Bone Conduction technology – sounds great!

Even without external influence, the simple facts are that as you grow older both your ear drums and the tiny hairs in your inner ear decay, which effect both hearing and
musicbalance.

Scientist have already developed drugs which may in the future regenerate these hairs, but with the arrival of headphones and other sources of loud noise, the current trend is for increased hearing loss in our twilight years.

What if you could still hear your favourite tracks but bypass the sensitive eardrum?

Enter ‘Bone Conduction Technology’

Aftershokz have launched the Bluez Bluetooth enabled headphone that uses you skull to transmit sounds to your inner ear, avoiding the eardrum, whilst leaving your ears open to stay aware of your surroundings.

The use of Bluetooth links the headphones to most mobile devices/music players and could be the start of a new trend in wearable head gear……Google glasses anyone?

SPAM sms messages

In the last two days alone I’ve had 4 SPAM text messages all offering me PPI, personal injury or unsecured debt write off.

SPAM is better known as an Email related issue. Now, thanks to more robust detection software when an inbound email hit it’s associated Email Server,  SPAM is detected and either removed or Flagged for the end-user to act upon. In addition if this is a regular occurrence the associated IP address block will be Blacklisted. The Blacklists are then circulated to major corporations/organisations, whose Servers will them Block anything inbound from that IP address. The effect can be significant, especially when you consider that Europe has completely run out of IP v4 addresses.

Texting( SMS) was originally developed as a communications tool between mobile engineers, and whilst its spread has been remarkable, the Mobile Operator networks are not yet constructed to hold and detect SPAM in the same way as emails.

So what can you do.

I Googled the topic and discovered that each mobile operator has a Number to which you can forward the offending SPAM text for their review.

O2 is 7726

I’ve have yet to determine what(if anything) the operator would/could do except bar the originating caller number(if it was on their network).  However, as the mobile networks move toward 4G/LTE/IP based networks it may become easier to track and block this most irritating intrusion.

Let your Avatar improve your health

One plus one makes two.

Xbox plus comfy chair makes obesity…..and square eyes, lack of social skills, lethargic etc. etc.

This stereotype revolves around you simply driving a dumb game, displayed on a screen, whilst eating crisps and loosing all sense of reality.

But hold on, we now have two-way video interaction from devices like Kinect that can map you and your physical activity, might that help matters?

You mean Wii fit style?

Well yes, but whilst dancing around the living room as a caricatured mini-wii, trying to work off the third helping of Turkey may impact the Christmas bulge, but most folks struggle to keep it going past January.

The key lies in Avatars, a virtual you, created to socially interact in games like Second Life. It seems that by creating a virtual you, for others to interact with, players invariably construct a positive physical avatar.

Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, Assistant Professor of Communication at U of M, looked at self-reported data from 279 users of the game Second Life, where players create virtual avatars and interact in an online, social context with other players. She had participants report on how fit or idealized their avatar was and report their own height and weight.

“Taking on a different persona online can have real effects on your offline health when you’re embodying this avatar that you’ve created,” Behm-Morawitz stated. “Oftentimes that physical or virtual embodiment is idealized in nature. And rather than having a negative impact on self-esteem, this was motivating.” Behm-Morawitz found that in general, Second Life players used their avatars to test out new looks or styles in a low risk environment. She also believes the social nature of Second Life enhances the sense of identification users have with their avatar. Because it’s a medium through which they interact with others, she suggests, people are more prone to identify strongly with their avatar.

Which then leads on to possible mhealth applications.

If within the virtual world, your avatar is provided with a health and fitness mantra, then this could be a route to the off-line self. In a virtual world health providers could introduce their own avatars to guide others down more health conscious routes, with real-world information, like blood pressure etc. being introduced and group sessions created to share experiences, virtual or otherwise.

So, the Wii fit board can continue to gather dust as our real-avatar shows us the way to a longer, healthier life.

Social Fitness and Diabetes

So you go to the NHS Body Mass Index website, type in your details and boom, you are now classed as Overweight, and as that bulging waistline begins to clamp your vital organs, a whole range of illness from Dementia to Diabetes loom large on the horizon.

With the increased levels of obesity in the UK population comes the huge effect on the NHS, with the York Consortium predicting Type 2 diabetes treatment could single hand, bankrupt the Organisation if left unchecked.

Armed with my Smart Phone and a desire to exit the ‘overweight’ category, I plotted my way through the T’internet and here is what I came up with.

The start point was a Fitness app. When you start any diet or fitness programme there are usually positive signs, but the challenge is to keep it going. Fitocracy combines the Social Networking with Gamification, in short the more you achieve the more credits you get in the virtual Fitocracy world.

By linking like-minded people together in a members only forum, confidence is built and others are there to help you through the rough patches.

Step two was a Calorie counter. There are literally hundreds to choose from,  so I tried Livestrong and Calorie counter to tot up the daily allowances.

The diet however had nothing to do with an App, in fact it came from the Horizon programme by Michael Mosely. In it he explores fasting, and the increasing evidence that it can significantly improve both mental and physical wellbeing.

So for the last four weeks, on two non-consecutive days per week, I’ve dropped my calorie intake to 600, whilst eating normally for the other 5 days. I’ve used the calorie counter app to plot what I eat(and it’s not much!) and the fitness app to improve my all round activity programme. The result is 8 pounds off in 4 weeks, and I’m no-longer classed as overweight.

Result

Design your own phone?

For many reasons mobile phones are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Take the Elderly. Some fear the technology, whilst others have physical difficulties like poor eye sight or arthritis which in turn restricts the use of the touch screens and the small keys on most modern phones.

Equally, you may not want to give your young child an expensive phone for fear of loss or damage, or  you may yourself want an emergency back-up phone, but are concerned about the additional costs.

Why not design a cheap lightweight credit card size device, were all the buttons are names. The names of the people(maximum 12) you call the most.

So for Grandma, her phone might have You, Sally, Jess, Doctors  plus an Answer and an End-Call Button.

For young Jake it could be Mum, Dad, Gran, School?

The phone numbers associated with the names are  stored remotely, so they can be changed as and when required, but avoid falling into the wrong hands should the device be lost.

There’s no texting, games, GPS, mobile shopping. Just a simple phone

You choose the number of names 2,4,8,12 , the colour and the background device, then a simply voice minutes call plan.

Interested?

Enter OwnFone.

mHealth Apps

The rise and rise of Mobile Health Apps can be seen in the latest review of iTunes app store.

Over 13,000 Apps were identified and then grouped into type.

Over 16% were specific to the Heart(Cardio).  Some simply give the user guidance/advice. Other link up with training/fitness pulse monitors to measure your heart rate , whilst the more sophisticated actually use a specific iPhone case to directly monitor rates.

In this example you see the two sides of Mobile Health; the Wellbeing elements involved in the fitness side, through to the Clinical side, were rates can be communicated back via the Internet to a doctor for constant review.

Close on the heels of Cardio was Diet with 14% of the Apps, then Stress reduction and relaxation, Strength training, Women’s Health, Mental Health,  and Sleep.

It highlights how powerful and flexible your average Smart Phone is, and the increasing range of uses it performs.

Android – the open door?

According to Mcafee, ‘Nearly 7000 Android threats have been collected and identified through the end of Q1, a more than 1200 percentage increase compared with Q4 2011.’

Yet it goes on to commentsThe majority of these threats stem from third-party app markets and are typically not found in the official Android market.’

Putting the threat into monetary terms, Lookout claimed that over a $1million was stolen from Android users in 2011.

Android is open-source, meaning the code is free, so anyone can write an Application. Once written that App can be sold via the Google Android market or via third party markets.

Compare this to Apple, were the source code is licensed, meaning you have to pay just to begin programming, and your finished App has to vetted by Apple before it can be sold exclusively through iTunes. A pain yes, but a process that weeds out any malware, and dramatically reduces infections.

But what about Google’s Android Marketplace, does that not impose checks?

Well Google now employs a Bouncer, specifically a security service that auto-scans uploaded Android Apps detecting known malware, spyware and Trojans, and taking down the offending App from the market. In addition the developer’s account is frozen and Bouncer adds the Apps characteristics to its search criteria to prevent it returning under a different name.

Google also possesses an Android Kill Switch, Google may discover a product that violates the developer distribution agreement … in such an instance, Google retains the right to remotely remove those applications from your device at its sole discretion.’

In effect, if they detect threats located within a downloaded App, they can remotely remove them from your phone. This last happened in March 2011 when some 50 Apps were removed, but not before over 50,000 downloads had been triggered.

In summary, be very careful of where you buy/download your Android Apps from, plus invest in some Mobile Security software to protect your data given the explosion in threat levels.

£20 to spend without a PIN

The UK Card Association has raised the amount you can spend via Contactless Payment schemes from £15 to £20.

How does this relate to my existing credit/debit cards, and the Chip and PIN card readers we use?

Let me explain.

The UK Card Association regulates the credit/debit cards industry in the UK.

A major part of the regulation is Fraud prevention, and they now have a Standard called EMV(Europay, Mastercard, Visa) which defines how Chip and PIN technology on both card and reader should work.

This has been rolled out across Europe.

So you place the card into the reader, check the amount, enter your PIN and get a receipt.

So what is Contactless Payment?

RFID – Radio Frequency IDs are cheap flexible short distance radio transmitters, initially inserted in say clothing tags for Stock control management, which expanded into the Debit Card world to speed up payments.

So, the simple credit/debit card PIN readers were enhanced to read the RFID details embedded in new Contactless card offerings like Mastercard Paypass and Visa Paywave services, which in turn meant you no longer need to insert the card into the reader.

The problem(which the EMV standards group is reviewing) is that without inserting the card you cannot input the PIN, hence fraud is a concern, hence they limit the exposure to £15 per transaction(now increased to £20).

Which leads seemlessly to mCommerce – the use of the mobile phone to pay for goods.  Also Contactless.

The difference is the computing power on the phone combined with a two-way communications capability. You simply run an App, which communicates with the retailer and which will prompt the input of a PIN number, which you input on the phone.  By using the PIN there are no limits to the amount you spend.

Now the technology to do this communication might well be a subset of RFID call Near Field Communications(NFC).

Equally other systems are being deployed, and no one has yet claimed the market, so for now the best advice for a retailer would be to stick with their existing POS system(if possible) and wait to see which technology wins out.

 

Using you body to control your phone?

One of the major drivers for smart phone and tablet  technology has been the interactive nature of the screen. Not only can you trigger actions by pressing the screen at an appropriate point, but you can flick and compress/expand with similar movements of your fingers.

Whilst there are various technologies competing for the touch screen market, the primary function is to generate electrical connectivity and then monitor and map that to specific actions.

Given the human body has an electric charge, and many day to day objects also conduct electricity, could we broaden the scope, and effectively map electrical current profiles to a whole range of human activity?

Enter Disney Research and their Touche solution, which uses Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing that can ‘ not only detect a touch event, but simultaneously recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body during touch interaction. This allows to significantly enhances touch interaction in a broad range of applications, from enhancing conventional touchscreens to designing interaction scenarios for unique use contexts and materials.’

So as long as you have something to monitor the frequency, almost anything could be controlled by your own body rather than an actual device.

The applications for this are endless.

Check out the Disney video at http://www.disneyresearch.com/research/projects/hci_touche_drp.htm

101 the non-emergency police number

Did you know that:

  • if your car has been stolen
  • if your property has been damaged
  • if you suspect drug use or dealing in your local area
  • to report a minor traffic accident
  • to give the police information about crime in your area
  • to speak to the police about a general inquiry

Dialling 101 will get you through to your local police station.

All the information is at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/101-police-non-emergency/