Posts tagged wants

Tzoa’s Wearable Enviro-Tracker Wants To Clear The Air

Given the seemingly endless supply of fitness trackers and health bands, there’s are no shortage of wearables that record and report user data coming from within. But a new device called Tzoa, which appeared on the floor of Wearable World Congress in San Francisco, provides insights into a person’s health by recording data from without.

Billed on Indiegogo as a “Wearable Enviro-Tracker,” Tzoa analyzes the air around it, scanning for particles and quantifying them to offer meaningful information about air quality. In the short term, that could help users make informed decisions about where they spend their time. But Tzoa’s long term goals are much grander than that: the company wants to inspire meaningful change about what we pump into the air we breathe.

(Disclosure: ReadWrite’s parent company, Wearable World, owns a small equity stake in Tzoa as a result of its participation in the Wearable World Labs program.)

Air Apparent

A tiny fan and an equally small laser inside the Enviro-Tracker make it work. The unit periodically sucks in air for analysis, and whenever particles cross the laser’s beam, the device identifies each one it based on its size—whether pollutants like black carbon emitted by diesel engines or allergens like pollen and dander.

“It can say, here’s the particles that are really dangerous for your health, because they can enter past your cilia into your lungs and then not only affect your lungs but create scar tissue,” explained company co-founder and Tzoa inventor Kevin Hart. “They can also get through the blood barrier of the lungs into your bloodstream.”


TZOA co-founder and inventor Kevin Hart at Wearable World Congress 2015

The device also boasts light, UV, temperature, and humidity sensors, which help the device understand whether it’s inside or outside or what weather conditions are like. If the relative humidity hits 70 percent, for example, the Tzoa compensates for the way particles change in size as a result. All those sensors work in concert to give users a full picture of the air around them—both what they can see, and what they can’t.

Tzoa can also track a user’s location via a smartphone’s GPS sensor when linked up with Bluetooth. An accompanying phone app will rate the air quality on a scale of one to ten, and might recommend that a user turn on an air purifier when things get bad. The app also provides what Hart calls a “daily digest,” which tells users about their air quality exposure throughout the day and then offers suggestions such as trying to avoid locations thick with pollutants and allergens.


The TZOA app provides a real-time air quality report, a daily digest of a user’s environmental exposure, and crowdsourced air quality maps

“If you’re indoors, it might say something like, ‘you should open the windows because we know the outdoor air is better than the indoor air’,” said Hart.

Crowdsourcing The Air Supply

And how does it know that? “We’re aggregating all the different sensor data from different people,” Hart said. “We’re making citywide apps of air quality, both indoors and outdoors.”

If lots of Tzoa units make their way out into the world, they can then share enough data to create crowdsourced air quality maps. It’s a lot like Waze, the traffic-reporting app that helps users plan their routes to avoid major jams or accidents. But instead of making your commute shorter, Tzoa wants to make your trip to work a little easier on your lungs and body.

Says Hart:

Just like you can manually report that there’s been a traffic incident or a police officer spotted, we can manually report when someone who has asthma has had an attack—you can report that by tapping the device.

It’s sort of the first solution for people, because we don’t know typically what triggers this. We know air pollution is a major factor, and the environment. So we’re crowdsourcing this information and warning other people, stay out of this area.

Air Of Authenticity

The wearable version of Tzoa is just half the equation. The Vancouver-based company has also teamed with the University of British Columbia to deploy ten “Research Edition” versions of the Tzoa for use in a public health study in India to measure people’s daily exposure to pollutants. The Research Edition has a bigger battery and larger internal storage than the Enviro-Tracker, allowing the researchers to leave the devices at study sites for longer.

The Research Tzoa will give the researchers an insight into the effects of burning wood or dung for cooking in huts. While the larger version costs at least a hundred dollars more than the Enviro-Tracker version, it’s significantly less expensive than the air quality analysis equipment used in past studies.

“We have a queue of researchers who want to do these studies,” said Hart. “Researchers are looking for low cost devices, and they don’t exist right now. This is the first one that they’re looking at that they’re getting very excited to try out.

“They’re typically $1,000 to $2,000 or more—up to $20,000,” he added. The Tzoa Research Edition costs $250.


