CES 2015 Video: Hyundai ‘Blue Link’ app

Picture this: you’ve just left work into the cold darkness and can’t wait to get into your warm car. You walk into the busy car park and it hits you – you can’t for the life of you remember where you parked. What if, in true James Bond style, you could pull back your sleeve, hit a button on your smartwatch and have your car flash its headlights and illuminate itself in the darkness? This sort of life-saving idea is that Hyundai are aiming to achieve in their new Blue Link smartwatch and smartphone app. The app will allow you to have your car flash its headlights, unlock and lock its doors, and beep its horn among other features, all remotely and securely. Check out the video above to see a demonstration of the app in action.

The Blue Link app is available now for use with compatible Hyundai vehicles. Visit Hyundai to find out more.

 

 

EE and Vodafone jump the gates in providing easy travel payments

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Mobile providers are rushing to offer contactless payment for TFL when it is launched on the 16th of September on the London Underground system. Contactless payment cards are debit, credit, charge or pre-paid cards that can be used to make quick, easy and secure payments for everyday purchases under £20. There is no need for a PIN or a signature, just touch your card on contactless card reader and off you go!

Bus network TFL is soon launching the contactless payment scheme on London’s Tube, DLR and Overground public transport systems. Methods of payment will include most of UK’s cards (for the full list go to TFL), Vodafone and EE Cash on Tap. EE has a daily and weekly cap that ensure you do not pay more than you would using an Oyster card. Introduction of contactless payment will allow travellers to pay for their bus and train fares quickly and easily, reducing queues and the likelihood of missing trains and buses – a common fear in the Underground.

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Universal contcactless card symbol – if your card features a similar symbol, you can use contactless payment

 

It is a great tool for users of London’s transport links but not only them – I personally travel to London every 3 months and I have an Oyster card which allows me to avoid queuing time when I get off the train and on to the Tube. My main issue being I always lose my Oyster card the night before leaving! With contactless and Mobile provider payment I just need to take my card and phone and I can travel freely. Additionally I always run out of money on my Oyster card when it is rush hour. Nothing is more terrifying than an angry Londoner stuck behind someone who has run out of credit on their Oyster card and cannot travel. What is also frustrating is queuing for 10 minutes just to find your Oyster card has run out of credit – these new systems will aim to overcome these misfortunes.

If you like to keep your London travelling a pain-free experience, I recommend you check out these network provider apps and try contactless payment – the latter being useful for morning coffees to enjoy on your commute.

Scalextric RCS – there’s an app for that…

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Surely one of the defining toys of its generation, Scalextric has modernised itself for the smartphone age with the new Scalextric RCS set, the first slot car Race Control System that allows you to wirelessly manage races through an app installed on your smartphone or tablet. With remote control over everything from race type, driver names and laps to fuel, tyre wear and in-race damage, it’s the most realistic revision of the hobbyists classic to date, and even allows you to post race stats to Facebook or Twitter to compare results with friends.

The basic units, which consist of hand throttles and a Powerbase, will be fine to use provided you have a dusty old collection of cars and track pieces in an attic somewhere. These come in three guises – the entry-level RCS One, which retails for £40 and features wired controls for up to two cars at a time, the RCS Air, which costs £60 and drops the cables for full wireless action, and the top-of-the-line digital RCS Pro, which allows up to six cars racing at once and lane changing, though will set you back £100 and since it’s digital, will need digital cars or at least digital chips fitted to them. Complete sets are also available at £100 for the RCS One, rising to a whopping £500 for the six-car Pro. There are also varying differences in app functionality between the three models, particularly so with the RCS One, so it would be wise to check the link above before you buy.

Screenshot of the RCS app
Screenshot of the RCS app

A couple of tech sites have gone hands-on with the RCS already, so let’s take a look at how it fares. Pocket Lint has its own video review direct from the London Toy Fair 2014 where it lauds the wide degree of control and fine-tuning available through the app, but does admit that at around £100, it’s an expensive piece of kit that may be restricted to purists. Gizmag is similarly impressed by the race management features, which it admits “makes it feel more like playing a console racing game than a basic slot car offering”. It also praises the user-friendly manner in which smartphone integration adds to the experience, and calls the RCS a “massive step forward for the slot car racing game”.

Check out the video below to see the Scalextric RCS in action, which will have to keep you going until it’s released in Q3 2014, with plenty of new exciting features promised for future updates.

getWaiter app aims to put an end to “Garcon, Garcon!”

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Garcon! Garcon! Caught your attention? How about if I click my fingers? Or suggestively waggle my eyebrows whilst miming a pen in the air? No … well then maybe I’ll use a brand new app on my phone – getWaiter. Perhaps the dictionary definition of a first world problem, getWaiter was created by entrepreneurs Paul Tombs and Dominic McGuinness who were frustrated about not being able to get the waiter’s attention when eating out. I would have simply gone to a new restaurant. Or at the most written a bad Yelp review. This is why they’re the entrepreneurs.

“The pleasure of dining out is about being able to completely relax because everything will be done for you, but it’s frustrating if you keep having to break off your conversation to grab the attention of a hard-working but very busy waiter. *get*Waiter! is a really valuable, simple app that tells waiters exactly who needs their attention,” said Dominic McGuinness, the company’s marketing director.

The free app works by scanning a special at your table, which automatically connects your table to the venue’s central waiting management system. This does feel a tiny bit like a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but the developers assure us that the system is quick and painless one-click solution. Users don’t have to register to use the app, and no personal information is stored on the company’s servers, so you won’t be emailed countless 10% discount offers.

If you find this to be a genuine problem this app is probably quite useful. As a scruffy gentleman I always look like I’m about to dine and dash so have grown up with wait staff watching me like a hawk. Even when surrounded by other scruffy folk, I feel can always get table service with a smile and a strong arm wave. Plus I’m not the sort of person that would get put out waiting an extra couple of minutes to order dessert. Others feel differently. “Even if the food is great, you can be left with a sour taste in your mouth if it takes too long to pay the bill” according to Paul Tombs, managing director of *get*Waiter!

Take up is everything with an app like this – if it’s widely adopted by restaurants where you eat there’s a small chance it could become a genuine time saver. Although there is every possibility that installing an app such as getWaiter in your restaurant could make your staff much more attentive just because they know it’s there. According to Paul, the aim is that the app “becomes an instantly recognisable badge of excellence for customer service. Just as Michelin stars in the window of a restaurant signify great food, customers will know that venues where the *get*Waiter! logo is on show really care about providing a great customer experience.”

Sadly you can’t pay with the app. Or split the bill. Or order. In fact the app would be amazing if it did a little more than replace the ability to clear one’s throat loudly. However the app is designed to keep “personal service” at the forefront of your dining experience. The team behind believes the human touch is a vital part of great service in restaurants, and waiters’ extensive knowledge of wine and food remains vital difference.

Apple’s Apple Store app is pretty great example of an in-store app that enables you to shop, plan things, interact with staff and transact when you’re actually in the store – especially if you have a genius appointment. If only they served food. getWaiter can be downloaded free from the iTunes and Android Play stores or by clicking www.getwaiter.com

Get On Trac: Puma launches new running app

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Do you reckon you run faster on a sunny day? Or that Iron Maiden will always be champions of the definitive early morning run soundtrack? Perhaps you believe you’re at your physical peak during a full moon?

Well it’s time to put these theories to the test with Puma’s new free iPhone app Pumatrac. Thankfully, it’s a hell of a lot more useful than the brand’s previous app Puma Social. Launched almost exactly a year ago, Puma Social was a tool to help grease the wheels of post-game camaraderie, eschewing the brand’s more wholesome virtues in favour of booze-soaked social bandwagon jumpery. Yawn.

Mercifully Pumatrac sees the company go back to what they know best; sports. Running to be precise. And they’ve come up trumps. Like all running apps, the main premise is a training tool that tracks your distance, route and speed. However, here’s the interesting twist; it also takes other elements into account such as your soundtrack (as long as you’re listening to music from the same smart device) the weather, the altitude, the time, the season and even the moon cycle.

Sound gimmicky? Maybe a tiny bit, but they’ve utilised the functionality really well; all these additional elements and conditions are taken into account to provide you with new running stats other apps can’t give you. Such as which soundtrack helps you reach your top speeds. Or the days of the week you execute your best run. And yes, whether you’re at your physical peak best during full moon or not.

The idea is to help inspire you on those all-too-common rainy days when running seems like a bigger chore than doing your tax returns while doing the post Sunday roast dishes and the weekly ironing. As time goes by the app will learn your personal preferences and suggest training sessions that actually suit the conditions. Who knows? Perhaps you actually run faster and train more efficiently in the rain. In this sense it’s the app that keeps on giving; rather than spitting out the same old stats, it constantly evolves, providing you with insights about your training as you run through different seasons, times of the day and playlists.

Check out this promotional video from Puma which shows the product in a little more detail:

Egging you on with notifications that are cheery but not cheesy, it’s user-friendly and fully socialised. There’s also a neat option of adopting new running routes saved by other Pumatrac users. And, of course, a chance to shout about your stats on all the popular social platforms. Released just a week after Adidas and Nokia announced their forthcoming, intuitive miCoach app, it seems sports brands are rebooting their smart device presence with some really interesting solutions. It’s about time.

Sky Sports Kick Off New Season With Pub Challenge App

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Sky Sports has launched a new app to coincide with the start of the new football season, offering features aimed specifically at fans watching games in their local pubs. Included in Sky Sports Pub Challenge is a pub finder for locating big-screen TVs and a variety of games and activities to play once you’ve been checked in to a nearby watering hole.

The emphasis is on adding a competitive prediction element to a match — you can take on your friends and anyone else who happens to be using the app in the same venue. “We’re expecting Sky Sports Pub Challenge to be a big hit with people who like to watch the big games with friends down at the pub,” said Sky’s David Rey. “It’s a rewarding and sociable way for people to get into the action and make the most of match days down at their local pub.”

Not only do you get bragging rights if you make an accurate score prediction, there’s money on the table too: monthly prizes up to £2,500 can be won and there’s a grand end-of-season prize of £20,000. Free tickets to Barclays Premier League games are also on offer for those who know their football.

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Having an app that can quickly pinpoint a Sky Sports pub in an unfamiliar location is reason enough to download it; the trivia games and prediction leagues are an added bonus that should appeal to groups of supporters who head down to the pub to enjoy (or suffer through) matches on a regular basis. According to Sky, over 2.2m of us watch live sport in the pub at least once a week. With many venues now offering Wi-Fi as well as a variety of beers, you might not even have to rely on a dodgy mobile connection to get involved.

Sky Sports Pub Challenge is available now free of charge for iPhone and Android. Other built-in features include lists of upcoming fixtures and the ability to forward plan meet ups with friends.

Nokia’s JobLens App: View Vacancies Around You

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“Britain’s economy has turned a corner at last” quip senior Tory MPs ahead of last month’s official Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data showing Britain’s output. Almost five years following the crippling financial crash the UK’s financial woes seem to be witnessing a flicker of optimism, but try telling the 29.70 million people who are looking and available to work but are unable to find a job that the “mood in Britain has changed.”

House prices may have seen a wisp of a rise; GDP may be a little healthier but for the millions unemployed, the rosy picture the Tories seem intent on painting could hardly be gloomier.

While help might not be readily at hand through the government, Nokia seems better prepared to tackle the UK’s unemployment woes in the form of an augmented reality app.

Nokia recently unveiled JobLens, a proactive app which enables job seekers to see more than 500,000 available job vacancies throughout the UK. Users can filter the open job opportunities through company, distance, salary or keyword. At a first glance you may ask yourself how JobLens is different from the likes of Moster.co.uk or Jobsite.co.uk. What gives JobLens an original edge is that users can view the vacancies on a map, or, on some devices, using augmented reality. With selected Lumia models, the app will open up a lens allowing users to search for vacancies in particular town or city.

Looking through a spurious camera lens to hone in on places where jobs are available might not save the UK’s unemployment problems, but at least Nokia is doing, well more than the coalition government that’s for sure.

Employment issues aside, the technology behind the JobLens app is interesting. Nokia’s HERE maps use sight navigation as a way to discover and find your way around the world. LiveSight technology advances HERE maps further by enabling users to pinpoint exactly where they are looking. Users simply have to open HERE Maps, click on the LiveSight icon and pan around. As you pan, shops, restaurants and buildings will stare back up at you on your phone’s display.

Besides allowing job seekers to pinpoint the exact location of a job with interesting accuracy, JobLens will recommend opportunities that are catered to a user’s qualifications, can create CVs and even share CVs with prospective hiring managers. What’s more, if you manage to bag yourself an interview, HERE maps will guide you to the destination.

In its JobLens press release, Nokia describes its new app as being a “catalyst for the employment market” as it “lowers barriers between job seekers and local vacancies.”

JobLens is only available for Nokia Lumia devices, including those operating Windows Phone 8 and 7.5 or higher.

It might not rectify a deeply embedded societal crisis in which the UK government is irrefutably failing, but JobLens certainly beats the old-school job hunting method of squinting over ads in a Job Centre window.

You can download the enterprising app here.

Nutrino: Pocket Nutritionist

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There are more than 1 billion overweight adults in the world and at least 300 million of them are clinically obese. Apparently. So at least this means that if you could stand to lose a few pounds you’re certainly not on your own, and with a bit of friendly motivation from modern technology it could be easier than you think.

Enter Nutrino, the first “virtual nutritionist” that takes the slog out of trawling over packets of food to work out calorie counts by constructing personalised recipes based on exercise levels, eating habits, preferred foods and personal goals. Available for Apple devices at the App Store and “coming soon” to Google Play, the app allows you to input data such as how active your lifestyle is and how much weight you want to lose, before coming up with a choice of meal plans that in theory shouldn’t turn your stomach or push you over the edge. Tables and charts break down protein, carbohydrate, fat consumption etc. and there’s a daily success rating based on how closely you’ve stuck to the target consumption.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, it can even save a trip to the supermarket by purchasing the ingredients necessary to rustle up these healthy snacks via the “Grocery list”. UK users can simply add items to this list and then place an order at Tescos or ASDA, with more supermarkets to be added in due course. It can also help when you’re eating out, and is being offered to chains such as Pret, pod, eat, Costa Coffee and Café Nero with the aim of showing you which of the foods available to eat there will fit your plan.

Finally, if you have a Withings compatible wireless scale and associated app you can sync it with Nutrino to keep track of weight gain/loss, with meal plans adjusted automatically to stay in line with your goals.

“We created Nutrino because we were tired of seeing so much of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to nutrition. We believe nutrition should be personal to each individual. People are using lots of different apps and gadgets to track their diet or fitness but there is nothing out there that delivers recommendations that are personalised to each of us.”

Jonathan Lipnick, CEO and co-foudner of Nutrino

Nutrino can be downloaded from the Apple App Store today for free, so there’s no reason not to give it a try. An Android version is “in development”, but there’s no confirmed release date as yet. For more information visit www.nutrino.co