Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Is Having a Smart Home Worth it?

Smart devices and appliances continue to flood into the marketplace as fast as manufacturers can make them. Every day, the latest and greatest widget hits the market, tantalizing consumers with their ease of use, connectivity, and sophistication. Converting your home into a smart home might seem like the right thing to do. There are some things to consider, though, before making that decision—both good and bad. Before making the investment of time and money in the conversion, ask yourself: is having a smart home worth it?

Pros

There are Buckets of Convenience

Adding smart lighting, plugs, and thermostats to your home ups the convenience level in your home exponentially. We can all get up off the couch and turn on the lights, but now you’ve given yourself another option; not getting up and doing it from your smart device. Have you ever tried to explain to someone how to turn on your TV and cable box? It’s like entering a combination to a safe. Now, you only have to tell them, “say ‘Alexa, turn on the TV.’” Done.

Problem Solving Abounds

Smart homes help you solve daily problems and annoyances. Anyone with kids knows the frustration of speaking to someone in another room. Ask a kid to go get their brother and they will move two feet from you and yell for them. Thanks for the help. Voice assistants eliminate this problem. For people with handicaps, smart sensors on lights illuminate rooms as they enter—and for anyone else, for that matter.

Cons

There are Safety Concerns

With all this technology and connectivity, though, comes concerns that are specific to home networks. First and foremost is the network’s security. There are people in the world that are up to no good and would love nothing more than to corrupt your smart home to steal information and resources from you. The more devices in your home that are connected to the internet, the more vulnerable you are. You must take precautions to protect your smart home from hackers.

Devices Can Stop Working

A smart device or appliance might be super cool and advanced, but it’s a machine, and machines break down. The more technology that a machine has, the more chances there are for something in it to break. When it breaks, the more sophisticated it is, the less likely you can fix it yourself. That means either calling in a professional, replacing it altogether, or both. Keep in mind that just because something is first to the market, doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

5 Awesome Benefits of Wireless Earbuds

5 Awesome Benefits of Wireless Earbuds

There are so many cool gadgets on the market nowadays that are worth getting. As of late, wireless earbuds have been incredibly popular for smartphone users. Here are some of the great benefits of wireless earbuds and why you should consider ditching wired ones.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Surprising Industries that Benefit from Virtual Reality

While virtual reality was first prominently used in the gaming industry, its use has translated into various other fields that may surprise you. Virtual reality might still be relatively new, but many industries are utilizing the technology. Learn all about some industries that benefit from virtual reality.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Notable 2020 Video Games That Have Been Delayed

2020 is going to be a big year for video games because of the launch of next generation consoles later in the year and all the major titles coming out. However, some of the most anticipated games slated for 2020 have been delayed recently. Many developers have said that these delays are to improve the quality of the games and ensure that it runs properly. Discover when the 2020 video games that have been delayed will be arriving.

Cyberpunk 2077

One of the most anticipated video games coming out in 2020 is Cyberpunk 2077. While the game is still coming this year, it was recently announced that CD Projekt Red is pushing Cyberpunk 2077 back from its original April 16, 2020. Cyberpunk 2077 will now hit consoles September 17, 2020.

Marvel’s Avengers

Another 2020 video game that has been delayed recently is Marvel’s Avengers. The highly anticipated superhero video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-MontrĂ©al was first announced back in 2017. Marvel’s Avengers was originally announced for May, but the game will now be available September 4, 2020.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Marvel’s Avenger isn’t the only video game from Square Enix facing a delay. The Final Fantasy VII Remake of the 1997 game was first announced in 2015. The massive project has now shifted from a March release date to April 10, 2020. The Final Fantasy VII Remake will also be released in parts, with the first taking place in Midgar.

The Last of Us Part 2

The first Last of Us is considered by many as one of the greatest video games of all time. Its sequel was originally set for a February release, but video game developer Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann confirmed that Part 2 will now be coming out on May 29, 2020, for PlayStation 4.

