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Cities must plan ahead for innovation without leaving people behind

Cities must plan ahead for innovation without leaving people behind

July 22, 2019

From Toronto to Tokyo, the challenges faced by cities today are often remarkably similar: climate change, rising housing costs, traffic, economic polarization, unemployment. To tackle these problems, new technology companies and industries have been sprouting and scaling up with innovative digital solutions like ride sharing and home sharing. Without a doubt, the city of the future must be digital. It must be smart. It must work for everyone.

This is a trend civic leaders everywhere need to embrace wholeheartedly. But building a truly operational smart city is going to take a village, and then some. It won’t happen overnight, but progress is already under way.

As tech broadens its urban footprint, there will be more and more potential for conflict between innovation and citizen priorities like privacy and inclusive growth. Last month, we were reminded of that in Toronto, where planning authorities from three levels of government released a 1,500-page plan by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs meant to pave the way for a futuristic waterfront development. Months in the making, the plan met with considerably less than universal acclaim.

But whether it’s with Sidewalk or other tech partners, the imperative to resolve these conflicts becomes even stronger for cities like Toronto. If they’re playing this game to win, civic leaders need to minimize the damage and maximize the benefits for the people they represent. They need to develop co-ordinated innovation plans that prioritize transparency, public engagement, data privacy and collaboration.

Transparency

The Sidewalk Labs plan is full of tech-forward proposals for new transit, green buildings and affordable housing, optimized by sensors, algorithms and mountains of data. But even …

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Lyft’s dockless e-bikes have made their way to SF, but it wasn’t easy

Lyft’s dockless e-bikes have made their way to SF, but it wasn’t easy

July 21, 2019

When tech companies sue cities, it’s rare to see a resolution — albeit a temporary one — in favor of the tech company happen so quickly, if at all. Lyft sued San Francisco in early June, claiming the city was in violation of a 10-year contract that would give Lyft exclusive rights to operate bike-share programs.

Now, the city has granted Lyft an interim permit to deploy its dockless e-bikes, and is holding off on granting to permits to other operators. Lyft officially deployed its bikes on Friday.

“We’re thrilled to share our new ebikes with riders in San Francisco,” Lyft Head of Micromobility Policy Caroline Samponaro said in a statement. “We’ll be rolling out bikes starting today and appreciate our riders’ patience as we waited for the green light from SFMTA.”

In its lawsuit, Lyft sought a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order to prevent the city from issuing permits to operators for stationless bike-share rentals. While the court denied Lyft’s request for a TRO, it did approve a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency from issuing dockless permits to operators other than Lyft, without at least giving Lyft the first opportunity to submit a proposal.

The whole process, called “Right of First Offer,” may take months, according to the SFMTA. That’s why it decided to offer Lyft an interim permit to operate up to 1,900 of its dockless, hybrid e-bikes in addition to its classic bikes offered through its station-based service, once known as Ford GoBike.

“These new bikes will allow Lyft to address the severe bicycle availability issues that Bay Wheels has faced since Lyft removed e-bikes from service in April,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post. “Essentially, the interim permit allows the existing system to return to functionality …

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What is Online Reputation Management?

July 21, 2019


Building an image used to mostly depended on word of mouth or acquaintances. That limited your brand’s exposure to a small group of people. Prior to the internet, as we know it today, only larger companies with substantial advertising budgets, or access to celebrities, had the ability to become household names by promoting themselves in traditional media, such as television and newspapers.

Today, digital media has revolutionized exposure and improved access to an individual’s or a company’s profile. Social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube — and search engines – Google, Yahoo, Bing — have disrupted commerce and the global economy by providing instant access to unfiltered information. The first page of search engine results, which generally show news, videos, images and third-party content, now represents a key foundational pillar of company’s overall reputation and brand. Moreover, these results often remain in perpetuity on the internet, unlike in traditional media where the news appeared for a short span. Fortunately, these results can be properly managed and influenced through various tools such as search engine optimization (SEO).

Editor’s note: Looking for an online reputation management service? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners reach out to you with more information.

 

The digital era provides a more level playing field for young, smaller companies that can leverage the social media platforms to gain more website traffic. On the other hand, failure to create a digital presence can jeopardize a company’s chances to compete effectively.

How search engines impact your reputation

According to netmarketshare.com, Google has a market share of 70% and 90% on desktop and mobile/tablets respectively. Internetlivestats.com shows that there are around 65,427 Google searches per second or 5.6 billion searches per day, which means that approximately 75% of world population, per capita, makes at …

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In healthcare these days, ‘There’s an app for that’… unless you really need it

In healthcare these days, ‘There’s an app for that’… unless you really need it

July 21, 2019

When a digital health company announces a new app, everyone seems to think it’s going to improve health. Not me.

