How Can You Hack Your Workspace To Achieve A More Creative Environment?

Why is it hard to be creative in an open plan office?The Connected Devices and IoT revolution continues apace, significantly affecting the way we interact with our working environment. The ease at which it is possible to switch on ‘creativity’ isn’t always available to everybody though. Some people love being able to service their clients from home, they dedicate their billable hours without having had to make the commute to their desk while others hate the lack of structure. They relish having to get up, turn up and get on, they need the face to face and the absence of home distractions to be able to deliver. It’s all just different strokes for different folks. But what if upon getting to work you find your creativity pops like a balloon on the point of a pin?

With the inexorable rise of the design led vanity office, one thing we have seen is that the open plan office, rather than being a collaborative, creative space is exactly the opposite. The idea is that you can just pop your head up and instantly produce a creative dialectic with the other people on your pod. You just have to look around and see what other people are working on and get inspired yourself. Of course the reality is we put our earbuds in in order to block out the distracting hubbub of chatter coming from all corners. Our shoulders are up around our ears as colleagues and managers peep over them silently appraising what we’re doing, and then there’s the near constant rounds of tea to be made. Nobody needs that much tea, it’s just a reason for people to bunk off while pretending to be productive or a huge hassle to remember a dozen different favourite mugs when you’re trying to do something important. Read more

Is Your Smart Home Vulnerable To Silent Security Breaches?

smart speaker vulnerability silent security attackYou’ve probably heard about the ‘friends’ who, late at night yell “Alexa, play Slayer at full volume!” through a neighbour’s letterbox. It’s an amusing story, it’s got the ring of authenticity because as a security breach, it’s not only plausible, it’s entirely possible. As a prank it’s annoying, but harmless But what it does highlight is one of voice control’s most obvious and easily exploited vulnerabilities: if you don’t train Alexa or Google Assistant to respond to your voice alone, anybody within earshot can make them do things.

For more than two years Google and Amazon have also been aware of another possible chink in the armour that surrounds voice responsive technology, that it’s so sensitive and works on frequencies beyond human hearing, meaning that commands loud and clear enough to get Smart Speakers and Home Hubs to do anything can be broadcast without the owner ever being aware. Read more

The Future Is Faster With Fibre

installing fibre opticVirgin Media is currently experimenting with 8Gbps, which is 22 time faster than the top speed of any current broadband provider, and more than 200 times the average speed a UK consumer receives.

If you have ultra high HD TV you could download a movie in 20 seconds instead of the hour it would take at normal download speeds. If you’re only watching in regular HD the film could be yours in five seconds instead of fifteen minutes that the average broadband customer would expect to wait.

While speed doesn’t necessarily equate to bandwidth, the fact that anything you do will be done instantly means that it will be out of the way and immediately, ready for the next task you throw at it. So those speeds will be brilliant for the connected home. As more devices are added to the network currently, if you’re only getting a standard service, things begin to lag. If you’re streaming a movie, the kids are playing an online game, someone is playing music in another room then you’re going to start to notice things take longer to happen, Alexa is slow to respond, movies freeze or start to buffer (and that always ALWAYS happens just when you’re getting to a good bit or pivotal point in the dialogue. I don’t know how it knows, but it definitely does!) Read more

Every Year Smaller And Smarter. What’s The Future For Miniaturisation?

miniaturisation, smart phone, tablet, computerAlan Turing is credited with inventing computer science, cracking Enigma and shortening the Second World War by two years. And while all this is true, there’s a person in his story who’s generally overlooked. Effectively written out of history, he’s not even mentioned in The Imitation Game, the movie of Turing’s time at Bletchley Park, and that is Tommy Flowers.

Tommy who? Exactly!

Flowers had been working on a machine for the Post Office which could increase the efficiency of telephone exchanges, turning them from mechanical or hand operated to electronic relays. He started off his wartime engineering adventures making a Bombe machine decoder (a basic mechanical computer akin to Babbage’s Difference Engine) for Turing which was intended to process thousands of bits of data every minute, but when Turing abandoned that idea he asked Flowers to build a machine which could crack the Enigma code. Flowers looked at the brief and thought “Actually, I can make it better than this!” and he did.  He created Colossus instead, a machine as big as the average bedroom which could process vast amounts of data even faster. With his engineering genius and Turing’s mathematics the German encoders working with an encryption machine which could only do millions of permutations had their work cut out trying to keep secrets from Hut 8. Read more

Smart Homes Are The Future of Architecture.

Over recent years the number of people taking up Smart Home Technology has increased exponentially. As digital has penetrated all areas of our lives, from TV and radio to phones, cameras, and audio players the more we expect from it. Once upon a time ‘home automation’ used to mean a thermostat on the wall which would conveniently turn the heating on when it got too cold and being able to set the video to record a show if you were out.

