How Sir Jony Ive might use iOS 8 to remember his passport

Location is everything

Geofencing is an iOS feature that’s likely to see significant improvement within iOS 9, as Apple introduces new frameworks for connected (“Internet of Things”) devices; so how might Jony Ive use the feature to help him travel?

Travelling man

A short definition: Geofencing uses Core Location in iOS 8 to monitor where a user happens to be and then offer reminders or other prompts if that user enters or leaves a previously specified area.

In the case of Apple’s recently promoted Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, geofencing in iOS could remind him to check he has his passport with him when he reaches the airport to board his private jet to the UK to attend the school play (should that kind of Transatlantic existence be what Ive’s recent promotion is really about).

To enable geolocation

Enabling geolocation takes just two steps.

  • First you must turn on Background App Refresh in Settings>General>Background App Refresh.
  • Secondly you should toggle Reminders to the on position in Settings>Privacy>Location Services.

geo

To use geolocation

With location services enabled Apple’s top designer can easily set up a Reminder to check he is carrying his passport when he gets close to the airport.

  • Launch the Reminders app, tap + and create a “Get passport” reminder.
  • Tap circled “i” to the right of that item on the list.
  • In the subsequent Details screen choose ‘Remind me at a location’ and a new screen appears.
  • On this screen you see a map, some pre-chosen destinations and a search bar. Choose the location from which to set a location center.
  • In the map at the bottom of this page your chosen location will appear surrounded by a blue circle with a black dot. The circle defines the boundaries of your geolocation zone, you can extend the radius of this by dragging the dark dot to the right of the circle.
  • (In this case I extended the radius to 5km from San Francisco airport, so Ive gets the time he needs to pick up that forgotten passport.
  • Once you’ve chosen the location you can set the Reminder to launch when you enter or leave the area.

In future, whenever the Apple designer is 5km from the airport he’ll be reminded to check his passport. Which would be a little annoying until the inevitable happens and he does forget the document.

Life beyond Ive

It may or may not be true that now he has been freed of day to day management responsibilities, Ive intends using his new freedom to travel, but the scenario does provide an apt illustration of how to use this iOS feature. There are lots of ways anyone can use geolocation Reminders to get things done:

  • To check you have your keys on leaving the house
  • To remember essential documents
  • To shop for items when near an appropriate shop
  • To call friends when you are nearby

Design for life

iOS developers make extensive use of geofencing when working with iBeacons and/or retail apps. If you happen to use the Starbucks app then you’ll have seen its icon appear at bottom left of your iPhone when you pass a store – that’s an example of geofencing and location services in action over beacons.

Geofencing also has implications in the home – so iOS-controlled Phillips Hue lamps can be set to switch on or off as you enter or leave a room. That’s an example of how indoor mapping will be used within the control system for the smart home, of which we expect to learn much more at WWDC (and perhaps get a hint at the future of the iPhone).

It will be interesting to see if Jony Ive will want to tell developers a little more about Apple’s design direction at the annual event, as he adopts a more strategic role within the company.

ComputerWorld

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iMbrief briefcase’s feature list is anything but brief

By Stu Robarts

There are two types of people who will likely be interested in Magicubie’s iMbrief (pronounced “I’m brief”) briefcase: those in high-powered, fast-moving, security-sensitive jobs and those who want to pretend they’re a spy. Its host of features will surely satisfy either camp.

The iMbrief is designed to function as a mobile office and is aimed at being fashionable, secure and versatile. First thing’s first, of course, it provides users with a means of storing and transporting documents securely, with an LED light inside to illuminate the contents.

Access to the iMbrief is via a fingerprint scanner or the accompanying mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android and connects to the case via Bluetooth. It has a Kensington lock slot (those chunky locks often used to secure electronic devices in shops and offices), allowing it to be secured at a location, and siren to warn users of any unauthorized access attempts and to try and scare off any would be thieves.

The iMbrief also has an SD card slot for internal data storage. This can be used to save, store and share digital files and its capacity checked using the mobile app. A Wi-Fi SD card provided with the bag allows data to be accessed wirelessly, making it quick and simple to transfer files.

