The UrbanBlog

Chicago Tech Scene : What You May Have Missed This Week

Posted by Kinga Skowronek on Oct 24, 2014 1:46:41 PM

We are keeping our eye on the Chicago Tech Scene and gathering the most important weekly developments. Read on to find out about the hot announcements and exciting advancements in Chicago’s Tech Scene that you may have missed this week.

Chicago: Leader of Smart Cities

Chicago is taking the steps to become a model for the future smart city where big data is collected via sensor nodes and cell phones to better the city for its inhabitants. Don’t worry this doesn’t mean Chicago is turning into a Big Brother city- your individuality is still safe. shutterstock_84639565_1_-2

Dubbed “The Array of Things” (AoT) the program will collect the following metrics with the use of 500+ sensors: temperature, humidity, light, sound, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, motion, low-resolution infrared, cell phone signals, and foot traffic (via Bluetooth.) The results will give a better understanding of the city and show the interactions between the residents.

TechCrunch’s Nick Rojas article “Chicago and Big Data” takes a deep dive into the logistics and analytics. He outlines the following examples enhancements that will be made:

  • Traffic control systems: Enhance the flow of traffic at intersections by determining changes related to work and holiday schedules.
  • Maintenance management: This could enhance the life of fleet vehicles, etc.
  • Smart grids: Power distribution is always subject to change as it relates to environmental metrics like temperature
  • Monitoring trends in criminal activities: Track car thefts and even the stolen cars themselves more efficiently.
  • Public works: The storage, transport, and application of road salt in the winter as it relates to snow accumulation.

In a press release, the city of Chicago stated that “Chicago’s SmartData Platform is a tool that will provide leaders the ability to analyze millions of lines of data in real-time; this helps make smarter, earlier decisions to address a wide range of urban challenges.”

Chicago Ranks #1 in the US for Cell Service

Root Metrics analyzed cell performance and Chicago came out on top! All the big phone companies were included (AT&T, Spring, T-Mobile and Verizon) in 125 cities across the US and the results determined that, except for Chicago, big cities performed poorly when it came to cell phone coverage (New York City placed 98th.)

ChicagoInno analyzed the Root Metrics report  in their article “Can You Hear Me Now? Chicago Ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for Cellular Service.”

Here's how Chicago placed by each category:

  • Overall: 1st
  • Reliability: 2nd
  • Speed: 3rd
  • Data: 1st
  • Call: 9th
  • Text: 15th

Top 5 Cities for Cell Phone Performance:

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. Oklahoma City, OK
  3. Lansing, MI
  4. Rockford, IL
  5. Spokane, WA

Chicago Teen Develops Game App That Wins in the App Store

NBC’s Lauren Jiggetts writes about the successful Chicago Teen that developed a game that became a worldwide hit in her article “Teen Develops Brain-Teaser App That Surpasses Tinder in App Store.”  A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen, Austin Valleskey, was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15, Jiggetts writes.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

The rest was history.

The brain-teaser app, called Impossible Rush, was downloaded over half a million times and passed up giants such as Skype, Tinder and Netflix. At its peak it ranked 16th worldwide.

Fun fact: Valleskey taught himself computer programming just a year ago.

Groupon Launches Groupon Pages

Groupon has taken the next steps to become more accessible for all businesses with Groupon Pages which will host a community of profiles for local businesses. In the Chicago Tribune article “Groupon Pages Launches, Aims to Appeal to More Local Businesses” Elahi writes: Dan Roarty, Vice President of marketplace and overseer of the Pages program, said the product is designed to drive traffic to merchant partners and encourage visitors to buy Groupons for services they're about to purchase. Customers can claim special offers or coupons, or place orders for delivery if a merchant uses Groupon partners or

“For those merchants that haven’t run a deal with us, we’re hoping that Pages is a way for us to start the dialogue on how we can help their business and that they’ll want to run a deal with us when the time is right,” Roarty said in an email to Chicago Tribune.


Topics: Technology, Chicago

Why Recruiting Software Might be the Best Investment You Make

Posted by Aria Solar on Oct 23, 2014 2:31:00 PM

It has been said that recruiters are behind the pack in terms of picking up on trends in technology. 

Consider that myth busted.

Software Advice, an online reviewer of HR technology, decided to dive into the topic of software/technology in the recruiting industry, and their findings were extremely insightful into the future of recruiting. They surveyed 100 recruiters and presented the results in their report, discussing the hard data behind the importance of technology in the recruiting world.

One of the most eye-opening key findings found in their research was that an overwhelming 93% of recruiters reported that software provided a strong return on their investment. Additionally, 89% of recruiters reported that software was extremely important to high job performance. Here is a snapshot of how the others stacked up:

recruiting softwareImage via Software Advice


 As you can see, that nine percent of recruiters who believe that recruiting software is unimportant is in the minority. (Most of the time, their disinterest in these tools is due to a lack of financial resources.) 

What's so great about recruiting software?

For one, it dramatically decreases a company's cost per hire. The amount of money it costs to onboard employees cost can really sky-rocket if your company has low retention rates. It can cost up to 1/3 of a new hire's salary in order to replace them, so if you are making poor recruiting and hiring choices, these costs can drastically add up.

Additionally, should you decide to bring on someone that requires more training than your team might have originally planned for, this can take time away from the work and output level of other departments. 

Recruiting software also allows recruiters to make much more strategic decisions about who they are hiring, making the quality of the hire generally much higher. Implementing technology that can help improve efficiency in these areas can (and will) substantially reduce overall costs, even if the initial price of the software requires a budget higher than what recruiters typically like to spend. 

Here's a breakdown of improvement levels the surveyed recruiters saw:

recruiting technology    Image via Software Advice

One of the biggest concerns of using software to host recruiting information is the security of these systems. Having this information leaked, hacked, or compromised, can be a huge liability. However this fear is not unlike anything that most of the industries moving to the cloud are facing. Take HR for example.

Matt Charney, Executive Director of Recruiting Daily, explains that, “HR people have traditionally been scared of the cloud, because they don’t host the data [themselves]. It’s not sitting in a mainframe. It’s not firewalled off the legacy system or corporate firewall." He adds that these claims are not only unfounded, but usually "propagated by the vendors who haven’t yet made the transition from ‘old-school’ to ‘new-school’”— which otherwise means using on-site solutions as opposed to cloud-based models. 

To further debunk the myth that recruitment technology is insecure,  91% of recruiters were either “extremely” or “very confident” that the data stored was secure, as shown in the below chart measuring the recruiters' confidence in the security of data stored in software/technology:

   Image via Software Advice


Recruiting is arguably one of the most important areas your business can focus on. Without a good recruiting strategy, your business cannot grow. It cannot scale. it cannot continue to develop. Every job function needs some kind of resource to measure and evaluate their work, and the recruiting industry is no different. Doing your job without a way to measure accuracy and data is like doing your job with a blindfold on. 

Technology is infiltrating each and every area of both the workplace and the world as a whole, so the quicker working professionals can adapt to this and begin to really capitalize on the perks technology offers, the more efficiently systems can run. 

Topics: Recruiting

Find the Intrapreneurs in Your Company Before They Leave

Posted by Kinga Skowronek on Oct 21, 2014 2:57:00 PM

A healthy mixture of the right culture for your company should include the intrapreneurs. An Intrapreneur is defined as an individual within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation. In short, intrapreneurs are the innovators, thought-leaders that want the opportunity to go against the grain and take things to the next leve.

They are gems hidden inside your company that need to be nurtured and allowed to shine. They bring in a new way of thinking, ideas that have not been explored yet which can lead to new successes and a happier, more productive workforce.

intrapreneurs in your company

To put it into perspective, Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, explains the importance of intrapreneurs and how they impacted his company’s success, “Many millions of people proudly claim the title "entrepreneur." On the other hand, a title that hasn't gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves is entrepreneur's little brother, "intrapreneur": an employee who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services and systems, who does not have to follow the company's usual routines or protocols."

While it's true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it underway, healthy growth requires a smattering of intrapreneurs who drive new projects and explore new and unexpected directions for business development. Virgin could never have grown into the group of more than 200 companies it is now, were it not for a steady stream of intrapreneurs who looked for and developed opportunities, often leading efforts that went against the grain.”

Create the Right Culture for Intrapreneurs

To find the intrapreneurs within your company it’s important to first have a culture of transparency and a work environment that is open. Identify and put a value on the opportunities your employees have for innovation and thought leadership.

Inspire innovators and the creative thinkers to stand up and stand out, through resources, insights and best practices, but remember not everyone is the same. Employees with a more corporate mindset have a different way of going about their work and need to be handled differently. Keep in mind, your employees want to see results. They want to be able to know how they are doing and how the company in general is doing. 

Nourish an Intrapreneurial Environment

Once you find the intrapreneurs in the group, its paramount to establish a culture where they aren’t scared to share their innovative ideas and concepts otherwise there is a high chance that they will end up leaving. In Entrepreneur, Joel Bascall writes that it is important to remember that an employee with an entrepreneurial mind-set is different from employees with a corporate outlook. He offers the following advice on how to foster an intrapreneur at your company: 

  • Keep rules and guidelines to a bare minimum

  • Allow them to challenge things

  • Give them plenty of problems to solve

  • Help them bring their ideas to fruition

Scott Gerber, Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, points out that inn the 21st century, entrepreneurial thinking isn’t just for entrepreneurs. Adaptability, creativity and financial literacy are core skills for American employees and so-called intrapreneurs — innovators within larger organizations — as well. 

There is a lot to keep in mind when creating the optimal workplace and culture that will ultimately result in a successful company, but in the ends its worth it to put in the time to achieve the best practices to keep each type of employee happy and productive.



Topics: Company Culture

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