Friday, 19 September 2014

iOS 8 - What's Changed?

Apple have been dominating the headlines over the last fortnight and this week has witnessed the new iOS 8 update, just days before the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are to be launched. 

If you have an iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad Mini or iPod touch 5th generation or newer, you can download it today if you don’t already have it. If you have an iPhone 4 or older generation iPads or iPods, you will have to get an upgrade as it is not accessible for you - sorry. 

So, what’s new?

With news of Apple Pay surfacing during the WWDC last week, the new iOS 8 software has changed to allow app developers to get access to the five-digit login tool which could mean we will be saying ‘goodbye’ to pesky passcodes and accessing all sorts of apps with our fingerprints. 

As the iPhone still stands at the most used camera in the world, it’s no surprise that the camera app has improved allowing you to capture extended moments and be able to speed up video with the ‘time-lapse camera mode’.

Text messages and calls will be able to be answered and replied to on Macs and iPads and are not just restricted to the iPhones. iMessage was a great cross-compatible tool for chatting across iOS devices and Macs but now the experience has just got a whole lot more convenient. 

Interactive notifications are another convenience too and will mean users can respond to texts and calendar reminders from the lock screen.  There is no need to unlock your phone to reply to a friend and lie that you’re ‘on your way’ because now you can do it with just a few clicks. 

The keyboard has had an upgrade to, and Apple claim their new iOS 8 keyboard is the ‘smartest ever’. The Quicktype feature adds a highly-requested predictive texting capability and will automatically offer you choices based on the conversation. Simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options can appear when a friend asks you a question. 

As well as these useful features, there are a whole host of new apps to make your iPhone, iPad or iPod turn into a usability genius too - too many to mention in fact. But, Apple is confident that this is the best update they have had, so let’s hope they’re right!

Friday, 12 September 2014

iPhone6 - Apple Thinks Bigger Is Better

All eyes have been on Apple this week as they unveil the new iPhones as well as welcoming the new Apple Watch to their ranks.

The Apple Watch is Apple’s first new product line since the introduction of the first iPad, and the passing of its co-founder Steve Jobs.

The Apple Watch will run apps, act as a health and fitness tracker and will be able to communicate with the iPhone. Although a number of rival smartwatches are already available on the market, experts have highlighted a number of sectors that Apple have entered late and have subsequently helped to change their direction.

So, even though Apple might be joining the smartwatch battle a bit later than expected, they are no means out of the race. The device, which is expected to launch in early 2015, is simple in its design which has opened up a big debate among tech experts, and 11 different watch faces will be on offer with the ability to change the straps.

That’s not all though as Apple also gave spectators a glimpse of their two new handsets. The Apple Watch may have been the most anticipated product of the day, but their new larger iPhones are likely to be their bigger earners.

The iPhone 6 has a screen that measures 4.7in and the iPhone 6 Plus will be fitted with a 5.5in screen. The main reason for the move towards a ‘bigger is better’ notion is to stop the likes of Samsung prizing away its customers. Since the market for ‘phablets’ has opened up, more companies are moving towards a larger screen.

Steve Jobs was very much behind the smaller screen and was known to say “no-one is going to buy a phone that they could not get a single hand around” but these days seem to be long-gone for Apple.

Another feature, new to the iPhone 6 models, is Apple Pay. This is Apple’s take on contactless paying and depends on an NFC (near field communication) chip and a NFC reader at the shop till. Although Apple has ensured users that this will be ‘secure’ because it worked without having to store credit card details or needing to share any details with the cashier.

The new iPhone 6 models will be available to buy on 19th September, so we won’t have to wait as long to get our hands on these.

Friday, 5 September 2014

You Could Be Taking The Wheel Of Technology

As you know, we’re not one to shy away from some new gadgets in the office (in fact, we love our Google Glasses) and this new piece of technology could make getting around the office very interesting.

The AirWheel is a new personal transport vehicle that helps one person get from A to B on a single wheel. The vehicle is half Segway and half unicycle and it has definitely got us interested.

