Herd-Mentality: Sheep as Wifi Hotspots

Just the other day, on NPR I was listening to some local business owners in North Carolina’s rural area complain about their internet connection. They discussed the prolonged amount of time it takes to upload a small video and how this disconnect directly effects their business’s sales. The community, bringing this issue to the attention of their local phone company, requested for more cell towers to be built. The sentiment was that a faster broad-band would equate to more economically thriving businesses, and further, be contributing to increased financial stability in the community. Some of the store owners lamented on how difficult it was to stay competitive in the market when their web presence was inferior to those of their competitors, due to a challenge that is, for the most part, out of their hands.

No Wifi No Business…..

Since it is nearly impossible these days to have a business without a website, limited internet access does in fact have a direct correlation to a business’s success, and a business’s success does relate to a community’s economic health. More and more remote, small town stores have found ways to survive in communities with limited resources with the help of internet sales. However, with a lack of attention placed on rural areas without fast broadband- which phone companies often justify by arguing that most rural towns don’t have a large enough demographic for more cell towers to be viable- small town businesses are suffering.  I question if the phone companies invested anytime into contemplating how the demographic may (or may not) be directly related to the lack of connectivity, at least in this day-and-age. Wouldn’t more cell towers and increased broadband, give rise to population, clearing up the initial problems that prevented the building of such technology in the first place? I guess in this case, they find it important for the chicken to be in place before the egg.

Can Sheep provide Wifi?

But wait! There may be a solution! It seems the lack of connectivity is being solved in rural areas. In fact, without tampering with the natural landscape, there are plans in place to utilize the exact environment and species that already exist. And I am not talking about those ridiculous fake trees that have been erected on highways, which by the way, look like a cell tower had intentional decided to wear a tree costume because it was getting a little bashful about its’ slender figure. No, none of that. I’m referring to animals. More specifically, sheep! It seems as though rural North Carolina was not the only community commiserating about broadband issues. Research seems to have been underway for some time to find a solution for those still living in an antiqued time-capsule. And low-and-behold the answer had been right underneath their (cough) fork the entire time! What better way to increase connectivity than to create far reaching, and roaming, WiFi Hotspots with other members on the community. And even better, community members that so often go unnoticed- yes I am still talking about sheep.

Digital Smart Collars

At Lancaster University, researchers have recently been granted $260,000 to test digital “Smart” Collars (why does everything have to be “smart”?) on sheep! And not only will these sheep have the fastest connection, but with the smart collar rings attached to their ears, they look like a furry version of Mr. T! But all jokes aside, the initial purpose of these “smart” collars was to simply track the sheep’s whereabouts, along with the weather conditions. However, recently researchers have discovered the collars could provide an secondary purpose -bringing WiFi hotspots to rural areas. A “mesh network” can be created by a herd of sheep, transmitting connectivity across expansive distances. There has even been interest in bringing this technology to nomadic communities in Scandinavia

So far the research is still in its infancy stages. However, if it does end up coming into fruition, the community in North Caroline might have other things to worry about. Overly connected cheep? Bionic Ram invasion? One can only hope.




By Kayleigh Stack

Blogger & Researcher

Privacy Concerns, The Increase in “Smart” Tech & The Irony

In one of our last posts ( written by the lovely Kayleigh Stack ) we talked about Samsung Smart TVs and the privacy they lack when speaking in front of them ( their voice command feature constantly listens whether the TV is on or not ). Having a company listening to what you say 24-7 is horrible, but this issue doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s much worse than what most people know, or at least are willing to know. No, I don’t wear a hat made out of foil paper and no, I’m not talking about crazy government conspiracies. I’m simply speaking of all the companies that constantly keep an eye on you, that you might not even notice anymore.

Sure, showing a picture of how awesome your meal is, while you are on vacation is of great importance. And I certainly appreciate all the check-ins to let me know where you are at all times. Let us not forget about all those lovely selfies, tweets and Facebook posts that keep me inform about your entire life, minute-by-minute. Unfortunately, like I already mentioned, it doesn’t end there. It seems that, knowing who the picture is, ( I’m talking about the very creepy and scary face recognition feature ) is not enough.

Smart Tech

Nowadays, you walk into your house and your very slick Nest thermostat knows you are there. Your TV listens to every word you say, and your “Smart” bed ( yes those actually exist, and I’m not sure why you need a bed to be “Smart” ) is informed of all your sleeping (and perhaps, none-sleeping) habits. Oh but please wait, because there is more…

For the very small price of $199, you can buy your  your own personal Big Brother show. And guess who’s the main star of the show? That is right- you! You can buy cameras to stream HD footage of everything happening in your house, to any computer, phone or tablet.

Have we lost a sense of privacy?

So where do we stop? Have we simply lost a sense of privacy? Think about this: If you have a kid today, by the time your kid is 20, Facebook will probably know more about your son, or daughter, than you. The problem is not in only what they know, but what they do with what they know. Once again, no crazy conspiracy theories here, seeing that all this information collection is currently used for the purpose of… wait for it… selling you stuff.

If you are like me, dyslexic, sort of ADD, and with little interest for most material things, you probably never pay attention to web advertisement.  However, surprisingly, quite often, an ad will catch my attention. Needless to say, whatever it may be on the ad, it is always tailored to my interests. Witchcraft you say? Perhaps voodoo, or black magic? That’s what I used to think. Turns out, they are just using all that information they have about me, that supposedly I  “willingly” give up, to position ads ever-so-appropriately on the webpages I browse. Funny how we all keep a secondary email account to use when we don’t want to give our email out, yet we dump our entire life’s story into the hands of those evil genius advertisers. Oh the sweet taste of irony!

I can only help to think that maybe, and just maybe, it is time to become more conscious about this subject. Now if you excuse me, I need to go tell Facebook what’s in my mind…

Fede Pisani

Tech Blogger

Rumors of Apple patent inducing decline in GoPro Stocks

Back in January, reports broadcasted that action camera giant -GoPro- potentially had a new competitor. This purportedly induced a 12.7% decline in their stocks, after rumor spread of Apple being reassigned a patent that led many to believe the multinational corporation and technology laureate was soon to be a competitor in a market dominated by GoPro since its inception. Just the shear mention of Apple perhaps carving out a niche as an action camera producer led share holders to pullout with strategic immediacy, most likely evoked by tech experts competence on Apple’s brand loyalty and the influence their products have on consumers.

Who had the patent first? Kodak or Apple?

However, its seems there was a hiccup in the reporting and the patent was not newly sought out from camera company giant Kodak, but rather was acquired by Kodak shortly before being sold to Apple. It was never filled by apple. Apple first submitted an application for the patent in 2012, according to USPTO office records, and finally granted on January 13th, the day in which a slew of misleading reports were published by popular media sources discussing apples acquisition of the patent to be solely related to development of go-pro-like devices. So does this in fact suggest Apple’s efforts to enter into the action camera/Go Pro market? With the growth prospects of the market itself increasing in the upcoming years, predicted to grow at a CAGR of 22.2 % between 2014-2019, it would come at little surprise. In addition, knowing Apples track record, there is the likelihood for them to create products that would inevitably rank at top of the charts, with flying colors.

Apple- a new GoPro competitor or a new product on the horizon

However, perhaps the newly acquired patent from Kodak is misleading and is suggestive of something else entirely, as reported by other reliable news sources. There has been mention that if Apple were to be interested in becoming a Go Pro competitor, the patented solution would most likely have come directly from within Cupertino. Therefore, it is more probable they are using the patented tech to apply to other already existed technology or to maybe even to their ever evolving, ever advancing, soon to be released Apple watch. We will all just have to wait at the edge of our sets to find out.








Kayleigh Stack

Customer Liaison and Research Associate

RFID chips: Getting Chipped or Jibbed?

There has been a growing amount of RFID (radio frequency identification) chips used in the past decade, specifically in healthcare, academic institutions, and domestic animals. The push for these tiny glass grain-sized chips has been to, in theory, add to the ever growing era of convenience. They are advertised as providing efficiency, track-ability, along with practicality to peoples lives. The use of chips have claimed to track lost pets, prevent truancy in high schools, as well as help to avoid identity theft and security issues in healthcare. However, I can’t help to question that, along with the supposed claim of preventing identity theft, there is the undeniable question of privacy issues. Our privacy concerns are continuing to be challenged as companies and clubs are now not only “chipping” objects but also their employees and club members.

