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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 12, 2015

New ATM Concept Brings Mobile to the Fore



Will that be cash or credit? These days most of us use plastic to pay for just about everything—from groceries and clothing to digital music and parking meters. But this hasn’t stopped Diebold Inc. from introducing a new line of ATMs aimed at providing future consumers with a unique mobile banking experience. 

In late October, Diebold unveiled two new ATM concepts at the Money 20/20 tradeshow in Las Vegas. The Irving and Janus models are the latest series to exclude common components of traditional ATM design and functionality. Most notably, both designs feature cardless transaction capabilities and mobile integration, which according to Diebold, will create a smoother and more convenient experience. 


New Features

Unlike traditional ATMs, the Irving is a sleek, screen-less, and pad-less terminal. Near Field Communication (NFC) activates the ATM when a user approaches the device.  NFC syncs with a user’s smartphone, thus eliminating the need for various material interfaces. To access funds, users verify their identities using contact-less technologies like QR codes or iris-scan and then withdraw cash. The Irving is also 32 percent smaller than traditional ATMs.

While the Irving delivers on speed and convenience, the Janus offers customer service in an entirely new format. The Janus is a dual-sided terminal, sharing basic components like alarm boards and connectivity, but can individually service two users at once from each side without compromising security or privacy. 

The Janus also incorporates mobile access features like NFC and QR code technology but also offers a tablet touch screen, which allows users to scan checks and sign documents. Additionally, if a user needs assistance, the Janus offers a 24-hour video teller for more complex problems. 


But Are They Safe? 

Mobilizing the ATM experience is a likely evolution. As consumers become increasingly familiar with mobile integration and applications, especially with the proliferation of banking apps, the need for brick-and-mortar bank locations decreases. But are these new cardless ATMs safe for consumers? 

Diebold’s ATM concepts reassure users with safety features covering several types of threats. First, the new machines remove nearly every skimming threat, because users would not have to slide a card or type a PIN. Second, the QR codes and other scanning technologies don’t contain any sensitive data about the user; they simply notify the smartphone of the connection. Connections are also set to expire after a short length of time, so even if the phone were lost or stolen, accessing the account would be impossible without proper user identification. And finally, the increased speed of the transaction greatly shortens the amount of time a person spends at the terminal.

Like all mobilized tasks, the use of mobile integrated ATMs will probably take some getting used to. In the future, it probably won’t be the end of the world if you forget your wallet at home, provided that you have your cell phone.



Jeremy Pollack has a B.A. in English from USC and has been writing professionally since 2001. He is the founder and editorial manager of Compelling Content Solutions, A copy writing and content marketing services company.


November 05, 2015

India's Smartphone Market is Booming


With a billion-strong population and a growing economy, India is an increasingly significant market for mobile developers. Homegrown companies are vying with bigger players from China and South Korea to bring mobile devices to a market primarily concerned with budget technologies (although that too is changing, with one in three mobile devices a smartphone). 

In the face of local and regional competition, one company comes out consistently on top. Samsung remains the industry leader as we enter the final quarter of 2015. During Q3, the electronics behemoth cornered 23.2% of the market; its nearest competitor was local brand Micromax, which rose one percent to 17.7%. 

Such impressive growth in India only emphasizes the current stagnation in saturated markets like China and the United States. During Q2, smartphone sales showed a 44% year on year growth, and some analysts predict that, by 2017, India will overtake the United States as the world’s second biggest smartphone market. 

The reason Samsung has stayed in pole position is their flexibility and willingness to create a wide range of devices, each catering to then specific demands of regional markets. Mostly known in the west for the Galaxy S6 and Note 5, Samsung’s biggest sellers in India are the Galaxy J, a mid-priced device that retails at around $190, and the Galaxy A, which is priced towards the higher end, starting at around $480. 

It’s this wide-ranging approach to innovation, taking into account all budgets and needs, that really separates Samsung from Apple in the global marketplace. Indeed, Apple had a marketshare of just 1% in India (which still accounts for a not-to-sniffed-at 1.7 million devices). 

Not that Samsung can or should rest on their laurels. The aforementioned Micromax, and Indian company, is shifting more than 100,000 mobile phones each month, and prides themselves on even more diversity than Samsung, developing 30 different designs in a single year. This gives them different price points for different parts of the market, not dissimilar to the way automobile brands have multiple models for various price segments.

Apple are unlikely to shift towards this model. It goes against their brand image as the exclusive top dog, dripfeeding updates to their devotees - and ramping up the marketing assault each time. Diversification is not on the cards. Which suits Micromax, Samsung et al just fine.

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. 

