Reasons for Innovation

An Article By: Evan Leonard, President

Many companies talk about innovation and the image that pops into their head is a company with no employees. The word is used frequently, yet used in narrow terms or misunderstood completely. I think of the word as impactful to a company’s long term goals in everything from creating new products or services, to improving process, adding business models, expanding markets and transforming your company entirely. 

I listed some of the top reasons companies look to innovate.  How many of these initiatives are on your list for 2017? 

To talk about innovation is something we all like to do but who is in charge of these initiatives?  Many larger companies have gone so far as to create a new title and position, Chief Innovation Officer.  For most companies, especially in the SMB market, there is no budget or position on your future org chart for someone dedicated to innovation. In order to fulfill the need to innovate, some companies are creating committees, teaming with upper management with creative thinkers and vendor partners to meet regularly to kick-start the process. 

If you look across your market, some of your competitors are “born in the cloud” meaning they never adopted the culture of buying clunky servers and put them in a room somewhere in the office. Instead, they are consuming great point-solutions from vendors who build specialized applications. This is letting them leverage some great applications, methodology and tools to lower their cost or gain a competitive advantage. Innovating and modernizing are becoming part of the culture of many companies, which also serves as a great way to attract top talent. 

How would you rank the list above?  Have you recently looked at your competitors or analyzed your markets position?

When thinking about innovation, you should automatically think of the return. Some of the best returns from innovation are eliminating costs, adding capacity to your staff, reduction of head count and sales growth. These are easy to track and quantify to reach your goal. 

The most important aspect to consider is the future of your company and marketplace. There are new competitors entering your market constantly and we need to be mindful of how they are delivering services, products and customer service. 

Don’t be left behind!

Microsoft shares open source system for training drones, other gadgets to move safely on their own

Used with permission from the Microsoft Next Blog
by Allison Linn

When most people with normal vision walk down the street, they can easily differentiate the things they must avoid – like trees, curbs and glass doors — from the things they don’t, such as shadows, reflections and clouds.

Chances are, most people also can anticipate what obstacles they should expect to encounter next — knowing, for example, that at a street corner they should watch out for cars and prepare to step down off the curb.

The ability to differentiate and anticipate comes easily to humans but it’s still very difficult for artificial intelligence-based systems. That’s one big reason why self-driving cars or autonomous delivery drones are still emerging technologies.

Microsoft researchers are aiming to change that. They are working on a new set of tools that other researchers and developers can use to train and test robots, drones and other gadgets for operating autonomously and safely in the real world. A beta version is available on GitHub via an open source license.

It’s all part of a research project the team dubs Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform. It includes software that allows researchers to quickly write code to control aerial robots and other gadgets and a highly realistic simulator to collect data for training an AI system and testing it in the virtual world before deploying it in the real world.

Ashish Kapoor, a Microsoft researcher who is leading the project, said they hope the tools will spawn major progress in creating artificial intelligence gadgets we can trust to drive our cars, deliver our packages and maybe even do our laundry.

“The aspirational goal is really to build systems that can operate in the real world,” he said.
That’s different from many other artificial intelligence research projects, which have focused on teaching AI systems to be successful in more artificial environments that have well-defined rules, such as playing board games.

Kapoor said this work aims to help researchers develop more practical tools that can safely augment what people are doing in their everyday lives.

“That’s the next leap in AI, really thinking about real-world systems,” Kapoor said.

Simulating the real world Let’s say you want to teach an aerial robot to tell the difference between a wall and a shadow. Chances are, you’d like to test your theories without crashing hundreds of drones into walls.

Until recently, simulators provided some help for this kind of testing, but they weren’t accurate enough to truly reflect the complexities of the real world. That’s key to developing systems that can accurately perceive the world around them in the same way that people do.

Now, thanks to big advances in graphics hardware, computing power and algorithms, Microsoft researchers say they can create simulators that offer a much more realistic view of the environment. Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform’s simulator is built on the latest photorealistic technologies, which can accurately render subtle things, like shadows and reflections, that make a significant difference in computer vision algorithms.
“If you really want to do this high-fidelity perception work, you have to render the scene in very realistic detail – you have sun shining in your eyes, water on the street,” said Shital Shah, a principal research software development engineer who has been a key developer of the simulator.
Because the new simulator is so realistic – but not actually real – researchers can, in turn, use it as a safe, reliable and cheap testing ground for autonomous systems.

That has two advantages: First, it means they can “crash” a costly drone, robot or other gadget an infinite number of times without burning through tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, damaging actual buildings or hurting someone.

Second, it allows researchers to do better AI research faster. That includes gathering training data, which is used to build algorithms that can teach systems to react safely, and conducting the kind of AI research that requires lots of trial and error, such as reinforcement learning.

The researchers say the simulator should help them get to the point more quickly where they can test, or even use, their systems in real-world settings in which there is very little room for error.

Enabling development of intelligent robotic systemsIn addition to the simulator, the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform includes a library of software that allows developers to quickly write code to control drones built on two of the most popular platforms: DJI and MavLink. Normally, developers would have to spend time learning these separate APIs and write separate code for each platform.

The researchers expect to add more tools to the platform down the road, and in the meantime they hope that the library and simulator will help push the entire field forward.

For example, the tools could help researchers develop better perception abilities, which would help the robot learn to recognize elements of its environment and do things like differentiate between a real obstacle, like a door, and a false one, like a shadow. These perception abilities also would help the robot understand complex concepts like how far away a pedestrian is.

