Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Better Overhead Street Lights for Better Visibility

Overhead street lights provide many benefits.

  • Security for pedestrians
  • Help see around dark corners when driving
  • Help drivers on on/off ramps
  • Improves overall visibility to both pedestrians and drivers
There are also a few issues with overhead street lights.
  • Glare to drivers
  • Power usage
  • Light pollution
  • Color issues (cannot tell what color anything is with the orange lights)
We need overhead street lights and I have a few suggestions for fixing some of the issues. First of all there are many overhead lights that automatically dim when their motion sensors don't see anyone. This is a newer technology and will be slow to adopt. Also many of the newer lights are LED so the power consumption is much lower. Finally color issues are being resolved by installing white or close to white lights instead of the orange lights that are typically low pressure sodium vapor.

In the past light pollution was dealt with by getting rid of the white lights and installing the orange lights as the wavelength of these lights would not refract as much into the atmosphere. There are newer lights now that appear white but are missing some of the spectrum (filtered) that cause a lot of the light pollution. So you have a nicer light without all the light pollution.

The last issue I listed is glare. This is a hard one to deal with especially because glare has many causes.
  • Brightness of light
  • Color of light
  • Atmospheric conditions such as fog
My solution to all of these is a smart light that can:
  • Adjust its brightness based on objects and motion around it.
  • Adjust the color of the light based on the time of day and atmospheric conditions.
If it is a clear day with very little moisture in the atmosphere then a bright white light is best. As there is more moisture in the atmosphere adjusting the color output as well as applying filters to the light will cut down on the glare that would otherwise make driving more difficult as well as make it harder for pedestrians to see. Just like you don't drive in the fog with your high beams a bright white light from above will make it very hard to see anything in the fog.

Some basic light theory is that we perceive different colors based on their respective wavelength. Purple or bluer colors have a shorter wavelength and are more susceptible to bouncing around or "refract", especially when there are particulates in the air like fog, dust, and smog. You likely have seen some car headlights that are purplish and are annoying from the glare they cause. Think why the sky is blue.

At the other end there is red that has a longer wavelength. You will notice that the military uses red lights or filters on their lights so that they cannot be seen as far away giving their position away.

So many fog lights are yellow so they are still bright enough to cover some distance while not causing as much glare and refracting as much.

Color "temperature" is measured in Kelvin. The chart below shows some data points on the color temperature of light. Daylight is generally considered around 5000K.

The last piece I want to talk about is CRI or color rendering index, also sometimes referred to as color accuracy. Perfect daylight would be about 100 and some lights are actually negative. The reason I bring up CRI is that you want a street light or any light to have a good CRI as a higher quality of light means you don't need as much of it. So less energy and possibly less glare since it is not so bright.

Conclusion is that with a proper sensor to detect particulates in the air and then the ability for a light to change its color either by mixing different types of light sources (think different wavelengths of LEDs) or filters. We should be able to provide a overhead street light that is "smart" and will make the world a better place!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How to Deal with Junk Mail.. The Paper Kind

Every time I go out to my mailbox about 3 quarters of the mail is junk. We just sort through it and throw it in the recycle bin. What a waste of paper, time, and money. When I say money I mean the advertisers that are desperately trying to get a small percentage of people to look at their products and services.

The reason there is so much "direct mail" is because:
- There can be a return on the investment of printing and sending the mail (normally small)
- The post office loves it as it keeps them from being even further in the red
- Some consumers like it for the coupons and ads to look through
- The recycling companies probably like it for the paper to recycle

There must be a better way for advertisers to spread the word about their products and services. Plus there are many mailing that consumers may want but would rather have an email or something electronic. There does not seem to be anything (that I know of ) that bridges this gap.

Lets look at what is needed to make both the consumer happy and the companies advertising.
- Consumers want to know about new products and services
- Consumers like to know about deals/save money
- Companies need a cost effective way to communicate with potential and existing customers

So lets have a service that can give the customer control over what they get as well as take it out of the mailbox and put it in our inboxes. I know, I know, you are thinking. "Great more JUNK". But wait hear me out on this. There are ways to create a win-win situation, so lets get started...

