Nio – using the power of Bluetooth to protect your belongings

On a weekly basis I probably read about 100 new product announcements, but every now and then I run into something that grabs my attention. Nio is such a product.

Nio is a Bluetooth enabled, motion sensing alarm tag.

The device attaches to your belongings, and when combined with the included software, can trigger an alarm if it moves outside a predetermined radius (up to 20 meters).

The Nio tag has an internal rechargeable battery capable of powering the device for several weeks.

To use the tag, you simply install the Nio software on your mobile device, versions are available for most Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices as well as most phones that can run Java applications.

Once installed, your phone will be in constant contact with the tag, and an audible alert will sound on your phone and on the tag if it moves out of range.

The software is pretty smart – you can setup specific times of day you want to enable (or disable) the alarm, which is perfect if you only want protection during your commute. In addition to this, the software can keep track of multiple tags, and can activate a “find me” function on the tag – which is a heck of a lot more advanced than those old “whistle to find” key tags.

Nio should start shipping in April, no price has been released yet but I’ll be sure to bring you a full review of the product as soon as it become available.

Tagcrumbs are places worth remembering

Let’s face it: there are tons of online travel resources out there, and they seem to be growing exponentially by the day. It came to my attention that one of those millions should not be overlooked. Despite its rather unfortunate name, I found Tagcrumbs, a Germany and UK-based company, to be quite useful and informative.

The premise here is simple. When you come across a cool place in the world (one worth remembering), sign into your Tagcrumbs account and tag it by location. You can then write a little blurb about it, adding specific recommendations if you like. Each Tagcrumb is connected to a specific location and has some tags added to it. That way you can easily search for nearby places that are relevant to you.
The site will eventually provide a way to send your tagcrumbs to your friends as well as upload new tagcrumbs from your mobile phone.

Ultimately, Tagcrumbs is a comprehensive site that allows you to organize and share interesting stories, opinions and insider tips with the world. Right now, it’s just getting started, and while notable places in the U.S. have yet to be tagged, I could see this resource really taking off with the proper publicity. All this site needs is a little incentive for users.

So go ahead: get to it — Tagcrumb away!

Undiscovered New York: Bombing the Bronx and the Graffiti of 5 Pointz

As a resident of New York for just over five years, I frequently take for granted the “relative” cleanliness of my city. Sure, I could do without the many, pungent trash bag piles during summertime, but you quickly get accustomed to a certain level of grit and grime when you live in one of the world’s largest metropolises.

In fact, my version of New York circa-2008 is a utopia of clean compared to New York in the 1970’s and 80’s, when the town was literally coming apart at the seams. As the city suffered a massive financial crisis, crime ran rampant and public services like the subway system fell into decline. As tragic as this period was for residents, it also provided the background for some of the era’s most important cultural movements, including the rise of punk at clubs like CBGB, emerging artists like Basquiat and in particular, the first stirrings of the nascent culture of Hip-Hop and graffiti in the Bronx.

Graffiti is perhaps one of the most controversial artistic movements of the end of the 20th Century. As much as its detractors view the form as symptomatic of urban blight, its supporters just as forcefully embrace it as the stirrings of a wholely legitimate new art form. Though vandals have been defacing public buildings with their “art” since the ancient Greeks and Romans, the modern incarnation of graffiti took shape in New York City in the borough of the Bronx in the 1970’s. In that regard the current prominence of famous graffiti artists like Banksy owe their rise to the pioneers of the form here in New York several decades ago.

So if you’re visiting New York City in 2008, where do you go to see and learn more about graffiti firsthand? Click on through to find out more and learn where to go to find the art form still alive and kicking in the 5 boroughs.The rise of NYC graffiti was as much a result of civic neglect as it was a nascent cultural movement. With city police preoccupied with a huge crime wave, the city’s walls and subway cars became prime canvases for vandals, who began leaving their mark wherever they saw fit.

At first it was all about gaining notoriety. Early practitioners of the form like TAKI 183 would roam the city, leaving their ‘tag’ as a way to earn bragging rights throughout the huge city. Soon the movement gained steam, with other ‘taggers’ competing to see who could create the most ambitious pieces, evolving into elaborate, colorful works painted directly on the city’s subway cars. Due to the covert nature of their projects, many graffiti taggers began to describe their hit and run visits to the city’s subway rail depots as “bombing.” The style is perhaps best encapsulated by the 1983 documentary Style Wars, which documents New York’s thriving Hip-Hop, breakdancing and graffiti cultural scenes.

While graffiti on the New York City subway is a thing of the past, the spirit of the movement carries on today. A walk around downtown neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, East Village, Soho and parts of Brooklyn will reveal the art form is still alive and well. While there’s no one specific spot to check out, an afternoon stroll down the area’s many side streets will reveal a wealth of projects if you’re curious. Check out Wooster Collective and Streetsy, two of the best online street art websites, to get an idea of what’s out there. In the East Village, also make sure to check out the cheeky works of De La Vega at his shop on St. Mark’s Place.

But for the best place to go to learn more about this uniquely New York art form, your first stop should be Five Pointz, a large-scale artist project in Queens. This huge industrial building, located in Long Island City, is completely covered from floor to ceiling in a living, breathing mural of graffiti artwork. Artists both local and from around the world drop by on a regular basis to put up new pieces, resulting a building that has become a dynamic illustration of the art form’s continuing legacy and influence. While some works are more abstract, there’s plenty of great pieces that feature New York themes like Hip-Hop and many of the city’s famous landmarks. The building also has plenty of examples of wildstyle, an intricate form of lettering made famous by the original New York ‘taggers.’

If you want to check out Five Pointz, it’s easy enough to make a full day out of your trip to Queens. Just a short walk across the street is the art museum PS1, a contemporary art gallery which is an offshoot of the famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Just take the E or V trains to the 23rd Street/Ely Avenue stop or the 7 train 45th Road/Courthouse Square. The Five Pointz building is hard to miss – you’ll be able to the see the brightly-colored murals from up close as your train rumbles right past the building’s many murals.

Gadling’s guide to GPS and location based services

Traveling for me evokes memories of ancient explorers, navigating across vast oceans with only a sextant and the light of the stars and moon. Or the arduous journey of Lewis and Clark as they mapped a slow path across the great wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase. We’ve certainly come a long way since then in terms of navigation – in fact the now-ubiquitous availability of handheld GPS units and Google Maps has made finding your way around in unknown places a cinch.

But in fact, GPS and Google Maps is only the beginning. As we saw with yesterday’s new 3G iPhone with built-in GPS, we’re in the midst of a new era of “location aware devices.” This includes everything from from cameras with geotagging to “location-aware” mobile phones which promise to revolutionize the way we travel and gather information for our trips. Follow along and we’ll take you through Gadling’s guide to GPS and location based services.

Mobile Phones and Location Based Services
A whole range of mobile devices are now on the market that can pinpoint your exact location. Companies like Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola and Apple all make devices which can access this information over the network. This has enabled a huge range of new ways to use your phone, from getting turn-by-turn driving directions to more advanced applications that combine the power of social networks with your location. Services like Where and Socialight not only know where you are, they also let you access location-specific “tags” left by other users in popular locations. Want to know the best place to grab a drink when most bars close at 11pm in London? Find the closest late-night pub by subscribing to Socialight’s “Late London” channel. Looking for a place to cool off this summer in the Northeast United States? Check out the “Swimming holes” group. Drank too much coffee this morning? Better get MizPee. The best part of all this is that the recommendations are based on your location, so you can find the most interesting/useful spots closest to you relatively quickly – no guidebook required.

Geotagging and Photography
Not only does your mobile phone know where you are, your camera is also getting in on the act too. Tools like this Sony GPS unit let you add location data to your snapshots, providing a whole new dimension to your digital scrapbook. Perhaps you’re trying to track down that street in Austin where you took a photo of the great Mexican restaurant? Not a problem, just check out the location data embedded in your image and the next time you’re there, you can swing by for a few tacos. Even popular photo-sharing site Flickr has gotten in on the trend, allowing you to view maps of destinations with popular photos pinpointed to where they were taken. Interestingly enough, there are now even cameras on the market that have built-in GPS capabiltiies.

GPS Just for Fun
In addition to GPS-equipped phones and cameras, there are also plenty of other ways you can use GPS devices just for goofing around. Sony’s popular PlayStation Portable offers a GPS add-on, allowing you to access location data for some of your favorite games like Metal Gear Solid to unlock special bonus characters. And you’ve probably heard by now about the artwork people have been creating using GPS software. Even though the recent DHL piece proved to be a hoax, other copycats have already followed suit. Of course, no article about GPS would be complete without a mention of everyone’s favorite GPS activity, geocaching. If you want to take it step further, you might even use GPS to create a life-size game of Pac-Man for yourself. The possibilities are pretty endless.

Not only do these new location-aware devices services provide us with useful information, they promise to change the way we travel. We are no longer tied to the recommendations of guidebooks. We can call upon user-created information about places to make informed decisions about what to see and where to go. We can take a look at a tiny street in a far-away land, without ever having to step foot there. Or we can use these new services for just plain fun. As location-based devices and services become cheaper and more widespread, they can only serve to help us make more informed travel decisions in the future.