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Environment Media Science Technology

Experiences of an Online Conference

adobe

Online Conference

Last month I attended a conference with a difference, The INSS annual meeting was held in 5 different cities at the same time, as well as online, in an attempt to cut down on travel for participants. I attended the London site and was one of only 2 people to fly to the event. This is remarkable considering that last year we all met in North Carolina and dozens of people flew internal and trans continental legs.

The physical Conference was held at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, Oregon State university, Arizona State University, Michigan State University and University College London.

Very much an experiment, the practicalities of conducting a conference over several different time zones posed some issues, with early starts for those on the US West Coast and late finishes for those in Europe. The technology worked incredibly well, with very few glitches over the days’ events. Participants were able to ask questions, follow seminars in any of the sites they chose, and interact with the poster and key note presenters using online media.

The event was run out of North Carolina, and the web management was all taken care of from that site. I must say that I was rather skeptical at the beginning, having lived with Skype developments over the years, but how wrong could I be?

Communication Technology

The communication was taken care of using Adobe Connect, so anyone could participate through their own computer or by visiting any of the sites. We in London lost the last 5 minutes of a discussion after one of the lectures, but for the rest it all worked perfectly.

Now as someone who travels to a lot of these kinds of things I can only marvel at the progress made. Each site shared some seminars and papers, but all had different agendas. The London agenda included a day of field trips, as well as as a panel during which presenters discussed their experiences of building the Engineering Exchange, a university lead action group whose aim is to bridge the gap between communities and planners preparing urban regeneration projects. Read the abstract here.

We also toured some of the capital’s largest redevelopment projects, including a visit to Crossrail, a huge rail link and urban regeneration project that cuts through central London. A guided tour of the Elephant and Castle redevelopment area with the interest group “Social Life” followed, a context of urban regeneration that has caused many locals to question both existing and future plans in that area.

The context was also helped by the involvement of a member of a local interest group that aims to support people whose houses are under threat, and promote the idea of refitting houses to maintain communities, rather than rehousing and rebuilding. There is a lot more to think about in urban regeneration that you might imagine.

The Network

The closing panel was hosted in Charlotte and entitled Social Sustainability Initiatives in Planning and engineering Organization. Full details of all the participating site agendas can be found on the INSS website.

The network is open to all interested in participating, so keep an eye on the website for further information. We volunteer our time, we learn a lot, we try to raise social sustainability issues, and we always have a bit of a social at every event. I must say that the multi-site format was a worthy experiment that worked extremely well, and I think could offer a model for future events. Is the era of the online conference coming to life? Looks like it to me.

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Business

Business savings using conference calling

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A video conferenceIf you run a business, the likelihood is that, every once in a while, after poring over your finances, you look at ways of saving money. You might look at how much you spend on your energy bills, whether you could cut jobs or persuade some of your employees to work part-time instead of full-time or even look at technology that can help to reduce your company’s outgoings.

Video conferencing is perfect for any company that wants to reduce its costs, but you may wonder how it can do that. If you regularly go to meetings away from the office, you’ll surely be aware of the expense involved. If you’re not spending a fortune in fuel costs, you’ll probably be paying for plane, train or coach tickets or even a taxi, and doing this all the time can really add up. By video conferencing, you eliminate all those travel costs.

You can invite anyone you want to a conference call, irrespective of where they are. You can talk to them for a very low price or even for free, plus you can do all things you can do in a normal meeting thanks to the visual element of video conferencing such as showing prototypes or graphs. It also allows for collaboration too, which sets it apart from other forms of communication.

A conferenceSaving time – this is another benefit that video conferencing can bring to your business. Meetings take a lot of time to get to, but by arranging a conference call in their place, you could save your business and employees hours at a time. This allows you to prepare for the meeting properly, while you can also get on with any other important tasks such as accounting.

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Science Technology

NanoArt

A couple of weeks ago whilst writing about nanotechnology and the associated risk involved in such engineering techniques I mentioned Nanoart.  This week I would like to expand and to present a gallery of examples.

nano playboy logo

To quote Cris Orfescu, founder of Nanoart 21, “NanoArt is a new art discipline at the art-science-technology intersections. It features nanolandscapes (molecular and atomic landscapes which are natural structures of matter at molecular and atomic scales) and nanosculptures (structures created by scientists and artists by manipulating matter at molecular and atomic scales using chemical and physical processes). These structures are visualized with powerful research tools like scanning electron microscopes and atomic force microscopes and their scientific images are captured and further processed by using different artistic techniques to convert them into artworks showcased for large audiences.”

