Welcome to the world of ‘Touchless’ Smartphones!

Imagine interacting with your smartphone without even touching it. Imagine waving your hand or pointing your finger to perform tasks on your smartphone. Better still, imagine interacting with you smartphone using your eyes! If only you could change the music by waving your hand or feet or view photos by pointing at your smartphone. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could wave your hand over the smartphone to check the time? Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

I was wondering if touchscreens on smartphones will eventually become ‘gesture-screens’ and whether all user interaction will be devoid of the ‘Touch’.  Is gesture-based user interaction the future for smartphones and tablets?

Actually, the future is already here! Gesture-based user-interaction was implemented in the Samsung Galaxy S5. There’s a lot more you can do with gestures than with just touch. You can use your eyes, head, hands, feet or any part of your body to navigate through your smartphone or tablet.

Let’s look at a few cool features of the Samsung Galaxy S5’s gesture-based user-interaction.

Air View

The Air view feature gives you a ‘Preview’ of the particular UI element by just hovering your finger over it. You must turn Air view on before previewing using gestures. Go to Settings > Motion and Gestures > Air view. Switch Air view On.

Air_View_On

This feature allows you to preview photos, events, speed dial numbers, text messages etc.

Here are a few live examples of how Air view looks like on the Samsung Galaxy S5:

Previewing photos through Air view:

Air_View_Photo

In the above photo, I am ‘Air viewing’ a particular photo in my album. Instead of navigating through all the photos, I just need to hover my finger on all photos one at a time for a quick preview. This feature is very useful and saves a lot of time in finding the right photo to upload or share.

Previewing text messages through Air view:

Air_View_Text

In the above image, I just hovered on a text message to view the message. I don’t really need to click and view the message. This is a convenient way to navigate through all text messages.

Air browse

Imaging being able to navigate through photos or music by just swiping your palm over the phone without even touching it! Air browse lets you do just that.

You must turn Air browse on before being able to browse using gestures. Go to Settings > Motion and Gestures > Air browse. Switch Air browse On.

Air_Browse_On

This feature lets you change music even when the screen is locked. Just wave your hand on the screen and you can change tracks right away.

Air wake up

Generally, once a smartphone goes into sleep mode, the only way to wake it up is to click the power or home button (depending on the model of the smartphone). Samsung Galaxy S5 provides an awesome feature where you can hover your palm on the proximity sensor and it automatically wakes up the device.

You must turn Air wake up on before being able to wake up your smartphone using gestures. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Dexterity and interaction > Air wake up. Switch Air wake up On.

Air_Wake_up_on

This feature is useful if your hands are wet or you don’t want to touch the phone at night but you want to quickly check the time. This is also a quick way to check updates within the widgets on your home screen.

Smart Scroll

Imaging being able to scroll through a web page by tilting the device or your head. Smart scroll does just that.

You must turn Smart scroll on before being able to scroll using gestures. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Dexterity and interaction > Smart Scroll. Switch Smart scroll On. You can either choose to navigate by tilting the device or tilting your head.

Smart_Scroll_On

Smart Pause

I’m sure this has happened to you – you look away from the movie you are watching on your smartphone, and you miss the action! If only there was a way to pause the movie on your smartphone every time you looked away. Smart pause lets you do just that.

Samsung Galaxy S5 has a feature where the video pauses automatically when you look away! To enable Smart pause, go to Settings > Motion and Gestures > Mute/Pause. Switch Mute/Pause On. Select the Smart Pause check box.

smart_pause_on

These amazing features make me wonder whether Is it really the end of the ‘Touch’. It’ll be interesting to see how gesture-based user-interaction improves over the coming years. With cut-throat competition amongst smartphone companies, new ways of user-interaction will become unique selling features. It will be interesting to see who wins in the end. At the moment, I see only one winner – and it is you, the user. Because you can now use your smartphone without touching it!

Disclaimer: The Digital Dimension of Technology is an independent non-commercial technology blog. We have not been endorsed by Samsung or Google (Android). 

Secure your digital identity with Two-step Authentication

I am assuming you have already heard about the Heartbleed bug. If not, here’s what it is: most websites use a technology called Open SSL to securely communicate between users and servers. The servers were compromised due to a vulnerability in the Open SSL code. Due to this vulnerability, hackers may have gained access to millions of usernames and passwords. Your login credentials on many websites are most probably compromised. This breach is not the first time hackers have gained access to usernames and passwords. And I’m sure this won’t be the last time.

