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Shuddle Rideshare Service For Families (Discount Code!)

Disclosure: Sponsored post. See below for special Shuddle discount code for Techmamas readers!

 

Shuddle

One of the biggest challenges for families is the minute by minute, ever-changing scheduling of driving kids to and from school, after school activities and everything in between. With a mix of minimum days, school holidays, after school activities, homework, sick days, sports and medical appointments, no two days are the same. Assembling a weekly transportation schedule is like putting together one of those 1,000 piece puzzles, and while I’m a master project planner (My Parent Plan), scheduling can be a challenge.

 

I decided several years ago to work out of the home for several reasons, including the flexibility to drive my kids around. Now that my three boys are getting older and I can keep track of their location by calling their phones, I feel the time is right to go back to working outside the home.  As I am planning this transition I realize the biggest challenge is transportation for my tween sons (twins). Several of my friends confirmed that they, too, have the same problem.

 

Shuddle

Photo credit: Shuddle

 

When Shuddle contacted me to work together on a (disclosure) sponsored post, I said, “How did you know that I have been looking into transportation options?”  The fact they contacted me happened to be a coincidence because I had independently planned to try their service. Shuddle is a rideshare service designed specifically to transport busy families with drivers that have caregiver experience. They undergo an extensive verification process (national criminal background checks, motor vehicle records check, employer reference checks,  in-person training and vehicle inspection), plus live monitoring and support for every ride.  I started my transportation hunt by looking into hiring a driver on my own, but the verification process was complicated and some information was hard to find. Shuddle’s verification process is a huge benefit.

 

The steps to start using Shuddle and scheduling a ride are straightforward.  The flexibility of having  until midnight to book a ride for the next day is helpful.  One key requirement is that riders must have a mobile phone in order for drivers to reach them. Even if your kids don’t currently have phones, there are a great selection of budget basic prepaid phones that have the ability to call and text. All of my kids started out with those types of phones anyway. Shuddle currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Burlingame, San Jose, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View).

 

Shuddle Mobile App

Photo credit: Shuddle

 

Shuddle has an iOS and an Android app to enable managing and scheduling rides easily on the go.

 

As much as the transportation features offer great value, I also appreciate the flexible employment opportunities Shuddle is providing to women. Here are some of the interesting facts about  Shuddle:

  • “Shuddle has given thousands of rides and has a community of more than 200 female drivers, 80% of which are mothers themselves.
  • In contrast to other companies garnering praise for having 30% of their workforce composed of women (Lyft), Shuddle’s  community of all women drivers is unprecedented.
  • Shuddle is one of the only companies in which women are at the forefront of the ride sharing economy and is proud to be presenting an economic opportunity for them.
  • To make money with other rideshares, you really need to drive Friday and Saturday nights, and so there are understandably concerns about safety. That isn’t the case with Shuddle and whose value proposition speaks strongly  to women.
  • Shuddle rides can be scheduled by midnight the day before, giving drivers the opportunity to know who they are driving before they get in their car.
  • There are no late-night rides or rides with potentially threatening customers, etc.

 

***********DISCOUNT OFFER TO TECHMAMAS READERS***************************

 

If you would like to try Shuddle, use the code TECHMAMAS to have one free ride up to $20 in value

 

To sign up, CLICK HERE to load either the Shuddle iOS or Android Shuddle app.

 

To learn more about Shuddle (such as passenger requirements, driver screening and the ride experience), visit: http://shuddle.us.

 

 

Disclosure: Sponsored post. My words are my own.

 

 

 

 

On The Go With ZAGG Pocket Bluetooth Keyboard

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. See Giveaway details below.

 

Now that smartphones have features above and beyond making simple voice calls, they have become the top “on the go” device. From productivity, notes, creativity (photo’s, videos), communication, calenders, business documents, music and socializing and more – the smartphone is our own personal assistant that we have with us at all times. While phone touch keyboards are getting more sophisticated, typing is a challenge I could not seem to overcome. I typed short texts easily and quickly, but when it came to typing sentences or longer notes – I could not get my fingers to move fast enough…. Or I made all sorts of typing mistakes.. Or my hand felt cramped and uncomfortable. When ZAGG contacted me to create a video and giveaway about their new Pocket wireless Bluetooth keyboard, I was excited that to find a solution for my on the go typing challenges!