Take an example of a mailer you get from the Penny Saver. They send it to your home address every week with coupons and deals from local businesses. My wife will quickly browse through this one (unlike most) and spend maybe a minute looking at it. This would be much more useful online and searchable.

Another example of a magazine that I may like but instead of printing it and mailing it the whole magazine can be online and searchable. Complete with the advertisements. Very simple do with a PDF or online viewer.

Most importantly all the waste of paper, time, and money can be avoided by people opting out of the junk.

On the consumer side:
- Go to (made up name)
- Setup an account with your name, home, business, whatever addresses and an email address.
- Setup some basic preferences on how often you want emails, etc
- Opt in for receiving mailings electronically vs on paper
- Be able to opt out of any particular mailings by company name or sender

On the business side:
A business or out-sourced direct mail company can upload a list that will run against our list to compare who is on it. The business would then get a simple list in return of names/addresses that wish to receive mailings electronically.

The business/direct mail provider would then send the mailings through with the list they received from our database compare. This is so that:
a) The direct mail companies only get to send to those they already have on their list (dealwithjunkmail is not selling any list and never would)
b) The business/direct mail companies can stop sending the paper version saving both on printing and mailing cost.

The business/direct mail companies would also get reports on who read the mailings as well as opt outs (list removals). would make money by charging a small fee based on quantity of the mailings sent through us. Somewhere in the cents per mailing sent.

So who gets hurt the most? The post office... They really need to re-invent themselves, junk mail is not a good business model in the age of electronic data. As a suggestion the post office should get into this business model before anyone else does.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Signal Idea

How many times have you forgotten about your washer finishing and only to remember a day or two later. Now you have to re-wash your laundry because it is getting a bit funky smelling. What about burning your baked goods in the oven, or the refrigerator alarm is going off with no one to hear it because the door was left open.

In today's connected world we expect we can do just about anything on our pocket computers that can also be used as phones. But for some reason most appliances (very few actually) can be online and communicate with you. There needs to be an easy to install solution that will get your appliances to talk to you wherever you are.

Introducing my idea "Signal". A small, battery powered, WiFi device that will listen to your appliances beeps and boops then alert you when it hears them.

All of our appliances have tones they produce for notification and alarms. When you are too far away, too busy with something else, or maybe not even at home you can still get notified by your appliance without having to connect to them in anyway.

The device
Would be a small device not much larger than a box of matches. Would hold say 2 AAA batteries or maybe AA batteries. I don't believe in sealed batteries where the device has to be replaced when the batteries are exhausted. This makes no environmental sense and is a waste. Plus it makes it more expensive to the consumer. The device would have a small computer, microphone, single button, an LED, and would be water resistant. Only activating WiFi when sending a notification the battery life should be very long.

The Setup
To get the device connected to your network you need the Signal app (free) and when you first turn it on or hold down the button for 5 seconds it will broadcast out a WiFi signal that your phone can connect to and configure. The light will blink slowly while you are setting it up. Put in your WiFi info and save it. Now your set. Name the device and put in a location. It is now attached to your account. Very similar to a ChromeCast setup.

Next is the recording the sound. Hold the single button on the device for a few seconds and play the sound you want the device to listen for. A light will blink rapidly telling you it hears the sounds and is recording it. Press the button when the sound is done playing. Now using the phone app name the appliance it just heard. Have that appliance make the same sound again and it should notify your app.

Great that's it! Your all setup. The online account that everything connects to is free for life. You can pay for a premium account that will let you create advanced notifications, batch actions as well as schedules etc. Batch actions would be like notifying multiple people and also allowing a computer program to be notified that would launch actions. Say for example control your home automation and turn on lights when your oven goes off.

Here is how it works. Lets take the example of your washing machine...
Imagine you are in the living room watching your favorite TV show and your laundry finishes. The machine will beep but you don't hear it. Your phone's Signal app gets a notification that the laundry is done. You can snooze the reminder so you can finish your show. If you don't have the app no problem it can send emails and SMS.

Lets say you are really bad about changing laundry. You can configure this particular alert to keep bugging you every hour until you press the button on the Signal box. When you go to change the laundry you can press the button to clear the notification, the light will blink 3 times quickly letting you know it's cleared.

