Tag Archives: internet

Blockchain

September 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To industries that depend on verification as a core factor of their business, blockchain technology has much to offer, according to Erica Wassinger, co-founder of The Startup Collaborative and senior director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber. B2B recently caught up with Wassinger to get her take on blockchain and its benefits to companies in Omaha and elsewhere. 

B2B: Please explain what blockchain technology is. 

Wassinger: Blockchain is a new form of the internet. The distinguishing factor between blockchain and the internet as we know it now is the fact that blockchain is not controlled by any central entity or person. It’s completely decentralized and distributed. Think of it like a public ledger that can record transactions of any type. A simple parallel might be that it can be a supply chain for just about anything, including information. When you dig deeply into the industries of Omaha, you think about our density within the supply chain. We’re home to Union Pacific, Werner Enterprises, and some of these big logistics companies. Blockchain fits really nicely into the business models of those types of companies because it allows any organization or person to verify where something is on the supply chain. 

B2B: To make use of blockchain, you have to be appropriately credentialed, digitally, right? 

Wassinger: To an extent. Businesses can operate on blockchain, any person can cooperate on it. If you want to develop on the blockchain, it does require a certain level of skill. There are very few developers. I heard one source say there are as few as 1,300 true blockchain developers in the world. 

B2B: What are those individuals doing? Developing applications for different products? 

Wassinger: Yes. They’re thinking of different use cases just like we would for the internet, where we think of how to create a web platform or an app that solves a problem. Blockchain developers are doing that same thing for blockchain use cases. 

B2B: What are some blockchain use cases?

Wassinger: You see blockchain used in the food industry with the verification of crop growth product formation. For example, if, as a consumer, I want to eat a food, and it matters to me greatly that that is a wholly organic food, I might want to go all the way back to the point at which that was planted in the soil to figure out how the crop was treated, how often was it watered, when was it harvested, where did it go, and what happened to it at the next facility.

B2B: Is supply chain verification the most popular use of blockchain?

Wassinger: Yes, at least here in the Nebraska blockchain market, whether it’s the food supply chain or the information supply chain. 

B2B: What are some local use cases for blockchain?

Wassinger: Let’s dig into the economy of Omaha. We’ve got deep density in financial services— everything from payment processing to banking to insurance. All those bases are completely ripe for blockchain technology, especially when you think about the need for authenticating things. Think about insurance, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if, upon buying a new policy, you could record every transaction very simply? That’s happening now with certain insurance companies. They’re testing that, and some are live right now. You can also look outside financial services and into the food industry. There’s a startup we are working with called BlockEra that’s working on an ingredient-to-table verification process. You can also think supply chain logistics. For example, if I am Union Pacific and I want to watch my train go from here to there, and I want to know what freight was loaded, when it was unloaded, and all of the details of that experience, blockchain becomes very relevant. 

B2B: What about an international use case? 

Wassinger: The United Nations, which works with massive refugee populations, has a really interesting blockchain use case. As a refugee, your anonymity is important to you—the ability to transact in any environment is important. You also fully expect to have a physical wallet on you to carry cash. You’re going to be crossing borders and deal with this, that, or the other. So the United Nations looked at that. We can respect these people’s anonymity through leveraging the block chain by giving refugees tokens that will allow them to transact across any border. As they reach certain points in their journey, we can make sure that they have enough tokens to fuel that piece of their journey. 

B2B: The technology sounds great. How does anybody make money from it? 

Wassinger: A lot of people are still trying to figure all of this out. Because the transactions are happening on blockchain, they require use of cryptocurrency. When you hear “cryptocurrency,” a lot of people are going to initially think of bitcoin. But there are several others that come up, Ether being one. Ether is the cryptocurrency of choice for the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is an open- source blockchain that is hinged around the idea of a smart contract, which is a really transparent way of two entities agreeing on a value for something and then recording that agreement
transaction together. 

