Personal assistant apps simplify life

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iol scitech may 31 app pic REUTERS Sir John Scarlett, who led MI6 for five years, voiced concerns over the growing use of tracking technology in phones and tablets that can monitor and log movements in minute detail.

Toronto - Tired of logging into dozens of online accounts to do Internet banking and pay bills? New apps are designed to ease the burden by gathering and organising documents for you.

About 61 percent of Internet users in the United States do their banking online and the number is growing, according to the Pew Research Centre. People also check bills, insurance and credit cards and other documents online.

Apps like FileThis, for Web applications, are designed to simplify online accounts by putting all the documents in one place and making them accessible by using one password.

“We're like a personal assistant that manages all the paperwork for you,” said Martin Stein, chief marketing officer for FileThis, based in Marin, California.

The app connects with more than 300 online accounts. It gathers information such as bills and statements, going back as long as three years, and saves them as PDF files.

The documents are tagged using optical character recognition technology, which can determine the type of document, due dates for bills, and other information.

“We can understand what is a credit card statement and what is a health document, for example,” said Stein.

Information on FileThis can also be backed up in other online locations, including storage services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Personal, AboutOne, Evernote and directly to a Mac computer through integration with FileThis' Mac app.

The app is free with up to six connections. For an additional charge of $2 to $5 per month users can get more connections and storage, as well as more frequent statements.

Several other apps also help consumers manage multiple online accounts. Manilla, an app for iOS and Android, aggregates bills from online accounts and integrates with more than 3 500 providers.

Mint, with apps for iOS, Android, Windows 8 and Kindle, provides balances and alerts from online financial accounts. Despite the benefits of the apps, Charles Henderson, a director at Chicago-based information security services company Trustwave, urges consumers to be cautious when using apps that integrate many accounts into one place.

“Obviously, third-party applications that act as a storage mechanism for large quantities of consumer data become a high-value target for criminals as they become a one-stop shop for multiple account compromises,” said Henderson.

He added that consumers should only use applications recommended by their financial institution for access to their account data.

Stein said his company, which plans to release an iOS app soon, uses strong encryption for all its connections to safeguard against security risks. - Reuters

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