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Monday, August 3, 2015

10 ONLINE SCAMS THAT TARGET SMALL BUSINESSES


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10 Online Scams That Target Small Businesses
By Alison Cooper,
How Stuff Works, 23 July 2015.

Online or not, scams are nothing new - many of the con jobs on this list have been around for ages in one form or another. For the most part, the online scams that people are falling for today are just updated versions of rip-offs that everyone has heard of. Chain letters, fake invoices, vanity scams, overpayment scams, we've seen them all before. But the Internet has breathed new life into them, expanding their reach exponentially and making them even more dangerous.

Anyone can be a victim of an online scam, but small businesses are especially vulnerable. Start-up companies often don't have the security of established businesses, and employees might not be as highly trained to avoid scams. Overworked, struggling business owners are often looking for help in improving their websites and marketing efforts, and scammers are only too happy to "help." Scammers also target people looking to start small businesses with offers of big paychecks for a seemingly small amount of work.

But while scams abound, many of the items on this list have legitimate counterparts (mystery shoppers really do exist!). "Internet marketing" can be a blanket term for all the scams and phony offers out there, but there are also plenty of reputable businesses that actually do help small businesses. The trick is figuring out who's for real - read on to find out who to trust and who to avoid like the plague.

10. Work From Home

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A home office. Credit: Betta Living/Flickr.

The "work from home" scam is as old as the hills. Originally advertised in the backs of magazines and on telephone poles, it's found a whole new life luring in suckers on the Internet. Common sense will tell you that you probably can't make US$5,000 a month stuffing envelopes in the comfort of your own home, but if you've been job-searching for months and are really strapped for cash, sometimes common sense can be hard to come by. And that's when you answer one of these ads.

Work-from-home scams come in all forms. Envelope-stuffing is the granddaddy, but medical billing, craft assembly, typing and multilevel marketing are also common. It really doesn't matter what the advertised job is, though - the scammers make their money on the fee they'll require from you, whether it's for a "starter kit," software or a list of potential clients. You might also be asked to call a 1-900 number (and pay for it, of course). Whatever the case, after you pay up and get started, something will inevitably go wrong (the client list is bogus, they don't send the software) and you'll be a little bit poorer.

9. Mystery Shopper

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Image via YouTube

The mystery shopper con is a very common offshoot of the work-from-home scam. There are folks who'd love nothing more than to earn their keep by stuffing envelopes on the couch or sending chain letters from their home office, and some of us are just born to shop. Who wouldn't want to spend their days in the mall and make money doing it? Unfortunately, this can be yet another case of "too good to be true."

The good news is that mystery shopping is an actual job - there are many reputable mystery shopping companies who employ people to anonymously evaluate stores, restaurants and other businesses by acting as a customer. You just have to weed out the scammers, of which there are many. Luckily, this is pretty easy to do. All scams have the same basic ploys, so you probably have a good radar for them. Rule No. 1: Stop in your tracks if you're asked to pay an application fee. Also be wary of companies that claim to pay by the hour (mystery shoppers get paid by the job) or advertise full-time positions (it's always a part-time job). Or, better yet, skip the guesswork and check them out with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

8. Multilevel Marketing Schemes

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Image via YouTube

Multilevel marketing schemes, sometimes known as pyramid schemes, have a long and storied history. They're usually a subset of the "work from home" scam ("direct sales" is often the keyword) that offer almost unbelievable sums of money in return for a minimal amount of work. There are plenty of legitimate multilevel marketing companies out there - Avon and Tupperware are two big ones - but the Internet is also teeming with scams that can end up costing you dearly and maybe even getting you into legal trouble.

There are two aspects to the multilevel marketing business structure: selling a product or service, and recruiting new members to grow the pyramid. Disreputable multilevel marketing schemes tend to value recruiting new members over selling the actual product. It's not a good sign if you spend most of your time trying to get other people to join, or if you're not even totally sure what product the company is actually marketing. If you get little or no training that's focused on recruiting or have to pay to "move up" a level, just bow out while you're ahead.

