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CES 2016: Fitbit unlikely to Blaze a trail

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At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Fitbit unveiled the Blaze smart fitness tracker. However, the device was met with disappointment as it looks like it is now competing with smartwatch makers like Apple and Samsung.

Fitbit has unveiled the Fitbit Blaze smart fitness watch, which it describes as its “smartest, most stylish, most motivating fitness tracker yet”.

However, the announcement and unveiling of the Blaze at CES in Las Vegas this week was met with massive disappointment that Fitbit now appeared to be competing with smartwatch makers like Apple and Samsung. Worse, the watch has been widely derided as clunky and ugly, with only Fitbit’s own executives praising its design.

The result? Fitbit’s share price plummeted by more than 18% in the hours following the announcement. The company CEO was not deterred, however.

“One of the first things we learned in this industry is that fitness is personal – and if something isn’t your style, you won’t wear it,” said James Park, CEO and Co-Founder of Fitbit. “With Fitbit Blaze, we pushed the boundaries of what’s possible to create a beautiful, versatile device that can be customised to fit your personal style – while packing a powerful fitness punch to help you reach your goals.

“Fitbit Blaze delivers a combination of innovative features that were carefully selected with intention and purpose, designed to motivate and offer a fitness experience that is more effortless and more useful with advanced guidance and coaching.”

Fitbit Blaze will be available in South Africa in March 2016.

Fitbit provided the following description and overview of features:

It has a versatile design to fit your personal style, and the smart notifications that matter most – all in one sleek timepiece that fits seamlessly into your life:

  • Enhanced fitness features like FitStar by Fitbit on-screen workouts, Connected GPS, PurePulse heart rate tracking, and SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition help motivate and push your fitness further
  • Focus on style featuring a slim design, easily interchangeable bands and frames, and a beautiful, colour touchscreen with a variety of clock faces to fit your personal style
  • Curated to fit your life and focused on the features that make tracking your health and fitness easier, Fitbit Blaze includes the smart notifications that matter most, like call, text and calendar alerts, so you can stay connected to what’s important, and a long battery life of up to 5 days allows you to keep up with your life, day and night.

Enhanced Fitness Experience

In addition to tracking all of the best all-day activity stats you have come to expect from Fitbit, Fitbit Blaze was built with next-generation features to help you take your workouts to the next level:

  • FitStar Personal Trainer on-screen workouts deliver guided instructions and animated images to three of the most popular personal trainer workouts from FitStar: Warm It Up (8 minutes), 7 Minute Workout, and 10 Minute Abs. Each workout is free and can be accessed at any time with no app or smartphone required, offering a fast, effective workout you can do anywhere.
  • Connected GPS helps you train smarter by delivering real-time exercise stats like distance, pace and minute-mile split times when connected to a smartphone’s GPS. After each workout, stats sync wirelessly to the Fitbit dashboard to let you review your route, speed and elevation in more detail.
  • PurePulse continuous, wrist-based heart rate tracking helps maximise any training routine with simplified heart rate zones to help you maintain workout intensity and better track calories burned during each workout. PurePulse also provides all-day insights into overall health, including resting heart rate and heart rate trends over time, all without an uncomfortable chest strap.
  • Multi-sport mode lets you record specific activities like biking, cardio, running, weights, yoga and more while providing relevant, real-time performance stats to help you get the most out of each workout. PurePulse is enhanced while in Multi-sport mode for even better heart rate tracking, especially during high intensity workouts.
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition automatically recognises and records continuous movement activities like biking, hiking and running, with general categories for aerobic workouts (i.e., Zumba®, cardio-kickboxing and other dance classes) and sports (i.e., tennis, basketball and soccer). It gives you more ways to stay motivated and get credit for your workouts by effortlessly recording them in the Fitbit app and automatically adding them towards weekly exercise goals.

Get Fit in Style – Focus on Fashion and Personalisation

Fitbit Blaze is a sleek, versatile timepiece that fits your personal style with:

  • Premium interchangeable bands made from genuine leather, stainless steel and high-performance elastomer to let you design a look that’s extremely personal and a perfect fit – whether at the gym, in the office or out on the town.
  • A unique modular design that allows you to easily remove and insert your tracker into a new frame, so you can wear Fitbit Blaze with style at work and then swap it instantly into a new frame with a workout-friendly wristband. Use the quick release spring bars to switch your bands and change the look of your device in seconds.
  • Fitbit’s first vibrant, high-resolution, color touchscreen and multiple clock faces make the device uniquely yours and distinguishable from others.

 

Curated Features that Fit Your Life

From the inside out, Fitbit Blaze is a carefully curated experience designed to help you take action without distraction. Each feature was selected with intention and purpose to help you stay connected, maximize your entire day and night, and fit effortlessly into your life:

  • Stay connected with smart notifications you need. Fitbit Blaze features the smartphone notifications you need most instead of being overwhelmed with unnecessary information.
    • Bluetooth® Smart connectivity delivers call, text and calendar notifications through on-screen messages and a vibrating alert, so you can see what matters most at a glance
    • Accept and reject calls directly from Fitbit Blaze when connected to a compatible smartphone
    • Adding motivation to any workout is easy with on-screen controls for playlists and volume when playing music from your connected smartphone
  • Track your night with automatic sleep tracking to know how long and well you sleep, plus set a silent alarm that gently vibrates to wake you.
  • Long battery life of up to 5 days on a single charge lets you live your life and track your exercise, sleep and heart rate day and night, with the confidence you won’t lose a step or miss a beat.
  • Compatible with more than 200 Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices so you can access stats and motivational interactive tools, which help to motivate millions to achieve their goals within the community of Fitbit users they choose.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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