25 Years of Texting: Connecting People and Businesses Evolves

Texting has just celebrated its 25th anniversary and back then, it was liberating because it kept you connected even if you were on the go. Today, I doubt if millennials still remember the old feature phones that were so simple, it can only talk, text, and take pictures. We now rely less on the more expensive SMS and have turned to the cyber versions of instant messaging. On the surface, texting seems to have dropped, but the truth is, it just evolved. Today, messaging has become a new arena supremacy among big names like Apple, Google, and Facebook.

https://www.statista.com/chart/12109/sms-volume-in-the-united-states/You will find more statistics at Statista

Leading the Pack

With personal and business contacts connecting through various apps, “keeping it simple” has gotten complex. And though features like group chats and media sharing keep me on point in real-time, it can get confusing across many social platforms!

Just how big has mobile messaging apps gotten? Insanely huge – with about 2.5 billion users having at least one app installed! Per month, free chat and social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp have over 1,000M users worldwide.  Snapchat and Skype have about 300M. Line, serving the Japanese market almost exclusively has 21M users while QQ used in China has 877 monthly users. And of course, there’s WeChat, Google Hangouts, Viber, Slack for work, the ubiquitous Twitter, and the unstoppable Instagram. Crossing over as a messaging app, it has 800M users (and growing)!

Texting and Messaging Level Up

Forbes Magazine called messaging the business interface of the future, and rightly so. Whatever your work situation, with a smartphone, it’s like carrying your business in your pocket. You don’t even have to pick up the phone to check your messages and connect with valuable customers. Cash transfers are done securely, anywhere. After all, time is gold and it has even turned platinum with clients who have no EQ when it comes to timely service!

Customer Service

Take for instance Intercom, a customer messaging platform that promises more engagement. The concept of a fun, interactive, and fast way to reply to issues and engage customers, through a “funnel” was so timely that Twitter co-founder Biz Stone invested heavily in the venture. For me, it’s like a mash-up of a help desk, live chat, and marketing platform that enables me to directly connect with a client. It seems like an overwhelming amount of information since I’m connected simultaneously to many apps, but it isn’t. Work is now more efficient since I can now respond to a variety of apps from just one platform.

Money Transactions

On the fly, money transactions have just gotten better! Instant Messaging and Social Apps have now turned your smartphone into a cash machine. Snapchat pioneered this, followed by Facebook two years ago. Currently, both Google and Apple have apps that allow you to send and receive money for business, leisure or pleasure, globally. Some of these apps allow you to sync your FB account or phone contacts for greater ease.

Security is an issue. If you use your phone for money matters, keep prying eyes away and don’t share. These apps offer the same level of security internet security as online businesses so if trust Amazon, you’re good.

Top Social Messaging apps for P2P Money Transfers  (iOS and Android)

  • Facebook Messenger (may be limited to the U.S. and soon in the U.K.; not allowed for sales and has no fraud protection)
  • Snapcash (a person-person payment option within Snapchat; only in the U.S. and linked to a credit card account)
  • Apple Pay Cash App

Other apps not associated with social media accounts:

  • Paypal (Global; business and P2P;  must be linked to a credit or debit card)
  • Google Wallet
  • Zoom (Global service, a Paypal company)

Marketing

Texting is one of the most underutilized tools these days. Marketers believing that long formats deliver the message are boring audiences who can always opt out. You’ve probably unsubscribed many times without giving it a thought. Texters because of the brevity of their message are starting to appeal again to jaded customers. When in doubt, market the Zen way, “less talk, fewer mistakes” – make those 160 characters count!

Texting has truly changed the way we connect and interact. It even allows us to express our thoughts through emoticons and emojis. Unless cheap and reliable Internet connection is available globally, SMS text will never be truly out of fashion. But who knows, when we tire of the complex smartphone, we might just go back to feature phones that allow us to just simply talk and chat.

 

Bitcoin: Legit Investment or Fool’s Gold?

What do Virgin Records’s Richard Branson, Jamie Foxx, Lamborghini, and Wiki Leaks have in common? The Bitcoin! Bitcoins are digital currency whose origins are obscure. At one time, it was said to be the brainchild of Elon Musk. Rumor has it that a person using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamura allegedly invented it – which is why the biggest chain of bitcoin “ATMS” sprouting in London is called Satoshi’s Point.