It uses a gyroscope and attitude control stabilisation in order to stay upright on its single wheel and doesn’t use any other support. It’s clever but it is going to set you back quite a bit. Priced at £799, the AirWheel Q3 will be at the top of the range, but if you can’t afford that, the cheapest will be around £510.

If that hasn’t quite convinced you to replace your bicycle yet, then maybe the 800w motor and the 340 battery that will help you travel 24 miles of about-town, will help change your mind? On a good downhill slope the AirWheel can also reach speeds of around 16kph, so it’s no slouch.

Similar to the Segway, it has a platform for you to stand on, only the AirWheel is on two separate platforms either side of the one wheel. This can affect the stableness of it though, and as there are no handlebars you will have to make sure you keep moving or you could end up falling off.

Learning to ride a bike is something you did when you were a child but now it seems you will have to restart a similar learning curve with this piece of kit, but that will all be part of the excitement. One thing that will definitely take time getting used to is the way you turn a corner – you do this by leaning to one side – as this is much different to the Segway.

These models are fairly bulky, weighing up to 13kg. But, if you’re looking for a quicker way to get to work and would rather carry the AirWheel with you inside the office instead of leaving your bike locked outside, then we could be seeing a lot of these around city centres very soon.

Friday, 29 August 2014

3 Game-Changing Pieces of Technology

When it comes to technology, we are constantly looking for better and easier ways to improve performance at work, during sporting activities and in our spare time.

We have three examples of ways new technology is being created to improve performance:

The Polo Tech Shirt
As wearable technology continues to grow, polo shirt manufacturer Ralph Lauren has unveiled a shirt that takes your biometric readings and then delivers the data to your smartphone. The fibres woven into the shirt’s core will enable users to track distance travelled, the amount of calories burned, their movements, heart rate and stress rate, all in real time.

What’s more, the fabric has been specifically formulated to increase blood circulation and aid muscle recovery too. Exciting stuff, but we will have to wait till 2015 to see them modelled in tennis tournaments.

Birds are nice enough animals, but for workplaces including farms, landfills and airports, they can be a pain. Nico Nijenhuis has been working on building robot hawks in order to trick lingering birds into thinking they’re about to be prey. Nico is also working on remote controlled Falcons and Eagles too, which shows we have come a long way since using scarecrows.

These remote controlled birds of prey will be hopefully be seen within the aviation and waste management industries very shortly, under the name of Clear Flight Solutions.

For those people opting for a bicycle to get them to and from work, news of an electronic bike might be off interest. A prototype e-bike has been created and has a battery pack that is integrated into the frame.

The bike, Vanmoof 10 Electrified, is said to have a top speed of 18 mph and a range of around 37 miles depending on traffic, the rider’s cycling style and the weather conditions. What is a real game-changer for this bike though, is its ability to make light work of hills. Hills might not be all that interesting for people in London, but for those further afield that hate getting to work hot and bothered, this new e-bike could be a real winner.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Electric Cars Could Say Goodbye To Wires In 2017

Advancing technology in cars has been a hot topic of late and it doesn’t look like it’s going to die down any time soon.

We spoke recently about the in-car technology that Google and Apple are turning their attention too, but it is cars in general that are dominating the headlines; more specifically, electric cars.

According to Anthony Thompson, VP of Development and Marketing for Electric Vehicles at Qualcomm, we can expect to see the first wireless charging cars by the end of 2017. As a nation that thrive on convenience and that share a hatred for wires, this news is quite a relief.

If there was one major pain about electric cars it would be plugging them in after every journey. But with help of Qualcomm’s Halo technology, this pain should be eliminated. Hoorah!

Even though we will have to wait until 2017 to see this technology in action, it does already exist on the safety cars used during the new Formula E Championship – the world’s first entirely electrical racing series.
In 2015 though, we can expect to see this wireless car charging technology used on the race cars themselves.

So, how will they work?

The wireless charging pads will be bolted to the ground on a flat surface as well as to the bottom of the electric car. Once both the ground and the car is fitted with these pads, all the driver will need to do is drive over the charging pad, park it and leave the car to start charging.

