Modified on by joshuagreen
Even if you are not too fond of gadgets, there will always be someone you know who is just addicted to anything that is related to technology. It may be a family member, a friend or a colleague. It is evident that if you want to give gifts that will be appreciated, you need to give something that they will truly love.
With the wide selection of gadgets that are available, how can you possibly choose? You first have to analyze your relationship with the person that you are going to give the gift to. If the person is close to you, you may want to spend more. If the person is merely an acquaintance, you do not have to give something extravagant even if you can afford it because it will be uncomfortable for you and the person.
Let us say that you would be giving a gift to a family member, a loved one or a close friend. What are the gifts that you can give?
1. Keyboard Waffle Maker: For the Hilarious Friend
You may have a friend who is so into playing and using his/her gadgets that he/she barely has time to cook. You can give the Keyboard Waffle Maker to remind the person that he/she still needs to eat. At the same time, the unique appearance of this waffle maker will make anyone happy. Since this is cordless, this can be cooked over a grill.
2. GoProHero+: For Someone Who Likes Traveling
You will always come across some people who live to travel. They would like to reach different points of the world because being immersed in different cultures truly change their mindset and their way of thinking. The best thing about GoProHero+ is that it is waterproof and shock proof. It can also take wonderful pictures that can be uploaded online immediately.
3. Light Up Gloves: For the Daredevil
Some people love riding their motorcycles and even their bikes late at night because there are fewer cars traveling at that time but they are also more prone to accidents because they are not seen by other vehicles on the road. Increase their safety by giving them Light Up Gloves. These gloves are very easy to use too. The button located at the gloves just need to be pressed and they will light up until they are pressed again.
4. Syma RC Helicopter: For the Peter Pan
You will always have that friend or that family member who does not want to grow up. Most of the time, they are able to live their normal, adult lives. They go to work and do their responsibilities but during their spare time, they cannot help but release the inner Peter Pan in them. This RC Helicopter will be perfect because this is inexpensive and can be fun to use.
5. Cool Looking Charger: For the Chic Friend
You may think that everyone who loves gadgets must love the outdoors or would love to play various types of sports but actually, there are some who are chic and sophisticated who love gadgets too. The best thing to give is a chic looking charger that they will be proud to put out of their designer bag whenever they need to charge. Search for colors that are not that common or you can find some that can mix the color of their smartphones.
6. 8Bitdo Bluetooth Retro Controller: For the Nostalgic One
You will always have some friends and family members who love playing the latest games and would love to have the latest gadgets but would gladly give a smile when reminded of the things that people used in the past. This bluetooth controller is set up to look like an old Nintendo controller and this can easily sync up with all of the other gadgets that are available at present time.
7. Tile: For Those Who Loses Keys All The Time
Everyone misplaces their keys once in a while but you will know someone who does nothing but lose his/her keys. This is the best gift because this can be attached to simple keys. The gadget will then be connected to the smartphone and it will give out an alarm when prompted so that it can be found.
Out of all the tech gadget ideas that are mentioned above, which one are you planning to purchase soon? Do not hesitate to give you gift ideas too.
The challenges of managing virtualized environments are mounting. The benefits of virtualization—from cost and labor savings to increased efficiency—are being threatened by its staggering growth and the resultant complexity. A critical piece to solving these challenges, as many organizations have already discovered, is image management. Read more: http://ibm.co/SpHTlV
Cloud Computing Made Simple
This half-day briefing consists of an overview and introduction to cloud computing, essentially cloud computing 101, the drivers and the various components of cloud, and concludes with “how to get started” - that is, how clients can capture the silver lining in their organisations.
Your website domain name is one of the most important pieces of your business. This essential component is greater than the different parts that comprise it: Websites, email addresses, etc. The overall domain is the core of your brand’s digital presence. As such, it must be defended and protected throughout its lifetime. Risks such as hijackers, spammers, and domain registrars seizing control are all factors to be wary of as you work to protect the health of your website domain.
One of the biggest contributing factors to good domain health is your email sender reputation. Your domain’s registrar will intervene if it notices emails sent from your domain are not reaching inboxes or being marked as spam. Not only will your email service provider block you from access, but your website domain also becomes at risk. The best way to avoid this is to employ an email checker to verify emails.
The risks of a poor sender reputation are as follows.
The Number of Emails You Can Send Will Be Reduced
When an email service provider (ESP) doesn’t recognize the domain sending emails, it will react in multiple fashions, including throttling your email send. This refers to the slowing down and capping of the number of emails that can be sent each day. When a business varies its email send numbers greatly in a short amount of time (e.g. sending thousands one day, hundreds the next), throttling is a common penalty. Timing is an essential part of any marketing campaign, so the consequences of throttling are severe.
Throttling can stem from a poor sender reputation. Your ESP doesn’t recognize your domain because it has been marked as spam too often. By utilizing an email address checker, you can reduce the number of emails that get marked as spam. As a result, your ESP is less likely to mark you as a spammer and instead recognize that you are a legitimate sender. You’ll never have to worry if your email is reaching everyone on your list on the right day and time, or that you’re being marked as an illicit sender.
Your Emails Won’t Make it to Inboxes
A low sender score means your emails aren’t even reaching inboxes. Instead, they’re being marked as spam immediately upon reaching recipient’s mailboxes. Without users able to open and take action on your emails, the overall efficacy of an email marketing campaign greatly declines. This results in a negative impact in all the ways such a campaign can improve business. It means less company awareness, reduced brand engagement, and lost ROI as the ability to convert greatly declines.
