Tag: app

Paper notebook goes high-tech

You’ve probably seen a few of these smart paper or smart pen things over the years — write in this special notebook and it gets saved to an app, that sort of thing. A new entrant to this niche space is the Everlast notebook, which obviates the necessity of restocking proprietary paper in that its pages can be wiped clean with a damp towel.

No, to answer your first question, it’s not a tiny whiteboard. The Kickstarter page is very clear on that:

The 36 pages (or 32 on the large-format version) are a “waterproof synthetic poly blend,” which when written on with a pen from the Pilot Frixion line can be wiped off over and over again, but only with a wet towel — normal rubbing won’t do it. It’s important to use the Frixions because they use an erasable ink that comes off the page completely (you can also just use the eraser for quick edits).

When you’ve written on the Everlast, you can then capture images of the pages quickly with the Rocketbook app. The Rocketbook, by the way, was the notebook the company funded earlier this year, which you erased by putting it in the microwave with a glass of water for a while and then vacuuming up the ink. Yes, really.

Your notes and sketches aren’t stuck in this random app, though: it’s just for scanning. When you snap pictures, it crops and processes the image and then sends it to the cloud services of your choice.

The clever bit is that you don’t even need to fiddle with the app to do that. You select the services each page should go to by marking them at the bottom. The symbols look more like Lucky Charms marshmallows, but you’ll get used to it. You can send stuff to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, Slack, or to an email address.

A couple minor caveats: the creators are honest about the fact that if you’re left handed and tend to drag your hand along what you’re writing, you’ll probably smudge it, since the Frixion ink takes several seconds to bond to the “paper.” And if you leave the ink on the page for more than 2 months, they say, it’ll leave a faint trace.

The Everlast isn’t going to change the world, and it isn’t for everybody, but this is a cool way to do the analog-digital thing these other notebooks do, for cheap ($34 for early birds) and without actually using any paper.

By Devin Coldewey for TechCrunch

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has launched a new stand-alone app, called WhatsApp Business, designed to help small businesses easily connect with their customers, the company announced on Thursday.

WhatsApp Business can be downloaded on the Google Play Store in select markets including the US, UK, Indonesia, Italy, and Mexico, and will roll out worldwide in the coming weeks. Facebook has not yet stated when the app will be available on iOS.

The app adds several new features including verified business profiles, smart messaging tools like quick replies, greeting messages and away messages, and messaging metrics. As of now, WhatsApp Business is aimed at smaller companies, but it plans to add an enterprise solution geared toward larger businesses, like airlines and banks, with a global customer base. The move to launch an app dedicated to businesses represents the fruition of several months of work by Facebook to monetize WhatsApp.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) communication via messaging apps is a budding trend, and Facebook wants to be at the center of it.Having a presence on chat apps is more important than ever for businesses.

Already, more than half of consumers would rather message a business than call customer service, according to a Facebook-commissioned study by Nielson. Here’s why WhatsApp is poised to lead the evolution of B2C interactions:

WhatsApp has a massive global reach. WhatsApp’s global user base of 1.3 billion monthly active users makes the chat app an ideal ground for Facebook to establish a footprint in the B2C space.

WhatsApp is also the second most used messaging app globally, and the leading messaging app in a majority of emerging markets like India, Indonesia, and Russia as well as in developed markets like the UK, Spain, and Germany. In India, for instance, consumers spent over 36 billion hours on WhatsApp in 2017.

Already, consumers worldwide use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses.Over 80% of small businesses in India and Brazil have said WhatsApp helps to facilitate B2C communication and, as a result, grow their businesses’ reach.

WhatsApp is entering an increasingly competitive space. Facebook Messenger, Apple, WeChat, and Skype are all striving to be the go-to interface for B2C interaction.

For instance, Apple is introducing an update to iMessage that includes iOS Business Chat, a “powerful new way for businesses to connect with customers directly from within Messages,” according to Apple. Meanwhile, WhatsApp will go up against WeChat, which already hosts 10 million official business accounts for WeChat’s 980 million monthly active users to interact with.

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By Rayna Hollander for Business Insider

An app-based bank is coming

Bank Zero appears set to accelerate the evolution of the South African banking industry by offering a fresh take on banking and highly competitive fees.

The bank — the brainchild of tech entrepreneurs and banking innovators Michael Jordaan and Yatin Narsai — has received a provisional licence from the South African Reserve Bank. It is due to launch a smartphone app, through which transactional and savings accounts can be opened and managed, in the fourth quarter.

The digital-only play, built using free open-source technology, is expected to lower banking fees thanks — in part — due to a lack of legacy systems and absence of traditional bricks and mortar branches, which will enable it to keep costs down.

