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Cell Phone Users Now Cause More than 25% of Car Accidents

Although drivers are continually reminded of the dangers of cell phone usage while driving, the numbers continue to rise. Presently, more than 25% of car accidents are attributable to a driver talking and texting on the phone.

Of the 25% cell phone-associated car accidents, only 5% happen as a result of the driver texting. Most crashes involve drivers who are distracted when talking on either a hand-held phone or a hands-free model. texting_and_driving

Texas A&M along with the National Safety Council cautions drivers that talking while driving on a phone can be more hazardous than texting. Therefore, using talk-to-text applications is not going to solve the problem.

Talking on a hands-free phone isn’t any better than texting

For the majority of phone-associated tasks, physically texting takes just a bit less time over the voice-to-text way. In any case, the performance of the driver was affected nearly the same during either task.

The country’s four largest cell phone service providers joined forces and launched the first-ever advertising campaign in support of no texting while driving in early 2013. These companies included Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile.

The advertising campaign, “It Can Wait,” warned consumers against wrongly using their company’s devices.

Nevertheless, use of hands-free cell phones has become a huge factor in cell phone-associated distractions among drivers. Research conducted as early as 2009 showed that the performance of drivers using a hands-free cellphone was virtually no better in terms of safety than when a hand-held model was used.

In a recent National Safety Council report, the organization compiled a list of various tasks and rated them based on the impact they had on a driver’s mental capacity, using information gathered from a cognitive study. According to the cognitive distraction scale, talking while driving on a hand-held phone revealed a workload rating of 2.45, while talking and driving while using a hands-free phone indicated a workload rating of 2.27.

Using the same scale, the speech-to-text application had a workload rating of 3.06. According to the statistics listed on the National Safety Council’s website, so far this year there have been more than 245,000 cell phone-associated car crashes.

It’s all in the reaction time

Drivers who talk on cell phones while driving will have an increased reaction time, whether they operate a hands-free or hand-held model.

Based on data from 2011, the National Safety Council teamed up with Nationwide Insurance to generate the most accurate report on the number of fatal car accidents due to cell phone usage while driving. In 2011, there were 350 fatal car accidents involving cell phones.

The 2014 National Safety Council report revealed an increase in the percentage of drivers who were seen operating hand-held devices from 0.9% (2010) to 1.3% (2011).

It’s important to note that these percentages and statistics are not completely accurate, since many drivers are unwilling to admit to talking or texting while driving.

Today, 12 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico have all passed laws that make talking or texting while driving illegal, as urged by the GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Association). All but five of the 43 states that banned driving and texting have actually enforced the law, which means a police officer can give a driver a ticket for texting regardless of any other potential traffic violations.

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last update: April 18, 2014


HTC Battles Low Smartphone Sales

There was a time when HTC showed great promise in the smartphone sector, but those days are long gone. The company has been struggling to reach smartphone dominance, or even level the playing field. In 2014’s first quarter, “deep losses” have been reported for HTC even with the release of the newest gen flagship piece. HTC lost over $62 million, making this yet another disappointing quarter. No matter what it tries, HTC can’t seem to keep up with Samsung, Apple and other big smartphone developers. htc-one-m8

This is just the latest of embarrassing quarterly sales for the company with the latest HTC One falling flat. Hopes were high that the newest model would make strides in rebranding, but delays kept pushing back the release and may have caused doubt to grow in the market. Unfortunately, it was released at nearly the same time as the Samsung Galaxy S4 which dominated phone sales in that period.

No turning back?

The first time HTC reported an actual quarterly loss was in October 2013 with a $101 million loss. For comparison, Samsung reached a record-breaking sales high of $9.4 billion at the same time, largely in part to a beloved mobile inventory as well as memory chips. With such impressive technology on the market from the best snoring solutions to video games, the smartphone industry still makes up a huge sector but battles for top billing are leaving HTC in the dust.

Co-founder of HTC Cher Wang stated in February 2014 that the company’s issues were that “we only concentrated on our flagship. We missed a huge chunk of the mid-tier market.” However, even if that is the case, it might be too late to fix those mistakes. In 2013, HTC released the HTC One Mini as well as the One Max, but these two devices and even the gold HTC One weren’t enough to take on the competition. The mid-range options such as the Desire 700 dual sim, Desire 500 (not available in the US, and the Desire 601 also fell short of sales goals.

The definition of insanity

Even with Wang’s confession, HTC continues to focus on flagship devices with the release of the updated HTC One, the M8. It comes with a brushed metal exterior, 1080p Gorilla Glass, and a five-inch screen, which garnered great reviews from PCMag. However, it’s still rivaling Samsung, including the recently released Galaxy S5 which is already insanely popular.

You can try out the M8 from all four major carriers, with prices varying by provider. However, if you’re like many Americans, another release from a different company likely caught your eye already.


How to Use Technology to Expand Your Online Presence

There are a variety of ways to draw more traffic and new readers to your website, depending on the technology you are using. Technology has made many industries more efficient, especially if yours relies on the Internet to run the business and generate income. social-media-button

Here are some essential points if you have an online presence and are looking to manage it in the most productive way. Whether you’re talking about a blog, a website, or a social media profile, making recent advances in technology work for you will help you become more productive and increase your overall reach.

Social media

If you have a blog or website, you should try to employ other avenues to increase traffic and awareness. Having a social media site, or even a variety of different sites, will enable potential clients to find you easily.

If you have a site on Facebook or Twitter, customers can follow you and like your content, so it keeps them in the know about whatever new stuff you may be working on. Using Instagram or Vine is a creative way to upload photos and videos, so you can interact with your followers more easily.

No matter what social media platform you use, your goal should be to divert traffic back to your main site. If you can do that, you’ll experience an increase in traffic that will help increase your placement in SEO.


Speaking of SEO, you may not be clear about why it’s so important. SEO refers to the strategies you can use to raise your rank when a person searches online for the things you do. You want go get your SEO ranking as high as possible, so people will easily find you online.

The higher your site appears in searches, the greater the chance that people who are not specifically looking for you will be directed to your page. SEO can be increased by your overall presence online –- social media platforms contribute to this — and you can also rely on companies that specialize in SEO to help you increase your presence.

The value and importance of SEO can hardly be overstated; it’s something your company should manage constantly to ensure success.

Online presence management

When it comes to SEO and social media, it’s important for you to manage all your content through the technology that’s available to you. Of course, you can use your computer to log in and see how your profiles and pages are doing when you’re at home, but you can also use mobile programs when you’re on the go in order to make sure you don’t miss a beat when managing your content.

The more you can stay on top of things with technology, the more your presence will grow. This means more recognition and more viewers, which will increase the revenue you can generate from your site.

Technology has cleary played a central role in the growth of online businesses. And if you make an effort to maximize your social media presence and SEO rankings, you can increase your power online as well.


Will Your Job Be Taken Over By Technology?

Technological advances have brought us a long way, and in a world of convenience and instant benefits or rewards, society has come to expect super-human results from many services. While some jobs require humans to do them, there are many that technology has already replaced. technology1

Many more will be replaced as technology becomes increasingly more advanced and affordable to the masses.

White-collar jobs at risk for replacement

It used to be that white-collar jobs were considered some of the most stable in the country. A few decades ago, they were high-paying office jobs that only a few educated people could fill after having spent years studying business, law, administration, marketing, etc., at a university.

However, partly because recent trends in computer programming have incorporated automated processes into the workplace, to perform such tasks as analyze paperwork, check for plagiarism, and store/find files, these once-affluent jobs are disappearing at an alarming pace.

Administrative assistant, secretarial, and other “middle-class” jobs are going

Twenty years ago offices functioned largely on a ground-up promotion model. A prospective employee would begin by applying for an administrative assistant position or a secretarial position, and perhaps even a job in the mailroom, with the hope that he or she could rise through the ranks of the office to a position of significance and power.

These largely middle-class jobs guaranteed a relatively stable income while also providing on-the-job training and potential for getting ahead. But in today’s business of appointment-reminding apps, computer file storage, e-mail, and e-docs, clerical jobs are being cut by the dozens by companies who are searching for ways to save money and downsize their staff while maintaining operations.

These jobs are seen as expendable by most businesses, and will no longer provide an especially secure employment opportunity.

Tasks performed by doctors will be replaced by technology

While there’s a higher level of stability in becoming a doctor, that may not be quite as true in the future. With the increased use of sensors, scanning systems, etc., diagnostics is becoming an increasingly tech-based and tech-managed process. It’s been estimated that 80 percent of medical tasks that doctors currently perform could be taken over by technology.

This could lead to less time being spent by physicians with each patient. This will allow the doctors to see more people during a shift, and therefore it’s likely that hospitals and other medical facilities will not need to hire as many doctors.

Blue collar jobs are as stable as ever

While technology has certainly helped our society develop better and more efficient ways to build buildings, rewire homes, or fix cars, these are all very specific construction specialties that require a substantial amount of manpower.

The craftsmanship and expertise required for each of these jobs ensures that workers who hone and perfect their trade should be steadily employed for as long as buildings need to be built, cars are being driven, plumbing needs fixing, and so on.

While a computer can read a thousand-page document in a matter of minutes, it’s not able to protect a house from water damage by installing a water-powered sump pump.

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New Social Network Data Tells Marketers Where to Advertise

As businesses shift their advertising focus from static banner ads to mobile apps and social media, more research is going into finding out how customers respond to these new ad campaigns. While businesses can’t hope to reach their customer bases through traditional marketing alone, they can increase their advertising success by getting to know how customers interact with current platforms.

Social media is a company’s best tool for developing brand recognition with customers. Companies going through a rebranding process can use social media to inform people about upcoming changes and avoid a psychological and emotional backlash from customers who’ve been loyal for years.

Advertising through social media has a dark side, however. Along with the increased customer engagement and intimacy comes the possibility of misusing customer data. People who log into public forums, such as Facebook and Twitter, freely offer their demographic information and preferences when they create and use such accounts.

Fragmentation of social media means uneven advertising

A statistical index is needed to measure customer engagement with social media platforms and the amount of time they spend on each website. Forums such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and WhatsApp tend to occupy a customer’s attention to varying degrees and lengths of time.

Research firm BI Intelligence conducted a survey to measure customer engagement with various social media sites and the amount of time spent on each one. According to the survey:

  • Users spend almost four times as long on Facebook as its closest rival, Instagram

  • Users are more engaged with Facebook than with other platforms

  • Twitter attracts the next highest amount of users, followed by Snapchat and then WhatsApp

  • Users spend more time using social media websites than any other online communication platform, including email or instant messaging

  • More than half of social media users log into a mobile version of their favorite websites

Newcomers such as Tumblr and Pinterest plan to increase their audience engagement in the coming months. The new focus for social media is reaching users through multiple devices.

Social media outlets spread brand awareness

Recently, the German company Siemens AG rebranded itself as Unify after 165 years of existence. To ensure that loyal customers weren’t upset over the change, Siemens turned to Twitter and Facebook to address their concerns.

The marketing campaign raised average monthly Twitter impressions from 2 million to almost 37 million, and monthly Facebook views jumped from around 100,000 to almost 26 million. Along with all this social media activity came customer data in the form of demographic information and user preferences.

Data from Facebook comes at a cost for companies and users, however. Facebook sells user data to advertisers, and many customers have reacted angrily after learning that information about them and their online behavior has been used in advertising to their online friends and acquaintances.

Facebook’s enduring popularity means it can afford to sell data to advertisers. But companies have to be careful not to offend their customer base.


How to Teach Children the Magic of Photography

 Photography is an exciting art form that has enchanted people of all ages for more than a century. Take, for example, the infamous Cottingley Fairies in the 1920s, when two children mystified the world with their imaginative photography experiment.

While the expense of photography and complexity of the chemical processes once prohibited most children — and even adults — from engaging in photographic experiments, the evolution of technology has made shooting photographs so easy and accessible today that any child who is old enough to hold a camera and push a button reliably is ready take up the hobby.

Cameras are now on the market designed expressly for children, made of rugged materials and featuring easy controls. In addition, once the camera hardware has been purchased, the expense is next to nothing, so long as the basic digital equipment to view the photos is already in the house.

Interesting ways that children are utilizing cameras

It really doesn’t take much encouragement to get kids to take pictures once they have a camera, but giving their interest a little direction can’t hurt. It’s natural for most people to photograph their friends as they smile and wave to the camera, or act silly.

Creativity in photography requires a little more thought, however. One way that you can encourage your children to explores the potentials of photographic technique is to organize picture scavenger hunts. A hunt can go beyond a simple checklist of objects the children have to find and shoot; instead, tell them to find situations or colors that encourage the child to put more thought into composition.

Encourage creativity in the young

Christine Dickson of the Digital Photography School suggests that contests are a great way to encourage and teach children about photography. You can motivate kids initially with the prospect of a piece of candy or trinket to win by competing for it, but once the child experiences the thrill of having other people look at and admire his or her photograph, taking pictures becomes its own reward.

Simple concepts, such as which photo is the most colorful, are easy for young minds to grasp, and help foster the creative process.

Important lessons to teach about photography

Darren Rowse of Digital Photography School suggests the most important thing to teach a child about photography is to experiment. Experimentation helps to expand the mind and encourages children to discover for themselves what works and what doesn’t.

This can mean anything from shooting from different angles, to photographing a subject at different times of the day to capture changing light. The main idea is to let a child explore how these changes affect the ultimate image, and thus avoid the natural impulse to photograph everything in the same way. Experimentation is what keeps photography interesting.

Photography is now such a staple of social existence that it’s become hard to imagine a world without it. Children often take the process and the skill involved for granted. But since photography has become so ubiquitous and commonplace, it’s perhaps even more important to help children understand the magic of picture-taking.


The Resurfacing of the U.S. Real Estate Market

It doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone was writing about the supposed death of the real estate market. The housing market appeared to have experienced a complete collapse; the mortgage industry attempted to stop the hemorrhaging of funds through toxic mortgage practices that produced an unprecedented number of defaulted loans.

Despite the common prediction that the industry had gone too far off of the edge for salvage, the market is currently making a powerful comeback and is approaching a stabilizing phase.

An improved scorecard

According to a scorecard produced every month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, home sales are on a steady rise while the increase in prices has begun to slow. This creates the perfect conditions for an even better year in 2014.

According to the scorecard, foreclosures are down. In January, a total of 30,226 homes underwent foreclosure, which was down more than 40 percent from the same month in 2013. New home purchases increased in the month of January as well. Purchases of new homes rose a total of 9.6 percent.

Rise in positive equity

The scorecard also revealed that homeowners’ equity continues to grow, which confirms the predictions of Erin Carlyle of Forbes. Carlyle predicted that not only would positive equity continue to grow, but the ability of potential homeowners to obtain loans would also increase.

She asserted that the projected rate increases will cause the refinance business that many lenders are relying so heavily on right now to recede; which will force lenders to loosen restrictions for new home loans.

A rise in inventory

One of the primary indicators of a stable housing and real estate market is available inventory. When demand is up but inventory is down, the prices tend to soar. This is simply an expression of supply and demand economics.

An article in the Huffington Post suggests that the inventory will reach traditional seasonal levels. This coincides with the data released by HUD. As the inventory continues to increase and potentially reach normal seasonal levels, the rise in prices will gradually slow, which will stabilize the market and encourage more purchase activity.

If and when the increase in home values levels off, the nation is likely to experience a slight decrease in home affordability. The rate of increase should slow dramatically when the rate at which the values are rising begins to slow.

If the market continues to grow, everyone should benefit. Homeowners will certainly experience benefits as they return from beneath the water and achieve positive equity in their homes.

Home sellers should receive significantly more for their properties than they could have anticipated only a couple of years ago. Buyers will be able to find properties that increase in value, and also have a much easier time securing the necessary financing.

For major real estate brokers that handle massive volumes of transactions, such as Keller Williams, this is great news. The market is primed for some rich activity in 2014.

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