Travel Tech: How Do I Pay for My Croissant in Paris?

Credit card on wheels with a straw hat.Summer vacations allow us to unwind, see new things, and even meet new people. As you plan your vacation, it is important to think how you are going to pay for it. With more Americans traveling overseas, you’ll need to plan for currency exchange and whether your credit cards will work in a foreign country. This post will sort out the facts of foreign travel and will hopefully prepare you for a stress-free vacation.

Foreign Exchange

I have traveled to various countries and continents around the world and my approach to money has changed dramatically. Years ago I used to go to my local bank and get all of the cash I thought I needed, in the local currency. If I were to visit multiple countries I would have to estimate the cash needed for each country. Before the Euro, I had to carry marks, pounds, and francs at the same time. If I ran out before I left the country, then I had to navigate the local currency exchange (often with a hefty fee) or the local banking system. This system was clumsy at best.

The Miracle of ATMs

The first time I used an ATM in a foreign country was in a dark alley in Dublin. I was totally amazed when the screen flashed my name and asked me the nature of my transaction. I knew then that technology was totally awesome. I was in a foreign country far from home, yet the machine knew who I was and gave me money in local currency after determining I had that money in my account. The system, the networking, and the applications all had to work together to make this magic. That was the last time I visited a currency exchange at my bank, the airport, or a train station. I was hooked.

Who Carries Cash?

Fast-forward to today and I rarely carry cash. With the worldwide network of credit card and debit card receiving terminals there is no need to carry large sums of cash. I usually get enough cash at the foreign airport ATM to pay the taxi driver and for small purchases, but outside of that I rely on my credit and debit cards. For foreign travel though, that brings up the question of whether the American issued credit card will work. Possibly not.

Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature vs. Magnetic Swipe

Many countries, including those in Europe and Asia, adhere to the EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) standard of electronic transactions. This requires a chip and PIN type card, but many still accept chip and signature and possibly, but not necessarily, the old magnetic swipe cards. A chip and PIN system requires a PIN number to unlock the information embedded in the card. A chip and signature terminal can decode the information on the chip but does not ask for a PIN number and requires a live signature instead. The magnetic swipe has the user information embedded on the magnetic strip and requires a swipe and a signature. The newer cards being issued in America generally are the chip and signature variety. While it is a step in the right direction towards EMV standards, it is only a half measure and may not always work abroad. Consider the situation of needing to purchase a train ticket from a kiosk in Vienna in the middle of the night. That kiosk has no way to collect your signature so you could be spending a cold night in the station while waiting for the ticket office to open in the morning.

What About RFID?

One of the concerns about travel is rogue Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanners. Some credit cards have embedded RFID with credit card information. All U.S. passports since 2007 also have an embedded RFID chip. To be clear, this is not the same thing as the chip in a chip and PIN or chip and signature card. Popular RFID credit cards are Visa PayWave, MasterCard PayPass, American Express ExpressPay, and Discover Zip, and they generally carry a symbol of four wavy lines. You will find the same chip in many electronic lock systems. The advantage of these is that you can bump the card against or near the transaction scanner without having to remove it from your wallet. The disadvantage is that others with a scanner close enough to you, generally two feet, can also read and copy your information. There are a lot of solutions for blocking that data collection, from special wallets to Tyvek and aluminum card sleeves. My favorite is the homemade duct tape wallet with built in RFID block (tin foil). Before you invest in anything, make sure that your card even has an RFID embedded chip. I believe that with the advent of electronic pay systems such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, these cards will fade from use, as will the security concerns.

Thoughts

These are some things to think about as you plan your travels this summer. The world is a big place but it is becoming smaller through technology. Just when you think you may be in unchartered territory you will be surprised, as I was years ago when I walked into the terminal at the Frankfurt airport and was greeted by a big sign that said “American Express Welcomes You To Frankfurt.” They obviously got there before me.

I hope you will share your travel experiences this summer and any tips that you have to make the process uneventful so that you can fully enjoy the experience.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Spring Cleaning That Dirty Data

Photo of pulling a squeegee across a soapy window on a sunny day.I am in spring cleaning mode this week and plenty of projects around the house need attention. Now that the sun is out, I can see how dirty my windows really are. In addition to physical cleaning, I am also trying to clean up my files and data and I would encourage you to do the same. As January is for resolutions, the arrival of spring is a good tickler for cleaning.

