Condo developers have long wooed would-be condo buyers with the latest cool thing they can think of, but infinity pools and mood-lit party rooms can only do so much to set a listing apart these days. To get a leg up on the competition, builders have started making sophisticated, high-tech amenities standard—a Nest thermostat here, an integrated audio system there—making well-heeled residents’ lives that much easier and more exciting. (You’ll never have to flip a lightswitch yourself again!) It was only a matter of time before developers upped the ante again, making your everyday digital upgrades come off as dated as knob and tube wiring. Here are seven high-tech upgrades that aren’t commonplace yet, but that are destined to be.
In the mid-oughties, as Silicon Valley swirled into a nerd-bacchanal of beanbag chairs and IPOs and coding parties, the Canadian tech industry was flatlining. Over the course of that decade, venture capital shrivelled from $6 billion to $1 billion as money managers stopped investing after suffering huge losses in the dot-com bust and financial crisis. One of those companies was the $72-billion pension fund OMERS, which abandoned tech’s razzle-dazzle for more stable assets like bonds and real estate. Then, in 2009, they hired John Ruffolo, a shark-faced former Deloitte exec tasked with getting OMERS back into the VC game. While everyone else retreated, they attacked: not only did OMERS reinvest in dollar-starved start-ups, but they also bypassed VC firms altogether and started their own.
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In the past year, local developers have created dozens of new smartphone apps that help make life in the city just a little bit easier. Here, our favourite techy time savers.
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There are some things in life that never stop being annoying: getting rained on, or forgetting to pack your lunch again, or that truck that won’t stop parking in the bike lane near your house—that sort of thing. Luckily, there are apps that can help make the frustrations of living in this city at least a little more bearable. Here, our suggestions for some you may not have heard of.
It’s a sad but common sight at Toronto restaurants: clutches of dazed diners, bathed in the sickly glow of their smartphone screens, totally impervious to all social niceties. Now PayPal is capitalizing on the antisocial trend with PayPal Mobile, an app that makes staring down at your phone a totally legitimate component of the dining-out experience.
The app is simple enough to use: each user uploads a profile photo and then “checks in” to participating businesses whenever they want to pay with PayPal. The person’s photo automatically pops up on the business’s system, letting employees confirm the user’s identity and charge them for their order. The payee has the option of adding a tip, and gets an email confirmation from PayPal once the payment goes through.
The potential upside, at least right now, seems to be speed. Diners can use the app to settle their cheques without having to flag down busy waiters or line up at the bar to use clunky debit machines. PayPal, meanwhile, is spinning the technology as a total wallet-replacement system, implying that users can ditch their physical payment methods in favour of the smartphone-based setup—which seems a bit premature, given that only 50 Toronto businesses are currently PayPal-compatible. (That said, judging by the on-trend factor of the list—it includes Get Well and The Goods in Little Portugal, as well as Come and Get It and Fonda Lola on Queen West—we suspect that number may rise fairly quickly.)
For now at least, people should probably hang on to their cash and plastic. Much less exciting, sure, but also less likely to run out of batteries the one day you forget your charger at home.
Regular guy and budding Los Angeles socialite Rob Ford appeared at city hall on Wednesday afternoon to make his weekly complaint to the media. The difference this time: his complaint wasn’t about the media, rather it was about a major technology firm’s decision to invest $100 million in Toronto over the course of the next decade.
Why would Rob Ford—the self-professed relentless advocate for business—be quibbling with Cisco Systems’ announcement that it will be locating one of its four new global innovation hubs in Toronto’s South Core? Because nobody bothered to thank him, of course.
“I’m the one that made the environment for these businesses to come here. My administration’s done it,” the mayor told reporters. “We have 150 cranes in the sky. We have the lowest tax rate, that was all my hard work.” Ford was responding to news that deputy mayor Norm Kelly, who has been the functional head of Toronto’s municipal government since Ford was stripped of most of his powers in November, had been invited to Cisco’s announcement on Wednesday in the mayor’s stead.
Toronto’s burgeoning digital industry has plenty of power players. These six are some of the most influential among them.
IVAN YUEN, 36 AND ALLEN LAU, 45,
Some one billion stories are read every month on Yuen and Lau’s innovative social media platform. It’s like YouTube for fiction, with writers posting stories, often in serial form, and responding to reader feedback. Margaret Atwood debuted an essay on the site in September.
The newest tool in the war against phone snatchers: a country-wide blacklist to help deny cell service to stolen devices. Anyone whose phone is swiped or lost can, as of yesterday, report its IMEI number to their carrier to have it added to the Canadian database (to find a phone’s IMEI, enter *#06# or look on the white label under the battery). Participating service providers, which include Rogers, Bell, Telus and Wind Mobile, will not allow any blacklisted device to be used on their networks. Still willing to risk Craigslist’s secondhand phone market? Check the stolen IMEI database before handing over any cash. [CBC]
We knew things were really bad at BlackBerry. Now we know they’re really, really bad. Rumours are swirling that the faltering tech giant will cull up to 40 per cent of its workforce by Christmas, which would bring its employee count below 8,000. (To compare, two years ago, the company had more than 17,000 people.) BlackBerry wouldn’t comment on the story, but sources say the cuts will come in waves, affect all departments and hit BlackBerry’s Waterloo headquarters the hardest. The extra twist of the knife: news of the layoffs broke the same day that the company unveiled the BlackBerry Z30. It has the largest screen and longest battery life of any BlackBerry to date—not that anyone noticed. [Wall Street Journal]
With just one tap, you’ll soon be able to use your smartphone to make a purchase, redeem a coupon, earn Air Miles and receive a digital receipt. The telecom giants say it’s the next big thing. But is it the thing we need?
Last fall, a crowd of reporters gathered at the Tim Hortons at Bay and Wellesley to watch the Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield buy a cup of coffee with his BlackBerry. He tapped his phone against a payment terminal, and commerce occurred invisibly. “Mobile payments have arrived!” declared a VP from Rogers. The company had orchestrated the event to unveil Suretap, a service that, in partnership with CIBC, allows customers to use phones to wirelessly pay for stuff.
The proliferation of online courses means anyone can get a world-class education for free. It’s all about upending the fusty old lecture hall model, and it’s about time
I’m studying sociology at Princeton in my spare time. I’m also taking game theory at Stanford, computer programming at the University of Toronto and equine nutrition at the University of Edinburgh. I attend class in my underwear, watch cartoons during lectures and cheat on tests with help from some of my hundreds of thousands of classmates. The classes I’m enrolled in are called MOOCs—Massive Open Online Courses, available for free to knowledge-hungry students of life like myself through the educational website Coursera.
Video never did kill the radio star. Neither did CDs or MP3s or even satellite radio, which tried to take down dusty old AM/FM radio by offering a cable TV–like galaxy of choices. iPods were a big contender: with our entire music collections in our palms, who needed a DJ to play the same tunes (and a bunch of annoying ads) over and over? Apparently, we did. Picking songs from an infinite library became a chore, and iPod fatigue set in. Digital music sales were supposed to double, then triple, as hundreds of millions of people bought music-capable smart phones and tablets. That hasn’t happened.
If the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at local Apple stores are any indication, lots of iPads will be under the Christmas tree this year. Celluon’s Magic Cube, which projects a fully functional keyboard onto any flat surface, is the perfect accompaniment. The nifty gadget connects to iPads, as well as most smartphones, and fits easily in your pocket. Plus, it has a cool factor that will make the recipient feel instantly like James Bond. $200. See 6 other gadgets »
Available at Holt Renfrew, 50 Bloor St. W., 416-922-2333