Mobile Computing Apps Archive

Emergency-notification apps–very important for some of us

In Case Of Emergency opening screen

In Case Of Emergency opening screen

I am highlighting the emergency-notification apps like “ICE In Case of Emergency” which are available for most smartphone platforms along with other techniques to make your smartphone work with you if you are caught up in a medical emergency or disaster.

What are these apps?

These apps provide access to information that is essential for others to know if an emergency occurs. Typically the apps work with a lock-screen that provides immediate access to this information along with the necessary space to store that information on our smartphones. As well, they keep the phone’s security functionality in place by providing “sandboxed” access to the emergency information but you can gain full access to your phone using the regular passcode that you have for it. This “sandboxed” access may only allow you to dial the contacts listed in the app’s contact list from that app when the phone is locked so you can still contact them in case of emergency.

In Case Of Emergency app widget on lock screen

In Case Of Emergency app widget on lock screen

They store information about whom to contact in case of emergency, illnesses or other conditions that others should be aware of, medical contacts along with information about the medicines that the person on the file is taking. They may even have the ability for you to directly dial the emergency contacts from their user interface. Some more sophisticated variants may work with a cloud service and your phone’s location identification features to transmit your location to loved ones in case of emergency.

Most of these apps are available from the mobile app stores for pennies’ worth or, in some cases, for free. On the other hand, you can add text to your phone’s lock-screen wallpaper with your emergency-contact information so this is available at all times even when your phone is locked. There are apps that can facilitate that by “mixing the text with the pictures”.

Who are they useful for?

One group of people they are essential for are those of us who have chronic illnesses which can result in an unpredictable emergency situation like a coma, seizure or asthma attack. This includes elderly people who are at risk of a stroke or something similar that is brought on by the ageing process.

Here, it means that when they are out and about, they are sure that the people they are with are able to contact someone like a close friend or relative or their doctor to find out what to do in relation to helping them through the situation. As well, they can convey the critical information to the paramedics or safety / security staff who are managing the situation.

I had one of these apps on my phone because of the fact that I have epilepsy and am at risk of the seizures associated with that illness. This came in handy recently when I had one of these seizures during a group get-together at the church I attend and two of the fellow congregants were able to know whom to contact and what to do by the easily-accessible information that the app was able to provide. This was even though they had called an ambulance to attend to this situation.

Another group of users that would benefit from these emergency-notification apps would be those of us who do activities like bushwalking, long-distance running and long-distance cycling. Similarly people who do a lot of travel can benefit from these apps. These kind of activities may require others to know whom to contact if something untoward happens to them.

In all these situations, a hard-copy card that you keep in your bag or wallet and carries the same essential information does work well as a backup in case your phone runs out of batteries or “freezes”.

What to look for with these apps

These apps should have the ability to retain all of the essential information like your name, the phone numbers for at least a few contacts including your primary-care and other-care doctors, along with identity numbers for national / universal health (NHS, Medicare, etc) or other coverage. As well they should be able to keep information about your blood type and other general medical particulars along with information that is essential to treating and managing your illnesses.

As well, they should be able to have the ability to provide off-device backup storage of this information, whether on removable media or a cloud-based storage service. This is to cater for situations where you may upgrade your phone or your phone plays up and destroys the data. To benefit international travellers, the software could keep information like your passport number and “home country” details along with travel insurance contact details.

Another feature that a good emergency-information app should have is the ability to be dynamically switched between different languages. This can be of importance in countries which maintain multiple tongues or have a multicultural society, or for travellers who are travelling in to countries or territories where their home tongue isn’t spoken.

Conclusion

Your smartphone can work as an emergency reference book for others to use if you are stricken through some situation. All it just requires is the use of an emergency-info app and / or using a customised lockscreen wallpaper with the critical information on it.

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Another company links the existing air conditioner to the home network

Articles

Beat the summer heat with the Monolyth smart AC unit | Digital Trends

Crowdfunding-Kampagne für selbstlernenden Klimaanlagen-Regler | Gizmodo.de (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Monolyth

Product Page

Indiegogo crowdfunding page

Previous coverage

Tado Cooling brings the smart thermostat concept to the typical air conditioner

My Comments

Monolyth air-conditioner controller controlling a window air-conditioner - press image courtesy of Monolyth

This is how the typical room air-conditioner will be controlled

Another company has followed Tado’s lead in providing “smart-thermostat” and home-network capabilities to the existing room air conditioner. Here, we control a lot of the recently-installed, usually “split-system”, air conditioners using an infra-red remote control and this device, along with Tado’s device mimics the remote controls we use for these units.

Monolyth, who are seeking funding through the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform are providing this device which is a black obelisk box that links to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment to enable control from your mobile device or to benefit from various cloud services that it has. Here, you use your iOS or Android mobile device with the platform-specific app to control your air-conditioner and can use the mobile device’s GPS facility to have the AC unit off when you are away to save power or have it come on just before you arrive to get your premises comfortable by the time you are there.

Air-conditioner remote control

The Monolyth air-conditioner controller works with air-conditioners controlled by these devices

Compared to its peers like the Tado, the Monolyth implements extra sensors to determine the comfort level such as barometric pressure, humidity and air-quality sensors. This also works along with learning weather-forecast data to optimise your air-conditioner’s behaviour to the prevailing weather situation.

Monolyth also promotes the concept of using the one app to manage systems on many properties as well as multiple air-conditioners on the one property as is becoming the typical case for most installations.

What I value of these devices is that manufacturers are adding a level of network-enabled smart-thermostat functionality to the existing installed base of air conditioners, thus allowing us to see the equipment serve us for a longer time. It also satisfies the reality that we don’t “dump” heating or air-conditioning equipment unless it totally fails or becomes hopelessly inefficient and would rather add functionality to the existing equipment using add-on kits.

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Up, Up And Away with Android Wear

Article

Hacking the friendly skies: creating apps for wearables at 36,000 feet | Engadget

My Comments

There are some efforts taking place to make the wearable devices and sensors become relevant with air travel which is part of our business lives. This has been underscored by a recent “hackathon” programming contest sponsored by American Airlines to encourage the development of apps to bind wearables with the air travel experience.

The goal with this challenge was to make apps that are relevant to the passenger through the various phases of the experience i.e. checking in, passing through a security checkpoint, boarding the plane, flying using the newer inflight Wi-Fi system and having an Economy class seat as your workspace then arriving and collecting your luggage.

One application that won “first prize” in the challenge was a push-notification system that was able to let you and family / close friends know where you were in your air journey. Here, this could push messages to your phone or smartwatch or the device owned by your friend depending on where you are, and could show up electronic boarding passes as required. For your relative or friend, it would mean, for example, when to start driving out to the airport to pick you up. This application would be driven by GPS and iBeacon technology in order to get its bearings.

Another application that won the challenge was an “area social network” that applied to your flight. Here, this would tie in with Facebook and LinkedIn and the in-flight Wi-Fi to indicate whether you have “bumped in to” someone in your personal or business network by the fact that you are on the same plane. This could also work with groups that are likely to be “split up” due to travelling different classes on a long-haul jet or simply for solo travellers who are heading the same direction to do things like share cabs at the destination.

Someone even tendered a personalised proximity-signage setup which can show things like gate information for connecting flights or directions to a particular baggage carousel. I also see this application work with the hire-car scene by avoiding the need for drivers of these cars to show signboards relating to their pick-ups in the arrivals hall. This application assures privacy by deleting the information on the signs when you walk away from them.

Even the idea of travelling with your four-legged friend interstate or overseas by air on the same flight is catered for with a special collar that lets you know how they are. This could be augmented with a system that allows you to know how they are if you and the pet are on different transports once suitable technology is implemented as part of the “Internet of Things”.

This is a situation where innovation is taking place by encouraging situation-specific software development goals through programming challenges focusing on that situation.

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Swiss Customs agency to have own mobile-platform app for travellers

Swiss Customs sign - courtesy Wikimedia CommonsArticle – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

Zollverwaltung plant Smartphone-App | Netzwoche (Switzerland)

Verzollung per Smartphone geplant | PCTipp.ch

From the horse’s mouth

Swiss Customs Authority (Eidgenössische Zollwerwaltung EZV)

App download site

My Comments

The country who turns out the most precise and most premium traditional watches has taken anther step further with e-government. Here, the Swiss customs authority have worked on a mobile-platform app that overseas travellers use for calculating customs duty and VAT on goods they intend to bring back to Switzerland or registering these goods. This is also part of a simplification effort concerning how Swiss citizens have to deal with importing goods privately such as part of online shopping.

There are questions on what level of functionality this app will provide such as provision of other customs-related information or whether this will work just for private importers only with different software for businesses.

But at least it is an example of a customs authority implementing their e-government goals to more than just large importers. It also is a government department implementing the mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets in this role rather than just using a Web view on a desktop computer for this kind of e-government application.

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Make Spotify and Shazam work with your favourite bar or cafe

 

A cafe who can benefit from DLNA network AV technology

A cafe who can benefit from DLNA network AV technology

Spotify, Shazam and similar programs are music programs that can come in handy with people who have a café or bar as a favourite watering hole. This is whether through creating a playlist that relates to this location or identifying songs that are playing on the music system there.

