Archive for the ‘PHONE USES’ Category


Monday, October 13th, 2014

Thuraya-SatSleeve-for iPhone image

Optus’s business division has begun selling a sleeve that allowed an iPhone to make calls via satellite. The Thuraya SatSleeve connected to the back of an iPhone and could make satellite calls and send SMSes to any contacts in the iPhone’s address book over Thuraya’s satellite network.

The Thuraya network covered Australia, Asia, Middle East, Europe and most of Africa.

Users snapped the sleeve onto the back of their iPhone 4 or 4S and downloaded the SatSleeve app from the iTunes Store. An adapter for the iPhone 5 and 5S would be available in Australia soon, Optus said.

The $690 sleeve also doubled as a backup battery for the iPhone to extend talk and standby time. Users could also chat and update mobile apps such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp over a satellite connection.

The cost for satellite calls was $1.30/min and 50c per SMS.

“At this stage the SatSleeve does not have satellite data capability, however it’s something that we are currently assessing, based on customer demand,” said an Optus spokesman.

“The need to stay in touch is vitally important for our customers in remote and rural areas, especially mining and agricultural businesses, as well as government and not-for-profit organisations, whose teams in the field need to remain in contact, said Paul Sheridan, vice president of Optus Satellite, in a press release.

The SatSleeve included an SOS button that made a call to a pre-programmed number even if the iPhone wasn’t connected.


Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line


Monday, October 13th, 2014


Researchers are working on putting sensors in glass so smart devices can do more to monitor users’ health. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Imagine if an app in your phone or tablet could take your pulse or measure your blood sugar just when you touch the screen, without any added hardware. New developments in the construction of screen glass might mean such technologies are on the way.

Scientists at Corning, makers of the popular Gorilla Glass found in millions of handheld devices, and Canada’s Polytechnique Montreal, have released a study about building light-based sensors into the physical structure of glass used for device screens. The sensors are placed in stackable layers using finer detail than ever before.

The technology means apps can get more accurate readings from far more sensors than just those already placed under screens to detect a touch or swipe. It uses laser to inscribe wave-guides into the glass that use photons of light to describe the transmission of information.

“[It] can be used to transmit information encoded on to the light, in other words, sense its environment to ascertain the properties of a material placed near that surface,” said Dr Alan F Evans, Corning’s research director.

The team behind the system has already built two prototype applications. The first is a temperature sensor based on interferometer technology, which reads body temperature from the touch of a finger.

The other is a unique authentication system that uses tiny dots to scatter infrared light that can be read by the device’s camera. The pattern of scattered light can then be transposed into ones and zeros read as binary data, making strings of characters of up to a quadrillion patterns.

“It’s like a permanent and unique barcode on every smartphone that’s very difficult to counterfeit and also not easily seen, so doesn’t intrude with the operation of the phone,” Dr Evans said.

With the possibility of more detailed sensors built into an interface substrate like a touchscreen, it potentially makes every glass surface a computer.

The research brings us a step closer to Corning’s own speculative short film series A Day Made of Glass, where computers are embedded in surfaces from kitchen walls to the dashboards of cars.

Of the industries set to receive a boost, observers say wearables will particularly benefit as we demand more responsiveness and accuracy from devices.

“I see this advancement being even more useful for wearables like glasses and watches,” says Joanan Hernandez, founder of Montreal developer Mollejuo AR Studio, which makes mobile apps to help guide travellers in unfamiliar cities.

“Putting transparent sensors on glasses and watches will reduce the circuit box needed for these devices, which in turn will make them more attractive and easier to wear.”

The basis for laser-inscribed wave-guides opens the field to even more circuits based on light. When the glass can distinguish between materials or even within a specific material, the possibilities are endless.

Putting food on your phone to see if it’s been washed in contaminated water or spitting on your screen to see if you have a cold coming on might not sound socially acceptable today, but phones and tablets are soon set to do much more than take calls, send emails and play games.


Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line

Smartphones to leave keys and wallet behind

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Commonwealth Bank's PayTag, used with its banking app, turns any phone into a PayPass card. image

Handy: Commonwealth Bank’s PayTag, used with its banking app, turns any phone into a PayPass card.

