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Fitbit feels Alta’s pulse

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Fitbit has launched the Alta HR, claimed to be the world’s slimmest fitness wristband. It features a continual heart rate monitor, step counter and sleep monitor with silent alarm.

Fitbit has introduced Fitbit Alta HR and new advances in sleep tracking, which it says will provide users with insights and guidance in the Fitbit app to make more informed decisions about their health and stay motivated to reach their wellness goals in style.

“Alta HR and these powerful new sleep features demonstrate our continued focus on evolving our innovative technology to deliver deeper, more actionable insights to help our users improve their health,” says James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “The miniaturisation of our PurePulse heart rate technology opens up exciting opportunities for future generations of devices and new form factors. Our advances in sleep will provide millions of users around the globe accessibility to invaluable insights that previously could be obtained only through expensive lab tests.”

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Fitbit provided the following information:

  • Fitbit Alta HR is the world’s slimmest wrist-based, continuous heart rate tracking device combining the benefits of PurePulse heart rate technology, automatic exercise recognition, sleep tracking, battery life of up to seven days and smart notifications in a slim, versatile design that is easily customized to fit your style. Alta HR is available in retail from April 2017.
  • Sleep Stages utilizes heart rate variability to estimate the amount of time you spend in light, deep and REM sleep, as well as time awake each night, to better understand your sleep quality.
  • Sleep Insights uses the whole of your Fitbit data to provide personalized guidance on how to improve your sleep for better overall health.

Heart Rate and Style in a Sleek Design

Fitbit was able to bring PurePulse, the feature requested most by Fitbit Alta users, to Alta HR by developing a one-of-a-kind chip that reduced the size and number of components needed, achieving a 25% slimmer design than Fitbit Charge 2. The result is a stylish device that offers all-day, continuous heart rate tracking, making it easier for you to make more informed decisions about your health:

  • Better measure calorie burn all day, including during non-step based exercise like yoga and spinning, to help you stay on track toward your health and weight goals by tracking calories in versus burned.
  • See real-time heart zones on your wrist and exercise summaries in the Fitbit app to work out at the right intensity for your health and fitness goals.
  • View resting heart rate on-device and trends in the Fitbit app, and compare it to your activity to see how consistent exercise can improve your heart health over time. A decrease in resting heart rate is a key indicator of cardiovascular health; changes up or down may indicate illness or other issues.

Sleep Better

Fitbit is also introducing two dynamic sleep tools – Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights – that provide deeper insight into your sleep quality and guidance on how to improve, building on its popular sleep features that have empowered millions of people to track their sleep since 2012. Along with diet and exercise, sleep is a key factor in overall health, but most people have very little insight into it. Good sleep plays a critical role in your health and overall wellbeing, from protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, to boosting neurocognitive functions, mental health and longevity.[iii]

Sleep Stages, powered by PurePulse, uses accelerometer data and heart rate variability (the changes in time between beats), plus Fitbit’s proven algorithms to more accurately estimate how long you spend in light, deep and REM sleep stages, as well as time awake, each night:

  • Light Sleep (including sleep stages N1 and N2) occurs throughout the night and is important for memory, learning and letting your body recover from the day; for most people that’s 50-60% of your night.
  • Deep Sleep (sleep stage N3) promotes a healthy immune system and muscle growth and repair; for most people that’s 10-25% of your night (depending on your age).
  • REM Sleep is when most dreaming occurs and is important for mental recovery and memory formation; for most people that’s 20-25% of your night.[vi] Most REM sleep comes at the end of the night, and is often the stage to be cut short when your sleep duration decreases.
  • Awake periods (between 10-30 times) are a normal part of your sleep cycle each night.

Everyone’s sleep cycle is different, but by better knowing your sleep quality and patterns, and realizing the impact they have on your day, you can make lifestyle changes that can help improve your sleep over time – such as diet, exercise, winding down before bed and keeping a consistent sleep schedule. For example, if you wake up feeling exhausted each morning, despite seemingly getting enough sleep, you may not be getting sufficient deep sleep.

Tracking sleep patterns could also help identify variations that can be indicative of other issues. For example, it has been shown that irregularities in sleep patterns could be a sign of a sleep condition that should be discussed with a doctor.

“From helping maintain a healthy immune system, to preserving your cognitive functions and managing a healthy weight, your sleep – or lack of – plays a critical role,” said Dr. Allison Siebern, Stanford University and Fitbit Advisory Panel Sleep Expert. “Fitbit’s new sleep features use a scientific-based approach to show your sleep patterns over time, and provide you with validated, actionable guidance to help you make changes in your daily routine to achieve greater quality sleep – and in turn improve your overall health. Given the comfort and accessibility of this product, it’s one of the most valuable and useful sleep tracking solutions available to consumers outside of a sleep lab.”

Developed with Fitbit’s panel of sleep experts over the last two years, Sleep Stages makes information previously only accessible through a sleep lab accessible to millions of consumers, while Sleep Insights offers personalized guidance to help improve your sleep. The panel brings a wealth of academic expertise across a variety of sleep-related areas, including health, chronic disease and insomnia:

  • Dr. Michael Grandner, director, Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona;
  • Dr. Allison Siebern, consulting assistant professor, Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, and director, Sleep Health Integrative Program at Fayetteville VA Medical Center; and
  • Dr. Michael T. Smith, Jr., professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Nursing, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Fitbit conducted rigorous testing of the ability of its devices, including Alta HR, to estimate sleep stages in adults. These results validating Fitbit’s new Sleep Stages feature have been accepted for presentation at SLEEP 2017, the leading meeting for sleep scientists and clinicians.

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Sleep Insights – using Fitbit data gained from over 3 billion nights of logged sleep, which is equivalent to 2.5 million years, Fitbit is uniquely positioned to deliver powerful sleep insights that provide actionable guidance and coaching to help you improve the quality of your sleep and, in turn, your overall health. Some examples include:

  • Understand the connections between your sleep, exercise, diet, weight and heart rate:
    • “There seems to be a strong correlation between your sleep and your runs. The last 10 weeknight logs show that you had 20 mins more restful sleep on days you ran vs. days you didn’t.”
    • “A lack of sleep can increase your hunger hormones. So if you’re looking to lose weight, make sure you’re logging enough ZZZs.”
  • Receive personalized guidance and insights based on your Fitbit data to help you stick to an ideal schedule and get the best sleep quality:
    • “You slept an average of 9hrs 30min this weekend, which is substantially higher than your weekday sleep duration of 5hrs 40min. That swing may be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep during the week.”
    • “Great job going to bed at a consistent time during the week. Being consistent means going to bed within a 30-minute time window every day of the week. People with a consistent bedtime like yourself get up to 40 minutes more sleep per night than those with low sleep consistency.”

Stay Motivated

In addition to the advanced health and fitness tracking experience PurePulse brings to Alta HR, popular features and notifications keep you connected and motivated to reach your goals:

  • All day, automatic tracking of your most important stats (heart rate, steps, distance, calorie burn, active minutes) day and night, powered by battery life of up to seven days.[xi]
  • SmartTrack™ automatic exercise tracking records activities like walking, running, cycling, elliptical, sports and aerobic workouts in the Fitbit app, giving you credit toward your weekly exercise goals.
  • Reminders to Move help you stay active throughout the day, and reducing sedentary time can play a significant role in the prevention of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.[xii]
  • Call, text and calendar notifications keep you connected so you can focus on your day.[xiii]
  • Connect with one of the largest social fitness networks in the world through the new Community tab in the Fitbit app to find support and inspiration on your path to better health and fitness.

Availability 

Alta HR will be available early April 2017

Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights will be available globally in April 2017:

  • Sleep Stages will work with Alta HR, Blaze and Charge 2 devices via the Fitbit app on Android, iOS and Windows, and on Fitbit.com in the online dashboard.
  • Sleep Insights will be available with all Fitbit devices that track sleep via the Fitbit app.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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