Tag Archives: life hack

Siri take the wheel. Digital life hacking for dummies.

digital life hack icons

I just saw a commercial for the Apple Watch (the device that promises to usher in a whole new world) alerting its wearers to “stand up.”

“Hey you fat lazy bastard! Time to get off your rotund keister and exercise those pathetic extensions you call legs. Stand up!”

As appalled as I was at the thought that folks need reminding (to stand up??!) I had to acknowledge the pure utility of a reminder from your wrist watch to perform important (or mundane) tasks.

You see, I’m all about efficiency.

If there’s a way to do something in fewer steps, shave time or save money, sign me up.

And I’m not taking about being cheap, skimping on quality or reducing efficacy.

I’m talking about shortcuts for improving performance economically, whether it be incremental or exponential.

In the tech world, we refer to such ‘shortcuts’ as hacks, often crude, but effective solutions to specific programming, coding or computing problems.

The concept has moved beyond the binary world to the real one, where these crude but effective shortcuts can be applied to every day problems.

In modern vernacular – life hacking.

What’s life hacking?

Quite simply, life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novel method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.

Everywhere you look, folks are life hacking.

Carpooling? Life hacking.

Teleworking? Life hacking.

Bulk shopping? Life hacking.

Virtually every task we perform in our daily lives, from the mundane to the complex, can be life hacked.

But life hacking also applies to our digital lives as well.

There were several early movers in the digital life hacking space, although we probably didn’t consider them as such back in the day.

Hootsuite comes immediately to mind.

Think about it.

Back in the heyday of social media, you had to have an account with everyone to participate in their closed universes: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. – you get the picture.

Keeping up with them all was a nightmare.

Before there was the ability to cross pollinate your feeds with the same information from a single account by connecting them, you pretty much had to log into each one individually if you wanted to post or publish content.

And then Hootsuite came along with their social media dashboard, and you could hit most of your social media spaces from one convenient place.

Life hack.

Or TweetSpinner.

You remember them, don’t you?

TweetSpinner was essentially part CRM, part DM manager, part scheduler and part profile manager.

With TweetSpinner you could manage your followers (and follow folks back), schedule your tweets, update your profile and send broadcast direct messages from one place.

TweetSpinner consolidated four discrete activities into a handy dashboard where at a glance you could assess and manage all your Twitter-related tasks. 

Life. Hack.

Alright Stephen, enough with the digital life hacks of antiquity. What about today?

Well today, digital life hacking is a veritable art form.

And the Apple Watch is at the forefront of this movement.

Sure, there were the earlier movers – the Android watch preceded Apple by well over a year.

And there’s FitBit, Nike Fuel, and a host of other wearables that provided a certain amount of utility to their wearers.

But none holds the promise of the Apple watch for the sheer breadth of potential.

Wait…this wasn’t supposed to be a post about the Apple Watch.

It’s supposed to be about digital life hacking.

And all the ways in which digital tools can help you to life hack with aplomb.

Beyond tracking your fitness progress passively, just by wearing a device on your wrist, this same device can locate your car (so you don’t actually have to remember where you parked), find your phone, pay for your purchase – the list goes on.

But rather than bore you (any further), here are my top 5 digital life hacks.

1password

1Password – in this age of hackers, identify thieves, and wifi spoofing apps keeping your personal information secure is critical. Most people have multiple accounts for the various spaces and places they visit online, each with login credentials. Most people don’t take the time to create different logins for these multiple accounts, opting instead to use the same easy-to-recall password for everything. We know that it’s notoriously unsafe to do that, but who can remember a buttload of different password for all these accounts? With 1Password, you don’t need to. Ever since I downloaded the 1Password app, I’ve felt infinitely safer whenever I have to log into or onto anything online.

paypal

PayPal – as a consultant, getting paid is of the utmost importance. It used to be that you had to send a physical invoice and wait for a check to be cut, usually ‘Net 30.’ If you had a physical establishment, you had a card scanner to take payments at the point of sale. Electronic payments were the exclusive purview of online retailers. But today, PayPal gives consultants like me the ability to send a digital invoice, take ‘point of sale’ payments with a plug in card scanner, and accept online payments.

basecamp logo

Basecamp3 – working on projects with remote teams is always a challenge. Being able to communicate information uniformly and efficiently, share assets, collaborate and share ideas fluidly is critical to the success of any project. Before Basecamp, online collaboration took the form of shared online folders and VPN tunnels to access them. Version control, permissions, visibility and accountability were not standardized and managing projects was fairly complex. Today, things like Evernote, Slack, Google Drive, have made remote team collaboration commonplace eliminating much of the complexity of old. 

mytix

MyTix – We’ve all been here before: You’re queued up in a line to purchase a train ticket from the ticket booth or vending machine, train pulls up and you’re left with the option of abandoning your place in line and purchasing the ticket on the train with a surcharge or missing the train and purchasing the ticket without a surcharge. With the New Jersey Transit MyTix app, those days are over. Rather than having to purchase physical tickets, the app allows you purchase single rides, weekly or monthly tickets for all of NJT’s routes. You can buy tickets for other passengers riding with you as well.

siri

Siri – I used to be very anti-Siri. Why would I want to talk to my phone? If I need to do something on my iPhone, I can simply open the app and perform the activity. Case closed. When I first tried to use Siri, nine times out of ten she couldn’t/didn’t understand what I was saying and the whole process was very frustrating. But then I was exposed to the best practices for using phone assistants and my whole world changed. From setting reminders, scheduling meetings, and getting directions to sending texts, reading text messages, and placing hands-free calls, Siri ushered in a whole new world of utility that had previously been closed to me. Siri put my digital life hacking on steroids building countless efficiencies into my daily routine.

 

 

 

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It’s all about connections. And 5 Other Things You Need to Know about the Internet of Things

IoT Demystified, artwork courtesy of Dawn Riziti

I recently asked a professional colleague of mine if they knew what the Internet of Things was.

After a brief paused, they half-said, half-asked, “a marketplace of things you can get on the internet?”

Uh – no. Not even close.

Mind you, since I work in technology, I was more than a bit taken aback.

How are we, in the mobile/tech industry, not up on a rather widely used term of art – at least within the industry?

But then it dawned on me, the Internet of Things (or “IoT” as we say type in the industry) may not be as widely known as I thought.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never even heard of the “Internet of Things.”

Or, if you’ve heard the expression, you probably nodded along knowingly, without the faintest idea of what it meant.

Apple Watch. Internet of Things.

Nest thermostat. Internet of Things.

Onstar. Internet of Things.

Nowadays, virtually everything can be part of this amorphous Internet of Things, thing.

But that’s not quite explanation enough to help you know what the Internet of Things, actually is.

So here’s a little primer for ya.

According to Wikipedia,

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing infrastructure.

Come again, say what?

The Cloud Computing glossary defines the Internet of Things like so:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet.

Yeah, that was a whole lot of gobletygook.

But if the concept still escapes you, here are five other things, about the Internet of Things, that may help you to wrap your head around it.

1. IoT promises connections to everything. The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” As a result, that very “connection” is going to allow you to “life hack” like you’ve never before. You’re already able to track your REM sleep patterns, your calories in-and-out, your mood and focus throughout the day. “Know thyself” will be the new thing as we become data crunching champions. No more ‘one-size-fits-all’ consumption because, at our fingertips, will be a ‘personality mosaic’ that informs all of our behaviors and consumption.  

2. IoT will impact consumptive behavior. As the leading brand in the space, Apple will continue to lead the pack with IoT. They’ve already made the biggest impacts in “at will” consumption. Their IoT will invariably provide us all with completely “tailored” lives. The Apple Watch gives developers the ability to create apps, which will enable the reading and tracking of our consumptive habits and offer more and more suggestions tailored to our interests and lifestyles. 

The possibilities for the IoT increase as the cost of technology decreases. A few years ago, you could only get feature rich smart phones with a two year contract from a major carrier. Today, you can cop an iPhone from T-Mobile or a Samsung from Metro PCS without a contact. Companies will pay you to leave your carrier. And that’s because they know that the smart phone users’ consumptive behavior is on fleek.

3. IoT promises increased efficiency and reduced waste. The IoT will to make us all more efficient, by collecting data about our habits and behaviors, and helping us to live more productive lives. Machines that order refills when supplies are low. Alarms that record how often you hit snooze and wake you up at the optimal time so you don’t have to. Cars that calculate travel time and proactively re-route you when they detect increased traffic ahead. Lights that automatically brighten and dim, based on the activity in the room. All of these advances are the Internet of Things, saving money, time, gas, and energy.

4. IoT will change healthcare as we know it. Folks are obsessed with the possibilities that Android Watch and the Google Genomic project will have on healthcare. Think about it. Through the IoT, our genomes, our diseases and our state of health can be all matched up with environmental and behavioral data fed by wearable tech. We’ll actually be able to know more about disease and what triggers certain gene expression, possibly leading to cures and disease prevention by reconciling all of this disparate data.

Lab testing on animals has proven to be highly ineffective and outdated in mimicking/predicting how humans will respond to medications and other environmental influences. But IoT provides the first truly humane opportunity EVER to virtually “test” on humans, by giving medical professionals a unique and benignly intrusive view into the relevant metadata that factors into our general health.

5. IoT has major privacy and security implications. If you follow the news, you may have heard about the hullabaloo over the new Samsung Smart TVs which ‘listen’ to you. It’s really just another form of voice-commanded technology, not unlike Siri, Cortana or Google’s voice assistant, which act on vocal prompts. So while we’re already using this type of technology, the IoT opens up the possibility that virtually every device you interact with will be ‘listening’ to you, actively and passively, monitoring and recording your every action.

The purpose of this listening, tracking and recording is to enable you to live a simpler life, but the implications include the fact that third parties will be able to access ever more granular bits of data about you, your family, your habits, comings and goings. With ‘listening’ televisions and devices everywhere, the IoT brings the very real likelihood that we are going to be sacrificing privacy, as we know it, for convenience.

But it’s not all bad.

Put simply, the internet of this is all about connections.

So let’s review, shall we?

The Internet of Things is connected devices, wired homes, smart buildings, and constant data capture.

It’s smart grids, IPv6, machine-to-machine, intelligent communication.

It’s sensors, RFID, wireless technologies, beacons.

It’s everything. Everywhere. All the time.

Welcome to the Internet of Things.

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