5 Days to Black Friday: Today’s Recommendation

Standard

If you lose things, like your keys, etc., a Bluetooth tracker could be just the answer you are looking for, or rather for that person on your gift list who is constantly misplacing things.

tile

There are two great products to choose from, Tile and Trackr.  Both are very similar, so you may with to read some of the in-depth reviews of the devices to decide which one may be best for you.  The main differentiator between the two is how they address the battery.  Tile is a self contained plastic device that you cannot replace the battery in.  When the batterytrackr is no longer working, you have to trade in your Tile and purchase a new one, at a discount.  Trackr uses a standard coin cell battery, so you are able to replace the battery when you need to.  Another difference is that Tile is waterproof and Trackr requires a 3rd party case to be.

Both have apps for your smartphone to help you locate lost items.  I even have a client who has used one of these to prevent things from going missing, just by having it attached to the device that somehow kept disappearing around the office.  Now that one of these trackers is attached to the device, it seems to always be right where it is supposed to be.  Pretty smart if you ask me.

Here are a few of the comparison reviews I think you will find helpful in deciding which one of these trackers may be right for you or a person on your gift list:

  1. Tile vs Trackr: What’s the Best Tracker for Finding Your Lost Stuff?
  2. TrackR vs. Tile: The Lost-and-Found Face-Off
  3. TrackR vs. Tile – The Great Debate
  4. TILE vs.TRACKR – ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN (Bluetooth LOST & FOUND Trackers) (Video)

For The Power Hungry on Your List

Standard

In my post on techy gift ideas for this holiday season, I said I would post more recommendations here on my blog, through Black Friday.

To start, here is a gadget I have had for years.  I’m on my second generation of the myCharge HubPlus, which is a 6700mAh portable lithium ion battery.  What I love about this device is that it is a totally self-contained charge hub that will charge an iPhone up to four times!

What I like best about this portable battery is that the AC plug is integrating, meaning MyChargeyou just fold down the prongs and plug it into a standard AC outlet to recharge the batter.  Also built-in are both a Lightning connector and a Micro-USB connector.  This means I can recharge any of my battery powered devices from this device.  My iPhone, iPad, Plantronics Bluetooth headset, Apple AirPods, etc.  There is also a USB port built-in so any USB cable can be connected to the battery to recharge a device.  This means even proprietary cables will work.

If you have a gadget person on your list, who is always looking for that nearby power or USB outlet, the myCharge Hub series of portable chargers will be an absolutely perfect gift for them.  There are higher and lower capacity versions as well as one for USB-C.

Will New TSA Rules Change Your Plans?

Standard

TSAThe Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that all electronics larger than a cell phone will need to be removed from carry-on baggage and placed in their own bin for x-ray screening.  Prior to this, only laptop computers were required to be removed for screening.  You may read the announcement here.

With most people carrying multiple electronic devices with them while traveling, will these new rules change what you bring onboard?  I know for myself, my bag has my computer and my iPad Mini.  Fortunately, I have TSA PreCheck and will not have to remove any of these from my bags, for the traveling public that does not have TSA PreCheck, you will have to.

The new rule is to allow screeners to be able to properly examine the devices.  Due to the airlines baggage fees, more users are carrying on and stuffing those carry-on bags more than ever.  This is making it harder for screeners to do a proper job reviewing the x-ray images, so this only makes sense.

I’m just wondering if it will change what people bring with them.  Will Kindle’s and tablets be packed in checked bags or simply left at home?  Will this have any impact on your business travel?

Uber’s Technology Innovation

Standard

Most coverage of Uber has not been very positive lately. Despite that bad press, I had some very interesting interactions with Uber drivers over the past few days that painted a distinctly positive view of the popular ride sharing service. 

I’ve been in Atlanta this week for meetings at two office locations in Smyrna and Kennesaw, while staying at a Hilton in Marietta, along with a trip downtown to visit cousin’s while in town. Uber has been my primary transportation these past three days.

