Cutting-edge Technologies for an Aging Population

Photo of a woman pushing the button on an emergency call system.

Woman demonstrates emergency call system.

I recently read an interesting article highlighting technology solutions for an aging population. I have never thought specifically about technology that can compensate for the inevitable aging process, but was fascinated by the products that are being introduced. I will most likely be using some of these technologies in the future, so I am thankful that someone is thinking ahead. I want to dedicate this post to highlighting several of these assistive technologies and products, and I’d like to hear from you about those I may have missed.

Telehealth

Care Innovations is a joint venture between Intel and General Electric that focuses on solutions dedicated to aging in place. Telehealth is a big part of the push to enable seniors to stay in their homes instead of being moved to a care facility or a hospital. Technologists from GE, Intel, and others are developing technologies for allowing people to monitor their own health and to work with a remote care provider. Among these technologies are heart rate and blood pressure monitors that transmit information in real time. In the works are systems that automatically notify emergency personnel of a dangerous fall. An overriding goal in all of this research is to develop technologies that are unobtrusive. Simple interactions result in successful and sustained use of the devices or applications.

Cool Gadgets

One of my favorite devices is Liftware. This is a handheld device that can be fitted with a spoon or fork and dampens shaking from essential tremors or other diseases. As the person shakes, the spoon counters by vibrating in the opposite direction. It is shown to remove up to 70 percent of vibrations caused by tremors. I recently had dinner with a wonderful gentleman who had tremors, and I began to wonder how he would ever be able to eat soup. I saw a review on this product two days later and I had my answer. What a wonderful innovation for those suffering from this affliction.

Assistive Devices

A recent CNN article highlighted assistive devices that aid Alzheimer’s patients and allow them to stay in their homes longer. These include sensors by SmartThings that monitor whether they took their medications, whether they left their home during certain hours, and whether there is smoke in the kitchen or flooding in the laundry room. Such devices are not new, but in these cases they are connected to a wireless hub and alert family members or caregivers about the activity of the resident. As the article points out, one of the unique problems that arise from this technology is whether you alert the resident to the fact that they are being monitored. Well-meaning family members who do not reveal the monitoring are simply trying to keep the resident safe. Granted, this is not spying by the NSA, but there are some delicate privacy issues involved, even on a family level.

Thoughts

Personally, I am excited about the use of assistive technologies, particularly when it allows people to remain independent longer and out of invasive care. Would I trust my son to monitor me when I get to the stage where I can no longer be trusted to make all of my own decisions? Absolutely. I am hoping that by that point he will be able to supplement my Bitcoins with some from his own stash when I accidentally go on a fine chocolate buying spree.

Do you have any experience with assistive technologies? Do you rely on apps or devices to remind you about daily tasks or are you helping a loved one to remain independent through technology? I would love to hear from you. I think this will be a growing area of interest.

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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Hacktivism: Is it a Forgivable Crime?

A hacktivist is defined as one who breaks into a computer or network for political or social motives. The more I read about hacktivists, the more I wonder if they are hackers cloaked in the ideals of activism, or activists borrowing a page from the hacker playbook to further their cause? In this post, I will highlight a few recent incidences of hacktivism and let you decide.

Sony Hack

The Sony hack tops the list, both for its recency and its impact. A group of hackers called The Guardians of Peace broke into Sony’s internal computers and released sensitive documents and e-mail exchanges, some of which involved Sony partners. Five movies were released to download sites, four of which had not yet been released in theaters. They blocked the release of the movie The Interview by threatening to bomb theaters that showed the film. The Interview is a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Ironically, or maybe not, as of this writing the FBI is claiming the hack originated from North Korea. Was this an attempt to expose Sony’s inadequate defenses, a case of defending a country’s honor from a fictitious film, or was it plain and simple malice? Whatever the motives, The Guardians of Peace crossed the line from hacktivism to terrorism when they threatened to bomb theaters.

Africa

The hacktivist group Anonymous Africa attacked and closed down fifty websites during the 2013 Zimbabwean election, including those associated with the ruling Zanu PF party and those of the newspaper The Herald. The group claimed President Robert Mugabe’s regime dominated the Internet and airwaves and did not allow access to the opposing party. Was their attack successful? Ninety-year-old Mugabe is still in power, but the oppression in Zimbabwe was exposed, if only briefly.