As a café or bar owner

A café or bar can make Spotify work with their Website even if they can’t legally play content from this service through their music system. The manager could create a Spoitify account which is a so-called “public account” and use this just for sharing the playlists. Here, they identify tracks that are in the current playlist or on the music system and create a Spotify playlist based on these tracks.

Shazam for Android

Shazam song-identification for Android

This is then inserted in to their Website using the code that Spotify supply for inserting playable playlists in to a Website. Customers who visit the Website can have these songs playing through their computer which should be connected to a hi-fi or a pair of good speakers. They can even “subscribe” to these playlists to have them play through their Spotify-Connect-enabled equipment or their mobile devices.

As a “regular” customer

Customers can put Shazam, MusicID or similar music-recognition apps in to service to identify tracks that they like playing through the venue’s music system. This is more important with venues that have music systems that don’t readily show details about what’s currently playing but can be a problem in crowded venues where there is a lot of noise contesting the music.

These apps keep a record of what you have identified using them and have a link to various apps and services. For example, one could share the track names through Facebook or other social networks or play the tracks on Spotify or buy them through iTunes or other affiliated “download-to-own” online music stores.

Spotify screenshot with album tracklist

Spotify, one of the most popular online music-streaming services

What I even do is create a “favourite places” playlist on Spotify which is comprised of songs that I have identified at my favourite cafes and bars. Here, I can then play this playlist on Spotify or use this as a reference for purchasing music or syncing it to my phone.

iOS users simply buy the songs from iTunes Music Store and download them to their to their iPhone or iPad “as they go”. Then they sync them to a Macintosh or Windows computer using the iTunes desktop software. Android users use a music store that supplies music as MP3s on a download-to-own basis like Amazon or Big Pond Music. If you aren’t comfortable with downloading the music to your device, you can use the store’s “wishlist” function to create a memo list of the music you have liked when you trawl around Amazon to buy CDs online or visit your favourite music store.

Once you have bought your music, you could then work on a playlist or compilation CD/MiniDisc/cassette that focuses on these songs in a similar vein to what can be done with a subscription music service like Spotify.

Conclusion

Once you use Shazam, Spotify and similar software on your mobile computing environment, you can be able to get more out of your favourite watering holes.

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Official app for Facebook now on Windows 8.1

Facebook client for Windows 8Those of you who like using your Sony VAIO Tap 20, HP x2 Series, Sony VAIO Duo 11 or other Window 8 touch laptop to stalk on Facebook can now do so using a Facebook client that is written to be part of the operating system’s Modern user interface.

Here, you have a 3-pane dashboard with a presence list of the friends you interact with on the right-hand side, the News Feed in the centre of your screen and the grey “selection” menu on the left. The right hand top corner has a one-touch access point for status updates, pending friend requests and conversations that are taking place. There is the same ease in which you can browse what is available, including photos whether as a screen show or as a tiled arrangement.

I have even browsed through various photo albums in a “slide-show” view and the viewing experience comes across very smoothly. For example, when a photo initially appears, you see it looking soft and less detailed but it arrives with more detail coming through. There is the ability to zoom in on an image as well as flick through the slideshows.

Even mouse users, which covers most desktop users, are cared for because you can still use your rodent to scroll up and down using its thumbwheel. The thumbwheel works properly with scrolling the various columns for the News Feeds, the chat you are having, the presence list and the like independently – it depends on what you are actually hovering over. If you flip through photos in someone’s album, you can use the thumbwheel to “speed” through them. Using the SHIFT key with the thumbwheel allows you to detail in and out of the photos.

Its behaviour through a conversation is as expected but I would like to see a “typing” indicator so I can know if they are typing a reply at a particular moment.

This is certainly an application that appears to be mature from the start rather than one that is bug-ridden and failing too frequently. Give this a go on your Windows 8 laptop as something to work the Modern UI with.

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Use QR codes to point someone to your Facebook Profile

Articles

Facebook Adding QR Codes To Android App, Directing Scanners To Users’ Profiles? – AllFacebook

Facebook Adds QR Codes To Android App | 2D Code

My Comments

You are at the party or favourite bar and you have started to chat with someone very well. But you mention that you are on Facebook and they say that they are also on that same social network. You ask if it is OK to “friend them” on Facebook and they agree.

The next thing you do is ask for their name to search for them in your Facebook mobile app. This can be very difficult in a noisy environment or if they have a name that has a particular spelling or is one of many common names. Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick – you have found that person and are sending a “Friend Request”to them.

Now Facebook have improved on this for the latest version of their Android mobile client by using the QR code to simplify the profile-sharing process. Here, you bring up “Friends” in the drop-down menu. Then you tap “Find Friends” which shows the “People You May Know” list. Touch the “QR Code” button on the top right of your display to show a QR code that represents a link to your Profile.

If you are adding your companion to your Friends list, you then tap “Scan Code” and point your Android phone’s camera at the QR code that your companion is showing on their Android phone’s screen using this same client. This takes you to their Timeline which would have any “public” posts that are on it as well as the option to add them as a Friend.

I don’t see this as a controversial feature for Facebook because you have to be pulling up your Facebook Profile’s QR code in the presence of your companion who then has to use their device running the client app to scan that code – you are not intending to “friend them” behind their back.

This function could be taken further for businesses who have Facebook Pages or people who use Facebook Pages as a way to maintain a sanitised “public” profile. As well, if a person maintains a Page for their business or blog along with their personal Profile, the QR code could lead the user to a screen with an option to go to the Page which you then “like” to follow or the Profile with an option to “subscribe” (see only public Posts and Photos) or “add Friend” (be seen as a Facebook Friend with standard privileges).

Similarly, other social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn could implement this technology to allow people to attract followers or connections. NFC technology can also be exploited to achieve the same functionality as these QR codes for “there-and-then” access to contact profiles.

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The PS4 to benefit from a companion mobile app in November

Articles

PlayStation companion app for iOS, Android due in November | Internet & Media – CNET News

Sony to Launch PS4 Companion App in November | Mashable

My Comments

Sony is intending to add value to the PlayStation 4 platform by releasing a companion app for the iOS and Android mobile platforms that works with this console.

But what benefits will it offer to the gamers who use this app and associate it with their console? One would be to exploit the smartphone’s or tablet’s screen as a second screen which would come in to play with a wide range of games. For example, the screen could be used to show a leaderboard or scoreboard for a game while using the big screen just for the gameplay activity. Some adventure-based games may implement this second screen as an always-displayed map of either the game’s whole world or area of local relevance so as to help with fulfilling a particular quest.

The other main benefit is to have the mobile device serve as a controller, which I would see as improving the gameplay experience for some games and players. The touchscreens offered by these devices could allow for intuitive positioning of players in a sports game or could make it real for a strategy game to be played on a console.

Sony is also intending to make these devices become a path to the PlayStation Network online gaming service such as to see what others are playing and how they are performing as well as buying games and downloadable content using the mobile device for delivery to your PS4.

What I like of this is that various gaming tasks can be made more intuitive for more players by exploiting the touchscreen rather than hammering D-pads and buttons to configure a game’s participant. Similarly, it could open the path for other games types to be playable on consoles rather than just on regular computers or mobile devices.

Similarly it could open up the games consoles to user classes other than the teenage or young-adult males of this world by making them easier to use by older people or women.

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YouTube to add offline viewing to mobile apps

Article

Train Commuters Rejoice: YouTube Adding Offline Viewing to Apps – Streaming Media Magazine

My Comments

Most of us who want to use our smartphones or tablets to view video content “on the road” may be either using a low-allowance mobile data plan or travelling through areas where Internet access isn’t guaranteed. Examples of this may include underground (subway) trains, air travel or long-distance train travel. As well, you may be using a Wi-Fi-only device like low-tier tablets or MP3 players.

Google have revised the iOS and Android YouTube apps to allow you to download video content for later viewing. These apps will keep the content of 48 hours but it would come in handy when you are “loading up” with content at your home network or public-access Wi-Fi network before you set off.

I see this as being commensurate with Google’s new direction for YouTube where they want to use this service for hosting content that is beyond cat videos. The catch-up and on-demand TV services could follow this line so as to increase their utility to travellers who want to catch up with favourite TV serials.

Similarly, Google could release an official YouTube app with this function for the regular-computer platforms as well as other mobile platforms like Windows Phone 8 so as to court users who use Ultrabooks or Nokia Lumia phines for this purpose.

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Sidekick app streams Google Play music to DLNA media devices

Article

Stream Google Play Music Songs To Any UPnP Or DLNA-Compatible Receiver | Lifehacker Australia

Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic

Download link from Google Play Store 

Demonstration Music in video

Song: Earth Wind & Fire – Can’t Hide Love

Album: Earth Wind & Fire – Greatest Hits

My Comments

If you are buying music through the Google Play Store and want to get it out through some decent speakers, you don’t need to use Google’s Chromecast dongle and an HDMI-equipped TV. Rather, as regular readers will know, DLNA-compliant playback equipment in the from of stereos, home-theatre systems, wireless speakers and the like are more commonly available than the Google Chromecast HDMI dongle.

Instead the “Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GPlay” app adds the list of UPnP AV/DLNA media-renderer devices to the list of playback clients available for playing out your Google Play Store music. This can be a boon with home-theatre setups where you specifically don’t want the attached TV screen to light up every time you want music to play.

It is available as a time-limited free program but drop $2 within the program to guarantee it full functionality.

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