Imagine being 40 minutes late to meet a high profile client in Brooklyn New York because your Uber driver made a wrong turn and landed in New Jersey. After the meeting ends, what do you do? ….. Call a cab? Of course not, you do exactly what most people do nowadays, open your Uber app and find another driver to take you to your next appointment.
A recent New York Times editorial explored what it means to be an employee in a “gig economy.” Companies like TaskRabbit, Instacart, Lyft, Airbnb and Uber pride themselves on innovation and providing many Americans the opportunity to earn extra income. These companies have raised millions in investments and have generous profit margins. This “on demand” sector is growing at a phenomenal rate in large part due, to its business model of hiring independent contractors. By eliminating the costs associated with having employees, these enterprises keep costs low but in doing so, workers don’t enjoy the workplace protections that are the very foundation of the American labor force.
The “gig economy” is defined by Wired magazine as “nontraditional jobs taken by independent contractors, temps, or freelancers”, that allow people to work independently through a company – not as employees, but as contractors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2015, 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed—an increase of roughly 1 million since May 2014. By 2020, a separate study estimates that more than 40% of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. A look back at data from BLS from 1995 through the early 2000’s, shows 93% of the workforce was full and part-time employees. Over the last five years, independent contractors and temps have made up nearly 15% of the workforce, and continue to grow.
The Harvard Business Review recently called this phenomenon “The Rise of the Supertemp.” These days, professionals like attorneys and consultants, are choosing to work independently. According to Robert Reich, the rise of “independent contractors” is the most significant legal trend in the American workforce – contributing directly to low pay, irregular hours, and job insecurity. This potential race to the bottom way of doing business is accelerated as workers take these jobs because they cannot find better employment.
As a result of this trend, several lawsuits are emerging, presidential candidates are weighing in and recently the United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour division released an Administrative Interpretation (AI) underscoring the importance of appropriately classifying employees. The AI makes clear that the job designation given by a company to a worker is not determinative of the worker’s employment status. Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor could result in a worker losing out on minimum wage, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, the right to collective bargaining and overtime protections.
“Many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.” — Hillary Clinton
The Great Recession structurally shifted the American economy; technology advances now provide employers with the option of seeking alternatives to directly hiring talent. These emerging business models have resulted in flexible workplace arrangements which have shifted the risk to the worker. Although there are laws against this, these laws are often vague and often inconsistently enforced.
FedEx faced this challenge from thousands of California employees in 2005. (Alexander v. Fed Ex, Case No. 12-17509) FedEx claimed their workers were independent contractors based on the fact that the workers were not told what hours to work even though workers were told what packages to deliver and FedEx determined the workload. Workers had to pay for FedEx trucks and uniforms. If a worker was sick or went on vacation they needed to find their own replacements. The California Department of Labor recently ruled that an Uber driver was an employee, not a contractor and ordered Uber to pay the driver back expenses. Uber is appealing the decision.
The “gig economy” will continue to grow as technology advances and as millennials drive the demand for increased flexibility and instant service. What must be limited is a corporation’s intentional misclassification of workers in an effort to limit risk and avoid worker protections. The Department of Labor and the IRS will be the ultimate authority in balancing the interests of employers and workers by simplifying the test to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor and consistently enforcing its regulations. Until then, the “gig” continues……
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 16:17
Written by Nicholas Izzi
Google Cardboard is a very unique and interesting device which simulates a virtual reality experience by using a simple piece of cardboard. This gadget was first launched in 2014 but recently it received an updated version that supports larger and newer phones than the first version did. The device works by placing your phone inside and using a variety of different apps to give yourself the illusion of being in a virtual realistic setting. The device follows your head movements and gives you a full 360 degrees of vision that accurately corresponds when moving your head.
In order to obtain this nifty headset, you can order one from a few different online stores such as amazon.com. They can be a variety of prices especially if you want a head strap, to come with one removing the need to hold the headset. The general price for the device is about $15 but that can change based on the model you want. One interesting thing to note is that Google has given instructions on its website on how you can create a cardboard headset yourself. However, it can become a bit confusing to create one on your own so it might be easier to purchase one. If you have an older phone then you want to buy the first version of the cardboard because due to size, version two does not support the older phones. Also you should check what type of operating system the apps require before you purchase the device because you want to make sure that your phone is compatible with them before you spend your money.
The headset works by starting any number of apps that support virtual reality (VR) and placing your phone inside the box and then staring at it through the two lenses. The lenses are designed for each of your eyes individually as they split the screen into two and show you the exact same image. It then tracks your head movements and moves the images you see along with your head. Whenever you want to click something inside the app, there is a flap on the side that functions like a button that you can press down which activates the phone’s magnetic sensors and activates clicks for the device. The older model had a magnetic ring that you would slide down instead. You then select a compatible game, video, or app and then watch as you become part of an interactive experience that is very unique and cool.
The first app I tried was an introductory app that is meant to start off your VR experience. It was simply called Cardboard and was officially released by Google for free so people could try it out. The app worked by first scanning a QR code located on the cardboard and then placing your phone inside the headset. You then have a few options to select whether it is going to different exhibits showing off dinosaur bones or space crafts or even travelling to exotic and far places without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. The experience is very palpable as it does feel like you have actually travelled to a foreign land. Of course one limitation is that everything is frozen in place so all you see are still images but it is very exciting to see all these distant places. Another issue is that prolonged use of the app can result in headaches so I recommend that usage is kept under ten minutes at a time and breaks are taken in between.