By attaching radio frequency tags to both people and objects, inevitably the debate of ethics comes into conversation. How much do we want others- whether others means our loved ones, employers, or government- knowing our location at all times? Moreover, how much do we want personally sensitive information made more readily available? And by personally sensitive information, we are talking about the things beyond your SSN- the things you think no one knows or sees. Truman show? Mind control? 1984? Dare I bring up Stalin and Hitler? Yes these are conspiracies, however, one question continues to present itself- just how far off are we from such methods of control?

Reasons for using RFID Chips

The Healthcare industry is claiming that RFID chips are resulting in better patient care, to be able to correctly identify patients faster and improve safety. Seems pretty innocuous. The improving safety part is more ambiguous because the sites where I was doing research did not disclose exactly how the chip would be improving safety, however they claimed, unequivocally, it does. Fine, I thought, improving safety I suppose seems harmless enough. However, I did become more suspicious upon discovering that these chips are now being used by a Swedish company on their employees -rather, in their employees- purely for convenience reasons. Those reasons include -opening doors, unlocking photocopiers, and paying for lunch.

Are grain-sized microchips really making our life any better?

The drive for convenience in our culture may be at the expense of independence, at the expense of rational, smart, informed choices. Does the future consist of us voluntarily (remember: people are doing these things voluntarily at the moment- perhaps with little forethought) relinquishing ourselves all personal responsibility of health, safely, and free speech for that of efficiency? Hasn’t the causation of cancers been inextricably linked to different forms of technology? At the end of the day is injecting a grain-sized microchip under the skin in order to wave a hand to open a door really easier than just taking a card or key out of your pocket and twisting your wrist in a similar fashion? Okay, so maybe you’ll shave a few seconds off with chip, and it could be argued that time is our only real resource, however, the next question that comes to mind is what are the long-term repercussions and are we truly saving time or are we adversely affecting our bodies and independence, in exchange for, cough, laziness?

I believe, and yes this is extremely subjective on my end, the worst use of these chips have been found to be utilized among club members in Barcelona. Where, due to many of the members ambling about in bikinis and trunks, there was a decision made by the club owner to offer VIP members a chance to do away with cumbersome bags and wallets and get a RFID chip implanted in their arm to enhance their sumptuous lifestyles.

Micro Chips are Intuitive?

One company is advertising the use of the hand chip as “Intuitive”. I would consider an injection of a human programmed, laboratory built, inorganic material anything but inborn, innate or natural- far from intuitive. Is this going to change the course of evolution? Are we shifting away from survival of the fittest, to survival by design? While the Swedish company implementing these chips on their employees at the moment claim they are doing so to get some foresight into the future to see how chips work, before governments and big corporations adopt them for use mandating all citizens to wear them, at the moment to only be using this technology to open doors and use photocopiers, in my eyes, is hazardously using powerful instruments as superfluous tech candy.






Kayleigh Stack

Blogger, Marketing Assistant & Research Associate

A Future Where Reality Is Not So Real

Lately, or not so lately, there has been a great amount of buzz around Virtual Reality. However, I would rather not talk about the tech itself -since I’m sure there are plenty of articles out there about that- but rather, I would like to discuss the philosophical side that this form of tech may be bringing into question in decades to come.

In this post, I would like to introduce another buzzword that has been in the tech world for quite some time now. What that word is you may wonder? If you guessed Singularity, you were right. For the people out there reading and seeing this term for the first time, allow me to give you some quick background on this term.


For a long time, this term has been used by mathematicians and physicists. However, more recently in history, Singularity made its way into the tech industry. It is often described as a point in time when technology will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization. In a much simpler way to explain it, Singularity is the point in the future where human life as we know it will be changed beyond possible imagination.

If you have heard of this before, then you know that Singularity mostly revolves around A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). There are many predictions regarding when machines will take control over humanity. In fact, there is a great documentary from the 80’s on this subject. And to clarify, by documentary I mean movie, and by movie a mean Terminator .But let’s not get too distracted here because, if I remember correctly, this post is about V.R., not A.I.

