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: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6844827498980044546

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: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3383946424368053764

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:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2005578855452852738


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.”
 

Is it Time to Embrace the Automation of your Job?











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

There is a long running narrative that the machines will rise up at some point in the future and completely overtake us.  This isn’t just about the fear of machines becoming our overlords, that’s pure science fiction reserved for movies and futuristic novels.  The real fear most people have – whether they’ll admit it or not, is machines taking over our jobs and making us obsolete.  Clearly the ability of machines to automate us out of a useful existence is vastly overstated, and frankly we need to embrace the opportunity this presents.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review looked deeper into the opportunity that automation presents us.  They studied approximately 2,000 activities that are performed in various jobs across the entire U.S. economy.  Their research revealed that work that currently occupies about 45% of employee time can be automated, but less than 5% of jobs can be fully automated.  What does this mean?  If we extrapolate their findings out, they concluded that across the board, about 30% of the time an average employee spends is on work that can be done through some form of automation, however the opportunity to completely replace people with machines is exceedingly small – too small in fact to spend the time or monetary investment.  However, just think what we can do with the approximate day and a half (30% of your time) that you can get back.

Even the most highly compensated managers in your organization spend time on tasks that can be very easily automated.  This could range from anything like data entry to review and analysis to setting up pricing and marketing plans.  Decisions like this are based on empirical data, so why not let a powerful machine learning engine make them?  They are better at it than people anyway, and have no pre-existing biases or assumptions.  Taking this work (tedious or otherwise) out of the hands of people opens them up to focus on things they are better at, that machines can’t do anyway.  Tasks like professional development, training and coaching are in no way cut out for machines, and think what your managers alone could do if given time to focus on these and other areas.  Other critical areas you can now have your key people focus on include strategy, product development and business growth.  Think about it – you just increased your staff by 30%, and all they’re focusing on is the areas that can take your company to the next level.

When people hear talk like this, they get worried about eliminating jobs for humans, and I understand that is a real concern, but like the study points out, a very small percentage of jobs can be completely automated away from people.  The cost savings and increased productivity that automation represents are actually a tremendous opportunity for the company as well as the employee.  By doing more interesting work that requires human style thinking and knowledge, employees will be more engaged and happier.  Who likes doing the type of mindless work that can be automated to begin with?  Plus, this translates into better job performance and serves a real benefit to the company, which can in turn funnel some of that added productivity into training and growth opportunities.  Think about it, even these automated systems and machines need people behind them to build and maintain them.

Companies that embrace automation will gain real competitive advantages in the marketplace.  Becoming more productive, innovative, and agile all represent opportunities to raise both top and bottom-line performance.  Plus, the penalties for not automating are becoming increasingly steeper – errors today are far more expensive than they have been in the past.  It’s up to you as a business leader to understand the opportunity, explain how it benefits the entire organization and all employees, and figure out how to integrate it into your business and culture. 

Talking with your hands: How Microsoft researchers are moving beyond keyboard and mouse









Used with permission from Microsoft Next Blog
Guest post by Allison Linn


Kfir Karmon imagines a world in which a person putting together a presentation can add a quote or move an image with a flick of the wrist instead of a click of a mouse.

Jamie Shotton envisions a future in which we can easily interact in virtual reality much like we do in actual reality, using our hands for small, sophisticated movements like picking up a tool, pushing a button or squeezing a soft object in front of us.

And Hrvoje Benko sees a way in which those types of advances could be combined with simple physical objects, such as a few buttons on a piece of wood, to recreate complex, immersive simulators – replacing expensive hardware that people use today for those purposes.

Microsoft researchers are looking at a number of ways in which technology can start to recognize detailed hand motion — and engineers can put those breakthroughs to use in a wide variety of fields.

The ultimate goal: Allowing us to interact with technology in more natural ways than ever before.

“How do we interact with things in the real world? Well, we pick them up, we touch them with our fingers, we manipulate them,” said Shotton, a principal researcher in computer vision at Microsoft’s Cambridge, UK, research lab. “We should be able to do exactly the same thing with virtual objects. We should be able to reach out and touch them.”

This kind of technology is still evolving. But the computer scientists and engineers who are working on these projects say they believe they are on the cusp of making hand and gesture recognition tools practical enough for mainstream use, much like many people now use speech recognition to dictate texts or computer vision to recognize faces in photos.

That’s a key step in Microsoft’s broader goal to provide more personal computing experiences by creating technology that can adapt to how people move, speak and see, rather than asking people to adapt to how computers work.

“If we can make vision work reliably, speech work reliably and gesture work reliably, then people designing things like TVs, coffee machines or any of the Internet of Things gadgets will have a range of interaction possibilities,” said Andrew Fitzgibbon, a principal researcher with the computer vision group at the UK lab.

That will be especially important as computing becomes more ubiquitous and increasingly anticipates our needs, as opposed to responding to our commands. To make these kinds of ambient computing systems truly work well, experts say, they must be able to combine all our senses, allowing us to easily communicate with gadgets using speech, vision and body language together – just like we do when communicating with each other.

Smooth, accurate and easy
In order to accomplish a component of that vision, Fitzgibbon and other researchers believe the technology must track hand motion precisely and accurately, using as little computing power as possible. That will allow people to use their hands naturally and with ease, and for consumer gadgets to respond accordingly.
 
It’s easier said than done, in large part because the hand itself is so complex. Hands can rotate completely around, and they can do things like ball up into a fist, which means the fingers disappear and the tool needs to make its best guess as to where they’ve gone and what they are doing. Also, a hand is obviously smaller than an entire body, so there’s more detailed motion to track.
 
The computer vision team’s latest advances in detailed hand tracking, which are being unveiled at two prestigious academic research conferences this summer, combine new breakthroughs in methods for tracking hand movement with an algorithm dating back to the 1940s – when computing power was less available and a lot more expensive.  Together, they create a system that can track hands smoothly, quickly and accurately – in real time – but can run on a regular consumer gadget.
 
“We’re getting to the point that the accuracy is such that the user can start to feel like the avatar hand is their real hand,” Shotton said.
 
The system, still a research project for now, can track detailed hand motion with a virtual reality headset or without it, allowing the user to poke a soft, stuffed bunny, turn a knob or move a dial.
What’s more, the system lets you see what your hands are doing, fixing a common and befuddling disconnect that happens when people are interacting with virtual reality but can’t see their own hands.
 

From dolphins to detailed hand motion
The project, called Handpose, relies on a wealth of basic computer vision research. For example, a research project that Fitzgibbon and his colleague Tom Cashman worked on years earlier, looking at how to make 2D images of dolphins into 3D virtual objects, proved useful in developing the Handpose technology.

The researchers say that’s an example of how a long-term commitment to this kind of research can pay off in unexpected ways.
Although hand movement recognition isn’t being used broadly by consumers yet, Shotton said that he thinks the technology is now getting good enough that people will start to integrate it into mainstream experiences.

“This has been a research topic for many, many years, but I think now is the time where we’re going to see real, usable, deployable solutions for this,” Shotton said.

A virtual sense of touch
The researchers behind Handpose say they have been surprised to find that a lack of haptics – or the sense of actually touching something – isn’t as big of a barrier as they thought when people test systems like theirs, which let people manipulate virtual objects with their hands.

That’s partly because of how they are designing the virtual world. For example, the researchers created virtual controls that are thin enough that you can touch your fingers together to get an experience of touching something hard. They also developed sensory experiences that allow people to push against something soft and pliant rather than hard and unforgiving, which appears to feel more authentic.

The researchers say they also notice that other senses, such as sight and sound, can convince people they are touching something real when they are not – especially once the systems are good enough to work in real time.

Still, Benko, a senior researcher in the natural interaction group at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, lab, noted that as virtual reality gets more sophisticated, it may become harder to trick the body into immersing itself in the experience without having anything at all to touch.

Benko said he and his lab colleagues have been working on ways to use limited real-world objects to make immersive virtual reality experiences seem more like what humans expect from the real world.

“There’s some value in haptics and so we’re trying to understand what that is,” said Andy Wilson, a principal researcher who directs Microsoft Research’s natural interaction group.

But that doesn’t mean the entire virtual world needs to be recreated. Eyal Ofek, a senior researcher in the natural interaction group, said people can be fooled into believing things about a virtual world if that world is presented with enough cues to mimic reality.

For example, let’s say you want to build a structure using toy blocks in a virtual environment. Using the haptic retargeting research project the Microsoft team created, one building block could be used over and over again, with the virtual environment shifting to give the impression you are stacking those blocks higher and higher even as, in reality, you are placing the same one on the same plane.

The same logic could be applied to a more complex simulator, using just a couple of simple knobs and buttons to recreate a complex system for practicing landing an airplane or other complex maneuvers.

“A single physical object can now simulate multiple instances in the virtual world,” Ofek said.

The language of gesture
Let’s say you’re talking to a colleague over Skype and you’re ready to end the call. What if, instead of using your mouse or keyboard to click a button, you could simply make the movement of hanging up the phone?

Need to lock your computer screen quickly? What if, instead of scrambling to close windows and hit keyboard shortcuts, you simply reach out and mimic the gesture of turning a key in a lock?

Researchers and engineers in Microsoft’s Advanced Technologies Lab in Israel are investigating ways in which developers could create tools that would allow people to communicate with their computer utilizing the same kind of hand gestures they use in everyday life.

The goal of the research project, called Project Prague, would be to provide developers with basic hand gestures, such as the one that switches a computer off. And it also makes it easy for developers to create customized gestures for their own apps or other products, with very little additional programming or expertise.

The system, which utilizes machine learning to train systems to recognize motions, runs using a retail 3D camera.

“It’s a super easy experience for the developers and for the end user,” said Karmon, a principal engineering manager who is the project’s lead.

To build the system, the researchers recorded millions of hand images and then used that data set to train the technology to recognize every possible hand pose and motion.

Eyal Krupka, a principal applied researcher and head of the lab’s computer vision and machine learning research, said the technology then uses hundreds of micro artificial intelligence units, each analyzing a single aspect of the user’s hand, to accurately interpret each gesture.

The end result is a system that doesn’t just recognize a person’s hand, but also understands that person’s intent.

Adi Diamant, who directs the Advanced Technologies Lab, said that when people think about hand and gesture recognition, they often think about ways it can be used for gaming or entertainment. But he also sees great potential for using gesture for everyday work tasks, like designing and giving presentations, flipping through spreadsheets, editing e-mails and browsing the web.

People also could use them for more creative tasks, like creating art or making music.

Diamant said these types of experiences are only possible because of advances in fields including machine learning and computer vision, which have allowed his team to create a system that gives people a more natural way of interacting with technology.

“We chose a project that we knew was a tough challenge because we knew there was a huge demand for hand gesture,” he said.