Another example, the oven...
Most ovens are pretty loud when they beep but there are times when at my house with screaming kids, a loud TV (to drown out the screaming kids) makes it impossible to hear. So now your phone gets notified. You can even set it up to keep notifying you until you press the button on the Signal box. This way you don't have burned cookies. There is even the ability to customize the notifications to use different sounds for different appliances.

Other concepts that can integrate
- Alarms for detecting water/floods
- Motion detectors
- Alarms for low/high temperatures
- Contact sensors for an open door, gate, cabinet, etc
- Even reminder buttons say by the trash can. When the trash is full press the button and your husband "me" gets notified to take out the trash.

The list is endless. Just a simple Signal box that attaches to your account and you can have the Internet of Things help your house talk to you.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Protecting Data

Recently it was reported the Federal Office of Personnel Management was hacked by the Chinese in December of 2014. It is possible that around 4 million current and former federal employees data was compromised.(1) So how do we protect this data?

Maybe the better question is why do we store this data? If much of this data was not being stored online in databases, files and on a network, then even if the systems are compromised the data is not there to take. How many of these "former" employees of the Federal government have been gone for decades or longer? How long should their records be kept? More importantly how long should their records be kept "online"?

Two words "retention policies".

Oh and here is another important word "liability".

In today's world of storage getting cheaper everyday, everyone seems complacent to just store information forever. Who cares if it is 20 years old. We "may" need it someday.

It is fair to say there is some data that needs to be kept for long periods of time. There is even some data that should never be removed. For example medical records should be kept for the lifetime of that individual and then some. I doubt you want to delete pictures of your kids to save space. What about your family tree, videos of your wedding, music collection. This data needs to be online and easy to access at anytime as well as backed up. (PLEASE everyone backup your data!)

Retention policies need to be setup on all classes of data. From documents, to pictures, video, databases, logs, etc. When it comes to data, content is the key to how long it should be kept. There are laws on how long some data is to be kept. Beyond legal requirements policies should be set based on usefulness of the data. 7 years is a fairly typical number used to hold financial data for most individuals and businesses as an example.

Keeping data too long is a liability to the holder of that data. If that data is breached or improperly used, the company, government agency, or individual holding onto that data can be liable. Not to mention it is never fun to have to tell millions of customers that their private information is in the hands of hackers soon to be on the black market for thieves all around the world.

Here are some solutions to managing data without deleting it:
Setup a tiered system for storage

This means have multiple levels of storage like
- Online
- Near-line
- Archived

Let me explain these in broad technical terms.

Online storage is just what it says, the data is online and easily/quickly accessible. Excellent security should be in place to protect this data. Online storage has many tiers of it's own based on how fast that data is needed (performance). I will not get into the technicalities of tiered storage systems, just look up "tiered storage models". This is the most expensive tier as the data changes a lot, requires fast storage systems/connections, and must be backed up on a regular basis.

Near-line storage is not accessible online directly by users but is easily put online if needed. Typically this would be onsite but on systems that may not be directly connected to the servers or network. Data administrators would need to bring this data online when needed. The advantage to this is that data is significantly less susceptible to hacking or rouge employees. Automated processes as well as manual processes would follow retention policies to move data from online to near-line storage.

Archived storage is the lowest tier and would typically be stored offsite. This would be kept for legal reasons and would be the slowest to bring online as well as the most work. This data would likely be stored on media like tapes or optical that is not easily modified. This protects the integrity of the data. Archived data would be nearly impossible for hackers or rouge employees to compromise as physical access would be needed to get to this data. Archived storage is also the cheapest to maintain.

Every organization should have policies in place already to deal with data retention as well as tiers of storage to comply with these polices. Organizations that do have policies in place and follow them are much less likely to have data compromised and if they do the amount of damage is minimized. As well if data is compromised your organization can show reasonable efforts were made to secure the data. Hopefully this will play out in the organizations defense in their favor - verses negligence.

Another benefit is deniability. If there is data then there is evidence. If there is no data there is no evidence. Plausible deniability. Not saying that there "is" wrong doing but keeping all your data around is just asking for trouble. Organizations must remember to follow the laws on keeping data for the minimal amount of time. Beyond that get rid of that data if you have no justifiable reason to keep it.

