Everyday Technologies that Exist Because of the Space Shuttle Program

People around the world watched as the space shuttle Atlantis took its last trip into space last week. This marked the end of NASA’s space shuttle program however the thousands of technologies which were born from the program will remain with us far into the future. We use technologies from the space program in the home, work, and while driving.

What comes to mind whenever you consider technologies created by NASA? Probably rockets, spacesuits, and freeze-dried foods. It may surprise you to learn just how many conventional uses they have found for technologies originally developed for the space program. NASA releases a yearly periodical, called Spinoff, which is dedicated to educating the public about the variety of technologies with origins at NASA that have become commercialized worldwide.

Here are a couple of common items that may surprise you to know wouldn’t exist without NASA’s technology.

Athletic Shoes – A process called blow rubber molding was developed to produce space helmets and it is now used in many running footwear. This process allows manufactures to make hollow soles in order to fill them with a shock absorbing material. Nike Air is one common shoe that uses this method.

DustBusters – Engineers at Black and Decker created a computer program which allows motors to perform well even when using very little energy. Thus the cordless power drill and DustBuster was born.

Smoke Detectors – These were first created for Skylab, America’s first space station, in 1970. They are now so common that you cannot legally build a house without installing them.

The desire to explore space has inspired humans throughout time. The space shuttle program pushed these inspirations into the development of incredible technologies. We’ll miss the space shuttle however the desire to build bigger and better technology for space travel won’t fade. We’ll probably see a lot more technologies developed by NASA turning up within our homes, hospitals, and lives for years to come.

How to Make a Better Business Card

What do you think of when you imagine a business card? In general, you most likely think of a small stock-paper rectangle that has essential contact information printed on it and, probably, a logo. While this standard method has traditionally been an effective way to exchange business information, it’s not entirely memorable. Thinking outside the box when formatting business cards is a great way to increase your networking efforts. If you’d like to make your business cards more creative, here are a few tips to get you started.

Add Texture

This is probably the easiest way to make your business cards more memorable without getting too crazy. A card with texture engages the sense of touch, which adds another layer of memory to the experience. Sure, it sounds silly, but if the brain can remember what the card felt like, it will likely also remember what the card represents. Check out this great example of a textured business card.

Make Them Share-worthy

If your card is worth sharing, it will become a practical social experience. Essentially, this means adding some creative element to the card that the receiver will want to share with his or her friends. Take into consideration this hilarious mustache card, designed to be held in front of the face as an on-the-go disguise. It is exactly the kind of creative design that is sharable. Making a card share-worthy will have a multiplying effect on your networking efforts. Here is a great example.

Make Them Digital

Going green is a great technique when making your business cards. Instead of printing out hundreds of little cards that will eventually end up in the garbage, consider making your business cards digital. The best way to do this is by utilizing QR codes, a rising trend among smartphone users. Not only will a digital card reduce printing costs, using a QR code will create a level of interactivity between you and your audience (an important facet of generating brand loyalty). Here are some tips on using QR codes.

The Ins and Outs of Virtual Teams

Interacting with people from all around the globe is as easy as a click of a button. This considerably impacts our social lives and we are seeing more and more the result this has on business. The virtual team, or geographically dispersed team (GDT), is a relatively new organizational strategy but the quantity of businesses that have embraced this strategy has grown significantly in the past few years. You may be asking yourself if it right for your business.

The idea that the level of productivity corresponds directly to the quantity of face-time a team receives may be a misconception that is falling to the wayside. Managers are noticing that an individual’s motivation, the dynamics of the group, and the capabilities of each person can have a much more important impact. Virtual teams support more selectiveness when building the team, as location is not a factor. A manager can then find people who compliment one another and are self-motivated by the bettering of their personal careers.  Virtual teams can be a blessing to managers because of their productivity and the fact that they need less direct managing.

Virtual teams are not practical for industries and companies that require physical interaction, however for businesses thatdo not require physical proximity, employing teams that interact remotely is not only feasible but can improve their processes. If you are considering the use of virtual teams in your business here are some items to consider.

