This week in technology: Talkase, Pip and Uber

October 30th, 2014

Whilst we often focus on apps, new products or crowdfunding projects, this week there have been some interesting projects across all of these areas.

Talkase

Ever wish you didn’t have to take your smartphone out for an evening, but don’t want to miss any emergency calls? Or perhaps you’ve discovered your device hasn’t properly charged overnight but can’t risk being out of the communication loop.

Whatever your reason for not taking your usual device with you, there is a suitable stand-in.

Talkase is a credit card sized mobile phone which can make calls and text. At 5.5mm thick it can slip easily into a pocket, wallet or purse. Utilising 2G, it also lasts for 100 hours, takes a micro-SIM so you can use your usual smartphone SIM if preferred, or you can pair it via Bluetooth to your main device to make calls (although this is likely to use up battery life very quickly).

Interested? You’ll need to pledge via Kickstarter to get this off the ground. A $35 pledge will get you a phone should the project ‘go live’. It also includes a handy iPhone 5S, 6 or 6 Plus case which allows you to clip either the Talkase or a credit card to your iPhone.

Pip

With smart devices becoming more involved in medical diagnosis and treatments, Pip caught our attention this week when it hit the news.

Pip monitors electrical changes in the surface of skin to indicate a user’s stress levels in real-time via the small sensor, which is then converted and displayed in a corresponding app. Developed alongside ‘stress experts’, the apps are designed to respond to the sensor readings providing the user with relevant exercises and progressive learning tools for self-monitoring.

There are of course many relaxation apps available, but Pip has launched under the premise of saving the global economy billions annually by suggesting it could be a convenient medical tool to combat work-related stress. Pip is priced at €179.00.

Uber

We blogged about Uber earlier this year when traditional London cabbies protested against the app and what they felt was the likely impact of it on their livelihood, bringing traffic to a standstill. As a result of the publicity, the number of Uber downloads increased by 850%!  Since then it has barely remained out of the technology headlines in the UK, only earlier this month being referred to HMRC by Transport for London.

Uber is now available in more than 200 cities (70 cities at launch in 2009), however some are not happy about it. Nevada and Germany have taken their protest further by actually banning Uber. In fact Germany banned it twice last month by lifting an existing ban on it only to overturn that decision within the same month claiming that the firm had indeed operated without legal license. Uber is reviewing its options.

Ubers indomitable spirit continues in Nevada. Having only launched there last week, Ubers rented vehicles have even been impounded by Nevada authorities citing they were acting as an ‘illegal operator’. A similarly contentious rollout is also underway in Philadelphia.

So, what next? It appears Uber views itself more as a technology platform rather than a transportation company, and with the app’s developers based in Holland, it makes matters pertaining to the law and taxes all a little confusing.

Keep up to date with our blogs via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter for the latest news in technology and innovation.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Are you sitting down?

October 27th, 2014

We’re all working in different ways – PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, BYOD, remote working via ‘the Cloud’; it was only a matter of time before the desk was reinvented to accommodate this new ‘workstyle’.

IKEA has launched a desk called the Bekant which rises to enable stand-up working, then lowers back down to the traditional seated height for those days when you just need to sit down.

I must admit, I would absolutely welcome a desk like this – there are some days where standing is far more efficient and the health benefits are far greater than sitting down all day.  The fact that this desk can function as both a tall and standard desk makes it a truly useful investment.

Of course, IKEA aren’t the only supplier of height adjusting desks, there are many out there featuring electric or manual cranks and a quick Google search brings up several.

What about those moments when you need a pop-up office, quite literally.

Fortunately, there is a highly unique project on Kickstarter at the moment, called ‘Refold’s Portable Cardboard Standing Desk’.

Ideal for when space is in short supply, or for an office move, or even if you are a freelancer who needs to be office-based just for the duration of a particular project. Outside of an office environment, they could also be useful for schools struggling to finance furniture, or as part of a disaster-relief package to get a school up and running again (the developers are currently working with UNICEF).

The desk is sturdy enough to hold the weight of a person standing on it, assembles in around two minutes using four pieces and even comes in three sizes for different heights.

With two weeks left to go, this project has already exceeded its original $25,000 goal, and a $145 (approx. £90, excluding postage) pledge will secure you your very own pop-up office.

