Wearable Tech: An Introduction

November 19th 2014 in Blog, Technology

“Smart tech” is pretty ubiquitous by now. For the most part, we all have some kind of smartphone that we carry with us all day. There’s been a lot written about the downsides to a society that embraces this kind of pervasive integration of things like the internet. But I think we’ve been doing just fine. The next big jump to make in the world of everyday tech involves the usually horrendous merging of fashion and function known as “wearable tech.” Just as the personal desktop world had to balance form and function, so now does the wearable tech industry.

Here’s my take on wearable tech: the technology is cool, it’s going to be everywhere sooner rather than later, and you and I will end up using it at some point. But right now, in the form it exists, I’m not a huge fan. And yes, that includes the Apple Watch. It’s a neat gadget, and it’s going to be good at what it does, but I have no desire to slap one on my wrist. At least not in its current form. The cliché caricature of wearable tech usually seems to be that timeless retro classic of the calculator watch. Clunky, a bit obnoxious, and overly practical to a visual fault.

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“Haha, NERD!”

Google Glass is one of the the most conspicuous examples. It hangs out on your face and reminds everyone that you’re probably spying on them. The cementing of tech into more specific areas of our lives has become something of a hot-button issue in an environment of surveillance and rumors of big companies hanging out at the NSA treehouse. This is a valid concern, but it has also led many companies into adopting security measures that have left government officials banging their heads against the wall. So that’s a good sign. As an example, the new Apple Pay is much more secure than traditional online credit payment systems because it requires your fingerprint, a unique physical object that cannot be duplicated.

The last couple of decades have been about rapid innovation in the tech world, especially as it pertains to the communication industry. The most vocal critics usually lambast how impersonal all the new gadgets are or how they’ll drive us apart. So, for better or worse, the direction of the tech industry at large for the next couple of decades will be about recouping all that technology and bringing it closer to us as individuals – literally.

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Or it’ll turn as all into Ziggy Stardust.

Smartphones and smartwatches are just the tip of the iceberg. And that iceberg is called “augmented reality.” Augmented reality is different from a virtual one because it doesn’t change your perception of the world. Instead, your world is enhanced with virtual and interactive deliveries of information. An example of augmented reality functioning in the everyday wild would be our various screens of information. Wearable tech at its best takes these things and lets us use them in the most unobtrusive and easily accessible way possible. If “wearables” – as they are referred to – are having a hard time catching on, it could be chalked up to this lack of integration.

Wristwatches, a simple and traditional way of delivering information, are a precursor to augmented reality. But in the long run, its form may not be the best way to showcase new methods of communication and content delivery. The key to making wearable tech an everyday thing won’t necessarily be accomplished by shoehorning new ideas into an old framework. And if it is, it will have to be just as seamless a transition as smartphones have been.

Tech, Criticism, and Innovation

November 12th 2014 in Blog, Technology

I really like innovation. I really like tech. I also really like Apple stuff. I’m not really an Apple fanboy though – I think the new watch looks cool, but I don’t need or even want one. I like having the newer iPhones because that’s something I use every day. But my barely used iPad 3 that I scored for $150 cuts it as far as a good tablet goes. I don’t ever feel that I need to buy the newest thing every six months.

What’s interesting to me is how viciously fickle critics have become of tech companies. And it’s not just that industry that gets heat. The internet seems to have given a whole new breed of armchair critics a place to hole up and throw rotten tomatoes at anyone who fails to create something that lives up to the high standards they’ve created in their heads. For a large part of the tech consumer market, it’s all or nothing. They demand radically new, all the time, no exceptions.

A few weeks ago, Apple released the iPad Mini 3. It’s exactly the same as the previous model, the iPad Mini with Retina Display, but with the added feature of the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Bloggers felt “betrayed” and completely unsurprised that Apple would pull this kind of crap again. Funny thing is, the fact that the previous model is now a hundred bucks less was mostly ignored. So if you really don’t want that Touch ID for the same price as the iPad already was, hey, you can save $100. But this attitude repeats itself over and over with every new product launch.

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Leaked photo of the iPad Mini 4.

There’s a couple of reasons for this attitude. One of them is just greed. Tech is a tool, and should be treated as such. A tool should be practical at the end of the day, and a practically made tool is something that doesn’t need to be replaced every 12 months. When you have a company like Apple that straddles the line between tech giant and iconic lifestyle brand, you have a lot of people who want to be seen with the newest cool thing. But the products, when well made, don’t necessitate that kind of fast turn around. I bought my first Apple laptop in 2006 when I was in high school and used it with no problems every day since then until a few months ago.

As we’ve discussed before, not every new iteration of a product can be or even should be a completely new and ground-breaking thing. So why do they keep coming out with barely updated versions for years after the initial product release? Any smart company is going to be tweaking their products as they move towards bigger and more important product releases. And you don’t need to buy them or even feel jealous every time a new version of your computer comes out. My MacBook (it was one of those sweet black ones) was great and never once did I wish that I had waited just a few more months or a year for the newest one. When you buy good tech and treat it well, it’ll last you a while. Seven and a half years of heavy use is above average for a laptop, and I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth.

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The disposable camera of the 21st century.

As we continue to explore tech criticism, we’re gonna change gears a little bit. The other reason for the highly critical attitude is an oddly high standard of perfection that people have when it comes to successful people. I won’t deny that Steve Jobs was often a jerk. Could he have used more tact and sensitivity when he dealt with people? Did he backstab and lie to manipulate others and get his way? Yeah, but everyone’s got problems. People aren’t perfect. I can be a jerk, and you probably have your moments too. That doesn’t make it acceptable behavior – it’s just what we have to deal with as people.

I’ve had conversations with people who try to convince me that a company like Apple is a fluke and isn’t actually that great because the guy who started it was mean sometimes. Quite the opposite, in fact. The very nature of a wildly successful person means that they are probably goofily eccentric and slightly narcissistic at the very least or a high functioning sociopath at the worst. So much so that in trying to understand where innovation comes from, researchers have retroactively labeled innovators of the past from Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein as autistic or something similarly clinical. The idea that a “normal person” could come up with something so “out there” or revolutionary both frustrates and scares people. But the guy who built a company that he started in his parents’ garage to be the most valuable brand in the world wasn’t a goober who accidentally tripped into success. He knew what he was doing; and he used other people to help him, whether they knew it or not.

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“Hmmm…I’ve got two murders penciled in after lunch, but I could probably invent something groundbreaking by dinner.”

This shouldn’t be taken as a defense of bad behavior. But if you want to know where innovation comes from, this is usually it. Think of it as a “meet your meat” moment. Still, to say that a smartphone is a bad product because the guy who made it happens to have a bad temper is a logical fallacy called ad hominem, which is a fancy way of saying “name-calling.” Many ubiquitous facets of modern life, from lightbulbs to Facebook, were mired in controversy because of the people who made them. But you use these products every day. And by putting down the small things that these innovators work hard to offer you, you become the jerk you claim to hate. By its very definition, innovation is something that goes against an established status quo. And for the most part, the only people willing to rock that boat will be, as Apple’s famous ad campaign declared, “the crazy ones.”

Establish Your Blog And Keep It Relevant

November 5th 2014 in Blog

A lot of WordPress users are bloggers. We love WordPress. And we love a great blog. But the harsh truth is that your blog is probably never going to be seen unless you push it out there. To say that it’s an uphill battle to get noticed, followed, and read on a regular basis is a bit of an understatement. These days everyone is doing it. So how do you stand out?

Back in 1968 Andy Warhol made his now-famous declaration that everyone in the future would be famous for fifteen minutes. Conceptually, he predicted the internet and the kind of power it would bring; the power of publishing put in the hands of everyone on the planet. If you’re driven and know what you’re doing, you can get your content in front of thousands, even millions of people, often without spending too much money.

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“That sounds great, Andy. I can’t wait to share cat pictures with it.”

The tricky part comes into play as you wonder how to get noticed without being an obnoxious twit. It’s a balancing act, but much of it will be solved by common sense. Don’t be an arrogant bonehead and call yourself a “professional sayer of truths” or something like that. But get established as an authority. Be confident in what you write and the content you present.

This is where brand comes in. “Brand” is a word traditionally associated with big companies and expensive marketing campaigns. But now that everyone has access to the kind of publicity tools that used to be reserved for such organizations, brand has become more personal. Do you wanna survive in the wasteland of the blogpocalypse where there are no rules and websites are eaten alive by roaming users? Then establish your personal brand and make it shine.

Think of big companies and their competition. Each industry has top players who duke it out and squabble over the majority of the pie while everyone else takes what’s left. You can probably think of a few. Pepsi vs. Coke. Pizza Hut vs. Domino’s. Apple vs. Microsoft/Google/Samsung. Relative to everyone in the world, that’s a mere handful. You have 7 billion personal brands to compete with. The floodgates are open.

When a new blog is created, your audience gets yet another option for their attention added to the mountain of choices they already have. One of the best ways for a blog – whether it’s corporate or personal – to gain relevance and stand out is for it to have a voice. Don’t write what everyone else is writing in the same way they’re writing it. Write about what you’re interested in and let us know how you really feel about it. Think of a recognizable brand. What does it mean to you? That’s what you want to establish for yourself. When people say your name, they know why they like or don’t like you. They think of a certain tone and style.

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“Personal brand? That sort of thing is my bag, baby!”

But your voice is just one part of your brand. The other part is staying relevant in a digital landscape that’s constantly evolving. The idea of a blog will always be relevant. We might call it something different in the future, but the concept is here to stay. You can weather the storm of change by establishing what your brand is and using every tool that comes down the pipeline by keeping up with changing social media trends. This is crucial, especially as your brand grows. If the structure of your blog is rigid and set because you refuse to change it from time to time, it’ll implode on you. Buildings are engineered to sway in the wind so they don’t snap in half. Your brand, whether personal or professional, should be built in the same way. Your blog doesn’t start and end with your domain name. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and countless other social networks that you can use to your advantage.

While they might be thriving now, within the decade, those familiar networks will be gone or radically changed. You’ll have to adapt – and be willing to bury the dead ones. There will be things you don’t like about the new ones and miss about the old ones. Everything will have pros and cons. But learn them all and find what works best for you, both now and in the future. Stake out your brand on each one, even if you’re not sure you’ll use that particular network. If someone else grabs it first, that’s no good. You don’t wanna pay some poacher a ton of money to hand over your name that he registered on Twitter while you weren’t looking. And as the web goes mobile, making sure your blog is set with its own app is just as important. Your brand has to be where the readers are, and today’s readers are on the go.

Another good example of an industry that’s making radical changes because of new technology is the film industry. Film as a medium is all but dead with relatively inexpensive high-quality digital cameras being used in the majority of productions, both studio and indie. There’s a few guys being cranky about it and saying they’ll retire when they can’t shoot on film anymore. But most influential names in the industry have embraced digital, even old school guys like Martin Scorsese. Guys like him are smart because they know that at the end of the day, the delivery system doesn’t matter. It’s the strength of the content. And remembering that is how your blog will always stay relevant.

Wovax for Schools Promo

October 29th 2014 in Blog, Videos

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are very excited to be introducing Wovax for Schools. We have already discovered in getting schools set up with Wovax that there is a great need for a simple and effective communication tool in education. Check out our new promo and head on over to our school page to find out how Wovax can get your school connected.

Wovax For Schools

October 10th 2014 in Blog, Wovax

The best products are the ones that help people. Those are the products what we create at Wovax. We want to help companies, blogs, and organizations. And some of the the most important organizations in our world are schools. A dilemma we often find with schools is the lack of a proper website. They’re often old or free and don’t offer the tools that are needed to keep parents, teachers, and students connected and up-to-date on events and announcements.

As we began talking with schools and getting them set up with their own app, we noticed another dilemma – many schools don’t even have a website. And it was never because they didn’t want one. A majority of the time, hiring someone to build their website was cost-prohibitive and time consuming.

