Valentine’s Day is here, and at the BIGoffice we use any holiday as an excuse to celebrate (because c’mon, it’s fun!). Whether you are celebrating with a galentine, significant other, or just want an excuse to treat yourself, we’ve put together a list of our top tech gift ideas with gadgets that will outdo the boring flowers & chocolate duo.
There are over 33,000 full-time newsroom employees in the United States, plus thousands of freelance writers and contributors. As PR pros, we know the key to getting good press is pitching the right story to the right media contacts. But how do we find the right reporters among the tens of thousands? At BIGfish, we use several media databases, including Cision, Muck Rack and MyMediaInfo, to help us find and track reporters. But not all databases are created equal. Here are strengths and weakness of each one.
I’m not usually one to lean on music streaming services. I’m sort of an old fashioned type who still likes to buy CDs, records, and DVDs. I like owning things and being able to hold them in my hands. When I digitally download music, I do so in iTunes. To me it just didn’t seem real or official enough to use a streaming service - I wanted to own my favorite songs. But then I downloaded Apple Music onto my phone with the new iOS 8.4 update, and the way I discover and devour music forever changed.
Since the modern VCR was introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show in 1970, CES has become the place for companies to debut their most innovative technologies - and 2014 was no exception. With more than 3,200 exhibitors claiming to have the best, newest, biggest and brightest products, it can be difficult to single out and keep track of the best gadgets. To help you navigate the onslaught of CES coverage, we’ve collected a few of our favorite products and stories for a BIGfish recap of #CES2014.Things We Loved
One of the first big stories that came out of CES was Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle. Our favorite product, this car has a range of 300 miles and emits only water vapor. Popular Mechanics reported that this hydrogen fuel cell car could even power a house for up to a week in case of an emergency. Toyota plans to release the car next year, but only in California since it’s the state with the most public hydrogen fueling stations.
Another interesting auto-related announcement from CES was the formation of the Open Automotive Alliance. As members of this alliance, Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA plan on working together to bring Android operating systems to their cars. This collaborative effort will enable “them to bring cutting-edge tech into the cabins of their cars far more quickly than they had been able to in the past.” We’re excited to see what these companies are able to accomplish together in the next year.
One notable technology that didn’t disappoint is the Oculus Rift ‘Crystal Cove’ prototype, winner of Engadget’s Best of CES award. Just put on the Oculus Rift headset and be transported into the virtual reality of Crystal Cove. Users can then “walk” around and interact with what they see. Watch this video of the Verge staff trying out the prototype for the first time to see what it’s like to experience this virtual reality.
A finalist for iLounge’s Best of Show awards, our client, TYLT, introduced several products at CES this year, including a whole new line of portable battery packs. Check out their segment on Geekbeat.TV’s #CESLive show to learn more about their incredibly useful portable chargers and innovative mobile accessories:Buzz-Worthy Trends
You can’t talk about CES 2014 without mentioning Ultra HD 4K TV and curved TV screens. While both technologies were introduced at CES 2013, the trend really took off at this year’s show with nearly every TV company, including Panasonic, Samsung, LG, and Sony, incorporating these technologies into their products. While 4K is now more widely available and affordable, we don’t expect this technology to go mainstream anytime soon, especially since broadcast television hasn’t even made the jump from 780p to 1080p yet. However, Netflix announced it will stream its hit show “House of Cards” in 4K, so maybe more content providers will jump in on this trend in the next few months.
Two other notable trends from CES 2014 are wearable tech and connected home appliances. Wearable technology took went healthy as LG announced the Lifeband Touch and Sony debuted Core, both competitors to FitBit and the like. Pebble’s sleek new Steel smartwatch and Netatmo’s UV-monitoring bracelet also raised the bar for wearable tech to be just as fashionable as it is functional.
CES 2014 also offered a glimpse into the future of smart homes with connected products from LG, Whirlpool and Samsung. Enter data into LG’s refrigerator when you add or remove items and the refrigerator can then “text its owner when food is a day or so from spoiling,” “respond to queries such as ‘How much beer is left?’,” and display recipes based on the food you currently have.
Whirlpool also displayed a kitchen of the future, complete with a touchscreen stovetop that enables users to display recipes, social media feeds and audio controls. Whirlpool is also working on a fridge, dishwasher, oven, stove and washing machine that talk to one another and can do things like determine what kind of stain you have on your shirt and then wash it accordingly.
