• Location: Finding your community

    The location data of consumers has become some of the most valuable data to tech goliaths like Google and Facebook. This data is used in a variety of ways. One of the most important applications is to develop new features within smartphone apps.

    This got me thinking about the importance of GPS to consumers. Whenever you install an app on your phone, a good majority of apps will ask permission to access your current location. Apps like Yelp, Google Now, Uber, and Facebook are all asking for location data when you activate them. Location data is one of the most surefire ways to expose relevant information. It can be as simple as checking to see what is in close proximity to the user. For Uber, it could be a notification while you are at a known sporting venue. For Yelp it is what nearby businesses might be of interest.

    It isn’t all serious business either, there are some really fun location based apps out there that can get you more engaged with your area. Swarm is an app from the creators of Foursquare that spun off the ability to “check-in” to locations and even become a “mayor” by frequently visiting locations rom the original app. There are also biking apps like Strava that let you compete against other bikers in your area for top times on certain routes.

    As a whole, neighbors have become less social in the US. There was a time when everyone in the neighborhood knew each other. Now, some people don’t even know their next door neighbors at all. However, I think that location based apps can help us stay invested in our community in a new way. Whether it is having the best bike times on the Prairie-Duneland Trail or becoming mayor of 18th Street Brewery, these location based apps encourage users to be more involved in their community.

  • NITCO | Service & Customers

    The Northwest Indiana Telephone Company (NITCO) has been serving the Region for eight decades, adapting to the changing modes of communication during that time. Recently, the company has taken a step to iterate itself as not only a business presence in the area, but also a communal one.

    NITCO’s redesigned website launched last week. The new site aims to be visually appealing to all visitors, while at the same time easy to navigate. In addition, a new account feature allows customers to conveniently and quickly pay all bills on the site.

    The new site enhances the experience shopping for the services offered, among them voice service, broadband Internet and cable TV with several extensive channel packages. All are available individually or in affordable bundles specialized for home or the workplace, and, thanks to the device integration, all can be connected to any chosen device via a network.

    But NITCO is not only about selling the best services to Northwest Indiana. They are also committed to improving them through better, stronger and more reliable technology.

    Through their Fiber Solutions services, the company replaces traditional copper wires with fiber optics. The advantages are many. Fiber optics can carry much more bandwidth than copper wiring. It also allows the user to utilize newer and more advanced technology that copper cannot handle. IT is much more durable, too, able to survive power surges and not susceptible to corrosion.

    NITCO’s Fiber Solutions are available in bundles in every price range. The company has already a substantial amount of copper wiring, much of it in Valparaiso, as well as several more rural areas.

    NITCO is not only committed to bring better web access to the community. What it also brings is charity and outreach, sponsoring several programs, such as sports teams and cultural events.

    This Tuesday (August 12), the company will be treating its customers to an afternoon of fun in their annual Customer Appreciation Day. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., the event will feature food, games and other activities, and will also have a Kindle Fire giveaway.

    This is no effort for NITCO, as they look at their their customers as their neighbors, as well.

    To learn more visit them at www.NITCO.com

  • Smartphone Connectivity

    Our smartphones seem to be able to connect to almost everything these days. Some people point to a near future where we will have one device that interacts with everything from our car, house and even our waiter. However, how near is that future? How well do our smartphones currently interact with other devices in our lives and how widespread is the use of these features?

    For me, currently, one of the most important things that my smartphone interacts with is my car. In the past I had a simple auxiliary cord that would plug in and play all my music. In the past year I have upgraded to a Bluetooth connection between the two. However, the upgrade is very minimal. I can now answer calls, hang up calls and change songs through the car's interface instead of the phone's screen. The hands-free aspect of the interaction has become much more important recently with nearby cities and states beginning to introduce laws against distracted driving.

    The car industry has definitely taken notice to the importance of their products being able in interact with smartphones. Some have introduced special proprietary software and others have paired with Google and Apple to create operating systems.

    For the most ideal interaction between smartphones and cars, I think that car manufacturers need to take a step back and get out of the way of way of software that is already on smartphones. Instead of developing around Apple and Google, manufacturers should instead take advantage of what is already there. Both Siri (Apple) and Google Now both have become very effective at operating our smartphones purely on voice commands. It would seem like the obvious solution would be a Bluetooth connection to a driver side microphone and a button that activated Siri or Google Now.

    With the popularity of products like Apple TV and Google Chromecast, consumers demand has shown a strong preference towards ease of use between connected products. Both Apple TV and Chromecast are essentially receivers for the content on your smartphone or computer. I believe that car manufacturers and users would benefit from following this example. Cars should simply receive the operating system our smartphones have, not create a whole new one to interact with.