Similarly, the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform could help developers make advances in planning capabilities, which aim to help the gadgets anticipate what will happen next and how they should respond, much like humans know to anticipate that cars will drive by when we cross a street. That kind of artificial intelligence – which would closely mimic how people navigate the real world – is key to building practical systems for safe everyday use.

The entire platform is designed to work on any type of autonomous system that needs to navigate its environment.

“I can actually use the same code base to fly a glider or drive a car,” Kapoor said.

Democratization of robotics The researchers have been working on the platform for less than a year, but they are drawing on decades of experience in fields including computer vision, robotics, machine learning and planning. Kapoor said they made such quick progress in part because of the unique structure of Microsoft’s research labs, in which it’s easy for researchers with vastly different backgrounds to collaborate.

The researchers decided to make the project open source to further the entire body of research into building artificial intelligence agents that can operate autonomously. Although many people see a future in which drones, robots and cars operate on their own, for now most of these systems are depending on a considerable amount of human direction.

The researchers also note that many robotics and artificial intelligence researchers don’t have the time or resources to develop these tools on their own, or do this kind of testing in the real world. That’s another reason for sharing their work.

“We want a democratization of robotics,” said Debadeepta Dey, a researcher working on the project.
They also are hoping the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform will help jumpstart efforts to standardize protocols and regulations for how artificial intelligence agents should operate in the real world.

Kapoor notes that everyone who drives a car knows to follow a standard set of protocols about things like which side of the road to drive on, when to stop for pedestrians and how fast to go. Those sorts of standards don’t exist – yet – for artificial intelligence agents.

With a system like this, he said, researchers could develop some best practices that they can apply across the board to improve safety as autonomous systems become more mainstream.

“The whole ecosystem needs to evolve,” Kapoor said.

Digital Disruption Webinar

Upcoming Webinar

Digital Disruption: Who Will be Left Standing?

Wednesday, January 18th | 2 p.m. ET | Register Now

Today, every business is a technology business.  Some will win, some will lose, but digital disruption will affect every business on the planet. Understanding how to harness technology will be the difference, and is the key to both short and long-term success.
During this webinar we’ll look at three levels of digital disruption: global, industry and small business. We’ll discuss the historical significance, how this phenomenon goes as far back to the invention of the TV. We’ll explore different examples of disruption such as Uber vs. taxi cabs, Netflix vs. DVD rentals and AirBnB vs. hotels, and most importantly, we’ll look at how digital disruption of small to mid-sized businesses can help you jump in front of the competition in terms of market research, customer service, product development and launch, manufacturing, finance, security, etc.

Join Business Tech Talks and DynaSis on Wednesday, January 18th @ 2:00pm ET for our next webinar:  Digital Disruption: Who Will be Left Standing?

During this webinar we will discuss:
  • Three levels of digital disruption
  • Both historical and current examples of digital disruption
  • What it means to be a technology business
  • How to succeed in this changing business climate
Who Should Attend?
  • Business Owners & Executives
  • IT Managers and Administrators
Digital Disruption: Who Will be Left Standing?
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2016
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 pm (ET)
Registration URL:

About the Sponsor:
Business Tech Talks is a webinar series hosted by a group of nationally recognized Managed Service Providers (MSPs). All members provide comprehensive network management and support solutions in different regions across the United States. The goal of Business Tech Talks is to further educate business executives, decision makers, and IT professionals about key topics related to technology, as well as share our industry knowledge and best practices, and promote business innovation, growth and success.

Microsoft dataset aims to help researchers create tools to answer questions as well as people

Used with permission from the Microsoft Next Blog
by Allison Linn

Microsoft has released a set of 100,000 questions and answers that artificial intelligence researchers can use in their quest to create systems that can read and answer questions as well as a human.

The dataset is called MS MARCO, which stands for Microsoft MAchine Reading COmprehension, and the team behind it says it’s the most useful dataset of its kind because it is based on anonymized real-world data. By making it broadly available for free to researchers, the team is hoping to spur the kind of breakthroughs in machine reading that are already happening in image and speech recognition.

They also hope to facilitate the kind of advances that could lead to the long-term goal of ‘artificial general intelligence,’ or machines that can think like humans.
“In order to move towards artificial general intelligence, we need to take a step towards being able to read a document and understand it as well as a person,” said Rangan Majumder, a partner group program manager with Microsoft’s Bing search engine division who is leading the effort. “This is a step in that direction.”

Right now, Majumder said, systems to answer sophisticated questions are still in their infancy. Search engines like Bing and virtual assistants like Cortana can answer basic questions, like “What day does Hanukkah start?” or “What’s 2,000 times 43?”

But in many cases, Majumder said search engines and virtual assistants will instead point the user to a set of search engine results. Users can still get the information they need, but it requires culling through the results and finding the answer on the web page.

In order to make automated question-and-answer systems better, researchers need a strong source of what is called training data. These datasets can be used to teach artificial intelligence systems to recognize questions and formulate answers and, eventually, to create systems that can come up with their own answers based on unique questions they haven’t seen before.

Majumder and his team – which includes Microsoft researchers and people working on Microsoft products – say the MS MARCO dataset is particularly useful because the questions are based on real, anonymized queries from Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant. The team chose the anonymized questions based on the queries they thought would be more interesting to researchers. In addition, the answers were written by humans, based on real web pages, and verified for accuracy.

