While I don’t anticipate 100% adoption anytime soon, I try to keep my office as paper-free as possible. However, as an attorney, I take copious notes about everything – from telephone calls to conversations, to work in progress. Unfortunately, there is a large part of my note-taking that is not easily (or at all) done on the computer due to location, manners, and convenience, so I need to be sure I have the ability to take hand-written notes anytime, anyplace.
I’ve tried using my tablet, and while I like EverNote for organizing personal projects (mostly because my tablet is nearly always handy outside of my office), I don’t like it for note-taking because the tablet surface is too slick and overly-responsive to accidental touch. I’ve used my tablet at conferences (particularly before I started using the technologies that are the focus of this series of posts), but it was a struggle and distracting to my listening.
I’ve tried several technologies, and all have their pros and cons. Mostly (and I can’t stress this enough FutureLawyer), it comes down to personal preference – what works for YOU (or, in this case, what works best for me).
My analysis is based upon what I need in a note-taking device:
- Convenient and reliable note-taking
- Digital capture and transfer to my computer (or some other storage location that I regularly use)
- Migration toward the complete elimination of physical paper
- Added features – Transcription of handwriting to text
The top technologies that I am going to review are LiveScribe, Rocketbook, and Remarkable, and they are “top” because of almost completely different reasons.
Black Dolphin Aegir SmartPen
LiveScribe Aegir Smart Pen is the current name of the technology that started out as Echo. I had an Echo when it was first released, and liked it well enough, but it was large, clunky, and hard to hold. LiveScribe pen is much smaller pen profile, and much easier to use (and they FINALLY made a version that is black (Black Dolphin, pictured) and not pastel green or pink (really? for professional applications?)
- Good digital transcription and formats to PDF
- Extremely portable
- Records audio (the only format that does this) and can link audio with the relevant section of notes
- Easily syncs to any smart device for live transcription or uploading via Bluetooth or direct connection
- Affordable – $120 via Amazon, plus the cost of notebooks (comes with one)
- Requires paper (see above for “paperless goals”). Also, requires specially-printed paper in the form of a wide-assortment of notebooks and tablets, or you can print your own from a downloadable template.
- Monochrome – no color – the Aegir might be different – I’ve only used it with one color
- Requires ink refills – small ink cartridges that are sometimes hard to get. Watch out for cheap knock-offs of questionable quality. You can get ink colors, but they don’t upload as color (that I can tell – the Aegir might be different)
- Lack of confidence that the device is capturing text when you are writing. With the Echo, especially, and with the LiveScribe, rarely, I have written along, decided to download, and then realized the pen wasn’t working (battery low). I do not want to have to go to the trouble of launching the “receiving device” when I reach for a pen to write, just to be sure the silly thing is capturing text.
- Requires paper (this is a big problem for digital-only-wannabes)
- Demographic is more for students and others who have a need to capture audio recording along with notes. More bells (audio recording) than I need.
My favorite tech-attorney, FutureLawyer highly recommends this device and has used it since Echo. (While I follow his recommendations on a lot of tech, my husband actually purchased my first Echo for me as a gift). I agree with him that the Aegir is a vast improvement over the Echo, and once the desktop application was available, I was on board. I use this primarily for specific projects that require extensive and on-going notetaking, so I have a single, bound volume to store with the rest of the paper file (while “paperless ” is a goal in my office, I recognize that it is not entirely achievable, and still have a fair amount of paper files – though vastly less paper than 10 years ago).
Unfortunately, this is only one of my digital tools, and will likely never be my “go-to” for digital note-taking. I never use it outside the office because of that “lack of confidence” thing.
Rating – 7 out of 10: Excellent for what it is made to do – take notes which can be automatically uploaded to the cloud or computer, and record audio. However, it lacks a lot of the features I’m looking for.
Purdue is testing solar installations that still allow for the row-crop production under the solar panels. While such an installation would require some adjustment in farming practices (particularly tillage), it’s an intriguing notion to be able to harvest both sun and corn in the same field.
Conventional wisdom suggests that, in certain locations, there may not be enough space for full-scale deployment of solar panels. This is one solution.