 

The ZAGG Pocket wireless Bluetooth keyboard an “easy, on-the-go solution for smartphone typing.” The keyboard is 85% of the size of a desktop keyboard so typing is more natural and it folds between the lines of keys to preserve comfortable key spacing.

 

Zagg Pocket Keyboard

Photo Credit: ZAGG

 

 

The keyboard folds into a 9” X 2.5” X .5” rectangle, which is a design I have not seen before in mobile keyboards.  Battery life is maintained automatically when you fold the keyboard, activated by magnets when closed. The built in stand holds smartphones and small tablets (around  7″). But I did use it for a regular iPad and it worked fine. The Pocket Keyboard connects via Bluetooth, which means it can connect to Apple, Android or Windows devices.

 

 

ZAGG Pocket Keyboard Side

Photo Credit: ZAGG

 

 

One of the best features is the battery life: the lithium polymer battery lasts up to two years of regular use* (*around one hour per day) between charges. That means I can charge it and then just store it in my purse without needing to recharge it for a long time! The convenience of the ZAGG Pocket keyboard is great for busy professionals – especially busy parents -because it means there is one less thing you need to remember to pack up each day.

 

ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

 

For example, I just recently attended a Women in Growth Marketing event in San Francisco. I barely got dinner on the table, kids situated with homework and the sitter set up for the night when I had to rush out the door to drive to San Francisco (one hour drive from my house). When I arrived and sat down, I panicked at first because I forgot my laptop and wanted to type notes. Then I remembered I had the ZAGG Pocket Keyboard; it was so light I forgot it was in my purse at all. The Pocket Keyboard along with my smartphone was all I needed to take notes during the meeting. Now I have an on the go typing solution that is always with me, so I can take notes whenever I need!

 

Below is a video where I show the ZAGG Pocket keyboard in action:

 

 

Even more exciting is that I have the opportunity to give one ZAGG Pocket Bluetooth keyboard away to one of my lucky readers. Here are the giveaway details (open from April 15 to April 20).  Because the giveaway starts on April 15 – maybe it can even be inspiration to start keeping tax notes on the go for next tax year.
 
*Note: Giveaway is closed. Winner was @SahmReviews
 
 
 
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All my opinions are my own.
 
For more information on the ZAGG Pocket keyboard check out their website, Twitter and Facebook.
 
 

 

How To: Mobile Photo Printing and MyPrintly.com Photo Crafts

I have always open about the dichotomy of being equally tech savvy and craft challenged. Even looking at the beautiful crafts on Pinterest makes me hyper ventilate..When I took the time to understand what caused my advanced state of craft issues, I realized that I just need simple steps to follow. Of course, when those steps involve technology that helps automate some steps, even better! When I was asked by MyPrintly.com (disclosure: my client) to create some videos with steps on how to use the HP Envy Printer to print from iOS and Android mobile devices, I jumped at the chance. Not only would I get the opportunity to do what I love (figuring out how to use technology) but also give myself the challenge of using the technology to do crafts..

 

Photo Crafts MyPrintly.com and Mobile Printing HP Printer

 

Well, not only did it help me start enjoying the art of crafting – but I can’t wait to create more photo crafts (I can’t believe I said that)..  

 

Below are video’s that show how to print from an iOS and Android device to an HP Printer  I used this amazing videographer and editor (my son Ben Blecherman). The videos include the steps we did to create our own version of the Photo Balloon Party Decoration craft I found on MyPrintly.com.

 

Step 1: Get Supplies:

MyPrintly.com Photo CraftsTo gather supplies I went to my local party supply store for balloons, a fun weight for the balloons (I picked a blue metallic party box style) and place card holder that I could put into the balloon weight. It does not really matter what the bottom looks like because it will be placed in the balloon weight.  I could only find heart place card holders in the wedding area of my supply shop, so I used them. Bigger party stores and online party sites may have basic place card holders that you can buy in packs of 6 or 12 at a time (to save money).  We made sure the balloon ribbons where long enough to also tape pictures onto the strings. The last supply was HP 4×6 Photo paper that we found at our local office supply store (but that can also be ordered online).

