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This is how Pokemon Go is aligned to health goals

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Pokemon Go game has finally been launched in South Africa – offering possibilities in terms of encouraging fitness, particularly among the youth, as players take to walking or running in an effort to “catch em all”, writes DEBBIE VALENTINI of Agility Health.

The game uses a player’s physical location to reveal hidden Pokemons, which are animated fantasy animal characters, on the game’s map interface. Even before the game’s official release in South Africa, scores of players could already be seen walking around searching for nearby characters.

Pokemon Go’s potential for encouraging physical activity has piqued the interest of Zurreal, the health, wellbeing and financial services partner to all Resolution Health Medical Scheme members. At Zurreal we are all about rewarding members for healthy behaviours, and we support any development that may promote exercise.

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Pokemon Go is a case in point because catching the game’s characters during daily workout activities, such as walking, running or even cycling, can make getting and staying in shape much more fun.

People have been making the most of their lunch breaks by going in search of Pokemon, and even a short, brisk lunchtime walk can contribute to fitness – especially when it becomes a regular part of one’s routine. Furthermore, incorporating regular exercise into your day can improve concentration and refocus the mind for improved productivity in the workplace.

One aspect of the game, which incorporates augmented reality technology, is that certain real-world locations serve as digital “Pokestops”, where players can collect bonus items that make the game easier.

One of the items that can be picked up is an egg that hatches after a player has walked a distance of 2km, 5km or 10km, revealing another character to be added to the player’s collection. Pokemon eggs are a great way to reward yourself if you have goals to cover a particular distance in your morning cardiac exercise.

Incubate a 5km egg at the start of your run, and you can be assured that you will be rewarded with a surprise Pokemon for your efforts at the end of it. Even better, the eggs with longer distance goals typically give better quality Pokemon.

As Zurreal, we appreciate the importance of rewards, but we know that people are sometimes tempted to ruin their healthy gains by rewarding themselves with unhealthy food treats or expensive luxuries when they meet their daily fitness goals. It should be remembered, however, that this could add feelings of guilt or stress, and counteract the benefits of the exercise.

The Zurreal Platinum rewards programme gives members up to R13 400 in cash back each year to incentivise regular exercise, taking care of their health, and participating in outdoor sporting events. These rewards are tallied up quarterly, and so Pokemon Go is a perfect complement to the Zurreal programme as it offers instant gratification.

Not only are players getting more exercise, Pokemon Go appears to be creating more opportunities for players to socialise in the real world. It may be something of a stereotype, but some young people who identify as gamers may be more comfortable interacting online than ‘irl’ – that is a gaming language acronym for ‘in real life’.

Pokemon Go players can load Pokemon ‘lures’ at Pokestops and everyone in the vicinity can benefit from these. For half an hour, more Pokemon spawn at that location than usual and players flock to these areas.

Real-world locations that are game attractions appear to be bringing Pokemon fans together, where they can connect with peers and discuss the game, strategies and other points of common interest. It is easy to spot fellow players and the game is an obvious conversation-starter, making social interaction less stressful for reserved individuals.

We would, however, like to remind players to exercise due caution and consider ‘stranger danger’ when engaging with any new acquaintances or before rushing off to a Pokestop that is ‘luring’ Pokemon.

We have heard reports in other countries of criminals using these digital lures to catch victims rather than Pokemon. Criminals may set lures at Pokestops in poorly lit, lonely areas, for example, and attack unsuspecting fans that show up to catch the Pokemon characters. Remember that the mobile phones the game is played on often have significant value, which makes this an attractive scheme for criminals.

It is important that players make smart decisions and stay vigilant to avoid becoming a target. By following a few simple safety tips and avoiding ‘stranger danger’, the game can be safe and fun while simultaneously encouraging fitness.

Tips for staying safe while playing Pokemon Go:

  • Never visit Pokestops after dark, in poorly lit or unsecure areas. Rather stick to busy, well-lit areas and do not go alone.
  • Do not exchange personal information with strangers
  • Do not leave open, public areas with a stranger to go somewhere else – staying in well populated locations can make is more difficult for criminals to target you.
  • Do not provide lifts to anyone you just met.
  • Remember that all the normal rules apply to making new friends while playing Pokemon Go. Although it can feel like you share a deep connection through your love of the game, fellow players may have more sinister motives, such as trying to “catch” you or your valuables.
  • If a situation feels unsafe – trust your instincts and leave. If you are alone, call a family member or nearby friend, let them know where you are and that you feel unsafe. Tell them where you are planning to go and how you are planning to get there. Head for the nearest busy public place, and if the stranger is not following you, head home or to another safe locate.

* Debbie Valentini, GM of Marketing, Communications and Rewards at Agility Health

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • 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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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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