Apple Switching to Wireless Charging for Next iPhone?

iphone-6-designs.pngApple is reportedly working with technology and manufacturing partners in the US and Asia in develop wireless charging that could be used within its mobile devices as soon as next year.

According to Bloomberg, who cited people familiar with the plans, Apple is exploring options that would enable iPhones and iPads to be charged wirelessly at distances greater than those currently manageable with devices like charging mats.

In order to do so, the company has to overcome a variety of technical barriers, including the loss of power over distance and how the new technology would be integrated into future iPhone and iPad models. Currently, the decision on whether or not to implement the technology is still being assessed.

Apple has experienced trouble recently with its conventional wired chargers, having had to issue a massive recall of older two-pronged models sold between 2003 and 2015 after multiple incidents of them breaking and causing electric shocks. The plugs, which were sold as part of hte Apple World Travel Adapter kit, are used in continental Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

Wireless charging is still a developing technology, but Samsung, Sony and Google have all released smartphones that can be powered using a charging plate, while other companies are working on more universal solutions that require small peripherals.

Apple’s experiments with wireless charging in the past have included using iMac personal computers as a hub for charging devices using a method called near-field magnetic resonance, and induction-based charging for its Apple Watch, that requires the wearable to be within millimeters of the power source.

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St Ives Acquires The App Business for £22m

The App BusinessMarketing services group St Ives has acquired of development firm The App Business.

St Ives is initially buying a 82.2 per cent share of the company for £22.3m, and intends to acquire the remaining 17.8 per cent next month through an option arrangement.

Founded in 2009, The App Business describes itself as ‘a mobile-led consultancy specialising in strategy, product development and business transformation’. The company has around 120 employees, and counts Unilever, Tesco and News UK among its clients.

The App Business will stay in its current London offices, and continue to be run by the existing management team.

This isn’t the only investment St Ives has made in the space – last March, it bought US-based digital product design and engineering firm Solstice Mobile for an undisclosed amount, and back in 2012, it took a 24 per cent stake in mobile marketing firm Sponge for £1.5m.

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Innovation Lab: Homemade Exoskeletons, Greenwich Robocars and Floating Greenhouses

At Mobile Marketing we’re proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it’s on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world’s innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Homemade Exoskeleton Lifts Mini Cooper with Ease

Inspired by the powered suits seen in movies like Iron Man and Elysium, self-described “hacker for hire” James Hobson has put together an impressive exoskeleton in his garage that has allowed him to achieve feats including lifting a Mini Cooper and bicep curling as much as 270lbs.

Video of Hobson’s original upper-body design amassed 1m views in a week after he filmed himself lifting 170lbs in his back garden, but without any back support, he was still limited in what he could achieve, as any weight had to be supported by his own skeleton.

His latest creation is a lower-body exoskeleton based on a pair of 63mm bore diameter pneumatic cylinders, capable of lifting over 800lbs each. Thanks to locking joints, the exoskeleton is capable of supporting over 485lbs of steel weights even in unpowered mode, and Hobson was able to easily lift a Mini Cooper attached to the device.

“While advancing battery technology will expand powered exoskeleton suits’ potential greatly, I believe the next breakthrough in function exoskeletons is much more simple. It’s all about mechanical advantage,” said Hobson. “We already use many tools that take advantage of leverage and gear ratios, so what if we could create an exoskeleton that did what the bicycle did for transportation, but instead allowed humans to achieve super-human levels of strength for fields like construction, disaster relief, the military, and every other task that pushes past what our own bodies can handle?

gateway podLondon’s First Driverless Cars Revealed Ahead of Tests
The design for the first driverless cars set to be deployed on the streets of London has been revealed, with the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (Gateway) choosing to adapt electric passenger shuttles that are currently in use at Heathrow Airport for the project.

The Gateway project is one of four initiatives in the UK to test both the technology behind driverless cars, and the public reaction to such vehicles. Other trials are taking place in Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry, and are jointly funded by government agency Innovate UK and the automotive industry.

Unlike the pods used at Heathrow (pictured left), the vehicles will not need tracks, but will instead operate autonomously, navigating their way around routes that are likely to include the North Greenwich tube station, the O2 Arena, plus nearby businesses and residential areas.

Other Gateway trials taking part in Greenwich will include autonomous valet parking and driverless delivery vans used to shuttle parcels between warehouses and shops or homes in the area. All the vehicles involved will be supervised by an operator to ensure they run smoothly, and to take control in the case of an emergency.

House Escapes Flooding By Rising Up on Stilts

After their Thames-side house experienced five floods in 15 years, Middlesex residents Erica and Peter decided to do something. But rather than moving location, they decided to move their house vertically, putting it on hydraulic stilts that meant it could rise above floodwaters safely.

Working with architecture firm BAT Studio, the couple developed the ‘Greenhouse That Grows Legs’, a specialised building that can raise almost a metre above the ground thanks to four hydraulic legs built into the structure’s steel frame.

The building isn’t a full-fledged house, but serves as a sanctuary during floods, keeping both the building and contents safe and dry, while serving as a functional space (which the couple use as a greenhouse) at other times. With floods increasingly threatening much of the country, we may see more innovative solutions to the damage they can cause in the next few years.