Have you heard of a kinetic desk? The Stir Kinetic Desk ‘learns, quantifies and breathes’ according to its manufacturers.

Like the IKEA desk, this is adjustable enabling users to sit or stand, however this is done via the built-in touchscreen. Just double tap to change position – it even has a calorie monitor to tell you how much more energy you use by varying sitting and standing. It is also smart enough to remind users to change positions to keep them energised. This video is certainly worth watching.

The desk has integrated cord management which enables users to plug several devices directly into the desk – it even recognises users as they approach! At the moment, the Stir Kinetic desk is only available in the USA, priced around $4,000.

Would you consider a standing desk?

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

OLAF Scooter – Turning luggage into transportation

October 24th, 2014

In Tuesday’s blog I wrote about Bluesmart, the world’s first smart-connected carry on suitcase. Today’s blog will also look at another suitcase start-up however, the OLAF scooter won’t charge your handheld devices but it will help you get around!

OLAF is a Kickstarter project and it has already exceeded its funding target. OLAF set out to raise $30,000 but 276 backers have successfully pledged over $60,000 to help get the scooters into production.

OLAF comes in two models: OLAF Business and the OLAF Urban. As the name suggests, the OLAF Business is designed for business travel and features a suitcase. It can be folded up into a carry-on and then unfolded and ready to scoot as soon as you offload from your flight. The OLAF Urban is a 4-in-1 unique solution that can be used as a backpack, a skateboard, a trolley and a kick-out scooter.

Both scooters have been approved as carry-on luggage by most major airlines.

The OLAF Urban has been specifically designed so that users can add their own grocery bag, backpack or similar luggage to the scooter to assist when carrying goods.

It even has wheel pockets to stop your back from getting dirty when it’s folded up into a backpack!

To learn more or to get your own Olaf scooter, click here.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Smart Style

October 23rd, 2014

In today’s blog we divert our eyes from FuelBands, Fitbits and Jawbones and take a look at the world of multi-use smart wearables with added style.

It has become apparent over the last six to 12 months that wearable’s are no longer confined to a fitness tracker. Instead we now have a whole host of attractive smart devices designed to make our lives easier.

First up, we have MEMI, a chic iPhone-compatible ‘smart bracelet’. The bracelet is customisable to vibrate for all (or select) calls to prevent you from ever missing an important call again. It also reacts to calendar events, vibrating to let you know when to attend a meeting – or end one.

MEMI has been designed with three different vibration types, each assigned to calls, texts and alerts. It may take a little while to get used to which vibration is for which notification but with enough wear I’m sure it would become second nature after a while.

MEMI is charged via a micro USB port in the clasp (also used for software updates) and features an on/off light which also indicates when you go out of range of the companion app. It is, thankfully, water resistant enabling you to wear it in our Great British weather.

You can pre-order a silver and white MEMI now for $150 (approx £95), compatible with iPhone 4S and up. Alternatively you could vote for which design you would like to see next via the ‘Help Design MEMI’ page.

The Guardian Angel shows us an alternative use of smart technology.

The device itself is a pendant which can be worn with a chain or as a bracelet. The premise behind it appears to be more a sense of reassurance than true security – or a handy tool to use during an awkward event, meeting or date. Although it can be used in any scenario requiring a ‘get out of jail card’, the developers have pitched it at helping women and girls ‘feel less vulnerable’. So, what does it do?

In short, the circle you see on the front of the pendant is a button, which triggers a fake call from Guardian Angel via a Bluetooth signal and the corresponding app. Press the button and your phone rings instantly. There has ‘been an emergency’; make your apologies and leave.

If the wearer is particularly concerned, holding down the button for three seconds triggers an SOS-style message to be sent to a designated number – and even provides a Google Map of the wearer’s location.

The pendant is available for $120 (approx. £75) and the corresponding app is available on both iOS and Android.

Pushing the boundaries of ‘style’ somewhat, meet Fina wearable thumb ring which turns your palm into a keypad and gesture interface!

Fin started life on Indiegogo and raised a total of $202,547 – twice the amount they were hoping to raise.

The device works as a form of remote control, worn as a ring on the thumb. It detects gestures and touches, working with smartphones, TVs and cars via Bluetooth.

The video is certainly worth watching. The aspect that impressed me the most was the ability to assist visually impaired people dial numbers, text, change TV channels and more, directly from their thumb. Fin is available for pre-order priced at $120 (approx £75).

