Technology may be the last thing you want to think about during the summer. But new devices and applications can make this too-short season safer and more convenient.
Two strong themes among new products are security and on-the-go charging for mobile devices, making it easier to enjoy yourself during the warmer months.
Your smart phone will go with you wherever you travel this summer. Its increased functionality makes losing one a disaster and possible threat to your identity. I’ve seen devices left in restaurants and meeting rooms — even next to a basketball court. PC World wrote that more than 85,000 phones were found in taxis in Chicago alone.
A Northeast Ohio company has a solution. Middleburg Heights-based Neevo’s Mobile Defense allows users to remotely locate, lock, back up, monitor and wipe their phones from anywhere in the world via a secure website. The product (free at mobiledefense.com) won Best Software Product-Mobile App at the 2010 Northeast Ohio Software Association Best of Tech Awards.
“Mobile Defense is like LoJack for a mobile phone,” says Stuart Saunders, Neevo’s president. “As mobile phones become more like personal computers, they store sensitive information such as e-mails, text messages, photos, calendars, documents and even personal credit data. Mobile Defense was created in response to the ever-growing need for security and privacy protection on mobile devices.”
NEOSA executive director Brad Nellis says Mobile Defense impressed the judges with its “tremendous market traction, gaining thousands of users monthly,” and its solution to a clear business issue. “It was clearly a unique application,” Nellis says, “not an app that the judges could cite two, three or four other companies currently doing the same thing.”
Another new mobile application, IcePics (Ice stands for “In Case of Emergency”) sends a photo and user’s GPS-informed coordinates to a designated list of contacts — all with one touch of the icon. Imagine a stranger approaching your daughter in a menacing way. She points her phone at the stranger and pushes the IcePics icon, which instantly sends a photo of the guy and her location to everyone on her list.
The app ($1.99 at the iPhone App Store) was written with emergency situations in mind, but other uses are being discovered. Parents can use IcePics as an “electronic leash” to confirm their kids’ location with ease. Sleepover at Sally’s? Send dad an IcePic so he can rest easy.
Summer is the perfect time to harness Sol’s rays to power your gadgets. The Kiwi U-Powered ($49.99 at kiwichoice.com) is a portable charger that comes with 11 connector tips so you can charge almost any mobile device. It can charge from a standard outlet, car or USB hookup and also includes a solar option.
Magnets on the back help you to position the cell phone-size device, which opens to expose three solar panels, toward the sun to gather power.
Novothink has the Surge ($79.95 at novothink.com) for iPhone 3G/3GS, a custom case with a built-in (and world’s only Apple-certified) solar panel charger. Slide in your iPhone 3G to charge on the go. The panel on the case converts sunlight to power. Two hours of direct sun gives about 30 minutes on a 3G phone or an hour on a 2G.
The poor photographer rarely gets to be in the picture during summer vacations. This is where Quik Pod comes in. The newly patented tripod (starting at $25 at quikpod.com) weighs less than a pair of sunglasses, fits in your pocket and comes with a built-in self-image mirror to center each shot.
Attach the device (developed by a Buffalo inventor) to your camera’s standard tripod socket and extend it (from 7.5 to 18 inches) to capture your smiling mug in the photo by using the camera’s timer. I also like it for shooting over a barrier or crowd.
When your summer drinks include alcohol, you have to be careful. Drinking and driving is stupid. So is trying to beat the system. But that’s not what BACtrack is all about. BACtrack is a quick personal blood alcohol content-tester. I tested the S75 Pro model ($140), which is the size of a small cell phone. When you insert a mouthpiece and turn on the device, a digital countdown begins. Blow into the mouthpiece for five seconds; in a few more seconds your BAC will appear on the digital display.
A 120-pound volleyball teammate stopped drinking when she blew a .07 on the BACtrack. We often get pitchers of beer after a game, so it can be difficult to know how much you have consumed when people top off your glass. She had a long drive home, and the BACtrack let her know she should stop.
It was inspiring to learn about the winning companies at the 2010 NEOSA Best of Tech Awards show in May. Even the finalists were impressive. For example, did you know that a version of PreEmptive Solutions’ tools is included in Microsoft’s Visual Studio software? This Mayfield Village company was also a finalist in the 2010 Best of TechEd Awards at Microsoft’s big event in June.
It’s also encouraging to see the entries from high school kids in NEOSA’s CoolTech Challenge. Winning students have been awarded more than $25,000 in scholarships over the past three years. So you never know; the next sizzling product could be something they develop on their summer vacation.