The larger TZOA Research Edition

Researchers aren’t the only ones looking forward to the study’s results. The research edition’s deployment will also provide more data to help refine the Tzoa’s technology and design, while also providing a proof-of-concept for the wearable version that’s set to launch in 2016.

And proving the Tzoa’s power and potential is important if the company hopes to succeed. Since crowdsourced air quality maps are one of the device’s chief selling points, its success hinges on getting as many Tzoas out into the world as quickly as possible.

Hart said that consumer distribution and sales is only one avenue the company is currently exploring. Tzoa hopes to enter into partnerships with the likes of GE to embed air quality units in smart LED light bulbs for deployment around cities like San Francisco.

Of course, while smoggy areas like New York, Los Angeles, and Beijing are easy targets for a device aimed at improving air quality awareness, there are plenty of sparsely populated places throughout the world that may not see air quality problems as something worth exploring. I asked Hart how Tzoa planned to target people living in smaller cities where air quality isn’t a daily concern.

“This is an awareness campaign,” he said, posing a hypothetical data set built from sensors deployed in Tzoa’s home city of Vancouver:

We might say, “hey we thought Vancouver was really clean, however when we went and put a thousand sensors around the city, we found X, Y, and Z. We found that restaurants were venting fumes onto a busy city street. We found that laundromats were venting lint right into a garage where people were getting their cars.” There’s all sorts of crazy scenarios.

As the data sets get built out, as we have a proof of concept city established, we can then turn to a smaller city and say, look at what we learned here. You may not think you have a problem, but neither did they. And look at what they found, and look how we’ve improved their quality of life because of it.

Waiting To Exhale

For now, the $99 crowdfunding price (and the planned $139 launch price) might make the Tzoa just a little too expensive to see widespread consumer adoption, —and it’s a hurdle that Hart acknowledges. He didn’t hesitate with his answer when I asked him if he saw the Tzoa’s asking price as a potential barrier to widespread adoption:

Absolutely. We’re starting with $99, seeing what happens with $99, and what we’re really trying to do is just expand the amount of volume manufacturing we’re doing so we can drive that cost down as low as possible. But we need people to be part of this movement for clean air and get engaged with using these and building the maps.

We have ambassadors from around the world who have signed up and said, “we want to be the first people to build maps for you in our cities, and we want to tell people and spread the word.” Because the more people that use this, the lower the cost gets, and the better the maps get, the higher resolution they are, and the more useful this is for everybody.

Regardless of the Research Edition’s results or any arrangement with GE, for Tzoa, the crowdfunding campaign is do-or-die. “We absolutely need to hit our goal in order to manufacture that in volume,” Hart said. 

The good news is that, after only one day, Tzoa’s Indiegogo campaign is already nearly halfway funded. The bad news is that, so far, the number of backers is still only hovering around 200 people—not quite enough to incite a major social change around the world just yet.

If we can’t get enough people to wear this and get a high resolution picture of the environment, then we can’t. And so as much as this is a campaign about a product, it’s a campaign about a movement for clean air that’s empowered by the product. If we can’t find enough people who are interested in that topic, then maybe it’s not a topic that’s worth pursuing.

But I personally believe, and we have a hundred ambassadors around the world who believe, that it is an important problem.

Tzoa and Kevin Hart photos by Brian P. Rubin for ReadWrite; Tzoa app and Research Edition images courtesy of Tzoa

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Facebook Wants To Bring Games To Messenger

In its transformation from simple messaging tool to app platform, Facebook Messenger is fixing to take another step: The social network’s standalone chat app will soon tie into game apps, according to The Information. At least, that’s the gist of Facebook’s latest maneuver. The company confirmed that it’s in talks with third-party developers to bring their games to the messaging service.

The move ticks another checkbox for Facebook as it tries to transmogrify Messenger from a simple communication tool used by more than 600 million people every month to an environment that lets those users run and connect to outside apps. 

See also: Why Facebook Messenger Is A Platform—And WhatsApp Isn’t

At its F8 developer conference in March, Facebook announced Messenger would tie into external apps, such as those for photo, animation and video—i.e., the sorts of media that might naturally fit into a chat tool. The list of Facebook’s early launch partners included JibJab, Giphy, ESPN and the Weather Channel. 

