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.