Usernames and passwords are gatekeepers to your digital identity. When usernames and passwords are compromised, your digital identity is at risk. If your login credentials are misused, it may take years to recover from the damage. Whether it is your personal brand or your business, securing your digital identity is extremely important.

And thus, it brings us to the following important questions:

  • As a user, how can you safeguard your usernames and passwords on frequently used websites?
  • Is there a way to ensure your usernames and passwords are useless to hackers even if websites are hacked and your credentials leaked?
  • How do you add one more level of security and prevent unauthorized access to your email, Facebook, Twitter,  LinkedIn, or any other website that defines your digital identity?

The answer is two-step authentication.

Two-step authentication (also known as two-factor authentication or two-step verification)

What is two-step authentication? The first step when you logon to a website is to enter your username and password on the login page. Some websites have added another layer of authentication. In addition to your username and password, websites send a security code via SMS to your phone or show a code generator. If an unauthorized user tries to use your login credentials from an unknown location or browser, a code is sent to your cell phone. Without this code, it is impossible to logon to the website even if an unauthorized user knows your username and password. Using two-step authentication, you can now ensure your login credentials are useless to any unauthorized user.

To summarize, here’s what you do when using two-step authentication:

  • Step 1: Enter the username and password.
  • Step 2: Enter the code sent to you (via SMS or code generator). Step two is only if you logon from a new browser/location.

Two-step authentication is a very powerful feature. However, in my humble opinion, this feature is hidden to the user and not marketed well.

How to enable two-step authentication?

Let’s see how to enable two-step authentication for frequently used websites. As I mentioned earlier, this feature is hidden deep inside websites. Users need to navigate multiple menus, pages, and workflows to enable two-step authentication. Here are a few examples on how to enable two-step authentication for services like Gmail, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

Gmail

1) Logon to your Gmail.

2) Go to user@gmail.com at the top right corner.

3) Click Account.

4) Click Security.

5) Click Setup.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.12.24 PM

 

6) Click Start setup.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.12.41 PM

7) Specify your cell phone number. Click Send code.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.13.23 PM

8) Enter the code and click Verify.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.13.54 PM

 

 

9) Select Trust this computer. (If this is your personal computer, it may be a good idea to select this option.)  Click Next.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.14.09 PM

10) Click Confirm to turn on Two-step verification.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.15.13 PM

 

Before these settings are permanent, you must logoff Gmail and logon again. Now, each time you (or an unauthorized user) tries to logon using your username and password from a different browser or location, Gmail sends a code to your cell phone. Without this code, no one can logon to your Gmail account.

This is what you see when you try to logon to Gmail from a new browser:

gmail

 

Facebook

Facebook has built an amazing code generator as part of the Facebook App on smartphones. Instead of an SMS, you can choose to use the Facebook Code Generator for Two-step authentication. A unique code is generated every 30 seconds right on your smartphone!

1) Logon to Facebook.

2) Go to Settings.

3) Click Security.

4) Click Edit for Login Approvals.

5) Select Require a security code to access my account from unknown browsers. Click Save Changes.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.38.05 PM

6) This message is displayed. Click Get Started.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.38.13 PM

7) Select the kind of phone you use. Select Android, iPhone or iPod Touch. Click Continue.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.26.40 PM

8) Go to the Facebook app on your iPhone or Android phone. Go to Menu > Code Generator and click Activate. A code is shown on your Facebook app. A new code is shown every 30 seconds.

 

2014-04-14 16.44.29

9) Enter the security code shown on your smartphone into Facebook on the browser. Click Confirm.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.29.28 PM

You are now protected by the two-step authentication using the Facebook Code Generator. Each time you access your Facebook account from a different browser, you will be asked to enter a code from the Facebook Code Generator on your smartphone in addition to your username and password.

This is what you see when you try to logon to Facebook from a new browser:

FB_Code

 

LinkedIn

1) Logon to LinkedIn.

2) Go to Account and Settings (click Review).

3) Click Account.

4) Click Manage security settings.

5) Click Turn On for Two-step verification for sign-in.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.34.24 PM

6) Enter your cell phone number. Click Send Code. A code is sent to your cell phone via SMS.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.34.44 PM

 

7) Enter the code and click Verify.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.35.14 PM

 

Two-step authentication is now turned on for LinkedIn. Each time you access your LinkedIn account from a different browser,  a code is sent to your cell phone. You must enter this code in addition to your username and password to logon.

