Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Model for Home Health Care

In his article entitled “CareLinx’s New Model for Home Health Care” from October 25, 2012, Nick Lieber discusses the relatively new, innovative company CareLinx that aims to drastically change the homecare industry by eliminating the middleman of actual homecare agencies and allowing those in need of a caregiver to seek out a willing worker and independently agree upon things such as a consistent paying rate as well as schedule of meetings. Onetime Merrill Lynch derivatives trader, Sherwin Sheik founded CareLinx back in December and currently maintains a database of 5,500 home-care workers out of San Francisco. “Visitors to the site can search the listings based on criteria such as work experience and overnight availability or post a job for free.” While homecare agencies “generally charge $15 to $20 an hour and pay workers $10 to $12 an hour,” the worker can take home anywhere between $12 to $15 on average per hour.
What really interests me the most about this new model is that it is essentially the Match.com of homecare. Not only does CareLinx allow a truly personal experience that allows the caregiver to receive more money for their services, it also offers the opportunity for those in need to potentially not have to be placed in an institution. While the caregiver is still practically a stranger, the individual or family seeking a caregiver will now have a plethora of knowledge about the worker available at their fingertips. An interesting outcome of Sheik’s model could be that significantly sized agencies also have access to his site. Instead of spending an indefinite time seeking help or requesting interviews, agencies can now use CareLinx’s in depth services and information and hire, effectively putting money into Sheik’s business while effectively competing with them.
Moving forward, CareLinx can add a user review system that allows those who used the caregivers services to provide feedback and give the caregiver some sort of score that will allow future clients to see just how good he or she is. Large agencies could also partner up with CareLinx by dispatching workers to reduce the cost of having actual physical institutions.
While this new model seems to be promising, there are still potential shortcomings. By having access to the information of the caregiver, there is a possibility of people having preferences based on gender, race, or age. They can single out certain groups of people based on personal likes or dislikes. Ultimately, this could negatively affect the company and opportunity for certain caregivers to find work. Also, by not having some sort of physical space, this could prove detrimental if the database fails. Large industry agencies still have years and years of reputation and experience of operations that CareLinx cannot simply provide. As a society, we tend to buy the brand rather than the product or service because of the reputation that surrounds whatever we by. Therefore, large homecare agencies have a name to rely on that CareLinx does not. 

Source: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-10-25/carelinxs-new-model-for-home-health-care

Eye Recognition Technology Making Travel Easier

The article “Through Airport Security in the Blink of an Eye” discusses the more advanced iris scanner that the company AOptix has developed which they hope to implement in airports to hasten travel times. What they have developed is a machine that is able to perform iris recognition and facial recognition in as quickly as 8 seconds to register someone in the machine’s database. Once in the database, the machine can find the iris and verify a person standing in front of the machine in as little as 1 second from a distance of about 8 feet away. While traditional iris scanners require people to stand a foot away from the scanner and remain very still, this scanner is gaining traction as it can quickly recognize a person from a longer distance and more quickly.
                The developers of this machine were originally astronomers, and what they developed in the early 2000s was a technology to see how the atmosphere distorted the light that was reaching their telescopes. What they did was shoot a laser through the atmosphere and use a lens that performed 30,000 calculations a second to see what impact the atmosphere was having on the laser beam. What they ended up doing is developing technology that could send a huge amount of information over a reliable wireless connection, and this is the technology that they are using for their iris recognition. The lens is able to reliably and quickly identify each person standing in front of the machine through finding their iris and analyzing it.
                AOptix hopes that by 2020 this technology will be available at major airports across the world to increase travel times. The Dubai International Airport is already currently testing this technology and has seen that immigration wait times have decreased from 49 minutes to about 22 seconds. This would be a great benefit to the travel industry in the United States if the time could be cut down like that, as it sometimes takes upwards of 2 hours to get on a domestic flight, and even longer for international flights. However, there is concern about the safety of this technology. With everyone’s identity stored on the database of this machine, if it were ever hacked people could possibly have their biometric identity stolen. Such privacy issues worry many, as people could easily find a way to use this information to sneak onto flights and pretend to be someone they aren’t. While it takes a long time to currently get on a plane, the reason for this is security and making everyone else is safe. If this technology sacrifices safety to increase speed at airports, it may not be a good idea.
                This technology could not only be beneficial for airports, but could be used anywhere to permit access to verified people in a secure way and at a faster pace. While other travel locations could benefit from this such as train stations, secure government locations and even commercial business could benefit from this technology. This could be used to permit clearance at the Pentagon for verified workers, or be used by large buildings in New York City to verify the workers that are entering the building. Companies could verify employees when they enter and leave to provide a more accurate and efficient way to record payroll. These are just examples of how this technology could be utilized in ways other than in airports as it becomes quicker and easier to verify someone’s identity from the unique data their iris provides.