Anthony Thompson did mention that the cars fitted with this wireless charging technology won’t come cheap though. He also said, “The first wirelessly charging electric cars will be premium vehicles, eventually filtering down to other, cheaper models.”

There have already been a number of worries about the efficiency of the wireless pads compared to the cars being plugged in but Thompson explains that only around 10% is lost through the whole wireless system. In fact, he believes that their highest power unit can allow users to get up to 95% efficiency from the wireless charging pads.

Roll on 2017!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Technology Influences Influx of New Words

This week, the online Oxford Dictionary has released its latest intake of words and there has been a huge influence from social media and the internet.

Any new words, phrases or senses are always added to the website once the editors are happy with the information they have gathered from independent evidence and are sure that these additions will be widespread.

Abbreviations that are regularly used on social media websites, like Twitter and Facebook are among the new words. One of those is YOLO – a popular abbreviation that stands for You Only Live Once.

Technology, understandably, has a strong influence on the English language with a large number of the new words being entered coming from gadgets or ‘tech-savvy’ people online. Some of these include geocache, octocopter, responsive, smartwatch and, as mentioned, tech-savvy.

But, what do some of them mean?

Smartwatch – This is something we have mentioned on a number of occasions on the blog and is a piece of technology we are a fan of. The smartwatch does exactly what it says on the tin and is a computerised wearable device that is enhanced beyond timekeeping.

Octocopter – This is a multirotor or multicopter with more than two rotors and looks like a small helicopter. This remote-controlled device is often used to carry cameras to improve video or imagery. There are a number of large brands that have started using similar devices, including Google and Microsoft.

Responsive – This one is for the web world and refers to a web design approach that is aimed at crafting sites to provide a convenient and optimal viewing experience. Responsive refers to a web site that is resized, reformatted and has an adapted navigation in order to suit a wide range of devices (i.e. mobile phones and tablets).

Tech-savvy – This can apply to a large group of people and means when someone is proficient in the use of technology, especially computers and other similar devices.

Words like tech-savvy, responsive and smartwatch are all terms we are very familiar with but words like YOLO and binge-watch (to watch a number of programmes in a box-set consecutively) are quite unusual.

What do you think about the new influx of words?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Google Invests In New Glasses

As we all know, Google has been busy at work trying to perfect Google Glass but the internet super-giant is now turning its attention to other types of glasses.

Google has recently awarded a group of UK-based technology projects with large sums of money to help them develop their projects in order to change the world. In fact, there were ten groups in total, four of them were awarded £500,000 and the runners-up were awarded £200,000 each to help them progress.

There were a lot of interesting ideas among the groups and one of those top earners was the RNIB smart glasses. These glasses also bagged the People’s Choice award too, which was not an accolade that was given to them by the judges’.

The RNIB smart glasses are a wearable device that will allow people with sight loss the ability to “see” their surroundings. So, although Google Glass is going to be a helpful tool for a number of people, these smart glasses will offer so much more value to the world.

According to the MD of RNIB Solutions, Neil Heslop, 90% of those people who are registered as blind still have some degree of vision. He said, “The glasses work in a way that means the depth of the camera assesses shape, size and the positioning of those objects nearby enhancing them to make them appear brighter.”

This wasn’t the only project that appealed to Google though. Another intriguing idea was a wearable device that belonged to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and is intelligent enough to hear mosquitoes. With the aim of attaching to a wristband, this device aims to detect a number of different types of mosquitoes and will hope to prevent certain diseases.

There was another wearable that came close and that idea was formed from Android game technology and wearables. The idea is to improve the mental health of young people, which is something that often gets overlooked. This project was created by We Are What We Do and is in fact a game that helps to strengthen the emotional resilience of younger people as well as manage their stress levels.

So, although many of us just know about Google’s aim to bring us Google Glass, they are actually investing time and money in a number of more important, world-changing ideas to help society too.
Good ol’ Google!