(BPT) - Smartphones keep people constantly connected, smart cars can drive and park themselves, and smart buildings are designed to use less energy as they keep everyone occupying them comfy and productive. Of course you think you know how technology is revolutionizing everyday life. But do you really understand that tech now touches everything?
Technology's influence on modern life may be even greater than you realize. Here are four ways technology could transform your life at home and at work:
1. Home life
Technology is making homes "smarter" and more connected. You may already have a smart thermostat in your home that adjusts the temperature automatically and learns your patterns and preferences to provide you with maximum comfort for minimum energy expenditure. But wouldn't you like to be able to control that thermostat - or the lights, alarm and blinds - from your office using your smartphone? Wouldn't it be great if you could ask your refrigerator whether you need milk so you can pick it up on your way home from work?
The technology to do all those things already exists and is becoming more commonplace. BI Intelligence predicts that by 2020, 193 million smart home devices will be shipped. The devices will range from smart clothes washers and dryers to alarm system components, energy equipment like thermostats, and smart lighting.
2. Safer roadways
The leading factors that lead to car crashes have one thing in common - they all involve a human being behind the wheel. Data compiled by the Auto Insurance Center found bad driving behaviors like failure to yield right of way, not staying in the proper lane and reckless or careless driving were leading causes of accidents.
Emerging technology aims to reduce the element of human error. Connected cars use wireless technology for a range of purposes, from navigation to remote monitoring and control and even managing vehicle systems. Expected to enhance the driver's experience, all new passenger cars sold in 2025 will be connected, according to the 2015 study, "Connected vehicle-Succeeding with a disruptive technology," from Accenture Strategy.
3. Less time in doctor's offices
Every time you visit a doctor's office or stay in a hospital, many costs are incurred. Co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles cost you cash, plus you could lose valuable work time. Insurance companies pay for covered services, while visits to the hospital or doctor's office costs health care providers costly staff hours. Technologies such as remote health monitoring and diagnostics can help trim costs and deliver care.
Remote monitoring uses a variety of devices (monitors) to help patients and doctors keep tabs on important health indicators, such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels. It can help physicians provide health care while incurring fewer costs associated with missed appointments and hospital readmissions, notes the Deloitte University Press.
4. Safer senior years
As they grow older, many people find they need help at home in order to remain independent. Assisted living facilities aim to give seniors basic in-home care, such as help with taking medications. Technology is now available to help seniors who remain at home, including fall detection sensors and activity monitors to interactive food logs, and symptom tracking to machines that help automate wound care and physical therapy.
Devices ranging from sensors and environmental controls to vehicles that are connected through the internet are some aspects of the Internet of Things, and it's a network that continues to grow, which could make tech skills more desirable.
DeVry University, which was founded in 1931 with an emphasis on technology, offers degree programs that focus on information technology and computer sciences. DeVry has put technology at the core of its business, tech and health care programs.
(BPT) - Just a decade or two ago, home automation was still something of a novelty. Some homeowners might have had programmable thermostats in their homes, but many probably hadn't thought of automating things like window coverings. Moreover, they likely viewed any home automation they did have as a convenience. Today, home automation is becoming an essential efficiency-enhancing element in many homes.
Right now, just fewer than 6 percent of American households have automated homes, but within four years that percentage is expected to triple to nearly 19 percent, according to data compiled by Statista.com. What's driving more people to automate their homes? A report by icontrol networks found security, cost savings and eco-friendly energy efficiency are what people find most exciting about home automation.
Heating and cooling, lighting and security systems are among the most common elements automated in homes, but they're far from the only ones that can save you money and make your home more efficient. Here are three surprising things you can automate in your home to further improve efficiency, boost energy savings and lower energy costs:
Shades, drapes, blinds, and awnings can all help control the amount of heat and light that enter your home. Selecting window coverings to block out light and heat in summer, and admit light in winter, can help your home's heating and cooling systems work more efficiently. However, the effectiveness of window coverings hinges on opening and closing them at the right time - something you may forget to do, or not be home to do.
Automating and powering window coverings can help automatically maximize their effectiveness. Depending on the climate where you live, automating window coverings could yield energy savings of 11-20 percent, according to a study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Somfy's motorized solutions easily integrate with any home automation system, regardless of brand or technology, and offer many options for controlling window coverings. Select from a wide variety of hand-held remotes, sensors, wall switches, and the myLink app that allows you to control your motorized window coverings from mobile devices.
