Monthly Archives: November 2016

Surprising Office WiFi Killers

Nothing grinds a workplace to a halt like a lack of internet access. Gone are the days of hard-wired desktops in every office. Work environments increasingly support staff and guests with Wi-Fi, which can create a surprising amount of strain on your office wireless network, especially given the rise of devices connecting.

You might be surprised what everyday items and situations are bringing your network to a crawl. Here are the top 12 common issues impacting every office, no matter how small or large.

1. Tinted glass.

You’d think your Wi-Fi signal would sail right through, but it doesn’t. Tinted glass often has metal additives that can heavily absorb Wi-Fi signals. So if your office is full of wall-to-wall windows or glass conference rooms, it’s going to impact your signal.

 

2. Mirrors.

These are huge Wi-Fi vampires. Mirrors can cut signal strength up to 50 percent because they reflect back the signal. If the bathroom is between the router and your desk, it’s part of the problem.

 

3. Water.

You may love that aquarium in the office, but water, just like glass, is a massive Wi-Fi killer due to its density. It absorbs and traps the signal. If you’ve ever seen your signal drop at the beach or near large bodies of water, that’s why.

 

4. Chicken wire.

Metallic mesh — AKA chicken wire — is a common construction material, which means your walls are lined with metal. Metal is also a gobbler of your Wi-Fi signal. The way around this is to ensure you have enough equipment to make up the difference. You might need an extender or access point to boost the router signal.

 

5. BYOD.

Also known as “Bring Your Own Device,” is a huge trend that’s taxing most workplaces. Most routers tap out at 10-20 devices. With today’s proliferation of tablets, smartphones, laptops and wireless office equipment, like your printer or that precious Apple TV in the conference room, bandwidth gets zapped quick. Plan accordingly.

 

6. Board meetings

We’ve heard more than one horror story of IT staff scrambling as networks crash under the weight of all your board members downloading a 20 MB presentation at the same time, in the same room. Avoid irritating your board. Make sure your bandwidth is up to snuff before the meeting starts. Better yet, give them their own channel.

Change the Meat Industry Forever

For decades, there have been concerns about the environmental impact of and the treatment of animals in the $200 billion American meat industry. Two startups are looking to shake things up.

Bay Area company Memphis Meats and Netherlands-based Mosa Meats have made it their goal to replace farm animals with meat grown from self-producing cells. The cell-produced meats are created in stainless steel bioreactor tanks, and the companies have labeled these products as “clean meat,” which could essentially revolutionize the meat market.

Scientists from these companies have already created beef products including a burger and a meatball grown from bovine cells. But yesterday, Memphis Meats for the first time tested lab-grown chicken strips with a group of consumers, and responses were positive. In fact, most testers said they would eat the breaded, deep fried chicken strips again.

Adding chicken to the list of cell-produced meats is a major feat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each American consumed an average of 90.9 pounds of chicken in 2016 — almost the same amount of beef and pork combined.

Besides not having to raise then slaughter animals, this lab-grown meat concept has a major environmental advantage as well. The companies argue that the technique avoids any “costs of grain, water and waste disposal of livestock,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

 

“We expect our products to be better for the environment (requiring up to 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, land and water than conventionally-produced meat), the animals and public health,” reads the Memphis Meats’ website.

When Memphis Meats released its cell-produced meatball for the first time, it had cost $18,000 a pound to produce. The company has since drive down costs. Using its current technology, Memphis Meats estimates it can produce one pound of chicken for less than $9,000. To compete with the big guys, the company continues to seek ways to lower costs.

Know what lurks on your devices

Spring is in the air but gunk is in your gadgets. There are the smudges and crumbs you can see and the creepy-crawly bacterium that you can’t (and would rather not). Studies have shown that infection-causing E coli and Staphylococcus aureus, fecal matter (yep), and just plain dirt are hanging out on your tech.

That might make you want to dunk everything into a vat of bleach, but it wouldn’t be the best thing for you or your devices. Instead, grab some microfiber cloths, Q-tips, distilled water, isopropyl alcohol and dish soap and read our guide to getting your gadgets gleaming.