Whist it is incredibly innovative and even life changing for some, it doesn’t exactly have Ringly’s bling factor – yet. But, who knows where this will go in the future; I would certainly buy a silver or gold version.

Would you use a ‘wearable’ on a daily basis?

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Bluesmart – more than just a suitcase

October 21st, 2014

Over the past few months we have reported on the latest (and what we think are the coolest) crowd-funding projects that you can get involved with. The latest project to catch our attention is Bluesmart, the world’s first smart-connected carry on suitcase.

Bluesmart wants to become your personal travel assistant and it offers a range of features that no ordinary suitcase is even close to. From a built-in scale to a digitally controlled lock, travellers are already queuing to get their hands on this latest piece of tech.

Demand for the smart enabled suitcase is sky high as early adopter and super early adopter models are already sold out. Bluesmart’s fund-raising goal was $50,000 but with over a month still to go, the project has already received more than $140,000.

Bluesmart has a built in battery to re-juice all your smart devices and it also offers location tracking. Other features include distance alerts and trip data tracking, all accessed via its Android or iOS app. Bluesmart is also making its apps accessible for smartwatches.

The suitcase isn’t just a smart piece of new technology but its design is also fantastic. Four spinner wheels, waterproof zippers, an anodized aluminium handle and three layers of polycarbonate for high resistance and low weight. Plus, at the front of the case, you will even find a separate, easily accessible, compartment designed specifically for your laptop and tablet. I’m tempted to pledge myself!

The key question people are asking is why would you need to track a carry on suitcase you have boarded the plane with? However this doesn’t seem to be putting people off.

To discover more about Bluesmart or to pledge to the project, click here.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Google Cardboard: DIY Virtual Reality

October 20th, 2014

You may have spotted a few photographs on Twitter, or on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages. Yes, Google Cardboard arrived in the Total office, and some of us were very eager to enter the cardboard realm of virtual reality. If you are one of the curious ones, like many in the Total office, then let me explain what the experience is like.

Once you’ve chosen the size you need for your mobile device, and components such as an optional elasticated head strap, the simple but clever design arrives as a one-piece mailer, which is ‘unzipped’. This folds out to reveal the Google Glasses shape, which is easy enough to build into glasses. In fact it is worth installing the ‘Cardboard’ app before you unzip it as the introduction video shows you (albeit briefly) how the unit fits together.

When the cardboard looks like a stereoscope (those born post 1985 can find out more here) you’re ready to go. Assuming you’ve downloaded and have opened the Cardboard app (or alternatives) place your device on the NFC sticker as shown above in black, which contains a small circuit board which automatically tethers to your device. Some Cardboards have a ‘jelly’ like sticky pad over it ensuring your smartphone doesn’t slide off, however some are simply held together with an elastic band.

Once the smartphone is on and in, Velcro the device together and fit over your eyes. No, it isn’t particularly comfortable.

The Cardboard menu is simple and offers a taster as to what the ‘device’ can do. Tilt your head to change icon (you can also tilt right-ear-to-shoulder to return to this screen at any time).

When you find the game or video you want to view, use the slider located on the side of Cardboard to select, and in you go.

Whilst you view a semi-3D immersive world, the image is actually split on your device and looks like the Street View example to the left.

It works well, particularly when you venture into other apps. I found myself on a Spanish-style hilltop overlooking a village and rather deep drops, which upon ‘walking towards’ make me really rather nervous of the virtual height I was at.

As affordable (around £10) and good fun as this is, there are three potential downsides.

  1. The VR world was fast and immersive on my colleagues Note 4, however very slow on my Moto E.
  2. In short, it seems you need a good Android device with a super-speedy processor to really get the most out of it.Downloads are relatively large so you may need to do a little app-housekeeping.
  3. You may be concerned that you look a bit silly.

Fortunately none of the above has deterred me, and I will have no qualms in watching a video on an aeroplane or train using mine – as opposed to enduring the frustration of a constantly sliding smartphone or tablet – at least this stays put thanks to the elasticated strap. Although the true VR environment is somewhat lost on my MotoE, the video watching ability isn’t so, for £10, I can immerse myself in my own cinema experience as and when I please. As more apps are released, I fully intend to give each one a try and see how well it works on my device, although I am a little nervous of Zombiestan.

