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Thanks To A Partnership With Gimbal, Urban Airship’s Push Notifications Get Smarter About Location


Push notification company Urban Airship is announcing a partnership with Gimbal, the beacon technology company that spun out of Qualcomm earlier this year.

The end result, according to Urban Airship CMO Brent Hieggelke (who answered my questions via email), is a more precise approach to targeting promotional push notifications, one that uses Gimbal’s proximity beacons as well as Apple’s iBeacons.

“Gimbal brings the most precise, real-time location and proximity data to trigger messages within Urban Airship’s targeting engine, which adds segmentation attributes and conditional automation rules to ensure the most relevant and responsive messaging possible,” Hieggelke said.

Now we get a lot of pitches for marketing campaigns that use iBeacons and geofencing, but Urban Airship and Gimbal seem to have enlisted some big, high-profile events as clients, including the US Open, South by Southwest, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Cannes Lions advertising event. For example, the US Open (for those of who aren’t sports fans — it’s a big deal in tennis, okay?) combined a geofence for the Tri-State area, 20 on-site beacons, and Urban Airship’s data about in-app behavior to send targeted notifications for things like last-minute ticket offerings and sponsor messages.

Hieggelke said other businesses that could take advantage of the partnership include retailers who want send messages to in-store customers that are targeted to their interests, and hotels that send customer satisfaction surveys to people who leave the geofenced area.

(I guess I should note that Urban Airship recently saw the departure of its CEO following allegations of sexual assault.)

Anyway, the two companies will be talking about their partnership in a webinar on Oct 29.

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Capital One Debuts A New Mobile Wallet App, Designed To Work With Apple Pay


Just ahead of Apple Pay’s public release, a top credit card provider, Capital One, has rolled out a new mobile wallet app for cardholders that will work with Apple’s forthcoming mobile payments platform to provide users with detailed information on their Apple Pay transactions, in addition to balance rewards access, and other features.

The app was soft launched on iOS earlier in September, but the company is only officially announcing its debut this morning.

Called Capital One Wallet, the app is surprisingly well-designed for an app coming from a traditional financial institution, whose slow-moving ways tend to lead to subpar personal finance experiences – a situation that a number of startups tend to take advantage of, moving in to offer alternative banking front-ends, like those from Simple or Moven, for example, or credit card management tools like Wallaby’s credit card rewards and savings finder.

Capital One Wallet, however, has a modern look, and features including real-time purchase notifications, transaction details that include business names, locations, contact information for the business, and more – which, combined, make it easier for consumers to quickly spot and report fraudulent charges directly from the app.

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Apple Pay users will also see this same, detailed transaction data for their Apple Pay transactions associated with a Capital One card, whether Debit or Credit.

In addition, for customers using Rewards credit cards, they’re about to access their rewards in the app, and redeem them for travel or statement credit with a swipe. They can also redeem them for e-gift cards that then immediately appear in the wallet, ready for use. (Rewards and notifications are only available to Credit Card customers; Debit Card users see just transaction histories.)

Unlike some apps which use PINs or Apple’s TouchID for sign-in, Capital One’s app is accessed through a feature called SureSwipe, which mimics the log-in pattern-making gestures common on Android phones. To get started, customers will first have to establish online access to their account here on the web, which is a drawback.

The new Capital One Wallet app is live now for iOS, but the company says an Android version is in the works. The app is meant to complement Capital One’s older Mobile App, which offers other features like Bill Pay, not replace it. However, if you’ve already established a SureSwipe pattern for use with that app, it will now work with Capital One Wallet.

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Lost-Item Tracker Tile Raises $13 Million To Fund International Expansion, Android Release


Tile, the lost-item tracker that raised millions in crowdfunding wants to give objects a voice by connecting them to the web. To capitalize on the growing demand for Tile’s small, square-shaped devices that attach to bags, bikes, keychains and more, the company has raised $13 million in funding, in a $9.5 million Series A round led by GGV Capital, a firm known for its global ties, and a $3.5 million seed round led by Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent. Tile also announced this morning it’s bringing Tile to Android.

Other participating investors include Tandem Capital, Nick Woodman (Go Pro), Rothenberg Ventures, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures (Yahoo), Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures (Path), Charles Huang (Guitar Hero), Chris Hulls (Life360), Bob Lee (Square), and Mike and Kass Lazerow (BuddyMedia) among others.

The selection speaks to a company that is looking to grow and scale its business on an international stage.

Tile, you may recall, initially made waves as one of the breakout viral hits that demonstrated crowdfunding’s potential and its pitfalls. The company blew away its fundraising goals, pulling in $2.6 million via a Selfstarter campaign, then faced complaints from early backers when production delays kept products from shipping on schedule.

The company is still working through that backlog today, in fact, but the end is finally in sight. Tile CEO Nick Evans says they expect to clear the backlog by Black Friday.

Nearly a year after raising crowdfunding, Tile began shipping this spring. Demand for Tile was higher than expected, it had turned out. To date, the company has sold half a million devices, and has now shipped 300,000 of those.

