Monthly Archives: September 2015

Technology Refresh or Addiction?

Photo of cell phone chained to a human hand.Apple recently introduced the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. At the same time they introduced a payment plan that includes automatic replacement when a newer version of the iPhone comes out, presumably once a year, and insurance should the phone break before the new model emerges. According to the Apple website:

“Getting a new iPhone every year is easy. After 12 installments, you can get a new iPhone and start a new iPhone Upgrade Program. No more waiting for your carrier contract to end. Just trade in your current iPhone for a new one, and your new program begins.”

The phone is paid off in 24 installments, which means that you always get a new phone before the old one is paid off. I have two questions: with Apple now financing unlocked phones, does this put them in the driver’s seat and push the carriers back to simply a “pipe” provider? More importantly to me, can Apple provide enough of a technology refresh and differentiation that people need a new phone every year?

Apple vs. National Carriers

The four national carriers, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, already offer a similar refresh deal by adding a fee to the normal monthly contract. However, those phones are sold and locked by the carrier so you are bound into a contract with them. When you buy an unlocked phone from Apple you are free to move around outside of a carrier contract. If other manufacturers follow suit then that drives the carriers away from being phone stores to being monthly service providers. In other words, it relegates them to the same status as the old Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC) with landlines. Coincidentally, Verizon and AT&T have both grown out of the old RBOCs so we could be right back where we started. I am watching with interest to see how cell providers respond to this challenge from Apple or whether Apple at some point will make a bid to become their own cell provider, thus cutting out the carriers completely.

How Much is Too Much?

Now, the real question on my mind is this: does a person need a new phone every year and does it really make their life better? I am interested in your opinion and hope that you will chime in. In full disclosure, I usually end up with a new phone every year but that is because mine breaks. Apparently you are not supposed to take your phone kayaking or rock climbing. My replacement is usually a cheap $20 Android smart phone so I never have the latest and greatest but it does what I need it to do and it fits my frugal nature.

The latest iPhone touts a better screen, better chipset, faster Wi-Fi, new 3D-Touch, and a better camera. Are the new features that much better than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus introduced a year ago? For some sophisticated consumers the answer is obviously yes. In a recent study by the University of Missouri, researchers found that iPhone separation in some people resulted in anxiety and poorer cognitive performance on tasks requiring close attention. It appears that for some people smart phones have become such an integral part of their lives that they need them nearby in order to perform tasks that don’t even require a smart phone. Perhaps the latest and greatest features do help us live better lives.


Psychology author Michael Clarkson provided a counter argument for constant technology refresh in a CNN iReport earlier this year, “Escaping Society and my Cell Phone.” In it, he chronicles his attempt to escape a technology filled world by spending time in his backyard fort.

Whether we refresh our smart phone every year or two or five, technology is having a real impact on how we live and how we interact with others. I believe that we need to examine our own interaction with technology to determine how much is enough and how much is too much and too often. What is the right balance for you? Is technology a tool or has it become something more? 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.

Technology Trends in Law Enforcement

Photo of a police officer typing on a laptop computer.There have been a lot of technology updates in law enforcement just in the last five years. Some things such as body cameras are controversial due to privacy issues; others such as Tasers are controversial due to the potential for misuse, but can save lives when used instead of a gun to subdue a suspect. This week I will highlight a few of the newest technologies that are used on the beat and in the back room.

Body Cameras

First there were car mounted cameras, and now more officers are being outfitted with body cameras. The theory is that officers will use greater discretion in their interaction with the public if they know that their actions are recorded, and ideally the public will behave better as well. Granted, they only work if they are turned on and that is still up to the wearer, but there are also back end technology issues to deal with. The Los Angeles Police Department has approximately 9,000 officers, so if each officer recorded on average one hour a day, that would be 9,000 hours of video each day that need to be stored and catalogued. Where is that kept? On a local server or in the cloud? Who is going to extract the exact footage when questions arise? Are the videos tagged such that a query can be run to compare best practices or patterns of abuse? The initial cost of the camera is only the beginning; there are many other considerations.


