Technology Is Making Life Easier

chair on beachI am always trying to do things "smarter", more efficiently, faster, more accurately, cheaper. Sometimes I'll sacrifice a little of one for more of the others. Technology often helps.

Internet of Things

You are going to hear more and more about IoT, the Internet of Things. It is already here, electronic devices are already linked together over the internet with no wires, sharing data and interacting to do what you want them to do. Most TVs you can now buy are "Smart" they can connect to the internet, I can tell my TV to turn off if my cell phone gets further than 20 meters away. Many air conditioning units now come internet enabled, if you can control them over the internet you can use IFTTT to make other devices do things at the same time. Cell phones, cars, fridges are all available in New Zealand right now that are internet enabled.

Phillips Hue light bulbs are IoT, about $320 for a starter kit of three bulbs and a controller are here, now, in New Zealand. You can turn them on and off and even change the colour from anywhere in the world you can get an internet connection. You could give your son-in-law in England the code for your bulb and tell him to turn your Hue light on when your daughter gives birth, blue for a boy, pink for a girl. If you are reading this you have email and you could do that - today. Its not the future it's here, now.

Using technology can help make your life easier and more fun. Don't be scared of it, embrace it, learn about it and make it work to your advantage.

Making The Internet Work For YOu

At work I made a conscious decision to receive correspondence by email wherever possible. I notified everyone we dealt with that we wanted to receive invoices, reports, any correspondence by email. Almost all happily obliged.

Receiving correspondence by email meant I didn't have to scan the letter to file it electronically I could just save the email. Time saved. Using rules in my email system that can be automated, more time saved, far more accurate, no additional cost.

Of course I got more emails and less letters in the PO Box. Then about half way through last year I found that more and more I was going to the PO Box and finding there wasn't anything there. I'd wasted 15 minutes. About the same time I discovered NZ Post has a system where they will email you if you have mail in your PO Box, or not. So no email no mail, no trip to the PO Box 15 minutes saved.

So then instead of going to the PO Box every morning I only went if I got an email saying there was mail in there. Saves me time saves me money. But for it to work I had to check my email before I left for work to know whether I needed to go to the PO Box. I get a lot of emails! If I was running late and didn't have time to scan through all the email I'd have to go to the PO Box anyway, grrrr.

Then I discovered IFTTT. If This Then That is a service that connects other services together using applets - little applications. If something happens on one service, in my case receiving an email from the PO Box, then it does something else, it puts an 8:00 am appointment in my cell phones calendar.

My phone reminds me if I have an appointment, it makes a noise and the light flashes, at some stage in the morning when I grab my phone to head off to work if the light is flashing I can see that I need to clear the PO Box. If it's not I don't. Nice and simple. And it just works, I no longer have to think about it now its been set up. It took me minutes to get it set up it was reasonably easy, IFTTT guides you through the process step by step.

IFTTT is free for personal use and it can connect to an astonishing number of different services. One I just saw is "Open the garage door when your BMW enters the driveway". I think I need a garage door opener and a new BMW for that to work. But I've realised I could create one that sends my daughter a text telling her to open the garage door for me when I get close to home because I can link IFTTT to the GPS on my phone. But she's just left home and gone to Varsity so that wont work.

Depending on the physical location of my phone I can use IFTTT to do other things, I could send a txt message to my colleague Jonathan "Make Coffee"  whenever I drive into the office car park, that might be a good idea. Because I know my wife's password I could send her a  txt "Buy Heineken" whenever her phone was near a supermarket, that's definitely a bad idea.

It can send you an email if the weather forecast is for rain, it can do all sorts of things that are useful, time saving, or just plain fun!

The point is that you can use technology to help you make your life easier and often for free.

Microsoft recently released an alternative to IFTTT called Flow. In the business we are using that to automate many processes. Of course Flow integrates beautifully with Microsoft programs and allows you to do things you just can't do with IFTTT but doesn't yet have the vast range of applets that IFTTT does.

How Do They Do It?

You may have heard of API's it stands for Application Programming Interface. An API is a set of rules that tells one computer program how to talk to another, which bit of information is stored where and how to access it. Most cloud based and many non cloud based computer programs now make their API's available, most for free.

For example at work we use the Xero accounting system and Sharesight Portfolio Reporting system. Two distinct and separate cloud based systems owned and run by different companies. Information that is in the Sharesight system is automatically fed through into the Xero system by using API with no manual intervention. The data only has to be entered once. That halves the amount of data entry time, it also halves the chance of making a mistake entering the data.

Another API allows the bank to feed bank account information to Xero. Again no manual intervention required.

Three data sources linked together creating a system that provides information that is usable and accurate. If I want to see what dividends have been received in the bank account I can do so but it's going to take quite a while to filter out the transactions that aren't dividends. Sharesight gives me a nice summarised report in seconds. Saves time, saves money, far more accurate than doing it manually. If you want to learn more see >>> Integrated Reporting Solution - Xero and Sharesight.


Tags: Computer Tips

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