Life and Technology April 23rd

 

Listen to the full show podcast for April 23rd

Shout Outs

  • Netgear’s Arlo security updated with rechargeable battery, alert siren
  • Google is launching a new version of Google Earth next week
  • TPG to build fourth mobile network in Australia with intent to cover 80% of the population

Interviews

  • Alfred Boyadgis

This week on Life and Technology, Charlie spoke to CEO & Co-Founder of Forcite, Alfred Boyadgis about their new smart motorcycle helmet that has integrated technology.

  • Markus Kemetter

This week on Life and Technology, Charlie found out more about Suunto’s robust HR and multisport GPS watch from Suunto’s product manager, Markus Kemetter.

  • Paul Reid

This week on Life and Technology, Charlie got to know about Panasonic’s newest product launches for TV, Audio and Blu-ray players from Managing Director, Paul Reid.

Technology is transforming societies more deeply than the political vibrations of 2017

 

Official posters of the candidates for the 2017 French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, left, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and Marine Le Pen, of French National Front (FN), are displayed in Saint-Josse, northern France May 5, 2017.

Credit: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

On Sunday, French voters will choose between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron — politicians with radically different visions. Macron is for globalization and European integration. Le Pen is a nationalist, representing the kind of discontent that led to ‘Brexit’ and the Trump election.

It’s a stark choice, but the outcome may actually be less important to the future of Western democracy than, well, the screen you’re reading this on.

That’s because the epochal change created by technology is transforming societies more deeply than the political vibrations of 2017. That’s according to David Rothkopf, CEO of Foreign Policy and author of “The Great Questions of Tomorrow.” He says it’s easy to miss the bigger picture.

“Facebook’s goal is five billion members by 2030. That will be the biggest community ever,” says Rothkopf. “On a level of power, we have to acknowledge that Facebook is going to be significantly more influential in the world, and touch more lives, than all but a couple of nations.”

Facebook now has 1.94 billion users, according to an earnings report released this week. The company also said it plans to hire 3,000 new employees to manage and screen all its content. That would bring its global team to 7,500 people. Getting to five billion users depends on people all over the world buying mobile devices.

Mark Zuckerberg may not be in public office, but he wields a lot of social and economic power, Rothkopf says. Not only does Facebook profit from its users, it also has the power to knit them together, and apply algorithms to decide the news they read. Facebook can also share information about them with governments, corporations and other non-state actors. Not to mention, decide what is acceptable speech and advertising.

And how does Facebook’s power compare to, say, President Donald Trump’s?

“I would argue that the reason we have the president we do is that someone, somewhere, wrote an algorithm that said, ‘Stories with the following characteristic will appear at the top of a news feed.’ Somewhere there’s an algorithm writer with a heck of a lot of power who is not accountable to any public institution or been anticipated by any system of law,” says Rothkopf.

Much was made of Trump’s first 100 days. It’s a classic, journalistic yardstick. And there’s worthwhile debate about what the first months of the Trump Administration can tell us about the next four to eight years. But what about longer term? Rothkopf says we keep looking backwards.

“We’ve spent the last 20 to 30 years looking backward at the last threats of the 20th century … instead of a change in the world on an epochal scale, like the fact that in the next 10 years or so every human being on the planet is going to be connected in a manmade system for the first time in history, which means anyone, anywhere can reach out and touch and communicate with anyone anywhere else, anytime. And that does change: ‘Who am I? What is community? What is a government? What is an economy? What is money? What is war? What is peace? It changes the answer to all of those questions.”

This story first aired as an interview on PRI’s To The Point with Warren Olney.

 

How Silicon Valley and the Circle Help Explain Our Love-Hate-Can’t-Live-Without Relationship With Technology

 

If it hadn’t happened in real life, the HBO comedy Silicon Valley surely would have invented Juicero. Pitched as “Keurig for juice,” the Wi-Fi-enabled product collected over $120 million in venture capital with the promise that tech-savvy health nuts would shell out $400 for the hardware and $5 to $8 for disposable, pre-cut “produce packs.”