Dying Light 2

Another title from Square Enix that has been delayed is Dying Light 2. The upcoming Dying Light sequel was going to hit in the spring; however, the game has now been delayed indefinitely. It is also speculated that Dying Light 2 could now become a next-generation release.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Trends in e-Commerce for 2020

New e-commerce trends pop up at a dizzying pace, in large part to e-commerce’s growing popularity. Consumers are becoming more and more accustomed to and comfortable with doing their shopping online. Powerhouses like Amazon and Alibaba are changing how we shop, and traditional retailers are getting into the act with more offerings online and curbside pickup. All this growth means that distributors and warehouses must keep up with the demands of shipping and receiving. Keeping pace means, for instance, having well-trained forklift operators that don’t make common mistakes, changing warehouse layouts, digitizing operations, and creating as lean an environment as possible. Below are just a few examples of the e-commerce trends you can expect to see in 2020.

Chatbots

You know that little dialog box that pops up on your screen and looks like a customer service rep waiting to help you? That’s a chatbot. It’s an automated customer service tool that helps funnel your choices down and find what you are looking for on the site. It will also direct you to an actual person if it’s not able to find what you want.

Machine Learning and AI

AI and machine learning remain the hottest trend in e-commerce. Before modern algorithms came about, product recommendations came about mostly manually. That was usually inaccurate and wildly inefficient. Now, recommendations can come automatically, in an instant, and more closely match the customer’s preferences.

Customer Personalization

E-commerce personalization is creating personal shopping experiences that cater to a customer’s individual tastes and preferences, not an all-encompassing experience. Instead of a one-size-fits-all campaign, retailers will ensure key elements of the customer journey, such as on-site browsing, social media activity, and paid ads, change based on the customer’s wants and past behaviors.

Conversion Optimization

Across almost all markets, competition for customers is fierce. Because of the competition, e-commerce optimization is key to winning those customers. It helps you stand out from the rest. This concept means looking at the conversions on your site instead of overall sales. Getting conversions once a customer finds your site is all that matters. Constant evolution of the site and tweaking things based on customer habits is a good start.

Headless e-Commerce

Customers are seldom aware of their favorite site’s technical side. Headless e-commerce is a hot topic right now, as it allows the presentation layer of a site to be separated from the functionality. Because of that, services can provide a more personalized experience for the customer and have richer site content. It allows retailers to alter their storefront at will, changing the look of the site and the overall aesthetics. Sites like Shopify or Magento are good examples of headless e-commerce.

How to Develop a Workplace Training Program

Every time your company installs a new system, upgrades software, or adds “smart” equipment, your employees require training on how to make the most productive use of the new technology. The current labor market is tight, and finding people with the necessary skills is a challenge, so companies are taking on more responsibility to provide training to new and existing employees. A successful and effective workplace training program takes research and planning. These steps will help your company develop a workplace training program that prepares your team for new challenges.

Conduct a Needs Assessment

Before you develop content for a workplace training program, you have to know why you’re doing it. What needs are you trying to address, and what skills are lacking that need development? Most importantly, what are the goals for the program? Training should support an identified business objective by addressing areas that need improvement in order to meet that goal.

For example, in the case of new system implementation involving a major data migration to the new platform, your employees need training in what will be different and how to use the new system productively. Your goal will likely be ensuring that all users are competent and confident in using the new system by a stated date, with minimal disruption to service. Figure out what employees need to do to accomplish your goal, and break down how each role they occupy will contribute. Develop a workplace training program that clearly targets specific objectives.

Identify a Leader

Your director of learning and development is the natural team lead for crafting new workplace training, but if your organization is smaller, you may not have someone who holds that title. The program manager should be enthusiastic, curious, and willing to listen to various perspectives about what new skills or knowledge employees need. Choose someone people talk to easily and with whom staff feel comfortable sharing ideas.

Understand Adult Learners

Respect your team’s experience and don’t waste their time with irrelevant training. They want to learn what they need to know and get back to work. Adults respond best to self-directed, task- and goal-oriented training where they learn information they want to learn. Be prepared to answer questions about what’s in it for them. Will the training result in career advancement, or will it solve a workplace problem and give them greater job satisfaction? Perhaps your organization has set a lofty goal of helping every staff member understand new industry standards. In those cases, it’s best to utilize a high-quality workplace training program. Emphasize that the work that goes into training will pay off for individual employees who gain upgraded skills and fluency with best practices in your industry.

Identify How You Will Measure Results

It’s disheartening to invest significant work time in a training program and then never hear another word about it. Communicate to employees how their newly gained skills and knowledge benefit the company as a whole and back up your claims with concrete data. Tell workers the positive results of their efforts and thank them for their hard work in deploying their new skills.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

5 Invaluable Life-Saving Medical Devices

The survival rate for life threatening diseases and medical issues continues to increase. That’s because someone invented a life-saving medical device to diagnose, treat, or repair their medical issue. The medical field always leads the innovation and creation of new and better machines. Advances in medical technology continue to shape the world we live in and extend the life expectancy of us all.

Ventilators

Mechanical ventilators are invaluable for keeping patients alive that can’t breathe for themselves. Doctors use them during surgery when a patient goes under a general anesthetic and can’t breathe. In cases of paralysis, brain damage, or patients in comas, ventilators will breathe for them until they can do it themselves. It’s crucial, though, that these patients receive the proper care.

Pace Makers

Since its invention in 1950, the pacemaker has been an invaluable life-saving tool. A patient will have the pacemaker surgically implanted into the chest or abdomen. This small device helps the heart beat normally by using electric pulses. A normal functioning heart can control itself with its own electrical system. It controls the rate and the rhythm of the heartbeat by sending a signal from the top of the heart to the bottom, causing it to contract and pump blood. The pacemaker does this when the heart can’t. Advances in the technology made the pacemaker smaller and programmable to fit a patient’s specific needs.

MRI Scan Technology

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses nuclear magnetic resonance to combine a magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed image of the tissues and organs inside the human body. The magnetic field temporarily realigns the hydrogen atoms in the body, then the radio waves cause the atoms to make very faint signals to create the cross-sectional MRI images. In short, the image is map of radio signals created by the body.

Insulin Pumps

Millions of people worldwide struggle with diabetes. Even with regular injections of insulin, many diabetics still suffer from huge swings in their blood sugar levels or have unpredictable side effects from the insulin. Insulin pumps now automate most of the daily insulin injections for people. They deliver a steady, measured, and continuous doses of insulin, or a surge dose on request at mealtimes. A flexible plastic tube is inserted into the fatty tissue of the skin to deliver the insulin. The pumps provide diabetics with better control over their illness.

Computed Tomography Scans

Better known as CT scans, this imaging marvel uses special x-ray equipment to create detailed scans of areas inside the body. It creates a 3D picture and can detect smaller abnormalities better than traditional x-rays or other methods. It is used to diagnose cancer, check head injuries, check the skeletal system, and find other diseases. Images created this way are far more detailed than ultrasounds and x-rays, and it allows doctors to accurately diagnose patients.

Monday, January 13, 2020

How to Set Up a Home Network: A Simple Guide

Setting up your own home network isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. When you’re figuring out how to set up your home network, you might need a few extra cables and connectors, and you’ll definitely need the following:

Modem

Your ISP may want to rent you one, but you might be better off buying your own. In the long run, it will be cheaper to own your modem than to rent it. Do your research online to discover modems that are compatible with your ISP and your download speed. Your provider should have a list posted on their site of compatible devices. The modem connects to the internet. While you are deciding which modem to buy, your ISP will likely be announcing an upgrade in your connection speed—so consider staying power when you select your modem.

Router

Your router distributes an internet connection throughout your home. Most routers also provide several ethernet cable ports for wired connections. Game consoles and streaming services can gobble a lot of bandwidth and slow down everyone else’s wireless connection, so placing those devices near the router and connecting them with ethernet cables will give them a speedy connection while minimizing interference with wireless devices. As with a modem, when purchasing a router, consider the future and the perpetual increases in connection speed. Newer routers will support two kinds of networks: 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz—the first has greater range will the latter has better throughput, but lesser range.

Cabling

If you’ve decided to put the kids and their console in the basement with the router, you may need some additional cabling for your “mixed” wired/wireless network. Ethernet cables have speed limits, so consult your supplier about which cable type will work for your network.

Configuration

Most manufacturers have made configuring a new router easy, with step-by-step instructions on how to set up your home network. You may have online access to the network admin dashboard, as well. Plug in your modem, connect your router to it with the proper cable, and then follow your router brand’s instructions for setting up and adding devices, such as laptops, tablets, and wireless printers. Once the network is up, phones and other mobile devices will detect it and if the user has been added with a password, they can log on.

Pay attention to security. Wi-Fi is most susceptible to security issues, so work your way through instructions for securing your wireless network with encryption and passwords. If you work at home, you must make sure your network and devices will support access to your company’s VPN, or that you can use a VPN service to protect your wireless connection. Depending on your router, you may need to configure users and their levels of network access.

Boosters

If you have a large home, or your signal will encounter a lot of walls or interference from appliances, you may need to add signal boosters in a few places around the home. These do what their name implies—boost the signal from your router to make it stronger in places that are otherwise difficult for it to reach.

If you run into trouble connecting, search online for troubleshooting instructions or try the time-tested tactic of resetting or unplugging everything and starting over.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Data Security Measures for Businesses

Data breaches can have devastating impacts on your business. In addition to damaging a company’s reputation, threatening the safety of employers and customers, and incurring serious legal ramifications, data breaches can result in debilitating financial losses from which some companies never recover. Due to the many serious complications that can occur as a result of a data breach, you undeniably need to protect your business’s data. To learn how to better protect your company’s data, consider implementing these data security measures for businesses.

Set up a firewall

Setting up a firewall will help protect your business’s network from data breaches. Based on predetermined security rules, these network security systems block unauthorized external networks from accessing the network. While serving as a barrier, they still allow for outward communication.

Shred old hard drives

Hard drives store extensive amounts of data for many businesses. If such hard drives do not get properly disposed of, data is at risk of someone steal it. Hard drives are incredibly durable, which means that they can undergo a lot of damage before the data on them becomes completely unrecoverable. One of the only ways to ensure data is destroyed is by shredding the hard drive.

Install antivirus protection

No business’s data security protocol is complete without effective antivirus and anti-malware software. If unwanted attackers get though to your network, this software will serve as your business’s last line of defense. They prevent, detect, and remove harmful viruses.

Regularly update your computer

Regularly updating your computer will ensure your data’s security. If you choose not to update your computer, you won’t have the latest versions of your security applications protecting your data. Thus, any issues that such systems had will not be resolved on your device. As a result, your data becomes more vulnerable to a security attack. It’s highly important not to forgo regular computer updates.

How Alkaline Batteries Are Made

Alkaline batteries are a dependable energy source and can last several years. They use a positive electrode based on manganese (IV)oxide and a negative electrode made of zinc. It has an electrolyte from a concentrated alkaline solution. At the positive electrode, the manganese (IV) oxide converts into manganese (III) oxide and hydroxyl ions. The zinc reacts with the hydroxyl ions at the negative electrode, releasing the electrons that power the circuit. With this, how alkaline batteries are made is essential to understanding why they’re useful today. All the mechanisms that go into battery production are monitored by industrial web guiding systems, and battery manufacturing companies can purchase these components to ensure maximum proficiency.

Cathode

  1. The cathode acts as part of the battery’s container. The manganese dioxide, carbon black (graphite), and electrolyte (potassium hydroxide mixed in a solution) mix in large batches. This mixture is then granulated and pressed into hollow cylinders (preforms). Several of these cylinders may be stacked on each other, or an extruded ring of the same material replaces them.
  2. The cylinders are inserted into a nickel-plated steel can. The steel can and cylinder make up the battery’s entire cathode. An indentation is made near the top of the can, and a sealant is placed to protect against leakage.

Separator

A paper separator soaked in the electrolyte solution is inserted against the preforms. This separator keeps the cathode material from contacting the anode material. It is made from either several pieces of paper or a porous synthetic fiber.

Anode

A gel made from zinc powder, potassium hydroxide electrolyte, and other materials is placed next. It is not filled to the top, to allow for chemical reactions to occur.

Seals

  1. At this point, the battery is an open-cell. Although it could produce electricity, it would not last long. To ensure its long-lasting potential, it needs a brass nail or spike inserted in the middle of the can. It also needs a plastic seal and a metal end cap. The nail is welded to the metal end cap and passes through the plastic seal.
  2. The seal meets the indentation at the top of the can and is crimped in place.
  3. A steel plate closes the positive end of the battery after being welded in place or glued with an epoxy cement.

Packaging

A label is glued on to show the size, type, and other information.

Quality Control

All batteries are checked for optimal quality control. Manufactures check various conditions to ensure a stable shelf life and to protect against corrosion. All steps in the manufacturing process and post-production are checked for error.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

How E-Waste Affects the Environment

With people replacing their electronics continually, it’s often wondered: where do all the old electronics go? Electronics that are thrown away and end up in waste management facilities are known as electronic waste, or e-waste for short. E-waste is responsible for many human and environmental issues. While electronics recycling programs exist, improper e-recycling contributes to more human and environmental issues than intended. The harmful effects of e-waste on the environment are through air, water, and soil pollution, as heavy metals and other contaminants enter these pathways.

Pollutes the Air

When e-waste is transported to different management centers, it is dismantled and shredded. This contributes to dust and particulates in the air that affect workers and local wildlife. Electronics that have little repair value are burned, but these electronics also contain different plastics and non-combustive materials. Excessive heavy metals can destroy plant and animal life, thus permanently altering ecosystems.

Ruins Water Sources

E-waste pollutes water sources through improperly designed landfills and improper recycling or disposal. The metals and chemicals leach into water sources and ruin them, making the water contaminated and undrinkable. These contaminants also contribute to acidification and toxification. Furthermore, heavy metals accumulate in water ecosystems to the point where restoration is impossible. They also accumulate in fish, where humans can ingest unhealthy amounts of heavy metals through these food sources.

Contaminates the Soil

As e-waste is improperly disposed, the heavy metals and chemicals leach down into the soil, contaminating the groundwater and ruining the soil quality. Coarse particles and bottom ash can also contaminate the soil. Once in the soil, these pollutants remain for a long time. Plants, animals, and humans are all exposed to the toxins in the soil, which can damage cell structure, alter metabolisms, and reduce growth. Similarly, children can ingest toxic soil particles from poor hygiene or having consumed foods where heavy metals have bio-accumulated, such as meat, eggs, and fish. This is harmful to their developing bodies. For example, lead alters nerve cells, lowers IQ, and can permanently destroy brain cells.

The Importance of Reducing E-Waste

While all of these are devastating environmental effects, there are ways to reduce your e-waste footprint. Consumers should purchase a new electronic device only when needed. Doing this instead of replacing your smartphone or other electronic device every year will greatly reduce the amount of e-waste in landfills. Additionally, you can repair electronics instead of replacing them entirely. This is especially true if your electronic device has a small issue or fixable issue. Today, there is a push to allow consumers to modify their own electronic goods. This will reduce the amount of electronics needed when simple modifications can suffice.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Top Reasons Why You Need to Network

Networking changed quite a bit thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Indeed, Twitter, and many others. We can connect with so many people to benefit our careers through the power of technology. Since it’s easier now than ever before, here are the top reasons why you need to network for your career, regardless of the industry.

Creates Good Word of Mouth

A main reason why many people see networking as a valuable tool is because it can create a good word of mouth. Networking with people on social media and in person can build your reputation due to the interactions you have. People can then use the positive experiences they had with you and recommend your services to others.

Opens Doors

In addition to creating a good word of mouth, another reason why you need to network is so you can open doors for yourself. As you progress through your career, you want to have many opportunities to achieve your goals. By networking with other people in your industry, there’s a good chance they know someone who can connect you with someone who can further your career.

Improves Communication Skills

Communication today is more than just human interaction due to the various social media platforms. Networking allows you to improve your communication skills by interacting with others on social media and meeting people in person. While it’s a bit easier to connect with someone online, one successful way to network in person is to attend events in your local community.

Make Connections in the Industry

Besides making a new connection, another reason why you need to network is so you can meet people in the industry you are either currently in or hope to be in someday. This point goes back to giving yourself opportunities you may not have had if you didn’t meet new people. Networking can also create future partnerships that can even alter your career path.