Cost is the main reason to get rid of data. Keeping data is expensive. Users don't think of this nor do most executives or bureaucrats. Data has to be stored on storage systems. In large network environments these storage systems are much more expensive than a desktop hard drive. Large storage systems can easily cost more than a luxury car and go up from there. Next you need to back that data up. So now you need an entirely separate storage system (normally cheaper than the primary) to keep a copy of all that data. But wait there's more... When you backup data there is more than one copy. There are hundreds of copies with version history and deleted data too.

Finally there is the space, power, cooling, and the management of all the data systems and backups. There are countless hours of IT employees' time to keep everything up and running so users can keep making yet more data.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cloud Caching

Businesses and individuals rely a lot on Cloud services for both work and personal use. The number one issue with Cloud services, applications, data storage, or whatever category they fall in is connectivity. If you have no Internet access you basically have little to no functionality with Cloud services.

You can mitigate the issue with having redundant paths to the Internet. This is very simple to do with a firewall that supports 2 or more Internet connections.

Beyond Internet connectivity there is also the issue of ownership. If your data is hosted by a service; lets take for example Google Docs. Then all your data is somewhere in the ether and you have no physical possession of that data. If Google was hacked, went down, or even worse went away then what do you do?

For a truly better experience here is my though on an approach that would get a lot more companies to trust the Cloud and move more services there.

I suggest an appliance that resides onsite that "caches" all the data and keeps a working copy of the services code local. This would allow users that have network access to this appliance to keep working with or without access to the Internet.

But as you read this you're thinking, how would that work? Why would any Cloud service let you have a copy of their proprietary code?

Create a standard that is secure and will emulate any Cloud based service in a protected virtual machine.

So just think if:
- Google Docs
- QuickBooks Online
- Zoho
- iCloud
- Dropbox
- Office 365 (online office)
- Even email applications such as Gmail,, iCloud, Yahoo
- and many more...


Obviously this is temporary as the email would not talk to the outside world and data would not sync outside your office. But your users could continue to work without any interruption and still have access to data in the event of an Internet outage or a service outage from the Cloud provider themselves. Once Internet connectivity returned everything would sync back up like an offline mode sync.

The next benefit is speed. With a Cloud Caching appliance the code could execute locally in that secure/hardened virtual machine so your users would not send any data across the Internet and wait for that to come back. The load would essentially be "offloaded" from the Cloud service providers to your local network.

I would accomplish this with:
- Open standards and open source code to run the virtual machines.
- Vendors can then supply hardware and support while running the core with open source. Then adding any proprietary software on-top for management purposes, load balancing, etc.
- Each Cloud service provider would upload a new virtual machine or update their current one when they release any new code.
- Cloud service providers would create APIs to sync data into each customers repository.

For high level management owner/operators can set polices on their appliance such as:
- Version control, so if an update comes out they can control when it deploys and also have fail back if there is an issue with the new code. The Cloud service provider can override these polices to prevent corruption with the data.
- Bandwidth control.
- Use applications local or remote when Internet connectivity is available.
- Switch to applications locally if latency or bandwidth usage is high (definable).
- Customize URLs for internal access or to just have external URLs redirect to the internal appliance(s) using DNS control/redirection.

The possibility of even outright purchasing a perpetual license for a Cloud service would be feasible to then host on-site without Internet connectivity. This could also be used for Cloud services that are end of life or where the service went out of business.

The idea of a standard and openness is competition to keep prices low and make it so a proprietary appliance is not needed for each service. ISPs can even implement appliances in neighborhoods to keep access local and fast!

For Cloud services to really capture more business from those that have not yet adopted, this may be the best way forward. Hopefully someone will figure this all out and bring the Cloud home!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Smarter Traffic Control - Part 2

As promised from part 1 of the smarter traffic control I want to discuss stop signs.

These non-tech octagonal, red objects that most of us really don't like but deal with anyways are a daily part of our lives. Do a Google search on stop signs around the world, they are basically the same everywhere. There is no mistaking them, yet there is a fundamental problem with them, actually a few.

