YPlan: Do something different tonight

“What are you up to tonight?”
That can be a difficult question at any time of year, but trapped in the hinterland between Christmas and New Year it can be especially difficult to answer. There are those of us that run their social lives with military precision, carefully co-ordinating between engagements, gigs, performances and so forth. If you prefer to embrace chaos, or simply want to revitalise your free time then there’s a great new app that wants to help you hang out – YPlan.

yPlan
yPlan

YPlan is a social iPhone app that benefits from attention to detail and laser-like focus. Firing it up reveals a series of last-minute London offers. Already some of your faces are wrinkling in total disinterest. “iPhone“ and “London” are already two self-interested groupings and the overlap between the two is potentially unbearable. However the app is interesting beyond its immediate target group.

YPlan’s curators work with a range of event organisers. Apparently very few events sell out so there are always a number of interesting last minute ticket deals available. YPlan are able to use their highly marketable target demographic – iPhone users in London – to wangle a number of discounts. The app is very much a curated list – rather than “something for everyone” there are 7/8 events given the special YPlan stamp of approval. They tend to focus on the cool and unusual – you don’t need to be told that Les Mis is playing in town – but you might not know about the pop up screening of Elf, independent production of Much Ado About Nothing or Rickshaw Racing Derby. You can book simply and easily from within the app with two taps and easily choose various events to share or favourite. Best of all there are no hidden charges.

YPlan’s focus makes it fun; the random nature of events presented gives a lovely “rolling the die” feeling and the app is beautifully designed in a way more apps should take note of. Nothing needs explaining, it can easily navigated and you never have to go too deep into the menu system to get what you want. It even tells me how long it takes to walk where I want to go.

Even if you don’t live in London (more cities are promised) it’s worth checking out YPlan for a glimpse at the future of going out. Out now on the App Store.

Top London Olympics 2012 Apps

After years of preparation, anticipation and waiting the London Olympics Games 2012 have begun.

With the five giant Olympic rings swinging majestically from Tower Bridge and cabbies chatting enthusiastically about how busy the capital is going to be over the forthcoming weeks, banter and excitement is mounting in London is the city moves into the realms of true ‘Olympic fever’.

Olympic-Stadium
Image courtesy of Twitter user @each1teach1

Naturally, amidst all the hype, a growing swell of London Olympics apps have emerged meaning you can keep up to date with the Games whilst you are on the go.

Take a look at the following top Olympic Games 2012 apps.

London 2012

Unpretentiously titled ‘London 2012’, this comprehensive app informs users about various aspects of the Games, such as results, information about venues, interactive maps and spectator information. .

Having been launched by the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG), this interactive app is being marketed as the ‘essential companion to the Games’.

2012 Olympic News

If you want to keep up to date with all the Olympic news in one convenient place, then downloading the 2012 Olympic News app could prove prudent.

Exploiting, we are told, the unique tile system on Windows, this ultra informative application incorporates numerable news services, as well as Facebook and Twitter, keeping you well in advance of the sporting drama that is about to unravel.

London Bus Checker

The London cabbies might be driving around ecstatically with pound signs in their eyes but tourists are likely to be less thrilled about the prospect of travelling around London as it is in the throws what could possibly be the biggest event in the capital’s history.

The London Bus Checker app has been designed to make your journey around London during the Games as ‘hassle-free’ as possible, by enabling Londoners and visitors alike to track buses and find out when the next one is due.

Users can find out bus stop locations, be informed about route changes, plan routes and be alerted when their stop is – I don’t know about LOCOG’s app being the ‘essential companion for the Games’, I reckon it could be this one!

Nokia and Spectrum Interactive now provide free wifi for London

Telecomms powerhouse Nokia, and Spectrum Interactive, the UK’s leading independent provider of Wi-Fi services, recently announced the first large scale trial of free Wi-Fi access in some of the busiest areas of the capital. Yep, that’ll be you then Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, Bayswater, Knightsbridge, Westminster, Sloane Square, Victoria, Marylebone, Mayfair and Lancaster Gate… phew. This is (believe it or not) the first ever public Wi-Fi scheme in the UK that’s specifically aiming to make it easier for people on the move to access online services for free.

Nokia-Wifi

So what’s the big deal, then? If you’re in one of the above areas (the “special” ones focused on for the launch which took place on November 1) users do not need to register to use the service; they simply log-on to the network, accept the terms and conditions and browsing can begin immediately. How very nice?

The Wi-Fi network supports access speeds of up to 20Mbps via equipment installed in street-side phone boxes owned by Spectrum Interactive. Lovely. Net access is initially available for a trial period at 26 street hotspots from now until the end of 2011 and will test how consumers interact with the free Wi-Fi service. Following a successful trial, plans are in place for a large-scale roll-out across London from early 2012. Nifty.

Simon Alberga, Executive Chairman at Spectrum Interactive, commented: “While 4G mobile access is firmly on the horizon, Wi-Fi coverage currently fills a much needed niche between 3G mobile internet and home broadband. Tablets and mobile phones are capable of incredibly high-end browsing experiences now, but Wi-Fi access is often a requirement to support the tasks many of us want to be able to do on the move, such as uploading multimedia to Facebook or watching YouTube. It’s great to be able to implement a service that so many people will quickly come to regard as indispensable.”

The two-month trial (accessible right now, don’t forget) is intended to assess both the demand for free Wi-Fi access and the browsing behaviour of consumers using the service across the city. The findings will be used to determine the best locations for future hotspots and the necessary bandwidth to meet robust consumer demand.