Being in an established metro like greater Atlanta, the availability of Uber when and where I needed it was consistent and reliable. Uber’s technology is constantly evolving, so some of this is not new, but the technology is clearly enabling an improved experience for both rider and driver. Here are some of the things I find innovative and empowering about Uber’s technology:

  1. When requesting a ride, the app searches for drivers closest to your pickup point and a driver confirms your request and you immediately know the drivers name, rating, vehicle make, model, color and plate number. The app encourages the rider to verify the plate before entering the vehicle for security purposes. 
  2. If traffic is heavy or something happens that significantly delays your pickup, the underlying technology re-scans for a closer driver and reassigns your pickup to a driver that can get to you more quickly.  The driver who originally claimed your pickup is re-prioritized for a new pickup to replace your fare. This is smart and effective as it maintains driver and rider satisfaction and conveys a loyalty and customer experience focus. 
  3. If a driver is driving to fast, the app will alert them and nag them until they reduce their speed to an acceptable and safe level. This is done leveraging the drivers smartphone GPS capabilities and helps the company ensure rider safety and will also alert the company to a potential problem driver if this happens repeatable or with no corrective response to the alert. 
  4. As a platform, the technology enables some quality of life choices for its drivers. I spoke with a few drivers this week who credited the Uber system with providing them the flexibility to live their life with flexibility in their work schedule, allowing them to provide better care for their families and use their time behind the wheel to earn a respectable income rather than just to commute.
  5. I also learned that Uber will contact random drivers very identity verification that appears to be tied to analytics driven by the technology platform. In other words, if the system detects an out of character pattern in a drivers work habit, driving style, etc., such activity may trigger a verification request as a form of quality control and system integrity. 

I found this all very interesting and a great example of technology driving a market disruption with more positive results than negative.  I know some will disagree with my assessment.  That is perfectly fine.  The main point I hope to make is that Uber, despite its flaws, is a good case study for how technology advances have enabled a new business model to shake up a market that is not typically known for being customer centric, while also improving both the provider opportunity but also the consumer experience.  Happy riding!

My Travel Tech

Standard

I have just returned from a two week vacation in Ireland.  We traveled the entire island, starting in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, then heading southwest and the north to Northern Ireland in the UK.  It was a great trip and it gave me the thought to share how I travel with what I need for technology to stay connected and if necessary, do some work.

When traveling overseas, the first thing you have to worry about is having the right power adapter.  There’s a handy app called Plugs of the World that will help you identify the right plug based on what country you are visiting.  It available on the iTunes Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android.

Once you know what plug type you need, you need to get an adapter.  I prefer a multi-adapter so I have one adapter with plugs for all the countries I will visit.  My current adapter of choice is Lewis N. Clark’s Global Adapter with USB.  This is a relatively compact adapter with a slide selector to pick what country you are in.  Plug the adapter into the wall, plug in your cord and you are powered up.  This adapter also has USB ports so you can plug in charging cables as well.  This is quite helpful when you need to charge your laptop, smartphone and smartwatch all at the same time.  With this adapter, you can do it all from this single adapter.  The pictures are of my older model, which only has a single USB port.  The correct version has dual.

IMG_2894    IMG_2895

The next thing you need to have is all the cables and adapters you may need.  The pictures below are of my accessory case that I keep in my backpack at all times.  It has every adapter and cable I need to keep myself connected and charged.

IMG_2813This picture shows one side of my accessory bag.  The following are the contents:

  1. 1. HooToo Travel Battery/Wireless Router.
  2. 2. Qmadix Dual USB 2.1 Amp Rapid Charger.
  3. 3. Scosche smartBOX Retractable Micro USB/Lightning Cable.
  4. 4. Scosche MagicMount Vent.
  5. 5. RapidX X5 5 USB Port Car Charger.
  6. 6. WEme 4-in-1 Mini DisplayPort Audio/Video Adapter.

 

IMG_2814

This picture is the other side of my accessory bag.

1. Microsoft SurfaceBook Power Adapter.
2. Apple Watch Charging Cable.
3. Ethernet patch cable.
4. FlatOut Lightning Charge/Sync Cable.
5. USB Ethernet Adapter.
6. ScreenBeam Mini2.
7. Scosche boltBOX Retractable Lightning Cable.
8. Mini USB hub.
9. Lightning Audio/Power Cable.
10. FlatOut Micro USB Cable.

Those are my gadgets.  Here’s a brief explanation of what I use each one for:

  • HooToo Travel Battery/Wireless Router.
    • This is a great little device, albeit a little heavy.  It’s a portable battery with USB ports to charge a smartphone and a tablet.  More importantly, it’s also a wireless router.  I use this to connect to hotel WiFi networks and then make a secure connection to this wireless router so that any information I send wirelessly is encrypted to this router and then sent over the hotel network.  It has a collapsible AC plug and can run off its battery so it’s incredibly versatile.
  • Qmadix Dual USB 2.1 Amp Rapid Charger.
    • This is a lightweight and small dual USB charger with a collapsible AC plug.  It will charge two tablets, two smartphones or one of each, at the same time.
  • Scosche smartBOX Retractable Micro USB/Lightning Cable.
    • This is my go-to, retractable iPhone/iPad/micro USB charge and sync cable.  I prefer retractable cables for neatness.
  • Scosche MagicMount Vent.
    • This is a small car mount that connects to a dashboard air vent to hold my iPhone.  When having to drive when I travel, this allows me to safely use my iPhone for navigation, as described in this post.
  • RapidX X5 5 USB Port Car Charger.
    • This is a great car charger when you have people in the front and back seats looking for power.  Definitely check it out.
  • WEme 4-in-1 Mini DisplayPort Audio/Video Adapter.
    • This is a great adapter for any laptop with a mini displayport.  This allows you to connect to VGA, DVI, HDMI and audio.
  • Microsoft SurfaceBook Power Adapter.
    • This is my AC power adapter for my laptop.
  • Apple Watch Charging Cable.
    • Self explanatory.
  • Ethernet patch cable.
    • Also self explanatory.
  • FlatOut Lightning Charge/Sync Cable.
    • This is a short, 12″ cable that I like to have, just in case.
  • USB Ethernet Adapter.
    • In the rare case when I don’t have access to a wireless network, this allows me to connect hardwired.
  • ScreenBeam Mini2.
    • This is a great little device for wirelessly displaying content from your laptop to a TV or monitor with an HDMI port.  This supports Miracast and WiDi devices.
  • Scosche boltBOX Retractable Lightning Cable.
    • This is a retractable lightning only cable, for the iPhone/iPad.
  • Mini USB hub.
    • I got this little gem from a conference I was attending.  It’s a very small device, with a built in USB connector that expands one USB port to four.
  • Lightning Audio/Power Cable.
    • If you have an iPhone 7 or newer, there is no headphone jack.  This adapter allows you to charge your phone and use headphones through the single lightning port.
  • FlatOut Micro USB Cable.
    • This is a short 12″ cable that I like to keep on-hand.

Last, but not least, this is the accessory bag I use.  You can see it’s relative size from these pictures.  I’m quite pleased with it.

IMG_2816  IMG_2817  IMG_2818

It’s called the BUBM Double Layer Travel Gear Organizer and it’s available on Amazon.com.  BUBM stands for “Be Unique, Be Myself.”

Happy Trails!

Taking Technology on the Road

Standard

This article was originally published in Seacoast Sunday and Foster’s on Sunday, June 25, 2017.

This week’s column comes to you from the Emerald Isle of Ireland, where I am vacationing with my family. As we travel the country, I’ve been taking notes of various uses, or lack thereof, of technology and thought this would be an interesting perspective to share.

489612-taking-your-home-office-on-the-roadMy first impression of Irish technology was not exactly impressive. We flew Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin and while we were encouraged to download the Aer Lingus mobile app for our trip, it turned out mobile boarding passes were not allowed for our flight. This was the first time I had to print a boarding pass in more years than I can recall. To top it off, when we got to the airport, we learned the boarding pass we were asked to print at home was not valid for the flight. We had to get a boarding pass printed at the airport. To board the aircraft, anyone with a boarding pass printed at home needed to see the gate agent and have it reprinted. An odd process.

Once we arrived in Ireland, the use of technology became far more leading edge. You may book tickets for just about any venue you would like to tour online and when you arrive your tickets are waiting for you.

I have noticed extensive use of technology is in restaurants, primarily in the major cities like Dublin. Waitstaff carry small tablets, mostly Android tablets from what I was able to tell. When you order at your table, your server enters your order into the tablet, which immediately sends it to the kitchen. When the time comes to pay your bill, your server brings the credit card terminal to your table where you insert your chip card, enter your PIN and pay your bill. No signature required. Europe, in general, remains far ahead of the United States in terms of payment card technology, security and ease of use. Paying by card is a much faster process than at home.

As we travel around the country, we have been renting homes in many locations. At our most recent stop in Doolin, in western Ireland, our rental agent met us at the house with her iPad. She confirmed our booking, checked us in and processed our payment, all from her iPad. Connectivity is everywhere. Even on the Aran Islands off the coast near the Cliffs of Moher we had LTE service.

Renting a car in a foreign country, especially one where they drive on the left-hand side of the road, can be a bit daunting. It’s been made quite a bit easier by Waze, the navigation app I use all the time at home. It’s made driving the Irish countryside almost easy, if you remove the narrow roads and fast moving trucks that come at you with no hesitation. Waze has been flawless. If you have not used it, download it for free and check it out.

