Daniel Escasa

Daniel Escasa

Technologist. Writer and editor. Shakespearean actor.

February 17 2014

The Internet-enabled wardrobe

By Daniel O. Escasa

How would you like your own personal, portable temperature control system that keeps your body at a comfortable temperature at all times?

Such a device would be small enough to wear on your body or — for the more intrepid — in your body.

It would communicate wirelessly with digital thermometers positioned throughout your environment and adjust its temperature accordingly.

In places without “coverage”, you can use a PC to control the device manually.

As an aside, “PC” can include tablets and smartphones.

Then, in your home or office, the air conditioner can operate so it doesn't waste electricity: if the outside is cool enough, it'll throttle down its thermostat and fan.

As you drive or ride between office and home, your vehicle picks up signals from other vehicles — their distance and speed, and road conditions — and alerts the driver of any needed adjustments. E.g., that it is safe to pass the vehicle in front.

Images courtesy of clikr.com, except for the Twin-Lens Reflex camera, which is mine

You eat out, and the menu picks up signals from a device on you and warns you of allergens, high cholesterol content, and other potential health hazards, and suggests safer items.

But don't blame that on-person device if the menu suggests more expensive items. After all, health is wealth, meaning it has a price.

This is the Internet of Things (IoT), also known as the Internet of Objects, because it consists of devices exchanging data and adjusting their behavior without the need for human intervention.

It's serious.

Wikipedia says:

The Internet of Things refers to uniquely identifiable objects (things) and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term Internet of Things was first used by Kevin Ashton in 1999.

The European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things says:

Internet of Things (IoT) enables the things/objects in our environment to be active participants, i.e., they share information with other stakeholders or members of the network; wired/wireless, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet.

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, says:

Cisco has conducted analysis on the potential economic impact of the Internet of Everything, the findings of which we’re releasing today. Our analysis indicates that there is as much as $14.4 trillion of potential economic “value at stake” for global private-sector businesses over the next decade, as a result of the emergence of the Internet of Everything.

Note that Chambers refers to IoT as the Internet of Everything, but they're analogous frameworks.

And in case you missed it, Cisco believes that IoT will be worth $14.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

It's real. And it was big at the Consumer Electronics show (CES) at Las Vegas early January 2013, and even bigger at this year's CES.

Fitbit has a smart scale that transmits your data to their server so you can track your weight and compare it against your goals.

Fitbit also has wearable activity trackers that record your steps, distance, and calories burned and sync automagically with your Windows, Mac, or iOS PCs, or selected Android PCs.

Ohio-based Infomotion has devised a Bluetooth-equipped basketball that analyzes how the player handles the ball, then transmits the data to an iOS or Android PC. The trainer can then suggest improvements.

It's not yet in production, though, and is turning to Kickstarter to fund production. When it's out, I'll want to take on LeBron James one-on-one. Or Kobe Bryant. Or Kyrie Irving.

One cool thing about the IoT is that it's not a black-tie party. Refer to the IoT-and-Arduino link below.

For the uninitiated, the Arduino is a cheap microcontroller that is open source in that the schematics are available, so that you can produce your own Arduino-compatible microcontrollers.

In fact, local company e-Gizmo Mechatronix Central has their own implementation.

As with any fledgling technology, IoT faces challenges: mainly, standardization, privacy and security, and governance. Nevertheless, within the next 10 years, we can expect the Internet and smart devices to make work and play even easier.

Note: This article originally appeared in newsbytes.ph

Resources:
European Research Cluster of Internet of Things
John Chamber's blog
Building Internet of Things with Arduino
e-Gizmo
FitBit

Posted by Daniel Escasa at 16:26pm - Read the comment ()
With categories : #Internet

December 24 2013

Customers’ theme song: I can’t get no satisfaction

“The spell’s still not working,” sighed the young novice as she ran a slender finger along the scroll.

She had already summoned the Keeper of the Ring and, while amiable and pleasant, he was as lost as she was.

In her mother’s time, he was more helpful, albeit alternating between a mite grumpy and playfully condescending.

Maybe time, along with the realization of his diminished skills, has mellowed him.

Still, she had little choice so…

RIINNNGGGG.

“Thank you for calling WebSpell technical support, how can Joe help you?”

“(So he refers to himself in the third person now, does he?) Yes, I’m calling about ticket number 2383239. I’ve already sacrificed a chicken and cooked its entrails in virgin coconut oil but still can’t save my ‘new’ word. I save it, then next time I try to use your Web-based spell checker, it still flags it as unknown and I have to save it again.”