Advantages

  • Recruitment based on competence not proximity
  • Team members can work during the times when they operate most efficiently
  • Teams consist of members that are self-motivated and self-driven
  • More accommodation for team members’ personal and professional lives
  • No commuting time or cost
  • Reduced overhead, because there is no physical location
  • IT expenses are lowered as most teams use web-based tools for collaboration
  • Managers can better assess the team’s overall performance because there are less social pressures

Disadvantages

  • Less social interaction, which can be a demotivator for some people
  • Loss of trust among team members if there is not assurance that everyone is pulling their own weight
  • Creativity might be stifled, because the physical dynamics are lost
  • Team members may overwork themselves as managers can not physically see the length of time each task takes
  • Managers may lose track of the team’s progress, i.e. out of site out of mind

Online technology is the primary way that virtual teams interface with each other, including email, audio conferencing, and file sharing programs. Here is a list of a few websites and products that assist teams that interact virtually.

  • Go to meetings – an economical method to have remote meetings
  • Yammer – a private social network for companies that enables quick communication and interaction
  • Drop Box – a free way to share files
  • Second Life – allows for interactive meetings with the use of avatars

If you want more information on virtual teams in action, look at the articles below: 
http://www.theanywhereoffice.com/mobile-work/telework-viritual-teams-midmarket-companies.htm
http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/19/virtual-teams-meetings-leadership-managing-cooperation.html
http://www.openforum.com/articles/7-effective-tools-for-managing-a-virtual-team

Another tech bubble

Are we in the midst of a 1990s-style tech bubble? Some analysts think so.

Try this: Check out Google News and enter a search for ‘tech bubble.’ You’ll get a large amount of results. Fresh results.

But let’s pause for second. What, exactly, is a tech bubble? Here’s Investopedia’s definition:

Tech Bubble – a pronounced and unsustainable market rise related to increased speculation in technology stocks. A tech bubble is highlighted by rapid stock price growth and high valuations determined by standard metrics like price/earnings ratio or price/sales.”

Hmmm. Can we find proof of speculation and inflated valuations?

Scanning the current headlines, we now have stories of acquisitions and IPOs (and impending IPOs) for a variety of hot domains, including LinkedIn.com, Pandora.com, Groupon.com, Zynga.com, and Twitter.com. And there are at least eleven billion reports and blog posts about Facebook’s eventual IPO.

If we’re in a tech bubble, it certainly has a social-media flavor!

So. Of these hot companies, how many are profitable? (This helps us gauge whether their valuations are inflated.)

  • LinkedIn – Earned $12 million in 2010 (its first year of profitability).
  • Pandora – Not profitable.
  • Groupon – Same story.
  • Twitter – A little!
  • Zynga – Way profitable! With a 35% profit margin in 2010.
  • Facebook – Quite profitable. With a respectable 25% profit margin in 2010.

Of course, simply because a few of these companies aren’t very profitable doesn’t mean they’re not brimming with profit potential. Look at Amazon.com. Launched in 1995, the business didn’t turn a profit until 2004! But last year the company’s net profit was well over $1 billion and it is now threatening Walmart’s retail dominance.

In other words, a lack of profits today doesn’t a bubble make (necessarily).

And as Mashable columnist Jolie O’Dell notes, today’s tech climate is much different than those heady days in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when you had hundreds of startups with half-baked ideas and flimsy business plans getting insane opening day valuations. In 1999, the peak of dot-com mania, there were 308 IPOs. This year, by contrast, there have been 25, and many of them have been mature businesses with healthy revenue (e.g. LinkedIn).

O’Dell notes another key distinction between now and then: Internet usage. Back in the 1990s, relatively few people were online. According to the Pew Internet and American Life project, Internet adoption has nearly doubled among adults since 1999. Today 77 percent of American adults are online. Among teens, the figure is more than 90 percent.

In the dot-com era, investors swooned for businesses that didn’t have any users. The users weren’t even there. Today is unique. Examine Twitter. Sure, it has struggled to turn a profit, but at least it has a large, influential and increasing customer base. You couldn’t say the same for Pets.com, one of the biggest flops of the dot-com era.

