Need a mobile solution? If so, will any solution do?

What do I wear? What’s for lunch? Should I buy a new car or a used car?

Making decisions is a normal process. We do it instinctively, day in and day out. And yet, some decisions are more important than others. For the enterprise, the build-versus-buy decision can be a challenging one. Determining whether to invest in long term efforts or chose a more conservative (i.e. less expensive and short term) approach is not to be taken lightly.

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When deciding to implement a mobile strategy, will anything do?

First, you must pinpoint what is important to your organization:

  • Reducing overtime with efficiency gains?
  • Capturing additional information to provide the business with actionable data?
  • Access to data in the field?

No matter the strategy, at some point the decision will be made to pull a solution off-the-shelf or build something custom. Not all problems are created equal and neither are budgets for that matter.

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What’s coding got to do with it?

With everything in our daily lives becoming more technical how important is knowing how to code? Grandma can FaceTime, my washing machine can send me text messages and Xbox only needs my voice for control. Should I take the time to understand what coding’s got to do with it?

Why not?!

If you’re the parent of a young kid, now is the perfect time to introduce programming and computational thinking. If you are able to help out and follow along, you may learn something too. If you’re looking to become more technical in your career, then there is no excuse to not learn coding as long as you have access to a computer.

I am asked quite often about how someone could become more technical, from people including family members, mothers and fathers, and from those just curious about learning the ins and outs of programming. Since I’m blogging, I figured I would write a post that I could refer to instead of having the same conversations over and over again.

For kids under the age of 15 there are some neat resources available online:

  • Code.org – Materials are available for students and educators. For students, there is a Code Studio, local classes and other online courses.
  • Crunchzilla.com  – Has some interactive tutorials where kids and adults can play with code, experiment, build and learn.
  • Tynker.com – Tynker.com has a lot of guided, self-paced assignments that allow kids to build games and projects.
There are also different Makers and Robotics kits that provide an alternative to only interacting with a computer screen. Even Lego provides the ability to do some programming with their Mindstorms kits.
LegoMindstorm

For those interested in technical careers or new challenges:

I have met quite a few people looking to make a career change— sometimes even because they needed a new challenge in life. The transition from a non-technical role/career to one that is very technical can seem like a daunting task for some people. However, even though it’s not easy,  it can be done. There are a ton of success/failure stories online to learn from. Entire companies specialize in this type of transition. For the cavalier amongst us, there are free online resources that can be used to build your skills up.

The first step is to spend some time figuring out which technology you want to learn. My default suggestion usually is HTML/Web. There are a ton of examples and tutorials online. HTML runs on desktops, mobile devices and locally on computers. It is a very lower barrier to entry and something that does not require a huge investment (e.g. You can only program for iOS on an Apple Mac computer, which will set you back at least $1,000).

Some available options for those looking to learn how to code or for a career change.

The options listed here are really just the tip of the iceberg. There is currently an overwhelming array of choices (each with their own pros and cons) available for the interested learner. My advice would be to try a few and stick with what resonates with you.

The great thing about technology is that it is a great equalizer. You do not need a PhD or Master’s in Computation to have a rewarding career. The technology community is very helpful and filled with people that do not mind lending a helping hand. You just have to want it.

TV Subscription Services

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For many, the term “cutting the cord” has become synonymous with “sticking it” to the Cable TV overlords. For some, cutting the cord is the fulfillment of a new year’s resolution to watch less TV. For these rare people in the world, cutting the cord helps them feel more intelligent. For others, by reminding everyone that, “I have not seen that television show,” you are implying that cable TV is beneath you.

Cutting the cord during the last few years did not leave you with great options if you still wanted to be entertained with new content on a nightly basis.

cord2The previous options for cord cutters revolved around physical devices and streaming services. You needed a physical device such as a Smart TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, etc. In addition to the device, you needed access to a service to watch content such as Netflix, Hulu, Plex, Youtube, etc.

A digital antennae is also a must for local news and live broadcast television. Without a set of digital rabbit ears, how could you watch the local news in the event of a snow day or witness the zombie apocalypse as it unfolds?

After watching Iron Man 3 for the 42nd time you start to realize that these streaming services are not “really” designed to replace regular television.

I have been asked the following questions about the practical usability of streaming services:

  • What if I want to flip through channels and mindlessly surf TV until I catch a cramp in my thumb?
  • What if Netflix had an automatic shuffle feature so that I could just watch 6 hours of sitcoms based on my viewing habits?
  • What happens if there is a power outage and I lose internet? I lose the ability to stream, right?

All of these are valid concerns and some apps have tried to address the inherit challenges of using services like Netflix as a primary source of entertainment, e.g. Netflix Roulette.
streamtvThat being said—this is the year (or at least should be) consumers will have TV subscription services that are true cable tv replacements. If you follow tech news, then you know that Apple has been negotiating for years with cable companies to bring a better TV experience to the masses (with little to no luck). There have been small apps like HBOGO and FoxNOW, but not an offering that could be a true replacement.

Apple is currently working on releasing new Apple TV hardware, but they are also preparing a service that will be available later this year. If you are a fan of HBO, they recently rolled out a standalone service called HBO NOW. I am really excited about what the folks at Dish Network have released—their Sling TV service.

slinggSling TV, a $20-a-month service for cord-cutters has made a welcomed debut earlier this year. There are a number of additional packages that you can add, ranging from $5—$15 per month. In Sling TV’s basic package there are familiar channels such as ESPN, HGTV, CNN, TBS, A&E, TNT, Food Network, History Channel and others.

Although, I am excited for subscription services to finally be available, I suspect there will be a race to the bottom—all of the big names in cable TV, i.e. Comcast, Time Warner, etc. will probably offer similar services at a slightly lower price point. Companies will continue to offer lower prices to gain or retain market share as prices continue to “race to the bottom.”
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What Time is It!?!

It finally happened…the wearable watch is the “new thing”—not just for early adopters.
This year will either make or break public perception of wearables as a watch. With the Apple Watch soon to hit stores, there are viable options for almost every consumer (some people will never be satisfied).
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I have been ahead of the trend for about 2 years now, sporting a Samsung Gear 2, which proved difficult because my primary device is an iPhone. Let’s face it, I’m an Apple junkie and will never depart from my iPhone; however, I did have a Galaxy S5 to pair with the watch just to test out the compatibility.
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My Fitbit Force was great for counting my steps, tracking my sleep and playing to my competitive nature by providing a leaderboard of active friends that I could always monitor. As part of our fitness challenge at BlueFletch almost two years ago, most of the company purchased a Fitbit.  I always made my target goal but my team was ultimately crushed by our competition.
So, being a self-professed tech snob, I’m ready for a fresh device to play with and share my thoughts with anyone that will listen.
Now that the Apple Watch has arrived, all of the big players in the mobile space will have a watch wearable offering. Here are a few of the heavy hitters.
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Google released the Android Wear Operating System (OS) last year. There are a number of companies that have released Android Wear devices, including Motorola, Samsung, LG, ASUS, etc. At the time, I did not want another Android-specific wearable, but with Google hinting at supporting iOS devices I could be persuaded.
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Microsoft Band was released last year as well. The biggest feature that caught my eye the band’s ability to support the big three mobile OSs’ (Android, iOS, Microsoft). I had a chance to get a live demo from a Microsoft employee and I was surprised by all the functionality they were able to pack into the device’s form factor.
The next watch wearable I sport will be the Apple Watch. It seems like a natural progression from the FibFit Force and Samsung Gear 2. There are a plenty of built-in applications to be excited about, including: Apple Pay, Wifi & Bluetooth Support, Messages, Phone, Navigation, Activity Tracker, etc.
But I am most excited about the Third Party applications that will be available. Although the BMW and Telsa Apple Watch apps look cool and want to replace your key fob. I would need more than 18 hours of battery life if I am going to leave the house without my key.

SXSW

Austin

South by Southwest Festival is this week in Austin, TX. Although I have too much work to attend this year, there are a number of confirmed sessions for SXSW Interactive that I would definitely attend if I was present.

There are a number of interesting technology topics and demonstrations ranging from security/privacy, drones, virtual reality and bionics. The year for me is starting off with enterprise companies embracing mobile UX/UI and a willingness to entertain usability suggestions. Below are a few sessions that I would definitely attend in the hopes of finding the next tidbit that will help me continue to deliver innovation solutions for other companies.

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Interesting Topics

2015 IOT Purchases So Far

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Last year, I made my first official Internet of Things purchase when I bought a couple of Nest thermostats, which do a great job of keeping my energy bills low in an 85-year-old house. I also purchased a few WeMo light switches from Belkin and I love the new flexibility I have for my outdoor lights. I am looking to add to my IOT stable in 2015. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until some undetermined time to get (via pre-order) everything that I want to have today.

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Amazon Echo

This is probably one of the more nonessential items on my list but it seems like it has a ton of potential. The Amazon Echo is essentially a physical device that is always on and is controlled by your voice. Ask it questions, play music, add items to a to-do list, etc. Since the device is powered by Amazon’s cloud service, the Echo is always getting smarter as Amazon adds new functionality.

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Lockitron Bolt

To keep things simple, this bolt it is a smart door lock. I can unlock my door from anywhere and I can create temporary keys for house guests. I am not sure how much of an impact a smart lock will have in my life but the convenience factor is enough for me to spend $99.

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LUNA

This purchase is the one I am actually the most excited about. (Probably because it’s February in Georgia and it will be 30 degrees tonight.) The LUNA smart mattress is billed as “the world’s first mattress cover that intelligently warms your bed, tracks sleep, and makes your bed smart.”

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I was sold at automatic bed warming and Nest integration.

Why is Microsoft investing in Android?!?

Over the past several weeks I been stunned by some of the news about Microsoft. For all the flack that Microsoft takes about its OS, Mobile OS or devices, the company knows how to make a dollar.

Microsoft makes much more money from Android than its own Window Mobile platform. For every Android smartphone or tablet, Microsoft is receiving $5-$15 from the sell of that individual device. They likely generate at least $2 billion per year from Android.

So the following stories had me scratching my head.
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January 29, 2015Microsoft is investing in Android Startup Cyanogen
February 9, 2015: Microsoft, Samsung settle contract dispute over Android patent payments
February 13, 2015Samsung is preloading the Galaxy S6 with Microsoft Apps

My initial thoughts after reading each article:
  • Microsoft is trying to body snatch Android away from Google.
  • If I was Samsung, I would be tired of paying Microsoft’s ransom too.
  • Ohhh, that is why Microsoft settled. I wonder if Satya Nadella is playing chess somewhere with Android vs. Microsoft themed chess pieces.

Microsoft is definitely big enough and has enough talent to make some serious noise in the Android world, but why not just focus on Windows Phone?What are your thoughts? Reach me on twitter @MakeOne. #WinDroid

Electric Car – Thoughts

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A friend of mine recently asked for my thoughts about electric cars: which one would I purchase? As a car guy at heart, I am constantly reading news about current cars and new companies looking to have the “next big thing.”

I am not in the market currently, but if I was to purchase an electric car, here are my thoughts:
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What’s Your Range?

This is important because some people just do not do well with stress and lack of range could cause said person to spontaneously combust. I recently moved to Midtown Atlanta, Georgia; I work out of Midtown as well. On a quiet day, I probably drive all of 4-6 miles. On the weekends— even if I plan a day full of errands—I am probably not driving more than 60-70 miles.

No Compliance Cars

Compliance cars are a battery-electric vehicleS sold only to keep an automaker in compliance with California’s zero-emission vehicle rules.

As of right now, I would not consider purchasing the following cars:

  • Honda Fit EV
  • Fiat 500e
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Chevrolet Spark EV

I’m not saying that anything is wrong with the cars above, but they were developed only to meet a state’s regulation. The design, technology and passion that were a part of the car’s creation are not appealing to me.

Electfeatures

What Features are Important?

This is not a complicated question, but think about what features in a car are most important to you. Also, think about what you would be willing to sacrifice if budget became an issue.

  • Do you need navigation?
  • Heated seats?
  • A mobile application so that you can monitor your car from halfway around the world?

Electric cars tend to cost more mostly because of batteries and the technology that supports the electric architecture. So, knowing what you can live without may make the final difference in price.

Contenders:

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Chevrolet Volt (MSRP $34k): This is an all around solid car. For my needs I would rarely need to purchase gas and I could still drive this out of town if zombies ran us out of Midtown. Chevy put a lot of passion into this car and proved that Chevy could produce something innovative (and tangible). I dig its story and the fact that most of the auto journalists I respect have positive feedback about this car.
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Nissan Leaf (MSRP $29k – $35k): This is almost a no-brainer for those who want an all-electric car but cannot afford a Tesla. Nissan has sold a ton of these cars and given federal and state tax credits, purchasing a Leaf is very affordable.
BMWi3BMW i3 (MSRP $42k – $46k): I am a BMW guy at the core of my soul. I have been driving some form of the BMW inline 6 for the last decade plus. Although the i3 is not a great looker, it drives like a BMW and you are surrounded by all of the creature comforts that make a BMW special. Also, BMW has a loaner program through which you can checkout an X5 for the weekend when you need to drive out of town for those family visits.
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Tesla Model S ($70k – $104k): I am really excited for Telsa and I love the Model S. Although it is pricey, it’s the most capable electric car you can purchase. As a tech and car guy, I have enjoyed watching Tesla grow and prove the car industry pundits wrong. The fact that they are constantly improving the car with over the air (OTA) updates and even creating an upgrade package for the out-of-production roadster is a testament to how committed Tesla is to creating wonderful products.

Since Tesla released the Model S with the autopilot feature, I feel like a Model S is worth every penny. If I am not willing to spend all of those pennies, then the BMW i3 would be my next choice.