Technology Frontiers, Part 2: IoT and Voice Recognition

We previously wrote about some of the technology frontiers we are exploring, and described three that are exciting:

  • 3D Printing
  • Clustered Computing
  • Latest Applications, Operating Systems, and Devices

But much like exploring a new area untouched before, we have two more that are both exciting and showing real promise for the future of technology and how it affects our lives.  These are the Internet of Things (IoT) and Voice Recognition, especially when paired with artificial intelligence and machine learning.   We describe both of these in this article.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet was originally an environment where we hooked our computers to the internet provider and started using email or the world wide web (WWW). Humans were clicking links, watching a video, and sending an email. We initiated the majority of traffic by our explicit and direct actions, predominately in a web browser.

But the use of the Internet as a super-highway for information has changed: now devices and things are generating most of the traffic that is zipping through our data lines. In fact, Cisco did a study that estimated that “Data created by IoT devices will hit 507.5 ZB per year by 2019, up from 134.5 ZB in 2014.” (source: ZdNet Article: http://www.zdnet.com/article/cloud-traffic-to-surge-courtesy-of-iot-says-cisco/). In case you are wondering, a “ZB” is a Zetabyte, or 1 billion terabytes – and that is a lot!

So what is the Internet of Things (hereafter abbreviated “IoT”)?  It is the accumulation of the devices that are connected to the internet and generating (and sending) or receiving data.  It is sometime analogous to Machine to Machine communication (M2M, no humans involved).  Some examples:

  • Your cell phones’ GPS coordinates while you are using maps
  • A Nest thermostat in your home that you can connect to and raise the temperature, and which “learns” your life’s patterns to automatically start managing the system based on your history.
  • A location based tracking beacon to show you where your keys were left behind.
  • Public trash cans that use real-time data collection and alerts to let municipal services know when a bin needs to be emptied.
  • Wireless sensors embedded within concrete foundations to ensure the integrity of a structure; these sensors provide load and event monitoring both during and after construction.
  • Activity sensors placed on an elderly loved one that monitor daily routines and give peace of mind for their safety by alerting you to any serious disruptions detected in their normal schedule.
  • And so many more…

In every case it is some device that is communicating data, not a person directly doing so.

Based on the utility as well as the total data being collected, we can quickly see where this can explode.  Instead of you personally collecting and transmitting data, a device will do this for you. It is in effect what everybody dreams about when you think that your refrigerator will send a list to the local grocery store for items to replenish (and by the way Amazon now offers a “Dash button” that is designed to order some common household items at the push of a button).

Voice Recognition

We are using Voice Recognition more and more every day, in applications like Apple Siri or Google Now, or when we call into an automated messaging attendant at an insurance company and say our date of birth or policy # to a computer, or use voice to text capabilities. You have likely used one of these recently, but never really thought about it. It has become commonplace, but is expanding to be an option of choice for interacting with data.

Like most people, I interact with a lot of email; usually between 100-200 legitimate emails per day that are critical.  Although I am sitting at a PC, I tend to grab my iPhone and use the microphone key to answer emails using my voice.  A quick press and I am orally stating my response, or sending a new email.  I also use Dragon products on both Windows and Macintosh OSX to generate larger documents.  In fact, this article is about 95% voice generated on a Windows laptop with Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I use it to dictate the text, select text and apply formatting like bold or italics, and other advanced capabilities.  I confess that I do not type very well (if only I would have joined the mostly female typing class in my high school!), so the ability to use my voice is a tremendous advantage. It is not only a convenience; it is a huge productivity boost; I have generated documents of thousands of words in an afternoon.

And while I love the ability to simply state my words and see them appear in an email or Word document, when I see them combined with artificial intelligence such as Siri or Microsoft Cortana, it provides a truly personal digital assistant – one that knows what I am looking for. Here are some examples.

  • On my iPhone, I long press the home button and Siri pops up, and I say “When do the Cleveland Browns play?”, and Siri responds orally and on screen with the opponent and date/time of the next game.
  • Voice recognition in CortanaOn my Windows 10 PC I ask the same question and Cortana (the Microsoft voice persona) answers the same basic info, but on screen she also shows the probability of victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers at a 70.2% chance today. And by the way, Cortana has been 140-84 through 16 NFL weeks.
  • On my Windows PC, I can ask “what documents did I work on today?” with my voice, and see a list of everything.
  • On my iPad, I can ask “What is my schedule tomorrow?” and see and hear a list of my appointments.
  • On almost any device, I can ask, “what is the temperature over the next 3 days?” and get a nice forecast for the next three days (it is getting colder…brrr…).
  • On my iPhone, I long press the home button, and say “Remind me to let the dogs in in 10 minutes” and a reminder is created that dutifully goes off 10 minutes later.
  • On my Android tablet I say “Ok Google”. Then “email to John Smith”, “subject Client X need”, “Message We need to call them back today” and it sends an email with that info to John on my team.

In other words, I can ask questions that are personal to me (what is my schedule?) or from my world (“what is the temperature over the next three days?”) and get a context specific reply. Or I can give instructions to do something I need (“remind me in 10 minutes to let the dogs in”).  It seems like I am asking a human who knows what I want, and they give me a reply that is appropriate for the context in which I asked.

These functions are easy to use, and I highly recommend that you try them out.  If you want a place to start, try one of the following:

  • On your Windows 10 PC, click the Cortana microphone and says “Help Me Cortana”, she will show a list of suggested capabilities to get you started.
  • Try the same thing on your iPhone, hold down the home button until it responds, and says “Help me Siri” to get a list of suggested actions (you can also configure it to respond to “Hey Siri).
  • On an Android device, try saying “Ok Google”, then say “help”

What you can see is that your devices can interact with you on your terms.  It is not perfect, sometimes we see the famous and usually funny (and sometimes embarrassing) auto-correct responses when we use our voice, but overall it is really working quite well.

Summary of Technology Frontiers

There are waves of technology shifts that represent new frontiers for users and business organizations, and each represents some questions: What is this?  How can it help me?  What are the risks? We are looking at these so you know we have an eye on what may make a difference for you!

This week, some of us from Keystone will be at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which is the largest expo of technology directed at consumers and organizations that serve them.  We are excited to continue to dig in and see what is coming down the road that will affect all of our lives!

Can the iPad Pro Work for Business Use?

Apple introduced the iPad Pro this week and states that it “lets you be more creative and more productive — at a whole new scale.”  The size of the screen on the new Pro model is 12.9” diagonally, making it bigger than the 12” MacBook laptop Apple introduced in April, 2015, and sporting a total surface area of 104 square inches, compared to the previous top of the line iPad Air 2 at 62 square inches (an increase of 167%).  All that says this new iPad Pro is BIG.  It is thin, thinner than original iPad from 5 years ago, but about the same weight at 1.57lbs.

In calling it the iPad Pro, Apple is positioning it as a professional system and more capable of creating content than previous iPads.  You may think the “Pro” moniker is referring to graphic designers, especially when you include the pencil.  But the vendors that came on stage at the launch were Microsoft to demo Office applications, and Adobe for document layout and image editing. Adobe even added their typeface library in the tools they were showing off, something they have never included in a mobile device. These are office PC type use cases, and have traditionally been done on a Mac OSX or Microsoft Windows based system.

Personal note: I have carried an iPad almost daily since 2010, and have had 4 different models.  I have 4 external Bluetooth keyboards and several styluses.  I use it for real work.  But the question is, can the iPad Pro work for business use?  Could it be my only device I carry, and leave the laptop at home?  Is the iPad Pro a possible replacement for your laptop with a traditional PC operating system? I do not think so, and here are five reasons why.

Applications are always a single document interface

Microsoft demonstrated the three office apps we most use to do professional content creation work: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  They showed the ability to copy and paste between them to create content that looked awesome.  But most users do not work with these applications like this – they tend to work in one of them and have two or more windows open at the same time, for example two Word documents at the same time, to allow comparing, referencing, copy and paste, etc.  This is not possible on an IOS based iPad Pro, where only one instance of Word can be open, hence only one Word document. So the way most people work is not supported.

Lack of a document centric file system

Apple’s IOS does not have Apple Finder or Windows File Explorer, instead each application can see its files but not another application’s files.  I have noted that most users group files together in a way that does not have anything to do with the applications they use.  They have a folder for a client, or a project, or a fiscal year – not folders for Word docs, Excel docs, etc. While the application’s support folders in the cloud, like OneDrive or Dropbox) that can mimic this topic centric organization, the local device does not do that, and there is no native way to search and store documents this way. Once again, the way most people work is not natively supported.

Usability Issues when Creating Content with a Keyboard

While I have not tried the new iPad Pro, I have tried similar keyboard and stands with an iPad.  The Apple Smart Keyboard costs $169, but has two flaws compared to other options: there is only one viewing angle (and the top of the keyboard is right against the screen), and it would not work well on a lap.  I think of two uses:

  • Walk in to a coffee shop or conference room and get to work on a table – the viewing angle and usability of the keyboard and screen angle is severely limited, especially when compared to a MacBook or MacBook Air, or even a Surface Pro 3. Long stretches of work can become uncomfortable.
  • Sit in a chair or on a couch and try to use it on your lap – the way the iPad Pro keyboard is designed I suspect there will be usability limitations here, and the potential to tip over especially when you have to use your finger or Apple Pencil on the screen.  A traditional laptop like a MacBook does not suffer from this, and even a Surface Pro 3 with the kickstand is usable.

For these reasons, I suspect the usability of the iPad Pro is less than desired. Other vendors like Logi or Zagg will no doubt provide options for the iPad which may improve this.

Lack of a Mouse or Track Pad Pointing Device

One of my complaints over the years is lack of mouse or track pad support on an iPad. I would not use it often, but there are two places I would love the capability if my iPad was the only device I carried. The first is the selection of text and objects on the screen.  Selecting text is tedious task in IOS, with tapping and holding, zooming the area, moving the finger, and then doing it all over again at the other end. And far too often it loses its anchor point and you have to start over. It would be far easier to simply move a mouse, click and drag, and be done with it.  The same is true of resizing objects, like an image embedded in a Word document. The second use for a mouse is when I connect to a remote system using a tool like Jump Desktop or Wyse PocketCloud.  I cannot expect to have everything I need when on the road with an iPad, so applications like Microsoft Project or Visio, or even opening shared Calendars in Outlook are only possible if I connect back to a remote system where these are installed. But when I connect from my iPad, I have to use odd ways to select menu options, select text, etc.  A mouse would make it far easier.  I love that the iPad works so well without a mouse, except for where it doesn’t, and for that reason a traditional laptop is a better professional tool.

When fully outfitted, cost and payload approaches small laptop devices.

In order to get the full benefit of the iPad Pro, you would need the iPad Pro, the keyboard, and the Apple Pencil.  You still will not have any of the things I listed previously, but you will have some tools that help. But now you have more to carry and more to pay for.  A quick review of the payload, the cost, and some key capabilities is below. I have all of these devices, except the iPad Pro (but do have an iPad Air 2).

  iPad Pro (128Gb WiFi Model) 2015 MacBook 12” (1.1Ghz, 256Gb HD) Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Intel I5, 256Gb HD)

Weight (with keyboard and Pen or Pencil)? 1.88Lbs

(iPad = 1.57 and estimated keyboard and pen at 5Ozs)

2.03Lbs 2.43Lbs
Total Cost (with keyboard and Pen or Pencil) $1,217 $1,299 $1,279 (currently on sale)
Multiple viewing Angles when propped up by keyboard hinge or kickstand? No Yes Yes
Can work on lap? Unknown / Not well Very well Acceptable
Multiple documents open concurrently? No Yes Yes
File System to collect documents by topic? No Yes Yes
Mouse or Trackpad? No Yes Yes

 

So, Can the iPad Pro Work for Business Use?

In many respects you are paying the same and carrying very close to the same when using an iPad Pro as you would using a MacBook 12” or Surface Pro 3.  I think the iPad Pro is limited in key areas of productivity compared to the other two devices, and for that reason I do not recommend consideration as the only device you would carry when leaving home for a day of traditional knowledge worker tasks like Word Processing, etc.

 

 

 

Charging MacBook with an External Battery Pack

Apple’s newest MacBook, the 12″ model released in April of 2015 (and simply called the “MacBook”) offers amazing portability, acceptable performance, and decent battery life.  Where “decent” means I will be sweating around 4pm because I am not certain I will get through the rest of the meeting. I decided to test the MacBook with some external batteries to understand if they would be of help.

Background on the MacBook and Charging Options

I was excited to get the new MacBook, adding it to a mobile technology arsenal that includes a 13″ 2014 MacBook Air, a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, a Microsoft Surface Pro 1, an Apple iPad Air 2, and a Samsung Note 10.1 tablet running Android. Three of these can be charged from an external battery that has a USB port and the appropriate cable (the MacBook, iPad Air 2, and Android tablet). The MacBook Air 13 is the battery king among the group: it wins out at around 13 hours of regular usage so it easily goes all day (in fact I often leave the charger at home). Next up is the iPad Air 2 and Samsung Note 10.1 – each is around 10 hours. The Surface Pros are both capable of getting through lunch, but die sometime in the afternoon unless they are charged up.

When I ordered the MacBook, I was excited about the smaller size and weight (2 lbs!), but not as excited by the published battery life of up to 9 hours.  Apple has always been good about exceeding the rated battery life, but 9 hours may create an issue towards the end of the work day for me (yes, I know, first world problems).   The main issue the MacBook has which reduces battery life is the high resolution retina display, which at 2340×1440 pixels requires a lot more power to drive than the MacBook Air 13 with its larger battery and 1440×900 resolution.  While I appreciate the nicer screen images and font displays, I would be fine with a lower resolution and longer battery life.

The MacBook’s battery is a 5674 milliamp model, and the included standard charger is a 39-watt model.  Apple has foregone the usual proprietary MagSafe charger connections on this new machine.  Because they were proprietary, third party providers of power adapters or battery packs are few and far between, limiting user’s choices almost exclusively to Apple’s offerings.

 

What’s different about the MacBook that allows external battery chargers?

But the new MacBook uses an industry standard connector, the USB-C, to charge, so any manufacturer can offer something that could power or charge the MacBook (or connect it to a display, add a third party device, etc.).  This also allows third party external batteries that have USB ports and were originally developed to recharge a cell phone or tablet while on the go.  There is a wide variety of these, a search of Amazon or BestBuy reveals numerous choices from many manufacturers and of various sizes, shapes, capacity, and features.

I decided to test two of these batteries to see if I could eek out a little more time and get the new MacBook to a fuller day of work.

Tested External Batteries

I tried two external batteries, both ordered from Amazon based on descriptions and reviews there.

Anker 13000 External Battery

Anker 13000 External Battery

The first was an Anker second edition, model E4 (Amazon Link).  This one has a very low price at $29.99 and comes with a nice carrying case.  With 13,000 milliamps, it is weighs 10.4 ounces. but feels like carrying around a small brick; it just weighs more than expected when I pick it up. The shape is fine for sliding in a bag, but do not expect to fit it in a standard pocket anywhere.

The second is an Unu Ultrapack (Amazon Link), and at $99.99 it costs a lot more than the Anker, and weighs a bit less at 8.5 ounces.  That is almost 2 ounces, but means the Unu weighed about 80% of what the Anker E4 did. The difference is noticeable when both are picked up.  The shape is also smaller, and does fit into a bag better, or even a larger pocket (thank you

Unu 10,000 External Battery Pack

Unu 10,000 External Battery Pack

SCOTTeVEST!).  But the Unu also has a lower charge capacity, with only 10,000 milliamps.  This is about 80% of the Anker, so the reason for the weight and size difference is pretty obvious.

 

The Unu does offer one thing the Anker does not: a much faster recharge time (the time the battery takes to charge, not the time it would charge a connected device). The Anker uses a standard micro-USB connector, while the Anker uses a wall adapter and proprietary connector that can deliver more power, thus charging faster. In fact, they advertise that it can go from 0-100% in 30 minutes.  My testing did not match that (it was close), but there was no match between it and the Anker, which after took overnight and a bit into the morning to fully charge from an empty state. That could be very handy if the Unu could do the basic job. I also liked that the Unu has a digital output of percentage it holds, but the Anker’s 4 LED lights (0-25%, 25-50%, etc.) are serviceable for most users. Also from a features standpoint, both devices offered an LED flashlight, a nice touch.

There was one feature difference that I found important to note.  The Anker has two auto sensing USB ports, meaning that they could charge at 1 amp (suitable for a phone device), or 2.5 amps (targeted at a larger device like an iPad).  While 1 amp can charge an iPad, it is a slow go, so a 2.5 amp trickle is far more effective. The Unu also has two ports, but they are not auto sensing, so while each is marked (1 amp or 2.5 amps), you have to think about which port to use. With the Anker, you do not have to think about it, just plug it in and charge.  (Note Anker calls this “Power IQ”, and actually rates the output at 3 amps).

Results of Tests of Features and Charging  MacBook with the External Battery Packs

Charging MacBook Performance and Testing Methodology

This is the key issue: can it charge the 2015 MacBook 12″ model?  If it cannot do this effectively, why bother?

To test the charge capability of each battery, I ran the MacBook down to 25% battery capacity.  This simulates how my day goes, because when it gets here I start thinking about my schedule and options. Then in each test, I left the MacBook turned on, but closed the lid which puts it to sleep, then I connected the battery pack being tested and set a timer of 30 minutes.  I followed 30 minute intervals in which I opened the lid slightly and checked the battery %,  and then closed it again, and noted the % on the external battery. I followed this course until I had either charged the MacBook fully, or had completely drained the battery pack. In order to understand the scenario I face without the battery pack, I ran the same test with the Apple supplied AC adapter.  I used the same USB to USB-C cable in all tests, so the cable would not affect anything. I also ran the tests a second time with almost identical results, so I omitted the second results in all cases to make the information simpler to follow.

I did not test either battery while using the MacBook, I may at some future point.

The results were interesting, and can be seen below in a table and a chart.

Source AC Charger Unu Ultrapack Anker 2nd ed Astro E4
MaH N/A 10,000 13,000
Cost N/A $99.99 $29.99
Weigh (oz) N/A 8.5 10.4
Time in minutes
0 24% 25% 25%
30 56% 33% 37%
60 87% 40% 48%
90 100% 48% 59%
120 56% 70%
150 62% 81%
180 92%
210 99%

MacBook Charging Chart

Interpretation of Results

The AC adapter charged the MacBook from 25% to 100% in less than 90 minutes (the chart has an odd bend, but it was linear, and probably finished at around 70 minutes).

The Anker was able to fully charge, but took every ounce of the 13,000 milliamps.  It was tapped out at 0% when the MacBook reached 99%, and took 3.5 hours to get there.  It never got to 100%.

The Unu was not able to get beyond 62%.

Features Comparison

In terms of features, I found the Anker more compelling, while I would appreciate the percentage display available on the Unu, the Anker’s auto sensing ports was a winner for me.

Other Comparisons

The charge time of the batteries themselves varies greatly (how long does it take to charge an Anker or an Unu, not how long it takes to charge the device it in turn charges).  The Unu charges all the way in under an hour, the Anker takes about 8-10 hours.  This could be a serious issue, although the non-proprietary charging port on the Anker is helpful.

The only other issue was weight and size; in this case the Unu wins the head to head because it better meets a desire to stay light and quick.  

Summary of Charging MacBook with a Battery Pack

The only option I see between these is the Anker.  The Unu is nice, but cannot charge the MacBook to the degree I would like. If you only want about 40% (which should be about 3 hours of use), then the Unu could work, but I did not see the benefit of it, especially at over three times the cost. That is not to say that the Unu is poor device – it is intended to charge cell phones and tablets, and for that it does a phenomenal job, as does the Anker. But for charging the MacBook, the only reasonable solution between these two is the Anker.

But to be fair, when you consider that the MacBook is attractive to many because of how light and portable it is, it may not even make any sense to carry an external battery.  If the Anker is the best choice (and for the goal I had it is for me), the 10.4 ounces adds over ½ pound to the load and extra bulk. At that point, the MacBook 13 may be the better option to carry when on the go.

Other Info:

I found this article helpful on 9 to 5 Mac.

Adding your Exchange Account on your iPhone or iPad

One of the most popular email platforms in the world is Microsoft Exchange; many corporations use this for their email, calendaring, contacts, etc. Many users will not realize they are actually using this because what they see on their computer screen on a Windows PC is usually Microsoft Outlook.  You may open up Microsoft Outlook and be in it all day and not realize that all of your data is actually stored on a Microsoft Exchange server.

Thankfully Microsoft Exchange is widely used, and not only works extremely well with Microsoft Outlook as you would expect, but it also allows users to connect from Apple’s IOS based devices, such as the iPhone and the iPad.

In this document will take you through the steps to add your Microsoft exchange account to your Apple device. You may find this helpful in case you have to get a new phone or tablet and would like to quickly get connected and stay productive using your brand-new tool!

The screenshots shown below were all done on an Apple iPhone, the screen may look slightly different but be very similar on iPad.

Step 1:  Begin the Process in Settings

On your Apple device open the settings application which looks like a small gear and is usually found on the first page of your apps. After you’ve open this scroll down and find the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”, when you have located that, tap it with your finger or stylus.  (Figure 1).

Apple IOS iPhone iPad Exchange Email Setup

Figure 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: In the screen that shows up (Figure 2), select “Add Account”.

Apple IOS iPhone iPad Exchange Email Setup

Figure 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3: Select Exchange as your New account (Figure 3).

Apple IOS iPhone iPad Exchange Email Setup

Figure 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Enter your Exchange Server Credentials (Figure 4).

You will be asked to enter your email access credentials. This usually works just fine to enter the following.

  1. Your Email address
  2. Your password – the same password you use to login on your work PC everyday.
  3. A description – this is set to default as “Exchange” and it can stay this way, or you can set it to something more personal like “Midwest Exchange” if you like. It will show up in your email iPhone or iPad email application. There is no wrong answer here but you must provide something if you are changing it from “Exchange”.

When you have completed this, tap the word “Next” in the upper right corner.

If your credentials were accepted in Step 4, you will see the screen for step 5 that allows you to select which items will be synced to your device.  If the credentials were not accepted, you will be shown a screen that asks for more information.  You may enter the fields on this screen, or tap “Cancel” in the upper left corner which takes you back to step 3. When you return to this step, re-enter the information and pay special attention to the email address and password.

Apple IOS iPhone iPad Exchange Email Setup

Figure 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Configure the Items to Sync

The screen in Figure 5 has options for the various items that Exchange is storing for you.  You can move the slider bar to the right for any data type you want to sync and have available on your device. In the example shown, we are syncing Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and Notes.  Reminders (which are Outlook tasks) are not being synced.

When you have configured the options the way you like, tap the word “Save” in the upper right corner.

Apple IOS iPhone iPad Exchange Email Setup

Figure 5


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6: Verify Account Exists

When you complete Step 5, you will be shown a screen similar to Figure 6. It will show the name of the account you created (“Exchange” in our example), and the lists of the things that are being synced.

Your account is now operational and opening the mail, calendar, contacts, or other apps that were set to sync should begin to show you the data.  Note that you must be connected to the Internet or internal corporate network to be able to start syncing, and it may take a few minutes to show email, etc.

Apple IOS iPhone iPad Exchange Email Setup

Figure 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 7: Set your Default Account for Email and Calendars (if needed)

If you already have an email account setup (like Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) then you will need to set the default account that applications (like the Safari web browser use when you share something via email. Additionally, if you are already syncing a calendar you will likely want to set the fault calendar to use when creating a new appointment, to ensure it shows up on your work Exchange calendar.

  1. To do this, repeat step 1 above, but scroll down to the second mail section, and look for the option that says “Default Account”. Tap this and choose the account name you gave in step 4, or of you did not change it, it will say “Exchange”.  Then tap “<Mail…” in the upper left corner.
  2. Now scroll down to the bottom, and under the section titled “CALENDARS”, set the default calendar to the “Exchange” calendar similar to how you set the default email above.

Note that these two steps are only needed if you already have a mail server setup (like Yahoo), or a calendar setup (like Google Calendar), otherwise you can skip this last step.

 

 

 

Shared Calendars in IOS on iPads and iPhones

We all need to collaborate with others; it is a fact of life in a world where we specialize and are so connected electronically to others, requiring us to share our thoughts and work as we rely on each other.  One way we stay connected is through time based interactions with each other, and that is aided by sharing our calendars.  We share our schedules with others and they do so with us so we can see availability and agree on a time that mutually works. At Keystone, we have moved many of our new clients over the years to an Exchange mail server with Microsoft Outlook, and one of the great benefits they enjoy is the ability to have shared calendars on that platform.

In a post-PC, mobile first world, there is a necessity to still be able to do this. But Apples’s IOS operating system for mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad, does not support syncing with another user’s shared calendar. You can see your calendar, but not a co-worker’s.  This may stop users from adopting and using these convenient devices, and we wanted to remedy that. We searched quite a bit and a solution was not apparent, but we were able to make it work.

In the app store on Apple iPads and iPhones, there is an app called CalendarOne, and it comes with an eval version and a paid version (now $9.99).  The evaluation version allows you to sync one other user’s calendar, and is limited to 7 days into the  future; the paid version removes this and also allows another in-app purchase which syncs automatically.

I downloaded the evaluation copy and set it up, but it did not work. The publisher, Networks 22 Limited, is aware of the issue and posted a set of steps that seem odd, in which you must stop syncing all calendars (Exchange, Google, etc.) and then re-sync them.  I followed it numerous times, but it was not reliable.  I then uninstalled the app and re-installed, stopped syncing my Exchange calendar (that was my only synced calendar), and set up a shared calendar through the CalendarOne app.  Finally I saw my coworker’s calendar on my iPad.  I then re-synced my personal Exchange calendar, and saw both my calendar and my coworkers in the same place.  Now I could actually work to schedule meetings!  I then purchased the paid version so I could add more coworkers, and a longer future period to sync.  I added another user and did not see them in my calendar.  Hmmm….I then went back to square one, and deleted the app, all calendars, and stopped syncing.  I reinstalled the paid version, added three co-workers, and saw all three – progress!  I then re-synced my personal Exchange calendar, and saw both my calendar and my coworkers – success!

CalendarOne on iPad Shared Calendar List

It looks like CalendarOne creates new local calendars on the iPad, and syncs the data from my coworkers’ shared Exchange calendar to my iPad, prefixing each entry with the user’s name in brackets.  This and color allows me to see whose schedule may be in conflict when I view it.  Note that I cannot edit any changes on my co-worker’s calendar, but I do not need to do that; I suspect a straight sync would work fine for that.

Here is what I see now, mine and a co-worker named Brian.

CalendarOne Shared Calendars Screenshot

The solution is well thought out given IOS’s native calendar limitations.  I will not use it everyday, but will a couple of times per month.  In the past, I maintained a server with Outlook installed that I would remotely connect to in order to see others’ calendar, now I can do it right on the device.

Thanks Networks 22 Limited!

Apple dominating early Smartwatch Interest

It appears that Apple has grabbed the mindshare of people’s interest in Smartwatches.  While Android wear, including watches from Samsung, Motorola, and LG have been on the market for a year, and the crowd-source favorite Pebble has had a presence since 2013, many people waited, and are waiting, for an Apple Smartwatch.

I would expect Apple’s entry to legitimatize the device segment, and actually create new opportunities for both Android and Pebble, and eventually follow a pattern closer to the phone platforms, so that Android smartwatch market share will reflect the Android market share in phones, and Apple will do the same.

The following data is from a survey performed by the 451 Alliance, an Information Technology research firm.

Smartwatch Vendor choice.

Apple Watch Update 1.01

Apple just released the first update to the Apple Watch, taking it from version 1.0 to version 1.01.  I just installed it by using the Watch app on the iPhone, which downloaded the 51.6Mb file and then installed it to the watch.  There were no issues and it took about 25 minutes from start to finish. For some reason the download from Apple took longer than expected, but otherwise it worked very well. Apple Watch 1.01 Update

Apple published some update notes, which include the following improvements:

  • Siri
  • Measuring stand activity
  • Calculating calories for activities like indoor cycling and rowing
  • Distance and pace for outdoor walk and run workouts (I noticed this did not work as expected when I took a walk this past weekend, it did not record any activity though I walked about 30 minutes).
  • Accessibility
  • Third Party Apps – not sure what this is, but some apps are very slow to load (for more on this see this link). 

There are also some additional languages now supported.

And while the release notes did not mention it, the calendar app is now bolder and easier to read, and scrolls similar to what you may see when reviewing the day’s schedule in a desktop application.  This is more useful on the small screen.

 

Apple Watch Review – Week 2

I have now hit the two week point with my Apple Watch.  I shared my thoughts after a week, and wanted to update you on what else I have encountered with an Apple Watch Review – week 2.

Some good stuff

The watch continues to do a great job at numerous things, among them:

  • I used a Golf app (FunGolf) and played a round.  For the first 2 holes it gave a glimpse at the possibilities of using a watch for such an activity. I was able to leave my phone in the cart or in my pocket and just glance at the watch for distance to the green.  Then it stopped working.  I contacted tech support for FunGolf and they said they had a known bug, but are releasing an update.  I will try that again.
  • I did a phone call while on the course with our project manager, and at the end of the call I asked him how the quality of the call was, my voice, etc. and he said it was good.  Up to that point, he had no idea I was in a cart.
  • The navigation works very well.  I tried two things:
    • Asking Siri on the watch for directions to a nearby church: no problem and gave me directions quickly.
    • Setting a destination on the phone and since the watch was connected, I kept getting little wrist taps and an indicator to turn left, right, etc. When I parked the car and started walking, the navigation switched from driving to walking directions automatically, and as I walked the 2 blocks with a turn, the watch led me right to the restaurant for lunch.
  • I paired a blue tooth stereo ear bud set (Jaybird Bluebuds X) to the watch to test using local music and other functions.  The music sounds great as expected, but music controls are limited to play/pause, previous song, and next song.
  • Continue to track my activity.  I used the workout mode for a long walk on Saturday, and it dutifully recorded more info.  I think it used more battery during this period, and I am not sure I see an advantage, as it is always tracking activity anyway, but I will try it again.

Some not so good stuff

In the not so good category, I was surprised by the following things.

  • There seems to be no way to start a call on the watch using a paired blue tooth headset.  I can answer a call that way, but not initiate one.
  • The ear bud controls do not work the same as on the iPhone or iPad.  On those devices I can double tap the middle button on the ear buds and go to the next song, three taps for back, etc. That just wants to do a redial when connected to the watch.  I will play some more with that, but so far I am disappointed. In fact the overall value of Bluetooth ear buds is pretty low with these limitations.
  • Third party applications seem slow and buggy so far.  The golf app, a small bible verse app, and Cyclemeter are slow to load and slow to respond when compared to Apple native apps like calendar, etc. This may be due to developers having limited exposure to the actual hardware, so I hope that gets better quickly.

 

Overall I still think it a good – very good purchase.  One thing I realized when considering the value: it is a watch.   That seems obvious, but consider what we expect of watches – we glance at them and get a tidbit of info, and move on to daily life.  The Apple Watch just gives me more to glance at, and I find that helpful.

 

 

Apple Watch Review – Week 1

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

I have had my Apple Watch for a week now, and wanted to share some first impressions. In no specific order, here is a quick Apple Watch review.

The watch is lighter than expected for the size. I have the 42mm sport version, and while it is larger than a traditional men’s Movada that I have been wearing, it is lighter.  It feels natural on the wrist.

I like the sport band, more than I thought I would.  Even before I ordered the watch I had already ordered an adapter to use standard bands, but the sport band is very comfortable. The genius part is how it hooks and then tucks under so easily; why no other watch manufacturer ever did this is beyond me, but it is slick.

The battery life is amazing.  As I write this I am at 55% at 9:42pm and have been using the watch since about 7:30am.  I have done dozens of texts, responded to alerts, took a long walk and use the activity recording features, used it for directions to a client,  and even did a phone call with it. When I ordered it, I also ordered a second charge cable, but have not even even worried about it to this point. I have heard of some getting 1.5 days out of it.  Why can’t all electronic producers be like Apple and under-promise and over-deliver?

The most handy feature that is making a difference for me is the activity tracking and alerts about progress towards goals. I listened to a podcast that said the watch was not a must have yet, and to wait for version 2 or 3, but that means you would wait 1-2 years or more to get the health benefits.  I am not going to live long enough to wait, so let’s get it on now!  I tend to look at that little gauge of activity goals and respond with more activity.

Siri works phenomenally well. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the playoffs, and I wanted to know what time the game was starting.  If I were using my phone to check that, I tend to open a web browser and search.  But with the watch, there is no web browser.  So I just long hold the crown button and it prompts me to speak my command and I say “What time do the Cavs play tonight” and in a moment the answer is displayed with the channel, the series win-loss stats, etc. Perfect.

And finally, the fact that I can just leave my phone in my pocket and still get things done is great – as I mentioned, texting, accepting calendar invites, following somebody on Twitter is all very convenient.

I am liking it.

Mini Connected – Connected On the Road

  When I needed a new car a couple of years ago, I thought carefully about what would work best for me. My last three cars had been Cadillac STS models, and while I love the ride, the technology was starting to fall behind and how I would use a car. I carefully considered what would be the three most important aspects in my next vehicle, and it came down to this:

  • Small and economical – most of the time I’m driving by myself, about 28,000 miles a year, so I just needed enough space for myself, a coffee cup, and my small bag of electronics.
  • Electronically connected – I wanted to make sure that my car supported my smart phone, which at the time was an iPhone 4. I wanted to be able to access the things that were on the phone from the car’s console for a safer drive, and one that was more connected.
  • Fun to drive – it was important to me that my car was performance oriented and a lot of fun to drive on the often two-lane roads that I travel on to clients.

When I considered several cars on the market, the Mini Cooper offered a connected system that would bring my phone to the console, and would be fun to drive, while at the same time being small and economical. I looked at a few different models, and in the end purchased a Mini Cooper Coupe. This is a rare model which they have since discontinued after only about four years of production. It is perfect for me, as it has two seats, is a blast to cruise in especially on curvy roads, and my phone is fully supported in the dash controls and display.

    Since then I’ve logged about 60,000 miles and work my way through three different iPhones as well as a couple of iPads, and an Android phone. The Android phone is not as well supported, but the IOS devices are phenomenal. There are several native applications on IOS that are supported directly in the applications on the console, including Pandora, Mini Connected, Amazon Cloud Player, Spotify, and what has become my favorite, Stitcher. With each of these applications I simply plug my phone in to the USB port, and go to the Mini Connected option in the center console screen. I can then control any of these applications including moving forward and backwards through tracks, finding new content, and even seeing things like my calendar, and latest Facebook and Twitter feeds.

    If you are on the road, and would like to stay connected to the rest of the world while at the same time having a lot of fun, I’m not sure anything could beat this particular car.