Bluesmart – An Update

November 12th, 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. We recently reported on Bluesmart, the world’s first smart-connected carry on suitcase, and in today’s blog we look at its progress over the past three weeks.

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’, ‘Super Early Adopter’, and even the ‘Early pair of Bluesmart’ models are already sold out. I originally blogged about Bluesmart in October where its fund-raising goal was $50,000, and it had received more than $140,000. I can now report that it has over $895,000 in pledges with 13 days still to go before it reaches its deadline.

So why has it been so popular?

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

There’s an app for that #29: Board Games

November 10th, 2014

Cardboard is so yesterday (unless it’s of the Google Cardboard variety, of course). So, pack away your winter board games and download one of these to play instead, they take up a lot less space.

The traditionalists among you may want to head straight for ‘Checkers Elite’, aka Draughts, available for Android and iOS.

This version of the game has the highest ratings for functionality and it is certainly the prettiest version of the game in the marketplace. With 20 variants of chip and four variants of board, you can pick and choose the visuals, along with the style of game you want to play, from Poddavki to Random. And like the original version, you can play online with friends and family, however the bonus of using an app is that you can play with them wherever you may be.

Family favourite, Jenga is also available as an app. Not only is it a lot easier to put away than the real thing, but you can keep it in your pocket.

This is a faithful recreation of the classic tower-building game. Using a realistic physics engine, your tower wobbles and leans as you remove puzzle pieces and as you stack them higher. The blocks really do react like the ones in the real-world version, which is an incredible feat.

One reason for its accuracy is that it has been designed in consultation with Leslie Scott, the original creator of Jenga who appears to have embraced the move from wood to digital.  Available for both Android and iOS.

One of my childhood favourite games was Boggle. And I’m pleased to see there is a great version, with good ratings, alive and kicking via an iPad app.

For the non-Bogglers amongst us, the ‘retro’ version was a (loud) shakeable box containing letter dice-like cubes. This version is far quieter, thankfully. And with the support of Dictionary.com you can even improve your vocabulary whilst you play.

And no winter (or dare we say it, ‘festive period’) would be complete without Monopoly. Nothing says ‘love’ like evicting your friends and family members from properties they’ve saved up to buy. The official Monopoly game is available to download for both Android and iOS.

Those who remember receiving the ‘Compendium of Games’ sets for Christmas of yesteryear may recall the joy of discovering seven games in one box. From a little research online it seems that, in this instance the box version is still the best to go for as the ‘Compendium’ apps often direct users to chargeable game downloads as opposed to supplying them all within the download. It is far better to choose the individual games you want and create your own compendium.

No cheating.

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.

Pets and Technology

November 7th, 2014

American scientists have recently manufactured a dog harness prototype, fitted with eight sensors, which can monitor a dog’s posture and vital signs and improve communication between dogs and humans.

The harness is also equipped with heart-rate and body temperature sensors which allow it to alert owners or carer’s when the dog is stressed or excited.

Owners will be able to establish whether or not their dog is running, sitting and standing, even when they’re out of sight.

The harness examines the dog’s body language, its primary means of communication, and features vibrating motors so people can communicate with their dogs without them being visible.

Data recorded by the harness is sent to the owners hand held smart device where they can see real time information.

Sean Mealin, a PhD student at NC State, who has worked on the project, has commented: “This can help handlers identify and mitigate stress for the dogs,”

“It’s an important issue. Particularly because guide dogs are bred and trained not to display signs of stress in their behaviour.”

Reports also suggest the harness can be used for basic training as owners can send vibrations to the harness to support a spoken order.

People involved in this project are currently working on reducing the harnesses size and improving its sensors. This is so they can be rolled out into shelters and hospitals to monitor and care for animals recovering from treatment.

For more pet-tech related blogs, check out Cath’s High-tech your pet post.

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

What is Google Cardboard?

November 6th, 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. Allow me to 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 shown to the right.

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.

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.

The Original Just Say Mo Team is back!

November 4th, 2014

For the past four years a group of gentlemen at Total Ltd, known as the ‘Original Just Say Mo’ team, have each grown, groomed and grown some more, a moustache to help raise money, increase awareness and change the face of men’s health by participating in Movember.

Team captain, Paul Lees, is no stranger to Movember as he leads his Mo-growing team of men for the fifth year! Other Mo-Bro’s include Shaun Banner, Jack Wetson, Jamie Watherston, Joseph Martin, Jamie McLennan, Peter Shing and Jamie Sansom.

Did you know?

One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lives.

Last year, the team managed to raise £360 and our goal is to beat that this year.  All sponsors are welcome, no matter how small or large, and this can be done by visiting The Original Just Say Mo donation page.

Four days in and we have already raised £55 thanks to generous donations by people like you.

Weekly updates and photos of the boys ‘Mo’gress’ can be found by regularly checking Total’s Facebook page and by following us on Twitter.

Did you know?

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 25-49 years.

A huge thanks to all the boys involved. The money raised really does support a great cause.

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

A Brief History of the Cryptocurrency

November 3rd, 2014

We’ve all heard of Bitcoin, but have you heard of Namecoin, Litecoin, Mastercoin, Betacoin and Globe? Reports now suggest over 200 variants of known digital and cryptocurrencies have come and gone in cyber space. How did it all begin?

Pre-millennia, there was ‘E-gold’. Boasting ‘better money since 1996’, by 1999, the Financial Times called it “the only electronic currency that has achieved critical mass on the web”.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the right kind of critical mass. E-gold traded in precious metals via an online account, which was accessible to international users.

Instead of becoming a legitimate currency rival, E-gold’s optimistic creator, Douglas Jackson, saw it abused by hackers and drug dealers looking to launder money, due to not running user identity checks. Despite his before-its-time innovation, Jackson ended up on the distinctively wrong side of the law himself in 2005 when his house was raided and he pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed money transmitter business. It is worth noting that the upside of creating and using an asset backed currency is that Mr Jackson was able to liquidate vaults of gold to pay out on $20m claims.

All that aside, the fact that E-gold users opened more than 4 million accounts, with more than $60m in deposits, proved the need and inclination to develop an online currency. And soon enough, Goldmoney was hot on E-golds heels, featuring all the corrected verification issues omitted during E-gold account set up. With the growth of e-commerce, we’ve never looked back.

Introducing a cryptocurrency isn’t for the feint-hearted, with strict regulations now in place involving identity checks, registering as a money transmitter and account monitoring; it is a costly exercise to embark on and a difficult business investment to fund. And by no means is every loophole closed, with many regulatory debates held in full view of the world media.

Fast forward to 2014 and skimming over alternative cryptocurrencies, we reach the highly-publicised Bitcoin. The fact that Bitcoin is decentralised and remains in effect ‘a concept’ makes it hard to pinpoint any potential blame in the way in which the E-gold case was handled. Some countries have banned it and, in the USA, Bitcoins are not recognised as currency but as ‘property’ for tax purposes and subject to capital gains. As reported in the Guardian, “paying for a beer in Bitcoin would be a taxable event with the buyer having to work out if they had made any capital gain on the asset they had just sold.”

But for the e-user, Bitcoin could be a good option. In today’s international marketplace, Bitcoins can be transferred to a location on the other side of the world almost instantly and with no fees or change of currency. Small fees are requested for certain processes and to pay those who run the Bitcoin network, however it remains the users choice as to whether to pay the fees or not.  Buy Bitcoins from friends or ‘mine’ them. However, ensure you don’t accidentally throw your digital wallet away like this person did, losing around $7m in the process.

Yes, the concept is completely different to anything we’ve known before and will take some getting used to. The question is, if the circulation of Bitcoin ever ceased, could the balance of an account suddenly find itself worthless, with no way of selling any assets to replenish it?

Are you a Bitcoin user? And if you are, what have you found to be the key benefits of using cryptocurrency?

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.

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.