Imagine it as money on your hard drive that can be kept in your “e-wallet” to spend. Though is not backed-up by any bank or government, you can pay merchants globally and even make a hefty commission from transaction fees. At the moment, even celebrities consider bitcoins hot property. But then again, it can be this generation’s “fool’s gold”.

 “In investing, what is comfortable

is rarely profitable.”  – Robert Arnott

 

What is Bitcoin

Bitcoin is defined as peer-to-peer, decentralized digital currency which does not use banknotes or minted coins. Instead has “coins” are identified by a unique registration number and a record of who owns them. It is an alternative payment system where bitcoins can be transferred instantly online to another party with a Bitcoin address.

The exchange totally bypasses physical banks or other conduits (e.g Paypal). It uses a cryptographically provable way to ensure that the “money” sent by the sender is received securely by the receiver. This address is a unique destination composed of 26-35 alphanumeric numbers and is a single-use token for a specific amount. It is not a wallet and does not contain balances. You can get a  Bitcoin address for each transaction in a number of ways:

  • use Bitcoin Core
  • or use an account at an online wallet service/software or an exchange
  • or use a software for offline generation of case-sensitive numbers.

Bitcoin as an Investment

Like any commodity that promises fast returns, it is widely speculated. It so volatile that some countries have even banned it, especially since its value can drop by 80% in a matter of seconds! The anonymity also made it vulnerable attracting shady characters who thought that the system was easy picking.

Recently, the acknowledgment of JP Morgan, one of the oldest and most trusted banks lent it credibility. Moreover, there are cash machines solely for bitcoins in Vancouver, London and other key cities. Will Bitcoin ATMs mushroom in the near future? Thomas Heath of the Washington Post says that bitcoins have increased in value 10 times during the year. In fact, it has already gone mainstream in the U.S. when the  Commodity Futures Trading Commission approved bitcoin trading, with Nasdaq to follow suit in 2018.

The concept is embedded in paradox – it is invisible but can be mined. You can earn small amounts by solving math problems (like how you level up in gaming) but the supply is not inexhaustible. The number of bitcoins is pegged at 21 million, predicted to be reached by 2140. The doubling time for one user, Alex Millar is 4.1 months computed from an initial investment of $.05 on July 17, 2010, to $375 in Dec. 6, 2014, approximately 53 months later.

The website https://blockchain.info gives you a daily snapshot of Bitcoin’s current growth. It also has a link for getting a free wallet and the running figures for the day’s transactions. This screenshot taken Dec. 5, 2017, shows a double growth over a 3 month period. From about $5,000 in September, it rose to just under $11,000 in December.

This exponential rise is something that can be heady or scary. For every investor flushed with the thrill of fast profit, there is another one in mortal fear of an impending bubble burst.  Is this incredible growth even sustainable? Bitcoin investment is not all roses. In fact, with one of the biggest in the industry declared bankruptcy. The caveat is that Bitcoin is investing and gambling in equal parts. The value is determined by the supply and demand of the market; typically there will be winners and losers.

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”                 – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Understanding how Bitcoins work in sending, receiving, mining, and speculation is difficult. We are working with a totally different paradigm and set of values. But with its promise of fast returns, is could be the ultimate investment for you.

Bitcoin Logo. Author=Satoshi |Permission=Released into public domain by author

Top Reasons to Own a Smartwatch Even If You Aren’t a Techie

Telling time has just gotten complicated with the biggest names in IT like Apple and Google entering the wearable technology game with this cutting-edge companion piece for the smartphone. In the past, we managed our time – these days, our timepiece practically clocks what we do, how we should feel, and how we measure up, aside from being a media player and concierge rolled into one. In fact, SmartWatch advertorials can easily convince you that wearing one on your wrist can turn you into a “robotoid”; a superhuman who carves more “me” time by focusing more at work and playing smart with an unobtrusive, unpaid assistant working efficiently in the background.

From Limbo to Boom

The smartwatch is just beginning to regain its reputation from the flak that sent it falling from grace after the hype that surrounded its launch. Unlike smartphones that practically rendered the digital camera (and video cam) obsolete with its logarithmic growth, smartwatches were thumbed down for being stupid. However, the entry of the new generation of smartwatches that are intuitively integrated with smartphones to allow for seamless communication and cool apps that give you information on virtually anything is changing perception and driving sales up.

