How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life


Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find yourself in the middle of an emergency situation,  aside from the obvious — making a phone call for emergency assistance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zealand have shown that when disaster strikes, getting the most accurate information is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

Provided the event hasn’t taken out the local mobile network, your mobile phone’s browser will help, linking you with many local, national, and international news services, as well as many different channels of communication (email, voice chat, twitter, etc).

f1.jpgBut there are other ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s display screens are bright enough to be used as a makeshift flashlight when the power goes out. Color Flashlight is a leading Android app and Flashlight 4 is one of the most popular ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by triangulating between communications towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS systems. Tie this in with any of the popular mapping applications and you have a good visual understanding of where you are. Helpful when you have to find an alternate route or transportation system in an unfamiliar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can imagine, there are many things that you could need in an emergency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

During the Tsunami warnings following the Japan earthquake, information like that provided by this Hawaiian-developed Disaster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impending waves.

And after an event, finding people and shelter is a priority.

Google launched their Google Person Finder during the Christchurch earthquake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the American Red Cross has released their free Shelter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few bookmarks, perhaps an hour of app-store browsing, and a few dollars investment, you can have a pretty good emergency preparedness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I started on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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On the radio…

Earlier this week I had great fun! CBC Edmonton’s Peter Brown (who regularly hosts the afternoon drive-time program Radio Active) interviewed me for a series on Edmonton bloggers and podcasters called E-Pinion.

We chatted about this blog, what got me into blogging, lifestyle technology etc. And I mentioned my Mom a couple of times too.

For your listening pleasure, here’s the interview.

Brown paper packages tied up with string…

If you follow my Twitter stream you know that I’m helping some friends out with a very cool Social Media project called Empire Avenue.  We’ve gotten a little bit of press about it lately, most notably this article on Mashable. I’ve not talked about Empire Avenue a lot on my blog as I wasn’t really prepared — lots of other stuff going on, etc. But now is the time..

In the last few months, I’ve noticed a few things about the Empire Avenue world that have really impressed me. Allow me a few moments to wax poetic on a few of those things.

In the latest development release, codnamed ‘Cork’, Empire Avenue gained Communities — places where you can hang your hat and focus your influence development.
For me the key word is Focus. Unlike Facebook or other sites where community participation has few consequences, an Empire Avenue Community forces you to focus, because;

  • You are limited in the number of Communities you join – which should provide more real value to all members, unlike other communities where you just join-up to express support. An Empire Avenue Community with an active group of members can be an exciting place with relevant discussion and content.
  • Your Influencer activity and value benefits the Community
  • Additional dividends are generated for the Community based on your activity

I love the new design. The tabbed interfaces, page zones, and overall look and feel not only appeal to my designy-side, they are also hugely functional for me. I can’t wait to see what the designers come up with for mobile devices 😉

Blogger Posts
Now this is really neat. Over the evolution of the beta, many participating Influencers have created their own blogs to support their activity. Not simply a blog post, they’ve started up new blogs dedicated to Empire Avenue. Here’s an incomplete list of what I’ve seen so far.

In the near future, if you’ve got an Empire Avenue focused blog, you’ll be able to register it with Empire Avenue, and we’ll keep a master list. It’s not live yet, but we’re workin’ on it.

Development Team

Sure, it’s easy to say ‘These are the best guys I’ve ever worked with’. It’s also easy to say that this whole team is the best team I’ve worked with. Because it’s true. They’re challenging, entertaining, enjoy what they’re doing, and are hoopy froods that really know where their towel is. Engage them on Twitter, buy them a beer, and maybe they’ll tell you stories…

The Market Makers
We’ve got a team of Market Makers — software entities with personalities that work in the background — that analyze Influencer online activity and a number of other *secret factors* to arrive at an Influence Value. These Market Makers all have distinct personalities and characteristics that come into play at various times, yet all seem to be doing quite well in helping to establish Influence Value; which is also determined by market trading activity.

So there you have it. Five of my  ‘Favourite Things’ about Empire Avenue. As I’ve said, we’re still in beta, and we do have many more things to finish before we open it up to the world.

If you’re not in the Beta and are interested in joining it, ping me on Twitter, I’ll see what I can do 🙂

If you’re in the beta and have some thoughts on your Favourite Things, then please, by all means, leave them in the comments below.

Getting a handle on influence and online content creation

As you may be aware, especially if you’ve been blasted by my twitter stream recently, I’m helping some friends out with the Empire Avenue beta. I’ve written before about Social Media and the Power of Influence, but today I’m going to talk about a few things I’ve learned over the last few weeks.

A few things about Empire Avenue:

  • Empire Avenue is about your online Value and your online Influence
  • Empire Avenue’s The People’s Market is a fantasy stock market where the commodity being traded is your Influence.
  • You can buy, sell, trade virtual shares in anyone on the site and rate the value of their personal online brand.

Why I’m into it
For me, it’s about understanding my value to you, my loyal minions friends and readers. There are many models out there for ranking reach, breadth, popularity and power of your blog, or Twitter stream. But there’s really nothing that takes the next step and helps you understand your online value to your readers, no matter the medium be it Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Value in Empire Avenue is determined a number of ways, and that’ll likely be cause for speculation as we move through the beta periods and into full launch later this summer. I believe the details of Empire Avenue algorithms will remain secret, much the same way that Google keeps their search algorithms under tight wraps.

How it helps me
Empire Avenue, as I’m beginning to understand through use, is showing me through activity on my ‘stock’ what members of the Beta think of my content, and of me as a content generator.

Sure, many be speculating or guessing. They’re not really reading my posts and understanding my value, tailriding on the activity of others. That’s fine too, especially since we’re in such a small-sample beta right now.

But, when we start opening the beta up, allowing friends to bring their friends into the mix, these tailriders may be in for a surprise as ‘popularity’ may not be as admirable trait in the marketplace.

I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to see how things shake out.

How to keep your travel communications costs down, easily.

Whether you’re on vacation or travelling for work, telecommunications costs are a pain, and can really impact your the cost of your travel. Recently I’ve started using two tools that let me call home or the office, talk as long as I want, and not break the bank. …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.

Still wondering why people follow me on Twitter

Last year, I wrote a couple of posts exploring the reasons why people follow me on Twitter:

Well a year has passed since I did that basic research, and Twitter has been ‘improved’ in the meantime – revised ReTweet function, Lists, new desktop and mobile application, etc.

So it’s time to ask that question again. In the last year, I’ve doubled the number of followers, but since I did my last bit of research, I’ve not asked them why they follow. Time to rectify that.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll go back to the process I used to gather the first bit of data — a return follow and DM to my new followers — something like this:

“thanks for following me. This is NOT an auto-DM, I’m live :)and tracking ‘reach’ and was wondering why you ‘follow’ me in Twitter?”

I’ll let it run for a few months, and come March, I’ll analyse the data again, and contrast the results with last year’s.

But in the meantime, if you already follow me on Twitter, please feel free to send me a DM with your answer to the question “Why do you follow me in Twitter?”

Blogging is nothing to be afraid of

Though the name Blog sounds horrible; perhaps the name of a large pool of dank, dark, brackish water that eventually spawns a monster so horrible, only the most stalwart of cleft-chinned heroes could possibly defeat it, Blogging really is nothing to fear. Really… …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.