Maintaining your sender reputation begins with an email tester. Using such a tool as a way to check emails and validate them ensures a higher inbox rate and better preservation of your sender score. A sender with a score above 90 has a 92% rate of success in reaching inboxes, versus the 72% success rate of a sender with a score between 71 and 80.
Beyond making it to inboxes, your emails won’t even get delivered if the emails you have are bad or your sender reputation is damaged. With 30% of an email list vulnerable to decay each year, it’s crucial that your business has a system in place to replenish emails and make sure they’re real. The easiest and fastest solution to do so is using an email validator.
Your ESP Will Block You
The most significant consequence of a poor sender reputation is complete inability to send emails from your domain. Every email service provider has different criteria for what defines content as spam, but it is up to you to be aware of what these specifications are and do your best to avoid negative experiences. The last thing you want or need in the midst of a marketing campaign is to be barred from using your email.
Verifying and cleaning your email list is one of the simplest solutions for avoiding a slap on the wrist (or worse) from your ESP. Not only does it ensure that your website domain remains healthy and protected, but also protecting your sender reputation improves the functionality and results of your email marketing strategy. Maintaining email send speed and numbers, increasing inbox rates, and staying on good terms with your ESP are all benefits of a high sender score, and is made easier through the use of an email checker.
Everyone is familiar with the name IBM (International Business Machines Corporation), but most of them are not familiar with Big Blue. Usually, these two are the same. IBM was formed in the name of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) back in 1911 and later renamed to IBM in 1924. We all know the history of IBM and their inventions. IBM is currently running their operation in over 170 countries. Most of our necessary gadgets are their invention like hard disk drive, automated teller machine, magnetic stripe card, UPC barcode, SQL programming language, dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), etc.
The market of IBM is huge. They manufacture both software and hardware products. Besides, IBM is one of the largest companies in the world having 380K employees. They are the record holder of having the most patents generated by a business company. Their research wing is very active and their latest invention is IBM Watson. According to many sources, IBM has a plan to bring revolutionary changes in paystub generator sector.
Today we are going to discuss five of their upcoming products.
First of all, IBM is developing a holographic chatting system (also known as 3D Telepresence). The programmers said that they are very close to make this happen. The improvement of 3D camera makes it easier to reach to the common people. The researchers of the University of Arizona successfully made a system that is capable of sending holographic images to nearby locations in time. Besides, it is said that we will be able to enter into personal computers through 3D visualization. Thus, the pictures we see now in 2D, we will be able to see them in 3D.
Secondly, the next item on the list is lithium/air battery project (battery 500). This project is still under development and the results are quite satisfactory. IBM believes that these batteries will be able to use the same air which we breathe to produce energy. The concept is that these batteries will use oxygen and react with the metals. Besides, these batteries will be lightweight and very small in size. Surprisingly, these batteries will last ten times more than our regular lithium-ion battery.
Now the third item is personal sensor for every scientist. The development of personal sensors is really important for the welfare of the people. It is essential for the scientists to collect data and preserve them in a storage. IBM predicts that it will be possible within the next five years to collect all these data and send it to various devices like cell phones, cars, computers, etc. using personal sensors. Persevering these data in huge amount can be resourceful in the coming days.
A smart computer system for drivers is number fourth in the list. IBM believes that we cannot solve the traffic problem only by creating new traffic rules or constructing new roads. There are other circumstances which control our transportation system. The smart computer system for drivers will not only show the best way to travel but also helps us with necessary objectives. This technology is based on mathematical models which analyzes probable values to help the drivers.
Last but not least, IBM is researching to control the temperature of a computer. According to a calculation, 50% of the energy is consumed in CPU (Central Processing Unit) to make the engine cooler. Now IBM wants to use this warm air in a significant way. IBM considers that this warm air can be used to heat various parts of a building or to heat water or convert it to current.
So, which idea seems more important to you? Let us know in the comment section.
In today’s age of technology, there has been a substantial growth in the number of educational activities for kids. Kids growing nowadays usually see their older siblings and parents on the laptop. Hence, their interest is likely to peak about also making use of the device. They will want to get on there and also play games as grown-ups do. However, it’s best that you pick educational activities so that the time spent on entertainment will likewise facilitate learning without the children knowing it.
As parents, you can find educational activities and games on the Internet for children of all ages. Moreover, you can also find several educational related games. If you are looking for arithmetic, there are plenty of websites that offer fun things for kids to do that deal with concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. Studying is also enjoyed by participating in fun activities. Some sites read stories to kids while they follow along with the words on the screen.
There’s no doubt that technological advancement has brought important changes to humanity. It has also influenced the way kids experience entertainment and learning. Mobile gadgets such as tablets, laptops, computers, and smartphones are the source of entertainment for several kids. Tablets, along with other gadgets can have both negative and positive effects on the overall mental development of kids, but as parents, you can turn these mobile tablets into an educational tool for your kids. Using the best tablet for kids, your child can have a more entertaining and safe learning experience.
Tablets like these come with several essential features that set them apart from regular tablets. For one, the overall design of the tablet is nice-looking, child-friendly and durable, and offers several brain-boosting benefits. Though, for kids to get the maximum benefits, it is necessary to choose one with the right features.
Apart from allowing kids to use educational gadgets, parents must also allow their kids to indulge in outdoor activities and explore the real world. The open-air environment provides experiences that can facilitate the improvement and enhance the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual skills of kids. One great way for your kid to explore the outdoors is with the use of an electric dirt bike that specially designed for kids.
