The hype around new cryptocurrencies — particularly Bitcoin — has died down somewhat in recent months. However, rather than being the result of a falling out of fashion, it may be because Bitcoin has kept its market price fairly steady since the beginning of the year. It's also gaining traction as a digital tipping option, with platforms such as Cheers enabling buskers to accept the virtual currency. Now ChangeTip wants to encourage web users to show their appreciation for online content by sending a small Bitcoin donation with a comment tag.
At it's simplest, ChangeTip is a way for anyone to reward those who make great content with a small monetary contribution, rather than an arbitrary thumbs up. The startup's system uses web crawlers to search for mentions of the tag @ChangeTip on popular sites such as YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, GitHub and more. When someone uses the tag in a comment or on social media, along with a donation amount and the creator's account name, the system automatically initiates the transaction between each user's Bitcoin wallet.
Small donations made through other means often get cancelled out because services typically charge a minimum fee for the transaction, and even more when exchanging money across national borders. The service uses Bitcoin because — unlike other currencies — there is no transaction fee and it can easily be exchanged with any other currency. ChangeTip users can make their tip in the currency they want and the amount is automatically transposed into Bitcoin. Recipients can either use the Bitcoin as is, or turn it into the currency they use.
ChangeTip also allows tippers to use quirky monikers for set amounts to make the act of giving more fun. For example, a comment that reads '@User, have a cookie @ChangeTip' will send USD 1.50, while the offer of a 'high five' translates as a USD 5 donation.
Watch the video below to learn more about the service:
ChangeTip aims to turn web users' appreciation for free content into monetary rewards for creators, so they can support their favorite artists. Are there other ways to help consumers more easily compensate those who make the web what it is?
Smart lightbulbs aren't a new concept — we wrote about the smartphone controlled NXP system back in 2011 — but so far, they've mostly been limited to the task of illuminating a space. Recognizing that smart capabilities can enable devices to do much more than their original function, LightFreq has created a bulb that offers intelligent audio features on top of smartphone-controlled lighting.
Currently seeking funding via Kickstarter, the LightFreq device is no larger than the average incandescent lightbulb, yet includes a built-in high definition 5W speaker and Bluetooth and wifi connectivity. Along with standard smart bulb features such as remote control, timer functions and color-changing capabilities, the device can also stream music into any room in the house. Users can choose where they want the music to play through the app, which allows them to name each LightFreq according to the room it's in and selecting it. Alternatively, the bulbs can be set to track the location of mobile devices in the house, so that the audio follows users as they move from room to room. With more than one LightFreq bulb installed, the devices can be used as an intercom system since each bulb also has a built-in mic.
Watch the video below to learn more about the smart lightbulb:
LightFreq fits into any standard light fitting and is currently available to pre-order through Kickstarter for USD 70 each. The campaign runs until 4 September. Are there other ways to combine intelligent home functions into a single device?
Apps such as Uber, Caarbon and Paris Picnic are all part of a trend to deliver services on demand, offering speedy taxi, valet and impromptu meals at the tap of a button. Following in their footsteps, Bannerman is a San Francisco-based service that provides professional private security for any event or venue at short notice.
Using the startup's site or free iOS app, customers simply select the date, time and location they'd like to hire some extra security. Users also indicate the type of booking — whether they need someone to protect an empty home, act as a bouncer on the door of a bar or private party, or if they just need some security for a commercial venue. Bannerman relies on a pool of working professionals, many of whom are former military personnel. Each worker has passed background checks by the FBI. Venues and event organizers simply pay by credit card through the app and a guard or team can arrive within 30 minutes. Bannerman charges a USD 35 per-hour, per-guard flat rate, which is payable after the event.
The service provides a way for anyone to get high-level, reliable security in the event that a situation requires it suddenly or without notice. Are there other parts of the service sector that could be disrupted with mobile-enabled, super-quick turnarounds such as this?
Airports are confusing places at the best of times, but to navigate them with a visual impairment can be a trial for many blind people. To make the experience of flying more enjoyable for those with sight difficulties, indoor mapping firm indoo.rs has now installed its beacon technology at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), delivering location-sensitive, voice-based directions via smartphones.
Some 300 of the beacons — which behave in a similar way to Apple's iBeacon technology — have been placed at various points of interest around Terminal 2 at the airport, including stores, restrooms, boarding gates, baggage claim and even power outlets. When the indoo.rs app is downloaded, the beacons use triangulation to determine exactly where the passenger is within the vicinity. If they want to know what's around them, they can use the app to relay nearby facilities using Voiceover technology. If they're looking for something in particular, they can get directions to help them navigate the space.
Watch the video below to learn more about the project:
The scheme follows in the footsteps of Navatar, a scheme out of the University of Nevada, Reno that attempts to achieve a similar outcome using camera technology. SFO says that, although the pilot scheme has had a focus on accessibility, it eventually wants to the app to work for anyone wanting to get around the airport. It's even looking at language translation options for foreign passengers. Could this technology work in other types of venues to help both the blind and non-blind with navigation?
When the power goes out, it can often be a hectic rummage around in the dark to find a flashlight — that's if you can even remember where it is. While we've already seen the Bulb Flashlight turn into a convenient battery-powered torch when it's unscrewed, Trioh is a stylishly designed device that serves as both a wireless desk lamp and a flashlight that's always on hand.
The device is an upright lamp that differs from your standard desktop lighting in that it features a dock, making it wireless and portable. When it's on the dock, the lamp is powered by mains and is able to charge, ready for power cuts that render mains electricity unavailable. In the event of an outage at night, the lamp automatically switches on for 15 minutes so residents can still find their way around. The lamp is designed so that it can simply be picked up from the dock and held like a flashlight. By twisting the end, the ambient light becomes a focused beam. Trioh has a third function — as its name suggests — which is that it can also act as a dinner table accent light when removed from the dock.
Watch the video below to see Trioh in action:
Trioh is available to buy for USD 79 following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Are there other ways to make everyday devices more useful in an emergency?
Eco-minded consumers are increasingly looking to reduce the 'dirty' energy used in their home. In the past, marketplaces like the Netherlands' Vandebron have handed control over to consumers by letting them decide how local and green they want their energy to be, and choose their own suppliers. But now Ohmconnnect is taking a different route by notifying customers of the best times to reduce energy use and offers cash rewards for doing so.
Unfortunately for consumers concerned about their environmental impact, all major energy companies use a multitude of different sources to power their customers' homes. While these businesses typically publish a fuel mix ratio, consumers can never know exactly where their energy is coming from at any given time — except when peaker plants come into effect. These plants are typically used between once and three times a week in the case that energy consumption in a particular location peaks above the predicted amount allocated for the region. The plants can quickly generate and distribute energy, but they're often expensive to operate and use fossil fuels inefficiently.
By monitoring energy use across the US, Ohmconnect can detect when and where peak energy periods take place, something it calls #OhmHour. Those downloading the app receive alerts whenever a peaker plant near them becomes active. The app can be linked with popular devices such as Nest and the Tesla Smart House system so users can automatically reduce their home energy when an alert is sent out and the company can detect the drop. Alternatively, they can manually turn off energy-sucking appliances and Ohmconnect will detect reductions through smart meters located in 95 percent of homes served by PG&E. Users gain points whenever they save energy during #OhmHour, which can be converted into cash when they meet the required threshold. The app also offers a detailed breakdown of energy use for each user.
Ohmconnect makes its money from selling this saved energy — essentially generated energy that's gone unused — back to the energy market. By doing so, dirty energy consumption is reduced and consumers get a share of the reward. Are there ways that utilities companies could use big data in a similar way to help reduce bills for their customers?
The benefits don’t stop there though: Studies reveal correlations between worksite wellness programs and performance!
But, what’s the best part about wellness?
It can be scaled: From gym memberships to health-oriented email tips to on-site fitness facilities and personal health coaching, programs can be successful with any level of resources. Some businesses claim cost is the only barrier to creating a wellness program, but others tout reduction in health costs as a top reason to create and sustain a successful program.
Need help getting started?
Think about company culture and consider what your focus should be.
Quick ideas to get you started:
• Tobacco-free incentives
• Cancer prevention screenings and education
• Health plans with incentives for regular wellness visits
• Free or low-cost healthy vending-machine and cafeteria choices
• Business or departmental health challenge with enticing incentives, such as vacation getaways, additional paid leave or free groceries
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.
To-do apps are a popular way to ensure that our increasingly busy lives stay organized, but they can become so sprawlingly as to actually take up time themselves. We recently wrote about Timeful, which uses smart suggestions to help users plan their day more effectively, and now x.ai is a service that enables busy people to task an AI personal assistant to deal with the tedious back and forth involved in organizing a meeting.
Many people will be familiar with the difficulty of arranging a time and place that’s good for both or all parties wanting to have a get-together. With x.ai, anyone can hand over the boring task of negotiating the details when a colleague requests a meeting. Users simply reply to the original message while CCing in the email address of ‘Amy’ — email@example.com — making sure to include a Siri-style request such as ‘Amy, please find a time for me to meet with [colleague] on Wednesday’. Amy uses information from the user’s calendar to find a time slot and location that matches the request and creates an email in natural language as a proposition to the colleague.
Amy also takes into account preset preferences such as Skype and Google Hangout availability and favored locations when negotiating with other parties. For example, if the colleague asks to meet at their office, Amy will politely ask if there’s a chance it could take place at the user’s office instead. The emails continue back and forth until an agreement is met. Amy then sends a meeting invitation to both parties that they can add to their calendar.
x.ai is capable of arranging meetings between up to 5 people, and also works if the other party uses the service. In this case, there isn’t even any dialogue and the arrangement is automatically worked out according to the calendars of each user. Multiple calendars can be added — both business and personal — to ensure meetings don’t eat into leisure time. Customers can even change the name of the assistant if they don’t like Amy.
Watch the video below to see a demo of the service from the 2014 NY Enterprise Technology Meetup in July:
x.ai requires no installation — simply email the address to get set up — and is currently free to use, although the team say a subscription fee may be added at some point in the future. Are there other ways to leverage AI to do some of the more menial human tasks?
Most cinema showings come with a warning for the audience to turn off their devices because most people prefer to watch the movie in peace without getting distracted by others texting. However, we have already seen the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island offer free seats at the back of the stage show auditorium for those who agree to live tweet the event, and now some Chinese theaters have introduced cinema texting, where viewers’ comments can be sent directly to the screen for everyone else to see.
According to The Nanfang, cinemas in Beijing and Shanghai have already begun to experiment with the system with the release of a new animated film called The Legend of Qin. The audience is encouraged to broadcast their thoughts about the action on screen or the movie in general by texting them to a special number given out before the showing. The comments are then projected live in a streaming motion either on top of the movie or on an adjacent screen.
Shen Leping, the director of The Legend of Qin, said: “We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself… We are, in fact, putting the director and viewer on equal terms and I think many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for film makers.” The innovation is based on a type of internet video chat called danmu, or ‘bullet screen’, a Japanese phenomenon that has become popular among the teen demographic in recent years.
Watch the video below to see an example of danmu video:
Although it may seem annoying to the large part of cinemagoers, the system takes elements directly from the web to the big screen in order to capture the youth market who actively demand a level of interaction with their entertainment. Are there other web phenomena that could be translated to the real world?
Driving while sleepy can be just as dangerous as drink driving, and yet there isn’t currently a way to test for tiredness in the event of a crash. Marketing campaigns such as Drive Awake have used facial recognition to detect if drivers are falling asleep, but required drivers to take it upon themselves to install the app. Spain’s Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia (IBV) has now created the Harken project, which places sensors into seatbelts and car seats to track drivers’ alertness.
The system uses smart textiles embedded with sensors to monitor the key indicators of the driver’s sleepiness. Connected to a signal processing unit that filters out the motion of the car from the data, the seatbelt features a heartrate monitor while the fabric covering the seat can detect breathing rate. When the user begins to become fatigued, the heartrate drops and breathing becomes heavier. When they drop below a certain threshold, an alarm is triggered to wake up the driver.
Watch the video below to learn more about the project:
The team has successfully trialled the system on a closed track test and aims to work with manufacturers to include the system as standard in vehicles. Are there other ways to use sensor technology to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road?