The Voice Recognition Take Over

Ten years ago, I thought voice activation would only ever exist in sci-fi films. Today, we have Siri and Cortana on devices that we use daily. This is software built into our smartphones and laptops to improve ease of use and accessibility – your own virtual, personal assistant.

We use them somewhat infrequently. You have to speak clearly and precisely to send a text or open a webpage but for the most part they do actually work. This software is also used outside of our phones too, only recently I was in a lift where voice recognition was used to get you to your desired floor.

Where did it begin?

When Apple and Siri were first introduced, the reviews were generally indifferent. Often Siri wouldn’t recognise particular accents and it would typically take three or four attempts for it just to interpret “Hi, Siri”. But since its launch Siri has come on leaps and bounds, now supporting a total of 22 different languages. Plus Apple claim it can now recognise a whole host of regional dialects.

Cortana, Microsoft’s offering, is now two years old and seems to be learning from Siri’s experience – whilst the fact it is now available to download on iPhone shows there could be some competition between the two. In December 2015, Apple claimed “Siri has little to fear from Microsoft’s virtual assistant” but if there is no fear there why are they acknowledging Cortana by writing about it?

Voice recognition could transform account access

Recently I telephoned First Direct and was informed about their Voice ID Security verification tool that they are due to implement. This is meant to transform the way in which we access our accounts over the phone – no longer will be need to stipulate our password, Mothers maiden name and our date of birth.

Instead this system will recognise your voice and know that it is you, subsequently providing you access. But just how safe is this method? There surely must be issues of people having a similar voice, or perhaps your own voice being altered by illness or a sore throat – would this then restrict your access even when it truly is you?

But with First Direct promising that a digital voice “print” is much more secure than any of the current methods we use – it is surely only a matter of time before we discover just how successful it will be.


Skype Is The New Black

So we’re all familiar with Skype. When a family member moves to another country, you Skype them. When you watch any American film where someone has gone missing, they get in touch via Skype. Naturally then, we assume Skype is a consumer focused product that’s quite handy if you want to save money when calling abroad.

However, in recent years, we have adopted Skype as a business tool for IM (instant message) as some managers that have done business overseas seemed to favour it. But there was quite an obvious problem having all of your imported Facebook friends on your desktop in your open plan office as your team leader walked past.

Welcome to the market, Skype For Business.

Masquerading as Microsoft Lync for some years, Skype For Business has barged it’s way in and is now a critical component for any modern day business.

During a recent Polycom event in New York, “Workplace Of The Future”, was referenced no less than ten times and this wasn’t solely promoting the new range of conference and collaboration tools. Polycom have recognized that SfB (Skype for Business) cannot be ignored and is firmly here to stay. The Workplace Of The Future looks like huddle rooms and conference rooms kitted out with user friendly interfaces, high resolution cameras and 1080p HD screens – all fully integrated with Skype for Business.

Being late for a meeting with missing attendees is a thing of the past as you send your Skype meeting invite direct from Outlook (without the need for an integration license) and connect to the rest of your business via mobile, tablet, PC, conference phone, desk handset etc.

So what do I get with it?

The basic tools such as presence, directories, meet on demand, video calling, content sharing are all high end as standard and send a real message to competitors. But the most impressive function is the seemingly seamless integration with your telephony setup. Is it too loud in your office to conduct a call over Skype through your laptop mic? Switch to your desk phone with one click. Need to setup a white board session when you’re talking desk phone to mobile… no problem.

Polycom feature a key sentence in their sales collateral: Modern workforces are dynamic and mobile, and demand high productivity regardless of locations or devices they are on at the time. Now we all recognise Polycom as the market leader for voice handsets but they are making strides in the right direction by working hand in hand with SfB. Together, these two brands have created ground breaking user experiences in the video and collaboration world. The latest conference phone, RealPresence Trio, supports content sharing through SfB so well that you could be forgiven for calling it the Skype phone.

What next for Skype for Business?

Skype TX4 has just been introduced for broadcasting customers via the Skype blog and backs up the Polycom and Microsoft belief that SfB is here to stay. Skype TX4 allows the integration of multiple studio-grade Skype video calls into one broadcasting, on top of its already impressive ability to include a 300-million-user potential cast into “the studio workflow.” It’s a comfortable agreement that SfB is currently unparalleled so get deploying.

Aintree Festival Day 1

The Grand National is getting closer and every man and his dog (or horse) will be having a bet come this Saturday. However, there is lots of extremely competitive racing preceding it so let’s take a look at day 1.

As with Cheltenham, this is an incredibly tough event to pick so gamble wisely and take advantage of any offers the bookies are throwing out there such as Skybet’s money back if the favourite wins in the first race.

1.40 Manifesto Chase

The opener of the festival features 4 regularly placed horses. Sizing John is the current bookies favourite but has never gone this distance. Arzal is a good horse and should be in the frame but I think it’s between Garde La Victoire and L’AMI SERGE both currently at 7/2. Poor when falling, Garde La Victoire may be hampered by this and L’ami Serge finished very strongly on a shorter trip.

2.15 Anniversary Hurdle

Followers of my Cheltenham blog will be keen to get on Ivanovich Gorbatov after winning us a lot of money last month however the ground is not to suit and he has proven to only run well when the ground is in his favour. He had Apple’s Jade beaten easy last time out so I think this one is between FOOTPAD at 6/1 and Sceau Royal but I really can’t see Daryl Jacob opening with a double so we’re reliant on Ruby Walsh retaining his marvellous Cheltenham form in what is an extremely tough field.

2.50 Aintree Bowl

There’s a lot of good horses coming off the back of some very bad runs entered into the bowl this year. CUE CARD at 5/4 fell when looking well positioned last time out and looks the better of Djakadam and Don Poli. If you look outside of the big three from the Gold Cup, Saphir Du Rheu looks phenomenal value at 16/1.

3.25 Aintree Hurdle

ANNIE POWER looked phenomenal at Cheltenham and is the horse to beat however has been priced out of the market by large bets prior to the race and is now 1/2. My Tent Or Yours looked back to his best at Cheltenham but goes further than ever in this race but does offer value at 9/1.

4.05 Foxhunters Chase

This field is full of inconsistent horses bar ON THE FRINGE at 7/4. Should anything happen to the Cheltenham winner, this really could be anyone’s race.

4.40 Red Rum Handicap

Under normal circumstances, Dandridge looks the pick for this race but is carrying 8 pounds more than MINELLA PRESENT at 13/2 who we haven’t seen for some months but tends to provide his best racing off the back of a rest.


Day 3 proved fruitful yet again and followers would have topped up their pockets to the tune of another £90 per £10 staked on each selection.

The final day of Cheltenham is and always has been the toughest to call. Typically, the races with the smaller prize money therefore the lesser horses and the main event, the Gold Cup, with the best horses of the year competing for the biggest prize.

Today’s selections are picks rather than tips so my advice is stake no more than what you’ve won and don’t go chasing a big jackpot. Take advantage of the offers such as Skybet’s money back on the first race up to £25 the maybe spread the money back over the rest of the selections for the day.


Surprisingly Henderson only enters one horse into this race where he is the leading trainer. Barry Geraghty is top jockey when it comes to this race and so far has only ridden stinkers. IVANOVICH GORBATOV run poorly in his last outing and the ground should suit more today. This added with Geraghty’s calibre in this race and desire to win a race at the festival may see him over the line AT 13/2.


The County Hurdle is possibly the widest open race of the festival and realistically you’re looking for a place here. Blue Hell (10/1) looked very good on last outing but this may suit experienced horses round the track such as Cheltenian at 50/1 or HAWK HIGH at 25/1 but it really is anyone’s for the taking.


