Summer Safety Wearable Tech

By Chantal Bechervaise

Whether you are planning on going on a family vacation somewhere or enjoying a staycation this summer, these cool wearable tech gadgets can help to protect your family while playing outdoors and having fun.

iSwimband™

Even with proper supervision around water, tragic accidents can unfortunately happen.  iSwimband™ was developed by three fathers after a neighborhood boy drowned at a town park (with many people around, including lifeguards).

iSwimband-girl200iSwimband™ is a small, low power wireless sensor that is worn either as a headband or a wristband. The sensor is paired with a compatible Bluetooth-enabled smart device running the free iSwimband app. When both the sensor and app are activated, the app continually monitors the status of the sensor. If the app determines that the sensor has been submerged into water (not simply wet), or submerged for a (user-adjustable) dangerous period of time (typically 20s-30s), it notifies the caregiver via audiovisual alerts before the event can turn tragic.

The app is available for iOS (Apple) and in the Google Play store. It has a built-in battery that is not replaceable at the moment but it does have a low battery indicator.

Cost: $59.99 for one or you can purchase a twin pack for $79.99 (https://www.iswimband.com/Products/)

SunFriend

I am fortunate to have a skin complexion that does not burn too easily but I have many pale skinned, freckled friends that seem to burn as soon as they step outdoors.  Sunscreen is important all year round but there are times when you when to head outside for a little bit to absorb some vitamin D. This device helps you get a small, safe amount of sun exposure, without sunscreen, and then it flashes when you’ve had enough.

SunFriend is worn on the wrist and comes in a choice of fun, bright colors. After turning it on, you simply set it to your skin’s sensitivity on a scale of one to 11, with one being the most sensitive to the sun. The directions recommend starting in the one-to-four range, and then adjusting up as you become more familiar with your skin’s tolerance for the sun.

Simply wear the SunFriend face up on your wrist but make sure it is not unobscured by clothing. When the lights on the dial flash all the way around, that’s the indication that you’ve had enough sun. At that point, you’re supposed to cover up with sun block or clothes, or just get out of the sun.

The SunFriend is waterproof and has a built-in cell battery which cannot be replaced.

Cost: $49.99 on the SunFriend site (http://sunfriend.com/collections/products). It can also be purchased through Amazon, Best Buy and a few other retailers.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Top 10 Apps for the Business Traveler

By Michael Connolly

Not to age myself, but when I first traveled for business, I had to find a pay phone to call the airline and confirm that the flight was on time.  While I somehow got from point A to B, I have never had more fun traveling for business than today. The apps I use know me better than I know them. Below are my top 10:

1Password:

What!? My boarding pass doesn’t have my frequent flyer number? I just got an email that my credit card bill is due tomorrow. My wife is calling asking what our AAA number is. My daughter forgot the Apple ID and password. With the 1Password app, I can store all my passwords in one app and take care of tasks while standing online at security. Of course you don’t want to have the same password for everything but good luck remembering all of them. That’s why this app is great, especially while on the road.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows


Pocket

There are apps that have cracked my top 10 not based on productivity as much as based on enhancement of the business travel experience. Pocket stores articles for offline use. I actually smile when the flight attendant tells everyone to turn their devices onto airplane mode. Then I know it’s time to catch up on all of the articles I’ve saved on Pocket. It becomes like a customized newspaper that I enjoy creating, then reading.

Platform: iOS, Android


GateGuru

This app will tell you everything about the terminal you are in, security wait times, flight delays, gate changes or layover time adjustments. Last week in Cleveland, GateGuru told me that there is a Chic-Fil-A in between terminal A and B. Thank you!

Platform: iOS, Android


Tripit

This is my go to for a central portal for flight itineraries. You book a flight and send the confirmation email to Tripit. The app organizes and presents the itinerary in a very readable way. The concept of forwarding an email to Tripit makes this an essential app to have.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows


Life360

Life360 tracks anyone you choose (with their consent) on a map. I have my family on there and see each of their icons on the map, which shows where they are by their phone location. No more “Honey, when will you be home?” Just look at the app. “When are the in-laws coming over?” Look at the app. As a business traveler, there are times that I may be delayed or tied up and Life360 allows my family to know where I am at all times. We have never used it in an emergency but I can imagine how useful it would be if the need arose.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows


Waze

This crowdsourcing app shows real time traffic and route suggestions. The first time I heard it say “Caution, car on shoulder in 10 feet” I thought a helicopter was following me from above. The perfect app for auto travel, particularly in lesser known cities. It has reduced the stress of just renting a car and hoping to get to my meeting on time.

Platform: iOS, Android


Business Insider

Of the hundreds of news apps, I really like the journalism associated with Business Insider.  I find myself referring to articles during small talk with clients. The articles feed you with interesting facts that are useful for people who work in a variety of industries.  It is my go to for “food for thought” information.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows


Nest

Why would a business traveler put Nest in their top 10? Do you remember winter? Nest remotely controls your home’s thermostat. I remember that one Thursday in January when I got home late and the house was nice and warm. That’s because as soon as I landed at LGA, I set the thermostat to 70 degrees. Enough said!

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows


Google

Google? Yes. What about the weather app? WatchESPN? Don’t you want to know how the market is doing? Once I clicked on Google, all that information was there! Like 15 apps worth of information customized to my needs. A one stop shop for travel, weather, sports and anything else that I need. It proactively lists all my interests. One time it showed a sale on running shoes (I guess it saw me shop the other day).

Platform: Android


DH Texas Hold’em

Once you are up to date on news, traffic, flights and weather, what is a business traveler to do? This app rounds out my top 10 for the joy it brings during a delayed flight. While we were stuck on a runway with some people moaning and some shouting, I was in a conversation with people from Indonesia, Russia and Italy. We were all sitting around a table playing a friendly game of poker (no real money). By the time I looked up, the person in the best mood on that delayed flight was…. me!

Platform: Android


Do you have a favorite travel app for business? Share it with us here!

Smartphone Tips and Tricks

By Tracey Dowdy

If you’ve owned a smartphone for more than 5 minutes, you may get the distinct impression that your device is indeed smarter than you are. These tips and trick can help you customize and make the most of your phone and maybe even give you back a little dignity, although we can’t do anything about your behavior at the office Christmas party; you’re on your own there!

Android Phones

Android is by far the most popular OS, with over 3 billion users worldwide and offering considerably more options for customization than iOS (iPhone). From audio settings to accessibility, wallpaper to widgets, Android devices are a lot of fun to play with.

Manage your data. Unless your plan includes unlimited data, you’re going to want to keep track of how much data you’re using each month. Click Settings>Data Usage and an easy-to-read graph is displayed allowing you to keep track over time. You can see which apps use the most data and set a limit so your usage doesn’t exceed your plan.

Customize your lock screen security. Android offers several options for locking and unlocking your phone.  Go to Settings > Security and then choose from None, Slide, Face Unlock, Pattern, PIN, and Password. Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 smartphones raise the security stakes even higher with fingerprint scanners.

Add widgets to your lock screen. Widgets make it easy to get weather or email updates without ever opening the phone. They’re easy to install directly from the Google Play store and most are free. Once added, simply swipe left from your lock screen to access. (Android 4.2 or later)

Create folders. I love folders. On my desk, on my desktop, on my phone…everything is in its place. Android lets you clean up your screen by dropping apps into folders simply by dragging one app on top of another. This creates a folder you can name and on some devices even color code. Drag and drop additional apps into the folder to clear your Home screen and keep similar apps in one location.

Swipe gesture typing. Many devices include swipe gesture typing but if not you can download the Google Keyboard or a third party alternative like SwiftKey for free from the Play store. It takes getting used to but once you master it you’ll find it’s faster and easier than tapping out letters. Swipe gesture typing works by dragging your finger across the keyboard to the letters without taking your finger off the screen. The device intuitively determines the words you’re attempting to spell and the more you use it, the better it gets.

Opt in to Google Now. Google Now was included in Android 4.1 and is Android’s answer to Siri. To see if you have it but haven’t opted in, simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen. Unlike Siri, Google Now is constantly working in the background, staying one step ahead of you making your smart phone even smarter. It can be accessed via voice control from your home screen to provide alerts, reminders, dictate a text or email, get directions, have it read your schedule or latest message, and search for facts.

iPhones

The iPhone interface is much less customizable than Android devices but there are plenty of hidden features worth playing around with. You can set custom ringtones for friends or switch your phone to Airplane mode so it charges faster, or take photos in Burst mode to snap several shots in rapid succession.

