In Omaha, A Library With No Books Brings Technology To All


On the corner of the busiest intersection in Omaha, Neb., there’s a square cement building, wrapped on two sides with a flashing LED billboard promoting the high-tech equipment and classes inside.

“I thought it was a 3-D printer sales place,” says Frank Fu, a high school student.

Earlier this year, Fu stumbled upon Do Space, a technology library providing free access to powerful PCs loaded with software used by businesses and artists. There are 3-D printers and laser cutters.

“It was exactly what I was looking for, and I never knew there was a place anywhere like it, and it turns out there’s not,” Fu says.

There are no books in this library. Instead it’s jammed with high-end technology that it provides free to the public.

As director Rebecca Stavick tells visitors, it’s a logical evolution from traditional libraries.

“I’ve always thought of libraries as places full of tools. Books are tools, scrolls are tools, computers are tools,” she says. “This vision of bringing technology to everyone in the community, it just gets people very excited.”

Taxpayers didn’t fund this library. Instead, Heritage Services, a coalition of Omaha philanthropists, donated $7 million to renovate the building — which had been a Borders bookstore — and pay for computers, 3-D printers and the Internet bandwidth. Sue Morris speaks for the donors.

“With 1 [gigabit] minimum, to go up to 10 gig, to have that in a public building that’s free?” she says. “That’s really amazing; that is unheard of anywhere.”

That computing power also makes it a launchpad for entrepreneurs.

“We know people run businesses out of this building, and we’re OK with that,” Morris says.

Hans Bekale is among them.

“This is probably the biggest dream of any developer, anybody in this space, to have a place like this, right?” he says. “Because this is our modern-day office.”

Bekale manages his small multimedia business from Do Space. He says technology attracted him, as well as the informal community of creative people who hang out there.

“I would be locked into my office, just sort of myself, right? Not hearing fresh ideas,” he says. “Some of the simplest and the most innovative things that I’ve thought of just happened through conversation.”

Across the country, other libraries are expanding their tech options, from 3-D printers to video equipment. Susan Benton of the Urban Libraries Council says the Omaha experiment takes the concept to a new level.

“To be sure, other public libraries are looking at this,” Benton says. “The density of the technology, and the scope and the ability for a variety of programming to be going on at the same time, in one space, is unique.”

It can be loud at Do Space, and the range of activity under way is a little disorienting — from enthusiastic little kids gaming in front of a giant flat screen to classes for the blind on using home computers.

High school student Frank Fu uses the laser cutter and 3-D printer to design jewelry he sells online.

“The people that you meet at the Do Space, it’s diverse,” he says. “You never know if they’re going to become your next business partner or your next best friend.”

Hurricane season is here. Are you prepared?


NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, will most likely be near-normal, but forecast uncertainty in the climate signals that influence the formation of Atlantic storms make predicting this season particularly difficult.

NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). While a near-normal season is most likely with a 45 percent chance, there is also a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season. Included in today’s outlook is Hurricane Alex, a pre-season storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January.

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”

Bell explained there is uncertainty about whether the high activity era of Atlantic hurricanes, which began in 1995, has ended. This high-activity era has been associated with an ocean temperature pattern called the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation or AMO, marked by warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a stronger West African monsoon. However, during the last three years weaker hurricane seasons have been accompanied by a shift toward the cool AMO phase, marked by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a weaker West African monsoon. If this shift proves to be more than short-lived, it could usher in a low-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes, and this period may already have begun. High- and low-activity eras typically last 25 to 40 years.

In addition, El Niño is dissipating and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 percent chance that La Niña — which favors more hurricane activity — will be present during the peak months of hurricane season, August through October. However, current model predictions show uncertainty as to how strong La Niña and its impacts will be.

2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.
2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. (NOAA)

Despite the challenging seasonal prediction, NOAA is poised to deliver actionable environmental intelligence during the hurricane season with more accuracy to help save lives and livelihoods and enhance the national economy as we continue building a Weather-Ready Nation.

“This is a banner year for NOAA and the National Weather Service — As our Hurricane Forecast Improvement Programoffsite link turns five, we’re on target with our five-year goal to improve track and intensity forecasts by 20 percent each,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “Building on a successful supercomputer upgrade in January, we’re adding unprecedented new capabilities to our hurricane forecast models — investing in science and technology infusion to bring more accuracy to hurricane forecasts in 2016.”

Coming online later this season are major new investments to further improve NOAA’s ability to monitor hurricanes as they form and provide more timely and accurate warnings for their impacts. NOAA’s new National Water Model — set to launch later this summer — will provide hourly water forecasts for 700 times more locations than our current flood forecast system, greatly enhancing our ability to forecast inland flooding from tropical systems. In the fall, NOAA will launch GOES-R, a next generation weather satellite that will scan the Earth five times faster, with a resolution four times greater than ever before, to produce much sharper images of hurricanes and other severe weather.

