Tech

176 posts categorized

September 02, 2015

How to Keep Your Smartphone in Tip Top Running Condition

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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...

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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

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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.

How SMS Technology is Helping Adult Care Providers

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The over-65s will represent 19% of the population by 2030 (compared with 12.4% in 2000). As birth rates fall and life expectancy increases, adult care provision is becoming a major issue in the United States and other developed economies with ageing populations but fewer multi-generational households. The burden of age-relate medical health is growing; simultaneously, the familial structures that once existed to support basic care of elderly relatives is vanishing.

In short, taking care of the over-65s has become a public, not a private, responsibility. Tech developers are well aware of this paradigm shift. New adult care technologies are emerging to help healthcare providers face the challenges presented by dementia, incontinence, immobility and other age-related problems. 

The latest example brings together a variety of tools to help minimize the effects of soiled adult diapers and improve the standard of care for bedridden patients. Using sensors to detect wetness, the system alerts medical staff via SMS messaging.

The ‘intelligent continence management system’ was developed by researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore. It comprises a thin disposable sensor strip, a compact wireless transmitter and a receiver. Designed to prevent rashes and infections - not to mention discomfort - associated with lying in soiled diapers, the system can be integrated into existing adult diapers. Once wetness reach a pre-determined level, a text message is sent to caregivers, notifying them that action must be taken. 

The prototype was tested on 20 elderly retirement home residents in Singapore back in 2013. It was validated by the Agency for Integrated Care and geriatrician Dr. Philip Yap from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Testing demonstrated the system’s reliability, and patients fitted with the system spend 90% less time in wet diapers than those without. 

The company IBN created to market the technology, Wet Alert, won the 2014 Bronze Prize at the Long-Term Care Quality Festival Poster Competition, an event organized by the Ministry of Health and the Agency for Integrated Care.

 

August 18, 2015

Here’s What Your Digital Marketing Campaign Should Look Like

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SMBs are constantly looking out for convenient, affordable and effective marketing methods. But in order to make digital marketing work, you need to understand how each  marketing strategy operates. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the main strands of an effective digital marketing campaign:

 

SEO

The digital marketplace is crowded, so visibility is one of the first - and toughest - challenges a business faces. Creating a strong SEO strategy requires detailed research of your industry and target market, and a thorough knowledge not just of your products, but how the majority of people will search for them. Establishing which keywords you will target is the first step. Next, your onsite strategy (that is, for your own website) should incorporate enough keywords that the search-engine bots know what you’re all about, but not so many that it affects the fluency and style of your content. Your offsite strategy pertains to how external web spaces refer to your site. That means accruing inbound links and promoting your brand via guest posts on other industry websites. A diverse SEO strategy is the most effective in terms of boosting your rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

 

Mobile

Mobile marketing is the process of reaching an audience through smartphones and tablets. It could be in the form of native technologies like SMS messaging and voicemail, or amending existing web content to make it more ‘mobile friendly’, or, if you have the budget, via apps and other types of software. There are many ways to reach people using mobile marketing. A solid mobile marketing campaign encourages users to visit your site and social media pages.

 

Social Media

Social Media has been a huge boon for SMBs. Even on a very tight or non-existing marketing budget, entrepreneurs can use social media to good effect. Most of the big social media players - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn - are free and easy to use. 

 

Blogging

Regular blogging is a good way to establish authority in your industry. It constantly increases the size of your website by adding fresh, relevant content, adding value even if you don’t command a huge readership. But a truly compelling, well-written blog containing original expert opinion will give your brand credibility with competitors and customers.

 

Email

It’s not the first port of call for marketers any longer, but email should still form part of a multi-channel marketing strategy. For getting rich content out to large numbers of people, it’s hard to beat. Be sure to use it to full effect, offering something of value with every email. As with SMS marketing, email marketing demands a lightness of touch, so avoid sending emails much more than once a month.

 

August 15, 2015

Do “Dumbphones” Still Have a Place?

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Wondering if “dumbphones” still play a role in today’s tech-savvy universe? The answer, which may surprise you, is a resounding yes. Such phones offer a variety of helpful features and perks, and an increasing number of people are opting for them over smartphones. In fact, Microsoft recently released a phone under the Nokia brand that’s free of apps, Wi-Fi, 3G, LTE, and a touchscreen and costs just $20 before tax. The only accessory is an extra battery, and yet experts predict huge success.  

