become a jedi master with AR…

Fortuitously timed, a genius developer has created an app that lets you appear to wield a Star Wars styled Light Saber using Augmented Reality. Per its creator:

“It’s an iPhone app that turns a rolled up piece of paper into a virtual lightsaber. I think the best thing about it is that it brings a special effect that has typically been reserved for advanced video editors to a mass audience.”

Why It’s Hot:
Augmented Reality has of course seen many new uses since becoming a widely available capability on iOS. Some are useful, and some just let you live out childhood fantasies like this. In either case, it’s amazing the digital layer of the world we are building on top of the physical one we have known for our entire lives.


FDA’s Digital Health Innovation Action Plan Targets Software – Not Hardware – For Regulatory Approval

A few weeks ago I posted an article that spoke to the value connected medicine dispensing could bring to healthcare.

What I neglected to mention is the plethora of HIPAA hurdles that the healthcare industry faces when it begins collecting patient-specific healthcare data on mobile devices such as phones, tablets or wearables.

Thankfully there may be a solution on the horizon that significantly circumvents this challenge.

In the past, if a client were to build an app that collected patient-specific medical data, the entire phone would then be considered a “medical device.” The challenge with this lies in the relative inability of a healthcare company to effectively to manage HIPAA compliance on a device they rarely have contact with.

However, the FDA’s new Digital Health Innovation Action Plan is looking at ways to view the software as the components of a tech solution that needs to be regulated. This effectively paves the way for healthcare companies and the companies to more deeply integrate mobile technology with healthcare.

As part of the plan, the FDA is seeking 9 that meet the following criteria for its pilot initiative;

  • Business is developing or planning to develop tools that meet the FDA’s definition of a device — one intended to be used to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease;
  • Company has an existing track record in developing, testing, and maintaining software products use key performance indicators for quality control;
  • Must agree to provide access to performance measures during the pilot
  • Collect real-world post-market performance data and provide it to the FDA;
  • Availability for consultations and site visits from FDA officials
  • Provide quality management system information

So who did the FDA deem worthy this past week from the pool of over 100 applicants?

  • Apple
  • Fitbit
  • Verily (the health unit of Google parent Alphabet)
  • Samsung
  • Roche
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Pear Therapeutics
  • Tidepool
  • Phosphorus.

“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate, and helps foster beneficial technology while ensuring that consumers have access to high-quality, safe and effective digital health devices,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “These pilot participants will help the agency shape a better and agiler approach toward digital health technology that focuses on the software developer rather than an individual product.”

The end goal of the program is to develop a regulatory framework for software as a medical device so that companies with established, tried and tested quality assurance protocols would be able to update their products faster.

Why It’s Hot:

in the past, mobile devices such as wearables, phone or tablets that collected patient data weren’t HIPAA compliant. This new FDA initiative opens up the potential to build technology that makes these devices HIPAA compliant opening up vast new opportunities for the healthcare industry.

Condoms or IUD? Ask Tia…

Ask Tia is an iOS app designed to assist and inform women about reproductive and sexual health. Through personal, private text-based conversations, users can find the best birth control, get answers to sexual health questions, find doctors, and track periods and symptoms. It’s the first product from Tia, a company “for millennials by millennials” that aims to help women make informed healthcare decisions.


Building a trusting relationship with an app isn’t easy. Tia has prioritized personalizing the information for each user. Even a simple question about missing a birth control pill has several factors (type of pill, where in your cycle, etc.), which is why Tia’s guiding questions and personalized assessments so much more valuable than, say, a Google search.

“Our goal is to expand Tia to be your comprehensive go-to women’s health assistant for all of your health care information needs,” says Witte, Tia’s co-founder and CEO.

Why It’s Hot
Sexual health support made accessible through behavioral insight? Yes please.

Monkeys in Magenta

After seven years, the digital band, Gorillaz, are releasing a new album, and as part of their promotion, a new app is encouraging people to find the color magenta to unlock unique content.

Deutsche Telekom has created the Lenz app that will unlock new content for users whenever they hover it over something magenta — the brand’s corporate color.

