Tag Archives: technology

Trends in Dental Technology

Here is a question I have been pondering: with all of our technological advances, how can we create a quick, painless, less-expensive trip to the dentist? This seems to me to be an area ripe for improvement so I set out to research the latest in dental technology. I am hoping that some of these technologies will show up in my next visit. Here are some trends that are changing dentistry in the 21st century.

Lasers

Lasers are not new but they are still an emerging technology in dentistry. A laser can drill tooth material as well as a traditional drill but faster and with less pain, and they can provide pinpoint accuracy when removing cavities. They also remove the need for injections to deaden the tooth and surrounding areas. A different wavelength laser is used to activate a bleach substance to speed tooth whitening. Lasers can also be used to help harden a filling and improve bonding to existing tooth material.

Digital Imaging

Digital scans are beginning to replace old x-rays. They produce 90% less radiation than the old film method and they do not require processing so the image is available immediately. A digital probe that can move between teeth is available as well. The probe is small enough to be comfortable but comes with its own light source and can take video or still shots. This technology makes scans quicker, safer and more accurate.

3-D Printing

This is still in the development stage but should be coming soon to a dentist’s chair near you. A dentist could provide an image from the tool discussed above and then print a new tooth or a crown for an existing tooth. The process will be much quicker, although not instant, than creating a mold and sending it out to a lab to be made and then fitted and shaped during a second visit. This technology could benefit patients through lower cost and faster turnaround.

Remineralization

Some devices are being introduced that claim to remineralize teeth through a few micro-amps of electricity. Remineralization takes place naturally through eating or drinking calcium rich foods. These devices promise to accelerate that process so that teeth repair themselves and rebuild strong enamel, which would fight off cavities. This is a new technology and could prove to be revolutionary.

Thoughts

All of these emerging technologies are designed to reduce costs for the patient and the dentist, speed up routine procedures and reduce or eliminate pain. They will all require a fairly sizable investment from dental professionals so they may be slow to appear. My big question is this: when will we have do-it-yourself dentistry? I’d like to remineralize my own teeth or print a new one should something go wrong. I think the answer is that we will always need a professional but the procedure will become a lot easier.

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 Future of Commuting: Autonomous Transportation

Last year I wrote about flying cars. The first flying car school had just opened in rural Roosevelt, Utah to teach people to fly the Pal-V Liberty from the Dutch company Pal-V.  I wrote about the idea that individuals would soon be able to drive a combination car/plane. There are still questions about FAA licensing, training, and potential safety regulations. Pal-V is one of several companies worldwide that are working on these flying cars.

Airbus division A3 recently announced they will begin testing pilotless air-taxis this fall from an air hanger in Pendleton, Oregon. Competitors, including Boeing, are testing this same idea for autonomous short-range flight. There are a number of technologies converging on the problem of breaking traffic jams and I will highlight some of these in this blog.

The Jetsons Meet Uber

The Jetsons animated cartoon from the early 1960s portrayed a space age family that had flying cars, robots, and video-conferencing systems. I believe this show and others at the time helped shape our vision of what is possible in travel and everyday commuting. Once cutting edge, technologies such as electric cars and autonomous vehicles are giving way to experimentation with flying cars and autonomous planes, and several companies are hoping to have a commercial product available as early as 2020.

All of this is made possible by technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced battery development. In the case of Uber, they quickly went from a ride hailing service using smartphone and GPS technology to testing autonomous taxis in an experiment with Volvo. The next step for them, as with Boeing and Airbus, is autonomous, flying taxis through their Elevate program.

So Close but yet so Far

I have not yet seen any unpiloted planes over my house but they will soon make test flights at rural airports like that in Pendleton. A number of these experiments are with vertical take off and landing (VTOL) crafts. This means that they can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a plane. While they are not as large as a helicopter they still need room to maneuver so will need a field or a helipad. There are logistical problems to overcome, like a lack of helipads, what airspace they will fly in, reliability and safety. The anticipated 2020 commercial service launch is not that far away so these issues will have to be worked out soon.

Thoughts

Would you be the first passenger in a driverless flying taxi? How might they change our cities? Would people choose to live in rural areas knowing they could easily get to work or would they continue to flock to urban centers as they are doing now? How would this technology change our lives? I am excited for the future. 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.

Blending Realities: Creating Richer Social Experiences

I have seen the future. While on an auto rally last week with my son I experienced a blend between a physical event and a virtual social event. This blend may offer a generational link. The rally took us through California, Oregon, Washington, and back to California. While the days were long with many miles on the road, other rally drivers were always close by via social media.