B2B: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Wassinger: I think about Omaha and the talent pools we have here. I keep coming back to this: we’ve got really a strong agribusiness talent pool, we’ve got a really strong talent pool in supply chain and logistics, and we’ve got an incredibly dense and strong talent pool as it relates to financial services, insurance, and payment processing. I think our region needs to embrace blockchain. We need more people in the core industries where blockchain stands to be a major disruptive source to test and dabble and experiment earlier with the technology to look at it and say what levels of verification need to happen in those industries. I would love to see that embraced because I firmly believe that blockchain will be very important to the future of Omaha’s economy.


Visit blockgeeks.com for more information about blockchain.

This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

Erica Wassinger, co-founder of The Startup Collaborative and senior director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber

Ethical Legacy Thinkers and the GDPR

July 26, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The General Data Protection Regulation is a new European Union and European Economic Area privacy regulation. It has to do with how personal information of EU subjects is processed and applies to all enterprises, even if located outside the EU, that work with the EEA. Among other things, it requires that data collectors and processors receive opt-in consent from the data’s owner; certain data breaches must be reported within 72 hours; users have a right to request a copy of the data collected; and users have a right to have their data erased under specific situations. This last right is also called “the right to be forgotten.”

When the GDPR became enforceable on May 25 it affected me. I was in Austria and I could not get access to several U.S. websites, including the Omaha World Herald. “Come on, what’s the privacy issue with our local paper?” I thought.

Talking to several business leaders when I came back to the U.S., we reflected on how the new regulation affects Omaha businesses. There were two distinct responses.

The first was, “the GDPR is interesting to know about. But our firm doesn’t have clients in the EU so it’s not a regulation that I think too much about.” I’ll call this a short-term, narrow reaction. It doesn’t indicate that the businessperson’s perspective is far, wide, and high. The conversation closed down almost immediately.

What I’ll call ethical legacy thinkers, however, consistently had a different take. Even if their firms don’t currently have EU clients, they exhibited attitudes and perspectives that left me with the thought, “I can see why they have influence and will last a long, long time.”

Ethical legacy thinkers have four attitudes in common, which were apparent in my GDPR conversations with them.

First, they exhibited curiosity, asking questions such as, “What’s the difference between opt-in and opt-out?” and “What is
personal information?”

Second, they expressed concern for long-term business impact, asking“How can we continue to satisfy our customer’s need for privacy?” and “What will the overall cost be?”

Third, these businesspeople showed a sense of the relationship between business and society, asking,“What are the social norms across communities and countries that drive different senses of privacy?” and “What is businesses’ role in maintaining these?”

Fourth, they always bring it back to their values and the core values of their firms. They asked “Why is privacy important to me?,” “How can I make sense of the right to be forgotten?,” and “How can our company use the spirit of this regulation to do what we do best—make good money through excellent customer service and respect for our customers?.”

Ethical legacy thinkers are seers. They pose big-picture questions and seek long-term impact. They know that passing on a strong moral compass and a sense of purpose is meaningful.


This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

How to Make a Coffee Filter Lamp

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Light is to what punctuation is at the end of a sentence.

If I had my way, there would never be any traditional lighting—especially fluorescent lights, as they are often too cool and tend to distort (in my opinion, making everything look worse).

So, when deciding upon lighting options for the room that I am remodeling, I opted for a softer look to establish a welcoming mood.

This soft accent light will not be the primary light source in the room; rather, it will be more of a glowing art installation hanging in the room.

There will be plenty of natural light coming through the large window as well as several other lamps in the room.

I truly feel that without choosing the correct lighting in the beginning, the whole room won’t have that wow factor in the end.

My inspiration was something I saw on the internet several years ago. At the time, I didn’t have the space to make it work. But I do now!

The final renovation of the room will be unveiled in the grand reveal to be published in the January/February issue of Omaha Home.