The brand has teamed up with the virtual band, Gorillaz, to launch the Lenz app, which was created by Saatchi & Saatchi for the Deutsche Telekom music and lifestyle platform, Electronic Beats. With the new app, when a user finds something magenta (it could be a t-shirt, a flower or anyting that matches the Pantone range), they can hold their phone over it, to reveal new content from Gorillaz, including the first ever “live” interview with the band using motion capture and composition technology, and exclusive clips from the band’s new album “Humanz,” dropping on April 28. The app uses Chroma Keying technology to use the color to unlock the content. 

Why It’s Hot

This is a really cool activation. It is great positioning for Deutsche Telekom because it’s not overly intrusive or brand-heavy. And Gorillaz of course gain additional buzz around their upcoming album. I think this is a great example of a brand involving itself in a moment without trying to take it over.

bye bye brick & mortar banks

When’s the last time you opened up a bank account? Whether it was applying online or in-person at a bank retail, the process involved ton of paperwork and ID authentications via your driver license, passport, social security card, etc. Most often, we had to visit our nearest bank to get faster services – instead of waiting on the phone with a customer service representative, speaking to my bank rep always expedited my checks and debit cards. But now that most service features are automated by our apps, will we still need brick and mortar banks?

Banking startups don’t think so. The new era of banking is mobile-first/mobile-only – Starling Bank UK launched without a single brick and mortar location. You still have to apply online but upon approval of your account, which involves things like photographing your passport or driving license via the app, you are issued a Starling Bank MasterCard debit card that can be used in the U.K. and abroad.

Why it’s hot:

The banks allows you to :

  • view your current account activity in real time, something most legacy banks fail or fall over trying to do. This takes the form of push notifications and the “Starling Pulse,” a real-time feed that displays all your account activity.
  • secure the app using biometric identification.  In addition to being asked to provide a 6-10 digit passcode, you are asked to record a short video message of you reading out a specific phrase. If you find your fat thumb making passcode mistakes and locking you out, you can voice open the bank app.

Android Instant Apps Made Available for Testing

Generally, to use an app on a mobile device, you first need to download and install it. With Instant Apps, an app can run right away — similar to loading a web page — without having to go through the installation process.

Google says that it has been working with a small number of developers to test the user and developer experience over the last few months. The result is a limited test that includes apps from BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope and Viki. Google plan to roll-out instant apps to more developers once they have collected enough feedback from their current partners.


Why It’s Hot:

“Instant Apps is really about re-thinking where apps are going,” saysGoogle VP of Engineering for Android Dave Burke “Web pages are ephemeral. They appear, you use them, and never think about them again.” Installing apps, on the other hand, comes with a lot of friction and users often only want to perform a single action or get a specific piece of information (say pay for parking with an app in a city you don’t often travel to). Ideally, Instant Apps gives you the speed of a light web page with all of the benefits of a native app.

Optimizing Store Pages on the App Stores

Beyond ASO: The App Store Marketing Guidebook

This article does a great job at showing the importance of different elements on an app’s store page.

It goes into the differences between the two store.

Shows different layout options that change what content ends up above the fold.

And goes into detailed and sometimes surprising stats.

“60% of visitors decide to install or leave without ever engaging with the page. In other words,  these visitors are only exposed to the creative that appears “above the fold”, and their first and only action is either tapping the install button or leaving the page altogether.”


Why it’s Hot:

App Store Optimization (ASO) is a crucial part for an app’s success. We need to keep all these things in mind when laying out the store pages on the app store.

Welcome to the Internet of YOUR Things…

[image credit:]

In recent years, the connection between people and objects has become the “next frontier” of digital technology. The so-called “Internet of Things” has already produced connected devices like the Nest products, and we’ve seen Google’s Project Soli working on how to control wearable devices using gestures. But yesterday, I came across another way to accomplish the task of connecting and controlling all of your technology – MIT’s “Reality Editor” allows you to create connections between your own “things”, and control them using just an app on your phone. It basically creates a private network of things, the functions of which you can define and control, and between which you can create relationships. Some of the examples they provide are:

  • Instead of having to get out of bed to turn off a light using a switch next to your bedroom door, connect an object on your bedstand to the light so that when you turn it the light goes off
  • Connect your bed to your car’s heat/air conditioning so that in the winter,  you can turn on the heat when you get up so that your car is warm when you’re ready to drive to work

What’s still a little unclear is how the objects actually communicate, but it appears you need a digital “fingerprint” attached to each in order to actually manipulate and connect them, and that there needs to be an arduino or something else involved. They say you need to create “Hybrid Objects” to actually realize the benefit.