Kyocera-floating-solar-farmConstruction Starts on World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm in Japan
With all but one of its nuclear power stations still shut down as a consequence of the Fukushima disaster, Japan has spent the last few years relying on expensive imported energy, prompting local technology firms to redouble their efforts in creating renewable energy solutions.

Solar farms have proved difficult to locate in Japan previously, due to the high population density and mountainous terrain, but tech firm Kyocera had the novel idea of building on ‘unused’ spaces like reservoirs. The company has partnered with Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation to start building what could become the world’s largest floating solar farm in terms of power produced.

The facility will dwarf the current record holder (also built by Kyocera), using five times the number of solar panels and covering around seven times the space. The farm, which is situated around 50 miles from Tokyo, is aiming to be fully functional by 2018, and will generate around 16,170 megawatt hours per years (enough to power almost 5,000 households) once complete.

Smart Instrument Combines Drum Machine, Tambourine, Synthesiser and Light Show

The Zoom Arq looks like the kind of instrument you’d see being played in the background of a Star Trek or Doctor Who episode, but the Bluetooth-connected device is real, and combines functions from a drum machine, sequencer, MIDI controller and more, while also generating a hypnotic light show.

The device consists of two parts. The base station houses most of the physical controls and comes preloaded with 70 synthesiser samples and 468 drum and instrument sounds, as well as linking up to your computer to access more music. The ring controller is made up of 96 pressure-sensitive pads that let it be used as a drum machine as well as generating a colourful lightshow that corresponds to the music.

The ring also includes an accelerometer, which is where it gets really interesting. Once detached from the base station, you can change sounds, cycle through effects and more by shaking, tapping, dancing with or even throwing the device around.

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Facebook Shutters App Development Platform Parse

parsefbFacebook is shuttering Parse, the app development platform it bought for a reported $85m (£59m) in 2013.

Parse provided tools for cross-platform app development, used by over 600,000 developers. Since its acquistion, Facebook made several additions to the service, including deeplinking, push notification and support for IoT devices and wearables, so the announcement comes as something of a surprise.

The company will wind down operations over the next year and be officially retired on 28 January 2017. In the meantime, it’s offering clients a database migration tool, and is also making Parse Server available in open source to run most features of its API from a Node.js server.

“We understand that this won’t be an easy transition, and we’re working hard to make this process as easy as possible,” said Parse co-founder Kevin Lacker. “We are committed to maintaining the backend service during the sunset period, and are providing several tools to help migrate applications to other services.


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HP Shows Off Smartwatch from Fashion Designer Isaac Mizrahi

HP Isaac MizrahiHP has revealed its Isaac Mizrahi smartwatch, a collaboration with the veteran fashion designer.

At first glance, the smartwatch looks like a regular analogue watch – albeit one framed with Swarovski crystal – but its face features a subtle digital display, which is hidden when inactive

By connecting with an Android or iOS smarpthone, the watch displays call, text and calendar notifications, as well as a direct feed from Mizrahi’s Twitter, and also features a basic activity tracking function. The watch promises a five-day battery life – presumably aided by the low-key display and limited functions – and a range of interchangeable strap options.

Mizrahi isn’t the only designer to recently enter the wearable space. At CES, WiseWear unveiled a partnership with fashion legend Iris Apfel with a range of bracelets with notifications, activity tracking and an emergency location messaging feature.

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StackAdapt Lands $1m Funding for Native Ad Platform

StackAdapt native ad exampleNative ad platform StackAdapt has landed $1m (£0.7m) in Series A funding from Plaza Ventures.

StackAdapt offers a self-serve platform for buying native advertising across more than 30 ad exchanges, including  AdsNative, InMobi and Adyoulike, offering access to more than 35,000 publishers including ABC News, Reuters and USA Today.

The company says it will use the funding to scale its native ad platform and grow its Toronto-based team across its product, tech, customer success, sales, and marketing departments.

“We’re excited to announce this strategic relationship with Plaza Ventures since they have a deep understanding of the technology and ad tech ecosystem,” said Ildar Shah, co-founder of StackAdapt. “Brands and agencies have readily adopted our native ads solution since launch, and we plan to use this funding to scale the self-serve platform and help them drive more meaningful interactions with their branded content.”

As part of the deal, Plaza managing partner Rob Richards will join StackAdapt’s board of directors.

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Reactions, Live Video Rolling Out to Facebook

Facebook ReactionsFacebook is preparing to roll out ‘Reactions’, its long-awaited expansion of the ‘like’ button, across the globe and all platforms.

The feature, which is currently being tested in a ‘handful of countries’ including Ireland and Spain, gives users five new options to use when responding to Facebook posts: a heart for ‘love’, and emoji for ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’. In original testing, there was also a ‘yay’ option but this has since been removed, in an attempt to streamline the feature.

The company is working to “make sure that we have the UI and interaction simple enough that people could express more of what they wanted without getting in their way,” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Reactions is in the process of being tweaked based on those trials, but will roll out across the world “pretty soon”.


