Already one of the most tech-savvy sports leagues, Major League Baseball is set to install thousands of iBeacons in ballparks around the country and will deck out about 20 parks – including stadiums in Boston, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and San Francisco –with about 100 iBeacons each by Opening Day. iBeacons can be found in every Apple Store in the U.S., and the NFL recently installed iBeacons at MetLife Stadium and in Times Square for the Super Bowl to help users get to entry gates and to find nearby tourist attractions. The iBeacons are designed to work with MLB’s At The Ballpark app, and every team that gets iBeacon installed can decide what users see and do — things like getting concession info or learning about loyalty and rewards programs. Major League Baseball already offers fully digital ticketing through the At The Ballpark app, so iBeacons are a logical next step toward making the league even more digitally friendly. Now all we need to do is wait for Opening Day…
Could your next iPhone come loaded with solar charging capabilities? If a recent report is to be believed, your future iPhone might get a little extra juice from the sun. Apple recently began trial production of iPhones featuring sapphire glass displays, which help increase the durability of the screen. But these screens may also include tiny solar panels that would help charge your iPhone’s battery through solar power. Apple has received a wide variety of patents on solar charging capabilities for computer and mobile devices in the past year that describe ways to charge laptops, smartphones and tablets battery through solar cells. Some of Apple’s other recent moves – including looking to hire employees with solar experience and buying cutting-edge lasers – also seem to point to a future featuring solar-charging iDevices. Nothing’s been confirmed yet – and the next iPhone probably won’t launch until this fall – but adding in a new feature like this would represent the biggest change from one iPhone to the next in years.
If you’re staying at the Aloft Hotel in Manhattan or Silicon Valley, you’ll soon have a brand new way to get into your room. These two Starwood Hotels locations are fitting all of their rooms with technology that will let you unlock your door by using your smartphone as a room key. The best part of all? You don’t even need to check-in at the front desk. Guests will get a message in the official Starwood app before they arrive, containing a virtual key that unlocks your hotel room via Bluetooth. The tech is compatible with all iPhones 4s and newer, as well as on Android phones running version 4.3 or later. While some hotel owners have found that many travelers prefer to talk to a person when they check in to a hotel, many others have been searching for ways to eliminate the traffic jams that can sometimes be found at a hotel’s front desk. Could this tech become a new standard in the hotel industry? We’ll find out when the feature rolls out this spring.
By now we know that nothing online is secure; the recent hack of Yahoo Mail only emphasizes that point. Yahoo reset every user’s password, which should hopefully prevent further damage. But most of us don’t use Yahoo Mail – there are far many more of us on Gmail. Luckily, there’s a quick and easy way to tell if your Gmail’s been hacked – before your account starts sending out messages about weight loss pills. Here’s how to find out. Google gives all Gmail users a quick and easy way to see what devices and IP addresses are accessing their accounts. Scroll down to the bottom of your inbox and look on the right side of the screen. You’ll see a message that says, “Last account activity,” and a timeframe. Below that, you’ll see the word “Details,” which is a clickable link. Clicking that brings you to a list of all the IP addresses and locations that have recently accessed your account. See something fishy? Change your password immediately — and consider enabling two-factor authentication, too.
Sending a text message is easy – but what if sending a smell through your phone was just as easy? A research team at Harvard University has designed a new device called the Ophone that transmits smell signals through smartphones. The device uses a small cartridge that attaches to your smartphone and lets you send the smell you want the cartridge to produce through a companion app called oTracks. It might sound strange, but the lead designer says the idea was not just to reproduce an existing way of communicating, but instead to create a new language and a new way of communicating with people around the world. The Ophone not only makes it possible to accurately send and receive smells, but also lets you pair them with images on your smartphone’s screen. Eventually, the team says, the Ophone can transmit up to ten thousand smells and may even be able to capture new smells. Until then, though, we’ll have to stick with boring old words.
As good as glass keyboards on our phones have become, they’re less than ideal when entering complicated things like secure passwords. Touch ID on the iPhone 5s lets you bypass some password situations, but there’s a lot it can’t do. But if you’re on iOS 7 and also have a Mac running the latest version of OS X, you can set your phone to remember things like your passwords and credit card info. On your computer, head into System Preferences to set up an iCloud Security Code under the iCloud pane. Restart your iPhone, then head into the Settings menu. Scroll down to iCloud, tap Keychain, and switch it on. After setting up an iCloud Security Code, your saved information from your Mac should appear. Then, in Safari’s settings, go to Passwords & AutoFill and allow web forms to always autofill with your contact information. These steps make life easier but they’re also more of a security risk – you must decide if it’s worth it to save some time and frustration.
If you’re rocking an iPhone 5c and chose not to buy AppleCare, fixing a cracked screen just became cheaper – and quicker – than ever before. Apple recently announced it is now replacing cracked iPhone 5c screens in store while you wait. The service costs $149 and is available for the iPhone 5c, but not for the iPhone 5s. In the past, if your iDevice’s screen cracked, Apple would ship it to an off-site repair center to fix it – a process that would run you $229 and at least a couple days. The new process takes less than an hour to replace the screen, and there’s no need to swap out rest of the phone. That means you can walk in with a busted screen and walk out with a fresh one, without needing to re-load your apps and data. Apple is trying to take on third-party repair services, which are cheaper than AppleCare but also void your iPhone’s warranty. The $149 screen replacement service isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly cheaper than buying a brand new device.
Imagine an elevator that can figure out what floor you want to go to – that’s exactly what Microsoft Research is working on. Microsoft outfitted a few elevators with a bunch of sensors, which watched what people did for about three months. The system began to learn how the passengers behaved, and started to understand where they wanted to go. After three months, the system stopped watching and began controlling the elevator on the passengers’ behalf. Microsoft programmed these elevators to look for certain triggers – for example, if you’re talking to a co-worker about having lunch tomorrow on the second floor, the elevator will know where to take you, without any further guidance. If you leave your office every day at 11:45 for a quick smoke break, the elevator will know to bring you to the lobby. Microsoft’s elevators are a big step in automation, and a look into a future where we no longer need to operate computers; instead, they’ll be working for us.
You probably know that you can set custom ringtones for different contacts on your phone, but did you know that you can set custom vibration patterns for them, too? As long as you have an iPhone running iOS 7, you can easily set this up and know exactly who’s calling you without looking at your phone. To try it out, go into your Contacts and pick someone you want to set a custom vibration for. Tap Edit, scroll down to Vibration and tap Default. Here, you can choose from a handful of preset vibration alerts, like ‘Heartbeat’ or ‘Symphony.’ If you want to set up your own tone, tap ‘Create New Vibration’ at the bottom. This is where it gets pretty cool. A meter starts rolling at the bottom. Tap – or hold – your finger on the screen to create the pattern you want. Play it back, and if you like it, save it and name it. Now you’ll know when to answer your phone – or let it go – without even having to look.
Forget Google Glass – Google is getting even closer to your eyes. Google is currently testing a contact lens that measures glucose levels in tears to help manage a patient’s diabetes. The lens, which can get a reading once per second, was created in a time when the International Diabetes Foundation says we are “losing the battle” against diabetes. The ultimate goal of the lens is to help alleviate the pressure of managing the disease, which is so time-consuming it is sometimes referred to as a part-time job. The lenses feature miniaturized embedded electronics and an antenna that’s “thinner than a human hair.” There’s nothing else to the lens, though, so don’t expect an ability to download apps or browse the internet – these are designed specifically to help in the fight against diabetes. Google is working closely with the FDA on the contact lenses, which are currently in early clinical trials. Dealing with diabetes is a major burden, but Google seems close to making it easier to manage.