Keys? Wallet? Phone? In the not too distant future, this three-step pat-down will be replaced with a quick check for your smartphone.

But why wait five or 10 years to lighten your daily load? Technologies like NFC, Bluetooth, and specialised apps mean you can already unlock your front door, buy groceries, and pay for dinner from your smartphone.

Smart locks use a smartphone’s NFC or Bluetooth combined with a special app to open your front door. You can also unlock the door remotely if you’re not at home, send friends and family virtual keys they can use on their own mobile devices, and on some smart locks, like the Goji, receive photos of every visitor to your door.

Given the newness of the category, most smart locks are either still in development or available in only limited quantities.

Goji Smart Lock allows you to choose who can enter your house and when, and even sends you picture updates when someone's at the door. image
 Come in: The Goji Smart Lock allows you to choose who can enter your house and when, and even sends you picture updates when someone’s at the door.

While smart locks are still a niche market, the use of smartphones for payments is growing exponentially. Since December last year, Commonwealth Bank has seen 1.4 million transactions by customers using smartphones.

“While there may always be a need for different payment methods, such as cash for emergencies and cards for travel, it’s clear the mobile wallet is set to become a part of many Australians’ everyday lives,” said Angus Sullivan, executive general manager of cards and payments at Commonwealth Bank.

Commonwealth Bank customers with an iPhone or Android smartphone can attach a “PayTag” smart sticker to the back of their device and use it for transactions of up to $100 at stores with PayPass terminals.

Those with a Samsung Galaxy S4 don’t need the sticker, as the necessary technology is built into the phone. The same function will soon be available on the Galaxy S5, and according to Sullivan, the bank is planning more links with Android devices.


Commonwealth Bank also offers a unique Cardless Cash service that lets customers withdraw up to $200 a day from more than 3000 CommBank ATMs nationwide using the CommBank app.

Another Aussie bank making strides in the mobile payment space is Westpac.  Last month, it launched a service similar to the Commonwealth Bank’s that enables customers to use the NFC technology built into the Samsung Galaxy S4, S5 or Note 3 to “tap and pay” securely at contactless terminals.

PayPal also offers options for paying through your smartphone. At more than 5000 locations in Australia, including Guzman Y Gomez, Glue Store and Sonoma Bakery, you can “check in” to the store using the PayPal app and pay using the credit or debit card that’s linked to your PayPal account. You can also avoid queues at participating cafes by ordering food and refreshments before you get there.

As convenient as all of this technology is, it does raise the stakes if your smartphone gets lost or stolen. Michael McKinnon, security adviser at online security company AVG, said that while the risks of losing money through fraud  are borne mostly by the banks with money-back guarantees, the real risk is increased theft of devices.

“If you pull your mobile phone out of your pocket and wave it past the reader, then it’s pretty clear to a person watching that this is how you’re making the payment. Suddenly, your smartphone becomes the target for potential theft,” said McKinnon. “It’s the same risk as for PayPass credit cards: crooks know that if they steal your phone, they can spend up to  $100 without needing your PIN number.”

The flip side is that unlike credit cards or house keys, you can track a smartphone with GPS, lock it, and erase it remotely. Smartphones don’t display your credit card details, either, preventing thieves from using your credit card online the way they can with a stolen plastic card. Both the Commonwealth and Westpac apps also let you secure the contactless payments feature behind a PIN number.

To stay safe while using a smartphone as a replacement for your wallet or keys, the traditional smartphone security measures apply. “Be discrete about when you’re making payments, and keep your device with you at all times,” said McKinnon.

“Use a PIN number or passcode on your device and mobile payment app, and make sure you’re using all of the technology available to track your smartphone if it is lost or stolen. And, if you’re using an Android device, ensure you’re running some security software to block malicious apps.”


Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line


Thursday, December 20th, 2012


Air quality is one of those things that many of us should be more concerned about, but aren’t. According to some people, this is because we’re not easily able to know how clean the air around us really is – we just assume it’s “clean enough.” Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have set out to change that. They’re developing a compact, portable air pollution sensor that communicates with the user’s smartphone, to provide real-time air quality readings for their immediate surroundings.