Arab Spring

The Arab Spring was sparked in January 2011 by an uprising against the ruling party in Tunisia. The hacktivist group Anonymous stole Tunisian government documents and funneled them to the website Wikileaks, which published them. The documents showed a pattern of abuse by the government against the citizens. In Egypt, when citizens tried to expose government oppression and the government responded by trying to shut down the Internet, various hacktivists provided alternative methods for citizens to expose the actions taking place in their country. In these instances hacktivism was a weapon, just like bombs or guns, and hacktivists tried to win the hearts of the people and expose activities deemed to be unfair and oppressive. The same method is being used in Syria today.

Thoughts

So is hacktivism good or bad? That depends. There are definitely economic losses in politically motivated hacks, so it is not a zero-sum activity. There can be embarrassment and expense for those who are hacked. I think that these hacks may have started out with reasonable and objective motives, but more often than not they cross the line into cyber-terrorism. I believe that there are better ways to further a cause than breaking into electronic files and exposing them, preventing them from being seen, or outright stealing them.

Hacktivism is criminal, but is it justified? Let me know what you think.
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 Impact of Technology in Football

I recently wrote a blog post about technology in sports, but I want to focus this post on technology in football and how it benefits the game and, more specifically, the players. With the college football playoff coming up, followed by the Super Bowl, this is a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on technology contributions.

Making College Football Safer

In a recent USA Today article, the author highlights the use of a product by Axon Sports that helps train elite college athletes by converting a team’s playbook into a visual simulation, complete with potential responses from opposing teams. This cognitive training is available for any position except place kicker and punt return. The application uses a tablet-like board to train the player to quickly assess an unfolding situation and react faster and smarter. The benefit of this technology is that a player can repetitively practice several plays without ever having to suit up. This helps a player play smarter while also reducing the risk of injury or concussion. It may be no surprise that the University of Oregon and quarterback Marcus Mariota were among the earliest adopters of this training.

How Fast are They Running?

A recent Boston Globe article spotlights sensor technology worn by almost all NFL players. The sensors emit a signal (at twenty-five times per second) to track and record a player’s speed and distance over time. The sensors use RFID technology to transmit the data points to in-stadium receivers so they can be viewed by announcers and broadcasters almost in real time. This technology is still fairly experimental, but the idea is that the additional data will improve the football viewing experience by allowing fans to do their own analysis and comparisons. When I am watching football data analysis is the furthest thing from my mind, but maybe I am unique that way. I do see how this technology could help players maximize their speed or change their training to increase performance.

What is the Impact?

Helmet impact sensors are, in my opinion, one of the best developments in football. These sensors are still in their infancy but are commercially available for professional and college teams as well as high school and younger players. The sensors record the impact of a collision and assess whether the impact is enough to sideline a player for monitoring, which will hopefully prevent a concussion or future brain injuries. Equipment maker Riddell markets its Speedflex system, which senses and broadcasts impact forces to coaches and trainers who can then make an assessment based on statistics AND qualitative observations. If this can help prevent head injuries in players, I think it is better than any application to enhance viewing that we can develop. This is an excellent use of technology for performance and safety.

Thoughts

You now know about some of the cool technology that can enhance our viewing experience or protect players from injuries. Do you have any ideas for new technologies that would make the game better for you, your favorite player, or the future player sitting next to you? 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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The Information Umbrella’s Best Blogs of 2014

Happy New Year from the AIM faculty and staff!

Our blog writers’ curiosity took some surprising turns in 2014, which sparked us to ask what resonated with you readers. Below is our list of most popular blogs of the year, with a special challenge to astrologers to make sense of the odd coincidence involving publication dates.

Hand holds the world#5 Our Shrinking World

AIM blogger Kelly Brown ponders the question “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?” From April 15, 2014.

parade
#4 So We Had a Parade

Guest blogger Tim Williams, a 2000 AIM graduate, an adjunct instructor for the AIM Program, and COO of Sesame Communications, shares his thoughts on his experience in organizational culture and team building. From July 15, 2014.

digital vortex#3 The Dark Side of the Deep Web

Kelly Brown’s curiosity takes him deep into the layers of the Web. Think onions and murky depths. From April 8, 2014.

overstuffed garage#2 A Terabyte of Storage Space: How Much is Too Much?

How much storage is enough? Kelly Brown calculates just what will fit into 1,000 gigabytes. From July 8, 2014.