Mobile devices can be charged both internally and externally using the in-built 5,000 mAh primary battery. The iMbrief has four USB charging ports in total – two on its exterior and two in the inside compartment. An optional and removable 18,000 mAh second battery can also be used to provide additional power for devices.

A GPS sensor allows the location of the iMbrief to be tracked. This means it can be located if lost or stolen. Location is also recorded to create a historical map of the bag’s whereabouts, allowing a user to retrace a journey if needs be.

The iMbrief can be use to play music via its built-in Bluetooth speakers. The speakers are also used to provide reminders of calendar appointments, which can be set using the mobile app. The speaker is used as the security siren as well.

brief

The case is charged via a USB port and takes around two hours for a full charge of the 5,000 mAh primary battery. A full charge can apparently last for over a month if only the fingerprint scanner is being used, but if it runs out of power, it must be charged before it can be opened again.

The briefcase has an aluminum-alloy shell and is will be offered in grey, black and burgundy if it reaches the market. It weighs around 4 lb (1.8 kg) and measures 450 x 330 x 95 mm (17.7 x 13 x 3.7 in). It is available with a detachable shoulder strap.

An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign is underway for the iMbrief. At the time of writing, individuals who pledge from US$299 in support can receive one of the briefcases, assuming all goes to plan with the campaign and roll-out. Shipping is expected from January 2016.

The video below is the Indiegogo pitch for the iMbrief.

Source: Magicubie

Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant is coming to iPhone and Android

Microsoft has announced that it intends to bring Cortana to iOS and Android devices later this year. Up until now the digital assistant app has been restricted to Windows Phone devices, but, as we already knew, it will also be extending its reach across desktops and laptops when Windows 10 launches to the public in the next few months.

It’s a move that’s been widely predicted as Microsoft focuses on getting its products out to as many platforms as possible: the company’s flagship Office suite of apps has also appeared on Apple and Google-powered handsets in the last few months. This multiple-device approach is epitomized by Windows 10, which is coded to run the same apps across computers, smartphones, tablets and the Xbox One.

MS1

“… many people use iPhones or Android phones, and we want them to enjoy some of their Windows experience and content while away from their Windows 10 PC,” says Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore in a blog post. The Android release is slated for the end of June with the iOS version following “later this year.”

Just like on Windows Phone, you’ll be able to ask questions of Cortana through iOS and Android. Notifications are going to be supported, so you can set up reminders to get milk or check up on your flight status. Your Cortana notebooks will also be synced across all platforms.

Phone companion

The Cortana app rollout is part of a new Phone Companion service arriving with Windows 10 – it’s designed to get iPhones and Android phones working smoothly with the likes of OneDrive and Microsoft’s Music app. It’s distinctly different from Apple’s approach, which doesn’t make any apps for competing mobile platforms, and a bit more like Google’s cross-platform approach.

MS2

Most of Cortana’s smart functionality will be carried over to the iOS and Android apps, but because it’s not going to have the deep integration it enjoys on Windows Phone, you won’t be able to launch apps or toggle settings using the personal assistant.

There’s no official release date for Windows 10 yet but it could come as early as July. While you wait, the video below shows Joe Belfiore explaining how the operating system will hook up with your smartphone, whatever platform it happens to be running.

Source: Windows Blog

Better Re battery pack gives new life to old phone batteries

By Heidi Hoopes

If you’re like a lot of phone junkies and replace your phone as soon as the latest thing comes along, you’ll know that often the hardware in the old phone is perfectly fine, even the battery. But fancier new screens and more powerful processors mean that battery life usually remains a problem, making battery packs a popular accessory. Enlighten’s Better Re lets you get some more use out of your old phone’s battery, by allowing it to slot into an adjustable external battery charger for your new phone.

Enlightened has already received awards for the design of its “upcycling power pack”, which it is now seeking to fund through Kickstarter. The idea is simple: create a case to house an old cellphone battery and create a sleek external charger. Go crazy and stack multiple expansion packs connected via magnet to provide even more charge capacity. The case adjusts to accommodate batteries of sizes up to 58.5 x 97.8 x 6.5 mm, which Enlighten says is the biggest battery currently on the market.

Enlighten argues that the average turnover of a cellphone is 1.3 years, while after two years of use, a battery is still around 80 percent efficient. Additionally, many mobile phone users who have a phone with a removable battery buy extra batteries to ensure they aren’t caught short. While reports from Recon Analytics in February 2015 suggest that mobile phone turnover rates are slowing, from 22.4 months in 2013 to an anticipated 28.4 months this year, there are still a lot of extra batteries out there.

bat

How much charge you could get off a Better Re will of course depend on the capacity and condition of your old battery (for example, a Galaxy Note battery is 2,500 mAH), as well as what rate your current phone can charge at.

With an output of 5 V and 2 A, the company says the Better Re should charge an iPhone 6, with its 1,810 mAh battery, in just under 55 minutes, while an iPad Air 2 and its 7,340 mAh battery will take just over 220 minutes. A Galaxy S6 (2,550 mAh) and Galaxy Note 4 (3,220 mAh) should take 76 and 96 minutes, respectively.

If you don’t use phones with removable batteries such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy models, an LG3, or a Note, Enlighten has a pledge package that includes a recycled phone battery. It also plans to produce batteries of its own.

The Kickstarter campaign offers the Better Re for a US$39 pledge, with an additional $20 for an expansion case. If everything goes to plan, delivery is estimated for November 2015.

Enlightened’s video pitch for the Better Re can be viewed below.

Source: Enlightened

QromaScan scans and tags photos with an iPhone and your voice

By Simon Crisp

QromaScan is a simple scanning setup which might mean you finally get around to digitizing and organizing those boxes of old photos you’ve got gathering dust in the attic. The system, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, combines the camera and voice recognition of an iPhone, with a green-screen lightbox to make it quick and easy to produce digital files of printed photos.

We’ve all done it – taken a digital photo of a printed one because we can’t be bothered to scan it in properly. However, the resulting file typically suffers glare, is skewed, and lacks the digital tags to enable you to find it easily again. QromaScan attempts to address these issues by controlling the photo-scanning environment, while being able to scan and tag images in two to three seconds.

Key to ensuring quality scans is the QromaScan Lightbox, a fold-away lightbox into which printed photos are placed, while an iPhone running the QromaScan app is positioned on top. Inside, 12 cool white LED lights provide illumination, while a chroma green material isolates the photo for automatic cropping. Because the distance from camera to photo is a constant, focus should always be spot-on, and voice control illuminates the risk of camera movement and makes scanning faster.

Voice recognition is also used to tag images with metadata as the photos are being scanned. Users say sentences like “Qroma, the date is August 1st, 1957, the place is Honolulu International Airport” while the camera is taking a photo, and the right date and location tags are automatically created in the EXIF data of the image. Names of people in the photos can also be logged as IPTC keywords, with the app able to recognize names in your contacts list, or manually-entered ones.

scan

The tags not only make finding images easy in the QromaScan app, but because the metadata is stored in standardized fields, they can be accessed in other programs like Lightroom and iPhoto. Basic editing is possible via Aviary photo editing tools, and a Back Scan function allows users to also record anything that’s been written on the rear of the image. While currently limited to iOS, an Android version of the QromaScan app is said to be in the works.

QromaScan is currently on Kickstarter and has until May 31st to hit its target of US$20,000. An early bird pledge of $35 is currently enough to secure you a QromaScan Lightbox, though the price will rise to $40 and then $45 if those are snapped up. Should funding be successful, kits should start shipping in July.

You can check out the Kickstarter video for QromaScan below.