But in mid-April, Juicero turned into a folly for the ages, after two Bloomberg reporters discovered that they could get close to the promised eight ounces of juice simply by squeezing a produce pack for 90 seconds. Social media was abuzz with Juicero jokes when Alec Berg, a frequent writer and director on Silicon Valley, called to discuss the real-life quirks and anxieties the show so scrupulously reflects.

“In general, venture capitalists don’t know the difference, going in, between a $10 billion idea and something that’s going to blow out in three months,” Berg says. “But Juicero has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, so there is a sweet, delicious irony to the idea that there’s a version of the Juicero machine that’s free, and it’s called ‘your hands.’”

Less than a week after Silicon Valley premiered its fourth season, The Circle, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, hit theaters nationwide. Based on Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel about the diabolical corporate culture at a Facebook-like tech behemoth, The Circle would seem to have little in common with Silicon Valley, save for a corporate campus that resembles one of those state-of-the-art, candy-colored playgrounds for engineers and “visionaries.”

One is an affectionate parody of Valley excess, the other a Snowden-era updating of ’70s paranoid thrillers such as The Conversation and The Parallax View. Yet each captures the tenor of uncertain and rapidly changing times, as the Valley’s vaunted ideals are getting squeezed like so much hand-pressed juice.

Consider one of President Donald Trump’s early legislative victories, a rollback of privacy protections for internet users. Under the new law, Internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T will have an easier time collecting and selling the browser histories and app usage of its subscribers.

For many, including the protesters who raised $200,000 to buy the private data of members of Congress – which is not possible, incidentally – the involuntary giveaway of personal information seemed like the Information Superhighway in reverse. Instead of users having a window on the world, the world would have a window onto us. This perverse twist on “transparency” is a core theme of The Circle.How Silicon Valley and the Circle Help Explain Our Love-Hate-Can't-Live-Without Relationship With Technology

“I think Silicon Valley has roots in social justice and disruption and democratic” principles, says James Ponsoldt, director of The Circle. “I think that’s the perception, anyway. The snag for most, I think, is that if someone wants to send something to outer space or map the mind or give away free apps, that’s all well and good. But why does our data have to be acquired, stored and, in some cases, potentially monetized? The simplest answer is, to sell to us and make us better consumers, but there’s many more paranoid answers, too.”

In The Circle, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is initially thrilled to get a job in customer service at the eponymous company, which its co-founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), has promoted as a limitless provider of high-tech solutions to the planet’s most vexing problems. With his casual dress and stirring corporate oratories, Bailey is not unlike Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) on Silicon Valley, a messianic Steve Jobs type with the values of an Industrial Age robber baron. After some coercion, Mae agrees to make herself fully “transparent,” allowing her every waking moment to be broadcast to millions of “Circlers” worldwide.

It might sound like an oppressive and invasive experience – and, spoiler alert, it is – but Mae’s experiment is an extreme version of a trade-off that many make on social media every day: In exchange for community and the dopamine rush of likes and retweets, we give away information about ourselves for free.

“My hope would be that people will come out of (the film) and ask themselves how they are living their lives, if they’re intentional and thoughtful about what they share, if they’re even aware of what information they’re giving away for free,” Ponsoldt says. “The reality is that most people I know don’t even really care.”

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Ponsoldt insists that he and his film are not technophobic, and so does Berg with Silicon Valley, which jabs mercilessly at the Valley’s capitalist hypocrisies but roots for its underdog characters to find a toehold in the industry. The tension on Silicon Valley arises from the push-and-pull between Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), who wants to change the world with a “revolutionary” compression engine, and CEOs such as Belson and Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky), who literally want to put his dream in a box.

Even for a show renowned for its verisimilitude, the fourth season of Silicon Valley hits reality in stride. The newly appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has released a plan to undo net neutrality regulations, a move that would give internet providers more power to control the flow of information, at the expense of a more open internet. Having failed to turn his compression engine into viable platform, Hendricks pivots to the moonshot idea of a “new Internet” that would be totally decentralized, working around the sorts of corporate gatekeepers the FCC plans to reward.