Known as CitiSense, the device is able to measure local concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, which are the pollutants emitted most by internal combustion vehicles. That data is wirelessly transmitted to the user’s smartphone, where it’s displayed on the screen via a custom app – along with an actual number rating, the display also utilizes the EPA’s color code scale, where green is good and purple … isn’t.

One of the ideas behind the sensors is that if commercialized, they would allow everyday people to be more proactive when it comes to air pollution. Users could avoid areas where the levels are dangerously high, for example, and would perhaps be more motivated to pressure local authorities to do something about the problem.

Also, data gathered from a multitude of the sensors throughout a region could provide the public with much more detailed and accurate air quality reports than is currently possible. According to the university, although San Diego County measures approximately 4,000 square miles (10,360 sq km), it is currently served by only about ten air-quality monitoring stations.

A prototype of the CitiSense sensor

A prototype of the CitiSense sensor

To test the technology, 30 people were given prototype CitiSense sensors to use in their everyday lives for a period of four weeks. Among other things, the test subjects discovered that air pollution is worse in particular highly-localized areas – it’s not just evenly diluted throughout the air. Not surprisingly, it was likewise noted that certain times of day are more hazardous than others.

Unfortunately for those of us who do our part to reduce pollution, it was also found that people who cycled or waited for the bus along a given route were exposed to more airborne pollutants than those who drove the same route.

The sensors presently cost US$1,000 per unit to build, but the researchers are confident that the price could be greatly reduced by mass production – they could conceivably even be incorporated into commercial smartphones. Although the constant data exchange between the prototype sensors and their paired phones is a considerable drain on the phones’ batteries, that could reportedly be addressed by limiting such exchanges to spaced intervals, or only when requested by the user.

North Carolina-based tech firm RTI International is developing a somewhat similar gadget known as the MicroPEM (Personal Exposure Monitoring device), although it doesn’t provide real-time readings. The University of Southern California has also created an Android app that uses the phone’s camera to measure particulate matter in the atmosphere, but it doesn’t determine what those particles consist of.

Source: University of California, San Diego


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012


Learning to play any musical instrument can be a mammoth task, especially for those who aren’t naturally gifted in that regard. The guitar is particularly difficult to learn to play, with a steep learning curve and some extraordinary finger dexterity required right from the start. Therefore, any tool designed to make the process less painful is welcomed with open arms by budding guitar gurus. A company called Incident is hoping that will be the case for gTar, a new digital guitar that utilizes the power of the iPhone.

Incident, a company based in Santa Clara, California, has designed a new digital guitar it hopes will come to the aid of guitarists with various skill levels. The device looks like a cross between a real guitar and a Rock Band/Guitar Hero guitar; it’s easy to spot it isn’t “real” but it’s more authentic than the videogame peripherals that appear to have peaked in popularity several years ago

Ezi Sports

The gTar comprises a digital guitar with strings, frets and various other of the different components that make up the instrument. The big difference is the presence of an iPhone (4 or newer) running a specially-designed app.

Instead of pick-ups to amplify the sound of the string being strummed, the gTar has sensors along the neck that are able to detect, in real time, which note is being played. This information is then relayed to the iPhone docked in the body of the gTar, which produces the actual sound.

The gTar frets display on the iPhone app and the guitar

The app comes bundled with songs that the user can choose from to play along with. Despite the name, the gTar is not limited to guitar sounds, with the app making it entirely possible to play a grand piano by plucking the notes instead. Whatever the song and whatever the instrument, users have a choice of three levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium, and Hard.


Easy means just playing the open strings, and hitting the wrong string means no sound is produced. Medium adds fretwork to the mix, but there is still no danger of messing up thanks to the built-in SmartPlay feature. Hard means needing to play the correct notes; not doing so will result in every mistake being heard. This learning curve is the gTar’s strength, as real guitars start and end on the Hard level of difficulty.

