A BRISBANE-BASED start-up, Mindfulmeets, has developed a technological ‘antidote’ for work from home (WFH) online meeting woes, including a clever video loop called ‘On Hold’, allowing participants to sneak away from Zoom calls without the others realising.

With more than 18 years in the tech space, developer and co-founder Ben Flux created the Mindfulmeets app with co-founder Karina Castex, after seeing their colleagues struggle with prolonged screen time during the pandemic.

The world-first free Google Chrome browser extension, designed to enhance video calls with a slew of mindful features, now has more than 3000 users around the world, including in the US where half the population continues working from home.

“Having a tech team situated globally, we were needing to navigate different time zones, varying lifestyles and the day-to-day realities of working remote,” Mr Flux said. 

“I started to think of ways to simulate the in-person interactions we had been missing, that help us survive the workday; shaking hands, clowning around and showing a bit of comradery. We need technology that considers the way we operate and live as humans as well as the value of time.”

Features include the ability to record a short video loop, so users can appear present while grabbing a coffee or answering the door – perfect for a quick and much-needed moment away, according to Mr Flux. 

CLEVER COMMUNICATING

Mindfulmeets can also create virtual agendas to keep discussions focused or send reminders to ensure meetings do not overrun.

Importantly, Mr Flux said the extension allowed users to break through awkward silences with emojis and GIFs.

“Without face-to-face interactions, we’re seeing an increase in people feeling overwhelmed, irritable and anxious – presenting a challenge to most modern workplaces,” Ms Castex said.

“While a free and simple to download extension won’t address all the impacts, we know Mindfulmeets will make a difference to the digital wellness of users.”

Research conducted by Mindfulmeets, to identify the top frustrations experienced by remote working, revealed overrun and unstructured meetings, the lack of quality social interaction and the quantity of meetings were key pain points.

With video conferencing established as a new norm, the reality of mental fatigue poses a real threat to the mental health of users and the productiveness of businesses and education providers, the creators believe.

FOCUS ON ‘FACE’ FATIGUE

The inability to read body language cues, intense focus on conversation and sustained eye contact are key factors contributing to the mental exhaustion resulting from over-use of video conferencing.

Susan Long, a registered psychologist and clinical services manager with Workplace Wellness Australia – a leading provider of proactive employee assistance programs – agreed that a mentally healthy workplace recognises the unique needs of its employees.

“Moving to working online and offsite from the physical workplace increased a sense of isolation and aloneness for many people,” Ms Long said.

“Our sense of connection and feeling heard is often related to eye contact and physical social interactions. This can be difficult to maintain when there are a number of participants in an online meeting.

“Without the reinforcement of connection through eye contact, the brain needs to work harder than it would typically in a face-to-face interaction causing people to feel fatigued.

“For many workplaces, the move to online highlighted the importance of checking in with their colleagues and employees who lived alone or were isolated. The pandemic caused many workplaces to relate to their peers and consider how each other were going,” Ms Long said.

“Staying well is important to work effectively and workplaces that can introduce a more psychologically appropriate format of how meetings progress are invaluable.”

Mindfulmeets is available to download and is compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.

The extension currently includes capabilities including the On Hold feature, letting users create a video loop to step away from the keyboard;  add an agenda to a meeting; see the profile of all attendees, including name and position; share emojis and gifs; see the time zones of each attendee; and gracefully exit and enter meetings with helpful prompters visible to everyone on the call.

https://www.getmindfulmeets.com/

ends

 

By Matthew Oostveen >>

THE GARTNER Hype Cycle report in 2020 posits that edge computing is close to the peak of inflated expectation.

Despite this viewpoint, it is undeniable that edge computing is having a meaningful impact on our lives, and in the process is transforming the way we live.

A constant stream of new use cases are emerging as technology and connectivity both converge and evolve. Consequently, this year, edge computing will come of age as more sensors and machines come on-line connected through the surge of 5G connectivity.

The global pandemic drove the biggest change to digitalisation that the world has ever seen. Every business on the planet raced to use technology to survive as disruption flooded whole industries. Distributed edge computing brings data storage closer to where it’s needed to improve latency and save bandwidth. 

Edge computing is a technology that wears many hats, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and the convergence between IT and operational technology (OT). In its purest form, it’s automating technology to improve human life and the applications are almost limitless.

For example, sensors in the fields can track crop health and trigger fertiliser or pesticide application, self-driving machines can work 24/7 on mining sites, automated factories that operate without pause, and tiny drones that can revolutionise surgery.