Remember, you do not have to compromise beauty and function for cost. Do some research and find what fits your space and style. Try out your own DIY project. That’s what this year-long project is all about.

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Paper lantern (I used a lantern 16 inches in diameter.)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Large package of glue sticks
  • Basket-type coffee filters (I used 800.)
  • Patience (The project can take approximately 6-7 hours.)
  • LED light with remote or single-socket pendant light. Both are extremely inexpensive. There are many options. To be safe, please do your research. You don’t want to create a fireball!

DIRECTIONS:

Step-1: Fold or crinkle each coffee filter at the bottom.

Step-2: Glue each filter directly to your paper lantern.

Step-3: Place as many filters as close together as possible.

Step-4: Cover the entire surface of the paper lantern.

Word to the wise: If you want to take this project on, I suggest watching online tutorial videos for added guidance. Simply searching for “coffee filter lamp”  tutorials online proved to be extremely helpful for me. The project is simple, but it can be very time-consuming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

 

The Internet of Things

March 3, 2016 by

Can you turn down the thermostat from your smartphone? Are you wearing a Fit Bit®? Does your smartphone help you locate an available conference room at work? “Yes” to any of these means you’re experiencing the Internet of Things (IoT). Although the term has been used in technology circles for years, it’s only now becoming the focus of more mainstream discussions.

WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF THINGS? 

Kevin Ashton is believed to have introduced the term at MIT in 1999. Simply put, the IoT is the rapidly expanding concept of connecting people and things. It relies on Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth-enabled objects, sensors pulling information from the object, a wireless internet connection, and resources compiling, analyzing, and visualizing the collected data.

Several factors are contributing to the explosion of the IoT. Broadband Internet is more widely available and the cost to connect continues to drop. More devices are Wi-Fi enabled with smaller, less costly, and more powerful sensors. The costs to analyze data are coming down, and smartphone penetration is skyrocketing. All of these contribute to the IoT.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE WORKPLACE? 

IoT applications fall into two broad categories:

Intelligent Building 

Basically, a “system of systems,” already used in buildings today. Sensors adjust window shades and temperature based on sunlight entering the building. Embedded sensors monitor mechanical systems to improve efficiencies and sense failures before they occur.

Presence Awareness 

Today, security badges are linked to a central database. Swiped at a card reader, the user is recorded entering and/or leaving the building. Compiled data may measure use and occupancy of the building. For some, a user’s smartphone provides presence awareness—who the user is, where the user is in the building, available workspaces relative to the user, where colleagues are located, and a path to reach them.

Imagine a range of workplace applications for the IoT as devices continue to shrink, tech-nologies become more powerful, and costs continue to fall:

PEOPLE-CENTRIC APPLICATIONS 

  • “Push” workplace information (temperature, light, noise levels) to users based on personal preferences and work to be completed.
  • Support wellness by alerting users it is time to move/stand based on real-time biometrics.
  • Improve meeting effectiveness by alerting leaders when participants’ biometric data indicates they’re not alert, connected, or paying attention.

BUILDING-CENTRIC APPLICATIONS 

  • Enhance sustainability by applying actual use and occupancy data to manage building infrastructure.
  • Improve flexibility using real-time data to drive workplace change and reconfiguration.

ORGANIZATION-CENTRIC APPLICATIONS 

  • Monitor wellness programs based on individual biometric data pulled from wearables, smart phones, or sensors embedded in seating or height-adjustable tables.
Man using his Mobile Phone in the street, night light bokeh Background

Man using his Mobile Phone in the street, night light bokeh Background

Stimulate Your Kids’ Brains This Summer

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Summer Time = Fun Time! This is true for all of us, especially kids who are looking for a break from school. But according to Harris Cooper, author of Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions, a concern of educators and parents is that the long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, since children learn best when instruction is continuous. Long breaks from school can often require educators to do a significant amount of review of material when students return to school in the fall. Below are some suggestions on ways to keep your child’s brain engaged throughout the summer while still having opportunities to practice skills they acquired in the classroom.

