What Is the Relevance of Technology?

“Technology in the long-run is irrelevant”. That is what a customer of mine told me when I made a presentation to him about a new product. I had been talking about the product’s features and benefits and listed “state-of-the-art technology” or something to that effect, as one of them. That is when he made his statement. I realized later that he was correct, at least within the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But I began thinking about whether he could be right in other contexts as well.What is Technology?Merriam-Webster defines it as:1a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering 2 b: a capability given by the practical application of knowledge 2: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge 3: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor Wikipedia defines it as:Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia[1]) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.Both definitions revolve around the same thing – application and usage.Technology is an enablerMany people mistakenly believe it is technology which drives innovation. Yet from the definitions above, that is clearly not the case. It is opportunity which defines innovation and technology which enables innovation. Think of the classic “Build a better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools. You might have the technology to build a better mousetrap, but if you have no mice or the old mousetrap works well, there is no opportunity and then the technology to build a better one becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are overrun with mice then the opportunity exists to innovate a product using your technology.

Another example, one with which I am intimately familiar, are consumer electronics startup companies. I’ve been associated with both those that succeeded and those that failed. Each possessed unique leading edge technologies. The difference was opportunity. Those that failed could not find the opportunity to develop a meaningful innovation using their technology. In fact to survive, these companies had to morph oftentimes into something totally different and if they were lucky they could take advantage of derivatives of their original technology. More often than not, the original technology wound up in the scrap heap. Technology, thus, is an enabler whose ultimate value proposition is to make improvements to our lives. In order to be relevant, it needs to be used to create innovations that are driven by opportunity.Technology as a competitive advantage?Many companies list a technology as one of their competitive advantages. Is this valid? In some cases yes, but In most cases no.Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.A revolutionary technology is one which enables new industries or enables solutions to problems that were previously not possible. Semiconductor technology is a good example. Not only did it spawn new industries and products, but it spawned other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, integrated circuit technology, microprocessor technology. All which provide many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Looking at the number of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones forming every day), I’d say not. How about microprocessor technology? Again, no. Lots of microprocessor companies out there. How about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you have Intel, AMD, ARM, and a host of companies building custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and easy access to IP mitigates the perceived competitive advantage of any particular technology. Android vs iOS is a good example of how this works. Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gained an early market advantage. However, Google, utilizing their variant of Unix (a competing technology), caught up relatively quickly. The reasons for this lie not in the underlying technology, but in how the products made possible by those technologies were brought to market (free vs. walled garden, etc.) and the differences in the strategic visions of each company.Evolutionary technology is one which incrementally builds upon the base revolutionary technology. But by it’s very nature, the incremental change is easier for a competitor to match or leapfrog. Take for example wireless cellphone technology. Company V introduced 4G products prior to Company A and while it may have had a short term advantage, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G products, the advantage due to technology disappeared. The consumer went back to choosing Company A or Company V based on price, service, coverage, whatever, but not based on technology. Thus technology might have been relevant in the short term, but in the long term, became irrelevant.In today’s world, technologies tend to quickly become commoditized, and within any particular technology lies the seeds of its own death.Technology’s RelevanceThis article was written from the prospective of an end customer. From a developer/designer standpoint things get murkier. The further one is removed from the technology, the less relevant it becomes. To a developer, the technology can look like a product. An enabling product, but a product nonetheless, and thus it is highly relevant. Bose uses a proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet a set of market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables is relevant to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, what’s the price, what’s the quality, etc., and not so much with how it is achieved, thus the technology used is much less relevant to them.

Recently, I was involved in a discussion on Google+ about the new Motorola X phone. A lot of the people on those posts slammed the phone for various reasons – price, locked boot loader, etc. There were also plenty of knocks on the fact that it didn’t have a quad-core processor like the S4 or HTC One which were priced similarly. What they failed to grasp is that whether the manufacturer used 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores in the end makes no difference as long as the phone can deliver a competitive (or even best of class) feature set, functionality, price, and user experience. The iPhone is one of the most successful phones ever produced, and yet it runs on a dual-core processor. It still delivers one of the best user experiences on the market. The features that are enabled by the technology are what are relevant to the consumer, not the technology itself.The relevance of technology therefore, is as an enabler, not as a product feature or a competitive advantage, or any myriad of other things – an enabler. Looking at the Android operating system, it is an impressive piece of software technology, and yet Google gives it away. Why? Because standalone, it does nothing for Google. Giving it away allows other companies to use their expertise to build products and services which then act as enablers for Google’s products and services. To Google, that’s where the real value is.The possession of or access to a technology is only important for what it enables you to do – create innovations which solve problems. That is the real relevance of technology.

Credit Collection Laws And You

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Act has helped thousands of debtors free themselves from collection agents and junk debt buyers who act like complete Neanderthals when collecting debts. Junk debt buyers, collection agencies and sometimes, even original creditors are known mostly for their unforgiving, intimidating and often illegal collection tactics to extract money from debtors. Since laws have been enforced, consumer rights are protected against mean-spirited credit collectors, which is why it is important to educate yourself with credit collection laws to minimize the chances of being harassed by creditors or collection agencies.

