Coming soon! – iBeacons

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iBeacons-Coming to a venue near you soon!

It seems to be on the lips of every marketing agency, it’s the buzzword of the year, it’s the retailers recurring fantasy come true, it’s the ….  ” but …  but……WAIT a minute!!  surely it’s just a bit of technology and it’s got some obvious retail and other public space applications”. Thanks Homer.

iBeacons use Bluetooth 4 technology to broadcast messages to Mobile phones. The iBeacon itself is inexpensive and mobile. They can be put almost anywhere. Imagine you are at a rock concert and the merchandiser wants to get a message to all the audience in front of the stage, or arriving in their thousands at Wembley Stadium… but how?.. what about pairing?, what about distance and …..hold on there fellah !  with the iBeacon there’s no need to have paired devices and the range is typically greater than you would associate with standard Bluetooth, up to 50 metres at the moment. Imagine the potential  where the beacon could reach every one of the tens of thousands of people walking down Wembley Way towards or away from the stadium. The possibilities are many and varied for selectively blatting a message to these passers-by as they exit a game, hungry, thirsty and tired perhaps. Hotels/restaurants, bars , burger joints and hot dog vans  alike will be able to entice people with direct marketing appeals at specified events  turning it on or off like a tap as their facility fills to capacity…………..or their beer runs out….ibeacon2

When will this “hit the streets” so to speak? Well…that’s a good one, it’s definitely about to land in a significant way, in fact, 200 million iOS devices can already serve as transmitters and receivers  – yes, Apple have built in  the technology and it’s called Apple iBeacon into the iOS7iPhone operating system.  To be clear, the Apple iPhone beacons are two way iBeacons for receiving a signal and for transmitting.  There are other,  third party beacons, which simply act as transmitters of data /messages which are received by the iPhone and numerous Android devices too including the ever popular galaxy range from Samsung.

…. Any more objections?  Yes sure, what powers these iBeacons?  – great point, they are low energy, have self contained power source – (cell battery!), so can be installed and left alone (low maintenance) and are thought to have a battery span of about 2 years…. since they work on pulse rather than continuously draining a battery… Yes two years!. Next.? How does it work in practice…? Ahaah, OK, yes… well,… from a user perspective it’s a case of “Wow – where did that come from?”. But in fact When a smartphone enters within an  iBeacon’s range (up to 50m), the beacon’s signal triggers content from either a local database or cloud-based storage. The smartphone user will see a notification on their home screen saying a discount, incentive or appropriate product is available at such and such a place .  What if the phone is locked? It gets to them even if the phone is locked, relax.ibeacon3

That’s what I’m talking about, targeted marketing , targeted by time, place, people events products …what about putting this into a shop, there’s a special offer on those shoes, lets hit everyone within 15 metres of the shoe shop with this offer, lets sell shoes !….and everything else besides. Beacons will be used in all sorts of public spaces to inform as well as to sell. Maybe airports will use them to direct people to the right gate, maybe an art gallery will have information on the artwork on its walls and a guide through the building to keep those crowds moving. Crowd control is a really big business in the days when mass participation activities seem to be on the increase through the marketing efforts of social media. These iBeacons may be the link on the ground that contacts and communicates any number of kinds of information to the crowds once they get together at the venue. iBeacons are here folks… let’s get ready to ……..er… be…. contacted. Yeeey!

 

 

Uber: A lesson from History.

imagesJudging by the headline this afternoon the UBER app which we wrote about a couple of weeks ago is about to deliver a lesson from history. UBER is causing unrest amongst the traditional Black Cab drivers. As reported on the BBC this afternoon, the situation is summed up thus:

“Black-cab driver Lloyd Baldwin is in no doubt. “Our beef with Uber is that these drivers have come straight into London, and have been licensed straight away by Transport for London. We’re regulated to within an inch of our lives.”    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology

Which is a pretty legitimate reason for concern.  The question is however, just how much should the rise of technology be tempered by the logic of social  adhesion, social order or tradition?

This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Remember the luddites? Not first hand ofcourse but through your school days their place in history was often featured.  For a quick reminder visit http://www.victorianweb.org/history/riots/luddites.html  where the following makes the parallel clear.

“Luddites were men who took the name of a (perhaps) mythical individual, Ned Ludd who was reputed to live in Sherwood Forest.  The Luddites were  trying to save their livelihoods by smashing industrial machines developed for use in the textile industries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire………  The men merely were attacking what they saw as the reason for the decline in their livelihoods.”

