Home, health devices controlled by apps on the rise | The Age (Australia)
A trend that is becoming very real in this day and age is for more appliances, home systems and personal healthcare devices to be linked to the home network and the Internet.
This is typically manifested in the form of the devices having control apps being made available for smartphones and tablets that run on common mobile-computing platforms, especially iOS and Android. Typically the device would like to the smartphone or tablet either via a direct Bluetooth link or the home network with the mobile computing device linking to that network via Wi-Fi wireless. Some of these devices that promote “cloud-driven” or “remote-access” functionality make use of the Internet connection offered by the home network or the mobile computing device.
Of course, you have to remember that the use of the “cloud” word is primarily about the vendor or service provider providing either simplified remote access to the device or having user data being stored on the vendor’s servers.
A lot of the apps offer various device control or monitoring functions, with some of the apps linking to a remote Web server for storing user data. This is more so with personal healthcare devices where the goal is to keep a record of measurements that the device obtains on behalf of the user.
Of course, the mobile-computing-platform app may not he the only way to benefit from the connected device’s online abilities. Here, the device could work with a Web-based dashboard page that users can view with a Web browser on their regular-platform or mobile-platform computing device. This situation would come in handy if the concept is to provide more information at a glance or provide greater control of the device.
There is a reality that by 2022 a household with 2 teenage / young-adult children will maintain 50 Internet-connected devices compared to 10 such devices in 2013 according to OECD data and this situation is being described as the “Internet Of Things”.
But there are some issues here with the current ecosystem for these devices and apps. For example, if a user has more appliances and other devices from different manufacturers or service providers, the smartphone or tablet will end up being crowded out with many different apps. The same situation may occur as a device comes to the end of its useful life and is replaced with a newer device which may be from a different vendor. It can lead to users finding it difficult to locate the monitoring or control apps that they need to use for a particular device.
Here, the situation could be rectified through the use of application standards like UPnP so that one can develop apps that can manage many devices from different vendors.
This could also encourage innovation such as the design of “car-friendly” apps or voice-agent (Siri / S-Voice) plugins so that one could benefit from a monitoring or control app when they leave or arrive in the car. Similarly, the software would need to exploit the abilities that iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 / 8 / RT offer within their platforms for “at-a-glance” viewing or user notifications.
It is a change that could take place over the years as the home network exists to be the easy-to-manage small network for an increasing number of devices.
Print This Post
Why You’ll End Up Wearing A Smart Watch | Gizmodo Australia
With the increase in smart watches being developed by various companies including Google, Apple and Samsung, there has been optimism and doubt about whether we will start wearing these watches on our wrists.
What is the smart watch?
The smart watch is an extended-function watch that works with a smartphone as a wrist-based display for the phone. These watches are in a similar vein to the 1980s-era digital watch where the more functions it had, the more you could impress others with it. In a lot of cases, these functions served many practical uses like being able to time a process or log the duration of events like races.
It would tell the time using a customisable analogue or digital display but would be able to show up notifications from your smartphone. As well as being the clock, calendar, stopwatch and timer, it could also work as a remote control for your smartphone such as navigating the music that you are playing, selecting a contact to call or text or answering a call while you hear and talk to the caller via a Bluetooth headset. Another advantage that these would offer would be the ability for us to have a discreet glance at the watch if a message comes in on our phone.
Some doubters suggested that the smartwatch wouldn’t take off because of the fact that most young people don’t wear watches anymore. Instead they use the smartphone to tell tie time or, if they have to have a watch, they would wear a quartz-driven dress watch. Of course, I would expect to see the smartwatch be considered as a wearable accessory to the smartphone and can evoke a level of curiosity from other people as we wear one of these watches just like it did with the digital watch.
What I would expect of the smartwatch would be to make use of Bluetooth 4.0 and similar technologies so it can run for at least 6 months on regular watch batteries. This is in addition to having a ladies’ form factor with similar functionality but appealing for the women to wear.
As well, it should be able to keep time independently of the host smartphone device yet use that device as a master clock for setting itself when initially started and when you cross time zones or whenever we change between standard time and daylight-saving time.
Personally, I would see these watches come on the scene as a viable practical mobile accessory for our phones rather than just a fashion accessory.
