Technology – including Google Glass – gets a try-on at Omaha Infotec conference

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Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 12:00 am

A technology purchase made Sunil Singh a little late Tuesday to Omaha's biggest annual technology conference.

Singh, an IT manager at First Data, went online and spent $1,500 to buy his own Google Glass, the voice-activated computing headset that went on sale to the public for just one day.

Coincidentally, before Singh's new toy could arrive, he had the chance to try out a Google Glass later that morning at the Infotec conference, which continues today at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. For the first time, Infotec included a “Try-IT Zone,” where information technology professionals and students could wait in line to play with the latest gadgets, for fun or to ponder how the tools might apply to their businesses.

Singh declared it “cool,” while Chance Irvine, trying on a Glass next to him, said he could see applications for his firm, Omaha-based online auctions site Proxibid.

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During an auction, Irvine said, “I can imagine people standing there, and they want to scroll through the catalog.”

Omaha architecture and engineering firm HDR showed off how it uses a different kind of headset, the Oculus Rift 3-D virtual reality device, to give clients a virtual walk through buildings it has designed without having to build models.

“I just love the technology,” said Ken Coulter, interactive and visual design manager, who personally owns one of the two devices HDR displayed.

In educational sessions Tuesday, other Omaha firms shared how they are evolving by using new hardware and also by integrating mobile technology, protecting themselves and clients from security attacks and using social media to market to customers.

Werner Enterprises' data analytics team, started in 2012, is working to save the trucking company potentially millions of dollars a year. The team is using statistical modeling to study tire tread wear, fuel filter life and temperature-related breakdowns to cut costs.

One project has the potential to help solve one of the trucking industry’s most persistent problems: driver turnover. Werner spends millions a year hiring thousands of drivers.

The team's research has helped pinpoint the likelihood a particular driver will quit, so the company can intervene, by weighing such factors as pay, miles driven, time at home and other variables, said Lennis Gahona, a member of the data analytics team.

More than 1,500 people registered for the conference, which is sponsored by local technology nonprofit AIM, organizer Dave Vankat said. People can still register on-site today. Today's lineup includes sessions for teens on robotics, coding and exploring careers in IT.

Students will be entering the business world at a time when accelerating technological change is disrupting and upending traditional hierarchies, keynote speaker Matthew Monahan said Tuesday. The co-founder of Inflection, which has a contact center in Omaha, spoke on five trends of the digital age. He said businesses should take advantage of online video to share their products and message, and consider how “purpose is trumping profits” as corporations consider their effect on people and the environment.

Giving several examples of startups that rely on open-source sharing of information and products, he added, “My advice would be to really embrace the spirit of collaboration.”

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