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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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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • 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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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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