Make full use of your earbuds. To the uninformed they may appear to be simple headphones, but they also function as a very handy remote control. By using the toggle button your headphones can pause, play, fast forward, rewind or skip music, or even jump back to the previous song. While on the phone, the toggle button allows you to answer calls, hang up or send a call to voice mail, or even toggle between two active calls. Finally, hold the toggle button down to control the shutter release on your camera and the volume up button to snap a photo.

Monitor data usage. As with Android devices, monitoring data usage and which apps use the most data is important. Go to Settings > Cellular to disable cellular data usage for any installed apps. This way you can decide which get to use cellular data, and which apps can load only over Wi-Fi.

Use iMessage while travelling. One of the best features of iMessage (iPhone to iPhone) is that you can still use this feature while travelling overseas even if you don’t have a data plan as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. Go to Settings > Messages, make sure Send as SMS is disabled and that iMessage is enabled.

Keyboard Shortcuts. By long-pressing on the keyboard, an entirely new set of characters and symbols appear onscreen. For example, hold down the letter “A” and eight different accented A’s appear, likewise for other vowels. Hold down the “-“ key and em and en dashes appear and holding down the zero key allows you to insert a degree symbol.

Increase battery life. There are two quick ways users can boost battery life. First is by limiting Spotlight search, a great feature for indexing but one that requires constant scanning of data for new information. Go to Settings > General > Spotlight and uncheck the items you don’t necessarily need indexed. This second option also protects your privacy, something we should all be more aware of.  System Services allows Apple to know where your phone is at all times. Go to Settings > Privacy > System Services to switch off the option and give your battery usage a boost at the same time.

Better Touch ID results. Sometimes Touch ID seems to struggle to identify your fingers. To improve recognition, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Add a fingerprint. Add the same fingerprint several times thus allowing Touch ID to have more information about the fingerprint and increasing recognition which results in a faster scan.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Getting the Most Out of Apple Music

By Chantal Bechervaise

Apple’s streaming music service, Apple Music, arrived Tuesday. It is Apple’s long-awaited response to other streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora. Apple Music is available for download via the iOS 8.4 update for mobile devices and it’s also available for your desktop (Mac or Windows).

After you download Apple Music and open it for the first time, you will be asked if you want to go with the three-month free trial offer or jump right into your own music. If you say ‘yes’ to the trial offer, you will automatically be billed $9.99 per month after the trial expires. You can avoid the automatic billing by going to your Apple account settings and turning off the auto-renewal feature.

For You

When you first log in, Apple Music will ask you for your music preferences and tastes. You simply select different genres from the bubbles on the screen. It will also scan your music library to see your preferred artists. After this is complete, the For You tab will recommend some custom playlists. You can further refine what For You recommends by tapping on the heart when listening to music. This will enhance your personal algorithm and will continue to improve the playlists and other content that’s presented.

New

This section offers the latest and most popular albums and songs. The default screen offers weekly selections from each musical genre chosen by Apple editors. You can also click on ‘Hot Tracks,’ ‘Recent Releases’ and ‘Top Songs’ across all different styles of music and narrow down the results by selecting different genres. The New tab also offer playlists curated by Apple editors such as ‘BBQing,’ ‘Breaking Up,’ ‘Studying’ or ‘Partying.’

Beats 1 Radio 

Beats 1 Radio is probably one of the most interesting features of Apple Music. It offers Sirius XM type radio stations, which makes it stand out compared to some of its streaming competitors. Beats 1 offers shows by Zane Lowe, Dr. Dre, Elton John, Pharrell Williams, Drake, Q-Tip, St. Vincent, Ellie Goulding, Jaden Smith and others. The downside to these radio-style stations is that they are not available on demand so you have to listen to them live.

If you don’t want to listen to stations with live DJs, then you can scroll past the Beats 1 section and select from a variety of music stations organized by genre. Or you can ask Siri to play the top 50 songs from the year 2000 or any other playlist and your music will start playing automatically.

Connect

Another interesting Apple Music feature is called Connect. It’s a social platform that allows artists to interact with their fans by posting content and comments. By default, you automatically follow artists that are in your music library and are also on Connect. This new feature will continue to be free after the trial period. It will be interesting to see how Connect grows, particularly as lots of artists already have large followings on other social networks.

Have you tried Apple Music? I would love to hear your thoughts and impressions. Please leave a comment below.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

7 Apps for Foodies

By Tracey Dowdy

Although I love to cook, have a big kitchen with lots of gadgets and a family that will eat pretty much anything, there are days I just don’t feel like making dinner. That’s when I turn to apps like Open Table, Yelp, or Urban Spoon to help me decide if we’re having pad thai or tacos.

Self-proclaimed foodies have been making use of these web sites and apps for years, taking advantage of both the insight and convenience of customizing and streamlining your dining experience. We’re creatures of habit and though Open Table and Yelp have been my default apps for a while, there are new kids on the block that offer even more than my old-standbys.

Vurb

vurbVurb brings together apps like Foursquare, Yelp, Fandango and Uber into one place, so planning a night out has never been easier. Search for a restaurant, make reservations, book a ride, and buy your movie tickets without having to leave the app. Information is presented in cards, so users can create “Decks” of their favorites to create a perfect date night or a list of favorite sushi restaurants. Use the in-app chat to share Decks and plans with friends.

Platform: iOS, coming soon for Android
Cost: Free


Reserve

reserveReserve calls itself an upscale “digital concierge service.” Simply tell the app the date and time you’d like and Reserve searches for options. Once you’ve made your choice, the app sets up the reservation for you. Reserve goes a step beyond Open Table by allowing you to set preferences and offering alternatives if your first choice is fully booked. Recommendations include menus, maps, and reservation status. It’s one-stop shopping: set your preference, make your reservation, and pay your bill, all from within the app. Users should note there is a $5 concierge fee for any-sized party but the fee is waived if the reservation is cancelled.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Chefs Feed

chefs-feedChefs Feed is an app, web site and YouTube channel offering restaurant reviews from over 1,000 chefs in more than 25 cities. Chefs like Amanda Freitag, judge on Food Network’s “Chopped,” and Alexandra Guarnaschelli, host of “Alex’s Day Off,” make suggestions and offer tips with a goal of being the anti-Yelp. Think less angry ranting by customers and more balanced commentary on menu and atmosphere. Chefs see offering their input as placing their reputations on the line, so it’s not just a way to promote their friends’ restaurants or promoting their own brand.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Find. Eat. Drink.

find-eat-drinkFind. Eat. Drink. offers recommendations on 5,000 destinations in over 200 cities and towns from 700 professional chefs, bartenders, sommeliers and food artisans. That’s a lot of options. Users can read the experts bios to see who lines up with personal style and taste preferences and then create customized lists of those favorites. The app covers the U.S., Mexico and parts of the Caribbean.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


DiningGrades

dining-gradesDiningGrades is a little different from other restaurant apps in that ratings are based on cleanliness instead of menu and ambience. Grades are generated by users and are based on cleanliness, satisfaction, and whether or not users would recommend the restaurant to others. Once you’ve made your selection, you can make reservations from within the app and after the meal users have the opportunity to post their own review. Interestingly, the app was created by an ER doctor who saw first-hand the results of eating food prepared in dirty kitchens.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


EAT24

eat24EAT24 is the “I don’t want to cook but I don’t want to put on pants either” app of your dreams. Search by location, cuisine, restaurant or even specific dishes to order take out from 20,000 restaurants in over1, 500 cities. The app is linked to Yelp, so users can read reviews, browse photos, pay with Google Wallet or PayPal, earn cash back, and have coupons sent directly. Use “My Menu” to create a list of your favorite restaurants and meals, so you never have to wonder what restaurant had those amazing fish tacos or who has the best cheesecake. Best of all, once the order is in, Eat24 takes care of the rest. Their 24 Hours Live Support allows users to talk to someone one-on-one if the driver is late or the order is wrong.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Hello Vino

hello-vinoMany wine apps are created by experts for experts but Hello Vino bills itself as a wine app for the rest of us. Tell the app what you’re eating, if you want a white or a red, fruity or bold and you’ll get recommendations for the perfect pairing using wine-searcher.com’s database of over six million wines.  Snap a photo of the label while you’re browsing and the app will provide tasting notes, rate and share your favorite bottles via social media, speak to an on-call wine expert, get insider deals, access their online wine guide and get suggestions on wine-based gift ideas.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.