If you thought the world was smart now, prepare for the super intelligence spurred by Google’s latest life-changing project: the physical web. The physical web aims to assign objects and devices with an easily detectable and accessible URL that allows your smart device to connect and communicate with the world around you.

How the Physical Web Works

While the physical web will ultimately function as a rebuttal of individual smart apps, it is currently run as an app that tries to not feel like one. Instead of having to directly interact with the app, the physical web functions in the background and monitors beacons as you pass them. Rather than receiving endless notifications about smart objects you pass, you only see these accessible objects in a list when you are interested in browsing. The list is ordered like a typical Google search and takes into account your browsing history, preferences, and location, to personalize the list of objects around you. For example, connect to the URL of a bus stop, and you can find out the bus schedule for the day and when the next bus is due to arrive. Connect to a vending machine or parking meter and you can pay using a mobile wallet. Walk into a store, and its URL allows you to automatically integrate your in-store and online shopping experiences. Scott Jenson, a designer on the project, says, “Our core premise is that you should be able to walk up to any ‘smart’ physical object (e.g. A vending machine, a poster, a toy, a bus stop, a rental car) and interact with it without first downloading an app. The user experience of smart objects should be much like links in a web browser: i.e. just tap and use.”

Why You Should Care About the Physical Web

This project has a number of implications for everyday interactions. The physical web immediately connects you with everything that’s around you, from establishments to inanimate objects. This means you’ll have more information available to you than ever before right in the palm of your hand. Constant connection with the world around you means being better able to plan your day, improve communication, take care of chores, entertain yourself, and accomplish any number of tasks more easily. This type of connection leads to a number of shifts in culture. For example, the physical web’s human-to-object connections may usher in the responsive city movement. Matt Stempeck, a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, explains, “A responsive city is one where services, infrastructure, and even policies can flexibly respond to the rhythms of its denizens in real-time.” The term “responsive city” is taken from a book by Stephen Goldsmith and Susan Crawford that highlights the eventual intersection of government with the technology citizens use daily. This movement means an integration of government information, devices, and services with people’s behaviors that intends to improve the functionality of a city as a whole. Essentially, the physical web and responsive cities would make The Internet of Things a reality.

Are Apps a Thing of the Past?

Apps are currently the primary components of connections and interactions between humans and devices, but that may not always be the case. In the future, a service like the physical web will reduce the fragmentation and disconnect we experience every day using multiple apps to accomplish tasks. Instead of having an app to control your living room lighting, another to control your stereo system, and another to control door locks, the physical web would give you direct access to each item from a single interface. This doesn’t necessarily mean all apps phase out as the physical web moves in. You will probably still have games and organizational apps that won’t connect to other objects and thus might not connect with the physical web. Along with the advent of the physical web, the app industry will likely take a hit, particularly companies who spent time and money developing individualized apps for their products and services. App developers will find themselves shifting mindsets from individual apps to thinking in connectivity patterns as they link objects with smartphones and larger networks on the physical web.

The physical web signifies a new wave of technology and communication destined to change the world and how you interact with it for decades to come. Still in infancy stages but available through open-source coding, the physical web shows promise for a new way to connect with each other and the objects and devices that comprise people’s day-to-day lives.

