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5 Apps That Turn Your Smart Phone Into A Walkie Talkie.


Anyone remember walkie-talkies? Or Nextels?  Sure they’ve gone the way of cursive writing but the technology – and appeal – is still with us and, sometimes, for example on vacation at a theme park, that sort of direct, closed group communication is desired.

But did you know that your smart phone already is capable of performing as a walkie-talkie?

Below are 5 apps that will enable your phone to act as a two-way radio, so to speak.

  1. iPTT  

    (Free: iPhone)

    iPTT is one of the App Store’s original push-to-talk apps.  It provides one-to-many group communication, one-to-one communication within a group channel (called “whisper”) or straight one-to-one communication with a friend.

  2.  TiKL Touch Talk Walkie-Talkie

    (Free: iPhoneAndroid)

    Another simple but great push-to-talk app. With TiKL, all you need are a contact list and a data plan. It supports group messaging and push-to-talk calls. For users who want to skirt voice and data plan restrictions, a simple app like this one could be the answer.

  3. Voxer

    (Free: iPhoneAndroid)

    Ever wanted to leave a voice message but didn’t want to call the person you are calling? Voxer functions like a walkie-talkie except that it sends messages rather than real-time dispatches. The app runs on iPhone and Android, it’s free, and it works over any data connection, from Wi-Fi to EDGE and everything in between. It allows you to send text messages, location messages and photos.

  4. HeyTell

    (Free: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone)

    HeyTell is a lot like Voxer but with more customization (and it runs on Windows Phone as well as iPhone and Android). It has three levels of privacy, allowing you to add or block friends from Twitter and Facebook depending on how open you want your communications to be. It is ad-free but has a decent list of in-app purchases to change notification alert sounds, enable group messaging and add emojis to your name. Like Voxer, it works on any type of data connection. HeyTell is extremely concerned with privacy, going out of its way to give users options to opt into functions including sending location data.

  5. Zello

    (Free: iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry)

    Zello (formerly LoudTalks) offers both push-to-talk apps and an application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK) so developers can add push-to-talk functiona1lity to their own apps. The enterprise capabilities of this kind of technology are vast. Remember those old Sprint/Nextel commercials where construction workers uses their cell phones as walkie-talkies? Well, now you can do it without Sprint/Nextel, across platforms and carriers. The Zello apps, at their core, are simple live communication channels. Like Voxer, they also save messages for replay later.

One-to-one communication can be helpful and fun but just remember to remain aware of your surroundings and who can hear you.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

How To Stay Safe On Free Public WiFi.

wi fi thief

Public Wi-Fi hotspots – they’re convenient, readily available all over now and basically open to all.    They’re everywhere – airports, hotels and in every Starbucks across the nation.  And everyone uses them to read work emails, watch videos and update social media.

How identity thieves use fake public Wi-Fi to steal your information.

Well, anywhere you find a crowd, you’ll find a criminal.  Criminals love public Wi-Fi spots too – so much so that they like to create their own hotspots to deceive you. One of their most common tricks is to use a generic name like “Hotel Wi-Fi”.  So, you might think you’re logging onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi, but end up signing onto a hacker’s network instead.  (You should verify the Wi-Fi network name with the hotel.  Be sure it matches the name of the hotel Wi-Fi network.)

Accidentally logging into the criminal’s network obviously makes it  easy for them to steal sensitive information like your logins and passwords.

How To Stay Safe On Public Wi-Fi:

  • If you’re using a smartphone, use the cellular connection instead of Wi-Fi. That’s much harder for hackers to intercept.
  • When banking, use your institution’s official app and sign up for any extra security that your bank offers.
  • Checking social media? Use the network’s official app. This is more secure than accessing in through the website.
  • If your laptop is set to sharing at work or at home, shut off sharing.
  • Don’t automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks.

The basic rule of thumb is, if the site is asking for your personal log-in information, do not reveal this info and stay away from that site.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Tips & Apps For Contacting Loved Ones During An Emergency


(The regularly scheduled Beacon Bulletin was bumped today for this piece.  Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Orlando who were brutally cut down by a self-radicalized Islamic extremist yesterday.  This is not a political commentary, just reality.)

In case of an emergency, our first instinct is to contact our loved ones.  We’re either trying to locate them or let them we are okay or both.  Should an event that separates you from your loved ones occur, below are suggestions for establishing contact.  (We’re not going to repeat the obvious suggestions such as limit non-emergency calls,  keeping your cell charged and tuning to broadcast news for alert updates.)

  1. For non-emergency calls, try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more “space” for emergency communications on the telephone network;
  2. If possible try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if you are unsuccessful in getting through on your wireless phone, try a messaging capability like text messaging or email. Alternatively, try a landline phone if one is available. This will help spread the communications demand over multiple networks and should reduce overall congestion;
  3. Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push “send” after you’ve ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before you’ve resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network;
  4. If in your vehicle, try to place calls while your vehicle is stationary;
  5. Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain all family members know who to contact if they become separated;
  6. If you have Call Forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone;
  7. After an event such as a storm has passed, if you lose power in your home, try using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio. But be careful – don’t try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage.

If you are able to connect, below are two emergency contact apps (one for personal sue; the other, corporate) that hold the best record of success thus far during emergencies and at work (lone worker, travel security) and at school (active shooter):

For Personal Situations:  (From Facebook)  Safety Check

Just hours after coordinated attacks in Paris left at least 127 people dead and injured more than 350, Facebook activated its Safety Check tool. The tool, which automatically sends users in the affected area a prompt asking if they’re safe, notifies Facebook friends when a user clicks “Yes, let my friends know.”

Since its official launch in October 2014, Safety Check has been activated only a handful of times, including after the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal. More than 4 million people used the tool to mark themselves safe following the Paris attacks. This was the first time the program was used outside of a natural disaster.

How It Works:   When a user clicks “Yes, let my friends know,” the tool then notifies their Facebook friends.

Facebook is letting users in Paris post safety status messages after officials said more than 100 people were killed during a series of attacks Friday.Facebook; screenshot by CNET

Facebook determines location based on what users have listed in their profile, the city where they’re using the Internet, and, if they’re using the social network’s Nearby Friends feature, their most recent location. If Safety Check has gotten the location wrong, users can mark that they’re somewhere else.


At Work or School: Guardly

Whether you’re traveling overseas on business, working remotely, in a parking garage with poor cellular coverage or sitting at your desk, Guardly Mobile alerts and connects you with your organization’s security operations instantly.

emergency reporting

emergency alert indoors

Simply launching Guardly Mobile activates its location detection capabilities — making it the first button you should press.

With its proprietary indoor positioning and GPS locating capabilities, emergency alerts from Guardly Mobile ensure that security operators can locate you indoors within seconds — without the need to speak or type one additional word.

We end this week’s Bulletin with a heavy heart and hope you never need to use these apps but if you do, remember that help and information is just a call or click away.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.


Is The Witness Lying To You? Reading & Responding To Body Language.

two faced woman

Our body language tells us more than we realize about our motives, our desires, and our true feelings.   The nonverbal tips that our bodies project are keys to our true thoughts.  

Whether you are a private investigator meeting a potential witness for the first time and obtaining a statement from her or a trial lawyer in court questioning a witness, the main issue is not having a baseline of the witness’ normal behavior.  I’m very good at detecting when my friends and family are not telling the truth. Why? I know them. I know their mannerisms, vocal intonation and speech patterns.

Lie detection, although far from being an exact science, has come a long way over the past several years. The problem is that many of the ways liars reveal themselves are not easily identifiable in a court room setting. For example, polygraphs work because most people have a physiological response to lying. It is difficult, however, to know that a person’s heart rate has increased or his hands have begun to sweat from looking at him across the court room. Pupil dilation is also a potential indicator of dishonesty, but if you are close enough to see a change in the witness’ pupils, you are surely invading that witness’s personal space and that is generally not a good move.  So in an experimental setting (i.e., research laboratory with polygraph machines) it may be possible to identify deceit from a physiological change. During a deposition, however, those methods are not a viable option.

So what other options are there?Several possible predictors of deception (outside of a laboratory setting) are:

  1. Voice pitch.  Even during little white lies, the pitch of the voice goes higher.  The greater the lie, the higher the pitch is a general rule of thumb we observe in the field.
  2. Rate of speech.  People tend to talk more when they are lying because they feel the need to convince the questioner and believe by including as many (albeit, fictional) details as possible, that they are providing a lot of information.  More is not always better.

The problem with relying on these two reactions however is that some people talk that way all of the time so you have to have a baseline for comparison before you can conclude that the witness is lying to you.    If you believe that a witness is lying to you in a courtroom because of the rapidity of her speech, what do you have to compare that to to make a determination of deceit? Therefore, if you suspect a witness is lying about a particular portion of her testimony, you should stop asking questions about it. Move on to another line of questioning to see if her demeanor relaxes. Then return to the original subject to see if she gets anxious again. This will help you determine if the witness is nervous about that particular line of questioning or just nervous in general.

The single best predictor of lying however is the quick, unconscious movement made by the person lying.  I.e., that the person is saying yes but shaking her head, indicating “no”.  Lie detection experts have reviewed countless videos of when a statement was made that was later found to be a lie, (e.g., President Clinton denying a relationship with Monica Lewinski; Alex Rodriguez denying the use of steroids in his interview with Katie Couric).  The person’s head movement was a consistent predictor of deception.  Therefore, if you suspect a witness is lying or not being wholly truthful during a particular aspect of her deposition, pay close attention to the movement of her head as she answers. Additionally, look for general inconsistencies in behavior. Does her body language match what she is saying? If you have a bad feeling about a witness, don’t ignore your instinct.

Basically, time is your friend during a deposition in establishing a baseline – as slim as it may be, it’s better than nothing.  If certain questions make the witness skittish, drop that line of inquiry quickly and when she least expects it, wrap right back to that particular point in her testimony.  Practice with your staff and you will be amazed at the accuracy rate of your instincts. (For obvious reasons and to lessen the turnover rate of employees, however, you may want to rethink that suggestion…)

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.



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