By providing realistic questions and answers, the researchers say they can train systems to better deal with the nuances and complexities of questions regular people actually ask – including those queries that have no clear answer or multiple possible answers.

For example, the dataset contains the question, “What foods did ancient Greeks eat?” To answer the question correctly they culled through snippets of information from multiple documents or pieces of text to come up with foods such as grains, cake, milk, olives, fish, garlic and cabbage.

Li Deng, partner research manager of Microsoft’s Deep Learning Technology Center, said previous datasets were designed with certain limitations, or constraints. That made it easier for researchers to create solutions that could be formulated as what machine learning researchers call “classification problems,” rather than by seeking to understand that actual text of the question.

He said MS MARCO is designed so that researchers can experiment with more advanced deep learning models designed to push artificial intelligence research further forward.
“Our dataset is designed not only using real-world data but also removing such constraints so that the new-generation deep learning models can understand the data first before they answer questions,” he said.

Majumder said the ability for systems to answer complex questions could augment human abilities by helping people get information more efficiently.

Let’s say a Canadian student wants to know if she qualifies for a certain loan program. A search engine might direct that user to a set of websites, where she would have to read through the data and come up with an answer on her own. With better tools, a virtual assistant could scan that information for her and quickly provide a more nuanced and perhaps even personalized answer.

“Given much of the world’s knowledge is found in a written format, if we can get machines to be able to read and understand documents as well as humans, we can unlock all of these kinds of scenarios,” Majumder said.

Long-term goal: ‘Artificial general intelligence’For now at least, researchers are still far from creating systems that can truly understand or comprehend what humans are saying, seeing or writing – what many refer to as “artificial general intelligence.”

But in the last few years, machine learning and artificial intelligence researchers at Microsoft and elsewhere have made great strides in creating systems that can recognize the words in a conversation and correctly identify the elements of an image.

“Microsoft has led the way in speech recognition and image recognition, and now we want to lead the way in reading comprehension,” Majumder said.
But, he noted, this isn’t a problem that any one company can solve alone. Majumder said one reason his team released the dataset is because they want to work with others in the field.

MS MARCO is modeled on similar training sets that were created to help spur breakthroughs in other areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence. That includes the ImageNet database, which is considered to be the premier dataset for testing advances in image recognition. A team at Microsoft used ImageNet to test its first deep residual networks, sparking major leaps in the accuracy of image recognition.

The MS MARCO team also plans to follow ImageNet’s example by creating a leaderboard that shows which teams of researchers are getting the best results. Eventually, they may create a more formal competition along the lines of ImageNet’s annual challenges.

The MS MARCO dataset is available for free to any researcher who wants to download it and use it for non-commercial applications.

Why Seeing Double Is A Good Thing

An Article By, David Tan, Chief Technology Officer

Traditionally we like to write an article at the beginning of the year about upcoming trends and technologies that we expect to see emerge in the next 12 months.  When I started to think about and do that this week, I realized that I had covered most of the topics that were high on my radar in the last few newsletters.  I think I’m just so excited about the emerging trends in technology that I find myself shouting about it from the rooftops whenever I can get someone to listen!  So rather than revamp some of the same ideas, I’m going to talk a bit about something I’ve never mentioned, that in many ways brings it all together.

First, let’s run through some of the things I have been saying will dominate our business technology in the very near future – if they aren’t already.  Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual and Augmented Reality and Internet of Things to name a few.  What do you get when you bring them all together?  You get Digital Twins.  That’s what I want to talk about – Digital Twins and how they will disrupt every industry on the planet and beyond.

First, what is a digital twin?  A textbook definition would be a computerized replication of something in the real world generated by sensor data.  Let me try to explain that in easier to understand terms, using something very large.  Let’s say you operate a huge farm of windmills that harness wind to generate electricity.  These windmills are very maintenance intensive, very expensive to support and probably spread out across large distances.  If you could leverage IoT technology to monitor every aspect of the operation of those windmills, combine the results from all the different windmills and put it into a computer simulation model, you’d have a digital twin.  From here you’d be able to optimize performance, perform preventative maintenance, streamline operations and test theories without having to employ a small army of engineers.

The scope and range of what you can accomplish with digital twins is hard to even comprehend.  The windmills are a great example, but probably outside of the scope of thought for most small business owners.  Same with things like jet turbine engines or industrial manufacturing machinery among just a few of the applications that companies like GE are testing with.  GE happens to be one of the industry leaders in creating and leveraging this technology.  They even created some interactive games you can play on their website to get a better grasp on the power of the technology.  For a minute, let’s think about this in a way that probably talks more to you and your business.

Let’s say you are a company that distributes and manages coffee machines to business offices.  In this scenario you charge monthly for the machine and supplies, and perform all maintenance and replacement on the machines.  By the way, coffee machines could be anything from printers and copiers to telephones, washing machines, or pizza ovens – it really doesn’t matter.  Anyway, you may have hundreds of these machines in the field and you need to employ a fleet of engineers to check, service and replace them, often in a reactive mode.  If you could take all the sensor data generated by those coffee machines and create a digital twin, you’d be able to predict failures before they occur, evaluate what changes in conditions or environment would mean to your business, and even test the performance and profitability of different monthly service plans.  All without leaving the office.  Think of the cost savings and improvement in customer satisfaction this could bring.

