This is just the beginning (or just the first 3).



Tech support is not that hard…really…

One of the things I find most frustrating in the technology world is bad tech support. Not, the just inane Windows Tech Support team that used to call me (sniff, sniff they don’t call anymore sad). Never, by the by, give anyone you do not know access to your computer unless you know without a doubt that they are from a company that is reputable.

The worst technical support I get is usually on the far edge devices I have, and I do understand that. It is a lot harder to support devices that are cutting edge, and the problems tend to be additionally complex because those who adopt early tend to have complex use cases.

Lately, I have had two experiences that I want to share. One was cutting edge, new technology and the response was impressive, the result was extremely well received, and overall everything came together nicely. I reached out to Bloomsky because my time-lapse weather video station was having an image issue. Within a week I was up and running with a new station, no more blurry. It made me feel better about what I was doing, and of course, I got to continue posting my Yesterday’s Weather segment on YouTube!

The second incidence has been with the 3d printer I have (Flashforge Dreamer). The tech support I’ve gotten stretched out over four months and in the end didn’t resolve the issue. Well, it did, but the amount of effort for me to take apart the printer and install the fix is more than I am willing to do. I don’t have 4 hours of time to throw at fixing something like a 3d printer. Plus the tech support I received was less than stellar. Needless to say, I am listing the printer at a reduced price on eBay tomorrow.

I understand that good technical support is hard. I’ve sat on the phone for 21 hours with a customer, I know it isn’t easy. I’ve been in the middle of a crisis, with one phone talking to a vendor, and the other phone talking to a co-worker trying to solve the unsolvable problem we had. I understand how frustrating and painful it can be.

But I also know that customer service can be done better. I personally get rid of devices that don’t meet my requirements for customer service. It is my rule. Goodbye 3d printer, although I did back a new one on Kickstarter that is coming this fall so it isn’t a huge loss.

I will leave you today with two simple rules for all tech support:

1. Explain the overall troubleshooting process to the customer upfront.

2. Explain that you own their problem and want to get it fixed.

It really is that simple.


Tech support fanatic

Yesterday’s weather and seeing what is actually under the surface of the water around you!

I realized yesterday that watching the Bloomsky video of clouds was very relaxing. It is a time-lapse video that I call Yesterday’s Weather, never wrong. Here is a link to my YouTube channel. I have a lot of family videos there, but I do also post the videos most days. There are a few I have missed since January. But for the most part, I do get yesterday’s weather posted, after all, it already happened.

There are a few weather geeks out there, and that number if growing rapidly. When I bought my first Davis, and before that Oregon Scientific stations, there were few of us. We shared our weather on the Weather Underground site, and we were a very small club. Now, with NetATMO and Bloomsky the number of stations is growing (there are 11 in my part of Maryland alone.) I guess it may be time for me to move on from home weather stations, I may be too geeky now for that world.

One of the projects that I am excited about right now is the Trident Remotely operated vehicle. Hopefully (fingers crossed) the system ships this summer so we can use it a little. Trident is from OpenROV, a company founded on and built around providing Remotely Operated Vehicles for hobbyists and professionals. A professional ROV can run upwards of 30,000 dollars. A hobbyist usually run less than a thousand dollars. The difference now is the ability to operate in deeper water (professional) and to have more capabilities (lift arms, retrieval systems, etc.). But Trident is the second OpenROV that I have owned, and I enjoyed playing and experimenting with the old one. With some of the new cameras, the quality of video (nearly 4k) provides you with stunning views underwater. Not just a sonar-style object, but the actual object. Where underwater drones are interesting is in the same way traditional above ground flying drones are, you can see things you don’t normally see. I suspect the number of drones used by companies will continue to increase. Solar companies can install your solar roof, then use drones check on that roof for issues. Roofing companies can fly a drone over your roof to verify installation, issues and so on. Insurance companies can use drones to fly over damaged roofs. Firefighters can use drones equipped with infrared cameras to fly over roofs and find hot spots, before a firefighter steps on one.

Underwater ROV’s can help with item recovery (in shallower water) but also help extend not only the view but also the understanding of how the underwater eco-system is working. Plus ROV’s don’t have to use scuba gear. While I love swimming and being in the water, I am always a little nervous when we start going a little deeper and all that is around me is unknown. Now, we can send in the Trident RPV tp explore. We will know what is below us before we hop in and find out.