Lakeshore Learning Center, located at 12005 W. Center Rd., offers free crafts for kids every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can even check the website to preview the craft. While you are there, pick up some educational games and activities your child can do during the week. The store offers educational games for all ages and in every subject area in which your child may have an interest.

If your budget is a little tight, your children can participate in the Omaha Public Library’s free summer reading program. Each library will post a schedule online describing the special activities your children can participate in, along with the days and the times they will be taking place. They also can earn points for reading each day and exchange their points for prizes. Another good source for free activities is familyfuninomaha.com. This website features a page entitled “Summer Fun Series,” in which parents can find free summer activities throughout Omaha. Some of these may include special kid-friendly activities at the local malls, free local fine arts performances, and community events.

We all know how much our children love to spend time on the computer, so make it worth their while by directing them to websites that encourage them to practice reading and math skills while still having a good time. Try out some of the following sites:

Remember—making sure your kids’ brains stay active throughout the summer will help them transition into the next grade smoothly and lessen their stress level at the start of the year.

Digital Immigrant, Meet Demand Generation

Chances are you are a “digital immigrant,” one who was not born bathed in bits, who played video games as a toddler or learned keyboarding in third grade. This means you have a steeper learning curve than “digital natives”—those for whom all this social media stuff isn’t stuff at all. It’s just part of everyday life…how they live, work, play, access information, and make decisions.

Indeed, there is a whole generation of digital natives, who command where, when, and how they find information. They are in control, and that is why they are called the “demand generation.” They compose our customers, our prospects, our employees, our constituents, and our advocates. A key to understanding social media is understanding how to reach, and more importantly, engage with the demand generation.

Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge that the sales process is no longer linear. The internet has jumped squarely in between you and your customer and interrupted what used to be a good opportunity for you to control the conversation. Now consumers visit blogs to get information and recommendations on what to buy. The average consumer uses more than 10 sources to make a buying decision today, and 70 percent of Americans look at product reviews. What was once linear may be turned upside-down, twisted sideways, and backwards. Consumers may see a product in the store, but then go out into cyberspace to investigate it, only to go back into the store to buy.
  • Content is king. As a writer by trade—and a digital immigrant—knowing this makes me very happy. It also makes me work hard to relate to my target audience with personal, direct, relevant conversations that matter to them. Customers who engage with brands online spend 20-40 percent more on that brand’s products/services. Know your target. Understand their perspective. Quench their thirst for the knowledge they seek. A long time ago, author and speaker Bert Decker impressed me with his edict, “You’ve got to be believed to be heard.” Break through that frontal cortex, and your message just may get through.
  • You do have to be everywhere—and on-the-go. This seems the antithesis to target marketing, but what it means is you can’t think that because you have your website and a Facebook page, you’re good to go. Chances are your target customers aren’t sitting still. It’s likely—not statistically shown—that 78 percent of consumers shop across multiple channels. This means the internet—your site if your SEO is up to date, social media, Twitter, Vine, blogs, e-mail deliveries from you/your competitors, and their phones. And here’s the deal with phones: 31 percent of consumers research products on their phones before buying in-store while 40 percent research products from their phones before buying online. Is your site mobile optimized/responsive so that it feeds the information to fit the user’s screen?

The good news about all this—for those willing to keep swimming in the deep end—is that there is demand, a marketer’s dream. We can meet that demand with products people need and want—and by getting in and staying in the conversation with relevance, content, personalization, and engagement.

Special thanks for inspiration and sourcing for this article from Bob Thacker, former CMO of OfficeMax.

What’s All the Hoopla About Hulu?

February 25, 2013 by

Just to set the stage in the simplest of terms: Hulu is streaming TV (and a movie service with original content, but put this part aside for a minute). News Corp. and NBCUniversal started Hulu as internet video in 2007 as a single website offering the previous night’s episode of The Simpsons. From those humble yet visionary beginnings, the service has grown dramatically. This year, it’s on pace to exceed $600 million in revenue. Most of Hulu’s 25 million unique visitors access Hulu for free, but more than 2 million willingly pay $7.99 a month to access Hulu’s full library of programs from all six major broadcast networks and more than 400 content providers. That’s a reported 5,482 TV series and film titles, 181,020 videos, and more.

Put in even simpler terms, Hulu is TV—just watched differently by time-crunched, multi-screen viewers. And this is where the traditional businessperson who wants to reach people has to put her head. Not-so-traditional marketers are adding Hulu to media plans to supplement the reach of TV gained the traditional way via network, cable, and spot schedules.

Hulu serves up ads to both free access and paying viewers. Before the requested program streams, ads are served up for view. Users show tolerance for ads and are even asked if the ads are “relevant” to them. If they are, they may get an ad of similar relevance served up that they can sit through or skip. According to ComSource.com July 2012 online video rankings, Hulu leads the way serving 46.4 ads per viewer per month. Hulu says 96 percent of those ads are watched in full. Average age of viewer: 38, skewing younger and about even male/female.

The young digital natives likely made it what it is today, but the user demos are expanding in age and showing a solid $85,000 average household income with 33 percent over $100,000. That’s why Hulu’s roster of more than 1,000 advertisers is growing, too, including national brands Geico and Toyota.

Don’t misunderstand: Network and cable TV are nowhere near dead. But viewership is down 12.5 percent since Hulu’s launch and 3.6 million U.S. residents have abandoned pay-TV for internet video in the last five years. Ask the people under 30 in your office if they even own a TV…

Hulu is one way to reach the multi-screen, time-shifted viewer. And at just four minutes of ads served up pre-program streaming vs. average eight minutes of ads on commercial breaks on network TV, Hulu brags that general, brand, and message recall plus likability are all higher among their viewers. Not bad attributes once you can get your head around “Hulu is TV.”

Believe the Omahype

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha resident Will Simons has worn many hats. As the managing editor of the now defunct Omaha City Weekly, he flexed his journalistic prowess while balancing a music career in the local band Thunder Power and jumpstarting his own business venture, Omahype. The curated online events calendar aims to provide locals with all of their entertainment needs. It solves the problem of having to sift through several different websites and papers just to find out what’s going on, plus it’s optimized for mobile operating systems. Simons had a little help coming up with the concept.

“I can’t say it was my idea initially. It was definitely a team effort. I used to interview local musicians at a previous job. One of those interviews was with Laura Burhenn, who, at the time, was a recent Omaha transplant from D.C. She was about to release the debut album for her group, The Mynabirds,” Simons explains. “She mentioned that she was in the early stages putting together an online youth culture-oriented events calendar and blog for the Omaha area and asked if I’d liked to help out. Of course, I said yes. With a background in arts and entertainment journalism, I knew Omaha sorely needed a one-stop website that listed all the best events in town for a younger, more culture-savvy audience. What sealed the deal was when Laura told me that two of the most talented web designers in town, Dave Nelson and Cody Peterson [of Secret Penguin], were already on board to help build it.”

Getting it off the ground hasn’t exactly been simple. To run Omahype successfully, obtaining multiple advertisers is key for Simons and the rest of the team. People are slowing coming around, but with all four founders having time-consuming day jobs (and rock careers), it’s difficult to juggle it all. However, Simons is working on a solution.

“The biggest challenge is generating enough money from advertising to justify someone working for Omahype full-time. I am transitioning into a part-time situation at my job so I can direct most of my energy toward Omahype,” he says.

Will Simons

Will Simons

“Aside from advertising, we’re seeking sponsorships from companies with employees and customers in sync with the readers of Omahype. We also plan on throwing more events. Our goal at Omahype is to support, nurture, and expand the cultural landscape of the city.”

