What is NFC? Everything you need to know

  • by Segmentation Group
  • 16 Jun, 2017

Have you ever wondered what makes tap-and-go services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Amiibo work? As much as it seems like pure magic, it isn’t.

So what is it exactly? Simply put, it’s a method of wireless data transfer that detects and then enables technology in close proximity to communicate without the need for an internet connection. It’s easy, fast and works automagically.

How does NFC work?

The tech involved is deceptively simple. Evolved from radio frequency identification (RFID) tech, an NFC chip operates as one part of a wireless link. Once it’s activated by another chip, small amounts of data between the two devices can be transferred when held a few centimeters from each other.

No pairing code is necessary to link up and because it uses chips that run on very low amounts of power (or passively, using even less), it’s much more power-efficient than other wireless communication types.

At its core, NFC works to identify us by our enabled cards and devices (and by extension, our bank accounts and other personal info.)

How can I use NFC right now?

NFC chips stocked inside credit cards for contactless payments is nothing new. But a more recent and admittedly more enticing use case for NFC is with your smartphone, which can digitize your entire wallet.

Virtually every mobile OS maker has their own apps that offer unique NFC functionality. Android users have the widest variety to choose from. First off, US users can nab Google Wallet, which accesses your funds for contactless payments. Samsung Pay, which operates similarly, is on the way for Samsung phone users in US and Korea this Summer.

However, a feature that all Android owners have been able to enjoy is called Android Beam. It was implemented in  Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 as a nifty, simple process that allows for the transfer of photos, contacts and directions that works by holding two phones together.

Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus received NFC functionality, albeit with limited use so far, only for Apple Pay. It’s a lot like Google Wallet, in that it’s an app which gives users the ability to pay for goods and services at participating retailers. Lastly, those who prefer Microsoft’s Windows Phone will be able to use Microsoft Payments when it launches likely around the launch of Windows 10.

Whichever device you have, it’s likely that a local supermarket, train station, taxi or coffee shop supports contactless payments via your phone’s NFC chip. Go try it out! Simply hold it close to a contactless payment terminal and instantly, like swiping a credit card, the payment will complete.

Looking toward the future, it’s possible that NFC chips could be used to replace every card in your wallet. That means the unique info on your frequent shopper loyalty cards, library card, business cards and the like could be contained and transmitted simply via NFC.

Article courtesy of Techradar: http://bit.ly/2eDtLS

by Segmentation Group 15 Nov, 2017

MUSING ON THE future of the economy earlier this year, Bill Gates warned of smart machines replacing human workers and suggested a tax on robots. A new study of how technology is changing American jobs suggests workers are most immediately challenged by more common technology that Gates himself bears much responsibility for, such as Microsoft Office.

The new study from the Brookings Institution used government data on work tasks to track how use of digital tools changed in a wide range of occupations between 2002 and 2016. Use of digital technology, such as computers and spreadsheets, became more important to occupations of all kinds. But the most dramatic changes were felt in jobs traditionally least reliant on technology skills—think of home health aides and truck mechanics using computers to diagnose problems or record their work.

The Brookings’ study created a “digitalisation” score for 545 occupations covering 90 percent of the economy, using government survey data that asks workers about their knowledge of computers, and how much they use them. In 2002, 56 percent of jobs scored low on Brookings’ digitalisation scale; by 2016, only 30 percent did. Nearly two-thirds of new jobs created since 2010 required high or medium digital skills, the report says. That shift is problematic given America’s long-established deficit in basic digital skills, such as familiarity with spreadsheets or other workplace software, where US workers score well below other those from other advanced economies.

Overall, the Brookings report suggests the window of opportunity for workers without basic digital skills or a college degree is closing. “With the availability of jobs that require no to very low digital skills dwindling, economic inclusion is now contingent on digital readiness among workers,” says Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings who led the study. “While tech empowers it also polarises.” He recommends that companies, government officials, and educational groups invest in programs that train workers in basic digital workplace tools.

That diagnosis and proposed remedy stand in contrast to two common prescriptions for how to help the US economy adapt to technological change. Gates and many other tech executives suggest new government programs to support workers displaced by a coming generation of smart robots. In recent years there has been a swell of support, including from the Obama administration, for programs that teach people to code.

The new Brookings data suggests the US faces a more immediate, and perhaps less glamorous task. “Coding for all is not quite the right model,” says Muro. “It’s less sexy, but we need much broader exposure and mastery of humbler, everyday software.” Maybe not everyone needs to be a code slinger, but word processing and enterprise packages like Salesforce are hard to avoid.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai made a similar argument last month, when he launched a $1 billion educational program focused on helping workers skill up in workplace technology. Google employees will offer training in cities around the US. Naturally, they’ll highlight products such as GSuite, Google’s competitor to Microsoft office.