The concept of Digital Twins is a little larger and more grand than I typically like to talk about in these columns.  I like to talk about technology that will impact businesses of all shapes and sizes, and on the surface, the things that companies like GE are doing don’t exactly speak to that.  I do believe however that the concepts are important and powerful enough that the impact will be incredibly far-reaching.  Like I said, this has the potential to disrupt every single industry in the world.  Plus, it’s always fun when the different topics and technologies I have been talking about for years come together to form an even greater opportunity.  This is probably not something that will impact your business tomorrow, but as 2017 progresses, this trend will grow and within 3-5 years, hundreds of millions of things will be represented by digital twins.  That’s something that’s worth paying attention to.

Technology Under Your Tree

An Article By: David Tan, Chief Technology Officer

As the year winds down, we like to take a few minutes to look back on the past 12 months, but also take time to enjoy the holidays and time away from the pressures of daily life.  I guess it’s why I do what I do, but I can’t ever seem to get my love of technology out of my mind, so even as I sit here browsing Amazon for some last minute gift ideas, I’m struck how much the advanced technology we talk about every day in the workplace has crossed over into all aspects of our lives.  If you give me a minute to tell Alexa to raise the heat and ask it how many more steps I need today to reach my goal, I’ll tell you why emerging technologies is on my mind this holiday season!

If you read my articles regularly or follow me at all, you’ll know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about emerging trends in technology like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, IoT, wearables, etc.  Most experts have been saying this technology is coming in a big way, and I couldn’t agree more.  It’s a pretty well established pattern that people seem to adapt to and adopt technology more in their personal lives than businesses do – it’s so much easier for 1 person to learn than for a whole company to change.  However, as these technologies become pervasive, we force them into business use by sheer force of will.  The classic example is the iPhone which was always intended to be a consumer electronics device.  People starting bringing them into work and demanding they work with corporate technology, and an entire world of enterprise mobility and device management was born.  This is going to start happening more and more.

Above I joked about some of the technology I use around the house, but really, it’s no joke.  The Amazon Echo is an incredibly powerful device.  It combines the natural language and machine learning power of Artificial Intelligence, with the always-on, always-connected aspects of the Internet of Things.  Of course being connected only matters if there’s something to connect to, and having a thermostat (Nest), lights (Phillips Hue), or even a toothbrush (the Kolibree Smart Toothbrush) around the house makes for a very powerful, very smart home network.  How many of these things are you going to have under the tree this year?

Maybe you’re embracing your new year’s resolution to improve your fitness?  Of course you can’t do that without a wearable, connected fitness devices like the Fitbit.  Or maybe you’ll just integrate health and fitness tracking into your smart watch?  These devices worth with you to monitor your health, habits and patterns, and learn from your past to help recommend changes to your lifestyle going forward.  Sounds a lot like artificial intelligence to me.

The bottom line is this technology is absolutely everywhere, and it has become a very pervasive part of all our lives.  We all have to continue to embrace it, and more importantly, find ways to use it at home and at work.  I think you’ve heard me before say that in today’s world, every company is a technology company.  It doesn’t matter what you do or what business you’re in, you have to be embracing technology to be competitive.  We love helping companies find creative ways to flourish with the use of technology – it’s why I wake up in the morning. 

I guess you could also say that every home is a technology home! So, as you open up your presents this holiday season, and as you make your resolutions for the new year, think about how much the amazing new disruptive technology is changing your lives! Now if you'll excuse me, my Apple watch just told me I have to leave for an appointment that starts in 25 minutes because according to Waze, traffic is heavier than usual. I guess I'll have to reprogram the settings on my refrigerator later tonight. Happy Holidays to all and a Happy New Year! 

2016 Tech Holiday Gift Guide

An Article By: Stephanie Memos, Marketing Coordinator

Shopping for a gadget-obsessed friend or family member can often be troubling, that’s why we’ve put together our 2016 Tech Holiday Gift. We’ve asked our engineers and they gave us their insight on the hottest technology driven gifts sure to impress even them.

Amazon Echo- Amazon’s Alexa-controlled wireless echo speaker uses the sound of your voice to easily interact with your devices. Alexa can instantly, play music, search the web, create shopping lists, shop online, pull up weather reports, call an Uber, and much more. Additionally, Alexa works with a laundry list of Internet of Things (IOT) smart devices found around your home including, the Nest thermostat, Philips Hue lights, and Wemo light switch controls.

Amazon Echo Dot- This is the compact and incredibly small version of Amazon’s Echo, minus the speaker. Echo Dot does just about everything Amazon Echo does for a fraction of the price (just $50.00) and if you have a wireless speaker, Echo Dot can connect.

The Tile – This Bluetooth powered gadget helps you track and find things when they are lost. Simply attach the square tile to an item (keys, phone, tablet, purse, luggage, camera, etc.), click the free app and view a map that shows the location. You also have the option to ring your items when you get closer to them making it way easier to locate.

Nintendo NES Classic Mini- Want to bring back some nostalgic memories from 1985 when you first played Nintendo? Then grab the update version of the classic 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System this holiday season. The updated classic comes with 30 games including, “Donkey Kong”, “The Legend of Zelda” and even “Super Mario Bros.”.

Photive HYDRA Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker- This waterproof, shockproof, dustrproof, portable speaker provides the perfect sound in even the most rugged environments. Send your favorite music wirelessly through Bluetooth to hear all your favorite tunes.

Apple Watch Series 2- The original Apple Watch wowed us with its Siri, health and fitness tracking, notifications, apps, and of course, customizable face watch, but now with series 2, Apple has included, a built in GPS and a dual core processor. The cherry on top? This watch is now waterproof.

Spectacles by Snap- One of the most interesting tech items out there, (good luck trying to get your hands on these) Spectacles by Snap are a pair of glasses that can record 10 seconds of videos but are only being sold in “Snapbots” ( a yellow vending machine that travels around the country). Only 2 Snapbots have appeared in Venice Beach, Cali. And Big Sur. Cali.

HP Sprocket Photo Printer- The Bluetooth printer personally prints 2” x 3” snapshots or stickers with customizable frames, emojis, filters, and more. Simply connect your social media accounts in the HP sprocket app and conveniently print as you post! 

A Thanksgiving Message

A Message from: Evan Leonard, President

I always like to take a positive view of life and reflect at different times of the year.  This year has been very unpredictable.  My wife’s culture believes leap years are always unpredictable.  There seems to be more questions than answers from the election, events from this past year and more.  That is why it is even more important to reflect and make sure we take the time to be thankful. 

I am a huge believer in technology but think there is a time and a place for it.  This weekend is about connecting with humans and putting down the smartphone. 

The latest book I read, The Big Leap, talks about how we can spend more time in our Genus Zone and what are our upper limiting problems.  Upper limits do not pertain to negative thoughts or feelings.  Instead it is invigorating and liberating to think about how we are all limit ourselves sometime from our genus.  This does not just mean our professional life but personal as well.  I have made it a point to share with my family my genus this weekend.  In this book, genus does not mean a high IQ in math or a subject but rather where you are able to make the most impact.

With Thanksgiving approaching, it is time to cherish the good memories, celebrate with those around us, and give countless thanks to all that we have despite what is going on in the world. Try to look for the positive in what is going on, rather than the negative. Take a step back with loved ones and truly appreciate the times that you have together and how we live in a constant transforming, technological world. Happy Thanksgiving to All.

DNS Security Overview

An Article By: Stephanie Memos, Marketing Coordinator, CHIPS Technology Group Inc.

Recently, major websites such as Twitter, Spotify, PayPal and Reddit were inaccessible to millions of users around the country. The attack was first reported on the east coast as it made its way across country. It is believed that an attack by hackers was released to a large portion of DNS hosts causing websites to go down. Throughout the day users experienced continued issues with internet such as query latency and unresponsiveness.

So what is a DDoS Cyber-attack?

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) happens when a hacker targets a website or web service with junk traffic so that it cannot handle the legitimate incoming connections. The server becomes severely overwhelmed causing it to slow down and or shut down the system and the interrupting service. At this point you may be asking yourself, "Is this a new form of attack?" The answer is No, realistically, these attacks actually are quite popular due to the up rise in new technology such as IoT (Internet of Things).

With Dyn offering domain Name System (DNS) services, or as we like to think of it, a one stop shop of all internet addresses, hackers are often elated when targeting this shop since it holds massive information.

During this attack, harmful messages and requests were coming from millions of IP addresses maliciously disrupting systems. Information has shown that the devices attacked were infected with a malware code that was commonly released during the up weeks to this attack. The malware, (Mirai) searches for specific IoT, such as webcams, smart home appliances, DVRs, etc. to take the default log-in credentials (usernames and passwords) and turns them into a host to cyber-attack.

Today, we are still unaware who is responsible for this attack, but it is clear to see that attackers were able to disrupt a major DNS provider used by popular companies across the country. For now, it is keen that we further educate ourselves on how we can secure our personal devices during this era.

How to Take A Screenshot In Microsoft Office

If you are working on a document in Microsoft Office such as Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, etc. you might find an image that you would like to insert quickly. Third party tools are available, but you might not be aware of the screenshot tool Office has to offer. Here is your step by step guide to taking a screenshot.

1)      With your Office document open, click the Insert Tab on your display toolbar.

2)      Navigate your way to the Illustrations Tab  

3)      Click the Screenshot Screenshot option

4)      At this point, you will have 2 options to choose from:

a.        The first being the Available Windows option. This option allows you to insert a screenshot from any window you have open instantly.

b.      The second option is Screen Clipping. By clicking this, your screen will gray out and you can now drag your cursor to outline the section of your screen you would like to clip. The screenshot will then be automatically placed into the document.  

IBM World of Watson-A look into the Future



An Article By: David Tan, Chief Technology Officer, CHIPS Technology Group Inc.

Last week, approximately 20,000 people gathered in Las Vegas for an IBM conference that used to be called Insight.  This conference highlights IBM’s software and services offerings in the areas of analytics, business intelligence and business process optimization.  I say it used to be called Insight because it was actually renamed this past year.  About two years ago, IBM started betting big on the future of their business with their investments in Cognitive Computing and particularly the Watson platform.  If it wasn’t evident before, they doubled down by renaming this very important event World of Watson, and focusing very heavily on this amazing platform and how it’s transforming our world.

We spent three days at the conference and in many ways it was a trip to the future and the past all in one.  Watson is IBM’s Cognitive Computing platform but in many ways it is considered an Artificial Intelligence system.  While this may not be strictly accurate, that’s often the simplest way to explain what these systems are and how they operate.  The idea of a computer “thinking” is essentially what a typical person thinks of as Artificial Intelligence.  This idea dates back to the ‘50s and smart computers, and has been portrayed in movies throughout the years from 2001: A Space Odyssey to the rise of SkyNet in the Terminator series.  The future, as it turns out, is so much more!

During the course of her Keynote address, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty talked about Watson and the amazing innovations it is being used for.  From the pharmaceutical company Teva who is using Watson for breakthrough treatments to find new ways to manage chronic diseases, to Pearson who is reinventing education with personalized learning built on the power of the Watson platform, to GE who is working to integrate Watson’s learning and understanding capabilities into their OnStar system, it is easy to understand why Rometty expects more than 1 billion people will interact with Watson-powered systems by the end of next year.

To understand the power of Watson, it’s important to remember again that these computers do not “think.”  What they do is emulate human thinking after being given enough training.  One of the guest speakers during the keynote was Dr. Satoru Miyano, a professor from the University of Tokyo.  Dr. Miyano talked about how Watson learned to diagnose cancer.  By digesting thousands of articles, journals, publications, studies, and papers, then validating its findings against past cases, Watson was able to become a smarter, better doctor than any human ever could be in the diagnosis of cancer because it can learn much faster than a human and find patterns in data that humans simply do not have the mental capacity to do.

This is what IBM believes is Augmented Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence.  Machines will continue to supplement, not replace humans.  In reality, what we are talking about is not AI, but more likely IA – Intelligent Assistants, or Intelligent Assistance.  Using the incredible power of a computer to make you smarter, faster, better and allow humans to continue to do jobs that they are much more suited for than a computer, which could never take their place.

To close her keynote, Rometty wanted to show the many faces of Watson and just how pervasive this technology will be in our lives going forward.  To do so, she brought Alexander Grant up to the stage.  Better known as Alex da Kid, Grant is a music producer who has produced huge hits for the likes of Rihanna, Imagine Dragons, Nicki Minaj and Eminem.  Alex da Kid has a new hit single out called Not Easy, but there is something rather unique about this new hit song.  To create it, he used the power of Watson to help trigger different ways to start the creative process.  Watson analyzed millions of lines of text from social media and other sources. Additionally, it mined the lyrics of hundreds of hit songs for patterns and thematic trends.  Watson helped create a song that reached hit status for Alex faster than anything else he has worked on previously.

Watson is just one platform, albeit an incredibly powerful one.  Companies from Microsoft to Google to Amazon are working on systems to help augment our intelligence and improve our world going forward.  IBM is certainly a leader, but more than anything, this week showed me the power of this technology and just how much this is going to change our lives and our world.

Cognitive Computing




Upcoming Webinar

An Introduction to Cognitive Computing and How it will Impact Your Business

Join us for a free webinar on Wednesday, November 16th at 2 p.m. ET. Register Now!
Cognitive Computing has got the world excited again- but what’s this all about? How does this work, an more importantly how can you become a part of a mosaic that’s dominating the interests of the technology giants such as IBM and others? Welcome to the Cognitive era and IBM Watson. Join CHIPS CTO David Tan for an introduction to Cognitive, Watson and more.

Join Business Tech Talks and CHIPS Technology Group Inc. on Wednesday, November 16th @ 2:00pm ET for our next webinar:  An Introduction to Cognitive Computing and How it will Impact Your Business

During this webinar you will learn:
  • What exactly is Cognitive Computing
  • How this new era in computing has the potential to change the world
  • IBM Watson and other real-world examples
  • What you should be doing in your business to get ready for the changes ahead

Who Should Attend?
  • Business Owners & Executives
  • Decision makers looking for ways to optimize business systems and processes
  • Anyone interested in learning about the future of computing systems

An Introduction to Cognitive Computing and How it will Impact Your Business
Date: Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 pm (ET)
Registration URL:

About the Sponsor:
Business Tech Talks is a webinar series hosted by a group of nationally recognized Managed Service Providers (MSPs). All members provide comprehensive network management and support solutions in different regions across the United States. The goal of Business Tech Talks is to further educate business executives, decision makers, and IT professionals about key topics related to technology, as well as share our industry knowledge and best practices, and promote business innovation, growth and success.

The Changing Times of IT and How it Affects Your Business

Upcoming Webinar

The Changing Times of IT and How it Affects Your Business

Join us for a free webinar on Wednesday, October 18th at 2 p.m. EST. Register Now!

Managed Service is definitely the key to staying up to date with your business' technology. We will discuss getting the best band for your buck in hardware, software and networking!

Joing Business Tech Talks, Pat Shansey, Account Manager and Mel Sherman, Internal Client Account Manager of Acropolis Technology Group for our next webinar: The Changing Times of IT and How it Affects Your Business: 

During this webinar we’ll discuss:
  • How to properly manage your IT investment for your business
  • How to stay up to date with technology's evolution
  • The life cycle of hardware, software and networking

Who Should Attend?
  • Business Owners and Executives
  • People who want to learn a little bit about IT history
  • Legal, Healthcare, Accounting, and anyone who hates dealing with your own IT needs! 

Insider Threats
Date: Wednesday, October 18th, 2016
Time: 2:00 – 3:00pm (EST)
Registration URL:

About the Sponsor:
Business Tech Talks is a webinar series hosted by a group of nationally recognized Managed Service Providers (MSPs). All members provide comprehensive network management and support solutions in different regions across the United States. The goal of Business Tech Talks is to further educate business executives, decision makers, and IT professionals about key topics related to technology, as well as share our industry knowledge and best practices, and promote business innovation, growth and success.

