160 posts categorized

November 29, 2015

6 of the Best Cyber Monday Deals



For retail junkies across the country, Cyber Monday is the most wonderful time of the year. Shoppers wait in long lines, brave giant crowds, and fight their way to checkout with dreams of scooping up the best deals of the season. 

The best way to ensure you make the most of your shopping time during Cyber Monday is to plan ahead and make selections well before you hit the retail road. There’s no time to browse and compare prices on the big day, so building a list ahead of time is the best way to save time and money. Here’s a list of six Cyber Monday bargains you’ll want on your shopping list in 2015:


Apple MacBook Air (11.6-inch screen) - $720

It’s true—great things do come in small packages. That’s especially true with this offer from online retailer eBay. Apple products are notoriously expensive and rarely go on sale, but you can scoop up this featherweight laptop for a cool $720 this weekend, a 20 percent savings off the usual retail price. 


Selfie Stick - $2.99

You may not take selfies, but everyone in your family and circle of friends does! This deal featured at Five Below discount stores is a simple and affordable gift for just about everyone you know. The stick comes with an AUX cable and fits most smartphones. 


Camera-Equipped Quadcopter - $50

For only $50, this kid-friendly, remote-controlled aircraft has a built-in camera so pilots can get a birds-eye view from up to 260 feet away. Regularly priced at $150, this gift will soar above the rest this holiday season. You’ll find this bargain at JCPennys across the country this shopping weekend.


Kindle (Paperwhite) - $50

Amazon makes the backlit Paperwhite Kindle irresistible this holiday season at the low price of only $50. This is a great opportunity to scoop up one for yourself, if you’ve never enjoyed an e-reader before, or share your love of reading with family and friends at nearly 40% off the regular price. 


Xbox One: Gears of War Bundle - $300 + Target Gift Card 

There’s a lot of sales to choose from as far as the Xbox One is concerned, but this year it looks like Target has its competitors beat. In addition to $50 off the regular retail price, this bundle includes the latest Gears of War game, as well as a $60 Target gift card for you or to be used as another gift. 


Samsung 65-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV - $1,888

What Black Friday shopping list would be complete without an insanely big TV? This Samsung Smart TV, available on eBay, is the granddaddy of deals this holiday season at only $1,888. While that’s a bit much for a stocking stuffer, if you’re in the market for a new TV this year, this is a great opportunity to grab a quality device for well below retail value. This 65-inch TV normally goes for $4,000.

So, there you have it: six of the best Cyber Monday deals in 2015. Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, you’ll be well on your way to savings. 

November 24, 2015

Saving Lives with Mobile Technology



The thought of surgery being performed by a robot might be a bit too close to science fiction for folks to stomach. However, the healthcare industry is quickly approaching the intersection of once far-fetched medical technology and a global need for better healthcare. 

Mobile technology is a huge part of this growing trend in health sectors across the country, and the world. In fact, mobile advancements in healthcare are predicted to play a large role in saving lives, and influencing preventative medicine. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific mobile advancements on the cusp of this fast-approaching technological horizon:


Healthcare and Gamification 

Along with making medical technology more available, creating ways to empower and proactively engage patients for long-term success is just as important as medical prognosis. 

Gamification involves adding game elements to the outpatient process and preventative repertoire to help patients stay on track with a diet, take their medicine, and maintain healthy habits.

We’ve already seen great examples of this in mobile apps like Luminosity, for brain stimulation, and HAPIfork, which monitors healthy eating. By incorporating mobile technology into the medical paradigm, doctors can help patients well after they leave the hospital. 


Comprehensive Communications 

Mobile is also a unique tool in healthcare because of the communication access it delivers and its ability to spread information democratically. The Internet and digital resources play a large roll in this as well, but mobilizing these resources has added millions of new Internet users to the healthcare network.

In 2014, mobile Internet access surpassed desktop usage—in other words, the mobile community is farther-reaching than ever before, making it possible to share, crowdsource, store, and gather pieces of medical information on a globalized network.


Saving Lives 

Aside from these abstract healthcare improvements, mobile technology has the ability to save lives immediately. For example, UNICEF has implemented a mobile communication system in one of the most dangerous and densely populated areas in the world: the Gaza Strip. 

Using mobile technology, school children in these areas are able to attend school more regularly, and safely, by allowing school administrators to communicate with parents directly. School administrators can send out SMS messages warning parents of potential treats, as well as let them know when school will resume. Since 2011, 29 schools have used this program regularly, and more than 11,000 students are benefiting from the results. 

From 3D printing and robotic nurses, to wearable tech and live-streaming surgery, the future may be in fact be closer than we think, and mobile technology has found a relevant niche within this growth to do its part in making the world a healthier and safer place to live. 

November 18, 2015

Lifesaving Mobile Tech Gets Support from Verizon



If there’s on thing most smartphone users don’t expect from their phones, it’s the potential to save lives. But thanks to Verizon, startups focused on lifesaving technologies are getting the opportunity to share their initiatives and compete for a chance to win funding. In fact, 12 startups have already been crowned winners at Verizon’s annual Powerful Answers contest, with specific prize money to be announced Dec. 9 in San Francisco. 

In total contestants stand to win a total of $6 million to bring their lifesaving apps and technologies to life. Fourteen hundred people entered this year, and of the twelve finalists, three are women-led ventures. Here’s more info on a few of the finalists that have a shot at winning this year’s grand prize: 


Drone Lifeguard

That’s right, folks—lifesaving AUVs (unnamed aerial vehicle) anywhere, anytime.  The ‘lifeguard as a service’ model introduced by founder and CEO R.J. Tang is a unique concept for one of the world’s leading causes of unintentional death. Tang and his team are using drones to safely, and more quickly, deploy inflatable life preserves to swimmers who may be drowning. 


Disaster Mesh 

Disaster Mesh helps people affected by a disaster reconnect to vital digital communications. Using small devices shaped like maple seeds, the ‘Mesh’ is literally thrown from the sky and intended to cover a large area with network nodes. Survivors then connect to the network, which delivers simple survival options like “I’m trapped,” “I need medical help,” or “I’m okay, continue to network.” 



This ride-sharing app is all about the family—kids especially. Built for parents, by parents, Pogo connects busy family members with community friends who can provide a trusted ride for children. Users can create private groups as well as run background and DMV checks on members. 



Swiftmile is on a mission to reduce the number of cars on the road, particularly those making short commutes to work. With the Swiftmile Swiftstation, users can enjoy secure, emission free, and economical transportation. The Personal Electronic Transporter (PET) sharing system is designed to help cities, corporations, universities, and other highly congested areas decreases emissions as well as reduce the number of cars on the road. 



Speaking of auto accidents, motorcyclists are often the most at risk when forced to share the road with traditional automobiles. Ganindu Nanayakkara is a software engineer dedicated to ending avoidable motorcycle accidents. The iHelmet was designed to bring safety features for motorcycles into the 21st century at an affordable price. Nanayakkara’s model includes features like blind-spot assist, high-speed alerts, and automated SOS in case of an accident. 

Some of the finalist may save lives through abstract means, while others have the potential to impart significant lifesaving technologies almost immediately. Either way, the startups in Verizon’s contest offer an inspiring use of technology and innovation. 


November 14, 2015

What Are 'Mobile Moments' and How Can They Help My Mobile Marketing Strategy?



Christmas shopping used to be a hectic business. Typically, a day or two was set aside sometime in between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve - depending on how organized you were - in order to head to the mall and fight the crowds for the ever-dwindling supply of gifts. 

In the age of the smartphone, everything has changed. From browsing to buying, every stage of a transaction can now be performed on a mobile device. According to recent Google research, 54% of holiday shoppers will use their smartphones to shop throughout the season, and smartphone-based commerce has gone up by 64% over the last year. In fact, almost a third of all online purchases now happen on mobile phones.

