QTales Launches Platform for Authoring and Curating Interactive Ebooks for Kids

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QTales, a project to develop a collaborative ecosystem for European SMEs to create and exchange multi-plot interactive ebooks/multimedia apps for children, has recently released a new version of its QTales social platform for ebook co-authoring at qtales.com.

The QTales project began in early 2015, and was established to build a set of multi-platform editing/authoring tools along with players for interactive ebooks developed using the QTales framework. QTales has been designed with young creators in mind, allowing them to foray into a creative domain typically dominated by adults.

“The QTales platform is a great opportunity for young authors, illustrators, etc., to promote themselves and their work,” according to QTales Project Manager Delia Petacchi from Forma Camera, an Italian partner in the project.

After signing up for QTales at qtales.com, users begin by creating a new ebook and then editing it in the QTales authoring application (also downloadable for Windows and Mac), adding various multimedia elements including images, audio, mini games and more for a more captive interactive experience. Users can then choose to submit their ebooks for further curation, inviting those with complementary skills to enhance their ebook further.

“QTales is not [just] another social platform, it is a social platform for professionals who wish to join a new era for the traditional second generation book industry,” said Constantine Abazis, Chief Project Manager with Publisto in Greece.

The eventual aim is to establish QTales as a known brand for next generation ebook production within the European publishing industry. The ebooks can be interacted with using a set of easy-to-use QTales players for popular mobile devices and operating systems.

Dr Tony Hall, Lecturer in Educational Technology at NUI Galway, highlighted the importance of QTales for both literacy and creativity: “QTales will support children’s literacy and reading development, by encouraging them and supporting them in the development of ebooks, authoring them and sharing them through the QTales portal.”

The authoring portal is at qtales.com. QTales is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme (ICT-18-2014 645588), and will produce its final version of the QTales platform this summer. You can find out more about QTales in this recent video on YouTube or by visiting the project site.

Galway, Ireland-Based Pocket Anatomy wins Boost Startup Competition at TNW Conference


All photos by Julia de Boer for The Next Web.

Pocket Anatomy has won the “Boost” startup competition at The Next Web (TNW) Conference in Amsterdam. The event is one of Europe’s top tech gatherings and was attended by over 2,500 influential web, technology and business leaders from all over the world. Nearly a hundred startups were selected for Boost, out of which 10 (including Pocket Anatomy) were shortlisted to pitch on stage yesterday.

Pocket Anatomy are the creators of a suite of medical education software applications that are used by medical students, healthcare professionals, and the general public for visualising the complexities of the human body. The software has been downloaded over a quarter of a million times on iOS devices, and has been used by students and staff in dozens of educational institutions in the US. The company is based in the Ignite Business Innovation Centre at NUI Galway.

“We would like to thank everyone for all their support; we are thrilled!” said Mark Campbell, CEO and Founder of Pocket Anatomy after winning the award which includes €15,000 media value from sponsor WeTransfer. “We also got great feedback from the panel after we pitched on stage.”

Pocket Anatomy currently has three applications in the iOS App Store: Pocket Anatomy, Pocket Brain and Pocket Heart. The company also soft-launched a Mac OS version of Pocket Anatomy at yesterday’s TNW Conference.

The other finalists in the Boost startup competition included: Usertalk (a voice support button for embedding in websites); Crate (a zero-admin scalable data store); Via (a building and energy management system); Discovered (a customer-artisan marketplace aimed at selling products from emerging markets); UseClark (a digital document summarisation tool); 30MHz (a notification and warning service for monitoring systems); Agrivi (an intelligent farm management service targeting global food issues); Docido (a tool to search one’s cloud-based services and storage); and Cubic.fm (a music discovery tool that connects to a range of services).

According to Jon Russell from The Next Web, “We whittled down the 99 startups selected for the Boost event at TNW Europe 2014 to 10 earlier this month, and each of the companies took to the stage to pitch our judging committee. Pocket Anatomy, an Ireland-based startup that developed an app that allows patients to understand more about healthcare, won the competition.”

TNW is one of the most influential technology publishers online, and is ranked in the top 10 tech news sites by Techmeme. The news site was originally launched as a spin-off from the events division of TNW. TNW Conference in Europe is one of three yearly events, the other two being held in São Paulo and New York later this year.

Pocket Anatomy also recently became just the third European company to join the prestigious New York-based StartUp Health Academy. The founders of health and wellness portfolio companies selected for the StartUp Health Academy are supported over a three-year period through a series of intensive workshops and mentoring sessions to help them grow into sustainable businesses and sell into the US healthcare market.