Electric dirt bikes allow kids play outside of their homes, providing them with a perfect opportunity to explore many things around them. An early daybreak biking activity to your much-loved biking trail or even around the neighborhood will allow kids to observe individuals, animals, plants and so many other things that will spark their interest. However, not any electric bike will do. You will have to choose the best electric dirt bike of kids that’s safe, fun and exciting.
In a nutshell, educational activities are great. They develop the kids’ interest and enhance learning. At the end of every session, they learn something new that helps them become smarter, more patient, and allow them to have a better understanding of the world.
In today’s era when most of the individuals have disconnected their landline phones and gone mobile, there are still quite a substantial number of people who still prefer cordless phones over mobile phones. In fact, more and more households, businesses, educational institutions and industries are installing cordless phones, as not only it is cheap, it comes with long range capabilities and durability.
For instance, if we talk about Engenius, which is the leading provider of cordless phones, it has changed the traditional telecom landscape by offering longest range, i.e. up to 250,000 sq. feet in healthcare facilities, warehouses and retail stores. Moreover, it can penetrate 12 floor building and is perfect for school campuses and farms with range up to 3000 acres.
Apart from this, the new cordless phones come with a myriad of new features, such as, clear voice, an in-built answering machine, crisp display, conferencing, phonebook, great battery back-up, call barring, fully compatible with home security system, and wide range of packages and models to choose from. Hence, not only it makes your life simple, it provides security too.
With so many features and models available, it’s not difficult to choose a cordless phone for your house or facility. All you have to do is check the price plans and features that best suit your need and budget.
Unified Computing and Data Center Evolution
Data center virtualization has created a market transition where
IT organizations are trying to reduce costs and increase flexibility. Constantly
working against inflexible existing hardware platforms, however, data center
administrators must spend significant time on manual procedures for basic tasks
instead of focusing on more strategic initiatives.
The Cisco Unified Computing System is a
next-generation data center platform that:
- Unites computing, networking, storage access, and virtualization into a
- Integrates a low-latency, lossless 10 Gb Ethernet unified network fabric
with enterprise-class, x86-architecture servers
This approach decouples scale from complexity. Whether
the system has 1 server or 320 servers with thousands of virtual machines, all
resources participate in a unified management domain designed to:
- Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) at the platform, site, and
- Increase IT staff productivity and business agility through just-in-time
provisioning and mobility support
The system incorporates:
- A standards-based unified network fabric supported by a partner ecosystem of
- Cisco VN-Link virtualization support
- Cisco Extended Memory Technology
It supports an incremental deployment model and
protects customer investments with a future migration path to unified computing.
So does anyone have any idea what the IBM competitive viewpoint is for this CISCO offering?
Modified on by DiLabrien
According to Gartner, there will be at least 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020; other research predicts as many as 100 billion. And the largest possessors of IoT devices will be consumers – people who want to control everything from their refrigerators and home security systems to their utility costs, cars, and beyond. In fact, according to data published by SYK Cleaning:
61% of older generations want smart technology for its cost savings’
52% of Gen X’ers have priorities for home security
39%of millennials just think smart devices are trendy and cool. And 72% of them would pay up to $3000 more for a home that has smart technology.
Generation Z, just entering the consumer marketplace will consider IoT a given part of their lifestyles.
But all of this boom in manufacturing and distribution of IoT technology does not come without its challenges. And manufacturers have much work to do in some key areas in order to truly ensure that IoT will and can become fully mainstream. Here are the six of them.
The IoT ecosystem at its current state comes with a lack of unified standards in the areas of data exchange and connectivity. This is particularly frustrating for consumers and serves to slow down wholesale and widespread adoption.
What that means for manufacturers is that they must take off their competitive “gloves” and collaborate on standards for the good of everyone. In doing so, they will all reap the benefits of greater consumer adoption and market demand.
This is an ongoing concern for both businesses and individual consumers. When an entire ecosystem can be threatened through hacking into just one individual device, the concern is real.
Just recently, we learned that a couple of our power grids were compromised, and researchers at the University of Oklahoma demonstrated how easy it was by hacking into a wind farm through a single unit.
Security testing of all devices must include identifying any potential vulnerabilities, processes for validating user access, and data encryption, etc. fortunately, there are some pilot programs investigating the use of blockchain technology, and this may indeed hold some effective solutions.
3. User Experience
For IoT devices to go thoroughly mainstream, users have to be comfortable with them, and they have to see them as more valuable than traditional devices. This means ease of understanding and use.
Manufacturers must conduct a lot of testing of devices before putting them on the market, including the following:
Compatibility of device hardware, operating systems, software versions, and communication protocols
Reliability of all components in a variety of environments and conditions.
User friendliness of application as well as usability in a variety of network connections, so that everything operates seamlessly regardless of platform.
This will be the key to success of any manufacturer of IoT devices. Devices and connectivity will certainly become less expensive, making them more attractive, but applications that allow devices to connect and share information with other devices, aka platforms, are numerous and growing That manufacturer who will be able to bundle multiple platforms into a single product will meet a challenge that will give him a huge competitive edge.
These will proliferate in the coming years, and there will definitely be “battles” among them. Ultimately, however, a few will emerge victorious and will dominate entire sectors – smart homes, smart cities, healthcare, etc. This is just another reason why manufacturers need to find ways to collaborate to achieve standardization.
6. The Need for Real-Time Data Streams and Scaling.
While a refrigerator will not necessarily need to provide real-time data to its owner (other than alerts if there is a malfunction), the need for real-time data will become critical in some IoT device use and management, for instance - smart cities. For manufacturers of devices that require real-time data streams, there will be a need for continual updating as newer technologies and apps are developed.