Peterson is currently working on Omahype’s redesign and once that’s done, Simons assures visiting Omahype will be a “beautiful and intuitive experience.” In addition, browsers will discover the most relevant listings for concerts, art galleries, comedy shows, and independent films. Also, local restaurant reviews and concert photographs are popping up more regularly. Simons is optimistic.

“With the new redesign, we hope to realize our goal of having an online calendar that is the one go-to source for all of the Omaha area’s best events and major cultural happenings,” he concludes. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to expand to [other] cities at some point. Oh, and an office space would be nice, too [laughs].”

In the meantime, Simons and crew have executed a handful of fundraising events to help generate funds. They are planning on throwing more music events to keep up the momentum. Most recently, Omahype sponsored its third annual Rock-n-Shop event at The Slowdown on December 14. It featured a slew of prominent Omaha bands such as All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds and, of course, Thunder Power. Several local vendors were also on hand to showcase their goods. If Simons keeps this up, Omahype could very well be the go-to calendar for all of Omaha’s “cool kids.”

Macquariums

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Capture Photography and Videography

If Jake Harms knew then what he knows now, would he still have ventured down this entrepreneurial path? Yes, he says, but “If I divided out the time I had into it [by] the money that I’ve made, I would probably cry,” he chuckles.

Harms’ stumbled onto his labor of love a few years ago when, at work, he was asked to discard an old Apple iMac computer. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to tinker with things…tear them apart and see how they work,” he says. “So, instead of throwing it in the trash can, I brought it home.” He recalls that the computer sat in his garage for a few weeks, until one day he saw a picture on the internet of a fish tank made out of the same iMac computer. “The Apple iMac had a really neat design…the transparent case…They looked really cool and they were all different colors. I decided, I can make one of those.”

For fun, Harms set out to design a tank and researched which filters and lights would best suit his project. He made a few more, each time tweaking here and there until he perfected his design. “I had a buddy who thought it was pretty cool, so I made one for him. Then I made one for another buddy. I thought, ‘Oh, I could probably sell about 50 of these in a year.’ That’s kind of how it all started.”Portraits 1 copy

Little did he know just how popular his little project would become. Since creating his first aquarium in late 2007, Harms has created a website and has sold close to 400 units. The units, which go for $299, can be ordered via his website and come built-to-order, with computer color and decorative details as options. With requests coming in from all over the world, Harms’ future looks pretty busy. “I get a lot of orders from the UK, Australia…I’ve shipped them to every corner of the world,” he says. “I don’t know how some people find out about them…I guess that’s the magic power of the internet.” Harms has even sold one of his creations to an Apple executive. “I asked him if I should be worried about building and selling these [aquariums from iMac computers]. He pretty much said no because it’s not giving Apple a bad name. But if I was making a million on them, then there might be an issue.”

With profiles in magazines and newspapers, a website, and Facebook page, this “little hobby” has become more of a side business. In fact, there’s a waiting list for his creations. In addition to working full-time in carpentry and construction, Harms and his wife also have a wedding photography and videography business.

When he does sit down, he is usually working on his aquariums, either buffing them free of scratches and signs of wear, or mass-assembling them. “I never really build one at a time,” he says. “I always take apart, like, 10 or 20 at a time and modify them assembly-line style.” He has the creation process pretty much down to a science, so the building goes relatively quickly. It’s tracking down the monitors and getting them that can be the most time-consuming part. “It can be kind of a hassle getting them,” he says.

In addition to creating aquariums, Harms offers aquarium-building kits, for those who may have an iMac of their own and are handy enough to take on their own project.

With orders coming in faster than Harms can make them, he is beginning to consider future projects. “My plan is to start making other things out of computers. I’ll start to do that as soon as I can’t find any more of the iMacs,” he shares. But for the foreseeable future, he’s happy to stay busy doing what he loves. “There’s a lot of time involved, but I enjoy it a lot.”