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5 High-Tech Devices That Will Save You Both Kinds of Green

Going high-tech and changing your home to go green are working together in a growing synergy. Each year more smart devices come on the market that are not only earth-friendly but pretty cool to have in your home. Here are five examples.

1. High-tech thermostats

It’s no surprise that since a majority of home energy bills involve heating and cooling costs, much of the new technology for homes centers on this. Older homes have inefficient systems that waste an incredible amount of energy.

Much of the waste is attributable to climate control of rooms that are not in use and when the home is unoccupied. Smart technologies now give you programmable thermostats you can control from anywhere.

Applications and Internet-enabled technology provide greater control while you’re away, as well as networking of thermostats for efficient climate control throughout your home.

2. Motion sensors

Remember when you were a child and your parents would remind you to turn out the lights when you left a room? Motion sensors will turn on lights when you enter a room and shut them off when you leave.

This technology isn’t limited to lighting. Electrical and other systems through your house can be outfitted with sensors to cut the flows to other devices as well. Some devices even allow you to do this using an application on a smartphone so you can monitor and shut off any appliances, electrical systems, and anything else that might have been left on when you rushed out the door.

3. Solar power

Even though it could save an average of 30% of their power consumption, some people aren’t ready to commit fully to solar energy. This is understandable, since converting to solar requires a costly initial investment.

The good news is that many smaller solar collection devices can cut your energy costs. By placing solar panels on patios, porches, garages, or at other outdoor locations, you can increase the efficiency of your home dramatically.

Some companies offer hybrid devices that run on both solar and direct power to provide some savings and take that small step toward being greener.

4. Smart Appliances

When LG released its line of smart appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2012, people went crazy over them. From a refrigerator that creates menus and inventories its contents, to a washing machine that was not just eco-friendly but also fast and high-capacity, these advances in home technology were the greatest in many years.

Utilizing Internet networking technology, these appliances are able to connect and even communicate with one another, which allows for easier use and greater energy efficiency.

5. Power adapters

There’s a common myth that installing energy- and cost-saving devices requires a ton of work and a complete overhaul of the space. The reality is that you can do quite a few things that save money and still do your share in going green.

The average household uses 13% of its home energy simply charging and powering up devices each year. Typical charging devices push far too much energy through their adapters during a charge-up and continue to do so even when the charge is complete.

A company called Green Plug offers an alternative that creates a “smart” style of charging device that powers down when it isn’t connected for a charge and only feeds power to the device when it needs it.

Science:

Would High-Tech 18-Wheelers Be Safer?

Accidents that involve 18-wheelers have turned up in the news increasingly. Some surveys suggest there are roughly two semi-truck accidents across the nation per hour each day.

Of course, this includes lesser incidents with minor damage that aren’t widely reported, but it’s a large number of accidents that involve costly damage, and sometimes cost lives.

There haven’t been major changes in semi-truck technology in many years, and 18-wheeler mechanical failure is a leading cause of accidents in the US. Perhaps this is a sign that it’s time to rethink the design of semi trucks altogether. This has already been under consideration for several years, most notably by German designer Luigi Colani.

The 18-wheeler of the future

The original reason for Colani’s futuristic truck design was to reduce the amount of gas needed to run a big rig. Gas prices have been in violent flux, and sometimes make it too expensive to justify driving a huge, gas-guzzling vehicle.

Colani’s design proposal changed the engine to reduce fuel consumption by 30%, and reconfigured the frame so it’s much smoother and more aerodynamic. Over the years, he continued to refine the idea, and came up with lighter materials and a new method of driving that incorporated a joystick rather than a steering wheel.

The current design uses 50% less fuel than semis currently on the road, but for the moment it’s unfortunately not cost-effective. A price tag of $1 million to produce a single vehicle is a little too pricey.

Perhaps one day, manufacturers will come up with ways to reduce this production cost. One thing that Colani never mentioned about was any safety improvement, to parallel what has been added to non-commercial vehicles in recent years.

Safety feature technology

A hot new trend in modern cars is a lengthy list of vehicle safety measures. Some of these features include:

- Forward collision avoidance

- Responsive automatic brakes

- Back-up cameras

- Parking assistance

- Back-up warning sensors

These are among the most popular features that regularly turn up as options in private vehicles. Perhaps some of these same measures will be added to semi trucks.

Semis are very heavy vehicles that take a longer time to slow down than cars do. If a semi driver has slow reactions, he or she only adds to the braking time necessary to avoid a terrible accident.

With autonomous brakes, a truck can begin to slow down at the first sign of danger, and potentially save lives.

Keeping semi drivers alert

Another major factor in accidents involving semi trucks is drowsy drivers. Big rigs typically move freight over long distances, and they can be on the road for incredibly long periods of time.