1. They are not always needed.
What I mean by this is that they may be put in place just to attempt to slow down traffic. There have been many studies that show more stop signs will actually increase the mean speed on a street(1).

As an example to this, the residential street where I grew up and my parents sill live on never had any stop signs except for one major intersection. The "loud" neighbors demanded traffic calming solutions to slow down the speeders on the street. First they tried speed humps but the fire department complained that it slowed their trucks down too much. So out went the speed humps and in went 4 stop signs at each intersection along the street. Now we have more problems with speeding but the cops seem happy enough to give out tickets for not making complete stops.

They even went as far as to put two stop signs on a corner just so there was an even amount between the street above and our street. As far as could I read into the local laws, that is not even an intersection and the stop signs are not even enforceable! My parents live at the end of the street. So each and every day minutes of their lives as well as all those around them are wasted unnecessarily. That can add up to almost a quarter of a day over the course of a year.

2. They can do more harm than good.
If a stop sign is unnecessary or misplaced it can actually cause more accidents(2). This is because there is a complacency from drivers that approach the intersection. Each driver is trusting that the other drivers will stop and follow the traffic rules. Instead most drivers that stop tens if not hundreds of times a day will make their stop and continue, many times without even checking if anyone else stopped.

3. When they are needed people are tired of them.
As I stated above drivers become complacent and blindly continue through an intersection after a stop. When going through many stop signs on a street drivers become "numb" and are more likely to make a mistake. Whereas on a street that may not be that busy and an intersection say has a two way stops for lower traffic side streets. Those drivers are much more likely to pay attention.

What we should do.
- Local governance should create rules about when a stop sign is required and these rules should used to decide if a sign is warranted or not. Such as:
  * How many accidents does the intersection have each year?
  * Are their blind corners near the intersection?
  * Is it an actual intersection where there is cross traffic?
  * Is there a substantial enough amount of cross traffic to cause one direction or another to have to wait for an extended amount of time?
  * Will it make the intersection safer?
  * Is it just being requested to slow traffic? If so then the request should be denied for this reason alone.

- Use of more yield signs where traffic speeds are slower. This will keep cars from having to stop all the time while still alerting drivers to pay attention for cross traffic.

- More 2 way stops vs all way stops. When there is cross traffic that is significantly heavier than say a side street. Why stop 100% of the cars when you only need to stop 5% of the cars.

- More traffic studies before installing a stop sign. Just do a simple traffic study on an intersection to decide if a stop sign is really needed. If it is determine what type of stop. 2 way, all way, 1 way, whatever way.

- Don't let squeaky wheels influence traffic control decisions. Democracy when it comes to traffic control does not work. Statistics and engineering need to decide how to control traffic, not loud mouth residents.

Lets get rid of stop signs as much as we can. Just think of the global impact all the cars stopping and starting for millions of stop signs around the world has on our environment. Not to mention all the brake pads, transmissions, engines, and anything else that moves on your car. Sure auto mechanics, part shops, and part manufactures love stop signs, but you don't have to.

Last note:
This goes out to all law enforcement that like to sit there and give out tickets to people that don't make a complete stop at a stop sign (California rolling stop). There are much better things for you to do than to prey on your tax paying constituents that "broke the law" by not coming to a full stop. They are not hurting anything and all you do is make people dislike you (law enforcement in general)... Yes it is revenue but it is not making anyone safer. In my opinion it causes resentment and will make people disrespect stop signs and those that enforce them. Now that can be dangerous.


Smarter Traffic Control - Part 1

How many hundreds of hours in our lives have been wasted waiting at stop lights and stop signs!

Yes, they are necessary traffic control otherwise there would be chaos on the streets. But how many times have you said to yourself "there is no one else at this intersection, why do I need to stop". Or "the stupid light turned red and now the other light is green but no one is there".

All this stopping waste not only your time and millions of others but it waste gas, adds stress to our lives, as well as wear and tear on our cars (brakes, engine, transmission, etc). So what can be done to fix this problem while still having safe and effective traffic control?

Lets start with traffic lights. Traffic lights were around in the early 1900s but were manually operated and required a traffic operator to control them. Traffic lights today are computer controlled with inductive sensor loops in the street (you can see these most of the time) to sense if there is a car in that lane. The programming will then direct traffic accordingly and typically in the same pattern from one direction of the intersection to the next. Some traffic signals are smart enough to skip directions where there are no cars as well as adjust wait times based on traffic flow. One of the big problems with the induction loops is they sometimes do not sense motorcycles or small cars. As well as cars that have gone into the intersection too much (passed the line) or are not close enough to the line. To compensate for these issues many traffic signals will allow a direction to go even if it does not sense anything. This is why sometimes in the middle of the night when you are the only one at a light but the other direction is green.

So lets get smarter about this. MUCH SMARTER!
Put cameras on the intersections to watch what is actually in the lane. Not a red light camera, those are lame. I am talking a camera that can actually see things like a motorcycle (or not) as well as cars that are coming toward the intersection (or not). These cameras could be visible, infrared, as well as thermal or all of the above to allow the algorithms to clearly identify traffic. Now how will this help.
- Less waiting for non-existent cross traffic.
- Less stopping of cars that are almost to the intersection but have not tripped the inductive pickup.
- No more having to show a green light to nothing or no one.
- Trigger a light change before an approaching car even needs to stop.

Now for traffic flow there are lights that are designed to talk to other nearby intersections. But it seems like they are being used more for speed control than for traffic flow. I always felt that the purpose of traffic lights is to stop you as much as possible. The real purpose is to (or should be) to get as much traffic as possible through an intersection as safely as possible. With this goal in mind we need smarter code to look at traffic patterns including time of day, day of the week, is it a holiday, is there an accident or emergency nearby, density of traffic in the different directions, speed of traffic between intersections, and so on.

To have an algorithm that can control traffic signals you need a lot more input beyond inductive sensor loops in the street. Cameras are a good start but how about talking to Google maps or Waze for example. How about a calendar so the lights know it is a work holiday, or that it is a weekend. What about when a school gets out 2 miles away? These factors dramatically affect traffic and should be taken into consideration.

Now for action!
None of the above can be implemented for free so there needs to be a justification to cities and other governing jurisdictions to flip the bill for these changes. Plus much of this technology does not yet exist but if the demand was there I guarantee it would. Think of the benefits:
- Better traffic flow
  * Would get more people though the area faster
  * More cars can get in and out of businesses faster
- Less stress on the drivers
- Less pollution from less stopping and accelerating
- Less wear on your car
  * Brakes
  * Engine
  * Transmission
- Happier tax payers everywhere!

In the future there will be autonomous (self-driving) cars that will take the human error out of driving. So will we need traffic control in the future once people stop driving? Maybe not, or at least not as much of it.

Still thinking about stop signs... Will blog about that at another time. That is not going to be a short story.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Feel at Home Wherever your Office is

For many years I had an office or should I say a cubical until I finally became self employed. I would put up a few pictures have some toys to play with on my desk and a few other things that made my daily place of work feel a bit more like mine.

But office spaces are changing. Now there are people working from home, sharing desk, open areas with desk all facing each other, etc. These changes are making it difficult to have a personal space that feels like it is "your" desk.

Here is my suggestion. Create some simple cloud based software (why cloud, I will get to that in a minute) and then a simple adapter that will connect to TVs and monitors with very little to no configuration. Think HDMI, Display Port, DVI, VGA, USB. You can then have a personalized space where you can virtually put up pictures, toys, things to play with, notes, a bulletin board, etc. Think widgets galore that you can download and customize. If you have a touch screen even better! Or you could have a device that connects to the side of the screen that will track your finger to make it a touch screen (these already exist).

Now when you sit down and log in to your work computer a proximity device will activate your profile from the cloud and download all your widgets and settings. Including up to date pictures of your family, friends, dog, cat, what you did on your vacation, just save the inappropriate stuff for home. Your profile would even know what devices are where so that picture of you that really shouldn't exist but you think its funny anyways would only display at home.

Your work could have policies that might only allow approved widgets as well as being able to block some or all of your content if there was a complaint. If your work provided the hardware they could register that hardware under their account thus giving them control over it. The content that you own would not be able to be modified or downloaded but could be censored if there was a complaint. The owner/controller of the hardware would never be able to see much more than a small thumbnail representation of your virtual office screens for privacy. Your company would also likely set policies to limit sharing so that you don't waste all day sharing things on their equipment with your friends outside of work.

Based on where you are you can even share with other people. This can be a shared task list and would be based on your location. You could slide a note over to another co-worker or friend from your screen to theirs. The company itself could have a company wide calendar that is mandatory on all screens they own/control.

Customization does not have to stop with a few screens. It could play music (or share music with others that subscribe to you, think being a DJ at work), control the lighting, temperature, how about if your desk itself was a screen.

Now for the cloud part. Here are the reasons for being in the cloud.
 1. Portability - Does not matter where you are, just need an Internet connection.
 2. Ownership - Do you want your work "owning" or storing personal pictures or communications?
 3. Apps or widgets - Almost like an app store but with widget plugins.
 4. Move data around - Because everyone is connected you could use this to send files to each other. Would be limited to just data files, no executable files.

Now to execute this I would suggest a simple Android based system since that eco-system is already developed and is open-sourced. There are many Android devices that simply plug right into an HDMI port (as an example) that are ready to go. Just need some software and a catchy name...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

3D Printers Go Mainstream

In the next 5-10 years I think it will be common place to have 3D printers in the home and to have more advanced 3D printers at businesses printing everything from trinkets to replacement parts.

Instead of having to stock thousands of parts an auto parts store could simply have some 3D printers that can print parts containing plastic all the way to tempered metals. Even as advanced as printing circuit boards. In a home a simple 3D printer that can product plastic pieces for toys, trinkets, parts, etc.

The uses are endless, here are a few examples I came up with:

- Installing a new appliance, instead of including 5 different parts depending on how you install the appliance it could simply come with QR codes to scan where you can download the exact parts you need and print them. You could even customize the color and size of the part. This would reduce waste and make the install more precise.

- Working on your car and you need a special retainer clip. This has happened to me and they are cheap but I have to drive down to the auto parts store to get one. What if I could go online and print a few in minutes. No wasted time or gas.

- Toy broke and it just needs an arm. In the future toys should have a code to scan on them where you can print replacement parts online. Just go to the manufactures website and put in the code from the toy. an hour or so later you have your replacement part and the toy is as good as new.

- 3D printers might even be able to repair cracked or broken items. Just place an item in a printer that can scan the item and patch or fill in the problem areas.

- Custom create ergonomic mice, handles, grips, inserts, and countless other custom items that fit your hands, feet, whatever on your body. Just imagine taking a few pictures or a 3D scan of your hand to print a customized mouse body that perfectly fits your hand. A vendor could sell the internal pieces of a mouse, send you to their website where you can upload a 3D scan of your hand and in return download a 3D model to print the perfect mouse for you.

This technology is rapidly evolving and will soon be mainstream. One of the main issues with 3D printing is what you print. You need a 3D model to print from and either you have to make it yourself or you have to download it. There needs to be money involved otherwise people are not going to spend their time making these 3D models for download.

I am not the biggest fan or DRM (Digital Rights Management) but in this respects I think there needs to be some sort of DRM like system that allows someone to create a 3D model, sell it, and then protect its usage.

Lets say for example you want to print a cool new toy for your kid and there is a 3D model for $39 online. You go online, pay for the model and print it. A few hours later your kid has a new toy. But what is to prevent you from making 40 of these or a 100? What is to prevent you from sharing this with your friends?

I suggest a DRM type platform where the printer itself has a standard it follows to only allow the product to be printed how ever many times you paid for it if there is DRM on the model. The seller would embed a serial number for that download and the printer would redeem that serial number when the print is successful.

Obviously with any DRM they are never 100% secure .But it would keep honest people honest and those that spend a lot of time developing the toys, parts, etc would be much more likely to be paid.

3D printing is already a revolution that is in it's infancy. Mark my words it will be as common as having a microwave or a TV. Everyone will have a 3D printer someday and there will be less and less trips to the store for parts and pieces.