So who wants to purchase “dumbphones”? Plenty of people—about 590 million this year, actually. Such people include children obtaining their first phones, consumers who require a second phone, and those who are simply uninterested in using smartphones. 

Let’s look at some of the benefits of using not-smart phones, as well as some of the highest-quality options currently on the market: 

 

Durable

Smartphones feature glass screens, and once they crack…well, either replacement or a lot of tape is in order. Phone cases are therefore imperative to preserving the safety of a smartphone, whereas regular phones are virtually indestructible. 

 

Easy Texting 

Texting using standard cell phones is quite simple compared to smartphones, as it doesn’t take long to memorize the keypad and text with your eyes shut. And as we know, SMS messaging remains the central component of any successful mobile marketing campaign - precisely because it reaches the parts other messaging services cannot.

 

Fantastic Battery Life 

Forgetting your smartphone charger means scrambling to ask friends and co-workers if they have theirs—otherwise you’ll be looking at 19 percent battery life before the day is over. Leaving your regular phone charger at home? Not a big deal. 

 

Inexpensive 

Highly affordable and easy to replace, “dumbphones” don’t set you back by the $800+ price tag associated with smartphones.

 

Fewer Distractions

Facebook, Instagram, assorted app games—all the features make smartphones seriously distracting. “Dumbphones,” on the other hand, make calls and texts, and that’s it. This meant you’d actually engage in the moment and remain aware of your surroundings as opposed to looking down at your phone incessantly. It also means you won’t be looking up anything and everything on your phone and taking pictures of your food. Or taking selfies. 

 

It Always Worked 

With “dumbphones,” it usually didn’t matter where in the world you were—they always worked. There was no freezing or rebooting involved. The simplicity of the technology is key to its endurance in the age of increasingly high-powered smartphones.

 

“Dumbphone” Options

Some of today’s most coveted “dumbphones” include: 

 

  • Kyocera Rally ($29.99): The Kyocera Rally is a simple, sleek phone from T-Mobile that includes Bluetooth connectivity, a VGA camera capable of recording video, and a speakerphone.
  • Nokia 106 ($24): The aforementioned Nokia 106 is a basic phone that lasts up to 35 days on standby mode with only a single charge. 
  • Pantech Vybe ($29.99 with two-year contract): Pantech’s new phone is available to AT&T customers and features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It also includes a camera and the ability to connect with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
  • Samsung Jitterbug5 ($99): This phone is an uncomplicated flip option designed for seniors. It comes with sizable backlit keys, an emergency response button, a simple interface, and a powerful speaker for those who have trouble hearing. 

 

The “dumbphone”...there’s definitely still a market for it.

August 14, 2015

Textbooks Vs. Tablets

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In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made headlines for spending $30 million on iPads for nearly 640,000 students. Currently, the K-12 publishing market is an $8 billion industry, dominated by just three publishes: McGraw, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The debate as to whether more school districts should make the digital leap is met with fierce opposition from publishers as well as other tech naysayers, who see the value of printed textbooks unrivaled by tablets.  

Why should school districts replace textbooks? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Textbooks aren’t broken, but students today learn and engage differently with technology than previous generations. Tablets allow students to feel empowered by the learning process by playing to their strengths. Moreover, most K-12 teachers believe technology benefits students’ learning goals. 

Some of the more practical reasons tablets are working well in places like Los Angeles involve the hardware itself. For starters, one tablet has the ability to store more books than a student will ever need for the entire duration of his or her public education. Plus, in addition to textbooks, tablets can store homework, quizzes, and tests, eliminating heavy loads from students’ backpacks and desks. 

Additionally, tablets allow teachers to give their students the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Publishers have been criticized for making minor amendments to text volumes and charging schools top dollar for new editions. Once textbooks go digital, the print costs will be eliminated, which will result in textbook savings of as much as 60% for school districts. 

But aren’t iPads expensive? Yes, they are. One of the strongest arguments against a paperless system is that technology doesn’t come cheap. The trouble isn’t so much with the tablet cost as all the software and infrastructure school districts would have to develop to support these devices. To put things into perspective, the average battery life of a tablet is less than the length of a school day. Imagine 640,000 iPads plugged in: that’s a lot of juice.

Additionally, wear and tear on a textbook can go much further than on an iPad. And a forgotten textbook on a picnic table doesn’t have the same appeal as a state-of-the-art tablet. Some paperless opponents believe students will be targeted for theft if tablets become a common student item. 