 

 

 

Step 2: Print Photos and Assemble Photo Craft:
 
I used the wireless features of my HP Envy Printer and my smartphone to send photos to the printer. Then we just placed the photos in the place card holder and taped photos the ribbons of the balloon.  Printing from my mobile phone saved time and enabled me to have more flexibility on the location of where I was printing. The video’s below show how to do the photo craft and mobile printing from an iOS or Android phone.  There is also a guest surprise appearance from our lovable Henry the Hamster.. Of course, he was the star of the show!

 

Mobile Printing with Harry the Hamster TechMamas.com

 

How To: Mobile Printing from iOS Device to HP Printer

 

 

 

How To: Mobile Printing from Android Device to HP Printer

 
 

 

What photo crafts do you want to try?

 

For more photo craft ideas check out MyPrintly.com   Here is the link to the for Photo Balloon Party Decoration craft found on MyPrintly.com.

 

Disclosure: MyPrintly sponsored the videos. Products were supplied for video production. This post is NOT sponsored, I am just sharing the crafting fun….

 

 

 

Trend Update: Are Digital Consumers Happy With Smart #Tech Devices?

What factors and usability issues need to be overcome for consumers to adopt technology?
 
 

User Experience Smart DevicesI have a simplistic attitude towards consumer technology that stems from my background in programming, database design, usability testing and technical project management: the device have a good interface and fit in the workflow of my daily life. This sounds easy but in reality has been my biggest challenge. I have experienced usability challenges on everything from smart watches that are not smart, which this BGR blog post documents very well, to smart devices, which  TechCrunch also identifies as a usability mess. As pointed out by Fast Company, Millennials are looking for personal technology to be meaningful and impactful. “This is the thing which is now scarce, because when we can easily acquire anything, the question becomes, ‘What do we do with this?’ The value now lies in the doing.”

 

With IoT (Internet of Things) being one of the top buzzwords connecting smart consumer electronics, are customers today able to fully utilize ” the ability to connect devices, systems, and services covering a variety of protocols, domains, and applications” with interfaces that are user friendly? If not, what factors and usability issues need to be overcome for consumers to adopt this technology?

 

Common Set Of Protocols?

 

 

One factor challenging personal technology adoption is the lack of a common set of protocols for new smart device infrastructure and platforms. Smart watches, for example, can communicate to apps and other connected devices such as smart phones – but via different operating systems such as iOS (Apple) and Android.

 

 

Belkin WEMO Home Automation

Photo credit: Belkin

 

Many smart systems use Bluetooth, WiFi and wireless (such as 3G, 4G) but have their own apps and connected devices. For example, Belkin WeMo Home automation has multiple home device sensors and apps including connected crock pots and coffee pots, Phillips (Hue) has a smart lighting system and Nest has smart thermostats. Examples of companies that have frameworks for communicating and controlling connected devices in the home include Control 4, and Apple with HomeKit. At CES, I learned about both the Zwave alliance, which is a wireless communication technology and Zigbee which is an wireless open standards based solution controlled by the ZigBee Alliance.

 

 

Zigbee IoT Smart Home Automation

Photo Credit: Zigbee.org

 

 

Verge reported that “Today, the A4WP and PMA have signed a preliminary agreement to each adopt the other’s technologies, effectively merging into a single wireless standard. That leaves Qi as the only other competitor.“ But the Qi Standard is being used now by many smart devices including Ikea that just announced a furniture line that utilizes Qi wireless charging. Even though Ikea earns points in my eyes by incorporating wireless charging design, the usability is a different challenge. As Wired points out, “The biggest problem is that it’s (wireless charging)  been kind of kludgy…..wireless charging is arguably less convenient at this stage than faster charging, and wireless accessories can’t match the amps or speeds of some modern wired components.”

 

Data and Diagnostics?

 

The next factor: diagnostics and data.. In an NPR article Alexis Madrigal  explained “… diagnostics are only one part of what data will do for these household objects. The other thing is that tracking data at least offers the opportunity to optimize a routine“.  Smart devices will really show their power in helping our daily lives when they can take the data they gather, diagnose to improve our situation and then make suggestions or even adjustments on the data analysis.