Example Video:

Business Intelligence Solutions Making a Difference

Neil Raden, CEO and Principal Analyst of Hired Brains Inc. advocates in his article that the applications and tools of the past, including primitive spreadsheets are not as effective when it comes to providing businesses with a strategic advantage. Gartner glossary, an IT database search engine for defining IT terms, defines Business intelligence (BI) as an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tool that enable access to information and analysis of it. Raden comments on Business Intelligence by stating, “To be effective, business people need more than access to data”. Today business people are clamoring for more information about their customers and about their business in general.  Business peoples’ ability to get closer to data is spurring innovation by software companies around the world.
BI is a critical way for businesses to provide companies with a strategic weapon for mining their data. BI can also be defined as the ability of a company to collect, maintain, and organize knowledge. This type of intelligence usually produces large amounts of information that can help develop new opportunities and effective strategies that provide a competitive advantage for long-term stability in the future. Raden states the importance of mining data in an effective and coherent way.  Raden works for the company, Hired Brains Inc., which is a research analysis, advisory, consulting service firm serving North America, Europe and Asia. Through Raden’s research and analysis background he is able to carefully analyze the essence of BI and how it is used effectively and ineffectively in businesses today. 
For the past two decades, spending has been focused primarily on the hardware and services to store data rather than the software to help sift through the data. In order for businesses to be run effectively, is not just by having access to more data. Instead a good tactic would be to require a seamless process that allows an interaction with such data. This in depth data analysis will better their own models and processes. Raden states that “In today’s environment, these steps are typically disconnected.” What he means is that the idea of strategically mining the data is lacking because it is expensive and slow to maintain without the data quality controls from specific IT departments. Next generation business intelligence tools need to be simple enough to use. This way, even business people can use them and not require hours of coding or major IT support.
I feel that BI is an intriguing topic right now and the companies that figure it out stand to gain a huge strategic advantage over their competitors. I feel that companies who are able to look at the whole picture will be able to achieve excellence in the long-run. Wal-Mart for instance, is teaming up with Oracle to master the importance of analyzing data in this way. They analyze what items appear together on check-out lists. They analyze these consumer lists/data to find a relationship between items bought and other personal information during each cash register sale. Wal-Mart was able to use Oracle’s BI software to find a relationship between facial tissues and orange juice sales. Therefore, they were able to position those items closer together in the stores which increased sales further. Oracle is able to integrate large sums of data into one coherent place.  BI is something that once a company executes it correctly and coherently, the company can realize huge competitive gains overall. 
Attached is an a video emphasizing Oracle's way of expressing the importance of Business Intelligence and their overall motive: 


Concerns with Cloud Computing

In the article The Future of Business and Cloud Computing, Peter Hann discusses the advantages of cloud computing in business, its concerns, and the solution to its complications.  Cloud computing is generally defined as “software devices that are delivered through the Internet to customers, who do not therefore require their own servers” (Hann 1).  In other words, it is a cost efficient means, which allows an individual or company to maintain and allocate data without physically maintaining the data themselves.  The major service providers of this cloud computing are Google, IBM, Amazon and Yahoo. 
Peter Hann’s article effectively explicates the benefits of cloud computing which include a decrease of expenses and a decrease in necessitated capital equipment for a company, however, the article fails to elaborate on the several concerns that surround cloud computing.  Peter Hann solely mentions the fact that clouds cannot function together, which in turn signifies that data “cannot be transferred directly to…another cloud” (Hann 1), one only has the power to withdraw data.  While this fact does inhibit businesses slightly, cloud computing has many more concerns than simple data transfer flexibility. 
A vital concern of cloud computing Hann does not mention is the fact that the cloud may not be a secure location to store and transfer data.  Prior to the notion of cloud computing, companies would maintain their data in a private corporate network or system.  Currently, with cloud computing one must now transfer data through the Internet, which may leave the data vulnerable for the amount of time it passes through the Internet.  Additionally, the important information stored on the cloud has an increased likelihood of being stolen, given the fact that he cloud is essentially a public domain.  These two concerns would not be an issue for companies if data remained within private company networks.  
Another difficulty surrounding cloud computing is the essential loss of control over an individual or company’s data.  Once an individual or company transfers data to a cloud, the cloud service provider is generally responsible for the security and management of the data.  This fact may be unsettling for many users of a cloud service provider, as one never truly knows what can happen with the data that is not directly under control, which relates directly to the previous concern of cloud’s being an unsecure location for the storing of data. 
Peter Hann ends his article with a solution to his sole concern regarding cloud computing.  The solution is to develop a “network of interconnecting clouds…referred to as the intercloud” (Hann 2).  While this solution would eliminate the inhibition of clouds being unable to function together, it does not eliminate the all-important problem, which deems clouds as unsecure locations for the storing and transferring of data.  I believe once the concerns of security and control are corrected, not when the intercloud is constructed, the majority of society will gravitate towards cloud service providers. 