Big Data

There is a lot of talk about big data and the potential for new insights through careful analysis. What we don’t talk about enough is the fact that these brilliant insights will not be possible unless we organize and cleanse the data that we have. The biggest problems are missing data, inaccurate data, and redundant data. Until we clean up these problems the results of our analyses will continue to be flawed.

If you work with customer records, medical records, financial records or other critical data, you should be scrubbing constantly. For the rest of us, we should provide a good annual cleaning, at a minimum. It really all comes down to trust. Do I trust the results I am getting and do I trust the underlying data? If not, it is time to clean.

Missing Data

Information professionals say “garbage in, garbage out.” This is especially applicable to missing data. For example, a form prompts customers to supply their name, address, city, state, and zip code. If some customers fail to provide their zip code, you could never sort with accuracy on that field. If you wanted to send out advertising to a select geographic location based on zip code, you could not. Your data for this task is incomplete and useless. Maintaining strict rules on incoming data can alleviate this problem.

Inaccurate Data

Inaccurate data is even worse than missing data. With missing data, you can see where you have holes even if you cannot sort on that information. With inaccurate data, you could be happily marching down the yellow brick road and not know how bad your results are. You may not even know the extent of the problem. The key to accurate data is to put filters in place so the data is analyzed for accuracy, correct values, and values in the correct field.

Redundant Data

Another problem is redundant data. This can come from poor version control or not replacing old values or information with newer values. As an example, think about your personal digital photo storage. How many times have you stored the same photo? If you are anything like me, you have a copy on your phone, your computer, possibly your tablet, and one or two memory cards. The good news is, if you ever had a device failure then you have plenty of backup sources, but the bad news is you have created redundant data or images. With the introduction of cloud computing, we should be able to synch everything to the cloud and have one clean filtered copy of everything. Unfortunately, there seems to be some lingering trust issues with the cloud, but hopefully we can get beyond that.

Thoughts

Big data can get out of control quickly without well thought out strategies for input, organization, and cleansing. This year, as part of your spring cleaning, identify those areas where you have dirty data and vow to get them under control before it controls you.

Do you have any advice for cleaning big data and keeping it clean? Are there any products that have worked well for you? Cleaning data is harder than cleaning windows but the results can be just as bright.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Courage in the Face of Change

Man leaps across a precipice in the mountains at sunset.I have been thinking about all of the students who are about to graduate and the new students who will begin the AIM Program in June. Graduates may be moving into the job market or starting a postgraduate program, but there are still many unknowns. New students may be embarking on their first graduate experience or their first online course. It takes courage to start that first step and to follow through on the commitment. This blog post is dedicated to those courageous souls facing new adventures.

Definition

Courage is defined on Dictionary.com as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.” I am not sure that having courage means you have no fear. Instead, I think it is a managed fear. Think back to the last time you ventured into the unknown. What pushed you into that new venture? Was it to alleviate discomfort in your current situation? Were you seeking a reward? Or were you curious as to what the new experience would bring? The first time I skydived, there was definitely some fear involved, but there was also curiosity. In my case, the curiosity outweighed the fear.

Examples of Courage

One of the finest examples of courage I can think of is military service. These men and women face the unknown just by reporting for duty. They then face ongoing challenges if they are deployed to foreign lands to defend our freedom and security. They are not alone, but they courageously face the unknown despite their fears. I honor them for that courage.

Another example of courage is young people who move away from home and the towns they grew up in to better themselves through education or employment. It takes courage to build a new life. It gets easier as they continue to encounter new experiences, but that initial move can be daunting.

Change Takes Courage

I have come to understand that change takes courage, whether it be changing jobs, entering a new academic program, taking on new volunteer responsibilities, or changing a lifestyle. The pain of your current situation could make changing easier but it still takes courage to take the first step toward (hopefully) a better future.

Thoughts

I hope that you will take a moment this week to recognize someone who is facing a change with courage. Whether they are a new graduate or someone starting a new venture, congratulate them and wish them well as they confidently step forward.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Technology in the Air

Photo of modern airplane flying on autopilot.In light of upcoming summer vacation plans, I want to look at how technology works behind the scenes to keep us safe and comfortable as we travel. Recently I was on a plane and, as I often do, I looked in the cockpit at the instruments. I was amazed at the array of gauges and computer screens available to the pilots. How far have we come in the last 100 years in terms of technology in a plane? Is it better for the pilot? Is it safer for the passengers?

