Among many other software updates, Amazon has updated its Echo smart speaker with a home security feature called Guard. The device listens out for the sound of glass-breaking, heavy knocking, smoke detectors, and other alarm sounds to notify the user about what’s happening at home, remotely from the Alexa app.
The feature, which started off in September as invite-only, is now rolling out to Alexa devices in the US. The free feature update will not be enabled by default and users will have to enable the Guard in their Alexa apps.
It works through Amazon’s ever-expanding network of sounds, which it records through the Alexa devices to make it better at its listening job. In the pilot of the project, Amazon trained Alexa’s Lex service to recognise several variations of how alarms sound, how glass sounds when it breaks, and how other objects, like wooden doors, sound when they break.
These sounds are then sent back to the user for playback on their Alexa app to identify if the glass breaking was a window or a naughty cat pushing a mug off a table. Users that own an Alexa device with a camera will be able to see what’s happening remotely through the app.
Smart homes can also be controlled through the Guard functionality. Amazon can map a routine of when a user’s lights are switched on and off at different times of the day, so users can be away from home while the lights within their homes can be switched on and off at normal-seeming times.
To enable Guard, open the Alexa app, go to settings and then tap Guard. Follow the setup process and that’s it. While Alexa is very smart, users will still need to notify it that they are leaving with the “Alexa, I’m leaving” command that arms the system.
The Guard functionality can also be integrated with alarm systems from Ring and ADT. Both systems will arm themselves with the “Alexa, I’m leaving” command.
While Guard is a useful security tool, Amazon does not intend to it to be a primary security system. The functionality cannot contact emergency services, like the police or fire department, in case of an emergency, and user intervention is always required through the Alexa app.
For more information about the service, visit Amazon’s FAQ here for more information.
Appdate: No wallet? No problem?
In his app roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights VodaPay Masterpass, Charge Running, South African App Integrator Directory, uKheshe Health and LocTransie.
Digital mobility is now a way of life and most are using smartphones to pay bills.
To meet this need Vodacom and Mastercard have launched VodaPay Masterpass, which enables Vodacom customers to load any bank card into a secure digital wallet, downloaded as an app on their smartphone. Once loaded, these cards and the secure credentials associated with them are safely stored, enabling customers to start transacting immediately without the hassle of entering card details each time they make a purchase.
Vodacom customers can buy prepaid data, airtime and SMS, or voice bundles, directly through the app. They can also select the Pay Bills menu option to settle their DStv accounts, pay a utility bill or take care of a traffic fine.
With the app’s Scan to Pay functionality, users can scan a QR code to pay for goods and services wherever Masterpass is accepted, including all SnapScan and Zapper merchants. Once a QR code is scanned, users select the card they wish to use, and enter their bank PIN number on their own device to complete the transaction.
Platform: Android and iOS
Expect to pay: A free download and users will not be charged for any transaction fees.
Most running apps track data like pace and distance and, in some cases play audio designed to motivate you, but don’t give you the push you get when you run with a friend. Charge Running is an app that lets you run alongside other runners, virtually, as well as giving live coaching to help you go the distance.
The app includes features such as:
· Unlimited access to live running classes and virtual races
· The ability to compete with runners anywhere in the world in real-time
· A live leaderboard that shows where you are in the pack to keep you pushing
· Live, personalised feedback from professional trainers
· Group chats with coaches and fellow runners throughout the run
· On-demand runs for times when you can’t join the live groups
· A choice of difficulty levels and race types
Platform: Android and iOS
Expect to pay: A free seven-day trial; thereafter R150 per month
Stockists: Visit the Charge Running site here for downloading instructions.
South African App Integrator Directory
The South African App Integrator Directory from Xero is designed to solve the complexity of choosing apps for small business owners.
The directory is now available in South Africa with six partners, including Realm Digital, Radical Cloud Solutions, Nimacc, Insights, Iridium Business Solutions and Creative CFO. According to Xero, these are all organisations with a proven track record of successfully integrating marketplace apps into Xero businesses. There are also currently over 700 apps in Xero’s App Marketplace worldwide, 21 of which are South African born.
As small businesses become more tech-savvy, they need to know exactly which apps to install on their devices and how the apps will help them. They also need to be able to install these apps from a trusted integrator so they know for what they are paying.
Platform: Any device with an up-to-date Internet browser.
Expect to pay: A one month trial version is offered, after which the App Integrator ranges from R125 to R245 per month, depending on the company’s needs.
Stockists: Visit Xero here for downloading instructions.
Click here to read about uKheshe Health and LocTransie.
Prize offered for drone films
DJI and SkyPixel, the world’s most popular aerial photography community, have announced the first short film contest inviting users to submit cinematic stories shot with camera and gimbal products. The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest will accept entries until 14 October 2019. It welcomes submissions from all creators, ranging from hobbyists to social media users and professional videographers. around the globe.
The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest consists of three storytelling categories—‘Big Moments Start Small,’ ‘Make Your Move’ and ‘Adventure Starts With You.’ There is no restriction on the type or brand of equipment participants use, and they can submit as many videos as they wish.
A total of 100 winners can win a range of prizes totaling $48,600 USD in categories including Recommended Films, Best Editing, Best Story, Nominated Entries, People’s Choice Prize as well as This Week’s Most Popular, sponsored by the partner SanDisk and WD brand from Western Digital Corp. This year’s Best Short Video winners will each receive the new Ronin-SC Pro Combo, Osmo Action as well as WD 2TB My Passport Wireless SSD.
Winning entries will also be showcased on the SkyPixel website as well as to DJI’s millions of fans and followers across its social media platforms.
“DJI has redefined how people capture stable video for all of life’s moments. The compact size, portability and powerful imaging system of our Osmo and Ronin series have also made it possible for anyone to take their creativity and inspirations to the next level,” said Basile David, Director of Brand and Content Partnerships at DJI. “With this contest, we hope to encourage more people to embrace and share their own creative way of storytelling.”
Since 2014, the SkyPixel online community has attracted 16 million professional aerial photographers and content creators from more than 140 countries, growing into the largest aerial photography community today. Over the past five years, SkyPixel has received over 150,000 submissions, becoming a go-to platform for original aerial masterpieces and extraordinary footage powered by other gimbal products focusing on various themes.
Details of the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest
The short film contest consists of three categories:
Big Moments Start Small: Create a video showcasing the small, lightweight design of your camera device and your best cinematic scenes. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Pocket or other devices.
Make Your Move: Create a video showcasing the stabilized footage from your device. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Series or other devices.
Adventure Starts With You: Create a short, cinematic narrative film to showcase your creative skills and visual effects. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Ronin Series or other devices.
*Video submissions should not be longer than three minutes in length.
Submission Start Date: August 15, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)
Submission End Date: October 14, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)
Award Announcement: October 31, 2019