NOAA works with a number of partners in the private and public sectors to ensure communities and businesses have the information they need to act well ahead of a land-falling hurricane.

“While seasonal forecasts may vary from year to year — some high, some low — it only takes one storm to significantly disrupt your life,” stated FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich.  “Preparing for the worst can keep you, your family, and first responders out of harm’s way. Take steps today to be prepared: develop a family communications plan, build an emergency supply kit for your home, and make sure you and your family know your evacuation route. These small steps can help save your life when disaster strikes.”

NOAA will issue an updated outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

2015 Atlantic hurricane season tropial cyclone names.
2015 Atlantic hurricane season tropial cyclone names. (NOAA)

NOAA also issued its outlook for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific basins. The central Pacific hurricane outlook calls for equal 40 percent chance of a near-normal or above-normal season with 4-7 tropical cyclones likely. The eastern Pacific hurricane outlook calls for a 40 percent chance of a near-normal hurricane season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 30 percent chance of a below-normal season. That outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 13-20 named storms, of which 6-11 are expected to become hurricanes, including 3-6 major hurricanes.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and our other social media channels.

“Trust API”: Google Developing New Ways to Protect Personal Data



Google is moving along quickly with its plans to kill off the traditional password.

Dan Kaufman, the director of Google’s (GOOGL, Tech30) Advanced Technology and Projects team, recently announced that the company was working with “several very large financial institutions” to test out new password-replacement technology.

The technology, called “Trust API,” uses multiple sensors in your smartphone to determine whether it’s you — or someone else — who is trying to log in.

Various devices operating on the Google Android operating system already offer Smart Lock, which uses sensors that can scan your face, your voice, your movements and your location to figure out whether the device should unlock without a password.

“On some devices, [sensors] will learn the pattern of your walk. If the accelerometer detects a walk that looks very different, it may lock your phone,” the company explained in an online post about Smart Lock.

But the newly unveiled “Trust API” password replacement project is supposed to be even more advanced, secure and easy to use. Reports say the technology will be constantly operating in the background of your smartphone, combining data from multiple sensors to calculate whether to unlock for the owner or block out intruders. The phone would even be able to differentiate your screen swiping style from that of someone else, according to reports.

Google did not respond to CNNMoney’s requests for details. But Kaufman, who is leading the project, was visibly excited about the technology when he announced it last week at the annual Google I/O conference.

“Assuming it goes well, this should become available to every Android developer around the world by the end of the year,” he said.

Related: MasterCard launching selfie payments

Banks and financial institutions have been working to improve their password and log-in technology for months, if not years, to make it easier for customers to check their balances and make payments, while keeping out hackers and thieves.

MasterCard(MA) announced plans in February to launch new mobile technologies allowing customers to authenticate their online purchases using selfies or fingerprints. And HSBC (HSBC) announced plans in the same month to replace passwords with voice-recognition technology for millions of customers.

Apple’s iPhone 5S was the first widely popular gadget to incorporate a fingerprint scanner as a security measure in 2013, but it’s known to be a bit fickle and unreliable.

CNNMoney contacted a number of large banks to ask whether they were working with Google on its “Trust API” project.

TD Bank(TD) said it was not working with Google. None of the other banks provided a response.

Wire Fraud: When Simple Errors Lead to Big Costs


Fool Me Once: Phishing for a Wire Transfer

In today’s digital age, wire fraud schemes that rely on targeted email phishing have become increasingly common and sophisticated.

It’s a typical day at the office. An employee receives a friendly reminder email from a vendor they’ve known for years about an invoice coming due. The email is conversational, asks about the employee’s recent vacation, and then reminds the employee that a late payment for the invoice could result in a 20 percent surcharge if not handled immediately.

The employee recognizes their account representative’s name and email address, sees the vendor’s branding in the email and submits the invoice for payment, without giving it another thought. But in their rush to avoid a late fee, they don’t realize the email they just responded to is actually from instead of—the vendor’s real email account.

In today’s digital age of Facebook and LinkedIn, wire fraud schemes that rely on targeted email phishing have become increasingly common and sophisticated. By finding individuals who haven’t enabled privacy features on their social media accounts and then using that publicly-available data to craft believable, fraudulent emails, criminals trick businesses into quickly sending funds by creating fake, urgent situations. Frequently, victims don’t realize they’ve been duped until they confirm the transfer of funds with a vendor or manager—when the money is already long-gone.

According to the Association for Financial Professionals’ Payments Fraud and Control Survey, the number of businesses reporting wire fraud more than doubled, from 5 to 11 percent in 2013, with wire transfer listed as the preferred method of payment for fraudsters. This is largely due to the quick payment clearing timeline—which is much faster than ACH or check.

As the numbers of victims continue to rise, businesses are fighting back by setting up internal controls and procedures for employees who process payment instructions via email. Ravin Yadav, Vice President for J.P. Morgan Transaction Services and Fraud Expert, says, “Rigorous application of simple procedures such as callbacks and validations go a long way in detecting and preventing a fraud loss.”