REALITY EDITOR from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

Why It’s Hot

What sets Reality Editor apart is the ability to control all of your things yourself, without needing multiple products ultimately controlled by the companies that produce them (to whom you’re also giving data and private information, even images). It seems to be a smarter way to achieve the same control over your stuff that the “Internet of Things” promises. And what’s really cool is it’s not just a concept – it’s actually in the app store now, so you can start doing it today.

BlaBlaCar’s Chattiness Index

Paris-based BlaBlaCar is a popular car-sharing service in Europe, but not well known or established elsewhere. What makes them interesting is that during sign-up they have a “chattiness” index that asks the user how chatty they are in a car. They are either “blah,” “blah blah,” or “blah, blah, blah.” They can also select their fellow riders based on whether they smoke or what music they listen to. What is interesting and ironic in many ways is that the backlash to “Uber” in France has been tremendous. Unlike Uber, BlaBlaCar does not have contract workers or employed drivers, but is more a carpooling app. Drivers simply charge their fellow riders a small fee for gas and drop them off along the way to their final destination. And because it is more ridesharing that a car service, it does not have to deal with the regulatory hurdles that have challenged Uber in Europe. The company is valued at $1.6B, making it the only startup in France estimated at more than $1B.

Why It’s Hot

While Uber and other services may not be able to gain an enduring foothold in Europe, home-made solutions such as BlaBlaCar may be successful. It shows the universal need to find alternate solutions from getting from point A to point B.


Facebook Introduces Notify, a News App Designed to Make Your Other Notifications Obsolete

On Wednesday, Facebook released an app for Apple’s iPhones and iPads called Notify, which will alert users with information from media companies including CNN, The Weather Channel, Fox Sports and Fandango. Its notifications are similar to the ones many people already receive from the media companies’ own mobile apps, but they are connected to people’s Facebook accounts, meaning Facebook gets more information about its users’ media consumption habits and interests.

The app asks users to pick at least three stations from which to receive notifications, using “stations” to refer to its media partners, which are organized into catergories including news, local, sports, business, entertainment, politics, science and technology, celebrity and gossip, music and audio, fashion and beauty, gaming, health, food and drink, and shopping and deals.

While Notify could reduce the need for people to install publishers’ own apps or enable notifications from those apps, moreover, it could also help publishers get their content in front of those people since publishers’ own apps typically aren’t as popular or widely used as apps like Facebook’s. People spend 84% of their time on phones with just five apps, excluding apps that come preinstalled, such as mail and calendar apps, according to Forrester. So piggybacking on Facebook’s popularity could be a more successful way for publishers to gain share of that attention.


Why It’s Hot

While there are no immediate plans to allow advertising through this app, it could help publishers get their content out in front of more people by piggybacking off of Facebook’s popularity and advertising opportunities will likely follow.


Nike Launches “Snow Day” Campaign

Nike’s ahead of the game with their first winter campaign of the year to promote their Hyperwarm baselayer apparel, says Adweek. As you can see below, the video spot to kick of this campaign is everything we expect from Nike. It’s packed with athletes, the music is on-point, it’s funny and it makes you want to run out to your nearest retailer, buy some gear and get out there to play your sport of choice. Here is the video for your viewing pleasure:

What’s special about this campaign though is, surprisingly, some of the ad-placements. Not only is Nike kicking off this campaign with another strong video, but they’re also leveraging new, hyper-relevant in-app ads to promote the new clothing line. According to the New York Times, Nike has ad placements within the Weather Channel App that targets specific workout gear to users depending on the weather in their area and, once clicked, directs those users directly to the Nike store where they can purchase these items on either desktop or mobile.

Why It’s Hot

The beauty of this campaign truly lies in the details as this is a great example of a brand creating a strong campaign from top to bottom. It’s both entertaining and convenient for consumers to engage with the brand and it targets consumers to purchase it’s products when they’re in the right mindset.

The Most Popular Apps In America

According to a report from comScore, below are the most popular mobile applications in the United States.
















Versus last year (2014)


(source: Atlas)

Why It’s Hot:

  • Google and Facebook dominate: the top 7 of 8 apps used are owned by Google or Facebook. The one outlier being Pandora, a music streaming service.
  • No Games: there are no games making the list as a top 25 used application. This could be due to the amount of games available which doesn’t allow for one game to dominate usage.
  • Microsoft is absent: Currently Microsoft is not creating application appealing enough for it to rank in the top 25. Skype was on the 2014 list but has since fallen off.
  • YouTube is quite popular: people love video and the one channel that does it best ranks high in popularity.


Professional Connections Just a Swipe Away…


The Tinderization of everything has apparently begun, and it’s sweeping the digital world.

A new app called Switch now lets you post a resume card, browse job postings, and swipe right for anything that looks interesting.


If the job poster likes what he or she sees on your truncated resume, they can accept your interest, and you are both connected for a private conversation.


Why It’s Hot

Every few years, someone reinvents the job hunting process. First it was Monster, then it was LinkedIn, maybe now it’s time for (a) Switch. This would seem to make the whole process more efficient, mobile-friendly, and human. Although as with any website or app, it’s contingent upon building a critical mass of users, it seems like a way to match employers and potential employees that fits with the times.

Turn your TV into a Smart Touch Display

If you grew up when I did, then the first TV you probably had at home was a major piece of furniture or probably sat deep in an enormous entertainment center that rivaled the family car in size and weight.

Innovations on the good ol’ family television have moved from fat to flat, to 3D to 4K to curved panel over the years. But what all of those evolutions have shared are a heightened price tag for a whole new device. An Indiegogo campaign that launched yesterday is hoping to bring some crazy new functionality to your existing TV by way of a $99 device that adds touch controls and other smart features to your TV.

The Touchjet WAVE allows you to control your television with your finger, a stylus or your smartphone, while also letting you download a host of apps directly to your TV.

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TechCrunch met up with the team from Touchjet to try out the device, and while it was just a prototype, it was clear that the WAVE had a ton of potential uses for users looking to upgrade their existing TVs.

The device works much like those novelty laser keyboards in that it pretty simply puts a laser overlay on your TV that matches your touch input to the onscreen experience.

Why Its Hot:
OK I get the functionality, but “why?” It’s clear that Touchjet isn’t aiming for everyone with its touch capability but it definitely also sees touch input as the feature that really sets it apart.

This feature isn’t going to be the new way you control your TV (I’d definitely still rather be on the couch), but it does seem like a fun way to play Fruit Ninja with the family or a cool method of flipping through a presentation at work.

As a marketer, I would love to see this technology advancing to enable us to potentially ‘swipe’ past ads that aren’t relevant – much like we can skip music tracks on Pandora, or people on tinder (is that how it works single people?).

The other thing to remember is that the pre-order price $99 isn’t just for touch capability, you’re also buying an Android-based hard drive that upgrades your TV and allows a host of apps that you can control from your smartphone, as well.

At the time of writing (Thursday 8/13), the WAVE had just blown past its $100K 1st day goal.

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New ‘Brain Training’ App Could Help People With Schizophrenia

A “brain training” iPad game developed in Britain may improve the memory of patients with schizophrenia, helping them in their daily lives at home and at work.

Scientists at Cambridge University said tests on a small number of patients who played the game over four weeks found they had improvements in memory and learning.

The game, “Wizard”, is designed to help so-called episodic memory — the type of memory needed to remember where you left your keys several hours ago, or to remember a few hours later where you parked your car in a multi-storey car park. Wizard requires players to remember the location of patterns in space correctly, rewarding their success with additional in-game activities.

Wizard Brain Training App.

Why it’s hot:
Computer-assisted training and different kinds of technological devices are increasingly being used as adjunct therapy or treatment for various illnesses and there is evidence that it has helped people with schizophrenia overcome some of their symptoms, with better outcomes in their daily lives. The patients involved in this study said they enjoyed the game and were motivated to play it across the eight hours of cognitive training.

This is important since lack of motivation is a common feature of schizophrenia. It’s interesting because drugs haven’t had a lot of success in getting similar results and this may change the fate of pharma industry with the prospect of more and more medical conditions being treated with sole technological assistance.

The Future of Shopping is by Text, and It’s Glorious…


[image courtesy of PSFK]

PSFK posted a really interesting roundup of text-to-shop apps yesterday that you should definitely check out, but probably the most fun of those cited (in my subjective opinion) is called Drunk Shopping. Not just a clever name, users text “heyyyyyy” to 551-333-7865, which incites an exchange like those seen above, wherein Drunk Shopping engages the user in playful, friendly banter, and offers them random items they can buy with a link to where they can buy them. Combining drinking with impulse buying seems like a dangerous (or awesome) combination, but it certainly seems entertaining if nothing else.

Why It’s Hot
Well, it’s fun. But, more importantly, it leverages a ubiquitous, familiar, and convenient (always accessible) behavior – not just texting, but drunk texting – in order to bring shopping to someone right where they are, even if it’s Mahmoun’s at 3AM. For all of its silliness, it’s a great example of how on-demand services are proliferating into all sorts of directions. The name of the game today is reaching people where they are with what they want (or what they don’t even know they want), and there are plenty more examples of on demand, text-to-shop services you should check out over at PSFK.

Google-Waze Tests Car-pooling service

Many drivers, including yours truly, depend on Waze to get to where they are going without unexpected delays. The Israeli company uses crowdsourced information from drivers to steer other drivers away from traffic, accidents, etc. Waze was purchased by Google in 2013 to help beef up the capabilities of the Google Maps platform that include turn-by-turn directions.

This week, Waze began testing its new RideWith ride-sharing app and service in Tel Aviv. The pilot program matches commuters who have similar rush-hour commutes so they can share rides and split the financial burden of traveling to and from work. If the pilot is successful, the service may launch in cities with a heavy suburban commuter population. These suburban commuters, who need a more regular car-sharing schedule, may find RideWith to be a useful alternative to Uber or Lyft that cater more to city residents that need a quick ride somewhere.

The app also calculates how much passengers should pay — a “pitch-in” cost based on gas and mileage and a “nominal” fee for using the app. Drivers are not paid for their services, per se.

RideWith service operated by Waze

RideWith service operated by Waze

Why It’s Hot

Waze has been hot for a while. So are Google Maps. For anyone who has used either of these apps (and they are integrated), they recognize how amazingly accurate they are. The Waze platform is inherently based on crowdsourcing, so it is a logical extension to include crowdsourcing to share available ride sharing to/from work. If the service does succeed and move out of pilot phase to a larger endeavor, it will provide provide another alternative to users who may be using Lyft or Uber.

Now You Can Get Driving Directions From the Terminator

Mover Siri, here comes Ahh-nold.
For the next three weeks, drivers who use the navigation device Waze can get directions from the voice of the Terminator. They won’t be able to find their way to Mars—after all, this is a cross-promotion for the upcoming Terminator Genisys, not for 1990’s Total Recall—but they will be able to navigate cities, suburbs and the country to the robotic monotones of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most memorable character.

Why It’s Hot

This partnership is such a unique and interactive way to promote a movie- once the new movie opens, red-eye Endoskulls will also appear in your Waze app to guide you to nearby movie theaters. Plus this also allows Arnold Schwarzenegger to fulfill a common request from his fans. “Every single day on social media fans ask me to record my movie lines,” the actor said, in a statement. “So, now I get to bring this classic role and my charming Austrian accent into their cars.”


UberDrive: The next Angry Birds?

Uber came out with UberDrive, a game designed emulate the typical experience within the Uber app for Uber drivers using the regular Uber app (complete with accepting rides, choosing routes, surge pricing, etc). The app will be available in the iTunes store, although is primarily meant for those in the San Francisco area where they are testing the potential benefits of the app as a means of recruiting potential new employees.

Uber DRive Pic 2 Uber Drive

Why its Hot

Not only can Uber benefit from some light-hearted publicity with the release of a game, in contrast to it’s string of some not-so-light-hearted publicity, (see here) but it also represents an innovate way to reach out to potential new employees. While it started as merely a passion project, nobody should discount Uber’s trend-setting potential with an idea like this.

For more about this, read this link.

App usage rises to 37 1/2 hours per month

New data released by Nielsen yesterday shows that smartphone app usage has risen to almost 40 hours per month, another 63% jump over the prior year. Interestingly, the number of apps that are used on a monthly basis has not changed– we spend more time with a few selected apps.


Why It’s Hot

The study illustrates several important insights;

1. we prefer to be invested heavily in a short list of apps rather than using a deep library (even if we have them)

2. we continue to increase our smartphone usage for activities previously spread across multiple devices (laptop, desktop, handheld games, television)

3. we are easily distracted by our phones– we go the screen for one thing and wind up doing many other things since we are “already there”

Woman Uses Pizza Hut App to Escape Hostage Situation

Quick thinking by a Florida mother helped her and her children escape a potentially deadly hostage situation by an unlikely communication device: her Pizza Hut mobile app.

After being taken hostage at knifepoint by her boyfriend Ethan Nickerson, things were looking bleak for Cheryl Treadway and her two children. But while being held in Nickerson’s home, Treadway managed to convince her captor to return her cell phone so that she could order a pizza for her children.

In that moment, Treadway ordered a small pepperoni pizza and included the notes, “Please help. Get 911 to me,” and, “911hostage help!” The local Pizza Hut recognized her as a frequent customer and flagged the comments, contacting local police.


When police arrived on scene, they had to talk Nickerson out of the house, but after a 20-minute standoff, he surrendered peacefully. Treadway and the children are unharmed, thanks to Treadway’s smart use of a pizza delivery app. “We’ve never seen that before,” said Pizza Hut manager Candy Hamilton. “I’ve been here 28 years and never, never seen nothing like that come through.”

Why It’s Hot

When Pizza Hut created its mobile app, odds are they didn’t think its code could do much more than order pizzas let alone save someone’s life. But with the proliferation of mobile technology like apps, even a pizza ordering service can be a communication vehicle. Thankfully this Pizza Hut was staffed by employees who took the comments seriously, and were able to play a role in saving the Treadway family’s lives.

Via Popular Mechanics and WFLA

Doximity Launching HIPAA-compliant Apple Watch App

When patients transfer hospitals, physicians change shifts, or doctors don’t know a new patient’s full history, fatal mistakes can happen. Up to 440,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors, making them the nation’s third-leading cause of death. And by some estimates, better communication among staff could prevent as many as one-third of those mistakes.

That’s what the people behind a new Apple Watch app, Doximity, are banking on. They think the Apple Watch can enable medical professionals to share information easily, securely, and quickly — and perhaps most importantly, hands-free.

Clinicians who belong to Doximity’s nationwide network can share information with one another by dictating, sending, and receiving brief, encrypted messages — even if they don’t work for the same hospital, or don’t have an Apple Watch.

doximity-applewatch-fax-300x365 doximity-applewatch-inbox-300x359

Why It’s Hot

This new app could change that way physicians communicate with one another, saving them valuable time throughout the day while maintaining HIPAA-compliant standards to protect patient privacy. If the Apple Watch finds success in hospitals and healthcare centers, this app could be the start of a wide range of hands-free tools for doctors.


Facebook Introduces Friend-to-Friend Payments via Messenger

Facebook this week launched a new feature of its Messenger app that will allow users to pay friends from within messages. Forget PayPal or Venmo; similar to the Snapcash feature from Snapchat, Facebook users can split a bill or repay a friend within the app via private message.

Read more via Tech Crunch.

Why It’s Hot: Cashing in on the popularity of mobile payment apps, Facebook created its own feature to add to the mix of app payment options out there. There’s no question that Facebook’s internal payment system will be convenient for its hundreds of millions of mobile daily users.

To address the question of privacy, Facebook’s anti-fraud team has said that the payment system is kept in a secured, highly-monitored environment separate from other, less secure parts of the social network.

When it comes to mobile apps, it seems consolidation is everything. We previously talked about news apps that gather together information from different sources and combine into one app. Perhaps the future of apps will be that less is more: Having less apps because each one is capable of doing more.

The Button To Automate Your Life

This is THE button designed for the Internet of Things era. Open the new app from startup IFTTT (If This Then That) and you’ll find just one, big virtual button. Tapping it will instantly perform a complex action that you have pre-programmed, like setting your Internet-connected thermostat to 70 degrees or blocking off the next 15 minutes on your Google calendar or turn on your coffee maker, or perhaps you’d like to get out of an awkward situation by calling yourself.  All of these these actions can be created by using IFTTT’s large number of pre-made “recipes.”


(image: IFTT)

Why It’s Hot:

With the rise of connected devices (Internet of Things) and wearables there arises a difficulty of having devices communicate and perform actions across a vast network. IFTTT allows an easy way to create and manage all the actions that you want to occur across devices without any complex coding or back end management.

Co-Founder Linden Tibbets had this to say: “This is what we wanted to do all along,” he says. “We thought the consumer side of our products — where all the coding would be in the background and all the action in the foreground — would evolve very drastically.”

Interestingly, although the Internet of Things turn is somewhat new for the company, it’s already seeing quite a lot of activity, with 20% of the Recipes related to “connected devices of some kind,” Tibbets says. “That has put us in a phenomenal position to really build the consumer side of the business.

Google Rolls Out the Red Carpet in Real-Time

If you were browsing Google or playing a Google Play app during the Oscars broadcast this past weekend, you may have noticed ads honoring the winners not long after they even became winners. Those ads were the result of Google’s a real-time Oscars marketing campaign, built to promote buying or streaming the winning films on Google Play just moments after the stars accepted their awards – that is, while the topic was still hot.

After each major award was announced, Google Play served a customized congratulatory ad and within 15 minutes, continued on to the next real-time ad for the next winner.

Read more via Adweek.

Why It’s Hot: Google has previously used its ad network to deliver ads in real-time and to develop creative content quickly, but this is the first time the tech giant used its ad technology to promote its own business.

We frequently see brands flock to Twitter for real-time advertising, especially during live events. This time, Google used its own search platform for advertising instead. I recently posted and we talked about Target‘s real-time, live ad featuring a performance aired during the Grammy Awards. It seems we are entering an age of new ways to market products in real-time – especially during widely popular, hugely anticipated and thoroughly-covered-by-the-media awards shows.

It’s a no-brainer: Google found that the number of searches for stars or movies increases during awards shows; but interest only lasts for a few minutes – until the next award is bestowed. While Google hasn’t said how many movie sales the campaign actually generated, the ads were served across 650,000+ apps and its online network of websites. Now the question is: What will they do next year?

Funny or Die Weather

Viral comedy site Funny or Die has its own weather app, and it promises to infuse some laughs into your daily weather forecasts.

The app is called Funny or Die Weather, and the main draw is a daily funny weather fact that makes observations like “The humidity of water is extremely high” and “No one knows what a barometer is.”

But nobody downloads a weather app solely for the jokes, so to make sure that its forecasts were up to snuff, the app sources its data from Weather Underground, which actually makes it just as reliable as any other weather app out there.

Aside from its jokes, the app offers some stylized weather animations to match the conditions outside, and it includes five-day forecasts, wind speed and direction, humidity, UV index, barometric pressure, sunrise and sunset info, and moon phases and tides.

We’ve never really heard of a weather app infused with jokes, but it make sense the more you think about it. The weather is boring, why not spice it up with a joke? The design isn’t as beautiful as, say, Yahoo Weather, but it’s not a limiting factor.

As far as the jokes go, Funny or Die thankfully appears to not have overdone it — the focus is still on the weather over the jokes for now — and with Weather Underground’s data powering it, comedy fans should find this app a fun addition to their collection.

Read more:


Why It’s Hot:

A simple spin for a very simple solution already existing. Humor has always been a way to enhance the experience of day-to-day things, and this is a perfect example. Also this is another great example of the ease and accessibility increasing for apps and the potential for niche applications.


Beer on tap: New app summons Bud Light to your door

AB InBev is waging war on the beer run with a new app that lets drinkers have Bud Light delivered to their doors.

The Bud Light Button is only available to drinkers in Washington, D.C., and promises beer within one hour of ordering.

AB InBev has partnered with a third-party beer delivery service Klink to use independent offices to deliver up to 100 cases of beer. The app uses credit-card details for payment and, presumably, to ensure the buyer is over 21 years old.

Along with beer delivery, AB InBev is looking to inspire ‘YOLO’ moments with extra ‘Up for Whatever’ experiences. The idea is to throw surprise parties for customers picked at random, to match with the brand’s tagline: “The perfect beer for whatever happens”.

 Why It’s Hot:

“Whatever, whenever” seems to be a trendy campaign for beer lately, with Heineken operating under a similar messaging strategy.

In the age of Uber and Seamless (plus alcohol delivery services spouting up left and right), it makes sense that a brand would want to be front and center of the “get it now” Millennial need. However, I’m sure there are other services that will deliver a variety of beverages for a party — why would someone want just Bug Light? I guess we will see!


Facebook Messenger App

Facebook’s unbundling of its Messenger tool into a stand-alone app was a spectacularly successful move for the social media company — except for overall usage of Facebook’s flagship app.

That’s one of the main takeaways from the ComScore mobile app data report for November, 2014, released today.

According to the report, Facebook’s app was the top app (by percent of overall reach) in November, at 69 percent. Its Messenger app came in fifth, with a reach of 43.1 percent. A year ago, those numbers stood at 76.2 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively.

Of course, it’s no accident that Messenger use grew so quickly: Facebook split Messenger off in August, forcing people who wanted to chat with their friends from their phones to use the stand-alone app.

The new ComScore data makes it clear that Facebook’s users consider mobile messaging a vital feature, and were willing to do what it took to keep on doing so, despite significant public hand-wringing at the time at being forced to use a new tool. By November, Facebook said at the time, half a billion people had migrated to the app.

Facebook was a big winner in the report, with Instagram coming in ninth, with a reach of 30.7 percent. Google had six of the top 15 apps, including second-place Google Play, third-place Google Search, and fourth-place YouTube, while Twitter’s mobile app lagged behind, in eleventh place, with just 21.3 percent reach.




Why It’s Hot:

This presents a new opportunity for how we can approach Facebook. How can we take advantage of this shift in usage for multiple brands? Does this effect international and global consumers as well? This also might give us some insight to the future of how people will perceive Facebook – as a communication network rather than as social as it is new.

Uber Price Surging in Sydney Raises More Than Fares

When gunman took a cafe hostage in Sydney earlier this week, many took to Uber to flea the scene. But when riders booked up their apps to request a ride, many may have gotten more than they bargained for. Demand for rides was so high that the app, famous for its demand-driven pricing or “surging,” automatically began charging users minimum fares of $100 dollars!


When word spread of the shockingly high pricing, Uber came under fire (understandably). With a PR nightmare on its hands, Uber began to offer free rides to users during the siege and provided frequent updates through its regional Twitter handle, @Uber_Sydney. But not before significant damage was done to the brand.

Why It’s Hot

Supply and demand is a double edged sword. Though most of the time it can be advantageous, rare occasions like the Sydney Siege demonstrate the dangers of algorithmic pricing if left unchecked. Many have since called for caps on such pricing to  create a ceiling that might protect against similar surges in the future. But what this case really shows is that companies who use such a surge model need to be proactively mining their user data to uncover patterns and thwart problems such as this before they start. Big data is enabling brands to be part of the solution, and it’s up to us as to what we begin to expect of brands armed with that power.

Link: The Daily Beast, Gawker

USPS Generates Holiday Buzz with New AR Experience

USPS’ new mobile app features an AR experience that enables users to enhance the real world via their smartphones. By using the app to scan any of the 156,000 blue collection boxes throughout the country, users receive a “magical mailbox” holiday message.

The app is meant to compel more business from direct-mail marketers by showcasing innovations they can use in their own direct mail pieces via the USPS.

Read more on The Washington Post.

Why It’s Hot | What sets augmented reality apart from other mobile ad units is its ability to compel users to engage in a more meaningful way. It can be used to provide information about a user’s surroundings, or provide video extensions to print ads. As the world is becoming more mobile, innovation that integrates direct mail with the digital world is helping to bridge the gap between traditional channels and new audiences.