Blockchain, again, has been named among the possible solutions to more efficient, near-real time data exchanges. Yet, this technology currently lacks proper scaling mechanism, making it a questionable choice for larger ecosystems i.e. those created for smart cities.
IBM, however, may be close to solving this issue. The new pending patent application outlines a solution that would ditch the proof-of-work algorithm utilized by most public blockchains in favor of a dynamically adjusted alternative mechanisms that would limit the mining difficulty and associated power consumption by IoT devices to a determined threshold. This adjustment becomes possible after limiting the number of nonces – one-time-use numbers required to validate a transaction on the blockchain. This way, each IoT device connected to the blockchain will have equal chance to solve proof-of-work problem.
For any business that is gearing up to achieve success in the IoT marketplace, there will need to be a shift in thought processes that may actually involve a change in its corporate structure. Producing smart devices is simply not the same as producing a physical object. Mechanical engineers and product developers design physical objects. But smart device manufacturing will involve far more than these traditional roles. Interdisciplinary structures that provide for the necessary collaboration between physical and technological leader and developers may change the entire corporate landscape.
Modified on by C_Weber
If you’ve taken the leap towards starting your own business or going freelance, you probably envision days of flexible scheduling, self-determination, and direct dealing with clients. What doesn’t figure into this idyllic picture is the endless flow of back end accounting and communications—the turning gears of your business operations.
Luckily there are a seemingly infinite number of startups out there trying to smooth the way for this burgeoning generation of “solopreneurs” by making sure that these tasks take up as little of your precious time as possible. It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly customizable and automated world where our phones track our daily movements, supermarket checkout lanes are becoming obsolete, and email servers generate auto-responses.
Rather than shortcuts, think of automation as a set of tools that help you leverage the work of your business along the pathway towards growth. Automation allows you to streamline many aspects of your interaction with clients, leaving you more energy to devote to the things that matter— the creative work that only you can customize.
1. Accounting and Invoicing
Keeping up with your accounts and sending invoices to clients is an inescapable part of running a business. Sloppy accounting can hurt your relationships with clients and late or incorrect invoices will only lead to late or incorrect payments.
Rather than slogging through manual invoicing, you can use free online invoicing platforms such as Invoice Ninja which provides the ability to transform approved quotes into invoices and automate reminders for ongoing clients. Rather than maintaining project management, account tracking and payment processing across separate platforms, Invoice Ninja offers the option of integrating all of these functions into one.
Unlike other online invoicing platforms, Invoice Ninja also includes the option of partial payments or deposits and live PDF creation for ease of transferring data. Flexibility can be a boon to those running their own businesses, and having one online suite of apps creates ease of access for you and your clients alike.
2. Marketing Across Platforms
Social media presence has become a must for any business, and while information moves across platforms at a seemingly breakneck pace, there’s no need to strain yourself when it comes to coordinating content and maintaining your presence. Tools such as HootSuite and Buffer offer the capability of scheduling content alongside integrated analytics. Let your social media work for you by setting aside a weekly or monthly time to generate content and scheduling it to keep your accounts live and relevant.
3. Email Communications
While platforms such as Slack have changed the shape of workplace communications, email is not going away anytime soon. Email communications are essential to interfacing with current and potential clients, but they can also take up a great deal of time and attention.
The problem with email communications is that you can’t schedule when you receive them. Except...you can. Tools such as Boomerang for Google Suite allow you to snooze emails that aren’t high priority, schedule responses for appropriately timed delivery, and turn on read receipts for outgoing messages.
The free version of Boomerang only provides 10 message credits, so its usefulness is limited. More affordable options such as Gmelius exist, but the bottom line is that scheduling responses is a savvy move that ties in to effective marketing. As your business grows, platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp provide a comprehensive email marketing and automated messaging that can ramp up your communication capacity.
4. Backing Up Your Information
Automating backups is not only easy, it’s an essential safety measure. Keeping a backup of your digital data should be a natural housekeeping task, equivalent to locking the doors and shutting the windows of your office overnight.
If you have a Mac, it’s easy to set up backups to the cloud or an external drive in time machine. Simply enter “Time Machine Preferences” and check the “Backup Automatically” box. Windows has a similar function called (funnily enough) “Backup and Restore.”
Both functions allow you to schedule automatic backups and choose which folders and files should be included. So if you have certain files that are updated frequently, you can prioritize those. Carbonite and other services offer backups in the cloud for an added level of security that goes beyond an external disc drive.
5. Client Data Collection
A Customer Relationship Management Platform (CRM) such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Pipedrive could be the next step in scaling your business. CRMs allow you to track customer relationships on one integrated platform and generate reports based on that data.
Effective client relationship tracking is crucial to growing your business, and centralizing data collection ensures that wires don’t get crossed and clients receive tailored attention. By storing data in a digestible format, CRM software also allows you to come up with effective strategies based on real life input from your customers. Most CRM platforms offer free trials, and this automation could be a game-changer in managing your client relationships.
While there is certainly no shortage of administrative tasks associated with running a business, the good news is that there are countless startups devoted to automating these processes to allow you to focus on the relevant data you need to grow your business. What’s more, most of these platforms offer their services for free so that you can continue to grow your business at a sustainable rate without increasing your overhead.
Modified on by DiLabrien
Mainstream sectors have come to see the value of blockchain and the potential it holds for businesses and governments alike, especially financial services, insurance, logistics, healthcare, travel, law, education and more.
What every sector is beginning to notice is that the option to have a distributed, immutable ledger to record and store everything from contracts to records and data holds great promise of innovation.
