« January 2015 | Main | March 2015 »

4 posts from February 2015


DEA Now Accepts Tip Offs Via Text Message


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Texas recently announced a new way to send anonymous tips about possible drug trafficking: text messaging. 

DEA Assistant Special Agent Steve Jenkins in McAllen, TX believes the text messaging program is a great way to help keep the community safe, and the DEA is trying to get the message out to folks about the program. 

“TIP 411" is anonymous, and allows a person to send a tip when he or she witnesses potential drug-related activity. It requires typing ‘TIP 411’ into a cell phone, then using the resulting message box to type ‘RGV’ along with a description or image of the possible crime. 

"That’ll get passed to the DEA office here and we'll take action appropriately," Jenkins said. 

The tipster’s phone number will not be available to the DEA. And unlike a phone call, where the information stream ends once the person hangs up, text messaging allows the conversation to continue. Jenkins says the program is attractive to those who don’t want their identity known, but do want to report drug activity. He is also hopeful younger people in the community will start using the program.  

“This is out there for them,” he said. “We’re here to keep the streets safe." 

The program has already been implemented successfully in other cities, including El Paso, New Orleans, and Albuquerque.  

“This is a way for (the public) to anonymously provide the information to us and communicate back and forth with a DEA agent, via text message,” Jenkins continued. “Then, if at some point they no longer want to communicate with us, they can send the word stop in the message and all communication will be cut off with the agent.”

The DEA notes that with the software they use, it’s impossible for them to see the number behind the anonymous tip. Once the tipster texts the word ‘Stop,’ the DEA has no way to get in contact with the person. 

Anyone using the anonymous program must be connected to a cell phone provider. 

The program has been in use for about a month, so it will be interesting to see how well texting serves the drug trafficking issue. If all goes well, texting could be utilized by law enforcement in a variety of other ways relating to anonymous tipping. 



Why is Consumer Trust in Mobile Shopping Apps so Low?


Consumer trust in mobile shopping apps has steadily been degraded because users are questioning the security of online merchants. A survey of 15,000 mobile device users from 15 countries also found people worried about sharing too much personal information when downloading apps.

Almost 50% of respondents said a lack of trust reduced the number of apps they were prepared to download, and 72% said they were uncomfortable sharing location data or contact details. The research, commissioned by international trade association MEF,  indicates a demand for mobile transactions to offer greater transparency and security to customers. 

Perhaps the most dramatic result came from the questions pertaining to so-called mobile wallets. Just 15% of respondents said they had used, or were thinking of using, a mobile wallet.

Although security issues loom large among consumer concerns, they aren’t the only problem area. Another piece of research from customer care software specialist Contact Solutions suggests many shopping apps aren’t delivering a good enough service. Four out of five respondents said they have needed assistance for a mobile app, but only 12% used their mobile device to get help, simply because in-app troubleshooting is so inadequate.

These figures highlight shortcomings in the level of assistance available to customers. Contact Solutions’ marketing director John Hibel says of the findings: 

“You would never consider creating a shopping experience where a customer would have to completely leave the showroom floor to get assistance. That would be a horrible customer experience and you know it would jeopardize sales. In the same way, you should never consider building a mobile shopping app that forces the customer to leave to app to get assistance.” 

Questionable security and poor customer service are making many shopping apps no-go areas for consumers. If retailers want to improve customer engagement, they need to offer platforms that are intuitive an transparent, with more troubleshooting assistance and fewer demands for sharing voluminous personal data.


Hi Tech Trackers Helping Fitness Go ‘Back-to-Basics’



Consumers bought some 84 million fitness tracking devices in 2013, and the trend shows no sign of abating. Fitness experts predict a continuation of the soaring popularity of wearable fitness gadgets over the next 12 months, according to a recent Reuters article.

Companies cited in research conducted by HIS Inc include San Francisco firm MyFitnessPal, which drew on data from its 47 million users to show how digital fitness apps like the one they offer are increasingly being used to help people manage their workout regime.

One of the more counterintuitive finds from the analysis is that hi-tech solutions are enabling people to go back to more traditional forms of exercise, like running and cycling. Zumba, the dance and aerobics routine that you couldn’t escape hearing about in 2011, has lost some momentum, suffering a 9% drop in participants during 2014.

So are people really shunning the hi-techery of the gym in favor of monitoring the morning jog with wearable fitness trackers? Trend watchers seem to think so, and academics agree. According to the Reuters article, The American College of Sports Medicine has identified body weight training - which uses minimal equipment - as one of the top fitness trends in 2015.

So how has technology changed our attitude towards personal fitness? Unlike laptops and phones, wearable tech puts the focus squarely on the body. The insight provided by the low-effort activity of strapping on a Fitbit Flex is opening up a new way of working out, whereby we no longer have to trust a trainer to tell us how effective each routine is - we can see for ourselves.

The efficacy of wearable tech is largely down to its invasiveness. Fitness trackers and the apps they talk to actually become part of your physicality. They become unavoidable. The enormous success of programs that do everything from sending you motivational reminders to slapping you with a fine if you fail to perform a certain task attests to a fundamental truth about human nature: we need to be reminded, nagged, guilt-tripped, even blackmailed before doing what we're supposed to. That, it seems, is what’s truly good for our health.


3 Reasons to Set Expiration Dates on Text Messages


Last year’s iOS 8 came with a whole bunch of new settings options. For our money, the most important addition was the ability to set expiry dates on iMessages. It’s now possible to automatically delete messages that are 30 days or a year old.  

Digital hoarders might baulk at the idea, assuming that they’re getting rid of precious memories. Well they’re not. Let’s face it, the majority of text message conversations amount to a few hundred Twitter links, cat pictures and gossip. Liberating yourself from vast archives of trivia is a good thing to do for yourself. We promise. Plus, there are a whole host of other good reasons to set expiration dates on your text messaging threads. Here are three of them:


To Improve Security

Storing reams of personal conversations on your phone and carrying it around with you might make you feel connected, but have you ever considered whether it’s altogether wise? If your phone falls into the wrong hands you could regret texting your bank details to your sister last Christmas, or sending your friend that angry tirade against your boss (with whom you’re now besties). You have a right to consign emotions and actions to history. The expiration feature lets you.


To Speed Your Phone Up

According to a 2011 Pew study, people between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange more than 109 text messages per day. That’s 3270 in 30 days. No wonder things are running slow if you don’t delete them regularly.


To Let Go of the Past

Scrolling through your text messages is the easiest, most tempting way to kill half an hour on the train. It can also be traumatic. If you’ve recently broken up with your partner, poring over the whole arc of the relationship in a condensed format is car-crash stuff. The only guaranteed method for ‘looking away’ is to have nothing to look at. The alternative is to find that ancient, perfectly-innocent message and start reading way too much into. Let those old texts die with the relationship and you’ll move on much more quickly.

You don’t have to be conducting a mass texting campaign to be weighed down by historic SMS. All it takes is a reasonably healthy social and family life and some time. Giving your phone a spring clean may be less intuitive than clearing out your closet, but it’s high time an annual text messaging cull became part of our routine. Let go of old text messages and bid goodbye to the past. Forget it. You won’t regret it!