As someone that works at Ruckbau, a company that specializes in Machine learning and path finding software, I’m pretty confident to say, although sorry to disappoint, that machines will not be taking over the world anytime soon. At least for the “first Singularity”. I see more chances of V.R. being the first tipping point in society. Oh, and what is the name of that other late 90’s documentary? You know, the one with Mr. Anderson? Oh yea! The Matrix. Possibly the worst human nightmare as far as technology goes -V.R and A.I combined together. But once again, lets not talk about A.I. and just focus on V.R.

A future where reality is not so real:

We are approaching the foreboding era of  having the possibility of implanting chips directly into our brains. Something close to giving your brain the right stimulus to trick you into feeling and seeing things that do not physically exist. With that being said, I don’t want to get into what may or may not be a possibility, but rather discuss what is already a “reality”.

The Oculus Rift headset

Last year I purchased an Oculus Rift headset (second generation), and I got to experience how V.R. really works. Even though the tech is “not there yet”, it is very obvious that it will become more and more refined in the years to come, eventually allowing a full submersive experience. This doesn’t mean you will be able to touch and feel things; however you will be able to stand and walk around a room that can be transformed into infinite possibilities.

Here is the part where the philosophical aspect of the post comes in. It order to describe it best,  I will refer to a very simple thought experiment, I like to call- “The Ocean experience”.

To  start the thought experiment, we first need to set up a “real” environment. So here we go:

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon during the summertime. You are provided with a backyard,  a beach chair (think- the kind that fully reclines and allows you to even sleep on it if you want to), of course a bucket full of your favorite beer, and your V.R headset. You are also provided with NO time or money to travel to those amazing caribbean beaches that you want to explore so bad.

Now, lets turn your real setup into a “not ‘real’ but very real experience”. You place your bucket full of beer next to your beach chair and now all you have to do is sit, recline and put your V.R. headset on. A few seconds later you are transported to a beautiful, very relaxing caribbean beach.

Are you there? Well, the first answer that comes to mind when you think about it is, no. You are in the middle of your backyard. In spite of your first instincts, I would like you to put more thought into the question and reconsider. Think about this, you are now a few beers deep, and you can feel the heat of that summer sun on your skin. You look around and all you see is ocean, sand, some people nearby and maybe the occasionally seagull. So I ask you again, are you there? Once more, I’m sure you want to answer no. But isn’t it really, at least to some extent (here is where the real debate starts), nothing less than what your brain is able to perceive and process? So how can you tell, until the moment that nature calls and you are in need to take your V.R. set off your head and run to the bathroom, you weren’t “there”.

Chip Implant…Reality?

What’s going to happen when/if that chip implant becomes a “reality”? Then you could create the right stimulus to trick your body to feel the sand in between your toes. You could tell your brain that the smell of grass is actually the smell of ocean.

About a year ago, when I bought my V.R. set, I had an argument with my dad about reality. He kept saying that no matter how “real” it feels, it’s not “reality”. This is where I disagree.

So I would like to ask you this question: If you feel that sand between your toes, you smell the ocean  breeze, and you see the ocean -does it matter where you physically are?


Forget about machines taking over humanity. “Smart Machines” created by humans, at least at this point in time, are actually not so ‘Smart’. And it will take another 40 or 50 years before they are somewhat “Smart”. However, I do see a future where you’ll be choosing your own “reality”.

All I can do at this point is just sit here and ponder about the infinite possibilities…

Fede Pisani

Technical Blogger

How To Stand Out As A Tech Consulting Firm

As a newer employee to the technology consulting firm, Ruckbau, I started to become interested in what sets one consulting company apart from the next. And because we are based in the Bay area, a mecca for IT, there tends to be some big competition, as you might expect.

Therefore, I wanted to know how businesses choose at all? What makes one firm “jump out” from the other? Is it the website quality, the verve, expertise, or references? If it is the references, what do potential clients need to hear?

After exploring the intricate web of articles, blogs, IT sites, and business pages that discuss this very subject, I have decided to come up with an abridged list of qualities IT firms seem to need to catch a potential client’s eye.

  1. What’s the point of the mission statement?

My whole life, whether in academia, working at NGOs or research firms, I have constantly heard, time and time again, the importance of a mission statement . The “holly” mission statement supposedly provides value, clarity, and comprehension for clients, grant organizations, and web surfers alike to understand who and what your business is all about. However, remember that saying “actions speak louder than words” ? Well it seems the same is true for mission statements. I have heard of weeks invested in developing and devising a business’s mission statement, only to have a team of people forget it once it was plastered on the wall. What customers (and employees) want is to read, hear, and experience from the firm they choose that the firm itself truly lives and breaths their mission and goal. Makes sense right? To sum up what you do in one sentence, confidently, and further, be able to elaborate about it in a meaningful way, not scripted- just passion. This creates trust on the client’s end. So get your company onboard, start some team building exercises that will help everyone critically engage with what it is that your company does. Because a tech company is just a tech company until you got something else to say for yourself.

  1. What do you offer?

This goes hand-in-hand with the mission statement, albeit, the more detailed and tailored version. “The proof is in the pudding”, as they say. Enumerating what you do in clear bullet points and plain english on your website is imperative to get clients to stick around and read more. Because remember, it might be the most sophisticated, articulate content you ever wrote, and you may be an absolute genius in the field, but if no one is picking up what you are throwing down, your efforts go to shame. Some of the particular descriptors you might want to consider tailoring your offers to on your site should adhere to- functionality, technology, and product scope- with a focus on budget, accomplishments, references, and expertise. If you got it flaunt it!

  1. Value

If you are a curmudgeon because you have been working as a consultant for more than half your life and now have to compete with everyone and their brother (and said brother has only been consulting for the past two years), then you can probably provide a client with a lot more value than the average joe. Therefore, it is important you get that circulated- websites, word-of-mouth, yelp reviews- they all help! Businesses shopping for IT consulting companies definitely like knowing, for the most part, that their IT concerns are not in the hands of a novice. Let your curmudgeon colors shine!

You might believe yourself to be an expert in two very specific fields in the IT world, however, that doesn’t read to a broad range of potential clients. Although you want to be business savvy and honest about where your expertise lie, you also want to present technical versatility to show you are able to deal with a broad range of issues. Identifying that you can quickly adapt and assess any project is going to exemplify your experience, exposure, and credibility.

So what it comes down to at the moment is, online presence, along with the girth of your knowledge, holds the most weight in getting people interested . However, it is a fine balance between being overly specific and overtly generalized. The best advice seems to be- put yourself in your clients shoes. What would you want from a IT Consulting company? How would you navigate the influx of IT firms out there today?

Stay tuned for a follow up article!



Kayleigh Stack

Customer Liaison and Research Associate

Who is doing the Watching?

We are living in a world, these days, that allow many companies and services, who participate in some form of data collection, to get more “bang for their buck”. In most of history, consent was imperative due to the very blatant fact that companies had to hire or notify their informants directly, in person or through surveys. The collected data was then used as a general idea for how a certain social demographic operated, relaying that information to advertisers. Nowadays, whether voluntarily or not, information is constantly gathered from the everyday choices we make online, which is easily, and cheaply, gathered and sold, no bulky surveys or drawn out interviews necessary. Even better, this information is more targeted! Rather than a general summary of a demographic, the advertisers can pitch a product directly to a specific user, like we often see on Facebook.

Smart TVs and Consent

The truth is, consent is still very much apart of every company’s business model, however, with the advent of the internet and the minute-by-minute advancement of technology, consent is hidden in the manifesto known as “the terms of agreement” tucked way between politics and disclaimers, which we inevitably skim through with little reading in effort to use the service or product.

And well, if that doesn’t satisfy, than perhaps we should be sticking to a good old fashion 12 inch screen with a VCR, or better yet, a book.”

The issue of data collection, privacy and security is constantly coming up as technology advances. Due to the recent release of a voice activation feature on the Samsung Smart TV, owners are bringing up an ethical concern of “who is doing the watching?” Orwellian references have been circulated throughout social media inevitably. In response to this international concern, Samsung has made a statement saying the voice activation feature is manually operated by the user to deactivate. It the effort to be as transparent as possibly, the company also mentioned that upon purchasing the product their policy readily discloses that all information is shared with a third party. The third party being- Nuance.com -a company Samsung works with to provide speech-to-text conversion to deliver customer demands. Unlike Facebook and other social media companies, Samsung also claims they are not selling or retaining customer’s information to advertising companies.

Privacy Issues and Tech Gadgets

So what are the most critical takeaways of privacy issues regarding this new gadget? I believe the most important aspect is- this form of technology evolution has been egged on by what our culture thrives on. There is the constant crave for better, faster, more complex tech to make lives cushier, more convenient, and lazier. Therefore, perhaps the finger is being wagged in the wrong direction when it comes to privacy issues. With the Samsung Smart TV, the user has full control over whether or not to use the voice activation device, deactivating it whenever they choose. One can sit on their couch, not use the remote, yell at the big bully of a screen, and then pick up the remote and deactivate the feature to have their privacy back. And well, if that doesn’t satisfy, than perhaps we should be sticking to a good old fashion 12 inch screen with a VCR, or better yet, a book.


Kayleigh Stack

Customer Liaison & Research Associate

Pros and Cons of Bigcommerce.com

Everyday more and more businesses are using Bigcommerce.com. As a tech nerd, Start-up owner, and employee at Ruckbau, a technology consulting company, I too have had my Bigcommerce.com adventures. At certain pointsI have found myself frustrated, while at other moments I’ve been pleasantly satisfied. After having a decent amount of experience with this company as a customer, I came up with a list of pros and cons, in hopes to help both the bigcommerce.com expert and novice.

The Cons (because they are always more fun to start with)

1- Nightmare slideshow (However, this may not be the case for every layout).

 When you pick a layout for your online shop, more likely than not it will come with a slideshow. The slideshow consists of a big banner on top of the page with a few images. Given its name, I’m pretty sure it’s function is self-explanatory.

 The slideshow in the layout our customer picked was (not?) responsive. If you are not familiar with this term, I’ll gladly explain. A responsive website is a website that adapts to the sides of the screen, for it to, ideally, look the same on all devices- including phone browser, iPad, or 32” monitor. (Now, if you need a 32” monitor to browse the web, you may have some more serious issues not related to the web at all)

Getting to the point….

The Slideshow on bigcommerce.com stretches all the images when looking at them from a big screen. Unfortunately this didn’t have an easy solution. We had to go in and spend four hours playing with the code to get it to work properly. If you are not an experienced web developer, it seems you’ll have no choice but to live with stretched images.

2-Not easy to tweak layouts (This one concerns both tech savvy and not so tech savvy people).

 If you have some  knowledge of HTML and CSS, and you decide you prefer a different layout design rather than the ones offered, you may encounter some difficulties figuring out how to make those changes.

 The way that bigcommerece.com stacks their code doesn’t make it easy to play with the HTML and CSS. However, with that being said, once you do figure out how, it’s pretty simple.

3-Terrible code stack (if your not a developer, this may not concern you).

 The code stack the website is built on is pretty terrible. If you need to go in and do development, you should be mentally prepared to deal with lots of things you probably don’t want to deal with.

4-Creating a Homepage could be a pain.

 If you are trying to create a landing page that is not going to display products for sale, you will be confronted with some extra work. Although it may not be extremely hard (I found a pretty good tutorial video), your frustration-o-odometer may go through the roof (yes, that is an official measurement).

The Pros

1-Friendly user interface.

 If you use WordPress, Bigcommerce.com should be a breeze. If you don’t, after an hour or two, you’ll feel like a pro (or at least comfortable with it.)

 Their user interface is very friendly, and after playing around for a short time, you should be adapting pretty quickly.

2-Lots of online support.

 There is lots of documentation on their support site. Plus they have an online chat support- offering many people eager and willing to roll up their sleeves to do the dirty work for you (as long as it’s a reasonable request).

3-Lots of layouts to pick from.

 With a good assortment of both free and purchasable layouts, it should be easy to pick one that fits your store’s needs.

4-Google analytics and more.

 You can get Google analytics to track where your customers come from, go to, and all of those other cool things the internet is doing these days. They also offer lots for marketing to help promote your store, gift certificates and more.

5-Free trial.

If you still don’t know if this is the commerce platform you have been looking for, you get a 15 day free trial. I’m not sure if you will see any sales results in that time (and if you do, I want a commission), but that should be more than enough time to figure out whether you like the site or not.

Thank you for taking the time to read! Hopefully this will help you when considering big commerce.

Fede Pisani

Technical Blogger