One of the most common ways debt collectors obtain information from debtors is asking for their bank or credit card information. In the past, debtors have no other choice but to divulge such sensitive information from creditors or collection agencies. However, things have changed, laws are enacted and junk debt collectors and collection agencies can no longer make a person give his or her credit card and bank information.Once contacted by a debt collector, debtors are given 30 days to dispute the debt and make the debt collector prove the ownership of the debt in dispute. The bottom line is, you don’t need to pay anything just because someone claims you owe them money. If they can’t produce proof that you owe them money, they can’t collect the money nor can they file a credit card lawsuit.Apart from proving the debt’s ownership, collectors can no longer threaten, use profanity, vulgarities or use demeaning language to scare debtors into paying the debt. They can no longer humiliate you or talk to third parties about your financial problems. They can no longer discuss confidential debt information to other people. They can no longer threaten to garnish your wages, put lien on your properties when they haven’t gained legal authority to do so. They can only obtain a portion of your paycheck if they win the credit card lawsuit they filed otherwise, no such threats are allowed under the FDCPA.

If debt collectors continuously call you at the dead of the night or early in the morning, you can send them a Cease and Desist letter, information them that you do not wish to be contacted via phone calls and will respond only in writing. In response, the debt collector can only notify you about their next step, usually filing a credit card lawsuit, in writing. If they refuse to comply, they are violating the mandates of collection laws and will be brought to justice.

Teaching About the Election to Elementary Students Using Literature and Technology

Teaching about the election can be an interesting process. Of course the best way is to hold a mock election, or even better, a school election with children running for various offices. As with all curricular areas, experiencing the learning by participation cements the concepts.Other ideas for teaching about the election include:For Kindergarten and Grade 1Read a book about an election and discuss the elements of election. Books I choose to use are “Duck for President” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin (2004) and “My Teacher for President” by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus (2008.)After discussing the election process we make campaign posters. Students use a drawing program on the computer (I use KidPix) and type “Vote for ______” in huge letters. They add decorations to complete the poster. We print in color and staple to construction paper. Hanging this campaign poster on their bedroom doors will remind them of what they learned about the election.

For Grades 2 and 3I read an election book such as “Pete for President” by Daisy Alberto (2004). We discuss election procedures but also emphasize telling the truth during the election process. During the story there is a page where there is a debate. I stop the story, have two kids join me up front, and simulate a debate. Sometimes I even tell one of the students to make outlandish claims about what he or she would do if they were to win. We finish reading the book and then discuss ways that students can improve the school.The second graders make campaign posters just like the younger students but they add four ways they can make the school/world a better place. Examples might be: Eliminate bullies from the playground, Pick up Litter on the Playground, Be Nice to All People, Help Raise Money for New Library Books, etc.In Grades 3 through 5As the children get older I begin to teach about the electoral college. The best book I’ve found for this is “Grace for President” by Kelly Dipucchio and Leuyen Pham (2008.) After reading this story I send the students to explore an online simulation game at the Scholastic News website.

Grade 6: By the time students are in grade 6 they are ready to explore the issues of the candidates. To do this I ask the students to choose six issues to research on the websites of the candidates. The information that they gather can be presented in any manner; for instance, a 2-column display comparing the issues or using an organizing software such as Inspiration to create a web of information.Overall, the more concrete examples you can give to students about the election will assist them in learning about the process that we embrace within our country.

Selecting and Clearing Music For Radio Commercials

Proper music selection and proper music clearance for radio commercials is an important step in the radio advertising process. Whether you are a radio station, an ad agency, a voice-over talent, or an independent production company it is imperative that you do a good job choosing the right music for your spot, as well as getting the proper music clearance for your project. Royalty free music libraries are a great place to start, as they have many different styles of music that can be previewed online.Choosing the right song is typically the easy part. As you sit down to create your radio commercial, ask yourself the following question: “what is the mood that I need to support with my choice of music?” For example, if you are creating a public service announcement designed to tug at the heartstrings, your music choice should be emotional, mild, and slightly dramatic. On the other hand, if you are trying to sell the latest and greatest fitness equipment, you probably would want to steer the music toward some high energy, workout music. Ultimately, the music and the copy need to support each other. A radio commercial with well selected music can bring a far greater return than one that is put together without a lot of thought given to the production music.

For most people, proper music clearance is a bit more complicated than selecting your music. For example, if a radio commercial is read as a “live spot” on the air, the station can use almost any music in the background that is covered by their ASCAP or BMI licenses. The key here is that the music is not repeated consistently, or used so frequently as to be construed as theme music for that particular radio commercial.On the contrary, most radio commercials are produced once for multiple broadcasts. Regardless of who is producing the radio commercial or where it is being produced, proper music clearance is a vital step in staying on the right side of the law. When you synchronize a piece of music with your commercial, you will need to get music clearance from the owners or representatives of that musical work (the music publisher) and of the owners of the master recordings (sometimes the publisher, sometimes the record label, sometimes the artist, etc.). Royalty free music libraries are a great place to start because they can typically grant full music clearance on both the musical work (copyright) and master recordings.

If you are hiring someone to create your radio commercial for you, the responsibility for the music clearance typically falls on the radio station, ad agency, or production company who actually creating the spot for you. It is always a good policy to discuss music clearance with them to make sure everyone is on the same page.