If you've ever been locked out of your house or had a guest arrive at your home when you were out, you probably wished there was some way to unlock your front door without a key - and from miles away. Smart locks allow you to do both those things and more.
You can replace or supplement an existing lock by installing a smart lock, and you won't need a professional locksmith to do it. If you can install a regular lock and operate a smartphone, you have the expertise you need to add and use a smart lock.
In addition to allowing you to lock and unlock your door without a key, smart locks also allow you to operate the lock remotely from an app on your phone. You can also receive alerts when the door has been unlocked - a great way to track the comings and goings of latchkey kids. Many allow you to generate a single-use digital key that you can email to guests or service providers who may need to enter your home when you're not there. Smart locks can also be paired with most popular home automation systems.
Many appliance makers are offering smart, connected appliances with the big draw being their "wow factor." However, some of the features of these appliances do hold the potential to improve a home's efficiency and energy savings.
For example, a refrigerator that tracks groceries and lets you know when you're about to run out of an important item could help you better plan your shopping trips. Fewer car trips conserves gas and reduces greenhouse emissions. Cooking is another area where automation can relieve some of the energy waste caused by human error. Smart ovens and cooktops can sense when to turn themselves off in case you forget to do it - reducing energy waste and fire risks.
More homeowners are discovering the convenience, security and efficiency advantages of home automation. Technology is helping make American homes more livable and enjoyable.
(BPT) - It's a common refrain: technology is killing our relationships. Couples have swapped date night for Netflix binging. They Candy Crush their way through an intimate conversation. They've replaced long walks on the beach with an all-out Facebook investigation into their friend's cute new puppy.
We can blame a lot of our relationship woes on today's tech - it's true - but when technology's power is harnessed the right way, it can actually become the very thing that saves us from love's most common pitfalls.
So before powering down all of your electronics, consider the following three scenarios where technology might be the only thing that can help you save an untimely end to your relationship:
1. Your loved one is having a tech meltdown.
Admit it: there is no greater frustration known to mankind than when you've been working on a document for hours and the program crashes. Or when the printer isn't printing. Or when you can't access the baby pictures that you're trying to show to your grandma.
The urge to pick up the computer/phone/tablet and throw it against the wall becomes a dark force within you. Your tech-savvy partner is out for the whole day and now the dog is even starting to judge you.
So what do you do? You call your partner - wherever he or she may be - and rant about the problem.
If you've been on the receiving end of one of these calls, you know how they all end. The few troubleshooting suggestions you can rationally muster without being able to see the problem at hand are all met with an "It's still not working!" The frustration flows on both sides of the call with no resolution in sight.
But by adding a "remote control" application into the mix you can now virtually (and safely) access a computer and solve any problems from anywhere with an internet connection.
A number of companies produce this kind of software. TeamViewer offers a free version for personal use and their latest version has improved security features and, for the first time ever, offers mobile-to-mobile remote control so you can even help your loved one with their phone faux pas.
2. You've left the tickets to the big show at home.
It has happened to all of us. You're finally at the check-in for the sold-out BeyoncÃ© concert - where Jay Z is expected to make an on-stage appearance - and where he will rap-battle with a hologram of himself.
The security guard calls for "tickets, please!" You reach into your pockets, and your heart drops as the realization sets in: the tickets have been left at home, saved on the computer.
You start calculating the damage - both emotional and fiscal. Your partner begins to glow red with rage.
But you need not fret! Remote control software lets you log in to your home computer, even when it's unattended, from your phone, your partner's phone or that tablet in your carry-on.
It's the perfect opportunity to prevent such a moment from spiraling into an all-out "incident" that will be held against you for years to come.
For added bonus points, use your smartphone's built-in personal assistant and ask her to remind you to bring the tickets before you ever leave the house.
Admitting you're forgetful is the first step. Stepping up your tech savviness is the second.
3. That special getaway you've planned is about to be ruined by work
One of the quickest buzzkills to any vacation is the unexpected work assignment from the boss or client who doesn't care that this is the first time you and your partner are getting away together - without the kids/dogs/cats/ferrets - in over a year.
Enter virtual meeting applications.
They let you present documents, share files and even speak to your attendees all through the app with no need to long distance dial-in. You can tell your boss you'll handle the presentation and still plan that special vacation without worrying that a big project might flare up. And your partner can still take in all the R&R she or he has been longing for.
