This week's 5 hot new apps: Set up connected homes in a Wink; Budgeting to get Level Money; more
As the Internet of Things starts to seep into the homes of users, most people will not set out to weave a network of appliances and gadgets in one fell swoop. Rather, as developer Ben Kaufman tells Wired, "They might buy a Samsung connected TV here, a set of Philips Hue smart light bulbs there, and before they realize it, they have a small and growing collection of home appliances that are connected to the internet." That's why he created Wink, a catch-all connected-home app that caters to companies that make their products compatible. The app does what you'd expect from a house control center--it has the ability to lock or unlock automated doors and has light intensity and climate control sliders, among other uses--but it's the unifying platform that really sets it apart. Wink is available for Android and iOS, and the app's website contains Amazon and Home Depot links that show connected products.
If you couldn't find friends in their dorm at college, communicating was as easy as leaving notes on their whiteboard. Now, with LokLok, the whiteboard is attached to their lock screen. Looking to provide a "connected lock screen for close relationships," the app's developers created a platform that links users in a more trusting way than other ephemeral messaging apps, like the original Snapchat and Facebook's Slingshot. LokLok, which is still in beta, takes over an Android's screen (sorry Apple users, iOS doesn't allow such access) and allows friends to send pictures and doodles directly. And, of course, the message can be wiped away after viewing, just like a real whiteboard.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's commuter rail line, the administration of which was taken over by French rail company Keolis July 1, is showing public transit operators how to use mobility. While other metropolitan areas shy away from official apps--instead releasing API's to let independent developers fill the void--the MBTA has released a homegrown iteration of what you'd normally expect for a transit app, including updated maps for train and bus location and expected arrival times, called the MBTA Commuter Rail App. While it seems generic at first, getting the information direct from the source seems more reassuring than from a third party. Also, there are features here that private developers simply can't do, including a ticket purchasing function. Keolis also provides an alarm to wake up dozing travelers when their destination is reached, a nifty quirk that could come in handy after a long day.
Some of the best apps have just one brilliant function. With Wear Aware, that function is making sure your phone and your person never stray too far apart. Designed for Android-based smartwatches, the app sets off a vibrating alert on your watch if you move too far from your phone or if your phone moves too far away from you. The primary function is to avoid leaving the home, bar or anywhere else without your gadget, but it also works as a security measure if someone tries to make off with your stuff.
Money management can be a struggle for young people, especially in this digital age of debit cards and mobile banking. Level Money wants to add a hardline basis to Millennial budgeting by providing a simple app that gives rigid daily, weekly and monthly spending budgets. Once the app is linked to a user's bank account and a monthly income is verified, he can go on spending as normal. The assorted spending meters visually drain as funds start to dwindle. Transactions are automatically logged, and users can mark them as normal, bills or unusual--like a plane ticket or another one-time purchase--so the program can determine whether to take them into account while creating plans. Available for iOS or Android, this app is great as a money meter for young people who don't have many long-term accounts.