Sources: Qroma, Kickstarter

8 Android security tips for IT, corporate users

1) Don’t root that Android device

“To do significant damage in the mobile world, malware needs to act on devices that have been altered at an administrative level,” according to Dionisio Zumerle, principal research analyst at Gartner. “The most obvious platform compromises of this nature are ‘jailbreaking’ on iOS or ‘rooting’ on Android devices …

While these methods allow users to access certain device resources that are normally inaccessible … they also put data in danger.”

2) Don’t overlook Android security or focus only on malware

“Perhaps one of the biggest risks of mobile malware is the fact that mobile malware, in itself, is not yet abundant,” says Domingo Guerra, president and cofounder of Appthority. “This creates a false sense of security in government and enterprise organizations.”

Guerra also identified a number of additional Android risks, including “corporate data exfiltration, poor app development practices, mismanagement of user names and passwords, poor implementation of encryption, and data harvesting and sharing for marketing purposes.

“These risks are often overlooked by shortsighted, malware-only security strategies,” Guerra says.

3) Don’t install Android software from unofficial app stores

“Only install apps from the Google Play store that are from known and trusted developers,” says Terry May, an Android developer with Detroit Labs. “It would also be a best practice to take advantage of the multiple users feature in Android and have a user account that is just for enterprise.”

4) Pay attention to Android app permission requests

Reading an app’s access requests is critical, according to Mark Huss, senior consultant at SystemExperts. For example, a flashlight app doesn’t need access to services that cost you money (such as SMS messaging), system tools, your call list or any personal information, network communication or location service, Huss says.

5) Always keep Android software and firmware updated

“Always check for available firmware updates and patches and download the latest version if possible,” says Gleb Sviripa, an Android developer at KeepSolid. “The newer the version is, the fewer the chances that hackers can attack your device.”

6) Install security and VPN apps

It’s simple to find a plethora of security apps for Android. Look for apps that scan for malware and block apps from non-approved sources, according to Geoff Sanders, cofounder and CEO of LaunchKey. Disk encryption should be enabled, and apps that have “overreaching access to potentially sensitive data” should be denied, he says.

When surfing the Internet, Android devices should be protected with virtual private network (VPN) software such as VPN Unlimited, Sviripa says.

7) Organizations should set and enforce clear access policies

Companies need to be clear about the sensitive materials that users can access via mobile devices and ensure those devices have “the right infrastructure in place to protect against mobile threats,” according Swarup Selvaraman, senior product manager at Dell SonicWALL.

8) The four basic tenets of Android security

Troy Vennon, director of Pulse Secure’s Mobile Threat Center, says enterprise mobile security boils down to following four essential steps: Disallow rooted and jailbroken devices; ensure that devices are protected by passwords; keep devices updated; and require users to connect through a VPN.

CIO.com

Radio signals can be used to boost cell-phone battery life

Ohio State University researchers are working with startup Nikola Labs to commercialize the technology

Cell phones are constantly transmitting radio signals, whose energy can also be used to boost the battery life of mobile devices.

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed circuitry that converts radio signals from a handset into energy, which is then fed back to the device’s battery. The researchers say the technology can increase the battery life of mobile devices by up to 30 percent.

The OSU researchers are working with startup Nikola Labs to commercialize the technology, which they say can be easily implemented in cell-phone cases, and in June will launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund its continued development.

Nikola Labs pitched the concept of an energy-harvesting iPhone 6 case based on the technology at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this month. Nikola Labs estimates the case will be priced at $99.

Limitations in batteries have sparked an interest in energy-harvesting technologies to power battery-free wearables, sensors, implants and other devices. Researchers at universities and technology companies are looking for ways to convert body heat, motion, RF signals and ambient light to energy.

The technology developed by OSU has an antenna to capture the radio signals and a rectifier to convert them from AC into DC power, which is used to recharge a battery. OSU claims the circuitry can squeeze microwatts of power out of radio signals.

The technology kicks into action when signals are transmitted from a mobile device’s radio, which itself can be a battery hog because a certain amount of energy is needed to maintain a high-quality signal with a cell-phone tower. However, OSU says its technology siphons off enough power to boost battery life without hurting the quality of phone conversations or data connections.

ComputerWorld