Technology doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective
Some disruptive technologies – artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, augmented reality – aren’t exactly what you’d call simple. Built using complex programmes and, more often than not, expensive hardware, these solutions can be both costly and confusing.
However, sometimes the most effective solutions are also the most simple.
Here are five interesting commercial applications of technology that can be understood without a computer science qualification.
1) Screen protection in cybersecurity
It’s become the norm to work outside of the office, from checking a few emails to planning entire projects. Often, the work carried out on personal devices in public environments and is therefore visible to other people. Organisations can invest in as many cybersecurity measures as they like, but if the details of a confidential deal or project are leaked to the public by ‘visual hacking’ then they become meaningless. As working on the move becomes more common, companies need to be sure that this work is carried out in the most secure way.
HP have created a product called, Sure View – a simple but effective solution to portable device privacy. The feature enables users to work in any location, free from prying eyes, by reducing 95 per cent of visible light when a device is viewed from an angle. This means that the screen can only be read by the person who is directly in front of it.
2) Bluetooth in hospitality
Bluetooth, otherwise known as short link radio technology, was first used in the 1990s to develop mobile headsets. It was later deployed in mobile phones and quickly became a popular choice for low power data transfer. Today, despite being a legacy technology, bluetooth still holds its own in an increasingly connected world.
TraknProtect, a smart hospitality company based in the US, uses Bluetooth beacon technology to track the location of employees and resources via badges and wearable devices. Bluetooth and WiFi hubs provide real time information about the location of tagged items and staff so that when a guest requests a service or product, it is delivered efficiently. Bluetooth connectivity is equally useful for monitoring inventory levels in hotels – invaluable information for businesses that make their profit from provision.
3) Apps in agriculture
Agricultural workers make up a large proportion of the global labour force, particularly in developing markets. In Africa, for example, 70 per cent of labourers work in agriculture. Farmers in less developed economies often miss out on the benefits of precision agriculture due to cost barriers. However, mobile penetration in these markets is incredibly high and therefore provides a simple, cost effective, and accessible solution.
In response to the need for agricultural resources and knowledge, companies like MyAgriGuru have built apps to connect farmers and agricultural experts so that they can share experience and advice. The forum for farming aims to provide information about market price fluctuations, crop optimisation tips, and real time weather forecasts.
4) Smart meters in energy
Although the overall success of smart meters is debatable, the accessible devices have brought fundamental changes to the UK energy market. Energy usage data is sent from households to suppliers using a secure national communication network. From a business perspective, they make it easier for suppliers to understand where and when energy use is at its highest, which enables them to adjust supply to meet demand. It reduces the chance of outages and improves energy regulation.
Smart meters have also improved consumer knowledge about energy consumption by displaying exactly how much is used and when. In theory, owning a smart meter helps households to control their energy bills and contribute to the sustainability agenda by cutting down on consumption. User effort is also reduced as the device automatically submits readings.
5) Drones in construction
When taking on a building project, construction companies rely heavily on an understanding of the development plot and its surrounding environment. Prior to the use of drone technology, it was much harder to get a high quality, bird’s eye view of a specific area. Drones, either autonomously or via remote control, have replaced traditional land surveillance by giving an aerial view of construction sites. The images captured by drones can be referred to throughout the entire process, from initial design to the final stages of construction.
Drone photography and footage is also helpful in locating materials, monitoring the progress of a project, and aiding site security, all of which reduces delays, and may provide an important tool when negotiating with commercial partners or local authorities. There are now various companies that specialise in drone photography and surveillance for industrial applications, including Suave, ATEC-3D, and various local companies across the world.
Simple is best
Problems don’t always have to be solved by complex technological solutions. Interestingly, each example improves or, in the case of HP Sure View, decreases visibility in some way. Bringing visibility to processes is a simple yet effective way to get the most out of existing technologies, in a way that all stakeholders can understand. Without these simple but vital foundations, some instances of smart software might be rendered obsolete.
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