iPad vs. Playbook: Tablet Throwdown

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By: Samantha German

Whether you want to slide through pictures, surf the web, or type a last minute email, the Apple iPad and BlackBerry PlayBook can do both. But, which one has more bang for its buck?

Although the mastermind behind Apple, Steve Jobs, passed in October 2011, his legacy will continue through his many technologically-advanced developments. Take the Apple iPad for instance; it is created with a Dual-core A5 chip — making anything you touch on the screen respond instantly — and a 10-hour battery life.  With great features such as these in a tiny handheld tablet, there is absolutely no need for a laptop.

The BlackBerry PlayBook and the iPad share similar features.  Equipped with a 7-inch multi-touch screen, 1 GHz dual core processor and a small size that allows the device to fit almost anywhere, it’s evident why these two items are in great competition.

Despite the many benefits both tablets carry, they also have their cons. For instance, the iPad’s battery is built-in. PlayBook users have complained that the device has fewer applications than the BlackBerry phone.

There are some obvious suppositions that the gadgets have minor flaws but it’s not stopping customers from buying the goods. After asking Collette Toney, a third year social studies education and history major from Snellville, about her iPad one can see just why everyone is going crazy about the new, nifty technology.

“It’s a lot lighter than carrying a Dell around campus,” Toney said. “I can take it everywhere, I just love it.”

The burden of determining which tablet is better is up to the user. Some people prefer the Apple product while others are committed to BlackBerry. Despite which brand you pledge your allegiance to, you are sure to love your tablet. These convenient handheld computers are taking the technological world by storm.

Have you gotten your hands on one yet?

Scan, plant, grow: Technology in the garden

October 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has implemented QR codes on 10-15 signs referring passerbys to more information. Photo/Lilly Workneh

The next time you decide to take a stroll through the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, don’t forget your smart phones – not only to snap away pictures but also to scan!
Technology is making an appearance is some of the least expected places and with the latest functionality of QR codes – short for Quick Response – information can be retrieved quicker than ever before, almost anywhere.
                                                                                                                                                                                       Close to 30 QR codes are now implemented throughout the garden. These codes are small box-shaped barcodes read by smartphone cameras through several third-party applications. The codes are placed by plants and allow cameras to scan, code and redirect users to a website, unique to each QR code, published with relevant information about the subject.

James Gilstrap is the IT specialist at the garden. Photo/Lilly Workneh

“We needed to do something at the garden that’s more outgoing and technology-friendly for our visitors,” says James Gilstrap, the IT specialist at the garden. “The use of smart phones led me to place QR codes on plants where people can learn to grow them or take something useful home.”

This new initiative is one of the ways employees of the garden are attempting to interact with their visitors. Their goal is to allow easier access to more information that can be easily retrieved both by the garden enthusiasts and the inquiring minds that visit the facility.

“People are using smart phones so we started thinking about how we were going to use them here,” Gilstrap says.

Although many codes have been placed around the garden so far, expansion is in the midst. Several other places such as signs, programs and various infrastructures around the garden will eventually have QR codes that direct visitors to websites with more information.

The flower garden alone, which covers 3-5 acres of land, has around 10-15 QR codes implemented throughout the several flowerbeds. The remainder of the codes can be found in the tropical conservatory where many of the tropical plants used in everyday life are harvested, grown and maintained.

Each QR code directs users to a specific web page on the Botanical Garden website. However, the information published varies from plant to plant.

“The differences are that in the flower garden, the codes take you to information on how to grow them,” Gilstrap says. “In the tropical conservatory, not only do I show you how to grow them, or where it came from, but I can give you special interesting tips.”

These interesting tips stem from Gilstrap’s collaboration with several of the garden’s curators. Many aid him by highlighting the important and interesting facts of each plant. From here, Gilstrap then writes and publishes information on the websites that teach curious visitors on background information on the plant along with which fruits to pick while shopping at local markets.

“For example, the Papaya tree – on our sign, I tell you that it’s not just a papaya tree,” says Gilstrap. “Scan the code and it will tell you how to pick the right papaya at the grocery store.”

Vanilla, mango, star fruit, orchids, coffee and chocolate are just some of the tropical plants grown inside of the conservatory.

Although this is a relatively new initiative the Botanical Garden is implementing, they hope to go through each garden and have all the necessary signs and codes placed by the end of December.