The gTar is initially being sold through a Kickstarter project. Incident asked for US$100,000 to fund the initial production run and has already raised more than that amount. Approximately $70,000 of the target was raised quickly by backers paying US$350 each to get their hands on the first 200 gTars produced. The company has stated the final retail price will be $449.

The device has also made an appearance at TechCrunch Disrupt 2012, where it was actually on show and demonstrated to work as advertised. This is an important step in the Kickstarter model, which requires a certain amount of trust to exist between the project creators and the project backers.

In the future, Incident plans on releasing an SDK (software development kit) that will allow third parties to create apps for the gTar. The possibilities are only limited by the breadth of developers’ imaginations.

In conclusion, the gTar is a relatively expensive way to learn to play guitar. On top of the $350-and-up asking price for the gTar itself, you’ll also need to own or buy an iPhone. However, this isn’t just a learning tool. Even if and when you do reach Jimi Hendrix-like status, the gTar can still be used as a digital guitar to hone your skills on or to show off to friends. It also looks good.

There are other options to consider though, such as Rocksmith, a game/training tool available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. This lets you use a real electric guitar to play well-known songs with visual guidance. At least with Rocksmith you end up with a real guitar after the lessons have come to an end rather than a digital copy. There’s also the iTar, which incorporates an iPad into a somewhat guitar-like body.

The video below shows the gTar in action along with some brief words from the founder and CEO of Incident.

Source: Kickstarter via TechCrunch

 Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, April 16th, 2012


In what is being touted as “the world’s largest dream experiment,” a psychologist from Britain’s University of Hertfordshire is inviting volunteers to try using an iPhone app to control their dreams. Prof. Richard Wiseman teamed up with the developers at software company YUZA to create Dream:ON, an app that plays soundscapes while its user sleeps, intended to shape what sort of dreams they have. The project comes in response to a UK survey conducted by Wiseman, in which 15% of respondents claimed that they frequently suffered from unpleasant dreams.

To use Dream:ON, people start by indicating the time at which they would like to wake up. Next, they select an alarm tone, followed by one of several “soundscapes” – examples include titles like Peaceful Garden and A Trip to Tokyo. The phone is then plugged into an external power source, and left turned on at the bedside.

Throughout the night, the phone uses its microphone to monitor the user’s movements. Approximately 20 minutes before their selected wake-up time, and once a decrease in their movements indicates that they’ve entered REM sleep (the sleep stage at which dreams occur), the soundscape will be played. Theoretically, that audio will be incorporated into the existing dream. Of course, it’s possible that someone could simply end up dreaming that an axe murderer was chasing them through a peaceful garden – that’s the sort of thing that the project is looking at.

Once the person starts moving again, indicating that they are no longer dreaming, the alarm will sound to wake them. As a side benefit, by not being woken up while in deep REM sleep, users should wake up feeling more refreshed – a strategy already employed by products like the sleep-monitoring Sleeptracker alarm.

The app will subsequently prompt users to submit a report of their dream.

After a few months, Wiseman and his team will review the various users’ reports, to see how well the app works. Dream:ON is available now as a free download at the App Store, while an Android version is expected to come out later this year. If it does indeed work, more soundscapes could be on the way – some of them would be free, while others would have to be purchased.

Should the idea behind Dream:ON sound at all familiar to some readers, it’s because something similar already exists, in the form of the Japanese Yumemiru app. There’s no word on how effective that one has proven to be.

The video below provides an outline of Prof. Wiseman’s project.

Source: University of Hertfordshire

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Friday, April 6th, 2012

AT AGE three, Lili Viall is an avid iPad app user. She has 20-minute ”app time” sessions on her mother’s iPad, which she likes to think is hers.

She is ”hungry for it”, her mother, Justine Lange, 43, of Clovelly, says.

But Ms Lange emphasises app time is ”by no means a substitute for all the other games, physical games and other activities we do together”.

She is so concerned about the potential for inappropriate app use by toddlers that she is working up a one-minute presentation to audition for TED, the non-profit organisation and internet phenomenon that promotes people with ”ideas worth spreading” at exclusive summits and posts their talks online to an audience of millions.

