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Be smart about your smartphone during summer travel

Info in the ‘cloud’ can help when stranded …or planning ahead  

Many of us dream about getting away from it all while on vacation. But those days may be long gone as more of us pack our smartphone when we hit the road. Add a tablet or two to your carry on and you’d rather lose your underwear than this bag.

So despite any desire to unplug, stay connected for all the cool travel apps that may make the difference between seeing George Clooney’s villa on Lake Como from a travel brochure or in person by finding it say on Trip Advisor’s mobile app.

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Actor George Clooney’s Villa on Lake Como

Smartphone apps are great for having information (literally) at your fingertips. Apps like Kayak and Hotel Tonight often have hotel rates cheaper than you’d find on web sites – certainly on a hotel’s web site — and this you have to love:  They display the rates for international hotels in U.S dollars.


Best Western Venice
Best Western Venice on KayakBest Western Venice on Kayak

Of course you need to be on the Internet to access many apps, but some like Trip Advisor’s offline city guides you can download while on Wi-Fi and use later when you’re not online.

One of the best things to come along for the international traveler is an app called Viber that uses VoIP technology so you escape high roaming charges. You get FREE text messaging and phone calls …but anyone you communicate with must also have Viber.

When you are connected to the Internet, travel apps work so well because they reside in the cloud where content is updated dynamically in real time, giving you access to the latest information. My Facebook friend and Cisco colleague Guido Jouret used this to his advantage when his long flight to SFO was diverted recently after a European vacation.

Once on the ground, try some of these:

Peek isn’t an app yet but a very new web-based travel guide with great ideas for activities in various cities, and even includes live chat with a travel expert.

AroundMe tells you all the points of interest located near you. It detects your current location, and lets you select from categories like bars, cafés, hospitals, and hotels to find what you like.

Mtrip guide/trip planner generates auto itineraries of places to go according to types of places you enjoy.

Orient gives you a compass view of certain locations nearby. If you’re doing a walking tour of a city, Orient shows you the directions and distance to of your destinations.

World Lens is for both iphones and android phones and lets you point your smartphone’s video camera at a word on a sign and watch as it’s translated from one language to another.

Expensify keeps track of your purchases and transactions by syncing with your credit cards and bank accounts. It also acts as a receipt scanner by using your phone’s camera. After your trip, you’re sent a PDF report of all your spending.

For news on my friend Guido’s trip home from Europe, I turned to my smartphone’s Facebook app …and there he was, almost home.

Please send me your comments and how you use the Internet during your summer travels so I can use them on my next vacation.

Mary

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Intelligent Communities Global Blog Series, The Future of Our Smart Communities: Services

One of the great challenges every municipality faces is how to deliver higher quality services to its citizens and businesses while their budgets consistently seem to shrink. Several of Canada’s leading communities are taking a pro-active role and are experimenting with shared services (an outsourcing or regional consolidation model); and almost all of them are looking at the Internet to be a low-cost channel for services delivery. Both these and other strategies are all the right steps towards a smarter and connected reality. Municipal leaders, however, recognized that one can’t quite eliminate the much needed face to face interactions with its constituents while delivering high-touch services–both from a quality and a security perspective.

Surely, the transformation of governmental services can’t be a burden that should solely rest on the shoulders of the municipality, although it is understood that they are the closest connected to the real needs and concerns of citizens and businesses in Canada. But what about the Federal services for which I have to go to Service Canada (I truthfully sat in their waiting room this week for 90 minutes so I could submit paperwork for a passport renewal)? Or Provincial services for which I need to go to Service Ontario? Passports, driver licenses, health cards, marriage certificates…does anyone still know for what to go where? Add to this Canada Post with its 6,500 services outlets. Or the municipal library systems (where there is more than books). And community centers all around the country for outreach and engagement.

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Cisco, Microsoft and Partners Accelerate Journey to Private Cloud

July 3, 2013 at 11:15 am PST

Working Together SlideBusinesses and organizations are increasingly turning to private cloud delivery models to address their most pressing business and technology challenges. Next week, at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 (WPC) in Houston, channel partners will be able to speak with Cisco executives and consult with Cisco experts, to learn how Cisco and Microsoft have teamed to provide integrated solutions for Microsoft Private Cloud.  These validated solutions create opportunities for partners to: increase revenue; accelerate their customer’s journey to private cloud; and enable repeatable deployments.

The Cisco Unified Data Center is holistic data center infrastructure architecture. It combines compute (UCS), storage, network (Nexus), security, and management into a single fabric architecture that creates optimal environments for Microsoft Private Cloud and applications. Channel partners can take advantage of Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) and Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track solutions with integrated storage from NetApp or EMC for turnkey private cloud engagements.

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A Healthy Potential

Virtacore, a leading cloud services provider, aims to help clients shift to the cloud. But the company was aware that in order to help others, it first needed to help itself—which meant updating its own infrastructure to provide the best IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS)  to customers.

By leveraging innovative technology from Cisco, like the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), based on Intel® Xeon® processors, Cisco Nexus Switches, and Cisco Catalyst Switches, Virtacore is now able to better leverage its internal IT to perform faster, more reliably, and on a larger scale. And, in turn, the company gained the ability to provide more cost effective, higher-standard services externally.

Reducing deployment from six weeks to just a few hours, providing a single-pane-of-glass management, and ensuring improved performance are a few of the benefits that have confirmed the worth of implementing new technology and rebuilding the IT environment.

Read the full article and learn just what Virtacore did to unleash their IT potential – and how they can continue to do so in the future.

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Intelligent Communities Global Blog Series, Taichung Sets the Stage (Perspective from Louis Zacharilla, Co-Founder of the Intelligent Communities Forum)

The Taiwan city of Taichung was in the spotlight twice this year.  Not bad for a place few had heard of in most parts of the Western world -- at least until the Academy Awards broadcast in February.  During that event, Asian-born director Ang Lee, after being named the recipient of four Oscars for his film Life of Pi, thanked Taichung in his acceptance speech for its technical prowess.  Those bragging rights were celebrated.  Four months later the city had something else to claim.  In June, the city’s Secretary-General (the equivalent of City Manager in the United States), Ms Ching-Chih Liao, stood on the stage at Steiner Film Studios in New York to accept the Intelligent Community of the Year award on behalf of Taichung’s 2.7 million citizens and its charismatic mayor, Jason Hu. An international jury and a research company had ranked this city higher (by a few hundredths of a point) than the six other communities that had been invited to New York for their impressive achievement as innovative, job-creating places which used technology to enable growth.

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Madame Liao noted the hard work that her community has done to balance its rural and urban economies, and the role that both broadband and the cloud play to support an infrastructure upon which innovation and technology companies thrive and add value in a place once known as “The Mechanical Kingdom.”

To understand why Taichung went so far in the awards program, it is important to understand that it first grasped the basic importance of the layer of physical infrastructure (telecommunications) and how it would next lead to its ability to exceed at ICF’s other five criteria, including innovation and a knowledge workforce poised to grow its middle-class.

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