November 01, 2015

Mobile Helps Propel UK Adspend to Record Highs


According to the Advertising Association/Warc, UK ad spending hit a record high in 2015. Spending increased by 5.8% to reach £9.42bn in the first half of the year, and mobile is predicted to exceed the billion-pound barrier for the first time. Digital channels remain the force behind this growth, as Internet spending is up 13.3% for H1 to £3.9bn. Mobile makes up 79% of this growth, with ad spending increasing more than 52% to £1.08bn. 

Growth is noticeable throughout the industry, including both television and cinema forms. Only print has seen a decrease in revenue. 

“Advertising’s resilience points to the strength of the broader economy in the first half,” said Tim Lefroy, chief executive at the Advertising Association. “The UK leads the world in eCommerce and the trend to mobile means serving the public better ads in the right place at the right time.”

Ad spending is expected to demolish the £20bn barrier in 2016, with the Advertising Association’s media breakdown is as follows:  

  • Radio: Radio ad spending decreased by 2.2% to £116m in Q2, branded content excluded. Full-year growth is expected at 3.0% in 2015, and 2.3% with branded content included.
  • TV: Spot advertising “recorded solid YOY growth of 2.9% to £1,144m in Q2, compared to a quarter in which the FIFA World Cup was held last year.” TV spot advertising also enjoyed a fantastic Q1 via ad revenues rising to 11.5%. An “increase of 6.7% is forecast for 2015 as a whole.” 
  • Out of Home: YOY growth was strong at the beginning of 2015 with an increase of 9.7% in Q1, though it decreased 3.6% to £249m in Q2. 
  • Regional Newsbrands: These newsbrands saw a decline of 7.2% in ad spend in Q2 2015 compared to 2014. This “represents a 12.1% drop for print (to £246m) and a 24.0% increase for digital revenues (to £55m).” 
  • National Newsbrands: Print ad revenue decreased by a staggering 19.2% Q2 2015 to £239m. Digital ad spending, in comparison, increased 5.9% to £51m.
  • Magazine Brands: Ad spending declined by 6.8% in Q2. Print advertising saw a 11.0% decline to £168m, while digital saw an increase of 5.2% to £70m. 
  • Internet: Internet ad spending included a 12.8% increase in Q2 2015, which was followed by “revised growth of 13.9% in Q1 (+1.1pp).” Mobile made up 79% of total internet growth during H1, resulting in ad spending of £1,079m (up 52.1%). 

Cinema and direct mail ad spending saw increases as well. Separate Advertising Association research indicated the UK as the biggest mobile advertising spenders in Europe, and the third-highest spenders in the world following the United States and China. 

October 28, 2015

Mobile Tech as CPR Guide


It’s always nice to see technology working for the greater good and not merely motivated by profit. Some apps, like PulsePoint, aren’t working for profit at all—they’re in the business of saving lives. The non-profit app has been endorsed by a number of agencies including the American Heart Association and the Red Cross for delivering updated CPR guidelines and empowering the public to become more than bystanders at the scene of an emergency.  

Did you know that almost sixty perfect of US adults have had training to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use an automated external defibrillator (AED)? What’s more, these trained individuals would be willing to put their skills to good use in the event of an emergency. However, it’s been estimated that only 11 percent of these people ever use their training. 

These numbers have become a viable resource in the fight against heart diseases and the struggle to protect patients who succumb to cardiac arrest. Using mobile technology, PulsePoint has modernized the CPR guidelines while finding a way to tap into this trained population. 

In the event that someone goes into cardiac arrest, the time it takes the EMS team or paramedics to arrive can greatly impact that person’s chance of resuscitation. Starting CPR quickly can double and sometimes triple the rate of survival. Now, imagine a well-trained and mobilized populace that could provide assistance during this critical window.


How the App Works 

That’s where PulsePoint comes in. Individuals trained in CPR, or the use of an AED, register with the app and are notified if they’re ever in the proximity of someone experiencing cardiac arrest. The app is also equipped to notify the trained individual where they may locate the nearest public AED. 

Once the EMS workers arrives, they’ll take over—but until then, having help there a few moments sooner could be the difference between life and death. As soon as someone calls 9-1-1 with a cardiac arrest emergency, the app alerts anyone nearby that has installed PulsePoint and is trained in CPR.

The app is already working in cities both big and small, including places like Cleveland and Fargo, North Dakota.

One of the most interesting features of this app is that it has a lot of crossover potential into other areas of public health, education, and security. Depending on how well the app does in assisting with cases of cardiac arrest, we might see variations of this software developed for other civil service functions.  

October 26, 2015

Samsung Launches Second Tizen-Powered Phone


Samsung Electronics has recently unveiled the second smartphone powered by its own Tizen operating system. This phone is priced slightly higher than its predecessor, the Z1, and offers better hardware, a faster processor, a higher-quality screen, and improved cameras. The improved design is noticeable right off the bat, with the back featuring a curve on both edges like the one we saw on the Galaxy Note 5. This should help with handling, while also giving the phone a premium look. The Samsung Z3 will go on sale in India, an emerging smartphone market.


Lower Price Point

While this second Tizen-powered phone is higher than the first version, it is still selling for a relatively low price. Samsung hopes to continue competing with Apple and Google to capture a larger share of premium phone users with its latest models. The Z3’s low price will attract buyers in markets like India, where smartphone use is still considerably low. The previous Samsung smartphone has done very well there, while other companies find themselves with lower user rates.


Tizen Powered 

Samsung is trying to reduce its dependence on Google, whose Android operating system powers Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones. The company has launched other products powered by Tizen this year, including the Gear S2 smartwatch and premium televisions. Samsung needs to attract more smartphone users to the operating system in order to gain more third-party developer support, analysts say. 

In a recent article on CNET, Samsung said that it eventually wants Tizen to be in every type of device, a move that would help it gain independence from Google. Setbacks and delays have slowed its arrival on smartphones, though. Samsung's OS does power its Gear S2 smartwatch and several high-end televisions that the Korean company released earlier this year.



The specs of Z3 show a display that is a 5-inch HD Super AMOLED and a 1.3GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM. The rear-facing camera is an 8-megapixel, while the front camera is a 5-megapixel unit. Internal storage can go as high as 128 GB (by adding a microSD), but the standard is only 8GB. The phone sports a 2,600 mAh battery and supports Samsung's Ultra Power Saving Mode.



The latest smartphone will be protected by the Samsung KNOX security suite.

The KNOX security suite is designed with the safety of users in mind, especially for the public sector. A top level of safety and confidentiality is ensured, which makes the phone highly compatible with tasks of the police, banks, government departments, and hospitals. Users love Samsung Z3 for supporting version 1.0 of KNOX on Tizen. While the hardware of the phone is decent for a low-tier device, the safety suite embedded in the handset adds value and makes the phone a viable option for many countries. With the security of personal information being so important to users nowadays, this Samsung phone is even more desirable to the target audience.

October 19, 2015

Apple Acquires AI Startup Perceptio


Science fiction is appealing to many people because it tends to blur the lines between reality and the seemingly impossible. Yet, time and again, sci-fi has proven on a number of occasions to be within our reach. Ideas like space travel and super computers were once a glimmer of someone’s imagination, inspiring a new generation to implement those fantasies in modern technological endeavors. 

Apple kept the sci-fi ball rolling this week by announcing its purchase of a software company that deals in artificial intelligence. Is this just another page from science fiction, or is it soon to be a reality for Apple users the world over?



It’s a real Cinderella story for AI startup Perceptio, which was purchased by Apple for an undisclosed sum. According to Apple, it was a business-as-usual kind of acquisition. 

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time,” said Apple spokesperson Colin Johnson, “and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

The mystery as to why Apple has added Perceptio to its portfolio of smaller tech companies is somewhat unclear, although many speculate that the startup’s intellectual property and executive talent will help give other Apple companies superior AI systems for an array of Apple products: iPhone, iPad, and so on.  

Rumor has it that Perceptio deals in advanced calculations and algorithms without the use of a cloud-based system, which aligns with Apple’s plans to minimize user data and allow more processing on each individual device. 

This week’s acquisition follows Apple’s decision to buy a UK software startup VocallQ, which specializes in a native voice dialogue platform. It’s speculated that this tech company is working to build upon the current Siri software with hopes of improving its potential as a personal assistant and establishing longer, more intelligent conversations.  

Perceptio is a Palo Alto-based company headed by AI researchers Nicolas Pinto and Zak Stone. Prior to creating Perceptio, Pinto and Stone built an app called Smoothie that utilized many of the same AI principles and software algorithms found in Perceptio. 

The startup’s goals for Smoothie included developing techniques to run image-classification systems on smartphones; Smoothie would allow users to rework short videos into animated GIF format and use them in messages and emails. Unfortunately, none of these developments ever went to market—Smoothie has yet to be released to the general public as a social app, and depending on how things go with Apple, it might remain that way. 

Critics suggest Apple’s plan is to utilize this tech to improve its own propriety photo apps to compete more aggressively with Google’s.

For now, the fantastical idea of artificial intelligence is still somewhere on a distant horizon. However, Apple is making strides to see that future realized, perhaps sooner than some of us may have thought possible.