I really like Open Eagle and would usually back for a place but Fogarty rides for the first time and there are too many other good horses that put me off. Ruby Walsh has opted for LONG DOG instead and is on his usual form in the festival so each way money can’t be turned down. The battle for first should be between the two fancied horses Barters Hill and Shantou Village and both arrive in good form. Barters Hill hasn’t been beat and Richard Johnson has opted to ride Shantou Village so it really is too close to call.


All of the money in the build up to this race has rightfully been piled on DON COSSACK. He’s now into 9/4 which may put a few people off but his calibre and sheer size should see him home past the hot and cold Djakadam. Cue Card may have caught Vatour in the King George on Boxing Day but had Brian Cooper’s mount not fallen, I think he was clear.


Nina Carberry has a second chance to ride a festival winner on On The Fringe but hasn’t ridden him since May. In this race, I’m favouring PAINT THE CLOUDS at 6/1. Sam Waley-Cohen has taken over riding from AP McCoy perfectly.


It’s hard to see past the favourite in this race but Squouateur goes off at 7/2 and that’s not a price I’m likely to back. NABUCCO doesn’t have the benefit of Aiden Coleman on board but I still fancy a place at 28/1 form the horse who we haven’t seen yet this year.


Dresden hasn’t looked the same horse since his two wins before Christmas and this field is full of maybes and could haves. I fancy Richard Johnson to make all and hang on with BOLD HENRY at 28/1.


Day 2 started shaky but if you’ve followed each tip for the first 2 days, you’re currently looking at around 33/1 profit. So if you staked a total of £10 of each selection, you’re at least £300 up. If you’ve utilised the correct markets and offers, you’ve lowered your losses so have even more profit. And let’s just take another moment to get over Sprinter Sacre’s incredible run. Thousands have been won and lost on him and here was another rise in the emotional rollercoaster.

Thursday is an even tougher day than day 2 with some close fields to choose from.


This, for me, is a 4 horse race. The each way appeal is BLACK HERCULES at 11/2 although Ruby Walsh may be hampered by his fall at the last yesterday so I’ll be backing GARDE LA VICTOIRE at 4/1. Interestingly entered into this race rather than any on day 1 and has the leading jockey Richard Johnson on board.


If you pick the winner of this race, you’ve done well. No clear favourite in an open field. A little each way shout in both Our Kaempfer at 10/1 and OSCAR SAM at 18/1 with the latter getting my vote.


Betbright have paid out on VAUTOUR winning a different race at the festival despite not running it. Vautour’s owner owns Betbright so read what you like into that. He should romp home easily at 8/11 but JOSSES HILL loves a place if he doesn’t fall over and Nico De Boinville is hot property on board. Faller insurance is a must due to his history.


The World Hurdle is the main event today and attracts a fine field of horses. THISTLECRACK is the likely victor and you can get him at 7/1 by creating a new 888 Sport account. In a field this strong, it’s hard to pick a backup but AUT PTITS SOINS makes the most noise at 14/1.


Assuming Sam Twiston-Davies shows up, STILETTO looks a generous price at 9/1 with the remainder of the field lacking in form and the weights all over the place. Skybet are paying 5 places for this race for all customers.


A new race for this year so no history to go on. Limini hasn’t looked as convincing as a 4/5 price horse should for me and there is an incredible amount of winners in this field such as Actinpieces, Tara Flow, Bloody Mary and Tea In Transvaal. I’m opting for SMART TALK who has absolutely galloped to victory for me this season at 13/2.


The Kim Muir is anyone’s game. Past strong finishers such as Splash of Ginge, Alternatif and Grandad’s Horse all offer each way appeal but UPSWING takes the fancy of the bookies and if you have any money left, 9/1 is a good price.

#CheltenhamFestival Day 2 Picks

It’s a shame Vaniteux fell as second place was guaranteed and that would have made the literal perfect start. Even without each way shot that went off a massive 10/1, yesterday was a successful day.