Print This Post
Fujitsu tech takes your pulse with your camera phone – popular science, mobile applications, mobile, Fujitsu – PC World Australia
The platform smartphone or tablet is starting to play an increasingly important role on personal health and wellbeing without the need to be dependent on extra peripherals. It is becoming increasingly relevant for these devices so you can keep an electronic record of observations or easily send the data to a doctor or clinic via email or cloud data service. This would lead to these devices becoming part of various home-based healthcare setups like management of chronic illnesses or catering to the idea of “ageing at home” where older people can stay at home independently or under the care of their relatives, friends or paid carers.
Previously I reported on the use of a smartphone camera and app that implements machine vision for “reading” certain urinalysis sticks, avoiding the need to check against confusing charts. I even put forward the idea of using similar “fluid-analysis” sticks and a smartphone app to check other liquids like drinks for “spiking” or “loading” or to check the pH level in a swimming pool.
Now Fujitsu has developed software code that makes a small digital camera like that installed in a smartphone or tablet as machine vision for taking someone’s pulse.This may be seen to displace the medical skill where you “pinch” the patient’s wrist near their hand and count the beats that you feel for a minute measured by a stopwatch or watch with second hand.
This concept works on the fact that the brightness of one’s face changes slightly as their heart beats and uses the presence of green light to look for haemoglobin which is part of the red (just oxygenated) blood cells. The procedure requires 5 seconds versus a minute with the orthodox method and the software can assess when patient is still for improved accuracy.
Fujitsu hopes to commercialise the technology in 12 months but there are questions on whether they will implement it in their own equipment or license it to other developers. For it to be popular, they would have to license the algorithms to other software developers to integrate in to their projects and / or release a finished software product to the platform app stores for people to use on their devices.
They also see this technology as facilitating unobtrusive measurement of one’s pulse using the camera on a PC, smartphone, smart TV, or tablet this being part of long-term observational-healthcare situations like chronic illness management.
What I see of this is the ability to use the cost-effective and ubiquitous hardware i.e. the multi-functional smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook to work as part of remote health care and allied applications with minimum need to use extra peripherals.
Print This Post
Article – French language
Flashez votre barquette de bœuf et retrouvez son origine
The recent meat-substitution scandal in Europe where a significant quantity of processed beef and beef-based “heat-and-eat” products sold in that area were filled out with horsemeat has put the meat industry, especially the beef industry, on edge.
But how is the meat industry going to restore consumer confidence in the beef that they are going to purchase especially from the supermarket?
A group of organisations in France have put their heads together to provide a way of checking the provenance of that tray of beef. This involved a group of beef farmers in the Pyrenees, the Vignasse et Donney software developers and the Auchan supermarket chain. With this project, there would be a database that has information on the provenance of the retail packages of meat available for sale. As well, each tray of that meat has a QR code that represents the link to the database about the meat. This would be read by a platform smartphone that runs the “Boeuf Blond D’’Aquitaine” app that shows up information about the meat package whose QR code is scanned.
It could work in restoring the necessary consumer confidence in the meat but this concerns more the sausages, the “cut-up” beef like minced (ground) beef or stir-fry strips as well as the ready-meal products like bolognese, lasagne and moussaka. Here, a lot of this class of food is prepared by third parties and it could be feasible to “balloon” the beef product with pork, oodles of fat or offal or, at worst, horse. This is more so with cheaper versions of these products; and this scandal was primarily anchored around the mislabelling of the product at various points of the preparation process.
I would see the QR-code labelling program and the provenance database being more effective with the sausages and “cut-up” beef which was prepared through the known chain of production established by the partners such as “on-demand on-site” preparation of these cuts by Auchan for example. Similarly, the DNA could be worked out for the meat and meat products and represented in to a smartphone-readable label that can be used by customers to determine the origin of the meat they are to purchase.
Print This Post
Urine sample app lets users detect diseases with iPhones | Cutting Edge – CNET News
I was amazed about the concept of having a smartphone’s camera along with a special app “read” a urine analysis strip to provide a better analysis of diseases and other issues that can be determined through urinalysis. This can allow for the in-home diagnosis that these strips provide but allow for improved accuracy in these tests. The end user doesn’t have to add any peripherals to the smartphone or tablet for these strips to work with the software nor does the device come in to contact with the fluid in question. Rather they use the camera integrated in this device to provide the “machine vision” for the software to do the analysis.