You see? With a little help from technology, you can bring out the relationship champ you always knew was within you.
(BPT) - With new game consoles, mobile devices and interactive experiences arriving just in time for the holidays, video games are certain to make the "most wanted" list for gamers of all ages. With so many choices, parents can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed trying to decide which games are appropriate for their children to play.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the non-profit organization that assigns age and content ratings for video games, is an excellent resource for helping parents navigate both the real and virtual game aisles. The familiar ESRB ratings including E (Everyone), T (Teen) or M (Mature) are now also assigned to downloadable games and apps in Google Play, Microsoft's Xbox Live store, Nintendo eShop and the PlayStation Store.
ESRB offers the following tips for parents looking for the console games or mobile apps that are perfectly suited to their family:
1. Check the rating. Start with the recommended age rating. ESRB assigns E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), T (Teen), M (Mature) and AO (Adults Only), which are clearly labeled on video game boxes or on the game's page prior to downloading from an online or mobile storefront.
2. Review the content descriptors. ESRB uses about 30 different content descriptors for depictions involving violence, suggestive or sexual themes, language, controlled substances and other types of content to help parents understand what may have triggered a particular age rating.
3. Look for interactive elements. Interactive elements describe certain aspects of a game or app that may be of interest to many parents and consumers, and can be assigned to downloadable games and apps. These include the sharing of the user's location, if the game or app enables the purchase of digital goods, if users can interact and/or if unrestricted internet access is provided.
4. Set parental controls. Today's gaming devices have parental controls built in, which allow parents to block titles by age rating, ensuring children can access only age-appropriate games and apps. Depending on the device, parents can also control specific features like with whom their children can play online and whether in-game purchases can be made. Just make sure you never reveal your password or PIN!
5. Do your research. Check ESRB rating summaries at ESRB.org, which provide a more detailed explanation of content in many packaged games. Forget to check the rating summary before you set out on a gift-getting expedition? No problem - you can find rating summaries for packaged games on the ESRB app as well! If you still want more information, online reviews are another great resource. These often include screenshots, videos and other details that parents may find helpful in making a final purchase decision.
You can also always talk to your local video game retailers - they're often staffed with experienced gamers who can help guide parents toward the right games for their family. For downloadable games and apps, parents may want to review the details on the product's page and some of the user reviews before downloading.
Perhaps most importantly, have fun! If you're not already a gamer, try it - you might like it! Not only is it a great way to bond with your children, it allows you to share and better understand one of their passions. Never underestimate the value of playing as a family; enjoying games together enables you to engage in an ongoing conversation with your children about the games they want and love to play.
Tips for Easy Holiday Shipping
“We know a lot of care goes into finding the perfect gift during the holiday season and our Certified Packing Experts take the same level of care in packing and shipping each gift so you don’t have to,” said Judy Milner, vice president of operations at The UPS Store. “We take care of the details to make your holidays easy and hassle-free.”
Here are five ways you can keep the holidays merry and bright, and experience the excitement of making (and receiving) special deliveries this holiday season.
For domestic delivery for Christmas by Friday, Dec. 23, ship:
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
The UPS Store
(BPT) - Your smartphone, your tablet, your computer - they are some of your most important and most used possessions. They are the daily tools you use for research, to connect with others and make purchases. You take them everywhere and fill them with your important, personal information.
And all of that makes them the perfect targets for a cyberattack.
The number of cybercrime incidents in the United States grows each year, and as Americans move into an increasingly digital society - thanks to smart phones, smart cars and smart in-home technologies - cybercrime is expected to grow in frequency again in 2017. Protecting yourself, your family and the vital information on your devices means increasing your focus on your own cybersecurity. That starts with these five tips.
* Recognize you're not immune. Cyberattacks increase in frequency and severity every year, so don't make the mistake of believing it can't happen to you. "It's important to protect yourself by taking personal responsibility for your data; we can't expect banks or other institutions to do it for us," said Jim Karagiannes, Ph.D., professor in DeVry University's College of Engineering & Information Services.
"We lock our doors and take other security measures to protect our home and car. We need to also take precautions with our personal security and information."
* Don't store your username, password or credit card information with a website. The convenience makes it tempting, but websites are a popular target for cybercriminals because a successful hack gives them access to hundreds or thousands of files, including yours. Even storing this information on your own computer can expose it in a cyberattack, and if your credit card information is captured, criminals can use it to gather your social security number. That exposes you to identify theft. Keep this information off your devices and, instead, create complex passwords and write down all of your usernames and passwords on a piece of paper that you keep in a safe place, such as a deposit box.
* Use only a credit card, not a debit card, when making online purchases. Using your credit card instead of your debit card allows you to keep better track of the purchases you have made. It also limits the effects of any possible theft to just the one card instead of several. If you have no choice but to use a debit card for an online purchase, do not use your pin number online.
* If it feels like a trick, it probably is. Cybercriminals often engage in "social engineering" or other non-electronic methods to try and trick you into surrendering your data. If you get a phone call about a banking or credit card issue or if your computer tells you to call a number because it just caught a virus, be cautious. Do not divulge any personal history or credit card details. Hang up or ignore the computer-generated notices and call the customer service number of the institution's website with any questions.
* Replace your existing credit cards with chip cards as soon as possible. Chip cards are becoming the new normal these days, and if your current credit card does not have a silver square chip on its front, consider replacing it quickly. Popularized in Europe, chip cards possess the necessary encrypted information to eliminate delays in the transaction process. Doing so closes the window criminals need to steal your personal information, thus protecting you from identity theft.
You have no intention of abandoning your devices, of course, so protect them. Following the tips above will help better secure your technology and personal information from the threats of cybercrime so you can enjoy your devices with greater peace of mind.
(BPT) - With the rise of mobile devices, you might wonder what the future holds for desktop computers. While the total number of mobile users surpassed desktop users around 2014, the number of people still using desktops might surprise you. The desktop is alive and well, and a new crop of task-specific desktops are rewriting the look and utility of the original personal computing device.
Personal computing workhorses
People still find desktops useful for a number of reasons. They provide a level of computing power, flexibility and durability that many portable devices are only beginning to achieve.
From a usability perspective, a desktop allows people greater display versatility and visibility. It may be difficult to see the spreadsheet numbers you're crunching on the smaller screens of tablets or laptops. A smartphone screen just isn't large or robust enough to give you a visually rich gaming experience. Online shopping on a desktop makes it easy to enlarge catalog images, work out of multiple tabs and comparison shop. In addition, you can speak to Cortana, the personal digital assistant, on your Windows 10 desktop and rely on her for notifications.
In fact, one study found that nearly 75 percent of U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer. Multiple studies point to the idea that people choose desktops for more complex digital activities, and tend to spend longer on web pages when they use their desktops versus mobile devices.
New look, new tasks
While desktops continue to play an important role in people's digital lives, desktop designers aren't resting on their laurels. Instead, they're producing new Windows 10 desktops designed to facilitate specific tasks - and look cool while doing it. Three key areas of focus are gaming, productivity and consumer use.
Gaming desktops emphasize high-resolution, realistic and immersive graphics, as well as virtual reality capabilities. For example, the Dell Alienware Area-51 is virtual reality (VR)-ready, making it ideal for gamers. Its support for super-high resolution 4k displays and multi-tasking power also make it a preferred platform for developers and programmers. Running Windows 10 and up to 10-core Intel Core i7 Extreme processor options, the PC's unique tricorn outer casing is also designed for versatility and utility. The desktop can easily be turned onto any one of its three corners for ease of access to ports when attaching and removing cables.
PC manufacturers are challenging conventional desktop designs and coming up with breakthrough devices. New designs take into account that personal tastes and preferences can influence PC selection as much as the type of tasks people will perform on their desktops. For example, the new futuristic Samsung ArtPC Pulse marries leading-edge styling with powerful computing capability.
Running Windows 10 and equipped with a 6th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, the PC delivers exceptional graphics, smooth visuals, easily expandable storage, and 360-degree Omnidirectional Sound.
Finally, if you're looking for the perfect device for your home office or family use, new desktops like the HP Elite Slice offer big power in compact casings. Small and sleek, this Windows 10 PC is powered through a USB connection to a monitor, minimizing the need for cables on top of your desk. Specialized casings and attachments allow the PC to act as a speaker phone, multi-media player or wireless device charger.
While laptops and other PC form factors can be a good choice, the desktop certainly has a special seat at the table. New designs, expanded capabilities and outstanding versatility make today's desktop computer as powerful, useful and preferred as ever.
To learn more about today's desktop computers and for a list of deals and where to buy, visit your local Microsoft Store or microsoftstore.com.
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