But it’s still hard to say with certainty whether today’s excitement is rational or irrational. Again, return to Google News. You’ll see good arguments on both sides

QR Codes Explained

We’ve all seen the odd black squares that are consistently being photographed by smartphone users. They’re called QR codes, an innovative re-imagining of barcode technology. Originally used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, these codes are now used in a much larger context. The application of QR codes is even finding new life in creative business ventures and interactive advertising.

What is a QR Code?

    A QR, or Quick Response code, is a unique matrix barcode which is readable by specialized scanners and, more popularly, smartphones. Because QR codes are two-dimensional constructs, they can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information much like the traditional barcode found on most purchased products. They are practical tools for business due to their potential to hold large amounts of easily translatable information.

    When you scan or read a QR code with your smartphone, the code links you to web-enabled digital content. Much like when a barcode is scanned to generate the price of a certain item in a food store, in a much more complicated way, when a QR code is scanned, even greater numbers of information can then be generated.

How are QR codes used in Business?

    Building a QR code is easy. It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into a QR generator. There are several free versions of this code online, if you’d like to check one out try using the Kaywa generator.

    After you’ve created your QR code, you are able to print it on business cards, posters, billboards, or publish it on the web. After the code is accessible, prospective customers are able to scan the code using their phone and then access whatever information you would like them to see.

Why it works

    Creating a QR code is a unique way of creating an interactive ad campaign. You give the mysterious code to the audience; the audience deciphers the code and is then rewarded with the information you’ve coded. It adds value to that information by making it a fun activity. Though QR codes remain new to America, they’ve been a popular method of creating brand loyalty in Japan for over a decade. If you’re looking to create a conversation with your prospects, consider using this innovative device.

The Connected Age

We are living in an age of connectivity. Regardless of where we go or what we do, being connected is only the press of a button away. If someone needs to transfer information to us, they only have to choose by which device to do so. We can be called, chatted, emailed, texted and even Skyped. This change in communication has proven beneficial in many respects, though in many ways excessive communication can be negative. What does it mean to live in a world of almost constant connectivity? Read on for a few of the pros and cons of always being available.

The Pros

  • Being connected means increased safety. There was a day when breaking down on a dark highway was a life or death situation. Now, thanks to high range cell phones, help is only a phone call away. Doctor appointments can be made online, routes to emergency rooms can be Googled and there’s an app for figuring out minor ailments.
  • Connectivity allows you to stay in touch. Relationships can be managed remotely. With webcams, email, and texting you can stay in contact with loved ones, even at a distance. Consider the benefit felt by a soldier serving over seas by seeing their loved ones via Skype video chatting.
  • Technology has made telecommuting an accessible reality. Thanks to cloud computing, working at home is easy and practical. This allows workers on maternity or sick leave to maintain a valuable level of productivity.

The Cons

  • Connectivity is hard to turn off. We all appreciate being in touch, but sometimes we need alone time. Being constantly obtainable makes disconnecting extremely difficult. This adversely affects our ability to stop and smell the roses and enjoy our surroundings.
  • The ability to take your office with you also means you are always at the office. While redefining the workday and allowing for more flexible hours can increase productivity, it can also make workers over-work. It’s important to keep your private and professional lives separate, which is increasingly difficult thanks to increased connectivity.
  • Being connected can cause us to detach from those around us. Staying in touch with people who are miles away can cause us to neglect those close to us. We may be communicating with our friends overseas, but we might also be negelecting our friends in the very same room.

As with every cultural shift, dealing with constant connectivity is a matter of moderation. Finding the balance between too little and too much is paramount when determining which degree of connectivity you are most comfortable with.

For more information on connectivity, as well as an interesting look at unplugging yourself from technology, take a look at this article

How Tablets May Replace Your Personal Computer

After years of anticipation and premature announcements, the tablet revolution is finally here. And it’s maturing: the innovative fervor is now sweeping business.

That’s right, business. It turns out that these gadgets are more than just shiny toys for wasting time. Large and small organizations in nearly every industry have hopped on the tablet bandwagon. Now you can see these devices in hospitals, archaeological sites, police patrol cars, and even theaters of war.