 

child using computer#1 Too Many Coders?

Are there too many coders to meet the needs of the future? Not enough? That question resonated with more Information Umbrella readers than any other in 2014, rocketing this blog post to top spot for the year. From February 18, 2014.

 

What do you want to read about in 2015? Send us a message with your ideas.

Don’t miss The Information Umbrella next week when Kelly Brown scores a touchdown with a timely topic!

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Tech Trends: My Predictions for 2015

Webbmedia Group recently released their 2015 trend report for disruptive technologies that will affect us in the coming year. I sometimes wish we could take a year off from new trends, but at the same time I am excited about some technologies that are taking shape and their potential impact on our lives. In this blog post I will cover just a few technology trends that I believe will soon go mainstream.

Smart Virtual Personal Assistants

Predictive technology will continue to make its way into our lives. Google, Apple, Yahoo, and other tech companies have or will be integrating predictive technologies into their products. This technology uses natural language input and processing and attempts to anticipate our next thought or move. As an example, Emu, which was acquired by Google last year, monitors text conversations and will suggest nearby movie theaters and movies based on your geolocation and recent movie views, all based on your text conversation. Another application of predictive technology is Amazon Echo, which is a new, voice-activated, cloud-connected wireless speaker that acts as a personal assistant. Alexa is the voice behind Echo; you can ask her questions, tell her to play music, have her set alarms or appointment reminders, and more. Think Siri for the home. Echo is currently available for purchase by invitation only, but will most likely be widely sold in 2015.

Privacy

With ongoing privacy concerns, look for new applications and devices that seek to protect users from hackers and government prying. Expect an increase in ultra-private phones and watch for new methods of authentication, such as private key technology, which was previously used primarily in corporate networks.

Ephemerality

Applications like Snapchat have become popular mainly due to their ephemeral nature. Your post or message is guaranteed to disappear after a period of time. Look for the same technology to appear in other sites, such as Facebook. We will soon have the ability to predetermine a lifespan for files and posts.

Heads Up Displays

Things may be quiet on the Glass front right now, but companies such as Innovega are refining their iOptik technology into sleek glasses and even into contact lenses. Cyborgs cannot be far behind. Also look for more heads up displays in automobiles that show speed or other driving parameters.

Proximity Sensing

With advanced beacon sensing, proximity sensing will become more ubiquitous. This technology allows a business or individual to broadcast messages to you when you are within range. This is a good thing when trying to find your ride after the big NFL game, but may be intrusive when walking through a large metropolitan area and being bombarded by advertisements. It will be interesting to observe the tradeoff people make between privacy, as mentioned above, and convenience.

Thoughts

There are exciting new technologies coming on the market, many of which will help make life better. Some will become intrusive, however. As I watch the evolution of technology solutions, I am always interested in that intersection. Will we be mindful enough to preserve our privacy while enjoying the convenience of predictive or assistive technology? Let me know your thoughts, and let me know what you are looking forward to next year.

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 Gift of Creativity: The Advent of 3D Printing

Boy intently watches 3D printerI have been reading a lot lately about 3D printers and scanners. The price of these printers is approaching consumer level, albeit the wealthy consumer level. Some of the initial hurdles have been eliminated, such as lack of raw materials and poor printing quality. With the maker movement, there is a push to make this technology available to more people so they can print their own designs and inventions. I believe the 3D printer has the potential to unleash creativity and create breakthrough items.

3D Printers

3D printers use raw materials such as plastic filament, metal powder, or carbon fiber to transform digital designs into solid, workable products. Makerbot, a manufacturer of 3D printers, scanners, and supplies makes a model that costs as little as $1,300. The same company also maintains the website Thingiverse, which is a repository for shared digital designs that can be used with 3D printers. There are designs for jewelry, household items, and tools like wrenches, knives, or scissors. You can share your designs, or borrow designs for use with your own 3D printer.

Innovative Ideas

3D printing is opening up a whole new world of possibilities and an alternative to mass produced items. Mike Toutonghi, a Seattle area technology manager, developed a conductive material to be used in a 3D printer after trying to help his son create an electromechanical rocket for a science project. He now has a Kickstarter campaign to create a company to further develop this material, which makes it possible for anyone to create their own solderless circuit board. I am already thinking about the possibilities.