To protect your business, ensure all employees handling payments for your business always:

  • Validate new payment instructions received via email—even if the email is internal.
  • Pick up the phone, whenever possible, and speak directly with the individual requesting a funds transfer.
  • Contact the vendor or client directly to confirm any requests for payment method changes, validating the changes are legitimate before processing.
  • Carefully review all payments before they are sent and ensure all correspondence is validated and documented in a unified way across your business.

If your business falls victim to phishing or wire transfer fraud, use the event as an opportunity to assess your internal controls. Training your staff on the ways that fraud is evolving is critical. In the fight against fraud, a little knowledge goes a long way.

IT Outsourcing – Is There More Than Just Cutting Costs?


Information Technology (IT) is a mission critical operation for every modern company. It provides security, support, and allows for important strategic decisions to flourish. But small to medium sized businesses all too often overlook this department when building their business due to costs and energy required to create a decent IT department.

But in 2016, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the growing trend of IT outsourcing. The word about cutting costs on IT through outsourcing has essentially been fully permeated throughout our society. But there are so many other things IT outsourcing is capable, which any of our partners can testify to.

IT outsourcing investments are used by providers to build a more efficient, talented, and powerful IT department for companies all over the country. Here are 5 ways this happens.

       1. Renewed Focus on Core Business

The vast majority of companies in our society don’t use IT as a core operation, it exists to support and make secure all other company functions. If you decide to build your own data center with severs and security measures, it will inevitably drain focus and not create any tangible competitive advantage.

You’ll need to recruit top talent, keep them at your company, and update your systems to the most modern version every so often. But your business isn’t IT, so these tasks often get in the way finding new company revenue streams. And worthy of mention is the fact that outsourced IT is able to service needs 24/7 while going beyond what an internal team could do with service level agreements.

       2. Access to IT Experts and Latest Technology

Unlike other businesses, IT is the core competency of a Managed Service Provider. Full training, certification, and expertise validation are parts of the hiring process for all stand-up MSP’s. Being able to draw on this wealth of technological knowledge at any time gives valuable business advantages.

With all the different IT disciplines like cloud computing, security, and business networks, you have access to any IT expert at any time. And with the best in the field, you also get the latest and greatest technology to give your company the edge it needs to stand out from the crowd. MSP’s know the most modern technology is only utilized by effective deployment into proper environments and quick patching.

       3. Minimized Risk with Increased Flexibility

IT is inherently expensive for companies, especially if you’re going at it alone. One mistake can equal a huge investment. If you decide that your company needs to make the move to a new platform, it could go awry without the proper tools. IT outsourcing can both tell you if this is going to be a good overall decision and give you the tools you need.

Reducing the risk of data loss can be easily achieved through the services outsourcing IT providers allow companies to take advantage of. Data backup options are numerous, with safeguards like firewalls, encryption options, and user access tools always given by vendors. And these options are made more powerful with certifications obtained by the IT specialists employed by managed service providers.

The risk of downtime is also essentially removed. You’ve already likely seen the slogans saying “We offer 99.9% uptime guarantee!” This is because IT outsourcing vendors heavily invest in the most resilient systems that handle disruption better than less powerful systems can. Robust systems in place to backup and recover data also reduce the risk of losing anything if there is a technological failure.

And when you need to take a strategic change in direction, IT outsourcing can provide the much needed flexibility to scale up and down. Completed projects are only charged to companies for the agreed upon completion time, and new ones can be created at any time.

       4. Enhanced Employee Morale

If you’re dealing with a stand-up company that fits right into your own company culture, it’s likely that overall company morale will noticeably improve. When employees know their data is safe, that they don’t need to work about any downtime, and that they no longer need to worry about handling extraneous IT functions; considerable stress is removed. Especially for non-IT employees who have had to put effort into putting out IT fires.

When a company specialist is able to focus all their energy on doing what they do best, more satisfaction is gained from a job well done.

       5. Reduced Costs with IT Outsourcing

And of course, the most well-known driver for companies to outsource their IT needs is the significant cost savings. Many companies report savings as high as 40%, with authority sources like Gartner reporting the occurrence of significant savings by simply outsourcing your email service.

Another valuable advantage is the reduction of Cap ex and Op ex from the accounting end from companies outsourcing their IT. Outsourcing removes the need to purchase physical hardware and space to keep the hardware. Additionally, expensive employee salaries can be bypassed with much more affordable vendor contracts. And these contracts span a massive spectrum of services from cloud computing to application development.

Key Insights

Of course, the advantages of IT outsourcing are not completely without risks. Some vendors may not mesh with your company culture, or they may not provide the transparent help you need. Unless you completely trust a provider, you’re better off continuing your search elsewhere.

But with properly managed IT outsourcing, small to medium businesses can truly thrive, in many more ways than simply saving money on unnecessary IT expenditures.

To see if we fit into your image of what a great managed service provider is, shoot us a message here.


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