This is what you see when you try to logon to LinkedIn from a new browser:

LinkedInCode

A final word…

Whether it is a keylogger stealing your password from a public access computer, or a hacker hacking into a secure server, your digital identity is always safer with two-step authentication. Even if your usernames and passwords are compromised, two-step authentication keeps your accounts safe using security codes. Even if an unauthorized user gains access to your username, password, and security code, they are useless for using on another browser. If your usernames and passwords are leaked, they are useless without the updated security code from two-step authentication.

Two-step authentication will not protect servers from hackers. Hackers have stolen over 900 Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) from the Canada Revenue Agency systems. Many online services are planning to update their systems to protect against Heartbleed. For example, BlackBerry plans to release a Heartbleed patch for BBMs. As a user, there is not much you can do to protect your information on government systems or enterprise services since they are out of your control.

However, your online accounts are better protected if you are using two-step authentication. Whether it is the Heartbleed bug, a malware, virus, or an unauthorized intrusion, your usernames and passwords are useless to any unauthorized user. Twitter, WordPress, and many  online services now offer two-step authentication.

The security for your digital identity is fragile. So stay safe, stay protected, and secure your digital identity before it’s too late.

 

[Edited by: Prarthna Sri]

Is Your Printer ‘Cloud Ready’?

As the world goes mobile with smartphones and tablets, there’s still one thing that has not changed much in the recent times – the printer.

Setting up a printer to work with multiple devices usually involves installing multiple drivers on the devices. You may need to print from any one, or a combination of the following devices:

  • Windows computer
  • Mac computer
  • Linux computer
  • iOS devices
  • Android devices
  • Windows mobile devices
  • Blackberry devices

And when dealing with these devices, not only do you need different printer drivers for different operating systems, you also need to keep updating the drivers to the latest version.

When managing the apps or drivers for the your devices, you may face the following problems:

  • Drivers not updated on the device
  • Drivers not supported (for example, for Windows XP)
  • Drivers not available (for example, for Linux devices)

When you want to print an important file, you may run into many problems which can be very frustrating. Not to mention the fact that your computer needs to be physically connected to your printer, or at least to your network. In a ‘Mobile World’, this may not be true anymore.

Thinking about these issues, I thought about the characteristics of my ideal printer:

  • Never needs updates – I don’t want to waste my time updating my drivers.
  • Is OS agnostic – the driver must work on all operating systems.
  • Is device agnostic – the driver must work on all devices.
  • Is printer agnostic – I don’t want to upgrade the driver even when I upgrade the printer.
  • Is network agnostic – the driver must work across networks or even over the Internet.
  • Is secure – the driver must be secure over the network or the Internet.
  • Is self-fixing – the bugs in the driver must be fixed automatically by the printer manufacturer.

I was wondering if there could be a driver that fulfills my stringent criteria. And then, I found my ideal printing solution – Google Cloud PrintGoogle Cloud Print lets me print from multiple devices and even print over the Internet!

GPC_Simple

All you need to make it work is a Cloud Ready Printer, an Internet connection, and a Google (Gmail) account.

How do I connect my printer to Google Cloud Print?

Make sure your printer is ‘Cloud Ready’. Most network or Wi-Fi printers are Cloud Ready these days. For example, the Samsung SCX 3405FW. Here are a few simple steps to connect your printer to Google Cloud Print:

1) Connect the Cloud Ready printer to your router over Wi-Fi or via ethernet.

2) Logon to your printer through a browser. The URL will be something like http://192.168.x.x. Once you enter the user name and password to logon to the printer, you will be presented with a dashboard to configure the printer settings. (Check the printer’s user guide for its user name and password.)

3) Go to the Google Cloud Print option. (Check the printer’s user guide for the exact location of the Google Cloud Print setting.)

4) Enter your Google (Gmail) user name and password. This step authorizes your printer to receive print jobs from Google Cloud Print.

5) After configuring your printer to receive print jobs from Google Cloud Print, your Google email will be displayed as the registered email.

GCP_Printer_Dashboard

How do I print a document using Google Cloud Print?

Once your computer is connected to Google Cloud Print, download the Cloud Print app on your mobile device. You can then print any file from any device over the Internet or local network. Here are a few steps to print any file on an Android device:

1) Open Cloud Print. Click Local > Files to access files available locally on your phone.

Cloud_Print1

2) Select any file and confirm the print action.

Cloud_Print2

3) Modify the Page Setup and print the file.

Cloud_Print3

The file is immediately printed over the Internet!

If you have multiple devices, with multiple operating systems, you need not worry anymore. Google Cloud Print automatically manages the drivers for all devices. All you need is a Cloud Ready printer connected to the Internet.