Electronic control devices used by officers today hearken back to the cattle prod, which was invented in the late 1800s. Officers actually used cattle prods in the 1960s to break up unruly crowds, so the device of today is a true technological advance. The modern Taser was patented in 1974 by NASA researcher Jack Cover, for use by law enforcement. The original design used gunpowder to eject electrodes; now they use compressed air or nitrogen gas as a propulsion system. Studies show the voltage can cause cardiac arrest in some people, but the device has been used over the last forty years as an alternative to firearms. There have been concerns expressed about inappropriate use of Tasers; however, when used appropriately they can offer a non-lethal alternative to firearms.

License Plate Readers

Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) have been in place for close to 10 years and are installed on either police vehicles or on stationary objects such as bridges or signs. These readers take pictures of license plates at the rate of one per second on vehicles traveling up to 100 miles per hour. They commonly use infrared for night vision and the image can be compared with a database to track the movement of a vehicle. They are frequently used at toll-booths, particularly during off hours. I received a notice last year that I owed a toll for crossing the George Washington Bridge into New York and realized that it was for a vehicle registered in my name that my son was driving. When the plate image was captured, it was quickly linked to me through vehicle registration. While they are useful for such applications, there are concerns that the technology may be used to track innocent citizens. In a Wired magazine article earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uncovered documents that show that the FBI temporarily halted purchase of these devices in 2012 due to privacy concerns. The worry is that agencies such as the FBI might use the devices, algorithms, and data analytics to track a person and even predict their future movements. This is big data analytics at work.

Social Media

Law enforcement agencies are using social media to promote a public image and to engage the public to help solve crimes and find missing persons. It is also used by agencies to track felons who are thought to be in possession of firearms or other items that put them in violation of their parole or probation. Facebook in January announced that it would include Amber Alerts in their news feed to widen the search for missing children.


New technologies enable law enforcement to do their job more efficiently and more effectively. They are still sorting out the privacy issues, but the same is true for GoPro cameras and drones. We need to be deliberate in drawing the line between protecting personal privacy and allowing the use of potentially invasive tools to protect the public and officers.

What are your thoughts? Are there other cool tools that I missed? Are we doing a good job of balancing the use of technology for the greater good and the right to personal privacy? 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.

All In The Preparation

Photograph of hiking and camping equipment.Last week I went backpacking in the high Cascades of Washington state. As I hiked I thought about the preparations I made to get to this beautiful place and how they helped me enjoy the moment. I had prepared physically and mentally and I had brought the right gear. At the end of the day, however, I realized that I brought too much food and my legs were very tired by the time I got back to the trailhead. In one instance I prepared too much and in another I did not prepare enough. In this post I will focus on the value of proper preparation for everyday activities and for life.

On The Run

A number of years ago I ran the Portland Marathon for the first time. I prepared by running smaller distances such as five and ten kilometers but I did not know how long a marathon would take. I had a goal of finishing in four hours or less. I came in at four hours and twenty minutes. In contrast, world-class athletes run it in two hours and fifteen minutes. In other words, they had finished, gone home, eaten lunch and taken a nap by the time I finished. I ran it again the next year just to see if I could meet my original goal. That year I came in at four hours and ten minutes and that is the last time I ran marathon. While I was prepared to finish the race I was not committed enough to put in the preparation necessary to meet my goal.

Business Continuity

In our Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning short course we talk a lot about preparing for a possible business interruption or disaster. Each business needs to understand their tolerance for risk and how prepared they need to be. A hospital, for example, needs to be prepared for any risk since lives might be in danger in a disaster. By contrast, a taco stand only risks losing a small amount of revenue in the event of a disruption so the continuity preparation is not as great. There are different levels of preparation and it is important to understand what level is needed in various scenarios.

For Life

One of the goals of the AIM program is to prepare students to meet the challenges of tomorrow, next year, and for life. Our curriculum is broad, but also deep in areas in which students need experience to perform their daily tasks and work with others to accomplish their goals. AIM students are preparing now for future challenges and opportunities.


In reflecting on these ideas I have come to realize that there are degrees of preparation and I need to understand how much is needed and how much I am willing to invest. Sometimes I prepare too little and expect a different outcome and sometimes I prepare too much and end up having to carry a heavier pack. Are you prepared enough for opportunities coming your way? Is there anything more you need to add to make sure you are ready? 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.

Technology In Football Redux

Photo a football game, taken from the stands.Football Technology Redux

Last year I blogged on technology in football and with the upcoming season I want to revisit that topic to highlight anything new and anything we should be watching for this year. There are a lot of developments that enhance player safety and viewer enjoyment.

Do You Want Fries With That?

If you find yourself in the new Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, host of Super Bowl 50 in February, an app will let you purchase tickets and parking, watch instant replays, and even order and pay for food and have it delivered to your seat. Other stadiums are also equipped to provide the ultimate fan experience through wireless connections and exclusive stadium apps. Be aware that the 49ers are collecting data through the app in order to provide a better fan experience in the future.

Player Safety

There are two new devices that help promote player fitness and peak performance. The Catapult GPS tracker is worn under a uniform and monitors speed, movement, change in direction, and total effort during an on-field workout. The devices are then docked and information downloaded so that the coaches can watch the exertion and load levels to make sure that individual players do not overexert themselves. The Basis is a fitness monitor that tracks resistance in the weight room as well as sleep patterns. The strength coach can then work with the athletes to get peak strength conditioning without risking injury.

Fan Enjoyment

Television is probably the biggest competitor to filling a stadium on game day. With ever higher ticket prices, fans are seeking a game day experience that cannot be rivaled at home. Stadiums are constructing ever larger video boards with the Jacksonville Jaguars currently leading the competition using a monitor that is 362 feet across. Such boards are used not only to track the score and statistics but also to post fan Tweets and close up video shots. That high ticket price might just buy you your 30 seconds of fame.

Duck Football

A January ESPN story highlighted Duck football equipment managers and the challenges they face overseeing 20,000 pieces of equipment. According to the article, each Oregon player receives “…seven different helmets, seven different jerseys, six different pairs of cleats and five different pairs of sneakers.” This is in addition to pants, face masks, balls, and other accessories. The Ducks employ an equipment inventory management system that is paired with Datalogic data capture technology. Bar codes are used to keep track of the inventory and make sure it is ready for each game. This behind the scenes technology enables the Ducks to shine on the field.


There is a lot of technology used on the practice field, the playing field, in the stadium, and behind the scenes. Teams are trying to keep players safe, attract enthusiastic fans, and run their operations as efficiently and effectively as possible.

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.

The Necessity of a Service Catalog

Thomas Failor, AIM class of 2014.This is a guest post by AIM alum Thomas Failor, 2014, about the benefits and necessity of having an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) service catalog in your IT or operations department.

Sometimes painful lessons are good ones in hindsight. In a previous life I moved from sales management to operations and one of my first tasks was to write a service catalog for my department’s offerings. Let’s just say my early efforts weren’t a hit, but with a little help I pulled it together. Learn from the error of my ways.

So what’s a service catalog? Service catalogs are just that, a catalog of the services your department provides. Formally identified in the 2007 Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) V3 as a suggested best practice, service catalogs have been used in well run organizations since at least the early 2000s. Most were justified in the return on investment of reducing cycle times and improving outcomes. With the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, service catalogs gained importance as a way to document processes for audits.

Everything your group does is likely regarded as a service for someone or some group in the company. Does your work stream have a service level agreement (SLA) you’re required to meet? If so, your group provides a service and you need a service catalog. The main reason service catalogs are so important is that they provide a vehicle for your group to communicate and negotiate SLA agreements with other groups or customers, both internal and external. Without a document to formalize these relationships, your group will be tone deaf to your customers and likely provide poor service.

Service catalogs have some common ingredients, but overall they are a managed document that describes:

  • what you do and what it’s called,
  • who owns your service,
  • when you do it,
  • to whom you provide the service,
  • how to request the service,
  • how service is delivered,
  • what you charge for the service,
  • any SLAs related to your service.

More formally, a service catalog is implemented “in a manner that facilitates the ‘registration, discovery, request, execution, and tracking of desired services for catalog users.’” – Wikipedia.

There are many free templates on the web to get you started writing a service catalog, but it may benefit you to produce a high-level diagram listing suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, and customers of your particular business process to help identify who ALL of your customers are and what teams supply your various processes. You’d be surprised how little agreement there can be about who the customer is. Try it, you may be amazed at what you discover.

An ITIL trade group in the UK provides some detailed Service information on Catalogs on their website.

In essence, a service catalog provides two benefits. It allows you to clarify the services and service levels that you provide and it provides a clear advertisement to your customers as to your offerings. If nothing else, a service catalog is a great exercise in seeing your services from your internal and external customers, and hopefully acting to improve them over time.