THE CHANGES FOR IT INFRASTRUCTURE

Leveraging edge computing effectively requires a strategic approach that builds in distributed edge computing when creating IT solutions. The sheer volume and complexity of data involved will also need to be addressed and decision-makers may need assistance in determining what’s most important.

IDC (International Data Corporation) research projects that IoT devices alone will generate over 90ZB of data by 2025. With edge computing comprising more than just IoT devices, the data load generated by distributed edge computing applications will be astronomical.

Data centres will need to be designed, built, and even located with this in mind. Putting data centres physically closer to where the data is generated is necessary to overcome performance issues associated with managing such massive amounts of data.

Beyond location, data centres will also need to be able to accommodate massive amounts of unstructured data and be built on cloud-native technologies such as containers, to support a wider variety of application needs.

In reality, the cost to move all data to an ideal central location is cost-prohibitive. So, there will likely be a shift that will see applications and infrastructure also become more distributed.

This will see the demise of a pure core cloud approach to one that involves a distributed cloud at the edge working in tandem with the core cloud.

IT’S NOT WITHOUT ITS CHALLENGES

These smaller data centres need to have speed, flexibility, and operational simplicity in each location. This doesn’t come without its own set of challenges, though.

Latency has grown into a larger concern in recent years due to big data, streaming services, and IoT. Slow performance is no longer tolerable for the modern-day user.

Edge data centres solve this problem with a high performing and cost-effective way to provide functionality and content at speed.

Edge sites are small and often are in thousands, so all data can’t exist in every site. Edge data centres are a connectivity tool into larger central data centres. Processing data as close to the user as possible reduces latency and improves the customer experience.

New architectures are being built where edge applications generate, store, and interact with data at the edge.

Coupling these edge sites with core data centres means syncing all data and storing less used data. This needs infrastructure to support data access and movement and running applications in a much more distributed manner.

The second challenge is edge applications are being built generally as microservice applications. This means they can start, stop, and scale as users come and go from the services delivered at the edge.

Because edge sites are small, every application can’t have its own dedicated servers or storage, they must all share infrastructure.

Containerisation helps solve this problem by spinning applications and their storage up and down. It lasts only while that user or device is accessing a particular cell tower or edge data centre and is run on shared heterogenous infrastructure.

THE WAY OF THE FUTURE

Distributed edge computing is creating opportunities for technology to dramatically alter the way humans interact with the world.

From smart cities and more effective food production to automated mining and manufacturing, medical advances, and technologies not yet even dreamed of, distributed edge computing is the way of the future.

Combined with other emerging technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence, reality will soon come to more closely resemble science fiction, with humankind as the winner.

www.purestorage.com

 

About the author

Matthew Oostveen is the chief technology officer(CTO)  for Pure Storage in the Asia-Pacific and Japan region.


Reference:
The Gartner Hype Cycle report - https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3989981/summary-translation-hype-cycle-for-edge-computing-2020  

ends


By Leon Gettler >>

A COMPUTERISED care plan is improving quality of life for aged and dementia care residents.

Person Centred Software is used exclusively in aged care facilities. Traditionally, nursing staff members would be delivering care and at the end of their shift, they would sit down at a computer and evidence their care.

Person Centred Care changes that through technology, with a care app for carers to evidence their care at the point of delivery. There is also a Care Monitor for managers monitoring care in real time. This creates data driven decision and better care for the residents and their families.

The company also has another piece of technology called the Relatives Gateway, allowing family members to log in and be part of that care. They can send video links and sign off on care plans. 

This is all done with the approval of the resident and what they want their family member to see. 

“Traditionally we see the eldest daughter is the care taker of mum or dad living in aged care so if the resident wants that daughter to see an activity summary and perhaps a hygiene chart, they can actually have access to see that,” Person Centred Software CEO, Tammy Sherwood told Talking Business.

MEETING PANDEMIC CHALLENGE

The app was adjusted with COVID-19. As the country went into lockdown, Person Centred Software went to its customers and asked what they wanted. It introduced a coronavirus slider to evidence symptoms of the disease very quickly.

It was also able to do contact tracing to see which carer had been in contact with the resident. Family members wanted to stay in contact, so a new feature was put into the Relatives Gateway allowing residents to video conference with up to 25 members of their family.

The service also gauges the resident’s happiness level via a ‘happiness indicator’.

“So the family member can see that mum is happier in the afternoon, not so happy in the morning,” Ms Sherwood said. “Maybe I’ll increase my visits in the morning to encourage her to do more activities.”

