Mavizon Mavia links your car to your phone and the cloud

Roadtrippers with a smartphone, pay attention – because Mavia, a new gadget from Mavizon can turn your car and phone into a super-connected cloud enabled engine monitoring tool.

Mavia consists of a special OBD-II (On Board Diagnostics) dongle, mobile apps and an online portal. Every car produced since 1996 has one of these ports, making the product very easy to install.

The product offers many of the same features found in that other famous connected car service that rhymes with “schmon-star” – which means Mavia can send out alerts if you have been in an accident, track the location of your vehicle, perform online diagnostics and even send you service coupons for discounts on maintenance.

Mavia is not yet available for purchase, but it has created enough of a buzz to win first place at this years iStage at the Consumer Electronics Show. To use Mavizon, you can use any mobile phone with an Internet browser, or access the information through dedicated iPhone or Android apps.

If you’d like to learn more about the product, or think you have what it takes to become a beta tester, head on over to Mavizontech and fill in the beta application. A nationwide test of the product starts by early Spring 2011.

Consumers spending again, travel included … but what’s next?

consumer spending on the rise, travel as wellWe know that people around the world are traveling again. U.S. travel exports are up, and the airlines are having a solid year (relative to 2009, at least). Meanwhile, two years after the financial crisis erupted only a few miles from where I sit now, people are spending money again. Consumer credit is once again the culprit, as Black Friday deals touted financing with long periods of interest-free money use.

Favorable deals are enticing consumers who don’t really have the money to spend, but they’re lured in by offers that are “too good to be true.” As Newsweek reports, “Old habits die hard.”

Consumer debt by household is down, and savings habits are on the rise, but the increase in spending from a consumer base so recently battered does make me wonder what comes next. Is borrowed money going to fuel growth in retail, consumer product and travel sectors, as it did through 2007? Is this a house of cards that’s waiting to collapse (yet again) when easy money dries up and the consumers find themselves as squeezed as they did in 2009?

Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!

[Thanks, @jasoncoletta, photo by TheTruthAbout via Flickr]

Do you buy too much junk in third world countries?

One of the biggest problems that I have when I’m traveling overseas is “strong dollar syndrome.” With a rough approximation of the exchange rate in my head and the smell of foreign commerce, everything looks cheap and I buy trinkets and souvenirs with reckless abandon.

This has happened all over the place, from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul to the artisan market in Ubud, Indonesia to the Old City in Shanghai, China. That amazing tea set — the one with the intricate detailing, matching coasters and sterling spoons is only 20 Turkish Lira? Oh, the hand carved chess board with tiny stone robot pawns is a mere 100,000 Rupiahs? Heck yeah I’ll shell out for that!

All too often I’ve over committed to a cheap, cultural travel trinket, tossed it into my bag and carried it across an entire continent — just to bring it home and set it lovingly under my living room coffee table. As I sit typing this from my dining room in Chicago, I look left at a twice-opened chess set from Turkey and the rarely used cracked-glass ice cream dish from Vietnam. Did I really need to bring those back with me?

In part, yes. The memories that come back from my travels run strong every time I see an artifact that I’ve collected from the road. And whether or not I put things I’ve collect to regular use, it’s still nice having a reminder of the good times.

But in today’s globalized economy where it’s almost cheaper to have bulk items sold shipped and resold across an entire ocean it’s easy to see how the line between cultural and kitsch can blur.

Here’s an example: one game I now like to play in foreign markets is “Could I find this at the dollar store at home?” Completely out of context, without the smells, tastes and experiences of the road, might this item be in a heap of discounted refuse at the local supermarket? In the case of the teacup that I bought in Shanghai three years ago, most definitely.

As a result, I now keep my overseas purchases confined to a tightly defined window. Yes, I still want the experience of buying a unique, cultural object from an exotic destination, and I definitely want these memories tied to the object. But unless it has significant cultural or functional value or can be purchased in no other place in the planet, I’ll check the local Target. The rest of my souvenirs I’ll bring back in my camera.

[Photo : Flickr | *Zoha.n]

Change the Trend: Use Your Vacation Days

Not everyone is as brazen as Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. While his publication was in the middle of cutting 5 percent of its staff, he made himself scarce. But, you can do that when you’re the top dog. Most people don’t take vacations when the Grim Reaper is mingling among the cubicles. They’d rather be at their desks, they convince themselves, generating value for shareholders and demonstrating the return their employers get on their salaries. So, instead of going on vacation last year, many doubled down on the business of staying employed, always a priority when the unemployment rate hits double digits.

But, this can wear you down. Consider the factors converging on you: anxiety over your job, a shitty market for getting a new one, having to “do more with less,” survivor’s guilt, longer hours, smaller (or no) raises and bonuses and less appreciation. Now, take away the few days or weeks you take every year to recharge. What do you have left?

It’s a dismal situation, and it would be smart to commit to a vacation this year, especially if you didn’t take one at all in 2009.According to a new study by Right Management, the human resources consulting unit in Manpower, 66 percent of American employees didn’t use all their vacation days last year. Douglas Matthews, president and COO of Right Management was surprised: “We thought it would be about 50 percent.”

Doubtless, this was shaped by more than attempting to appear deeply committed to the job. Consumer spending spent most of 2009 in rough shape, as credit tightened and people repaid debt and held onto their cash in case they fell victim to the layoff trend. Dropping hefty amounts of dough on a trip entailed a financial risk that fewer people were willing to accept last year. Said Matthews, “The cost of taking a vacation is pretty high. He continued, Tons of people feel they don’t have the discretionary spending to take vacation, so they just stay at work.”

Simply staying at home while taking vacation time apparently wasn’t an attractive option. This feeds the other aspect of the dynamic. The notion that not going on vacation shows people how valuable you are was prevalent. Whether it’s a game of toughness among peers or jockeying for favor with the boss, there is a population that thinks it needs to make profound sacrifices to demonstrate its value.

Connie Thanasoulis, career services expert at Vault.com, doesn’t see it this way. “It’s silly to think that giving up vacation is going to make your colleagues think how important you are,” she tells Forbes. “Take your vacation and let them miss you.”

Joan Kane, a Manhattan psychologist, is on board with this thinking, calling vacations “underrated.” She says, “People think they’re fluff. I believe they’re crucial.” In addition to keeping you on an even keel, vacations help you feel like you control your time. Even if this is only a brief sensation, it’s one you should allow your self to feel every now and then.

Kane notes, “On vacation you have no boss to satisfy … “You’re not under constant surveillance.

[Photo via MigrantBlogger]