[zipfinder] If you’re a pet owner, you certainly want the best for your furbabies. On top of your schedule, managing vet appointments, grooming schedules, feeding times, and everything else that comes with having a furbaby can become overwhelming. Having pets can be almost like having human children with the time commitment, love, and scheduling it takes. To help you avoid overlooking anything important, you might consider getting a little help from technology. We’ve found five apps that can help you give the best to your pets. 1. DogVacay It doesn’t seem fair that your pet has to spend time in a kennel when you get to go on vacation. Luckily, DogVacay gives you an alternative to leaving your pet in a crate when you head out of town. DogVacay is a program that lets you leave your pet with an approved and trusted host family while you’re gone. You can choose from a list of approved host families and your pet can maintain the same schedule they’re used to. You can even become a host and make some extra cash, giving your pet get some social interaction and helping you save up for your next vacation. 2. Kittyo When you head off to the office, your pet may get sad and spend the day being lonely. But now, thanks to Kittyo, you can play with your furry friends no matter where you are. Kittyo is an hourglass shaped machine you leave in your home. It connects to your smartphone, where you can use options to interact with your cat or dog from the machine so they stay active and don’t feel alone. You can use the built-in laser to get them to play, feed them with a treat dispenser, talk to them through a microphone, or record them playing, all from your smartphone. 3. DoggyBnB If you’re going on an overnight business trip, or just won’t be around to take the dog out during the day, finding a pet sitter can often be a challenge. You want to leave your pet with someone who you can trust will take care of them with the attention they deserve. Enter Doggy Buddies and Boarders (DoggyBnB). Doggy BnB is a social networking app that lets you request times for your friends to take care of your pet, or help out a friend by accepting their pet-sitting request. You can even find new friends who are pet-lovers like you, building yourself a network of pet-sitters you can trust. 4. DogSync Pets have schedules too, whether it’s going in for a haircut, a doctor appointment, or school and it’s up to you to keep track of all of these events. Instead of filling your desk with lots of post it notes, turn to DogSync, an app that manages your pet’s busy schedule for you. While geared toward dog owners, Dog Sync is a task management app designed to help you take care of any pet. The app sends you reminders to walk, feed, medicate, or even play with your pet. You can even use DogSync to coordinate between multiple caretakers to make sure the job gets done and your pet stays happy and healthy. 5. Pack Pack is the Cadillac of dog apps and websites. Think of it like Doggy Facebook – you post pictures of your fur baby, other people love and track (follow) them, and leave you comments. You can join a pack (for instance the Schnoodle Pack or the Rat Terrier Pack or the Marvelous Mystery Mutt Pack) and you’ll receive curated emails with fun gift ideas, tips, and treats for your special furbaby. Track the pups you love and your feed will be loaded with adorable fur pictures. If you use your pet’s name in a hashtag on Instagram, the photo auto-posts to your Pack page. Plus, Pack just launched an app that’s easy to use, so you can post photos from wherever you and Baby go: the dog park, the drive thru, or hiking in the woods. What other apps have you used that help you take care of your furbabies? [zipfinder] Photo Credit: LuAnn Snawder Photography/Flikr Between distance, unending responsibilities, and having only a limited number of hours in the day, couples don’t always get the chance to spend the quality time they want together. Even couples living under the same roof find it difficult to maintain intimacy, particularly when one partner has to travel often for work or family obligations. But in this age of technology, there is help. Apps present a new way to keep couples connected while embracing the tech-heavy nature of today’s everyday life, whether they are in long-distance relationships or live in the same home. Here are three of those apps. 1. Avocado With the Avocado app, couples find a new way to communicate and share thoughts and media with one another in a private, more intimate setting than traditional social media, emails, or texting. Avocado enables couples to chat, share photos, generate lists, create media for each other, and set up a calendar for important dates, outings, and other reminders. Couples can create and organize lists together, such as groceries, gifts, and movies they want to see. The app provides couples with a fresh way of expressing themselves and sharing different parts of their relationship conveniently, no matter how far apart they might be. 2. Couple The Couple app creates and manages a shared timeline for both partners to access anytime, anywhere, via the Web or mobile devices. The app also provides opportunities for couples to find restaurants nearby and use other location features to schedule dates and otherwise get a chance to see each other. Create to-do lists and use a shared calendar to keep organized and on top of what the other is planning and thinking. Features like Thumbkiss and Live Sketch, which enables couples to draw together, facilitate personal interactions that stretch any distance. 