The greatest innovations being showcased at TED 2011

The TED Conference, taking place this week, brings together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. TED lets people from these three fields showcase their knowledge and ideas, and gives them only 18 minutes to do so.

This year’s TED Conference showcased several innovative and potentially life-changing ideas. These companies exhibited two of the biggest game-changers.

Ford Motor Company
Population growth is an issue that Ford is beginning to prepare for. Based on predictions, the number of cars on the road will go from 800 million to 2-3 billion in the next 40 years. Ford believes it has a plan to deal with the issue.

Ford sees a future filled with cars that can communicate with each other in real-time.  SYNC, from Ford, is the first version of this technology. It performs many functions, such as 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Reports and is onboard about 3 million vehicles.

Ford sees the future iterations being even more robust, with cars being able to re-route you based on real-time traffic information being transmitted from other cars.

Bluefin Labs
Bluefin Labs co-founder Deb Roy’s presentation was centered on the round-the-clock surveillance of his house during his son’s first 90,000 hours. The company created machine-learning systems that traced and analyzed his son’s learning process.

Roy hopes that this technology can be expanded to analyze even more things. Currently, the technology is being used to analyze the intersection between TV audiences and their online reactions to programming and advertisements.

This system could be a great way for businesses to better understand their audiences’ impressions of them.

These are just two of they many profound ideas and products that have been presented thus far at this year’s TED Conference. If you’d like to take a look at some other cool ideas, check out this Inc. article.

These are the major trends emerging from the DEMO Spring conference

The DEMO Spring conference is the “launchpad for emerging technology” and it is full of excellent ideas. Social media is the primary theme of this week’s show, with three sessions entitled “Demofocus on social on media technologies.” These are some of the best ideas, social or otherwise that have emerged thus far:

Websense’s Defensio for Facebook
Defensio for Facebook is an application that allows businesses using the social network to better protect their Pages. Pages full of spam comments and posts turn off potential customers. Defensio eliminates that clutter by preventing unwanted content from being posted.

This application lets you set preferences so that you can moderate posts on your Page. You can also prevent your Page from showing links to certain sites.

Nimble is a “social relationship manager” that enables you to connect all of your contacts, calendars and communications from multiple social networking sites. You can integrate your email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts with Nimble so you can view all of your communications in one place.

Nimble hopes to make it easier for companies to maintain a dialogue and improve interactions with their customers. Once it is integrated with more social networks, it will become even more useful.

mSignia’s Dynamic Device Identity
mSignia works on Android devices to make access to cloud services easier. It secures your smartphone while eliminating the need to enter passwords on every site.

If you stop using that device, there’s no need to worry. mSignia eliminates all of the credentials associated with your accounts so that your information can no longer be accessed from that device.

These products, along with many others being presented at the DEMO Spring 2011 event, make conducting business simpler and more seamless.

Spam levels are declining – a couple of possible explanations for the phenomenon

Email spam saw a massive decline at the end of last year. One company’s report shows a decrease of 150 billion spam messages per day from August to December. Although it’s difficult to say for sure what caused this decline, these are some of the best guesses.

Inactive botnets
Botnets are networks of infected computers which are the cause of the majority of the world’s spam. Just one of the botnets, Rustock, was responsible for nearly 50% of all global spam at its peak. Rustock, along with two of the other prominent botnets stopped churning out so much spam in December.

Typically, when botnets stop producing spam it is due to a temporary disruption in the network, but at least one of the three major botnets still seems to be intact. It could be that the people running the networks are just deciding to stop spamming, for whatever reason.

Anti-spam campaigns
Spammers are primarily driven by profit. When they stop seeing profit as a result of their efforts, they are likely to give up and move on to something else.

It seems that a number of recent anti-spam campaigns have caused several spammers to lose profitability and shut down. One of the biggest spammers, Spamit, closed in September due to increased attention caused by these campaigns.