Currently, the U.S. is Tile’s primary market, where it’s finding the most traction in cities like New York, San Francisco, L.A., Chicago and Houston, but Evans notes that 30% of Tile orders are from international markets. Tile is also now being used in 30 countries worldwide.

Android App Coming Soon

To beef up its international presence, GGV’s global connections will come into play, as will Tile’s newly announced plans for Android, the world’s top mobile platform.

Says Evans, demand for Android has been the number one request from consumers – beyond, of course, all those who’ve been asking “where’s my Tile?

But the company has only one Android developer right now (they’re hiring more), and it wants to get the Android app right, so the plan is to roll out Android support on a phone-by-phone basis. The first supported device will be the Samsung Galaxy S5 with other phone models to follow. Evans declined to provide a timeline or an ETA on the Android releases, having perhaps learned a hard lesson about making promises ahead of delivery.

Not all Android phones will be supported, either, as Tile requires Bluetooth Low Energy – it’s how the Tile dongles communicate with the accompanying mobile app.

At the very least, it’s good to know Android is on the roadmap.

Updated App

The software will also soon be getting an upgrade, with the addition of previously detailed features like a “Mark as Lost” mode and sharing. The former lets you set a Tile as “lost” and then has you receive alerts via push notifications when found. Tile’s network – that is, its expanding community of users – could ultimately be what sets Tile apart from competitors. Like some other products, the location of any Tile can be picked up by any other Tile app user and then communicated back to the Tile’s owner when items go missing.

Obviously, this is the sort of thing that only work at scale. Evans tells of one Orlando-based customer who recently left his keys on a plane, and then tracked those keys flying around the country until they again returned to Orlando. Though he finally did retrieve them, phone-in-hand, by way of the airport lost-and-found, it took him 3 weeks to do so. Evans says that time frame will decrease as more Tile units are in the wild.

But half a million is a good start.

Evans is cagey about what’s next for Tile, but hinted previously about newer, smaller and more colorful Tiles arriving in the future. He won’t confirm what exactly is planned for Tile version 2 next year, only saying generally that the goal is to keep making Tiles smaller every year as technology improves. Consumers would then be subscribed to a subscription service for Tile, opting to receive each new release to replace the old instead of worrying with batteries which Tile, somewhat controversially, decided to make non-user replaceable.

Eventually, the goal is to give a wide variety of inanimate objects a voice, says Evans. “Every time someone puts a Tile on something, it’s like they’re bringing it to life,” he explains. “It brings up a new way to interact with the things that you use every day.”

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Next-Generation Email Platform Inbox Rolls Out Open Source Apps, Details Its Hosted API Pricing


Inbox, the email startup founded by Dropbox and MIT alums offering modern APIs that allow developers to build new applications on top of email’s aging underpinnings, is today taking steps to make it even easier for developers to get started with the launch of open source email apps. The company is also announcing the pricing for its hosted version of the Inbox API for the first time publicly.

The company, co-founded by MIT alums Michael Grinich, previously an engineer at Dropbox and designer Nest, and Christine Spang, an early Linux kernel engineer at Ksplice (acquired by Oracle), came out of stealth shortly after Google revealed its Gmail API, which likely worked to its advantage. Though similar in concept – both are designed to reduce developers’ reliance on older protocols like IMAP – Gmail’s API, obviously, only works with Gmail. Inbox, however, now works with Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail/, Microsoft Exchange, and pretty much every other email service out there – as the company touts on its Features page, “From ActiveSync to Zimbra.

In addition to the expanded support for email service providers, Inbox also added calendar APIs a few weeks ago, which is helpful for developers building email applications that tie into calendaring.

Grinich is passionate about the problem Inbox wants to solve – in fact, he even wrote his thesis at MIT on email tools, and discovered how difficult it was to add features to email apps. The biggest issue, he realized explained to us, was the “underlying plumbing” – IMAP, MIME, character encodings, etc. – things that Inbox fixes for developers.

Hosted Version And Pricing 

Since its debut earlier this summer, Inbox has invited a number of testers to the Inbox Developer Program, which is $99 per year and allows the developer to sync up to 10 accounts. This serves as a staging ground, where apps can be built and tested with the hosted version of the API.

With the hosted API, developers don’t have to worry with syncing and storing mail data – Inbox handles it. The hosted version also includes full support for Microsoft ActiveSync, including contacts and calendar – a feature set aimed at developers targeting the enterprise markets.

Now the company is disclosing its pricing structure for this service – it’s $5 monthly per account, and developers can sign up or cancel at any time. This includes unlimited API requests, support for Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo and dozens of other providers, and no other fees. A 30-day free trial is available for testing, with some limitations: the app must be free to end users during this time, and old mail is synced slowly at 1 message per minute. (New mail is synced normally). An upgrade removed this forced slowdown.

Open Source Mail Apps

Inbox is going one step further than simply offering up an API platform, today – it’s also rolling out open source “scaffolds” for developers to build rich email apps on top of. “This is huge, and will usher in a new wave of innovation for email,” says Grinich. “Say goodbye to hacked-together Gmail/browser extensions.”

There are two scaffolds available at launch: HTML5 and iOS. The company explains it built these first because it’s what its team knows the best, but would love help expanding to other platforms, like Android. The scaffolds will get new features weekly, but at launch on iOS, Inbox has a mechanism that seamlessly merges new API requests with cached data, it claims. And the HTML5 version is “a modern standalone single-page app, running entirely client-side via AngularJS and the Inbox.js library.”

Inbox also has an open source repo here on GitHub, that has over 1,500 stars.

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Video Discovery App Showyou Launches A Platform For Subscription VOD Channels


Over the past several years, Showyou has been in the business of helping users find interesting videos that might appeal to them. Now it’s preparing to flip its model just a little, with the introduction of a new way for content owners to find viewers and get paid for their videos with the launch of a subscription channel store.

This isn’t the first time Showyou has put some effort behind the concept of channels. Last summer, it announced that partners could create channels of videos that they could then place advertising against. Those channels included the ability to set custom backgrounds, featured images, and the like.

But monetization didn’t take off. The idea was that ads would run as interstitials in between a channel’s videos. Still, for ad revenue to matter, you need a high number of viewers to really pay off. Selling videos — and selling access to them — can be a little bit easier, however.

For Showyou’s newest channel initiative, the company is providing a way for content owners to build channels and set up Netflix-like subscription video-on-demand services around them. Once again, content owners will be able to customize their channels, but this time they’ll be able to upload videos directly into the Showyou system and create playlists that can allow users to watch videos in a “lean back” experience.

Along with the platform for creating channels, Showyou is releasing a Channel Store for users to find and subscribe to. Users will be able to pay for channels on a month-to-month or yearly basis, giving them access to all the on-demand videos in those channels for as long as they would like.

Content owners are able to set their own prices for subscriptions, of which Showyou takes a 20 percent cut of all sales. Once subscribed, users will also be able to browse all the various videos within those channels, and channel owners will be able to add their videos to different genres or groups to help users discover some they’d like to watch.

The first two partners for Showyou’s channel store initiative are Indieflix and Above Average. Indieflix is sort of like Netflix for independent films, with access to more than 5,000 movies produced by indie film makers. Meanwhile, Above Average is an online comedy network from the production company behind Saturday Night Live that produces a number of comedy series for the web.

Those channels are coming first to Showyou’s web and iOS apps, and will be added to its other apps over time. Showyou’s hoping to benefit from the use of AirPlay and Chromecast support to enable users to send videos directly to a TV from their mobile device. It’s also available on Amazon’s Fire TV and is looking to expand to other TV-connected devices over time.

By doing so, the company is hoping to provide content owners with an alternative distribution platform for their videos, and one that doesn’t require them to try to make money through advertising or be a part of a cable or other bundle of channels. Users pay only for access to the content they want, and can quit at any time.

Showyou Channels could end up serving as a new revenue stream for YouTube video producers who are looking for ways to make money beyond the platform’s existing ad-based system. Already, some multichannel networks are working on their own off-YouTube distribution platforms, but Showyou could offer a way for them to create first-look subscription channels or offer behind-the-scenes footage for shows that get added to their YouTube channels.

Ultimately, though, it will depend on how many users actually show up to purchase those channels. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the online video ecosystem, it’s that distribution and monetization aren’t as easy as “If you build it, they will come.”

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Garmin Announces A New Running Watch, The Super Smart Forerunner 920XT


Running watches can either be dead simple – see Timex’s Ironman line – or complex. Garmin usually errs on the side of complex. Their latest running watch, the 920XT, will be available before the holiday and promises enough bells and training whistles to help you go from couch to (probably not) a 100 miler in a few weeks.

The new Forerunner looks similar to the previous models – large screen, big body, comfortable strap – but is waterproof and allows you to track bicycle rides and pool laps. It also connects to your cellphone allowing you to pick up reminders, text messages, and notifications right on your watch. It also includes WiFi so you can upload stats directly without a cable. The watch costs $449 without a heart rate monitor and $499 with.

Some features include:

The Forerunner 920XT’s sleek design is 15 percent lighter and 18 percent thinner than its predecessor, and features flexible, hinged watch bands for a more comfortable fit. Its high-resolution color display features a watch mode, and daily activity tracking features including steps, distance, calories, countdown to a personalized daily goal, audible move alert after one hour of inactivity, and sleep tracking. It also keeps users connected with smart notifications of incoming text, email, call, calendar reminders and more when in range of a paired Bluetooth device.

I’ve been running with Garmin for years – the Fenix 2 is my current favorite – and it’s been fascinating to see the evolution of these pieces from the hotel-soap-sized 305 to is bright and beastly watch. We’ll have a hands-on test over the next few weeks but until then you can check it out here.

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