Black Friday: The worst time for your Internet connection to go down

\n\tIf you flash back 30 years, there were three ways that most people paid for things at a store, in an era before the invention of the Point of Sale Terminal.  Many paid for it in cash, some used credit cards (that the clerk had to call to get an authorization from the credit card company) and many (much to the chagrin of those in line), paid by cheque.
\nToday, debit cards have eliminated the need to pay by cheque and credit card transactions take seconds.  Few of us carry enough cash to make a major transaction, let alone something small.  For retailers, the idea of your Internet connection going down is becoming something that customers will tolerate less and less each year.  
\nNow, imagine what would happen if you lost your Internet connection when your store looked like this:
\nA day like Black Friday can make or break the year for many retailers.  Customers have little tolerance to not being able to use their preferred method of payment at your store.  In addition, a lack of connection will prevent your customers from placing online orders, from you ordering things from your suppliers and verifying things like gift cards.
\nThere are many great solutions that ensure that your Internet connection is always available, ranging from those ideal for Mom and Pop stores to the biggest Big Box stores.  They are also ideal for mobile and temporary retail as well.
\nIf you run a retail store, you need to look at a Point of Sale back up solution, especially for an important day like Black Friday!

Seeing the true you in the mirror … Can you handle a Naked Scan? ​

In late 2013, I decided that enough was enough.  I was tired of being overweight and I proceeded to change my life over the next year by dropping over 50 lbs and getting into the best shape of my life (at age 42). 


As I inch closer towards my 47th birthday, I have managed to keep it off and weigh what I did when I graduated high school.  This is thanks to the 70-80km (45-50 miles) that I run each week, plus hundreds of pull-ups, crunches and kettlebell swings.


However, even I am not sure that I could truly handle a Naked Scan ...


There is a new product (from Naked Labs, click here to see it) that is designed to give you a true indication of your body.  It scans your body, from head to toe, to give you incredible accurate, 3D scans of your body.  The goal is not to shame you, but rather to inspire you.


As the video on the web page goes, it is actually a pretty easy process:

  1. There is a scale (one that spins you around like a table top) and a smart mirror.These both work with a smartphone app
  2. Although the video shows the gentleman wearing boxers, you are expected to do this with no clothes on, not even socks.
  3. The system scans your body, walking you through the process.
  4. It keeps track of 9 different measurements, such as your fat percentage and circumference of different body parts.


The team at CNET tried the device and each offered their comments (click here).  Their responses reflect the expected array of responses that most people will have.  They range from people talking about how it made them feel depressed, some said that it was helpful to get to see where to target and some found it inspiring.  I guess it depends on how you see yourself in the mirror.


For me, I think it is an incredible breakthrough in technology that a company is able to offer this for the home, even at its $1400US price tag.  From that standpoint, I think it is a home run product.  From a day to day use one, I am kind of mixed in terms of how I feel about it.  I see the benefits of knowing the truth about your body, but I also know that most adults have a high insecurity factor about their body and this information may actually cause more harm than good for some.


So, should you get one?  I guess it depends on what “stage” of your health you are in.  Most people dread getting onto a scale, and if you are in that stage, I would not get one.  However, once you start your weight loss, many enjoy seeing the results, and that would be a good time to get one.  Finally, if you are one that takes “the truth” to heart, you may not appreciate how bluntly this machine will provide information ...there is no covering up a Naked scan!

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People Sweden Are Getting “Microchipped” … Should You Do It Too?

A while back, a company (Three Square Market) made headlines as they were offering to implant an RFID microchip inside of the hands of their employees.  The idea was to replace things like keys and access cards.  Labour groups around the world went berserk, referencing movies like “1984” in the process.

It appears that these chips have resurfaced, this time to replace the need to carry personal credit cards, keys and other things and it has come from the country that brought us IKEA and ABBA.  While the numbers of people having it done has increased from year to year, it is still only a small fraction of Sweden’s population that has had it done.

Is the world more welcoming to the idea now?

First, let’s address some of the question that people have:

What is involved in the process?
It is a very simple procedure and one that is quite quick.  A video that I found shows it being done in a couple of minutes with little (or no) blood.

What does it do?
It can be loaded with information that could replace all of your payment cards, your forms of ID and even any access cards.

What about security?
It does not have any GPS capability, nor can it transmit information on its own (only when linked to a reader).  In addition, the reader has to be close to the chip (inches away), so it is difficult for it to be cloned.

Personally, I have some mixed feelings about this.

First, what one wants to do with their body is their choice.  I was against companies moving towards this for their employees, but if someone wants to do it to themselves, knock yourself out.  As well, as someone who often runs alone in remote areas, the idea of first responders having access to key information about me is kind of appealing, if I were to have a major issue.

However, I am concerned about a few things ... have we thought through any medical issues, for one.  How does this device hold up inside of the body, does it pose any long-term health issues?  As well, what is to stop a criminal from scanning hands in close quarters like elevators?  I fear that they haven’t thought through all of the security implications fully ...

Finally, most people (as I wrote previously) have not even ventured towards the concept of Mobile Wallet yet, let alone something like this.

Bottom Line
I do see this as being something that will become more standard as time goes on, but I think it may be just a bit too far ahead of its time, as there are still too many questions that need to be answered.

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Why hasn’t Mobile Wallet become even more popular?

They use to have a joke back when Blackberries were all of the rage, and they called it “phantom buzzing.”  Even when an avid user would not have it on their hip, they used to claim they could still feel the buzz.  This highlighted how much users missed their device when they did not have it ... and this was only for email!


Today, so much of our personal life is on our phone ... most of our communication, how we shop, make reservations, our health and so much more.  The idea of forgetting your phone is not fathomable to most of us, especially the under 30 crowd.


So, if we always have our phone with us, why hasn’t Mobile Wallet taken off more and why has its growth rates tapered off?


The idea of Mobile Wallet (paying with purchases using applications on your smartphone or watch) is being done by less than half of those who have phones that are capable of it.  You can observe this at any Starbucks ... despite the wide publicity of the Starbucks App, you still see a lot of cash and debit card payments.


For some, it is security.  The funny part is that in most ways, it is actually more secure.  Compare losing your phone to your wallet.  Your phone is usually locked and most phone platforms allow you to easily wipe the phone remotely.  As well, some payment apps also demand a fingerprint scan.  A physical credit card offers none of those protections, and can be used to purchase things at some retailers/online ... sure, there are precautions, but it is likely more vulnerable.


I think the bigger issue might be habit, combined with convenience, or the lack of it.  Most people are pretty quick at getting their wallet out, so there is not much time saved by using mobile wallet.  As well, I have had my phone lock the moment before I start the transaction, something cards do not do.


So, will it ever pick up its growth?  Perhaps, as the growth rates are much higher among the under 40 crowd than the over 40 one, so it may just grow over time.  I think it will also pick up when you start to see other things in your wallet move to your phone ... I mean, I still need to carry my health card, driver’s license and other things, so other than going for a run, it is rare that I am away from my home without my wallet.  I think those things moving towards your phone will expedite its growth curve ...


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Vanishing Cashiers: Are We Seeing The End Of The Customer Service Era?

There was an IBM commercial, probably close to 2 decades ago now, that foreshadowed the downfall of the cashier.  To watch it, click here.


So, the idea of a true “self-checkout”, one where you did not even have to stop at a kiosk, has been floated around for decades.  There were always obstacles to it, namely how to prevent items being taken without being registered.  Like many innovations in the world of automation, Amazon was leading much of the charge.


Amazon Go’s stores have famously announced that they will not use cashiers or even self-checkout kiosks, but instead will blanket the stores with cameras and sensors.  While it seems that they are just trying to give the customer the convenience of not having to stop and check out, there is far more at play here.  These sensors/cameras are combined with big data and artificial intelligence software to calculate how to better target consumers.


While there are obviously privacy and security concerns here, it begs another question ... does this expedite the demise of the role of cashier?


Now, I have publicly stated that most times I am shopping (among the few times I am not using E-Commerce), I try to use the self-checkout lanes.  It is just a personal preference.  Based on the line-ups at many stores, most people still like to go to the cashier, though.


It appears that Wal-Mart is joining Amazon in by-passing the whole check-out experience.  While still an experiment, their “Scan and Go” technology is being used in an app that can allow customers to checkout while in the store.  While not quite living up to the IBM commercial, it is starting to go that way.


Does this mean my grandkids will never see a cashier?  With over 3M people listing “Cashiers” as jobs in the US (according to the Dept of Labor), it will take a while to see this end.  But, like my fellow Novotech-er, Richard Hobbs, points out ... once I started to pump my own gas, it didn’t take long for that to become normal.  Once people start to accept these technologies, they will be adopted at a breakneck speed.


So, maybe my kids will tell my grandkids about how they used to have to line up at a cash register, just like I tell my kids how someone use to pump our gas when I was a kid ...

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IoT is powering license-plate readers everywhere … is this a good thing?

Hello and thanks for reading.

The use of IoT technology to help improve traffic is not only widespread, but for the most part, is considered to be a good thing by the public.  The use of sensors on the roads help to detect unexpected issues, such as traffic jams or bad road conditions.  As well, signs alerting drivers of the length of time to a certain landmark (such as an airport) help everyone’s commute.  Finally, although I am currently leading my wife in the “photo-radar ticket game” by a score of 4-3, even I admit that they can help to reduce speeding in certain areas.

Where the issue comes is when information is if IoT Traffic solutions are also used to gather data that can be used against someone in a criminal matter.  This was recently reported in a Washington Post article, where it was revealed that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is placing LPR (License Plate Readers) along side road side signs.

This debate comes down to what your expectation of privacy is while you are operating a vehicle on a publicly-funded road …

One argument is always that if you have nothing to hide, why should you care?  To further that argument, many police cruisers are now using OCR (optical character recognition) software to scan license plates at truck stops and in traffic on freeways, so why is that any different?

The other argument, namely from the ACLU, is that the sheer size of the deployments, as well as the lack of transparency about them, makes it likely that the use extends far beyond the scope of catching possible cars involved in the drug trade.  Why wouldn’t this information be able to be used to track “dead-beat dads” who do not pay their child support?  The other argument commonly used is the security of this data, or in other words, could this data be used to help criminals by knowing where a potential victim is?

The reality is that we are constantly being watched, and for the most part, society is safer because of it.  Your credit card activity is monitored by your card issuer … People post (maybe too many) details about much of their life on Social Media … Google tracks all of your web searches …. And the list goes on and on.

I personally don’t see how this is much different.  I think society has long answered the question of whether we are willing to trade away privacy for convenience …

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What some great minds think of IoT and AI

Hello and thanks for reading.

I remember asking a high school English teacher one time about why we still read/studied the works of Shakespeare, even hundreds of years later.  His response stuck with me …. “Because, genius knows no time barriers, he will always be a genius”.

Now, I am not sure if people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates will be remembered in the year 2400, but it is important to listen to such men when it comes to predictions, as they have already shown the ability to change the world we live.  I came across this article from Forbes, where those two, as well as others, shared their thoughts on IoT and Automation.

While I won’t comment on all 19 items, here are some thoughts on some key ones:

If you invent a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, so machines can learn, that is worth 10 Microsofts.” — Bill Gates

While I am not sure that it will be worth THAT much, the idea makes sense.  A machine that can learn would replace thousands of workers, be able to make decisions based on billions of variables and would improve the quality of life for all.  That would be a valuable company.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, I’d probably say that. So we need to be very careful.” — Elon Musk

In many blogs, I have quoted both the Terminator movies and The Minority report, as both of them show possible examples of how AI and robotics can be used in negative ways against us.  While I think we can build in many safeguards, this is something that does worry me, and apparently, Elon Musk.

“As the Internet of things advances, the very notion of a clear dividing line between reality and virtual reality becomes blurred, sometimes in creative ways.” — Geoff Mulgan

Last night, my son and his friend decided to play a game of pool, in my garage.  I don’t have a table.  They were doing it using AR (Augmented reality) in an open space.  Sure, it wasn’t totally lifelike, but imagine where it will be in 5, 10 or 15 years?

“Everything that can be automated will be automated.” — Robert Cannon

There is always the question of “is there demand for a new technology”.  Steve Jobs brilliantly showed that the right product can create new demand, so one wonders if some roles that will be automated are simply being done because it can be done.  I think we will start with roles that no one wants to do (or there is a lack of supply to meet demand), but it will be interesting to see where it goes from there

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