Friday, March 13, 2015

Apple Watch bringing cutting-edge technology to your wrist

The Apple Watch is just around the corner and it’s time to get serious about how Apple’s latest technological wonder is going to fit into our lives. Just like all the other “Apple iDevices,” a lot of us didn’t know we’ll need an Apple Watch until Apple told us so.

The one thing I can say is the Apple Watch is going to be some much more than a device to let us know the time or the date. We’re talking about an entire ecosystem of tech synergy and this device could be the world’s first truly wearable computer. But we’re skeptical at this point, or at least I am, and Apple has some convincing to do in several areas.

I’m sure security measures will be at the top of the list for those considering the Apple Watch. One question is will it work on a wrist that didn’t shell out their hard-earned cash?

The answer is the device will know if it’s on your wrist or has been taken off and it’ll need a lock code to be activated again, much like the iPhone lock screen. That should give some peace of mind if the Apple Watch is lost or stolen. Around the house, if the iPhone becomes lost and you’re wearing the Apple Watch, a pinging feature should locate the iPhone -- probably between the couch cushions -- and get you back on track.

The Apple Watch will have cutting-edge technology and innovative navigational features that only Apple could dream up. Just like the iPod, iPhone, and certainly the iPad, I’m sure it’ll have a level of simplicity that’ll make the functionality just as easy as all the other iDevices. And all of this ingenuity will be done on your wrist.

While the iPod had the Scroll wheel and the iPhone and iPad have the home button, the Apple Watch will have what Apple is calling the Digital Crown. It’ll be used for selecting menus, zooming in and out, scrolling and returning to the Home screen. Even though the Retina watch display will be a lot smaller than the iPhone, Apple has developed a new typeface to enhance legibility and the high pixel density should make things a lot easier to read

Another unique feature coming on the Apple Watch is something called Force Touch, which will distinguish between a tap and a press on the display. According to Apple, a “firm press” will bring up additional options in Messages, Music and Calendar apps, as well as the option to choose different watch faces or end a workout session.

Since we’re already use to glancing at our watches, the Apple Watch will capitalize on this gesture with “Glances,” which will give a summary of the information you’re seeking with just a simple swipe up on the watch face.

For Dick Tracy fans, yes, you’ll be able to answer a call and respond to messages, or just dismiss them with a flick of the finger. So it looks like what was envisioned around the 1940s in a comic strip as a “wrist radio” is finally catching up with us. The future has arrived and Siri, Apple personal assistant, will be close by when you raise your wrist to offer any assistance.

If you’re wondering how you’ll know all these things are going with the watch, Apple has it figured out with something called a “Taptic Engine” inside the watch to provide feedback. Whenever an alert or notification is received, you’ll get a gentle tap on the wrist and maybe a subtle audio tone. Apple says they wanted to “give technology a more human touch.”

As electronic health records continue to evolve, the Apple Watch is on board with data collection for physical activities and an included Heart Rate Sensor. The capabilities of Wi-Fi and GPS will measure your distances, such as when cycling, and an accelerometer will count your steps when walking. If the healthcare industry latches onto the Apple Watch, this could bring some traction to wearable technology, especially if privacy concerns are addressed.

You’ll certainly need a lot of juice in the Apple Watch to keep all this information going and Apple is claiming 18 hours of battery life and innovative charging at bedtime. Using a concept of the MagSafe magnetically charging connector introduced on the MacBooks starting in 2006, there is nothing to plug in; magnets will snap the Apple Watch charging cable into place on the back of the watch. According to Apple, you’ll be able to perform this ritual in the dark or without looking.

Perhaps the biggest feature of the Apple Watch will be the debut of another level of Apple Pay, which has been around since October on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but certainly not on your wrist. The Apple Watch will also be compatible with the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c, just in case you don’t have the iPhone 6.

To get started with Apple Pay on the iPhone 5, you’ll simply download the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, select the Passbook & Apple Pay option and add your credit or debit cards information via iTunes or by using the iSight camera on your iPhone. Finally, the Passbook feature on my iPhone 5 will have a real purpose. Then just find a retailer with Apple Pay capabilities and wave your Apple Watch near a NFC (Near Field Communication) reader to pay for your stuff.

It should be noted that Apple did not include NFC capability in previous iPhones, while other smartphones, such as the Android devices and BlackBerry, ran with the NFC chip and had bragging rights over the iPhone. But now, it seems clear that Apple was reserving the NFC chip for Apple Pay in the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, which explains their tight lips about NFC over the past few years. The question going forward is what other technological features does Apple have planned for the NFC technology besides Apple Pay and the Apple Watch.

I’m sure the question of how secure is Apple Pay pops in your mind when you’re shopping and paying with your watch. According to Apple, this technology does not use your actual credit card number, opting instead for a unique account number that is encrypted, stored only in the Apple Watch and protected by a passcode. Apple says with this method, transaction details are not stored anywhere else, such as on Apple’s servers or in the cloud, and you never reveal your card number or security code to anyone.

Although the Apple Watch hardware will be pretty snazzy, it’ll be the apps from iOS developers that will determine the success of this device. The apps’ developers have been hard at work since November, when Apple announced the availability of WatchKit, the software that iOS designers have been using to develop apps. We’ll surely see third-party apps that’ll take full advantage of the Force Touch, Digital Crown and Taptic Engine features of the Apple Watch. Just a glance at your wrist will trigger notifications, alerts and information for things that you care about.

If you’re convinced by now and ready to make a selection, the Apple Watch will be available in three collections - the Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition, with the latter being the cream of the crop.

The Sport collection will have five colors (white, blue, green, pink, black) for the fluoroelastomer band and choices of silver and space gray for the case. There will be 10 different models of band and case combinations in this collection. When you open your wallet, you’ll need around $350 to bring the cheapest size home.

Moving on up, you might consider the Apple Watch Collection, which has the stainless steel case and a space black stainless steel case as options. Then you’ll choose among three leather bands, a link bracelet, a fully-magnetic Milanese loop or a fluoroelastomer band. There will be 20 different models in this collection and you’ll need add a few more bucks to reach around $550 to start thinking about putting one on your wrist.

Now for the grandness of them all with certainly the “wow factor” is the Apple Watch Edition, where Apple tells us each “case is crafted from 18-karat gold” and the display is “polished sapphire crystal.” You can even get a bright red buckle with a matching crown to dress it up further for bragging rights. If you have to know, the price will be right at $10,000 and up. I hope it holds the value over the years, because I think this more of an investment than a fad.

If you don’t want to stand in line, pre-orders start on April 10 and if you like long lines, be at the Apple Stores bright and early on April 24.

Apple will dangle almost 40 choices of the Apple Watch and is hoping for a lot of bites.

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Allstate unveils same-day digital claims payment service

I have some good news if you have a fender bender and happen to have insurance under The Allstate Corporation. Allstate has become the first U.S. company to use a digital payment system for claims.

The idea is to disburse payments quickly using an email address or mobile phone number to policyholders willing to be paid utilizing Allstate’s "Fast Mobile e-Payment" service. According to Allstate, this solution eliminates snail mail and lost checks and is faster than all electronic funds transfers and other existing methods.

"We are proud to be one of the first banks to offer this electronic business-to-consumer payment solution," says Bank of America Merrill Lynch Head of Global Payments Ather Williams. "Allstate and their customers may benefit greatly from the speed and convenience this solution provides."

To participate, customers have to agree to be paid by the Fast Mobile e-Payment service and Allstate will send their contact information to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. After confirmation and registration, the consumer will automatically receive payments into their account.

With this new service, the “You’re In Good Hands With Allstate” slogan is setting the standard for digital claims payments.

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Do you know patient portals exist for electronic health records?

Patient portals are becoming important tools for engagement and population health, but patients are largely unaware of the technology.

While patients are generally enthusiastic about viewing their EHR data and engaging with their providers online, a concerning number of patients are unaware of the possibilities of using a patient portal,finds a new survey from Xerox. Among the 64 percent of patients who are not portal users,35 percent did not know a portal was available to them, and 31 percent stated that their providers had never mentioned the technology to them. Despite the widespread lack of knowledge, 57 percent of non-users said they would be more engaged and more proactive in their own healthcare if they had access to their data online.

Read more here: Why Don’t 35% of Patients Know that Patient Portals Exist? |

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ready for this: Kapture will save the last 60 seconds of audio

I think I’m going to like the always-on recording technology that’s coming down the pikes, but I’m not so sure everyone else will wave at it, especially if you’re the one unknowingly being recorded.

That’s what Kapture has in mind with their wearable wristband technology that’ll save the last 60 seconds of anything you hear and deem worth saving.

A Cincinnati, Ohio, company has developed a wristband-like device that you simply tap when you hear something worth saving, which will send 60 seconds of the previous audio to your smartphone via Bluetooth. At the point, you can keep the audio file, or “klip,” for yourself or send along to someone else.

The question of privacy immediately comes to mind, as it is common knowledge that the other person should know on the front end they are being recorded. But the developers take on this issue is the Kapture device comes in several bright colors to be noticeable and an indicator light to signal that it’s on or off.

They also suggest “letting others around you know what’s going on.” Hopefully, the person being recorded will be thrilled they said something profound enough to be worth saving. I’m not sure that’ll be enough to satisfy everyone though.

As I see it, the Kapture wristband recorder can also be used for other tasks beside recording another person. It’ll be handy for practicing music, saving your own random ideas, business meetings notes and for us men, the infamous grocery list in your wife’s own voice. That alone would be priceless.

We’ll just have to wait and see how the Kapture device does in the marketplace after an anticipated debut during the month of December.

In the meantime, the Kapture device can be preordered for around $100 now, which is a savings of $50 for early birds who can hardly wait.

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

D-Link offers free Wi-Fi cameras giveaway to military families

On this Veterans Day, D-Link is offering free Wi-Fi cameras to military families who have a service member deployed.

The free cameras will be available during “Military Family Appreciation Month” and include a Day & Night Night Wi-Fi Camera and HD Wi-Fi Baby Camera.

According to D-Link, a leader in remote connectivity, the features of the cameras include a live video view of a house via a PC, smartphone or tablet. In addition to night vision up to 15-16 feet and sound and motion detection, the Baby Camera has two-way audio for listening and talking to a child. D-Link hopes these features will provide peace of mind for service personnel based anywhere in the the world.

"We all owe our military families a debt of gratitude for their selflessness and service," said Daniel Kelley, vice president of marketing, D-Link Systems, Inc. "In honor of Military Family Appreciation Month, we're pleased to offer these cameras to military families, allowing mothers, fathers, pet parents, and homeowners to keep an eye on what's happening at home, no matter where they are serving."

To participate, families must submit their story on how they would use the devices, which will allow them to be entered to win one of the 50 cameras. The giveaway is also open to friends of military families, who also are encouraged to to enter on their behalf. Hats off to D-Link for thinking of military families on Veterans Day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple unveils iPhone 6 devices with mobile payments technology

Apple appears to have done it again with the debut of the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. With much fanfare Apple kept the "wow factor" going with the seventh generation of the iPhones that will be available with a 4.7-inch display for the iPhone 6 and 5.5 inches for the Plus model.

Apple is calling the new iPhones the "biggest advance in the iPhone design since the original iPhone," which was introduced in in 2007.

The specifications for the iPhone 6 has been leaked to the hilt over the past several months and there wasn't much left for Apple to announce. But it's just good to get a look at the new, larger iPhone with rounded corners and many new features like an A8 processor with 64-bit architecture, M8 Motion Processor and a new health app. The A8 chip is smaller then previous processors, but also faster with better graphics.

The camera for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is now 8MB and seems to protrude a little from the backside. It also has Autofocus with Focus Pixels, more advanced video capabilities and a new time-lapsed mode. The Plus model comes with Optical Image Stabilization.

Perhaps the biggest news of all and something that Apple fans have been waiting for is the inclusion of the Near Field Communications, or NFC, technology. According to Apple, when shopping and it's time to pay, you'll just hold your iPhone near the retailer's contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID" for a one-touch experience. The merchandise can be charged to one of several participating banks, such as American Express, Bank of America, Chase and Capitol One.

The NFC technology has been around in Android devices and certain other smartphones for a few years, but has failed to gain much traction in the retail arena. Maybe the new iPhones with the Apple Pay feature will bring some much-needed life to mobile payments.

Among the many unique features that the Touch ID sensor will offer, the one that caught my attention is the ability to approve purchases from iTunes, iBook and the App store without having to enter your password. Just a press of the finger will get the job done. To that, I say "hallelujah," as I have too many passwords to remember.

The new iPhones are designed to work seamlessly with your Mac by using iOS 8 and the Mac's OS X Yosemite. The Handoff feature will allow users to share file in Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers and other applications. You'll also be able to answer calls on your Mac or iPad and send video or text messages from any iOS device.

Apple had bragged about the previous iPhone 5 being the world's thinnest phone at 0.30 inches in depth and the iPhone 6 can keep the bragging rights by showing up at only 0.27 inches thick. So it looks like the Samsung Galaxy line of S devices, such as the Galaxy S5, with a thickness of 0.32 inches, will have to keep a back seat for a while longer in the slim competition. As for the weigh-in, the iPhone 6 wins again at only just over 4.5 ounces, while the Galaxy S5 could only slim down to 5.11 ounces.

I'm sure no one is surprised that the Dr. Dre line of Beats headphones are available as accessories for the new iphones. You'll be able to choose from Over-Ear headphones, a Dr. Pill XL Speaker and Powerbeats In-Ear headphones. A couple of specially designed leather and silicone cases are available.

As expected, the iPhone 5 will run on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile with VoLTE support. C Spire has also announced that it well offer both models when available. Some carriers are offering a free iPhone 6 if customers sign a new two-year contract.

The iPhone 6 will come in a silver, gold and space-gray combinations and will be available on Sept. 19 for $199 for 16GB, $299 for 64GB and $399 for 128GB.The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 for the 16GB version and tops out at $499 for the 128GB option. Pre-orders will start on Sept. 12. Bargain hunters might consider the previous iPhone 5S, which now moves down to $99 and the iPhone 5C will be free.

All of the new features in these iPhones, such as the enhanced Touch ID Sensor, health and fitness tracker and Apple Pay will be enough to keep you standing in line at the Apple stores.

Time will tell if Apple has a couple of champions in their corner with the larger iPhone 6 devices. I'll call it early; they are winners.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Favorite apps include crowdsourcing, databases, passwords keeper

I have over 100 apps installed on my iPhone and I think they’re all important.

They all caught my attention in the iTunes App Store, but there are several core apps that I think I can’t live without. I use these day in and day out.

eWallet: If you’re anything like me, you have a gazillion passwords, usernames, account numbers and the list goes on and on. I depend on eWallet to help me remember all these, which means I only have to remember only one password instead of a hundred. Everything can be backed up to the cloud or synchronized with your computer. The eWallet password manager is my buddy and resides on my iPhone's homescreen.

HanDBase: I always been a fan of databases and have extensive experience with the desktop versions of Filemaker Pro and Microsoft Access. For my mobile database, I choose HanDBase, where you can build custom fields and queries to organize just about anything. I have databases on books, movies, medical records and anything else I might dream up. I’m in and out of HanDBase several times a day.

MileBug: I do a lot of running around for charitable purposes that need to be included on my tax forms. I use Milebug to record my trips and mileage and compile a detailed report at the end of the year. MileBug makes it easy by including fields for starting and ending mileage, which vehicle was used, trip purpose and then calculates total miles and cost estimate. MileBug is my year-end tax buddy.

Clear: For grocery lists and any other kind of “do this” list, Clear is my choice because of its simplicity and ease of use. Just enter it, complete it and swipe it off. That’s about as simple as it can get for list management. I'm sure if you try it, you’ll like it.

Waze: I really like Waze for traffic reports. This is a genius of idea and that is executed well in GPS fashion. In a nutshell, you open this app before starting your commute to see if other nearby Wazers are reporting accidents, road hazards or traffic jams. And of course, I report any accidents or hazards I come across for other drivers. Waze has become my navigation companion, with accurate maps and timely traffic reports.

Merriam-Webster: Since I write quite often, I’m constantly using the Merriam-Webster dictionary app to make sure my articles are error free. Although most word processing programs have built-in spell checker, I still find myself accessing this app for synonyms and tricky words that spell check might not catch. I also use it for composing emails and social media posts. This is another one of my go-to apps several times a day.

I like social media and I check them all – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others – with an element of being surprised every day. For saving notes, Evernote does a fine job. I’m also a newshound and depend on Ap Mobile and USA Today apps for breaking national news stories. But my core apps that are mentioned above get most of my attention.

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter | LifeFlicks' National and World news