Electronic Flight Bag

My son is taking flying lessons and his flight bag seems to get heavier by the day. Every pilot takes a similar bag into the cockpit and it carries flight maps, aircraft operating manuals, and other documentation. Fortunately, an electronic flight bag has been developed that allows pilots to download maps and other useful information to a tablet. The iPad seems to be the tablet of choice for pilots and can be updated at airports or real time through wireless 4G. They can also hold apps such as weather maps, FAA updates, and GPS navigation aids. Such technology makes critical information much more accessible to the pilot.

Passenger Entertainment

There are many networked systems running in a plane, including the navigation systems, the point-of-sales systems for purchased food and beverages, and the passenger entertainment systems. On top of that, wi-fi has been added to many flights. It is a miracle that it all works and is a testament to good systems architecture and a robust network. I flew overseas last year and the plane had a seatback entertainment system with what appeared to be an endless array of music and movie choices. More recently I flew with a small airline that rented tablets connected wirelessly to an on-board server, with movies and in-flight entertainment. The options continue to grow as airlines try to differentiate themselves and become more sophisticated in their technology offerings.

Who’s Flying the Plane?

I read about the advent of driverless cars, but will we see a pilotless passenger plane anytime soon? Drones are available now that can take payloads that range from cameras to missiles. Passenger planes have autopilot, which can be used once the plane is in the air, but a human still takes off and lands. In a recent article, experts speculated on future technology that could possibly push pilots out of the cockpit. This debate has intensified since a German pilot deliberately crashed an Airbus A320 into a mountain last month. Completely remote aircraft management is being researched. In fact, remote control airports are already in use in Sweden and are being considered in other locations. The question I ask myself is do I trust the plane to a pilot or a programmer?

Thoughts

If your travels take you on a plane this summer, I hope you will appreciate the technological changes that have come to the airline industry, both for your safety and comfort and to help those charged with getting you safely to your destination.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Lessons in Leadership

Hiking group trekking on a Crimean mountain.In many of our AIM courses, we teach about leadership. Whether leading people, new processes, or new technologies, we place a great emphasis on leadership. But what are the characteristics of a good leader?

I believe this is important to understand and practice so this week I will share with you some leadership lessons I have learned and, more importantly, I am hoping that you will share your insights.

Leading Change

Throughout my career I have had several opportunities to lead change. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest tasks because it requires you to transition people into new territory amidst skepticism and fear of the change. I once worked on a very large data center consolidation project where computers were being moved from scattered sites around the world to large centralized data centers. People had become attached to their application running on a computer that they could see and touch like a favorite pet. To move the application and hardware to an unknown location was truly a change to be reckoned with. This same scenario is being played out daily as companies transfer data and functions to the cloud. I wish we could come up with a better term than cloud so that the end result appeared more concrete and palatable to those suffering from computer separation anxiety.

From this experience I learned two valuable lessons about leadership:

  1. A good leader is a good communicator. It is important to be able to paint a plausible and even inviting picture of the future: “IF we do this, here are the benefits for you.” The first thought in everyone’s mind is “what’s in it for me?”
  2. It is vital to lead people in a direction that is in their best interest and does not lead them off a cliff. This builds trust and increases cooperation. The first time a leader moves a team or group in a direction that is not in their best interest, trust dissolves and resistance increases. Until that trust is re-established, the leader will no longer be effective.

Leading from the Middle

Hard charging and visible leaders often lead from the front. Shepherds, in contrast, lead their flocks from the back. I have found that it is sometimes necessary to lead from the middle. Recently, I had the opportunity to teach and lead a weeklong youth leadership course at a nearby camp. There were 48 teen campers and a staff of older youth. During the week, a group of campers was tasked with cleaning the dining hall. The staff was in a meeting at that time. I decided to help clean the dining hall, since I knew that I had support leading the staff meeting. The participants were pleasantly surprised that their adult leader would actually help them finish their chore so that they could go off and do what they wanted. They assumed that a proper leader was always out front TELLING them what to do, which was their limited experience with leaders, but leading from the middle builds team unity and builds respect for the leader.

A Good Leader is a Good Follower

I have come to realize that to be a good leader you must practice being a good follower. If you understand the vision and goals of the leader, then it is important that you help your teammates to achieve those goals. For example, as a follower, it is your responsibility to ask clarifying question when the vision is not clear and then support that vision once the direction has been decided. When it is time for you to lead, you would do well to have teammates who are also good followers.

Thoughts

I think that everyone has a chance to step into a leadership role in his or her lifetime. Whether that role is parent, coach, mentor, manager, or executive, it is important to remember to lead in a way that gets everyone to the goal safely. As the leader, it is not about you but about the group and the desired outcome for everyone.

I hope you have some leadership stories that you are willing to share with me. What worked for you? What lessons did you learn by getting it wrong the first time? Did everything turn out well, or were there lessons along the way? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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All Things Old Are New Again

Grey cassette tape with red reels and clear window.Some days, it seems like all things old are new again. The retro movement is bringing back products that I thought would stay buried forever. In this blog post I will review a few products from the past that have returned with a new twist.

Polaroid

I thought the Polaroid brand had disappeared until I saw an ad for a new Polaroid camera. This does not look like anything I remember, but amazingly it still has the instant print feature. Thanks to a technology called ZINK (Zero-Ink) these cameras print images instantly while saving them digitally. This new technology uses heat to excite color molecules embedded in special paper that are then arranged to form a print of the image you captured. Just like the cameras of old, you have to buy packs of special paper and you get the classic Polaroid border.

Classic Video Games

Old arcade games such as Pong, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders are available again through the various app stores. Perhaps it is refreshing to go back to 1972 to try your hand at Pong after being challenged by the complexity of modern video games. A dot and two paddles seem pretty simple today but it was cutting edge when Atari created the first arcade games. Instead of pulling out our smart phone, we actually had to go to the arcade in the mall and pay a quarter for the privilege of testing our skill and hope that our initials would appear in the hall of fame. Swedish airports have capitalized on this nostalgia kick by installing classic arcade games that will take any currency. While waiting for your luggage you can try your hand at Ms. Pac-Man, and all of the money the machine takes in is donated to the Swedish Red Cross.

Old School Telephones

That same smartphone that now plays video games used to be a hardwired telephone complete with handset. The old school phone is new again, but with a twist. The iRetroPhone is a dock and charger that lets you use an iPhone as a rotary dialer with a traditional handset. Touted benefits include comfort, shielding from any radiation, and complete access to your phone screen while talking. As in the days before cordless phones, you have to stay within cord-length of the IRetroPhone, but it does provide for a bit of nostalgia.

Cassette Tapes

While vinyl records have been making a comeback for several years, cassette tapes are just now rebounding. All of my cassette tapes are garbled from bleed-through and years of storage, so someone must have done a better job preserving them than I have. There is a growing market for old cassette tapes and some independent labels are recording new material on tape. While the market is still small, it is growing in some circles. Sony has developed a tape that will hold 185 terabytes of storage. It has the same form factor as a cassette but uses different materials. If used for music it will store 47 million songs, but it will most likely be used as a backup medium for large data centers.

Thoughts

What is behind the push to recreate old form factors using new technology? Are we trying to return to what we perceive were simpler times, or is this a backlash to increasingly complicated technology that is sometimes not so user-friendly? Cassette tapes were fun, but for reliability give me solid-state memory any day. Are there old technologies you wish would make a comeback? Will we some day witness a revival of eight-track tapes? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Early Women in Technology: Cracking the Enigma

A woman works on the American Bombe. Image in public domain.Last week I wrote about women in technology, a theme I’m continuing because there are so many women who played key roles in pioneering technologies, especially in early computing. This post is dedicated to all of my friends in the United Kingdom.

Cracking the Enigma Code

A recent TechRepublic article showcased the contributions of the British Government Code and Cypher School toward breaking the code of the German Enigma encryption machine during World War II. There were over 10,000 people working on this top-secret decryption effort, two thirds of whom were women. Many of them were just out of college or even just out of high school. Their job was to experiment with different decoding combinations that would crack messages being relayed by German command to the field. The decoding work went on in shifts, 24 hours a day. Every 24 hours the Germans changed the encryption algorithm so the British task started anew each day. The British needed a faster way to break the daily encryption code so that they could decode more messages.

Contributions to the Turing Machine

Alan Turing developed an electromechanical machine called the Bombe, which was designed to emulate several German Enigma encryption machines. While his invention did hasten the end of the war, it still took monumental human effort to configure it and run it each day. That task fell largely to the Women’s Royal Naval Service or the Wrens. Large drums had to be set from the front and boards had to be correctly plugged in the back, based on a menu or set of instructions for the day. The members of the Code and Cypher School, including the Wrens, worked in eight-hour shifts, often changing shifts weekly. Their mission was top secret, so they were not able to tell their families about their work. Because of this secrecy, many of these women and men were not given the credit they deserved until much later, if at all.

Pioneers in Computing

In the early days of computing, women in America were calculating ordnance and trajectory tables using simple electromechanical calculators, while women in Britain were programming the very earliest electromechanical computers to decrypt messages from the Allied enemies. Both were involved in early computing and both were on a common mission to aid the Allies in winning the war. From these experiences came a pressing need to automate work and speed up calculations. The earliest electromechanical computers gave way to the first digital computers, and thankfully they became employed in business and commerce instead of war.

Thoughts

When you open your laptop or turn on your tablet or smartphone, I hope that you will consider the contributions of women and men in early computing. Room-sized computers have given way to pocket-sized devices, but not overnight and not without a lot of effort. It has been an incredible history and I look forward to the future.
Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Women: Technology Pioneers

Grace Hopper, 1961.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-1114)

Grace Hopper, 1961. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-1114)

March is Women’s History Month so I am highlighting women in technology. There are many women who made contributions to computing, education, design, and communication. I will spotlight just a few here and encourage you to read about others. Perhaps there are some within your own family who had an early impact on the technology that we enjoy today.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, is the first to come to mind when I think of women of technology. Born in 1815 in England to poet Lord Byron and his wife, she showed an early aptitude for analytics. Beginning in 1833, she partnered with Charles Babbage to develop plans for a difference engine and later an analytical engine. These were some of the earliest ideas for a mechanical computer. Of the two, she was better able to articulate the promise and purpose of these inventions and completed much of the documentation. She is widely cited as author of the first algorithm.

The First Computers

During World War II, female mathematicians were hired to do calculations for tables of firing and bombing trajectories. They were known as “computers.” They did much of their work with calculators that were mechanical and driven with electric motors.

According to Kay Antonelli, one of the early computers:

“You’d do a multiplication and when the answer appeared, you had to write it down to reenter it into the machine to do the next calculation. We were preparing a firing table for each gun, with maybe 1,800 simple trajectories. To hand-compute just one of these trajectories took 30 or 40 hours of sitting at a desk with paper and a calculator. As you can imagine, they were soon running out of young women to do the calculations.”

Fortunately, the ENIAC computer was developed in 1945 to automate a lot of the processes. As a result, many of the early “computers” became the first programmers for the ENIAC.

Grace Hopper

Commmodore Grace M. Hopper, Courtesy U.S. Navy DN-SC-84-05971

Commmodore Grace M. Hopper, Courtesy U.S. Navy DN-SC-84-05971

Grace Hopper graduated from Vassar College in 1928 and joined the faculty shortly after as a math and physics professor. She took a leave from teaching in 1944 to join the Naval Reserves. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University where she worked on the first Mark series computers and later on the ENIAC and UNIVAC. She had a talent for programming and in particular for natural language programming, and is credited with popularizing the term “debugging.” She helped develop the forerunner to COBOL, one of the first programming languages to move away from machine language, or ones and zeroes. Next time you pull up your favorite programming language, thank Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

Anita Borg

Anita Borg was a brilliant computer scientist and a proponent of women in technology. She received her PhD in computer science in 1981 and developed a specialty in high-speed networking and high-speed memory systems. In 1994, she helped create the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. In 1997, she founded the Institute for Women and Technology, which is now the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. She once stated that her goal was to have 50 percent representation for women in computing by 2020. While we are still not at that level, the efforts of Anita Borg, Grace Hopper, and others are bringing us closer.

Thoughts

Many of the earliest pioneers of technology and computing were women, by choice or by circumstance. As we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, take a moment to remember their contributions and encourage young women to follow in their footsteps and build on their legacies.
Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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Data in the Dirt: Technology in Farming Redux

Agronomist working in a wheat field.Last year I blogged on unique uses of technology in farming. Spring is in the air here in the Pacific Northwest, so I want to revisit that thread and highlight a technology and company born right here at the University of Oregon. This company is researching the interaction between plants and fertilizers, particularly nitrogen. They have developed a technology and device that will allow a farmer or grower to monitor the nitrogen level of the soil, thus preventing excess fertilization and runoff.

SupraSensor Technologies

SupraSensor Technologies was formed in 2012 from the graduate work of Calden Carroll in partnership with his professors, Darren Johnson and Mike Haley. They discovered that the interaction between plant cells and their nitrogen level could be measured. Nitrogen fertilizer is water soluble and excess nitrogen runs off and mixes with the water table. In some areas of the country, there are large algal blooms that were fed by runoff. Algal blooms change water pH and oxygen levels, which harm fish and other organisms, and some species of algae are toxic, even deadly, to people and animals.

Field Nutrient Sensors

Carroll and other researchers did not stop at identifying this molecular interaction. They developed a device called a Field Nutrient Sensor™ (FNS™), which measures the nitrogen level in the soil, just below root level. This information is collected wirelessly so that a farmer can determine precisely where to fertilize and when to stop. It is estimated that 30 percent of all fertilizer runs off, so this device would reduce the use of chemicals, thus saving money for the farmer and promoting a sustainable and healthier farm. Collecting the data wirelessly is much less labor intensive and yields more accurate and timely data.

Farming Meets Information Technology

SupraSensor Technologies has test sensors in the field right now and is seeking funding for commercialization. It has secured seed funding from the National Science Foundation and through state and national grants. The ability to collect this important data means that farms will now need information technology experts to not only help with the data collection and wireless networking but also with data analytics to create a coherent picture of the health of the farm, the plants, and the soil. Information technology is emerging from the computer room and finding its way to the farm, the manufacturing floor, the research site, and wherever data is being turned into solutions for a better world.

Thoughts

There are many opportunities developing for IT professionals and it is an exciting time to be involved in tackling real world problems like healthy farms and sustainable ecosystems. Do you know of other technology and research breakthroughs that you would like me to highlight? Let me know if have you cool things that need to be shared.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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All Things Health

Male hand holding stethoscope emerges from a laptop screen.I have blogged in the past on the Internet of Things (IoT) and also on health and technology. Today’s post is about the intersection of those two areas. It is about how the Internet of Things can keep us potentially safe and healthy.

Tracking Your Health

With the introduction of the Apple Watch yesterday, Apple also introduced ResearchKit, a follow on to HealthKit that was introduced last year. This allows you to participate in research studies through your iPhone. Hardware on the iPhone such as voice recorders or motion sensors can help you track steps taken or voice patterns that may detect the onset of Parkinson’s disease. This data can then be shared, with your permission, with researchers so they get a much larger global sampling for their studies. Of course, the data is also available to you as well so that you can monitor and be an advocate for your own health. Perhaps, you are not getting as much exercise as you need or perhaps there are early warning signs of a chronic disease that you need to pay attention to. It would be great to have a device that would detect the early signs of a stroke and alert you and others to the possibility—early detection and intervention is critical in this case.

Smart Health

In a recent article by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, she highlights some devices in the intersection of Internet of Things and health monitoring. Among the devices she mentions are these:

  • Scales that monitor not only your weight but also your body composition. This is a great way to closely track your health day to day and over a long period.
  • Beds that monitor your heart rate, respiration rate, motion, and “bed presence” or how long you have been in bed can help you track your health through nonintrusive means. These measures can give you early warning signs of health issues.
  • Toilets that can monitor your weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. This is important to help you understand when you are becoming pre-diabetic and need to change your diet or exercise routine.
  • Motion monitors such as FitBit or the new Apple Watch which remind us through a chime or haptic feedback when we have been sitting too long or have not completed our 10,000 steps for the day yet.
  • Smart lamps designed to change light intensity depending on the time of day and also monitor your sleep (or lack thereof) and remind you when it is time to retire by a friendly blink. These are connected to your home network and can be controlled through your smartphone.

Thoughts

Where some see opportunity and peace of mind, others see intrusiveness and privacy issues. We can now monitor very detailed health information and share that with our doctor or in the case of ResearchKit, researchers trying to develop a breakthrough to eradicate, or at least control common health issues. A blessing for some, a potential health information breach for others. I think that, by combining health monitoring and the Internet of Things, we can enjoy unobtrusive devices that let us be in charge of our own wellness and health. Let me know what you think. Do you use health monitoring devices? Do they work for you? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for 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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