This app could also allow for further analysis for other illnesses and conditions by the developer programming it further for these different conditions.
But I would also like to see the concept taken further beyond health tests. For example, the use of a fluid analysis strip along with an app that “reads” the strip could come in handy as a tool to help with safe partying. Here, a fluid analysis strip could be placed in a hot or cold drink, then read by an analysis app which uses the smartphone camera for machine vision to determine if the drink has been spiked with drugs. The analysis app could also determine if a drink has been “loaded” with too much alcohol, by referring to a device-local or online database of known “alcohol ratios” for many drinks including the mixed drinks and cocktails.
Similar "analysis-stick” chromatography that uses a Webcam, smartphone camera or similar machine vision, can be taken further for consumer and applications like checking the condition of engine and battery fluids in a vehicle which can betray the truth about the condition of that used car he is trying to sell, or checking the condition of the water in a swimming pool so you can keep that pool in order.
Print This Post
You may think that St Valentine’s Day is all about giving the one you love something special like roses, or inviting them out for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner because you know she lives in your town. Of course, this isn’t the only day to show that affection.
But on the other hand, you may have used Skype to make a video call to them because they are away on business or holiday. It is worth reading this article about making sure that the Skype call goes to plan when they head on that trip. Here, I have highlighted becoming familiar with the Skype software, whether it is on the computer, mobile device or your smart TV or video peripheral. In some cases, you may have to do a “dry run” to make sure everything goes OK.
Similarly setting up a music playlist with a good variety of appropriate music on your computer or portable music player can work well for that dinner date at home or that movie date. As well, silencing that smartphone can work wonders but be sure you know how to bring the sound back on again so you don’t miss those calls.
If you have recipes in those books, scanning them to PDFs to upload to your tablet computer or laptop can allow you to have them in a more portable manner if you have to cook that dinner at another kitchen. As well, a bookstand can come in very handy if you use that tablet in the kitchen to refer to online or PDF recipes. On the other hand, that bread-bin can be shoehorned in to a temporary bookstand for that tablet.
Print This Post
In Part 1, I had covered the home entertainment direction with such technologies as the 4K UHDTV screens, smart TV, and the presence of alternate gaming boxes. Then in Part 2, I had covered the rise of touchscreen computing, increased pixel density the 802.11ac Wi-Fi network segment amongst other things. Now I am about to cover the mobile-computing technology which is infact a strong part of the connected lifestyle.
A major direction that is showing up for smartphones is the 5” large-screen devices that have been brought about by the Samsung Galaxy Note series of smartphones. These are described as “phablets” because they are a bridge device between the traditional 4” smartphone and the 7” coat-pocket tablet.
Sony are premiering the new Xperia premium Android phones which are the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL 5” standard with 1080p display. The Xperia ZL is a dual-SIM variant of the XPeria Z. As well, Huawei have increased their foothold in the US market by offering more of the reasonably-priced regular smartphones.
There has been some more effort towards standardised wireless charging for the smartphone. This is although there are two groups promoting their standards – the Power Matters Alliance and the Wireless Power Consortium who maintain the Qi (chee) wireless-charging standard. Examples of this include Toyota implementing the Qi standard in their 2013 Avalon vehicles and Nokia integrating it in to their Lumia 920 smartphones.
On the accessories front, Invoxia had launched an iPhone dock which connected two desk phones to the iPhone. The original device used the iPhone as an outside line for the desk phones whereas the current version launched here also works as a VoIP terminal for the desk phones. It also works with a supplied iOS softphone app to have the iPhone as a softphone for the VoIP setup.
Now there is an increasing number of the 7” coat-pocket tablets which were previously dismissed in the marketplace but made popular by the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire. The Windows-RT-based devices were showing up more as a 10” tablet or a detachable-keyboard hybrid device.