Where I work, in San Francisco’s public health system, in a hospital named after the founder of Facebook, digital solutions promising to improve health feel far away.

The patients and providers in our public delivery system are deeply familiar with the real-world barriers to leveraging technology to improve health. Our patients are low-income (nearly all of them receive public insurance) and diverse (more than 140 languages are spoken). Many of them manage multiple chronic conditions. The providers that care for them struggle with fragmented health records and outdated methods of communication, like faxes and pagers.

So when companies tell us they will cure diseases, drive down costs, and save lives with state-of-the-art technology, I am often hesitant. 

More than thirty billion dollars have been invested in digital health since 2011. The resulting technological innovations, such as mobile applications, telemedicine, and wearables, promise to help patients fight diabetes, treat chronic disease, or lose weight, for example.

However, we have yet to see digital health drive meaningful improvements in health outcomes and reductions in health expenditures. This lack of impact is because digital health companies build products that often don’t reach beyond the “worried well” – primarily healthy people who make up a small proportion of health expenditures and are already engaged in the healthcare system.

If we’re designing health apps for those who already have access to healthcare, nutritious food, clean air …

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Don’t hold your breath for the moon

Don’t hold your breath for the moon

July 21, 2019

In the house in which I grew up, a single framed newspaper front page loomed over us. “MAN ON MOON“, it declared jubilantly, in an enormous, suitably momentous typeface. Subheadings included “‘It’s very pretty up here … a fine, soft surface’” and, of course, “A giant leap for mankind.”

One leap forward, three steps back. That newspaper was dated fifty years ago today, as I type this. Apollo 17 — “the most recent time humans have travelled beyond low Earth orbit” — took place in December 1972, a date at which a large majority of humanity today was not yet born.

Space travel is not the stuff of science fiction. It is the stuff of history books, of yesteryear, of scratchy black-and-white TV, of that yellowing newspaper cover of my youth.

What happened? I mean, lots, but ultimately the costs were too high, the tangible benefits too nonexistent, and the Space Shuttle was too much of an unmitigated disaster from start to finish in every way.

What happens next? Well, there we have a quick answer: we’re going back! America is going to land the first woman on the moon by 2024! Absolutely!

…you’re absolutely right to be very skeptical.

There are a numerous “lunar exploration architectures,” or ways to return to the Moon. My friend Casey Handmer, a physicist, space enthusiast, and former levitation engineer, itemizes them in this excellent blog post from a few months ago. One of them is NASA’s proposed Lunar Gateway, which will place a space station into high Moon orbit, from and to which lunar landings will descent and return.

Is this a good idea? …Well, it’s an idea. But it’s better to have a plan and to be making progress on it that not, …

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Week in Review: The one-way web and Elon Musk’s Neuralink

Week in Review: The one-way web and Elon Musk’s Neuralink

July 21, 2019

Hello, weekenders. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I offered up some mildly interesting takes on how Waymo was shaping the future of autonomous vehicles inside of a virtual space rather than wholly on physical roads.


The big story

There are two internets. There’s the one where we click through interfaces and hit menu buttons and dive down predictable lines of inquiry and find predictable ends. And then there are ads. We don’t understand why we get what we get but we the content flows from platform to user with asymmetric information of the “how?”.

Advertising is the economic backbone of the free consumer web, but users are haplessly oblivious to where that generated content comes from and why. What intrigues me here is that a few days ago Instagram announced that it was further rolling out a test to hide like counts from users and that it has been further minimizing the prominence of follower counts on profiles.

It’s an (admittedly small) step in the evolution but it hinges a bit more on how internet giants have come to realize UX transparency can actually lead to some negatives.

There’s of course the ethical argument where you think about the responsibility that Facebook has not to make people feel shitty about themselves by offering a dopamine-hit conveyor belt as a platform, but a more fascinating idea is what a change like this opens up to the company in terms of returns and what it means for how platforms portray the nebulous idea of “engagement.”

One of the easy returns I bet Instagram finds as …

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Should Your Business Customize Its Products?

July 21, 2019


  • Customization is a fresh trend that is popular with customers and can add an edge to your business.
  • Small businesses, however, should carefully review if customization can fit into their business plan.
  • A well-thought-out plan is key if your business wants to add customized products.

Branding and marketing are changing rapidly to suit an ever-evolving market. Among the latest trends is a growing interest in customization, a response to customers increasingly wanting new ways to feel special and “seen” by big companies.

Coca-Cola made a big splash when it came to personalization in 2014 with the launch of its Share a Coke campaign, which features bottles with popular names and colloquial sayings to inspire customers to seek out bottles with their own name or the names of loved ones. There has been a veritable onslaught of personalized products since then – shampoo, vitamins, meal kits, clothing and more.