Hershey announced a partnership with ChefJet earlier this year to print 3D chocolate. NASA is testing methods for printing food in a zero-gravity environment. If soon we can print chocolate and pizza, what other foods can we create?

Medical research companies such as Organovo are developing methods for printing human tissue in a process they call 3D bioprinting. While this raises ethical concerns—for example, imagine if people start printing their own six million dollar man—it also creates incredible opportunities. Someday we could conceivably print whole organs and not have to rely on donations to replace failing systems.

Education could be revolutionized by the technology. I saw a working 3D printer two years ago in a high school science classroom. Teachers can use them to demonstrate concepts for the visual and tactile learner, and students can use them to develop, draw, and print a model or concept. Students could gain skills in product development, design, and manufacturing all at the same time.

Thoughts

I am excited about 3D printing and the possibilities it represents. The price is dropping to the point where I could justify adding this tool to my home office. I would love to be able to print a new gear for my bicycle, or replicate that dish I broke last week, or work on a new circuit board for an invention that will change the world.

What would you create with your own 3D printer? Perhaps 2015 is the year we get one and find out for ourselves.

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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How My Graduate Education Opened Unexpected Doors For Me

2010 AIM Program graduatesI have been pondering how a graduate education has helped me in my life and career. The catalyst was an article I read recently titled “In Defense of the Master’s Degree.” To be fair, the article was written by the chief strategy officer at Northeastern University, so it may have been a bit biased. His thoughts, however, echo my own experience and the benefits I have enjoyed since completing my master’s degree.

Background

As the article points out, up until recently the master’s degree was primarily a stepping stone to a PhD, though it sometimes became a final stopping place for those who did not make it to the finish. In the 1970s the trend shifted towards specialized graduate degrees in business, science, engineering, and computer science. The master’s degree became not a step to the PhD, but a destination in and of itself. At the same time, the number of advanced degrees in liberal arts has trended down.

Is it worth it?

With rising student debt and a proliferation of professional certificate programs, some are asking whether a graduate degree is still valuable. It is obviously important in medicine and law and in sciences such as chemistry, but is it important in computer science or information systems or business? Are employers looking for evidence of hands-on experience via certifications, or are they looking for evidence of the reasoning skills, critical thinking, and specialized knowledge that can only be developed through graduate-level study?  I believe that the answer is both.

Benefits

Beyond the obvious advantages of education and knowledge, there are benefits I did not expect:

–       The opportunity to do focused research. I was able to dive into the area of using computer simulation to solve business problems. This helped me to focus my interests and had real-world applications for my employer.

–       Increased confidence. Not only was I able to apply for positions that required an advanced degree, but I was confident that I could compete for and excel in these jobs.

–       Increased networking opportunities. A graduate cohort is generally small enough to give you the opportunity to engage the fellow students, and the faculty, both personally and professionally. This expanded network has helped me immensely in my career.

–       Becoming qualified to teach. When I pursued my master’s degree, it was strictly for the increased knowledge and professional opportunities. To my surprise it also opened doors for me in the academic world. This was unexpected and has been a great source of personal growth for me.

Thoughts

When weighing the costs and benefits of an advanced degree, I encourage you to look not only at the extrinsic values of professional advancement but also at the intrinsic value of increased knowledge, confidence, and peripheral opportunities. My degree has opened doors for me and allowed me to network with talented individuals who took me to places that I never would have considered.

If you have an advanced degree or if you are contemplating starting one, I would love to hear from you. 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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Internet of Things: How Will They Communicate?

Smart home concept sketchI have talked before about the coming Internet of Things and the changes it will bring. The Internet of Things or IoT is a term coined by Cisco to describe the interconnected nature of devices that are linked to each other and to the Internet or an intranet. Imagine a future where your car communicates with your refrigerator and your oven and your home heating, security, and entertainment systems. On your way home from work your car automatically detects your intended destination and communicates with your refrigerator to release your dinner to the oven. By the time you arrive home the lights are on, your security system has unlocked the door, and dinner is on the table, with soft music playing to soothe you after your hectic day. This is all well and good but it will require a lot of work in the background to embed all of these things with devices and to build the infrastructure to be able to connect everything. This is no trivial task and provides opportunities for both entrepreneurial and tech minds.