Irish visual patient software company joins prestigious US StartUp Health Academy

Pocket Anatomy has become just the third European company to join the prestigious StartUp Health Academy of 63 portfolio companies, as part of sixteen new inductions this year.

Pocket Anatomy are the creators of a suite of medical education software applications that are used by medical students, healthcare professionals, and the general public for visualising the complexities of the human body. The software has been downloaded over 250,000 times on iPad and iPhone devices, and has been used by students and staff in over 50 educational institutions in the US.

The founders of health and wellness companies selected for the StartUp Health Academy are supported over a three-year period through a series of intensive workshops and mentoring sessions to help them grow into sustainable businesses and sell into the US healthcare market.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome the Pocket Anatomy team to the StartUp Health family of Healthcare Transformers,” said Unity Stoakes, co-founder and President of StartUp Health. “We are inspired by their entrepreneurial passion and big vision and believe what they are building will make a significant impact on improving healthcare over the coming years.”

By giving them the inspiration, education, and increased access to customers, capital, and other critical resources, the aim is that supported startups can innovate more quickly and build new solutions that will improve care and reduce healthcare costs.

“We are delighted to be accepted onto the Academy as we see it playing a pivotal role in helping us access more healthcare customers in the US. We are also looking forward to joining and learning from a distinguished set of alumni companies that have gone on to further success,” said Pocket Anatomy CEO Mark Campbell following the announcement.

The latest 16 additions brings the total number of StartUp Health companies to 63. In March 2014, Basis Science – another StartUp Health portfolio company – was acquired by Intel for a reported $100 million. Pocket Anatomy is the second Irish company to join StartUp Health, following in the footsteps of Dublin-based health and wellness entrepreneurs, GetHealth.

“It’s fantastic that Ireland is punching above its weight in the healthcare and medical innovation space, with Pocket Anatomy joining GetHealth in the StartUp Health Academy,” said Dr John Breslin from NUI Galway, an advisor to Pocket Anatomy. “Galway is already home to many SMEs and multinationals in the medical technologies domain, and local startups like Pocket Anatomy are a key part of this vibrant ecosystem”.

Pocket Anatomy has also been selected as one of the “Boost” startups to feature at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam on April 24th, one of Europe’s top tech gatherings, where they will pitch to over 2,500 influential web, technology and business leaders from all over the world.

Mosquito swatting game and rainwatch apps amongst winners in second annual CodeNinja competition


Students from GMIT and NUI Galway try out the Annoying Mosquito game

On 13 March, CodeNinja – an app development competition for third-level students in Galway – came to its conclusion with three prizes awarded to student teams from GMIT and NUI Galway. Through a series of workshops, CodeNinja gave students the skills and knowledge required to create their own innovative web or mobile apps. The competition was designed by local businesses and academics to train and encourage students to be creative in the cultivation of their own technology ideas, and was supported by Microsoft Ireland, GitHub, OnePageCRM, Ex Ordo, and the VP for Innovation and Performance at NUI Galway.

The winning entry was the “Annoying Mosquito” app developed by Chengxuan Xing and Adeel Gilani, both final year software development students at GMIT.

Their Windows Phone app relies on what is called “augmented reality” – superimposing computer-generated graphics on top of a mobile camera view of the real world – and the aim is to make anyone from adults to kids move and do more exercise when they are playing games. (The game allows players to swat a computer-generated annoying mosquito using a mobile phone.)


Paul Killoran (Founder, Ex Ordo, and NUI Galway Graduate); Adeel Gilani (GMIT Student and CodeNinja Winner), Michael Meagher (Technical Evangelist, Microsoft Ireland), Chengxuan Xing (GMIT Student and CodeNinja Winner), John Breslin (Lecturer, NUI Galway), Damien Costello (Lecturer, GMIT)

The joint runners-up were John Maguire, a final year Electronic and Computer Engineering student from NUI Galway, and Răzvan Rădulescu, an Atmospheric Science PhD researcher also from NUI Galway.

John Maguire developed a presentations speech-to-text web app for the hearing impaired, based on conversations with a community resource officer from DeafHear Galway. Lecturers can share their PowerPoint slides via the app, and the audio from videoed lectures or presentations is converted to text through a web service. For students with a hearing disability, the idea is that the lecture can be relayed to the student using this app and that he/she can see the slides, read what the lecturer is saying, and see the lecturer’s facial expressions in real time.

Răzvan Rădulescu created “Rainwatch”, an app which keeps track of a user’s location and notifies them of potential rain a few minutes before it happens. The app uses data from the forecast.io service to push notifications to a user’s phone telling them about impending downpours, and runs on multiple smartphone platforms.

Tutorials were given to students by a range of startup founders and app development experts: OnePageCRM CEO Michael FitzGerald, Ex Ordo CEO Paul Killoran, NUI Galway Research Technologist David Kelly, previous CodeNinja competition winner Mike Rockall, and Windows and Xbox developer Neil Turner.

Co-organiser Dr John Breslin of NUI Galway says: “A recent study run by Gigaom Research and NUI Galway found that the EU app economy has been responsible for the creation of 1.8 million jobs, so the future is bright for Galway’s student app developers and for those who took part in the CodeNinja competition.”

“We see CodeNinja as a critical cog in building an app culture in Galway City and amongst our student population,” according to Clodagh Barry, from NUI Galway’s Research Office. “It is important in terms of its impact on students and the local economy: increasing the available skillsets and working with industry partners in the app ecosystem.”

More information on the winners is available at codeninja.ie/2014.

Study finds a total of 1.8 million jobs in the EU app economy, with €17.5 billion in revenues taken in by EU app companies in 2013


European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes with NUI Galway’s Dr John Breslin

Leaders from the EU app economy gathered in Brussels on 13 February for the launch of the Eurapp study report “Sizing the EU App Economy”, where guest speakers including Neelie Kroes and Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka discussed the future of the EU app economy. Eurapp is a year-long project run by NUI Galway and Gigaom to look at the opportunities and challenges facing the EU app economy.

Launching the study, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, highlighted the importance of the app economy: “The amazing scale of the European app economy is big and getting bigger: with 1.8 million jobs, rising to nearly 5 million by 2018; with revenues of €17.5 billion, rising to €63 billion. Yet just 5 years ago, it didn’t exist at all.”

This “Sizing the EU App Economy” report focuses on sizing and qualifying the EU apps ecosystem, with an eye towards revenue generation, jobs supported, and the bottlenecks still facing EU apps developers. Key findings from the analysis by Gigaom Research’s Mark Mulligan and David Card, which is based in part on two surveys of developers targeting EU markets, include the following:

  • EU developers will take in €17.5 billion in revenue in 2013, and the study forecasts that figure will increase to €63 billion in five years. However, you might be surprised where a lot of that revenue comes from. In addition to €6 billion in app sales, in-app spending for virtual goods, and advertising, EU developers recognised €11.5 billion in 2013 from contract labour. And much of the developer-for-hire business is for companies that are not really in the apps business per se, but use apps to support and market their mainstream offerings like financial services, retailing, and packaged goods.
  • Fewer than half of the independent developers that were surveyed by the study said they were offering services for hire, so that is a potentially untapped market for startups. Similarly, half of the enterprises that did their own in-house development also used third-party developers. Also, in-house developers are by and large more satisfied in achieving their commercial objectives than independents, many of which are frustrated by low prices, free products, or barely-emerging ad revenues.
  • The EU app developer workforce will grow from one million in 2013 to 2.8 million in 2018. Additional support and marketing staff result in app economy jobs of 1.8 million in 2013, growing to 4.8 million in 2018.
  • EU developers face more business than technical bottlenecks. Increasing users’ willingness to pay for apps is problematic, but better discovery vehicles could help relieve high customer acquisition costs. Similarly the study saw an opportunity for an EU marketplace where companies needing app development could identify, negotiate with, and hire contract developers.

Eurapp is one strand of the Startup Europe manifesto for entrepreneurship and innovation in the EU, and the project is being carried out by the ‘s Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway and Gigaom Research.

“Throughout the past year, the Eurapp team have interviewed a variety of stakeholders in the EU app economy, and surveyed hundreds of companies that are producing apps, both big and small,” according to NUI Galway’s Dr John Breslin, leader of the Eurapp project. “Some of the main bottlenecks facing app companies in the EU were sourced in these interviews and workshops, followed by crowdsourcing challenges where nearly 100 innovative solutions were submitted to address those bottlenecks.”

The launch event also featured talks from other leading figures in the app and tech startup space: Peter Vesterbacka, Chief Marketing Officer at Rovio, who leads the marketing and brand strategy for the Angry Bird video game franchise, one of the EU’s top app success stories; Simon Schaefer has angel invested in many European startups and app companies (including 6Wunderkinder, the creators of Wunderlist) and founded the Factory in Berlin, a 16,000 square metre startup campus; and Gemma Coles is director of mobile strategy for Mubaloo, one of Europe’s leading enterprise and consumer mobile app development companies.

Smart Smartphone Shopping This Christmas

What smartphones should you be buying this Christmas? Lukasz Porwol gives some sound advice.

Christmas is coming! What should I buy for a rebellious teenager, my better half or my dear old dad? The answer is obvious …a smartphone! And even more obvious: the iPhone!

But isn’t it far too expensive? Isn’t the Samsung Galaxy S4 actually better? And hold on a sec …Sony has the waterproof Xperia Z! They are still quite pricey and someone was telling me the Nokia Windows phones are pretty awesome. And while I’m at it, the technical slang spouted by so many salespeople doesn’t exactly help! What are they talking about?!

These and similar questions will bother thousands in the run up to Christmas. In this short article we intend to help desperate gift buyers to find the perfect solution that will not be rejected outright by their nearest and dearest. Here we won’t focus on fuzzy technical details but rather on user experience, which is what matters the most!

The first and most pressing concern when Smartphone shopping is the budget; it boils down to how much we want to invest versus what we actually expect from a smartphone in terms of functionality, style and choice.

I want something stylish and I don’t care about the money!

Here the answer is usually very typical: Apple is synonymous with style. It is rather
undeniable, especially seeing as how the brand new 5S is also available in GOLD!
It feels great in your hand. It is solid, fast, brilliant; quality all around. But if you are intent on purchasing an iPhone then stick with the 5S. Don’t waste your time for 5C; it’s like deciding to holiday in style by going out and buying a Ferrari caravan.

But style is subjective and not everybody wants to drive a Mercedes S class even if money is not a problem.

Okay, something less ostentatious please. I like to see where the money is going!

What about something stylish but more practical, sporty with a bigger screen and a decent camera? The Sony Xperia Z1 sounds like a good choice here. Sleek and lean with a gorgeous glass design, the Z1 has a huge full HD screen for watching movies while traveling. It also has great sound along with a super camera (5S level) and a waterproof and dust-proof heavy-duty body. Phew! It sounds like a right bargain when it comes to pricing (just below iPhone).

But hang on a minute – isn’t the Samsung Galaxy S4 available in the Active waterproof version as well? I cannot lie, it does and the price is almost the same. Technical parameters are also pretty close. So it comes down to a matter of taste. There’s also the (slightly older) Xperia Z, which is still a great smartphone offering at only minimally less bells and whistles than the Z1 for with significant cost saving.

Our subjective ranking here (with an analogy to the car market):

  1. iPhone 5S: Mercedes S class Gold
  2. Sony Xperia Z1: BMW 7 L
  3. Sony Xperia Z/Samsung Galaxy S4/Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: Audi A8

Come on! I need something to enter the smartphone world but I’m on a bit of a budget!

Welcome to the world of Windows Mobile! Surprised? You shouldn’t be because for decades Microsoft has helped mainstream laptop producers to supply us with midrange-priced computer systems. And this is being repeated in the mobile market with Nokia and the new range of Windows 7 and Windows 8 Phones.

If you’re being especially budget conscious and want to go the route of a secondhand phone Windows 7 is a solid option but if you’re in the market for a shiny new handset go for Windows 8. The reason is simple: Windows 8 is a more mature and much improved mobile operating system and will be increasingly supported by apps developers in the future.

The winning Windows 8 phone has got to be the Nokia Lumia 520 which can be found priced at about €90 on Pay As You Go (SIM-free it costs €110). In other words for the price of one iPhone you can buy several Lumias in colours to matching all of your outfits! Actually you don’t really need this anyway because the Lumia 520 has exchangeable covers available in yellow, blue, white and red. A real bargain! The phone itself is solid and offers plenty for the price.

So what’s the catch? Surprisingly, there are few catches. There isn’t anything bad to say aside from the absence of a flash. So no taking pictures when you’re down the local – unless somebody brings a torch! If you’re willing to upgrade to the Lumia 625 for about €150 you’ll get the flash.

Another good feature across all Windows 7 and 8 Nokia handsets that must be pointed out is the free turn-by-turn GPS navigation included; it comes with offline maps so you can navigate around the world while traveling without incurring a whopping great phone bill!

And do not be afraid of the Windows system: it is incredibly simple, handy and very fast. It actually performs better than Android and could be considered a better platform if only more apps were available.

Some general advice if you want to spend more than €250: go for midrange Android phones from Samsung, HTC or Sony (whatever matches your taste and your pocket). Nevertheless if your budget is less than that Windows is the way because Android handsets below that price tag are usually slow, relatively smaller and, in general, annoying.

Our subjective ranking here (with an analogy to the car market):

  1. Nokia Lumia 520: Volkswagen Golf VII
  2. Nokia Lumia 625: Audi A3
  3. Nokia Lumia 710 (Win 7): Volkswagen Golf V
  4. Mid-range Android handsets from Samsung, HTC or Sony: Hyundai i30

What about smartphone security?

While many people opt for smartphones with the best looks, widest range of apps or nicest pricetag, there are those of us who will shop according to how secure these handsets are when handling sensitive data such as online banking. In fact, I think we’d all like to shop and Whatsapp without the NSA spying on us!

According to many mobile security firms Apple is the clear winner here. This is down to the iPhone having the best (hardware-based) encryption systems. Windows Phone is a close second (surprise!). The bad news for the those attached to the popular Android operating system (popularity comes with a price) is that a determined hacker can enter the system in mere seconds.

Our subjective ranking here (with an analogy to the car market):

  1. iPhone: Mercedes S presidential panzer-limo
  2. Windows: Audi A6 with a good alarm
  3. Android: a Zip car (shared car)

And the overall subjective winners are:

  • Premium model: iPhone 5S
  • Silver: Sony Xperia Z1
  • Bronze: Nokia Lumia 520

Okay, now run to the shop and get what you need while there is time! Enjoy and merry Christmas!

You can follow Lukasz on Twitter @porwolluke

EU App Economy Study Presents Interim Findings and Innovation Challenge Winners

Leaders from the app development community in Europe gathered in Berlin recently to discuss the current state of the EU app economy, along with innovative ideas for the future. The event featured keynote talks and hands-on tutorials by CEOs and co-founders from a variety of successful app companies who advised app companies on how to grow their businesses. Interim study results were also presented which showed that almost a third of larger European ICT companies hired at least 10 app developers this past year, with at least a 5% growth in app developer and app support teams expected by about a quarter and a third of the companies respectively.

The Eurapp study, launched by the European Commission as part of its Startup Europe initiative and being carried out by Gigaom Research and the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, is currently surveying startups and larger ICT companies to model and profile the EU app economy. App startups are being encouraged to make their voices known by completing the survey and giving their opinions on the EU app economy. Early results from these surveys were presented by Gigaom VP David Card at the workshop in Berlin.

From the perspective of larger IT companies in the EU, two thirds of the 500 surveyed were developing apps for their customers, while over half were also developing custom apps for their own employees. Nearly two thirds said that they developed apps in house, and a half said that they have outsourced app development to third parties. The primary target continents are Europe, North America and Asia, and while around 70% of companies develop for Android and the same again for iOS, almost 30% develop for other phone platforms.

In terms of job hiring, nearly 30% of companies hired at least 10 developers this past year, with a quarter of those surveyed expecting to grow their developer teams by at least 5%. An almost 1:1 ratio in terms of developers and support staff was observed, with a slightly higher expected growth for support staff in the next year.

Also as part of the Eurapp project, two innovation challenges solicited proposals to address issues with funding and market conditions in the EU app economy, following stakeholder interviews and an earlier workshop which identified these as the two major bottlenecks. Out of almost a hundred innovative ideas, a shortlist of 10 proposals were selected to present at the workshop.

The winning solution in the funding challenge was Cianán Clancy’s proposal for a European App Centre. Donald McCann won the market conditions challenge for his multi-strand proposal that incorporated an app conference, contest, online channels, marketing/business development kit, and jobs board.

Some of the other presented proposals included:

  • Matchmaking app developers with sponsors in a format similar to movie patronage events,
  • A reality TV show where apps would be judged in a popular talent competition format,
  • Bootcamp training programmes and app research hubs in targeted cities,
  • Coaching academy for app startups with attractive investment terms,
  • New online services and incubators for team formation of co-founders and advisors with complementary skills,
  • An app entrepreneurs-in-residence scheme for big EU organisations, and
  • An app request-for-quotations and tendering service.

Another aim of the workshop was to guide attendees on strategies to ensure success, with tutorials and talks from marketing / app engine optimisation specialists, cross-platform developers and company founders. Presenters included the CEO of Mubaloo, one of Europe’s largest app development agencies, and the co-founders of Xyo, Appency, Glimworm, MobileGroove Media, Suite 48 Analytics, Xyglo, along with technology leads from VisionMobile and Jimdo.

The final Eurapp workshop will be held in Brussels, provisionally scheduled for 13 February 2014, where a roadmap of policy actions for the EU app economy will be discussed.