Not everyone needs the same one-size-fits-all product. Some schools only needed the app. Others wanted a website too. So we built them their very own WordPress-powered websites. As we introduce Wovax for Schools, we are also introducing different plans so that you have the freedom to choose what works for you, your students, and their parents.

The mobile apps we build work on both iOS and Android which means these apps aren’t limited to just smartphones. They’ll work on tablets such as the iPad and Samsung Note and on music devices like the iPod Touch. Anything that runs iOS or Android, so students who don’t have smartphones yet can also read and receive updates like everyone else. Our app framework also allows secure access to web-based student information systems such as PowerSchool.

Schools build our future. The smoother they run, the better experience they will be for everyone involved. Wovax is proud to be helping schools as they transition into a new age of communications technology.

Transactive Memory and Mobile Web

October 8th 2014 in Blog, The Web

Remember when you were a kid in school and every time you went to look something up your teacher would chide you? Maybe they told you that’s not how the world works; you won’t be able to just look something up whenever you want! Well, your teacher was wrong. And now more than ever.

We’re pretty good at retaining information on our own. But as soon as our ancestors developed ways to record information they embraced it and consequently expanded our ability to think. Recording information doesn’t only give you a way to store it, but also gives others the ability to access it. And we’ve gone from campfire stories to cave paintings to scrolls to books to tapes to digital storage.

This is the natural progression of a concept called transactive memory, a term that was coined in 1985 by social psychologist Daniel Wegner. Transactive memory posits that when you are part of a social group – as small as a household or as large as a culture – you take part in a think tank of sorts. As you talk to your family, friends, and colleagues you not only exchange ideas and information but also take note of who knows what.

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Left: An example of transactive memory. Right: An example of transactive memory.

Transactive memory is powerful because it encourages connection to others while maintaining independent memories and ideas. Even when you don’t remember the specifics of some information, you can recall who to talk to in order to retrieve it. Whether it’s in books or blogs, every record made by a person is an extension of their own mind and thus any interaction with it would count as transactive memory.

As our methods for storing information advance, transactive memory becomes greater in scope. Smartphones and other mobile devices represent a new step in transactive memory. They function the same way as a library (a common and established form of transactive memory), but aren’t limited by physical space beyond their pocket-sized profile.

You can experience the thoughts and ideas of others in the forms of podcasts and blogs from anywhere you have a network connection. And with the work of groups such as the non-profit Media Development Investment Fund working on making free global wifi a reality through projects like Outernet, you’ll soon never be in a place where you can’t access a network. For some that may sound like overkill. But to us, being able to summon a library out of thin air in the middle of an ocean or on the top of a mountain sounds incredible. The applications are even life-saving; people in countries with oppressive regimes would be able to visit the unrestricted web in safety.

The rapid expansion of the transactive memory network will continue as mobile web continues to be people’s primary form of internet use. At Wovax, we’re excited to be a part of countless transactions for ideas, memories, and information.

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All of this. All the time. Everywhere. Srsly.

Tablet Sales: Why Are They Down?

October 2nd 2014 in Blog

New things are always greeted with uncertainty. When the first iPad came out, it was met with skepticism. Apple’s original iMac in 1998 was widely criticized for its controversial exclusion of a floppy disk drive. And while some critiques were legitimate – the original iPad had issues with multitasking – these were ironed out and forgotten almost immediately in subsequent versions. But every year there seems to be a kind of schadenfreude at work in much of the criticism leveled towards big tech companies.

Up until a few weeks ago, I worked as a sales guy at an Apple reseller. Every day the whining I heard far outweighed the legitimate criticism. What’s the difference? The difference between whining and legitimate criticism is that one of them offers a solution. Whining does nothing but let you pretend like you’re smarter than the guy who runs a multi-billion dollar company. It got to the point where my stock response to “why won’t [x] do [very specific thing]?” became “because that’s not how it was designed.”

“This is terrible. I could design something so much better!”

Oh. Okay. Good for you…? Why don’t you go ahead and do that. And then get back to me.

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Because these guys clearly didn’t know what they were doing.

So what does this have to do with the title of the article?