In the rally, participants drove from checkpoint to checkpoint and documented having been at each spot through a photo or video posted to Instagram. You could easily follow other drivers as they passed each point and in turn they could follow your progress. If you made it to the hotel early enough each evening you could meet up to brag about your driving and any repairs you had to make that day. By posting progress during the rally, friends and family who were not in the car could follow along virtually.

The Next Best Thing to Being There

I have seen several articles that bemoan the gap between tech savvy Millennials and less adventurous Baby Boomers. The argument follows that the younger generation wants to spend all of their time in the virtual world and forego any physical activities, while the older generation uses technology to complete tasks but not to communicate. I don’t believe that either argument is completely accurate but after spending many hours in a car I started thinking about ways to bridge that gap. The rally to me was an example of a physical and virtual activity blended into one.

The Need to Communicate

After my epiphany, I started to think about other activities that could be blended. Travel of any type can become a shared adventure through various social media channels. It used to be that you took pictures during travels and afterward had them developed into photos or slides. Then and only then could you share them with friends and family through a boring slideshow or a stack of photos. With smartphones and social media, the sharing happens as soon as you upload your latest video or photo, which makes it more meaningful to people following you virtually. Followers also get the chance to like your adventures and post comments or questions. Instead of being an isolated traveler, you have your virtual community along for the adventure.

Thoughts

The younger generation is often perceived as less social, but I argue they are indeed more social with many more avenues to connect with friends and share experiences. Being in the rally showed me you can hang out the window and talk to fellow drivers and enrich the experience throughout the day by sharing photos that are meaningful to you. One form of communication is not necessarily better than the other, but together they offer a powerful and rich connection.

What other ways can you think of to blend physical and virtual experiences? Do you have a favorite social media app that lets you keep up on various adventures? Let me know and in the meantime, stay safe on the road.

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.

Digital Transformation: Path to Improving Your Business

This is an open letter to businesses and agencies attempting to transform their enterprise through the use of digital technologies. Each organization is at a different point along this path in an effort to engage customers, suppliers, and employees through digital technologies in order to remain competitive and profitable. I would like to suggest some ways to accelerate that transformation.

New Technologies

Management consultants Bain and Company suggested in a recent article that there are six basic design rules that can accelerate a company’s digital transformation. These include breaking boundaries, being open, inducing insights, and being user-friendly. I would like to add a couple of others that I think will help move you down the road to your destination.

Internal Partnering

Many companies are reworking their internal and external processes to achieve efficiency and build a digital presence that will hopefully draw customers. Even my local hardware store and ice cream shop have websites. They are for the most part static pages with information like location, phone number and store hours but at least that keeps me from having to dust off the yellow pages. They have taken the first steps towards moving to a digital world.

Whether you are moving back-end infrastructure, applications and software to the cloud or experimenting with a web presence for the first time, it is important to partner with your technology department. As a business, you know WHAT you want to do but the employees in your information management department know HOW to do it. Partner with them at every turn to combine business knowledge and technical knowledge. I suggest you even consider embedding some technical people in your business. This is a great way for them to learn more about your needs so that they can custom design a solution for you. We used to worry about technology people “going native” if they were embedded in the business, but now I think that crossover is necessary and will result in better and more effective solutions.

External Partnering

One of the design rules from Bain is to focus on the user experience. What better way to do that than ask users themselves? Sometimes this requires getting out of the office and asking customers their opinion of a new mobile app or a change to your website or even a new digital product that you are considering. I will be the first to admit that traditional surveys leave me cold. Every time I get near the local Home Depot store my smart phone asks me to rate my recent visit. I never comply. If a business I frequent were to put a device in my hand and ask me to try out a new digital product I would be much more inclined to reply. There are different ways of partnering with and surveying customers, but it is important in order to design a user experience they will accept.

Thoughts

Wherever you are on the digital transformation continuum, I hope you will consider these ideas to make your journey smoother. They can help you in implementation and customer engagement. How is your digital transformation progressing? 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.

The Shiny Penny Syndrome

We recently finished our AIM innovations course and are starting the information management course. As I transition between the two, I can’t help but think of the shiny penny syndrome. A new shiny penny is perceived to be more valuable and sought after than an old tarnished penny, even though the two have the same value. This metaphor has been used in dating to describe a new love interest versus an old one but is also applicable to business and technology. In this blog I want to talk about the pitfalls of chasing after shiny pennies when perhaps the old penny just needs cleaning and polishing.

New Technologies

Often there are good reasons to implement new technologies, like the end of support for a legacy system or the need to interface with other updated programs or systems. The new technology can also result in efficiency gains and long term cost savings. When developing an innovation or technology plan it is important to ask whether this technology is a shiny penny or will it improve your throughput and create real revenue gains or cost savings. Acknowledging this early on will save time and resources that can be spent on improving the existing technology or choosing a new solution that really will deliver benefits.

Business Improvement

Businesses often chase after shiny pennies when they choose to acquire other companies to augment or enhance their own offerings. The wisdom is that it is easier to buy existing capabilities as opposed to trying to develop them from the ground up. This strategy often works, but sometimes it is a case of chasing a shiny penny. I have been involved in IT integration of acquisitions in the past and after a deep dive it is apparent that there was more flash than substance in the purchase. While it would have taken longer, the organization could have developed the same capability for less money and gained valuable experience in the process.

Leadership Changes

New leadership sometimes resembles a shiny penny. It’s tempting to think a new CEO or CIO will bring fresh ideas that will help get us turned around or get us back on track. While it sometimes works, there may be deeper systemic issues that can’t be solved with a new manager or a new team. After the honeymoon period, the old problems surface and the new leader can’t get any better traction than the previous executive, and then the new leader is sometimes replaced by even a newer, shinier penny. We can stop this rotating door by honestly acknowledging that we are trying to compensate for unresolved deep-seated issues with the organization or processes. It is admittedly hard to recognize and fix the real issues but doing so leaves us in a better position to succeed in the future.

Thoughts

Next time you face a major change such as new leadership or a new technology or adding new capabilities through a merger or acquisition, take just a second to acknowledge whether this is a new shiny penny or will it truly leave the organization in a better position to be competitive and successful.

Have you ever chased after a shiny penny? Did it work out? Let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear about your 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.

Technology In Fashion Retail

I wrote earlier this year about changing retail habits and the resulting empty malls, or dead malls as they have sometimes been labeled. More people are ordering goods online and having them delivered directly to their home. That is all well and good for batteries or electronics, but how do you shop for clothes and fashion accessories online? How can you tell if something is going to fit or if it will look good on you without going to a store to try it on? What is the future of fashion retail? Will retail clothing stores fold completely, or will they revamp their offerings to stay relevant in the digital age? How will technology play a role in fashion and the shopping experience?

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Pokemon Go introduced us to augmented reality by placing on-screen characters in the physical world. Retail stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are working with developers to trade Pokemon characters for clothing and accessories. New technology such as Memory Mirror is being developed to allow someone to try on clothes without actually trying on clothes, at least not repeatedly. Memory Mirror will be a kiosk which looks like a mirror but can be controlled by hand gestures or voice commands and has icons for changing color or size. It can even project accessories such as various belts or handbags. It will connect to social media so shoppers can send pictures of themselves in the new outfit to their friends for a thumbs up or thumbs down. This technology is designed to limit wardrobe changes, which tend to drive customers out of a store. Products such as Zugara’s Virtual Dressing Room has partnered with Microsoft Kinect to create a similar product, but their offering will be available as a web app as well so you can see how online merchandise may look on you before buying. Most of these products are in development but promise a functioning product soon.

In this case, the old department store may turn into a giant dressing room but all of the sales channels will need to be synchronized so a person can buy the clothing while shopping, or order it online via smartphone. From first encounter to purchase, the technology will need to work flawlessly to provide a seamless shopping experience.

Visual Search

Visual search lets you search via an image as opposed to text. With modern smartphones, a shopper can capture an image of an item and search online for the best price for that particular item. This is bad for brick and mortar retailers because it turns their stores into showrooms without sales, especially if the shopper can find the item cheaper on Amazon or Zappos. The retailer is paying to display the merchandise but without the resulting benefits. GPS technology could turn that around for them. If the search engine knew that a customer was standing in Macy’s, for example, it could push the store higher in the search results and possibly offer a coupon for being a loyal customer. In this case, technology would enhance the traditional shopping experience by keeping the customer focused on your store.

Look

The new Amazon Echo Look, which is currently available by invitation only, promises to be your style assistant as well as a hands-free camera. As an extension of the Amazon Echo, you can take hands-free full length photos of yourself with depth perception technology and store those photos for comparison. You can get a second opinion of your outfit by something called Style Check “…a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists.” If I were a retailer I would try to find a way to insert ads to push Alexa to recommend my physical or online stores.

Thoughts

It’s not clear if retail stores will ever regain their preeminent position, but just as fashion trends change, so does the way we interact with these stores. Whether it be online through a computer or smart phone or actually talking with a sales clerk, we have more choices than ever before as to how we buy fashion.

Do you still visit stores to browse or buy clothes or do you purchase strictly online? What would draw you back into a store? 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.

Baseball Technology 2017

With the 2017 baseball season approaching the midway point, I have been reading about the decline of fan interest, ticket sales, and athlete recognition. An article from my local newspaper reported that not one baseball player is among the 100 most famous athletes in the world, based on endorsements, social media following, and internet search popularity; those spots are taken by soccer, tennis, football, basketball, and even a few golf stars. I wonder what technology could do, if anything, to pull baseball out of this popularity slump.

Sensors

Technology is showing up in some unusual places, including wooden baseball bats. Sensor manufacturer Zepp has teamed up with the Old Hickory bats to create a smart bat. A device is built into the knob of the bat that records data points like swing speed, angle and motion and shares that information via Bluetooth to a connected device. A visualization shows the swing and connects to previous data to compare that swing with others, which allows the player to correct any issues in order to reach maximum performance. These sensors are available for tennis rackets, golf clubs and softball bats. While smart bats are meant for improving player performance I wonder if the visualization can be shared with fans as well, perhaps on the Jumbotron, to give tech-savvy fans something to do between pitches.

Of course, technology is also used for tracking statistics on pitches. For stadiums equipped with TrackMan, fans in the stadium and at home can track live information on pitch velocity, spin and exit speed among various radar tracked data points. This is sophisticated technology but I wonder if data driven fans even need to go to the ballpark any more or can they sit at their computer and analyze every pitch and swing as it happens? Is it more important to see the action or analyze? I foresee the day when machine learning enters into baseball and a computer directs players on their next move based on historical and real time statistics. Hackers could have a field day with that interaction.

Stadium Technology

We can now track every player and every swing but that still does not get people in seats, which is a real problem in baseball today. To try to overcome that problem, stadiums are being built and retrofitted with wireless access points for between inning entertainment and high definition cameras and displays so you won’t miss any action, even if you don’t have the best seat in the house. Various baseball franchises have developed fan apps that allow you to watch instant replays and view statistics on your smartphone or tablet while in the stadium. Apps also allow you to order up snacks and have them delivered to your seat, for a premium. The stadium experience today is a combination of live action and device interaction. There are virtual reality applications in development that will allow you to get a bird’s-eye view of the action or zoom into one particular area of the field using cameras positioned around the stadium. Reality meets virtual reality.

<h4Thoughts

There are a number of new technologies introduced or in development designed to bring fans back to baseball, either in the stadium or watching at home or on a mobile device. Time will tell if they are successful but with the price tag of new stadiums, there is a lot at stake. Have you been to a live baseball game recently? How was your experience? 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.

Regulating The Internet

With the latest terrorist attacks in London there are renewed calls for regulating the internet in order to prevent the spread of extremist views. British Prime Minister Theresa May said recently, “We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services, provide.” My goal for this blog post is to open a dialog on how the internet could or should be regulated. By regulating the internet, would we be regulating free speech? Would it just spawn an alternate internet, or would it fuel the dark web that already exists? What kind of international cooperation would it take to actually pull this off and hopefully stop the spread and growth of terrorism?

International Cooperation

Theresa May recently also said, “We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.” I believe that will be one of the largest hurdles to overcome if we are to provide any internet policing. The European Union can’t even agree on next steps so it may be impossible to get countries around the world to cooperate. Britain recently passed the Investigatory Powers Act which gives British security the ability to view and monitor all internet connections made within the country. It also binds internet providers to make connection and browsing records available to various British agencies. If this is truly going to be successful it will take a lot of expertise to sift through all that data to find nuggets that could help stop the spread of terrorism. It’s one thing to gather the information, another to make sense of it and detect important patterns. That will take a combination of software applications and technical expertise.

Free Speech

At the heart of it the internet is a communications medium just like the telephone and postal mail. Governments have long had the ability to tap into phone conversations or monitor mail as they try to anticipate and stop nefarious plots. These older mediums carry commercial as well as personal messages, as does the internet. The big difference is the fact that the internet is much faster and has the ability to broadcast a one-to-many message, in some cases to millions spread around the world. It is also searchable, meaning that if people want to align themselves to a particular ideology they can easily find like-minded individuals and activities that support their ideology. This is a whole new world and it is going to take new thinking and not just new regulatory powers. New proposed powers border on free speech infringement, which is near and dear to many. How do we establish that line between free expression and intentional malice?

Thoughts

If we truly want to regulate the internet, we need clear, unbiased thinking, technical expertise, and hardware and software technologies. We need to understand the line between freedoms and potential threats and tread that line carefully. Most of all it is going to take a lot of international cooperation to develop a strategy that will work for everyone.

What are your thoughts? Is it even possible to regulate the internet or is it too late? Is it possible to monitor internet traffic and patterns without infringing on basic privacy rights? 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 for Technology’s Sake

process-preparation-fresh-juice-juicerI am preparing for our upcoming AIM innovation course “Creating Business Solutions with Technology” and have been researching the use of technology in new consumer products. Whether the use of technology extends an existing product or category or develops a totally new product, it is important to balance the ability to apply technology with the actual need. Just because we can do something does not necessarily mean that it is right for the consumer and will make a better product or service. Sometimes the consumer is best served by simplicity vs. feature-rich technology. You can probably think of examples of products that miss the mark in terms of features or options that will most likely never be used, or worse yet, impede the consumer from using the product in the way they would like to. In this blog post I would like to explore that balance point between technological ability and need.

Too Much Technology

The makers of the Juicero juice maker came under fire in April when Bloomberg discovered they could make the same juice by hand that normally requires their $399 machine. The Juicero press requires proprietary prepackaged bags of chopped fruits and vegetables. However, it turns out that you can squeeze the same bag by hand and get similar results. The Juicero is wi-fi enabled so that it can read the bag’s QR code to ensure that it is legitimate and proprietary, and compares that code to a database to check that it is not past the expiration date or has been recalled. This is the Kuerig of juicers but with more limitations. I am sure that someone is working on a Juicero hack as I write this, so that you can press a freezer bag of your own produce. If the Bloomberg investigation is correct, I don’t need the machine at all. Yet, I can’t buy the bags unless I own a machine, so I am stuck. Granted, this machine does save clean-up time and effort but it also promotes waste from nonreusable bags. This company is trying to create a future revenue stream by requiring proprietary bags and providing subscriptions for automatic replenishment. There are some advantages to this product but it appears to be a case of technology gone crazy. All I want is a glass of juice.

Sensor Overload

I write often about automobile technology and I think that we are in an awkward transition period right now between traditional cars and autonomous vehicles. A lot of technology being put forward will be useful for self-driving cars. Although, will it keep us safe in the meantime? Sensor technology is being introduced to warn us about upcoming traffic or obstructions or dangers. Some vehicles even automatically correct for you if there is a present danger. I love the safety aspect of these sensors,but I am concerned that they are turning us into lazy or inattentive drivers who are lulled into a false sense of security. Until fully autonomous vehicles are commonplace, it is important to not over rely on the technology and to continue to be focused on the road and our surroundings.

Thoughts

Technology has its place, but occasionally we miss the mark in terms of what we think the consumer needs or wants. It is possible to create a technology-laden product just to create revenue without considering the end customer. This is a case of technology for technology’s sake and sometimes low-tech offers better solutions.

Which high tech products or services leave you scratching your head? Nominate your favorites here.

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.

Trends in Higher Education 2017

It seems like here in the U.S., higher education is being attacked for being too liberal or not liberal enough or not providing enough instruction in technical, hands-on skills. The new presidential administration will have some influence on the debate through what areas of education it funds. I believe that colleges and universities need to clearly articulate their value proposition. How does our school add value to students? What do we offer that differentiates us from our competitors? How can we better serve our current and prospective students? These are the same questions a business poses when trying to grow and thrive. In this blog I will highlight trends I think will have an impact on how we answer those questions.

Personalization

A 2015 article in EdSurge News defines personalized learning as “technology-assisted differentiated instruction.” The article made a valid point that we are in the business of educating real people and not just a generalization of students. This means tailoring curriculum to current students and their needs. Do you cater to first time students or returning students that have several years of industry experience? It does not make sense to apply the same model to all students. Personalization is particularly difficult when you have a mix of new and returning students, but technology makes it possible to create multiple tracks of the same course so that the outcomes are the same but the paths vary to suit the needs of the students.

High Velocity Learning

Businesses are increasingly asking employees to be more flexible and move faster. The United States Navy recently introduced what they call high velocity learning which means being nimble, flexible and faster at processing change. Educators should adopt the same mindset. This may mean an accelerated program for those who have already proven competencies or modifying the way we test for competencies. This goes right along with personalization and is a hot topic as tuition continues to rise and the length of time spent in college is extended. It is important to review our curriculum to make sure it is relevant, necessary, and promotes our value proposition.

Thoughts

I think in the future higher education will need to be more responsive and flexible and technology will be used to create dynamic curriculum that caters to individual needs. Just as important is an honest review of offered courses to ensure they still prepare students for the future. These are just some of the ways that educators can serve students. Do you have other ideas that will align education offerings with current needs? 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.