New Office Tech Trend: Bring Your Own Computer
From The Kiplinger Letter, May 10, 2013
The next big trend in U.S. offices: Workers supplying their own devices. By 2016, 38% of firms plan to stop providing computers and other devices to workers, preferring to allow them to use their own laptops, smart phones and tablets instead. IBM, for example, already has 120,000 workers who supply their own hardware. Security is an issue, but most companies have policies on personal electronics.
The shift to personal devices should boost productivity and save money… not only on hardware purchases but also on IT staffing. Users of their own devices are less apt to call company IT folks for help, so fewer of them need to be on the payroll. As “bring your own” takes root, look for a boom in workplace apps.
Solar Power Trickles into Aviation-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 10, 2013
A cross-country trip by a solar-powered plane will bring more than headlines. It'll give makers of aircraft, large and small, ways to cut weight and save fuel.Passenger jets won't be able to fly without any fuel, the way the Solar Impulse does, but its solar cells and storage batteries will find their way into everyday air travel… helping to power cabin lighting systems or some nonessential onboard electronics.
Look for solar panels to be widely used on surveillance drones as well. They'll still burn conventional fuel, but power from the sun will extend fuel mileage.
DVD Distribution to Get New Life-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 10, 2013
Hollywood's effort to prop up the DVD market is spreading worldwide -- to Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany this year -- and will grow in the U.S. Cloud-based UltraViolet allows DVD owners to stream digital copies so they can watch on a smart phone or tablet without using the disc itself. UltraViolet copies of DVDs come with a code that a customer can enter online to gain access to a digital version.
Coming soon: Sharper-quality videos that require less data to stream. Demand for the technology will surge, especially for mobile devices. Already, video represents half of mobile Internet traffic. The share will grow to 90% in a few years. Video is a data hog, using more bandwidth than music or e-mail. Streaming Netflix videos spells a third of peak-hour traffic in the U.S. and Canada. The shift to video that uses less bandwidth will be a boon to Internet TV, allowing the number of channels available for online viewing to quickly double.
Security to Trump Privacy -- For Now-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 10, 2013
Privacy issues will continue taking a backseat to security for a few years. Many members of Congress don't want to be blamed for an attack, so they give the U.S. government broad discretion to use warrantless wiretaps and other methods to collect information that many individuals think is off-limits. And they don't want to be seen as antibusiness, so they don't stop private firms from gathering, using and even selling personal data...not just names, addresses and ages, but Social Security numbers, credit card purchases and online habits.
But courts will eventually swing the other way, upholding individual rights spelled out in the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. Outside the government, allowing security and business concerns to trump privacy has many critics... from the American Civil Liberties Union on the left to tea partyers on the right.
Even Congress will choose privacy over security in a bill now in play. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was approved by the House but is likely to stall in the Senate. The bill, a legislative priority for big banks, would allow broader sharing of customer data to prevent cyberattacks.
Cell Phone "Cramming" on the Rise-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 3, 2013
Be on the lookout for fraudulent charges on your monthly cell phone bill. The Federal Trade Commission warns of a surge in the practice known as cramming, in which third parties quietly add unrequested services that are billed to customers by their wireless carrier. The FTC filed suit last month against Wise Media of Ga. for charging $9.99 a month to provide unsolicited love tips and horoscope texts.
If these charges turn up on your bill, ask your carrier to remove them. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile offer a blocking mechanism that you can use. Finally, don't give out your cell number in pitches for online freebies.
Projectable Touch Screens Coming to Your Phone-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 3, 2013
Coming soon: The ability to quickly create and customize touch screens. Smart phones will be able to project them onto walls, doors and tables.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer system that projects a touch screen interface onto almost any surface. In a business setting, the instant screen can be used in a conference room as an interactive whiteboard. At home, smart phones that project a computer screen the size of a big-screen TV will be used for games and other purposes. Systems will allow gesture control, too.
Piracy Ticking Up on West Coast of Africa-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 3, 2013
Off the coast of West Africa, growing piracy is setting off new alarm bells: It's raising terrorism worries as well as costs for shipping and security, as stolen goods help fund radical Islamists based in and around Nigeria and Mali. The outbreak in the west comes as a violent wave of piracy in East Africa subsides.
That round of thefts, off Somalia, added billions a year to shipping and security costs. The new outbreak will have a similar effect until it can be brought under control. The U.S., the U.K. and other nations in Europe are planning naval patrols and additional operations in the Gulf of Guinea in a bid to keep shipping lanes open.