Note: Before you clean anything, unplug it or turn it off.

 Smartphone and tablet

Say what you will but you’ve probably taken your smartphone or tablet into less than sanitary conditions (we are talking about the bathroom). You wash your hands but then you pick up your phone or tablet — and all the germs that have now attached themselves to it. It’s a gross fact that phones tend to have 10 times the bacteria that toilet seats do.

To scrub a phone or tablet that does not have a screen protector, you have to take extra care since it might have an oleophobic (fingerprint-resistant) coating that could come off. The gentlest way to clean it is to take distilled water and a microfiber cloth to wipe down the phone. Use Q-tips to clean around crevices.

 

If your device has a screen protector on it, whether it’s tempered glass or just thin plastic, get together some isopropyl alcohol, distilled water, a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth. Pour one part alcohol and one part water into the spray bottle and then spritz a lint-free cloth with the solution and wipe down the phone.

To keep your phone or tablet clean on a regular basis, keep some wipes, like Wireless Wipes, handy and swab it down daily. If you want to be fancy, then you can carry Well-Kept Screen-Cleansing Towelettes with you and use those. They come in small patterned packages that fit neatly into pants pockets or purses.

 

Laptop

Because your laptop travels, it has plenty of opportunity to pick up unsavory characters. Turn your laptop upside down and (gently) shake out the keyboard to rid yourself of the biggest and most obvious invaders: dirt and crumbs. Then grab a can of compressed air duster and blast it.

Now make sure your laptop is not only unplugged but that the battery is removed. Lightly dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth and go over all the plastic or metal surfaces.

Innovate in the Healthcare Space

Have you been to your doctor recently? You’ve probably noticed how technology is, in some ways, making doctors’ jobs more difficult. They’re staring at a screen for a significant portion of your visit. Maybe you sense their frustration as they search for the pull-down menu needed to record your diagnosis or select your prescription. And by looking over their shoulder, you’re catapulted back to 1999 with text-heavy, template-driven screen after screen.

Poor technology is contributing to burnout in doctors. More than 40 percent of hospital executives are either indifferent or dissatisfied with their current electronic health record (EHR) system, according to a 2014 survey. Even worse, doctors now spend an average of only eight minutes per patient, or 12 percent of their total time — and this is down from 20 percent in the late 1980s.

So how can you innovate in health care to increase the amount of time doctors get to spend with their patients, generate system-wide access to patient medical records and create new, meaningful avenues for engagement — outside of the 15-minute doctor’s visit?

1. Think outside the box.

Many more care teams are using EHRs these days because of a multi-billion-dollar infusion of capital from the U.S. government, as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009 (also known as the stimulus bill). The ARRA did its job of subsidizing EHR purchases by hospitals and physicians. However, it also stymied health IT innovation by entrenching a small group of EHR vendors, because EHR software is extremely complicated and takes a long time to develop, test and bring to market.

“OK,” you say, “I’ll develop an add-on product to make EHRs easier to use.” You can try, but health IT is a long way from “plug and play.” That’s partly because EHR vendors have some vested interest in keeping their systems closed, but also because the industry lags in developing usable interoperability standards for its very complex information flow. To get a sense of the size of the job, check out the Connectathon, an annual event where healthcare software vendors convene to try to get their products to work together smoothly.

 

2. Look to other industries for inspiration.

You’ll have to look outside of healthcare, where IT generally lags 10 or 20 years behind other industries. Look to banking and investing, for instance. Modern banks have taken themselves almost entirely out of their customers’ relationships with their money. While banks still have their traditional internal systems, consumers also have access to their finances on their phones and tablets, and banks compete to offer the best app. Or look at Betterment, which allows investors to skip a human financial advisor and have their investments handled by advanced algorithms.

 

3. Innovate beyond “sick care.”

Insurance companies and government programs such as Medicare are shifting their focus to population health. In other words, they’re working to figure out the big picture of why people get sick and how to keep them well.