Polaroid, trying to keep their brand alive in consumers’ minds after the demise of their legendary instant-picture cameras, have launched a few of the Android tablets. One is a 7” unit pitched for use by children. Here, this model uses 8Gb onboard storage and microSD expansion, 2-megapixel camera and works only with 802.11g/n Wi-Fi networks. It is built in a rugged form to withstand little ones’ handling but can work well for environments where a coat-pocket tablet device could cop a lot of hard wear-and-tear. The M10 is a 10” variant with a brushed-metal finish.
RCA fielded an 8” Android tablet that is made by Digital Stream and has integrated TV tuners. Here, it could pick up conventional ATSC digital TV and mobile ATSC (Dyle) broadcasts and works to the Android ICS. Personally, I would suspect that this device could be sold out to other markets, perhaps under other brands and equipped with local-spec tuners like DVB-T tuners.
The ARM-based microprocessor has raised the ante for more powerful work by offering the same number of processor cores as the newer IA-32 or IA-64 processors used in regular computers. Yet this could allow for increased computing power with less power requirements thus making the embedded devices, smartphones and tablets that use RISC processing do more.
Here, NVIDIA launched the Tegra 4 which is a4-core ARM CPU that can yield faster response from tablets and smartphones. Samsung raised the bar with their Exynos 5 Octa which is an 8-core ARM CPU.
Samsung used this event to show a prototype 5.5” (1280×720) flexible screen and a 55” flexible screen as a proof-of-concept. As well, LG increased the pixel density by exhibiting a 5.5” 1080p smartphone screen.
The connected home
There has been very little happening concerning home automation and security through the past years of the Consumer Electronics Show but this year, the connected home has increased its foothold here.
This is demonstrated through the concept of mobile apps being used to control or monitor appliances, thermostats, security systems and the like.
Here, Motorola demonstrated a “Connected Home” router being a device that allows you to control a network-enabled central-heating thermostat using an app on an Android phone. What I liked of this was that the mobile device used to manage that thermostat wasn’t just the Apple iPhone and you were able to move away from that hard-to-program wall thermostat.
This has been brought about through the Nest thermostat opening up the market for user-friendly thermostats for heating / cooling systems. Here, this could lead to a commercial-style heating-control setup with a small wall-mounted box that works as a temperature sensor but may have a knob or two buttons for you to adjust the comfort level “on the fly”. Then you use your smartphone, tablet or computer that runs an easy-to-understand app to program comfort levels for particular times of particular days.
Alarm.com, a firm who provide monitoring for home automation and security sold through large retailers, has provided a “dashboard app” for their equipment that works on their platform. This app runs on the common mobile-phone platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 8) so you can use your phone to check on the state of things with your Alarm.com setup.
Similarly, the Securifi Almond+ 802.11ac Wi-Fi router was exhibited at this year’s CES. This is a regular home network router but has integrated Zigbee / Z-Wave wireless home-automation-network support. Here, this device can be seen as a dashboard for the connected home and they are intending to fund this with a Kickstarter campaign.
As for appliances, Dacor integrated a 7” Android tablet into their high-end wall oven and this provides for guided cooking including recipe lookup. Of course, Samsung hasn’t let go of the Internet fridge dream and exhibited a four-door fridge with an integrated app-driven screen that can work alongside their Android phones and tablets. They also exhibited a top-loading washing machine that uses an LCD control panel and is able to be controlled with a smartphone.
This is part of the “Internet of things” and this concept was underscored by a few manufacturers becoming charter members of the “Internet Of Things Consortium”. It is about an open-frame vendor-independent infrastructure for interlinking home automation / security, consumer entertainment, and computing devices using the common standards and common application-programming interfaces.
Of course the car is not forgotten about at the Consumer Electronics Show, and is considered as an extension of our connected lives.
A main automotive drawcard feature for this year are the self-driving cars; but the core feature for now are the app platforms for vehicle infotainment systems. Infact, Ford and GM are encouraging people to develop software for their infotainment setups. This is exploiting the fact that midrange and premium cars are increasingly being equipped with Internet connections and highly-sophisticated infotainment systems that have navigation, mobile phone integration and media playback.
Here, you might think of navigation, Internet radio / online content services and communications services. It may also include “one-touch” social destination sharing amongst other things.
