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Technology Adds More to Your Life

You are all involved with technology and likely track new products and services on a regular basis. Consequently, my focus is to discuss new technology products can provide benefits for our advancing 24 hour Work-Life wheel. How you choose to draw boundaries between work and life is a conversation that you should have with many. Here are a few products that can be effectively used for what you do and where you do it.

Smarter Video and Audio

While videos on YouTube have exploded, video is everywhere and we need to participate as viewers and creators. Videos can be included in newsletters, emails, on websites, blogs and linked with QR codes. What is growing in 2012 is the capability to watch any video on any device at any location. Desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and Google glasses are all options. This expansion includes every automobile, plane and train; refrigerators, bathroom mirrors, and hot tubs. Dish Network's Tailgater is available on Amazon for $360 so you can connect any sized screen in a stadium parking lot or hike into the wilderness and watch a fake Reality TV show.

You can do your own search on the evolution of Television sets morphing into large digital monitors. LG has its 84inch OLED screen. My wall is not large enough. What needs to be noted from this technology is how all display screens from road signs to Coca Cola's new beverage dispenser, the "Freestyle" offering more than 100 beverage options, to airports, to grocery stores are using instantly changeable signage and selling ad space wherever they can. Lots of entertainment channels love to show graphics at the bottom of the screen, especially when the credits scroll at warp speed and using an impossible to read font size.

One of my favorites for creating simple videos is Muvee (http://www.muvee.com/en/). Take any combination of images - still, motion, large or small - copy into a staging area, arrange the order, pick a format, select a track of music, decide if you want to insert a voiceover commentary and build your video. This video can be saved in viewable formats and uploaded anywhere for private or public viewing. Changing the images or soundtrack is just as easy. The software works for training, newsletters, email blasts, family albums and more. Price is less than $100.

When you need to edit a podcast or audio seminar or phone conversation, download Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/). A little practice and audio files can be added to websites, blogs, and other internet sites. The capacity to remove dead air, coughs and other irrelevant sounds is a valuable benefit for the listener. Price is $0.

When you want to do more with video production and do even more movie creativity, check out Cyberlink (http://www.cyberlink.com). Their products include PowerDirector 10, PowerDVD 12 and MediaSuite 10.

Newer image technology that you should follow is from the creators of the Lytro Camera (http://www.lytro.com/). Auto-focus point-and-shoot cameras changed amateurs into better amateur photographers. Images were rarely out of focus. The Lytro innovation light-field uses a new type of sensor to capture the color, intensity, and vector direction of light rays. This new approach offers the amazing capability to focus an image after the picture has been taken.

This first of its kind camera uses Light Field Technology. Like any other camera, Lytro measures the intensity and color of light. In addition, it also measures the direction the light is moving at any given time. Instead of just opening a sensor and absorbing light for an instant as it hits the camera, the Lytro measures all of the light in a scene, and then recreating the whole three-dimensional field of light more or less exactly as it was. It's collecting light, translating it to digital, and then processing the data for a variety of different uses.

Light Field cameras make pictures very flexible. When you first take a picture, you don't need to focus. When you view the photo, you can choose what you want to be in focus. This camera is their first commercial product with models at $399 and $499. The possibilities for Light Field technology changes how pictures are taken and processed for viewing. Security cameras are at least one application.

Better Mobile Accessories

There are way too many gadgets, furry animals and all sorts of Bluetooth enabled accessories to count and report about. Here are a few that are really useful.

Headphones, ear buttons and loud speakers can deliver sound from your mobile device. When I go mobile, there are a few times I want total blockage of any ambient noise. On the other hand, I really enjoy the ease and comfort of the AfterShokz headphones (http://www.aftershokz.com/). These are different.

AfterShokz headphones were designed to military specs for use by special ops and SWAT teams. Using bone conduction technology, users listen to music or sound through the headphone while their ears are free to hear any other ambient sound. The phones are way more comfortable than earbuds and do not fall out of the ear. A friend who has a daily radio talk show raves about how they change his studio listening. AfterShokz offers models for sports and mobile phones

Keeping your smartphone or tablet fully charged and nearby can be an issue for mobile professionals. Try the iKeep Charger from Poldera (http://www.poldera.com). One end connects to your iPhone or iPod and the other end latches on to a belt loop, a purse, backpack or other accessory. The charging cord extends to 3 feet and gives you room when you need to use your phone and charge it at the same time. The built in Micro USB adapter will also charge Blackberry, Android & other devices. $50 and a lot of color choices to match any wardrobe.