“Ah yes, ma’am, please hold on one moment.”

“(Ugh, he would put on My Heart Will Go On. Neil Young’s Helpless or the Rolling Stones’ I Can’t Get No Satisfaction would’ve been more appropriate… And at least he didn’t ask me if it was plugged in.)”

“Sorry to keep you waiting. Ma’am, regarding this one, our developers are still working on it and should have the patch ready in a few days.”

“(You don’t really know the status, do you?) That’s what you told me last week. I wouldn’t be calling again if you said it’d be ready in a month but my idea of ‘a few days’ is three days or less.”

“Yes ma’am, we apologize for the inconvenience. May I suggest that you keep your Web browser open until we can figure this out? I’m afraid that’s the best we can do for now.”

“OK, I guess I don’t have much choice,” she sighs.

Now you know why I hate calling technical support — not for the contact center agents themselves, since they’re all been courteous, patient, and helpful within the limitations that are in my opinion on the companies they represent.

For instance: The other year, I tried to pay our MERALCO bill through my bank’s Web interface. For some reason, my browser was taking about 15 seconds to load every Web page I fed it.

The supposed threshold for a Web page to load is about five seconds, and any slower and the visitor will give up. But I digress.

So, I went to my bank’s ATM and, as I was entering the 21-digit customer code, I noticed a line forming behind me. That meant I had to rush a mite.

When I got home, I realized that, in my haste, I had entered the wrong customer code. So I paid again, this time through my bank’s Internet site — which, thankfully, was loading more quickly this time. And I had more time to check my customer code.

But what about my previous transaction? I had to have that undone, so the amount would go back to my account.

Long story short, I called customer support to request a reversal of the payment with the erroneous customer code, and everyone I talked to had no idea what was happening.

After almost four weeks of follow-ups — some of which tested my patience (my poor computer table can tell you all about it), and therefore the patience of customer support — I got our next electrical bill.

What do you know, my bank credited both payments to MERALCO — despite my entering the wrong customer code the first time around.

So why didn’t the customer support agents who took my calls know about this?

How hard would it have been to record both transactions and make the Customer Support Agents (CSA) aware of them?

I swear, I came this close to closing my account. But I know that other banks wouldn’t be much better, if at all.

To illustrate: As I was writing this, my brother was calling his bank, asking about a replacement ATM card that he requested five banking days ago that was supposed to be ready in three. Again, customer support didn’t know the status of his new card.

For that matter, if we go by posts on Facebook, the customer support of many companies across various industries would rate a failing mark.

And we’re supposed to be the call center capital of the world.

Does that mean that we’re getting the B-team, and letting the A-team handle international customer support? Or they’re getting B-grade tools? But shouldn’t they be getting the same tools?

That’s a lot like the cobbler’s children having no shoes.

Granted, the issues that the customers raised may have been extreme, like mine. How many people would enter a wrong customer code at the ATM, then pay the same bill through the Internet?

Still, this calls for a survey of satisfaction with customer support, so companies can improve their services.

In the meantime, be patient with your CSA — he’s not being paid enough to be the voice for a company that can’t provide support to their CSAs. And don’t bother switching, because you may find yourself longing for the previous provider.

Note: To give you some idea of how bad some customer service can be, check out this complaint letter.
This post originally appeared in newsbytes.ph.

Posted by Daniel Escasa at 19:06pm - Read the comment ()

October 8 2013

Educate Girls, Change the World

When an earthquake devastated Port au Prince, Haiti, Wadley and her mother lost their house and settled in the tent city.

She also lost the chance to go to school since the “tent school” was asking for money her mother didn't have.

What she didn't lose was the determination to go to school. So, she went to the tent school anyway, risking embarrassment.

Sure enough, the teacher asked her to leave when she admitted she hadn't paid.

Still, she came back the next day, and the teacher again asked her about her paying the school. But this time, she said that if she had to leave, she'd come back again the next day, and the day after, and still the day after that.

Recognizing the futility of arguing with Wadley, the teacher motioned her to take a seat (more precisely, a place at a bench).

In Nepal, Suma rides her bicycle to a house to sing to its occupant to free his slave.

Yes, slave — although in Nepal, they're called Kamlari, “bonded” female servants, mostly children.

Suma herself was “bonded” at the age of six, and had to do hard labor unimaginable to even those of us in Third World Philippines.

She endured six years of labor and abuse in three different homes, then went back to her own home.

But, having gone away at a young age, and for so long a time, she no longer knew her native language and couldn't communicate with her own family.

Like Wadley, Suma was determined to get an education, and was accepted into the Girls' Education program of Room to Read.

Now 20, Suma is on track to graduate from secondary school next year and wants to become a health educator so that she can help empower more girls in her community.

She also writes songs (http://youtu.be/d-PlQUwxPBQ) that help her endure forced servitude in Nepal and today crusades to free others.

Wadley and Suma are but two of the nine remarkable girls whose stories are told in the film Girl Rising, a film by Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins. Produced by award-winning former ABC News journalists of The Documentary Group and Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions, Girl Rising is powered by strategic partner, Intel Corporation, and global television distribution partner, CNN Films.

Girl Rising is rated PG-13.

Each girl is paired with a renowned writer from her native country: Marie Arana (Peru, with Senna), Edwidge Danticat (Haiti, with Wadley), Mona Eltahawy (Egypt, with Yasmin), Aminatta Forna (Sierre Leone, with Mariama), Zarghuna Kargar (Afghanistan, with Amina), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia, with Azmera), Sooni Taraporevala (India, with Ruksana), Manjushree Thapa (Nepal, with Suma), and Loung Ung (Cambodia, with Sokha).

These stories are narrated by celebrated actresses: Cate Blanchett (Haiti), Priyanka Chopra (India), Selena Gomez (Sierra Leone), Anne Hathaway (Afghanistan), Salma Hayek (Peru), Alicia Keys (Cambodia), Chloë Moretz (Egypt), Freida Pinto, Meryl Streep (Ethiopia), and Kerry Washington (Nepal).

Girl Rising also features Freida Pinto and Liam Neeson, with original music from Academy Award-winner Rachel Portman and Lorne Balfe.

But the stars of the film are the girls themselves, who played themselves.

We, however, won't see the face of one of them: Amina.

From the director's notes:

“Amina is fearless. You noticed that we never showed her face in Girl Rising — but that was our decision, not hers [emphasis mine - DE]. Amina was the bravest girl we ever met. She was ready to show herself to the world, even though she knew it could be dangerous. We were worried about protecting her, so made the decision not to disclose her identity... but I'll never forget how willing she was to proudly reveal her true self.”

The film will be screened in the Philippines starting October 11, the International Day of the Girl. Schedules are as follows:

  • October 11 - 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., Jose Rizal University, Mandaluyong City
  • October 11 – 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Munoz Covered Court, Betty Lou Daul Center (BLDC), Livelihood Street, Batasan Hills, Quezon City
  • October 13 - Children International Youth Health Corps, Betty Lou Daul Center (BLDC), Livelihood Street, Batasan Hills, Quezon City

For other screening schedules, contact Liezl Dunuan of Fit-Ed at girlrisingph (at) fit-ed.org.

 

Notes:

The Nepal Kamlari system was “officially” abolished in June of this year.

Intel takes the opportunity to make a big difference for the children of Payatas.

The producers aim to change minds, change lives, and change policy. Thus, each screening should be supplemented with a discussion among the viewers. Downloading it from a torrent would defeat the aim of the film.

Resources:

10x10act.org — includes trailer, girls' profiles, author information/p>

Girls Rising movie

Wadley and Suma - Photos provided by 10x10 Educate Girls, Change the World, © 2011Wadley and Suma - Photos provided by 10x10 Educate Girls, Change the World, © 2011

Wadley and Suma - Photos provided by 10x10 Educate Girls, Change the World, © 2011

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With categories : #Education , #10x10act , #Intel , #Plan International , #Asian Development Bank

July 2 2013

“When You Know Better, Do Better”...

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July 2 2013

"When You Know Better, Do Better"

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July 2 2013

First Firefox OS smartphone debuts in Spain

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July 1 2013

The Geek Wedding Code

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June 24 2013

Article says the computer processing can take up...

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June 23 2013

While this is cool, I'd consult with a doctor...

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June 23 2013

How-To: Text Your Coffeemaker

How-To: Text Your Coffeemaker

Now to add an Arduino to drive a robotic arm, or maybe just a platter that senses when the cup is full, then replaces it with a new one. The Textpresso should also be able to detect that it's run out of new cups

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