To recap for new readers, we had 4/1, 8/1, 10/1 and Evens winners as well as 50/1 and 8/1 places and by using the right offers, didn’t lose any money and ended up with a healthy profit.

Day 2 however is always much harder to forecast but sticking with the same principles, here’s another go at making a fortune.


The mighty YANWORTH is the correct favourite with the bookies having crashed from 2/1 to 5/4 overnight. You can get him to win with Paddy Power at 5/1 by opening a new account. Yorkhill will cause him trouble but I reckon he will just be pipped. If you’re not a favourite backer, there’s each way value In YALA ENKI at 40/1 – don’t forget to use the Skybet money back offer for all customers if your horse loses in the first race.


There are five fancied horses in this race for me so splitting your stakes is advised. I can’t see past the favourite MORE OF THAT at 15/8 for the win but will be backing SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT at 11/1 simply for value. He’s won three on the bounce and likes to take the race away from everyone else.


This is the Coral Cup so Coral are paying 6 places, you’d be silly to use anyone else for this race. This race is too tough to call but BLAZER and WAXIES DARGLE are my two small stake punts on this one.


The main event should be taken by UN DE SCEAUX at 8/13 but if you are backing him, you need to take advantage of 888 Sports new customer offer at 6/1. He should be followed home by SPRINTER SACRE – no longer his world beating best but the pick of the rest of the field and worth an each way punt at 5/1 in case Un De Sceaux falls.


I haven’t seen the old Balthazar King that loved a big race for a while and he brings form of 2 falls in the last 4 so I’m opting for another favourite in JOSIE’S ORDERS. However, don’t be too hasty in placing your bet at any odds as 4/1 each way would make it a great bet.


Lots of good but not great horses take to the field for the Fred Winter. I like the look of JALEO but also fancy Missy Tata, Duke of Media or Romain De Senam to pinch a place. Really open race and too tough to be confident in.


I would be backing BALLYANDY in this race if Sam Twiston-Davies wasn’t on my very poor form list. Either sit this one out of close your eyes and choose if you fancy a bet on this one.

#CheltenhamFestival Day 1 Preview

If you’re going to Cheltenham or simply watching at home or in the work kitchen, then first of all you need to start off with the mind-set that you are going to lose all of the money you stake.

If you apply this mentality, you immediately stand to lose less money than you would throwing cash at every grey horse or every horse called Alan because you met an Alan at last year’s Christmas party.

This doesn’t mean you have to only bet a pound every race and not win any money, however. There are two tactics to apply. The first is finding the safest offer for the specific horse or race you are going to bet on and the second is finding said horse or race at the best value.

For example, you’d rather lose £25 on the first race and have it back ready to bet on the next race than lose £50 over two races. So let’s begin with that offer.

New and existing Skybet customers get money back if your horse loses the first race each day of the festival. Not only if it comes second or if the favourite wins but simply if it does not win. This is easily the best offer for the festival as it allows you to stake up to £25 truly risk free. You don’t need to worry about whether the money comes back as cash or free bets either as you are only going to bet with it again afterwards. There is no fancy link you need to qualify, simply have an account.


The Supreme Novices Hurdle, typically won by the formidable combination of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins. But my tip is not to back the Mullins favourite, MIN. My tip is to open a new Coral account and get Mullins to train a winner at any point during the festival at 8/1. There are no odds for this anywhere else simply because the probability of this happening are so sky high, it’s the ultimate banker if ever there was on. So if MIN wins, you’ve won and MIN doesn’t win, your bet lives to fight another day.

For my Skybet selection where I will get my money back, I will be going for BELLSHILL as Long Dog is no longer entered into this race. The value at 20/1 is hard to ignore, is the same weight as MIN and is another Mullins horse. This festival is Mullins’ to lose. If you don’t fancy BELLSHILL, take a look at a non- Mullins horse as you’ve already bet on Mullins at this point. Altior is a strong horse but faces some tough competition from Mullins’ army.

If, at this point, you still want to bet on MIN, here’s a link to get MIN at 50/1 by creating a new Betbright account. You can also get any horse at 50/1 by following this link.


The Arkle should be swallowed up by DOUVAN. If you google well, you can find opening a new Betfair account will offer DOUVAN to win at 5/1 or above instead of the no value bet of 4/11. But DOUVAN is another Mullins horse so if MIN has failed you, DOUVAN should cover the above mentioned Mullins banker.

L’ami Serge and Garde la Victoire have been pulled from this race this morning so VANITEUX becomes my each way selection.


The Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase is wide open. Personally, I wouldn’t want to tip this one but for the sake of the reader, HOLYWELL at 8/1. A horse with a pedigree for grinding out long slogs but we haven’t seen the best of HOLYWELL for some time. Jonjo O’Neil has a strong line-up for this festival and he may well have been aiming HOLYWELL at this rather than the previous poor showings.


The Champion Hurdle features some really class horses. ANNIE POWER got spooked by her shadow last year, allegedly but if Ruby Walsh who thrives at this festival can control her, she should stroll to victory. You can get an enhanced 10/1 on ANNIE POWER here by creating a new Betfair account and this one is money back if she loses too. If you’re put off by Ruby Walsh’s recent form of leaping from the saddle in the big race, THE NEW ONE is a big favourite of mine that has won plenty of money and looks a decent each way shout at 6/1. Peace and Co could follow home for third if you’re looking for big odds at 25/1.


The Mares Hurdle looks set to be won by VROUM VROUM MAG if the bookies are to believed so I like the “Betting without VROUM VROUM MAG” market which still offers each way. This shortens the odds of the horse but pays another place. There are some good horses to choose from such as Polly Peachum and Tara Point but my roll of the dice will be on LILY WAUGH at 20/1. LILY WAUGH has only let me down in a big event but arrives a more experienced horse.


The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap is traditionally one to ignore but if you haven’t had enough, my selection will be BLACK HERCULES, a consistent winner for me in recent times.

Voice Over WiFi

I was skimming through Linked In earlier this week and came across an article predicting the introduction of voice over Wi-Fi this year.

There were a few things about this article that interested me, the most interesting part was the writer’s ability to predict technology breakthroughs like Mystic Meg. There are many keyboard warriors on Linked In amongst the billions of spam recruiters that don’t have the time to read your profile but this did prompt me to delve further into the topic.

This isn’t a particularly new concept as EE and O2 have provided Wi-Fi calling for users on the tube and poor mobile signal areas for quite some time now. However, businesses and business VOIP providers are yet to adopt this.

There are, of course, the security concerns that come with making a call over public Wi-Fi. The same goes for internet banking – best not to do so in your local coffee shop unless you have a small fortune spare and don’t mind it going towards Korean hackers. However, as we proceed further into the 21st century, almost every large business has a firewall or even their own IT security department to look after you so we’re in safe hands.

So if it can work in the public domain – and underground no less – what is stopping the big boys from delivering voice over Wi-Fi?

If you can fit a Bluetooth chip into a FitBit, you can fit a wireless receiver into a Polycom or Cisco handset, right? Perhaps remove one of those useless USB ports. Surely, time must nearly be up for USB as a USP. I recall selling my first television and the couple requested one with a USB port. When I enquired the use for the USB, they confirmed they were future-proofing – I don’t think they knew what USB was.

I can sit at home and talk to people in Malaysia via Lync on my laptop (over Wi-Fi) and tell them all about the USB ports on my television. However, if I want to use my Cisco handset in the office then I need to be connected to a LAN port and have a power supply.

A power supply, how trivial! I could begin to go over my Linked In prediction for battery powered VOIP handsets but I have a call coming in from a recruiter that I must attend to so that I can read them my Linked In profile.




10 Things You Can Actually Do With Your Smart Phone

We’re glued to them. We wake up in the morning and check social media. We text our friends when we reach the office. We play a game when we’re taking a toilet break then repeat the cycle when lunchtime arrives. Here’s a trivial list of other things you could use your smartphone for to break the mould.