The digital-skills crunch has been a long time brewing. Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, says that IT’s impact on US businesses surged in the mid-to-late ’90s—not coincidentally around the same time US median wages began to stagnate. In 1996, President Clinton announced a “national mission” to make all US children technologically literate by 21st Century. The Brookings report shows there is still a way to go. “We could have done a lot better,” says Brynjolfsson.

Article courtesy of  https://www.wired.com/

by Segmentation Group 15 Nov, 2017

Technology will have a profound effect on future employment and the workplace according to a newly launched report from CBRE, called ‘Real Estate and the Community – Mapping Outcomes for the Future’. The report examines the relationship between buildings and their surrounding environments, focusing on how global trends will change the way buildings are developed and managed in the future.

The core global trends to emerge are:

Innovation and Technology - Up to 60% of jobs, 10 years from now, have yet to be invented. It means buildings require inbuilt connectivity and flexibility or face becoming obsolete.

Automation and artificial intelligence is shifting the way we think about work and carry out our duties. According to futurists, some of the high risk jobs include accounts clerks, librarians, watch repairers and bank tellers.

Increasingly, employees expect to work in more informal environments which are flexible and ‘human’. Employers are encouraged to provide workspaces that fit staff lifestyle choices. To successfully meet these future challenges, buildings must become highly flexible spaces, capable of sustaining anything from five to 10 different adaptations over the typical 25-year life cycle of investment.

Connectivity and Accessibility – The average age of a newly qualified driver is now 28 years old across Europe. As a result workplaces increasingly need to be in close proximity to quality public transport services.

The built environment continues to change. Historically the focus was private and individual mobility. The result was suburbia, out-of-town retail and office parks, with investment largely channelled to road infrastructure funding.

Today, investment exploits urban dense areas paying close attention to public transport interchange. The concept is that individual mobility is superseded by connectivity – via investment in public transport infrastructure – and accessibility.

Looking ahead, locations with the best connectivity and accessibility will accrue the most employees, making these locations highly desirable for businesses. In contrast, those locations with poor connectivity will have lower employment densities.

Urban Consolidation – In 2050, the global population is predicted to be 9.6 billion, according to the United Nations. The migration from rural to metropolitan living is creating an extraordinary number of mega cities across the world. It means the physical location of an asset needs to be connected to the masses.

Urbanisation will continue to have a significant impact on personal and professional space. Cities ultimately drive commerce due to the agglomeration of people, skills and innovation. For buildings, this equates to efficient space optimisation via open plan layouts and hot desking. It’s also creating increased numbers of mixed-use buildings which are efficient as they have mass appeal.

“‘Location, location, location’ has been the real estate mantra for many years. The future norm is in fact ‘connectivity, connectivity, connectivity’. To survive, and thrive, buildings and workplaces must adapt to cater for the changing global demographics. Simply, the future is coming so our success or failure is determined by how well we engage with it”, Peter Dijkhuis - Director of Building Consultancy and Master Planning at CBRE, commented.

Article courtesy of  http://www.my-property-report.com

by Segmentation Group 14 Nov, 2017

Without really noticing, the phone call has been slowly fading out over the past few years.  Only 15% of 16 to 24-year-olds consider it the most important method of communication, compared with 36% who prefer instant messaging.  These teenagers who text when in the same room are being called Generation Mute.

These specific millennials have seen the old ways of doing things and they are not having it.  We will get used to seeing tons of people staring at smartphone screens, simultaneously messaging seven of their friends and colleagues with the grace and nimbleness of a concert pianist.  

You have probably seen it yourself already when out for a romantic meal and the couple opposite don’t talk to each other the whole evening because they have their noses buried in their phones.  When travelling on holiday, the two friends who never speak for practically a week because they share their experiences on social media instead of reflecting it over with each other.

Unfortunately, this may lead to many of them being crippled by repetitive strain injury in their texting thumbs but with new technology and 3D-printers they will easily be able to attach replacement digits by then, so probably nothing really to worry about.  Not only that but what about the hearing implications and consequences that the inconspicuous head phones will ignite in the future generations relating to hearing loss.

When was the last time you saw anyone using a public phone box and what were you thinking if you did.   Why on earth would they do that and what are they up to, surely something untoward and do any of them still even work?

I wonder if phone calls will go the same way as letter writing which is practically non existent these days unless used by old school, eccentric types or people who just have way too much time on their hands.

So is the death of the phone call imminent.  None of us really like listening to the sound of your own voices so why inflict it on anyone else now that we have alternative forms of communication?

These are all things to ponder as time goes by, but personally a phone call to keep in touch with a loved one or simply hear another human at the other end is something worth keeping.  Let’s face it technology is incredible but is it taking away the essence of what we really are, human beings?

by Segmentation Group 01 Nov, 2017

Teleworking better known as remote working could help heal a global economy and it might even play a part in planetary salvation.