But blockchain technology is not without some major challenges. Sectors and even individual businesses are looking at blockchain for solutions and are working with developers for customized blockchain functionality. Many developers/firms are also working on their own to garner a market edge as they see the future of blockchain technology going mainstream.
Still other businesses, in an attempt to move quickly, are “piggybacking” on existing public blockchains. This may or may not hold the ultimate solution for them, because customized, private and permission-based blockchains seem to hold the real promise.
That said, there are a few technologies currently in the works that should resolve current challenges and propel blockchain technology as a far more mainstream business solution.
Solving The Interoperability Challenge
Imagine this scenario. You own Ether and you want to use it to trade for Bitcoin. You cannot send that Ether directly to Bitcoin to make the trade, because the two blockchains cannot talk to one another. You will have to sell your Ether first, exchanging it for a fiat currency and then purchase Bitcoin as an entirely new transaction. The same is true for exchanging different tokens built atop of the Ethereum blockchain. The good news is that the Ethereum platform now includes a standardized protocol for creating new tokens: ERC-2 that solves the interoperability problem of Ethereum-based tokens.
Another solution for crypto trading is to use a third-party “transactor.” There are many of those cropping up globally and the announcement of eToro launching in the US offers just one prime example of this. One of the key features of eToro’s investment platform is its easy usability and while it does have a social media element available to those who want to use it, it can also act like a clearing house, enabling investors to make coin trades with ease without the inefficiency of personal interaction.
But blockchain is moving far beyond these public ledgers for crypto, and here is where the real issues come in. As it moves into use by businesses and governments, private blockchains are being developed, and they cannot “talk” to each other.
Consider this: a citizen of Canada has all of his identification and travel documents stored in the Canadian government blockchain. He can travel about Canada with no paper documents. If he should travel to another country that has its own blockchain, however, he must carry physical documents. Those two blockchains cannot communicate and transfer his documents back and forth.
The same is true for businesses and sectors that are developing private blockchains.
The solution, of course, is for there to be a method of relaying messages, data, and records among separate blockchains, and this is just what many developers are working on right now.
The proposed solutions fall into two categories:
Developing side-chains that connect two or more blockchains together, operated by a third-party with verification of all transactions before they are passed from one chain to another.
Development of what is known as “atomic” swaps, which users themselves control, without the intervention of a third party. Both users must verify a transaction for it to be relayed.
Blockchain To Satisfy Individual Consumer Demands
Currently, consumers who make online purchases must provide their personal and financial information to a third-party processor, and the recent hacking of those payment systems has resulted in a plethora of expense and inconvenience.
While the blockchain technology may not be ready to handle a large volume of consumer transactions just yet, it can serve another important purpose - protect customers’ personal data. As the legislature is changing towards increased data protections, there may be an increased demand for blockchain-based identity management systems that will empower the consumer to selectively give access to their personal and payment data, and preference. Consumers will “own” their own information rather than giving it up to someone else and leaving it open to cybercrime.
Currently, Microsoft is working on a pilot blockchain-based identity management system that will let users secure and control access to their personal and financial information, through an encrypted database.
Alternatives To Current Consensus Algorithms
When blockchain was new, and still today, the verification process occurs by what is called PoW, or proof of work. Miners attempt to solve cryptographic problems, and the one who first hits the solution confirms the transaction and packs it into a block. The reward for this is financial, of course, and so there is plenty of incentive for a miner to get that solution.
But there are clear drawbacks to the PoW consensus mechanism:
It is costly, and miners must have plenty of funds to engage in the activity. With so many thousands of miners working on the same problem, the energy costs are huge; and they also must buy the latest hardware to function competitively.
Centralization of power can occur as well. Miners can set up collaborative agreements that allow them to control a large chunk of the processing power, and the possibility for nefarious action is increased.
For these reasons, some developers have turned to Proof of State (PoS). This model of consensus algorithm and recording is based upon a miner purchasing a “stake” by buying tokens used in the blockchain system. One individual miner is then selected for each new block commitment, usually occurring every few minutes. This eliminates the need for costly equipment and thousands of miners draining energy resources by working on the same problem and the need for such sophisticated hardware is also eliminated. The one drawback here is that miners who hold the most tokens are usually given preferential treatment – the rationale being that the more a stakeholder has, the more he will be incentivized to do it right. He will not attack his own investment.
There are drawbacks to the PoS model too, one of which is that miners will operate on more than one chain. A Delegated Proof of State (DPoS) has been an early modification, but more consensus algorithms are certain to come, as newer technologies continue to be developed. Here are just three other alternatives that may hold promise.
One new consensus algorithm has been developed, now commonly known as Proof of Activity (PoA). It combines PoW and PoS, as sort of a hybrid. It has advantages of reducing the 51% attack risk and it looks to be more secure than either of the other two when used separately. The downside is that resource usage is not significantly reduced.
Proof of Authority: This is actually a centralized system in which transactions are verified by approved “administrators” of a system. Other miners will receive the “truth” from these authorities. This may be a valuable consensus algorithm for private blockchains.
Block Lattice: This is a structure in which each user gets their own chain and only they can write to it. But everyone has a copy of all of the chains. Each transaction is broking into the sender’s and the receiver’s blocks. If the potential for attacks can be eliminated, this might prove an extremely usable algorithm for business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions.
Clearly, 2018 will bring new innovations and technologies with respect to blockchain. These three plus those to come will all help to push blockchain into the mainstream, both for sectors and individual organizations. It is a classic case of “supply meeting demand.”
