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AppDate: Short-term insurance on the go

In this week’s app round up, SEAN BACHER highlights Liberty’s short-term insurance app, FNB’s flight booking service, MTN’s child literacy app, Namola Plus and FutureTV’s What’s New Channel.

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Liberty Short-term Insurance

The latest Liberty Short-term Insurance app allows its clients to engage with the group on their own terms, thanks to a newly developed chatbot which they can use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Customers can obtain quotes for the short-term insurance offerings, conclude the policy initiation process, and access emergency assistance through the app. An SOS button can also arrange an Uber drive home in the event of an accident, or dispatch emergency support if needed.

Young drivers will be glad to hear that Liberty has used technology to change the status quo when analysing their driving. Traditionally, younger people who are looking for short-term insurance have been penalised as a result of preconceptions about their behaviour patterns on the road. However, the app is able to monitor diving habits and quote accordingly.

The rewards for good driving include premiums discounted by as much as 30%, and Uber vouchers worth up to R400 a year. The assessment can be conducted annually in order to qualify for further discounts.

Platform: Android, iOS or desktop

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists. Visit the Liberty website here for downloading instructions.

FNB with flight booking service

FNB app users can now book domestic and international flights using their eBucks that they have accumulated by swiping their credit card when making purchases.

According to the bank, this is far more secure than using older methods, where people would have to divulge their credit card details to third parties or websites, leaving them open to fraud and scams.

The travel feature expands the suite of services under the eBucks tab, which includes Shop on App, latest offers, complimentary lounge visits, registering for the Entertainer App discounts and a guide on how customers can earn more eBucks.

FNB & RMB Private Bank customers can expect discounts of up to 40% off on domestic and international flights. They will also have the ability to manage bookings, view their discounts and maintain family profiles on the app.

To access and start using Flights on app, customers must have an existing eBucks account and have the latest version of the FNB or RMB Private Bank app.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit FNB here for downloading instructions.

MTN’s Feed the Monster literacy app

With calls growing louder for government, corporates and all citizens to step up to help solve the growing literacy crisis, the MTN SA Foundation has partnered with Bellavista S.H.A.R.E. to pilot a child literacy app designed to enhance reading fluency and comprehension.

The Feed the Monster app helps make learning the fundamentals of reading more meaningful and fun, while reaching out to a wide community. In recognition of the importance of using the mother tongue to foster literacy at foundation level, MTN has localised the solution into all 11 official languages in South Africa.

The app addresses all aspects of reading, and bridges the gap between literacy skills and fluent reading.

It is targeted at readers between the ages of six and eight and works by matching letters with sounds, giving kids the ability to learn that sounds combined together make words, and words together make sentences that carry meaning.

Platform: Android

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Download the app here.

Namola Plus

Namola has extended its personal safety app with the launch of Namola Plus.

Namola Plus comes from people asking: “What if I can’t get to my phone in an emergency?” Or “What if I don’t have time to press the panic button in the Namola app?”

With Namola Plus, users get the same Namola experience, but with the following added benefits:

· Armed Response

· Private Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

This is available by subscribing to Namola Plus and continuing to use the Namola app on a phone.

In addition, users can opt for the Namola Panic Tracker with built-in GPS and SIM — no phone needed. The Namola Panic Tracker comes with all of the benefits of Plus, in a physical button you can keep in your pocket, wear around your neck, or put on your keychain. When you press the panic button, the company will attempt to call back on the device itself.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: Namola Plus costs R49 per month, with the Namola Panic Tracker costing R1 399 once-off and a R79 per month subscription

Stockists: Download the app here and then open Namola and tap on the Shop at the bottom. Pick one of the two options (app-only or standalone device). And complete check-out.

What’s New channel

Future TV has released the What’s New channel, which is said to be the world’s first on demand television streaming guide, offering viewers a guide to the top-rated series, movies and music available for streaming on television.

The What’s New Channel came about due to the frustration of having limited time yet so much to watch and not being able to recall which show is where. This problem just escalates over time as more streaming channels become available.

The app solves the problem by showcasing all new top-rated content that is launched daily, with a description of the programme; only content that has received a high rating score is included. Viewers can also preview the content by playing the trailer through the app and can play the show directly if they have a subscription to the streaming service.

What’s New Channel is currently available on Roku and Roku TV, with Apple and Smart TV versions being developed. The guide also showcases free-to-stream movies and series from services like Pluto TV and Sony Crackle.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Download What’s new Channel by clicking here.

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Did an earthquake take out SA Internet?