1. Become a fitness freak – when you set those goals to become super strong or super healthy, there is a wealth of fitness apps to help you out and become the ultimate fitness snob via your phone. MyFitnessPal will help show off all of the good foods you’re eating and you can even lie to your friends when you have a second KitKat – they will never know!

Various pieces of kit such as FitBit come with associated apps to download which cleverly track your sleep, steps and calories and reward you with badges which you can show off on social media.


2. Mirror – It’s the 21st century and not many men carry around a pocket mirror. It’s more likely that a bloke you pass on the street has a bathroom mirror on his person. So how does the run of the mill man check his hair and his blemishes without being seen? Smartphones! Never leave home without your mirror/ smartphone and you shall be presentable ever more.


3. Run Your Business – We are rightly becoming more dependable on our smartphones. Not only can they run your personal life but your professional life can be added to or perhaps even completely run via your phone. Professional bloggers can write a whole entry via their apps whilst on the train to the office. Salesmen can respond to overnight emails and your manager can even reject your overtime sheet all through her smartphone on her commute in.


4. Office Olympics – With the ever popular Office Cricket and Office “toss the stress ball” fading out, what better to replace them that Office Smartphone Olympics? The options here are really limitless and it comes down to how brave you can be with your pride and joy. Javelin is the obvious choice but don’t rule out discus or pole vault just yet!


5. True Communications – 20 years ago, if you wanted to send an email, an SMS, a fax and print something, this could be an hour long activity. You had to wind up the PC and dial up to the internet then turn on your Nokia 3310 and play Snake before you could think about any content for your email or text.

The fax machine would be engaged whilst your mum was on the phone to Aunty Betty and the printer had run out of paper.

Now, none of this need happen as we simply tap away and get all forms of communication complete in one go and send to all.


6. Pretend you have a house phone – You’ve seen them in gift shops and perhaps read about them in history books and yes the landline was an actual thing! Be it corded or cordless, we used to be restricted to not leaving the house until that call was ended.

So why not turn back the years and turn your smartphone into a house phone like one of these:


7. TV Remote – As humans, we lose the TV remote control on average 39292 times a day. How often do you lose your smartphone? Precisely. So let the TV remote be swallowed by the sofa or slobbered on by the dog because the world is your oyster and your smartphone is your new remote.


8. Diagnose Your Health – This is not strictly recommended for actual diagnosis but is fun all the same. Various websites like exist and various apps such as Prognosis: Your Diagnosis are great to find out you are the first pregnant male or that you have 13.5 seconds to live. The question is what do you do with those 13.5 seconds? Probably, check your smartphone.


9. Banking – Most teenagers have never been to a bank. Most people under the age of 40 will never need to go to a bank again. Almost every bank has an app and the majority of these allow access to make a payment, transfer a balance or look longingly at your ever decreasing balance.


10. Call Someone – Novel, yes, but we don’t ever call anyone anymore do we? Call someone, that’s what phones are for!


My misinformed opinion is more important

On arrival, you have to wait to be seated – nothing unusual there. However, you then have to go and select your own cutlery and pour your own drink. I am not lazy and am fully able bodied but after waiting for a seat instead of sitting at a clearly available table, this is not desirable service.

The menu is overpriced and is a huge display of the same thing over and over again. It’s chicken with sauce with a carb and extra if you want anything unprocessed. A salad or a corn on the cob, for example.

The food will arrive cold and your serving will not warrant the price tag but you shall not grumble because this is what you expected when placing your order – remember, there was no table service.

Personally, I have never eaten here however this review will prove more helpful than other reviews of regulars and passers-by. If everybody who’s nobody is in regular attendance then this culinary experience is not sought after.

Restaurants should be attended for the food not the experience or the geotag. A cult outing should be the local pub or a football pitch and that is what prevented and will continue to prevent my custom.