Our healthcare system is moving, very slowly, away from a model of sick care (just treating immediate problems, with nods to preventive measures such as vaccinations, mammograms and colonoscopies) and toward genuine health care (putting the person in the middle of their care and proactively promoting health and long-term wellness). We’re encouraged to keep our weight down, get regular exercise, anticipate potential problems and control our chronic conditions to avoid crises and hospital visits

 

4. Tap into the “quantified self.”

Increasingly, we as patients are the source of important information about our health. Various new technologies such as Fitbit trackers, Wi-Fi-enabled scales and apps allow us to more easily track our health insights (including diet, exercise and heart rate). Innovation in health IT could broaden the EHR information we maintain to include everything we do that affects our health — not just what happens in the hospital, the doctor’s office or the lab. For example, when we combine behavioral health and socioeconomic data with clinical and claims data, we can create personalized care plans that extend beyond the canned information that many care teams prescribe.

Learn From Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has many market leaders scrambling to adopt new tactics and reshape their company cultures to mirror the leanness, flexibility and agility of successful startups that are rocking the commercial boat. Recently, several industries have experienced major disruptions due to startup companies making waves and striking out against the status quo. Digital transformation hinges on a few key concepts, and market disruption and startup culture are a few of the major ones.

I believe that startup companies need to use the inherent advantages that come with being a startup to disrupt markets and gain tangible advantages over established market leaders. Digital transformation is surely going to affect just about every industry, so it’s vital for startup leaders to understand how their companies influence digital transformation in their markets and in their industries. They must then use that knowledge to their advantage. Here are five things to learn from digital transformation.

 

1. Drive change with people — your most important resource

Technology is evolving quickly, but it’s important to never fall into the trap of valuing tech over every business’ most valuable resource: people. People drive change, not technology. As a startup, you need to make calculated decisions when it comes time to choose founders, suppliers, distributors, talent and other partners. Focus on traits as well as skills to make those decisions.

The wrong people — however skilled and savvy they might be — can destroy a company from the inside out with toxic behaviors and intransigence in the face of digital transformation. You can’t stay competitive if you constantly need to replace employees who can’t adapt their behaviors.

 

2. Embrace flexibility to succeed

The ideal startup employee is agile and flexible, and eager to embrace change. Startups don’t have the workforce or liquidity to designate specific tasks to specific employees — a trait often caused by the founders assuming a dozen different roles until they can expand. However, the modern business is embracing employees who have a more holistic impact on the enterprise, rather than employees who focus solely on one aspect. Adaptability is vital to success as a startup, and many larger companies are attempting to adopt a leaner, more flexible workforce that mimics startup agility.

Agility also means preventing complacency. One of the reasons that so many small companies have become major market disruptors is because the market leaders carried on with business as usual and weren’t prepared for a game-changer. Don’t let your workforce fall into a humdrum routine. Encourage employees to find new ways to touch other areas of the business and bounce ideas around to promote growth from within. Agility doesn’t just mean being able to tackle different responsibilities when the occasion calls for it. It also means being prepared for any eventuality and preparing the company accordingly.

 

3. Open company culture to all employees

Your company culture should reflect the core values that inspired you to start the business, as well as your vision for the future. When you place employees in silos — assigning one aspect of the business to which they must dedicate all their working hours — they can quickly lose sight of the bigger picture for the whole company. When you focus on agility over specialty, employees can see and touch more aspects of the company, and your enterprise message will resonate more tangibly with them.

 

4. Value your data, remain relevant

Information is one of the most valuable commodities on the planet. Every business in every industry has a goldmine of customer data available, and it’s crucial to know how to use it and how to interpret it if you want to stay relevant in your market. Technology allows businesses to learn more about their customers and their behaviors, and real-time tracking can help you pinpoint major disruptive forces in your market.

Data must be a driving force behind all of your major decisions. Any modern startup needs to prioritize data collection and collation. Once you figure out how to reach and appeal to your customer base, your company becomes more futureproof.

 

5. Focus on customer experience

Large companies often lose sight of the personal interactions between their people on the floor and their customers. They often make decisions that don’t reflect the customers’ best interest. After making such choices, they’ll attempt to “work in” the customer later down the road. This doesn’t bode well in the face of digital transformation, where many larger companies are beginning to value the customer experience more and tailor their decisions accordingly.