5 More retailers using tech to track shoppers’ habits

Think the nation’s biggest retailers don’t know exactly what you prefer to buy and exactly how much you typically spend on a shopping trip? Think again. As reported by a recent story by the Wall Street Journal — one that’s both intriguing or horrifying, depending on your perspective — retailers are banking on technology to keep track of your shopping exploits.

High-Tech

According to the Wall Street Journal story, retailers today rely on a host of small electronic gadgets to track where their customers are traveling inside their stores, how much they purchase and how long they’re standing in lines. As the Journal says, many of these devices track consumers through their smartphones. Others simply scan the aisles of your favorite retailers to determine where shoppers tend to congregate.

Common

According to the Journal story, shoppers should not expect this high-tech snooping to end anytime soon. The Journal story states that more retailers are installing monitoring technology. The Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank, claims that about 1,000 retailers have equipped their stores with tracking devices. And because this tech provides such useful information, don’t expect retailers to scale back on them anytime soon.

Privacy concerns

Consumers, naturally, aren’t pleased to hear about this high-tech monitoring. The Wall Street Journal reports on the negative reaction from customers of Nordstrom once they discovered the retailer’s tracking technology. It’s not clear if Nordstrom will continue their tracking program, with a company spokesperson indicating to the Journal that the program was only intended as a trial run. One thing is certain, however, today’s shoppers shouldn’t expect any kind of privacy as they’re browsing the store.

Do we really need to take high-tech showers?

Do we actually need a high-tech shower curtain? What about snow gloves that allow you to answer phone calls and listen to music while you’re shoveling your front walk? Thanks to new technology, we can now actually purchase these devices.

High-tech in the shower

The Huffington Post recently took a look at both products. The first, the $39.95 iPad Musical Shower curtain from retailer Hammacher Schlemmer, lets telemarketers find you even when you’re soaping up in the shower. Yes, the device enables you to connect an iPad or smartphone to the curtain. This way, you can hear your favorite music and take that all important call from your friendly telemarketer while in the middle of a hot shower.

Snow removal, the high-tech way

Frustrated that your gloves do nothing but keep your fingers warm? Well, Beartek has the product for you. The company’s Snow Gloves from Beartek, which cost $120, wirelessly connect to your smartphone. This means, according to the Huffington Post story, you can talk to your boss without taking a break from your snow-shoveling duties. You can also use the gloves to make phone calls and listen to music.

Too connected?

These gadgets are nifty, it’s true. But the big question is: Do we actually need them? Do we really need to be so connected that we can’t even take a shower without receiving a call from our bosses? The world has become a high-stress place. It’s uncertain whether gadgets such as these will calm our lives or simply boost the stress we’re already contending with.

When will business execs embrace Samsung phones?

No one would argue that Samsung is not a dominant force in the smartphone and tablet industries. Consumers are flocking to these devices. But the word “consumers” is the key in that last sentence. In spite of Samsung’s success in selling tablets and smartphones to consumers, it still has plenty of work to do to draw business leaders to consider its phones.

A new goal

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal states that Samsung is currently the globe’s top seller of smartphones for consumers. The story, though, also states that if Samsung is to continue to grow it must master a new expertise: Selling its smartphones to businesses, as well. This is an area where the smartphone giant is not yet dominating.

Security issues

Some of the reason for Samsung’s struggles to crack the business world is in its security system for mobile devices, a system known as Knox. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the system has been challenged with delays and programming bugs. This has aggravated clients, including a big one, the U.S. Defense Department.

Taking aim at BlackBerry

If Samsung can resolve its security issues, the company ought to have a shot at taking control of the business smartphone market from the struggling BlackBerry, the Wall Street Journal reported. BlackBerry’s security features have always been considered the gold standard among business executives, the Journal story says. But as BlackBerry’s issues continue, it has lost a lot of its executive-level business. This, according to the Journal, leaves an opening for Samsung.

Healthcare.gov fiasco latest in string of government tech mishaps

It should’ve come as little surprise to discover the federal government’s Healthcare.gov website was riddled with issues. Let’s be honest, the federal government has history that is downright dreadful regarding high-tech projects.

A long history of failure

The Los Angeles Times recently published an interesting story about the long history of government tech failures. The Times cites last year’s rollout of SAM.gov, a website created by the General Services Administration. The goal was to merge nine contracting databases into one site. However, the site’s launch was delayed by two months. And once it debuted, its performance was so bad, the government had to take it down for repairs.

Same old, same old

Unfortunately, SAM.gov and Healthcare.gov are far from isolated examples. As the Los Angeles Times reports, government-run websites have a history of regular crashes. At the same time, the federal government frequently struggles to update outdated technology. And the U.S. Military is a major tech offender: The military often invests millions of dollars into technology that it then never even uses.

Shocking numbers

Especially troubling is that the government is showing no signs of getting out of the new technology business. The Times story says that the federal government will spend more than $76 billion on information technology products this year. And you can bet that a lot of of these projects will suffer some serious issues. The Times also pointed to a federal report saying that a whopping 700 government tech projects are currently plagued with issues.

The U.S. is falling behind in tech investments

InformationWeek columnist Kevin Coleman has some not so great news for us: The United States is slowly falling from its perch as the globe’s technology and science leader. Instead, Coleman writes, the country is slowly – but steadily – becoming a technology laggard.

Falling behind

Coleman comments that research-and-development, science and technology investments in the United States are not keeping pace with those made by other nations. Simultaneously, the United States faces an ever-growing threat from smarter and more persistent cyber thieves. These two factors are chipping away at the United States’ long held dominance of the technology world.

A change

There was a time, a short time ago, when all countries looked up to the United States when it came to technology and innovation, Coleman writes. And it’s still true that the United States spends more on technology and research-and-development than any other country. But the gap between the United States and its closest competitors is getting smaller, Coleman writes.

Others on the move

Part of the reason is that other countries, for example China, are investing more in technology. As Coleman writes, the BBC has reported that by the end of this year the United States will no longer be the top country for scientific output. Instead, that country would be China. Coleman also cites a U.S. Intelligence Community report saying that the United States’ technological superiority is diminishing in important areas. The solution? Coleman states that we need to invest more in education, something that would turn out more scientists and engineers.