If a driver begins to “nod off” after a long stretch of driving, an accident is more likely to occur. Technology is starting to be implemented to keep drivers alert on the road. A few examples could be sensors that send out an audible alert if the driver’s hands leave the wheel for more than a few seconds, or if the vehicle begins to drift.

Technology of this variety has already been developed in certain areas, and it may not be long before it can be used to keep big-rig drivers and the people around them safer on the road.

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last update: July 22, 2014

Gadgets:

Tech News for Dogs, Cats, and Their Owners

Science and technology have improved lives through uses both wide and varied, that have affected everyone over time. Recent scientific and tech developments have helped pet owners in a variety of ways.

One of the more interesting ways that tech companies are currently working with pets is in helping to improve communication between animals and their owners. One group that’s concentrating on this area is NSID: the Nordic Society for Innovation and Discovery.

The No More Woof device

One of the NSID’s more interesting innovations is called No More Woof. It’s designed to read your dog’s brain. While it doesn’t do much more currently than read basic thought patterns, it’s still able to tell an owner when a dog is thinking certain things, like when it has to pee or eat.

The gadget rests on the dog’s head and may soon be publicly available. No More Woof can currently be pre-ordered at prices anywhere between $65 and $1,200. The machine is far from perfect at the moment, but the NSID aims to create far superior models in the future.

Beyond the more entertaining aspects of the pet industry, medicine and health innovations for pets are constantly improving, which is always good news for owners.

The Improvements

A recent study is taking a closer look at Golden Retrievers because the breed has shown a higher-than-usual likelihood of developing cancer. The Morris Animal Foundation study is projected to last roughly 14 years, and with at least 1,000 Goldens enrolled, will be the largest of its kind ever. The researchers hope to make improvements in other areas of canine health as well.

On a less mortal note, the health of cats is also being looked at. While cats can be remarkably healthy for much of their life span, especially if they stay indoors, certain problems persist.

One painful issue for feline companions is tooth-related; it can involve teeth that break too easily. The condition is fairly common among cats and can result in multiple teeth having to be pulled.

The main problem here is that cats not only can’t show their human housemates the problem, but they’re inclined to hide and mask pain as well. So owners must figure it out or take their kitty to the vet.

Frequent visits to the veterinarian are the best way to combat these issues. X-rays taken at a pet clinic can indicate what we cannot see.

Technology is constantly seeking to improve the health and lives of people and their pets it. Whether you want to have a more meaningful relationship with your dog or your cat needs of medical assistance, we can expect great new developments in the future.

One thing remains constant, though: A pet has to be active to be truly healthy and happy. Making sure to walk the dog and play with the cat is as important as anything future technology might be able to offer. Whether in a group or alone with your pet, no man, pooch, or feline is an island.

Clean:

Topgrading Means Companies are Hiring More Strategically

Competition is extremely fierce in the current job market. Strains on the economy, outsourcing, and the laws of supply and demand are all factors that affect the number of jobs companies can offer these days.

So it’s no surprise that contemporary employers have become more selective in their hiring process than they might have been in the past.

Companies today want the cream of the crop

One of the most popular practices for employers today is known as topgrading. This practice has become a powerful tool for the hiring process. Topgrading provides businesses, from small entrepreneurs to large corporate offices, to weed through applicants and uncover the best of the best.

The process begins with questionnaires that are designed to target star qualities in potential applicants. The interview process is also carefully constructed to pinpoint strengths, interests, and skills that will more effectively match employers with the best candidates for the job.

Topgrading is the latest attempt to improve hiring to the level of a science. If employers are able to work directly toward precisely what they want from the start, it saves them time and money, as well as making their business more effective in the long run.

A more effective hiring process means a more effective business

As firms across the U.S. seek to thrive and surpass their competitors, they need to take advantage of every possible way to excel. Of course products and services are the key to a company’s success, but its personnel need to be stellar.

The best way to ensure an effective hiring process is to make the employer’s expectations clear from the start. Companies need to include explicit instructions about the job and any unusual requirements.

That will enable them to be extremely thorough as they gather information about their applicants, which may date back to high school. Members of the human resources team will be involved in combing through all the details, picking out promising candidates, and contacting previous employers for references. (It’s surprising how many companies still neglect to do this.)

Then the favored applicants will be brought in for the interview(s). The process can be lengthy and should be scored according to the topgrading criteria. In the end, employers can be assured they have selected the strongest applicants for the job — through a structured, deliberate process that features a strong attention to detail.

What topgrading means for potential employees

Topgrading is changing the face of hiring across America as companies seek to develop a talented staff that meets all their requirements. For those who are applying for jobs, it means taking more time to prepare for the road ahead.

It’s extremely important to polish resumes and interview skills before submitting your materials to the potential employer. You have to ensure your best qualities stand out above the rest of the crowd.

Be sure to dress for success, make yourself well versed in specifics about the company, and prepare to share every possible personal asset. (Make a list, if you have to.)

Learn how to be at ease and appear confident, and hire a coaching service if you suspect it might be necessary to succeed.

Lifestyle:

How to Hire the Right Candidate – Putting Skills In Perspective

Every employer evaluates promising job applicants on the basis of two basic skill groupings. The first is hard skills and the second is known as the soft skills.

In most cases a candidate’s hard skills have already been established by the resume. These skills are definite and reflective of the person’s experience and knowledge. Soft skills are typically tougher to determine.

The key to evaluating both hard and soft skills is to identify which ones are important to the company and what kind of employee you feel would truly be the best fit.

Hard skills

The resume may sparkle with every key word carefully positioned on the sheet like a script for a play. This can be misleading, though.

While most candidates are surely not out to mislead prospective employers, jobs are scarce. Job seekers told by experts to custom-tailor their resume to suit the details in the job description and thereby attract the most attention.

While this may not be outright lying, it can certainly misrepresent the person’s hard skills. The candidate may have dabbled in certain technical areas in college but has no practical knowledge of them. Others may have greater experience in related skills but no true knowledge about the required hard skill.

Each system and organization is different, so there’s always going to be some kind of learning curve. Although the hard skills may not match entirely, the general perception is that they can be taught.

Most systems are generally the same within a given industry. Some of the rules may differ, but the structure of the organization is similar to that of most of the others.

Soft skills

Recently, there’s been quite a focus on soft skills when it comes to hiring. Perhaps that’s because there is an abundance, and sometimes an overabundance, of people who have the necessary hard skills to choose from.

This comes with its own set of problems, though. The soft skills of a candidate may be entirely on point. The candidate is friendly, he’s social, and he seems like the kind of person that will get along with everyone.

Don’t let the charming nature of the candidate mislead you. While there are a handful of people that are genuinely outgoing in this way, the majority may just be putting on a show to compensate for their lack of ability.

The candidates know that hiring managers are focusing on the soft skills over hard skills so they shift their presentation in that direction.

The assumption that one may easily change technical skills is a lofty expectation. Simply put, the saying about old dogs and new tricks generally holds true.

The ability to learn and adapt quickly is rare but paramount. This certainly is far from a justification to focus solely on soft skills, though.

It’s important to keep in mind the goals of the company. You are going to want to hire a candidate that will get the job done, not the candidate who might turn out to be your best friend.

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How Cloud Computing Saves Small Business Resources

Every creator of a new small business hopes its operation will result in lucrative profits. The types of profits generated will often depend on the business owner and his or her staff expertise.

Even if the business can generate large amounts of income, the outfit will not turn a profit if the owner does not know how to reduce the amount of money that’s paid out in operating expenses. As explained below, cloud computing may be the one of the best new resources for small businesses in their effort to turn a profit.

Tracking expenditures and technology cost

In the quest for greater financial efficiency, one of the first things a business owner should do is review how much money is being spent and where the money is going. Hard figures for these elements are the bedrock for the business owner’s ability to make profitable business decisions.

A specific area where business owners should look closely is how much of the company’s resources are being spent on technology. Whether the company has hired a permanent full-time employee to handle technical concerns, or pays a contractor to be on call, technical support can be very costly if the owner does not know how to make the essential adjustments.

Reducing costs by using cloud computing

A more specific area of tech that should be reviewed when evaluating cash flow with an eye toward cutting expenses are the hardware and software applications the business uses. Because hardware and software can add a significant amount of expense to the budget, small business owners are increasingly turning to an alternative that can be used to reduce spending significantly.

The alternative that many small business owners are looking at for their operations is cloud computing. By turning to cloud computing as a means to reduce expenses, some firms have quickly integrated it into their infrastructure as a staple in their business plans.

Cloud computing is designed to use or at least share the resources of others, so it can save companies a significant amount of money on their expenses. Companies that specialize in cloud computing supply the hardware and software that various clients make use of.

For example, if a company has been thinking it will have to invest $50,000 to buy new servers for its operations at the end of the quarter, it may avoid that cost by implementing a cloud computing solution. That means the servers it was intending to purchase will be replaced by an infrastructure that uses the resources of an off-site network provider.

This kind of business practice allows a business owner to rent resources instead of spending a large sum to purchase them.

Weighing the alternatives

While there are many advantages to this kind of infrastructure in your business plan, there are drawbacks as well. One involves data security, since the company’s sensitive information will be handled in an off-site environment instead of in house under lock and key.

Before a business owner chooses this type of network infrastructure, therefore, it will need to review the provider’s reputation, data security measures and practices, and disaster recovery plans — all of which are vital to the success and the failure of the overall organization.