With Google Cloud Print, you never have to update the printer drivers. Even if you change your printer, you never have to reinstall the drivers. The only thing you need to do is ‘authorize’ your printer to accept print jobs from Google Cloud Print.

Is Cloud Printing useful for business?

Google Cloud Print could be a game changer for IT departments in small business. With Google Cloud Print, small businesses could avoid having a computer at various warehouse locations and just schedule a print job over the cloud.

Consider a hypothetical small business selling cosmetics to a small customer base across a distributed geographic location:

gcp-1
  • The mobile sales teams in various shopping malls (or the branch office) accept orders and send the print jobs to the cloud ready warehouse printers.
  • The warehouse employee creates a package and pastes the shipping label on the package.
  • Since warehouses do not have computers, there is no computer maintenance required.
  • Google Cloud Print not only saves money for small businesses, but also reduces the hassle of managing computers in multiple locations.

It’s really cool isn’t it? It’s time you upgraded to a printer that supports Google Cloud Print. Because, printer drivers could soon become extinct. It would be interesting to see how Google Cloud Print evolves in future. I would’t be surprised if Google adds multiple features like Cloud Scan or Cloud Fax considering the fact that most Cloud Ready Printers are Multi-function printers (printer, scanner, fax, and copier). 

The next time you want to print an important document, don’t wait till you get home. You could print remotely when you are on your way home in your car or on the train. Better still, you could print from halfway across the world, and your printer will still finish the job right away like a humble minion.

ZeroLemon: The Solution for Power Guzzling Smartphones

As the world waits for the launch of the new iPhone, can you guess the most requested feature? You may be surprised to know that it is not the fingerprint scanner or a better camera. According to a poll conducted by USA Today, the most requested feature in the new iPhone is improved battery life! The iPhone (or for that matter, any smartphone) guzzles power like a thirsty horse drinking water out of a river. It’s not just Smartphones, Tablets, or Phablets that guzzle power. With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, wearable gadgets need powerful batteries too.

Since the launch of the first iPhone, there have been numerous advances in smartphone technology. Better processors, more memory, increasing storage, and better cameras. The only thing that does not seem to have improved much over the years is the battery.

I have used many smartphones over the years, and all of them had the same problem; a battery that runs out when I was about to send an important email at the end of the day. Or, when I needed to call home to say I am on my way.

Over the years, I have tried many battery solutions and different ways to ensure my battery remained charged:

  • Mophie Juicepack Air –  Mophie is  a case for your smartphone that also includes a battery. The battery in the case charges the smartphone’s internal battery. The disadvantage of the Mophie is the lead time for charging your phone. When you are on a call, you are consuming a lot of power. Battery charging is a slow process and Consumption is always faster than Charging.
  • iGo Green USB charger –  iGo Green is a battery that plugs into the wall for charging. Once the iGo Green is charged, you can charge your smartphone through a built-in USB port. The disadvantage of the iGo green is that you need to charge the battery first. If the battery is already drained when you need to charge your phone, you are out of luck.
  • Spare charger – Of course, you could leave one charger at work and one at home. What about the car and the meeting room? Or the transit? I can think of too many situations where you need to charge your phone and it is practically impossible to have a charger everywhere.
  • Predictive usage – If your battery goes below 10% stop watching the YouTube video and wait till you get home! Believe me, I have tried this too.

A smartphone cannot work without a charge and you are disconnected from work, home, and friends when your battery runs out. I was wondering how to ensure that my smartphone’s battery stays charged for at least 12 hours. If I could get through the day without losing charge, I could charge my phone when I got home. With superior battery technology not coming anytime soon, I had to look for a solution to stay connected.

Then I found the perfect solution – ZeroLemon.

The ZeroLemon battery is a 7000 mAH (milli-Ampere Hour) battery as compared to the original 2100 mAH battery that comes with the Samsung Galaxy S3. It is obviously more than three times the original capacity. The ZeroLemon battery takes 6 hours to charge and lasts 3 days even with heavy use! Even when I used my S3 for calls, texting, social media, Internet, Netflix, flash photography, and email, ZeroLemon refused to die.

Here are a few photos of the battery that has truly changed the way I use my smartphone:

Front of the ZeroLemon battery when compared to the original Samsung battery:

1

Back of the ZeroLemon battery:

2

Thickness of both batteries:

3

Samsung Galaxy S3 when you insert the ZeroLemon battery:

4

Samsung Galaxy S3 with the Zero Lemon battery and case:

5

Finally, if you are interested in comparing the thickness:

6

The Samsung Galaxy S3 surely gets a bit bulkier with the ZeroLemon battery. However, it is interesting to note that it is less bulkier than the OtterBox case. For a little additional weight, you get three days worth of battery. Now, you can always stay connected.

Here are the battery usage statistics from my Samsung Galaxy S3 when the ZeroLemon battery was about to run out. As you can see, the battery lasted me a full 2 days and 19 hours with 3% remaining:

Battery_Stats

ZeroLemon is available on Amazon. ZeroLemon sells extended batteries for many Android phones. Sadly, they do not sell an extended battery for the iPhone. Try out the Zero Lemon battery and let me know how you liked it.

Disclaimer: The Digital Dimension of Technology is an independent non-commercial technology blog. We have not been endorsed by ZeroLemon. 

Managing Mobile Devices at Home

I am sure most of us have multiple mobile devices at home, such as smartphone, a tablet, or the distant cousin of the smartphone and tablet – the phablet. These mobile devices may be a combination of iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile.

With our kids, spouse, and parents using mobile devices, it becomes imperative for us to manage all these devices from a single interface. Especially with less technical users, it is important to manage tracking, apps, and other settings on the devices for them.

The Questions

When managing these mobile devices at home, there are some questions that plague us quite a bit, such as how do I:

  • Track my devices: Where are the devices right now? Where have the devices been?
  • Monitor my devices’ data: How do I monitor call history, Wi-Fi networks that the device has connected to, and Apps installed on the device?
  • Manage apps on my devices: How do I install an app on all my devices remotely? Can I delete Apps from my devices remotely?
  • Protect my devices: How do I enforce a Password Policy, remotely lock, or remotely wipe the device?

The Problem

Unlike corporate IT departments, we don’t really have a budget for advanced Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. So, in effect, here’s my problem:

  • I want to manage my mobile devices at home (for my family).
  • I have no money to buy an MDM solution for my home.
  • I don’t really have the training required to use an MDM solution.

The Solution

The answer to my problem is the Mobile Device Management solution by a company called 3CX. This MDM solution is cloud-based and so there is no installation required except on the mobile devices you want to manage. The 3CX Mobile Device Management solution is easy to use, has a web-based interface, and lets you manage up to 5 devices for free.

Setting up the MDM

Here’s how I set up the MDM solution on my devices:

  1. Go to http://www.mobiledevicemanager.com/ and sign-up. To activate the account, click the link in your email.
  2. Download and install the 3CX MDM App on the Android and iOS devices. When prompted, I logged in using using the credentials I created in step 1.
  3. Go to http://www.mobiledevicemanager.com/ from any browser and log in. Go to the Pending Approval node and approve the devices.

(For more information, refer to the 3CX getting started guide. It’s concise and well written.)

And Voila! The devices are visible on the web-based dashboard.

1Dashboard

The interface is clean and easy to navigate. I’ll talk about a few cool features of the MDM solution. I’ve added some screenshots of the MDM solution. You can click the images for a larger view.

Managing Mobile Devices

The Devices node lets you manage all your devices from a single interface. As you can see, both my devices are listed. One interesting feature is that the node shows you the last time when your device checked-in.2a_Device_List

Click the device you want to manage. For this example, I clicked the Android device. A few critical icons appeared as soon as I clicked the device. I’ll talk about a few important ones:

0_Device_List_Icons

  • Messaging – you can send a message to the device directly from this interface.
  • Lock – you can lock the device remotely.
  • Unlock – you can unlock the device remotely. You can also set a passcode.
  • Wipe – if the device was stolen, you can wipe the data on the device remotely.

The following tabs show a lot of useful information.

Map tab – displays the current location of the device.

2b_Map

The Info tab shows useful information about the device. I found it interesting that it was able to tell me if the device was charging or on battery. Interestingly, it displayed the memory and CPU usage too!

2c_Info

The Applications tab shows the list of applications installed on the device.

2d_Applications

The Location History tab shows all the locations where the device traveled to in a certain time frame. The grid shows a time stamp, address, and location co-ordinates. The location is accurate to a few meters. 2e_Location_History

The Call History tab shows a list of all outgoing and incoming calls with the duration.

2f_Call_History

The Policy tab lets you manage the usage policy. You can also enforce a password policy, if necessary.2g_Policy

The Wi-Fi tab shows all the Wi-Fi networks the devices connected to in a certain time frame. Interestingly, it also displays the security type and the visibility of the Wi-Fi networks that the device connected to during those times!

2h_WIFI

The Email tab lets you configure an email account on the device remotely.

Email_Tab

Navigation

The MDM has a Tree pane and an expandable node for easy navigation. You can expand nodes that have one or more sub-nodes.

3Nodes

Depending upon the node, the following information is available:

  • Dashboard –  a snapshot of the managed devices.
  • Devices – list of managed devices and detailed information shown through various tabs as described in the previous section.
  • Pending Approval – lets you approve the devices before managing them.
  • Group Policies – lets you define the behavior of certain settings. For example, your Password Policy.
  • Messages – lets you send messages to online devices.
  • Users – lets you add, modify, or delete users.
  • Alerts – lets you configure alerts for various actions performed by the device or the user.
  • App Management – lets you manage the Apps on the devices. (I will explain App Management further in this post).
  • System – settings for the Administrator.
  • Resources – help files and other useful links.

Alerts

The 3CX MDM lets you configure alerts based on various actions. Here is how the alert configuration screen looks:

4Alerts

App Management

I have saved the best for the last. App Management, in my opinion, is the most important feature of this solution. Expanding the App Management node shows these other sub-nodes:

5a_App_Management

1) Installed Apps – shows the list of apps installed on your managed devices. You can select a particular app and click Remove Application to remove the app from the device.

5b_Installed_Apps

2) App Repository – shows your own App Repository. You can create your own App Repository by adding apps from iTunes or Google Play store. You can use this repository to quickly install apps onto the managed devices. For example, if you are going to Disney world, you can add the Disney app to the repository. You can then easily deploy this app onto the devices used by your family.

5c_App_Repository

Once you have an app to the App Repository, go to Devices > [Your Device Name] > Applications (tab) > Add from Repository (button) and select the app from the dialog that opens. Select the App you want to deploy to the device and click Add.

Add_From_Repository

3) Whitelisted Apps – users of your mobile devices are allowed to download these apps. For example, I added the weather app as a Whitelisted App. The users of my managed mobile devices can now install the weather app. 5d_Whitelisted_Apps

4) Blacklisted Apps –  users of your mobile devices are not allowed to download these apps. For example, I added a poker app as a Blacklisted App.

5e_Blacklisted_Apps

Conclusion

Homes and people are now connected via mobile devices. With more and more devices entering our homes, the safety, security, and management of our mobile devices become a critical task. Consequently, Mobile Device Management solutions are not meant for corporates alone. Homes need MDM solutions too. Needless to add, you are now the IT administrator of your connected home.

Disclaimer: The Digital Dimension of Technology is an independent non-commercial technology blog. We have not been endorsed by 3CX. 

Mobile Payments: Leave your wallet at home!

How many times have you rushed to work only to realize that you have forgotten your wallet at home? Well, the only option then is to borrow money from your co-workers (for lunch or the odd coffee) and this can be quite embarrassing! And now think about the one thing you never leave home without these days? You guessed it right – your mobile device. People are glued to their smartphones throughout the day and sometimes, even in bed.

The mobile world presents a great opportunity for any seller to accept payments using your mobile phone. If your mobile phone was also your wallet, you would never have to carry your “real” wallet.

Just out of a curiosity to see how such a concept would work, I decided to install a mobile payment app on my Android phone.

Setting up Mobile Payments

Before paying using my smartphone, I had to enable NFC, download the mobile payment app, register my credit card, and configure the app itself.

Following are the step-by-step procedures:

1. Enable NFC: First, I enabled the Near Field Communication (NFC) feature on my Android phone. NFC allows smartphones to communicate with other devices in the vicinity. The communication is encrypted. Smartphones that do not have NFC cannot be used for mobile payments (for example, the iPhone). As soon I enabled NFC, a N sign appeared on the top of the screen.

NFC

2. Download the Mobile Payments App: I downloaded the CIBC mobile payments app. You can download the mobile payments app for your credit card/bank.
3. Call the bank to activate: There was a manual process involved with CIBC. I had to make a phone call to CIBC to activate mobile payments for my credit card.
4. Receive notification from CIBC Mobile Payments: Once I received the notification, I knew the activation was successful.
5. Set a password: This step is optional. For security reasons, it is better to set a password – just in case your mobile phone is lost or stolen.

Passcode

The configuration was complete and the app said ‘Congratulations!‘.

Config_Done

Making a Mobile Payment 

Once the setup was complete, I tried to figure out how I could make a payment. Surprisingly, making a payment was extremely simple.

1. Launch the Mobile Payment app (CIBC) on your smartphone. Enter your password if you have set one.

Launch_app

2. Tap the credit card to activate Pay Mode for 30 seconds.

Pay_Mode

3. Tap your phone on the payment terminal. You can also move your smartphone within 10 centimeters of the payment terminal. The payment is processed.

Security Features in Mobile Payments

The mobile payments app has many security features:

  • Call the bank to add your credit card. This ensures someone else is not activating your card.
  • Password on the mobile payments app. This is in addition to the password on your phone.
  • Pay Mode deactivated in 30 seconds. This ensures that your credit card information is not read from your phone when you don’t want it to be read. You are always in control.
  • Communication between the smartphone and the terminal is always encrypted.

Advantages of Mobile Payments

  • You don’t need to carry your wallet.
  • Reduce credit card theft. Since you are not swiping your credit card anywhere, it cannot be read by hackers.
  • Any terminal that accepts VISA payWave® or MasterCard PayPass™ will also support NFC transactions.

Disadvantages of Mobile Payments

  • There aren’t many touch-to-pay terminals at the moment.
  • Not all credit card companies offer mobile payments.
  • Not all mobile carriers offer mobile payments.
  • You need a separate SIM card to enable mobile payments (provided by the carrier).
  • If smartphones are lost or stolen, the credit card details can be extracted by a smart hacker.

The smartphone industry is growing at an alarming pace. Up until yesterday, your smartphone was your computer, camera, and maybe even your bathroom mirror. Today, smartphones are credit cards and mobile payment terminals. You can now forget your wallet at home and you don’t need to borrow lunch money from your co-workers!

Disclaimer: The Digital Dimension of Technology is an independent technology blog. We have not been endorsed by Rogers, Samsung, CIBC, or Google (Android). We do not endorse the security, usability, and reliability of mobile payments. 

 

When Earthlings become Martians

Did you ever wonder about traveling to another planet? Were you glued to sci-fi books and movies as a kid? If yes, read on. There’s a huge project underway to build a Human Colony on Mars. And interestingly, you can now be a part of it thanks to Mars One.

About the Mars One project

Mars One is the company that will give you an opportunity to live on Mars. The Mars One project involves sending four people to Mars every two years. Now, these are not astronauts or space-pilots, but regular people like you and me.  This is a great opportunity for people who want to be a part of a new era. Bas Lansdorp launched Mars One in 2012. He has an impressive team, well-known advisers and strong suppliers. Here is a cool promotional video.

The journey from Earth to Mars will take 7 months. The travel through space will be a great experience where you can view the stars, planets and asteroids with naked eyes. And finally, walking on Mars, an even better experience!

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Mars Landscape. Photo by Mars Rover Curiosity: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech 

The catch? It is a one-way ticket. You go to Mars, never to return.

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Top of a mountain that was created inside a crater due to impact. Photo by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Here’s the roadmap for the Mars One project:

2013 – Accepting applications for going to Mars.
2014 – Building the first communication satellite.
2015 – Astronaut selection process will be completed.
2016 – A supply mission that will carry 2,500 kilograms of supplies to Mars.
2018 – A space exploration vehicle will be sent to Mars to pick a location for settlement.
2021 – Six capsules and another Rover will be sent to Mars. This will include two living units, two life-support units and two supply units.
2023 – History will be created! The first colonists will arrive on Mars.
2025 – A second group will be sent.
2033 – The number of colonists will reach 20.

The coolest feature of the Mars One project is that everything will be done using currently available technology. This means, no traveling at the Speed of Light like you read in science-fiction books. The Mars One project will only use technology of today that is reliable and tested.

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Bacolor Crater. Photo by Mars Odyssey: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Why do we need to explore other planets?

Hundreds of explorers weathered deadly storms to discover new continents. Consider the Mars One project to be another exploration – but this time, in the solar system rather than on Earth. We could discover new ways to live and learn so much about living outside Earth.

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Sand dune on Mars. Photo by Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Aren’t there other planets that can support life better than Mars?

Astronomers have been trying their best to find a Goldilocks planet where life can be sustained. A Goldilocks planet is a planet that is neither too far or too near to its Sun. If it was too far from the Sun, it would be too cold and being too near would make it too hot to sustain water and any other life on its surface. Most of the planets we have found are so far away, that it is impossible to go there with the current technology. Take  Gliese 581 d for example, which is a Goldilocks planet that was discovered recently. Gliese 581 d is 20 light-years from Earth. This means it would take us 20 years to reach there if we were able to travel at the speed of light! Since traveling at the speed of light is not going to happen anytime soon, I don’t think Gliese 581 d is an option for now.

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Evidence of water flow. Photo by Mars Rover Curiosity: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Why Mars?

This, by far, is the most important question and has many interesting answers:

  • Water – Mars has underground ice deposits and frozen polar ice caps that show an abundance of water. If we were to melt the polar ice caps on Mars, there would be enough water to cover the entire planet upto a depth of 11 meters. Now, that’s a lot of water! Water is the most important medium for life to grow. If not for water, we would not exist today.
  • Gravity – The gravitational force on Mars is 38% that on Earth. Unlike the Moon that has 1/6th of Earth’s surface gravity, Mars has enough gravity to hold down atmosphere, which is essential for life. The atmosphere also protects from solar radiation.
  • Temperature – The high temperature on equatorial Mars is around 35 degree centigrade. This is very comfortable and very Earth-like.
  • Mars Day = Earth day – Mars takes 24.622 hours to rotate on its own axis. This means that the day-night cycles on Mars are same as that on the Earth. It would be very easy for Earthlings to adapt to a Mars day.
  • Seasons – Mars has the same seasons as that on Earth. Although, the seasons on Mars are twice as longer since Mars takes 1 Earth year and 320 Earth days (685 Earth days or 1.8 Earth years) to orbit the sun.
  • Soil – The soil on Mars is conducive for the growth of plants. The soil contains Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium that are useful for plants.
  • Atmosphere - Mars has a sparse and hospitable atmosphere. 95% of the atmosphere in Mars is CO2. Plants need CO2 to breathe and we could take seeds or plants to Mars where they could grow.

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Ice found in a fresh crater. Photo by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Frosted ice on sand dunes (north pole). Photo by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:
Courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

What are the challenges?

After having talked about the advantages of mars here are a few disadvantages that create huge challenges:

  • Gravity – Since Mars has only 38 % of the surface gravity of the Earth, our bodies (especially bones) will get used to the lower gravity. Even if we wanted to return to Earth in the future, our bones would have weakened by adapting to the lower gravity on Mars. Our bones would be strong enough for Mars, but returning to Earth will just crush them due to the higher gravity. Although there has been enough research and treatment is available for astronauts living in zero gravity, our bones would develop a condition called osteoporosis (bones become porous). That’s why the colonists can never return to Earth even if they wanted to.
  • Atmosphere – With 95% carbon-di-oxide in its sparse atmosphere there would be no option but to wear spacesuits. We can build greenhouses to grow plants that would convert CO2 to O2, but this is really challenging. After all, we would need a good stock of oxygen to tide us over until we are able to generate oxygen on Mars.
  • Medical Services – We are on our own if we fall seriously ill. Mars One does plan for basic treatments. However, it would not be possible to provide the advanced treatment available on Earth today (for example a complicated surgery).
  • Natural Calamities – Since Mars is unchartered territory, Mars quakes (Earthquakes, but on Mars!), or dust storms might damage the settlements. We are in no way ready for this such natural calamities.

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Dust storm on Mars. Photo by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Avalanche clouds. Photo by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

How would the settlement communicate with their families on Earth?

Mars One will provide Internet access. That said, communication with Earth is particularly challenging. Mars is at a distance of 55 million kilometers (shortest) and 400 million kilometers (farthest) from the Earth depending on the orbital location.

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The Earth and her Moon. Photo by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Therefore, it would take the signal anywhere between 3 to 20 minutes to reach the Earth. You could send e-mails or use video messages, but you’d have to wait 3 to 20 minutes for your message to reach there and an equal amount of time before you hear back. There goes your Skype party.

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Panorama of Mount Sharp taken by Mars Rover Curiosity: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech (click image to enlarge)

How would Mars One fund the project?

The entire project from launch to settlement would be broadcasted to generate subscription and advertising revenue. As a business model, this is quite challenging. There must be a steady stream of revenue forever so we can constantly send supplies to our colony on Mars. Shutting down the company after sending humans to Mars is not an option. This, in my opinion is the most challenging because as a business, failure is not an option! 

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Ripples in the sand at the Proctor Crater. Photo by Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech 

How can I help?

There are many ways you can help this amazing project:

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Sunset on Mars. Photo by Mars Exploration Rover: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Finally…

Mars has the potential to be our new home. If the Mars One project is successful, there is no limit to the extent of space colonization. Thousands of people could migrate to Mars and live a great life there.

And you could be one of them.

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Daybreak on Mars (at the Gale Crater). Photo by Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Disclaimer: The Digital Dimension of Technology is an independent non-commercial technology blog. We have not been endorsed by Mars One. 

Image Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech (JPL Image Policy) and  NASA/JPL/University of Arizona (HiRISE Image Usage Policy).