The move into gaming would expand the scope of the company’s integrations, hammering home Messenger’s platform ambitions. 


So far, changes to Messenger have brought in “stickers” (or large, cutely drawn chat graphics), photo messaging, voice and video features, and even payments.

See also: Looks Like Facebook Messenger Is Pulling Up To The Platform

Facebook’s efforts in attracting third-party developers have been numerous, but so far, they seem slow to start. The Information describes the social network’s bid to lasso outside apps as “sluggish,” and it’s not at all clear if gaming will be the salvation the company is hoping for. A lot depends on the details, few of which have emerged at this point—including how the fundamental integrations will work.

Games could run directly within Messenger’s swelling walls, or they could simply use the app to connect players, like some sort of watered-down version of the Mumble chat tool popular among gamers. Facebook reportedly hasn’t decided which path it wants to pursue yet. 

Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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Now Google Wants You To Play Games While You Run

Google wants Android Wear developers to get fit, to get with the program, to go the extra mile—and to have fun while doing so. And it’s going to show them how.

The tech giant has just unveiled Games in Motion, an open-source smartwatch game that logs fitness data while pitting runners against imaginary enemies. The game, which appeared on the Android Developers Blog on Wednesday, looks like a Google push for more Android Wear apps that more fully exploit smartwatch sensors and other capabilities.

The majority of existing Android Wear games on the Play Store currently rely almost wholly on touchscreen swipes for user interaction. Games in Motion, meanwhile, combines running data and the touchscreen UI to create something new.

Secret Agent, Man

The premise of the game couldn’t be simpler:

Do you ever go on a job and feel like there is a lack of incentive to help you run better? What if you were a secret agent and had to use your speed and your nifty gadget to complete missions?

From there, the game pings your Android Wear device and provides on-screen prompts while you run. The app triggers in-game events based on how long you’ve been running. In one scenario, for instance, you’re only 90 seconds into your run before the game tells you there’s a zombie on your tail.


As you run, Games in Motion will pit you against enemies

Then you’d get to choose an action—here, to blend in by acting like a zombie or to throw an axe at your undead stalker. The choices aren’t equal, though—one equals a defeated zombie, and the other equals mission failure. (You’ll have to play—or read the code—to find out which is which.)

It’s not a revolutionary game mechanic, but it’s interesting in the way it combines a user’s running data with interactive events. Maybe a developer with more creative ideas can take this idea and, well, run with it.

How It Works

Google’s blog post highlights the various Android features Games in Motion uses to realize such scenarios. Android Wear connects runners’ wrists to their phones; Google Play Games unlocks achievements; the Google Fit API logs fitness data; four different Android audio APIs come together to provide in-game speech during audio playback.

Altogether, Games In Motion seems like a novel use of an Android Wear device—even though the game itself may not sound all that incredible on its own. But building an awesome game wasn’t really Google’s aim in the first place, since it posted the game on GitHub for developers to dissect and use as a springboard for their own ideas.

A few existing running apps have already taken a stab at making running more fun. Runtastic’s Story Running, for instance, lets you download audiobook-style stories accompanied by music whose tempo is supposed to encourage you to adjust your pace. The app Zombies, Run!, meanwhile, aims to immerse you (via headphone audio) in a zombie apocalypse that just happens to require a lot of, well, running. Both are effectively smartphone-based, though.


Smoke bombs are just one way to dispatch bad guys who want to get between you and your daily burn.

Google still faces an uphill battle with Android Wear, which has been available since last summer and yet isn’t really lighting the world on fire. Maybe its new sample game will spark developers’ imaginations and spur an Android Wear renaissance. It’s also possible that Android Wear, at least in its current incarnation, simply isn’t cut out for compelling gaming.

Lead image by Frank Kovalchek; Games in Motion images courtesy of Google

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Apple Wants To Make Spotlight Into A Serious Web Search Engine by @mattsouthern

AppleInsider reports that Apple plans to make its Spotlight search into a serious web search engine to compete with the likes of Google and Bing. Apple’s internal search team is being led by team involved with social search firm Topsy, which Apple acquired for over $200 million in 2013. When Apple acquired Topsy it wasn’t initially clear what interest the tech giant had in a social search and analytics firm. Now it looks like Apple’s interest was in Topsy’s expertise in search and indexing. The release of OS X Yosemite saw the new “Spotlight Suggestions” feature come to Apple desktop […]

The post Apple Wants To Make Spotlight Into A Serious Web Search Engine by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Windows Wants Apps! Specifically, Android And iOS Apps

Turns out Windows 10 isn’t going to run Android apps, as some rumors held going into Microsoft’s Build developer conference on Wednesday. But the company promises that it will be easy for developers to port their existing Android and iOS apps to work on Windows.

It’s part of Microsoft’s much larger play to turn Windows into a developer ecosystem that can go toe-to-toe with Apple and Google. Windows 10, scheduled for launch this summer, is Microsoft’s first attempt at an operating system that will run on a wide variety of devices, from phones and tablets through PCs and its forthcoming HoloLens holographic computer.

A unified Windows 10 potentially offers developers a single big market for their apps. Microsoft executive Terry Myerson, in fact, promised that within “two to three years” following the launch of Windows 10, the operating system will be running on a billion devices worldwide.

How To Get Apps

Key to that vision, though, is getting developers to write more “universal” Windows apps that will run across all those different devices. Windows has long trailed both Google and Apple in terms of the number of apps it offers.

To get from here to there, then, presents a challenge. It’s one Microsoft plans to meet in part by convincing developers to reconfigure, or “port,” Android and iOS apps to the Windows universal-apps platform.

Porting can be a tremendous pain for developers. At worst, it means rewriting an application from scratch in a new language, using new code libraries and APIs, in order to make it work on a different platform.

Reuse, Recycle and Reduce

Microsoft’s answer to this problem is to let developers reuse code from their existing apps in Windows. In particular, Windows 10 will support Java and C++ code used in Android apps. And Microsoft’s development suite, Visual Studio, will also be able to work with Objective C, the language traditionally used to code apps for iPhones and iPads.

This doesn’t, of course, mean that Android and iOS apps will work on Windows out of the box. Developers will still need to tailor their apps for the Windows environment. Presumably Windows will offer new APIs (see our API explainer) to replace ones that are native to iOS or Android, and devs will still need to rewrite their apps to use the new APIs.

Such porting efforts can be fraught with unexpected difficulties, no matter how simple companies claim they’ll be. Amazon’s App Store, for instance, requires developers to do some reworking of their Android apps before it will accept them, mostly to ensure they use Amazon APIs instead of Google’s).

Even though you’d think Android is Android, that hurdle alone has proven a major impediment for many app developers. The Amazon store had only 293,000 apps as of January, compared to an estimated 1.4 million in Google’s Play Store.

There’s one further wrinkle, too; Microsoft said nothing about Swift, the new Apple language for iOS app development that’s quickly supplanting Objective C.

Lead image courtesy of Microsoft

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Speaker Profile: Built.io’s Neha Sampat Wants To Connect The World—Using Drag And Drop

Wearable World Congress, ReadWrite’s signature annual conference in San Francisco on May 19-20, will feature the key players who are shaping wearable technology and the Internet of Things. This series profiles some of the experts who will be speaking at the conference.

Nearly two years ago to the date, Neha Sampat spoke to ReadWrite about a new company she was launching called Built.io. She described it as “plug and play” software for enterprise app development that could be used without expert assistance.

Today, her app-building technology not only survives, but thrives. Built.io counts increasingly large companies among its users, including McAfee and VMware, the latter of which used Built.io to develop an app that can scale to 2,000 application programming interface requests per second. Those APIs, which allow developers to connect their applications and services to others, serves as the lifeblood for the company’s next play, Built.io Flow. 

Buy tickets now: Wearable World Congress, May 19-20

With this new service and set of tools, Sampat wants to do for Internet of Things (IoT) what Built.io did for enterprise—make their applications simple, compatible and flexible, no matter what sensors and devices users want to connect. The company likens Built.io Flow to a high-powered IFTTT (“If This Then That”)—a service that easily links up consumer apps and services for automation—but designed with companies in mind. 

Sampat herself has not escaped notice, either. A tech executive without a traditional technology background, the CEO has been named one of the 50 women in technology dominating Silicon Valley, as well as a 2015 San Francisco Business Times “Top 40 Under 40″ honoree.  Next month, Sampat will join ReadWrite at Wearable World Congress, where she and others who are building the foundation for IoT, brick by brick, will weigh in on its greatest challenges and opportunities. 

In the meantime, I reconnected with her and Chief Operating Officer Matthew Baier to discuss our connected future, the crucial role of APIs in it and how Built.io will address them. 

How did Built.io Flow get its start?

Sampat: When we think about the Internet of Things, it’s essentially an extension of what we’re already doing today around mobile. The physical device isn’t necessarily important, whether it’s a phone or a watch or a sensor in a city. It’s really about the data and how that data is consumed. From our perspective, we’ve claimed the term “Internet of APIs” because that’s what matters: connecting the data and making it powerful. In order to do that, you need to create purpose-built connections between APIs. 

Baier: The goal for Built.io Flow is to make the integration that’s necessary for the Internet of Things to be useful and very, very accessible. Whether it’s a device or a sensor or a beacon or an appliance, as long as it has an API, it’ll work with Built.io Flow. We see this as essentially democratizing integration, allowing any user to participate, and making connections between APIs to do something useful with the data.

See also: What Happens When Almost Anybody Can Build A Mobile Business App?

How could IoT companies make use of the new tools? 

Baier: Today if I want to connect an enterprise system’s API with a beacon, I need to hire an integration expert, and that’s expensive and slow. With Built.io Flow, a visual designer can connect your endpoints using drag-and-drop technology. There are some platforms that do this in a consumer space, like IFTTT. They have a very simple rules engine that says, “If this happens, do something else.” What we’re looking at with Built.io Flow is the enterprise use case—where rules aren’t that simple. 

They need to be able to work with multiple “ifs,” multiple “thens,” multiple “thats,” that connect with multiple systems. We’re allowing enterprise [customers] to get the same convenience with tools that are a lot more powerful and better tailored to business needs. More importantly, it’s not a million-dollar process; it’s a five-minute drag-and-drop operation.


Screenshot of Built.io Flow in action

So what do the results look like in the real world?

Sampat: If you look at our infrastructure costs in our Mumbai, India office, 70 percent of the costs were tied to our air conditioning units, and there’s a shortage of energy in the area. We used Built.io Flow to cut costs significantly and do our part to conserve energy.

Baier: People would turn on the AC full blast and then overcorrect by opening the windows, and then start the cycle again. Some of our junior developers used Built.io Flow to hack together a solution in a weekend that connects to the AC unit and a motion sensor. When it senses people in the office, it levels to a reasonable temperature, and when it senses that people aren’t there, it shuts off. We’ve seen a 30 percent cut in our energy bill and made employees more comfortable without trying very hard. 

Sampat: The use cases can be endless, but some of the apps we’re going to launch with involve improving cities. If you’re able to connect the various data points in a city and make them smart, you can improve the people’s lifestyles. 

To hear more from Neha Sampat and other innovators and experts, register for Wearable World Congress 2015, May 19-20 in San Francisco. 

Photos courtesy of Neha Sampat and Built.io

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Google Wants Beta Testers For New App Indexing Features

Are you an Android developer who has apps with App Indexing enabled? Google wants you to beta test some new features.

The post Google Wants Beta Testers For New App Indexing Features appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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SearchCap: Mobilegeddon Is Coming, AdWords Campaign Reporting, France Wants Open Algorithm

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Mobilegeddon Is Coming, AdWords Campaign Reporting, France Wants Open Algorithm appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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France Trying To Force Disclosure Of Google Algorithm, Wants To Regulate the SERP

Not waiting for the European Commission’s Statement of Objections (antitrust charges) to run its course, France is taking action to regulate Google’s search results and also compel revelation of its search algorithm. TechCrunch reported on a bill now working its way through the French…



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France Trying To Force Disclosure Of Google Algorithm, Wants To Regulate SERP

Not waiting for the European Commission’s Statement of Objections (antitrust charges) to run its course, France is taking action to regulate Google’s search results and also compel revelation of its search algorithm. TechCrunch reported on a bill now working its way through the French…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

View full post on Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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