Mobile:

Apps Ironically Designed to Help You Unplug

In the age of technology, it’s easy to find people glued to their smartphones or tablets. With products that offer heightened levels of versatility with different apps, it can be difficult to unplug and enjoy life in the real world. Surprisingly, there are a few apps available that can actually help you reconnect to life outside of technology. While most apps work to garner your attention, these are effective at doing the exact opposite.

1. SelfControl

SelfControl is an app that forces its audience to moderate their time online by instantly blocking distracting websites, email servers, and other websites that can be a waste of time. Instead of limiting Internet access altogether, which may not be an option for some, it simply limits the most distracting places to spend time.

2. Mindfulness Meditation

Anxiety levels and depression are at an all-time high with an increase in Internet usage, spurring people to neglect real world relationships. Mindfulness Meditation works to teach individuals to take moments throughout the day to reflect on positive aspects of their life and focus on the peace. It’s a great way of refocusing your attention and regrouping from too much tech access, according to The Huffington Post.

3. Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is a modern alarm clock that tracks your movement during the night and monitors your personal sleep statistics in order to give you a better understanding of how much rest you’re really getting. It not only features a journal where you can jot down your caffeine intake or periods of insomnia, but it also awakens you slowly and steadily to help you feel more refreshed throughout the day.

4. Freedom

True freedom is not feeling compelled to check your status update or look at your Twitter feed each hour, which the Freedom app tries to enforce. Instead of forcing you to disconnect from your computer or phone completely, it still allows you to get work done without having access to the Internet, according to 148Apps. You can even customize how long you want to be disconnected from the web for an easy way of limiting your access to pages that can be addicting.

5. Pause

Pause is an app that works to help users weaken their dependency on technology by putting their phone in airplane mode and tracking how much time is spent away from the device. The average smartphone user checks their phone approximately 150 times a day, which was the motivation behind the design of the app.

The app also asks what real-world activities you’ll be partaking in for a tool that makes users more aware of their addiction to technology for improved time management skills, according to The Guardian. If that’s not enough, the app even shows your time away from the phone or tablet compared to other people who are using the app.

Gadgets:

Big Data Looks Inward

With every passing month, the business community discovers more benefits of the Big Data revolution. Although transitioning to taking advantage of Big Data requires expense and effort, most firms that pursue this goal realize major achievements. For example, systematic data collection allows businesses to gather incredibly detailed information about their customers. By learning about the behaviors and attitudes of their customers, companies can design more effective marketing campaigns, product lines and lead generation techniques.

Unfortunately, far too many companies are reluctant to change well-established modes to take advantage of Big Data. Such reluctance can come from a number of different places. Companies with solid long-term profitability might feel uncertain about changing winning formulas. By the same token, companies with less profitability are often loathe to make investments in new systems. Time and time again, organizations that take a risk on implementing Big Data solutions achieve worthwhile results. New data collection and analysis procedures can improve revenue streams, or reduce waste that comes as a result from redundant business processes, in potentially surprising ways.

Reducing Costs and Saving Far More than Money

Companies that are struggling to make ends meet should consider prioritizing the implementation of Big Data concepts. Instead of doubling down on old-fashioned methods, adopting new strategies can turn around corporate fortunes quite readily. The potential of Big Data is particularly relevant to the discipline of Business Process Management (BPM). Due to technological advances and vendor competition, companies are gaining affordable access to ever-larger amounts of customer data. If properly used, this data is useful for short-term and strategic decision-making.

BPM platforms are integrated, multifaceted systems for examining business processes in detail. Even for midsized companies, processes can become so complex that it is difficult to see the big picture precisely. By looking inward, Big Data reveals the subtle problems and paradoxes that can lead to systemic crises. With the data provided by BPM platforms, process managers can take decisive actions and forestall growing problems. For example, managers can adjust internal resource streams to prioritize the most profitable activities. While experience and intuition will always play a part in resource management, BPM software is critical for filling in gaps in human knowledge.

Customize, Optimize, Analyze

Generally, BPM platforms can easily handle multiple processes. This is ideal for analyzing the huge amount of data that the Big Data revolution is generating. With a separate analytics engine attached to each process, companies can fine tune their operations with remarkable precision. Although BPM platform vendors provide comprehensive services, each client should take responsibility for optimizing process management. While default vendor analytics are generally useful, people can gain greater insights by customizing analytics to the best of their abilities.

Interestingly, BPM is useful for far more than simply extracting and importing data from various applications. BPM channels all data and improves data quality by identifying missing or damaged items. Combining Big Data concepts and BPM is fairly easy for companies of all size. As awareness of Big Data grows, new BPM tools are increasingly easy to implement and maintain. Oftentimes, these tools require little or no coding for long-term usage. By looking inward and really focusing on internal data, companies can improve their processes and set new standards of success for the future.

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