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5 posts from November 2015


Stay Safe with these Mobile Apps



Whether you live in the big city or a small town, there are bound to be times when safety is of concern. You could be walking home from a bar late at night, on your own, and wish you had someone to escort you to your car. Or, you may sometimes think about where you live and wonder if there was a way to stay safe should a natural disaster hit.

Today’s technology universe is providing assurance for many people searching for safety. It offers mobile apps for safety that range from virtual people to walk you home to check-in centers when emergencies strike.

While there are many noteworthy new apps that will help to keep you safe, the following are some of the most popular ones.



bSafe is a free personal safety app for iOS and Android devices that offers quite a few safety features. You can use it to alert friends and family of your whereabouts and when you’ve arrived at your destination, and it allows you to send info about your GPS location as you move about. That way, people designated by you can track your travels when you’re in uncertain situations. bSafe lets you set up fake phone calls that can be triggered when you want to escape certain scenarios. When you need immediate help, bSafe sounds an alarm and video captures your surroundings via your phone.



Another free personal safety app, SafeTrek can alert the police for you when you are in a dangerous situation. It also offers a failsafe when you really don’t need help. To launch the SafeTrek app, you simply need to place your thumb on the app’s Safe button. When you release your thumb, you’re prompted to enter your personal four-digit code. If you don’t, police are notified and will come to your rescue. SafeTrek is a great app to have when you know you’ll be in areas, or scenarios, that are unfamiliar to you. It’s a safety measure that can help you out without it being obvious to others.


Disaster Alert

Disaster Alert is a mobile safety app from Pacific Disaster Center’s World Disaster Alerts. It provides mobile access to many hazard-monitoring organizations and early warnings for natural disasters happening around the world. When you access the DisasterAWARE platform through Disaster Alert, you have real-time access to data on current disasters, and to impending disasters like tornados and hurricanes. This app shows disasters that are potentially dangerous to people, property, and assets. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide use the Disaster Alerts app.

These safety mobile apps, and the others that are on the market, are great uses of technology. But, keep in mind that they should never be relied on in place of contacting 911 or first responders if these services are readily available. The great thing about some of these apps is they allow you to be stealthy if need be for your safety. But, remember that these apps are not fool proof. They should be looked at as just part of an overall, comprehensive personal safety plan.


Popeye's Accused of SMS Spam



How often do you read through an entire opt-in agreement? You know, those fine print legal documents that detail subscriptions to emails, newsletters, or push notifications? Well, Jacob Meier reads them—this was made evident by a class action lawsuit he filled against Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen on Nov. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

So, what’s the lawsuit about? Fortunately, this isn’t a case of bizarre findings inside fried chicken. Instead, Meier alleges that Popeye’s wrongfully spammed his cell phone using SMS messages to advertise food deals. The complaint states that Meier was expecting to receive no more than two text messages a month from the fast food chain. When the third text message came through, Meier said Popeye’s violated the opt-in agreement and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law passed in 1991. 

Meier is seeking a jury trial with the hope of securing statutory damages, an injunction on any unlawful activities by the defendant, attorney fees, and anything else he can get from a sympathetic court.

The plaintiff’s willing cooperation to opt-in to the “love that chicken” mobile program, means this case is mildly offensive at worst and a programming error at best. Certainly this case isn’t as serious as Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, more popularly known as the hot coffee lawsuit, or the chili finger hoax at Wendy’s, circa 2005. Nobody bit into a dead mouse, and for that we should all be grateful. But what this case does bring up is elastic use of the word ‘spam’. 


What Is Spam?

For example, is three text messages a month really considered spamming? Or is spamming defined by an opt-in agreement that’s been laid out? Either way, retail stores across the nation should pay attention to the court ruling on this matter and tighten up their opt-in agreements to make sure they err on the side of caution when sending out updates, newsletters, or special advertisements. 

If Popeye’s hadn’t made any claims in the opt-in agreements about the specific number of text messages it wished to share each month, would the plaintiff still have a case? Right now, the working definition of spamming is “use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited messages.” Does an opt-in agreement change the nature of this definition? If a user wants to ‘love that chicken,’ doesn’t that imply some form of consent? 

I guess we will all have to stay tuned to find out. 

In the meantime, consumers should be wary of opt-in agreements that make promises to limit push notifications, especially if it’s a product or service you’re not ‘in love with.’ Mobile marketing is still somewhat uncharted legal territory as far as the user’s protection goes, and if you’re not willing to deal with excessive notifications, better safe than sorry. 


Maui Joins National Program to Bring Mobile Technology to Students, 24/7



Mobile technology is changing the face of education for students and teachers alike. It promises a more meritocratic platform on which individual students can access the kind of help they need to improve, without sacrificing the development of their peers.

The latest mobile learning initiative comes from the country’s largest telecommunications provider. The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program was established in 2012 to help schools across the country provide 24/7 internet access and tablets to every student. So far, more than 30 schools and close to 16,000 students have benefitted, and two middle schools in Maui have just joined their ranks.

Two middle schools - Kalama Intermediate School and Lokelani Intermediate School - were selected to join the program which will, for at least the next two years, provide students with tablets and Verizon 4G LTE connectivity so they can learn at school, at home and everywhere in between.

Additionally, teachers at both schools will receive ongoing professional development to help them integrate mobile solutions into existing lesson plans and devise more individualized learning methods. Dedicated coaches will be provided by the program. Over the two years, the total value of equipment, training and service provision will run up to $3 million, according to the needs of the district and the number of participating students. 

Providing students with training in the technology so central to the modern economy is only part of the overall objective. As well as emphasizing science, technology, english and math (STEM) subjects, the VILS program aims to foster independent learning, encouraging students to collaborate and innovate using critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills. 