 

Product Design?

 

Another factor is product design.  For example, while the Apple Watch is being advertised with a 2 page spread in Vogue, a fashion expert interviewed on Fast Company said it looked like a “computer on your wrist”.  Another Fast Company article pointed out that the current reports explain that the Apple Watch could have a battery problem because the charge only lasts 2.5 hours. I tested out a smartwatch that I saw at CES 2015 that had a watch battery that lasted up to six months, but the interface did not seem user friendly. I have yet to review a smartwatch that has a good interface and battery life (but I am hopeful and will keep testing).

 

After reviewing consumer devices for years I found that very few passed my personal usability standards even though many had a great technology features. This is why I started turning down opportunities to review products where I felt I would be spending more time beta testing usability than actually taking the product for a test drive. The graveyard of failed smart devices in my office is used as props by my kids when filming homemade superhero movies.

 

The Big Secret (unveiled):

 

The big secret discussed by technology journalists every time we get together is that while we use the newest technology for our work, we have not fully implemented the newest technology in our personal lives because of problems with usability. So I wondered: Are technology journalists the only ones frustrated by consumer technology usability issues?

 

The Answer:  Consumers Reporting Problems With Smart Devices

 

The answer recently became clear to me at the opening press event of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show where Accenture was sharing their recent research on today’s digital consumer. Their report hit the nail on the head, describing what I have been thinking for years: There is a usability problem in consumer electronics, devices and apps which is affecting consumer adoption and longevity.

 

Technology User Experience Problems

 

 

EXCERPT FROM ACCENTURE REPORT “Engaging the Digital Consumer in the New Connected World.”
 
“Most Consumers Encounter Challenges Using New Types of High Tech Devices, Accenture Survey Finds.  NEW YORK; Jan. 5, 2015 – Most consumers experience challenges using several new types of smart high tech devices, according to a new report from Accenture titled Engaging the Digital Consumer in the New Connected World.
 
Overall, 83 percent report various problems when they use new device types such as wearable fitness monitors, smart watches, smart home thermostats, in-vehicle entertainment systems, home connected surveillance cameras and security systems, and wearable health products. The biggest challenges consumers face are that the smart devices are “too complicated to use” (21 percent), “set-up did not proceed properly” (19 percent), and “did not work as advertised” (19 percent).
 
“For these new connected device categories, high tech companies need to go back to the drawing board and rethink their product development approaches to focus on the entire customer experience,” said Sami Luukkonen, managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High Tech group. “They should make fundamental strategic changes that no longer focus on product feature differentiation but rather holistic, digital experience differentiation.”
 
Accenture’s annual consumer survey, extensively researched with responses from approximately 24,000 consumers in 24 countries covers both emerging and developing global markets. Their methodology took into account the fact that the online population starts at age 14 (sometimes younger) and demographics were  split male/female across all age groups.”
 
I had the opportunity to discuss the report with John Curran, managing director for Accenture’s Communications, Media, and Technology group. He viewed the consumer devices and the consumer Internet of Things (IOT) as a significant and central theme of CES that raises important technology adoption questions:
 

  • What are people expecting and what are companies delivering?
  • What does it takes for these new devices to be adopted and used loyally?
  • How important are in vehicle entertainment, fitness monitors, home surveillance systems, smart thermostats and smart watches to the electronics consumer?
  • What factors are most important to consumers when they are making purchase  decisions?

 

In their survey, Accenture asked users of connected consumer devices to describe their experience. The findings indicated overall ownership in the low single digits for some leading technology. Overall, these owners are early adopters, the most tech savvy of all consumers. They are also the ambassadors for mainstream product adoption, sharing their opinion with others, stating, “You need to try this”, “It is amazing” or “I have to hold off…”

 

Results from the Accenture survey demonstrate that the most important product benefit to consumers is ease of use (more than features and functionality). Consumers readily see the product’s value and potential but need help developing confidence that the product can be easily used. While the tech industry focuses on features, customers desire a seamless, easy to use set of capabilities.

 

In the survey, only 17% said they did not experience challenges in using devices. As mentioned above, this means that 83% of consumers are experiencing challenges. The encouraging news from this  Accenture survey is that even with these challenges many early adopters have future plans to buy smart devices:
 
In the next 12 months:
 

  • 12% of consumers plan to buy a wearable fitness monitor, rising to 40 percent within 5 years.
  • 12% of consumers intend to buy a smartwatch, rising to 41 percent within 5 years.
  • Other the next 5 years:
  • 41% have strong purchase interest for connected home devices including home connected surveillance cameras and security systems
  • 39% plan to purchase smart thermostats
  • 37% have interest in connected car entertainment systems
  • 35% have interest in buying home 3D printers and wearable heads-up display glasses

 
Here are some of the other findings discussed with John Curran, managing director for Accenture’s Communications, Media, and Technology group:
 

    • Even more troubling is that most of their complaints reflected on the ‘out of box” experience:  21% said the product was too complicated to use, 19% said setup did not proceed properly, 19% responded that the product did not work as advertised and 19% could not connect to internet. Right out of the box, consumers faced disappointment that jeopardized product adoption. That created a high barrier for them to promote or recommend the product to others.

 

    • With IOT (Internet of Things), the consumer’s expectation is that product, hardware, software and services will work together seamlessly across a broad intersection of devices. Companies who have been successful with one element of the solution now need to focus across multiple technology competencies. For example, it used to be good enough to produce a great TV. Now that most new TVs are connected, product manufacturers need to connect to the clouds managed by several different content providers as well as support Bluetooth connections to wireless speakers, and streaming content from various companies. Product design has become more complex in order to deliver that seamless experience desired by consumers. Companies need to go back to drawing board and create products that work in this seamless world. They need to rethink engineering, hardware, software and user interface to deliver a consumer-driven out of box experience and ongoing product usability throughout the product life cycle that encourages interaction and connection.

 

  • To do this, there are three sales factors to consider. First is “relevance”, accomplished through branding and marketing campaigns in order to create product awareness. Second is “inspiration”, resulting in the “I gotta have it” attitude. The third factor is “confidence” convincing the customer that the product is easy to use and will deliver on promises made during the sales process.

 

If 83% of early adopters are experiencing product problems then do you need to fix it? And what do you fix?  Products must work within a company’s internal parameters (product and services) as well as broader industry infrastructure (protocols, API’s, platform requirements). Companies should determine their most important qualities and out of the box experiences to “delight consumers” and what can they enhance over time.  Products should also not only work within current trends, such as wearables, but look ahead to solve complex problems (such as wearables that can save lives) and incorporate user friendly interfaces.
 
Smartwatch TechMamasI recently bought a Samsung S5 Active smartphone because it was water resistant, tough (I already dropped it multiple times and it survived) and has an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer and heart rate monitor for fitness apps. Then I bought the connected Gear Fit to experience a smartwatch in my own busy daily schedule. While the Gear Fit was helpful to show the time and when I am getting calls and texts on my watch (except when I am driving, then it is annoying), the step and calorie tracking pedometer did not match with my other fitness apps on my phone. The fitness tracker’s step tracking features also did not work if I am riding a bike because the motion tracking is based on my wrist. I did see some exciting new smartwatches at CES 2015 that have solutions around my smartwatch issues, but then I also read that Samsung did not announce a new watch at Mobile World Congress 2015 because they are going back to the drawing board to develop the perfect “smartwatch”.
 
Maybe companies are getting the hint that product design and “re-design” with user feedback is important? What do you think?

 

 

The articles linked to in my post are curated on my Tech: User Experience Magazine on Flipboard
View my Flipboard Magazine.

 

Lenovo #CES2015 Showcase Tour

At CES 2015 this year we were excited to attend a lunch organized by Techlicious.com  and work on a sponsored project to share all of the announcements for Lenovo at CES 2015. I have been following Lenovo’s products with great interest after I saw their first Yoga Laptop come out years ago with multiple form factors ranging folded up as a tablet to a laptop with a keyboard and screen upright.  This flexibility is an important feature I look for in devices so I was excited to hear their new 2015 announcements.

 

The first announcement was that Lenovo is celebrating the milestone of 100 million ThinkPads sold.   The next announcements at the Lenovo CES 2015 showcase included the new Yoga convertibles, tablets, mobile devices and accessories. We had the opportunity for a tour that we captured on video:

To add more details of the products discussed during the Lenovo showcase tour, here are some of the key announcements from the Lenovo CES 2015 press releases:

 

 

YOGA Tablet 2 family announced in Fall 2014:

The YOGA Tablet 2 8-in has four unique modes:  Hold, Tilt, Stand and Hang, Wolfson Master Hi-Fi noise reduction, Dolby audio, long battery life of up to 15 hours and is equipped with two front facing speakers. With Windows 8.1, its 8-in FHD display and Intel® Atom™ processor, users can strike a great balance between work and play. Lenovo AnyPen Technology lets you use any ballpoint pen or graphite pencil—really any thin metal tip.   

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 

Lenovo YOGA 3 “features powerful up to 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors, stereo speakers, Waves audio and the classic YOGA two-hinge design allowing 360° flexibility with four special modes – Laptop, Stand, Tent and Tablet. Lenovo refined the hinge to now open and close more smoothly and also allow the screen to lay flat at 180°.

 

The Yoga 3 11-in model is just 15.8mm thin and 1.1kg (lightest convertible in the YOGA family). The new Yoga 3 14-in model has a backlit screen, envelope-thin design and measures 18.3mm thin or less. Lenovo includes Harmony intelligent software. Colors are Clementine Orange, Platinum Silver, new Chalk White or Ebony Black. Lenovo includes Harmony intelligent software which helps users discover and customize applications and includes automatic brightness adjustment when reading a book, enables motion control or optimizes audio settings in specific modes and recommends new apps.”

 

 

ThinkPad YOGA for businesses and pro-sumers:

“ThinkPad YOGA 12-in, 14-in and new 15-in convertibles with powerful up to 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors,  large storage up to 1 TB , Dolby Home Theatre v4 and new ActivePen technology in select models.  Lenovo’s SHAREit app to share files easily between devices. Lenovo’s first 3D camera in a laptop (Built-in Intel® RealSense™ 3D camera) comes optional on the 15-in model.  3D cameras are being used by businesses for more personal video conferencing and scanning small objects for 3D printing applications.

 

The YOGA 12 continues to offer a digitizer/pen option that provides an internal garage for the pen. ThinkPad is creating an innovative hardware and software pen experience, regardless of pen technology Thin and light at just 19mm thin and less than 1.5kg on the 12-in model, these stylish convertibles come in black with an attractive backlit keyboard as well as FHD touch screen display.”

 

Lenovo LaVie Z Ultraportables (Available May 2015):

The LaVie Z HZ750 13-in convertible PC (Available May 2015) is just 2.04-lbs, has powerful up to 5th Generation Intel® Core i7™ processor, Microsoft Windows 8.1, 128 GB SSD storage and 360-degree hinge pioneered by Lenovo in its original YOGA family of convertibles.  It is just 16.9mm thin, uses a specialized magnesium-lithium (Mg-Li) body construction, which is 50% lighter than aluminum (which apple used in earlier Macbook models). New IGZO LCD display (Indium Gallium Zinc oxide) provides additional weight savings.”

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 


The LaVie Z HZ550 13-in laptop PC is just 1.72-lbs.

 

Among the many other innovative products announced, a few more caught my eye:

 

The Lenovo Vibe X2 Pro Mobile Phone was announced with accessories such as the VIBE Band VB10 wearable. What I found interesting about the VIBE Band VB10 was that it not only has up to 7 days’ battery life, phone–finding feature, 1.43” E Ink display, alerts (phone, SMS, and social notifications), measures fitness (steps, calories, distance, and sleep time) but that it also meets IPX7 waterproofing standard.

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 

But one of the most unique was the compact selfie flash listed below.

 

Compact SELFIE FLASH for the VIBE X2 PRO: “Plugs directly into the VIBE X2 Pro’s audio jack, works great in low–light conditions, Delivers natural color tones, 100% shutter sync – never miss that perfect selfie and up to 100 selfies on a single charge.

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.