The replacement of the mouse and keyboard with simple to use tap and swipe technology for iPads and tablet PCs meant ”my little girl, from as young as 18 months, is able to interact with technology”, Ms Lange said.

Having worked with online platforms in the media all her life, she recognised ”how vulnerable these children are, now that they are a new market”.

Ms Lange is backing her views in a start-up company, PaddleDuck Learning, developing interactive educational apps for toddlers with a group of artists, musicians and educators.

Not that Ms Lange will be promoting her wares at TED. Hawkers, jargon junkies, dullards and motivator wannabes need not apply, say the organisers. It is undiscovered prodigies, sages, sparks and storytellers they want.

In a break from its 26-year invitation-only policy for speakers, TED’s global search for new talent spans 14 cities from Europe and Africa to Japan and the Middle East between April and June, including Sydney in May.

The best performers will join the ranks of such luminous TED speaker alumni as Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, Isabel Allende and Philippe Starck. The most viewed is the British educator Sir Ken Robinson’s take on how schools kill creativity, with 9.6 million views.

Other Sydney applicants will include Darryl Nichols, whose Garage Sale Trail is galvanising communities around selling junk; Matt Noffs on the Street University for youth at risk; web entrepreneur Rebekah Campbell on a new model for helping small businesses thrive; Cathy Kezelman on treating child abuse and Janine Weir on lifting barriers to international adoption.

Successful first round applicants will be invited to speak at the audition event to be held at Carriageworks in May. Their talks will be posted online and put to a vote of TED’s global audience.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Sunday, March 4th, 2012


As a response to public fears about radiation levels following the Fukushima crisis, a Japanese organization called Radiation Watch has launched Pocket Geiger, a Geiger counter iPhone peripheral and accompanying app aimed at concerned individuals.

New Scientist reports that the peripheral has eight photodiode sensors to detect radiation and aluminum foil to screen alpha and beta particles. Second generation peripherals, known as Pokega Type2, do away with the need for batteries, using the connected iPhone as a power supply.

The app functions as the Geiger counter display, but also uploads data to a Radiation Watch server where readings are collectively mapped for an overview. Apparently there are over 10,000 users, though the viewing of maps is limited to Radiation Watch members.

The main advantage of the Pocket Geiger appears to be cost. Where a typical personal Geiger counter would cost well into three figures, the peripheral and app cost a mere US$46 – or $65 for the Pokega Type2.

Of course, the WikiSensor app we looked at last October did away with the peripheral entirely.

Sources: New Scientist, Radiation Watch


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Everyones  nightmare of the gadget world – a smartphone low on battery.

Now Swedish group myFC says its water-powered charger could be the fix anywhere while battery giant Duracell is championing a push for cars and even stadiums to be built with energy “mats” that would power up phones.

A Californian firm, meanwhile, has launched a phone that it claims can remain charged for up to 15 years, making it the perfect spare in emergencies or disasters.

“The difference between the energy on a phone and the energy we consume is increasing. We need to charge more often but you don’t want to be hooked onto a wall,” said myFC chief executive Bjorn Westerholm.

His firm has therefore come up with a portable fuel cell charger which is slightly larger than a compact camera and which uses just one spoonful of water and a small metallic device called a fuel puck, to fully charge an iPhone.


The PowerTrekk could appeal most to campers, aid workers or the military, said Westerholm, who is exhibiting the charger at the world’s biggest mobile fair in Barcelona.

“It could be sea water, fresh water. You need to carry water with you to survive anyway and the PowerTrekk needs just one spoonful,” he said.

“So you can Facebook, email even when you’re in the outdoors for hours.

“Our value proposition is that you don’t need to go to the grid. You don’t need to wait to charge your phone.”

Competition for solutions to power up phones is fierce.

XPAL Power rolled out a phone with a battery that “lasts 15 years,” said Christian Scheder, chairman of the Californian firm.

The so-called Spareone, which will be commercialised in March, remains charged for up to 15 years if the phone is turned off, and for two months if it is on.

“This is great for emergency, disaster situations,” Scheder said.