For example, Google Maps to come in to Hyundai and Kia cars as part of their UVO connected infotainment platform. The first vehicle to have this is the Kia Sorrento (model-year 2014). Similarly Hyundai are implementing the MirrorLink smartphone-user-interface-replication technology in the infotainment setups.
As well. TuneIn Radio and Apple Siri integration are to be part of model-year 2013 Chevrolet Sonic & Spark cars. Ford has implement the Glympse social-destination-sharing software as part of their SYNC AppLink platform.
Similarly, Pioneer are extending the AppRadio functionality across most of their head-units so you can have certain iOS apps managed from the dashboard. They have also provided connectivity options for Apple’s iPhone 5 device with its Lightning connector and iOS 6 platform.
Last but not least
Pebble were showing a Kickstarter-funded concept of an E-paper smartwatch that interlinks with your smartphone. Here. I was wondering whether E-paper and E-ink could become the new LCD display for devices that can rely on an available-light display. It was also a way where these “smartwatches” were having us think back to the 80s where the more features and functions a digital watch had, the better it was and you could start showing off that watch to your friends.
This year has underscored a few key trends:
- the 4K UHDTV display and displays with increased pixel density being mainstream,
- the acceptance of touchscreen computing with regular computers courtesy of Windows 8,
- the arrival of very lightweight laptop computers,
- NFC becoming a common setup method for smartphones and consumer AV,
- the draft 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi network segment being exhibited with relatively-mature equipment,
- the 5” smartphone and 7” tablet becoming mainstream mobile options
and has shown up what can be capable in our connected lives. Who knows what the next major trade shows will bring forth, whether as a way to “cement” these technologies or launch newer technologies. Similarly, it would be interesting whether these technologies would catch on firmly in to the marketplace.
Print This Post
How do you plan a working holiday?
Toshiba Satellite L730 full-function ultraportable
A very difficult issue for most people who run small businesses is to be able to balance work and life. The article referred primarily to whenever you are on holiday but it can encompass business trips as well as other situations where you may not be able to have your hands “on deck” such as when you or a family member falls ill or there is a major event such as a birth or death in your family.
Here, you have to use the IT and communications technology available to you to satisfy this requirement.
Managing email, messaging and voicemail
This may involve the use of email, messaging and voicemail systems as a “store and forward” communications tools that help you separate the “wheat from the chaff”. This is compared to a common practice where people use text messaging, email or social-network messaging to seek instant replies and instant action.
With email, you could “skim” the Inbox’s List view so you can look for messages from particular people, check on those messages and reply to them. Well-bread email interfaces also allow you to set up message filters or contact groups so you can see only those messages that matter. You could also use contact groups on your mobile phone so you set distinct ring tones for those contacts you need to hear from.
The “sent from smartphone” tagline
The tagline used with most mobile-phone email clients which says “Sent from my smartphone”, “Sent from my iPhone” or something similar can have benefits and disadvantages. In some cases, removing it may convey a professional look of staying at your desk and slaving over your work but having it there may let one know that you are _away_ from your desk. This may say “Don’t expect me to reply instantly” or “Expect a short reply rather than the long one”.
You do not always have to be contacted
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – fit for business
The late 1980s has brought in to general business the culture of the 24-hour / day, 365-day / year working lifestyle. This has been facilitated with technologies like mobile phones, emails and text messaging. Here, you end up with people having the mobile phone always on hand or fielding work calls even when they are meant to be relaxing.
Convey the “contact me only if urgent” requirement
When you are on holiday, you may have to communicate a “contact me only if urgent” requirement to whom you deal with at work, which is an issue that may be difficult for anyone with a managerial or executive role. This may be through the use of “out-of-office” auto-reply emails or voicemails.
Being ready to delegate
You may also have to be ready to delegate your role on a temporary basis. Doctors have made an art of achieving this by having the clinics or hospitals they work with engage a “locum” doctor when they aren’t able to work at the clinic or hospital.
It may also involve underscoring the role of, empowering and preparing the “duty” or “acting” managers in the business’s decision flow. These situations may include regularly briefing the staff who will assume these roles when you are not there to preparing information documents like manuals or “crib sheets” for the staff.
Establishing the “portable office”
Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook – suits air travel very well
A lightweight portable computer device like a tablet, netbook or ultraportable could be used as a tool to “keep tabs on everything” with work. Here, you could use it to check or reply to email or keep an eye on key figures provided by your business’s management-information system.
These devices can work alongside remote-access technologies like remote-desktop tools (LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, etc), cloud-storage services (Dropbox, etc) or cloud-assisted local NAS storage (WD MyBook Live) to provide remote access to your work data. Some of the consumer-focused cloud-storage services are starting to offer a small-business variant of these services which will provide a secure operating environment that suits most business needs.
Here, you can then use this connectivity in response to an event at the office. Similarly, if the management-information system allows for email, SMS or app-driven notifications in response to key events, you can then use this feature to avoid the need to look at the “dashboard” of the management-information system regularly.
Once you know what technological resources you have at your business and have these resources set up properly, you can then use them to reclaim a healthy work-life balance.
Print This Post
Holden Adds Stitcher To Its Infotainment Systems, Pandora And TuneIn On The Way | Gizmodo Australia
Previously I have covered the issue of Internet radio and networked audio in the automotive context and raised the possible scenarios that apply to this application. They were either a smartphone or MiFi device acting as a network router between a mobile broadband service and a Wi-Fi segment in the car with the car radio being an Internet radio; a car infotainment system with an integrated mobile broadband router; or a smartphone or tablet with the appropriate app working as an Internet radio or network audio endpoint and connected to the car stereo typically via USB, Bluetooth or line-level connection.
Vehicle builders and, to some extent, car-audio manufacturers are implementing a two-way setup which integrates the smartphone with the car infotainment system. In most cases, the link would be fulfilled by a Bluetooth wireless connection for control, communications audio and entertainment audio and, depending on the setup, an interface app installed on the iOS or Android smartphone that works with particular information, music and other apps.
Holden, like most of the GM nameplates around the world, have followed this path for their infotainment by introducing the MyLink system to the Barina CDX small car. Here, this would require the use of an iOS or Android smartphone with a bridge app linked by Bluetooth to the car. But the phone would be managed at least using the touchscreen on the dashboard. Initially the Holden solution is to work with the Stitcher Internet-radio platform but they are intending to have it work with Pandora and TuneIn Radio.
There is an intent to allow you to work your smartphone platform’s navigation function on the dash using the “BringGo” software so you are not needing to have the phone on a “cobra mount” if you want to use Google Maps or Apple Maps.
What I see of this is that vehicle builders are integrating your smartphone or tablet as a part of the vehicle not just for communications but for information, entertainment and navigation.
Print This Post
You may have just bought your first smartphone or tablet computer and are starting to browse around the iTunes App Store or Google Play app store using your device.
At this point, you may hear from your teenage son, other family members, friends or workplace colleagues about what apps to start off with as you get in to the world of the mobile-computing platform. In some cases, your teenage son who has that ultra-cool iPhone that is full of apps to impress others with, grabs your phone, asks for your platform username and password and starts filling your phone or tablet up with various apps.
It is also worth exploring the app store for those apps that are essential to your profession or hobby so you can make your mobile device earn its keep in your work and leisure life.
One main app class that suits the mobile computing platform very much are the communications apps. These encompass the social-network apps as well as other chat, VoIP and messaging apps.
They work best with the smartphone but some of the apps can be used with most tablets in a speakerphone form. But if you want privacy or better call quality, you would need to use a wired or Bluetooth headset.
Facebook for Android
If you have presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networks, you can have your experience with these social networks extended to your smartphone or tablet.
This is typically provided for in the form of platform-native mobile apps that you use to interact with the social network. Most of these apps are written by the social-network but some are written by third parties, typically as multi-social-network amalgamation tools.
The ones written by the social network are primarily a mobile user interface for most tasks that you do with this service such as browsing activity, adding posts or uploading photos. Some social networks such as Facebook and Google+ also write “messaging” apps that work primarily on the messaging and presence functions that the social network offers.
Chat, Messaging and VoIP
Skype for Android
This leads me to apps that work as front-ends for various chat, messaging, presence and VoIP subsystems. Examples of these include Skype, Viber and various SIP user interfaces or softphones; or even gateways to Yahoo Messenger or Windows Live Messenger.
These apps provide a touch-friendly view for writing messages or engaging in VoIP / chat sessions. If the communications subsystem has the ability to know whether one is online or offline, there is the ability to look at a glance to see who is online at a given moment.
Banking and Finance
If you use Internet banking services regularly, an Internet banking app would be a good idea for your phone. Most of these apps are Web links to the bank’s mobile site but an increasing amount the apps are client-side apps which run on your phone and link to online banking APIs that are used as part of your bank’s Internet-banking setup.
Similarly if you maintain a share (stock) portfolio, you may want to install a stockmarket app so you can see the state of your shares. Some of these apps may allow you to buy or sell the shares or submit orders to your stockbroker.
Internet radio and music
TuneIn Radio for Android
Most subscription Internet-media services like Pandora have a mobile app for them so you can benefit from your media subscription through your smartphone or tablet. As well, the TuneIn Internet radio app allows you to have the same kind of access to Internet radio stations such as your favourite local and overseas radio stations as you can on an Internet radio.
Most smartphones and tablets come with a music player with some platforms like iOS offering a comprehensive take on this form. But you can purchase improved music players for Android devices like the PowerAMP music player which I use. These ones provide better control over your music playback and some of them even have their own “tone controls”.
Similarly, one or more video apps may help you with having access to video content. This could be fulfilled by a video player which would be important if you download or rip video content and sync it to your device. Of course, the platforms would come with a video player app but there may be some better third-party apps available in the app store.
The one that a smartphone or tablet shouldn’t be without is a YouTube front-end. For iOS 6 users, this can be fulfilled by you using the Google-supplied YouTube ap. If you also visit other video-on-demand sites, it may be worth looking for mobile front-ends for these sites.
DLNA network media software
TwonkyMedia for Android
Programs that work with DLNA Home Media Networks typically are either controllers, players or servers. The former function allows you to push content to a DLNA-compliant receiver or smart TV using the phone’s or tablet’s screen as the control surface. Some of these programs also allow you to “throw” Internet-sourced resources like Facebook photos to DLNA-compliant TVs.
A variant on this theme, supported by different media players, is the DLNA media player which allows you to play content held on a DLNA Media Server like your network-attached storage. Some of these programs such as the Android variant of TwonkyMobile, allow you to download the media files to your phone so you can play the media on it without being on the network.
Another class is simply a DLNA Media Server which shares content held on your phone with other DLNA-compliant devices. This may be part of the DLNA Media Controller, like TwonkyMobile, but could be its own app, thus allowing you to play music to DLNA-compliant Wi-Fi speaker docks.
Song Identification Software
Shazam song-identification for Android
You watch a favourite show on TV or you hear that piece of music being played over the speakers in that bar. But you want to know what it is or who performed it.
There are two mobile-platform apps that can help you identify the titles and artists of songs that are played. These are Shazam and SoundHound and they are accurate on most popular music including some jazz. But they don’t work well with classical and opera where you want to know what it is “composer first, work (including movement or aria name) second”.
These apps also provide further information on the music such as lyrics, or a biography or discography for the performer. They also allow you to buy and download the music from an affiliated store like Amazon or, for iOS devices, iTunes. Of course, they keep a history of the songs you used the software to identify so you can use this when buying the music from your favourite outlet and on your favourite media.
Of course, no smartphone or tablet is complete without a collection of games installed on it. They can range from card, casino and board games through the classic pinball and arcade games to newer game styles such as the unforgettable Angry Birds. There are some games which you can play online across the world and are typically based on a social-network infrastructure but there are others where you simply play against the computer.
These games allow you to fill in the time while travelling on public transport or waiting for that appointment and, in some cases, can be an ice-breaker for conversation with others.
Information on hand
Reading / reference apps and electronic bookstores
IMDB movie app for Android
If you want to use your tablet for reading. you won’t go far when finding the reading apps. Some of these work alongside electronic bookstores and newsstands so you can buy and download books, newspapers and magazines to your device, with a few of them like Amazon Kindle available across all platforms.
This extends to dictionary, translation, Bible and other reference apps which have the information at a glance. The apps may work with the information locally stored on the device or may obtain the information online.
Public-transport timetable apps
Most public-transport authorities and operators are building apps that work as information sources about their public-
TramHunter for Android – Melbourne trams
transport systems. Typically these provide access to the latest timetables and information concerning cancellations or delays affecting the public transport service.
Some of the apps even have a “journey-planner” function which works out the best journey for your needs. If the public-transport provider has the ability to track its vehicles as they are providing the service, their app may also provide real-time information on the public-transport service so you can know how long the wait is for your service.
It is worth having one of these apps for each city you travel in. In some cases, you may need the apps that are specific to a transport mode like the bus or tram services.
London 2012 Official Results App
One app class that can help you enjoy the sports events that you follow better are the scoreboard apps. This is something I have covered previously on this site more as a tool that augments how you follow those fixtures rather than using them as something to follow them on.
One example is using one of these app to keep tabs on the scores while you are watching that football game in that packed-out bar. Another is gaining a quick glance at the cricket or baseball score as you hear that major event like a run or batter-out being called on the radio while you are outside, so you can decide on whether to run inside and see the replay on the TV.
The good apps in this class are typically developed by the sports broadcasters or the leagues and codes themselves. For Australians, including “Aussie expats”, I would recommend the “Footy Now”, “League Now” and “Super Rugby” apps for AFL, NRL and Super Rugby Union leagues respectively.
Calculators and Converters
Most smartphones come with a basic four-function calculator as part of the “supplied” apps. But the app stores are full of better calculator apps such as some that may provide an “adding machine tape” view, more functions like scientific, statistic or financial functions or the ability to support different data-entry methods like “Reverse Polish Notation”. These then position your phone as an alternative to the scientific calculator that you would have had for school.
An app class that I would consider important is a unit conversion app. This is where you can enter a quantity that is in one unit so you can find out what it is in another unit. This is important if you are think in Imperial / US units like pounds or inches and you see references to quantities in metric units or vice versa.
Mobile-phone torch app
One app that I would consider essential for a smartphone owner would be the “mobile phone flashlight”. These work with the phone’s display or flash LED to turn your phone in to a flashlight (torch). Here, they can be useful as an on-hand source of light for many different situations — think of having to check out what’s wrong with the engine when your car plays up at night; checking which circuit breaker had tripped when the power went out or simply letting yourself in to your home at night.
Emergency info app
ICE In Case Of Emergency for Android
Another Important app that is worth having is the emergency info app. This keeps essential emergency information on your phone like your doctor’s details, medication information and next-of-kin and even has direct access to the contact details so you can contact then directly from your phone.
This is more important if you have a chronic illness like epilepsy or diabetes but can be of benefit for anyone, especially if you travel in to foreign areas.
QR code reader
One important app class for your smartphone and tablet is the QR-code reader. These apps use your phone’s or tablet’s rear-facing camera to read and interpret QR codes.
But what are QR codes? These are a common form of two-dimensional barcode that is printed on flyers and other artwork, most often as a link to an online resource.
The good QR-code readers like i-Nigma do have a high accuracy rating no matter what the code is printed or shown on. Some of these readers can also read the standard barcodes on merchandise so you can look up further details on the product that the code is on.
Mapping and distance log apps
Endomondo Pro for Android
Most smartphone and tablet platforms come with a good GPS-driven map but the app store may offer better mapping solutions. This may be important if the platform didn’t come with a really-good map solution or there is a solution that suits your needs better like a “hiking-specific” solution.
A distance-log app that uses the GPS functionality and / or the accelerometer in the phone can be a great boon if you are walking. Programs like Endomondo can work well if you track your outdoor workouts and some of them may work as “breadcrumb tracking” apps.
Client apps for electronic notebook services
If you use cloud-based services like Dropbox or Evernote, it is worth having a mobile client app for this service. This allows you to review and update the information that you have at these locations from your smartphone or tablet in the same way that you can from your computer.
Once you know of the essential apps to have on your smartphone or tablet, no matter the platform that it runs, you can find that you will end up gaining a lot more mileage out of your device as you use it through the day.
Print This Post