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Something on the Side: Improved accuracy with Apple’s Pencil

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In his overview of the latest tech accessories, SEAN BACHER highlights Apple’s Pencil, Plugz Bluetooth Earbuds, Logitech G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse, Dynamic Virtual Viewer and the BSX LVL fitness tracker.

Apple Pencil

Although pens or pencils for tablets are nothing new, Apple’s pressure sensitive Pencil offers a touch of style to the tablet. It was designed to work specifically with the recently launched iPad Pro, meaning that the iPad’s screen recognises when the Pencil is in use and becomes more sensitive and accurate than when using normal fingers. When the Pencil is in use the screen automatically blocks out any other screen inputs, so users can rest their hands on the display and draw or write much like they would do with an ordinary pen and paper. The Pencil’s battery status is shown on the iPad’s screen and it is charged directly through the tablet’s Thunderbolt port.

Stockists: www.zastore.co.za

Expect to pay: R2 000

 

Plugz Bluetooth Earbuds

As the name suggests, the Plugz Bluetooth Earbuds connect to most Bluetooth phones and tablets. The earbuds include a magnetic control that clips to a shirt or collar, and it can be used to control volume, answer calls or skip tracks. Although these earbuds are advertised as being wireless, they are not entirely so. Running from the left and right earbud are wires that connect to the control unit, so wires will still get caught and earbuds accidentally yanked from ears. Included with the Plugz are three interchangeable ear tips – allowing the listener to find the size that fits his or her ear.

Stockists: www.takealot.com

Expect to pay: R500

 

Logitech G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse

The Logitech G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse is designed to offer long-lasting comfort thanks to its lightweight, ergonomic design. Rubber grips on the left and right sides give gamers added control and the 10g removable weight lets one adjust the mouse’s weight. The G403 mouse has button tensioning that helps keep the left and right buttons primed to click, reducing the force required to click and delivering improved responsiveness. The mouse can be used directly out-of-the-box or, with the included software, users can fully customise lighting, button functions and DPI settings.

Stockists: Most electronics retail outlets nationwide.

Expect to pay: R1 000

 

Dynamic Virtual Viewer

The Dynamic Virtual Viewer is a virtual reality headset that works with most newer smartphones and, unlike other VR headsets, uses a fan to keep the smartphone from overheating during long periods of use. Once it is connected to the phone, users can watch videos in full VR and play VR games. Automatic eye distance and focal adjustment mechanisms are provided to give an optimal viewing experience with little strain on the eyes. The headset also uses anti-misting lenses and offers a headphone jack.

Stockists: www.gammatek.co.za

Expect to pay: R500

 

BSX LVL fitness tracker and hydration monitor

Fitness trackers have got to the point where most of them perform the same functions. However, while the BSX LVL fitness tracker monitors all the usual stuff like steps taken, heart rate and sleep cycles, it goes one further and measures the wearer’s hydration level. It is able to do this because of its near-infrared light or NIRS, which is said to be able to “look” 10 times deeper into the body than the standard green light found on other trackers. This allows it to measure hydration levels in the blood, match them with an athlete’s current activity, and provide an accurate measure of how much fluid should be taken at that time. The BSX LVL tracker launched earlier this month on Kickstarter, and the company says the tracker will be available at the end of this year.

Stockists: Visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lactate-threshold/lvl-the-first-wearable-hydration-monitor for up-to-date information on the product and its progress.

Expect to pay: Although not confirmed yet, BSX says the price will be in the region of R3 000.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Queues and cash-only frustrate SA’s commuters

A new study by Visa reveals the success factors for improving travel and creating smarter cities

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The use of cash-only payments was a frustration for 38% of Johannesburg commuters and 37% of Cape Town-based commuters, according to a new global study by Visa. Another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters.

Visa, in collaboration with Stanford University, came up with these findings in one of the largest global studies examining the growing demand for public and private transportation, and the important role digital commerce plays in driving sustainable growth.

According to the UN[i], by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centres – and the number of “megacities” with populations greater than 10 million people will rise from 43 today to 51 within that same period. South Africa is no different, with the majority of the country relying heavily on the public transport system. In fact, according to the General Household Survey (GHS) for 2018, a total of 54 209 000 minibus/taxi trips take place in South African per month. 

Building on Visa’s experience working with transit operators, automotive companies and technology start-ups, Visa commissioned a global study, “The Future of Transportation: Mobility in the Age of the Megacity” to better understand the challenges commuters face today and in the future. The key findings were combined with a view of existing and near horizon innovations provided by experts at Stanford University, to better understand the technology gaps in addressing their pain points.

The South African Perspective

Payments lie at the heart of every form of travel, and will continue to become more integral as more cities move to contactless public transportation, digital payments for parking and rental services such as bikes or scooters.  Malijeng Ngqaleni, Deputy Director-General of the South African Inter-governmental Relations, states that a high as 60% of South African households spend on average of 20% of their monthly income on transport, while in rural areas this number can be as high as 31%.

Aside from cash-only payments, another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters. Over the last few years, a number of mobile-driven taxi-hailing apps have been launched in the South African market to counteract these concerns and commuters are open to the possibilities presented by mobile apps. The Visa study echoed this by showing that 77% of Johannesburg commuters and 76% of Cape Town commuters would be willing to try a consolidated app to make payments for public transport.

 Mike Lemberger, SVP, Product Solutions Europe, Visa says: “The future success of our cities is intertwined with – and reliant on – the future of transportation and mobility. Visa and our partners have an important role to play, both in streamlining the payment experience for millions of commuters around the globe, and supporting public transportation authorities in their quest to build sustainable and convenient transportation solutions that improve the lives of the people who use it.”

Herman Donner, PhD and Postdoctoral Researcher from Stanford University co-authored the report and summarised: “When looking across the technology landscape, there already exist many products that could easily address people’s daily frustrations with travel.  However, none of these solutions should be developed in isolation. A major challenge therefore lies in first identifying relevant technologies that provide suitable products for the market then managing implementation in conjunction with  a broad set of stakeholder including  mobility providers, technology companies, infrastructure owners and public transport agencies.  From our research, we think that many of these small, incremental changes have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s daily travel,  whether it’s to help find parking, get the best price to refuel their car or plan their journey on public transportation.”

Click here for the detailed global findings.

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Women take to tech, but more needed

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By HAIDI NOSSAIR, Marketing Director META, Dell Technologies

$12 trillion – that is the value in additional global GDP that remains locked behind the gender gap. This is according to the latest Women Matter report from McKinsey, which also reveals startling disparities in the workplace. Even though women make up more than half of the human population, only 37% contribute to GDP on average – and in some countries that proportion is significantly lower.

The reasons for this can be put in three areas. Fewer women – 650 million fewer than men – participate in the global labour force. Women are also more likely to be in part-time employment and thus work fewer hours. Finally, female employees are more common in lower-productivity sectors than in higher-productivity areas.  Are women not being offered the opportunity or are they holding themselves back?

Among STEM careers this ratio is particularly dismal: only 24% of engineering professionals are women, and as few as 19% of careers in ICT are filled by women.

What is the cause of this? Studies have found that women pursuing STEM careers are higher in countries with more oppressive policies towards women, because those careers hold the promise for financial freedom and more social autonomy. In contrast, countries with progressive attitudes towards women tend to produce fewer female STEM graduates. Then how can we encourage women from early ages to take the path of STEM education?  And how can organizations ensure women have equal opportunity at the hiring stages.

Certainly addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop.. Where women are increasingly more part of the workforce, there are often still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles. Female entrepreneurs often struggle more to gain investment capital. Corporate cultures are rarely aligned with the pressures of balancing work and family obligations. Decision makers may simply lack exposure to the potential of female candidates. Female pioneers have also argued that women are too risk-averse when compared to men. 

Whether these assertions are true is a matter for debate – and that’s exactly why every professional man and woman should be talking about them and identify action to change the status-quo. This is not just about female rights, but about social upliftment: companies with a mixture of male and female leaders perform better across the board and companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

The digital economy we live in today represent a golden opportunity for increased women contribution to the workforce as technology breaks the boundaries of location and time for the workplace and where labor intensive jobs may today be performed by data scientists. 

For two days in March, top professionals will gather to talk and exchange ideas around creating more roles for women, larger appreciation for female professionals, as well as counter the attitudes among women holding them back from greater career success and autonomy.

If you want to be part of this conversation, join the Women in Tech Africa summit today at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town – learn more at https://www.women-in-tech-africa-summit.com/ and use the code DELL20 for a 20% discount.

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