Thursday, 23 July 2015

Making the most of tech in our lives

One thing you'll notice from following me on social media is that I like to post about technology. A lot. I have a few interests which I am quite passionate about, but I post the most about technology. Not necessarily because I'm most passionate about it compared to my other interests, but more so because of how prevalent technology is in our daily lives. I mean think about it. How much of what we do on a daily basis is done with the aid of technology? How much has our lives been made more convenient thanks to technology? I consider myself quite tech savvy, and so I try my best to share what I know with my friends and family. To me, it's such a shame if you don't use technology to its fullest, especially when it comes to smartphones. Since we carry our smartphones with us everywhere we go every single day, to not use it to its full potential is such a waste. So here are a few stories of how I use technology in my daily life which will hopefully give you some ideas of how you can use technology in your lives as well.

Going to the movies
If snacks were sold by vending machines at the cinema, my entire movie-going experience would be devoid of human transactions. I already purchase my tickets online using an app on my phone, and when I get to the cinema I don't queue to enter the hall with everyone else who bought physical tickets, since I can go to the side and scan the barcode (received after ticket purchase) from the app on my phone, so the only time I deal with people is when I buy snacks. I could buy snacks using the same app, but I'd still need to pick up my order from the counter. Every time I go to the cinema and see ridiculously long lines of people queueing to buy tickets, I just laugh a little inside (evil, I know). But then I wonder if these people actually enjoy the long lines, or if they honestly have no idea that they can buy tickets online. 
Lining up to buy movie tickets is something I haven't done in years
Collaborating on work
As a student, I did a lot of group assignments (as I'm sure many other students can attest to). Back before I started using Google Drive, collaborating meant everyone did their own parts of the assignment (either a document or a presentation), and at the end one guy would be selected to compile everything and standardise all the formatting and making sure everything was cohesive. Man, I wish I had used Google Drive back then. Would've been so much easier. But I did use Google Drive for my Master's studies. I wrote my thesis in Google Docs and gave access to my supervisor. Any edits and comments he made were instantly accessible to me. There was no need to constantly go back and forth via e-mail or to keep multiple copies of the same document. There was just one document which we both worked on at the same time. I also use Drive now at work with my colleagues, which is extremely useful since we are all working on different areas of the same research project, so all the data is in one place for all of us to access any time we want.

Connecting devices across long distances
We now live in a multi-screen world. Most people have more than one "screen" which they use regularly between smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, TVs, and now even watches. So part of what makes smart devices smart, is their ability to connect with one another even though they aren't in the same vicinity. One of the machines I use in the lab wasn't working a few weeks ago, so after contacting the specialist who's based in Singapore, we connected his work computer to my lab computer via TeamViewer, and so he was controlling the machine in my lab all the way from Singapore. On a smaller scale, I once connected my Chromebook to my home desktop via Chrome Remote Desktop while I was at work. It's just very cool to be able to remotely control computers from far away, and it just goes to show how powerful technology can be, if we learn how to use it.

Cloud storage > local storage
While there are of course benefits to using local storage, cloud storage has many of its own, and it's one aspect of modern computing which I feel many people still don't fully utilise. I keep most of my data in the cloud. My Master's and work documents are in the cloud so I can easily access them from my home desktop or my Chromebook when I'm out. My music and photos are online as well so I can enjoy them from any of my devices anywhere I am. My contacts are stored online so stuff like this will never happen to me. I also keep copies of official documents/receipts in the cloud as well in case anything happens to the hard copies. It's quite painful to see friends post to social media how they lost all their contacts because they lost their phone, or they lost a document they were working on for hours because their computer crashed, or they lost all their photos because their memory card stopped working. For all the benefits local storage has, it's much safer to store your data in the cloud, rather than risk losing it forever.
My music library is instantly accessible on my Chromebook via cloud storage.
Didn't need to transfer my media from my home desktop.
Google Now
Google Now is still one of the smartest innovations ever invented in the smartphone era. With so much knowledge available at our fingertips, and so little time to filter through the noise to find exactly what we want, having Google Now show you relevant information when and where you need it is the very definition of "smart". But, many people probably don't use it. Google Now can act as your personal assistant, telling you your schedule for tomorrow, even telling you what time you need to leave to make sure you arrive on time. Google Now also gives you articles to read based on your browsing activity, so you'll always be up-to-date with the latest news about your areas of interests. It's also aware of your location, so it can give you relevant information based on where you are like nearby attractions, where you parked your car, even movie showtimes if you are at a mall. Google Now can even give you useful information if you're travelling, like the location of the hotel you made a reservation in, flight details like gate number and if it's on time or delayed, some simple translations if you are going to a foreign country, and even the currency exchange rate. And remember, Google Now does all this automatically. All you need to do is tap the notification and all the info is right there.

Most of the time when I post about technology on social media, it's not merely because I'm enthusiastic about it. It's also because I want to educate others about how useful technology can be. It doesn't make sense to spend so much money on a smartphone, but restrict yourself to using it like an old feature phone. If you have internet access everywhere you go, why not utilise cloud storage instead of copying, pasting, and transferring files between your devices? Most people refuse to learn new things because they don't want to leave their comfort zone. If only they knew how much more comfortable their zone would be if they learned to fully embrace technology.