Have you tried Google Cardboard? Let us know.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Kickstart Your Weekend!

October 17th, 2014

Here’s another good reason to keep active; Ampy charges as you move.

Designed to capture energy from motion, Ampy is probably a far better bet than a solar-powered OTG charger this time of the year. Ampy doesn’t need to be plugged into a wall, it simply uses kinetic energy – it is estimated that it takes approximately 10,000 steps to fully charge it, however throw in a gym class or an hour long workout  and it will charge in that time.  Plug it directly into your smartphone, tracker or smartwatch and off you go again.

Originally seeking $100,000, Ampy has already exceeded this by nearly $60,000 already, with just over three weeks left to run. A $75 pledge would secure you an Ampy at a discounted rate, as the price increases to $95 post-Kickstarter. Would you find Ampy useful?

Not to be confused with Ampy, we also spotted Ambi this week.

Ambi is seeking $25,000 in funding via Kickstarter to produce an internet connected smart remote to increase air-con efficiency in the home – and claims it will be able to reduce costs by up to 30%.  And there is no need to install a new system, as Ambi will work with any infrared remote-controlled air-con system.

The small and portable intelligent device measures indoor temperature alongside outside conditions, it learns its users comfort preferences and even adjusts the settings if the user leaves the building.

With a little under a month to go, USA-based Ambi has already far exceeded their target. It would seem smart climate control via an Android or iPhone device is in demand. Let’s hope we see one for central heating in the UK soon.

Another little delight I stumbled across this week is TinyScreen. Coming to the end of its campaign, TinyScreen hoped to raise $15,000. So far, it has almost reached $100,000.

Tiny is a 9.6” OLED customisable colour screen which can be used for games, mobile notifications or any other display information. There are a few apps already installed (no programming required) including a smartwatch, a video player and game app.  Perhaps Google Glass could benefit from TinyScreen in the future, or will TinyScreen’s Smart Glasses trump them at their own game. TinyScreen appears to be so useful that the developers have even promoted it as a form of jewellery!

Keep up to date with our crowdfunding interests via our Blog, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. We go back and review previously reviewed innovations to find out how well they did, which often throws up some surprises.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Lights! Camera! Action!

October 14th, 2014

In today’s blog we look at various devices to capture memories and, if so inclined, secure five minutes of fame. Whilst two of these work in tandem with your smartphone via an accompanying app, all three remove the responsibility of battery-draining-videoing from your smartphone with the added benefit of superior video quality. Whatever you want to use it for, and however you want to use it, these are all very useful devices; you just need to find the right one for you.

We have to begin with GoPro. Starting at around £100 for the entry level device, and waterproof to up to an impressive 40m, the GoPro Hero could be your ideal holiday companion.

One of the many aspects of GoPro that I do like is the fact that the range of product and accessories is so vast, ensuring that there is a model and budget to suit just about every need. Ranging from the £100 to £400 mark, each model up varies in image resolution, frame rate and features. The higher-end models also feature built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The official GoPro app (available for iOS, Windows and Android) also allows the user to remotely control the camera as well as viewing and sharing your content via the main social media sites.

As the GoPro is an OTG device (On The Go) which model you choose will depend on how you intend to use it. So, you can even ‘shop by activity’! Snowmobiling bundle – or even the Fetch Dog Harness – anyone?

Chosen for its absolute uniqueness is the Polaroid Cube. The design is certainly iconic, featuring the original Polaroid and Instagram type design we all feel quite familiar with.

As small as a golf ball, at just 35mm the Cube is an ideal recording device to take on holidays. It is shockproof and weatherproof, however not waterproof (unless you buy the waterproof case), so if deep sea diving is not on your agenda then this should suit you down to the ground.

With a 124° wide angle lens, this tiny device can pick up a lot of action. With the ability to record HD 1080 x 720 videos with a built in microphone, Cube also has a magnetic base and supports a Micro SD to 32GB. That’s a lot to cram into such a small device. There is also an abundance of accessories from bicycle or helmet mounts, to ‘monkey stands’.

Although some have compared this to the GoPro, Cube is a very different creature, with no apps, no Wi-Fi and a price tag of less than £100 (including international shipping).

To compete with the GoPro and Polaroid Cube is HTC’s ‘Re’. Not the catchiest name, however it does record, as the name suggests!