Berg talks about Richard’s “pie-in-the-sky” idea with such enthusiasm, it sounds as though the technology actually exists. “There is a world where, if this works correctly, no one would ever have to pay data fees again because no one would need a cell,” Berg says. “Every phone would talk to every other phone, so you’d pay nothing for data, and the entire internet would just come through a massive mutual network of everyone’s devices.”

“Government control and net neutrality and corporate greed and who controls what and the NSA – all of those things play into it,” Berg says. “There is this ‘freedom frontier’ of taking everything out of the hands of our corporate overlords that seems like Richard’s ethos.”

If The Circle and Silicon Valley have anything in common, it’s the concern that turtleneck-wearing idealists such as Eamon Bailey and Gavin Belson have fallen short of their ideals, and real disruption is necessary, whether it’s as personal as Mae paddling a kayak to the middle of the San Francisco Bay or the large-scale fantasy of Richard blowing up the internet as we know it and starting again. But Berg is quick to emphasize the genuine optimism that’s as evident in Silicon Valley as the sarcastic barbs.

“The reality is that this is a show about dreamers, underdogs and people who are trying to do something that can bring a lot of positive change to the world. If we’re saying the business is (expletive), then our guys wanting to thrive in that business becomes an empty goal.”

Why technology is addictive and what to do about it

 

Do your palms get sweaty palms if your phone is out of reach? Author Adam Alter explains how technology is making and keeping us addicted. (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

A buzzing phone, glowing tablet or the sound of a favourite video game can be a powerful temptation many can’t resist.

Now new research shows the cravings we have to connect to our devices can in fact be a real addiction.

“Seventy-five per cent of people now say they can reach their phones 24 hours a day without having to move their feet,” says Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked.

He tells The Current‘s Anna Maria Tremonti that the average person spends 3 hours and 42 minutes staring at screens each day, and that number is rising.

Most people generally underestimate how long they are on their devices. Alter includes himself in this category and suggests several apps that can be used to track actual screen time use. (See below for apps)

Alter explains the success of social media platforms are that they have many ingredients that make it irresistible — the biggest being that a reward is within reach but yet never guaranteed, much like gambling.

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The average person spends almost four hours a day on devices. How addicted do you think you are to technology? (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

“Paradoxically when you guarantee someone a reward they get bored and they stop doing something quite quickly. Whereas when you build in just a small dose of uncertainty … especially where the reward devices is driven by humans, we’re really fascinated by how humans think of us — is very hard for humans to resist.”

While it’s too early to know the longterm impact of our technological consumption, Alter says there is evidence that children who spend a lot of time on screens early in life have language delays and are not skilled communicators.

He tells Tremonti that a lot of nuances are lost when a person who would normally use precise language to communicate something funny like LOL when texting can’t factor in facial expressions or a lilt in a laugh.

“Everything is a cue. And we don’t even think about that if we’re skilled communicators who have spent a lot of time face to face,” Alter says.

“But if your early use of communication is spent LOL’ing and you don’t acquire those nuances, it’s very hard to acquire them later on.”

When it comes to toddlers, Atler refers to the quote, “never get high on your own supply” and suggests the best way to maintain distance from the “drug” of screen time is to “keep them away from your family.”

Alter says even Steve Job’s believed in some restrictions, pointing to a speech where Jobs publicly shared that his kids have limited technology use and there is no iPad in the home.

Alter’s advice to curb addiction to technology is to pick a time every day to be screen-free. He also puts his phone on airplane mode on Saturdays and uses his phone just as a camera.

“People at first find that’s difficult, they have a bit of withdrawal like they might from a drug. But over time it makes them feel like happier, healthier people.”

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

 

Checklist of Essential Small Business Technology in 2017

 

A growing number of small businesses rely on technology to increase efficiency, manage expenses, grow profitability and improve performance.

According to SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study (PDF), 29 percent of all small businesses view technology as helping them to improve outcomes significantly.

Keeping up with the fast pace of technological change can be difficult for the business owner already burdened with the many tasks required to keep his or her company afloat day in and day out.