Beyond Maui (and the other school districts benefitting from the full compliment of services), teachers can access many VILS resources online for free. These resources include best practices and insights from teachers currently using the program in Maui and other participating schools across the United States.

Thus far, VILS has achieved significant results in classrooms. According to data collected by the program, 66% of teachers reported an increase in individualized instruction, and 37% of students gained higher scores on assignments. Compared with non-VILS schools, standardized test scores went up by 4.13%. 

Progressive educators will be keeping a close eye on developments in the Pacific to see if programs like VILS can help students across the lower 48 as much as it’s helping those in Maui.


5G: What Does it Mean for Our Connected Lives?

It’s that time again. Just as we’ve got used to widely-available 4G mobile service, the next generation is gearing up for action. The FCC has given the go ahead for 5G spectrums, with some networks forecasting their first 5G readiness by 2017. Among investors and developers, enthusiasm for 5G is building - but what can consumers expect? How will 5G differ from 4G? 

The primary expectation will be for faster connectivity. New innovations like ultra high definition video, self-driving vehicles and augmented reality will also be better represented by the new networks. ‘The Internet of Things’ will come of age as reliable, speedy web access ceases to be an obstacle.  

On the technical side, this leap forward is enabled by the use of multiple radio access technologies, including ‘millimeter wave’ frequencies (above 24GHz) which were, until recently, considered unsuitable for mobile applications. Allied with the lower-band spectrum already used by 4G LTE networks, these frequencies promise to deliver top data speeds in excess of 10 gigabits per second - ten times the fastest speeds currently delivered on fixed, fiber optic networks. Small wonder that developers of real-time augmented reality applications and high definition video concepts are starting to drool at the prospect of 5G.

Different markets describe 5G in different ways. But there is a broad consensus that it will function as an infrastructure for the Internet of Things, turning a lot of extant dreams into reality.

Eric Starkloff, a marketing executive for National Insights who is collaborating with Nokia on 5G research, was quoted by Fast Company on the subject:  

"Everyone has a bit of a different definition of what 5G is. But it’s the next iteration of cellular standards, with a goal of a 50 times faster data rate than the most advanced Wi-Fi networks today. To give an example, the expectation is that a 5G network can stream a two-hour movie in less than three seconds.”

Bear in mind, we’re a few years away from the full roll-out, and the technology and standards are still being developed. Multiple international bodies are involved in turning 5G into a reality, and one of their chief concerns is ‘spectrum harmonization’ - the plan to designate the same frequencies to the same uses worldwide. The lack of 4G spectrum harmonization is regarded as one of its main pitfalls, giving users a vastly different (ie slower) experience, depending on where they are in the world. With 5G, global harmonization and standardized networking practices will make it possible to achieve the economies of scale necessary to keep prices low.


6 of the Best Star Wars Apps


Tickets for the latest Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” are already on sale for the anticipated December debut. Fans are expecting great things after the movie trailer was released mid-October and stirred up quite a buzz online— most notably, viewers were thrilled by the narration from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the sight of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) standing alongside Chewbacca. 

The film’s director, J.J. Abrams, has promised fans to keep to the tangibles as much as possible, ditching Lucas’ overzealous use of computer graphics. Even the cute new droid BB-8 is a working prop. 

Fans still have a couple months to twiddle their thumbs before the movie premiere on December 18, and what better way to keep those thumbs busy than by downloading a Star Wars app? 

Here’s a list of the six best Star Wars apps to keep your fandom hot throughout the upcoming holiday season:


Star Wars

For basic news, social media updates, and fun trivia, the namesake app is a solid choice for fans that like to be in the know. This app is good for adults and children alike—and the Star Wars selfie filters are a hit for children of all ages. The Star Wars app is free and offered for both Android and iOS. 


Star Wars: Commander - Worlds in Conflict

This Star Wars-themed app makes the list because it’s similar to another popular game, Clash of Clans. While this may be a drawback for some folks, why reinvent the game wheel if you don’t have to? Play a game you already enjoy but with the added bonus of familiar Star Wars characters and vehicles.  Star Wars: Commander is free for both platforms, with purchases also available in app. 


Star Wars Scene Maker

This is a great app for the creative fan and especially younger fans who want to try their hands at creating live action scenes with personalized voiceovers. Of course, the app includes the obligatory opening credit sequence to polish off all in-app movie creations. Star Wares Scene Marker is only available for iOS (so far), and it’s free, though you’ll likely need to make some in-app purchases to make your movie a masterpiece. 


Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

This app is great for new or younger fans. Take your character through missions and explore the expansive Lego world created in the likeness of all things Star Wars. The Lego Star Wars appis polished, well designed, and free for both Android and iOS users. 


Star Wars: Uprising

For the ultimate RPG experience, this app is the way to go. This mobile game is the most recent in a long line of previous successes produced by Kabam. Create your character and save the universe in both solo and cooperative playtime set in the gap between episodes VI and VII. Star Wars: Uprising is free for both Android and iOS users, with lots of upgrades available for in-app purchase. 


BB-8 App Enabled Droid Powered by Sphero

Finally, remember that cute little droid I mentioned? Well, Sphero has designed a free app where you can remotely control your very own BB-8 using a smartphone! The only (and obvious) drawback to this amazing bit of fan fun is the droid itself is about $150 in the U.S. If you’ve got that kind of cash to burn on a geeky Star Wars gadget, this is defiantly the app for you.

These are the best Star Wars apps available to keep fans busy while they wait for the movie premiere this December.  

Enjoy them, you will.