To keep safe while using a navigation app on my phone while driving on the wrong side of the road, it was critical the phone be mounted close to my line of sight so I did not have to take my eyes off the road. This is where Scosche’s Magic Mount comes to the rescue. I use this in my car with the dash mount at home. This is a suction cup mount that needs no adhesive to stay on the dash. It’s a magnetic mount, so you place a slim metal plate on the back of your phone and it effortlessly stays in place. For travel, I carry the Magic Mount Vent, which attaches to the air vent in the dash. This is how I kept my phone mounted high enough so I could see the map without taking my eyes completely off the road. It’s worked perfectly.

When traveling with several people in the same car, keeping everyone’s devices powered up is key to maintaining family peace. I did not want to deal with the constant battle for the charger to keep five or more phones charged at all times. This is where the RapidX X-5 charger is invaluable. This unique charger plugs into the power port in the car. The piece that plugs in has two USB ports and a five-foot cable that leads to another section with three USB ports and a clip to attach to the seatback pocket behind one of the front seats. This way, people in the front of the car can charge their phones while three people in the rear can charge as well. The ports deliver up to 2.4 amps of power, enough to charge a tablet as well.

Technology is everywhere and by and large its use makes our lives better. Let me know what you see for technology in your travels this summer and Google Scosche and RapidX to find gadgets that will make your travels by car much happier.

Irish Environmental Technology

Standard

They say everything is bigger in the United States. Cars, food portions, the list goes on. In many ways, these are true statements.

One thing that has really stood out to me over the last week here in Ireland, is how much bigger and better environmental technology seems to be.  Especially compared to the US. As good as we are, at so many things, we also seem to lag behind many other countries in areas I would expect us to be better.

Here are some examples of prevalent environmental tech across the Emerald Isle.

Automobiles – By and large, they are smaller than in the US. Given how narrow some of the roads are, this is not a bad thing at all. However, more so than their size, it’s their environmental features that stand out. Most vehicles are diesel and diesel is generally less expensive. You find it at every petrol station. What I find most impressive is that the Diesel engine shuts down whenever you stop, saving fuel and emissions. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, the engine starts. It makes a ton of sense.

Hot Water – Hot water systems in many houses and apartments are optimized for utilization. For example, at the apartment we are presently staying in, the hot water system heats overnight so it’s ready for hot showers in the morning. It’s calibrated to deliver two hot showers a day. If there are more than two showers needed, you simply press a “boost” button to deliver enough hot water for one or more additional showers. It’s far more efficient than keeping a water tank continually heated 24×7.

Wind Farms – Many of the power plants I have seen also have wind farms on their grounds. Makes it hard to make the argument that the wind turbines are unsightly when they are standing alongside the large buildings and stacks of a traditional power station. I have also seen a number of free standing wind farms and they don’t look at all out of place or imposing.

Switchable Outlets – Every wall outlet I have seen has a switch adjacent to it.  When you plug something in to an outlet, you have to also switch the outlet on for it to deliver power to what’s plugged in. This helps conserve power by stopping the trickle effect where most devices draw even a small amount of power when plugged in, even if the device itself is off.

Solar – Many buildings have small solar panels on them to help reduce their reliance on the traditional electric grid. This is an area we are doing considerably better with in the US as well.

Food and Agriculture – Ireland has a rich farming history and that history has laid a strong foundation for continued local sourcing for the food supply. What I noticed, almost immediately, is that chicken is quite different from at home. My son loves wings and orders them whenever he can. The wings in Ireland are like they were when I was young, not the enlarged ones we see in the US now. That’s because these are truly free range chickens and there is considerably less fat and less waste because the portions make sense.

Air Quality – Other countries are generally considered to be far more accepting of smoking than the US, but I would contend that is not the case in Ireland. Smoking is clearly prohibited in nearly every building, private and public. Coupled with other initiatives around emissions and other air quality concerns, Ireland is a leader, not a follower.

Water Conservation – Most of the toilets in Ireland have two flush settings.  One that uses less water, for when there is only liquid waste to flush and second setting to use more water, when flushing solid waste.  I have seen this in the US, but very sparingly.  It’s fairly widespread in Ireland and keeps water conservation front and center and for everyone.

Advancing environmental technology is a national priority in Ireland. All aspects of technology seem to be front and center in terms of educational opportunity as well. I have seen numerous advertisements that encourage students to pursue technology education.  Ireland seems to be doing a much better job training their workforce in technologies for today and the future. As an example, I came across this government statement that seems to capture he national call to action: “The Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) has set out a vision to make Ireland internationally renowned for the excellence of its research and to be a leader in using new knowledge for economic and social progress.”

I’d say that’s not just an impressive vision, it’s a reality taking shape in a small country on an Emerald Isle that has called upon the entire world to embrace green technologies for a better future. Well done Éire!