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Tired of Passwords? These Technologies Aim to Help!

Tired-of-Passwords--These-Technologies-Aim-to-Help

With the average user dealing with at least 40 separate online accounts, it’s no wonder many Americans are feeling password fatigue. To try to make things less complicated, some users have chosen to use the same password and username for every account, but this can pose a security danger to both consumers and businesses. Another alternative is to make a list and keep it locked away somewhere, but there’s no guarantee that list won’t become compromised someday.

Technology is offering several different solutions to the problem, making it easy for users to maintain dozens of passwords without risking a data breach or hacking attempt. Here are a few current technologies that could make password management easy.

Smartphone via NFC

With 74 percent of consumers now owning a smartphone, these devices could provide the answer to the world’s password woes. Using Near Field Communication or SMS messaging, a device owner’s smartphone can communicate with a nearby PC using Google’s tap-to-unlock.

Smartphone via Token

With services like Ping Identity, users are authenticated through a one-time token that is sent to a device. A swipe of the finger unlocks the token and lets the user log into any service or system. The technology is targeted to the enterprise environment.

Biometrics

Using fingerprints or iris scans to authenticate users sounds very sci-fi, but the technology is already in use in some places. Fingerprint technology has taken off, appearing in mobile devices and laptops already, but iris scanners are still slow to take off. Both technologies haven’t been proven to be 100 percent foolproof, but consumers love the ease-of-use of both methods.

Digital Tattoo

In the future, a tattoo could be something more than a way to show your personal taste. A digital tattoo is a sticker that lasts a limited number of days and communicates directly with your mobile device. Motorola’s Digital Tattoo costs $1 and lasts up to five days, but experts wonder if consumers will be willing to wear a sticker all day for the luxury of avoiding passwords.

Password Pill

With the password pill, you actually swallow an electronic device that can send signals through your skin. While the pill can make authentication effortless, it’s unlikely most consumers will be comfortable ingesting a device that communicates with their electronics.

Voice Printing

Through voice recognition, a user can simply speak a passcode and unlock a system. VoiceKeyID from Porticus is available for mobile devices and embedded platforms.

Brainwaves

Imagine being logged in by merely thinking your password. That is exactly what brainwave authentication aims to do. The technology was demonstrated at the University of California Berkeley School of Information, but the user has to wear a headset for it to work.

Smaller iPad May Come in the Fall

Since it was introduced, the iPad has been by far the biggest player in the tablet space. And it doesn’t just have a big market share—compared with a number comparable devices that have come out in the last few years, it’s actually really big.

The iPad has a 9.7-inch screen, compared with about 7 inches for the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy’s smaller versions. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is preparing to introduce its own smaller tablet.

Citing unnamed sources, the story says Apple has told component suppliers to prepare for mass production of a tablet with a less-than-eight-inch screen in September. Rumors of a smaller cousin for the iPad have been floating for some time.

The tablet market is growing rapidly. Market research firm IHS iSuppli predicts that tablet sales will rise 85 percent to 127 million units this year. The iPad held a 62 percent share of the world market for tablets last year, and its dominance is even greater in work environments.

As more variations on the table theme—notably the Microsoft Surface Tablet and Google’s Nexus 7—roll out, Apple must be feeling some pressure to diversify its offerings. But being the big guy in the room comes with complications. One report last year found that the biggest competitor for the iPad is actually the iPhone, which, of course, has only a 3.5-inch screen. That raises the question of whether a smaller Apple tablet will function mostly to subdivide the company’s enormous market.

iPads at Work

If you use a tablet at your job, chances are, it’s an iPad. In fact, according to a recent report by Good Technology, the chances are, very, very good. A full 97.3 of tablets activated by enterprise users over the first quarter of 2012 are iPads, up slightly from 94.7 percent the previous quarter. In contrast, a recent analysis of overall tablet sales showed Apple with a somewhat less intimidating 61.4 percent of the market.

Good — which offers IT support to help companies implement “bring your own device” programs—based the report on the use of mobile devices among its customers, which include half of the Fortune 100 and other big players in industries like finance and healthcare. It found that, overall, the number of its customers deploying mobile devices grew 50 percent over the past year, while the number of devices used by the average company more than doubled.

When it comes to smartphones, Apple was still the first choice, though not by quite such an impressive margin. It represented about 73 percent of the smartphone market.

Smartphones remain considerably more popular than tablets, at least for the moment. The iPhone was the single most-activated device overall, with more than half of the market. Android devices—almost entirely smartphones—represented just over 20 percent of the market.

On another note, if you’re using any kind of mobile device at your job, there’s a pretty good chance you work in financial services. That industry accounted for 36.1 percent of mobile device activations over the quarter, followed by business and professional services with 17 percent and healthcare with 7 percent. IPads were disproportionately popular in the Life Sciences industry, which Good said likely reflects use by lab workers and sales staff at pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

While Apple seems to be blowing other companies out of the water in the enterprise space, Good notes that it can’t rest easy. The first Windows 8 tablets debuting later this year, and new Windows phones like the Nokia Lumia just barely out now, are likely to shake up the market considerably.

When the Internet Ate the Phone

You’ve got five new hires coming in for their first day, a meeting about a new product planned for 2 p.m. and a prospective client who might call in any time. The problem? You had to leave the office unexpectedly first thing this morning to put out a fire at a remote office.

Scenarios like this one have been terrifying managers for decades. These days, though, they’re a lot less scary because of the increased prevalence of VoIP systems. Short for voice over internet protocol, VoIP covers a huge range of products from fairly simple phone systems to integrated tools that allow for video conferencing, seamless access to office lines from mobile phones and the ability to get detailed information about an office communications network from anywhere.

Aside from email, VoIP is probably one of the biggest factors in the rise in telecommuting among office workers in recent years. Yet occasional breakdowns and poor quality on VoIP systems—most notoriously Skype—have made some suspicious of the technology. Providers are responding to the issue with redundant networks and sometimes the ability to switch over to the regular phone network in the case of a network emergency. The systems require different phones than traditional networks, but they are also usually much less expensive.

A report last year said that 31 percent of installed business lines in North America were VoIP-based, and it predicted adoption would rise to more than 66 percent by 2015. If that turns out to be right, it could mean traditional landlines are on their way to extinction.

Just one example of the ways that modern VoIP systems can change the office landscape is found at California-based ShoreTel Communications. ShorTel can let companies run their own VoIP system internally or handle it for them in the cloud. A firm offering ShorTel consulting can help firms figure out which option works best for them. Either way, a sleek interface offers users a way to monitor employees’ use of the system and quickly plug new workers in. Even people working from a remote location can get immediate access to everything that’s available at the main location through either office or cell phones.

It could be enough to make managers find they don’t really need to go into the office, even on the fullest of days.

Introduction to the Thin Client

The concept of a thin client has been gaining traction these past few years. The overall idea is that a computer relies on another computer for most of its operating capacity. Now that might sound like a bad thing, but it can more efficient. For example, on a typical day, an employee may use maybe ten percent of his computer’s capacity. You’re paying for all the PC’s RAM and processing power, but you and employees rarely use it all. If you had thin client set-up, computing power would be shuffled around by the main server to computers that needed it. There are drawbacks.

Thin clients typically cost less to maintain and last longer than a traditional PC paradigm, but they are expensive to acquire. Thin client servers also fall prey to sudden increases to traffic and distances from computer to serve. Which brings up a valid draw back of thin clients, they don’t adapt to certain situations well. If you suddenly needed another computer you could go out and buy one. However, on a thin client system you’d have to add more capacity to the server.

Drawbacks aside, thin clients seem to be here to stay. You may not know it, but cloud technology is a form of a thin client. Everything from Google Docs to iCloud used the memory storage aspect of a thin client. And with BYOD (bring your own device) policies springing up everywhere, a thin client serve could be a way to integrate all those different gadgets. It’s important to understand that in this day and age, a business never has to adopt a system or way of thinking wholesale. For a smaller business, a cloud hosting service might be useful to backup files rather than a full blown thin client server. Picking a choosing appropriate pieces is a sure fire away to maximize ROI.

Getting Into Your Customers’ Pockets

Over the last few years it’s become inescapable. More and more people can’t seem to go for a half hour without pulling a phone out of their pocket and checking to see what’s new.

Practically every business wants to find a way to make their name show up on their customers’ little screens, but many are confused about how to do it. Do you need an app? A mobile optimized site? Must you tweet, or is Facebook enough?

The answers to these questions will be different for every sort of business. Twitter is a fantastic tool for anyone hawking impulse buys. The food truck that tweets its location and daily specials has become a staple of many urban areas. Facebook is a great place to engage people in a conversation about a new product you’re selling, and many small businesses find Foursquare is an excellent way to build up customer loyalty. For many companies, the best bet may be to throw the same information up on multiple platforms since it doesn’t take much more time and may reach different audiences.

Where social media is free, getting an IT consulting firm to build you an app or a mobile-optimized website can get pricey. The businesses that have the most use for their own apps are those, like banks, that customers need to interact with frequently. Mobile sites can be helpful if your regular site has a lot of complicated information that could get confusing on a tiny screen.

In general, though, there are some easy ways to make sure your main website looks good on a smartphone. It’s important to make sure words are actually text, not part of a graphic, especially key information like your address and phone number. Avoid flash, since a majority of mobile devices won’t play it. The best way to figure out if your site works for mobile devices is to try it out. But don’t just use your own iPhone. Borrow a friend’s android phone, your sister’s iPad and whatever else you can get your hands on and check how good your site looks on them all.

Once you’ve got a decent mobile site, and a social media presence to drive traffic to it, you can be confident that everywhere your customers go, you’re riding along in their pockets.

Throttling: For You and America At Large

The word unlimited is uttered and various images come to mind. Some people think of the sky, the stars, or the vast oceans that line the Earth. However, rarely do they think of a river being choked by a dam, allowing only a trickle of water through. AT&T and Verizon, the two largest wireless carriers in the world, seemed to have adopted that definition. The two companies have made it a habit of lowering the available bandwidth to the top five percent users on unlimited plans. This is even after both companies stopped offering unlimited data plans to new customers since 2011. One user has even sued and won, claiming he was defrauded since AT&T cut off his bandwidth when he was paying 85 dollars a month for unlimited data. The whole situation seems rather unsettling for both consumers and America at large.

AT&T made the claim that the top five percent of unlimited plan users were hogging too much of the available bandwidth. According to a new study however, this isn’t true. The study showed that the top five percent of tiered users consume about as much bandwidth as their unlimited plan cousins. The main difference is that tiered users pay for that bandwidth. It’s unsavory to think that AT&T and Verizon are engaging profiteering at the expense of what appears to be a clear cut ethical issue. Regardless of what your politics are about the regulation of business, all sides of the spectrum  agree that you should get what you pay for. Though not all the blame should be placed on the current administrations these telecommunication companies. Some, should be placed on their predecessors.

When Al Gore said that he invented the internet, he was referring to a group of legislative bills that he authored that helped spur the creation of infrastructure that would allow the web to exist. This broadband throttling speaks to a deeper issue. America, as a nation, is falling behind in broadband penetration. Currently, we rank 19th in the world, behind Canada, France and Bermuda. It’s true that bridges and roads are falling apart too, but internet infrastructure needs to be addressed. The United States is entering a post-industrial economic phase where technological services create more jobs such as in tech support and computer engineering. In my view, restoring the glory of the past is nice, but creating a future is realistic.

Throttling is an issue that should concern individual consumers and nation-states alike. It’s wrong for businesses to claim a product is one thing, but then to deliver something else. It’s equally wrong for the United States to put improving our data infrastructure on the back burner. However, as the wise man said, the first step of avoiding a trap is knowing there’s one there.

Apple’s Retina Display: The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful

Apple has long been at the fore front of consumer aware innovation. That is to say that Apple makes products that buyers feel are technologically advanced. This is most evident in the iPad 3 and its retina display, which was unveiled with the iPod touch and phone. The display packs 326 pixels per square inch, which translates to a contrast ratio of 800:1. There’s dispute whether or not that this is the most pixels a human eye can handle, (hence, the name retina display) but with its LED ambient light sensitive backing; it’s pretty damn good. Because the screen adjusts to its surroundings, the iPad 3 will reduce eyestrain. That’s a huge boon to IT support Boston, Chicago, NYC, Washington etc. professionals who sometimes have to work on these things all day. A display that’s so crisp may be a game changer. At the very least, it proves that Apple has an impressive manufacturing network.

To date, Samsung makes all the 2048X1536 displays. LG and Sharp are also on deck to pick up any slack. Even though Sharp was rumored to have failed Apple’s inspection process, they are said to be very excited to put their eighth generation fabrication production facilities. They’ll all have to be burning the midnight oil. Analysts are estimating that Apple will ship out an upwards of 18.7 million units by the forth quarter. What does all this mean to you?

Well, if you want an iPad 3 you’ll have to spend somewhere between 499 and 829 dollars. That’s a pretty hefty price for more pixels than your eye can even see. The problems might not stop there. Apps will have to double in size to keep up with the display. That could cause a lot problems since Apple does not allow apps larger than 20 megabytes to be downloaded over 3G. It’ll still work over wi-fi and 4G, so it’ll be on your dime but not AT&T’s. Bigger apps will mean more throttling problems for data users. It’s becoming very clear that data usage and demand for bandwidth is outstripping our current infrastructure.

Overall, the iPad 3 will boast the best display in the retail arena. It’s quite the technological feat. However, Beta had a better display than VHS. Price is still a powerful limiting factor in deciding to make a purchase. It’ll be interesting if Apple’s brand loyalty can trump this. Judging by these pictures, probably.

 

Nearly Half In U.S. Use Smartphones

If you’re starting to feel like everyone you know has an iPhone or a Droid within arm’s reach at all times, you’re not far off.  A new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that nearly half of American adults, 46 percent, use a smartphone.

The survey, conducted last month, shows smartphones are now more popular than traditional cell phones, which are used by 41 percent of Americans. Adoption of smartphones has surged 11 percent since the previous Pew survey in May 2011.

The new numbers make it clearer than ever that every business needs to have an Internet presence that’s accessible to mobile devices, whether that means a mobile-friendly website, an app or just a great presence on social media. An IT consulting provider can help optimize websites and other offerings to best reach the smartphone-carrying audience.

Popular stereotypes notwithstanding, mobile devices aren’t just for the wealthy or the young. The Pew survey found use of smartphones growing among all demographics. Across almost all income levels, age groups and other categories, there was significant growth in smartphone adoption over the past nine months.

For example, use of smartphones by people between 45 and 54 years old grew from 28 to 44 percent, and use by those with household income levels below $30,000 grew from 22 to 34 percent.

Still, there is significant variation in adoption by different groups. A full 71 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 use a smartphone, as do 68 percent of those with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Only 13 percent of those 65 or older have a smartphone, and only 25 percent of people with less than a high school education have one.

The smartphone market is divided almost evenly between Androids and iPhones. Twenty percent of all cell phone owners have an Android device, while 19 percent have an iPhone. Another 6 percent have a Blackberry, 2 percent use a Windows system and 1 percent use a Palm device. The absence of a single operating system points to the need for managed IT services in ensuring that web offerings are compatible with different sorts of phones.

As the smartphone market has grown, the percentage of Americans using traditional cell phones has declined from 48 percent to 41 percent. The percentage of Americans without any cell phone also continues to decline, dropping to just 12 percent in February compared with 17 percent last May.

It’s worth noting that the Pew survey is just about smartphones and doesn’t account for the growing adoption of iPads and other tablet devices, a trend that makes the importance of IT support for mobile devices even more apparent.

A New Tablet Contender: Windows 8

At the World Mobile Congress, Samsung unveiled a new tablet which runs on Windows 8. It’s poised to become an actual contender against Apple’s iPad, which currently dominates with 57 percent of tablet market. Windows 8 brings an impressive array of tools to the fight including: better functionality, Skydrive capabilities, and backwards compatibility. Microsoft has an up hill battle, but it may be able to gain an edge in the business arena.

Functionality will be key for Microsoft if they wish to break Apple’s hold on the tablet market. While the iPad totes brand recognition and a large library of apps, it does have the connotation of being a toy rather than a tool. It’s a similar dichotomy that the iPhone has with the Blackberry. Microsoft can get down and be all about business. The Windows 8 user interface will use the Metro system which was introduced when the Windows Phone made its debut in 2010. This system displays tiles that depict information like temperature and stock prices. They are constantly updated to keep the user informed on changing situations. It would be interesting to see if apps are created for IT support services and other customer service industries to keep track of open and incoming tickets. This is just one of a whole host things that Windows 8 can do to appeal to the business sectors. They’ll have to work that angle to compete. If the Apple commercials with Justin Long teach us anything, it’s that Microsoft never be as cool.

Staying on top of being productive, the Windows 8 client will also have Skydrive. Skydrive is a cloud service with over 10 petabytes of storage space. This service will permeate the PC version as well as the mobile. Thus, data gathered in field can seamlessly be accessed at the office without any lag time. Microsoft is also pushing for all its apps to use Skydrive. It’s clear that this move is to match iCloud’s quest to make all electronic devices become one.

The final piece of the puzzle is backwards compatibility. Tablets running Windows 8 will be able to run Microsoft Office programs in their fullest form. This could be deal maker for small to medium businesses. For example, an accountant at the main office can go to an off site vendor and run Excel to keep the books with all its features. Windows 8 also supports mouse and keyboard use, unlike the iPad, so anywhere can become a convenient office.

Android may have fallen flat on its back. It has only sold about 12 million units compared to 48 million units of iPad sold last year alone. The door is wide open for a new contender and Microsoft seems ready. The days of bygone eras have returned. Windows 8 appears to be a business oriented construct to duke it out with iPad’s suave demeanor.