3. The Boyfriend Log Long-distance and close-distance relationships go through their ups and downs, and it can be hard to discern which pole the relationships gravitates to more than the other. The Boyfriend Log app allows a partner to keep a detailed record of how the relationship is going day to day and presents that information in a way that clearly represents whether or not the user is in a healthy, positive relationship. With color-coded days on a calendar marking the good days, bad days, and all those in between, the visual representation may be just the affirmation a user needs to make a decision about the future of his or her relationship. When Long Distances Come Into Play Even though it’s considered more difficult, long distance relationships are common. Studies show that not only does long distance not necessarily make a relationship more likely to fail, but it can actually bring partners emotionally closer together than if they were living in the same area. In 2013, researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario and the University of Utah conducted a study of more than 700 people in long-distance relationships and 425 people in geographically close relationships. Participants completed multiple questionnaires that assessed the quality of their relationships based on factors like an assessment of various forms of intimacy, a commitment scale, a communication scale, and measurements of sexual satisfaction. The study showed that those in long-distance relationships were no less satisfied and that being in such a relationship does not preclude negative outcomes. A 2013 “Journal of Communication” article reported that, in addition to long-distance relationships not meaning a failed endeavor, partners in these relationships often form stronger bonds than close-distance couples. This stems from the more constant and deeper communication had to keep the relationship going. Whether that communication was face-to-face or over the phone, texts, emails, instant messenger, apps, or video chat, the long-distance couples appeared to feel more intimate toward each other than couples who lived close by. The research connected this deeper intimacy with two factors: long-distance couples disclosed more of themselves, and they idealized their partners’ behaviors. Because they had media hurdles to overcome to stay connected, long-distance couple made more of an effort to establish this intimate style of communication and tended to feel more emotionally connected as a result. All this research points to the conclusion that with or without couple apps, long-distance relationships can work. Couple apps do, however, help to facilitate the strong communication and deep bond required to make this type of relationship function, should a couple want to approach that aspect of relationship-building technology. Whether they sleep thousands of miles apart or in the same bed, couples have an array of technology at their fingertips that can help keep their partner close and their relationship enlivened with frequent and varied modes of communication. Communication is key to any relationship, and as smartphones and apps continue to evolve into more essential communication modalities, video and dedicated couple apps stand a chance to keep relationships alive the world over.
Photo: Shena Pamela/Flickr From food and clothing for the needy to improved communication between people or at the office, these six companies have found a way to successfully connect people to the things and people that they need and love. 1. Feeding Forward In accordance with their tagline, “Ending hunger and food waste within our lifetimes,” Feeding Forward connects people who need food with businesses who have more than enough. With one transaction, Feeding Forward fights hunger and reduces food waste by using technology to streamline food recovery and distribution. To date, the company has recovered more than 500,000 pounds of food to help feed people in the San Francisco area. Feeding Forward provides a website and iPhone app where businesses can request a food pickup when they have leftovers, and an algorithm matches them with a nearby shelter or other recipient agency in the area. On-demand drivers pick up and deliver the food, while both parties are kept in the loop with real-time updates. When the agency receives the food, organizers capture photos of the people fed and share those photos with the providers to demonstrate the direct impact they had on their community by “Feeding Forward.” This process is a unique and tech-savvy way to help reduce food waste and minimize hunger in the community. 2. HandUp HandUp set up a direct donation system to provide basic necessities like food, clothing, and medical care to homeless people and others in need. The HandUp database allows members to set up profiles detailing their stories and needs. Donors browse these profiles and choose a donation recipient. They can then help that specific recipient via web or text, and 100 percent of that donation will go directly to the recipient’s HandUp account. This process ensures people who donors want to benefit receive the funds they need to build a better life. The startup was the center of news coverage at the end of 2013 when one of its members, Rodney Bell, described how HandUp helped him get his life on a new path. Most recently, in June 2014, HandUp won the first 1776 Challenge Cup, where it competed with other startups to win investment dollars, including winning the Smart Cities semifinals and bringing home $150,000 at the Global Finals. 3. WorkHands WorkHands created an online community where American labor and blue-collar workers can create and share profiles that demonstrate their skills and craftsmanship. Whether they build, fix, maintain, haul, or do any other labor-intensive work, members can do things like show what trades they’re good at and connect with others in the community to browse jobs, find tools and equipment, as well as showcase licenses and products of their workmanship. Created by a team of people from blue-collar towns and families, WorkHands is an all-encompassing network for labor workers to make something positive happen in their careers and job networks. 4. Omlet Aiming to connect people of the world with one another, Omlet is an Open Messaging Platform, which is a new standard for mobile messaging applications. By using the unique attributes of a smartphone, users can “share anything, with anyone, anywhere,” including chats, photos, emails, videos, music, and other user data from any iOS or Android device. In addition to sharing data, users can band together to create social galleries of their photos or chats without sharing any personal information. This includes location-based chats where users can start conversations instantly with other nearby users, even if they’re not in the user’s address book. Omlet revolutionizes social networking by giving it a more open platform to stand on to connect users with friends, family, and those they haven’t met yet, all in one safe place. Most recently, Omlet Chat became the first chat app available for the Samsung Gear 2 wearable watch, which uniquely positions the app to take on the smartwatch market in the future. 5. mySugr With the mySugr Companion App, adults with diabetes—and children, who use the Junior App—receive instant feedback about their blood sugar as well as motivation and encouragement. The app features a diabetes “monster” that a user can tame by making entries into the app, and the goal is to tame the monster every day. The app also provides challenges to assist users in setting and attaining personal health goals. mySugr makes taking control of diabetes easier and adds a fun aspect, which can help these people eliminate any negativity they feel and replace it with something more positive. 6. Weekdone Managers need help monitoring all of their employees and their progress, and Weekdone provides a condensed weekly status report for that purpose. The app organizes key tasks and ideas for the team and uses the famous Objectives and Key Results process used at Google to keep employees focused on the right tasks. It helps managers make more informed decisions, improves communication, and enriches engagement between team members. Ultimately, this can help a business succeed while becoming more effective and efficient. Every day, inspired individuals form new companies around the world that connect people with what they need. These are just a few of the many examples of what people can do when they set their minds on a course to help others and make the world a better and more interactive place. [zipfinder]
Find Ryann on Google+ Some apps help you navigate. Some apps help you with your banking. Some apps help you shop. But some apps have absolutely zero practical application, and yet they’re still insanely popular. Why? You’ll pay $.99 to download Yo just to have it text “Yo” to the contact you specify. You’ll pay $.99 to download Hodor Keyboard on Android. It replaces your traditional keyboard with a single-word keyboard that allows you to type “Hodor” over and over and over again. Yo, Hodor is the iOS answer to the Hodor Keyboard. It’s the same exact thing, but it’s free. Emoj.li is a new social network that only allows you to communicate with others in tiny cartoon pictures – no words. Snapchat is an app that sends messages, photos, and videos to friends who also have the app, then deletes them. Kik is an app that sends messages, drawings, and photos to friends who have the app, but it’s not a text messaging service. Creating a Useless App All of these apps are wildly popular, but in light of accomplishing a task or improving someone’s life or offering convenience, they’re useless. These aren’t even games. These are “communication” apps. Why do we get so excited over something that does nothing? Why are apps like this popular to the point of virality? In an interview with IGN, Yo, Hodor creator Tyler Hedrick said he created the parody app as “a funny project to share with his friends.” He intended it for “small groups of friends who just want to goof off.” Kik was started by a group of students who wanted to “shift the center of computing from the PC to the phone.” At least their original intent was inspirational and forward-thinking. Five years later, they’ve only given us a fancy, username-based messenger app. Snapchat was created by three frat brogrammers who were really into girls and the idea of disappearing messages. The guys who created Emoj.li thought the idea of usernames in emoticons was hilarious. That’s it? (For the record, they thought the Yo app was hilarious, too.) And Or Arbel created the Yo app to do something he and a few buddies already did themselves – text the word “yo” back and forth. Creating a Culture So all of these apps but Kik was started as an inside joke among a group of friends or people with common interests. Is this the key to what makes us want these hip apps-that-do-nothing so badly? We as a culture have trained ourselves to need to be in the know, to be in the cool group. And one of the worst feelings in the world is hanging out with a group of people you call friends, hearing them refer to an inside joke, and realizing you weren’t there for it. “Laughter contributes to group bonding,” says Dr. Robin Dunbar. Inside jokes are tools we use to deepen bonds of friendship and camaraderie. They’re like a secret signal reminding each person involved of a time when they felt close to the others. We recognize inside jokes among groups of friends, and it triggers a desire to belong. That has to be what’s behind Snapchat, Yo, Emoj.li, Hodor Keyboard, and all the other silly, useless apps we put our hard-earned money down for: we recognize someone else’s inside joke, and need to be part of the in-crowd. What do you think? Is there another reason these entertaining but useless apps have taken off so rapidly? [zipfinder]
Photo: Daniel Go/Flikr With thousands of productivity apps on the market today, it can be tricky to choose the right one for your company. But this decision just got a lot easier. Todoist released a business version of their popular task-managing app. Todoist for Business offers a minimalist, intuitive interface which allows up to 80 projects at a time with 200 active tasks and 50 collaborators per project. Todoist Founder and CEO, Amir Salihefendic, says the rollout of Todoist for Business was a natural evolution of the product, which was first launched in 2007. “After noting that approximately 82 percent of our individual users were occupying Todoist for work-related tasks, we saw an important opportunity to help increase workplace productivity,” Salihefendic said in an email to HighSpeedInternet.com. “We developed Todoist for Business, beta tested across many different corporate settings, and adapted the software to users’ needs.” Since going live, their product is crushing the competition. But what makes Todoist so great? How is it different from the scores of other apps for managing tasks? Basic Features Task Customization Todoist offers useful task customization features, including notifications, notes, and prioritization levels. These allow you to go above and beyond basic Gmail or iPhone task-lists. Now you can schedule reminders to be sent via text or email, helping you stay on task. You can also sort items into projects with multiple priority levels, add notes to individual tasks, and easily share items with collaborators. These are all useful features, but other apps like Remember the Milk and Wunderlist can let you customize your to-do list too, as long as you’ve got the app handy. These two also connect with your email account like Todoist, helping you keep projects organized and ready to share. Minimalist Layout Layout is one area Todoist beats the competition. Todoist maximizes white space with a simplicity that leaves you focused. The only other app that comes close is the web-based Todo.ly, but it is as basic in function as it is in appearance. Todoist looks simple and sleek but still packs a punch with all of its features. This attractive minimalist design cuts down on distractions, making toolbars and reminders available only as you click, but otherwise keeps the screen clear, helping you focus on the task at hand. “Todoist is known for being the most beautifully simple, yet technologically robust task manager on the market,” Salihefendic said. “We’ve built our software and apps following simplistic, intuitive design principles which provide a very sleek user experience. This is something that people really appreciate – when you want to be productive, you don’t want to deal with unnecessary bells and whistles that can, at the end of the day, decrease your productivity.” Productivity Tracking Another great feature of Todoist is its ability to track your productivity over time. If you want to know exactly how much you accomplished last week or month, or which days or times of day were most productive, Todoist can chart your statistics and give you instant reports. This will help you learn how to organize work hours to match productivity trends, making you more successful than ever. New Features for Business Several new features are now available with Todoist for Business. First is the creation of administrator accounts, giving company managers the power to add and remove employees from the