It’s hot – blockchain, that is. By now, almost everyone has heard of Bitcoin and many have heard the term for the underlying technology – blockchain. In fact, it is being touted as the “latest and greatest” method for recording and storing transactions, contracts, public and confidential data, and more. What started out as the best “fit” for fintech has expanded to be a “fit” for governments, education, travel, insurance, real estate, etc. – any business niche that needs permanent and secure (and transparent) records.
Blockchains can be public or private. Bitcoin, and most cryptocurrencies, use public blockchain, and the technology is pretty well standardized. But, more and more, individual businesses are developing their own private blockchain, with proprietary technology used only by and for themselves.
There is clearly a lot of excitement about this technology, and so there should be. It promises to bring a new level of trust between consumers/users and the businesses they frequent. It also cuts out costs of middlemen and their fees. And this is why businesses are looking to the technology as they develop their apps.
Is blockchain a Fit for Your App – Some Initial Questions
This, of course, is the question. And it has to be answered by looking at the benefits and challenges of both developing and implementing the technology. So, here are some initial questions you should ask yourself before you rush into adoption.
Why do you need blockchain technology?
Is your niche engaging in business activity that is subject to fraud? This is a common issue with travel and insurance sectors. Is there a need for security and confidentiality in transactions? Bitcoin sales require transparency in a similar way to the healthcare industry. Are there contracts involved in your business, and do you need an immutable record of them? Do you need to track purchases and transport of goods? Those involved in logistics and transportation niches could find blockchain valuable.
How Will You Develop the Technology?
As new as it is, skilled developers are not as prevalent as they should be, and the demand is high. And in the development process, there are all sorts of challenges. Building and testing distributed applications is hard and full of hurdles and roadblocks. In-house developers with expertise in traditional databases will not be useful here. For most businesses, any app using blockchain will probably be an outsourced project.
The cost – It’s Important
The average loss to business, due to fraud alone, is about 5%. For an airline, for example, this is a large amount. It makes sense, then, for companies that look at large annual losses to go the cost of developing blockchain technology, where identities, sales, etc. can be verified, recorded, and stored. For a small online retailer, not so much.
As the technology evolves, and as more skilled developers enter the marketplace, costs will obviously go down. It may make sense, then, to wait until that happens, depending on your current business needs.
Weighing the Benefits
There is no doubt that blockchain provides some key attractions:
Transparency: Because all transactions are entered into immutable blocks, with access permission provided to those involved (but not modification capabilities), anyone involved in a transaction, contract, etc. can see it in original and verified form.
Reduction in Costs, Disputes, and Errors: Because all transactions and data are stored in blocks, and time-stamped, there is a permanent record. Errors that occur with “paper-heavy” documents are eliminated; legal disputes will be reduced; and, as stated, earlier, middlemen and fees go away.
Fraud and Hacking Prevention: Again, as stated earlier, it is almost impossible for hackers to get into a block and alter documents or records. This provides a level of security that a lot of niches demand.
Weighing the Challenges
In addition to those listed above, businesses must also consider the following:
Compatibility: Public blockchains use standardized technology. As private blockchains continue to be developed, there will be lack of consistency, and varied technologies will not be able to “talk” with one another. Standardization for private blockchains will eventually come, but it may be a way out yet.
Government Acceptance: Currently, a few states recognize the validity of contracts within blockchains as evidentiary material for legal disputes. But the majority do not. This obviously poses problems for businesses engaged in interstate commerce. Ultimately, there may need to be some federal regulations that speak to the validity of transactions and contracts that involve parties from different states.
Security: Yes, this is a huge benefit of blockchain. But there is also a human factor involved. When access keys are given to involved parties, how they store those keys will be critical. One irresponsible individual can create a crisis.
Blockchain holds great promise, and the technology will probably prove to be a huge disruptor in every sector of public and private enterprises. The concepts of trust, transparency, immutability, security, reduced costs, and greater efficiency are too attractive to ignore. Is this technology beneficial for your app? Take time to consider the questions listed above to find out.
It’s all about the customer. It always has been.
In the days before the Internet, how did businesses keep their customers happy? They greeted them when they entered their premises. They directed them to the place where they could find the item(s) they wanted. They took care of returns and exchanges in a friendly way that left the customer satisfied. If customers had a good experience they came back, and they “brought” their friends by recommendations. If the experience was bad, they also told their friends.
In this digital age, where face-to-face customer service is fast giving way to web-based interactions, businesses need to be mindful that customer relations must emulate those traditional experiences as much as possible. It’s not enough to have a call center and/or a live chat feature. Customers need to feel that they are receiving personal, friendly, and satisfactory care, or they will simply go elsewhere.
How Great CRM Software Can Provide Customer Satisfaction
Fortunately, there is technology that can accomplish great customer experiences, in the form of customer relations management software (CRM). And businesses that are growing beyond a hundred customers will need to acquire this software if they intend to continue to grow.
Basically, the purpose of CRM software is to be able to collect, store and retrieve all information related to each individual customer, so that when that customer makes contact, they understand that the business “knows” them and is ready to serve their needs.
Some CRM software products are quite complex; others quite simple. Only you can gauge your needs, and thus you need to find a product that satisfies those needs and that can also grow in features as your needs expand. So, the first thing you need to look for are the basics that are going to work, not only for your customers but also for your customer service personnel.
Basic Critical Features of CRM Software
First, a few statistics and insights
In 2017, CRM usage by all types of businesses increased from 56% to 74%.
80% of consumers will go online to research products and services prior to a purchase
87% of these consumers will use mobile devices as they research and shop and engage in customer service activities with businesses
47% of businesses surveyed state they plan to increase spending on customer service software. Any business that intends to remain competitive, keep existing customers, and generate new leads will take heed.
