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Now for connected lighting

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Each day, companies find intuitive ways to connect people and devices, and lighting is no exception. REGGIE NXUMALO, GM at Philips Lighting explains how simple devices like lights can be connected to a network – making them smart and allowing businesses to save money.

Over the course of the last few years, an avalanche of transformational change has swept through all industries and society at large, forever changing the manner in which we communicate, collaborate, learn, play as well as engage with friends, family and colleagues.

Employees can now collaborate in teams composed of members from different nations as effectively as though they were in the same room, while billions of consumers generate an innumerable amount of data daily for marketers, advertisers, researchers and the like to analyse.

Lighting can also become part of a network, in which luminaires are uniquely identified and seamlessly integrated into the IT network within a building or even on a larger scale like a city, enabling these to share information about their status and operations.

Embedded sensors allows each luminaire within the connected lighting system to act as a point of intelligence that can share information on changes in temperature or humidity, as well as activity patterns.

More uses, less power usage

Connected lighting systems allow for many exciting consumer usage cases such as tying in Philips Hue to your music in order for the bulbs to change colours to the tune of the beat, or more practical uses such as setting up Hue-connected lights to flash when the phone rings, enabling a deaf person to more easily know when someone is phoning them.

From a business perspective, companies can integrate wireless communications into the lighting system, allowing them to deliver location-based services and in-context information by way of mobile apps to people in illuminated spaces.

Moreover, organisations can boost staff retention by making office spaces more comfortable for their employees. Office workers can personalise and adjust LED lighting to their preferences and tasks for instance via the connected lighting system, making harsh office lighting a problem of the past. For mobile access, office workers can even use a smartphone app to access other building services through a communications network.

Future developments in the connected lighting pipeline include Ethernet-powered connected lighting that can transmit data to mobile devices. This is done through light, by way of embedded code. This means that building owners and facility managers can monitor and manage a building’s occupancy patterns, its lighting systems, as well as other important services simply by opting for intelligent lighting systems.

By gathering information on how spaces are being used, managers can simplify business processes, optimise energy efficiency, and gain deep insight into customers’ preferences and their tenants’ needs.

When individual users are connected through technology their ability to do more by utilising less resources is multiplied. When every light point is connected to an intelligent system that delivers high-quality, reliable illumination and acts like a pathway for information and services, the working space and connected lighting system within it is able to allow for even greater levels of performance by employees and teams.

Connected lighting systems allow for the delivery of extraordinary value beyond illumination for companies, employees as well as managers of spaces.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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