To help, Small Business Trends compiled this list of nine technology categories that small businesses need to incorporate as principle applications in 2017.

They cross a broad range of functions, including mobile, marketing automation, business intelligence and social media. Some represent newer technologies while others are more established. Together, they encompass nearly everything a small business would need to gain a competitive edge in 2017 and beyond.

1. Massive Growth Makes Mobile a ‘Must-have’ Technology

Perhaps no technology has gained greater adoption or grown more quickly than mobile.

In 2016, more than six billion people worldwide used at least one mobile device, a number that is expected to increase to nearly seven billion by 2020.

Also significant, SimilarWeb’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report found that approximately 56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading U.S. websites came from mobile devices.

That makes mobile a “must have” technology in 2017, and businesses should incorporate its use in at least four ways: Website design, apps, payment and use of all-in-one devices.

Mobile-friendly Websites

With more and more people accessing the web via mobile, small businesses can no longer avoid making a mobile-friendly version of their website available to consumers, for two reasons:

  • Bing now rewards more mobile-friendly websites with an increase in ranking;
  • Companies that lack a mobile version of their website could lose business as consumers opt for those that do.Checklist of Essential Small Business Technology in 2017

(Note: Bing even offers a testing tool to help business owners determine whether or not their website is mobile-friendly.)

Mobile Apps

In his Small Business Trends article “Mobile App Strategies Boost Revenues for Small Business Owners,” Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University, wrote, “In an increasingly mobile world, having a well-developed and well-tested mobile app turns out to be a highly effective marketing strategy that gets results.”

In the past, mobile app development required someone with specialized skills. Nowadays, platforms such as Microsoft PowerApps allow non-technical users to create apps easily, so there is no excuse to do without this important technology.

Payment Methods

The use of mobile payments is on the rise, thanks to apps such as Microsoft Wallet, so it makes sense to incorporate their use as an option. Also, companies like Microsoft partner Merchant Account Solutions have made mobile credit card readers readily available to small business users.

All-in-one Devices

Another aspect of mobile technology moving forward has to do with what constitutes a mobile device versus its desktop counterpart. That line is blurring thanks to devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, a 3-in-1 desktop, laptop and mobile tablet. It also comes with pen and touch screen capability, a new innovation.

2. Marketing Automation Increases Efficiency

Marketing automation software has made it easier for small businesses to conduct marketing activities with greater efficiency, removing the need to hire dedicated marketing professionals.

Among its advantages are the ability to score leads, segment messages and set up processes that trigger specific responses based on actions taken by the customer.

Also, automation software links seamlessly with CRM platforms, bringing marketing and sales together, providing each with a 360-degree view of the customer or prospect.

CRM platforms such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 do much of the heavy lifting that previously would have been handled using manual processes.

3. Businesses are Heading to the Cloud (and Not Coming Back)

The use of on-premise software and hardware is going the way of the albatross with the availability of cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Office 365, and for good reason. Cloud-based solutions offer greater scalability, security, efficiency and flexibility regarding access than their on-premise counterparts.

(Read the Small Business Trends article “Thinking About Migrating Your Business to the Cloud? Consider This Checklist First” to learn more about why moving to the cloud is a must for 2017.)

4. Collaboration Tools Bring Remote Workforce Together

The rise of the virtual workforce means that tools which facilitate collaboration will grow in popularity.

A 2015 survey conducted by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60 percent of office-based workers would regularly work from home by 2022.

Platforms such as Microsoft Teams make collaboration between disparate work groups more accessible and efficient. Teams establishes a virtual, chat-based workspace that allows team members to chat, call, save documents and collaborate in real-time, without restraint.

5. Chatbots Facilitate Customer Service, Other Uses

A significant shift is taking place in Internet communications due to the advent of chatbots, computer programs that use artificial intelligence to facilitate conversation with humans.

Companies large and small are beginning to latch on to the power of chatbots for customer service and other uses, such as finding products, providing shipping notifications, pinpointing business locations and more.

Internet communications pioneer Jeff Pulver declared in a blog post that 2017 will be the year of the chatbot and said they would be the “new interface for business to business, business to consumer, and consumer to business communications.”