So, what should a solid CRM package include? Given today’s consumer and given that a business needs to reach that consumer where he is and provide the kind of personalized service he expects.
Obviously, consumers want to reach and be reached on mobile devices. And customer service staff, often from remote locations, also need to be able to use their mobile devices to connect with customers. Businesses are actually seeing higher satisfaction and adoption rates, when staff have options of devices to use.
Other research shows that 65% of sales staff that can use mobile CRM have achieved sales quotas, while only 22% of those not using mobile devices have. This alone should drive businesses to ensure that any CRM they choose has mobility features.
As for consumer use of mobile CRM – it is obviously becoming a preferred method as the above stats show.
Because both users and personnel are now using many devices, there is a rising requirement that CRM solutions are in the cloud. At this point, about 87% of businesses that have CRM packages are using cloud-based ones.
This is an area that is perhaps the biggest challenge for customer relations. Business do not see their customers in person. It is critical that they use all of the technology available to reach customers at a personal level. Recent studies show that businesses intend to increase their email marketing budgets for both sales and customer service by 60%. This will allow them to segregate leads, current customers, etc. into groups for far more personalized service. Any CRM package a business purchases must provide for this.
And do not discount the value of “old school” direct mail campaigns. Consumers still go to their physical mailboxes, and there can be those who do so more than others, especially older leads and consumers. Adding a software piece, such as Physical Address that will provide a physical address and virtual mail handling services, can be valuable in certain circumstances.
Compete Customer History in One Place
Probably the most important aspect of CRM is that all of the information on the history of leads and customers be housed in a database that allows sales and customer relations personnel to bring up that entire history on one screen.
This is often called “contact management.” Being able to track every lead as it moves through a sales funnel is a must for any CRM software. Such software should provide a lead/customer calendar, follow-up reminders, and tickets for all contacts and actions. And it should also provide for the sharing of all of this history by multiple departments within the business. This can improve customer retention rates, as studies show.
Every business is unique. Buying a pre-packaged CRM solution that does not provide for customization is useless. A business needs to be able to integrate CRM with its existing systems, giving that business the ability to mine and analyze data that it needs to modify and improve its customer relations.
Keeping it Simple
Unless sales, marketing, and customer service staff see a CRM package as easy to use, they won’t adopt it. Keep it simple in the beginning. Complexities can always be added later, if the right package is purchased to begin with.
Every customer wants to feel important to you, before, during, and after the sale. You can achieve this through the right CRM software. Identify your needs, your customer needs, do the research and find the package that will work for you right now and grow as your business does.
Moving goods from one place to another – it’s all about logistics and transportation. When an enterprise is in the business of moving goods for clients, it’s focus has to be on coordinating the most effective, efficient, and economical way to move them, on keeping clients informed and happy, on marketing to new clients, and, of course, always keeping an eye on the ROI of any new initiative they undertake to improve all of these things.
Traditionally, these have been manual tasks
keying in data from emails, faxes, and spreadsheets,
tracking shipments and deliveries by those same methods,
keeping clients informed, again via those same methods
coordinating with sales and support departments
managing volume and capacities
managing customer service and interactions by phone, silos of emails, and faxes.
invoicing, maintaining accounts payable, managing bids
While all of these tasks do not relate specifically to CRM, everything an enterprise does is at least indirectly related, for it contributes to operational effectiveness, and operational effectiveness keeps clients happy.
The Rise of CRM Software Development for Logistics Enterprises
It is the rare mid- to large-sized enterprise that has not implemented CRM software, either of its own development or through one of many vendors who have designed and developed solutions that can be customized for unique purposes.
In recent years, CRM vendors have moved into development for logistics enterprises, and there are now multiple options.
Selecting an option that meets your specific needs is a matter for research and discussion, both in-house and with potential vendors.
In general, however, there are some key critical features that any option should include.
You will want a solution that is cloud-based. Here is why.
Users need to be able to login from any browser, computer, or mobile device.
The right vendor will be able to provide the infrastructure, hardware, software, and support, so that there is no need to re-configure any in-house systems, or use them for that matter, other than to access the cloud.
The In-House IT department should be involved in the vendor selection process.
Even though the CRM solution will be cloud-based, techies are good at evaluating systems, speed, hardware, and support. They will be able to compare the relative value that each vendor offers in these categories. At the same time, these IT factors cannot be given more weight than the factors that will actually “touch” customers.
Focus On The Functionality That Matters to Your Enterprise
Logistics and transportation enterprises are as varied as online clothing retailers. From a company such as Parcel Delivery, that coordinates small parcel shipping for individuals and enterprises, to a major trucking and/or ocean liner corporation, CRM solutions will require a huge variance in functions.
But, large or small, there are three key functions, in varying degrees, that all CRM solutions should offer.
Support for workflow and business processes in marketing/sales, lead generation, management of bids, contract management, customer service and in-house team collaboration. Security is also a major component, along with what employees can access what on their screens.
Functions of Reporting and Dashboard. You must determine what metrics, analytics, and business intelligence you need and how these will be reported. There is a huge variance among vendors in how this is accomplished, and your people must be comfortable with the chosen option. It will be a top priority to identify the required metrics and make sure they can be easily tracked and reported. Any vendor that is “worth his salt” will allow a business to “test drive” these functions.
Team collaboration is critical. Every customer may be in the systems of multiple departments – sales, contracts, invoicing/billing, customer service, etc. A CRM solution must allow all departments access to one “picture” of the customer. Sales now know when and what the last interaction was with customer service; customer service now has access to contracts and invoicing.
Assess the ROI clearly and carefully. A CRM software solution is a big investment. And you will want to assess the ROI once that big expense has been incurred. Obviously, the most important factor will be increased revenue. The other is in the area of productivity. Both of these can be measured if a baseline is established first and then incremental measurements are taken every 6-9 months.
Expect difficulties in the adoption of the new technology. It’s incredibly hard to implement a new CRM solution. Obviously, this requires training and “buy-in.” And the buy-in only comes if the training is done well. Check out the vendor-supported training, for it is probably “tried and tested.” At the very least, set a schedule of training in modules rather than several consecutive days with people sitting at computers – it will not be retained. The vendor should be able to provide recommendations for the transition to occur in chunks rather than all at once.
A Repeat. Most enterprise employees travel; some area out in the field. When customer contacts are made, speed in response is critical. Any CRM solution must have a full app for both iOS and Android, not just through a browser.
Choosing a CRM solution and then transitioning to it involves a lot of thought, analysis of needs, evaluation of vendor solutions, and then bringing everyone on board. Given the expense and the time required, these six criteria/considerations will be important.
Educational software is nothing new. Once computers hit classrooms all over the U.S. (and the world), educational publishers went to work to develop software that could be used to enhance student learning. Mostly, these were in the form of discs that were purchased, inserted into desktop computers, and used to supplement the curriculum at each grade level, K-12.
We’ve come a long way since then. Students now have tablets and smart phones, and download apps of everything from music, to games, to favorite retailers and more. They are tech savvy and want to use their mobile devices for everything.
Why not educational apps that they can access anywhere, anytime, whether they are in the classroom or not? This is the path that educational software is now taking. And publishers are fast developing apps in the following areas:
Courseware Supplements: Whether the course is on the ground or in cyberspace, a lot of educators are developing apps that supplement te in-class content delivery and activities.
Assisted Instruction: These are apps that provide remedial or enrichment activities that go along with regular course content in the classroom
Assessments: Pre- and post-testing is a critical feature to determine initial mastery, structuring learning on an individualized basis, and then providing summative evaluations the demonstrate mastery of course content and skills.
Specific Niche Apps: Students who need to study for a driver’s test, master keyboarding, or learn a foreign language can now access apps for those purposes.
Building an Educational App for Today’s Student Consumer is Tough
It’s a tough audience. These are kids who play sophisticated games, who spend a huge amount of time on social media, who use their devices for everything from communicating with friends, to listening to music, to shopping, and, yes, to accessing news and information for personal and schooling needs.
And they demand that they be engaged and “entertained” while they do all of this. It’s a tall order for an app developer.
Steps in App Development
If you are looking to develop an educational app, your major concern is not the actual technology of the development at this point. Your concerns are educational. Here are the steps in your process:
Establish Your Goals
What are the learning outcomes that you want for your student users? Like any educator, you begin with these, and then plan your course around them. You will have units – smaller chunks of content and skills that you want to deliver in some way.
Plan the Activities
What types of activities will you incorporate to deliver the content and skills to your users? And what features will you use to deliver them in engaging ways? Be aware that kids today will demand a lot of interaction in environments that the find “valuable.” Here are some of the features that you will need to think about incorporating:
How can you integrate social networking, so that students can collaborate and network with other users?
How can you incorporate videos and live streaming? Having lessons delivered in this format are far more easily digested by today’s student consumer.
Are there AR and VR elements that can be used, such as those they experience in gaming?
How about leaderboards? Being competitive and seeing their scores in relation to other users is a big motivator.
Do you need multi-language features for an international audience? This can always be added at a later time, as you expand your reach.
What types of quizes and surveys will you incorporate in each unit?
How will you let students track their progress and achievement and yet not alter that data, so that they have proof of mastery if required.
Do you want cloud streaming so that group activities and projects can occur among “study buddies” and can occur during non-school hours?
How about music? If you have done your research, you know the genres of music that are most appealing to the age group for whom the app is to be built. You can find a huge selection from sources, such as Melody Loops where your subscription will give you access to royalty-free use of music packages. It’s great for introductions of units and activities and small break times in the instructional process.
Check Out the Most Popular Educational Apps on the Market
If you want to get a feel for how learning is structured in an app environment and how some or all of the above features are incorporated into app design and development, it will important to carefully study the educational apps, particularly in your instructional niche, that are already on the market and that are the most popular with student users in the age group you are targeting. You will pick up great ideas that will get your “creative juices” flowing.
Create a Map for Your App
This is a difficult and often tedious step, but it is critical, if you are going to be able to codify what it is you want your app to do for kids.
You will need to specifically describe the learning activities you will be incorporating in each unit of instruction and the features/elements of design and development you want to use for each activity. You will need to set up assessment points as well, and the types of assessments you wish to use.
You cannot begin to speak with a developer until this is in as much detail as possible.
Find Your Developer
Technology is a wonderful thing, and there are some great tools out there for developing apps. If you have the time and want to begin a rather steep learning curve, you can certainly learn how to develop your own apps. Your other option, of course, is to find an experienced and skilled developer.
You will need to discuss your project with several developers before selecting one that seems to be a fit” for your needs. You certainly want one that will keep you in the loop as the development progresses and who is willing to provide you with each piece of the software for your review and approval as it moves forward.
Educational apps are part of the future of teaching and learning. Students want access to learning tools on demand, whether they are in the classroom or at home. They want immediate access, and they want apps that will engage and motivate. Educators have a way to meet the needs of today’s learners – by realizing that it is a product and a service just like any other on the market.