7. Search Engine Optimization

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Credit: SEOPlanter/Flickr

As with any business, it can be slow going at first when you're starting an online company. Your target market might take its sweet time to find you, and it can seem like traffic will never pick up, no matter what methods you use to reach customers. If you don't have traffic, you can't improve your search-engine rankings... And if you don't have good search-engine placement, you'll never get more traffic. In desperation, many business owners turn to search engine optimization (SEO) companies and consultants, who are only too glad to step in and help - for a substantial fee, of course. And never mind that SEO doesn't work as well as it used to.

SEO was once pretty effective. Marketers would tinker with a site to make it attractive to the all-powerful search engines, pumping it full of keywords and adding videos and other bells and whistles (some visible, some not) - essentially, artificially inflating the numbers. (These changes also tend to make the user experience a less pleasant one, but you're supposed to turn a blind eye to that.) But Google, which was of course wise to the whole shebang, introduced an algorithm in 2012 that could detect the sites that were trying to cheat the system [source: Urani]. Disreputable SEO marketers are still out there, though, either selling out-dated services or preying on struggling business owners who don't realize that the jig is up. An honest marketer will discuss the legitimate capabilities as well as the current limitations of SEO.

6. Business Coaches

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Coaching demos. Credit: Deb Nystrom/Flickr.

If you're perusing a website that pertains to starting a small business, you'll invariably see ads for business-coaching programs and seminars. These companies promise to transform your business - and therefore, your life, if you just take their advice...and give them your money.

The hallmark of online business scams (and most scams in general) is the requirement of upfront fees, and business advice seminars are no different. What sets them apart is the exorbitant sums that some end up extracting when all is said and done - sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also have another crucial trait of many particularly damaging cons: They play on emotions to reel people in and keep them coming back for more. If you're struggling to start a business and things aren't going well, these scammers will play on your desperation and promise your ultimate goal: a new life full of success and free of worry.

Of course, there are many honest, effective business coaches out there, but it can be difficult to tell the good from the bad, especially when emotions are involved and the stakes are so high. The red flags are much the same as with any scam, though: Watch out for fees, constant phone calls, upselling and high-pressure sales tactics. And people who promise things they probably can't deliver.

5. Phishing/Smishing

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Credit: kleuske/Flickr

Phishing and smishing are innocent, funny-sounding names for insidious scams that use email and text messages to trick people into giving up sensitive personal information. Falling for a phishing (email) or smishing (text-message) scam could result in identity theft, computer viruses or any number of other disastrous outcomes.

Phishing and smishing can target anyone and everyone, and small-business owners are common victims. The basic method is an email or text with a dire message: Your credit card has been stolen, your bank account has been compromised, a complaint has been lodged against you with the Better Business Bureau. The email purports to come from a reputable business that you probably deal with regularly, and the language and graphics look legitimate and official at first glance. You're asked to follow a link and enter the pertinent information - Social Security number, username, password - to restore your account or otherwise fix things. Then all hell breaks loose and you're in deep trouble. If anything's questionable, pick up the phone and call your contacts to verify the email or text message.

4. Overpayment

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Online payment. Credit: Vanguard Visions/Flickr

The overpayment scam is another time-honoured classic that's made a successful leap to the online world. It goes like this: A business (usually a small, seemingly vulnerable one) receives a check from a buyer, usually of a big-ticket item. But suddenly there's a hitch - the buyer has mistakenly written the check for more than the correct amount. To avoid the trouble of writing another check, the buyer asks that the check be deposited and the difference wired back to them. We all know where this is going, right? The check bounces, the wire transfer is gone, the scammer is untraceable and the business owner is also responsible for bank fees.

Overpayment scams are pretty easy to avoid with just a few safeguards. There are so many warning signs with these cons that you should be able to stop things before they start. A no-check policy would instantly solve the problem, and it's also best to steer clear of wire transfers. If you must accept checks for some reason, always ask for all of the buyer's contact information and then double-check - or, better yet, deal with them in person and ask for a check from a local bank. Wait for checks to clear before you use any of the funds and, above all, never accept a check for more than the agreed-upon amount.

3. Vanity Scam

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Image via KIRO-TV

The so-called "vanity scam" is like the business-advice ploy in that it uses your emotions against you. In this case, it plays on pride and vanity, two traits that we usually try to keep hidden. These scams pile an extra helping of embarrassment on top of the shame of being gullible: You also have to admit that it happened in a moment of big-headedness, even if it was a momentary one.

Here's how the vanity scam goes when it's used on a small-business owner. You receive an e-mail with a pretty exciting offer, usually an award or the prospect of being included in some kind of "Who's Who" business directory. Finally, all your hard work has paid off! People like you, they really like you! All you have to do is hand over a fee to be included or to receive your award - it might be passed off as a "yearly membership" in a certain club.

This should stop you in your tracks: Maybe a directory listing could require a fee, but not too many legitimate business awards come with a fee. In any case, read the fine print and do your research. A quick Google search or check with the Better Business Bureau will tell you pretty quickly if the offer is legit or not. Chances are, it isn't.

2. False Invoices

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Invoices. Credit: Camilo Rueda López/Flickr.

This is another age-old scam that has gotten a new life online, and it's probably the simplest of any item on this list. These scammers don't have to advertise, send spam or set up bogus classes or publications. All they do is send fake invoices to a bunch of small businesses (often for office supplies), sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

You might think that large corporations might be better targets for this scam - the more people, departments and moving parts involved in invoice processing, the more could slip through the cracks. Plus, some big companies have so much money that a few hundred dollars here and there would hardly be missed. But they also have trained accountants, safeguards and legal teams. Fake invoicers prey on small businesses with low security, less legal power and accountants who are overworked and perhaps not professionally trained. The success rate doesn't have to be great - if the scammers get only a few checks, it's well worth the effort for doing almost nothing.

1. Malware

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Credit: Panda Security France/Flickr

This one isn't a scam, per se, but it's often the result of many of the cons we've been discussing. Scammers can directly cheat businesses out of money and information, and they can also do it indirectly through placing viruses on a company's network.

A phishing scam, for example, can serve a double purpose. Getting business owners to click on a link in an email can lead them to a site where they'll type in sensitive personal information - and the link itself can insert a virus into the business's computers. Malware can also be disguised as a download in an email from someone you know. The contact doesn't have to come from an email, either: Scammers have been known to call people on the phone, claiming they're from Microsoft tech support or the help desk of an Internet provider, and ask for access to computer networks. If they're successful, the sky's the limit for what they can steal from you.

Author's Note: Once upon a time, not that long ago at all, I fell for a long-distance phone scam. I know perfectly well that you should never give personal info over the phone, but the caller ID actually appeared to be from my cell phone provider's customer service. I was walking my dogs, couldn't hear very well, got confused and ended up confirming my account number. That was apparently all they needed to start racking up hundreds of dollars in overseas charges. Lucky for me, it was easily fixed.

Related Articles:
Article Sources:
1. American Express Open Forum. "6 Scams that Target Small Businesses." June 21, 2012. (April 20, 2015)
2. Federal Trade Commission. "Business Opportunity Scams." (April 20, 2015)
3. Fell, Jason. "Don't Fall for a 'Vanity Scam.'" Entrepreneur, Jan. 6, 2011. (April 21, 2015)
4. Flatley, Joseph L. "Scamworld: 'Get rich quick' schemes mutate into an online monster." The Verge, May 10, 2012. (April 20, 2015)
5. Hinkle, Priscilla. "Silent No More: Online Business Coaching Scammers Beware." The Huffington Post, Aril 9, 2015. (April 20, 2015)
6. Michigan State University Career Services Network. "Job Scams." (April 20, 2015)
7. Scambusters. "Top 10 Work at Home and Home Based Business Scams." (April 21, 2015)
8. Tozzi, John. "Is that Business Legitimate or a Scam?" Business Week, July 23, 2008. (April 20, 2015)
9. Urani, Brad. "The Truth about Internet Marketing Part 2: SEO is a Scam." Techli. Dec. 20, 2013. (April 20, 2015)
10. Western Union. "Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to the Overpayment Scam." (April 21, 2015)

Top image credit: Don Hankins/Flickr.

[Post Source: How Stuff Works. Edited. Some images added.]

TASTY TECH EYE CANDY OF THE WEEK LVII


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Tasty Tech Eye Candy Of The Week (Aug 2)
By Tracy Staedter,
Discovery News, 2 August 2015.

We have some crazy cool tech this week coming at you in sleek style.

1. Blended Wing Aircraft

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Take the blended wing aircraft (above) from KLM and Delft University of Technology. The concept airplane, called AHEAD, which stands for Advanced Hybrid Engine Aircraft Development, has two sets of wings. A small pair by the nose and a large set at the rear. Both blend into the body of the plane to reduce drag and improve aerodynamic flight.

2. Ozo Virtual Reality Camera

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At a media event this week, Nokia unveiled Ozo, a spherical camera designed to capture audio and video in 360 degrees. Meant for filmmakers in the movie, media, and advertising industry, the camera will sell in the mid-five-figure range.

3. Nanotube Fibre

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A new kind of fibre made from carbon nanotubes wrapped around rubber is super strong and super stretchy. The fibre, developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas, could be used for a range of technologies, including artificial muscles, conductive wires, ultra-stretchy cables that extend up to 31 times their initial length and robotic appendages that work like Stretch Armstrong to reach far beyond to grasp objects. [Video]

4. Salt Light

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The islands of the Philippines are surrounded by seawater. Soon, many of the people living off the grid there will be able to trade in their candles for a lamp that runs on salt water. It comes from the Sustainable Alternative Lighting project, headed up by Lipa Aisa Mijena of the De La Salle University. Each lamp provides 8 hours of light and is capable of charging smartphones.

5. Water Strider Robot

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A robot that mimics a water strider insect was announced this week by researchers at Seoul National University. The lightweight robot floats on the water's surface tension and is able to jump by pushing down on the water without breaking the surface.

6. Proposed Air Space

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At this year's Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management Convention, Gur Kimchi, who heads up Amazon Prime Air, made the case for air space dedicated to drone delivery. The idea is to designate a low-altitude section of sky and split it into to "droneways," one for high-speed fliers and the other for low-speed ones.

7. Monitor Charges Phone

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On Monday, Samsung unveiled its SE370 monitor, which is able to charge the company's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge as well as many of Microsoft's Lumia phones and certain phones made by LG, Motorola and Sony, using the Qi wireless charging standard. One less wire to trip over.

8. World's Longest Tunnel Slide

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Who doesn't love a slide? In London, a record-breaking slide is going up in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide - being designed by Bblur Architecture - will wrap around Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower and offer thrill-seekers a 40-second ride from top to bottom. Wheeeeee!

9. Blood Delivery Drone

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The concept for this delivery drone could save lives. Pathologist Timothy Amukele (left), of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, showed that blood samples for routine tests could be transported from rural communities in impoverished regions to medical labs, speeding up diagnostics and improving the health of people living in remote areas.

10. Fuel Cell Bus

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The same hydrogen fuel cell that power Toyota's Mirai car is now being tested in a bus. The car company along with Hino Motors are testing the vehicle - the Toyota Fuel Cell System-equipped bus - on public roads in the centre and waterfront areas of Tokyo and could eventually help to reduce air pollution in the populated metropolis.

Top image: The AHEAD concept airplane. Credit: KLM Blog / Delft University of Technology.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Some links added.]

Sunday, August 2, 2015

11 AWESOME FUTURISTIC CAR CONCEPTS


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11 Awesome Futuristic Car Concepts
By K. Thor Jensen,
PC Magazine, 1 August 2015.

The world of driving is changing rapidly as technology carries us forwards in leaps and bounds. The 20th century didn't see much in the way of innovation - just stylistic changes and incremental increases in fuel economy. The 21st century is poised to be very different, however.

We've already seen electric cars become a major share of the market, and alternate form factors are starting to come to prominence. It's an exciting time for innovation in the automotive industry, and engineers are working at full force to make new ideas fit for the road.

Concept cars are how big manufacturers work out ideas for the future. They may never go into production - most don't - but the technology that they introduce will be integral years down the line. Some of the most vital innovations of recent years started out as concepts, so it's not a wild prediction to say that the concept cars of today will show up on the streets of tomorrow.