“Smartwatches Grow Up. The Apple Watch has real competition in Android Wear 2.0 making its debut in new LG watches and in Samsung’s Gear S3”

Geoffrey Fowler in the Wall Street Journal

In fact, it is predicted to contribute the most to wearable tech sales with a projected sales of 141 million units in 2018, driven by demands in North America, Asia Pacific, and Western Europe (from Statista). Google’s Android Wear OS, Samsung’s Tizen OS and of course, Apple’s OS have made smartwatches more powerful and useful and Apple is so popular that iWatch accounted for just below 3/4 of global delivery.

Obviously, it’s not for everyone but as Verizon says, it is “sleek, stylish and doggone handy”. But I think that it was created for a person like me who is in the habit of misplacing phones, forgetting appointments, or take an inordinately long time to fish out a ringing phone from a capacious bag full of gadgets. Now I can answer messages on the fly!

Here are a few of 2017’s top choices that demonstrate how smartwatches are used and personalized according to your needs and preferences. Note that android watches like Andoid Wear can be paired with an iPhone (iPhone 5 and newer using iOS 8.2 or later) but with limitations on functionality.

Making Life Easier

Despite its many virtues, one huge drawback is that it is not a standalone device, with lack of connectivity reducing it to a mere fashion statement. It also has to be matched with a smartphone so you can kiss its value good-bye when the paired phone loses charge. It’s also erroneous to call it totally hands-free because not all apps are voice activated – but it is handier and not as distracting as a smartphone.

Smartwatches don’t make coffee but here are 8 top reasons why even non-techies should slap one on their wrist:

  1. Play multimedia with good sound and resolution;
  2. Allow you to send and receive messages, emails, voice memos, and calls (or mute them). Never lose a message with smart notifications. Some models have an independent antenna that allows you to call even without the paired smartphone. A scheduler, calendar, calculator, and meeting apps let you create a virtual office anywhere you are.
  3. Can integrate with fitness apps to track activity and diminish bad habits (e.g slouching) through biofeedback. All models can track heartbeat, respiratory rate, and steps, with the more powerful ones able to provide a detailed workout program! And for the ultimate back-packer, smartwatches are waterproof, have GPS and can monitor terrain, as well as wind direction and velocity.
  4. Has a price range that suits your lifestyle, demands, and budget – from less than $100 to the $2,900 Louis Vitton model. Clearly, there’s a whole range of usability and price but steer clear of brands and models that have not been reviewed in reputable sites.
  5. The USB port for data transfer and charging is pretty standard but current models have a longer battery life which can be extended by 200% when in economy mode.
  6. Has time synch and weather forecasts – two very important features for travelers on the go.
  7. Has variable downloadable interfaces and interchangeable straps.
  8. Can snap photos and share (a step ahead of the spy camera of your youth).

Watch how it ranked third in the top must-haves in 2017 – will it do as well in 2018?

 

Fast Track: Learn the Most Wanted Skills of 2018 for Free

Two influential leaders of our time, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs didn’t finish school – something that they could have done easily today through MOOC or Massive Open Online Courses. In some ways, MOOC, fueled by the Internet is correspondence school on steroids – leveled up and made affordable or free. It is a great equalizer because you can study the most wanted core and soft skills (and get certified for it) in practically any field from home. Some classes are conducted in real time, across different time zones. However, about 90% of courses give you the freedom to learn anywhere, anytime.

Staying Relevant in a Brave New World

LinkedIn, Indeed and Upwork have identified most wanted skills that have sharply veered from the usual customer service and marketing skills that dominated the past years. 2018 and beyond sees man pitted against bots and AI. Predicted also is greater collaboration among and between teams physically apart and working online through the cloud, making it necessary to acquire new skills for a cross-cultural workforce.

What is MOOC?

 “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale.”

– Mooc.org

MOOCs like EDX, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare, and CodeAcademy offer a wide range of courses in popular fields like computer science, management, business and other technical courses like programming, design, graphics, gaming, and animation. Those who prefer to be grounded on the basics can start with Alison and GFCLearn. Khan Academy is heavy on Math, Coding and even offers a Pixar course for free! LinkedIn has thrown in its hat and has acquired Lynda.com, a popular site specializing in technical subjects. Latitudeu.com, a leader in LMS or learning management systems offers must-take courses for those who are applying for their first job or re-inventing themselves to remain relevant.

Getting a Master’s from top Universities like Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Berkeley, Wharton, Johns Hopkins and other Ivy League Schools is now a distinct possibility. In fact, the area of study is so wide that MOOCs can prepare you for practically anything – from language proficiency test preparation like IELTS, TOEFL to highly in-demand  Apps Development, Microsoft, Programming Languages (JAVA, C, SQL, Python), Quickbooks, Maya, Adobe and other certifications. And just to prove that it is up-to-date, you can even study about Supply Chains/Logistics, Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Robotics!

Courseware, Delivery, and Quality Assurance

Typically, each course, whether fundamental or advanced has a very good industry-relevant and updated curriculum. Lecturers are from both the academe and industry. They are so skilled that even canned video becomes interactive with downloadable lessons, exercises, tests, assignments, and in some cases, projects. It can be tough and you can’t proceed to the next topic or level without passing the current one. Quality assurance is built-in every step of the way. The caveat is that “garbage in, garbage out” so to make learning meaningful, you must engage and focus.

When teachers go live, these sessions are recorded for viewing at a more convenient time. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangout, and Skype make it interactive with screen sharing, file sharing, messaging, video, and options for recording. Most of the lessons are offered free or on “audit” only which means that you pay only if you need a proof of accomplishment (e.g. certificate). Other courses are offered in clusters and you pay for the more advanced classes.

Job Preparation

Before you get hired or contracted to work independently, companies in the words of the actress Sally Field, “must really, really like you!” Indeed, Glassdoor, Upwork, LinkedIn and Monster put prime importance on soft skills. EDX, one of the leading MOOCs, through the Rochester Institute of Technology, offers 3 reasonably-priced courses targeted to teach you:

Good to have skills – something oddly reassuring in a flux of changing paradigms. A brave new world indeed!

Best Holiday Gifts for (Choosy) Millennials

Choosing a gift for a beloved millennial is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. For one thing, they’ve probably out-Googled you and have ordered their gadgets online from Amazon (with free shipping to boot), taking advantage of Cyber Monday Sales that saw prices really crashing!

Take heart – it’s really the thought that counts and millennials love quirky, time-saving devices that make work fun and allow them to do more.  This is a generation that works hard and plays hard; defining their lives through Instagram and connecting on FB even when just a hairbreadth away. Most of them are also urban nomads who like savoring novel experiences: “have a passport, will travel” seems a popular mantra. And yes, they are sweet on themselves; cooking restaurant-grade meals for one, creating a spa-like sanctuary in their bathrooms, and chilling in socially rated restos and bars.

Here are my choices for pampering millennials this Christmas, in no particular order:

PRYNT iPhone Case (Prynt Pocket)

There is something sensible about printing photos:never lose a selfie again and view them without being logged on to some device. You can also keep prying eyes away …. and you can even tear it to bits when you’ve called it quits!

But for a millennial who has probably never seen a Polaroid photo, this is a surely an instant hit! I’d even put it next to instant coffee as my favorite. Consider this a photo on steroids (or a printed Snapchat); something you’ve probably seen only in Mission Impossible movies. Simple to operate like a point and shoot, it takes photos and even videos. Videos? Not a typo – the photo comes out with embedded information. Scan with your camera and you have a video with clear sound and resolution. It’s ink-free and is uses augmented reality technology. The photos moonlight as stickers and the company has an unlimited paper subscription for only $35. Watch it unleash your imagination. Now, who couldn’t resist that?

  • Colors: Graphite, Grey, Lavender, Teal
  • Simple to use – no wifi or bluetooth
  • Can print directly from Social media accounts or from your gallery
  • Can add filters, emojis and text
  • Embed video, scan and share
  • Uses sticker paper and thermal technology (inkless)
  • For iPhone 5 and newer. Android version coming soon!
  • Accessories: paper subscription, paper for 40 or 20 photos, leather photo book, wrist strap, leather photo case etc.
  • Price: $149.99 (Purchase through Prynt and use Paypal or buy from Amazon)

Model M – Cabin Luggage

This “smart” luggage looks elegant on the outside but rugged on the inside. Lightweight but sturdy, its hard-case exterior it is made of aerospace-grade polycarbonate. It has an onboard, cabin-safe detachable power bank so there’s no fear of running out of charge or missing a beat. In fact, you can charge mobile phones up to 6 times.

