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Amazon expands in SA

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Amazon has announced it is expanding its presence in South Africa by adding a new office in Johannesburg for Amazon Web Services South Africa.

The new office joins the established Amazon Development Center Cape Town, which has been in operation since 2004 and develops technology for several Amazon businesses, including Amazon Web Services (AWS). As part of this expansion, Amazon also announced that it plans to hire more than 250 people in the next 12 months to fill highly-skilled technical roles that will be based in both locations.

The new Johannesburg office has been launched to support the growing customer base of AWS. The office is now open and operational and is supporting organisations of all sizes, from start-ups to the country’s oldest and most established enterprises and public sector organisations, as they make the transition to the AWS cloud. The new office will have account managers, solutions architects, partner managers and various other functions for South African customers to directly engage with AWS. South African customers looking to learn more about working with AWS should visit aws.amazon.com/south-africa.

This news comes as Amazon celebrates over ten years in South Africa. Amazon first established a presence in the country by opening a development center in December 2004 to help build the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service. Many of the more than 250 new roles in South Africa will be based here and will work on Amazon EC2 as well as the engineering of other new services as well as pioneering networking technologies and next generation cloud software.

“Amazon has been an active contributor to the South African technology community for over a decade,” said Steve Midgley, Head of EMEA, Amazon Web Services. “Over this time we have seen some key technologies of the AWS cloud emerge from the country so it is no surprise we are also seeing strong growth amongst African organisations moving to the cloud. Choosing to locate an AWS office in South Africa speaks to the rapidly growing customer base, the broad set of talent here and the investment we are making to support cloud adoption around the world. By expanding our presence in South Africa, and through hiring highly skilled staff, we intend to further accelerate the growth of our cloud customers in Africa and around the globe.”

South African organisations were amongst the earliest adopters of cloud services when AWS launched in 2006. Customers based in South Africa are using AWS to run everything from development and test environments to big data analytics, from mobile, web and social applications to enterprise business applications, public sector and mission critical workloads. AWS now counts some of Africa’s fastest growing businesses as customers including, Entersekt, PayGate and Travelstart as well as established enterprises such as Adcorp and Medscheme.

One African enterprise business that is working with AWS to develop new revenue streams for their organisation is telecoms giant MTN. “AWS expanding their presence in South Africa is great news for the entire African business community,” said Mteto Nyati, CEO of MTN Group. “At MTN, our purpose is to enable and inspire growth on the African continent. By working with a global technology leader such as AWS, MTN is better placed to enable customers to grow their businesses. The relationship with AWS is an important part of our plans to address the needs of enterprise customers in emerging markets, particularly Africa.”

Another large company that is welcoming AWS expansion in Africa is Standard Bank. As one of the largest banks in Africa, Standard Bank understands the power cloud computing has to help the South African economy. “Amazon’s growing presence in the country and the region is something that we at Standard Bank are especially pleased to see,” said Mike Murphy, Executive Head: Group Technology Build, Standard Bank. “The opportunities that AWS’ portfolio of services present to a company like ours, and the local business community, are substantial. When leveraged wisely these cloud technologies give South African companies of all sizes the opportunity to speed up innovation and expand their businesses to compete globally”.

An example of a South African company that is using AWS to grow their business globally is Travelstart. Travelstart is Africa’s largest travel booking website offering flights, hotel bookings, car rental, vacation packages and a range of insurance services. The company operates in more than 15 countries across Africa and the Middle East. “Hearing there is now an AWS office in South Africa is great news for us,” said Anders Bäck, CTO from Travelstart. “Thanks to the pay-as-you-go nature of AWS we have been able to grow our Middle Eastern websites in leaps and bounds while reducing operating costs. By using AWS we have reduced down time by 25% and were able to take on a multi-continent expansion in an agile manner. Without the scalability of AWS, and the support of their team, we would not have been able to achieve this and with an office it should help us even further.”

This news comes as Amazon continues its investment in, and expansion, across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2014 Amazon created over 6,000 new jobs in the region. The new, highly skilled roles being announced today will be based in Cape Town and Johannesburg and include: Software Development Engineers; Network Development Engineers; Support Engineers; Technical Account Managers; Systems Engineers; Solutions Architects and many more. People looking to apply for a role in South Africa, or any of Amazon’s businesses around the world, can apply online at www.amazon.jobs.

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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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