We bring this to your attention because it really is quite different to anything else in the market place at the moment, and kudos to HTC for trying something a little different. Re has a distinctive periscope look to it, is designed for one-handed operation, takes a 16MP, 146° wide angle picture without a viewfinder and turns on as soon as it is picked up. If you are interested in an in-depth review you’re after then look no further than this very comprehensive guide provided by Gigaom.

Re is also waterproof to a depth of one metre. Although not suitable for snorkelling (see Jamie’s blog re: the ‘Griffin Survivor Plus’) you can at least be assured it is 100% weatherproof.

Available for both Android and iOS devices, along with the compatible app, you can find out more about ‘Re’ and it’s range of accessories via the UK site. Although it is not available to purchase in the UK as of yet, the USA guide price is set at $199, which may give us an indicator of what to expect.

It seems the camera market is becoming more competitive by the day. Whether it’s an ‘action camera’ or a ‘life logging camera’, there are already further projects in the pipeline. I look forward to seeing how creative the market is going to get over the next year.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Is mobile Antivirus software necessary?

October 13th, 2014

If I’m being completely honest, before today I knew little about antivirus software for smartphones, so I decided to investigate further. If, like me, this is new to you then today’s blog should explain it a little better and help you decide whether or not you should install such software onto your device.

If iOS is your preferred operating system – or your mobile device is running Windows – then it seems you are at less of a risk than those using Android devices. This is principally down to the content available for users to download from the app stores. Apple and Windows thoroughly check/pre-approve any app which is developed before they make it available to its users via its app store. Android, however do not.

When it comes to Android, developers (or potential fraudsters in this context) could submit apps on the Google Play Store without the same approval process, then be downloaded by users. So, if you are an Android user who likes to explore the Play Store and download unfamiliar apps to see what they’re like, (or perhaps you download apps from other sources) I would highly recommend you download some antivirus software or at least research the developer – and read the all-important reviews to ensure you make a truly educated decision prior to downloading.

The good news, however, is that the antivirus software apps you can get are really effective for your smartphone or tablet and often free of charge. However, if you are looking for more advanced features i.e. a program that offers more than just virus scanning, then you might have to pay a small fee.

Norton Mobile Security 2014 and Avast Mobile Security and Antivirus are just two free apps available on the Google Play Store which both have ratings of 4.4 out of 5 and a lot of positive reviews. Just ensure you opt for the official versions.

Do you use, or have you consider using antivirus for your smartphone?

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Meet Stephen Tiller

October 10th, 2014

In today’s blog, we get the lowdown on Stephen, Business Development Executive at Total; from his day to day routine, to his passions and interests.

Q: As Business Development Executive, what is the first thing you do when you come into the office?

A: On mornings when I am in the office, I generally arrive early, head for the kitchen and have a bowl of porridge to set me up for the day.  Then down to my desk and the first thing I do is set up my laptop, check my emails and then it’s all go.

Q: What does a typical day working within the Business Development Department involve at Total?

A: Every day is busy and no two days are the same. My typical day varies from visiting customers, to ensure they are getting the most out of their telecoms supplier, to discussing new products and services to meet their telecom requirements. If I’m not speaking to customers, you are likely to find me preparing proposal documents or for review meetings.

Q: How long have you been a part of Total and how has it changed over the years?

A: I have been at Total for nearly five years and things have changed quite a bit, from team structure and growth, to service enhancements and the addition of new products to our portfolio.  Telecoms and technology are fast moving industries and you can’t stand still for too long or you will be left behind.

Q: What is your favourite part of your job/favourite thing about Total?

A: I mostly enjoy visiting customers and finding the right solution for their telecom requirements. One of my favourite things about working for Total is it has a real family-feel about it; the team is always looking out for one and other.

Q: What do you feel is the most exciting aspect of the industry?

A: For me it’s Unified Communications. The ability for end users to use multiple devices to communicate across one platform with continuity has revolutionised the way we work.

Q: Where do you see the future of telecoms?

A: That’s a difficult question and it all depends on how the adoption of new technologies develops. I think things like 4G and high speed broadband will have the biggest impact and this will eventually lead to more feature rich solutions becoming available.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: I love spending as much time as possible with my six month old daughter and I also enjoy playing rugby on the weekends.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog