The Next Generation of Travel Mugs

During the cold State College winter, I frequently enjoy hot beverages like tea or coffee to keep warm. There is nothing like seeing Au Bon Pain in the distance after trekking across campus in a negative degree windchill. The steaming hot cinnamon spice tea from Au Bon Pain frequently warms me up. However, sometimes instead of sipping a hot tea, my drink quickly becomes lukewarm when going back outside.

To eliminate this problem, a startup called Ember has found a solution with a heated mug. The Ember mug has a built-in heating system which a user can control on the bottom of the mug. With a twist of the dial, a person can set the mug to their desired temperature. Ember then does the rest of the work of keeping your coffee at the set temperature.

In addition to the temperature dial, Ember’s Bluetooth capability allows users to use an app. You can be notified when the temperature changes, adjust the temperature by using your phone, and even store presets for your favorite drinks!

The battery allows the mug to stay at the target temperature for up to 2 hours or virtually forever when placed on the charging coaster. The mug holds up to 12 ounces and can be pre-ordered for $129. Eventually, the mug will retail for $149.

Ember is an expensive investment and it is difficult to tell the lifespan of the mug. In addition to the high price tag, it is not dishwasher or microwave safe. I looked whether it can be submerged in water for cleaning but could not find any specific information (it may prove difficult to clean).

In my opinion, I would not pay $129 for a mug that I could possibly lose or forget in the library. Even though it can be disappointing when my “hot” coffee or tea is barely warm, I don’t think I’m willing to drop over $100 on a high tech mug.

Would you spend upwards of $129 on a travel mug to keep your coffee warm? If not, what price would you pay? Do you think this new product will catch on?


Approve Online Purchases With Facial Scan


During the past summer, MasterCard was experimenting with a new security feature: approving online purchase with a facial scan. Instead of memorizing the password, buyers must snap a photo of their face at checkout. This new feature is similar to Apple’s fingerprint scanner in a way to help stop hackers from using buyer’s card on the web. According to the company’s representative, MasterCard chose this feature in order to adapt to the new generation’s trend of snapping selfies. This technique was to be experimented with 500 customers.

Here’s how it works:
1. Download the MasterCard phone app.
2. A pop-up will ask for your authorization after a purchase.
3. You can either choose to use fingerprint scanning or face recognition; for fingerprint, all you have to do is touch the screen, and for face recognition, you have to stare at the screen and blink once.

MasterCard suggests that blinking is a way to prevent thieves from using a picture of you in order to fool the system. They also promise that MasterCard would not be able to reconstruct your face, and that the data would remain safe on the company’s computer server. Once the scan has mapped out your face, it will be converted into 1s and 0s, and the data will be transmitted to MasterCard through the Internet.
Some people believe that this technique is a threat to privacy because the user’s photo will be available along with his or her personal information. However, others argue that they are storing an algorithm, instead of an actual picture of the user.

Personal thoughts: It is true that technology like fingerprint scanning and face recognition can prevent hackers from breaking into our account and using our credit card, however, it can also threaten our privacy by revealing our true face and identity.

What do you think about using face recognition to approve your web purchases? Since many of us take selfies on a daily basis, would you enjoy using this feature? Would this be able to secure your credit card information, or would it post as a threat to your privacy?


Comcast’s Data Caps Designed to Prevent Streaming

The Associated Press recently published a report on Comcast’s plan to meter the Internet through data caps and customers have pointed out that these caps are just the right size to discourage people from getting all their television through streaming services instead of through a traditional cable TV package.


These data caps were created not out of necessity, but by Comcast’s desire to fight the growing popularity of using the internet as a substitute for cable television. Comcast tells the Associated Press that roughly 8% of its customers go over 300GB per month but you can definitely expect that number to increase the more people rely on streaming services for television. Along with these plans of data caps, Comcast has been slowing connections for users who frequently use streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

As the Internet continues to grow and become more easily accessed across the world, it will begin to find replacements for outdated technologies. Cable television is no longer a necessity when someone who is apt at using the Internet can find all of their television shows online. Comcast may try to throw obstacles in its way, but progress will never slow down for old technologies.

Nike and Other Companies Appeal to a Mobile Population

As technology continues to increase at a rapid rate, so too does the astounding popularity of mobile devices. From developing to developed countries, mobile devices have taken the world by storm because of their ease of use and convenience. In fact, according to Smart Insights, as of 2014 the number of global mobile users even surpassed those of desktop users.×483.jpg

With more users on mobile devices thus comes an increase in the use of applications (or apps) tailored specifically to such formats. Studies have shown that mobile user app usage time even exceeds that of simple mobile web browsing time. In an amazing statistic from Goldman Sachs, “Americans are spending 60 percent of their online time in apps, compared with about 30 percent on desktop computers and 9 percent on the mobile web.”

As with any large social change, this shift in the way Americans gather and interpret data is creating quite the impact on business. In order to stay competitive in today’s market, companies must understand large changes in consumer behavior and adjust advertising strategies accordingly. In today’s mobile-dominated world, this adjustment revolves primarily around mobile app advertisements. In fact, according to Smart Insights, “mobile is the future, and within 3 years it will come to dominate digital ad spending.”

One company which is trying to follow this marketing strategy is Nike. Beginning in November 2015, Nike will be sponsoring advertisements in the Weather Channel mobile app to target consumers using personalized local weather data. For example, an app user in somewhere cold like Alaska would see advertisements for Nike winter jackets and boots while an app user at the same time and same day in a warmer climate like California might see advertisements for lightweight running gear. As David Schriber (vice president for the North American marketing brand at Nike) states, “If you’re checking the weather, you probably have a question in your mind about how you can prepare for that weather.” Nike wishes to provide an answer.

Though this seems a relatively intuitive strategy to increasing consumer traffic, Nike hopes the convenience of the ads will significantly boost sales. According to the New York Times, in the next five years Nike’s e-commerce business is anticipated to increase from $1 billion to $7 billion with great emphasis on the contribution of the mobile marketplace.

As mobile devices continue to increase in popularity due to advances in technology, businesses must adapt to the changing market accordingly. Nike—along with other businesses such as L. L. Bean, Starbucks, and State Farm— have already begun adjusting advertising strategies to meet the demands of our dynamic world. So, the next time it’s snowing here in Happy Valley—which we know happens quite a bit— check the weather on your phone, tablet, or other mobile device. Don’t be surprised if Nike is there to offer you a nice pair of cozy winter socks to keep your feet warm on your trek to class.


Walking House: moving home takes on a whole new meaning

April 2, 2009, for anyone who has wanted to get away from it all without leaving the comforts of home Dutch design group N55 has just the thing – a walking house. Consisting of a basic module measuring 3.5m high by 3.5m wide and 3.72m long the walking house can cover a decidedly leisurely 60m an hour on its six insect like legs.


Each of the unit’s six legs works as an autonomous unit with its own accumulators and linear actuators. When it walks three legs are always on the ground to provide the necessary stability on all sorts of terrain. The designers say the house was constructed to move at a pace similar to human speed because, ‘walking often helps a person concentrate their thoughts and creates a mental state that enforces mobility of the mind,’ which suggests that anyone feeling stressed could benefit from getting out and taking the house for a walk.

Equipped with the basic systems for maintaining everyday life for a maximum of four persons, the house could easily be scaled up for larger family structures. Furniture is an integrated part of the structure and the module can be constructed from numerous materials. It is based on a framework made of steel, aluminum or wood and can be covered with steel, aluminum, wood or even semi- permeable textiles. Windows are made of polycarbonate and insulation could be anything from thin plates of Polyethylene to wool while the rear of the modules opens up to form a stair that functions as an entrance. The modular design means that several Walking Houses can even be added together to form a ‘Walking Village’ for transient workers.



For the environmentally conscious moving house dweller the Walking House also features solar panels and micro windmills to collect energy and there is a system for collecting rain water as well as a system for solar heated hot water. A small greenhouse unit can be added to the basic living module, to provide a substantial part of the food needed by the inhabitants and a composting toilet system allows sewage to be disposed of. The designers say a small wood burning stove could be also added to provide CO2 neutral heating.

It also sounds like the designers are looking to start a revolution challenging the concept of land ownership. According to their website manifesto that the Walking House requires no permanent use of land and thereby challenges ownership of land and suggests that all land should be accessible for all persons. Society could administrate rights to use land for various forms of production of food for example, but ownership of land should be abolished.” They go on to say that ‘Walking Houses should be owned by all persons in common and used by the persons wanting to live in them.” Long live the revolution!

Anyone who thinks that the designers are a bit wacky and need to get out and take their house for a walk should check out the video below of the Walking House taking its first baby steps. Who said the wheel was one of mankind’s greatest inventions?


Blackphone is back: Privacy firm launches its next-generation ‘spy’ phone and a tablet that’s impossible to track

If you’re fed up of apps asking to access your private data and don’t want advertisers tracking your every move, there is now a range of ‘spy’ phones designed to keep you off the grid.

The original Blackphone was unveiled last year and its successor – the Blackphone 2 – as well as the first ever Blacktablet have been announced at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.00

The range is fully encrypted by default and comes with a suite of secure features that let you make calls and send texts that are impossible to eavesdrop on or track.

Blackphone’s Android-based devices are built by Spanish manufacturer GeeksPhone alongside security experts Silent Circle and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). They launched the original handset at last year’s Mobile World Congress and told MailOnline that the range is for people who ‘want to stay private without compromising on the features seen on typical Android phones.

Everything from the custom-built PrivatOS to web browsing and apps, are encrypted, or have been fitted with an extra layer of security. PrivatOS is a so-called ‘skin’ that runs on top of traditional Android software, meaning all Android apps are compatible. The encryption on the Blackphone, Blackphone 2 and tablet is done via the Silent Circle and SpiderOak privacy and security software.

For the Blackphone 2, this software has been upgraded to version 1.1, designed to separate work apps from personal ones through the use of multiple profiles on the same device

If the phone is locked, a business can remotely lock and wipe just the enterprise profile while letting the owner take control of the private profile. Internet access is carried out through a virtual private network (VPN) that sends and receives data in a way designed to keep it hidden. When the phone boots up, it asks for a password and PIN before a wizard guides users through the security options.



  1. Everything, from the custom-built PrivatOS to web browsing and apps, are encrypted, or has been fitted with an extra layer of security.
  2. The encryption on the Blackphone, Blackphone 2 and Blackphone tablet is done via the Silent Circle and SpiderOak privacy and security software.
  3. Internet access on the phone is carried out through a virtual private network (VPN) that sends and receives data in a way that’s designed to keep it hidden.
  4. When the phone boots up it asks for a password and PIN before a wizard guides users through the security options.
  5. For example, it shows users which apps want access to which data. The BlackPhone owner can then decide to restrict access to that information and handpick the apps and the data they share.

With the Blackphone 2, in particular, the experts have teamed up with business technology and security experts such as Citrix to make it more appealing to companies and their employees. The Blackphone 2 is larger than the original with a screen size of 5.5-inches compared to last year’s 4.7-inch. A 13MP camera has been added to the rear, up from 8MP, and a 5MP is now on the front. The Blackphone 2 has doubled the storage of its predecessor and added a longer battery life – although the firm didn’t give specifics. It will go on sale by June this year, although price details were not announced. Last year’s phone cost $629 (£376) plus shipping and the updated version is likely to cost roughly the same amount. Silent Circle subscriptions start at $12.95 (£8.40) a month for 100 Silent World Minutes in 120 destinations, up to $39.95 (£26) for 1,000 minutes. But this is included in the price of the phone or tablet.




Empatica Embrace – A gorgeous watch designed to save lives

Recently, a new smart watch product have came out and drew people’s attentions. It was originally doing fund raise on indiegogo and was 514% funded on January 21, 2015. It’s not just normal smart watch like apple watch to let you check messages and app easier or count your heart beats per minutes and steps you walked everyday; in fact, it can do much more on this part of health monitoring. Team led by Rosalind Picard from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a smart watch called “Embrace”. Because the skin electrodermal activity may reflect some deep changes in the brain, this watch is able to warn the wearer before seizures happens by measuring the change and combining with the data model based on many years of clinical data. In addition, just like all other smart watches, this watch can also collect daily wearer’s body temperature and motion data to assess their physical activity and sleeping quality.


Embrace smart watch. Source:

This design of watch was inspired by studies on the emotional state of children with autism conducted by Picard team. In that study, they need to measure children wrist’s skin conductance. Picard noted one child’s skin electrical activity emerged a peak. Twenty minutes later, the child appeared a seizure. Pickard said: “When I realized that the bioelectrical wrist can predict seizures, I was shocked.”

When the watch detects a forthcoming epilepsy, it will send a message to the wearer’s a pre-assigned friends or family. Embrace’s appearance looks no different than other smart watches. I think that is a big advantage for those patients who need it since no one wants to be looked abnormal.


That obstruction of this development might be any form of pressure that could possibly cause signal similar to seizures. The greatest challenge to such equipment is the accuracy rate of detection sensitivity and specificity. Those problems may lead to false alarms and miss alarm of epilepsy. But overall embrace is a very promising product. Also, when you order one embrace watch, the company is going to donate one for kids who cannot afford but need it.


NewScientist, Smartwatch detects skin’s electricity to predict seizures

Panasonic creates a portable power device for places without electricity

Normally when you can’t charge your cell phone, it’s because you forgot your charger or other travelers already claimed all the outlets at the airport. But 18 percent of the world’s population has no or unreliable electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

In an effort to help give people more access, Panasonic developed the eneloop solar storage, a power-storage system that powers LED lights and small devices like cell phones in areas — such as regions of Asia and Africa — where electricity is scarce. These are exactly the places Panasonic plans to ship the device, starting in November, with Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and other countries on the list of countries Panasonic expects to target. Right now, many households in these regions use kerosene lamps for nighttime lighting, which are expensive to use (often taking up 30 percent of a family’s income), hazardous, and a source of dangerous fumes.

When it’s sunny, solar cells generate power, which is then stored in a nickel-metal hydride battery unit. Families can then draw on the power at night for lighting or other electronics, like TVs or heaters. It should take the battery five hours to go from depleted to fully charged on a sunny day. The eneloop also has a USB slot for phones. The dust- and rain-resistant device also has two types of LED lamps, a 1.5-watt bulb, and a 5-watt straight tube, and is expected to last five years.

To get the device into the hands of people who need it, the eneloop will be marketed through existing sales dealers, as well as NPOs and NGOs that specialize in bringing electricity to those living without it. It’s targeted not only at homes but at hospitals, schools, and stores as well.

Panasonic eneloop solar storage

Finally, a workstation that lets you work while lying down!

We’ve been told for a few years now that sitting down at a desk all day could lead to an early grave, with plenty of body pain before that, too.

While standing desks are growing in popularity, even they can be hard on the joints after a while, suggesting the ideal solution is to mix things up throughout the day to keep all your parts moving and active.

The company behind the latest and possibly most intriguing addition ever to the workstation market believes it has all bases covered, though its creation doesn’t come cheap. Starting at $3,900, the Altwork Station is an all-in-one standing/sitting/reclining contraption that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern-day dental surgery.


Imaginatively designed, the station offers a variety of working positions, each obtainable with a simple press of a button on a keypad built into the station’s small desk-like surface. Additional adjustments can be made via a series of levers, or simply by handling the station’s various movable components.

Altwork Station’s four positions are Sit, Stand, Collaborate, which closely resembles the still-common working position, and Focus, which allows you to recline.

Focus is the most interesting of the four positions, as the entire system tilts backwards, taking your laptop, monitor, keyboard and mouse with it. The first time you do this, you may catch yourself screaming in terror thinking all your gear’s about to come crashing onto your head.

Altwork has of course thought of that, though you might want to leave your coffee on a side table when you hit that recline button. While sturdy clamps take care of your laptop and monitor, your mouse and keyboard are kept in place with the help of attachable magnets, though of course they’re not so strong as to hinder the smooth and easy movement of the mouse.

Transparency Instead of Internet Privacy

Internet privacy is a big concern for people today. People are worried about having their information stolen when they are online. Many companies use tracking online to monitor their users. Facebook tracks their users to personalize what advertisements they see. Amazon uses tracking to help users find items quicker and accomplish purchasing faster. Tracking is becoming more common and more high tech. A new tracking technique used is canvas fingerprinting. Canvas fingerprinting is a way for users to be tracked without using cookies. Many companies try to regulate tracking and protect internet privacy, but sometimes their techniques do not always stop the tracking. People are concerned with tracking, but they are not so concerned that they will stop using the internet.

Many people think that internet privacy is what to focus on, but Rami Essaid thinks differently. Rami Essaid is the CEO and co-founder of Distil Networks. He believes that internet transparency is something to focus on. Rami Essaid thinks that people should be aware of the “Five W’s” of tracking. The “Five W’s” of tracking are who is tracking, what are they doing with the information collected, where are they tracking, when is the tracking occurring and, why the tracking is taking place.

Rami Essaid believes there are things that can be done to focus more on transparency. The government should set rules on transparency instead of privacy. Companies should provide a report of what information they track about users. Rami Essaid describes benefits of transparency. He says, “transparency would serve as a self-correcting market force, weeding out sites whose practices people aren’t comfortable with.” Transparency would end useless attempts of regulating technologies trying to stop tracking. Also, transparency will cause people to focus on more serious things occurring on the internet. Web bots are attacking web infrastructure and need to be stopped. For example, the Heartbleed bug caused many problems with businesses and financial information. With more focus put on transparency instead of privacy, problems like the Heartbleed bug can be taken care of.

I think Rami Essaid brings up an interesting point. It would be beneficial for internet users to know what information was being tracked about them on certain sites. The “Five W’s” of tracking would give people enough information to decide whether they were comfortable using the site or not. I also disagree with Rami Essaid. I think internet privacy is still something important to focus on. Completely focusing on transparency will not stop people’s information from being stolen which is a major problem today. I think policies around internet privacy and transparency should be improved.

What do you think about this view on transparency and internet privacy?