• Smartphone Connectivity: Domestic Life

    Last week I explored the current connectivity capabilities that our smartphones have with our cars. This week, I will explore how well our smartphones are connected to our home life. The ranges of home connectivity options are vast but I hope to touch on some capabilities that are useful to the average user.

    With the MP3 player becoming a relic of the past, many people’s smartphones are pulling double duty and supplying music for most users. As for home use, most people probably listen to music on their computers. However, with bluetooth it is a simple as syncing into an stereo receiver and having all the controls to your home stereo system’s playlist in your pocket.

    Another great use is streaming media to your television. With Chromecast, Apple TV or Roku, all it takes is a press of a button with the Youtube, Plex, Netflix or Amazon Prime app and the media will start playing through your television. A simple wifi connection is all that is needed for the Chromecast to detect your device. Once connect to the network you will have complete control of the media through each app on your phone.

    Finally, if you want to make it feel like you are living in the house of the future there are some really functional home control devices like Nest, the August Lock, and various garage door opener manufacturers designing openers that are compatible with smartphones. These gadgets use WIFI or Buetooth Low Energy (BLE) in order to interact with your phone. Once set up, you can have full control of your home with a smartphone.

    The increasing connectivity abilities of smartphones highlights that our smartphones are eliminating the needs for other gadgets, as well as basic objects like keys and wallets. We are quickly moving towards a future where you will just grab one object before you leave the home, your smartphone. In a suburban community like northwest Indiana, this will be a major benefit. We have significant commutes to work, school or recreation and who wants to drag extra items around?

  • Social media forming unique social situations

    Last week I wrote about my brief escape from technology and social media during my camping trip. This week I am going to look at the positives of being deeply immersed in social media.

    Two years ago I moved out to the midwest after living my whole life in the south hills of Pittsburgh. As one can imagine, being 8 hours away from all of my friends was quite a shock. However, I found it quite easy to casually maintain contact through social media. Sharing videos and being apart of group chats really helped me feel like I wasn’t falling out of contact with my friends.

    Social media also benefits businesses by allowing them to form a voice and communicate with their community. It gives individuals an opportunity to communicate with their favorite businesses, but who wants to talk to a business? Everyone should! Giving feedback to a business can help improve future experiences and be really beneficial to both parties. There are some companies in my area that I feel really connected to because of their communication efforts on on social media. This connection has definitely led me to frequent these businesses and recommend them to others.

    Social media has almost always something that has been quickly adapted by bands and musical artists. In the past year I can credit Twitter for helping me find one of the most unique live music experiences I have ever had. It was a secret acoustic show by Frank Turner. And let me tell you, I wasn’t completely surprised by the announcement of this secret show. Following Frank Turner on Twitter let me know that he was in Chicago, so I turned on notifications for Frank Turner and sure enough he announced a secret show. I got to attend this show because I was connected to this artist through social media. And the outcome was so positive that it affected my feelings towards this artist. A situation like this is something that might be hard to replicate without social media.

    Some view social media as a necessary evil that is slowly destroying social experiences in our society. However, I see the opposite. I see it as a way to form connections that we never could in the past. It also gives users the opportunity to aggregate the information or news in their life as they see fit. So if one wants to skip out on the celebrity gossip and see only locally focused news, you can make it so.

  • Subtracting Google+ from the Social Media Equation

    It was recently announced that users of Youtube will no longer be required to have a Google+ account to comment and post. This is just the most recent step that Google has taken to scale back Google+, but it is certainly a step that sends a clear message that Google+ is dead. That is something we have all known for a while, but it is now confirmed by Google taking clear steps to stop supporting it. But what does this really mean? Does this leave room for another challenger in the social network space?

    The killing off of Google+ is a welcomed one. No longer will new users have to go through the motions of creating a social media account that they will never use. Also, instead of bundling together a bunch of features under one confusing name, they will be split into more focused divisions. My personal favorite is the Photos App no longer being associated with Google+. Teaching my mom how to back up photos is already a challenge without having to explain to her that she has to do it through a social networking site that she will never use. The network had a negligible presence here in northwest Indiana beyond a few logos on ads that will make them look dated.

    What does this signal in the grand scheme of things? Not much. There wasn’t much room in the social networking space when Google+ was introduced, and there isn’t much space with the exit of Google+. Google+’s problem was that is was too much like Facebook without much in the way of killer features. No one wants to set up a new profile on a social networking site if they are already on one that essentially does the same thing in the same way. It just doesn’t make sense.

    I liked some of the things that Google was trying to accomplish with Google+. Making Google+ required to comment on Youtube seemed like an attempt to remove anonymity from the comments section of videos. I think that they hoped that the removal anonymity would help foster more meaningful conversations and less hateful comments on Youtube videos. However, forcing users to create Google+ accounts definitely left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.