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AppDate: Fitbit for Windows 10

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In this bumper AppDate edition, SEAN BACHER highlights Fitbit for Windows 10, the VIDI smart TV streaming app, GridWatch, Fallout Shelter for Android, Vitality points rewards program with Samsung’s S Health, FNB’s banking app named among the best in the world, Opera Mini for Windows Phone, Sniper 3D, Recast and Apple News.

Fitbit for Windows 10

The new Fitbit for Windows 10 app lets users keep track of their steps, sleep and calorie intake. The app makes clever use of the tiled interface offered by Windows 10, making it easy to operate and navigate. Among other features, one can use the updated live tiles for quick access to key information, use the quick actions to set goals, or speak commands to the app through its Cortana support. According to Fitbit, a version of the app will be available for Windows 10 mobile and Xbox One later this year.

Platform: Windows 10
Expect to pay: A free download
Stockists: Visit the Windows 10 app store.

VIDI smart TV streaming app

VIDI – South Africa’s premiere video-on-demand service has announced a streaming Smart TV app. At the time of launch, the app only works with Samsung Smart TVs, but allows VIDI subscribers to stream videos directly to their TV, without having a computer present.

Platform: Every Samsung Smart TV from 2013 onward.
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Available through the Smart Hub on a Samsung Smart TV.

GridWatch

Although not exactly a new app, the GridWatch app (developed by News24) is a must for any South African. The app allows a user to select the area where their office or home is located and save that location. They are then able to check that week’s Eskom load shedding schedule in their area according to time and stage. The app is dead simple to use and even has a dedicated torch button for when the lights go out.

Platform: iOS, Windows Phone 8 and above, Android and BlackBerry OS10 and above.
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Fallout Shelter for Android

Fallout Shelter, the first mobile game set in the Fallout universe from Bethesda Game Studios, is now available from the Google Play store. Fallout Shelter is a post-nuclear strategy and simulation experience that puts the player in control of a state-of-the-art underground Vault. Build the perfect Vault from a variety of rooms, oversee your own thriving community of Vault Dwellers, and protect them from the dangers of the Wasteland.

Platform: Android
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store.

Vitality points with Samsung’s S Health

A new partnership between Discovery Health and Samsung will see Vitality points being offered to Discovery Vitality members for physical activities. These activities need to be tracked through the Samsung’s S Health 4.0 app. Users wanting to take advantage of this partnership need to have a Galaxy Gear S tethered to their phone. Overall, a rather expensive solution, but one that will not only help keep you healthy, but offer rewards. For example, should a user log between 5,000 and 7,499 steps a day he will earn 50 Vitality points, and between 7,500 and 9,999 steps a day, 100 Vitality points. Over 12,500 steps a day earns 200 Vitality points. Bear in mind that the same benefits apply to Fitbit at far lower cost.

Platform: A Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 edge and a Galaxy Gear S to track steps.
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Visit the Samsung app store from your device.

FNB Banking app named among best in world

The FNB Banking App recently scooped international awards, placing it at the top in the category of banking apps. The app has just been ranked 4th best globally by MyPrivateBanking Research in the category of Mobile Apps for Wealth Management 2015, and 6th best globally by the UX Alliance for usability and ease of use. This follows a recent accolade after the app was voted best banking app in Internet Banking SITEisfaction Survey, which measures internet banking quality and user experience in South Africa.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 and above and BlackBerry OS10 and above.
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Opera Mini for Windows Phone

The recently released Opera Mini browser for Windows Phone is designed not only to take advantage of the tiled format, but also increase Internet browsing speeds and at the same time save the user money through compression algorithms. The browser also offers users an offline mode where web pages are cached for browsing at a later stage. A new Speed Dial option is also now available that lets users view their regular pages with one click.

Platform: Windows Phone 8 and above.
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Visit the Windows Phone store.

Sniper 3D

Sharpen your sniping skills through a variety of special ops, assignments and daily missions with Sniper 3D. The game allows a user to choose from a variety of sniper rifles, AR rifles, shotguns and hand guns. The 3D-like graphics make peering down a scope, bullet wounds and cities look very real. The shooter is controlled through the phone’s accelerometers and swiping up and down the screen. A quick tap makes the shooter fire. The game is littered with in-app purchases, but a little patience – and spending credit wisely – means a player will get very far without having to spend a cent of real money.

Platform: iOS and Android.
Expect to pay: A free download, but with endless in-app purchases – some as much as R300
Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Recast

Recast allows users to tune into radio station playlists from around the world and listen to them as if they were using a music streaming service. However, what makes Recast better than listening to a live radio station is that all the DJ chatter is cut out and users can skip and fast-forward through tracks. Once installed, the app will pull playlists from over 200 radio stations and display the 10 most played tracks as collected from other users.

Platform: iOS and Android.
Expect to pay: A free download.
Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Apple News app

The latest News app from Apple offers the best news reading experience on any Apple mobile device. Available with iOS 9, News combines the visually rich layout of a magazine with the immediacy and customisation of digital media. News follows over a million topics and pulls relevant stories based on a user’s specific interests that can be easily shared or saved for later. News is powered by the new custom-designed Apple News Format, a digital publishing format that allows publishers to create interactive and attractive layouts.

Platform: iOS 9
Expect to pay: A free download with iOS 9.
Stockists: Visit the iTunes store for the iOS 9 update.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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