Cisco and Apple team up to bring iOS into workplaces

Apple and Cisco have announced a partnership that could bring iOS into more and more workplaces.

According to Forbes, the two tech giants will work on integrating iOS with Cisco's enterprise networks and business collaboration products, such as voice and video conferencing equipment. The results could make Apple products work better in corporate environments.

Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights and Strategy said: "Apple is partnering in the enterprise on technologies and experiences that aren't their core competency. Long-term, I think Apple is trying to completely rethink enterprise work and workflow."

Details of the products to be developed under the partnership have not yet emerged, but it is likely that Cisco's Spark and WebEx products could be included.

The Apple-Cisco agreement comes at a time when companies are trying to improve worker productivity using smartphones and tablets. Such devices are often owned by employees themselves, rather than being corporate purchases.

Cisco is a major supplier of desk phones, which are increasingly superseded by mobile devices as workers store address books on their iPhones. If Cisco and Apple can create an iPhone that emulates a desk phone, the latter could be done away with altogether.

The partnership will create a "fast lane" for iOS devices in the corporate environment, prioritizing wireless and web connections so businesses are guaranteed sufficient bandwidth even if employees are also streaming or downloading non-work content.

Tim Cook, Apple chief executive said: "Together with Cisco, we believe we can give businesses the tools to maximize the potential of iOS and help employees become even more productive using the devices they already love."


Robot learns tasks by interpreting written text

If we need help with a certain task, many of us turn to the Internet for guidance. But, as a recent article on the MIT Technology Review website reveals, it might not be long before robots are doing the same.

Researchers behind a European project called RoboHow are currently exploring ways robots can learn to interpret language. A prototype robot, called PR2, has already been created in Germany. PR2 has made pizzas and pancakes simply by reading instructions on how-to website WikiHow and watching YouTube tutorials.

The aim of the four year project is to reach a stage wherein machines are able to carry out everyday tasks as proficiently as humans. Instead of having to program a robot to perform a set number of motions, the idea is that robots will learn new tasks simply by humans communicating instructions to them.

If successful, the project could have huge implications in the home and in the workplace, as machines and robots become increasingly integrated within our day-to-day lives.

Michael Beetz, head of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Bremen, where the project is based, commented: "If you have a robot in a factory, you want to say 'Take the screw and put it into the nut and fasten the nut' [...] You want the robot to generate the parameters automatically out of the semantic description of objects."

Along with making pizzas and pancakes, PR2 is learning how to carry out simple tasks in the laboratory, like handling chemicals.

When a robot learns the actions required to perform a certain task, the information gained is uploaded onto a database, called Open Ease. Other robots are able to access the information on this database, which enables them to learn the same task.

Professor at the Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, Siddhartha Srinivasa, said the ability to connect action with language in robots is extremely important, nevertheless complex. Success will "require a tight integration of natural language, grounding the understanding via perception, and planning complex actions via manipulation algorithms," he said.

Every click, swipe, "like," buy, comment, deposit, jog and search produces information that creates a unique virtual identity - something we call

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How technology can help relieve workplace stress

Technology gets a bad rep for causing stress and anxiety at work, from feeling pressured to reply to every single email to needing to keep checking social media for fear of 'missing out' on something.

But what about the ways in which technology can be used to reduce work-related stress and encourage positive mental health? The Harvard Business Review recently offered some examples of how our devices and platforms can be harnessed for the power of good:

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Social media has heightened an anxiety already present in many busy professionals: the fear that they're missing out on something, whether that's industry news or an event they weren't able to attend. But social networks have filters in place to hide content from certain people, and Tweetdeck can filter out any tweets relating to a certain topic or event - so you won't have to see what you're missing.

Distraction

This is a key contributor to workplace stress, from constantly checking our phones to amusing articles that steal our attention and cause us to lose focus on our work. Thankfully, tools such as RescueTime (to track your time spent online); Focus (which blocks certain websites); and Freedom (prevents you from even going online) can help you manage your time and energy more wisely.

Tiring commutes

Long commutes can take their toll on workers, both mentally and physically. But with the right tools, this time can be used to help you unwind, re-energize or get one step ahead of your workload. Newsreaders such as Feedly can keep you up-to-date with current affairs, while Buffer lets you sync up a whole week's worth of Tweets in advance. For those who walk or cycle to work, music and fitness apps can help you maximise this time; while podcasts can help you wind down after a long day.

Long hours

Constant connectivity means it's becoming increasingly difficult for people to switch off at the end of their working day - particularly those with demanding bosses who contact them outside of office hours. Email filters send messages as a text directly to your phone, so that you don't have to keep checking your inbox; alternatively delay delivery services will send your reply a few hours later, so that your boss stops assuming you're available 24/7.