Solving Parking Woes, One App at a Time

By Sarah Mitroff, Wired

One of the biggest headaches of being in a big city is parking.  Whether you’re headed to a big game downtown, or just an everyday commute to work, parking is a hassle.  Sam Friedman, the CEO of ParkMe, had an idea to help the woes of drivers.  He took information like parking lot hours, prices, and restrictions, plus real time information from parking meters and transformed it into an all inclusive web site and app.  Drivers can know available parking before they even leave the house.

Another innovation in parking technology is SFpark.  In April, 2011, San Francisco used their information from in-ground sensors in parking garages and metered spots and launched an app and website of their own.  The app provides information like how long a car has been parked, when they paid, where spots are available . . . the meters even accepts credit cards!

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Native Apps vs. Mobile Web

Many people wonder what the difference between native smartphone apps and mobile web apps is specifically. Max Katz at explains how each has its pros and cons. But can there be a perfect balance between the two, or is there a clear winner?

“A native mobile app can produce the best user experience — fast and fluid, can give you the best access to device features, and can be discovered in the app stores. On the other hand, building a native app on every major platform requires more socialized skills, a longer time to market, and a bigger budget to build and maintain. For this reason many apps get built as web apps or hybrid apps.

A mobile web app can produce a good user experience that is consistent across a broader range of platforms. As browser and JavaScript engines get faster with every release, the user experience gets better and better and the apps run faster and faster. Once created, this kind of app can be run on any platform, device, phone, or tablet with a browser. On the other hand, browsers on different platforms do not uniformly support all the latest HTML features and API, which can make developing and testing challenging.

A hybrid app offers many of the advantages of both approaches: discoverability in the app stores, access to the most common device APIs, and broad device coverage while not requiring the specialized skills, bigger budgets and longer time to market that are more typical of fully native apps.


BlackBerry 10 devices in January

RIM, makers of BlackBerry phones plan to introduce their new line of phones with brand new operating system, BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry was the original smartphone that changed the way we do work on a mobile scene. Recently they struggled to compete with products such as iOS and Android devices.

“RIM says its new devices will be faster and smoother and have a large catalog of applications that are now crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.

RIM’s stock has fallen more than 90 percent from a peak of over $148 in 2008. But at Friday’s close, the shares were up about 20 percent over the last two months on signs that the BlackBerry 10 devices are finally likely to make it to market.”

We are excited to see the new line by BlackBerry. Will a new operating system inspire you to trade in your iPhone or Android?



What to Expect in Printers in 2012

Want to print from your smartphone or tablet–or from another city? The printers of 2012 will handle that for you–and offer other ways to use the Web or email to make printing easier.

By Melissa Riofrio, PCWorld    Dec 25, 2011 9:00 pm

What to Expect in Printers in 2012No matter how clearly our world of online photo albums, Google Docs, and e-cards may seem–yet again–to ring the death for anything on paper, sometimes you still want to print.

But these days, you want to print from whatever device you happen to be using–not just from a PC. The year 2012 will bring more options for mobile printing via a wireless connection to a local device, and for cloud printing–using email as the backbone for printing documents to a local or remote printer with its own email address (and an Internet connection).

Mobile and Cloud Printing in a Nutshell

Mobile printing at the consumer level started with phone apps that let users send photos directly to a nearby printer via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Those simple utilities still exist, but a year or so ago, Apple, Google, HP, and Lexmark began introducing further innovations, bringing us to where we are today.

Apple’s AirPrint, which debuted a year ago, lets you use Wi-Fi to send a wide range of print jobs directly from an iOS device to a nearby AirPrint-compatible printer. Initially, those printers were limited to a handful of HP models, but the growing list now also includes printers from Brother, Canon, Epson, Kodak, and Lexmark. For more information, check Apple’s list of Airprint-compatible printers.

Google Cloud PrintingGoogle’s Cloud Print app, available in what seems to be perpetual beta form, lets users print via email on any printer connected to a computer that has Internet access. New printers designated as Cloud Ready from Epson, HP, and Kodak can receive jobs without the PC middleman (though they still need an Internet connection).

HP and Lexmark: Printer Pioneers

In late 2010, HP unveiled Web-based Print Apps for printing everything from maps and movie tickets to puzzle pages for kids. It also launched the consumer version of ePrint, which lets users email a print job from anywhere to an ePrint-compatible HP printer.

The year 2012 will bring more apps and more compatible printers. Also, HP has relaxed the ePrint process a bit, making it a little more user-friendly and resolving some difficulties associated with printing from certain phones or platforms.

Around the same time, Lexmark’s SmartSolutions–a growing collection of productivity apps available with certain Lexmark small-office printers–added apps that let users display RSS news feeds or the weather report on a printer’s color LCD. Since then, the SmartSolutions collection has grown to include ways to access a number of popular online services, from Facebook and Twitter to and Evernote. In addition, Lexmark recently launched mobile printing apps for Android, Apple iOS, Google Docs, and Google Cloud Print.

In 2012, More Printers, More Choices

In 2012, vendors that are playing catch-up will give you more choices.

Canon Pixma MG6220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-In-OneCanon Pixma MG6220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-In-OneCanon’s fall 2011 lineup included two printers (the Pixma MG6220 and Pixma MG8220) with a number of advanced mobile capabilities: the Easy-PhotoPrint mobile app, for printing photos from compatible Android and Apple smartphones and tablets; Pixma Cloud Link, for printing Google Docs and Gmail attachments from a mobile device; and (for registered users of Canon iMage Gateway or Picasa Web Albums) access to photo albums and printing templates for stationery, calendars, and other pieces.

Another new Canon model, the Pixma MG4120, is partially compatible with Pixma Cloud Link–but only in connection with its photo-oriented features, not with its broader document printing features.

Epson has collected its new mobile and cloud printing services under the umbrella brand of Epson Connect. Email Print lets you send an email message from a mobile device to an enabled Epson printer, which can then print the message or its attachment. Epson iPrint permits direct printing via Wi-Fi to compatible iOS and Android devices. A handful of new Epson printers are also Cloud Ready. A full list of Epson printers with mobile and cloud printing capabilities is available on the vendor’s website.

Kodak is embracing mobile and cloud printing enthusiastically. Most of its new models are Cloud Ready, and all of its printers can use Kodak’s own Email Print to email print jobs as attachments. Kodak is also trying to one-up HP ePrint by accepting larger email messages and email attachments than HP does.

The year 2012 will be a good one for printers. Though the underlying technology hasn’t changed much, the addition of mobile printing via Wi-Fi and of cloud printing via email now allows printers to follow their users onto their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Senior Editor Melissa Riofrio covers printers for PCWorld.

Christmas Day Online Spending Up 16.4 Percent; Mobile Sales Up 173 Percent
Record Cyber

It looks like consumers in the U.S. were shopping online alongside opening presents this year. According to IBM’s Coremetrics retail data, online sales on Christmas Day grew by 16.4 percent from last year.

Similar to trends seen over the Thanksgiving holidays, more shoppers were flocking to mobile devices to complete purchases. IBM says that 18.3 percent of all online sessions on retailers’ sites were initiated from a mobile device, up from 8.4 percent in 2010 (an increase of 117.8 percent).

Sales completed from mobile devices grew, reaching 14.4 percent versus 5.3 percent on Christmas Day 2010, representing an increase of 172.9 percent. In terms of specific mobile devices, the iPad led all mobile device traffic to retailers at 7 percent, followed by the iPhone at 6.4 percent and Android at 5 percent.

The day after Christmas also brought increased online sales, says IBM. E-commerce sales for December 26 were up 10 percent and 18.7 percent of all online sessions on a retailer’s site were initiated from a mobile device. And 13.8 of total sales came from mobile devices.

The holiday shopping season is still not over, as many online retailers are offering discounts post-Christmas and around New Years. We’ll see how online retail spending performs over the next week, but all signs are pointing to record sales this year.