One of the issues raised during discussion in my previous posts was about the usefulness and point of such artistic expression, so here I quote the NanoArt 21 website:

“The purpose is to promote  NanoArt worldwide as a reflection of a technological movement… a more appealing and effective way to communicate with the general public and to inform people about the new technologies of the 21st Century. NanoArt is aimed to raise the public awareness of Nanotechnology and its impact on our lives”.

There are several organizations that promote this form of expression and at least one international competition that offers cash prizes for the best examples (NanoArt 21 have an international competition). The German Centre for Research and Innovation hosted an exhibition of their collection in New York in 2011 and the number of artist/scientists involved seems to be growing.

The following gallery should give you an idea of this particular art form. Also take a look at the Nanobama here. The image is of nanotubes made in the shape of President Obama’s face, similar in style to the playboy above.

a guitar
A guitar

 

self explanatory

 

extra planetary
in blue
A nano landscape

You can find many other examples online. Do you like them? I personally like the 3D effect. It seems more accentuated because the images are created by electrons (electrically charged particles) rather than photons (particles of light). The electrons penetrate deeper into the structure creating images with more depth.

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Business Technology

Five changes in video conferencing for the next decade

The collapse of the global economy has left big business needing to cut costs in every coroner it possibly can. For many executives the solution lies in finding high tech alternatives to many of the most costly aspects of business. One of the most effective ways this is being done is through video conferencing.

The constant stream of meetings and sales pitches being presented all over the world in the flesh accompanied by high priced business class air fairs and four star hotel rooms are coming to an end. More and more organisations are looking to replace this with video conferencing, making international meetings a far quicker and cheaper process.

As the quality of video conference technology improves and the experience gets closer to that of a real life encounter the adoption of video conferencing technology is only going to become more wide spread.

Video conferencing is already available in extremely fast frame rates at full HD resolutions, but what else can be done to help make the form of communication seem more real. What are the technological developments we can expect in the next decade?

Skype's Logo
Skype can be used as a video conferencing tool

1 – Translation software

With video conferencing making global operations affordable for even smaller business, more business are going to be looking to have presence over seas and this will call for low cost translation services.

Translation software is quickly developing; two years ago we saw the iPod app that used it’s camera to instantly translate any written text, and this will quickly be combined with high quality voice recognition technologies that are become standard on the new generation of smart phones. We are not far off software that will quickly and efficiently translate the spoken word.

2 – Holographic projection

Previously the types of light needed for this kind of projection were too hot to be used in the kinds of small devices available in offices. However laser lighting means that holographic projectors will soon be able to be built small enough for not only office use, but could also be built into many portable devices such as smartphones.

Flash memory in smart phones could soon be replaced with a new storage format based on this technology, holographic memory. This will greatly increase storage capacities as the same area of a storage device can be used multiple times by projecting the light at different angles, read speeds will also become much faster as holo-memory can be read from many different points in parallel. This eliminates many of the large file size issues that have been hindering the spread of video technology

3 – Video takes over from the written word

As high quality webcams become more standard features on modern netbooks and better integrated with communications services such as Facebook, it is expected that people will begin to move away from writing emails and instead compose video mail instead.

For many a video message is quicker and easier and also seems more personal, now that it is as easy as clicking a button on Facebook to send one it is only a matter of time until they over take emails in the frequency with which they are sent for personal communication. The paper trail that emails leave behind may mean it takes longer for them to be used in business.

4 – A rise in personal broadcasting

YouTube videos are increasingly becoming an entertainment format that rivals television. The content on You Tube that is produced by individuals or very small companies is now genuinely entertaining yet far cheaper to produce than more traditional formats. With cost cutting becoming more essential these lower budget forms of entertainment are only going to increase. This could shift the way the entertainment industry is structured with more talent choosing to run there own company and be there own boss broadcasting themselves over the web.

5 – Increased usage of Telehealth

Also expect to see the medical industries developing more technologies based on video conferencing which will allow doctors to diagnose and treat patients from a distance. Telehealth hardware is already on track to be a $990 million market by 2015 and predictions are that this will continue to $6 billion five years after that.

At the moment telemedicine technologies are very much focused on developing countries, where there are shortages of doctors in rural communities. As telemedicine technology improves though it could be adopted in the west too allowing anyone to be treated by the best doctors in the world, no matter there location.

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Business

The positives and negatives of outsourcing work for SMEs

In challenging economic times small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have to look at costs and reduce overheads in virtually every area possible. One of the first things that small businesses look at in order to free up time and resource is to outsource work in order to focus on other aspects of their organisation.

Outsourcing of work can have a hugely positive impact on the output and growth of an organisation.

However the decision to outsource important work to freelancers and professionals across the country and overseas should not be made lightly. It is important to outsource work for the right reasons rather than employing someone in-house to complete the task.

There may be times in business in order to progress that you will take on projects that you just don’t have the necessary skills to do so. Outsourcing enables SMEs to improve their specialised skill sets via third parties, to improve their reputation and get the job done quicker.

Here are some of the many other pros and cons of outsourcing work that businesses must consider to determine whether it is the right option for your organisation.

Pros:

  •  Increased speed and quality of delivery – If your business is willing to take on work in areas which you don’t particularly specialise then outsourcing work can significantly enhance the speed and quality of completed work. Not only will you be able to complete work on time and within budget, you will be able to focus your energies on other pressing projects better suited to your expertise.
  • Free up office space – Space is precious in commercial properties and by outsourcing work within a particular department you can minimise the number of workstations and employees required, with the ability to communicate and work with third parties online with minimal fuss.
  • Ideal for business start-ups – In the infancy of any business outsourcing work proves significantly cheaper than hiring full-time staff with the same level of support. However, as businesses grow it is prudent to re-evaluate the outsourcing of particular tasks as it may prove more beneficial to employ a full-time employee to work in-house and adapt to your growing and changing needs.

Cons:

  •  Concerns over quality control – Many small businesses are frightened to work with third parties as they lose the ability to manage projects in-house. This can have a significant impact on quality control, particularly if you make a poor choice of freelancer to complete a specific project.
  • Communication frustrations – If you choose to outsource a task overseas there is always the risk of work demands getting lost in translation. This can lead to hold ups in work which may result in frustration from clients and potentially the end of lucrative working relationships.
  • Difficulties selecting appropriate vendors – SMEs inexperienced with the process of selecting a freelancer or professional for outsourced work may find it hard to decipher reliable proposals from the downright shady.

Unfortunately outsourcing work is not an exact science, but with a little common sense and research you can work successfully with third parties with the necessary knowledge and work ethic.

Categories
Business Internet News

A change in UK copyright law

Until recently, if you lived in the UK, it would have been illegal for you to buy an album and then transfer the songs onto your iPod, due to copyright law.

If you don’t live in the UK, it may still be illegal, so you might want to research it!

So why the change in policy? Well recently a government commissioned, independent review, called the Hargreaves Review, which was carried out to investigate copyright law.

From the review, the Business Secretary Vince Cable concluded that because we now live in a digital age, people communicate differently and do business differently, so it is time to bring some copyright laws up to date.


The Copyright Logo - Copyrighted Content

He also said that if you buy a CD and download it onto your computer, even if just for personal use, it is frankly a silly idea that you could be prosecuted for it. You have purchased the CD, so therefore surely you should have the rights to listen to it how you want to?

Mr Cable also feels that it can also be very restricting on business, as sometimes it’s hard to trace original owners of copyrights.

Despite changing the law, the Business Secretary said that he still wanted to protect the property rights of genuine artists and creators.

If you did buy a CD and were then charged with a criminal offence for putting it onto your iPod, would you not feel slightly cheated? If it’s your CD, should you not own the rights to it?

Website blocking is also part of this reform. Before it was possible to ask service providers to block sites displaying copyrighted content, however this is no longer going to be the case.

The obvious benefits of the change in law, would fall with the consumer, however the economy could also potentially benefit too.

What do you think about this law, is it outdated? Should it still be in place, or are the changes justifiable?

Categories
Computers Internet News

Who should get to use the internet?

I was reading an article the other day about whether people should ever be ‘cut off’ from the internet.


This got me thinking.

  • The right to have privacy
  • The right to live/exist
  • The right to have a family
  • The right to work for anyone
  • The right to free speech
  • The right to equal rights
  • The right to think freely
  • et cetera, et cetera…

Recognise any of them? They are some of the current human rights. They are the fundamental things that most countries around the world believe you should be entitled to. But, should the right to internet access if you want it become a human right?


The United Nations logo
The United Nations logo

If so this would probably only be passed as a human in more developed countries, but should it be someone’s human right to have access to the internet?

Obviously I am not on about technical glitches, but many governments can cut you off if they want, and in fact many do if you continually break copyright laws.

The internet is a fantastic method for self expression and communication, can we really take such a tool away from people?