HIA-LI Gala: What We Can Learn

An Article By: Stephanie Memos, Marketing Coordinator 

Every September, the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island recognizes excellence from companies across Long Island with their Red Carpet Business Achievement Awards Affair. If you aren’t familiar with the HIA-LI, HIA-LI is one of the largest business associations on Long Island which represents about 1,000 companies ranging across many industries and CHIPS happens to be a member.

This year, the HIA-LI held their Business Achievement Awards Gala to acknowledge Finalists in Four Business categories. We attended the Gala not only because we were a finalist, but because of the mere fact that the HIA-LI focuses so strongly on Long Island Businesses and the Betterment of the Business Community.

Being a Long Island Based Company since 1993, we could definitely appreciate what the HIA-LI had put together before us. During the Gala, discussions amongst business professionals focused on key factors of success and how Long Island’s Businesses should be aware of these factors. What we were able to discuss with other attendees of the Gala was how Long Island needs to embrace Technology and use it as the driving force to grow our companies. The reason CHIPS has become so successful over the years on Long Island is largely because we recognize the value and importance of technology to any business. We are constantly helping our clients grow and innovate by using technology as a cornerstone to become top industry performers within the Long Island Business Community. We continue to strongly encourage all businesses to have an open mind when reviewing their objectives and consider technology as a differentiator that will better push them to success.

It can be intimidating at first when considering how to embrace and incorporate new technology solutions into your business, but with an experienced, knowledgeable partner, you will definitely feel reassured that you are one step ahead of competitors in your industry. I know there are some people that may be thinking their business wouldn't really benefit from the latest and greatest in hi-tech solutions, but that is expired thinking. Technology is the now and embracing it with open arms only showcases that your business is not only conscious, but innovative. Remember what the HIA-LI emphasizes during their Gala Luncheon, excellence in Long island Businesses.

Overall, The HIA-LI’s 22nd Annual Business Achievement Awards not only showcased Long Island’s top organizations in a truly memorable way, but got every business executive thinking about how we can better Long Island’s Business Community. We look forward to attending the HIA-LI Gala next September with hopes that technology is even more embraced and that companies continue to thrive in the Long Island Business community.

Smart mouthguards help high-school football coaches make safe decisions from the sidelines

Athima Chansanchai

No athlete likes being benched, even temporarily.

Practices and games help players get better and achieve the guts and glory under Friday night lights. But when high school football athletic trainer Craig Olejniczak sees one of his players take a hit approaching 90 g-forces, he advises the coach to take him out for further evaluation. It’s a tough call, but one that can prolong a competitive career.

Olejniczak is the athletic trainer for Middletown High School in New York, where he monitors every player using Vector mouthguards and software created by i1Biometrics, a company based at the other end of the country – in Kirkland, Washington, just east of Seattle. Sensors embedded in the mouthguards collect data on every hit and tackle his varsity football players absorb, and allow him to make decisions that help protect them.

“High school players are getting the most impact from coachable moments during these developmental years,” says Jesse Harper, the CEO of i1Biometrics. “They’re still learning and haven’t formed bad habits yet. Coaches play a big role in teaching. They mitigate long-term risk. The younger we can expose the athlete to coachable moments to correct their technique, the more it can lengthen their careers.”

Heightened public awareness about concussions among youth football players has helped fuel the appeal of mouthguards to coaches and athletic staff. Harper’s company estimates there are 1.6 to 1.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States each year, and a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training revealed that concussions represented 8.9 percent of all high school athletic injuries, with the highest rates in football and soccer.

Another study showed “the average high school player is nearly twice as likely to suffer a brain injury as a college player.” In 2009, emergency rooms reported a quarter of a million concussions for those under age 19. In 2001, that figure was 150,000.

“You can’t turn on a TV without hearing about concussions in football,” Harper says. “Athletes are much bigger and faster, so there’s potential for more. We have a chance to really understand what a concussion is and what leads to it.”

The mouthguard sensors incorporate ESP Chip Technology, which measures the linear and rotational accelerations of head impacts during practices and games. An accelerometer and a gyroscope deliver data from which can be extrapolated the severity of impact and where it came from. Team trainers and coaches work off a dashboard that shows the live feed.

The sensors in the mouthguard collect data and store it on the device, then the software analyzes the data, which trainers and coaches use to create actionable plans to help players avoid future injuries. It alerts users that a large impact has occurred, and they’re able to see a 3D rendering of where a player took that hit and overlay it onto a heat map.

This translates into real-time data that coaches can use to make immediate play changes, including removing players who have been hit hard enough to trigger thresholds set by the team, resulting in flagged alerts that can be pushed to mobile devices, too. Teams can also tailor those thresholds to individual players, based on their history and any health issues that need monitoring.

“There’s a pretty compelling draw for the technology, especially for people who have children in football,” says Ray Rhodes, one of i1Biometric’s founders responsible for product development, and whose own son was a high school football player.

“There’s always going to be impact. There’s never going to be a perfect helmet, though they’re getting better. The effects of concussions are cumulative – there really should be a history – so our feeling was that we should be tracking the exposure to athletes from the beginning of their careers. The reason we chose mouthguards is that they’re directly coupled to the skull, so we get a very accurate representation of what the head is experiencing.”

The data from the mouthguard sensors feed into the i1 Biometrics Data Analytics Platform, a tool for athletic trainers and sports medicine personnel that helps them make more informed decisions on the field. Data is transmitted in real time to a laptop or tablet at the sideline, since many practice fields or indoor stadiums don’t have internet access.

The information is stored on a local SQL database, and as soon as the coaching staff has an internet connection, that information syncs to a secure cloud environment powered by Microsoft Azure. The software is written for Windows 8 and 10, and while some schools use Surface tablets, most use PCs and laptops.

“We were originally on Amazon but we switched to Azure,” Harper says. “[Microsoft] has been a fantastic partner, geographically close and very responsive. That’s important, how we work together. We are trying to figure things out to push the envelope in a nascent category.”

As summer winds down, young football players across the country have already returned to their schools, ahead of their classmates, to practice for the upcoming season.

Middletown High School was the first U.S. high school to beta test the mouthguards in 2013, as part of a pilot program. Now, approximately 60 teams (6,000 athletes) use the Vector. Middletown also recruited students from its National Academy Bio-Med program to monitor the system from the sidelines. These are students in the school’s STEM program and sports medicine club, who serve as sideline assistants during the season. When certain thresholds occur, they will deliver their finding to Olejniczak, the district’s athletic trainer. In turn, he analyzes the data for further action, which could include a referral to the team doctor, who specializes in concussion injuries and management.

Last season 100 percent of Middletown’s varsity football players wore the mouthguards in games, but Rhodes says it’s imperative that the mouthguards are tested during practices, too.

“This is definitely a situation where you don’t really learn until you’re on the field,” says Rhodes. “It’s almost impossible to replicate what the devices go through in your lab or office. You can’t put helmets on engineers and have them run around and hit each other. We need a real learning experience. You get the bigger hits during games, but the volume during practices.”

The material for the mouthguards, Vistamaxx, is made through a partnership with Exxon Mobil, and is a proprietary material that creates a more secure fit than traditional ones – and maintains it. It crystallizes slowly to make a tight dental impression and is hard to chew through as it is significantly more durable than other materials.

Rhodes says they were also able to design a product that can work on athletes from age 10 to adulthood. The sensors turn on when they’re in an athlete’s mouth and off when they’re not, or when they’re dropped. But Rhodes cautions that the technology isn’t perfect, and that false positives are possible.

“But we’ve improved by leaps and bounds,” he says. “We can tell when a mouthguard gets knocked out, vs. when a player lets go of it or throws it somewhere. This tool gives a team visibility on what’s really going on, and an ability to pay closer attention and look harder at symptoms.”

At Mt. Zion High School in Illinois, 45 minutes west of Champaign, athletic trainer Dustin Fink values the mouthguards for the information they give him.

“I was skeptical at first of any sensor technology,” says Fink, who also runs The Concussion Blog, through which i1Biometrics reached out to him. Both the mouthguards and the blog came out in 2010. “I didn’t feel like anything could replace what I do as an athletic trainer and healthcare professional. But if there was going to be a sensor, this made sense, as something in the center of the mass of the head, not connected to the helmet. It was the only sensor I felt comfortable with, based upon my background and fact-checking.”

Sensors such as those embedded in the mouthguards deliver feedback athletic trainers, coaches and anyone monitoring physical performance can use, Fink says.

“A player can tell us they feel good, but if the data is telling us something different, then perhaps we have a reason to investigate further,” explains Fink, who’s been an athletic trainer since 2000. “When I first started out, a kid gets hit hard and maybe he sees stars, maybe he doesn’t. If he’s OK 15 minutes later, you let him back in. But now we’ve got this device, giving me feedback in terms of maybe what happened to the head during an impact, how many G’s they took. And really, more interesting to me, is the number of impacts they’re taking. Not every hit creates a concussion. Research has shown there’s a cumulative effect of hits, even low threshold ones. That’s my big reason for using it.”

As the sensor moves in space, the accelerometers are able to tell where the initial impact came from. Then they can use that model to create an image on the dashboard that corresponds to the location on the head.

Fink’s school used the sensors for their fall 2015 season.

“It was awesome. I worked with i1Biometrics to get as many as possible out to the kids. It was a symbiotic relationship. They wanted the data and the real-life experience of an athletic trainer using it,” he says. “I came in with a lot of skepticism, and I came out very impressed with what this can do and how it can help me.”

This made a big difference half-way through the season, Fink says.

“We started holding kids out of practice because they’d had too many hits the week before, as a preventative measure, so they have enough time to recover,” he says. “The other way it can help is for education.”

The coach started using the data to hone players’ techniques. For example, seeing a lot of force at the top of the helmet means they’re dropping their head, putting them at risk for spinal injury. They can also use Vector to investigate the hits that cause concussions, which vary from player to player. That could lead to adjusting thresholds that trigger when to pull players.

Players who were at first uneasy about information that could pull them from practices and games, came to appreciate the benching, which also helped them not to lose face in front of their peers, as staff deferred to the data.

“I’ve tried probably 20 or 30 different types of technology for concussions in football and other sports and there was nothing I had fallen in love with,” says Fink, who commended the customer service and easy set-up. “But I’ve fallen in love with this. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that.”

There’s more to come with the Vector, in that there will be a mid-season launch of video time sync. That means all of the video footage will be synchronized with the sensor data for review and application of coachable moments.

“These are products for athletes, by athletes,” says Harper, who has played football, coached and is a parent of players. “We understand the game.”