In this feature, we'll spotlight 11 concepts from real auto manufacturers - no design school pipe dreams here - that really push the envelope in technology and styling. Some of them may lay the groundwork for the cars of the future, while others might be forgotten. Either way, these are some seriously sweet rides.

1. Mercedes-Benz F 015

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Most concept cars that get trotted out at shows are just slightly gussied up versions of production models with some tweaks. This article will not be about those cars. Let's start off with the Mercedes-Benz F 015. This insanely modern vehicle is designed to adapt to the new world of self-driving vehicles, with interior seats that rotate around to face each other and multiple media screens along the walls. The self-driving system uses radar, ultrasonic sensors and paired cameras to navigate, and the driver can take control if necessary. Mercedes also plans to incorporate a hydrogen fuel cell that can be charged by parking it atop a special pad. [Mercedes-Benz F 015 at Mercedes-Benz website]

2. Toyota FV2

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One of the biggest shifts in automotive design is around the form factor of the car itself. No longer does a vehicle have to conform to the standard phenotypes of compact, sedan, or truck. A concept that illustrates this in grand (and a little wild) style is Toyota's FV2, which premiered at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, but was also at last year's New York Auto Show. This three-wheeled contraption dispenses with traditional steering entirely, allowing the driver to adjust course by leaning their torso, much like a motorcycle. It's doubtful we'll see these on the roads anytime soon (who wants to stand up and drive?), but it's certainly a unique design.

3. Mercedes-Benz G-Code

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Power is a core issue of many concept cars. With fossil fuels on the way out, automakers are looking for new and better ways to keep us on the road. The Mercedes-Benz G-Code, which was unveiled at the opening of the company's Product Engineering Centre in Beijing, is coated with "multi-voltaic" paint, which not only absorbs solar radiation to transform into power, but also picks up an electrostatic charge from wind. Exactly how much usable energy a car can get from the wind is up for discussion, but the idea is damn cool. Throw in a grille inspired by the design of the Starship Enterprise and you get a concept that captured our hearts.

4. Chevrolet FNR

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Most of the self-driving car concepts we've seen so far have been relatively utilitarian in design - after all, if you're not actually controlling it, who cares if it looks good? Chevrolet's Shanghai design studio threw all that out with the FNR, which is an autonomous vehicle that truly looks like something out of the future. Dual swing-up dragonfly doors with aggressive angles provide entry to the cabin, which looks like something out of Tron. The car doesn't use a key to start - instead, a retinal scan cues the electric engine to power up. If you do want to take the wheel in your own hands, be warned: there is no wheel. Gesture controls replace the standard methods of steering on a completely virtual dashboard. [Chevrolet FNR at General Motors]

5. EDAG Light Cocoon

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Concept cars try to re-invent pretty much every aspect of the vehicle, from the inside out. The Light Cocoon from German manufacturer EDAG focuses on one area in particular: the body. As Autoblog detailed in March, the parts that make up the car's frame were created by 3D printers and assembled into a complex structure inspired by biological formations. This design has been formulated to deliver maximum tensile strength and impact resistance while using a minimal amount of raw material. Over the frame is stretched a lightweight, waterproof Texapore Softshell fabric that is slightly translucent, letting internal lights shine through to give the vehicle a unique appearance.

6. Chevrolet Chapparal 2X Vision GT

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When you're talking futuristic cars, "laser-powered engine" should make you start to salivate. The Chapparal 2X Vision GT was originally designed in the virtual space as a racer for Sony's benchmark Gran Turismo series, but engineers at the company took up the challenge and brought it into the real world. The aggressively designed race car runs on an engine that harnesses a 671kW laser into a shroud that creates shockwaves in an air generator, bringing the car to a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Needless to say, the tech to make this engine in the real world isn't likely to be street legal in the near future, but it's a sweet idea.

7. Renault KWID

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Concept cars often play off trends of the day to inspire new features, and the KWID from Renault, which debuted at the Dubai Auto Show in 2014, takes the tech world's fascination with drone aircraft into the auto market. The boxy, two-wheel drive vehicle comes with a "Flying Companion," a camera-bearing helicopter that you can release from its housing in the back to scout out traffic, take photographs, or just pester people. The interior is equally futuristic, with an elastomer mesh that holds driver and passengers in comfort and safety.

8. Toyota Fun VII


Although many of the cars on this list push the envelope when it comes to the guts of the vehicle, the Toyota Fun VII targets people who care more about the outside wrapper. The Fun VII is covered inside and out with touch-sensitive display panels, allowing the driver to change the car's "paint job" with the touch of a button. These panels work to display all kinds of augmented-reality information while you're driving - navigation is projected on the windshield like a map in a Grand Theft Auto game, and the car can link up with other Fun VIIs in the area to share traffic data and more.

9. Rinspeed Budii


Smaller European car makers often get pretty whimsical with their concept design, but the Budii from Frank Rinderknecht of Rinspeed pushes that envelope. We're all familiar with self-driving cars at this point, but the Budii mixes things up to a silly degree. Typically, the vehicle (modelled after the BMW i3 hatchback) navigates itself, but if you want to take the wheel, a robotic arm will bring it to you - even if you're in the passenger seat! Other wacky features include a telescoping camera on the roof that can create 3D maps of area terrain and a pair of two-wheeled electric vehicles that live in pods on the Budii's side and can be released for urban exploration.

10. Mitsubishi MMR25

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It's instructive to remember that automakers don't just make cars for the public. They also have divisions for professional drivers, producing just a few items a year. Mitsubishi's rally team dropped the MMR25 at the Los Angeles Auto Show a few years ago, and it demonstrates a new vision for all-terrain racing. Each tire is independently powered by nine in-wheel electric motors that allow it to drive omnidirectionally, with 360-degree cameras feeding video into the cockpit. Powered by an array of lithium-ion batteries that can go 1,000 miles on a single charge, this could be a beast if it ever made it into competition.

11. Volkswagen Sport Coupe Concept GTE

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A truly committed driver wants one thing: to be intimately connected to their car, to have total communication and mastery of it. Sure, steering wheels and pedals do their job, but technology can do better. A recent concept car from Volkswagen takes the man/machine interface and kicks it up a notch. The Sport Coupe Concept GTE uses a smartwatch or armband to collect biometric data on your mental and emotional state, and uses it to modify route information to give you the ideal driving experience. Stressed out? It'll recommend you take back streets instead of hitting traffic. If you're not quite ready for a purely self-driving car, this is a pretty interesting compromise.

Top image: Mercedes-Benz G-Code. Credit: Mercedes-Benz.

[Source: PC Magazine. Edited. Top image and some links added.]

7 EXCITING HOME TECHNOLOGIES THAT’LL MAKE RAISING KIDS MUCH EASIER


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Exciting Home Technology That’ll Make Raising Kids Much Easier
By Dan Price,
Make Use Of, 30 July 2015.

Having kids is simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen in many people’s lives. While nothing can replicate the joy and pride of your child’s first word, first step, or first day at school, there will always be that nagging in the back of your mind that your true freedom has gone forever.

For the next 18 years you’re going to be lumbered with an increasingly ungrateful dependent.

Joking aside, having children brings about lots of practical concerns for parents. Sadly, the world is no longer a sepia-toned 1930s utopia - evil, danger, and worry lie in wait around every corner, ready to deal a hammer blow to your serene journey through parenthood.

Thankfully, the advent of smart technology is now starting to ease some of the worries and pressures of the real world. Here are some of the most exciting devices that’ll make raising and monitoring your kids much easier.

1. Kiband


It’s every parent’s worst nightmare; you’re in a busy shopping centre, carnival, or airport, only to turn around to discover your child has vanished.

It’s typically not the parent’s fault. Children are curious about the world they live in, and everything from an ice-cream seller to an interesting-looking inanimate object has the potential to lure them away. No matter how much you tell your child to stay close by at all times, it remains a possibility.

Based out of Utah in the United States, Kiband’s design premise is that the coverage and accuracy of GPS can be called into question. Therefore, it relies on Bluetooth 4.1 technology and an alarm.


The Bluetooth will provide coverage for up to 60 meters in any direction, and while within range you can activate an 85 decibel alarm to help you locate your kid. The band also contains contact information so that if someone finds your kid before you do, they have a way to reach you.

There is an accompanying smartphone app which gives you an approximate distance and location to your child’s location, but it does not make use of a map.

It is designed for children aged between three and seven.

2. Child Angel


UK-based Child Angel is similar to Kiband, but works over any distance. All communications are done via the smartphone app, and the locating is done via GPS on a map.

It differs from Kiband in many ways:
  • Firstly, it covers ages three to thirteen.
  • Secondly, the app will alert you if the band is removed, as well as plotting the removal point on a map (Kiband won’t tell you where the band was removed, but is safeguarded by the fact that the band can only be unlocked from a parent’s smartphone).
  • Thirdly, Child Angel can be customized with images and logos.
Both devices also provide “geo-fencing”, which means you can set up a boundary (for example, around you and your neighbour's house), and you’ll be alerted if your child goes outside that boundary.

3. Mimo


One of a parent’s biggest worries when their child is a baby is “sudden infant death syndrome” (SIDS).

It’s not entirely clear what causes SIDS, but it’s known that cigarette smoke, premature birth, and excess body heat can all play a part.

Mimo aims to minimize the risk of SIDS. It comes in two parts, a onesie that is fitted with two breathing sensors, and a hub that streams data on breathing patterns, sleep activity, skin temperature and body position straight to your smart device.

It means you’ll be instantly alerted if something unusual happens to your child while they’re asleep, enabling you to administer potentially life-saving first aid before it’s too late.

It also acts as a traditional baby monitor, broadcasting the sounds from your infant’s room straight to your room.

4. Sleep IQ Kids


One of the most frustrating parts of being a parent is trying to get your kid to settle down for the night. Children never want to go to bed, and even once they’re supposedly asleep there’s a good chance they could get up to play computer games, build robots with their LEGO set, or fight with their siblings.

Thankfully, the Sleep IQ Kids smart bed can help provide a weary parent with some answers.

Its principle features are the same as those on smart beds for adults; it monitors movement, breathing, and heart rate and then assigns a score to the quality of a night’s rest when you get up in the morning.

The data all feeds back into a dashboard which you and your kid can both access, thus showing you whether studying, eating, or exercising had an impact on their sleep.

The manufacturers have also included a few specific features just for children. They include a parental alert if your child gets up in the night, soft under-bed lighting, and a “monster detector”.

5. iSwimband


Research suggests that drowning is the number two cause of accidental child fatality. It’s all too easy for a kid to fall into a body of water without anyone noticing, or for them to fail to resurface in something as innocent as a school swimming lesson.

The iSwimband has two models - a swimmer’s version and a non-swimmer’s version. The swimmers version will sound an alert on a parent’s iOS device if the wearer doesn’t resurface in a pre-determined amount of time, while the non-swimmer’s version will inform the parent if the wearer comes into contact with any river, lake, pool, or pond.

6. SunFriend


Sunburn can be terribly dangerous to children. Kids who get badly burned at a young age are several times more likely to develop melanoma and skin cancer in later life.

You can take the worry out of the never ending school summer holidays with the SunFriend wristband.

It can measure both UVA and UVB rays and will alert the user that it’s time to add more sun cream well before any permanent skin damage is done.

The band can also be programmed to match the person’s skin tone, from 1 for very light to 11 for very dark.

7. Bocco the Robot


At what age should your kid be given a mobile phone? It’s not uncommon to see very young children playing games on their parent’s phone, but giving them their own phone is a much more hazardous idea - they could experience cyber-bullying, spend hundreds of dollars in app stores, or run up huge bills calling their classmates.

Bocco - a robot designed in Japan - aims to provide a solution.

Instead of trying to be a real human or provide entertainment, Bocco only has one purpose - to send and receive voice messages to smartphones that are running the associated app.

To keep things simple it only has two buttons - one to record messages and one to play them back. It’ll give you a free and easy way to stay in touch no matter where in the world you are, giving both of you a level of reassurance.

One thing to remember is that Bocco will not allow your kids to call the emergency services, so you’ll still need to teach them how to use the landline in case such a situation arises.

Top image: The Sleep IQ Kids smart bed. Credit: Sleep Number.

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited. Top image added.]