Web/Tech

206 posts categorized

May 14, 2016

Mobile Technology Is Helping Science Understand More About Parkinson's Disease

 

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A new iPhone app called mPower is giving scientists more insight than ever into the capacities and challenges of people living with Parkinson’s. Nonprofit Sage Bionetworks is a biomedical research organization that collected an unparalleled amount of data through its mPower app, which included a dataset comprised of the daily experiences of more than 9,500 Parkinson’s sufferers. This dataset offers more valuable information than any other study on Parkinson’s has provided, as it takes into consideration millions of data points that were collected on an almost continuous basis through the mhealth (mPower) platform.

 

Unprecedented Data

Sage Bionetworks says that its researchers, through the use of the mobile technology marvel mPower, have received an unprecedented look into the activities and day-to-day changes that Parkinson’s sufferers experience as they deal with their condition.

In the past, Parkinson’s researchers typically relied on small-group studies and data, which included participants in only about the 100-person range. With mPower, scientists are able to view and study data on a larger scale, and the scope of the research is giving more clues as to how Parkinson’s sufferers deal with challenges and treatment pertaining to speech, dexterity, memory, gait, and balance.

 

How Does mPower Collect Data?

The mPower app collects data on the abilities or disabilities of Parkinson’s sufferers in a variety of ways, all with the intent of helping the estimated seven-plus million people living with the disease improve speech, put an end to tremors, strengthen memory, and help other degenerative conditions. 

The app evaluates dexterity by asking users to do a speed-tapping exercise, which the iPhone’s touchscreen turns into data for researchers. To measure speech ability, users talk into their iPhone’s microphone and record their pronunciation of vowels (and other difficult parts of speech) for 10 seconds. They also use mPower to track their medication intake and to see if abilities improve after taking the drugs.

The mPower app gathers data, and scientists and doctors use it to research Parkinson’s on an ongoing basis. Participants using the app are able to control who sees their data, and intended data researchers include mPower-affiliated doctors and scientists, as well as specified researchers worldwide. 

The data collected has already helped researchers view symptom variations that could assist them in intervening in ways never before considered. The mPower app, along with additional text messaging health services that encourage people to stay in communication with doctors regarding their health, has the potential to offer big breakthroughs in Parkinson’s treatment and the treatment of other diseases. 

 

May 10, 2016

Text Messaging Can Help Reduce Hospital Stays

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Paging a doctor or physician has been the primary means of communication in hospitals for many years. If you’ve been to a hospital, or watched your fair share of General Hospital or Grey’s Anatomy, you know how this goes. But there are a lot of breakdowns and loopholes in this process; understanding and closing these gaps was what one study set out to do, by integrating secure text messaging.

 

Secure Text Messaging 

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania conducted the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Internal General Medicine and authored by several physicians, including Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS.

The study included more than 10,000 patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medial Center; both facilities participated in the yearlong study that took place between 2013 and 2014.

In addition to discussing the importance of closing these time-sensitive gaps in coordination, the study concluded that better communication resulted in reduced time at the hospital for most patients; patients whose care teams used the secure text messaging systems left the hospital .77 days earlier, according to the report. 

 

Why Now?

Until recently, email and SMS text messaging platforms were strictly prohibited by hospitals. Most platforms didn’t offer the security features needed to align with current regulatory polices. But as mHealth and mobile communications have developed, many of these issues have been resolved. 

The advancement of mobile technology, smartphones, and wireless communication preempted a lot of issues in the healthcare industry. According to Dr. Patel, it’s about time the medical field caught up with the 21st century. 

“Many forms of communications within the hospital are shifting mediums in part due to the rising adoption of smartphones and new mobile applications,” said Patel. 

 

A Communication Correlation 

Until this study, whether hospitals were using mHealth platforms like SMS or not, most physicians were unaware of any link mobile technology might have with the real time a patient spent in a hospital. Thanks to Patel and the co-authors of the study, that link has been significantly illustrated. 

“Healthcare innovation is more than just using the newest smartphone app,” explained co-author David A. Asch, MD, MBA. “It involves carefully designed implementation and thoughtful evaluation of its impact on clinical care.”

Medical teams can use these secure text-messaging programs to communicate in groups with various healthcare providers simultaneously. They can share data and patient history and gain more immediate access to information. Less waiting for the doctors means less waiting for the patient, freeing up hospital beds that are already in short supply

Using mHealth devices and technology is the most likely solution for many issues currently faced by our healthcare system. It’s likely that future studies will illuminate even more ways in which these devices affect patient care and treatment plans. 

May 04, 2016

Technologies That Changed Retail

 

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In 2016, global business to consumer e-commerce sales is expected to reach $1.92 trillion. As impressive as this figure from Statista is, that’s millions of lost in-store experiences and missed customer service conversations. In an age of convenience, it can be easy to forget about what you might be missing.

Many shoppers enjoy walking down the aisles of large retail stores, checking prices and talking to people. They also like to touch the things they plan on buying. For every gained purchase online, a material purchase is lost, which has raised the stakes considerably for brick-and-mortar retail locations. If ever these stores needed a hero, it would be now. 

Who would have guessed that mobile technology could be that hero? The use of mobile technology in retail stores could save many from going out of business and help them keep pace with online shopping trends. Here’s how mobile technology is changing the retail game in a world full of online shoppers.

 

Saving Time with Retail Mobile Technology

Often, it’s faster to ask someone a question, make a suggestion, or compare two products than it is to find credible answers online. In fact, digging around on the Internet is almost more time-consuming than driving to the store in the first place.

Now, imagine all sales associates have smartphones or tablets that can locate what you want anywhere in the store. They can give you a price check, compare prices, and tell you where else you might find what you’re looking for. This is the direction mobile technology is heading, as physical retailers scramble to catch up on the super-highway. By empowering employees to help customers, mobile saves time while providing people with truly authentic service. Plus, shoppers get to walk out of the store with their merchandise in tow—no delivery time needed. 

 

Increase Productivity Among Retail Employees

Additionally, mobile technology will help retail owners save money by increasing the overall productivity of employees. In addition to customer service, mobile technology allows sales associates to manage inventories, place orders, receive shipments, take phone calls, and more. This also eliminates a mountain of paperwork and makes organizing data much less complicated. More people can do more work in a shorter amount of time.

Creating a network of employees working on mobile devices can also cut down on long checkout lines (especially during the holidays). The mobile Point of Sale (mPoS) is all about being ready the moment a customer agrees to make an in-store purchase and having an associate there to swipe the credit card. If that same customer walks to a long checkout line, they may decide not to wait. That’s a lost opportunity that’s likely to wind up somewhere online.

Shop owners can take some of those lost sales back by using mobile to capitalize on every possible sale.

The good old days we remember, when the Internet had yet become an e-commerce mecca and flashing banner ads were so bad they were good, are gone. To keep pace with all the sophisticated technology that keeps online shoppers coming back for more, brick-and-mortar retailers have no choice but to fire back with mobile.

May 01, 2016

Apps vs. Mobile Site

 

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably wondered whether to focus on making your website mobile friendly or utilizing the skills of a talented app developer. Both offer mobile marketing strategy advantages in light of industry, budget, and target audience, yet considering the amount of conflicting advice floating around, deciding which one to go with is often challenging. 

In 2013 a Compuware survey found that 85 percent of consumers enjoy apps over mobile websites. However, this hardly means one is better than the other, or that there isn’t just as huge a market for mobile sites. It’s like saying a percentage of people prefer the beach to the mountains—there’s still plenty of reasons to market mountain-based attractions. 

The decision to go with apps over a mobile website or vice versa depends on your mobile marketing strategy and related tactics.

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites

A mobile-optimized website is essentially a responsive design that recognizes when a visitor is using a mobile device and then converts the site to a version that’s easy to read via mobile. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to produce different or additional content for a mobile site, as you would have to for an app. This makes mobile marketing management a much more streamlined process, and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business, rather than concerning yourself with content all the time. 

Mobile websites arguably drive more traffic than apps, so consider your ultimate goals behind site use: are you looking to improve consumer loyalty, or increase revenue by expanding your customer base? A cross-channel site may be your best option depending on what you wish to accomplish. 

 

Apps

The main advantage of having an app for your business is that it lets you make excellent use of a tablet or smartphone’s hardware and native functionalities. Cameras, GPS, speedometers, gyroscopes, and other useful pieces of technology found on the vast majority of modern devices are easily worked into your app’s operation. 

Another advantage of apps is that they rarely require an internet connection to run. Most apps store data locally on a phone or tablet’s hard drive, so users may enjoy them even if no internet connection is available. For example, some news apps download and store content through a Wi-Fi connection so users may read about current events until the app is able to sync with another connection. 

App infrastructure and development tools are more sophisticated and user friendly than ever thanks to demand for app developers, with major operating systems offering a serious selection of frameworks for developers to work with. Most frameworks are free. 

 

Wrapping Up

Again, which one you decide to go with depends on what your ultimate marketing goals are, how big your budget is, and more factors. If you have the means and the employees to handle a mobile-friendly site and an app, why not try both and see if one offers more benefits to your company than the other. You also might find that your team is efficient enough to provide content to each channel, thus increasing brand awareness and reach. Whatever you decide, remember that it’s a very good idea to offer at least one of the two options to your target audience. 

April 25, 2016

Pet Care Goes Mobile

 

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American’s love affair with animals has opened all kinds of doors for entrepreneurs and capitalists that see the growing obsession as a way to make a quick buck. Gluten-free dog treats and luxury cat towers are certainly more common today than they were just 10 years ago, and that’s just the beginning.

 

The Rough Life 

In the U.S. alone, the ASPCA estimates that there are 70 to 80 million dogs; approximately 37 percent to 47 percent of all US households are “with K9.” As pets become increasingly integrated in our home lives, it makes sense that a slew of products, gadgets, and services would also arrive in the marketplace. The newest of these is available on your mobile device. 

One of the greatest challenges many dog owners face is balancing a healthy schedule for the dog with the need to keep regular business hours. But that’s a lot easier said than done, especially for dog owners who often need help exercising their pooches, as well as ensuring they get regular bathroom time outside. According to this article, millennials in particular struggle with this issue: they prefer the jobs and the lifestyle of urban areas, but they also seek companionship from pets. 

Hunter Reed, a Nashville-area native, is one such pet owner. Long hours at his job meant that his boxer, Bella, would be stuck at home for long periods of time without company. He would look for dog walkers on craigslist, but found that most were unreliable. Reed would ask his friends in desperation, but ultimately found the issue too troubling not to act. 

"It got to the point where you feel bad asking your friends or neighbors," said Reed.

 

Pet-Sitting App 

Reed’s solution, in collaboration with Cody Dysert and Kris Molinari, was to create an app that connected dog owners with dog walkers using similar technology to the one used by Uber and Lyft. Reed’s app is called Walkio, and it’s competing for market space with similar apps in the pet-sitting arena. 

Walkio uses a vetting system, like Uber, that requires all walkers to undergo a background check. The app handles most of the administrative work dog walkers would normal manage on their own, including payments, appointments, scheduling, and key exchanging though lock boxes. Walkio uses basic chat features to let pet owners and walkers communicate as the walker picks up, walks, and returns the dog home. 

Pricing for this service ranges from $17 to $75 depending on the length of time the dog needs to be cared for — which includes an overnight option. 

There are several similar apps already on the market for this service, including Wag!, Swifto, Barkly, and Urban Leash. Reed hopes that by focusing on the customer services of the app, and starting in the Southeast region of the U.S., Walkio can become a market leader, at the very least in Nashville.

“The tech community in Nashville is really growing,” Reed said.

Reed and his co-founders are currently looking for funding to take the app to the next level. So far, the team has been primarily self-funded; the user base is still very small.

Will Walkio carve out a niche in the Southeast? One thing is for certain: Bella the dog is likely wagging her tail. 

April 18, 2016

Mobile Device Failure Rates Highest in Asia

 

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Last year, smartphone shipments hit record levels, up 10.1 percent in 2015 to an impressive 1.3 billion units worldwide. What’s more, 20 percent of the world’s population received new smartphones last year, which means 20 percent of the world’s population got rid of their old phones, for one reason or another. 

Blancco Technology Group recently published its quarterly trend report, and one of the fascinating details outlined in the research was the way different cultures used the same technology to achieve different ends. One finding involved the way human behavior in Asia influenced the failure rates of smartphone devices, which may be linked to the number of replacement devices we saw in 2015. 

 

What Went Wrong? 

Throughout the world, there are five primary issues that caused device failures; user behavior plays an important role in how we interpret this data. The top five issues included trouble with the camera, touchscreen, battery charging, microphone, and speed/performance of the device. These issues affect both Android and iOS users. 

In Asia, these device issues have a unique spread, with speed and performance ranking the highest, followed by camera, then battery charging, during Q4 of 2015.

Device failure rates are the highest in Asia. Of all the devices returned, or sent to the manufacture for repairs, 50 percent of the devices were returned ‘NTF’, or No Trouble Found. But what does that mean exactly? Why are so many phones having issues in Asia, but when customer service representatives or repair specialists review the device, there’s nothing wrong with it?

 

Mobile Cultural 

This trend could go back to cultural differences in the way people use smartphones. In places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, mobile users frequently use messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat to communicate socially, even professionally. In some instances, large numbers of users may be communicating simultaneously in a single group chat or bulk text messaging, which can greatly reduce the battery life of the phone, as well as slow down the overall performance. 

Similarly, leaving popular social networking applications open, which regularly cache and store user data, can be extremely draining to battery life, limiting other resources on the device. This makes accessing email and other important functions more difficult, resulting in issues for the user. 

These are not hardware-related problems. In fact, Blancco’s report suggests that human error plays a large role in the number of issues being reported by participating countries.  The U.S. and Europe, for example, report their own distinct device issues, many of which can also be linked to human error. 

 

Why It’s Important

As smartphone use becomes more standardized in our work and professional lives, it’s going to be important for network operators and device manufactures to understand the cultural differences that affect the overall performance of a phone, depending on the country it’s shipped to. This is also important for businesses that have adopted the BYOD (bring your own device) ideology in the workplace, where device failures can have a serious impact on a businesses’ bottom lines. 

Education will play a large role in lowering the excessive cost of device issues for manufactures and repairs specialists alike. Teaching a user how to keep a phone in good working order will ultimately save everyone time and resources.

April 08, 2016

Samsung Has Launched Its Mobile Wallet in China

 

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Samsung’s mobile wallet is making its way to China, no tunneling required. The international tech firm recently announced Chinese shoppers can now use their smartphones to pay for in-store purchases, and are therefore joining the Asian country’s trillion-dollar mobile wallet market. 

 

Partnership With UnionPay

SamsungPay was launched in partnership With UnionPay, the same bankcard company that helped bring ApplePay to life. UnionPay credit and debit cards are currently the only cards linked with local Samsung phones at this time, with up to 10 cards allowed per device. SamsungPay is available in China on the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5 smartphones. 

 

Positive Reception

Injong Rhee, EVP and Head of R&D, Software, and Services of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said the company is pleased to partner with CUP in order to bring SamsungPay to Chinese consumers. Rhee said SamsungPay reception has so far been very positive, and the service has found success in both consumer adoption and availability. 

The EVP also stated that Samsung hopes to make the payment option available to as many Chinese consumers as possible so that “everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy the simplicity, safety and convenience of this mobile payment solution."

 

Participating Institutions

Banking institutions currently participating in SamsungPay include the largest bank in the country, ICBC, as well as China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank. Other major institutions such as Bank of Communications and Bank of China are said to follow suit. 

 

Additional Phones

In addition to the Samsung phones listed above, the Korean tech giant noted the possibility of adding more devices, including the Galaxy A5, A7, and A9, as they were also tested in public beta. Rooted devices do not support SamsungPay. 

 

The Challenge

China’s mobile wallet industry is quite well established, making Samsung’s foray into the market a challenging one. Local services such as WeChat and AliPay are used for online shopping and transportation services among other things, and are now available for brick-and-mortar store use. Analysts recently remarked that AliPay and WeChat are so ingrained among Chinese consumers that introducing new mobile wallet options will be an “uphill battle.” However, Samsung has previously noted one essential factor working for them: the technology is applicable to a larger number of existing payment terminals. 

 

“Simple and Safe”

Samsung also believes its mobile wallet option will work because it’s “simple, safe, and easy to use,” and that it works “virtually anywhere” in China that allows consumers to swipe or tap their cards. There’s no need to unlock phones or use special apps to access Samsung’s mobile wallet, which makes it arguably more appealing than earlier incarnations requiring these steps, such as Google Wallet. 

The mobile wallet is similar to ApplePay in that it utilizes near field communication technology (NFC). Samsung’s version will also support the magnetic secure transmission technology used on standard credit card machines. 

As of the fourth quarter of last year, Samsung was No. 6 in China’s smartphone market with a 7 percent share compared to Apple’s 15 percent. It will be interesting to see how the new mobile wallet option fares. SamsungPay is currently available in the U.S. and South Korea, and should enter the UK market later this year. 

March 31, 2016

Is Twitter Stagnating?

 

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Twitter launched in 2006, and within a year fell into the “global phenomenon” category. The social media platform’s origin story is a bit muddled, thanks to the ousting of various creators, however the invention of the hashtag brought with it the chance to promote and comment on worldwide issues, interact with celebrities, emphasize brands, products, and services, and so much more. Yet, despite the changes Twitter made to the world of media, some argue the platform is stagnating, if not dying

Let’s take a look at why Twitter is faltering, including the issues with which chief executive and founding father Jack Dorsey is currently dealing: 

 

Losing Money

Twitter has been losing money for a while now. The social media juggernaut is currently on a $2 billion revenue run rate, and in 2015 it earned $1.4 billion but lost $539 million. The company reported that, in its last quarter, it lost $137 million on $502 million in revenue, with industry experts noting that the $2 billion rate isn’t going to do much. 

 

Not Enough Heavily Active Users

The social media platform has plenty of users, but there’s a decline in the number of people who tweet on a consist basis. Users aren’t taking the time to share the social media option with others and convince them to sign up, among other problems. Dorsey touched on the importance of helping people extract value from the service as soon as possible, which raises the issue of whether people are eschewing Twitter because it’s challenging to use or because there’s simply little interest. 

 

Slow User Growth

Another issue Twitter’s bigwigs are facing is a slowdown in user growth. The social media platform is subsequently not only losing money, but also keeping away investors. Twitter will launch new products and features in hopes of appealing to new users and investors, however current changes haven’t affected the slow user growth rate so far. 

 

Abuse Issue

Some point to Twitter as a tool for abuse or bullying. Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Mean Tweets’ segment is an example of this, as celebrities come on the show to read negative tweets about themselves, often with hilarious results. While this is the lighter side of the bullying that takes place on Twitter and other social media platforms, industry insiders say that the “abused have become the abusers,” resulting in an age of stagnation and numbness. 

 

No Longer Retaining Talent?

Peter Currie, Twitter’s lead independent director, recently commented during a conference call that Dorsey not only attracts talented people, but also keeps them. However, many of the talented folks Dorsey and his associates have hired are leaving the company. They view it as a sinking ship and put in their two weeks in order to work with companies where they can truly thrive. 

Dorsey is also a part-time CEO, which is seen as another big problem affecting the social media platform. 

Is Twitter on its way out? If so, which social media options will take its place? 

 

March 29, 2016

Volvo Plans to Replace Car Keys with Phones

 

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Swedish car giant Volvo will become the first major automotive company to introduce key-less vehicles. All aspects of car security - including access and ignition - will instead be managed exclusively from bluetooth-enabled smartphones.

Volvo is not alone in taking steps to consign the traditional metal key to history. Even cheap subcompacts are increasingly being manufactured with electronic key fobs which, though expensive to replace, eliminate the problem of keys becoming stuck or broken in ignition locks or car doors. 

The smartphone solution would work in the same way as key fobs, starting the car and unlocking the doors and trunk. It goes further, allowing friends and relatives who wish to borrow the car to be granted access electronically by receiving the key from the owner’s smartphone. Car rentals would be simplified by issuing an electronic key to the renter’s smartphone.

Volvo is looking to try out the technology immediately, roadtesting the digital keys with a car sharing firm operating out of Gothenburg airport. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with digital keys in 2017.

 

March 24, 2016

Is the Biggest Issue with Smartphones Their Users?

 

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Today’s smartphones are capable of withstanding pretty serious damage, including getting dropped many times over, being subject to dust and other floating particles, or somehow landing in the bathtub when it’s full of hot water. Phones still fail every so often, as do most products whether they’re electronically-based or not. This is quite normal, however a new survey indicates that the biggest problems with smartphones aren’t the devices, but the users. It appears not everyone is as smartphone-savvy as they might think. 

 

“No Trouble Found” 

According to a recent survey from Blancco Technology Group, as many as three quarters of smartphone hardware failures are of the “NTF” or “no trouble found” variety. The State of Mobile Device Performance and Health Trend Report: Q4 2015 outlined the top five “trouble spots” result in 39% of mobile phone failures around the world, with the camera causing the biggest issues. Smartphone cameras are responsible of 10% of hardware problems, followed by the touch screen (9%), battery charging (8%), microphone (6%), and performance issues (6%). The report’s findings are based on “aggregate, anonymized data,” according to Blancco Technology Group, and was collected by the company’s SmartChk platform. 

 

Varies By Region

Smartphone trouble areas vary by region, with North American users fussy over performance and blaming hardware issues on slow operation. This is followed by the camera, charger, headset, and microphone. Carrier signal is by far the biggest issue in Europe, followed by calling ability, camera, and Wi-Fi issues. 

 

Misunderstandings

The survey found that user behavior and misunderstandings are the cause of supposed hardware problems. For example, almost 74% of smartphones returned in North America due to “hardware issues” were labeled “no trouble found.” NTF rates are also high in Europe (71%) and in Asia (50%). Such misunderstandings about how to properly use smartphones indicates their complexities continue to baffle users and result in problems for enterprises and carriers alike. 

High NTF rates are particularly problematic for enterprises, according to the survey. 

“The ability to quickly triage mobile device issues – be it legitimate or specious—will mitigate these impacts and deliver on the promise of mobile connectivity for businesses supporting employees’ smartphones, be they corporate-issued or BYOD.” 

 

Up To Device Developers

These issues may cause problems for enterprises and carriers, however they aren’t their inequities to rectify. It’s the job of device developers to create smartphones and other mobile devices easy to use and understand. “Easy” devices won’t result in frustration...and subsequent “send-backs.” 

 

Apple Over Android

The survey also notes that Apple is currently ahead of Android in regards to user-related device problems, which found 85% of such issues came from Android devices compared to 15% of iOS devices. However, industry experts say these numbers don’t reflect the significant differences in the market share, nor the lower price points attached to most Android devices. Experts have remarked that Apple surpassing Android in this regard should be taken with a bucket rather than a grain of salt.