Technologies like Microsoft’s Bot Framework let companies build and connect bots to interact with users not only on Facebook Messenger but also on websites, text/SMS, Skype, Office 365 mail, Teams and other services.

6. Business Intelligence Brings Better Decision-making

Business intelligence (BI) used to be the sole purview of enterprise corporations. However, the software-as-a-service revolution means that small businesses can now afford to tap into the treasure trove of information available with the click of a mouse too.

The capabilities BI provides to track, store, process and analyze data can lead to smarter decision-making regarding cutting expenses, finding new business growth opportunities and improving overall performance.

Platforms like Microsoft Sharepoint make garnering insights more affordable and make it easier to harness the power of big data and predictive analytics.

7. Email Remains Tried-and-True Marketing Technology

Email is a tried-and-true internet marketing technology in use since the 1990s. Despite predictions to the contrary, it continues to find favor as a cost-effective promotional medium for small businesses. In fact, email marketing was ranked as the best channel regarding return on investment — a trend that should not change in 2017.

What will change, however, is the approach. Marketers will do away with “batch and blast” for more targeted messaging that takes into account the unique needs of each customer.

Also, “mobile-first” will be the mantra in 2017 when it comes to designing email campaigns. With more people accessing email via mobile devices, messages have to ascribe to the limitations imposed by mobile devices with their small screens. Marketing solutions from Microsoft Dynamics 365 can also help develop email marketing campaigns to target specific customers.

8. Live Chat Provides Real-time Customer Service

In 2017, successful companies will shift their focus away from customer service to customer success — helping customers reach their goals as quickly as possible. They will do so online, using a variety of digital technologies that include text/SMS, social media, chat bots and live help. Platforms like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service facilitate such omnichannel support.

One component, live help, has been in use for several years. The technology remains a familiar one. A widget resides in the lower-right-hand corner of the website with an agent on standby who can engage with customers in real-time at the moment of need, to answer questions, provide guidance and recommend products or resources tailored to the individual customer.

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI), a prevalent trend, will make live help smarter, transforming customer support into a self-service mechanism. AI will work seamlessly with customers and learn from them as the interaction progresses. It can also assist human agents by giving them time to address more complex issues that AI alone cannot solve.

9. Cyber Security Ranked Number One Challenge

As small business reliance on technology grows, the need to secure and protect sensitive information becomes even more critical. The SMB Group study referenced above found that small businesses rank cyber security as their number one challenge.

Meeting that challenge requires the use of holistic, end-to-end, rules-based solutions. Microsoft builds such comprehensive security into all its cloud-based products, to protect a company’s endpoints better, detect threats faster and respond to security breaches quicker. It prevents identity compromise, secures apps and data and safeguards infrastructure.

 

St. Charles students IGNITE passion for technology

 

Tyson Rousseau, Bradlee Renton and Erich Zappel created a path which their Sphere-O bot follows based on the math and speed analysis the students have developed on their iPad, during the recent IGNITE Technology Fair that took place at St. Charles College last Thursday. Photo supplied

St. Charles College students participated in IGNITE, the first annual technology fair, last Thursday.

Students have been incorporating their math, science and computer skills into using innovative and advanced technology to create projects. The fair allowed them to show off their work and present the new technology that is available for use in secondary schools within the Sudbury Catholic District School Board.Tyson Rousseau, Bradlee Renton and Erich Zappel created a path which their Sphere-O bot follows based on the math and speed analysis the students have developed on their iPad, during the recent IGNITE Technology Fair that took place at St. Charles College last Thursday. Photo supplied

The technology allows students to use their math and computer skills in a hands-on setting, engaging in more advanced projects that improve their overall knowledge. Students have been using computer systems and cameras that align with GoPRO and Green Screens, creating interactive, professionally-made videos for class projects.

Using a combination of math and speed analysis, students have also been working with robotics and coding, allowing them to create movements for robots such as Sphere-O bots and Ozobots.

Technology used in the IGNITE fair is made available to students in each Secondary Learning Hubs. Learning Hubs are located at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School, St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School, St. Charles College and Marymount Academy.