The Best of Local TechBIGfish president David Gerzof Richard presented the best Boston gadgets and apps from CES 2014 on FOX25 News last week. Watch the segment below to learn more about local companies like iRobot, CO Everywhere, FinSix and many more! What was your favorite gadget from CES 2014? Who was your favorite reporter to follow during the show? Do you plan on purchasing anything that was unveiled at this year’s show? -Brigid Gorham
Though Boston takes a respectable third place on WalkScore’s list of the country’s “most walkable cities,” the city has no shortage of transportation options, and that list seems to be growing. But what happens when a non-car owner needs to run an errand beyond city limits? Calling a taxi used to be the only option, and was often an expensive one.However, that’s no longer the case, thanks to the recent Boston launches of several app-based ridesharing services. The concept is simple, but smart: consider the number of cars on the road that contain a driver without any passengers. Now consider the number of urban residents who don’t own or have access to a car. That’s a lot of empty seats—and a lot of people looking for rides. Why not combine these two situations into a more sustainable solution that both makes money and offers a better way for people to reach their destinations?
Enter Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber: three ridesharing mobile apps that have each become available in Boston within the past two years. With just a few screen taps, these apps let users summon nearby drivers to deliver passengers to their destinations, taxi-style, in exchange for a donation or fee. Each of the three companies is a San-Francisco based startup, and they all came up with the ridesharing solution at about the same time, meaning that they’re now competing to win over the (often carless) residents of major cities across the U.S. Given Boston’s startup-friendly atmosphere and relatively large carless population, each of the companies chose Boston as one of the first East Coast cities to expand into.
But is there enough room here for all three to share the road? One of the keys to surviving the competition could lie in serious brand differentiation.
Lyft, which launched in Boston in June 2013, brands itself as “Your Friend With A Car” and aims to create a fun experience and community between drivers and app users. Each Lyft car is decked out with an oversized, furry hot pink moustache affixed to the front grille, and drivers greet passengers (who ride in the front seat) with a friendly fist-bump. The company also encourages its drivers to get creative and develop a unique ride experience by building funky lights into the car, letting riders choose music, and even driving around in costume. This results in rides that range from amusingly quirky to over-the-top, depending on the driver and the experience you expected.
Since Lyft’s atmosphere is meant to feel like catching a ride with a friend, drivers make conversation, and at the end of each ride, both the driver and passenger rank each other within the app. The ranking system is key to the whole platform, since Lyft functions based on “recommended donations” rather than required payments, and both drivers and riders must maintain decent rankings within the system for continued use.Sidecar offers a similar arrangement, right down to the suggested donation system, but without Lyft’s whimsical details. (According to Sidecar’s website, they, too, aspire to build the largest social transportation system in the world.) The company kicked off its Boston launch in March 2013 with limited service hours and a plan to expand availability as the service becomes more popular. However, the app might be a bit late to the party for that; it came in with a lot of competition, and that competition doesn’t have limited hours. Uber is Boston’s most established ridesharing app, having been the first to launch here back in October of 2011. It also has perhaps the most polished public image, offering ride choices that range from Uber X (a basic sedan) to Black Car (a more upscale black town car) to SUV. Unlike its competitors, Uber was originally positioned as a slightly more expensive alternative to taking a cab, but accounted for the cost with a more comfortable ride. Riders sit in the back seat, rather than the front, and given the classed-up cars available through Uber Black, the experience really does live up to the slogan of having “your own private driver.” As with any town car service, Uber Black is more about making an entrance than just getting around town.
However, with the recent release of Uber X, the more affordable sedan option, Uber is stretching out of its original territory and adding one more choice to the already-messy competition between Lyft, Sidecar and traditional taxis. When it comes to basic, convenient transportation, all of these services are racing to fill the same space.
While this competition does give users more options, it’s also creating problems. As ingenious and sustainable as the ridesharing system seems, these up-and-coming companies are already making enemies in the form of taxi services across the country, who argue that Lyft, Sidecar and Uber are all just illegal taxi operations in disguise. In that case, the current state of competition is working against professional taxi services; while they must comply with complicated licensing procedures, ridesharing services are almost entirely unregulated.
As a result, lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters are already flying, and within the past few days, San Francisco Airport has taken a firm stance against ridesharing, resulting in a dozen Lyft and Uber drivers receiving trespassing misdemeanors after delivering users to the airport. As a defense, ridesharing app companies argue that they do not provide a direct service themselves, but rather offer a system that connects users with safe, background-checked drivers. The entire setup exists in a legal grey area that is starting to demand government recognition, and depending on that reaction, the response could set precedent for others taking advantage of the growing sharing industry.
Are these ridesharing apps here to stay? If so, will they all be able to survive while sharing the road? Let us know what you think in the comments.- Karen Muller