In July, Infoweek ran an interesting story about how a prestigious New York City law firm deployed hundreds of iPads to its team of lawyers. The firm, Proskauer Rose LLP, presents a good case study on the benefits and issues associated with handheld computing in a business environment.

“Rolling out the iPad actually turned out to be quite a significant investment in time, much more than I would have thought,” said Steven Kayman, chair of Proskauer’s technology committee, in an interview with Infoworld. “There’s just a hundred decisions that have to be made along the way.”

Breaking trail is always fascinating but rarely effortless. Proskauer’s technology leaders had to address thorny problems that were completely new, such as how (and how much) to standardize the app menu on each device; how much control to give to users; and how to prepare for the impact on their network, particularly its security position. (Whenever you add hundreds of new endpoints to a network, you add hundreds of possible entry points for hackers and malicious code.)

But the firm has seen big benefits, and it doesn’t appear to be looking back. Infoworld:

“Today, more than 500 Proskauer lawyers use iPads to create superslick PowerPoint slides, Excel spreadsheets filled with sky-high figures, and verbose Word documents. Lawyers pass this electronic paperwork back and forth among clients. They even offer information on their iPads to judges.”

The iPad is the clear leader in the tablet realm, but tech watchers expect Android devices and others to gradually gain market share, as they have done in the mobile phone space. New entrants are expected to drive prices down, further encouraging business to join the action. A March 2011 study from AMI-Partners predicts that tablet adoption will grow 1000 percent by 2015, with 1 in 3 SMBs eventually using them on a daily basis.

I guess tablets are easy pills to swallow…

How do you define the Internet

Sometimes the most basic questions are the hardest to answer.

For example: What is the Internet?

Um … it’s that thing we can’t imagine living without. It’s how we work, buy stuff, watch videos, communicate, share memories, conduct research, tell jokes, catch up with friends, etc.

In 1995, 15 percent of adults were online. Now, it’s above 75 %, and for certain demographics (adolescents, educated adults, rich folk), the percentage is over 95 percent, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  

We’re all on Internet. But what IS it exactly?

Lucky for us, learning about the Internet is just a quick Internet search away. But before you go down the Wikipedia wormhole, we suggest starting with Business Insider’s handy guide: ‘What The Heck Is The Internet?’

Or, since remixing information is a hallmark of the Internet age, you can just stay here and read our synopsis of Business Insider’s (BI) primer on the Internet. Ready? Okay!

The Internet in a nutshell, according to Business Insider (BI):

  • The Internet is an interconnected network, or network of networks.
  • The Internet is the aggregate of the computers (servers, desktops, laptops, etc.) that share information via telephone wires and satellite links; these computers are all connected by a common software standard called Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP).
  • Most us connect to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) network. The three largest ISPs in the U.S. are AT&T, Comcast, and Road Runner. BI: “When you connect to an ISP, your computer becomes a part of its network. That network is already connected to another larger network, and that network is connected to yet another network, and so on and so forth across the globe.”
  • The two basic parts of the Internet are servers and clients. Servers are machines that provide services (get it?) to other machines. Clients (desktops, laptops, smartphones, etc.) use these services. BI: “So when you sign online at work, your computer becomes a client that’s accessing a Web server.”
  • Every device that connects to the Internet has a unique numerical IP address
  • The World Wide Web, or web, is just one ‘layer’ of the Internet. There are other layers. For example, POP and IMAP are distinct layers that govern the transmission of email across the Internet. The web layer (officially known as HTTP) of the Internet was invented in the late 1980s by American Tim Berners-Lee. BI: “The world wide web is all the pages that can be accessed using Web browsers [e.g. Explorer, Firefox].” Often used interchangeably, the Internet and the Web aren’t the same thing. The web is a small slice of the larger Internet pie.
  • All domain names have a corresponding numerical IP address. Example (courtesy of Wikipedia): the domain name www.example.com translates to the IP address 192.0.32.10. The Domain Name System was created to make the Internet more user-friendly (domain names are easier to remember than long strings of numbers).