‘Technology can help teacher, but can never replace one’

 

CHENNAI: CAN an android and a smart board ever replace a great teacher in the classroom of tomorrow? Absolutely not. That’s what speakers at the gala TNIE EdEx 40 Under Forty Awards event held at Feathers on Saturday night all agreed on.

Chief guest for the evening, Supreme Court Judge Justice J Chelameswar spoke about his own teachers and the way they inspired a sense of respect in him. “The concept of a teacher as a guru is something that all of us need to understand deeply,” he said, explaining how his gurus over the years had shaped his life and approach to his profession. He also added that students needed to develop a sense of respect for teachers, something that they were not doing very well currently, as they were being misled by things that they see in movies.

Noted speakers and luminaries took part in a panel discussion to debate the relevance of teachers in an increasingly data-driven classroom – a centrepiece that was bookended by the awards presented to 40 great young teachers from across South India. They have been curated and brought down by TNIE, all of them had been featured in the anniversary edition of EdEx. The event was sponsored by Hindustan University and was supported by Cambridge English Language Assessment, Chennai Live 104.8 FM, Kalam Centre, Scholarink.com and Feathers.

While Srijan Pal Singh, CEO, Kalam Centre, pushed for an increasing need to use technology to increase the reach of education and teachers, actor and educationist Gautami stuck to her guns – driving home the point that “technology can merely be a last-mile connector, an enabler, but it can never be a teacher.”
The panel was moderated by Dr J S Rajkumar, Lifeline Hospitals who kept the tone and temper light and breezy, reflecting on how his teaching experiences have been enhanced by the use of technology.

“I remember how I recently went for a lecture and I was told some 5000 people were supposed to be there. I was surprised when I walked to find that only some 300 people were around. When I asked them, they showed me the analytics and I was surprised to find that almost 9000 people were tuned in from across the campus. Activist S P Udayakumar responded to a question  whether education would ever be provided for free in India by saying that it was a shame that we were still asking this question after 70 years of Independence.

T K Arunachalam, Cambridge English Language Assessment, stoked another feisty debate by saying that English needed to be mastered as a skill and need not be the medium of instruction – a fact that was supported by recent studies that they had conducted.

 

Combining the Latest Technology with Bookkeeping Practices

The tried and true old ways of doing bookkeeping continue to fall by the wayside in favor of the newest technology.  While in the past you may have written out your ledgers and figured out your computations by hand, you can now use computer programs that speed up the process and give you more accurate records.

If you worry that these programs are difficult to use or that the records you create will not be accessible to you whenever you need them, you may find their cloud storage capabilities to be a comfort.  You can begin to implement the newest technology into your record keeping by learning more about these integrative programs, cloud based financial reporting, and other virtual bookkeeping methods online.

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Integration with the Most Popular Computer Programs

Even if your record keeping has progressed beyond writing entries down by hand, you still may benefit by using this new technology.  It can combine itself with the most popular of computer programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and Access so that you feel comfortable using it and also so that you recognize its layout and use to a certain degree upon first implementing it in your business.

As it organizes and figures out your reports, it creates graphs, columns, charts, and other graphics by combining with these programs.  You get reports that you can easily read, print off, and use at your disposal to keep track of your cash flow, expenditures, profits, and other key operational details.

It also easily integrates the records that you may have already created on your computer.  For example, if you have most of your ledgers typed out in Word, the program can process and transfer those records into its own operations.  You do not have to create new ones with the program itself to get organized records.  This function saves you time and energy that you could otherwise devote to running your business.

 

Cloud Storage

You may have held off trying such programs because you feared not being able to access them when needed.  After all, some computer bookkeeping programs crash and wipe themselves out if your computer malfunctions.  When you turn the computer back on, all of your program’s records are erased.

This technology uses cloud storage so that you can access your company’s books whenever you like.  You do not need the program on your computer to get access to your records.  You can log in and get them from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.

 

The newest technology makes bookkeeping even easier.  You can get accurate records and instant access to them through cloud storage.  The program is designed to be easy to use and affordable.