Part of the impetus for this new trend, dubbed the “market of one” by Michigan State University, is increased competition. Much of the modern marketplace has become optimized to the point where companies are constantly seeking out new ways to stand out from the crowd, and offering custom products is an easy, profitable way to do that.

“If you don’t customize your product, at the end of the day, there isn’t much that separates you from your competitors,” said Cameron Zoub, co-founder and head of growth at Varfaj Partners.  

Allowing your customers a hand in creating exactly the product they are looking for adds significant value to the product and the customer’s time. It also has an enormous psychological effect in that it creates a personal connection between the customer and the product, and, by extension, between the customer and your business.

Personalization also brings you …

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What Small Businesses Need to Know About Windows Virtual Desktop: FAQs

July 21, 2019


Virtual desktops offer many advantages for small businesses. An organization can deploy and manage several computing sessions across a variety of hardware with a much higher level of security than managing several separate machines.

As businesses continue to embrace remote work and share hardware for computing tasks, virtual computing becomes a more viable solution. Microsoft recently announced a public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop, a service built to power the future of this cloud-delivered scenario.

Here are a few questions that small businesses may have about this service and what it could mean for virtual computing.

What is Windows Virtual Desktop?

Microsoft recently launched Windows Virtual Desktop into public preview as an Azure-based service to provide virtual Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus sessions across different devices. 

What operating systems can Windows Virtual Desktop run?

According to the official Windows Virtual Desktop site, the service supports Windows 10 multi-session, Windows 10 single-session, Windows 7 single-session, Windows Server 2012 R2 and newer operating systems.

Which hardware supports Windows Virtual Desktop?

In a video demoing the software, Microsoft described the virtual desktop as working on “any device.” The demo included Windows PCs and an iPad – though Android and Mac will also be viable platforms.

What are the main advantages for a small business?

With access to Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus in a managed environment, IT staff can have full control over the software. By managing virtual desktops, a company can spend less resources on the upkeep of a series of PCs, since employees can sign in and out of sessions on the same device.

For a business with remote workers or contractors, another key advantage is that they can access their desktop externally from a device of their choice.

When will the service leave preview?

In its …

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Watch Patrick Stewart grow bored of his winery in first ‘Star Trek: Picard’ trailer

Watch Patrick Stewart grow bored of his winery in first ‘Star Trek: Picard’ trailer

July 20, 2019

Yes, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is indeed coming back. We knew this from previous announcements, but CBS All Access turned heads at this year’s San Diego Comic Con with an actual trailer of Sir Patrick Stewart Picarding his heart out. He says “engage!” for god’s sake.

From what I can grasp from this trailer, the plot of this Picard-centric follow-up to Star Trek: The Next Generation is that Jean-Luc has retired to a quiet life running a winery but quickly realizes that he’s not through adventuring. For some reason, he has Data stored in pieces in a drawer. He’s convinced to come out of retirement with what looks like a fairly rag-tag crew. Then Data is back somehow.

All of which is to say that this looks awesome and I wish it was here now instead of its “early 2020” release date on the CBS streaming service.

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NASA’s Orion crew capsule is officially complete and ready to prep for its first Moon mission

NASA’s Orion crew capsule is officially complete and ready to prep for its first Moon mission

July 20, 2019

NASA’s 50th anniversary celebrations weren’t limited to just remembrances of past achievements – the space agency also marked the day by confirming that the Orion crew capsule that will bring astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the end of the Apollo program is ready for its first trip to lunar orbit, currently set for sometime after June 2020.

Orion won’t be carrying anyone for its first Moon mission – instead, as part of Artemis 1, it’ll fly uncrewed propelled by the new Space Launch System, spend a total of three weeks in space including six days orbiting the Moon, and then return back to Earth. Once back, it’ll perform a crucial test of high speed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, to demonstrate the efficacy of the Orion capsule’s thermal shielding prior to carrying actual crew for Artemis 2 in 2022, and ultimately delivering astronauts back to the lunar surface with Artemis 3 in 2024.

This isn’t Orion’s first trip to space, however – that happened back in 2014 with Exploration Flight Test 1, another uncrewed mission in which Orion spent just four-hours in space, orbiting the Earth twice and then returning to ground. This mission used a Delta IV rocket instead of the new SLS, and was meant to test key systems prior to Artemis.

On the anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, the Lockheed Martin-built Orion capsule for the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon is declared finished.

NASA contractor Lockheed Martin, which is responsible for the Orion spacecraft’s construction, also noting that the combined crew module and service module are currently being properly integrated, and then will undergo a series of tests before returning to Kennedy Space Center in Florida by the end of the year to begin the final preparations before launch.

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