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Why parents must control kids’ gadgets

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In the “Arkangel” episode of the popular series Black Mirror, an overprotective mother decides to implant a chip in her daughter’s brain so she can use her tablet and an app to monitor everything her little girl sees and feels. This system, originally designed as a parental control app, allows the mom not only to see what her child sees, but also monitor her emotions and moods, and even “filter” images that could harm her, so the girl sees them as pixelated.

We don’t need to go to the extreme of implanting a chip, as happens in the series, to analyse just how far these activities can be considered monitoring and at what point they turn into an invasion of the child’s privacy, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET South Africa.

Right now, we already have apps for monitoring geolocation, apps for controlling what content children can see on the internet and on TV, apps giving access to the microphone, so parents can listen to the sounds taking place where they are, and even apps that record everything that happens on the screen through video capture.

While these tools may seem like a great solution to all the problems the parent of a digital native could have, one thing is certain: Not all parental control apps work the same or have the same features. This is why it is essential to analyse them and choose those which best fit your family’s values.

Not only that, but a lot of tools which at first glance seem very useful to parents can turn out to be invasive for their kids, and this ends up provoking a different reaction to what the parent expected. Instead of feeling protected and contained, the child may feel trapped and start to seek ways to escape these controls.

The key is not about which control you choose, but rather in the conversation around it, and in accompanying the child in the digital world, just as we do in the physical world. It is about teaching them, through dialog and with the support of digital tools, what the dangers and risks of the internet are. What their responsibilities are, what they should and shouldn’t do, and how they can protect themselves.

Parental control apps can be really useful with younger children, when they first start to use a computer or get their first cell phone. However, as they enter early adolescence, these controls will become increasingly difficult to introduce or keep using. This means the key is to start removing the controls and gradually passing the responsibilities on as they grow older and learn how to behave in the digital world.

The goal should be for the child to enter adolescence fully empowered, understanding what risks exist on the internet and how to protect themselves, above all feeling confident and calm in the knowledge they can talk to their parents if anything worries them or makes them feel uncomfortable. To achieve this, the dialog and accompaniment need to start long before the child reaches this age, right when they are first entering the digital world.

What is the best way to install a parental control app?

The key to making parental control a tool that is useful both to parents and to their children lies in it being a form of care and not a form of imposed control. Once you have chosen the app that best fits your family’s values, it is best to install it and configure it together with your child. Before doing so, you need to decide on the basic rules for your child’s digital consumption, as well as their responsibilities. Explain to them that the parental control app is a way for mom and dad to look after them in the digital world and that you are going to install it together.

Here are some of the core features which are very useful for parental control and which help protect children without invading their privacy:

App control: Age-based filters are applied to manage which apps the child can access and use.

Web access control: These block inappropriate websites according to the child’s age, both individually and by category.

Time limits for fun and games: These set a maximum number of hours during which the child can play on their device. They also manage the times of day when it is used, for example, blocking access to games and apps during school hours or at bedtime.

Geolocation: These allow you to check the device’s current location at any given moment.

Reports: The purpose of reports is to be informed about the child’s general behaviour on the internet, so you can decide when the time comes to remove the controls. They include metrics which inform you about how the child uses the device, such as how long they spend on certain apps, time periods, and so on.

Lastly, these reports also can be very useful for knowing which apps your child uses most, or which are their favourites. Knowing their tastes and interests is a good starting point for conversations about taking care while online.

Remember, your child might have a better understanding than you of how an app works or may be more adept at using the device in general, but you know more about what risks and dangers could be lying in wait for them. So, what could be better than using the technology together, and being able to enjoy it safely?

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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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