I also tried a few non-Google apps to see what other functions the VR device was capable of. One app I tried was a game called Lamper and in it you controlled a bee and flew around trying to collect candy. Another app I tried was an app called Vrse which held a few different videos that people could watch. I watched a video of Saturday Night Live which actually made me feel like I was in the audience watching the show. Not only could I see the stage but if I turned my head, I could see all the audience members and see the staff prepare for the next parts of the show.
I wanted to see how other people experienced the VR so I had my parents try the device and see what they thought of it. When I showed them the different places they could see such as Venice or The Great Barrier Reef., they were blown away and it really felt to them like they were there. Normally while using the device you have some small peripheral vision where you can still see your actually surroundings outside of the device. But my mom was so immersed that she did not even noticed when I turned off all the lights in the kitchen. My favorite one to show them was the Roller Coaster VR app. They had the same reactions they would have if they were on an actual roller coaster and they seemed to have a lot of fun with it.
After trying Google cardboard for myself, I can see that we are getting closer and closer to having virtual reality become a standard part of our lives. When you try it, it does give you a feeling like you are immersed in a brand new environment and it feels very exciting. Google Cardboard is not the only attempt at virtual reality either. The Oculus Rift is a more complex device that uses virtual reality more in depth in order to assimilate the whole VR environment. Nokia is also planning to release a camera called the Nokia OZO which will allow people to make very vibrant and immersive movies that put you in the setting and make you feel like you are actually there (see our review of the Nokia OZO here: http://digilifelearn.com/nokia-ozo/ ). I am very curious and excited to see how far VR will come in the next decade and see if we can finally perfect entering a virtual realistic world.
Videos with Vibbidi
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 15:07
Written by Nicholas Izzi
by Nicholas Izzi
The Vibbidi app is a fun and new way of uploading videos with their own original flair. The purpose of this app is to create videos which can be as long as 27 seconds that show off a person’s creativity to the world. The app works by having the user record footage straight from their camera on their smartphone or tablet. Once they have the videos, they then arrange them into a sequence that will fill up and reveal a story for everyone to see. The videos don’t have to be about anything in particular, just whatever comes to the creator’s mind. For example, I saw one video of people stating on skateboards and on another video I saw a person painting a picture.
This app feels like a successor to the Vine app that has been in use for a few years now. Through Vine, people post 6 second videos and then upload them for everyone to see. Vibbidi has a very similar feel and is much more suited to people who wish to create or view more in-depth videos. It has a simple setup that will allow anyone to fully utilize the app and be able to easily create any video they desire. It also gives people access to upload their videos onto Twitter and Instagram which are very popular social media sites used by millions of people.
The app offers people different people options for how they want to arrange their videos and also allows them to incorporate a title for their video. Just be sure to scroll down when on the video editing portion because the option to upload clips is hidden off screen. I like that it allows people to access their libraries of music and select whichever song they would like in order to give their video an extra feeling of excitement. The app also allows people to comment on other peoples’ videos and share their thoughts.
Overall, I think that Vibbidi is a very creative app that offers a simple structure that welcomes all people to try their app. Anyone can let their imaginative ideas become expressed by making an original video that showcases their own visions. Then, when a person completes their video, they have the option to share it over a few different social media sites that everyone can witness. If you enjoy being creative, then you may want to test out the Vibbidi app when it launches at the end of October and see what creative videos you can come up with.
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 14:45
Written by Nicholas Izzi
by Nicholas Izzi
Ericsson has a goal of creating what they call a “Networked Society”. In this society, everybody is linked together at all times through wireless connections that will change the way people live their daily lives. They want to incorporate wireless communication into just about every important facet in peoples’ lives such as automobiles. They want to create a type of infrastructure where all people and vehicles will be fully aware of each other on the road in order to provide safe and efficient traveling. They believe that they will be able to design a new type of framework that will revolutionize our lives.
Their biggest goal seems to be figuring out how they can organize a system that will improve how people travel every day in public transportation. Essentially they want to create a cloud for cars that will store a lot of information and connect with other vehicles. This means they want to connect all forms of transportation whether it is people traveling to work by train or by car. They want to develop a new structure that will provide updates and information to people as quickly as possible, such as accidents and traffic reports, so that people can stay safe and also save time by changing their route to work. Ericsson also want to be able to improve vehicle interactions with drivers which could potentially mean figuring out how to mitigate crashes to make the roads safer.
Ericsson wants to accomplish all of this through the use of the same technology that is used in mobile phones. Wireless connection is what allows people to interact so frequently and by utilizing that technology, they can develop a way to create a new system that brings everybody together even when they are not on their phones. They also state how it can be used to not only connect cars together, but can also connect them to the status of railroads and airports. They believe this system could become common since just about everybody uses phones and is already used to that type of technology.
Though this new framework sounds interesting and very helpful, there do seem to be a few factors that could cause problems. Ericsson mentions how service providers can charge people for this new service which means another expense for drivers, especially if it did become common in society. Another issue is that connecting all of these different forms of transportation sounds like a little too much information which may not display well and may be too much for people to see on their cell phones or on the displays of their cars. Since this can become very expensive many drivers may not have the option to afford this new type of technology. This makes it harder to implement a “Networked Society” because some people will not be a part of it. This can also make driving more dangerous for them since they will not be updated about any accidents. However it does sound like a good idea and I would like to see how Ericsson is able to develop this new technology and make it accessible for people in the future.