Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Intrusive technology: Is 2014 the year the consumer puts its foot down?

February 3, 2014

Privacy

It’s no secret that technology is evolving at a rapid pace. It gives us an incredible amount of choice, and enables us to do much more with much less. But an increasing number of privacy scandals in the media has prompted consumers to question if they’re actually becoming victims of the technology they can’t live without.

2014 sees us on the edge of a dilemma: is this the year the public puts its foot down and demands more privacy and tighter regulation, or are we OK with giving away our information as long as we get something worthwhile in return?

Towards the end of last year, supermarket giant Tesco announced it would be installing facial recognition screens to its petrol stations that would scan the eyes of queuing customers to distinguish age and gender, as well as monitor customer purchases. Using this information, as well as other contributing factors like time and date, Tesco can tailor the digital ads a customer sees in-store.

A step too far?

Some argue that this is a milestone advance in the way we create and consume advertising. By learning more about us, companies are able to provide us with more relevant information and create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Fair enough. But how much are we willing to give away in this trade-off? There is an entire personal profile of each of us sitting in a big database somewhere, and we have no choice but to trust that companies are using this for our benefit.

Facebook recently admitted they not only track and analyse user clicks, but also their mouse movements, in order to create the most intuitive on-screen experience. And although Google maintain that they have always operated transparently, it’s only recently that the intrusive nature of their email scanning has fully entered the public domain. Even though these internet giants state they don’t use “sensitive” information for advertising, this still seems like a step too far. We’re nearing ever closer to the line between justified market research, to an invasion of privacy, to just downright creepy. The problem is: who decides where that line is? Google’s mantra is “don’t be evil”, which seems noble enough. But why do they get to decide? People are starting to make their own minds up on the matter.

The backlash is imminent

Figures from Databarracks’ 2013 Data Health Check show that nearly two thirds (64%) of UK organisations have started restricting employee use of cloud services like Dropbox and iCloud for fears of security issues, and it’s just a matter of time before consumers start regulating their personal use too.

The recent increase in media attention on the subject of privacy has made us more aware of the risks of sharing information online. At BuddyBackup, we tend to hear from a lot of people who feel much more comfortable sharing their data with family or friends, or setting up their own system, rather than relying on a third party service.  Even so, the most common questions we receive are about how we handle data and what information we need to hold in order to be able to connect one Buddy to another. Consumers are becoming more proactive than ever in restricting what companies can share, as well as backing up and encrypting what is stored on personal devices.

While we can control what we share online for the most part, intrusive technologies like facial recognition and email scanning can’t be opted out of, unless the service is boycotted completely. Consumers don’t want to sacrifice personal information for good service – companies either have to increase transparency of the way they collect and use our data, or face the imminent backlash of the more privacy-savvy customer in 2014.

Author: Cassie Holmes, BuddyBackup

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The Oculus Rift: virtual reality just got real

December 10, 2013

Oculus Rift

Virtual reality (VR) is on the brink of something pretty huge. The Oculus Rift is being dubbed the ultimate 3D gaming experience. The headset, created by virtual reality enthusiast Palmer Luckey, was designed specifically for the gaming community, but its impressive feature-set is proving far more versatile than that.

Its killer features include immersive stereoscopic 3D rendering, a massive field of view (allowing you to see up to 100 degrees around you as opposed to the 40 degrees most headsets currently offer), and ultra-low latency to allow for near-instant head tracking. You can imagine how this creates a pretty surreal experience, really putting the gamer “inside” of the game. But the benefits aren’t limited to gaming, and demand is growing in a whole host of other areas.

Take Computer Aided Design (CAD), for example. Just as with a game, the Rift allows designers to actually get inside of their designs, taking testing and development to a whole new level. Being immersed like this gives invaluable insight and the ability to fine tune at the design stage rather than building expensive prototypes.

In terms of price, the Rift is pretty reasonable when compared to existing headsets; meaning just about everyone can afford to get in on the action. The teaching profession are getting excited at the possibilities of integrating virtual reality into their lessons plans. Rather than reading about The Battle of Hastings, students can go back in time to experience it first-hand. Teachers are optimistic that by introducing technology more heavily into education, they can reignite students’ imaginations.

You can also to record your sessions and download the data to your PC, for future reference or further analysis. When we first started taking digital photos and downloading music, we had a sudden need for more storage. Now, with cloud computing, the storage possibilities are endless. As we become more dependent on all of this digital information, it’s important to remember to back it up. This is where BuddyBackup comes in.

You could back up using a third party service provider, or you could back it up for free to the people you trust the most. You don’t want to store your data with just anyone, and with BuddyBackup you don’t have to. Your “buddies” can be your closest friends, family, or even your work computer. As long as both PCs have the free software installed, your backups are stored securely. They’re fully encrypted too, so there’s no risk of anyone snooping about in your files.

Watch some of the funniest reactions to the Oculus Rift here.

 

Author: Cassie Holmes, BuddyBackup

4G: What will it allow us to do?

October 14, 2013

Image

It’s hard to believe that we’ve now had 3G mobile internet in the UK for a decade. While coverage has massively improved since those early days it has still never quite lived up to its initial promise, and even now speeds are very often disappointing with 3G connections rarely exceeding 2-3Mb even in areas with strong signal. 

In 2013 that’s pretty disappointing, so it’s good news that 4G has finally arrived. The next gen mobile data standard offers a significantly better performance, with real world speeds capable of more than 20Mb (and yes, we’ve actually seen this).

Having a mobile connection that’s faster than many of us get from a fixed line service opens up some interesting possibilities. Here’s just a few of things 4G could enable us to do…

Drop the home broadband

Since 4G offers such a fast connection it opens up the possibility of moving away from a traditional fixed line broadband service.

This could have several advantages. Being portable, you could take your broadband with you wherever you go, not only use it at home. It also means you would no longer need to pay for a landline, something that many of us only keep because it’s required for broadband.

And in some areas 4G may even be faster than the services offered by BT’s links.

The two caveats are coverage (which is limited right now, but 4G should be available to 98% of the population by 2017 according to network targets) and the cost. Presently 4G remains quite expensive (£12.99 only gets you a 1GB data limit according to our comparison table), though this should fall as more competitors enter the market.

Work anywhere

The portability of high speed 4G is a major boon to many types of users. For businesses and students it means you can carry on working wherever you go (signal allowing), and anyone who likes to use their mobile internet link for entertainment purposes will find 4G is much better suited to gaming and streaming media.

Stay connected to the cloud

Online backup and file storage services, and cloud apps like Google Docs, rely upon a reliable connection to function. This is fine when you’re at home but it has been problematic over mobile broadband.

4G should improve matters. Obviously, it’s much faster so if you do want to backup or download files from cloud storage on the go you won’t be crawling along with the few megabits that 3G typically provides. That’s especially useful if you’re on a train when the connection can quickly drop off as you move between cell sites.

It’s also important to note that as part of the 4G frequency auction network providers had to agree to meet a minimum level of coverage. In some cases they are committed to supplying an indoor 4G signal to 98% of the UK’s population by 2017. So while 4G may only be available in a few locations right now we should see a huge improvement over the coming years, and eventually you may be able to rely far more upon your mobile broadband when it comes cloud storage.

Better rural broadband

Many people living in rural areas still do not have access to fast, affordable broadband. While there are plans in place to expand the coverage of fibre optic and ADSL services progress has been slow and there are still places in the UK which may be waiting a long time.

4G may be the answer. As the reach of the networks expands outside of major locations it could become available to those of you in the countryside, and will offer a far faster connection than existing ADSL or dial-up options!

 

Author Bio: Matt Powell is the editor for the broadband comparison site Broadband Genie, where you can find the latest broadband deals and information.