OK. I’ll admit it. I’m not a keyboard player. In fact, I’m not that good a guitarist, if truth be told. But I can get by and getting better by creating music with Apple’s Garageband on my iMac. And I’m discovering how my music sounds so much better, more complete, with other instruments around me. But playing along to backing tracks or even with Garageband’s well constructed samples is – well – a bit like karaoke.
What I want to do is be able to add those other orchestral voices myself. Add a little piano, maybe a Hammond, drums, bass, strings, synth. perhaps even some vocal samples. But here’s the thing. There’s no way I could play all that stuff – even assuming I could get those intruments into my little studio. What I could easily accomodate is the A49 Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboard from Native Instruments.
This is a professional-standard keyboard that features 49 semi-weighted, touch responsive, high quality keys and two rotary expression wheels. It has no internal intelligence itself; you have to load software on your PC, MacBook or iMac and plug in a USB cable to drive it all. What you then get is more than your wildest musical dreams. You literally have a complete orchestra at your fingertips.
If you’re already a keyboard player, you’ll feel right at home instantly. The plugins are sampled from real instruments in proper studio sessions and are astonishingly convincing. They’re the company’s emerging NKS standard offerings. True HD and completely realistic. I spent a lot of time as a roadie with a band that featured a Hammond and the Vintage Organs Hammond presets just blew me away. It even has a Leslie and great samples of valve amps and effects!
OK, but as I said, I’m no Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman or even Elton John. But this is where Native Instruments have nailed it. You can map the keyboard to play chords in whatever key you set. If you still need help, it will actually map all the black or white keys so you can’t play an out-of-key note at all.
So what you have is an instrument any competent keyboard player can live with right away. For someone like me, the idea that you can spend an hour or so trying stuff then lay down a convincing track onto Garageband or a similar DAW is very appealing. If you’re feeling really lazy you can just go full bluff mode and map the can’t-play- it-wrong setting. Well, maybe not.
Given that even the most basic cheap and cheerful useful synth will set you back £400, with this, you get something a concert-hall-away better for £149. NI even throw in some presets – a lot of plugins – and then offer you a whacking discount on more for a huge discount on NI’s already insanely competitive prices.
The keyboard “dashboard” features a range of switches which become active depending on the preset you have selected. Selection is managed by a multi-action joystick-style control knob and there is a tiny, yet really useful display onboard to show what you selected.
The keyboard can control the record, stop, play and other functions of your computer’s DAW – I use Garageband but any Pro-Tools, Live or other DAW app will work just fine.
Apart from the USB lead, which powers the keyboard, you get a TRS-type expression/sustain pedal socket and a Kensington-type security point. As I said, its pretty well complete – or rather Komplete.
To give you an idea, just check out the video…
what about the quality?
I bet you’re thinking this is some Chinese start-up that you’ll never hear of again in a couple of years. And that’s where you’d be so wrong. Native Instruments is a professional German company. They design all the hardware there, write the software and record all the samples. That must cost a lot of money. Of course, like the vast majority of manufacturers, they have the hardware built in China. But even that’s pure class.
The A49 site midway between the smaller A21 and the concert size A61. Each differ only in the number of keys, all the other features and controls are on each version.
I love this keyboard. It takes me to places I never dreamt I would go. I’m learning as well as making music. Try one. It will blow your mind.
Its nice to see something that I championed 18 months ago now become a reality. Spark headphones had a great idea, but needed serious funding to bring it to market. Many would simply shrug their shoulders and move on. Some things are maybe not to be.
But not Spark. They decided to get the funding without the banks or other formal channels taking away control from their business, just for bringing it to market. Spark went down the crowd-funding route. Crowd-funding is where ordinary people – the people in the street like you or me – can invest in an idea they think is great and just put in whatever money they feel comfortable with. Its that simple.
Crowd-funding in online and purely social-media driven technology. Most campaigns are run for a short period with a specific target in mind. If that goal isn’t reached, you get your money back. So its a great low risk strategy. But one that’s really satisfying to see come to market. Many crowd-funded businesses offer an incentive, such as shares or you get the items you invested in at preferential rates. But all offer the satisfaction of putting one over on the banks and the suits.
And that can’t be bad, can it?
Sick of trying to balance your SmartPhone, tablet or compact camera when taking a snap of friends or other social stuff – are the close-up selfies making you look like a hamster?
Well take a look at this device. Its called the iStabilizer. Its a really cool mount for your photo device that’ll probably attract as much attention as that new iPhone 6 of yours. The company has been making universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, and other products for smartphones, tablets and cameras for some time. And this cool gadget has just won the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award in the Best App/Gadget for Phone Pics category.
USA Today’s awards are voted for digitally, so give an accurate reflection of what today’s users of mobile devices really like. In making this award, USA Today said “USA TODAY is thrilled to have this method of sharing what 10Best and USA TODAY readers and users love most,” said John Peters, President of USA TODAY Travel Media Group.
“Our readers are well-informed, well-traveled and opinionated. At the end of the day, content on our platforms is a reflection of them. A business which finds itself the recipient of a 10Best Readers’ Choice Award has really accomplished something.”
USA Today site recently acquired 10Best.com, which provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world. The site’s uniqueness is its team of local travel experts who are not only experts in their fields and their cities, but discriminating in their tastes. These local experts live in the city they write about, so the content is constantly updated.
In 2012, 10Best.com averaged more than 700,000 monthly unique visitors generating approximately 28 million page views. 10Best.com was recently acquired by USA TODAY, the nation’s number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of more than 1.6 million daily. USATODAY.com, an award-winning newspaper website launched in 1995, reaches a combined 6.6 million readers daily.
Go find out more at http://www.10best.com or http://www.istabilizer.com.
Its cold, you’re standing outside. Waiting for a bus, train or shopping. But we still need to use our technology and stay warm too, right?
Well, just check these out. They’re new leather touchscreen gloves from Dutch company Mujjo.
These techno-gloves are powered by state of the art nanotechnology, which mimics the conductive properties of the human skin, Mujjo’s touchscreen gloves offer an unrestricted touchscreen experience and enable the user to utilize all fingers and even the palm of their hand.
The gloves – along with a breathtaking range of other products – were designed by Remy Nagelmaeker, the co-founder of Mujjo. The usability doesn’t just stop with the ability to use your phone, tablet or other touch device as easily as you can with your bare fingertips, the gloves are clever from the aesthetic point of view, too. I’ll let Remy explain:
“The matte finishing of the leather allows for a well-balanced iconic look in uniform dark tones along with a few areas of contrast intensifying the low-key design. Regular leather gloves don’t work with touchscreens, but these will work flawlessly with almost every touchscreen, because they feature state-of-the-art nanotechnology.”
These gloves’ fold-over closure features the brand’s familiar slant line and uniquely integrates a neat magnetic snap closure, so you keep hold of your valuable tech (or partner’s hand!) while fastening your gloves.
Its essential for any premium product to impart a great experience to the buyer in or out of the box. Not only when presenting a gift, but also when paying for them yourself. Its something the cheaper end of the market often overlooks. The cool design of Mujjo’s products extends to the box.That’s been given some serious design thought, too. Company founder Tom Canters takes up the story:
“We’ve put serious effort into designing the gift box. It is important to us that the high quality of these leather gloves radiates through the packaging. The gift box package embodies the low-key personality of the gloves, delicate yet striking. Made with attention to detail, the materials are of uniform dark tones and contrasting textures.”
I can’t disagree.
The gloves are part of a range of truly inspired, quality tech-wear that not only works superbly, but captures the current street biker and cafe racer trend. But don’t worry. You don’t need to have slung your leg over a Triumph or Ducati bike to look cool. Just buy the gloves. Its all you need.
Find out more, right here. PS: Christmas is coming – if any of my generous friends are reading this…
London, 4 June 2015: Smart devices on track to replace cash and cards as UK mobile payments projected to hit over £1.2bn a week by 2020. So says Jeremy Nicholds, Executive Director for Mobile, Visa Europe.
Visa’s latest predictions
Despite many false dawns, UK mobile payments is predicted to grow three-fold over the next five years as savvy shoppers embrace new options and spend more on mobile, with one in four consumers estimated to spend more than £50 a week on mobile by 2020.
British consumers driving the change
Nicholds believes the UK is moving towards a “cash-last” society as one in four Brits expect to use their mobile phone to make payments on a daily basis by 2020, growing from the one in twelve who do so already today. According to new research from Visa Europe, consumer adoption of mobile payments will grow faster than ever in the next five years, with six in ten Britons (60%) expected to use their mobile devices for payments at least once a week by 2020.
The UK mobile payments boom will probably see an upsurge in the weekly value spent using mobile devices, with the market growing to an estimated £1.2bn per week* by 2020. The tech-enabled shopper expects to spend £27 on mobile each week by 2020, up from the £17 they spend today. In fact, nearly 24% respondents think they could spend more than £50 a week using a mobile device by 2020, an estimate sure to raise eyebrows in the payments industry.
While apps and music are still the items are the most popular mobile purchase today, Visa has observed a growing number of consumers already buying higher value items, with electronics (23%) and clothes (22%) among their top-five most purchased m-commerce items.
The expected British embrace of digital payments is a sign of shoppers’ becoming less nervous with mobile payments as the option becomes more widely available, easier to use and better understood. With the increasing publicity around m-commerce options, digital wallets and contactless payments, 43% of shoppers say they may be interested in using a mobile wallet service and nearly half (47%) are interested in using their smartphone to make low-value contactless payments in a shop.
Nicholds added, “While we’re excited to see consumers saying they expect to triple their weekly spend using mobile payments over the next five years, we at Visa think those numbers could be rather conservative and that the actual adoption rate will be much higher. This is particularly true when you look at the growth in contactless usage, which saw European usage grow by 2x and spend grow by 3x over the last 12 months.
Contactless and online commerce enhancements have been key in paving the way for the next generation of mobile payment technology. The environmental conditions are already in place to meet the demands and expectations for digital payments. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ consumers will embrace this new way to pay – it’s when – and for us the next 12 months are when mobile payments become mainstream.”
People who’re already using mobile devices to make transactions are also open to other mobile money services. The research highlights that these ‘mobile money’ users are five times more likely to be interested in paying friends through a smartphone app compared to non-users (48% vs. 9%). One in five would be open to social media payments too, compared with only one in twenty non-users.
Lack of knowledge – and worries, too
When looking at the main concerns about mobile payments, a third of respondents admitted that they simply didn’t know enough about it. As with other new technologies, this has resulted in apprehension about issues like privacy, fraud and security.
Jeremy Nicholds continued, “We’re witnessing a huge surge in interest from consumers in the UK for faster and more convenient payment methods as mobile and online commerce technologies continue to evolve at pace. This is why Visa Europe spends more than €200 million in on innovation including a number of secure payment technologies such as tokenisation to address security and convenience.
When it comes to money, concerns over control and security are understandable though a simple lack of knowledge is often an underlying cause, and consumers are quick to see the benefits of convenience. We’ve seen this with contactless card adoption – once people learn about the technology, see others using it and get used to paying with it, usage soars.”
Friction at the point of sale
Visa has invested a lot of money in mobile payments, with services like Apple’s ApplePay slowly beginning to get traction. But its the retailers themselves, who’ll have to invest heavily in new Point-of-Sale infrastructure, something they’re currently reluctant to do as consumer interest is still a long way away from critical mass and many moving to online buying anyway.
The problem with mobile payments and a point may industry commentators always make is that its solving a problem that simply doesn’t exist. Cards are easy to use, quick, familiar, have virtually 100% adoption everywhere, are cheap and free to replace. Who’ll buy you a new phone if it breaks or gets stolen?
You’re also far more likely to be mugged for that nice expensive smartphone than a piece of plastic.
But let’s not forget, suppliers like Visa and MasterCard get huge amounts of money from retailers and don’t want to lose out, should mobile payments take off.
And let’s not forget the threat posed by PayPal – but that’s a topic for another day!
About the ‘Mobile Money’ report
The mobile money research was conducted between 30 April and 20 May 2015 in six European countries: Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK. The total sample size was 12,015 consumers, approximately 2,000 respondents per country.
For more information, visit www.visaeurope.com and @VisaEuropeNews
[*] Figure calculated from ONS Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2013 release and research figures from Visa Europe’s Mobile Money report.
If you’re one of those people who uses a workstation rather than a notebook, you may have noticed despite the quality of your display, your eyes feel a little tired – particularly when working early in the day, later in the evenings or when the ambient light is changing.
That’s because the system that lights up your monitor – called the backlight – flickers as it adjusts to the light within the room. That causes the ciliary muscle in your eye to overwork, as it tries to compensate for this nearly imperceptible flicker.
So, your eyes feel tired, you actually squint at your screen (making you look tired) and you can even walk away with a headache. Not good at all.
Well, BenQ, the Dutch based monitor manufacturer has used its vast research facilities and experience in the medical sector to come up with a new range of displays designed to avoid this. The Senseye Eye-Care range…
With all the bad news coming out of the Middle East at the moment, its good to report about something great happening in this sector – its a pity its not being talked about more in the current climate.
Israel – the start up nation
Israel’s often dubbed the start-up nation because of its unique tech ecosystem. But tech-savvy Israeli-Arabs have struggled to compete with Tel Aviv’s unique tech scene, because of the geographic distance from the centre of the country, limited funding, restricted social network access and by not being allowed to serve in the army, which funds a lot of technical research.
But despite these barriers, a vibrant tech cluster is emerging in the Arab community, centred around Nazareth. The birthplace of Jesus is also an Arab town where Muslims and Christians live side by side. Its surrounding neighbourhoods are now establishing a reputation as the hub of Arab entrepreneurship and innovation in Israel.
Coming to the UK
Organised by the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, a delegation of Israeli-Arab entrepreneurs is meeting the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid MP, in London today, (2nd December, 2015) as part of a three-day tech trip to talk to some of the capital’s most innovative technology companies and services. Israel’s seeded 7,000 start-ups in the past decade, more than any other country outside the US. But the nation’s Arab minority faces many obstacles within this thriving sector.
The UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv is a public-private initiative investing in Israeli-Arab rising-stars, helping them develop their skills and foster business relationships abroad. By encouraging them to set the UK as their destination to grow and expand globally and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, who’ll have a better chance of becoming part of the Israeli economic mainstream.
Here’s a cool new website for the fashion cognoscenti. Secret d’or launches this month, designed to offer digital shoppers cutting edge fashion inspiration as well as access to the world’s most coveted new designers and brands. Luxurious, curated and highly desirable, Secret d’Or is a new frontier for the world of online fashion. Featuring collections from over 70 designers, the platform is for fashion forward individuals with a taste for the finer things in life.
Secret d’or offers unique pieces which are worlds away from the usual, conventional high street brands and off-the-shelf, push, pack and pack collections. Instead, Secret d’Or spotlights independent labels to connect forward thinking fashionistas with a top drawer choice of contemporary designers.
Camilla Jerath, Secret d’Or founder said, “In a world of fast fashion there is a new found respect for independent creatives who offer innovative products made with exceptional quality. We have created a curated platform to bring fresh and stylish independent brands to fashion forward men and women who crave unique and limited edition pieces. Take our Portamento shoes for example. Rather than generic designs, our collection is handmade in Italy using only the finest 100% genuine leather.”
The largely Swiss-based watch industry boasts some very prestigious brands. Even in this economic cliumate, each one constantly raising the bar at sometimes mind-boggling cost to produce something spectacular for the watch fairs held all around the world each year. There seems no limit to what some people will spend on a piece of wrist jewellery.
Autumn 2011 has been a really interesting time for banking. I mean new banking, not that tired old high street of ours.
MovenBank’s appeared, Zopa’s broken more records, Wonga’s won more awards and a new social P2P player’s launching, CivilisedMoney.
It generated quite a lot of Twitter traffic with people on digital banking’s front-line, like banking innovators, Darren G and Aden Davies. And raised one key question.
Online or on high street – can a click ever replace a footstep?
You know, no matter how much you explain, some people never manage to get it. Take Wonga and the thorny question of APR, for example. Now I’m not going into compound interest’s mysteries and related technobabble. Let’s just look at the reality of how life is and take it from there.
Before the crash, we trusted banks and most of us funded our lifestyles with credit. Nowadays, most people are recovering from first-degree finger burns and avoid credit like gasoline on bonfire night.
But life still bites. You still get unexpected bills that threaten the next meal’s arrival. And if that happens – and you’re smart – you’ll appreciate Wonga…
If our high street merged, what would you take from each to form one super bank? I’ll leave you for a minute to have a think about that one.
For all banking’s “talent” and money, why so little to choose between each one? Why can’t we find a killer product or even one differentiator?
How can this be – in other sectors key differences exist. Why not in banking?
A writer who I follow was bemoaning the lack of change in banking the other day. Now the point was perfectly valid – until he took a pop at P2P lending. As I follow social banking – and as one of its great supporters, I had to disagree. But it raised an interesting question. How do we measure disruption?
The writer in question was James Gardner, who’s the general manager of Spigot, the leading business process software vendor in the innovation space.
In theory, he should know. But then he suggested that it could be “nearly 100%”. That sure had a disrupting effect on me – because that’s plain silly…
Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?Not any old lawn mower. But Bosch lawn mowers – and how they came about. Because this is about re-invention at a very dark time. A time not unlike now.
About how a company faced with a collapsing market found the vision to change. Emerging stronger and able to cope with an even greater challenge to follow.
You know, technology works when it helps you do things you need to do easier. But its really cool when it lets you do the things you like to do better!
You basketball fans will know that the European Championships are currently on. There’s an app for that – and here it is… Its a really well designed app for iPhone and will be the go-to app for hoop fans. And at $1.99, if you don’t want to miss a game, you shouldn’t miss this.
The app’s of course available in the App Store right now. So why not give it a try? Makes a change to talk about this rather than the Euro as a basket case!
They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected. Colourful, pictorial, themed, silver, gold, platinum, even black. We had them all. Pushed by banks and card companies desperate to part us from whatever cash the Government hadn’t taxed us on, we let them cause our own credit crunch.
But finally, the tide is turning. Its not just consumers who are abandoning them. The banks can’t wait to get rid of their dried up cash-cow too.
OK, OK. I wouldn’t have put this on here but it’s Jen Aniston and its the weekend. Anyway. You don’t want to hear from me. Here you go…
Well. Not a whole lot for me to say after that, is there. Have a great weekend!
How come most companies think having PowerPoint more important than CRM? CRM comes last, after email, office productivity and accounting. Everybody knows, we’re told often enough, that looking after customers is vital. But as a process, many companies don’t see it as that important.
In fact, most companies don’t think about managing the relationship with their customers until something goes wrong and they find they can’t.
Ironic, really. When you consider that CRM will start to deliver benefits instantly, the moment you roll it out to your users. Let’s take a look…
NFC on phones is being pushed hard – the Next Big Thing for affluent spenders. Sure, it makes sense at first. A cool way to pay. But… Why not – we’ve this gadget-laden generation. Out to impress. They’ll love NFC. Well, maybe they won’t even think about it.
How can I say this. It flies in the face of everything the marketers are saying to us. But that’s the thing about marketers. They can sometimes miss the obvious…
Email. Its been around for over 40 years. And up there as our No 1 business tool. But things could be about to get very interesting in Inbox world.
As they say on Wall Street, what follows are some forward-looking statements. Therefore take this as my personal view, as the outcome is far from certain.
Three events have got me thinking about what might happen. Let’s set the scene. And taking the stage are RIM, Microsoft, VMWare, Zimbra and SalesForce…
Just a few months ago, I had high hopes for what Tesco bank might achieve. Even with Fred Goodwin fan-boy Benny Higgins in charge. But the recent prolonged outage for so many customers has been handled badly. And Benny Higgins has shown his old-school banking colours.
Given the opportunity to show strength and courage, he chose to make excuses. Instead of holding his hands up, he chose mitigation.
Every new venture has a wobble. He could have shone, but he blew his chance. Not only does Tesco have the wrong boss, it has the wrong staff. Here’s why…
OK, regular readers will know I’m not buying the hype around SmartPhone NFC. This is for a number of reasons and none of which are about it being new. I’ve talked about security, why quick isn’t a good reason, but that’s not everything. The real show-stopper to me is market reach. NFC just won’t fit the market.
Every other payment system before NFC reached its market cheaply and quickly. Now I’m going to show just how far NFC will fall short. Time to wake up…
I love it when I come across great ideas. Like game changing, eureka moments. But it frustrates me when solutions appear for problems that don’t exist. Take NFC payment systems, for example. A clever use of the tech in our pockets. But who said we had a problem at the cash-out?
We, the consumers don’t. The retailers like the short delay as they get to up-sell. Maybe its the payment system providers who have a problem. Like card fraud?
Here’s the crazy thing about NFC. The security is actually weaker. Much weaker. NFC presents a far higher risk profile than any other system…
I’ve just read a Management Today supplement about West Yorks Fire Service. Remember how Public Service budgets are meant to be getting cut back?
It should have cost a tenth of that – and it’ll only reach 60% of their users…