SOFTWARE MEETS VITAL NEEDS

Ms Sherwood has been working in the aged care industry for a considerable time. She first saw Person Centred Software four years ago when she was on a study tour of the UK. She was fascinated by it when she saw it in operation at a facility in Battersea Place in London.

Sometime later, she was introduced to the co-founder of Person Centred Software who was visiting Brisbane for 36 hours.  She was introduced to him and he asked her to re-sell his product.

She said the technology gave residents a better quality of care. It allowed them to plan for residents’ needs: what time they wanted to get up, when they wanted to have a wash, what staff members they wanted to work with them.

“If we’ve got a resident that was a car collector, we can match them up with carers that have interests in cars,” Ms Sherwood said.

“Because they’re not documenting all of this care at the end of their shifts, carers get all this extra time to spend with the residents, talking to them and doing thigs they want to do with them.”

CASE STUDY SUCCESS

Ms Sherwood said the company conducted a case study last year with Southern Cross Care in South Australia, the firm’s largest client, with the help of Flinders University to examine the data.

The case study found a reduction in critical incidents, better outcomes for residents and staff had an hour extra every day with residents, through the use of Person Centred Software systems.

Person Centred Software operates in 75 aged care facilities after just two years of operation. It has just gone live with a dementia specific facility in Tasmania.

The company has a strategy of integrating with subject matter specialists like, for example, specialists in pain assessment, or medication management providers.

It develops its road map by listening to customers, their families and the carers.

www.personcentredsoftware.com/au/

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.   

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

MORE BUSINESSES are now going online, to overcome COVID-19 affected markets, and the demand for software has increased. Companies now want their software done quicker than ever.

Enter Buildkite, the Melbourne-based software firm that gives developers the tools they need to keep up with demand for software built with speed, scalability and security. Buildkite helps software companies build software, test it and release it.

Buildkite CEO Lachlan Donald said as software has become more complicated over time, the craft of assembling it has become more complicated.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, the release cadences were every 12 months – or even two years. As the world has moved online, software delivery has moved to the real-time end of the spectrum. 

CONTINUOUS DELIVERY

Buildkite works in a space known as ‘continuous delivery’ and it builds tools to help some of the best software development teams in the world ship software faster.

Mr Donald said continuous delivery is one of the most critical factors for successful businesses today and Buildkite, which grew out of the high growth tech companies in Melbourne, delivers its goods with parallel testing.

He said software companies build complex software with millions of lines of source code and changes happening every five minutes. This is done with test suites.

For smaller companies, it’s very quick, say about 30 seconds. But the larger companies like Shopify and 99 Designs, the test suites would take an hour or two to run.

“Continuous deliver tools like Buildkite take those test suites, carve them up into small pieces, and run them over the cloud,” Mr Donald told Talking Business.

“If you take Shopify as an example. They joined us when they were 300 engineers. Their tests were taking 40 minutes and their mandate was to get it under five minutes. They used Buildkite after breaking all our competitors’ previous tools – we got it down to five minutes.”

This was done using parallel testing. Buildkite has grown with the Shopify firm, which now has 2500 engineers and is driving the state of global e-commerce.

Mr Donald said continuous delivery was one of the key differentiators for Buildkite.

HELPING MOBILE AND WEB

Another differentiator is that Buildkite offers the only continuous delivery tools for mobile and web development teams.

“We provide the one tool that unifies all the engineers across the process,” Mr Donald said.

He said Buildkite runs a hybrid delivery model that is both on-premises with good security, and in the cloud where the source code is handed off.

“We’re a hybrid architecture where we give you what we call an agent, which you can run on your servers or your cloud, your infrastructure, so that runs the heavy lifting of the tests without Buildkite getting access to the source code. But then we have a SaaS (software-as-a-service) side of the business, the interface that developers interact with, all the external integrations, and Buildkite runs that,” he said.

“That architectural separation, turns out to be magical. It’s exactly the right compromise between those two worlds. You get strong security but you also get unlimited scaling and all the other niceties that cloud computing brings.” 

Mr Donald said this has been run on so many different platforms.

One of its customers, Cruise, the self-driving car company headquartered in San Francisco, runs the agent on their cars to test the software before it’s deployed there.

“With the emergence of next-gen tech, like IoT, and other things like AI, Buildkite provides that hybrid architecture and provides interesting ways to do new things,” Mr Donald said.

www.buildkite.com

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

 

ends

.

