Archives For Software

Ford got a lot of buzz at CES last week with new updates to its SYNC platform, but the most interesting announcement to me was word of an update to the SYNC Destinations app. Users can now enter a destination on the iPhone (or Android or Blackberry device later this quarter) and push it directly to Ford’s in-car navigation system. The app is powered by Inrix, and it illustrates the value of connecting user input from outside the car with an interface and real-time data available inside the car. Ford and Inrix claim this is the first application to connect a smartphone with in-car GPS, but given the utility of this particular machine-to-machine communication, it certainly won’t be the last.

In addition to the updated Destinations app, Ford also announced the new SYNC AppLink service at CES, giving users voice control over certain navigation functions. Drivers can call for real-time traffic reports and turn-by-turn directions without touching a button. Users can also report traffic incidents to the Sync community, supplementing Inrix’s data with real-time user input. The AppLink service is available in select Ford 2012 model cars.

Traffic is big business, and, as local newscasters have known for decades, a big draw for Americans who spend an inordinate amount of time in their cars. Inrix has been on my radar for a couple of years now. The company is not only collecting valuable data today, it’s creating an infrastructure of data inputs that will be hard to match in a few years time if the company does its job right.

And Inrix has the potential to be valuable to far more than just consumers too. Transit authorities, law enforcement and government budgeting offices could all benefit from Inrix data. Just note this story in the Seattle Times from January 8th. Inrix was able to report on the impact of new highway tolls on local traffic congestion and average vehicle speeds. The DOT’s comments on the news were decidedly indifferent, but that’s a short-sighted response. In the future, Inrix data (and traffic data from other sources including Navteq and Google) could be critical for transportation planning, community development and more.

TiVo Releases Android App

Dave Zatz —  January 6, 2012

tivo-android

Hot on the heels of TiVo’s Premiere software update, the DVR purveyors have also just pushed out an Android app to the Market. Although, back in June of 2011, we were told it was coming soon… but, as with most TiVo initiatives these days, a little patience is required. The TiVo companion app, designed for Android 2.1 or higher smartphones and 7″ tablets, is quite similar to its iPhone brethren, featuring:

  • Browse the channel guide without interrupting the show you’re watching
  • Schedule TV show/movie recordings and ongoing (Season Pass®) recordings
  •  Browse your recorded shows list and play a show from the App
  •  Search across TV, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video & Blockbuster —and see integrated results on Demand to find what you are looking for
  • Explore cast and crew while watching a show
  • Comment about what you’re watching on Facebook or Twitter
  • Use a TiVo remote control replica or our intuitive, gesture-based remote control
  • Manage your ongoing (Season Pass®) recordings and your To-Do List
  • Delete and reprioritize recordings for your favorite shows
  • Instantly schedule, search and browse for shows while you’re away from home
The new TiVo Android app is visually appealing and, like its iOS predecessors, may be the best way to actually manage your TiVo (assuming you have a Premiere). Yet, I still prefer the speed and flexibility of the guide found in Verizon’s FiOS TV apps.

 

Everyone could use a few procrastination helpers this time of year, and Google’s provided another one in the form of brand new custom Santa video messages. The video app complements Google’s other service launched last week to let users send personalized Santa phone calls. The phone calls alone are hilarious, but the video version of the app adds a certain je ne sais quoi.

Here’s how it breaks down. Click over to Google’s Send a Call From Santa page and answer a few questions about yourself and the recipient of your message. Google will customize a short Santa animation incorporating names, characteristics and plot choices from the questionnaire. It’s not only the audio that’s customized either. Certain visual elements change based on your choices – like the gangsta-style Christmas tree that appeared in my first creation. Watch the preview of your message and then send it on to any email address or G+ account you like. You don’t have to use Google+, or even have a gmail address. Any email will do.

Unfortunately I can’t embed my own personalized message here, but you can see Google’s demo on the official Google blog. It’s right up there with the animated Rudolph special gracing TV sets everywhere this time of year.

Discovering Read It Later

Mari Silbey —  December 13, 2011

I am seriously late to the game on this one, but if it took me this long to discover Read It Later, I’m guessing that others have missed it as well. And this app is worth even some very-belated attention.

Read It Later does just what you’d expect it to do. It allows you to mark articles online for later reading. This is particularly handy for me as I tend to open up 30 or 40 browser tabs in the course of catching up on my Twitter feed. Now instead of keeping those tabs open, I can scan some stories immediately, then click a link to save others to my reading list for later. I downloaded the software first on my PC, but have since added the pro version ($2.99) on my Android phone as well. The app syncs across devices so my reading list now follows me wherever I go.

Read It Later’s been around since at least 2007, and it offers an API that’s used by many, many other popular apps, including press darlings Flipboard and Pulse. However, whether you use RIL’s daughter apps or not, the original is one of the simplest and most effective online productivity tools I’ve ever downloaded. Here are some of the features I like best:

  • One-click access- I’m always a link away from my reading list
  • Reading archive- access to older articles I’ve already marked as read
  • Mobile-optimized- an optimized view of articles on my phone’s small screen (you can also see an article in its original layout)
  • Filter and search- ability to search reading list and filter stories by title, site or tag
  • Offline reading- mobile app downloads articles for offline reading

If you’re looking for a way to control the information overflow, check out Read It Later. It’s available for all web browsers and the iOS and Android platforms. If you’re primarily an iOS user, Instapaper is a noted and worthy competitor, with some additional Kindle integration.

Everyone wants in on the EPG business. That’s one of the conclusions I took away from the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo event earlier this month. Even as CE manufacturers are pumping up the volume on connected devices with their own video interfaces, vendors in the cable TV world are pushing a range of solutions that tie the electronic program guide into larger content management systems for pay-TV operators. I talked about Rovi’s TotalGuide EPG a couple weeks back, and there’s Arris’ Moxi guide, but those two are far from the only players in this game. Here’s a sample of three other companies touting their own guide solutions.

Clearleap

Clearleap is perhaps better known in the world of Internet delivery than it is in the cable industry, but the company is rapidly carving out a niche among MSOs. Speaking with CTO John Carlucci at the SCTE event, I learned that Clearleap has a hosted, white-label guide on the market, and that it offers media services to help operators manage, encode and deliver video to connected devices. Clearleap’s solutions are strictly IP-based, but they’re already being used by Verizon for its VOD platform, and Carlucci says the company’s in trials with “four of the top five” operators for its media services. As for the guide specifically, Clearleap’s solution could be a compelling one for tier-2 and tier-3 operators. The service runs on a pay-as-you-go model, and Clearleap is rapidly adding advanced features. The company recently integrated with Great Lakes Data Systems (GLDS) to add options for a-la-carte transactions that are tied back to a subscriber’s monthly cable bill. (Think additional IP content purchases on top of the monthly subscription) Carlucci says social features are on the way. Orbitel, a small cableco out of Arizona, launched the Clearleap/GLDS solution in October to create a branded VOD experience on subscriber Roku boxes.

Motorola

Motorola showed up with a reference EPG back at the Cable Show in 2010, but that’s as far as the company had ventured into the guide world until this fall. Continue Reading…

Rovi TotalGuide 1

It’s the start of the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo in Atlanta, which means you’re going to see a lot of cable news over the next two days. Among the vendor announcements, Rovi’s put out two customer releases related to the company’s TotalGuide EPG solutions. BlueRidge Communications is now using the white label version of Rovi’s TotalGuide xD application for smartphones and tablets (think Comcast iPad web app, but built by Rovi), and Buckeye Communications is rolling out the TotalGuide on its advanced set-tops.

This may not sound like exciting news, but it is when you consider that Rovi is bringing Internet-sourced content to the cable TV guide experience. Features include an HD interface, unified search, and “six-degree discovery” recommendations linking related content via cast and crew, awards, similar programs and more. When I spoke to Rovi VP Sharon Metz last week, she mentioned that Buckeye specifically is delivering Internet-based guide data using the DOCSIS modem in Motorola and Pace set-tops. Now there may be other applications using that set-top Internet connection by now, but this is the first consumer app I’ve heard of that takes advantage of that connectivity. (We’ll talk about what’s happening on Arris gateways another time.) Rovi’s got other customers on the roster too. This year the company’s announced TotalGuide EPG deals with BendBroadband, Armstrong, Suddenlink and Charter Communications.

Pandora pushed out an iPhone app update yesterday that leverages an interesting new feature of iOS 5 — the ability for third party developers to change lock screen imagery and provide textual information. Cues that seem perfectly suited for a music streaming app such as Pandora.

For years we complained about missing iPhone features. But now, while still lacking the customizability of Android, iOS is supremely polished and (for most) well beyond feature complete. Need more proof? While I’ve invested in the fine TrackThis app, at some point the iPhone software was updated to natively link tracking numbers in email messages to their respective shipping companies.

I’ve been flirting with Windows Phone 7, but little touches like these (along with the massive app ecosystem) make it difficult to quit Apple.