Chris Bull, Founder of Selective Media continued: “Bringing together all the different parties involved in this rollout has been a fantastic experience. This is a service that Londoners need and want and Nokia and Spectrum Interactive make a great team. We look forward to working with Nokia moving forward on similar projects.”

For more information visit the Spectrum Interactive website: http://www.spectruminteractive.co.uk

Cab:App – The smarter way to hail a London cabbie

The days of Londoners stood on a street corner desperately trying to hail a cab without avail look set to be over, thanks to cab:app, a revolutionary, cross-platform app that hails a black cab almost instantly.

The brainchild behind the new app is Peter Schive, a London cabbie, who, for years, has listened to quips and grumbles that ‘there’s never a black cab when you need one!’ Determined to resolve an issue that has affected Londoners, probably since the 17th century when the ‘Hackney Carriage’, the first black cab arrived on London’s streets, the cabbie thought of a sophisticated system that provides passengers with a convenient, safe and reliable alternative to hail a cab.

Cab-App

Users simply have to log on to cab:app and hail a taxi via their mobile phone. All cabbies in the area will be alerted to the ‘hail’ and once a driver accepts a job, they are guided to the passenger via live GPS technology incorporated into the app. For passengers located in a particularly hard to find location, they can make a cabbie’s job easier by messaging their driver with more specific details of their whereabouts.

For added security, once a driver has accepted a booking, the passenger is informed of the cabbie’s personal driver number. The extortionate prices that cabbies charge to take passengers from A to B in London has also been  considered with the cab:app, as the app offers a ‘cab-share’ facility that enables passengers going to the same destination ‘team up’ and travel together to reduce the cost of the journey as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Cab:app has been developed by Grapple, a leading app developer, and has been designed to work across all models of smartphones.

There are apps and there are apps and we reckon that cab:app is definitely in the app ranking, namely for its convenience, reliability and providing a service that enables people to travel around London in a cab less expensively.

Cab:app can be downloaded for free at www.cabapp.net

Ad:Tech London 2010 round-up

In stark contrast to last year’s weather, the people queuing up for Ad:Tech London 2010 got to bask in the glorious September sunshine. One the big draws for this year’s conference was the presence of several key Twitter personnel, including product manager Shiva Rajaraman. He was there to cover the issue of “Twitter and Advertising” and outlined the company’s plans for improving its promoted tweets service by tapping in to details of a user’s network – i.e. who follows you, who you follow, etc.

While the main exhibition hall continued to fill downstairs, we attended a talk by Benjamin Faes of YouTube/Google about the “exciting future” of display advertising. He provided delegates with some interesting stats from within Google (such as an ‘average user of Android downloads 22 apps’) as well as details about a recent Volvo ad campaign on the YouTube home page. The ad received an eye watering 170m impressions during its run. Equally impressive was his demo of the interactive Tippex campaign featuring a couple of guys arguing whether to shoot a bear attacking their camp site (view it here – be sure to pick an option at the end).

Away from the paid-for conference sessions, the free exhibition centre was now crammed full of visitors and we decided to check out some of the exhibitors. First to catch our attention was the slightly awkward to pronounce Apprupt – where we caught up with company’s UK Director of Business development Jon Mundy. Apprupt, whose HQ is in Germany, markets itself as an ‘affiliate network for apps’ – enabling developers to reward 3rd parties for generating sales of their apps. For example, a gardening magazine may use Apprupt’s software to launch their own garden related app store. Any apps sold through this store would earn the magazine commission which would be split with Apprupt. The company also provides a contextual service for mobile web pages which will automatically promote an app that relates to the content of the page.

The next exhibitor to catch our eye was MyVoucherCodes and their imminently due “Local Vouchers” app for the iPhone. The technology behind the app is handled by Vouchacha. Ben Brown, CEO of Vouchacha, gave us a demo of the free app which enables people to quickly locate local companies who are running promotions. Users can either browse through the vouchers by category or use the integrated Google map for a visual guide to nearby businesses. A user can then present their phone to redeem the offer. Ben told us that a Google Android version of the app is due out towards the end of October.

Sticking with the theme of new and forthcoming apps, we swung by app developers Grapple to check out some of their latest projects. Grapple have pioneered a platform which enables them to quickly deploy their client’s apps across all major mobile operating systems. We had a demo of T-Mobile’s “Night In” app which sees them team up with Blockbuster to offer customers 5 things for £5. The app not only provides the necessary voucher for the offer, but also allows users to scan DVD barcodes to access trailers and movie information directly from their phones.

On a more general note, it appeared that many of the ad networks present at previous Ad:Tech shows were either not in attendance (Advertising.com, Value Click) or had repositioned themselves as ‘ad exchanges’ or ‘marketplaces’. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next twelve months – we certainly think the marketplace (no pun intended!) for these services is already over crowded.

Away from the ad networks (or ‘exchanges’) the other sector which fielded a good number of exhibitors related to mobile advertising. The success of AdMob et al. appears to have spawned a lot of smaller companies looking to secure themselves a part of this lucrative market. Mobile advertising remains relatively small when compared to traditional online display advertising, but we expect to see even mobile ad networks at next year’s show.

In terms of ‘people through the door’, this year’s Ad:Tech seemed as busy as ever, sometimes even crowded! However, we couldn’t help feel that the global recession is continuing to have a stifling impact on the industry and this was reflected by the relatively small number of new products or companies being launched at the show.