I have some trouble using the smartphone headsets that attach to the ear for telephone conversations. Many of them are very good. My head and ear anatomy, often make the balancing of these headsets more difficult. Along comes the folks at Vxi with their BlueParrot B250-XT headset (http://bit.ly/JPTrbR) that looks at acts like an office headset complete with headband and buttons large enough to locate and push with my fat fingers. The boom microphone assures elimination of ambient noise. For less than $100 at Amazon and other retailers, this headset is worth your review especially for the small and home office folks.

Paper Has Uses

Yes, the paperless world is not yet here. Less paper is hopefully being used and wasted, but there are times when paper is required.

Printers now come in all sizes, features, and capacities. The small office/department and home office need to check on the updated Workforce line from Epson Workforce (http://bit.ly/JPQBDG). I recently installed the Workforce 520 with dual paper feed, copying, scanning, color and more. It can do faxing but I tell the world faxing is so Twentieth Century. The feature I liked best is that it was only a few minutes between removal from box to connection with my wireless network and ready to print. I connected other computers even faster.

Features available include: printing oversize pages - legal size to 44-9-in., double-sided printing for tree saving, instant drying ink and more.

Storage, wires, objects, and mobile products often go without being tagged with ownership name. Ever lose a travel mug, thermos bottle or smartphone? Ever have stacks of boxes and plastic storage containers and not remember what is where? And then there are the cables and wires that are under your desk with no identification. These items and more need to be labeled. One useful option is from Dymo (http://bit.ly/JPVSLC). The hand crank dymo labeler was a standard for parents and offices of every size. Now, the USB-connected PnP is really small and hides in a corner of any desk. Print one or many of a label and live a life with things that can be located.

Other Help

Junk mail is not going away. We can add filters, set security account alerts and more, but junk mail, even from friends will find its way to your inbox. A potential solution to this problem is to use a service from ZigMail (http://www.zigmail.com/). This free service sets up a separate email account into which all junk email from social media, deals sites and others that aren't necessarily critical are forwarded. Your original email address then becomes a true personal mailbox, which receives daily snapshots from ZigMail showing what other mail has arrived. You can decide when to read or not.

The Quickstart feature automatically transfers all your emails from transactional senders into your ZigMail account. Any new emails from these senders will now go to your ZigMail Account. ZigMail and your current accounts work together to simplify your life. With one click, Zigit allows you to share information received through your social network.

Wireless routers need to bump up their capacity and speeds. By now you should be using the N protocol which is faster, especially for video and audio streaming. I installed the Netgear N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router, WNDR4500 (http://bit.ly/JPZRYm). A very straight forward install, linked to my cable modem and network is up and running. With so much internet access going through home and office, faster is a lot better.

Search Moving Forward

The world of search is growing exponentially. While Google has become a verb in our lexicon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and a whole lot more are joining the "let's get search to deliver what the user means, not just what they type." Sure Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web are coming down the trail. As for now, here are a few other products that can help your search and/or enable you to create your own searchable databases.

While search engines have come a long way, they aren't always the simplest or quickest method of finding the latest data on worldwide trends. Knoema (www.knoema.com) is an alternative to quickly locating charts and statistical date about many things. Knoema is especially useful in academics, business plans, marketing information and demographics. Users can set up dashboards to share information. These dashboards can also be created to share company and personalized content. For example, you can have a custom branded dashboard with restricted access for tax newsletters, audit regulatory information all other business data. All this data will be searchable only authorized users.

Enhancing the search results from Google or Bing is the focus of Slikk (www.slikk.com). This is not a separate search engine, but a new layout option that enhances how the search results are displayed. Slikk displays the full webpage linked to search results within the same page. This enables you to navigate throughout the website with other search results being displayed. Its Multi-View interface is another plus, allowing web, image, news, video, blogs and even Twitter search results to display alongside one another in the same window.

Photoshop experts, Graphics designers, Image borrowers know that there is a new detective on the scene. Verifeyed (www.verifyed.com) is a web-based service for you to upload an image, have it scanned and the systems returns information as to what has been modified. For me, this means that my photo editing of Robert Redford's face on my images are over. The scanning can also spot fake IDs, as well as those looking to commit insurance fraud.

When you have a presentation that needs the use a whiteboard, there can be a few issues. For example, carrying the whiteboard with you, have dry erase markers and an eraser. There is another way. Interphase has introduced a portable whiteboard creative device called Penveu (http://www.penveu.com/). Penvue is simply an extremely high tech pen that is also ink-less and wireless. The stylus can turn any wall, flat screen, monitor or whiteboard into a digital touch screen of sorts that tracks what the user is writing or drawing even from across the room. Penveu can even be used without a computer as the pen can directly save screenshots to its hard drive.

So what do you think about the technology evolution that we are all product. Let us know your experiences, other products to consider and what other information you want to see.

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