“We certainly hope to come up with a very competitive structure. We do realise that we have certain disadvantages — we won’t have branches and we won’t have lending products — so we’re going to have to make an impact in the areas where we’ll play, being deposits and fee structures.

“It’s a bit too early to disclose exactly what we’re going to do because that would give competitors an advantage but we really hope to delight you and other potential South African customers when we launch toward the end of this year,” said Jordaan, co-founder and chairman of Bank Zero, when asked whether his offering would be cheaper than that of Capitec. Of the listed banks, Capitec’s offering, which includes a base fee, pay-as-you-transact charges and interest on positive account balances, is considered the most competitive.

In an attempt to nurture a savings culture, the bank is to offer attractive interest rates on deposits and has chosen upfront not to engage in lending.

Its target market includes individuals and businesses, which it feels are under-served by the traditional banks.

New normal
In a statement, Jordaan said the bank’s offerings would be in line with modern day realities, where the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram represent a new normal. “Why shouldn’t banks also innovate in this era of wider connectedness whilst still ensuring a robust banking value proposition? Bank Zero is addressing these realities, while employing cutting-edge technologies, minimising typical admin-intensive processes and delivering state-of-the-art security.”

Bank Zero is to operate under a mutual licence, like that of Finbond, GBS and VBS. This will allow the bank to create financial communities and give customers the opportunity to become shareholders in the bank. Bank Zero will, after breaking even, be able to issue shares along with voting rights to deposit holders.

Jordaan would not disclose the value of the capital invested in Bank Zero nor its breakeven point, saying only that it is more than adequate in relation to the the Reserve Bank’s minimum requirements. The bank is being funded by seven individuals, all of whom are seasoned banking or IT and software development professionals, and is 45% black owned.

“We are fortunate in that we didn’t have go to any institution to raise the capital. And that does allow us to take a slightly different approach to the market. It means that we can focus on the long term so we’re not just focused on chasing short-term profitability; nor are we chasing maximum profitability in the short term. We really think that there is an opportunity here to cast many of the benefits of the business model and of the technology back into the target market in South Africa.”

Although no institutions are financial backers of the bank, it will have to select one of the big four banks as a mentor bank to help it fully integrate into the payment system. Jordaan said Bank Zero has not yet selected a mentor bank but that it will do so with guidance from the Reserve Bank.

It is likely to become the fourth new bank to enter the market in 2018 alongside Discovery’s bank, Tyme Digital by Commonwealth Bank and Post Bank.

By Prinesha Naidoo for Tech Central 

Avis trials system to use an app as a car key

Avis and Continental have teamed up to offer travellers a mobile app that features keyless entry and ignition for their cars.

Select vehicles in the Avis Car Rental fleet are equipped with Continental’s Key-as-a-Service technology.

The technology lets Avis customers use the Avis app to lock and unlock their car and start the engine.

The new service debuts in Kansas City as an aspect of Avis Budget Group’s “Mobility Lab”.

The Mobility Lab comprises over 20 Avis car rental locations in the area and features a fleet of connected vehicles.

Source: MyBroadband

Your phone is tracking your every move

Your phone can reveal all of your physical activities to Google and the apps you use.

The sensors inside it can monitor, understand and disclose your real-world movements, based on what’s happening to the phone itself.

It can tell, for instance, if you’re standing up, or if you’ve just lifted your phone off a desk, or if you’ve started

An Android permission called “Activity Recognition”, which was discussed on Reddit and highlighted by DuckDuckGo last week, makes it much easier for developers to work out what you’re doing at any one time.

Shazam and SoundHound request the permission, but it isn’t completely clear why.

Though Activity Recognition isn’t new, the reaction to the Reddit and DuckDuckGo posts suggests a lot of users are unaware of it.

“The Activity Recognition API is built on top of the sensors available in a device,” says Google.

“Device sensors provide insights into what users are currently doing. However, with dozens of signals from multiple sensors and slight variations in how people do things, detecting what users are doing is not easy.

“The Activity Recognition API automatically detects activities by periodically reading short bursts of sensor data and processing them using machine learning models.”

Activity Recognition can tell developers when your phone is: in a vehicle, such as a car; on a bicycle; not moving; being tilted, due to its angle “relative to gravity” changing; on a user who’s walking or on a user who’s running.

It can even tell when you’re doing more than one thing at once, such as walking while being on a bus.

The API automatically gives its findings a likelihood rating out of 100. The higher the number, the more confident it is that you’re actually doing what it believes you’re doing.

This information is fed to the apps you’ve granted the Activity Recognition permission to.

“A common use case is that an application wants to monitor activities in the background and perform an action when a specific activity is detected,” says Google.

For instance, an app can automatically start monitoring your heartbeat when you start running, or switch to car mode when you start driving.

Though it can prove useful, it also sounds somewhat creepy.

The fact that Google categorises buries it in the “Other” category of permissions and doesn’t let you deny or disable it doesn’t help matters.

Google keeps a complete list of almost everything you’ve looked at, and what’s more, the company has made it difficult to find out which apps ask for the permission.

Right now, the only way to find out is by checking out each of your apps’ permissions one-by-one, by going to Settings, Apps, tapping an app, hitting the menu button and selecting All Permissions. It’s a slow and laborious process.

If you’re particularly concerned about Activity Recognition, it’s worth going through the effort and uninstalling any of you apps that request the permission, for peace of mind.

What can you do about Activity Recognition?

  • Read app permissions closely when you install a new app
  • Go into settings on your phone and read each existing app’s permissions
  • Delete apps that require Activity Recognition permissions

By Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent 
Image credit: Reuters

New app makes insurance easy

StockBox is a new mobile app that allows a user to digitally store all the important information and documents related to their assets. It’s a quick and efficient way of itemising possessions and storing important information like receipts of purchase, guarantees, warranties and item images so they are easily accessible when they are actually needed.

App owner Gary Bannatyne says: “The app was created to solve a basic problem I had when we had a break in. Not only did I not know about everything that was stolen. but I also had to go through a painful process with my insurance company to prove that I owned these items – which, of course, I didn’t have on hand.”

Convenience at your fingertips
The app has a number of unique and useful features. With StockBox users can quickly capture the important details of anything they own, whether new or old. They can categorise their items and information to make it useful for record-keeping and insurance purposes. In the event of a break-in or theft, StockBox will be able to create a detailed report that the user can share with their insurance providers at the click of a button.
If the item has just been purchased, StockBox can create a report for the user to obtain quotes with insurers of their choice.

Another useful feature of the app is the groups. Two or more people can create a group with all co-owned items, which is ideal for families, newlyweds or small businesses to record all their assets.
“We all know what a mission that is when your business has more than just a few little things,” says Bannatyne. “This makes keeping track of assets simple and convenient.”

A host of benefits
Life happens. Possessions are lost, stolen or broken. With StockBox, users can capture valuable information about personal items for future use. They no longer need to file slips and warranties. They won’t need to turn the house upside down or dig through the File 13 drawer when the vacuum cleaner breaks or an item of jewellery is stolen.
All the information is digitally stored in the cloud and easily accessible from any device supporting the app.
“We see StockBox creating a substantial influence in the insurance space by supporting users with the ability to store all their assets without the pressures of insurance products. We aim to develop relationships with users to provide options for them to access a digital world of insurance, where they are able to have control of their choices in an easy and transparent manner,” says Bannatyne.
“We just want to give a user a product that works and a product that adds value to their lives. If we can create that experience for the user, the economic opportunities will definitely follow.”

In an ever more globalised world, there is an increasing demand for effective translation services, yet despite this, getting printed documents translated can be difficult. However, thanks to the new Xerox Easy Translator Service, obtaining a translated copy of a document can be achieved in mere minutes.

The Xerox Easy Translator Service is a comprehensive suite of cloud translation services that is ideal for mid-sized business that have the need to translate documents. The solution is designed to enable users to scan documents at a multi-function printer (MFP) and receive either a printout or electronic copy of the translated document—in any one of 38 languages—within minutes.

Shane Spies, marketing product manager for Xerox office products at Bytes Document Solutions, explains that Xerox Easy Translator is the industry’s first cloud-enabled language translation solution, integrated via a web portal across Xerox ConnectKey devices.

“It offers comprehensive language translation services – from instant machine translation of hardcopy documents to professional human translation services for digital files – in a wide range of common languages. These include English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic,” he says.

He adds that unlike a typical translation agency or translation company, Xerox is able to offer quick and easy access to online translation services that are available 24/7, at a minimal charge.

“Imagine walking up to an MFP with a foreign language document, scanning it, and getting a printout of the document that has been translated into your native tongue. Or imagine needing a quick translation of a document for a colleague that speaks a foreign language. That’s the magic the Xerox Easy Translator Service app enables,” continues Spies, adding that instant machine language translations are available from MFP, phone or PC.

Furthermore, the output is available in more than 20 file formats, including paper, JPG, MS Office, and PDF.

“The Xerox Easy Translator Service app has proved to be a resounding success so far, and was recently deemed worthy of BLI’s Outstanding Achievement in Innovation honours. In a global business world, there is no longer any reason to be left in the dark due to foreign language documents. Now the power to translate both hardcopy and digital documents can always be at your fingertips,” concludes Spies.

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