Sep 18

What is the Visual Search Tool by Super Fish?

Image search

Complaisant brand managers beware. There’s a new player in town and shoppers will like it a lot more than you do. Functionally, the new visual search tool lets the consumer shoot a picture and then scan a database of photos to find online matches.

None of the components of the SuperFish Visual Search Tool are entirely new, but combining them certainly is. In principle, if you can render a wireframe image to create a 3D object, you can de-render a 3D object to get a wireframe. Getting to 3D from a two-dimensional image has been around for a while, though other applications rely on human cognitive input.

Clever Artificial Intelligence

Without know the inner workings of the algorithm we can only speculate, but … Applications that rely on human cognitive input use our visual processing ability to identify edges, then use basic geo-semantic relations like the orthogonality, concentricity, and parallelism of human design to extract the image. To compensate for the lack of human input, presumably the visual search tool relies on the human desire for good photographic composition to identify the search target.

How It Works

The process begins when the consumer uploads a photograph from either disc or the Internet to the application. Next, the visual search tool de-renders the image to create a wireframe model of the image. It then queries the vast modern database of images to generate a ranked list of the best results. Finally, the application presents that list in the form of a visual online tombstone-style catalog. Consumers then drill down to explore possible matches for the product of interest.

Why That Matters to Marketers and Product Designers

Years spent building a brand can now be erased anywhere and at the blink of an eye. At one time cheap knock-offs of brand name products were at least hypothetically limited to street corner markets. With the advent of visual search, similar items will be at the shopper’s fingertips wherever she happens to be and whatever she wants to buy.

What You Should Learn in a Trial

Five minutes conducting a trial using the ‘Like That Décor’ app on the SuperFish.com site. Google for pictures of a common object like a ‘custom greenhouse.’ Save a copy of one of the photos to your hard drive. At the Like That Décor prompt, upload the photo. The app runs astonishingly fast. Within a few seconds Like That Décor returns pages of greenhouses for you to shop through. As you will see the app doesn’t return an exact match, even for the most commonly returned photos on Google. Instead, shoppers get a beautiful catalog listing of their competitors’ products, including prices, shipping costs, and other essential information.

Implications and What To Do About Them

Since the visual search tool returns a broad selection of images of items similar to those the consumer looked for, ‘Image rank’ will quickly take on importance similar to that of ‘Page rank,’ or keyword search. Just when you thought you had the Internet knocked, expect the emergence of an entirely new branch of search engine optimization. Looking ahead, that might include some or all of the following:

· Archive more images of each branded product
· Shoot images from more angles
· Try to predict the angles/views shoppers will actually see
· Archive some images taken ‘in the wild.’
· Incorporate easily machine-recognizable design elements in products

Conclusion

Thankfully revolutions don’t come along every day, but this is definitely one of them. Proactivity prospers and whether this helps your business or eventually wipes out your market share depends on what you do right now to prepare for the future.

Sep 15

The Death of the Pen: Electronic Signature Technology Marches Forward

Electronic signature

One of the most exciting technologies available online for business people, electronic signature services continue to grow their scope to match all business needs.

No More Fussing With Contracts

If you sign contracts with clients, suppliers, and employees on a regular basis, you typically have some boilerplate language in place to ensure that you can do minimal edits before you print and sign the document. The awkward point often comes when you need to call an extra meeting to sign the documents. With electronic signatures, your documents are available, ready for editing or e-mailing to the signee. Once you have made the changes that you want to in the document, you can put your own electronic signature on the document, e-mailing a link or the document to them that will allow them to view it anywhere, sign it and e-mail it back. It is that simple- no extra meeting, no travel necessary to the client site. Of course, those services are available right now from qualified vendors.

Solid Reporting Built In

Another positive for users of electronic signature technology is that instead of collating all materials as they come back in in files, you can organize the electronic files online, saving you even more time. Additionally, most vendors offer notifications and reporting that gives you a document status overview instantly, saving you time in the review process.

The way that current services have been built, if you do a cost analysis, you will probably find that you are saving hours of labor per week by using one.

Acceptable Anywhere

One question that often comes up when talking about electronic signature technology is ‘Are the documents legally binding‘. The answer is yes. They are not any less legally binding than if you signed it with a pen. This is because many services have you register your electronic signature so that documents that are signed with it will be legally binding. The disclaimer that comes with the signature on each document also provides legal protections because the client or employee or vendor cannot sign with verifying that they understand the implications of their signature.

Ready to Scale

The roadmap for the future is even brighter for documents signed with electronic signatures. They currently are in use for:

  • Contracts
  • Invoices and Purchase Orders
  • Letters and Correspondence

In the future, electronic signers will be able to electronically notarize a document before it is sent out or while it is received. Electronic notarization brings a lot more potential documents into the mix. Real estate and other types of transactions that normally have a special set of rules would suddenly be included in electronic signature types of transactions.

Another capability that electronic signature services are aiming for is to be able to apostille a document electronically. And although that isn’t for direct consumption, it will bring the cost down for businesses that use that type of signature on a regular basis. It will also take less time. The State of California, normally takes between 6 to 8 business days to apostille a document. If they adopt electronic signature services, their service will likely start to match the service levels that they provide for people who come into their offices in Sacramento, which is same day service.

Overall, electronic signature services are growing and attracting more and more businesses because of their ability to save them time and money.

Aug 21

10 Apps Released in 2014 That Will Thrive in 2015

Part of the fun of having and using a mobile device includes customizing by adding apps. Numerous apps come out every year and span a wide variety of topics. Whether desiring to make a device more efficient, learn something new or just find a better way to connect with others in your social circle, there is an app for that.

Bitcasa-free

Extremely user-friendly, the free version provides up to 20GB of space for storing all types of media data on cloud storage. For an annual fee, users may increase that amount to 1TB of storage.

Cleaner Master-free

The app works similar to the device manager that cleans up PC storage. It boosts memory by cleaning out unnecessary files or memory. It also turns off background apps to save battery power with a push of a button. Great for low or middle range powered phones.

Coursera-free

For the student, a professional or anyone who enjoys continuous learning, the app provides access to almost two dozen topics and over 600 free online courses that are offered at more than 100 international colleges, universities and institutions.

Device Manager-free

Lets a user locate a missing phone or mobile device. In the event that a device is stolen, protect your identity and all of your data by merely logging into the account online. Lock out offenders or delete all the data contents remotely.

GAIN Fitness-free

Designed as a digital workout buddy, the app coaches users through exercise routines that are completely customizable. Preloaded with a wide selection of exercises and demonstrations, individuals get a full body workout.

MX Player-free

The upgrade handles multiple formats and prevents lagging that many experience using the standard android video player. Once installed, the software automatically displays any video files stored in the device. Swipe to choose videos, control brightness, volume and zoom.

Pinterest-free

Now one of the fastest growing social media sites, the app provides access via mobile device. Pin photographs to online boards and share with family or friends. Users may also link with other people to make new friends who share similar interests. Recommend other pinboards on your site or just leave a comment on theirs.

PixlR Express-free

Complex but easy to use, the photo editing app adjusts cropping, size, red eyes, brightness or simply press autofix. Additionally, get countless combinations of effects, filters, overlays and borders to customize photographs. Save the altered images to the device or upload the images to social media sites.

Quick Scan-free

Quick Scan makes use of the phone’s built-in camera to scan a bar code in real-time at any retail store. Find the current price along with price comparisons offered by the competition. Users may also make purchases directly online.

Rdio-free

Create your own radio station featuring the artists and genres of your choosing. The “You FM” station that you design devises one large playlist with all of your favorites. Upgrades enable on-demand listening to any album or song.

The numerous free apps available to mobile device users are compatible with android and smart phones, iPads, iPhones or tablets. Make the most of your device by equipping it with apps that entertain, organize or save you time and money.

 

Aug 19

2014 Is the Year of Hardware Tech Acquisitions

When looking at tech, it’s important to realize that acquisitions are in, and many companies want to buyout others. While true, it’s unwise to look at this as a way to invest. No, you don’t want to chase other tech companies hoping to make money. With this in mind, here are four types of company’s you should look at when looking to companies that may others may acquire.

The cloud: First and foremost, if you are looking at companies that are exciting and full of great futures, look at the cloud. Think about it, plenty of businesses large and small alike need to use the cloud. For this reason, IBM and other major hardware companies have bought out smaller companies. Not only that, Microsoft, Cisco and other major companies have pursued companies that have invested in the cloud. Remember, this will only grow in the future.

Camera phones: Without a doubt, if you look at a smartphone, you will see something with a great camera that does plenty for the user. With this in mind, you should seek out a camera phone company if you want to invest your savings. Think about it, when you whip out an iPhone or Android device, you will use something that has a great camera. While true, without a doubt, cell phone companies need to improve to compete with standalone versions. For this reason, large cell phone carriers will, in due time, buyout camera makers. Then, when doing so, consumers will enjoy cameras with the highest quality on the market.

Internet security: Think about this for a minute, when you watch the news or head online to read about the latest tech happenings, you will probably hear about a major hacking. Companies like Target have dealt with serious data breaches. When this happens, a corporation will lose money and customers. Not only that, people who are currently with the company will express fear and anger. For this reason, many major players will look to acquire tech security companies as they can bolster their own offerings. Remember, when dealing with tech, it’s crucial to remember security. For this reason, many corporations, large and small, will seek to bolster their own, and you must understand and invest in this if you want to make some money.

Servers: Now, when looking at the backbone of the Internet, you will notice that companies rely on servers to host websites. This is nothing new. However, people now only realize how important servers are to the functioning of their corporations. Luckily, you can make some serious cash if you invest in server companies.

Routers: If you get on the Internet at your house, you probably use a local router. For example, plenty of people use Netgear or another large provider. While true, a lot of people will use the one provided by their ISP. Either way, when you look at the future, you must realize that routers are important and used by everyone. When you realize this, you can understand the future and make some money by investing in businesses that provide routers to the average user. Simply put, when looking to the future, look to routers as they provide the end-user with something they need.

If you want to invest in tech, look to companies that may get bought out this year. If you do, you can make some serious cash.

Aug 09

6 New Revolutionary Forms of Exercise Equipment

As technology advances so do the different types of workout equipment. From outdoor to indoor machines, man is ever on the quest to build the perfect machine to shed those extra pounds and keep the body healthy. After pouring over lists of the upgraded same old machines, here are the top 5 that are truly different and revolutionary.

StreetStrider

Outdoor Ellipitical Bike From StreetStrider

Outdoor Ellipitical Bike From StreetStrider.com

Available in two models, the StreetStrider is the next generation of ellipticals, but instead of being stationary, these ellipticals are attached to three wheels and are meant to be enjoyed outdoors. Comprised of two moving handles, a brake system and footpads, these machines work just like bikes. Because of this, these machines are great for individuals that want to go out for a run, but need a low-impact way to do so.

Desk Treadmill

Designed for the office goers, the desk treadmill is exactly that: a treadmill meant to be used at work. It is the answer to decreasing back pain caused by sitting all day. Most come with a built in desk to support your computer, coffee and other work paraphernalia. The treadmill part is designed to only hit a max of 12mph to keep things active without taking away any focus. Some even come with slight inclines for a decreased hit to the joints.

Power Plate

The Power Plate is a destabilization machine consisting of handles attached to a platform that vibrates 25 to 50 times per second and moves up and down, side to side, and front and backward. This coupled with performing an exercise such as step ups or running in places on the platform, increases the difficulty of the exercise forcing the user to work harder to maintain balance and control.

Hybrid Trainers

Providing users with two completely different options of workout combined with preset workout routines, the hybrid trainers are a dream for any that want more than just one machine for an affordable amount. Beginners can start strictly on the bike and, as they become more advanced, can progress to using the elliptical, a machine that takes a lot more coordination and balance than the bike.

Tour de France Pro

As the official training bike of the Tour de France, this stationary bike has every new feature imaginable to make it a step above the competition. With a screen that provides a street view as provided by Google maps, magnetic resistance to decrease the machine’s sound, a 20% incline and decline as well as a built-in power meter, many users could easily mistake this bike to be a fully interactive video game console.

Rower

Combining aerobic and strength training, the new type of rower is dual action. Still consisting of a slide, bungee and footpads, the handles can be lifted upward while the user stands above the resistance portion of the machine. This is an ideal combination as users can get one of the best cardio exercises around while being able to condition themselves without investing in additional pieces of equipment.

Whether a new twist on an older machine or a fully optimized piece of technology, exercise equipment is becoming so much more than free weights and rowers. Getting fit today is no longer the chore it once was. These new revolutions in exercise are transforming the landscape, turning an often times unachievable dream into verifiable reality, no matter the person’s limitations.

Jul 26

So Many Passwords! Tools, Technology, and Research for Safe Logins

Passwords are often the bane of internet users with multiple accounts, but you may be getting some relief with new tools and technologies. Good security protocols demand that a password be random. Further, different accounts must have different passwords to prevent a complete security breach. This is a lot of random characters to remember. For many, it’s too much. Thankfully, new tools, technology and research have been developed and tested to aid in the organizing and safekeeping of account logins.

Password Managers

A password manager is a program that keeps all your unique passwords in an encrypted database. This database is accessed with the master password, the only password users are required to remember. Examples of this system are Mac’s built-in Keychain program. Non-OS specific password managers include KeePass and LastPass. The question for some is about the safety concerns inherent in keeping a treasure trove of passwords. However, there are extra security methods built into password managers.
two-factor authentication: This is a method of authentication based on a user knowing something and having something. For the programs above, this is the password and a key file that can be kept on a flash drive. Without both identifying items, the database cannot be accessed.
one-time passwords (OTP): An alternative to static passwords, one-time passwords allow one-time use. A new one must be generated for each log-in, ensuring protection against spyware.

Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication uses a person’s behavior or physical characteristics to confirm their identity. Examples of biometric authentication are eye scans, fingerprinting, voice recognition, facial recognition and heart patterns. There hasn’t been wide adoption of biometrics because of the cost of acquiring and integrating biometric readers and the lack of portability. However, recent technology may make biometrics more commonplace.

Nymi:This is a wearable authentication device created by Bionym as a wireless password replacement. Nymi uses your electrocardiogram (ECG) together with proximity and the Nymi application. Nymi is in the preordering stage now.

Myris: This is a portable eye scanner created by EyeLock. It connects to computers via USB and takes 15 seconds to identify 240 points in each iris. Myris is set to be released this year. No definite date has been announced.

Telepathwords

For those who wish to stick with traditional password use but simply don’t know what qualifies as a strong password, Telepathwords offers help. Created at Microsoft Research, Telepathwords tries to guess the next character in your password as you type it. Too many correct guesses means your password is too common. Telepathwords is based on English words and popular words, popular phrases or character proximity on keyboards. Passwords using private information such as birthdates cannot be measured on the site. That might be for best, though. Experts caution that personal information makes insecure passwords vulnerable to phishing or trashing.

Passwords protect our banking, businesses and personal data. Users want the best methods and technology to keep it all safe, and there will doubtless be further developments in areas of authentication. Whatever method of protection you choose now, the above resources can guide you to a well-secured account.

May 14

Disaster Recovery Solutions for Businesses: Protection Forever

Data recovery during disaster

Today’s technological advances have redefined the ways that companies conduct their operations. It has created massive and immeasurable opportunities for businesses to engage their customer base and manage their data. With these great advances, comes some significant risks. The ability to electronically manage all of your data has increased productivity and efficiency. It has reduced the need for storage space to store paper documents and so much more. However, there is still a challenge that companies must address. What happens in the case of some type of disaster in which the primary data management program is compromised? How will you recover those vital files and data?

Understanding the Dynamics of Disaster Recovery

Businesses are like most other elements that function in society. Each one is different and the needs and expectations for each are different. This means that the way one company perceives disaster recovery will be different from another. Many times these differences will be distinct. There are some companies that are looking for simple backup services that will allow them to back up their sensitive files on cloud servers. In many cases, these type of backup services will be facilitated on some type of shared server program.

There will be other companies that will need more detailed support as a part of their disaster recovery strategy. The key thing to understand here is that in either case, the company has taken the time to develop the strategy prior to there being a need to execute it. The company that is looking for something a bit more detailed and comprehensive my look into a number of hybrid cloud solutions that will be designed with their specific needs and demands in mind.

The goal of a disaster recovery plan it to ensure that business is not interrupted in the instance that a disaster takes placed. The more elaborate and comprehensive a recovery plan is the higher the capacity level the business will be able to function at during the recovery process.

The Use of Data Centers

One of the most popular services offered by disaster recovery providers is the use of multiple data centers that are equipped with state-of-the-art servers that have the highest reliability. These servers are also alternatively connected, so that if one were to go down, the data would still be saved. You would think that gold is being stored at these facilities with the amount of security that is used to protect them. The truth is that the information being stored at these facilities are more valuable than gold; they protect the lifeline of thousands of businesses

Working with a Provider that Understands Your Needs

It is vital to work with a provider that is reputable as well as resource capable. Taking chances with cut rate providers to save a few cents may cost you in the long run. It is important that your provider is capable of listening to your needs and demands while being able to lucidly communicate to you the best possible method of providing the level of protection that you are looking for.

When you find the right program, you will be able to function with the confidence of knowing that you are able to protect important data that is a key element in maintaining the level of trust with your customer based that is necessary to build customer loyalty.

 

Apr 21

Tired of the Hype? Mobile Gone Too Far

Mobile phones have quickly evolved from bulky and basic giants to small, versatile competitors to desktop and laptop computers. Mobile phone technology seems to be increasing at such a rapid pace that it is almost becoming redundantly ridiculous. Consumers have to choose from at least 10 different manufacturers with four different models that come out every month. Each manufacturer claims to have the golden item, and every other month a new golden item emerges. Some of the latest cell phone features that probably do not need any more evolution are as follows:

The Processor

Mobile phones used to have simple processors that did not do much other than connecting one voice call to another. Lately, some of the flagship devices have processors with multiple cores and speeds that can make a desktop unit blush. Part of society feels the need to keep up with this specification and upgrade their phones every time a unit with a higher processing speed comes out. The truth is that no cell phone needs more than two cores and a 1.5 GHz processor. The number of consumers that actually use the features associated with beefy processors is very low. At the end of the day, it is still a cell phone.

The Screen Size

It appears as if size is everything in the mobile phone industry. The bigger the screen size, the bigger the profits. Some new models are coming out with screens that are bigger than 6 inches. At that point, the mobile phone becomes a brick that defies ergonomics. It seems as if mobile phones may be de-evolving if they are growing larger. Perhaps 10 years from now, consumers will have to carry their mobile phones in a bag, like they had to do with the Motorola DynaTac.

Camera Quality

A camera used to be a camera, and a phone used to be a phone. Lately, certain manufacturers are putting out phones with cameras that have more than 40 megapixels. A professional photographer may not want to use a cell phone to do his or her artwork, and 40 megapixels is a bit much for a device that is intended for voice calls as a primary usage.

Other manufacturers are using outrageous gimmicks such as alleged water resistance and phones that can bend around a coffee mug. The mobile phone industry may have indeed gone too far.

What is a Good Mobile Phone?

A good mobile phone does not have to have the highest Gigahertz or the most megapixels. The idea of grandiose specifications was good a few years ago, but now it is simply unnecessary. A good cell phone is one that looks attractive and can produce a high-quality voice call. Gigahertz and megapixels cannot call 911 when an emergency occurs. Therefore, a reliable cell phone should have clear reception. It should also have sturdy casing and long battery life. The bells and whistles are attractive and fun at times, but they are not necessary to classify a phone as good or bad.

A good cell phone will act as a cell phone when it needs to, and it will provide some enjoyable additional features such as games. Additionally, a good cell phone will be sturdy enough to take a few drops and spills without shattering into a million pieces.

Mar 31

Exciting New Technologies Showcased In This Year’s SXSW Conference

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a series of conferences and festivals that deal with music, movies and various interactive media. It takes place on a yearly basis in Austin, Texas. It originally started in 1987. Since then, it has grown into one of the most important shows in the country. Many of the biggest performers in the music industry go there to play concerts and debut new material. Likewise, many of the biggest tech companies go to SXSW to hold conferences that they use to debut and promote various pieces of technology before they are available to the general public.

Indeed, SXSW is quickly becoming as important when it comes to introducing new technology to the masses as the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at some of the new technologies that were unveiled at SXSW 2014:

iBeacon by Eventbase Technology Inc.
Eventbase Technology had already made a name for themselves as the creators of one of the most trusted platforms for event apps. Now they introduced an innovative app that has several names. It is called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth Smart and it has been dubbed iBeacon by Apple. This technology is already being called a game-changer in the tech world. It allows users of tablets and smartphones to detect various beacons to be used to interact with objects and people that are around them. Eventbase positioned beacons inside of certain venues. When people went inside a venue where the beacons were present, a prompt from the official SXSW GO iPhone app told them to join the conversation. This enabled them to chat with other people in attendance. They could also participate in live audience polls and a discussion forum. Users also received notifications that contained messages that concerned places and sessions they wanted to attend. Scott Wilcox, the Technology Director of SXSW, believes the technology displayed by iBeacon has amazing potential.

Oculus Rift by Oculus VR
The Oculus Rift is a headset that is used to play video games and it contains virtual reality capabilities. Computerworld magazine referred to it as the festival’s “sleeper hit.” What makes this product different from the other gaming headsets that are currently available on the market is its superb quality and the fact that it will be priced affordably. This is encouraging, especially considering the amount of money that went into designing it. It is expected to be available in late 2014 or early 2015.

Google wearable technology
Google announced that they will soon be releasing a software development kit that is based on the Android. It is specifically aimed at designing devices that are wearable. However, many people in the tech industry have expressed some skepticism about the ability of smartphone technology being able to be converted into an item that can be worn that is the size of a wristwatch. There is concern about the ability to leverage applications that already exist because the screens of most watches are only two inches diagonally. It remains to be seen what wearable hardware will be produced to go along with Google’s software development kit.

Taggar social augmented reality app
Augmented reality is a live view of a real, physical environment that has had various elements augmented by sensory input such as graphics, video or sound. The Taggar app is able to recognize objects and shows content that has been tagged within the environment. It is currently available for iOS. A version for the Android will be released shortly.

Mar 19

5 Gadgets To Keep Your Peace Of Mind While Out Of Town

When you head to another city, you will want to bring some things on the road. Not only that, you should have things at home that protect your family and possessions. With this in mind, here are five gadgets to keep your peace of mind while out of town.

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