Battery giant Duracell meanwhile has its own vision to keep the world charged.

It is championing the PowerMat system, a mat which looks like a small tablet that plugs into the power source and which has sufficient space to charge two phones which are equipped with special protective covers.

But that is just the beginning, Stassi Anastassov, Duracell President, said.

Beyond just targeting consumers with the charging kit, Duracell is at the Mobile World Congress to talk phone manufacturers into designing a slot for a special chip or even build it into the telephone, thereby doing away with the protective covers that are currently required to dock with the mat.

The company further wants to fit the mats in public places, for instance, build them into tables at fast-food chains, thereby allowing anyone with equipped phones to charge up anytime.

It already has a deal with General Motors to fit all vehicles from 2013 with the charging mat. Likewise, it has an agreement to equip New York’s Madison Square Garden, starting with bar tabletops.

“Of course it will take many years, the whole ecosystem will not be up tomorrow,” said Anastassov.

“But our vision is that you will be able to never go out of power, simply by facilitating the whole charging process for you.

“It’s very similar to banking and money. If you want to have cash, you can either have a very big wallet full of money or you have an ATM card,” he said.


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Thursday, March 1st, 2012


The security threat to mobile devices is now very real and there is a wave of new exploits that has allowed hackers to eavesdrop on smartphones – even when you’re not connected to a phone call, writes Lia Timson.

Phone crashing regularly? Strange SMS bothering you for an update or a juicy link? It’s time to wise up to mobile malware.

Security experts have shown that iPhones and Android phones are quite vulnerable to the same type of “drive-by” attacks that have long plagued PC users.

A team of researchers infected a Google Android smartphone overnight, live, in front of a packed audience of computer security buffs to prove how mobile malware is now on the cusp of the big time, after so many years of unfulfilled predictions.

George Kurtz, co-author of Hacking Exposed, former McAfee security champion and now at the helm of CrowdStrike alongside Dmitri Alperovitch, demonstrated how the team designed a smartphone remote access tool (RAT) and eavesdrop operation.

They then set about buying the necessary items to make it happen, later coding, then executing the attack on their demo phone.

“We believe we are here today and on the cusp of what we’re going to see in the future. If you think of what a smartphone has the capability to do, it’s the ultimate spying tool. Always powered on, always connected, travels around with us at all times,” Kurtz began.

“If you haven’t figured out privacy is dead, this is going to do it for you.”

The scenario was a competitor wanting to intercept calls and text messages on Kurtz’s phone and the attack was Webkit-based. Webkit is a tool used by Apple, Google and RIM to render HTML websites in Safari, Chrome and Android, and the latest versions of the BlackBerry, respectively.

The team bought 20 Webkit vulnerabilities – or bugs – in the underground for $US1400, spent approximately $US14,000 developing the malware code (“weaponisation phase”) and engineering root access, as well as building their own command and control centre to be able to harvest the fruits of their exploits.

The attack followed several steps: the first was a text message delivered to the smartphone appearing to come from the mobile carrier requesting a system update via a link. Once clicked, the drive-by link delivered the first part of the malware to the phone to elevate access (root) privilege, then cause it to crash.

It then automatically rebooted, executing the second part of the malware and hijacking the phone’s communications.

When Kurtz made a call to Alperovitch, the audience could hear the live conversation – as well as what was said before the call connected. On the command and control centre’s screen, a map positioned Kurtz and Alperovitch’s locations, the start of transmission, and the text of a subsequent text message Alperovitch sent Kurtz.

They said the attack did not require a phone be jailbroken and would work on any of the devices using Webkit – although this particular code was customised for the Adroid 2.2 (Froyo) version.

Kurtz told Fairfax Media such an attack would be possible on the iPhone because of the root access obtained via the browser vulnerability.

“We would have to get code execution via the browser, then escalate our privilege to root and totally bypass the app store [as we did] with Android.

“This is the point we are making: drive-by attacks will hit the phone just like the PCs,” he said.

But he said he didn’t want the audience to develop a bout of paranoia.

“The sky is not falling, these are very targeted attacks.”


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha