Category Archives: Business

Employees Will Need to Adapt to New Tech

education, technology, business, startup and office concept - th

No matter where you work, no matter the field or location, you have surely seen the technology in your job change over time. Computers, smart phones, and automated work forces within robotic technology above all else have completely swung the direction of all businesses in ways they never expected. This tech is not all bad, and within embracing new tools comes many benefits. Technology no doubt has created a more focused and enlightened work force.

There are many ways we can help ourselves, our coworkers, and our employees grow and gain from tech from education to creating a culture of progress. What does this look like though in the work place?

Simply put training is a great place to start. Many fear tech because they are unsure if they will be able to use it, after all everyone fears looking slow or behind the times. Open up the conversation and hold no judgements—only opportunities to learn. Retrain all whenever a new technology is brought in, and make it beneficial to everyone. The key is keeping those around you feeling comfortable, entertained, and encouraged. The next step is tracking feedback both from employees and the numbers. How do those in your company feel about the new tech? How do your sales or business numbers look? Always be open to helping those lagging, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments so that all are more productive and use the tech efficiently. Lastly encourage questions not only from those around you, but from yourself as well. Creating a space that is open and able to discuss will always make integrating tech all the much easier. Within creating this open culture in the workplace tech will only make your business more productive!

Is Our Waiter a Robot?

Toddler-with-robot-waiter

Via muchies.vice.com

As technology improves and robots become more intelligent–and in many ways more human–the future seems to be slowly approaching Hollywood’s classic model of it. Picture robots serving us food, selling us clothes, and taking over the service industry we depend on. If you think about it, we might already be in our Hollywood-like future.  We have self checkouts, which eliminate the use of human tellers, automated phone receptionists, robotic assembly line workers, and so on. If the future is indeed here, the question isn’t whether or not robots will take our jobs, it’s whether they’ll come to dominate the these kinds of industries entirely. While that may sound terrifying and interesting at the same time, it’s not unreasonable to think that it might actually happen. The University of Oxford published a paper in 2013* that estimated in the next few decades there’s a 92% chance fast-food preparation and serving will be automated. Where will that leave those who fills those jobs now?

 The idea of humans facing off against robots has been around for some time. We’ve clearly benefitted from the machines, but we’ve struggled with them, too. What’s more, finding the middle ground is often easier said than done.  On one hand, we want to be the “masters” of technology and, on the other, we want to incorporate it into our lives such that or creations sweep away the tasks we don’t want or care to handle. –There’s no shortage of popular fiction that tries to grapple with this opposition.  We seem to always have had this push and pull of fearing and loving tech. It might just reside in the fear of change that the future promises. Will the benefits of these robots outweigh our fear? Time will tell.  However, seeing as tech has become so entrenched in our lives, we may very well be sipping on drinks delivered by apron-wearing androids.

How much would you tip a robot?

_____________________

http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/publications/view/1314

Internet for Everybody (Yes, Everybody!)

Last year, Google launched Project Loon as a first step in their endeavor of global internet access for all. Only one-third of the world’s population is online, and the other two-thirds lack access due to remote location, socioeconomic status, or lost network access after a natural disaster or war. Project Loon is a series of balloons that float on the edge of space, in the stratosphere, that enable internet access for computers and LTE-enabled smartphones. Since the first launches in New Zealand, the Central Valley in California, and Northeast Brazil, the technology and procedures have been refined and readied for the next stages of the project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m96tYpEk1Ao

Google’s new partnerships with telecommunications companies, improved balloon technology, and better understanding of stratospheric conditions are making the balloons a more feasible option for global internet access. In approximately one year, Google has made amazing technological advances like increased airtime for the balloons (now over 100 days), better Wi-Fi coverage for users, and shared cellular spectrum to bring access to phones.

Google’s next test flight will be in Australia in partnership with Australian carrier Telstra, and it will be the biggest test flight so far. Each balloon transmits for over 600 square miles, and if the right weather data is collected, they could be a solution for uneven global internet access in the near future. The 20 balloons that will be launched in Australia this December will tell us more about the future of a connected world, and how soon it will be a real possibility.

 

Tech Meets Microbrews

Technology and DIY culture have both become increasingly popular in recent years, but seldom have they been popularized together.  A new gadget may change this for hipsters and techies alike: Brewie.

(links via Indiegogo)

Brewie is a smartphone-connected device for homebrewing that will prove an asset for beginners and skilled brewmasters alike. The Wi-Fi connected, self-contained brewhouse is a dream for those who love tech and those who love beer: the device is controlled from an on-board touchscreen or your Wi-Fi connected computer, phone or tablet. Brewie will measure ingredients and water for you, and you can purchase “Pads” which have pre-portioned ingredients for specific recipes. While the device comes pre-programmed with 200 recipes, advanced brewers can input their own ingredients, measurements, and temperature, and wait for notifications on their phone to tell them when their beer is ready to taste.

