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Monday, March 7, 2011

Street Markings – What do they mean???

Street Markings – What do they mean???

It probably wasn’t until I was in New York a few months ago that I started to take more notice of my urban surroundings. I shot a series of street markings around the rebuild of the World Trade Center for a possible book, including a few Survey plates. They are everywhere if you stop to take a look. What do they mean and why are they everywhere? The primary reason is that our cities are in a state of flux. Repairs, diggings, installations and upgrades means that the utility companies are constantly doing work to the infrastructure underneath or streets and sidewalks.
These water-based fluorescent taggings have a meaning and a color code of importance. Basically each colour represents a different utility and it assists the workers in knowing what work is needed to be done. It also insures that workers don’t accidently damage any infrastructure underneath the ground. How many times have we heard of a fibre cut and a the telecom network is down. Obviously someone while fixing a water pipe probably cut through the fibre duct with his industrial cutting saw by mistake. So as we hustle and bustle around looking straight ahead, it may pay to look down once in a while and see what is going on underneath your feet.
The American Public Works Association (APWA) Uniform Color Codes for temporary marking of underground utilities are listed below:
Red electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables

Orange telecommunication, alarm or signal lines, cables, or conduit

Yellow natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or other gaseous or flammable material

Green sewers and drain lines
Blue drinking water
Violet reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines

Pink temporary survey markings, unknown/unidentified facilities
White proposed excavation limits or route

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communications Consultant

We need more Free Wireless Access Points

We need more Free Wireless Access Points

Obviously with the proliferation of smart phones, iphones, iPads and android tablets…the users need places to use their new found devices.

Kudos to Starbucks understanding that if they offer free WiFi in their 770 coffee shops then users will flock there for coffee and free access. But where are all the others following suit? Want to drive traffic to the bricks and mortars then offer the wireless nomad a place to connect and they may spend money at your store while surfing away.

>>> Ok listen up retailers. It is so easy to put up guest access for WiFi in your store. If you don’t want to because of PCI or ignorance then I am sure a $59 DSL connection with a $29 D-Link router that’s in its own network and not connected to anything in the store would be perfect and new models offer some ability to do some blocking and websense type profiles.<<< Think like Starbucks..........

Thankfully, Vex Corp. is hoping to light up over 5000 locations and this is a good thing for the consumer as they want it for free and wont pay for it anymore.

Vex will be the integrator and use Cisco wireless access points and use an advertising model where the web access would have to see some advertising. This isn’t a big deal anymore as every website has some sort of advertising on it but if Vex plays their cards right it won’t be an annoyance but of value. Sitting near a Subway sandwich store checking on emails on the iPad and getting a click ad for a $1 off the next visit would be useful. Now if we can just print the darn thing easily then all will be good.

Let’s hope Vex gets the market share it deserves and other retailers catch on to the free Wi-Fi bandwagon.

In the meantime the smart retailers will do this on their own and ensure their customers spend more time in their stores or actually visit their store to shop and surf.

The day that I will be walking down an aisle in a store and a targeted pop up advert or coupon appears as I pass the product is here right now. Funny, I don’t see it any store I shop in?

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communications Consultant

I have no vested interest in these guys but appear to be the smartest knives in the drawer to give me the free access I deserve

Cloud Communications

Cloud Communications

Everyday goes by without another cloud story, although the Microsoft Cloud commercial on TV is my favorite. “Yeeehhhhhh Cloud”

One of the cloud services that maybe hasn’t gathered a lot of attention lately is Cloud Communications.

Cloud Communication is internet based voice, data and video communications that’s hosted by a third party. The Cloud Communication technology sits in the 3rd party’s data center and is accessible via the internet or MPLS based connections.

This solution eliminates any up-front capital costs, is easily scalable, can offer a multitude of features and is location independent.

Customers can pay for what they need on a monthly rate and pick and choose for each user what features they really need. This is an attractive business proposition as one does not need to have any technology on their premise or have to worry about any maintenance. The Hosted VOIP provider provides all those services.

These hosted services typically were just DID extensions and voice mail but now include collaboration tools such as Instant Messaging, CRM and Video.

These services now are called the sexy Cloud Communications model in order to tag along all the hype.

Today, one can take their current system depending on platform technology and put it into their private cloud or you can use as VOIP providers system.

Cloud/Hosted Communications does have some risks:

• Business customers rely on internet connections that have no quality of service. Thus calls can become disconnected or become distorted The Steve Jobs keynote last week announcing iPad 2 basically slowed down the internet for the day. Your business wouldn’t be having the greatest success if calls drop all day.

• Advanced needs such as paging, music on hold, desktop or telephone based applications specific to a certain vendor may not work

• CTI applications maybe difficult if you have a small call center

• Long Term contracts could you lock you into a poor provider

• You don’t control the telephony environment – they do

• 911 may be an issue depending on the configuration

Cloud Communications can be a very cost effective solution and a definite consideration when shopping around for a new telephone system.

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communication Consultant

Help us we got iPads but we can only use them at the Coffee Shop!

Help us we got iPads but we can only use them at the Coffee Shop!

Ring Ring….Ring Ring…..

“Hello John speaking”

“Yes its Frank calling from Vaughan Holdings, Richard at Urbano Construction asked me to call you regarding some issues we are having”

“Sure, what issues?”

“We just got a handful of iPads for my guys and we can’t connect reliably to anything in the office and Robert brought in this SMC wireless router and that doesn’t work so people are now hanging out at the Starbucks across the street”

“OK be there in about 20 minutes”

“Thanks I’ll be in the Starbucks, I will be the guy with the orange iPad cover, yeah (chuckle) I already have pimped it out”

Kudos to Frank for running getting his staff some Tablets to help increase their productivity and get things done faster but he forgot to include their IT guy in the conversation.

Tablets in the office basically need Wi-Fi connectivity if they lack an Ethernet connection on the device. The small form factor means that it will be done through the internal wireless network and if activated can be done through the cellular 3G network. (With its appropriate monthly data plan).

Years ago, they installed a wireless access point for connectivity for laptops in the boardroom but some used it and some didn’t. The rollout was considered a secret so many didn’t have the password or even know that it existed. It was also configured incorrectly and only allowed 2 users on at any given time.

Since they have a small office with 30 employees, they tend to be their own IT department but typically Karpal is the prime support person leaving Frank who holds the purse strings to make all the decisions. It turns out Frank bought the iPads because he didn’t want to spend $10k for new laptops and then have to hire someone to maintain them but also because it would differentiate his sales guys from his old school competitor. In the construction business, hand shakes, image and having two Blackberries seems to be the way things get done.

After several discovery sessions and some whiteboarding with Frank, Connie in sales support, Robert the sales guy and Karpal it became obvious that they really didn’t have anything set up in place that would help them do business in a better way.

First, I had to have Frank commit to proper resources and training to keep things working after the fact. Karpal agreed that he would enjoy being the IT prime in addition to his CAD role but needed more training.

Frank was busy working on trying to win a large 30 Million dollar project and felt that he could invest some money into a solution that would set the foundation for increased sales in the future.

The proposed solution was pretty straightforward:

1) Avaya Wireless LAN with 4 Access points and it included Guest Access and security features. Now his users would have secure access and also allow guests to use their devices in his office.
2) Migrate current Nortel Norstar system to Avaya IP Office 7.0 and reuse their existing telephone sets for investment protection and add 2 IP Softphones for Frank and Connie to start. Now Frank and Connie could work from Home or remotely. His Norstar is 12 years old so now is a good time to change it. The new Avaya IP Office supports the Nortel sets so new telephones aren’t needed.
3) APC UPS system for the computer room in case of power failure
4) Upgrade their Reseller Internet connection to an Allstream business grade service for the utmost reliability and security
5) Mobile UC offering for Blackberry Integration
6) Financial Instrument for investment protection and monthly payments

After that Frank needs to really develop a Data Center mentality with proper back ups and some server consolidation. That’s another story..

This scenario is typical of smaller family owned businesses where the economy has prevented them from using the latest technology. First of Frank always thinks everything is so expensive including an oil change on his BMW and is now realizing that he needs to use the latest technology so he can compete against others. Frank understands the construction business better than anybody but doesn’t understand technology in a business manner. It is important to sit down with your customers and teach them and help them understand how the technology can help propel their business forward. It is important to understand how the employees would use the technology and it is important to advise your customers how thy can protect their investments in the future.

Two weeks later, Robert was excited when he slid his iPad across the boardroom table to show the customer the architectural renderings of their building proposal and the customer left with a strong impression that he was dealing with the right construction company.

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communications Consultant

Why the iPad is perfect for Seniors to use and love!

Why the iPad is perfect for Seniors to use and love!

My father-in-law requires a lot of help with his HP Desktop. There is always a virus, dll error, missing files, etc to contend with. It gets pretty tiring after a while. I recommended to him that he just get an iPad and be done with it. I can take his desktop, load Linux on it and use it as a personal cloud-in-a-box. Yeehhhhhhh Cloud powered by HP and Unbuntu.

I think the iPad V2 will be the game changing post-pc device of 2011. I cannot believe how many creative things they have pulled off in such a short engineering timeframe. The iPad came out in April of 2010. Not to knock the copycats as Steve Jobs calls them, the other tablets are great as well but for a senior person the app store will be simple to use because of iTunes. I just want simplicity here.

So basically it will be simple to use, easy to maintain, apps are low cost and the tech support should be minimal and the 10 hour battery life cannot be beat. The other advantage is the mobility is awesome and he won’t be running upstairs when Skypes calling him. My father-in-law can call his brother in Italy from the comfort of his Lazy Boy chair.

Here are some ideas that will reinforce the iPad for the grey haired population:

Brain Games: There are lost of fun games and puzzles that can keep an elder’s mind active. It has been proven that brain games help anyone older than 55 keep their memory and brain circuits alive.

E-Mail Communication: An email account will be useful for them to stay in touch with family and friends. They too can enjoy the spam and Nigerian emails.

Video Communication: The built in cameras will make it easy for using Yahoo, Google or Skype apps with family and friends. No drivers for the webcam and they will always know it faces them when using it.

E-Reader: Use the apple reader app or choose Kobo and not only do they save money they also can load a ton of books to read. The retired investor will love the financial newspaper apps to keep track of stocks and look up financial information.

Voice Communication: The big guys all have voice apps now but I still think Skype is the leader and a brand everyone is aware of. Lots of expats from Europe, chat back home to family members using Skype.

Secure Banking: Banking apps are here and are easy to use and very secure.

Web TV: With Apple TV being the set top box of choice it will be too easy to view movies, photos and web screens on their TV. Now is a good time for them to dump the 26” Electrohome TV and go Plasma on the Wall. The bigger the better.

Calendar; The iPad is perfect as a calendar tool to keep track of birthdays, medical appointments and golf tee off times.

So the case can be made for an elder-iPad in your parents home, just don’t forget the wireless router. Cisco and D-Link have a great model that allows offers a guest access account. This is perfect for the grandchildren and their own children to surf the house when they show up with their smart phones, tablets and WiFi enabled devices. The only catch may be headphones for those that may have a assisted hearing device.

You could also trick them into selling them your dusty Netbooks and getting the iPad for yourself, but do you really want to spend all that time being the Tier 1,2, 3 and 4 Help Desk?

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communication Consultant