The birds and the city

April 24, 2012

Heiko, our German development guru found a passion for the birds in Sydney and he wasn’t alone. Here is the story of Wingtags told in his own words:

“Ever since my fiancée and I arrived in Sydney two years ago, there was something we particularly liked about this city. It’s probably because we both grew up in Germany, not a place exactly famous for abundance of wildlife, but we were always delighted to see these large, noisy, sulphur-crested cockatoos flying low across our heads, chasing tourists in parks and stirring up the CBD area with their distinctive raucous calls. Having had the chance to live close to the botanic garden for almost our entire stay, we started to study and eventually grow fond of these remarkable birds that turned out to be surprisingly intelligent.


Earlier this year we started to collaborate with the University of Sydney & the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust to monitor their movements, breeding and habitat preferences with the aim to better live alongside urban wildlife. Even the SMH talked about it already here. Being both experienced mobile app developers, we couldn’t ignore the crowdsourcing potential and started to design a little iPhone app that comes with a simplified interface to report sightings of tagged birds. The App is called Wingtags and you can download it from the link here and below. Just spot the number on the wingtag, enter it into the app and feel free to attach a photo of your encounter if you get close enough for a nice shot.


Download the app from the App Store


We hope this project gets one or two Sydneysiders a little more curious about the feathery inhabitants of this extraordinary city. Once the database starts filling up, we’ll also be able to visualize the movements of birds right within the app. Spot a bird in Potts Point in the evening just to find out that it had breakfast in Manly – that may pretty much coincide with your own commute.


Special thanks goes out to Robbie Tapping (Amnesiafish in Melbourne) for building the API for the database and to Amnesia Razorfish for sponsoring hosting and bandwidth. The birds do very much appreciate it.”

Let the bird catching and cataloguing begin.


The Future of Translating

December 18, 2010

From now on if you are in a (spanish for now) restaurant and you don’t know what it says on the menu or you are in Spain and you can’t read those street signs, all you have to do is take your iPhone out and point Word Lens at it.


It will translate on the fly and looking at the video below it is pretty amazing tech – check it out.

It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation.

From what I have read it doesn’t work as smooth as it does in the video and it only works on iPhone 3GS, 4 and the latest iPod, but it is still impressive. I’d love to try it, but it isn’t available on Android (hint hint).

It is available on the App store, so check it out. If you do let me know in the comments what you think


Unboxing the Parrot AR Drone

October 26, 2010

We love unboxing gadgets! …and the AR Drone from Parrot is GREAT fun. The Drone is controlled via an iPhone app which works by tilting your phone to steer whilst viewing a live video feed through a camera mounted in the Drone. It’s a truly usable Augmented Reality device.


How to buy in Australia: We ordered it from It took 3 days to be delivered to Sydney from the US and cost just under $350.00 AUD including delivery.

So here it is the unboxing through to a test flight…

Amazon delivers it in a HUGE box…

Slightly smaller, but still big box inside…

The Drone is neatly packed surrounded by protective cardboard.

No unwrapping necessary. It pops straight out. Nothing to assamble.


Battery, battery pack and stickers for the external shell.


It comes with the outdoor shell, and adaptors for Au, UK, US, EU.

Below: Unboxed looking at home in the studio…


Below: @bradyohalloran takes an instagram photo of the AR Drone:


Below: Flight Test: This a video taken from the Drone’s camera in the studio.

Below: We do like the idea of attaching a GoPro camera to the Drone to attain HD video – here’s a nice clip of someone flying the drone pretty high… (you can unlock the altitude sensor in the iphone app allowing you to go up as hi as the wifi lets you).

Below: The Promo Vid for the AR Drone.

Things you should know before you buy:

You get one battery that lasts for about 15 mins flying time.
Charger comes with four adaptors incl AUS, UK, US, EU.
You need an iphone or ipod touch to control it.
You don’t need a wifi network (the Drone creates one).
It takes about 5-10 mins to get to grips with the controls.
You need a seperate app to record video.
Onboard Video is 15fps
There is a secondary camera on the bottom of the Drone.
You need 2 of them to have a virtual dogfight.
It’s much bigger than it looks.
It’s a lot of fun.

Share pretty pictures with Instagram

October 14, 2010

Last week saw the launch of the free micro-photo-blogging (coined) iPhone/iPod app Instagram, which allows to to quickly share pictures from your iDevice to share with friends through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and the application itself. In that time, it has reportedly been downloaded over 100K times.

Instagram works like a streamlined Tumblr, managing the photo snapping, titling and even location tagging through the Foursquare API. In addition to making the whole photo-sharing thing quick and easy, Instagram lets you apply one of a whole bunch of image filters that make your shots look all arty/old and suprisingly not naff.

The shot above is one I took fairly recently.

Check it out!

Google Map iPhone app. Australia live traffic updates

March 17, 2010

For those who haven’t seen it here’s a quick look at ‘live traffic’ function for Sydney on the iPhone Google maps app. Screenshot below.

So how good is it? Well, it’s ok but a long way from perfect. Driving around on a busy Saturday afternoon there were a lot of yellow roads which should have been red, green ones that should have been yellow etc. I don’t blame the app or Google for the quality of the data – I’m sure pretty the info is from the RTA 

Marks out of 10 = 6

Red=congested, Yellow=slow but moving, Green=all clear.


Tip: Google maps app with GPS and traffic updates drains your battery… make sure you have a power source in the car.

E-Commerce meet my skinny, no-foam iPhone

September 24, 2009

Starbucks iPhone app

Starbucks is testing their new iPhone app that lets you pay using just the Starbucks Card Mobile app on your iPhone/iPod touch. Just enter your card number and your device will display a barcode you can use the same way as your Starbucks Card to make a purchase.

The app is currently being tested in Starbucks stores located in Seattle, WA, Cupertino, CA and Mountain View, CA, conveniently, the homes of digital powerhouses Microsoft, Apple and Google, respectively.

This app is an example of a revolutionary convergence between your wallet and smart phone. As well as a brand intersecting technology to shape consumer loyalty programs. Now the stage is set for Starbucks to employ an innovative digital couponing program. Stay Tuned.

Why Australia could fail in the event of a large Tsunami and how social media could prevent disaster.

February 8, 2009

We’re over 2 years since the terrible Tsunami of Dec 26 2006. At the time, most countries around the world had failed to put adequate measures in place capable of warning citizens in low lying areas. Since then a lot of work has been done. Australia has a monitoring system (of sorts), however it is seriously flawed in my opinion.

Why? Quite simply, by not embracing existing technology and modern consumer behaviour, tens of thousands of lives (maybe more) are at risk if a large scale tsunami or mega-tsunami were to hit our shores – especially at night. Historical events indicate Australia has experienced them in the past and experts don’t doubt there will be more (here).


Australia is surrounded by plate tectonics that are capable of generating a large tsunami.

The biggest threat is that there is only a 2-4 hour window from first warning until a tsunami hits Australian shores. A night-time tsunami could be devastating.

Australia has 1000’s of beachfront dwellings, metres from the ocean.

Here’s the problem with the AU system: The method of warning people of an approaching tsunami is outlined on the Bureau of Metorology website (here) – in fact it states:

Need Emergency Advice? Please listen to your local radio and TV announcements or call 1300 TSUNAMI (1300 878 6264) for latest warning information. For emergency assistance, call your local emergency authority on 132 500


Which raises a vital question: Exactly how is this system supposed to work if a tsunami hits Aussie shores at 4am when we’re all sleeping? Are we supposed to be tuned into our TV’s or listening to the radio at 4am? Is the siren going to sound and wake us? Nope. In fact there is a process shown on the BOM site, but it doesn’t explain how anyone will actually be alerted if we are all sleeping.

The diagram below shows the official process that will be initiated in the event of a Tsunami, but I would argue that with such short warning times (2-4 hours) any such system should be connected direct to publicly accessible data feeds.


The solution:
Our world has changed. We no longer rely on traditional media channels to broadcast information on a one to many ratio. The reality is that we are hyperconnected through the Internet, social media networks, broadband mobile networks. We are almost permanently wired. Twitter has shown to be a proven method of breaking news faster than anything else we have ever experienced allowing ‘people’ to be the carrier of a message, rather than a media channel like TV or Radio. In essence we have a global system made of networked people that could be alerted at high speed in the next emergency. A basic RSS feed direct from the tsunami system would allow applications to be built and installed on Phones, iPhones, computers, custom wifi or internet based products all of which are capable of alerting citizens quickly. Individuals receiving such an alert would be more likely by virtue of the technology, more highly connected than average and potentially capable of  transmitting the message far and wide through new digital channels, and in numbers this would likely be quicker then any government body or emergency at alerting mass numbers.

The Result:
Devices most consumers already own (phones, ipods, Laptops) will be capable of generating warnings with the right software installed, (even at 4am via alarm based apps), providing high risk-low lying coastal areas more warning time than they have currently.

What needs to be done immediately:
1. BOM site to install an RSS feed direct from the tsunami warning system. (Public could develop its own apps using this feed).*
2. Official warning apps made available across all digital devices capable of receiving the feed, made accessible from BOM site.

* I estimate that in terms of cost to produce (1) this would be little more than a couple of days work in development time for an experienced team.

I’ll be sending this blog post to Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull – via Twitter of course. Note: I’d send it to Senator Conroy (Minister for broadband / Internet), but he’s unfortunately still MIA when it comes to social media technology.

Update: 14/3/2011
Following the devastating Japan Tsunami on 11/3/11 I have reviewed this article. Most of what I have said still stands and the threat of a nighttime Tsunami is very real to Australian shores. There has been a little progress, but not enough:

The AU govt has introduced a new system but unfortunately there are a many issues in relation to a major tsunami threat. As it says on the site “It was not technically possible to incorporate a location based capability”. Bottom line it is still a push alert system and will leave many at risk until users are able to ‘opt in’ to alerts.

However there is a private company that offers free AU Tsunami warnings via SMS etc here: – until the government gets its act together it’s probably the best option to get an alert to your phone in the middle of the night.

Regards – @eunmac

The spread of the Japan Tsunami 11/3/11


Mouse Clicks Heat Map application

January 19, 2009

In case you were wondering what you were really doing all day… this tracker app creates a nice heap map of your desktop clicks recording every little interaction for you to see visually. Uh-oh – from the look of it seems I spend way too much time in PowerPoint… groan.