Carmi Levy’s 7 tech trends

I was at a presentation this morning by tech guru Carmi Levy who talked about 7 tech trends.  If you watch national news broadcasts you will have seen Carmi.

1. Cloud.  It aligns spend with need, and you can spend less time managing your infrastructure.

2. Mobile.  More smart phones were sold last year than feature phones.  Facebook revenue from mobile is more than 50% now.  Just 3 years ago was zero.  25% of Facebook users are mobile only.  This trend is similar for other providers – mobile is rapidly becoming a prime way to connect.  Businesses need to address the mobile market.   Some businesses are not even bothering with web sites because their customers are just using social media and apps.

3.  Social Media.  Social media is today’s town square.  It is changing the way we consume content and works well local as well as global.  London’s #Ldnont hash tag is an example of an effective local tool.

4.  Apps.  The real action is mobile.  Apps can be a meaningful way to connect.   In some cases they are becoming as important as a web site.  Apps vs responsive web is controversial.   Apps can give richer experience, but responsive can be simpler to do and is platform agnostic.

5.  Gaming.  Casual gaming is the fastest growing game segment. Ties in to the mobile trend.

6.  Ecommerce.   We are seeing a revolution at summer festivals in the park.  Festival vendors used to use cash only.  Now vendors increasingly use mobile payment options such as Square.  The tech allows the smallest of small business to do this easily and cheaply.

7.  Hyperlocal.  London’s Hacker studios is an example of a startup hub where users pay a subscription for space including mentoring and support.

In general, Carmi says tech is an investment not a cost.  It is a marketing enabler if it is done right.  It is a constant adaptive process, and has to be part of business culture in general – not just delegated to a particular department.  Digital competency is something we become not something we build.

Cross posted to Slaw

Office for iPad – there’s a catch

Microsoft released office for iPad last week. They have promised to release Office for Android soon as well.

The good news is that it is free to download. The bad news is that it can only be used as a reader. If you want to create or edit documents, you need an Office 365 account. And if you have a personal Office 365 account, the terms don’t let you use it for commercial purposes.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based service that is purchased for an annual fee.

Even if your office has one of the many flavours of Microsoft corporate licenses, you probably don’t have Office 365 access. That means that to use iPad or Android Office, there is a significant extra cost.

Frankly, while a usable Office on a tablet would be marvelous to have, the price is far too high.

Microsoft has been getting some flak over this. Hopefully they will come up with an alternate way of giving access to those of us who already use Office.

In the meantime, free alternatives such as Google’s Quickoffice work well enough.

[cross-posted on Slaw]

Tech trends for 2014

For the London Free Press – January 5, 2014 – Read this at

It was announced in December that the Canadian Anti-Spam legislation (sometimes called CASL) will be in force July 1, 2014.

The legislation is complex, and because of its extremely broad definition of spam, will be a compliance nightmare for many businesses and charities. Many of us routinely send seemingly innocuous emails that will be considered spam. The time and effort required to comply will be significant. Penalties for violating the act are severe, so it’s not something that can be ignored.

Technology that becomes part of us is a long way off, but it’s inevitable. For now, smart watches and Google Glass are examples of wearable computing that will become more common. Wearable computers will be interfaces to our smartphones, monitor our activities, fitness and health, and act as cameras and gps guides.

The latest gaming consoles (Xbox and PS4) do far more than just play games. They include smart TV functions and access to entertainment services such as Netflix. Watch for these to become the central entertainment and communications device for many people.

Courts are starting to understand just how personal our electronic devices — ranging from computers to smartphones — are, and how invasive it is for others to look at them. They can be a window to personal information such as email, banking details, our location and health. Looking at one can be as invasive as searching our home.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently released a decision saying that a warrant to search a house does not give the right to search the contents of a computer found in the house unless it specifically mentions the computer.

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether police can search someone’s cellphone when they arrest them. The Ontario court of Appeal said it could be searched if the phone is unlocked, but not if it was locked by a password. Given current and future technologies that give us access to our phones, such as fingerprint readers, facial recognition and heartbeat recognition, that distinction may not be as simple as it seems.

It would not be surprising to see a decision that requires a warrant to look at any smartphone regardless if it is locked. While the locked vs unlocked theory does follow a certain logic, it can be argued that it is like saying police require a warrant to enter a locked house, but not an unlocked one.

The very tools that we use to work and interact with others also make it easier to watch and track us. The NSA / Snowden revelations will continue, along with continued attempts by governments to increase their ability to surveil and get information about us without warrants.

There’s a great fear that we are already in a surveillance society, let alone be headed to one. Many service providers and privacy advocates will continue to push back at that, such as by implementing increased encryption and more robust security.

It’s about time

Today’s Slaw post

Lawyers tend to think of time in units of .1 hour.

But that is eons compared to some other time measurements.

If you are having trouble getting your head around the concept and speed of quantum computing that Simon wrote about yesterday, consider time metrics for tech we currently have.

Peter Higgs and Francois Englert recently won the Nobel Prize for physics for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle that explains how elementary matter attained the mass to form stars and planets.  The actual existence of the Higgs boson was confirmed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland – a significant achievement on many levels, including the fact that the Higgs boson only has a life in the accelerator of about 1.6×10^−22 or  0.00000000000000000000016 seconds.

Even everyday electronics work in amazingly small increments of time.

Current computer chips run at speeds of up to about 4 Ghz, meaning that they perform 4×10^9 or 4000000000 processing cycles per second – and that’s for each of the multiple cores they have.

GPS relies on satellites keeping time to an accuracy of about 14 nanoseconds or  1.4×10^-8 or 0.000000014 seconds. To put that in perspective, light travels about one foot in a nanosecond.

3D printer revolution

Today’s Slaw post:

3D printing has become a popular topic lately.  While 3D printers that print objects similar to how ink jet printers print words have been around for many years, the cost has come down dramatically, and will continue to come down. 

3-D printers are a disruptive technology, and as with any disruptive technology, the law will have to react to issues that come with it.  Possible issues include intellectual property, product liability, and use for criminal purposes.

There has been a lot of negative press lately about using 3D printing to create plastic guns.  To me that says more about the US gun culture than 3D printing.  Like most technologies, 3D printers can be used for good and evil.  And like most new technologies, it will take a while for the real uses to emerge.

Home 3D printers are now available, but we are a long way from having one in every house.  They are becoming accessible though – the office supply chain Staples recently announced it will provide 3-D printing services at its stores in Belgium and the Netherlands. Here are some examples of what a basic 3D printer can do.

3D printers have been a boon to engineers and architects, who have used rapid prototyping techniques for many years.  This article talks about how Ford uses 3D printing to create prototype metal parts such as transmission parts and brake rotors.

3D printing is being used to manufacture parts with complex shapes.   This new more fuel efficient jet engine uses 3D printed metal nozzles that are lighter in weight due to an advanced design producible only on 3D printers.

3D printing also has intriguing medical possibilities.  3D printed body parts – using live tissue – is a real possibility.  And it has been used to create relatively inexpensive replacement hands.  This video about the Robohand is well worth the 10 minute investment. 


Wearable computing – Legal Issues?

Today’s Slaw post

What do readers think about wearable computing?  Is it cool or creepy? Where is the technology headed? What legal or other issues might arise from it?

I’m thinking about this because I find the intersection of technology and law interesting, and I’ve been asked to speak about it this fall.  Google Glass privacy concerns is a popular topic today, especially around the issue of the ability to record and save images and video, and what might happen with all that.  In addition to Google Glass we are seeing the debut of the smartwatch.  The Pebble was a very successful kickstarter project, and there are rumours about an upcoming Apple smartwatch.  There are also fitness products such as the Fitbit and the Nike Fuelband.

Wearable computing has been around for a long time – perhaps dating back to an abacus worn around someone’s neck.  One of the first consumer electronic wearable computers was the calculator watch that first appeared in the 1970’s.

Wearable computers are however becoming more than a standalone device.  These devices are laden with sensors, connected to significant computing power, and connected to the internet.  Which raises all sorts of possibilities for the collection, storage and sharing of many kinds of data.  And not just from 1 person – but from everyone.  Combine that with the internet of things, and we also have the ability to be in constant contact with and have remote control over our stuff – such as our cars, homes, and appliances.

And how long will it be before devices get implanted to correct things like vision problems which are connected?  Or we have the medical equivalent of a “black box” that records and transmits our vital signs?

Deloitte TMT Predictions

Todays’ Slaw post

I just heard Duncan Stewart speak about the Deloitte 2013 TMT predictions at an event held by the London Economic Development Corporation.  A couple of things have been mentioned on Slaw before.  Here are some more things to ponder.

As we start to rely on more data in the cloud, carrier promises for uptime guarantees will be as important as the volume of data on our plans.

The hype over voice and gesture control for PCs and TVs is overblown.  A remote control has an error rate of about 2 per 10,000 uses.  Voice and gesture error rates are currently about 1,000 times higher.  So until that improves dramatically, people will tend to just give up and use a remote.

There is a looming wireless spectrum shortage.  As we get more portable devices downloading and streaming more images and video, speeds will slow dramatically.  In some places in the US it is a problem already, and actual speeds are nowhere near theoretical speeds.  And when demand is greater than supply, price becomes an issue.

The post PC era notion is overblown.  The total install base of PCs is far more than phones and tablets.  Creation is easier on a PC.  And its about the screen size, especially for gaming and video.   2/3 of net traffic is from PCs.  There are also privacy and cultural reasons not to use sensitive stuff in public – like doing your banking on your phone with someone beside you – or looking up medical symptoms.

Phablets not doomed because of their size.  Many people don’t use their phones for voice that much. Phablet sales will be bigger than many think.

What’s ahead for inclusion in their 2014 predictions?  MOOCs.

We’re looking for a better way to do 911

For the London Free Press – March 11, 2013 – read this at

The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) has started a consultation on 911 services in Canada, including digital Next Generation 911 (NG911) services.

Digital adds new capabilities but also requires careful thought. The very essence of 911 services is public safety, routinely dealing with life and death situations. So the common commercial refrain of just ship it, it’s good enough, isn’t an option.

This consultation is part of a national approach to gather information from many sources to decide on future directions. Many entities will respond — public safety organizations, first-responder organizations and different levels of government have shown interest. The Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group is co-ordinating a response on behalf of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and Paramedic Chiefs of Canada.

Today, 911 services are strictly voice based. In an emergency, we call 911 and describe the problem to an operator who gathers the necessary information and dispatches the appropriate responders.

The 911 system is designed to know where we’re calling from, which helps speed responses and locate the caller when the caller may be unsure of, or not be able to, describe their location. Knowing the caller’s location has been a challenge in recent years, as that is not as easily done for cellphones or VoIP calls.

One issue being looked at is how NG911 services can address the location issue.

New issues to consider include text-based 911. Should NG911 accept text messaging (other than from the planned hearing impaired service)? More and more people are relying on texting as a communication method. But voice communication can be quicker and clearer, and it helps that 911 operators can sense the tone of the caller.

Should 911 accept photos and video from callers? Having a photo, for instance,of a fire or a car crash might be valuable information for both the operator and first responders.

But how would 911 operators cope with a deluge of photos or videos if many people submit them at once for the same incident? Valuable time could be wasted looking at them all. And consider the liability concerns if out of the images and video submitted there was one that if viewed could have made a difference to somebody’s life, but was not reviewed because of the quantity?

NG911 might be able to solve some existing issues such as pocket dialing. The 911 centres handle far too many accidental 911 calls, which cause a significant workload. For most people, getting a pocket-dialed call where there is no one on the line is a brief annoyance. But a 911 operator can’t just ignore such a call. It could be from someone in an emergency situation who is unable to speak or continue with the call, so each call must be investigated.

In the end, the conversion of 911 to NG911 has the potential to provide better and more efficient 911 service.

The conversion does, however, require careful thought, testing and incremental feature adoption to ensure that it remains reliable.

Mobile World Congress under way – phablet anyone?

Today’s Slaw post:

The wireless industry has a trade show this time each year in Barcelona.  Cellphone manufacturers announce their newest tech at the show. 

Phablets are a big trend.  Several are included in this CNET slideshow of phones that were introduced.  Phablets are smartphones with screens between 5 and 7 inches that are half way between a phone and tablet.  So think of them as either smartphones with huge screens – or small tablets that can make phone calls.

Many people ridicule phablets by saying that you would look stupid holding it up to your ear to make a phone call.  But the reality is that (a) a significant number of smartphone users don’t use them for voice much, and (b) it is easy to use them as a speaker phone or a Bluetooth or wired headset if you want to make a call.  There may indeed be a significant market for phablets for those who don’t want to carry around both a full size tablet and a smartphone.

This year included the announcement of new  operating systems.  With the hold that Apple, Android, Blackberry and Microsoft have on phone OS’s, that may be a tough sell.

Digital shift puts analogue in museums

For the London Free Press – February 25, 2013 – Read this at

Over the last decade, we have been in the midst of an extraordinary technological revolution: the switch from analogue to digital.

Though this shift has been rapid, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology and devices that are bound to change our lives.

A few short years ago, it was unthinkable that every household would not have a landline telephone. Now, the landline represents one of the final staples of the analogue world. It’s likely that no one under the age of 25 will ever have one.

In the corporate world, desktop phones are facing the same doomed fate as companies try to become more efficient and productive. The use of programs such as Skype for long distance telephony is one example.

Traditional business phone technology suppliers are being replaced in the digital world by companies such as Microsoft, whose Lync product offers integration of traditional phone use with other platforms such as e-mail and document management systems.

The shift from analogue to digital television appears to be almost complete. Big box tube TV’s and rabbit ears have been replaced by sleek and thin HDTVs and PVRs, giving the consumer access to hundreds of channels and endless content on demand.

With the possibilities offered on the Internet, these changes have forced traditional telephone and TV providers to increase their investment from not only controlling the distribution of content but to owning and controlling the content itself. For example, two of Canada’s biggest corporate rivals, Bell and Rogers, did the once unthinkable and became partners in the ownership of the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The move to digital has led to possibilities such as unified communications where different communication modes can be consolidated on almost any platform in almost any location using a myriad of different devices.

Consumers are starting to expect that if they purchase certain content it be freely available on all of their devices. For example, movie fans who subscribe to Netflix or hockey fans that subscribe to the NHL’s Gamecentre Live expect to be able to access these services at anytime and anywhere whether it’s on their televisions, computers, tablets, cellphones, or gaming devices (such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii).

The Internet of things will mean more devices will talk to us and with each other. And wearable computing is here — such as the Pebble watch, and Google’s project glass.

The Pebble Watch is a ground-breaking device that uses interface of a wristwatch as a control and display device for a smart phone. Google’s Project Glass will integrate smartphone technology into eye wear and operate through voice commands.

The digital revolution is still in its infancy. More interoperability and uses will develop The direction communication and the consumption of information and entertainment will take is clear — but details are not.