Business owners need to concentrate on the massive opportunities generated by teleworking and the benefits it can offer, for example.

When employees work outside the office or from home, there are huge cost savings in many areas. Property costs and related capital assets, utilities alone could save thousands if not millions depending on the size of the organisation.  

And this is only the beginning.  Other measurable benefits include continuity of operations during disasters, alleviation of traffic congestion, reductions in CO2 emissions, travel costs savings and energy consumption, along with remaining competitive in a global labour market that value work/life flexibility.

Teleworking has other amazing benefits, for instance, in a national event such as a "pandemic influenza outbreak or a biological terrorist attack", teleworkers can maintain continuity of operations from locations other than the office.

Another perk is that your organisation gains a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining the top talent. As younger workers demand state-of-the-art technological capabilities in the performance of their jobs. They have grown up with technology and have been educated with it. This generation won't take a step backward to work in an outdated technology environment. Many will not relocate in order to accept a job.  Successful teleworking is directly correlated with higher job satisfaction, lower absenteeism and turnover costs.

If your organisation is looking into efficiencies, reducing over heads and cutting cost, teleworking could be the answer.

For a free consultation to discuss whether your organisation could benefit and how to go about implementation get in touch at www.segmetationgroup.com

by Segmentation Group 01 Nov, 2017

We all continue to use our devises when we enter a building and of course this is expected and the norm. Well what about those hidden areas though, the ones we have all experienced at some point for example in the lift, basement, stairways, car park and even some cupboards.

When a disaster happens and there is no coverage in these often-hidden places, the results can be catastrophic and the consequences can be fatal.  This is why there are now regulations in some cities to make sure that at least the emergency bands used by the police and fire and rescue will work in these specified areas.   If not, a fire or terrorist attack can mean people inside cannot communicate in these dead zones which may lead to possible deaths.

So maybe it’s time to take necessary measures to ensure that buildings are built to the proper code for structure and safety and not to be overlooked just to save a few pounds. As in some cases, it can literally be the difference between or life and death.

by Segmentation Group 23 Oct, 2017

Back in 2001 a book called "The Future of Wireless Communications" predicted the following technology developments by 2020:

·        A personal communicator that would book flights and allow you to check in at airports.

·        A personalised news feed delivered to your communicator.

·        A robot that mows the grass.

·        A function allowing you to pre-order your cappuccino from a coffee chain and then direct you to its location.

Those predictions look pretty accurate and now the book's author, William Webb, a telecoms consultant, is publishing his vision of how the world will look in 10 years.

His predictions include:

·        Virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa will play bigger roles in our lives.

·        AI will have become extremely good at specific tasks.

·        In the workplace facial-recognition technology replaces security staff and robot vacuum cleaners take away cleaning jobs.

·        Retailing will be almost entirely online.

But mostly he is very cautious about the pace of change. He does not believe we will all have smart homes - "the benefits are not that great but the price is quite substantial" - and he is not convinced that autonomous cars will soon be cutting congestion in cities.

"It's a nice vision," he says. "I think we will see a very limited autonomy. In 10 years we might well see cars on the motorways but I don't think we will see that in city centres - it's just too complicated."

And as for general artificial intelligence able to complete a variety of tasks, he thinks that is a long way off.

We are told that technology is advancing at breakneck speed. But if William Webb is right it may take something of a breather over the next decade.

Article courtesy of Rory Cellan-Jones BBC News

by Segmentation Group 23 Oct, 2017

Top 10 countries with the fastest internet speeds in the world compiled by Akamai every quarter, and these are the latest results from their 2017 Connectivity report:

1.      South Korea – 28.6 Mb/s

2.      Norway – 23.5 Mb/s

3.      Sweden – 22.5 Mb/s

4.      Hong Kong – 21.9 Mb/s

5.      Switzerland – 21.7 Mb/s

6.      Finland – 20.5 Mb/s

7.      Singapore – 20.3 Mb/s

8.      Japan – 20.2 Mb/s

9.      Denmark – 20.1 Mb/s

10.     United States – 18.7 Mb/s

These countries offer the best of the best in terms of average speed and provide a framework for internet users that is reflective of today’s most advanced technology.

by Segmentation Group 23 Oct, 2017

At least six million loyal mobile phone contract holders are being charged for mobile phones they have already paid for and customers are completely unaware.

One in three customers on 'handset-inclusive' mobile phone contracts continue to pay beyond the minimum term of their contract and it’s about time something was done about it. These customers are paying on average of an additional, unnecessary £22 per month.  This is because there are no rules enforcing providers to reduce the cost of the hardware once it is paid off.

Some providers will automatically reduce the cost of the monthly fee after the handset has effectively been paid off, however, others do not.

Because of this, Citizens Advice has called on three of the four largest mobile phone providers, Vodafone, EE and Three, to stop the practice. The regulator Ofcom backed Citizen's Advice's concerns and hinted it could take action next year.  The Government has also called for changes by mobile phone providers.

So be aware mobile phone users, it may worth be checking your contracts to make sure you are not getting ripped off too.

by Segmentation Group 06 Sep, 2017

The Yellow Pages will stop printing from January 2019 after more than five decades, its owner Yell has announced.

Yell has taken the decision to fully digitise the business, ending the publication’s 51-year run. The first of the 104 final editions will be distributed in Kingston in January 2018, and the last will be sent out a year later in Brighton, where it was first published in 1966.

The company will print 23m copies of the final editions, which Yell hopes will become a souvenir.

Richard Hanscott, CEO of Yell said: ‘‘After 51 years in production Yellow Pages is a household name and we’re proud to say that we still have customers who’ve been with us from the very first Yellow Pages edition in 1966. How many brands can say they’ve had customers with them for over 50 years?”

The publication became famous for its advertisements, including the “JR Hartley” campaign in the 1980s and the “French Polisher”.

It was a vital tool for finding service providers and tradespeople, but the rise of social media and Google have reduced demand for printed directories.

Yell, part of Hibu Group, says it aspires to “help a million businesses be found, chosen and trusted by more customers online by 2020”.

Instead of the Yellow Pages, Yell will offer a free listing to businesses on yell.com.

“Like many businesses, Yell has found that succeeding in digital demands constant change and innovation,” Hanscott continued. “We’re well placed to continue to help local businesses and consumers be successful online, both now and in the future.’’

In recent years, the directory has caused environmental concerns, prompting the launch of the Say No to Phonebooks campaign in 2009, which called for an “opt-in” scheme whereby only those who want these directories left by their door would receive them.

At the time, the Yell Group, then maker of Yellow Pages, maintained it was “among the most sustainable companies in the world,” adding: “Our directories are produced in an environmentally responsible way and are 100% recyclable. In common with other members of the Data Publishers Association, we maintain an opt-out scheme that enables consumers to choose not to receive a directory.”

The Yellow Pages telephone directory came about in 1883 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, when a printer producing a directory ran out of white paper and used yellow instead. The first Yellow Pages publication was formed three years later.

In the UK in 1966, the Post Office first launched the directory, which later became part of British Telecom.

The Business Pages was launched in the mid 1980s when British Telecom was privatised by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, growing in popularity with a series of funny adverts.

The group launched the first electronic delivery of classified directory information in 1987 alongside Talking Pages.

With the rise of the internet, Yell launched yell.co.uk in 1996, offering transactions on the site a year later.

BT sold the Yellow Pages for £2.1bn in 2001 to private equity companies, subsequently launching a new telephone service and bringing the number of Yellow Pages published to 102.

Article courtesy of The Guardian

by Segmentation Group 06 Sep, 2017

Back on the 30th June 2016, the world's oldest emergency service - 999 - celebrated its 80th birthday.

The service began following a fire at a London doctor's surgery in November 1935 that resulted in the deaths of five women.

After the fire, a committee was set up to look at how telephone operators could identify emergency calls.

At that time, people with a phone at home who were subscribers on an automated exchange would call 0 for the operator to contact emergency services in the same way as they would make a regular call.

It was suggested that an easy-to-remember nationwide number be created for emergencies - the first suggestion was 707 (from the letters SOS on the phone dial). Then they considered 333 but finally settled on 999.

The 999 service began two years later, in 1937, handling more than 1,000 calls during its first week, a number that has grown to around 560,000 calls a week and around 30 million calls a year, according to BT.

Each 999 call triggered flashing red lights and hooters to alert operators in the exchange to give priority to the emergency call. The hooters were apparently so loud that the operators pushed a tennis ball into the horn to reduce the volume until modifications were made.

The service was extended to Glasgow in 1938 but the nationwide roll-out was delayed by the arrival of the Second World War.

Around 62% of emergency calls are made from mobile phones

Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle got the 999 service in 1946, all major towns and cities were covered by 1948 and every telephone exchange in Britain was automated to allow the service by 1976.

Hoaxes and silly calls are now regular subjects of news stories but these were a feature of the service from its very beginning. Even in the first week, of the 1,336 calls, there were 91 "alleged practical jokers".

Today, around 35% of calls do not involve requests for help - most of these are made by children playing with home phones or by people accidentally dialling 999 or the European emergency number 112.

The busiest times are around midnight on Fridays and Saturday, with the service taking around 5,000 calls an hour but the early hours of New Year's Day can see up to 9,000 calls an hour.

Even so, call handlers manage to answer 97% of calls within five seconds.

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