Deutsche Post latest company to test out drone delivery

Digital Trends reports that Deutsche Post claims to be in the middle of testing delivering packages using drones.

Partnering with a pharmacy in Bonn for a week-long pilot project, Deutsche Post spokeswoman Dunja Kuhlmann told the Wall Street Journal its plans were in the early stages, although it had already thought up a rather nice name for its flying machine: the Paketkopter.

“There are a number of scenarios we’re evaluating, including delivering medicine that’s needed quickly, or to hard-to-reach places,” Kuhlmann said.

Various flying restrictions, however, mean the drug-carrying quadcopter can’t launch from, for example, residential areas. In one of its first test flights, the Paketkopter took off from an open space close to the pharmacy, before flying over the Rhine River and landing 0.6 miles (1 km) away on a lawn beside Deutsche Post’s head office.

Unlike Amazon Prime Air, Deutsche Post’s tests were conducted using a manually operated drone.

The flight was manually controlled, as opposed to it being an automated mission using GPS coordinates. Further test flights have been conducted, with the company planning to evaluate the results to determine whether it can incorporate drones into its delivery service.

IFTTT now supports location-based triggers

IFTTT is one of my favorite services. It works so unobtrusively that I always forget that I’m using it, though I enjoy the results of it almost on a daily basis. Adding support for location-based triggers is something that could be really useful.

A simple example would be if you’re required to fill out a time sheet every time you arrive at work, you could just set up IFTTT to do it whenever you arrive at the office, which would increase the accuracy of the timing, not to mention eliminate the possibility of you forgetting to do something.

There are so many ways that IFTTT can be used, and with this update, it’s only getting better. The location-based triggers currently only support iOS, but the Android version is in the works too.

IFTTT’s Ingenious New Feature: Controlling Apps With Your Location

Paired with IFTTT’s expanding repertoire of hardware channels—it works with the Smart Things home automation kit and various WeMo plugs—the new locational chops open up the doors to some obvious applications in the home. You could have it turn on your Philips Hue when you walk in the door, no fiddling required. The update also adds location triggers to some existing channels for popular social media sites. You could create a recipe that saved all the Instagram uploads from a certain region, for example, auto-snagging every shot of a wedding or a party.

Smarty Ring wants to rule them all

Forget smartwatches, apparently quite a few folks think that the next big thing is a smart ring. A campaign on Indiegogo for the Smarty Ring has surpassed its funding goal of $40,000 by breaching the $300,000 mark. Despite it’s relatively small size, the ring touts the ability to display the time, accept or reject calls, control your music, and much more. An interesting use of it is that it can function as an invisible leash for your smartphone, notifying you if your phone ends up 30 feet away from the device.

A nice design choice for this ring was to allow it to be charged wirelessly on a charging pad, removing the need for an ugly charging port on the ring. The Smarty Ring offers a 24-hour battery life, which should allow it to comfortably get through the day.

I’m not sure that it’ll catch on, but it would be a rather unique thing to have as a fashion accesory.

The first smartring has an LED screen, tells time, and accepts calls

The ring can display the time, accept or reject calls, control music, trigger the smartphone’s camera, and initiate speed-dial calls. It will also alert the wearer with light-up icons for texts, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts, and Skype. It supports dual time zones and comes with a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and an alarm. It can work as a tracker for your phone, too—if your smartphone is more than 30 feet away from the ring, Smarty Ring will trigger an alarm.

Instagram Direct lets you share your photos and videos privately

Instagram has announced Instagram Direct, its new feature to allow users to send private photos and video messages.

I mentioned two weeks ago about the increasing rumours about an Instagram messaging service, and Instagram has finally unveiled the feature.

Over the past three years, the Instagram community has grown to over 150 million people capturing and sharing moments all around the globe. As we’ve grown, Instagram has evolved not only into a community of photographers, but also into a means of visual communication. From a photo of your daily coffee to a sunrise shared from the top of a mountain hike, every Instagram moment contains something you find special—something you broadcast to your followers when you tap “share.”

There are, however, moments in our lives that we want to share, but that will be the most relevant only to a smaller group of people—an inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment or even just one more photo of your new puppy. Instagram Direct helps you share these moments.

Instead of calling them messages, Instagram calls them direct posts. Posts that you share directly with certain people. Each Instagram direct post behaves like a normal Instagram post, so viewers can like and comment on it. The direct posts are not visible to public but everyone that you shared the photo with will be able to see its likes or comments.

You can choose to send to just one person or to a group of fifteen people. If you send the post to someone who doesn‘t follow you, they get to decide if they want to view the post. Instagram will remember who you allow to share directly with you. All direct posts will be stored in an Instagram Inbox.

It is interesting to note that Instagram’s foray into messaging still tries to stick to its roots as a photo and video sharing app. It boosts user engagement by allow them to privately interact with other users, while it avoids being just another messaging service.

Twitter is also encouraging users to engage each other via private messaging. It has made its direct message feature available on the home screen of its app. Direct messages were previously hidden in a button on a user’s profile page view. Earlier this week, Twitter also announced a new feature that allowed users to include images in direct messages.

Given the explosive growths of messaging apps such as LINE, and Tencent’s WeChat and QQ, it is no wonder that Instagram and Twitter want a slice of the pie as well.

FC Barcelona now comes with Intel Inside

The Next Web reports that Intel and FC Barcelona have announced a partnership to make the latter one of the world’s most technologically advanced football clubs.

“This is more than a sponsorship to Intel,” says Deborah Conrad, Intel’s Chief Marketing Officer. “The technology we are deploying and the programs we are working on together are designed to elevate FC Barcelona into one of the most technologically advanced soccer clubs in the world, and to launch an ambitious slate of educational initiatives.”

I like how the logo is inside the jersey. Yes, inside. And it says “Intel Inside.”

John Gruber on why Scott Forstall disappeared since he left Apple

John Gruber writes on Daring Fireball about why there was no news about Scott Forstall in the past 13 months.

What I’ve heard is that when Tim Cook fired him, Forstall was offered (and accepted) a big truck full of money as part of a severance package. The terms of the severance agreement included a period of time during which Forstall can not (could not?) work for any other company, nor make any public statements.

While other news outlets report on the mystery of what happened to Forstall or that he was laying low, Gruber provides something more insightful.

Spotify music streaming finally available for iOS and Android for free

The free service isn’t an exact copy of what you get on the desktop, since you’ll only be able to select an artist or playlist and hear a stream of shuffled tracks, instead of actually selecting the tracks that you want. Of course, if you want to have full control of your music, you can always subscribe, which won’t break the bank.

I’ve been hoping for this for a long time now as I’m currently using the free plan from Spotify on my desktop and have been looking to replace the radio station in my car with a Spotify station. Say what you may about Spotify, but the ads are considerably less irritating and less frequent compared to the terrestrial radio channels.

Spotify announces free streaming on Android and iPhone, but only in Shuffle mode

At an event in New York today, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek announced a free streaming product on Android and iOS smartphones, and also on tablets. “We don’t want to make another radio-type service,” Ek said. “We want to make something that’s really great — that really fits into people’s lives,” said Ek. Thus, the focus for Spotify Free on mobile is a Shuffle feature that lets you pick an artist or playlist and hear a stream of shuffled tracks. In other words, the service isn’t straightforward ad-supported streaming on-demand, but is instead more random, like Spotify’s current Radio feature on mobile for free users.

Microsoft might lose its Windows Phone earnings from Android

Forbes reports that Microsoft might lose its revenue from licensing patents to Android phone makers.

Microsoft makes money out of many to most of the Android handsets out there. It’s a substantial chunk of revenue too. On the grapevine we’ve been told that HTC pays $5 a handset, Samsung perhaps as much as $10. We don’t know the total number as Microsoft doesn’t break it out in their accounts but books it in the same division as the Windows Phone licence revenues. And we’re all pretty sure that the Android royalties are larger in that division than the Windows Phone revenues.

Previously, I wrote about how Microsoft is making $2 billion from Android patents. This ruling holds a lot of significance because the judgement will be applied across the European Union, and the ruling is very likely to be the same in the US. It will be a big blow for Microsoft if it lost licensing revenue from the US and EU.

Will Microsoft use Windows RT or Android for low end devices?

Rumors of an Android-powered Nokia phone have been going around for years now, and while there hasn’t been a mass market version of it yet, you can be assured there are at least some Android-powered devices being tested internally by Nokia. There was a loud outcry back when Stephen Elop decided that Nokia would use Windows Phone for its flagship devices, but eventually things settled down and Nokia is currently churning out some pretty decent Windows Phone devices, possibly even beginning to rival Android in some departments.

It’s important to note that Nokia is still using its very old Series 40 operating system for its low end Asha devices. The low end market is still an area where Nokia is strong in, and the company will need to work hard to retain that advantage against competitors such as Samsung and low-cost brands from China.

Now with the majority of Nokia being scheduled to be sold to Microsoft, the question of whether Nokia will still release an Android phone has surfaced again. Using Android has always been a cheap and easy way to target the lower end of the market, but now reports are surfacing that Microsoft might be considering licensing Windows RT for free, which would provide an interesting proposition while increasing Windows RT’s market share, which hasn’t been stellar.

While it’s probably safe to assume that Windows is Microsoft’s platform of choice, let’s not forget that the software giant also makes a healthy profit from the patent licensing deal with Android device manufacturers. Deals that some say could rake in over $3 billion for Microsoft in 2013 alone. Whether Microsoft will be able to continue raking in such licensing fees for Android in the long term remains to be seen, due to the debate over the validity of the patent.

Why Nokia Is Building an Android Phone and Why Microsoft Might Not Kill It

As reported by The Verge and also confirmed to AllThingsD by sources at the Finnish phone maker, the Normandy project has survived despite Nokia’s plan to sell both its Windows Phone unit and the low-end mobile phone business to Microsoft.

As to whether Microsoft will let the project see light of day once it acquires Nokia early next year, the answer is less certain. However, within Nokia there is a sense that Redmond may be willing to pursue the project.

Automatic turns your car into a smart car

Business Insider reviews Automatic, an app that turns your car into a smart car.

Just plug the Automatic dongle (called a Link) into your car’s OBD port and you’ll start getting a bunch of data about your driving logged into the companion app. Much of this data is ultimately meant to help you save money on gas.

It alerts you of driving habits that use more fuel unnecessarily.

For example, Automatic alerts you by making your phone chirp you when you brake roughly, drive 10 or more miles per hour over the speed limit, or accelerate too rapidly. By giving you a heads up about your bad habits, it helps adjust the way that you drive to increase fuel efficiency. Better fuel efficiency means money saved. 

It gives you a score and lets you compete with other drivers.

The app gives you a daily and weekly score based on your driving, and compares your logged fuel economy with the EPA’s estimated value for whatever car you own. If you’re competitive, you’ll love the fact that you can track your driving score week-to-week, and that the app will tell you where you rank compared to other Automatic users throughout the country. 

It remembers where you parked and detects engine issues.

Every time you park, the app also GPS-logs your location, so you never have to search hopelessly for your car in a huge parking lot again. Because the Link is plugged into your OBD port, it can sense when you have engine trouble, and can offer a potential diagnosis.