There are more obvious problems facing the paperless fight. Open access to the Internet is like opening Pandora’s box; students are notoriously distracted by social media, gaming, and texting. 

Whatever stance a school district takes, the omnipresence of mobile in student life will remain. Will we choose to adapt to student preferences, or are the risks too high?

 

July 31, 2015

T-Mobile to Add Advanced Messaging to its SMS Services

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According to a recent study, texting is the most used feature on a smartphone across nearly every age demographic. Third-party apps jumped on the wagon early to improve built-in SMS and MMS features and developed apps like Facebook Messenger and Apple's iMessage. Many of these apps make it easier to send large data files, communicate quicker, and confirm messages have been received. However, T-Mobile has just released a new feature for its users that may change the message game altogether, by bringing advanced messaging directly to the device.  

SMS and MMS messaging are still incredibly relevant to smartphone users despite the millions of apps now available to them. Rather than develop its own third-party app, T-Mobile has introduced software called Advanced Messaging, which is built on Rich Communication Services (RCS) and addresses many of the limitations various apps have capitalized on. The service is very democratic—while it’s currently only available on the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime, the software was designed to work on all carriers and across every operating system. Software updates will be necessary for existing devices, but T-Mobile has said that several phones will be available later this year with Advanced Messaging already enabled. 

 

Understanding Advanced Messaging 

Advanced Messaging incorporates several features including real-time messaging, read notifications, currently typing icons, and the ability to send up to 10MB of data via text. With improved regular SMS and MMS messaging on the device itself, users won’t have to reply on compatibility or downloading multiple apps and interfaces. There’s no extra charge for the service but it does require Wi-Fi or LTE to operate the improved features—otherwise the software defaults to regular messaging.

While it is unclear whether or not all smartphones will adopt the software in the future, it’s an interesting approach to take on behalf of the user. On the one hand, the promise of a unified messaging system that operates as well as, if not better than, popular third party apps is a gift to users who would no longer have to think about availability or compatibility. On the other hand, it’s a bold move from T-Mobile that undercuts Apple’s highly integrated app-based platform that emphasizes selection and choice through a variety of different apps.

T-Mobile is not the first carrier to launce RCS, but it is the first carrier to offer it in the US. In 2012, MetroPCS, a flat-rate carrier, released RCS just prior to a merger with T-Mobile. At the time, RCS delivered features like simultaneous voice and multimedia messaging as well as social presence. The merger delivered the scale and financial resources to expand geographic coverage, as well as offer an improved selection of devices and services, so T-Mobile could compete with the nation’s larger carriers. 

Launching Advanced Messaging was a bold choice in the wake of a developing app-based mobile culture. Time will tell if the user-friendly software will proliferate or remain exclusive to T-Mobile users. 

July 29, 2015

Marketing Has Gone Hyper Local

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When geo-targeting technology first began to emerge a few years ago, small regional businesses of all kinds were given the opportunity to market themselves to larger numbers of potential customers than ever before.

As a mobile marketing tool, geo-location was a gift to retailers looking to attract more walk-in business. It enabled businesses to target users to within a square foot, sending time limited discounts and special offers only to those people most likely to take advantage.

As region-specific mobile marketing tactics become more sophisticated, SMB owners have a dizzying array of options: beacons, GPS, location information garnered from previous interactions - they’ve all ushered in a new era of hyper-localized marketing. 

Such accurate technology is helping local businesses maximize efficiency on tight budgets. Even without geo-location, mobile marketing tactics are already the most cost-effective way to reach more people. With it, that cost-efficiency improves further still, granting small companies a way to reach the widest customer base they can realistically serve. 

It looks like an exciting future for targeted mobile marketing. The technology has already reached lofty levels of sophistication, but there are a few places it can go. Some mobile marketing analysts are looking towards pitching discounts according to what the weather’s doing. It’s certainly not relevant for every type of business, but bars serving cold drinks on an outside patio would love to know if it’s about to rain just before they’ve sent half-off mobile coupons. Other local data like traffic conditions could begin to play a role in geo-targeted advertising. 

One thing’s for sure: these tools are allowing creative, imaginative marketers to realize their wildest dreams without being thwarted by technological limitations. If the rapid rate of development continues at the same pace, mobile marketing tactics will look very different in a decade - exactly how different is anybody’s guess.