Other outlets
One very credible explanation could be that spam isn’t declining so much as it is just being transferred to other forms of media. Twitter and Facebook, for example, have recently become huge outlets for spam.

Although all of these theories provide possible explanations, there is no way of knowing for sure what is causing this decline in spam. If you’re interested in reading more on the topic, check out this BBC News article.

How to carefully remove a USB device

Unplugging a USB device without ejecting it from your computer can be a scary concept. The majority of us know the alarming warning icon that pops up on an iPod when you plug it into your computer. Does the danger associated with preemptively unplugging an iPod pertain to all USB devices?

Most of us have taken the risk of removing the device without taking the proper steps. And for many of us, the device came out unscathed. But what are the other potential outcomes?

One of two things can happen if you remove the device before ejecting it:

  1. Nothing. Your data will remain undamaged and you will cause no harm to the USB device or to the computer
  2. The device can become corrupted, along with all its contents. This is sometimes reparable, but can be very frustrating nonetheless

Although many people can just unplug their devices without inflicting any damage, it is still best to eject it first to avoid the inconvenience of lost data that is always a possible consequence.

For a guide to quickly and easily ejecting your contraptions check out this article.

Strategies for finding your ideal desk height

Most of us spend a good chunk of the day sitting at a desk. So, selecting desks that fit our bodies is a vital part of our everyday comfort. There is one factor, however, that many people don’t consider when looking for a desk, and that’s height.

Ergonomically correct office furniture can prevent chronic strain. Not to mention, the increased comfort can help make you more productive.

In order to ensure a desk is the right height for you, you should:

  • Sit down in the position you’d be in while using the desk
  • Rest your arms at your sides
  • Bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle keeping your upper arms in line with your torso

If the desk is a good height for you, your hands should rest comfortable on its surface. For minor adjustments, consider using an adjustable chair or a desk with a pullout keyboard drawer. 

Using a desk that is the ideal height can save you a great deal of unnecessary discomfort, including potential chronic back problems. So, putting in a little time and effort to find the perfect desk is typically worth it.

For more information on finding the proper desk height, check out this Lifehacker article.

How to effectively preserve your smartphone battery

For many of us, our smartphone is our primary link to the outside world. So, when that smartphone is out of commission because of a dead battery or something worse, we can feel totally lost. Fortunately, there are a number of simple tricks that can help preserve your phone’s battery life for both the short and long-term.

Shut off 3G or 4G
3G and 4G capabilities allow your phone to constantly “talk” to the Internet, which can consume a great deal of battery power. Try turning it off unless you’re in need of the speed it offers.

Adjust the brightness of your screen
A too-bright screen is one of the major culprits of battery drainage. Dimming the screen is a simple way to conserve a lot of battery when you need it.

Disable push notifications
Enabling push notifications on your phone allows your phone to regularly send out signals to get new emails or other notifications. Turning that off will stop your phone from doing a lot of unnecessary work.

Know when to charge your battery
Find out what type of battery your phone uses. Lithium ion batteries can be charged anytime without affecting the long-term battery life. Nickel-based batteries, however, lose their power over time if you charge them too much, so make sure they’re totally drained first.

These are some great tricks that can keep your phone battery alive, when it’s on the verge of dying. For more tips, check out this Business Insider article

Cloud computing: what it really means

Cloud computing is a tricky thing. It’s something we all hear about, and think we should be familiar with, but the majority of us aren’t quite sure what it is. There are lots of conflicting views out there, which only add to the confusion.

What it is:
Cloud computing typically incorporates Hardware as a Service (HaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Within those capabilities, companies can offer flexible and scalable options for a number of services, including:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Anti-spam
  • Storage servers

Most providers agree that cloud computing always offers three things:

  1. On-demand services with monthly or set pricing.
  2. Flexibility to scale services as needed.
  3. The consumer only needs a computer and Internet access to use the service or program. 

Although the term can confuse people, cloud computing always uses the power of the Internet to provide products and services to consumers. Check out this InfoWorld article for additional information on the basics of cloud computing.