New Bank Cards Target Immigrant Market-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 3, 2013
Big banks will test a new market by pitching credit cards to immigrants. For the most part, immigrants with no credit history use secured cards, which generally require a deposit. But Bank of the West offers conventional cards to folks with at least a year left on a visa, an account with the bank or an affiliate and a job that pays at least $36,000 a year. In the continuing search for profits, big institutions are following the lead of smaller banks, which have offered loans, lines of credit and other financial products in some immigrant communities for years.
The focus: Those from Europe and Asia. They tend to have more money.
Sequester Will Continue to Plague Some Flyers-- From The Kiplinger Letter, May 3, 2013
Not all flight delays have been cleared up by tinkering with sequester cuts. International travelers will face extensive waits to clear customs this year, especially over the summer. Customs and Border Protection was already short of staff before the sequester kicked in. CBP has some flexibility to cut down on furloughs, but a likely robust travel season will strain the ability of agents to keep lines moving.
Some folks already are spending up to two hours in the customs queue and don't have time to have luggage rescreened without missing connecting flights.
Overall, summer won't be such a hot season to travel, even inside the U.S. Hefty surcharges of up to $60 will be added for traveling during peak periods. But base fares will increase by just 1% over 2012, on average. You can cut the charges by flying in early June, the last week in August or on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. And planes will be full. Airline consolidation means fewer flights and routes.
More Supervision But No Ban for Ammonium Nitrate-- From The Kiplinger Agriculture Letter, May 3, 2013
In the wake of the fertilizer depot fire in a Texas residential neighborhood, firms that make or store ammonium nitrate can expect surprise visits from federal agents. Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Admin. and the Environmental Protection Agency are gearing up for on-site inspections. Meanwhile, look for Senate Homeland Security Com. hearings on the Texas blast and related safety issues later this year. They could lead to new safety restrictions.
But ammonium nitrate won't be banned in the U.S. as it is in some nations. It's widely used as a blasting agent in the mining and road construction industries and largely in the South as a fertilizer on pastures and on hay and vegetable fields. China is among several countries that prohibit the compound for security reasons… it can be used in making bombs. European nations regulate fertilizer formulations with high levels of the compound to keep highly explosive versions off the market.
New GPS Devices Will Check for Road Closures-- From The Kiplinger Letter, April 26, 2013
Note new technology to help truckers and others dodge sudden road closures. Makers of GPS units are rolling out services and devices that let drivers know about unexpected highway delays, including temporary bridge and tunnel restrictions. Rand McNally is working on a GPS device designed for truckers. It uses Wi-Fi to automatically reroute drivers around obstacles, keeping them from getting stuck.
More Hybrid Car Choices, Lower Prices Ahead-- From The Kiplinger Letter, April 26, 2013
Car buyers can anticipate more and cheaper hybrid models in a few years, as automakers add electric motors and batteries to their big-volume sellers. Smaller batteries, falling production costs and spiffier designs will spark the changes.
Marrying more fuel-efficient motors to better batteries will pay big efficiency dividends. One extreme example just unveiled by Volkswagen in Europe aims to exceed 200 mpg.
Hydrogen-powered cars are also making strides. The high cost of producing and transporting hydrogen has been a tough hurdle, but a new production technique shows promise. Scientists at Virginia Tech have pioneered a chemical process to produce hydrogen from common plant sugars using new enzymes, beating the cost of current methods that rely on using extreme heat to extract it from natural gas. Commercialization is at least several years away. But the payoff could be big, enabling cheaper and more widespread hydrogen production at future fueling stations.
Prospects for Postal Reform Mired-- From The Kiplinger Letter, April 26, 2013
Measures calling for U.S. Postal Service reforms face tough sledding. Coming bills would taper a requirement for USPS to prefund health benefits for future retirees and return overpayments to be used as early severance packages. Postal unions are fighting any efforts that could lead to a reduction in their ranks.
Meanwhile, the postal service is headed for a $9-billion loss this year and will default for the third time on a payment to prefund retiree health benefits. But no changes in Saturday delivery or postal rates in the near future.
Rising Home Prices Pose Risk to those Underwater-- From The Kiplinger Letter, April 26, 2013
Despite sharply rising home prices in some regions of the country… Millions of homeowners will remain underwater on mortgages at year-end. Nationwide, 28% of owners are in negative territory. By Jan. 1, about 25% will be.
Ironically, the price hikes may keep some homeowners underwater longer. In areas where prices soared and then plunged, many owners are reluctant to sell at a loss. That's holding down inventories, causing prices to spike. But as builders rush in to fill demand, hot markets will cool, and increased supplies of new homes will make it even harder for prices of existing homes to continue to push higher. Recovery of home prices is still years off, and sure to be a zigzagging path.