And since then there have been countless similarly impassioned cries to temper or regulate the march of technology as it smashes through the professions and skills of our forefathers. Any automation in any factory has destroyed livelihoods of many and created new jobs for a few. The GCE level knowledge of social history that most of us carry around should be enough to help us recognise the tensions that are inevitable when technology advances.  Motor industry, Henry Ford’s first production line, The Coal industry, Steel, and above all, farming. Imagine the dissenting voices as the first motorised tractors took to the countryside, doing the work of 20 labourers for a fraction of the price. There were indeed ructions and convulsions throughout the land as transport improved, allowing movement of machinery by canal and later by road, increase in commerce developed and new methods and ideas spread quickly to revolutionize land use.

The Black Cab drivers are appealing to that great friend of civilized society – “Justice”. Their position is that only they, who are regulated by Transport for London, should be permitted to use a “metering system”. This is seen to be sacrosanct amongst cabbies and they are adamant that the use of a smart phone which measures time and distance via satellite and GPRS technology, constitutes metering.  Thats a no brainer isn’t it? Measuring time and distance……. is metering, no argument there! That being a fact they argue that its unfair for UBER to use such a meter. That’s their point and some may say that it’s a pretty feeble one based on arbitrary rule dreamt up in a bygone era (ie the 60s!). Rules change, sands shift, horizons adjust. Why not allow a competitor to meter i.e. measure time and distance?. Cabbies have no IP of measuring time and distance surely?

Well, since this is not meant to be a social history blog that’s history finished for today. Lets treat this topic as food for thought. The UBER app (available on both Apple and Google Play, seems to be a further advancement in what is a technologically determined age that we live in. That’s the point surely. It is widely acknowledged that this is the age of technology so why would anyone be surprised when a little advancement occurs and disrupts the traditions and rocks the Status Quo. Roll on UBER 2. As sure as chips are chips, and satellites are satellites ringing the planet enabling the communications, mapping and other technologies of today, it’ll be along sometime soon. Brace yourselves. or er…beam me up scotty.

Health Technology

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Good health, Bad health. It’s the most vital of all our concerns- so much so that the idea of Health runs throughout our daily interactions via the daily greeting “how are you?”. Expenditure on health care in all developing and developed countries is immense, especially as health technology continues to astonish. The recent 70 billion bid by Pfizer for UK Company Astra Zeneca hints at the inestimable proportions of the commercial health industry. Drugs, treatments, hospitals, nurses, doctors, equipment, the list is endless.

Annual expenditure by the UK government is a cool £ 132 billion-  23.5% of the total  public spending.  It’s a hot topic. That’s why there’s a buzz in the technology word regarding the new wireless charging techniques enabling tiny embedded sensors to be used as a means of preventing the rapidly rising costs of healthcare spiralling upwards in a seemingly unsolvable social whirlpool.

OK so here’s the pitch, you put this minicomputer into your body, it sends info back in real time so you can make sure that the ol’ ticker isn’t about to bow a fuse. Simple? Well not quite, but that’s the idea in brief. When miniaturisation meets wireless the possibilities expand as to the purposes to which this combination can be extended. The Guardian newspapers technology section explains thus:

A breakthrough in wireless technology could allow a new wave of health tracking tools that can be embedded inside our bodies – in our livers, hearts and even in our brains.

A new wireless charging technique known as “mid-field wireless transfer” can deliver power to tiny electronic devices such as sensors, pacemakers and nerve stimulator’s embedded deep within the body. They can be charged using a device the size of a credit card placed outside the body.

“With this method, we can safely transmit power to tiny implants in organs like the heart or brain, well beyond the range of current near-field systems,” said Dr John Ho, co-author of the study that appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.IAP23902

 As if this revelation wasn’t enough – read on for more heart stopping (pun intended) information on the cyber future possibilities ahead, if not for you then almost certainly for you children.

One of the big breakthrough factors here is that devices don’t need to have large batteries or power sources (like a pacemaker) and neither do they have to be near the surface of the skin, they can be implanted more deeply to the places in the body where the vital organs sit and lets face it if it if we are going to have microchips put inside us we want it to be “vital”. Using a new kind of “near field wave” that can reach deeper into the body the devices can be charged by an external source by wireless charging.

“The discovery opens up greater possibilities for medical implants called “electroceutical” devices, which use electrical stimulation to treat illness or alleviate pain that would typically require long term drug treatment. Diseases like Parkinson’s are already treated with techniques like deep brain stimulation to control shaking symptoms”.

These devices will be designed to handle treatments as well as monitoring health.

Good health and bad health. It’s a big business and its about to get bigger. Just how and when the mobile phone companies engage with this deeper level of technology remains to be seen. On the face of it Apple and Google as well as the big names such as Samsung and others are well positioned to add this area of development into their mid term strategies.

Texting whilst driving

Texting whilst driving …a concept that is familiar to one and all on the roads of Britain. Whether its a sneaky one word text at traffic lights or a novella during a run up the motorway, its something that society acknowledges is happening to a lesser or greater degree. So, hey, what’s the problem?  Well, to borrow words of veteran football commentator John Motson, “it only takes a second to …er.. kill someone by accidentally driving into them” actually his words are just the start of that sentence of course. The point being whether it’s a 1 second text or a ten minute effort, the risk of making a driving error during that time is immense. In driving terms you can drive 50 metres in a second or less so that little cute message to your friend may turn out to be your infamous last words.

The number of times I see people talking on phones whilst driving beggar’s belief. If they are not texting or talking they are looking at phones whilst driving presumably reading a Facebook banality (boo hiss) or writing a text, or maybe just placing a bet, reading the news, or whatever their passion may be. The thought that this selfish action could end someone’s life, cripple or maim some innocent on in another vehicle, or on the pavement or zebra crossing or whatever seems of little interest to these self-centred morons.

Motoring organisations including, the AA say that they find that some drivers appear “addicted to texting and  using smartphones, it’s an addiction that is very hard to break even when in the car — it will take some system to help people break that addiction.”

Meanwhile the road safety charity Brake, labels the activity “a “widespread menace” which has been shown to slow driver reaction times by 35% and increase the likelihood of a crash by 23 times for commercial drivers.”

Therefore it is with unashamed self-righteousness that I welcome the proposed new developments coming out of the Apple orchard of technological loveliness…they have proposed a method that would prevent this kind of distraction and indeed disable the functionality of certain smartphone actions when an iPhone user is driving. Apple have  applied for patents such as one describing  “a “driver handheld computing device lock-out” system that detects when a user is driving using on-board sensors or pulling information from the car when connected, blocking the use of text messaging or using other smartphone functions from the person driving”.

Apple recognise that this habit of attempting to multi task whilst already multi-tasking (driving) is anti-social. So hats off to Apple, let’s wait for their next update on this but on the face of it any effort to reduce the risk of innocents being wiped out or maimed by idiots behind the wheel is a great step forward.

 

Why apps are a business “must have”

imagesIncreasingly we turn to the web or an app for goods and services. Both provide the ideal shop window for any business wanting to be seen and heard. Apps have a further appeal because by their nature they are mobile.

Mobile media has become the number ONE media for consumers. To ignore this is to limit your business opportunities, reduce your market share and frankly, be left behind…the word on Commercial Street is written large and clear, get a mobile app, bring your website up to speed and link the two.

Smartphone ownership is growing. Here’s a quick check-list of the benefits of an app for business small or large, established or start up.

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  • An App will help grow your business, increase incomes, turnover and cash flow.
  • An app is always on, always available and always putting your brand in front of your customers.
  • An App will help promote your identity, your brand and your perceived image as modern and up to date. Your business icon will be visible on the user’s phone.
  • Add Push Notification and you have an immediate and easy to manage direct communication channel to those of your clients who have downloaded the app. For marketing departments this is the Holy Grail. Engage with your customers!
  • Apps will enable you to collect and collate information from your consumer base. What they like and what they want.
  • Retain existing customers by communicating with them through the app.
  • Keep updating the app either through inbuilt content management system or by refreshing content through your developer periodically.

Link the app to your website. A simple URL link will take your customers to your website where they can purchase goods, register their needs and more. All on the move. The mobile website in conjunction with the mobile app is here to stay and whilst many businesses have already seen the opportunities the combination offers, many are yet to adopt this beautiful synergy of app and website. In a couple of years the picture will be different as competition drives business’s investment into this channel. If they ignore it or leave it until later, their competitors will steal a march on them and grab market share. The advice from those who have already shifted gear would be;  act now, bring the app and website relationship to life for your business.

There are, in addition, a plethora of productivity apps which have helped business’s . The streamlining of working practice through communications and data collection, formatting and transmission in real time has sped up so many processes, reduced paper trails and increased overall efficiencies. Each month there are new releases and not all of these are distributed widely. There are many thousands of Enterprise release apps which have helped business’s gain an edge on their competitors.

Here at AppDevelopersUK we have created several business apps in this category and know from first hand testimony how powerful these apps can be out there in the field. One client commissioned us to create an app which links to their in house database of over 50 thousand component parts, each with a varying price. These can be schematically created on an iPad on the customer’s premises to give a real immediacy and to create a superb sales opportunity, whether it be fulfilling a need of the customer or up-selling. A business without an app is like a business without a website. Lost and rarely found.

 

Galaxy Glass

comedy galsses1Rumour has it that there may soon be a competitor for the much vaunted – though as yet unreleased- Google Glass . Tech Crunch for example suggest that  “Samsung is currently developing a Google Glass competitor, which is in fact provisionally named “Galaxy Glass,” set for launch in September at the annual IFA tech conference”

The news that Samsung is putting effort into a facially worn gadget with a provisional Galaxy Glass moniker, might re focus Google on getting its product into the mainstream as fast as possible. Fit to market with these innovations can be vital in grabbing the lion’s share of a market.

In some ways its surprising that this is the first rival bid for a spectacle based product. The Google glass concept has been well aired in the media for the past 18 months or more and opinions as to the likely success of the product vary widely.   A revised date for launch to the public is suggested to be in second half of 2014. But since there’s a chance that this could be” the next big thing” then why are there no alternative producers…until now that is. Perhaps the concept is tied up with patents and IP considerations…but in that case how would Samsung be moving into that space, after all they have plenty of experience jousting with their friends from Apple!

Come to think of it where are Apple in the whole Glass space wouldn’t we expect an iGlass product to be out sometime soon? Well nothing from Apple so far but perhaps they are watching the space carefully, seeing how the brave first movers get on and then maybe finessing their way into the space with some variation or other taking their design conscious consumers with them.

First mover advantage can count for a lot in certain markets but in the world of technology the most important factor is to put out a product the works, a product that is useful and one that doesn’t cost the earth. Well that’s all supposition…Meanwhile Google Glass is a well understood concept if not yet a mass worn product and Samsung are beginning the climb to market with a product which they might expect to be able to benefit from the phenomenal success of their mobile phone business which has grown stronger over recent years. One way or another the “Glass” is more than half full.

An Apple a day….

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An Apple a day….Apple have this week been forced to pay out 32.5 million dollars to settle a legal complaint about the company’s practices that allowed children to make purchases in mobile apps without parents’ permission. Apple themselves are reacting positively to help in this matter as reported in the Daily Tech recently. Whilst not exactly agreeing in the ruling, Apple have decided not to fight it and doubtless they will revisit their in app purchase mechanisms to ensure that the issue is resolved once and for all.

Well, ……big sigh and roll of the eyes. What on earth is going on here? Where does this leave us in a world where digital devices are increasingly user friendly and accessible?  Imagine, for instance, a scenario where a young child makes an actual phone call and orders up a luxury suite in the Ritz for 2 nights on his mother’s credit card. Who is responsible for allowing that transaction? The phone company for allowing this misuse of the phone? Or the credit card company for facilitating a payment via phone by a minor masquerading as their parent?  What if a young person accidentally cuts their finger off whilst opening a particularly tricky packet of crisps? The knife manufacturer surely should have safeguarded against that…or wait, how about we task the crisp manufacturer with taking a more responsible approach to packaging, ensure that its impossible to cut yourself whilst using scissors.

The ruling against Apple is one which seems to forget the role of the responsible adult. In this case the adult who had purchased the smart phone or tablet which has facilitated the act of purchasing some game add ons. The adult in this case who should be providing a moral grounding to the child and explaining that in app purchases are a “no no”. or more realistically ….. perhaps these in app elements can be purchased occasionally on a one by one permission basis….and on it goes. Those are the first few aspects we might expect a parent or a responsible adult to consider when handing over a connected device like that to a child.

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But crucially if a parental responsibility is too much effort  there are other methods to prevent the risk. For example:

Use the settings of their device set to prevent such purchases. Thats the end of the risk. The discussion need go not further. problem solved.

Talk to their children, explain the issue./Apply rules of use.Suggest that the Lock Down will happen if the rules are broken.  Hold on a moment…. I just need to find someone’s grandmother and teach them how to suck eggs.

We practise this sort of basic approach with animals. Pet shop owners do not have the “damned puppy” – they sold to little Freddie’s mother only last week- returned with complaints of  “he ruined my carpet” or “he messed my lawn”…why not? Because Freddie’s Mother  applies some common sense and realises that the dog is not in fact responsible for his misdemeanour’s. Maybe he will be after he has been trained…… but even then the sensible approach would not be to hold the dog to account because…. the pet owner has the task of teaching the pet to avoid chewing the carpet or digging the grass. Hey ho…..

It would be great to know the logic that leads to the ruling against Apple. Thoughts from our readers please?

 

Innovative App Launched by NHS

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Innovative App Launched by NHS

App Developers UK have developed a highly innovative new app on behalf of the NHS. The App is called Test Checker and it will tell clinicians which preoperative tests are recommended for adult surgical patients, according to the latest (June 2003) guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK.

The app works by allowing the user to enter the grade of the surgical procedure together with the ASA grade of the patient, the system(s) of co-morbidity and the age of the patient. The app uses this information to produce of the recommended tests as well as other tests to consider.

The app does not override the individual responsibility of health professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patients.

Using a very simple design the app is deliberately designed to appeal to both the patient and their clinician.

The app is available as a Free App on both Google play and on the Apple App Store, this app is expected to be a really tremendous tool for hospital practitioners.

Find it Fix it Love it – Official Press Launch.

 

fifili press launch banners 2AppDevelopersUK recently released Find it Fix it Love it, a smartphone app created on behalf of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH). This innovative app brings “people power” to the fore as it allows any member of the public to download a free app with which they can send positive or negative observations about their borough directly to their local authority. The LBTH team can assess the incoming submission and decide on appropriate actions. If there’s a broken paving stone, an upturned litter bit for instance, the appropriate service can be organised to tackle the issue.  On the other hand, if someone wants to report how much they like a particular flowerbed bench or other amenity, they can report this too. Everyone likes positive feedback and the LBTH is no exception.

We expect that this approach has added benefits of allowing the council to work in a highly efficient way, collecting useful information from the residents of the borough. In addition the feel-good factor between council and its residents is promoted because there is the sense of the local authority listening and acting upon news and information provided by its residents. The app enables a really useful channel of real communication to be developed with all participating residents. The app is available on both Apple and Google Play and the official press release is shown below.

Tower Hamlets Council launches Find it, Fix it, Love it App

Tower Hamlets Council has a new tool in its armory to further improve the appearance and maintenance of the borough in the shape of a new, innovative smart phone app, Find It, Fix It, Love It.

The Find it, Fix it, Love it app has been launched as part of the council’s commitment to making the borough an even cleaner and safer place to live, work or visit and will enable users to share what they love about the borough.
Through Find it, Fix it, Love it the council wants people to send pictures and share their thoughts of the many great aspects of the borough; anything from a special place or landmark, to a quirky shop or local character.

By using the app residents and visitors can also instantly tell the council about any issues that need addressing such as graffiti, fly tipping, broken play equipment, pot holes or over flowing bins.

Users simply take a picture of a problem and the app will pinpoint their location and send the details directly to the council’s environmental contractors, ensuring that problems are dealt with swiftly. The app also allows residents to highlight specific areas on the image or send comments and contact details if they want feedback, but this is optional, making the process very quick and simple.

Launching the app, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said: “Find it, Fix it, Love it” is simple to use and an innovative reporting approach for issues. The app will also be great for showing what people love about the borough. There are so many good things in Tower Hamlets and it will be fascinating to see what people think are our hidden gems.”

Cllr Shahed Ali, cabinet member for the environment, added: “The reporting side of the app will enable us to efficiently and effectively deal with problems. I encourage residents to help with reporting issues as we can’t be in all places at all times. I’m excited by the potential use of the app and the role it can play in reducing costs and improving efficiencies in dealing with clean and green issues.”

Jamie Blake, Service Head, Public Realm, said: “Find it, Fix it, Love it has been developed to meet the reporting needs of the mobile generation. The app is unique as it focuses on the positives of the borough whilst also allowing users to report problems that may occur. The app will hopefully capture the imagination and allow us to build a unique picture of Tower Hamlets through the eyes of our residents and visitors to the borough as they tell us why they “love it.”

The app has proved popular during the pilot phase with over 100 reports being made to date.

Download the Find it, Fix it, Love it app for free at the Apple App Store or via Google Play, search for FiFiLi. For more information about using the Find it, Fix it, Love it app visit www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/clean.
October 23, 2013

XploreGhana! App from AppDevelopersUK

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XploreGhana! App from AppDevelopersUK has just been released on both the Google Play and Apple app stores.

This is one of those apps that has been fun for our developers to work with. Its very simple and very useful for all those planning a trip to this fantastic country.  The app includes an RSS feed of news views and opinions about subjects relevant to the user. Rather than use further words describing it I will include a number of screenshots and a live link to both stores so that you can check it out for yourselves. It’s completely FREE to download.

Give it a try.XploreGhana!

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