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Sunday, November 05, 2006

System Access' Cooperative Remote Control Facility

In Blind Confidential, I have written about how cooperation is the key to innovation.  I’ve also written about how superfluous competition in a market as small as technology for people with vision impairment might actually do more to stifle rather than promote innovation.

A good friend of mine, a graduate of MIT in Chemical Engineering/Material Science and now a director in the manufacturing group at Intel, recently got her MBA in a concept called “coopitition,” a concept in which companies that compete with each other also cooperate.  Thus, a Motorola cell phone may contain some Intel parts as, that way, both companies make money and the consumers do not need to wait for each manufacturer to independently reinvent the wheel.

Thus, when I received a press release from Serotek followed up with a phone call from Mike Calvo to fully explain their latest innovation, I felt that the AT industry, led in this case by Serotek, might be using some of the logic that has been working in the greater technology sector for many years now.

Prior to the Serotek announcement, three screen readers, JAWS, Window-Eyes and System Access all provided some kind of remote control program.  A JAWS user could control another computer that had JAWS running on it, Window-Eyes could remotely control another Window-Eyes enabled box and System Access could do the same for its users.

What then does the trainer or technology specialist who has clients who use all three of these screen readers do to remotely work with his customers?  She can, of course, install all three tools so she is ready for most situations her clients may have.  Or, because of the technology announced last week by Serotek, she can simply use System Access to communicate with computers with no screen reader, with JAWS, with Window-Eyes or with System Access installed on them.  This flexibility sets System Access apart as the most flexible tool for people in a wide variety of different careers who need to remotely access other computers.

According to the press release, System Access now provides complete access to Jaws and Window-Eyes on all remote computers. If you are running JAWS or WE on your computer at home or the office, or even if a friend that you are trying to help is using one of these programs, then our software Will advise you that JFW or Window-Eyes is running on the remote computer. You will be told the version number of the program running so you will have a better idea of what is on the remote machine. When connected to the remote machine, System Access will step aside and allow the complete use of these other screen readers.”  If I remember correctly, System Access could already provide access to any Windows computer, with or without a screen reader installed, to provide accessible remote access to otherwise inaccessible computers.

The combination of stepping aside to allow a remote screen reader to take control or to give access to an inaccessible computer provides blind people with jobs as trainers, access technology specialists, JAWS scripters and other AT related jobs as well as blind IT professionals with the broadest range of possibilities for working with computers remotely and for increasing their career possibilities in these fields.

The release continues by saying that the Serotek solution is, “fully encrypted with secure SSL technology and HIPA compliant,” it can be used in the most sensitive privacy related situations.  As privacy regulations related to disability and medical products continue to grow stronger, this relatively boring sounding feature is actually tremendously important.

I don’t exactly understand how they accomplished this (I’m mostly a networking dumb ass () but the System Access solution, “doesn't require Windows Remote Desktop.”  

As usual with System Access portability is a major factor.   “If you are on the go don't worry you can use your U3 enabled Key To Freedom or PassKey to connect to a remote machine as well. Just find any computer plug in your Key and do your thing.”  The ability to plug in my own key on computers everywhere I go has been a feature I’ve enjoyed for a long time now.  Having the ability to connect to my home or office computer, where I do my programming using JAWS and VisualStudio 2005 makes this especially convenient as, like many programmers, I may forget to check in a file and, if out and about, using SA, I now have a way to fix a broken build by checking in the files my comrades need.

As my key to freedom is a full gigabyte U3 USB device, which weighs about two grams, it is easy to keep with me and to use anywhere.  One warning, though, USB keys do not like salt water so, if you plan on wade fishing, empty your pockets before heading into the water.

This is just one in a long series of very cool ideas that Mike and the Serotek guys are getting into Freedom Box and System Access.  If you haven’t given them a test drive yet, I suggest downloading a demo (link to web site above) and giving it a spin.

--End

3 Comments:

Anonymous Richard Wells said...

System Access and its accompanying remote tools are helping blind individuals like me in the quest for further independence and greater employment options.
Just this passed week with this software, I was able to trouble-shoot and solve technical issues on two computers without having to install invasive screen access products requiring authorization and video hooking. Within thirty seconds of the time I walked up to these machines, they were up and talking and ready for trouble-shooting procedures. This week, I will be interviewing for a network support position. With System Access and its remote access capability, I will be able to demonstrate to them on their own equipment that I can do the job. Again, I won't have to install anything on their computers: no administrative rights needed for video hooking or other registry entries and no authorization hassles.
Based on a blind user's experience, I hope that vocational rehabilitation professionals and all who have responsibility for acquiring access technology will realize the implications of endless job possibilities this product could potentially create.
I do not work for this company. Opinions expressed are mine alone and reflect my personal experience.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Ranger1138 said...

More of a follow up to Richar'ds comment on this story.
While my experiences with SA and Freedom Box are limited, we are in the process of getting our Evaluation copies now from our newly signed local vender, I can say that no matter how wonderful the product is to those in the know getting VR on board is nei impossible.
It is hard enough to convince a counselor veteran of 10 years or older to not say Coke say soda. In other words the branding is such that JAWS comes flying out of the mouth before the more politically correct term Screen Reader comes to mind. But even more than this the average non Blind VR worker doesn't know the diference between most of the leading products on the market today.
I am someone who works in the Industry and I do know first hand how dificult it is to discuss network compatibility, hooking language and hotkeys with those who know more about the Rehab Act than I. And if you want to lose a hour of your life try explaining Graphics Labeling versus Scripting with non technical supported employment venders or your local Workforce Comission/Agency contact.
That's not to say that what SA and Freedom Box offer is not needed by us and those like us. It's just a fact that as the VR community becomes more gray their ability to understand the complexities of things like remote access and various wired and wireless connections becomes more dificult to comprehend by the day.
Another issue is that most VR and the Veterans Administration buys their Access Tech in bulk. Some AT Venders offer an entire package of Screen Reader, Screen Magnifier, PDA, GPS and others all as a one stop shop. Some states and school districts find this an easier pill to swallow as they may not have the time and the talent on board their staffs to find System Access or other options.
So again I think this new technology is fantastic. The company already has a Vista solution in place and they are working on a Screen Magnifier component. But it will take time for the stone wall of VR to come down and accept programs like this as valid players in the industry. If anyone can do it than it's Mike. His dedication and presentations have impressed me over the last two years. And it's this drive and inovation that gave me the ability to introduce the product to my co-workers.
Lastly..
Hi BC. I thought I would comment on this topic since you have brought it up in my comments section at TRS a few times. And yes I do actually read my comments section and your blog as well. LOL! I haven't done anything but link to Freedom Box a few times because I have so much other stuff on my plate. I wouldn't be doing them any favors if I didn't really just sit down and use the product full time for a while. Maybe after everyone gets out of beta, Vista fully launches and oh yeah Office 2007 launches too I can finally give SA a full work up. Of course that timeline puts me right on the path with CSUN... sigh..well there's always time for jello.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Richard Wells said...

I feel compelled to comment on Ranger's post.

He said in part: "The branding is such that JAWS comes flying out of the mouth before the more politically correct term Screen Reader comes to mind. But even more than this the average non Blind VR worker doesn't know the difference between most of the leading products on the market today."

It is up to the users of these products to get educated about the technology. For the most part, sighted VR counselors don't need to use assistive technology, and therefore naturally will not care as much about what the users get. Remember, their goal is to close the case and move on to the next client.

I would say to anyone who holds the view that things are just the way they are and that's just the way it is, deserves the technology and lack of innovation they get.

I believe we are at a cross-roads. We can either continue down this highway, which in my view, leads to the dark ages of assistive technology, or we can begin the reformation. The comfort zone this industry is in is convenient, but it is definitely not expedient!

10:20 AM  

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