Wednesday, September 30

TED@IBM: Technology and Humanity Drive the Future Through the Best Talks

Social business strategist, Bryan Kramer, presenting at TED@IBM in 2014

I have been amused by TED talks over the years, and have learned some interesting points of view within the time I’ve invested in watching them. Some talks are deeply factual (backed with evidence) and others are purely opinion, but all are entertaining. One thing you can definitely count on when seeing these talks is unflagging enthusiasm and a sense of joie de vivre, most importantly, you are left with a feeling of positivity.

Last year I was invited to my very first TED@IBM day. The co-branded event is a partnership between the TED Institute and IBM. It is not a licensed TEDx experience, but a rather an event that is curated, developed, produced, and filmed by the TED Institute. This would be a full on day of fascinating content for sure.

Most TED talks I've seen are from random scientists, artists, inventors and others talking about their work. TED@IBM draws speakers from within IBM’s network of partners, customers, influencers, and thinkers to explore the relationships between technology and humanity.

I was not really sure what to expect, but gratefully accepted the invitation (how I got on the list - I’m still not sure) and made my way to the event. I figured this would be a great opportunity to be exposed to a rich and interactive experience that few are able to attend.

It turned out to be a day of multiple absorbing talks and breaks entwined with very effective, professional presentations. The presentations were all short learning moments wrapped with a clear view to the future. During the breaks, I deliberately set out to meet new people, to chat with them and learn why they were there. It seems the organizers don’t just curate the speakers; the audience is curated as well. The attendees alone are an incredibly diverse group of wicked smart people.

The theme for the 2014 conference was “Re-Imagine Our World.” The list of speakers spanned the gamut from a social business strategist to an Oscar-winning filmmaker to a young woman who at 31 was named an IBM Master Inventor (and holds 70 United States Patents with over 300 pending patent applications).

The brief eight minute talk from Lisa Seacat DeLuca was engaging and more than impressive, she was a genuine person who adapts technology to make real world prototypes of things that will change the future. Although she works for IBM, she suggested that young, independent inventors take their ideas to crowdfunding to bring them to fruition.
“The speed of invention in the future will be as fast as we can dream up ideas. We will be able to use each other’s innovations to test drive ideas.”
It was an inspiring talk and explained the world of cognitive computing through anecdotes and stories. I think you’d enjoy her vision of the future (embedded below).

Positivity was the major influence of the day and I walked away a just little less cynical than before I walked in the door.

When you attend a Ted conference, expect to be exposed to things you may never have thought about like a demonstration of bio-sensing devices that will understand your brain’s plasticity. There will be ideas that will surprise and entertain; but there is very little said that will leave you empty. The TED curators take the form and information behind these talks very seriously.

Now, as an IBM "Futurist" I have once again been invited again to the annual TED@IBM (I must be quite an audience member) and am looking to get a deeper understanding of the subjects at hand. The theme this year is “Necessity and Invention.” I plan to gain a better understanding of evolving and collaborative technology and once again become a even less cynical with a clearer vision of what’s to come in the future.

FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. IBM has hired me as a brand ambassador for this campaign because of my participation in the IBM New Way to Work Futurist Influencer Program. I am not formally employed by IBM. All thoughts and viewpoints are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, September 23

6 Steps to Remove Chaos from Your Work At Home Day

Marsha Collier back in the early 90s © The Collier Company

I've been at this "work from home" thing longer than most. Before I started my online career of writing books and speaking, I ran my own marketing agency for close to 15 years as a single mom. I converted my two-car garage into a dropped-ceiling office with extra electricity, computers, phones and desks.

Back in those days, it wasn't common at all for people to have “home offices.” You had to have an office in a building or storefront and if you weren’t in a proper office, very few would take your enterprise seriously.

One of our clients was the United States Air Force, we had a contract designing magazines (Flying Safety, Road and Rec and the TIG Brief). Before I began that year long project, they sent someone from the Inspector General’s office to check us out and be sure we were a “real” business  because certainly no one could run a business from a garage, right?

I ran my business then as I do now, showing up at my desk every morning (after I took my daughter to school) and locking the office at night. Just as I did when I worked in a corporate environment.

The business was incredibly successful due to the fact that I put every ounce of energy I had (outside of Mom duties) into it. I was successful enough to give it all up to start writing and speaking when offered the opportunity. I learned some hard lessons along the way.  The key to success is developing positive work habits.
  1. Develop routines that work. Life, clients and family all have ways of grabbing your attention, pulling you off task. It may seem inevitable, but it’s not. Take steps to set a schedule. Involve your family too; be clear that the time you’re work hours need to be sacrosanct. By setting (at the very least) some loose schedules; you will feel more in control and laser focused.
  2. Organize your day the night before. Envision how your next work day will function. Lay it all out in your mind or in Evernote without overloading the “to-do” list. I keep a Notepad window on my desktop with notes from the night before and I add to it during the day. Set long range goals during quiet time; take action on them during business hours.
  3. Don’t let email run your life! Have set times in the day when you address your primary mail box. Use filters to segregate the fun stuff. The fun email can be dealt with at the end of the day on your tablet.
  4. Schedule your Social Media time and set controls for notifications. Your concentration won’t be worth spit if you keep hearing pings or getting random texts and calls. If you have a Google Voice number, forward your phones to that number and read the transcriptions of messages when you are ready. Return calls when its not crunch time.
  5. Find apps that save you time.  Technology saves you time, so why not use apps?  I mentioned Evernote above — great one! It helps me organize my thoughts whether I’m at my desk or in line at the market. Consider also Bufferapp to schedule social media posts for sharing and set up PayPal so you can take credit cards (their reports are second to none). Also, using Skype saves you time on quick calls.
  6. Outsource once you can afford it. The entire purpose of your business is to make enough money to keep you and your family comfortable. Expect to do a whole lot of unsexy chores. As soon as you can afford it, the best investment will be someone to do your bookkeeping.
Start with these six routines and they will soon become habits. Positive habits become part of your life and become the difference between winning and failing.

Wednesday, September 2

5 Things You Need to Know About How Your Wireless Network Impacts Your Devices

Its true. Not everyone needs to know what makes their wireless network tick. But if you are an entrepreneur or small business depending on a fast signal, learning the technology behind your network might just make sense. I made this short video to explain the flavors of WiFi, but then I realized that the subject deserves much more explanation. So I wrote the post below to fill in some of the gaps; it will hopefully simplify some of the crazy numbers I was throwing out.

To visually illustrate, Here's how MU-MIMO works:

Next, a chart to illustrate what you need to know about the 802.11 wireless standards:

So who sets these standards and who is the IEEE?

The IEEE is the acronym for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an association founded in 1963 devoted to the advancement and standardization in a wide range of industries.  They named the “alphabet soup” of 802.11 standards for wireless radio-wave technology; WiFi.

Band and Channels: Why does this matter?

Without going into a long tutorial on radio signals, the different communication frequencies (bands or the radio wave spectrum) are assigned by the Federal Communications Commission. For the United States, they decide which frequency ranges can be used for different technologies and by which industry (airlines, medical devices, cellular, public safety, etc.).

Currently in the US, the assigned spectrums for a wireless local network (WLAN) are in the 2.4 GHz to 5 Ghz bands. Within these frequencies there are multiple channels. In the 2.4 band, there are 14 channels (but only 11 are allowed in North America). Of these eleven, there are only 3 that do not overlap on the others: 1, 6 and 11.

When you are setting up your wireless network, or adjusting the channels as you should from time to time, you can see which channels have the highest traffic. Selecting bandwidth is usually done automatically by your router, but some, as in the case of Linksys, the bandwidth can be selected manually if you wish.

Early devices (using 802.11b or g) should use the 20 MHz bandwidth. If your devices are exclusively using the 5 GHz band, you may benefit by selecting the higher range. I recommend that you don’t monkey around with this setting unless you really know what you are doing - or tech support tells you to do it.

If you are using an 802.11ac router you will notice the box says “dual band.” This means that the router drops back to 2.4 GHz for connecting to older devices, in this case it’s recommended that you let your router make the decision automatically.

In my post on How to Boost Strong WiFi in Every Room, I show how I use an app called WiFi Analyzer to see the data traffic generated by my neighbors. Once you see which channels are most crowded with traffic, you can select the emptiest channel for your home WiFi network. This will assure better connections and less interference.

Transfer Rates: How Many bits per second?

As data transfer rates increase, there are more multiples for the speed in which data travels. They are referenced in “bit” per second. In the video I spoke of a mid-eighties 300 baud modem which transferred data at 300 Kbps. In case you’re wondering, kbps moved 125 bytes per second.

With the move to wireless, transmission sped up to megabits, written as Mbps. Mbps transfers a million bits or a thousand kilobits. Now we’re looking at Gbps speeds, moving 125,000,000 bytes per second - or more practically, 1,000 Mpbs or a million kilobits per second. The next iteration will be Terabits (Tbps) moving a thousand gigabits per second. You do the math, that’s crazy fast.

None of us live in a laboratory, and this is where the ultimate speeds are measured. Most of the “theoretical” speeds are done with mathematical equations.

Antennas? MIMO? Whaaat?!

In many routers, the antennas are internal. In others you can see (and even upgrade) the higher gain antennas. External antennas can be adjusted for optimum range (Will cover this in an upcoming post). Each antenna in the early protocols (Single Input Single Output) designated one antenna at the router to transmit and the other single antenna at your device to receive data. When multiple devices are leaching off the same singular signal, you can just imagine (and have no doubt experienced) how the speed degrades.

The newer protocols invoke MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) uses multiple antennae at the transmission point and multiple streams, thereby increasing performance significantly. The antennas can be pooled to optimize your stream. MIMO also can deliver four spatial streams of data to your devices. If your devices (laptops, tablets, gaming) do not support MIMO, you cannot get the full benefit of this technology.

Again, assuming your devices can take advantage of it, MU-MIMO (Multi user) send out separate signals (up to eight) to lock on to each device demanding a WiFi signal. Each antenna can also transmit a signal to multiple devices depending on demand. (As I said in the video, buying an inexpensive 802.11ac WiFi dongle will easily upgrade your laptop).

Remember, your network can only run as fast as the data is sent to it. In my case I receive 100Mbps from my cable provider. I can’t make the data run any faster.

FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. Linksys has hired me as a brand ambassador. I am not employed by Linksys. All thoughts and viewpoints are mine. This is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.