Today, with smart home automation, that’s the bare minimum we’d expect from the products we introduce into our homes. If your heating doesn’t know when you’re home or when you’re out, and your TV box doesn’t record entire series’ of your favourite shows when they’re on a number of channels all at the same time it’s like living in the stone age! In fact we’ve grown so accustomed to devices which work autonomously, from vacuum cleaners to doorbells which can recognise who’s coming to the door and let them in or keep them out that there seems to be nothing that Smart Home Technology won’t be able to do in the future, even if it can’t do it today.

In the same way that it’s now impossible to dream of designing a building which doesn’t have power cables, water and gas pipework, it will also soon be inconceivable that a building can be designed without home automation in mind as well. Read more

After Recent Home Network Security Breaches, What Are The Top Tips To Secure Your IoT?

Modern angular lounge in earthy neutral colours. The room is filled with modern technology.Over recent weeks we’ve heard about staff at the head office of a major smart home security and environmental control manufacture sharing video that the home security cameras with colleagues. It’s hard to define this abuse of trust a breach as such, but it does highlight the responsibilities service providers have to look after their clients’ interests when they put themselves in a position of trust.

Concurrently a homeowner in California had her home system hacked. She was told that North Korea had launched a retaliatory missile attack, followed by sounding alarms. Then there was a family in Illinois who had someone talk to their baby, swear at them, and turn the heat up to above 30 degrees. Other households have had people watching them and speaking to them via their security cameras, threats made against their children and loud music played over baby monitors. While being frightening, so far there have been no reported incidents of people taking over a home network and using it to facilitate a crime but it’s a distinct possibility that it could happen if people don’t tighten up the way they secure Smart Home Devices when connecting them to the network. Read more

What Top Ten Factors Influence Adoption, Inclusion & Function Of Smart Home Technology?

It’s easy to fall into one of three camps, firstly to think that everyone is buying up smart devices, and finding new uses for them. They’re creating skills, naming every electronic device in the house and telling their Smart Speaker or Home Hub to turn thing off and on, or up and down, all without moving from the comfort of the sofa. But then it’s also just as easy to write it off as a fad that is only of interest to a select few who are engaged with the technology. A third assumption would be that automated home technology is like the microwave oven, it’s going to take time for the price to come down far enough for the useful, efficient, practical technology to become an everyday feature in every home up and down the country.

Because Smart technology doesn’t seek to ultimately solve a particular problem once and for all, uptake will initially be slow, but incessant. Connected devices may save time, energy and effort, and it may make the living environment more responsive, but because it only does what you can already do yourself it can be seen as a luxury development which is nice, but ultimately unnecessary. Read more

There’s A Chill In The Air, And Thoughts Turn To Smart Thermostats

Woman using a digital heating control panelBaby it’s cold outside, and Smart people are using their Smart thermostats and lights to increase the efficiency of their homes.
Now, of course we’ve always had thermostats and timers to control the boiler and central heating so that it comes on and off when we want, but only if the temperature demands it, so what’s the difference that Smart thermostats make?

First of all, it’s important to bear in mind that a Smart Thermostat isn’t for everyone. If you’re habits and want are as predictable as clockwork then the timer and thermostat combination you already have in your home are more than likely to be quite sufficient to your needs. That’s not to say a Smart thermostat wouldn’t be handy in the long run, just don’t expect to see any miraculous plunges in your heating bills if you’re already in complete control of the heating. Read more

Making Homes Safer, More Efficient And More Secure With Smart Home Technology

When we talk about Smart Home Solutions it’s usually put in terms of home entertainments and making it easier to control media. What is often overlooked is the ‘Home’ aspect of the technology. We’re dazzled with the fun and exciting developments, but often overlook the incredible opportunities ‘domotics’ are offering.

Domotics is the word coined to refer to domestic robotics. These are the devices which are smart, but are related to the smooth, efficient, comfortable running of the home rather than home entertainments. Domotic devices include heating controls, smart lights, air conditioning, blinds, shutters and access control.

These devices don’t leap out as being the most exciting items on your home’s complement of goods, but in terms of function, labour saving and economy, they’re the stand-outs that are going to save you enough money to invest in the fun stuff. Bear in mind that anything which saves you money is therefore reducing energy consumption, which means that you’re saving the environment too, which are all good arguments to look into domotic

Smart Home systems. A cosy, low cost, low labour home? Sign me up! Read more

Smart Lighting? That’s A Brilliant Idea!

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Philips’ Hue Lighting Enhances TV Viewing

They’re the first thing you switch on when you get home, and the last thing you turn off as you get into bed, but you only really notice them when they stop working. Without them the electrification of the western world would still have happened, but at a much slower rate. Outwardly their design has changed very little, but the technology that goes into a lightbulb has changed radically, so why do you need to invest in Smart lights?

Edison and Swan invented the incandescent light bulb at almost exactly the same time, but Edison saw that to get electricity into every home he’d have to make it all the more practical, which is why he still holds the record for the most patents registered: all these labour saving devices meant mains electricity wasn’t a fad or a luxury, it was a necessity. Read more