“The philosophy behind it is that when you only have a like button, if you share a sad piece of content or something that makes you angry, people may not have the tool to react to it,” said Zuckerberg on an earnings call, off the back of the company’s Q4 results. “And therefore over time the community feels less comfortable sharing that kind of content on Facebook. And we want people to be able to share all of the things that are meaningful to them not just the things that are happy and that people are going to like when they see it. And we think that that’s just really important to the mission of the company and we’ll increasing engagement and sharing and openness, and all of the things that we care about.”

Facebook also announced that it was expanding the trial of its live video feature across the US. Initially available in the iOS app only, live video gives users a Periscope-style way of streaming video to their friends and followers. An Android rollout is due to follow ‘soon’.

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Over 5m Google Cardboard Viewers Shipped So Far

cardboard-headset.pngGoogle’s cut-price virtual reality solution has shipped over 5m copies of its viewer since launching 19 months ago, with more that 25m Cardboard apps installed from Google Play over the course of its life so far.

The viewer has been helped along by several high-profile, large scale giveaways including promotions by the New York Times and New England Patriots football team, not to mention winning Most Innovative Use of Mobile in our Effective Mobile Marketing Awards at the tail end of last year.

The Cardboard has been a symbol of Google’s innovation, and also its ability to put the weight of its many business units behind an idea, with the company’s YouTube streaming service enabling Cardboard users to watch over 350,000 hours of virtual reality-optimised footage. The company has also launched a virtual reality camera app, which so far has been used to capture over 750,000 photos.

Cardboard has also been promoted as an educational tool, with virtual reality ‘Expeditions’ enabling school children from around the world to experience locations as diverse as the depths of the Congolese jungle and the White Houses’ Oval Office, all from their own classroom.

It’s no surprise that Google has recently formed a new Virtual Reality division, aiming to expand upon the successes Cardboard has enabled and, in all likelihood, preparing for the next wave of innovation brought in by the mysterious Magic Leap, which Google has been a significant investor in.

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PayPal Opens Venmo App up to Online Merchants

venmo in gametimePayPal has opened up its peer-to-peer payment app Venmo to online merchants, enabling users to pay for in-app, digital and physical purchases using the smartphone app, with the hope of expanding its transaction volume and combating rising competition from other mobile payment services.

Initially, PayPal is limiting the capability to select iOS users, and only with certain partner apps including event ticketing firm Gametime and gourmet meal delivery service Munchery, but has plans to bring in additional merchants and even more features in the near future.

The firm is hoping to monitor public feedback as the feature is rolled out, and repsond to consumer demands in order to create new features. The app already offers the ability to split purchase payments among several users, monitor payment history and share purchases on social media.

“This is a huge development for both consumers and businesses,” said a spokesperson for PayPal. “For consumers, there’s now even more flexibility in how they can use their money. For merchants, accepting Venmo means added value through potentially increased visibility and exposure, especially if the Venmo user splits the purchase or shares the purchase on their social feed.

“This is the future of our increasingly digital economy, and we’re exctied that the PayPal family is making it a reality.”

Purely as a peer-to-peer money transfer service, Venmo processed $7.5bn (£5.2bn) in payments in 2015, up 213 per cent on the previous year. $2.5bn of that volume was processed in the fourth quarter alone, suggesting the app is growing in popularity.

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High-quality Mobile Inventory Driving Ad Spending

pubmaticAdvertisers demanding high-quality mobile inventory over the holiday period saw ad spending shift towards mobile private marketplaces in Q4 2015, with volume up by as much as 45 per cent in the weeks preceeding Black Friday.

According to PubMatic‘s latest Quarterly Mobile Index, advertisers directed spending to higher-quality inventory, especially through more transparent mobile private marketplaces, in an effort to secure customers over the crucial Christmas period.

As a result of this shift, premium publishers are garnering higher prices for their inventory and attracting more mobile ad spending, helping to close the gap between mobile ad spending and consumption, which has traditionally outpaced spending by a significant margin.

According to the report, mobile private marketplaces (PMP) are being favoured by major brands looking to target mobile consumers with timely, relevant advertising over the 2015 holiday shopping season, as the number of people researching and purchasing via mobile grew.

In the weeks approaching Black Friday, weekly mobile PMP monetised impression volume increase by 45 per cent, with retail and technology sectors growing even more in this period, by 106 per cent and 285 per cent respectively. eMarketer predicts that ad spending in PMPs in the US will reach $3.65bn (£2.5bn) this year, up from just $80m in 2013.

“Our data shows that the shifting industry focus to high-quality ad inventory is paying off for premium publishers,” said Rajeev Goel, CEO and co-founder of PubMatic. “As low quality inventory is cleared out of the ecosystem, publishers are receiving higher CPMs.

“Publishers are also focused on creating higher-quality media experience for consumers, to combat ad blocking and encourage more media consumption, which also contributes to higher CPMs and attracts more ad spending from brand advertisers. We’re seeing that private marketplaces also enable timely and scalable targeting of specific audiences. 2016 brings several major events, such as the presidential election and the Summer Olympics, which present immense opportunities for publishers and advertisers trying to reach mobile audiences with relevant marketing messages.”

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