IPv4 vs. IPv6

If you think about how many items are produced every day worldwide and then consider that if even a small portion of those items are connected to the Internet you realize that adds up to a lot of unique Internet identifiers or addresses. In the early days of the Internet, a system was developed which provided for unique Internet protocol or IP addresses for every computer. Currently, version 4 or IPv4 allows for a maximum of 232 or 2.4 trillion addresses. IANA, the world body assigned to distribute those addresses, reported that the last block had been given out in February 2011 and the remaining addresses are now in the hands of five regional distributors.

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) allows for a maximum of 2128 unique addresses. In theory, it should be enough to cover all computers, tablets, smart devices, and “things” for the foreseeable future. Even though IPv6 was introduced in 1995, it is not yet widely used because of the complexity of conversion and the manpower needed for the task. This provides a huge opportunity for  individuals who understand the conversion process and implementation procedures of the new addressing scheme. However, much work needs to be done, and it is not just a matter of flipping a switch.

Embedded devices

There are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs who can not only come up with a way to embed devices in everyday things but also those who can develop the interconnection between devices and who can do a deep dive in to the data to create meaning. There are three important steps that need to take place to make the Internet of Things a reality:

  1. Devices need to collect various data points such as a manufacturing process or a patient status or the geospatial position of a package.
  2. Those data points need to be collected, probably in the cloud, and/or shared with other devices, smart or otherwise.
  3. The collected data needs to be analyzed to affect improvements to the whole cycle. Without this deep analysis, the data will be useless to decision makers.

In all three of these areas, I see opportunities for enterprising minds that already have these skills or are willing to develop them to be out in front of the Internet of Things.

Thoughts

Do you have ideas for everyday things that you wish could communicate, such as your car keys when they are lost, or your car in the mall parking lot during the Christmas shopping season? Some of these are already becoming a reality. It’s your turn to develop the next connected device or help develop the back end infrastructure that will collect and process all of the new data points to improve our work and our lives.

About Kelly BrownAuthor 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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Planting Seeds and Encouraging Growth

cross section of pepperLast night I was cutting up the last of our pepper harvest in preparation for freezing. As I was cutting them, I marveled at the number of seeds that are in each pepper. Each of these seeds represents a potential pepper plant, which could then produce multiple peppers, each containing a large seed pod. If even only a portion of those seeds were to germinate and bear fruit, the increase in peppers would be enormous. Perhaps it was the capsaicin fumes coming off of the peppers, but I turned my thoughts to the figurative seeds that we plant and nourish when we help and teach and encourage others.

I have written about this in previous blog posts in terms of leaving a legacy, but I want to focus specifically on the act of planting seeds. I want to share a story of people who planted seeds that allowed me to grow and give an example of how I try to plant seeds for others. I hope you will in turn share with me your stories of those who helped you and how you help others.

An Act of Kindness

My first paying job was delivering newspapers when I was eleven. It was my job to deliver the daily newspaper and to collect subscription money at the end of the month. There were some customers who did their best to dodge my collection attempts and others who were very gracious. One older couple went out of their way to invite me into their home and always fed me toast and jam on cold Saturday mornings. As I reflect on their kindness, I realize they were planting seeds that would help me in my life. I learned the value of doing a good job to earn that kindness, and I have also come to realize that I can extend that same kindness to others. Their seeds continue to flourish in me and are extended to those I interact with.

Planting Seeds for Others

I do a lot of volunteer work with a youth group and a few years ago I volunteered to run a leadership course for young men and women. The instructors were primarily older youth so although my main task was organizing the course, I also taught the instructors how to teach and to connect with others. In other words, I was planting the seeds of teaching skills with the instructors who, in turn, were planting the seeds of leadership with the participants. I got to see immediate benefits with my staff, and hopefully we planted the seeds of leadership skills with the participants. I have worked with some of those youth since that time and, whether they realize it or not, they are using the skills they learned.

I planted seeds, and then my staff planted seeds, and now it is time for the students to plant seeds. I have no idea how far our influence will spread, but healthy seeds can be carried and take root, sometimes in unlikely places.

Thoughts

At times it feels like everyone these days is isolated in their own world, but I see examples of people reaching out to others and planting seeds that will be harvested, probably for generations to come. Some seeds don’t thrive and bear fruit right away, maybe not even in our lifetime, but be assured that our deeds will bear fruit, for better or for worse. I hope you will choose today to plant seeds that will carry benefits for a long time to come. Let me know about the seeds that you plant.

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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