182 posts categorized

September 30, 2015

SMS Is Helping Women in Kenya Track Their Pregnancies


In remote areas of east Africa, regular healthcare for expecting mothers is hard to find. Nairobi, Kenya, for example, is desperately impoverished; the infant mortality rate in this region is one of the highest in Africa, with 40 out of 1000 babies not living past infancy. This is a story Malele Ngalu, marketing director for Kenya-based Totohealth, laments on a personal level. 

Ngalu was born in Africa; his mother faced medical disadvantages that resulted in the loss of his twin brother shortly after birth. Today, Ngalu has teamed up with Felix Kimaru, founder of Totohealth, a free SMS text service to help mothers and their infant children during a five-year program.  

Kimaru has raised more than $50,000 to get his startup off the ground and implemented in several rural areas throughout east Africa. Nairobi was one of the first areas Kimaru and Ngalu tackled, sampling the service to 2,000 parents.

According to Ngalu, most parents don’t realize their infant is sick until it’s too late. 

“We asked the parents why they did not bring the children in when they saw they had a problem, and they said they didn’t know there was one,” he said.


Texting for Health

To combat this problem, Kimaru has developed content to be delivered on a weekly basis via text message. The content relates to various developmental stages (up to the age of 5) as well as women’s health. The texts also advise regular checkups and include ready access to a help desk, where trained medical doctors and nurses are available to answer questions, as well as refer parents to nearby clinics or hospitals.

Since its launch early last year, Totohealth has seen significant user growth across the continent. Word of mouth from the original 2,000 users helped double the number of parents actively using the service in nearly 30 different countries. 

Unlike most developed countries, providing this service via app is not yet possible in east Africa—the infrastructure just doesn’t exist yet. 

“Even in low income settings like Kibera, the majority of people have basic phones,” said Ngalu.  

Most basic phones have the ability to receive and send text messages, so for the time being, SMS is the best way to deliver the information as well as track patient progress.  

According to Kimaru, the parents who use the service have a 96 percent likelihood of attending every recommended checkup and appointment. These kinds of results are getting the attention of large groups like the World Health Organization. 

The other advantage to using text is that it’s relatively inexpensive, costing only about 25 cents a month per user. Right now, county governments are footing the bill for the service, hoping that government policy and social awareness will help drive further change to reform maternal programs.  

Kimaru is looking to raise another $300,000 in funding to expand Totohealth’s operations throughout other parts of Africa. 

September 26, 2015

Are Canadian Banks Mobile Ready?


According to a new report from CenturyLink entitled Banks: Customers Expect That You’re Always On and Available, Are You Ready?, 40 percent of Canadian banking executives say they do not have the IT infrastructure required to meet customers’ core banking service needs.  

“To stay competitive in a technology-driven marketplace, Canadian banks must be both financial institutions and mobile technology innovators,” said Roji Oommen, managing director of financial services at CenturyLink. “Given that many of these banks don’t believe they have the infrastructure in place to fully embrace mobile technology, strategic technology partners like CenturyLink can help identify and integrate the right IT and mobile technology solutions.”

The CenturyLink report notes that 26 percent of Canadians use mobile banking, which is up five percent from 2010. Much like Americans, Canadians now expect secure, round-the-clock solutions for their banking needs, making the call for mobile banking options greater than ever. 


Challenges for Banks

However, Canadian banks are struggling to meet these demands. Even the biggest names in Canadian banking note the pressure they feel to “get their products to market quickly,” and that their new tech-based competitors are “a disruptive force.” They still list digital customer service as a top priority, though they feel they lack the resources to make mobile payments and similar services happen quickly. In addition to the more than one-third of C-suite executives who say they don’t have the IT infrastructure they need to meet customer expectations, nearly 70 percent say they don’t have the infrastructure for digital channels, or the means to improve them. 

Canadian banks subsequently need not only to work with current mobile trends, but also to plan for the future. The future of mobile banking solutions, according to CenturyLink, is all about mobile-first applications that personalize the consumer experience. Most Canadians own at least one mobile device, and are very Internet happy, as they clock around 45 hours of usage per person per month. As of 2012, over 6.7 million Canadians pay their bills online. 

Despite widespread mobile use among Canadians, security issues still loom. Many older Canadians pay with cash due to perceived security threats, however use of cash is diminishing among Canadians of all ages.  

So how can Canadian banks provide customers with the mobile options they need and compete on a global scale? Outsourcing IT infrastructure is one solution currently being considered by banking executives. Ensuring mobile banking solutions are completely secure is another. Mobile banking is hardly a trend; rather it’s something that’s absolutely here to stay. Canadian banks must work with technology partners to make certain they go forward instead of remaining stagnant.

September 22, 2015

Making Mobile Banking Less Risky


The world of work has undergone some radical changes over the last decade. Businesses have offices and employees scattered all over the globe; meetings take place via optic cables and tablet screens. The very notion of a ‘headquarters’, where all the important stuff happens, seems anachronistic in 2015. 

One of the key concerns for this diffuse employment culture is ensuring the security of financial transactions conducted over wireless mobile networks. There are a few ways to do this, each with their own advantages and drawbacks:


SMS Messaging

SMS has changed the banking industry inside and out, enhancing customer service and improving internal communications in a secure, reliable way. According to research by OpenMarket and International Data Corp (IDC), almost 90% of financial services companies believe mobile messaging has had a positive impact on the user experience, and 73% see text messages as an effective way to communicate with employees. 

SMS’ secret weapon is two-factor authentication (2FA), which drastically reduces the risk of fraudulent activity on an account. Even with 2FA in place, most financial organizations send notifications regarding high-dollar, high-risk transactions. 

The benefits of mobile banking go further than security (though, clearly, that’s the priority for both customer and bank). One in five financial services companies are using mobile messaging to ensure business continuity and enhance multichannel capacity, and one in four use it to improve risk mitigation (according to the IDC study). More than a third of banks use SMS to attract new business and improve retention rates for existing customers. 



Face, voice and fingerprint biometrics are making headway into finance security management. Facial recognition usually requires users to look at a screen and blink when prompted; for voice recognition, they read a short phrase.  

The simplicity of these actions is significant. It means biometrics and mobile messaging needn’t be mutually exclusive for the sake of convenience - they can work together to create a multi-factor authentication process that enhances security. Add to that the security of a password-restricted biometrics app, contained on the mobile device of the user, and you have a pretty tight ship.


Behavioral Biometrics

Even newer and shinier than physical biometrics is the concept of behavioral biometrics. It works by monitoring session behavior in desktop, mobile and cloud apps and creating a unique profile that draws on physiological data such as palm size and swipe and press patterns, as well as behavioral traits like usage preference and location habits. 

A number of behavioral biometrics systems are being developed for use by banks. Clearly, these additional layers of risk analysis and security can help protect customers - even across multiple devices - and provide a more frictionless experience at the same time.

This is all good news for mobile banking, which is already used by around half of customers at the main U.S. banks. Passwords are still expected by users, so are unlikely to disappear from view any time soon. Behavioral and physical biometrics are beginning to run alongside traditional log in data as a secondary line of defense, continually tracking the online tendencies of users to build an accurate picture and identify cyber security risks more quickly. The beauty of biometrics for the user is that there’s no need to download software or endure long sign up processes. All they have to do is, literally, be themselves.


September 13, 2015

8 Apps to Get You Through NY Fashion Week


“There’s an app for that.”  

These words now apply to the fashion industry, with numerous apps cropping up to help fashion addicts get more of what they love. Let’s look at a few of the many nifty apps to take full advantage of during New York Fashion Week


Fashion’s Night Out

Fashion’s Night Out is an app from Vogue that makes it easy to decide which fashion-tastic after-party to attend while enjoying the famous New York event. The app customizes recommendations based on your favorite stores as well as your current location so you get where you need to go without walking a long distance in high heels, or missing shindigs featuring favorite duds. 



Milk is one of New York Fashion Week’s premier hosts, and created a companion app to help you navigate the ins and outs of the runway. The app streams images of models as they saunter down said runway, and can sync with the show you’re attending by listening to the room’s audio. Interesting... and a tad creepy?


Lifebooker App 

Lifebooker’s super-cool app is a great thing to have during fashion week, as it provides access to fantastic discounts on manicures, facials, and haircuts. It also offers discounts on local restaurants and entertainment options so you can make it a (relatively) inexpensive evening out. 



If you’ve been fascinated with runway models since the heyday of Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, you’ll love Modelinia. The app gives access to model “stats” as well as their coolest beauty, travel, and fashion tips.  



Svpply is likened to “polyvore for grown-ups,” as it’s a wishlist creation platform that’s also an app. It allows you to follow new products available through most-favorite stores and organize wishlists by category—up to 30 categories, to be exact.


AHA Life 

Want to “shop the world’s most unique designers and artisans” via mobile device? AHA Life is the app for you. It makes it possible to shop over 1,000 designers and artisans in more than 45 countries, and is curated by Tim Gunn and the one and only Diane Von Furstenberg. Find favorite fashions, as well as foods, purses and wallets, books, headphones, and a slew of other great items.



Hailed as “the Instagram of fashion,” Trendabi gives users the opportunity to share pictures of their most style-tastic outfits and tag them according to the store, label, or price. Comment and like favorite ensembles, and get inspiration for new looks. 



Looking to do a bit of urban streetwear blog-consolidating? ChicFeed does the work for you by providing a feed of the latest Fashion Week streetwear images. 


September 07, 2015

Avoid These Common Mobile App Marketing Mistakes


Mobile apps have taken the world by storm.  A recent study cited in Forbes estimates that by 2017, 87 percent of all connectable devices sold will be mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Companies that aren’t marketing on mobile are missing out, however companies that market badly on mobile networks are simply wasting their energy.

Here are some of the most common mobile app marketing mistakes and the top ways to avoid them:


Using the same marketing strategies you’ve always used.

Mobile is not your traditional media, and it doesn’t mesh well with traditional marketing strategies, according to a recent white paper by Fiksu. Traditional marketing often fails to resonate with mobile-first audiences, who are increasingly younger groups with a keen sense of their likes, dislikes, and desires.

In order to avoid this mistake, don’t market for a broad audience. Instead, leverage data-driven marketing tools to put specific messages in front of specific audiences.  Then, give audiences a way to interact, such as by downloading a free item, playing a game, or clicking a link to learn more.


Assuming you can simply transfer the desktop experience to mobile.

Mobile users are, by definition, on the go. Meanwhile, a desktop website or app rarely translates well to the smaller touchscreen format of mobile devices.  A “mobile” site that simply recreates the regular site, but at one-eighth the size, is likely to be baffling, un-navigable, and take too long to load. Any one of these will cause a user to click away quickly.

Instead, a recent article in Kissmetrics recommends crafting a mobile-specific version of your desktop site. Aim for something that will load in three seconds or less, has a few easy-to-read menus, and puts the essential message of your brand front and center.


Failing to tailor content to mobile messaging.

Whether you choose an app, a mobile site, SMS messaging, or all three, you should tailor your content to meet your specific goals. For instance, to send a link to users, make sure the link fits well into a text message or email, and then make sure that the content it links to works on all devices.  


Building an app without promoting it.

Over half a million apps currently exist, according to one Entrepreneur article, and more are created every day.  Without a plan for promoting your business’s app, even the most carefully designed, appealing, and easy-to-use apps will quickly get lost in the “noise.”  Before you launch the app, make sure you know how you’re going to promote it to existing customers and to new ones and follow through.


Neglecting to track and optimize marketing in real time.

Sure, millions of potential customers use mobile devices.  But how many of them are you reaching? What’s the payoff for the money and effort you’ve sunk into your mobile outreach? How could you do better?

Mobile marketing changes even more quickly than traditional marketing.  Today’s “sure thing” traffic source is tomorrow’s ghost town. To make sure your message keeps reaching your target audience, track the data and respond to the trends and patterns you see.

Engage customers, integrate networks, and decrease costs by working with a company that specializes in making mobile app marketing work for you.

September 06, 2015

Mobile Spending to Increase 160% in Three Years


The best place to be if you’re a CMO is at the forefront of a marketing trend. According to a recent survey published by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the trend ahead is more spending on mobile. 

The CMO Survey included more than 200 inquiries to top marketing agencies and professionals. Mobile spending currently floats around 6% of total marketing budgets, but is estimated to increase by 160% (to just less than 16%) over the next three years. Duke’s survey, conducted biannually, is one of the oldest dedicated exclusively to marketing. 

For CMOs across the country, the increase is easier said than done. Money can certainly buy mobile ad space, but it doesn’t guarantee returns on investment. Getting ahead of this trend means answering important questions about which mobile marketing tactics are most effective for your business.


Choosing the Best Marketing Methods 

For starters, CMOs should carefully consider the best options available to leverage both the consumer and the brand. This means assessing the target audience, developing content that articulates a benefit, maintaining continuity across all media channels, and figuring out when these targeted customers are most likely accessible and through what media channels. Master these goals and you’re headed for the promised lands; make a misstep and you might damage the brand, or worse, consumer relations. 

The survey found a large gap between the effectiveness of B2B and B2C mobile marketing, with the latter greatly outperforming the former. Both categories were addressed in various fronts including customer acquisition, engagement, retention, messaging, sales, and profits.  

Mobile marketing’s greatest strengths among these categories come as no surprise: engagement and messaging lead the pack. This makes sense as mobile marketing certainly compliments the way people intrinsically use their devices to communicate and engage with content in real time. 

Like all things that promise a big payoff, there are risks involved. One of the issues most noted in the survey is the difficulty involved in quantitatively assessing the success or failure of social media marketing. Currently, social media sites are among the most trafficked via mobile.

Today, much of the marketing done via social media is handled by a third party, so getting accurate data or analytics can be difficult, sometimes impossible depending on the platform.  

CMOs have the difficult task of weighing the risks of ambiguous social media campaigns, with pressures from board members and other higher-ups who have noted behavioral trends shifting increasingly towards mobile.

That being said, it looks like getting ahead of this mobile increase comes down to research and analysis before dollars and cents. 


September 02, 2015

How to Keep Your Smartphone in Tip Top Running Condition


Smartphones are capable of performing so many tasks, there’s almost no digital activity for which they can’t be used. Problem is, they’re still handheld devices with limited space, and too much media - especially big files like music and video - will quickly prompt the dreaded alert: storage space is running low. 

It’s a first world problem, to be sure, but no less irritating when you’re in the middle of filming an important event and you have to scramble to free up space. Thankfully, there are some shortcuts to freeing up space in a bind. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to keep your mobile device running smoothly:


Identify the Worst Offenders

The first order of business is to find out which apps and data are hogging the memory. On iPhones, go to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage; on Android, tap Settings and then Storage - the Apps entry will give you a breakdown of every app. 

Now there are decisions to be made. Is there anything you don’t use at all? Are there apps you could easily download again in future that you don’t need to run right now? Deleting a couple of games and bulky apps will usually solve most space issues - and even trashing some of the data contained within an app frees up a surprising amount of memory, as we’ll see…


Cleaning Up

Apps hoard a lot more data than many people think. Cached Spotify playlists; stored episodes on iPlayer; cookies in Chrome; offline webpages stored in history; maps in navigation apps… the list goes on. Cherrypicking the least useful elements from all of these will clear up a lot of space. 

For Android devices, try going to Apps in Settings and selecting entries to clear caches and temporary data. The Privacy section (both iOS and Android) lets you erase temporary files. Don’t forget the ready availability of third-party apps designed to help you clear space. Android is particularly well-served in this regard, with apps like Clean Master and The Cleaner offering good results, both in terms of clearing junk data and improving security.


Backing Up

For some reason, backing up mobile data using external hard drives is not as popular as it should be. Sure, most people will do this with their laptops and desktops, but smartphones - which have drastically less memory - tend to be isolated. It needn’t be this way.

Take a few minutes once a month to dump photos, music and video from your mobile device onto a hard drive or in the cloud. There’s no shortage of options to achieve this end, on both iOS and Android devices. In-built apps like iCloud and Google Photos work well, as does Dropbox, but whatever method you plump for, it makes sense to back everything up twice (once in the cloud, once on a hard drive).


The Nuclear Option

Still not happy with how your phone is running? If all else fails, and you’ve backed up every file you want to keep, you can always opt for a factory reset, which will make your device run like new.

September 01, 2015

Infographic: How Mobile Has Transformed Education

In 2015, the vast majority of American teenagers have access to some kind of mobile device, and most classrooms provide Internet connectivity. Textbooks have been replaced by tablets and e-readers, and new apps are constantly being developed to help our young people learn more effectively. There's no doubt about it: within a generation, technology has made education practically unrecognizable to those of us who  attended school with nothing more sophisticated than a calculator...