Homebrewing can be a daunting process, and for those who have wanted to try their hand in DIY brews, Brewie simplifies every step along the way. If you’re interested, check out the Indiegogo video below to see how you can become an at-home brewmaster and impress all of your tech and beer connoisseur friends!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-tKKxbzP6I

 

Sustainability – There’s an App for That

Support for sustainability is growing across the world. More and more companies are bringing sustainable practices into their business, implementing sustainable policies for their employees, and offering sustainable options for customers. While businesses may make a variety sustainable changes, it is still up to us as consumers to make informed choices and levy our purchasing power knowledgeably. So how do we do that in this age of technology, especially when knowing your farmer or producer is not always an option? Is there a way to make sure that our choices will lead to a healthier earth?

Well, there’s an app for that.

Actually, there are many apps that can be used to make ethical choices when it comes to picking where we shop. Environmental Working Group created a food ratings database and app, which, while focused on nutrition, also rates products on issues like organic certification, animal welfare standards, and environmental contamination. There is also HowGood, an app that rates food products on 60 indicators of sustainability, and Good Guide, a tool that rates food and other products on safety, health, and ethics.

There are even regional apps, designed just for individuals in certain cities like GreenStar NYC app, which can be used by both New York city consumers and businesses. Using the app, New Yorkers can find geotagged GreenStar Certified businesses, locally made green products, women- and minority-owned businesses, and a citywide green events calendar. The list hardly ends here; there is also Rippl, Joulebug, IRecycle, PaperKarma, and so on. In fact, sustainability apps are being created increasingly more often for reasons ranging from making smart purchases to encouraging good recycling habits.

The impact of these apps is yet to be seen; will they just be a tech fad, or a truly useful tool for consumers? Only use of the apps will answer that.

 

A growing family at the Como Zoo

It’s a girl!  Markisa, a 27-year-old Sumatran Orangutan, gave birth to a healthy and adorable infant at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center on January 7th, 2015.  The newborn was delivered via Caesarean section by a team of highly specialized veterinary and medical professionals.  C-sections are uncommon for orangutans.  Como Zoo primate keeper, Megan Elder, explained “that there are only about a dozen recorded within the International Orangutan Studbook that has tracked more than 1,200 births in captivity throughout history.”  Markisa is particularly important because she had undergone the operation successfully before.  After a short recovery, baby and mother have been reunited at Como Zoo and it’s safe to say that this birth marks the beginning of another promising story.

baby oCredit:  Splash News/Como Zoo

A healthy and growing orangutan family is a welcomed development for the species and primate lovers alike.  There are only around 200 orangutans living in US zoos and native populations are struggling against pressures like logging, agriculture and poaching.  The newborn’s birth furthers an Orangutan Species Survival Plan set forth by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).  The plan aims to maintain and ensure the health of orangutans living in zoos across the United States.

I’ve had the pleasure of supporting Como Zoo in the past, and now you can too!  Como has invited the public to help name the new addition through a donation-based vote.  My suggestion, Cinta, which means love in indonesian, has been selected as one of three possible names.  When the voting ends, the name with the highest dollar amount in donations will win—click here to vote for Cinta! Then, join St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to hear the results at a fun-filled naming celebration on February 16th.  All are welcome!

 

 

Payne Avenue is Becoming a New “Eat Street” on the Twin Cities’ East Side

Chef Anderson’s beef tartare – Credit:  Benjamin Carter Grimes

Chef Anderson’s beef tartare – Credit: Benjamin Carter Grimes

To the delight of curious palates, entrepreneurial restaurateurs are moving into St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood and reinventing a handful of historic buildings. Menus are ripe for exploration. Diners can find anything from traditional pupusas at Tazmal Pupuseria, to “food for drinking” at Ward 6, a take on Korean barbeque at Cook St. Paul, or beef tartare served on a frozen salt block with house made potato chips (pictured above) at Tongue in Cheek.

Chef Leonard Anderson is responsible for the last creation. He owns and runs Tongue in Cheek with his wife, Ashleigh Newman, and another fine-dining cohort, Ryan Huesby. The trio’s approach can be characterized as “eclectic” and “meat-centered.” What’s more, they define their mission with an uncompromising devotion to only use animal products that are sourced humanely and sustainably. The carnivorous may begin with sautéed claims or steamed pork buns and move on to the “Pasture Pork Belly,” served with sweet potato, porcini, chestnut and baby carrots. Herbivorous friends need not fret! Tongue in Cheek also offers a 7 course vegetarian tasting menu, in addition to the “Daily Vegetarian Delight.” The dessert list is short and sweet. It’s headlined by their “Chocolate Ode to the Dome,” an experiment in lyricism, to be sure, and closes with raspberry lemongrass ice for a simple resolve.

Click here for more information about one of Payne Avenue’s newest and most adventurous eateries.

A New Kind of Wearable Tech That You Won’t Forget When You Leave in the Morning

Wearable technology is great because it connects you to everything you need while being discreet, lightweight, and portable. The downside is that your fitness tracker, watch, or glasses are easily forgotten when they are so small and seamlessly integrated into your daily life. One startup company is looking for a way to ensure that you don’t go about your day without your smart accessories. OMsignal is working on a few shirts that sense heart rate, breathing levels, and movement via electrodes sewn into the fabric. The data is gathered and presented in an iPhone app that will also track calories burned and steps taken. Wearable technology aims to add a small gadget to your outfit to add functionality to your normal attire, but soon, your outfit itself could make your Fitbit obsolete.

OMsignal’s shirt and gadget combination costs almost $100 more than a Pebble smartwatch now, but they hope clothing manufacturers will pick up the technology and integrate it into their own clothes. The shirts also more accurately capture the biological data from your workout since the sensors are closer to your heart and lungs than a wristband. Wearable technology is still very much in its early stages, and like all new gadgets, it has some kinks that still need to be worked out. I’m excited about this new development in technology and can’t wait to see where OMsignal, and so many other startups go with it.

Learn more about OMsignal here and let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Future of Green Energy

As technological advances are made at increasing speed, the need for clean, cost-effective, consistent, and efficient energy is becoming imperative to fuel the future. Sustainable energy sources now need extremely specific locations, times, and environments in order to work, and engineers are still facing challenges regarding storing and transporting the energy produced. One company has created a solution to the confining aspects of green energy, but only in regions that are warm year-round. While location is still a restricting factor in the efficacy of this new green energy production, Solar Wind Energy, Inc. has laid the foundation for a “bold yet brilliant” sustainable future.

Solar Wind Energy, Inc. has found an innovative way to surpass the current limits on alternative energy production while fostering energy independence: the Solar Wind Energy Tower. The Tower combines the best aspects of both solar and wind technology to harness the natural power of downdrafts, a clean, renewable resource that will provide a myriad of benefits for the corporations and countries that invest. The greatest benefit of this new alternative energy source is that it can operate all day, every day of the year, unlike wind or solar power on their own.

The first Solar Wind Energy Tower will be built in San Luis, Arizona and will be able to produce 1,250 megawatts an hour on a hot summer day. It will be functional in 2018, and hopefully by that time, others in hot climates will experiment with the revolutionary technology too. The group of scientists, business professionals, engineers, and industry consultants behind this project hope to implement the Tower in places like the southern United States, Africa, the Middle East, and other locations where the weather is hot and energy independence is a goal. Check out the video below to learn more about how the Solar Wind Energy Tower works and why it may be the green energy of the future.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMMlmqohOJs

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Printing Food

Where does technology, food, and sustainability meet?

When you print your food.

That is right, using 3-D printing technology printing edible meals has jumped from the world of the “Jetsons” to our plates. 3-D printing has started a revolution over the past few years, it can be used to make anything from musical instruments to innovative prosthetics. It is changing how we assemble the objects in our world and bringing about an age where less and less is impossible. So how will this change food? Apparently a lot.

The particular 3-D printer that can generate meals, called Foodini, was unveiled in April. It will be available for home and professional kitchen use within the year (for $1,300).  To be honest it actually seems very convenient–even nostalgically futuristic. Want a cookie? Print it. Can’t get to the local pizza shop before it closes? Print yourself a slice.

So what does this technology mean for our world as a whole? Will the 3-D food printer usher in an age of food that doesn’t use up environmental resources? The possibilities point to yes. Given a chance there seems that there is a way to use this technology to help create a sustainable food market. “Imagine being able to grow, cook or prepare foods without the negative industrial impact – from fertilisers to packaging. The production chain for food would nearly be eliminated,” says Homaro Cantu, a chef who has used 3-D printers for his sushi production. Conventional production of course will not disappear overnight, but it does raise the idea of a new future for food production, packaging, and politics which has not changed much in a long time.

To add another question, what will happen as 3-D printers are introduced to a commercial market? We’ll just have to sit back and see.

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