This Week’s Latest Tech Gadets – Dec. 23, 2013

By Gregg Ellman

SanDisk Connect
My 2013 gadget of the year can easily be classified as simply what I like best, since the judging committee consists of me.

It would be all too easy to name the latest iPhone or iPad the winner, but let me also say as I did in my recent review of the Microsoft Surface that I think it is a great tablet and came in a close second in the voting.

Without a drum roll I’ve chosen the SanDisk Wireless Flash Drive as my 2013 McClatchy Newspapers gadget of the year.

The main reason I have selected it is it’s a really useful device when you combine it with all the other gadgets we use in our life, from smartphones to tablets to computers.

It’s available in capacities of 16GB ($49.99) and 32GB ($59.99) and works just like any other USB flash drive.

But it’s far from ending there.

Hidden on the end of the storage device is a little slot that opens to reveal a microsSD memory card. The slot enables your storage media to be limited to however many extra memory cards you choose to have.

The Sandisk wireless flash drive works with the  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Kindle Fire and Android devices, as well as PC and Mac computers. Since many of these devices do not have a USB port (the Surface does), you’ll need to get the free SanDisk Connect app from your device’s store.

Once it’s downloaded it takes only a few seconds to make a wireless connection to the drive. You now have access to whatever you stored on it: movies, music, photos or documents.

It’s that easy. (Other steps you must take include turning it on with the front-facing button and loading your content, etc.)

This gives you extra storage on the go without having to make a wireless internet connection or hooking up a USB drive with a cable.

The Sandisk wireless drive charges via USB and is good for about 4 hours of streaming.


ibitz 1The iBitz Unity from GeoPalz is a wireless device to monitor your family’s health.

It’s a small device you clip onto your waist, or wherever you want, to track your step count, the distance you have gone and even how many calories you burned.

ibitz 2Just download the free iBitz Unity app and connect it to your compatible iOS device running iOS 6 or higher. The app will read the your results for up to 30 days. $34.99



2014 AVA Digital Awards Entry Spotlight: Clear Channel Outdoor

While the winners for the 2014 AVA Digital Awards won’t be announced until Feb. 1, we’re showcasing select entries that stand out. Keep checking back to see if your work will be highlighted.

AVA Digital Awards Company: Clear Channel Outdoor
Agency: Taxi
Title of Entry: “United4th”
Location: New York, New York
Category: 222. PSA

Clear Channel Outdoor

Who thought billboards could look so beautiful? Clear Channel is a media conglomerate known for many things, one of them being outdoor advertising.  You’ve seen the Clear Channel name driving to and from work or across country flashing ads for everything from movies to perfume.

To celebrate the 4th of July, the company used its billboards in a unique way…placing the national anthem on the signage in bits and pieces.  Clear Channel created a PSA to commemorate the 4th, promoting itself while saluting the country.  The result is a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” like you have never seen.



2014 AVA Digital Awards Entry Spotlight: Business Information Graphics

While the winners for the 2014 AVA Digital Awards won’t be announced until Feb. 1, we’re showcasing select entries that stand out. Keep checking back to see if your work will be highlighted.

blog post ava logo
Company: Business Information Graphics
Title of Entry: “The Technology Gap and How to Bridge It 2-Minute Explainer”
Client: Compuware Corporation
Location: New York, New York
Category: 127. Animation

b2bBusiness Information Graphics is a 25-year-old New York City-based company that has created a distinctive niche in advertising and marketing.  The agency pioneered graphic videos called the “2-Minute Explainer.” In the past several years, many other companies have copied their format.

Business Information Graphics takes reams of information and compresses the facts, statistics, and interviews into a short video. Using graphics, a narrator, soundtrack, and sound effects, the video creatively delivers a succinct message to a targeted audience. “The Technology Gap and How to Bridge It” takes its cues from 1980 era video games.



2014 AVA Digital Awards Entry Spotlight: American Red Cross

While the winners for the 2014 AVA Digital Awards won’t be announced until Feb. 1, we’re showcasing select entries that stand out. Keep checking back to see if your work will be highlighted.

AVA Digital Awards Company: American Red Cross
Title of Entry: “American Red Cross”
Location: Lakewood, New Jersey
Category: 7c. Innovative Mobile Development

About the Apps

american-red-crossThe American Red Cross was busy this year either rolling out new mobile safety apps or updating existing ones to create a resourceful collection of go-to tools. The apps not only offer steps to take after a disaster strikes but also try to help people avoid catastrophes altogether.

For instance, the organization’s First Aid app provides users with step-by-step instructions for daily emergency situations such as burns, heat stroke and hypothermia. The application’s content – both copy and video – is preloaded on the device, making it accessible even if users don’t have Internet connections or cell service.

american red cross first aid app

Additionally the app gives users tips to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies and features an interactive quiz section to test a user’s first aid knowledge.


The American Red Cross’ arsenal of mobile safety apps includes four applications that each focus on a different act of nature: hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes.

Besides preparation tips for these weather events and instructions on what to do during and after the events (again, this content is preloaded), the apps feature notification alerts and, in the case of the Tornado app, an audible siren when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues a tornado warning. The audible noise will reduce the chance of people sleeping through a warning.

The national disaster apps also have a customizable “I’m Safe” alert to send to family and friends across social media or through text/email and a map of all open Red Cross shelters. Moreover, the Tornado app includes a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm.

Each app is available on both Apple and Android platforms:

The organization has published a plethora of information about the apps, making them easily accessible and displaying video demonstrations on their website.

Why This Stands Out

Here’s what caught our judges’ eyes about the American Red Cross apps:

  • Furthers the organization’s mission of preventing and alleviating suffering in the face of emergencies.
  • Contains preloaded content since not all users will have cell service or Internet connection during an emergency.
  • Uses a variety of content (text, videos, maps, etc.) to educate users.
  • Interfaces with other features on a device.
    • Educational tests connect to Apple’s Game Center.
    • Tornado app’s toolkit includes strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions.
    • Can call 911, text, email or post to social media platforms within the apps.
    • Useful to people of all ages and also engaging

AVA Digital Entries Accepted Until January 17

AVA deadline extended-smallJudges have begun judging entries in the 2013-14 AVA Digital Awards. Over the next few weeks, judges will be posting comments about some of the exceptional work that they are seeing. We will also be posting selected entries to our website gallery.

We know that a lot of people don’t want their work posted, so, if you are an entrant, we can assure you that we will not put any entries on our blog or website without prior permission.

AVA Digital winners will be announced February 1.


See Examples of Excellent AVA Digital Awards Work


Later this week, judges will start blogging, here on the blog, about entries that stand out during the judging process.*

Check our website gallery daily for new examples of winning work*

Check us out on Twitter for updates @ava_awards

*AVA Digital Awards recognizes that many entrants are adamant about not wanting their work displayed. Only those entries granted permission during the online entry process will be considered for inclusion in our various public platforms. Otherwise, only judges will see entries. We can assure you that your privacy will be protected.

AVA Digital Awards


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – Dec. 9, 2013

By Gregg Ellman

BookBook Travel Journal

Odds and ends, a little office cleaning or just call it another in the endless holiday shopping gift guides. Any or all of the above translates into a bunch holiday suggestions for gift lists.

TwelveSouth’s BookBook Travel Journal is more then a great looking vintage world book-style case for an iPad Air, mini or any other table that fits.

It’s has a leather-covered hardback outside and the inside is soft-lined to keep your tablet safe and scratch-free, but it doesn’t end there.

A dozen pockets and adjustable bands are great for keeping your headphones, mouse, cables, chargers, cables and documents in place and within easy reach.

It measures 8 x 10.3 x 1.9-inches and weighs just 16 ounces before you load it up. $99.99


PowerFlaskDigital Treasures PowerFlask is a portable battery with an incredible 13,000mAh of power, which you can use for charging just about any portable electronic gadget.

Up to three USB devices can be charged simultaneously including tablets, smartphones and gaming devices.

The internal lithium battery is surrounded by a flask design with an aluminum finish wrapped in a black leather coat.

The top has a pair of USB charging ports (1A and 2.5A output) and a single mircroUSB charging port. A dual LED illuminator there alerts you of the remaining power. $69.95


2014 AVA Digital Awards Deadline Wednesday!


  • 227 Categories
  • Enter now, pay and upload later
  • Reasonable fees: $65, $150 for campaigns
  • Results mailed and posted in 45 days
  • Credible, third party judging from the Association of Marketing & Communication Professionals
    (150,000+ entries over last 18 years)
  • Judged against a standard of excellence, not other entries
  • Winners list includes some of the most prestigious corporate and creative organizations in the country


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – Nov. 25, 2013

By Gregg Ellman

Surface 2
I’ve tossed around several ways to approach my review of the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, but it’s impossible to make an iPad comparison since I’ve owned several over the past few years.

After coming to grips with the conclusion that I really liked the Surface 2, I was upfront on a recent conference call with Microsoft representatives, telling them that I was really enjoyed using the Surface 2 and many features it has vs. the “other.”

Supporting Flash is an obvious and never-ending difference but the most significant feature in my mind, which the Surface 2 has and the other doesn’t, is the little memory slot tucked away under the built-in stand.

Using the microSD memory slot with cards up to 64GB (not included) enables the Surface 2 to have memory expansion for storing movies, music, documents or whatever you want. This is in addition to internal memory of 32 or 64GB.

But the positives don’t end there. I really like the tablet’s construction of built-in dual-position kickstand, keyboard and cover.

On the side is a mini display and USB 3.0 ports and comes with the full Microsoft Office 2013 suite of programs.

It runs Windows 8, which allows you to sync it with eight other Windows 8 machines.

Each Surface 2 comes with a free 2-year account to the Skydrive Cloud network. Skydrive is a cross platform Cloud storage solution, which will work with any version of Windows in a browser.

One thing I did notice was that the Surface didn’t come with much documentation, which isn’t really needed. The first time you turn it on the step-by-step instructions are as easy as can be to get you up and running.

A nice feature lets you have multiple accounts without having to turn the tablet on and off. Each user can have their own setup of apps and appearance; just log in and out for each user.

When you set up a children’s account, restrictions can be put in place to limit what can or can’t be done. A weekly report can be emailed to the administrator informing them what the children’s site has been doing.

I do wish the charging cable was something a little more mainstream but I’m sure there are some internal reasons for that.

Other specific specs have the touchscreen tablet measuring 10.81 x 6.79 x .35-inches with a 16:9 aspect ratio and 1920 x 1080 resolution.

There is also a 3.5 megapixel front facing-camera (great for Skype, etc.) and a rear 5 megapixel camera.

I can’t say I’m now a regular Windows users but the Surface 2 sure does have a place in my tablet world. 32GB $449, 64GB $549


KarmaThe Karma can be in the palm of your hand for instant WiFi most anywhere.

The pocket-sized hotspot device (2.5 x 2.5 x .25-inches) named Karma costs $99 and is a pay as-you-use device without any contract.

Data is $14 per GB and it allows up to eight devices to be connected simultaneously without sharing your data. Once someone connects to your Karma and they sign up for data, you will receive 100MB of data deposited into your account.

Karma coverage is in 80 major U.S. cities and a 2014 nationwide coverage expansion will add more than 230 cities using the Sprint 4G LTE Network. Regular $99 price will be lowered to $59.99 during the week of December 2nd – 7th.


BuckshotThe Outdoor Tech Buckshot wireless (Bluetooth) speaker is designed for cyclists, but can be used in most any environment with its rugged, water-resistant design.

The speaker is built with a rubberized outer shell enabling it to be shock-resistant and withstand small drops.

It comes along with a universal mount for bicycle handlebars for riding along with the music or using it as a hands-free device for phone calls since it has a built-in microphone.

A full USB charge will give you about 10 hours of use and its IPX-5 water-resistance rating enables it to withstand splashes of liquid. $49.95


Armorz Stealth ExtremeThe Armorz Stealth Extreme Lite screen protectors are as strong as any I’ve seen.

It’s pretty amazing how clean your screen stays on top of the great protection, which is advertised to be able to withstand impact from a hammer or drill.

While I won’t put that part to test, I will say fingerprints are at a minimum with the 0.2mm think tempered glass.

Officially it has an 8H hardness rating, which means nothing to me specifically except to say it prevents my iPhone 5s LCD from getting scratched up. available for the iPhone 5/5s/5c – $34.95 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – $39.95

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2013, Gregg Ellman.