Seabed avalanches caused by an earthquake could have cut several undersea cables, leading to one of South Africa’s biggest Internet outages yet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Picture by TooMuchCoffeeMan from pixabay.com

There is still no official explanation for freak breaks 11 days ago in two separate undersea cables that provide international access to South Africa’s Internet users. However, as reported in the Sunday Times yesterday, the most common causes of such breaks are damage by ship anchors and earthquakes at sea.

However, the freak occurrence of two separate cables being cut simultaneously far out at sea, as happened on the morning of 16 January, can only be explained by sea-bed activity.  One of the cables was cut in two places, and it is widely believed that a third major cable was also cut.

The cable damage mostly occurred in or near an area called the Congo Canyon, which starts inland and extends 220km into the sea. It is known for having the world’s strongest “turbidity currents”, underwater sediment avalanches over hundreds of kilometers, which are known to destroy undersea cables.

The most likely culprit is a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlantic Ocean near Ascension Island shortly before the cables were cut on the morning of 16 January. The earthquake occurred just before 8am South African time, and local ISPs reported losing international access from just before 10am. The epicentre of the earthquake was more than a thousand kilometres off the coast of Africa, but disturbances caused by seismic activity at sea become more powerful as they approach the coast. Combined with turbidity currents, this could well have taken out all cables in the area.

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was cut in two places, and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT3) cable in one location. Industry insiders believe that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable was also cut, but it has not been publicly confirmed.

South Africa is connected to the global Internet via seven such cables, with a total capacity of 42.3 terabits per second (tbps).  These cables, in turn, connect to additional cables connecting the West and East coasts of Africa, with a single cable running from Angola to Brazil providing another 40 tbps.

However, it emerged in the past week that smaller ISPs in South Africa had bought capacity on only one or two cables. In a freak occurrence, two of the most commonly used cables, the WACS and SAT 3 cables, were cut simultaneously, plunging millions of Internet users into data darkness.

Customers of the major mobile network operators – Vodacom and MTN – were largely unaffected, as these tend to have both part-ownership and access to most of the cables running up both the East and West coasts of Africa.

Visit the next page to read about how ISPs have battled to reroute access, how massive resources are needed to deal with these kinds of outages, and when the ship will reach the breakage points.

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Lenovo express-delivers new range from CES to SA

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Lenovo has unveiled its new range of ThinkBook laptops, barely two weeks after they were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

The company’s newest sub-brand, ThinkBook, is intended to meet the demand for more aesthetically pleasing, yet agile and powerful devices.

The new range is aimed at small and medium enterprises. According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), there are more than 2-million SMEs in South Africa – although there are only 667,433 in the formal sector. This tallies with estimates in recent editions of SME Survey, produced by World Wide Worx, which suggest 650,000 active, formal businesses in South Africa. These SMEs employ about 14% of the South African workforce. 

Lenovo argues that access to affordable, yet efficient, technology is a crucial factor in aiding business success and contributing towards the success of the nation. The company has found, in its own research, that younger people prefer working, creating and communicating online “with stylish devices that make a statement”. This means they require streamlined laptops which can be used to collaborate from any remote location, to enhance productivity.

Lenovo said in a statement on Thursday night: “Backed by customer research, ThinkBook is specially designed for SMEs, who typically purchase consumer laptops for perceived design and price advantages but can no longer rationalise their lack of extended services and warranties – core needs of any business. ThinkBook allows growing firms to keep a competitive edge in attracting today’s young tech-savvy execs with trendy yet cost-effective devices. 

Thibault Dousson, general manager of  Lenovo for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at the launch event: “With the capacity, SMEs have to grow and upskill the country’s workforce, they are perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between the public sector and large enterprise. Bearing in mind the demands of the digital economy, this sector needs skills and resources in order to compete, and that is where devices such as the ThinkBook come in.”

In South Africa, ThinkBook laptops are now available in 13-, 14- and 15-inch variants. The flagship ThinkBook 14 and ThinkBook 15 devices are powered by Windows 10 Pro and up to 10th Gen Intel Core processing, which Lenovo says combines high performance with intuitive, time-saving features. Options include Intel Optane memory, WiFi 6, and discrete graphics.

The ThinkBook 15 comes at just 18.9mm thin, while the ThinkBook 14 is a mere 17.9mm, both with FHD displays and two Dolby Audio speakers, dual-array, Skype certified microphones and a USB 3.1 (Gen2, Type-C) port.

Lenovo has also introduced the ThinkBook S series, including an elegant 13.3-inch ThinkBook 13s. The sleek and light device is constructed of a metallic finish on an all-aluminium chassis, alongside a narrow bezel display. As with the ThinkBook 14 and 15, the ThinkBook 13s also features advanced Intel processing and an FHD display, Dolby Vision and Harman speakers with Dolby Audio.

Visit the next page to read about the design and features of the new ThinkBook range.

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