Tablet sales started climbing pretty quickly a couple of years ago. And almost as soon as they started to spike, they started to drop. And right on time, the parade of people who keep buying these products began all over again. “How can tablets be replacing computers? The tablet was just a fad! It will never replace computers.”

Mobile usage is at an all time high. Tablet sales spiked and then went down. How often do you buy a new computer? Maybe every three to five years? If tablets are the new computers, people are going to be holding onto them for a longer time. Tablet sales went down because they’re settling in. They aren’t the exciting new kid on the block anymore. Tablets are becoming a regular part of the tech world and adopting a product cycle similar to what they are replacing: the desktop computer.

We’re living in a time of incredible innovation. And because of it, the tech consumer has been spoiled rotten. We got to see innovations like smartphones and tablets for the first time and now we’ve come to expect a completely new toy every time Apple or Samsung or Nokia or whoever updates a product line. But you can’t have innovation every year. There needs to be time to let the innovations sink in and become a part of the landscape. There has to be a period of adaptation and evolution before you start at the top again.

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True innovation at work. Get to it, Apple.

True innovation is rare. That doesn’t mean everything coming out in the meantime is worthless junk. Even the iPhone is an adaption of Alexander Graham Bell’s original 1876 classic. But here’s the truth; there are about ten billion people who think they’re innovating right now. Go check out Kickstarter sometime. Don’t get me wrong – I love Kickstarter. There’s some fantastic projects that have gotten steam there. But if innovation was so easy that any Joe Shmoe armchair critic could do it, wouldn’t Kickstarter be full of genius? Innovation can certainly come cheap, but it doesn’t come easy. If it did, Kickstarter would have sent us to Mars by now.

Another Apple store anecdote: people would come in and make the rounds, checking out the devices with their hands clasped behind their backs and their chins just slightly raised while they surveyed the spoils of Cupertino.

“Anything I can help help you find?” I’d ask.

“Nope…I already own all this stuff. Just waiting for something new.”

“What sorts of things do you still need the ability to do?”

“Oh, everything works great. I just want them to make something cool again. I’ll tell ya what, if they don’t soon, I’m done with Apple. They’ve just gotten so lazy…”

No, they just don’t feel the need to feed your greed for owning the coolest new gadget on the block every six months. Not every new product is going to rock the tech world to its very core. And that’s okay.

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“What a piece of crap.”

There’s a great scene in the movie The Incredibles where the dad bemoans the state of a world that treats a graduation from third to fourth grade like a completion of high school or college. He’s pointing out that small accomplishments are important but when they get just as much fanfare and attention as the big game-changers, it gives us a jaded world were there is no “down” button on the volume. Everything is an amped-up keynote that’s constantly blaring. And if it’s not the BEST THING EVER then it just sucks.

After a ton of hype, the Apple Watch just came out and of course there’s the same guffawing again. It’s worth noting that until the last week or so before release, Apple didn’t hype it beyond the normal “oh we’re working on something neat.” Tech bloggers and Reddit users built themselves into such a frenzy that nothing was going to meet their expectations. And because whatever they imagined in their heads was so much better (unfeasible) nothing is going to please them.

So why are tablet sales down? They’re down because they’re normal now. And that’s how it should be.

Advertising Isn’t A Naughty Word

September 30th 2014 in Blog, Wovax

One of the most important features of a website is the advertising. If you’re a website owner you’re probably nodding your head in agreement as you fill up your golden bathtub with fat stacks of cash. If you fall on the visitor side of things you’re probably updating your AdBlocker as you cackle madly while leaving websites crashing and burning with unpaid server bills in your wake.

Advertising is kind of a sticky subject. On the one hand, it can be incredibly obnoxious. Watching a thirty second ad for a forty-five second YouTube video isn’t too fun. But on the practical hand, advertising is the lifeblood of just about any business. Whether you’re hosting or buying, you’re likely on at least one side of the ad game. And it’s not a new byproduct of the modern age. Soap operas got their name because of the household products that would present the shows. Even the Roman gladiators had sponsors.

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Finding a balance is tricky, but when executed properly, advertising is advantageous to everyone. I hate seeing a website that’s slathered in ads just as much as the next person. But if it’s a few well-placed ads that use my data responsibly to target me specifically, I’m okay with that. If I’m looking to buy a new camera lens and my browser cookie are telling advertisers, “hey he’s looking for this kind of product” and I see lots of ads with things I’d like to buy anyway, it can actually be helpful. I might see a deal or website that I hadn’t noticed before.

Advertising can be most effective when it offers itself as an all-around positive experience. With that attitude, it rewards everyone. The greatest advertising will be more than just a billboard. That’s why everyone loves Super Bowl ads. Commercials of that quality are so top-notch because they know that no one is going to talk or care about a glorified Power Point presentation. Instead they craft pieces of entertainment that people will enjoy so much they’ll share them with their friends the way they would a Saturday Night Live skit.

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Everyone knows what this is. Smart advertising at work.

As satirical and dystopian as it may sound, many ad campaigns have become a part of our national pop culture. Not because they strong-armed their way in, but because smart advertisers gave consumers something they could interact with and enjoy. Consumers enjoyed those ads and did the rest of the work. And now the Planters peanut, the Energizer bunny, the Geico lizard, and Ronald McDonald are all characters who have taken their place next to the likes of Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, and Yoda. Even certain brands like Coca-Cola and Ford have taken on the same characterizations that an American might attribute to “baseball and apple pie.”

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Here’s a twofer. Also, Santa is a jerk.

Of course there can be a certain cynicism in watching an ad. No matter how high the production values are, no matter how many heartstrings it pulls, it’s really about the money, isn’t it? Well, yes. If you run a business, you need to make money. But you have to get the word out somehow, so why not make that word look and sound as good as possible? Why not take the chance to make something that your target audience will enjoy? One of my absolute favorite ads of all time is Chrysler’s 2011 Super Bowl commercial with Eminem. I know it was made to sell cars and rebrand a company that was under a lot of scrutiny for their recent financial troubles. But it’s sincere. It sends a message about hard work and perseverance that rings true. And I respect that.

Advertising can be funny, personal, sad, or exciting. It can be a great way to tell a small story in a minute or two. People aren’t stupid. We all know why ads exist. But potential customers will respond better to a company that rewards their attention and puts in effort to getting their business.

Case in point about ads: this post is an ad. But if you’ve gotten this far you (probably) enjoyed reading it. Yes, I’m getting paid to write this and it’s designed to draw attention to our services. But this is a topic I actually care about and find interesting. And maybe now you’re thinking about it too.

We support ads in our app framework. Remember when we talked about how cluttered a desktop site gets on a mobile device? With too many ads, it’s easy for them to get shoved around and rearranged. Wovax gives you control over the ads in your app and supports ads from just about any ad service out there so that when you go mobile, you can keep business going as usual. And we’re taking our own advice by getting ready to launch our own commercials: so keep an eye out!

Push Notifications or Email?

September 23rd 2014 in Blog

Email is of course a standard feature for smartphones and tablets. But if you want to be truly effective in reaching your readers and customers, push notifications are the way to go. Emails pile up. They get clogged in spam filters. They’re easy to lose track of in the deep dark depths of your inbox. And email just isn’t the best choice for getting time-sensitive material out into the wild. You could send out an email that contains information about a one day sale that doesn’t get read until it’s too late for the customer to take action.

Push notifications give you the power to immediately alert your readers. And because push notifications show up on the screens for people’s mobile devices, the information you want them to have is instantly received. 90% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes of being delivered, and push notifications show up in the same way.

Wovax WordPress Mobile app Push Notifications

If you’re a business such a restaurant, you can let people know about those great new lunch specials from 12-3. For a school, you can alert parents to pertinent information such as a last-minute schedule change for sports practice or even a snow day. Maybe you have a food truck and you want to let people know where you’ll be setting up shop for the evening. And of course, if you’re a blogger, you can notify fans that a new post is live.

At Wovax our apps are built to work seamlessly with WordPress push notifications. So whatever your business may be, you can be sure that people will stay informed of it. And they’ll choose to do it in the most efficient way possible – through push notifications.

Wovax WordPress Mobile app Push Notifications