Will You Grow Corn Under Solar Panels Someday? Via Indiana Farm Bureau
A Crop of a different variety
This is not the first time I’ve mentioned that Ag technology in the field (pun intended) of driverless technology is years ahead of the autonomous road vehicle technology. See Here and Here for previous posts. Here is another article that shows a different application of “driverless” – this time going small instead of big:
Swarms of Teeny Robo-Tractors Will Outmaneuver Tesla’s Driverless Cars (from Medium One-Zero – free account required for repeat access)
As the farm labor pool continues to shrink and the cost of farming grows, more autonomous equipment will be deployed in the field to provide greater efficiency and just-in-time management of crop production.
So if you are interested in autonomous technology – become a farmer!
Below is my Top 5 Ag Predictions for the next decade, along with the source links. I’ve compiled this based upon what I see here, from my seat in mid-North Indiana, as an Ag Attorney and a row-crop farmer. These are very rough, “cosmic” observations, based upon recent emerging trends:
1. Technology – Mechanization and Automation will continue to increase. The fast improvement in technology, the reduction in available agriculture labor, and the increased demand for food (both row-crop and table food crop (farm-to-table or produce crops) will drive more advancement in technology – particularly in areas that improve efficiency and reduce the need for workforce. Last year, our farm drastically changed our fertilizer management technology, which reduced fertilizer application time from 30 days x 5 workers to one week and 2-3 workers.
2. Technology – Rural Broadband improvement. This is a “must-have” for successful farming. The current public noise favors the improvement of rural internet access, but also woefully under-estimates the needed bandwidth (see previous rants – I mean posts – on this topic). For agriculture to continue to meet market demand as the number of industry players shrinks and the requirement for technology increases, adequate bandwidth will be required.
3. Production – Specialization along the production spectrum. From row-crop to consumer production, farmers will continue to narrow their production focus. Expensive equipment, government regulations, lack of adequate workforce, will drive farmers to specialize in those agriculture areas that are more profitable, of more interest, or are a better fit with the farmer.
4. Farm Business – Growth of the Family Farm Operation. The issue of “corporate farm ownership” is a myth. There are very few non-family “corporate” farms, but as more very small farms are sold off due to lack of family successors, those family farms with a large family owner base or a strong multi-generational farming culture will continue to grow. Unfortunately, I see a lot of farmers contemplating “next-generation ownership” in a farm landlord model, not a “boots on the ground” farm model. Small farms will continue to be absorbed by large farms, except for the growing “niche” farm operation in produce farming, experimental technology farming, urban farming, and the like.
5. Change for Success – Adapt, Adapt, Adapt. The technology of farming will continue to adapt to changes in political, cultural, technological, and climate. As new growing seasons bring new challenges, from too much water (or not enough), to tariffs (or not), to consumer demand for source information coupled with the technology to provide it, the farming industry will continue to evolve to stay profitable despite the changes. Farmers that cannot succeed in a changing environment will leave the industry or be absorbed by farmers who can adapt.
John Phipps, “Are Economics Driving the Future of Family Farms?” Ag Web, January 6, 2020
Linchpin SEO, “Trends That Will Transform the Agriculture and Farming Industry Outlook in 2020”
Wade Barns, “What’s Ahead for Agriculture? 4 Predictions for 2020” Farm Progress Farm Business, December 30, 2019.
For purely statistical reading check out the USDA publication, “USDA Ag Projections 2020”
I’ve visited Fair Oaks several times, and as an Ag attorney, I closely follow the innovations and advancements that come out of that business.
Fair Oaks is also a leader in the ag education space. They strive to make agriculture production – particularly production on a large scale – accessible and understandable by everyone. If you have a chance to visit (about an hour south of Chicago), I highly recommend the experience.
While Fair Oaks currently uses an automated milking system, it is not “robotic.” This article discusses a new application of robotics for milking.
Note the photos of the cows’ living area – clean, well-lit, open stalls. This is consistent with the mission of the owners to be transparent to show how the animals are treated, and that all animals are treated well and humanely. Happy cows produce more milk.
Ag Web: Robotic Milking Experience to Open at Fair Oaks Farm
This is what the space program has done for the advancement of technology: