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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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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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