The convenient outside flap made of Italian Vacchetta leather and waterproof, durable nylon is large enough to safely fit in a 15″ laptop. The wheels rotate 360 degrees and designed in Japan, a country where the customer is king. No more hassles as the luggage glide along as smoothly on stony ground as it does on city pavement. It even has GPS!

  • Size: 55cm (Height), 40cm (Width), 20cm (Depth), Volume: 33 L, Weight 3.4 kg.
  • Colors: Black, Dark Olive, Marsala, Quartz Grey, Night Blue
  • Price: 299 Euros/$355 (regular 599 Euros) with a 10% discount coupon for first-time purchase
  • Guaranteed for 30 years
  • Delivery is free in EU countries. It takes 2-5 days get delivered within the EU and 6-8 days elsewhere. Shipping charges to the Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the USA (inclusive of all fees) 90  Euros/$107; Norway, Switzerland, Andorra, Guernsey, Jersey, Liechtenstein, and San Marino 40 Euros/$48; other countries 199 Euros/236.

Where to buy: Horizn Studios

D-Bell

This doorbell fits right into today’s lifestyle. You’ll probably want to give one to yourself and your mother. Why is it cool? It’s not your ordinary chime but a smart device that welds the convenience of a doorbell with the security of a monitoring device. The company claims, “Turn your doorbell into a home security system.” Easy to install, the app allows you to connect to your home through wifi or ethernet. It can pair up with up to smart gadgets – this means you can safely talk to your visitors through your smartphone, PC, laptop and tablet. It records visitors with a photo and timestamp and keeps you on your toes with app and email alerts. Dbell can be monitored remotely, with viewing angle of 160 degrees, HD video, night vision, and external protection against weather elements. Recording can be done through HDD or cloud.

So when the Postman knocks, you can safely and securely say, “Whose there?” sans fear.

      

(gif and photo from https://www.dbell.ca/)

  • Price is $139.99 (on sale from $199) for the dbell HD+ model and $299.99 for the dbell HD Live model
  • Purchase from DBell

 

Instant Pot DUO 6 QT (7 in 1 Multi-Cooker)

This is probably one of the most-appreciated gifts (short of having an in-house chef). I should know because I was given one and was surprised that the performance was up to the hype. It also saved a lot of space in a miniscule condo kitchen. You’ve probably seen it on online shopping TV programs and had grown skeptical. Relax and don’t let the low price fool you. It is a:

  • pressure cooker,
  • slow cooker,
  • rice cooker/steamer/warmer,
  • porridge maker,
  • deep-fryer,
  • yogurt maker, and
  • it can even be used for sauteing and browning.

Buy at Amazon for $99

Frigondas

This is straight out of sci-fi but so convenient that it makes you wonder why no one has thought of this before. Frigondas, produced by a Spanish-Korean company is a mash-up between a microwave and a blast freezer that debuted in a Berlin tradeshow, Sept. 2017. Blow hot, blow cold indeed! Whether you want ice-cold beer in a blast or heat hot dogs to go along with it, it can be done easily from just one contraption. Blast freezing used to be a problem because equipment was bulky and expensive. Not anymore! It’s perfect for millennials who cook in batches but want to preserve nutritional value, color, taste and texture. It’s safer too, since newly cooked food does not have to be cooled to temperatures where bacteria growth can spoil the batch. And for those who want to blast fresh strawberries and watermelon in season and eat them at a MUCH later date, you are assured of the same freshness and sweetness when frozen with Frigola.

This is going to be in Santa’s bag a while longer but is coming to the U.S. soon! Predicted to retail at $1,000, it’s worth every penny. And did we say it is also a refrigerator and an automatic defroster?

For sure, your picky millennial deserves a Christmas gift that will be more appreciated with every use. And while you are it, wrap a present for yourself too!

 

 

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