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Build a better you in 2018

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With most new year’s resolutions including words like “weight” and “fit”, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at a few sites, devices and apps that go beyond activity bands to boost our self-image.

Activity bands like the Fitbit and Garmin fitness trackers have become standard tools on the wrists of people with aspirations to more well-being, greater fitness, and lesser bulk.

The problem with these devices, however, is that the motivation quickly vanishes and, by February 1, New Year’s resolutions have come home to die.

One suggestion is to overhaul not only one’s fitness routine, but one’s entire consciousness routine. This is not a suggestion to ignore diets and treadmills, but to take a different approach.

For example, by investing in a new kind of scale that measures more than just weight, and having it in a location where it can never be ignored, it makes one that much more conscious of monitoring the body.

By investing in a fitness app that can be adapted into a fine-tuned coach that guides you in the activities you enjoy, you move away from the current smartphone fitness focus on what happens only on the activity band.

Finally, to make change more personal, one needs an overhaul that goes beyond the physical. Getting involved in a cause is a natural route, but not one that comes naturally. This guide concludes, then, on a website that takes you by the hand and connects you or your company to a cause.

We start with those smart scales:

Salter MiBody Bluetooth Analyser Scale

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Salter has been making scales for more than 250 years, and keeps pushing the boundaries. The first bathroom scale dates back to the 1820s, and its taken less than two centuries for Salter to evolve it into the Smart Scale. Or, more specifically, the MiBody scale.

It uses something called Bio Impedence Analysis technology to measure not only weight, but also the body mass index (BMI). It does this by sending a tiny (and safe) electrical impulse through the body to determine fat from lean tissue. This, in turn, provides an accurate measure of body fat, body water, and muscle mass, along with BMI and weight.

The MiBody operates as a conventional scale as well, but comes into its own when connected to a smartphone using the MiBody app. Up to four separate profiles can be stored on the scale, allowing family members to track themselves individually.

Two MiBody models encapsulate the options beautifully: The smaller MiBody 9159 is a sleek, black pad that enhances the décor of any modern bathroom; and the larger MiBody 9154, a large white gadget that comes with adjustable carpet feet for use in any room or on uneven surfaces. The former costs R849 and the latter R999.

* The scales can be purchased online from Accessory Lab here.

Aaptiv fitness coaching app

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Most activity bands and sports earphones pair up with apps that include coaching features. However, the best bands are not always paired with the best apps. In many cases, users opt for a third party app that combines expert coaching with the monitoring features of an existing device.

One of the best of these apps, Aaptiv, charges a subscription fee, but in return provides audio-based fitness classes and challenges by expert trainers. Workouts range from elliptical, cardio and strength to stretching and meditation – and are paired with music playlists for taking the experience further.

Aaptiv is a little more than two years old, but already has more than 2 500 classes available, with15 active trainers creating up to 50 new classes every week. Workout classes are geared to beginner, intermediate, or advanced users, who can interact with trainers through an Aaptiv Facebook community.

It’s like having a personal trainer at gym, but at a fraction of the cost. The dollar pricing is $9.99 a month or $99.99 for a year, but specials keep popping up. The one-month free trial is recommended before paying over those dollars.

* Download Aaptiv from the Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Forgood

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Rekindle your soul at Forgood, a home-grown online platform “that connects passionate people with needy organisations”. It is described as “a social market place where skills, goods, services and information can easily be offered and asked for”, with the site acting as the matchmaker for good causes.

Says CEO Andy Hadfield: “We believe that you can change your community and world for good. No longer do you have to wonder where to start or how to begin. By connecting online at forgood you can find ways to make a difference in your area and in line with your interests.”

Forgood is also geared towards companies’ employee volunteer programmes, allowing businesses of any size to get a CSI initiatove off the ground. A companies are then able to track, incentivise and report on their community engagement. Forgood also provides support to train, motivate and keep staff engaged.

According to Hadfield, 9 000 corporate employees registered on client volunteering programmes through the site last year, completing 13 000 actions – either in the form of volunteer work or donations.

As the organisation puts it, “Take the action offline and see your real world impact.”

* Rekindle your soul here.

 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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