August 28, 2015

Election Campaigners Are Using SMS to Consolidate Support


It comes as no surprise that presidential candidates are looking at mobile technology to sound the political battle cry. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the pervasive nature of smartphones with the essence of the democratic process—a vote from every registered voter with a cell phone would equal the greatest voter turnout in history! However unlikely that outcome is, the principles driving the candidates to communicate with voters via mobile are redefining the campaign trail, from dusty road to digital highway.  


In particular, campaigners are relying on SMS or text messaging to ignite passionate volunteers to action, as well as for updating supporters on rally meetings, local campaign groups, and other related information. Texting is an immediate form of communication that hits about as close to home as one can get—without actually going door-to-door. 


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, hasn’t spent a dime on advertising political rallies. Instead, his staff has focused on adding data specialists to the team, refining methods of gathering data on rally attendees, and working to convert those people into campaign volunteers/supporters. 


In July, Sanders hosted a simulcast from a Washington, D.C., apartment to 3,500 event locations across the country. Instead of soliciting for email addresses, Sanders called upon more than 100,000 viewers to text “work” to the organizing number. 


According to the New York Times, nearly 50,000 people became volunteers for the grassroots-style movement that evening.


Sanders isn’t the only candidate connecting with voters via text. Senator Ted Cruz, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Rand Paul have all incorporated aspects of SMS messaging into their campaign initiatives. What’s more, this isn’t the first time texting has been used in the political process. In 2008 President Obama managed to curate a list of more than 1 million people, although according to his staff, the campaign was unable to do much with it at the time. 


The 78-year-old Sanders, however, is taking the technology and running with it.

According to Billy Howard, a Sanders supporter from Reno, Nevada, the effects of the mobile rallying efforts have increased volunteer leadership in the area—surpassing what Howard saw in Reno during Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. 

“That means Sen. Sanders isn’t going to have to spend as much money as Obama did,” Howard said.


August 24, 2015

Little Red Corvette: You Need Security That's Going to Last


During the 20th Century, the greatest selection pressure on the automotive industry was the imperative to produce safer cars. Mechanical functions became computerized wherever possible, bringing the wonders of interactive dashboards, sensors, mapping technology and cameras - even to new cars in the most affordable price range.  

Now, if you own a car manufactured in the last ten years, chances are it has some type of computer network running the show. The consensus is that all these technical advancements have improved safety - perhaps cutting traffic fatalities by as much as a third in the last three years. 

The fly in the ointment? All this fancy-dan technology has exposed new vulnerabilities, even as they’ve swept away old ones.  

Researchers from the University of California have developed a method of hacking cars using insurance black boxes - and SMS. Testing their methods on a 2013 Chevrolet Corvette (because you may as well do science in style), the team worked out how to control the windscreen wipers and - eek! - the brakes using text messages. They say the method can be adapted to access other control systems like transmission, locks and steering. This shouldn’t be possible right?

The researchers are expected to deliver their findings at the USENIX security conference in Washington this November. The report - “Fast and Vulnerable: A Story of Telematic Failures” - states that on-board network devices can be ‘discovered, targeted and compromised by a remote attacker,’ essentially allowing nefarious hackers to turn your vehicle into a remote controlled car.

The black-box system which acted as the portal for the team to hack into the controls is usually used to store data for insurance purposes. Because it needs to log data on braking, speed and location, it must be embedded into the vehicle’s CAN (or internal network) - making it vulnerable to hackers. Once the researchers had gained access they were able to wireless control the car using SMS messages. 

This particular hack has now been patched by the manufacturers, but it’s indicative of just how easy it is to expose and exploit systems designed to make automotive travel safer. 

Another car hack was recently performed on the Jeep Cherokee. Demonstrations of how easily the vehicle’s uConnect software could be compromised using an IP address caused widespread concern. Other car manufacturers, including General Motors, have also been shown to have vulnerabilities to hackers. 

The irony is that insurance companies are incentivizing the installation of data loggers, and have been for years. And the kinds of technology used in the hacks aren’t regulated because, like SMS messaging, they are so widely available. It’s safe to assume that the hacks performed so far by researchers represent the tip of the iceberg. With millions of cars using data logging technology, we could see more cases of dangerous security breaches emerging in due course.