Our Shrinking World

Hand holds the worldI spent the past few days in New Jersey and New York City. As I walked around, I heard some languages that I speak, some that I recognized, and some that were totally foreign to me. I was born and raised in a small town and still live in a relatively small town, so hearing this array of languages is unusual for me. As I thought more about this, I realized that the world is becoming smaller. Due to advancements in communications, transportation, and technology, I can easily go to New Delhi or Sao Paulo, or I can meet those citizens who have traveled to my own town. It is possible to communicate with people of the world either face to face or through electronic means. I wonder though, with everything we have in place, are we really tapping the potential of a shrinking world or still limiting ourselves to the familiar surroundings and friends to supply us with answers and advice?

Communication

We have come a long way in terms of communications in the past 150 years. We sometimes think that we have always been able to communicate with someone instantly, but that is not the case. The first telegraph message was sent by Samuel Morse in 1844 between Baltimore and Washington D.C. Never before could a message go from point to point without having to be carried by runner, horse, or boat. The first voice broadcast over wire took place in 1876 and shortly after, in 1901, Guglielmo Marconi followed with the first transatlantic wireless broadcast. These technologies allowed communication from ship to shore. Wired telephone communications turned wireless and transformed into the phones that we all enjoy today. Our smartphone has an incredible heritage and now doubles as a data communication device.

Transportation

Transportation has also developed rapidly to allow us the freedom to move easily about the world. Early maritime travel was hampered by the notion that the world was flat, but once that was disproven, explorers could reach out to new lands and new people. Voyaging over land and water advanced dramatically after the invention of the steam engine, enabling people to go great distances on steam ships and trains. This led to similar inventions in personal transportation by giving us the internal combustion engine that allowed for automobile travel. The world got even smaller with the advent of air transit and it has only gotten faster over the past 100 years. With our modern infrastructure, we can make a journey to the next town or around the world with very little effort on our part.

Technology

Technology has also made our world smaller. It has completely changed the way we communicate with each other and how we organize work. Work groups, by necessity, were originally created around developing, manufacturing, and distributing physical goods. People in the group could see each other, speak with each other, and create products together. Many knowledge workers today are separated from their teams by miles if not continents. We can now take advantage of the moving sun by shifting work around the globe. In essence, a team could, with the right coordination, work on an idea or a product twenty-four hours a day. Even with the great advancements in transportation, we are no longer bound by those constructs. We can create a team of people from far-flung places of the globe and generate incredible new ideas and products. I think that this is the promise that was launched by Morse, Marconi, Bell, Fulton, and other pioneers.

Thoughts

Are you using advanced technologies to your advantages or are you stuck in an old paradigm? How has communications changed for you over the past ten years? Have you changed the way you organize work and recruit the best people for your project? The power is in your hands if only you will use it to develop and create something great. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at nigh

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The Dark Side of the Deep Web

Digital vortexThere have been a number of stories and references to the “Deep Web” in the media over the last two months, including references in Season Two of the Netflix series “House of Cards.” With a renewed interest, I wanted to make sure that I was clear on the different terms associated with the Deep Web. My research prompted me to dig even deeper (pun intended).

The Surface Web

The surface web is the part of the web that is searched by sites such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It is estimated that this surface layer accounts for only 1–5 percent of the entire web, as illustrated in a recently posted infographic from CNN. This surface layer excludes database search results and all corporate and academic sites behind a firewall. Search engines build and search from an index, so if a site is not part of the publicly searchable index, then it is not included in this layer. It is also possible for a website to intentionally become unsearchable by using a particular metatag.

The Deep Web

The Deep Web is the layer that lies below the surface. Every time you query an online database, the site creates a new page. That new page, however, is not included in the surface layer index because the web crawlers cannot do the same thing. The web crawler can only build an index by visiting websites and searching their links as well as the links referencing those sites. Other examples of data in the Deep Web are academic journals that are either behind a “for fee” structure or protected by a firewall. All intranet data on corporate networks also resides in the Deep Web layer. Businesses such as Bright Planet provide services that assist you in navigating the Deep Web.

The Dark Web

The top two layers can be considered to house legitimate data and transactions; they simply represent information that can be searched and indexed by web crawlers (surface) and information that cannot be seen by automated searchers (deep). Within the Deep Web, however, is an isolated area called the dark web. This is the area where cyber tracks are erased and transactions for goods and services may or may not be legal or legitimate. You can access this part of the web through browsers such as TOR that can be downloaded and allows access to the TOR network. TOR is an acronym which stands for “The Onion Router.” If you think about an onion and its layers, TOR allows you to access the core of that onion. TOR operates by hiding originating addresses among a network of servers so the end user remains anonymous. This area may house legitimate anonymous transactions but it is also the home of drug and other illicit trading.

Thoughts

I think it is important to understand the different terms relating to the different layers of the web and to understand the purpose of each layer. Could you benefit from a service that dissects the larger Deep Web for big data not available in the surface web? It is possible and very useful to be knowledgeable about all available options so you can provide the best IT service to your customers.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Perils of Being Last

Road Closed sign in Death Valley“After 12 years, support for Windows XP will end on April 8, 2014. There will be no more security updates or technical support for the Windows XP operating system. It is very important that customers and partners migrate to a modern operating system such as Windows 8.1.”

So begins the official declaration on the Microsoft website. There are still many active instances of the Windows XP operating system, including one on my home PC. Should we be more worried about “no more security updates” or “no more technical support”? Which is likely to cause more pain, and should we decide to continue using the soon-to-be unsupported operating system?

ATMs

According to a recent article published by Retail Banking Research in London, “Virtually all ATMs around the world use a Windows operating system and many still use XP.” This could leave those ATMs subject to attack, should there be new security holes discovered in the XP operating system after April 8. While there are extended service contracts that customers can purchase, those only provide support and not new patches. Such contracts will also become increasingly expensive, thus are considered to be only a short-term solution. In the case of ATMs, the article mentions further security measures that are already deployed that will most likely thwart attacks while manufacturers and banks deal with upgrading their operating systems.

HIPAA Compliance

Does the Security Rule mandate minimum operating system requirements for the personal computer systems used by a covered entity?”

This was a recent question posed to the Office of Human Rights, the arm of the government charged with enforcing HIPAA and HITECH rulings and mandates. While the answer is vague, it does say:

“ … any known security vulnerabilities of an operating system should be considered in the covered entity’s risk analysis (e.g., does an operating system include known vulnerabilities for which a security patch is unavailable, e.g., because the operating system is no longer supported by its manufacturer).”

Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that after April 8, any computer system running Windows XP and generating or housing private patient information is not in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Do you have any vulnerable systems or do you know of any systems that could be out of compliance in the very near future? Do you have plans to remedy these soon?

Home Computers

According to market share statistics site netmarketshare.com, Windows XP is still running on 29 percent of desktop systems worldwide. The end-of-life/end-of-support for XP was announced by Microsoft in June 2008 through end user notifications, so why the reluctance? I don’t think that it is apathy as much as familiarity. Windows XP has been around for so long that it has become a trusted and—thanks to the additional service packs— stable operating system. Why change? Changing requires time and disruption to our normal routines, and the alternatives may not be that enticing. Do we switch to Windows 7 or the much maligned Windows 8, or are we still holding out for something better?

Thoughts

This blog is as much about change as it is about technology. I know that in my own life, I sometimes resist change until I am forced to face it head on, like in the case of increased security vulnerabilities in my operating system. To not change is comfortable and to change is hard. Sometimes, though, it is better and actually easier to change before we are the last one to do so.

I still have one last home PC on Windows XP. What do you recommend? Windows 7? Linux? Let me know your thoughts. I think it is time for me to change.

 

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Beware the Ides of March: 3 Surprising Origins of Popular Traditions

Statue of Gaius Julius Caesar, Rome, ItalyThe blog post this week comes out of my personal curiosity with traditions and their origins. It started with the origins of the Ides of March and then snowballed to Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day. I am hoping that you learn something new from my research. If anything, it will arm you with new party conversation topics.

I knew that Caesar was killed by Brutus and Cassius on the fifteenth, or the Ides of March, but I assumed that there was more to it than that. The Roman months were broken up into three parts. The Kalends was the first day of the month, the Nones was thought to be the date of the half moon and the Ides is thought to be the day of the full moon or the “half division” of the month. In 44 BCE, the year of the death of Julius Caesar, the half division fell on March 15, which has been chronicled by historians. This significance would have died out long ago, had it not been for a play by William Shakespeare in which the soothsayer character utters the line “Beware the Ides of March.” It is amazing to think that because of powerful prose, we still think about this event over 2,000 years later.

Mardi Gras

I know enough French to understand that Mardi Gras means “fat Tuesday,” and that it is tied to the beginning of Lent, but who started the whole thing about parties and parades? It turns out that Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. When the Christian church was established, rather than doing away with traditional pagan rituals, they folded them into their own rites. Thus, Mardi Gras came to be the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting and reflection. In the days before Lent, households would traditionally eat up all of the meat, eggs, milk, and cheese in the house and prepare themselves for the period where they would eat only fish or fast. The term “Carnival” comes from the ancient word “carnelevarium”—to remove or take away meat. Today, Louisiana is the only US state where Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day

Who was this guy and why do we dress in green to celebrate him? St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the emerald isle. St. Patrick’s day is observed on March 17 to commemorate his death in 461 CE and it always falls on Lent (see Mardi Gras above). The Irish tradition has been to attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon and evening. Lenten prohibitions against eating meat were waved and Irish families feasted on bacon and cabbage. St. Patrick was known to use the shamrock in his teaching, so the Irish began to wear shamrocks and then later dressed in green to celebrate. This legend and tradition spread to America after the Irish potato famine drove many Irish to emigrate. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually held in New York and not in Ireland. The next time you celebrate St Patrick’s Day by donning green, think of the Christian missionary who died more than 1,500 years ago.

Thoughts

I hope this excursion has left you with some facts that you did not know. I hope it also leaves you wondering about the origins of other traditions and inspires you to do some of your own research. Asking questions about any tradition is a great way to grow and become smarter about the world around us. I wonder why we… ?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Trend Spotting: Keeping Track of the Ever Changing Game

Businessman climbing above the clouds to get a better view of the landscapeI have been thinking lately about the value of trend spotting and the people or groups that provide that service in your organization. To some organizations and industries it is very important and to some it is not even on the radar. Is it important to your organization? Does it need to exist?

By trend spotting, I am referring to the practice of monitoring trends, particularly those that are pertinent to your business or industry. Those may be a demographic shift; an alteration in preferences for one product over another; a change in how people perceive a product or service; a political movement or a response to the shifting political current. All of these things could have an effect on how you do business and the way you sell your product or service, including developing the right product mix. In our connected world, it is easy for demands to suddenly boom or to die out just as easily, and without monitoring those trends, we could either miss a new opportunity or be left holding the bag when demand for our specialty or product dries up.

I have been searching for web sites that could extend my trend spotting abilities and help me to stay abreast of new developments that are important to me. Here are some sites that may be of interest to you as well.

Springwise

Springwise.com, according to their site, is “helped by a network of 17,000 spotters and scans the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering immediate inspiration to entrepreneurial minds.” These spotters are organized into a group through springspotters.com. This is a fascinating concept that I have never considered in the past—anyone can submit a trend or a new business idea that they think is rising, and if their submission is chosen and aired, they are awarded with “cool gifts.” You can either browse their site or become a paying member and follow the trends related to your needs. This is, in essence, crowd sourcing for trends.

Trendwatching

Trendwatching.com is very similar to Springwise. It is a fee-based service that supplies you with trend information targeted specifically to your business and industry. The trends are fed by an organization called happyspotting.com. An interesting fact—contributions to happyspotting are rewarded with points that can be redeemed for gifts. Apparently, it is not about the money anymore, it is about the cool gifts.

What Springwise and Trendspotting are doing is harnessing the power of people around the world who are watching out for new products, new businesses, and new ways of doing things. I do not know what the qualifications are to be a happyspotter or a springspotter, but there must be an algorithm or filter that tries to determine whether this is a random occurrence, the beginning of a trend, or a “tipping point”. To help you stay ahead of the trends, these could be valuable services to you.

Thoughts

Are you a trend spotter? Do you have someone in your organization that is dedicated to that task? Perhaps multiple people each have a piece in their job description? Is it even important to your organization to stay on top of trends? Let me know your thoughts on how important you think this is.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

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The Power of Continuing Education

Computer keyboard with Continuing Education keyMy life has been heavily influenced by continuing education. I forgot to go to college at eighteen like everyone else (OK, it was a conscious choice) but still managed to land a good job early on in the high tech industry. It didn’t take me long to realize that I really did need more education in order to not only remain in my position but also to advance. For a number of years I worked full time while pursuing an undergraduate and and then a graduate degree. In the process, I came to appreciate the value of an ongoing education and made a commitment to myself to continue studying beyond my degrees.

The Next Big Thing

I think that we all need to be ready for the next big thing. The only problem is that we don’t always know what the next big thing is. So, how do you prepare when you don’t know what is coming? This is the power of continuing education. Not only does learning improve your ability to better see into the future but it can also prepare for it. In our fast-paced world, it is not easy to keep up on trends or technologies that can and will benefit our business, but keep up we must.

Courses

When was the last time that you took a class to sharpen your skills or to learn a new skill? In addition to academic studies, over the years I have taken courses in cooking, baking, welding, basket weaving, guitar, and scuba diving, among other things. They were all relaxing in that they did not relate to my career in any way, but they also taught me a new skill and sharpened my learning abilities.

Do you need to pick up a certification to be current in your job and in your career? There are classes, both onsite and online that can help you learn that new skill. Perhaps you are thinking of starting a new degree program? That takes a big commitment in terms of time and resources but can open doors that were previously closed to you. If you’re on the threshold, I would encourage you to jump in. It can be a very rewarding experience and lead to future possibilities you had never considered.

Reading

How often do you pick up a book or an e-book? When was the last time you read one? I always have a current book that I am reading, either in preparation for a course or something tied to my other interests. I have always enjoyed reading and I count on the ideas that I glean from this activity to keep me mentally awake and sharpen my critical thinking skills. Be it career-related material or in another field of interest, it is an excellent form of continuous education. If you dropped the habit of reading after your formal education, you should pick up a book and try it again. You will be surprised what you will learn.

Audio

I am in the process of re-listening to a lecture series called “The Great Ideas of Philosophy.” I occasionally get distracted, especially while driving, and I need to listen multiple times. I am fascinated by the history of philosophy and how each set of ideas builds on the thoughts that came before. I can sometimes see and recognize threads of previous thinkers in today’s modern philosophies. I have even thought of pursuing a degree in philosophy so that I can discover that one critical thought that preceded all the others. Although philosophy is a hobby, listening to the lectures helps keep me sharp and open to ideas and new ways of thinking.

Teaching

Do you have a skill that you are willing to teach others? Teaching is a great way to keep learning. In order to teach, you need to make sure you know your topic and continually stay on top of your skills. Plus, the teacher can often learn something from the students. If you are open to new ideas, those inspirations can come when you are not expecting them. If you have the opportunity to teach a skill, even on a volunteer basis, do it. It can be very rewarding and a good way to polish your subject and teaching skills. Two for one!

Thoughts

What do you do to stay current and learn or practice skills? Give me some feedback and inspire me to learn even more.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

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The Second Machine Age?

Steel robotic android hands holding blue digital earth I have been reading a book recently called The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by MIT researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. In this book, the authors project a future where mankind will work alongside increasingly sophisticated computers and machinery to create a better world. They tell a compelling story about the history of the industrial age leading up to the current technological age and describe our current time as the second machine age.

Others, however, are not so optimistic about our technological trajectory and where it is leading us economically. In 2003, economist Tyler Cowen wrote a book titled Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation in which he argues that technology has been and will continue dividing workers into two classes. Those workers that are proficient with such technology as computers and robotics will thrive, but those who are not will find themselves unemployed or underemployed. In the author’s defense, he does lay out strategies that can help the latter class to join in the prosperity.

My purpose for this blog post is to start a dialogue and hear your thoughts on the pace of technology changes and how they will affect our future and our economic system. Will technology lead us into a bright future or drive us into perennial unemployment?

The Second Half of the Chessboard

In their book, Brynjolfsson and McAfee refer to another publication, The Age of Spiritual Machines. The author, Ray Kurzweil, draws an analogy between the old story of the emperor and the inventor, and our current technology advancement. In the story, the inventor of chess negotiates with the emperor for payment for this new marvel. He asks only one grain of rice that doubles on each square of the chessboard. The emperor readily agrees, thinking that the inventor is indeed a humble man. By the time they reach thirty-two squares, he is up to 4 billion grains of rice. After that, they reach the second half of the chessboard where things get really interesting and will eventually reach 64 quintillion grains of rice.

This story is based on exponential increase, and the analogy is that we are just now entering the second half of the chessboard. If you thought that the pace of technology advancement was furious in the past, hang on for a wild ride in the future.

Thoughts

The questions still remain—will we benefit from technology or will we be run over by it? Will we be driving the bus or be passengers? I believe that it is up to us and how prepared we are. It is going to take work and constant learning to be in the driver’s seat. What do you think? Are you optimistic or are you worried? Can you keep up? Let me know your thoughts by replying to this post. I hope that we can start a conversation and figure this out together.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

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The Beginning Of The End of the World Wide Web?

Outline map of world overlaid with razor wireI wrote a blog post recently on the fallout of the revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) spying last year. One of my concerns at the time was the balkanization of the Internet. Balkanization is the process of drawing national borders around the Internet, much the same as physical borders. We would no longer have the World Wide Web, instead it would be broken up into the Web of Germany, the Web of Japan, the Web of Chile, and so on. This would be done to protect a nation from activity such as spying on another nation. National Internet traffic would stay within country boundaries and a strong national firewall would be constructed for traffic that had to move across the border. I have been reading stories the past week that have confirmed my fears: nations are slowly moving toward just such a model.

Germany

A recent article out of the UK reveals that Germany is floating plans for a European communications network meant to bypass the US and prevent spying by the NSA and the British counterpart, the GCHQ. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is quoted as saying:

“Above all we’ll talk about European providers that offer security to our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send e-mails and other information across the Atlantic, rather one could build up a communications network inside Europe.”

The Germans are particularly incensed by revelations last year that the Chancellor’s cell phone was monitored from the US Embassy in Berlin. This is just the beginning of a proposal, but it feels like the beginning of walls being built.

Brazil

According to a recent article in IEEE Spectrum, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is pushing legislation: “… to force Internet companies such as Google and Facebook to store local data within the country’s borders. She also wants to build submarine cables that don’t route through the United States, set up domestic Internet exchange points, and create an encrypted national e-mail service.” Now, those are not just switches and routers that would be directed inward but national cables would be off limits, too. In other words, Brazilian traffic could only flow over Brazilian cables.

China

The Great Firewall of China already exists; it restricts Chinese citizens’ access to the full Internet. There are censorship mechanisms in place to ensure that information going in and out of China meets government standards. The same filters are already in place in Russia although not to the same extent. India is also looking for ways to close the borders of the Internet. All of these efforts counter one of the basic premises of the Internet—the fact that it is open and accessible to all.

My Thoughts

I agree with a recent open letter to President Obama from Peter Singer and Ian Wallace of the Brookings Institute. They state in the letter:

“The sooner that we can articulate a clear, robust case for a U.S. vision for the future of the Internet, the better. And that needs to be one that, while acknowledging the natural shift away from U.S. control, makes both the pragmatic and principled arguments for preserving the values that have made the Internet such a successful driver of positive global economic, political and social change.”

The Internet is not US-centric, although history and some countries would suggest otherwise. It must remain an open exchange without borders, without censorship, and without state oversight. The whole metaphor of the “cloud” transcends borders and allows the Internet to operate efficiently and openly. Advancements in networking technology have allowed us to operate across the globe and I believe that it would be a giant step backwards to erect artificial barriers where they don’t belong.

Are you concerned about a splintering of the Internet? Let me know your thoughts.

 

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

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Too Many Coders?

Child using a computer with binary code on the screenI have been reading a number of articles lately lamenting the fact that we do not have enough programmers or coders in America and not enough students are entering and graduating from computer science programs. The Kentucky Senate last week passed a bill that would allow for programming classes to count as foreign language credits in public schools. The bill still needs to pass the Kentucky House to become law. There is also the oft-quoted number from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) that only 2.4 percent of current bachelor’s degrees are awarded to computer science majors.

The Argument

I think that the argument is overly simplistic and ignores cycles, needs, and capacity. In terms of cycles, there is a reason for fewer computer science majors today. If you look at the historical trends in computer science degrees displayed in this interactive chart, you will see that computer education peaked at 4 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in 1985 and again in 2004. I believe that the introduction and popularity of personal computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s led to the first peak. It takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree, so the cycles are offset. Similarly, I believe that the second peak was because of the dot com boom of the late 1990s and very early 2000s. In both cases, it was very cool to be in computers and desirable to pursue computer education. Conversely, the troughs occurred in 1995 and 2009. By 1990, computers had become commonplace but we had not yet entered the Internet boom. In 2004–2006, sizable tech companies and Internet companies such as HP, IBM, EDS, and Cisco were laying off large numbers of employees. My belief is that during the layoffs, an education and career in tech did not look very enticing. Computer science degrees have come out of the trough since 2009 and are on the rise again; that may be in part attributed to the boom in mobile computing. Computing is cool again.

Broad-based STEM Education

That being said, I am a huge advocate of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and I think all students should be solidly grounded in those disciplines. They can take that education and those skills into a number of vocations and professions. I don’t believe, however, that everyone needs to become a programmer or be proficient in programming, despite the proclamations of Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama on Code.org. I laud their efforts to at least introduce coding to all students but it is just one small part of a larger education in technology and science.

There are other emerging fields that are outside the boundaries of traditional computer science. Perhaps it is a matter of semantics, but students should also consider a career in bioinformatics, which is a combination of statistics, computer science, and biology. This is a chance to apply computing and data analysis skills to the task of gene sequencing and other biological research. There are other emerging fields as well, such as robotics and materials science. Work in all of these specialties is going to take a solid background in math, science, technology, and even some programming. They are all exciting areas waiting for those willing to tackle the rigorous work necessary to make a break through discovery.

My Thoughts

These are exciting times to be involved in computing and analytics and there are diversified disciplines looking for those skills. I think the key to the future is a solid applied STEM education that will prepare students for the challenges ahead. The opportunities are broad and other possibilities should not be ignored by focusing only on programming skills or computer science degrees. What do you think? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

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Personal Health Monitoring

Doctor working at the hospital and using a smart phoneA number of years ago, I had an idea for a health monitoring device that would be embedded in your door frame. The idea was that you would go out the door in the morning and, as you passed over the threshold, you would be scanned and your vital statistics would be recorded and sent to you via e-mail. If anything were really amiss, the same e-mail would also go to your physician.

I think I was on to something but my vision has been surpassed by devices currently being developed and coming on to the market. Now, you have constant monitoring and constant feedback. It is no longer a single snapshot like my doorframe idea. In this post I would like to focus on technology that will help you get fit, stay fit, and be healthy.

Imec

Imec is a research firm based in Belgium. They are working on developing and commercializing nanotechnology that can be used in health monitoring. They are developing systems on a chip that will help you track your blood characteristics and transfer that information to an intuitive user interface on your smart phone. If you are concerned with the results, you can then share that information with your physician at the touch of a button. They are expanding their research and products to develop a body area network. This may well be the next evolution of the wide area network (WAN) and the local area network (LAN). Watch a great video showcasing their research.

Moticon

Moticon is a German firm that has developed a product that gathers information about your step, your gait, and your foot temperature via sensors in a shoe insole. The information can then be transferred via Bluetooth to a smartphone for analysis. While this is primarily targeted towards people recovering from a leg injury it can be helpful in monitoring stressors and body alignment for athletes, particularly runners.

Nuubo

Nuubo is a Spanish firm selling a small wearable device that provides a running electro cardiogram to help monitor your heart rhythms and other vitals. The data can be collected and assessed remotely via a smartphone or tablet. This is a great product for cardiac patients being treated off-site for heart conditions such as arrhythmia. It is also a great tool for athletes and trainers so they can understand the implications of peak and sustained performance.

Google Smart Contact Lens

Google is developing a contact lens that would monitor glucose level via tears. Once released as a product, this would be a welcome relief to those with diabetes that now monitor their blood sugar via a pin prick, sometimes multiple times a day. This is a great development and a unique use of technology to ease discomfort to those affected.

Climbax

Climbax is a new product out of the UK that is designed for monitoring performance of rock and ice climbers. These same products have been available for cyclists and runners for years but are new for climbers. The device consists of a pair of bracelets with embedded sensors. The bracelets are sealed to be impervious to water or chalk. When the climb is over, the athletes can then upload their climb to the Climbax website and store and analyze their performance. This will help them to adjust their methods and improve their climbing ability in the future. This product is just launching and is relying on Kickstarter funds to take the company into sustainable manufacturing.

Lumo Lift

Lumo Lift is a product from Lumo BodyTech that monitors your steps, mileage, and calories burned but even more importantly, it monitors your posture and gives you a gentle reminder, via vibration, if you slouch. It is a small, discreet monitor worn against your body via a magnetic clasp on your clothes that connects to a smartphone app. I like the steps and calorie monitoring, but I would hope that you would only need to be reminded about your posture for a limited time until it becomes second nature to stand and sit up straight. This product is just being introduced in a limited run.

My Thoughts

This is a very exciting time in personal health monitoring. Some of the products being introduced seem like technology in search of an application, but overall the new products appear to be thoughtful in the way they address a genuine need. Such products can be used by athletes and concerned consumers, but they can also be used as part of a remote monitoring solution for health care patients. I believe that the proliferation of new devices is due to new and lower cost sensors and also to inexpensive Bluetooth and cloud technologies for storing this new information. Once the data is collected, however, we are still going to need smart analysts and smart application designers who can synthesize the data and make it useable to effect new and healthier behavior.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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