By Lee Thompson >>

AS AUSTRALIAN educational institutions rushed to adjust to the new norm of virtual classrooms, remote collaboration, and an absence of international students, cloud-based solutions have helped keep things together and a core service operating.

But could these short-term cloud fixes have long-term consequences?

In the space of a few weeks, educational institutions deployed ‘off-the-shelf’ cloud-based solutions such as virtual desktops and collaboration software – many provided free of charge by technology giants – to reshape the curriculum, provide a viable online learning experience for students, and help shield the industry from the impact of COVID-19. 

However, in the understandable rush to provide and maintain services and the curriculum, many institutions may be too quick to lock themselves into services which meet their needs now, but may not be the most appropriate in a post COVID-19 world.

THE RENT-V-BUY ISSUE

Cloud is typically consumed as a private owned resource or a public rented one; and in some cases, a hybrid combination of both.

In order to get students and staff online as quickly as possible, most universities without the capabilities to do it privately have opted for the rent model.

It is fine in the short-term – making virtual classrooms viable is priority number one for higher education and should be achieved in whatever manner possible, for now.

But when society returns to some sense of normalcy – on a timeline that’s yet to be defined – the institutions that rapidly spun up public cloud services will face some difficult questions.

Will they continue using the applications they deployed to get through the COVID-19 restrictions? If so, how will all these services be integrated with their normal infrastructure?

Then, how will they continue to pay for these services as needs increase? If not, how will they retrieve the months of data that’s been stored on these platforms?

Personally, I believe much of the rapid online transition will stick, as students will now expect to use the services they have been over the past few months. This, however, will have implications for how universities operate long into the future.

BRACING FOR A DOWNTURN

There’s no telling what economic impact this crisis will have on the higher education sector, but it doesn’t seem many industries are in for an easy ride when the dust settles.

Already this year the COVID-19 pandemic has kept 114,000 international students – over 15 percent of the total based on last year’s figures – away from Australian shores. This number will likely jump much higher with new students unable to arrive for the second half of the year, increasing the financial pressure on the $40 billion-plus international education sector.

On one hand, this situation stresses the need for online virtual classes to be in operation; but it also means universities need to gain control of whatever expenditure they can to prepare for the times ahead.

Endless ‘rent cheques’ from public cloud providers clash strongly with this. There’s no way to easily turn that tap off, and worse still, as universities increase their cloud dependency a concept known as ‘data gravity’ can easily sink in, making universities more dependent on their provider even as costs soar with no end in sight.

To put it another way, if you’re reliant on using a taxi or ride-share to get from A to B, it’s going to cost you the same each time and this will add up over time. You can’t simply lower the cost because money’s tight.

With your own vehicle though, you can be sparing with how you use it. You can change the type of fuel you use. You can hold off purchasing a new one. You can change the oil yourself rather than using a mechanic.

In November, right when the journey to pandemic was in motion, analyst firm Gartner predicted Australian cloud spend would reach $8.8 billion by 2020 – an 18.3 percent rise compared with 2019 and a higher growth rate than the global average.

That figure is no doubt already irrelevant – the education industry needs to ensure its share of the investment is wisely spent wisely, not just in a public, rent-only format.

Australian universities need to start thinking about ‘buying their own car’, getting all the cloud capabilities they need but under a private or owned cloud-led model.

This will help continue the waves of innovation – and we need that – but within universities’ control from a cost and data perspective.

The ‘necessary’ is largely complete – students are learning online and, hopefully, adapting to the new model.

Now is the time to consider what the post-pandemic future of education looks like, and how university decision makers can ensure it's tenable to keep the sector alive and thriving.

www.nutanix.com

 

About the author

Lee Thompson is managing director, Australia and New Zealand, for enterprise cloud computing group Nutanix.  Nutanix works with a number of universities in Australia on their digital initiatives.

By Leon Gettler >>

THE BIG CHALLENGE for businesses now is bringing all employees back to work safely. It’s a huge challenge for businesses, particularly the larger ones with lots of employees.

San Francisco-based entrepreneur Amar Goel has come up with the perfect solution for business: an app called Safeter which ensures that employees are staying safe and keeping their colleagues safe.

The first offering from the app is to allow employees do a symptom check on their mobile app. 

So before coming into the office, they would fill in a survey recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). They just have to answer some simple questions which would take a few seconds. Do they have any symptoms of coronavirus? Have they been travelling anywhere that has had significant cases?

The other thing that app handles is employee scheduling, allowing employers to determine who exactly is coming into work on any given day. That can also include cohort scheduling or group scheduling where, for example, a workforce of say 100 employees is broken up into five groups of 20 that can come in on scheduled days.

It also allows them to space out the number of employees allowed to use the elevator at any one time. The Safeter app allows for symptom checks for visitors.

APPLE, GOOGLE CHALLENGES

The relationship between Safeter and Google and Apple is complicated. Apple and Google are currently limiting the apps in their stores that can enable contact tracing.

While Safeter has contact tracing capabilities, which are valuable for employers, Google and Apple asked for it to be removed. 

“I understand their concerns for sure,” Mr Goel told Talking Business. “They have privacy concerns and they want to make sure things are done well and people’s privacy is not exposed.

“But at the same time, there are a lot of employment issues around people’s health and employers need the tools to be able to manage their workplace.”

And in the future, there will be more employees saying they want to work from home two days out of three. The Safeter app will manage that for employees and companies.

“We’re helping when the person wants to come into the office. When someone wants to transition back into the office, let’s say, two days a week, how do we make sure we have enough social distancing and we don’t have overcrowding?” he said.

“I do think a lot of people will have a hybrid model going forward,”

POST-COVID LIABILITIES

Mr Goel said the app would be particularly helpful for companies dealing with liability in the post-COVID era.

“It’s important for companies to make sure they are (seen as) doing the right thing and helping their employees be safe, but then also, there’s some value in recording that from a compliance standpoint,” he said.

“There is a compliance and liability standpoint that employers want to manage.”

It would also be critical now for companies in which the human resources (HR) manager is now becoming the company’s health officer.

Mr Goel said the app takes the burden off HR managers and helps the safety teams that so many companies have set up.

www.safeter.work

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

WHEN the Morrison Government unveiled its COVID-19 $189 billion stimulus package to keep Australians in work and businesses in businesses, there was a lot of public interest. And confusion.

Many didn’t know what exactly the package was offering them, how it could help them and where to find it.

Troy Roennfeldt and his team from the digital agency Increaseo had lost a lot of business thanks to COVID-19.  So in their downtime, they set up a website named Stimulus Package to help to arm all Australians with information regarding the recently implemented Stimulus Packages.

It enabled individuals and businesses to locate and easily sort through all applicable support packages offered by the Federal and State Governments to help ease financial pressures and better navigate the tough times ahead.

Mr Roennfeldt said the site collates all the packages at the state and federal level. The idea for it came when he was combing through all the information and “couldn’t find it in one spot where it was needed.” 

FUSION OF CONFUSION

While the government information packages have improved, it was very difficult back in March finding the right information. One had to piece it together from various news reports and the government websites were then sparse on information.

“Once I realised it was a bit hard, I was ticking over in my head one evening while I was working through things and I started looking through different domain names and realised stimuluspackage.com.au was available,” Mr Roennfeldt told Talking Business.

“I registered that, thought about it for another day or two and got my team working on developing it out.

“We had some capacity as we had lost a number of projects in the preceding days with some clients who were in the events space and the catering space. Their businesses had pretty much imploded so all work we had with them was put on hold.

“So we used that downtime to get our developers and content guys on to fleshing the site out.”

He said the firm had four or five of its team members working on it.

Mr Roennfeldt said the site could potentially become even more informative if it could drill into what was on offer in various local government areas and post codes.

“However, the amount of work involved in that is something we don’t have the capacity to put all that out considering we’re doing it for nothing,” he said.

He said there is now an ongoing process of keeping the stimulus package content up to date.

With JobKeeper still being a work in progress, the team will add new information to keep it updated.

FIT FOR THE TIMES

Mr Roennfeldt said the response to Stimulus Package had been really good, with many people signing up for newsletters and updates.

“I’m sure there’s probably going to be future stimulus package announcements in the coming weeks or months and we’ll keep that updated and shoot out updates to people who are registered on the site,” he said.

Mr Roennfeldt said the website also offered support services in areas such as mental health and accommodation for people looking for help. It also included information from businesses offering products for free, like productivity tools.

The site also had content from accountants and lawyers and financial advisers.

It’s become very much a community exercise and Mr Roennfeldt said if businesses, lawyers, accountants and financial advisers wanted to send in more material, they should get in touch with him at Increaseo.

Mr Roennfeldt expects the website will be running for more months to come as the government brings in more packages and changes schemes like JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

www.stimuluspackage.com.au

www.increaseo.com

www.leongettler.com

 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

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