Fairfax Tech Column

Fairfax Tech Column

21.9.2018 Fairfax Tech Column 113


I attended a race meeting at the local Greyhound track last week. It was a track I was familiar with as I grew up with my Dad as President so I was often there helping out between meetings and attended most meetings. It was a real family affair with my Mum and siblings helping in the office or in the kennels or with photography and even some modelling!

My childhood memory was one of a hive of activity in the betting ring with bookmakers plying their trade and I used to watch out for the ‘big betters’ so I could work out where to put my one dollar each way bets. Mobile phones didn’t exist and the office workers would have to turn away people who were asking to use the office phone knowing they wanted to ring an illegal SP bookie.

What I saw last Thursday night was a betting ring devoid of bookies. There was a TOTE in the corner but as each race approached, all the keen gamblers would pull out their phones and have their heads buried for a few minutes and then walk over to the track to watch the race. My first thought was that it was going to be difficult to work out a hot tip based on betting activity as it was slightly intrusive to look over the shoulder of. My second thought was related to just how much time we spend with our heads buried in our phones.

Luckily there is an app for that! I understand there is some irony in looking at an app to see how long you have been looking at apps for. Something akin to having a drink to see if you are drinking too much? Ignore the irony for the moment.

Mobile phone manufacturers are suddenly very concerned about our digital wellbeing. Again using alcohol as an example, think of the ads that tell us to drink responsibly. They advertise a product trying to encourage us to buy the product but then tell us not to use too much of a product! Talk about mixed messages.

One manufacturer has just introduced a feature embedded into the operating system called Screen Time. It promises to offer detailed information and tools to help you better understand and control the time you spend on your phone. You can look at time spent on apps and Web sites and even how often you pick up your device and how you receive your notifications. It also lets you set restrictions so that if you notice yourself spending way too much time in a certain app, you will be restricted in your usage. Of course, the restrictions have an override option but it might make you think twice before opening that social media app just one more time. Combining apps that tell us when you are on your phone too much with the plethora of fitness devices and apps might see a reversal of our current obesity trends. I say might. They may be noble attempts by manufacturers to do some good for the world – or just a neat marketing gimmick. Either way, embrace the concept and see how you can make it work for you.

New operating system releases must be a huge challenge for manufacturers. It was only eleven years ago that we didn’t know we needed a smartphone – but a whole new category was invented that many people could not live without today. When every sensible thing now has an app or a feature available, coming up with a new idea must consume the majority of the development timeframe. Once released, developers must sit around and see if users take advantage of an item they spent months developing.

One of the latest features in the newest Apple iOS is the Measure app. Using incredible Augmented Reality features and processing power and camera accuracy, pointing your phone at any object can give you a remarkably accurate measurement of its length and a virtual spirit level to check if surfaces are level. Imagine using this for home decoration or building or home design…or measuring the length of your cat! You read that right. The ‘Internet’ found the app was best used to take a photo of your cat with the measurement of various parts of the body displayed for all to see. I am not sure about this fascination with videos and photos of cats but now we apparently have an entirely new reason to take a cat photo! Thank goodness for that! It is estimated there are only two million cat videos and seven billion cat photos on the Internet right now. Luckily, we now have a feature to increase these numbers dramatically! Happy measuring and snapping.

Mathew Dickerson