Southwest to Monitor Temperature-Sensitive Cargo

            In a world where increased competition has made profit harder to come by, Southwest Airlines recently came up with an idea to improve sales: using RFID chips in its airplanes that provide information on the temperature of cargo.  Many goods, such as vaccines and other drugs, need a stable environment in order to arrive to their destination untarnished.  Southwest is using Intelleflex RFID sensors (made by Cold Chain Technologies) to monitor the temperature of the cargo and to ensure that the goods will be delivered in pristine condition.
            Cold Chain Technologies has embedded RFID chips inside insulated containers, allowing the temperature to be monitored.  This technology is successful because the embedded chip allows for the internal temperature of the container to be measured.  In test trials, water bottles were shipped inside a container, and when they arrived at the destination, the temperature could be measured without opening the container, due to the embedded chips.  This technology will prove to be beneficial to both Southwest and Cold Chain Technologies.
            Cold Chain Technologies should see a vast increase in the sales of its passive containers, which are insulated but do not control temperature.  While companies can use refrigerated containers to maintain the correct temperature, refrigerated containers are far more expensive and bulky.  Companies will save money by switching to passive containers, but will also be able to ship more easily, as the small, passive containers are easier to fit onto a standard airplane.  Refrigerated containers need a wide-body plane, whereas passive containers can easily fit in a standard Southwest 737 model.  Cold Chain Technologies will see an increase in sales due to its ability to provide reliable goods for a cheaper price. 
            Southwest should see an increase in shipments for two reasons: one, companies that had been using refrigeration containers will now be using passive containers.  Secondly, it now has a proven method in which temperature-sensitive goods can be tracked and shipped.  Companies can be sure that if they ship a good, it will arrive at the correct temperature.  In avoiding opening the containers upon arrival, companies will save time and the risk of tainting their goods.  This improved confidence should help Southwest see an increase in its top line.
            This type of technology is unprecedented in its use of measuring the temperature of airplane cargo, but will likely catch on quickly.  Because of this, Southwest will need to find a way to distinguish its product, so that when it does have competition, it can stay ahead of its competitors.  Similarly, Cold Chain Technologies will have to try to find ways to improve its product or produce it at a lower cost, so that it can stay ahead of the competition that will likely soon follow.  While each company must find a way to improve its product to ensure long-term success, I believe that Cold Chain Technologies has produced a top-notch product and Southwest has made an excellent decision in investing in Cold Chain Technology’s embedded RFID chips.

A New Way to Look at the World

The alarm goes off and you slowly stir in your bed. Reaching over to your nightstand, you pick up your glasses to check your email. That’s right—you can flip through your emails, maybe open some Microsoft Word files, and see the email of your friend’s birthday party photos all just by looking through your glasses. After your morning coffee, you can simply speak out loud for your glasses to write down memos and important notes to save for later. Glance out the window, and the glasses have the temperature and forecast appear straight to your eyeball. See your dog do something funny? Announce, “take a picture” to your glasses and you automatically have the perfect shot. The modern world has finally created a computer you don’t even have to touch.
Back in June of this year, Google announced Project Glass, which consists of “wirelessly-connected glasses that allow their wearers to do a host of things” including all mentioned above. A small transparent display is at the top of one lens, and wearers can see the “text and images by glancing upward.” The glasses work straight through the display on the glasses, or also on a tablet connected to the glasses. Google is using the prototyping method to demonstrate the features of this innovative technology. This way, Google can make as many changes as they want to improve the model and fix any concerns. Google will also most likely continuously update, test, and evaluate these glasses and take note of each failure to make this technology the best it can be. Using the pilot system to roll out this new technology, Google chose the department of software developers to test the prototypes. Google plans to sell refined versions in late 2013.
There are many concerns with wearable technology, specifically with Google’s electronic glasses. First, there is always a concern with durability. Glasses are frequently dropped; will the tiny computer attached to the glasses be able to withstand the impact on solid concrete? Also as mentioned in the Economist’s article, there definitely needs to be an improved model so that the glasses do not look so “nerdy” and straight out of a science fiction novel, but instead more refined and concealed. Another concern is of usability—will the glasses be able to detect when a conversation is occurring or will it get mixed up and confused with the user’s daily life? Since the user can just speak out loud for the glasses to record any information, it may get difficult for the glasses to distinguish when the user is actually speaking to the computer. A final major concern is privacy: these glasses see everywhere you go, everybody you meet, and can be connected entirely in your daily life. How should we know what it can and cannot see? Fortunately though, Google does plan to make them cheap enough so that it will not just be a luxury for the rich, and can be enjoyed by many.
            Wearable technology is most likely the next big thing to appear in the technology world. It remains a tricky risk though, as “the first attempt at producing new computing paradigms rarely sticks.” As Google steps forward with these glasses, they definitely have one leap ahead among competitors and in the general electronic world. Google’s glasses are the technology aficionado’s dream—you can now be connected to a computer from the moment you wake up to the moment your eyes drift asleep.