service, track projects, and download data for billing purposes, etc. This app also provides improved access to group contact lists and team inboxes, making team collaboration a breeze. Todoist also creates unique email accounts for each project, letting team members add, modify, or update tasks as well as incorporate text and pictures into notes for individual tasks. Todoist for Business offers new security features like improved data backup and encryption. Former versions had daily automatic backup and basic encryption; the newly-released business suite has bank-standard SSL security coding, secured data centers, and hourly data backup. What Sets Todoist for Business Apart? It’s true that Todoist isn’t the only productivity app to offer many of these highlighted features, but Todoist is the only service that integrates these services into popular mail clients and synchs them across 13 major platforms. You can use Todoist for Business in Outlook or Gmail without even opening the task app. All you have to do is use the simple Todoist tool built into your mail service. “We can reach an extremely diverse group of users: those who use Chrome, iPhone, those who use a Samsung tablet, those who use a PC, etc.,” Salihefendic said. “All of our platforms are synchronized in real-time, our mobile apps are fully native, and we offer many key features that our competitors do not.” Even more impressive is the fact that Todoist for Business works with iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and phones, and nine other platforms in addition to the stand alone apps, which means no more wasted time trying to get your task list to sync with your coworker in a different city, or worrying about copying and pasting project notes or anything like that. You and your team can spearhead that new project, prioritize and assign tasks, share work, add notes, and track your success for only $3 per employee per month. Do you think Todoist for Business would be helpful for your productivity? [zipfinder]
Photo: Todoist Find Ryann on Google+ According to automotive market research firm SBD, drivers are at their wits’ end with automakers amping up their car’s infotainment system with unwanted apps. The firm discovered apps deemed “essential,” such as navigation and music were wanted, but most other apps were viewed as an unsafe distraction or a convenience drivers could live without. Apparently GM isn’t worried about customers’ preferences. They’ve got a mobile car app in the works that lets drivers scan the license plate of another vehicle and get connected to the owner’s cell phone. That’s hardy something most drivers would consider “essential.” Whether you view the app as revolutionary or disturbingly intrusive, this app has the potential to significantly alter stranger interaction, for better or worse. What’s it All About? The app is named the DiDi Plate. A driver uses the camera on their Android phone to scan the license plate of another vehicle. The license plate data is sent to a Cloud ID service, which supplies the driver with the cell phone number of the vehicle’s owner. The driver can now send a message to the owner of the vehicle. Surprisingly, the owner of the target vehicle doesn’t even have to download the app for the user to be able to send them a message. Developers at GM have modified the app to work with Google Glass, so the user only has to stare at the plate to be rewarded with the vehicle owner’s online profile. The app is currently targeting the Chinese market. Creative Uses for DiDi Plate How might the Chinese use the controversy sparking app? To ask for a date of course, or at least that’s what GM’s research and development suggests. A GM ad for the app depicts a male driver using DiDi Plate to contact a female driver, and ask her out on a date. She excitedly accepts. Another scenario is a bit more useful: using the app to contact the owner of a vehicle that has you blocked in, and telling them to move their car. What’s the most likely use of the app? To call drivers and inform them their driving is dreadful- no doubt resulting in unsavory verbal exchanges, road rage, curbside fist fights, or worse. DiDi Plate’s Impact on Stranger Relations By stripping away the driver’s privacy, the app sets the stage for potentially dangerous stranger interactions. Ramping up the temper of a person operating a vehicle (whether by asking them on a date or telling them their driving is the pits) just isn’t a wise idea. Sure, there’s the possibility of using the app to meet the love of your life or compliment a driver on their supreme road navigation skills, but that’s unlikely. DiDi Plate is Potentially Dangerous Moreover, the app is a major diver distraction. And driver distraction equates to increased crashes. In fact, drivers that text while behind the wheel are nearly 25 percent more likely to crash. Those who start chatting with their stranger pal are four times more likely to be involved in an accident. Computerworld reports automotive manufacturers have already developed and embedded 173 apps into vehicles based in the U.S., most of which aren’t what consumers want. Add DiDi Plate to the pile. [zipfinder]
Photo: Marc Nozell
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