The QR Codes are the small square boxes placed below the image of the plant. Photo/Lilly Workneh

“It’s a great use of technology, people who are interested in plants always want to know more,” says Linda Chafin, Research Project Coordinator and a botanist at the garden.

Many anticipate the numbers to increase and the popularity of the QR codes to garner greater interest from visitors of younger demographics.

However, some are skeptical about the success this may bring and if older audiences will be attracted to the new technology.

“At times, we can have an aging population, and we don’t always have a generation that’s as comfortable with technology, so that does concern me,” says Jason Burdette. “I hope that we do have a good response to it.”

Surprisingly, visitor responses so far have indicated that many members of the older generation that own smart phones have become fans of the codes and increasingly use them to scan the QR codes placed directly by the plants.

“It wasn’t the younger ages that were using the phones, it was the older generation,” Gilstrap says. “Because at the garden, our visitorship is of an older generation and they are the ones that WANT to know how to grow the plants.”

Since it’s announcement to the Friends Group last Friday, the garden’s membership non-profit support group, the codes had been scanned close to 60 times over the course of a weekend.

“I love the efficiency, I love the fact that it’s very modern, and for those that have no idea what they are, it’s non intrusive,” says Wilf Nicholls, the Director of the State Botanical Garden. “I’m more than happy to see this new initiative and I’ll be very interested to see how well it’s used.”


Using Mobile Apps for Health Could Result in Risks

May 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Sole reliance on smart phone technology could result in risks.

Text messaging, email, digital photography, GPS, web surfing… and health.

When smart phones or tablets are used to make personal health decisions, manage medical care or transmit health information, they become part of a rapidly expanding field know as mHealth.

Doctors, patients, healthcare administrators and even students in UGA’s New Media Institute are  paying attention and getting involved with wireless innovations related to health. If you operate on Gizmodo time, then mHealth is not a new concept. Experts have been excited about  its benefits – and concerned about pitfalls — for years.

Dr. Joseph Kim is one of them.

Originally trained as  a physician, he has founded three websites focused on medicine and technology and become an mHealth pundit who speaks often to professional groups. Last month he cautioned an audience of journalists that the world of health-related mobile apps is a wild frontier where anything can happen.

Anyone with the technical know-how can develop an mHealth app, they aren’t regulated by any government agency or medical association, erroneous information may be built into them and an app might violate individual privacy, Kim told the Association of Health Care Journalists.

No special credentials are needed to develop an app and classify it as “health” or “medical,” said Kim, and distribution through  iTunes and similar services for other platforms is near universal.

At the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute (NMI), students who develop health-related apps for smart phones are not required to have any training in health or medicine.

“We think it [the cell phone] is a really potentially useful tool for communicating important personal information about health to people,” said Dr. Scott Shamp, director of the institute.

The NMI has been operating in the mHealth space since 2004, when students spent one day producing mobile PSA’s encouraging individuals to be checked for HIV status.Now, students devote entire semesters to develop “promo”-types – designed to show the range of technical possibilities – of applications showing how technology could be used to advance personal health, said Shamp.

Although student projects at the NMI are never intended for distribution to the public, the fact that students can make them indicates how simple it is for a tech-savvy group to produce these apps. Students earn a  New Media Certificate by successfully completing four courses, including the one where they have the opportunity to design health apps.

“Our focus is on idea generation,” said Shamp, whose students build apps that encourage people to exercise more, or eat less, but do not venture into wireless manipulation of diagnosis, disease management, or medical treatment.

Like Kim, Shamp knows this is no place for amateurs.

“You get into a whole lot more dangerous realm when you start talking about collecting healthcare information,” Shamp said, “that’s one thing that people consider to be very private.” People see health information as highly personal, because lives can be upended by  stigma and discrimination related to health status.

That said, phones are also highly personal “When was the last time you let someone see your phone?” Shamp asked.

Since people are less likely to share their cell phone with others, they may assume that the information uploaded into mHealth apps is secure as well. But, we are quickly finding out about the grave potential of privacy breaches from cell phone makers and service providers: consider the recent tracking revelation with Apple.

Because there are no  regulations or legal protections associated with mHealth apps, naïve patients  may  place their own health, or health information, at risk by using them, said Kim.

Felicia Harris is a graduate student at the University of Georgia. With a concentration in Mass Media, she is interested in the media’s effects on people’s well-being and livelihood.