So how can your mobile marketing strategy benefit from this continuing trend towards smartphone commerce? The key is understanding how people use their devices. 

A recent study claimed that people use their smartphones as many as 150 times in a single day, spending around a minute on each ‘session.’ A rounded mobile marketing campaign will tackle each and every kind of activity: text messages, emails, social media and web searches. Because each session is typically so brief, the trick is capitalize on these ‘mobile moments.’ 

Mobile moments - or micro moments - are those brief snatches of time when people turn to their smartphone in order to take a specific action, like finding the answer to a question, booking a plane ticket, downloading an app or buying something online. Mobile users approaching these moments have an express, immediate intent. That intent may be to buy. It may be to browse, or compare user reviews. But whatever the reason shoppers turn to their phones, your business should take the opportunity to be there - and be useful. Here’s how:


Comprehensive Online Listings

Google’s research shows consumers are 38% more likely to visit and 29% more likely to buy from companies whose online directory listings are complete, up-to-date, and accurate. Further, you should regularly update the listings with seasonal info and include images and business hours. The more information you can parlay in your listings, the better.


Predict Expectations

The digital marketplace is a diffuse, niche-led realm, and users will respond to a wide variety of different messages. The key to a successful mobile marketing plan is recognizing which message will have the most impact on which user. For text message sign ups, location-based notifications are a solid way of reaching potential customers at the moment they’re most likely to buy. Throw in a discount, and suddenly you have a customer with two compelling reasons to visit your outlet: 1)they’ll save money, and 2) they’re within walking distance. 


Take Advantage of the Holiday Season

Many retailers live and die by Q4, when the annual spending bonanza kicks in, with more people buying more stuff than at any other time of year. That’s why now - before Thanksgiving - is the perfect time to implement changes to your mobile marketing strategy. Invest in a mobile friendly website and start promoting festive deals so you can hit the New Year with a running start.

November 13, 2015

Mobile Marketing Trends in Southeast Asia



Is Vietnam the “land of opportunity” for mobile marketers? It appears so. Apple’s iOS9 was released this past September, resulting in worldwide ad-blocking conversations—but not in the Southeast Asian country. Why? Mobile marketing is “still being defined” in Vietnam, among other reasons. 

According to a recent study by Opera Mediaworks, Android ranks supreme in Vietnam. Vikas Gulati, Opera Mediaworks’ marketing director for Asia, says this is due to ad-blocking “never taking off” the way it did in the rest of Asia and most other parts of the world. 

"Android’s default browser, Chrome, does not accept ad blocking plug-ins like what Safari is able to do now," Gulati noted. "On mobile devices, content is mostly consumed within apps compared to mobile browsers. Apple’s ad-blocking feature only covers ad blocking on its own mobile browser, Safari."

Ad-blocking app downloads didn’t gain much popularity among iOS users in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, even when Apple was touting its ad-blocking options heavily. Experts say it’s not a huge concern among the Vietnamese; rather it’s limited to “tech-savvy users” only. However, some sites, such as popular Vietnamese movie sites and already feature ad-blocking detectors. These sites are encouraging users to disable ad blockers before they watch a video or continue to browse. 

Gulati has also noticed a shift in Vietnam from banner and traditional pop-up ads to sponsored content, native advertising, and in-feed video ads.

"Advertisers and publishers are looking to offer more seamless experiences for their users," said Gulati. "They’re looking at rich media, videos, and more targeted and relevant ads. All these changes are happening right now, and the industry is working together to find the balance between monetization and user experience."


What the Study Said

A joint study by Epinion and OMD found that while the potential for mobile marketing in Vietnam is significant, mobile marketing practices “have a long way to go.” For example, most Vietnamese marketers use SMS to engage with their target audiences. The study also found that only 25 percent of Vietnamese smartphone owners purposely clicked on “interesting” mobile ads compared to some 40 percent of smartphone owners in the rest of Southeast Asia. 

Limited ad viewability standards in Vietnam, coupled with the “desire to reach the masses,” has resulted in a need for more mobile ads, according to Alan Cerruti, CEO and co-founder of Happiness Saigon. 

"CPC and CPM or even CPD [cost-per-duration] are largely popular metrics from media agencies," he said. "These are seen as tangible KPIs, and so brands and clients will continue to agree for ads to pop everywhere and anywhere either as mass or as targeted buys. Hence, the demand for mobile display and mobile video ads is huge right now, because that's where Vietnamese consumers are spending their time."

Whatever else, mobile video is “exploding,” according to Fetch founder James Connelly, and marketers need to take advantage of it sooner rather than later. 

“Marketers need to become more conscious of creating the right type of video content useful for a mobile device,” he said in a recent interview. “The 30-second TV ad doesn’t translate well when most ads are being played without sound and in portrait.” 

November 06, 2015

Roaming Charges Have Been Scrapped in Europe


The extra costs associated with using a mobile phone in European countries other than the one you live in are to be scrapped. The ban on data roaming charged, agreed by MEPs in June after years of negotiations, has been passed into law, and will take effect from 15 June 2017.

Roaming charges are currently added to phone bills when users browse the web, make calls or send text messages while abroad. Once the ban kicks in, tourists traveling within the EU won’t notice any difference between the cost of mobile connectivity at home and abroad. The move was described by former vice-president of the European Commission Viviane Reding as “a victory for consumers.”

It’s been a long road for anti-roaming campaigners, as EU member states voiced concern about the potential financial impact on their domestic telecoms providers. A proposal for a roaming ban to take effect this year was scrapped after negotiations stalled. 

The overall ban will be preceded by a ‘phasing out’ process to lessen the burden on operators and allow time for the infrastructure to adjust.  

As things stand, operators can charge tourists up to 22 cents (around 14 pence) per minute for outgoing calls, five cents for incoming calls, six cents per text message and 20 cents per megabyte of data. That’s in addition to their regular tariff. As of April 2016, the costs will be reduced to five cents per minute, two cents per text message and five cents per megabyte.

The impending ban has been welcomed by consumers and campaigners, especially advocates of net neutrality, who broadly oppose unregulated tariff-setting for electronic communications. Under the new telecommunications law, operators will be required to treat all web traffic equally. For net neutrality advocates, the ban on roaming charges is another victory in the fight to keep the lines of digital exchange as open and free to the widest number of people possible.


November 04, 2015

Can Smartphones Help Manage Bipolar Disorder?


Bipolar disorder is a condition characterized by mood swings that vary from extreme elation to severe depression. Patients suffering from this mental illness experience extreme highs and hyperactivity, and at other times suffer devastating lows and lethargy. Because symptoms of most mental disorders can only be seen as changes in a person’s behavior, rather than a chemical or biological change, treating these mood changes can be extremely difficult. But recent studies indicate that phone apps may be able to help people with bipolar disorder manage their conditions so that they can live more productive lives.



Italian researchers have found that smartphones can be used to diagnose and manage mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Thanks to their built-in sensors, sudden mood changes can be tracked easily. Just recently, computer scientist Venet Osmani of the Trento, Italy-based Centre for Research and Telecommunication Experimentation for Networked Communities (CREATE-NET) used data mining to study human behavior and health. He knew that people with bipolar disorder often demonstrated signature behavior patterns and used smartphones to measure these patterns. According to Osmani, the behavior patterns associated with bipolar disorder can be accurately detected by smartphone sensors, which allow changes in mood to be spotted as they occur. This is amazing news for patients, as it could lead to faster treatment and better outcomes for sufferers.


How the Smartphone App Works

How will the smartphone app work? The bipolar manic phase is often characterized by physical hyperactivity, which can be measured by an accelerometer and a GPS; symptoms like rapid speech could be measured by sound analysis software, and frequent conversations monitored through phone call patterns. Similarly, slow movements, fewer locations travelled, sluggish speech, and fewer conversations with others can be signs of the depressive phase. The app includes GPS information to localize the user in case of a manic crisis, and it can be used either as part of a treatment with a therapist or as a standalone app. There are currently a number of different apps on the market being used to detect mental and physical ailments as they occur. This is just the beginning of how innovation is changing medicine.



All of this is good news for bipolar sufferers. Patients with bipolar disorder are more susceptible to stress events or changes in their routine. With a smartphone app, the possibility of early detection in a patient’s state could mean facilitating timely intervention and getting him or her the best treatment possible. 

For the most party, treating bipolar illness comes after the fact. Patients are usually given questionnaires after an episode has already occurred. An accurate way of diagnosing mood changes in real-time would be hugely useful, both for patients and their health providers to predict oncoming symptoms. 

With technology continuing to change, and innovation creating better and faster ways to communicate, many of today’s health problems might soon be more easily detected. 


Written by Jeremy Pollack


NYC Taxi Cabs are Taking on Uber at Its Own Game

If you thought traditional taxi services were going to roll over while ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft proliferate across the country, think again. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is currently taking steps to push back against the industry-disturbing apps, piloting a program that aims to utilize familiar technology in the hopes of winning back passengers. 

In 2007, New York City taxis got a tech upgrade: a backseat TV monitor blaring news reports and advertisements. The convenience of the screen was used to help process payments as well as entertain passengers, but was ill received by a majority of riders and cab drivers alike. 


Understanding Taxi TV

At the time, Taxi TV was considered a necessary evil, but with snappy services like Uber and Lyft cutting into market, the TVs are about to get the boot from the back seat.  

According to the taxi commission, the pilot will include 1,000 vehicles from up to four companies. Each company can choose its own payment technologies and install them in up to 250 vehicles. Instead of Taxi TV, these technologies will include mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, which passengers will then use to complete transactions. 

It’s not quite as simplistic as Uber’s payment method, but it’s a process most people are familiar with—and it’s a lot less annoying than Taxi TV

The pilot is scheduled to last for about a year and includes one other notable shift. Currently, cabs use the rotation of the tires and stopping times to calculate fares. The pilot will integrate GPS to record the distance traveled. This particular aspect of the pilot will be monitored closely to ensure the fares come out equal to the previous system. 

The only major concern reported so far is with disability compliance outlined by a city law passed in 2012. The law requires taxis to provide audio fare updates and requires alternative payment methods for the visually impaired. Currently, the commission is working to ensure these requirements are met if the driver uses a mobile device. 

It’s safe to say the commission’s effort is a solid attempt to compete more directly with popular ride-hailing apps. Getting rid of Taxi TV is a great way to improve the passenger’s experience, but will the use of GPS and mobile devices be enough to sway Uber or Lyft riders? The commission may need to think a little further beyond the proverbial checkered box to make an impact on the industry in a meaningful way. 

October 20, 2015

Be Wary of the Latest Text Message Bank Fraud Scam


Internet scams make the news fairly regularly, spurring conversations about prevention with advice from experts as well as victims. While most of us know not to provide personal information via email, or when asked to do so by a pop-up window, few practice the same caution with regards to their smartphones. 

The latest scam involving identity theft is presenting itself to mobile users via text messages. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently got involved after several complaints surfaced regarding text massages from alleged financial institutions requesting data verification through a live link in the message. The BBB warned consumers about the fraudulent texts and reminded them of a similar case back in 2012. 


How it Works 

According to the BBB, mobile users were receiving alerts from their personal banks, asking them to verify their names, online IDs, and passwords at a site linked in the messages. In most cases the URL had the bank’s name included (or some variation of the name) and appeared to be almost identical to the legitimate website. Unsuspecting users would enter their personal data into the fraudulent site and would become at rick of identity theft and subsequent financial loss.  

Scams like these are, in essence, very similar to those we regularly encounter on laptop or desktop computers—usually via email or pop-up window. Over time most people have learned to avoid these scams and report them to the appropriate authorities.

So, what makes this so different? The success of this scam is tied to the emotional and irrational belief that our smartphones are safer because they are typically in our possession at all times. The intimate space of text messaging is falsely perceived as secure, more trustworthy, and relevant. 

This is unfortunately not the case. Just like unwanted push notifications, incoming solicitations and scams are very real threats if certain settings are left unchecked on a smartphone.


How to Combat Text Scams 

Most of have learned to deal with dubious emails and pop-up windows by deleting suspicious messages. Use the same caution on your smart device. Ignore the instructions of a text message asking for your participation to retrieve or verify personal data via text.

Further, you should check your phone bill every month. Check for services you haven’t ordered. Fraudulent changes may appear as one-time charges or be labeled ‘subscriptions,’ and may appear on each monthly bill.  

Commercial text messages, push notifications, and text subscriptions should lawfully provide you with an easy way to unsubscribe from them. If the option doesn’t appear to be available to you, check with your service provider to ensure your account hasn’t been compromised.  

Finally, ask your phone carrier about blocking third-party charges. Most phone carriers allow third parties (app companies, special ringtone services, etc.) to charge you for their services. Some carriers also have a way to block third parties from making charges. 

Don’t be afraid to call your service provider if you ever have any questions or suspect fraudulent activity. The worst thing mobile users can do if they suspect they are being scammed or unlawfully charged for services they don’t receive is nothing. Be proactive about your mobile safety, and you won’t become a victim of mobile scams. 

October 18, 2015

Google's Latest Startup Acquisition is a Mobile Messaging App


Google recently announced the acquisition of Jibe Mobile, a messaging startup specializing in helping carriers with mobile video chat services. The idea is to make video chat as commonplace as text messages, with the purchase designed to bring Rich Communications Services (RCS) to Android products. RCS is Google’s “new standard” for carrier messaging. Financial terms regarding the acquisition were not made public. 

“We’re very excited to announce that the Jibe Mobile team is joining Google to help us bring RCS to a global audience,” Google said in a statement to Re/code. “Jibe is a leading provider of RCS services and they’ll continue helping carriers easily deploy RCS to their users. We can’t wait to work with them and build on the great work that they’ve already done.” 

The search engine giant also noted that the acquisition is part of its support of RCS and subsequently the new mobile messaging strategy.  

“Mobile messaging has never been more central to people’s lives, and there is an incredible amount of innovation happening with chat applications across the mobile ecosystem,” Mike Dodd, Android RCS Software Engineer and Minister of Messaging, wrote in an Official Android Blog post about the purchase. “SMS carrier messaging is used by billions of people every day and enables people to reach anyone around the world, regardless of their device, carrier, app or location. However, the features available in SMS haven’t kept up with modern messaging apps. Rich Communications Services (RCS) is a new standard for carrier messaging and brings many of the features that people now expect from mobile messaging, such as group chats, high res photos and more.”  

Dodd wrote that Google’s work with carriers on this project will continue, and that Android is “excited” to support RCS standards and therefore help drive consistent deployment. 

Jibe has raised over $9 million dollars while marketing itself as the “Cloud Communications Company for Mobile Operators, [which] provides an open end-to-end technology platform for IP Communications.” In 2012, Jibe raised $8.3 million through donations by MIT and Vodafone to build “carrier-quality” messaging options into apps. 

“The big opportunity we saw at the start: to change the way people communicate using their mobile phones,” Jibe CEO Amir Sarhangi said in a statement. “The ‘small’ challenge we focused on: the future of messaging, the super simple mode for communication that’s favored by billions of people, all over the world.” 


Future of Texting

Sarhangi remarked in 2012 that the days of simply calling or texting someone were coming to an end, and that most of the time people were communicating through apps. Examples of such apps include the oft-used Facebook Messenger. 

“We’re already working closely with many of our partners on implementing RCS, and look forward to growing the RCS ecosystem together,” Dodd wrote in the same blog post. 

Will video chatting become as common as text messaging? This acquisition will certainly test this notion. For now, texting and chatting remain the favorites, with chatting over Google Hangouts and the aforementioned Facebook Messenger topping the charts in popularity.