Monday, April 13, 2015

Apple Watch and MacBook impressions

I was in New York city over the weekend with my son and had the opportunity to try the new Apple Watch and MacBook for myself at the Apple store on 5th Avenue.  A few initial impressions:

  • It takes a bit of work to understand/navigate the watch interface and understand all the buttons (rotate crown, crown button, side button, touch screen).   However, from other reviews I've read, it's a steep learning curve.  After 15-20 minutes of use, I was starting to get the hang of it.  Still, I'm looking forward to trying the Apple Watch paired with my phone and the apps I use to get a better impression.  
  • The new MacBook is beautiful - thin and light.  While much has been said of the new USB-C connector, I'm glad to finally see progress with a new connector that can provide power, USB and HDMI.  While Apple's adapter is $79, cheaper ones are coming.

On Friday, April 10, the day the Apple Watch preorder and MacBook went on sale, I set my alarm for 3AM ET so I could be one of the first to order the new Apple Watch.  Having already added the Apple Watch Sport 42mm space grey) to my favorites in the Apple Store mobile app, it only took me a few taps to place my order.   My watch is expected to arrive 4/24-5/8.  An estimated 1 million Apple Watches were pre-ordered.  I've never owned a smart watch before but I've followed the market with interest for the past several years.  While I don't expect the Apple Watch to be perfect, it does have most of the features that I'm looking for and as an early adopter, I was willing to give it a try.

I hope to acquire a new MacBook laptop (gold is best!)  for work in the coming months so I'll be sure to post my impressions.  I'll be replacing a 4 year old MacBook Air 11.6.  I'm most looking forward to Bluetooth 4 and using all the Continuity features of iOS 8 and Yosemite.  Stay tuned to this blog.


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

National Engineers Week 2015

I participated in National Engineer's week at my home town middle school with my IBM colleagues earlier today.  IBM is a sponsor of the yearly event which is designed to increase awareness of math and science and foster teamwork and creative thinking.    This was my six year participating in the event and I had the pleasure of presenting to my son's 7th grade science calls

 We each discussed our IBM engineering career, the different types of engineers, and how students can prepare for a career in engineering.  The students were engaged and asked questions about mobile, cloud, analytics, Watson and more.  Each class also participated in a group activity in which they became an "engineer for a day" where they had to work together as team, with limited time and limited materials to design a shoe.

We discussed the new IBM partnership with the Weather Company, connected cars, Internet of Things and the new CogniToys, powered by IBM Watson.  Video is below.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Weather powered by the Internet of Things, cloud and analytics

Earlier today, IBM announced the creation of a new Internet of Things (IoT) unit and announced a partnership with the Weather Company (parent company of the Weather Channel) to leverage IBM cloud and analytics.  I wanted to share my personal experience installing and using my first home weather station leveraging the same technologies (IoT, cloud, analytics) albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.

Last November, I purchased an Ambient WS-1400-IP home weather station.  My key requirements were low cost (<$200) and cloud integration with Weather Underground (owned by the Weather Channel).  The WS-1400-IP met these requirements and it was easy to install and configure. 
I installed the outdoor sensor array on a tripod on my shed.  The sensor array is self-contained, wireless and uses a solar panel to charge the three AAA rechargeable batteries (included).  There are no wires or cables. 

Data captured by the sensor array includes temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall, UV and solar radiation. The WS-1400-IP doesn't include a console for viewing weather data to keep costs low.  Instead there is a smartphone and tablet app (iOS and Android) to view weather data.  A web browser can also be used.  

The ObserverIP device connects easily to the Internet and Weather Underground (free!) to share data with the Weather Channel and the National Weather Service to aid in weather prediction

I installed a D-Link DCS-934L surveillance camera ($50 from Groupon) and connected it to my Weather Underground account.  The camera has a built-in FTP server and I configured it to upload a picture, once a minute, to Weather Underground.  

In short, setting up and using the home weather station with my kids has been a great experience and I highly recommend it.  My weather station has been up and running for four months now without any major problems.  I did have to reboot the ObserverIP device once when data wasn't being transmitted to Weather Underground but that has been the only issue.  I also had to clean the sensor array of heavy snowfall a few times but I haven't had any issues with the sensor running out of power due to lack of sun (solar power).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My impressions of the Windows Phone 10 technical preview

Microsoft released the first Windows Phone 10 technical preview and I upgraded my Nokia Lumia 635 smartphone.   While there isn't much new functionality in the first technical preview, I upgraded to see how Microsoft would make the preview available and what the upgrade process would be like.

Microsoft uses the same "Windows Insider" program that they use on the PC.   I'm been running Windows 10 technical preview on my Lenovo X200 laptop since it was released last fall.

Windows Phone 10 technical preview is easily installed via the new Windows Insider mobile app.  The app is available via the Windows phone app store.  However, at present, there are a limited number of Windows Phones that support the preview:  Lumia 630, Lumia 635, Lumia 636, Lumia 638, Lumia 730, Lumia 830.  Support for additional phones is coming.  If you don't see the app in the catalog then your phone can't be upgraded at this time.  Upgrading involves just clicking a few buttons and a few reboots of the phone.  No PC required!  New features:
  • Full-size Background Image for Start: We believe phones should be intensely personal – so we’ve added another option to customize the start screen with a full-size background image.
  • More Quick Actions in Action Center: We’ve increased the number of quick actions available to you. Windows Phone 8.1 has four programmable quick actions – but with Windows 10 you also get an expanded view that can now have up to three rows.
  • Interactive Notifications: Notifications are now interactive, allowing you to take action directly like dismissing an alarm, or seeing images for maps. For example, for text messages, when the toast pops, you can quickly reply inline via text or voice.
  • Significantly enhanced speech-to-text capability: You can talk to virtually any data field you choose. Your words show up as you speak them – and punctuation appears automatically.  This feature is smart enough to understand when to use ‘two’ – the number — instead of ‘too’ as in ‘also’.
  • More powerful Photos app: From your very first launch, Photos will show the aggregated set of all your local photos and all your OneDrive photos

More details on Microsoft's blog.  Microsoft is expected to release regular updates with new features prior to the anticipated release in the September, 2015 timeframe. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show 2015

I returned from the National Retail Federation (NRF) “Big Show” in New York City last week. IBM had one of the largest booths on the expo floor and showcased a wide range of Smarter Retail and Smarter Commerce solutions. A few of the key highlights:

  • IBM keynote session "Unique and Distinct: The New Customer Experience" by Terry Jones
  • Chairman, Wayblazer, Founder, and Founding Chairman, and John Mesberg, IBM General Manager, Smarter Commerce / Smarter Cities.  A summary of the keynote can be found on
  • Demos of the first wave of IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps including sales assist and pick & pack
  • Power of Insight (the retailer perspective) Understand trends and lifestyle changes by securing and using variety of data (IoT, social, images, on-line, transactions) and apply analytics and cognitive computing to identify on-trend categories, product affinities and new areas for growth.  Dynamic consumer segmentation can determine best ways to engage based on individuals’ lifecycle needs, lifetime value. 
  • The New Storefront (the consumer perspective) Bring the excitement, interactivity and engagement of on-line commerce into stores in real-time, in-context, and gather insights from physical and digital worlds to understand and interact seamlessly with customers. Dynamically adjust to consumers’ lifestyle needs, wants and aspirations, and deliver flexible engagement, order and fulfillment options, including co-developing products and producing on demand.
  • Fulfill on Demand (the retailer perspective) Supply chain is the next competitive battlefield, where omni-channel retailers have advantages over pure-plays and other disruptors. Orchestrate operations, marketing and merchandising to grow sales across channels, and how to optimize store and supply chain fulfillment strategy and ensure flexible infrastructure via Cloud Computing.

IBM Solution Demonstration - the ‘How’
  • Customer Intelligence (Business Analytics)
  • Omni-Channel Merchandising (ExperienceOne – DemandTec)
  • Marketing (ExperienceOne - Unica, Xtify, Silverpop)
  • Customer Experience (ExperienceOne - Coremetrics, TeaLeaf)
  • Commerce (WebSphere Commerce)
  • Inventory Optmization (Decision Optimization)
  • Order Management (Sterling)
  • Point of Commerce (Toshiba)