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Appdate: Volvo on call, Samsung on Pay

In this week’s app roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights Volvo on Call, Money Transfer with Samsung Pay, CharOn, Vodacom Emergency Service App and Malaicha.

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Volvo on Call

Volvo On Call (VOC), an app-based service that helps motorists to communicate with their cars, has arrived in South Africa.

It facilitates a multitude of tasks: with Volvo On Call, motorists can remotely lock or unlock the doors to their car, check the fuel level from their office desk, and cool or heat their car before they get it – all via smartphone, smartwatch, tablet or desktop.

With Volvo On Call a car becomes more than just a means of travel. It becomes a personal assistant. It can tell you about the best coffee spots in town and send the destination to your car’s navigation system. It knows when you have appointments, where they are, and how to get you there.

South African motorists will particularly appreciate the associated safety and security benefits. Motorists who forget to lock their car will get a notification message. Volvo On Call automatically contacts the emergency services if you are involved in an accident and tells them where you are.

Other capabilities of Volvo On Call include the ability to provide an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, which can be accessed by everyone in the car. 

The app can also show the location of the car on a high-definition map with directions, should you forget where you parked it in a car park.

Volvo On Call is a standard feature in South Africa with effect from model year 2020 Volvo derivatives. It is free of charge for five years. Thereafter, it can be extended for a small fee. 

Drivers of vehicles other than Volvos can download the app for free and run it in demo mode.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free service for five years there after it needs to be paid for.

Stockists: Download the iOS version here and the Android version here.

Money Transfer with Samsung Pay

Finablr, a global platform for payments, and Samsung Electronics America, have introduced a Money Transfer feature in Samsung Pay. This new in-app international money transfer service, a first of its kind in the US, offers users seamless and secure cross-border payments to 47 countries through a variety of payout methods, within Samsung’s native mobile wallet. The service combines Samsung Pay’s convenience, scale and security with Finablr’s international reach, and 40 years of cross-border payment expertise to put mobile payments into the hands of millions of consumers.

Money Transfer promises the following benefits:

  • Convenience – The service gives users the ability to send money seamlessly to their recipients through a variety of digital and physical payout methods in 47 countries, with just a few taps on their phone. Consumers simply open the Samsung Pay app and the tools are right at their fingertips.
  • Transparency – With this service, all fees and exchange rates are included upfront so users know how much they will pay before securely transferring funds.
  • Security – Finablr’s network of trusted brands, including Travelex, with its 40 years of experience in cross-border payments, and licensed by over 100 regulators globally, bring security, reliability and peace of mind to the Samsung Pay users of this feature, which uses tokenized credentials and is backed by Samsung Knox security.

Money Transfer in Samsung Pay is available now in the U.S. The service will be expanded to other markets in 2020.

Find out more about Money Transfer here: www.travelex.com/moneytransfer

CharOn app takes TADHack lead

duo #1632 have emerged as the winners of the 2019 edition of the TADHackJHB held at MTN’s head office in Fairland, Johannesburg, earlier this month. 

Their solution called CharOn, is a cell tower protection app, was their claim to the title.

The theme for the 2019 global TADHack was: “Localised and Contextualised – Battle of the Bots”. Participants in the TADhackJHB were required to develop technology solutions to address challenges facing communities in South African townships. #1632 pocketed the prize of $1000 (approximately R15,000) for their winning solution, CharOn, which allows individuals to report suspicious activity within the vicinity of the cell towers. If the app collects enough data of the same case being reported, authorities will be notified. 

More information about TADHackJHB as well as information about the CharOn app can be found here.  

Vodacom Emergency Service App 

 Vodacom has extended a helping hand through the launch of the Vodacom 112 Emergency Service App that enables persons with communication barriers like deafness, speech impairments and blindness to contact emergency services when they need help. 

The Emergency Service App enables deaf users to contact the ER24 emergency contact centre 24 hours, 365 days a year. Users can request emergency services  such as fire, police, sea rescue, traffic and ambulance services which could assist to save their own lives, the lives of loved ones and other people in need.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: In order to get the service, deaf users must download the Vodacom 112 Emergency Service App from the Google Playstore or Apple iStore and register their mobile number. Click here for more information.

Malaicha

A new app created by Hello Paisa makes it possible for Zimbabweans in South Africa to send essential goods and groceries back home.

For Zimbabweans who are far from home, ensuring that their family is fed and looked-after is one of their most fundamental goals. This is often easier said than done when faced with costly solutions, the potential for damaged goods and uncertainty of whether or not their groceries may even reach their final destination. Malaicha.com has changed the way for Zimbabweans to send groceries to their families.

Malaicha allow workers to provide the essentials for their families back home, and is designed to do so in a simple manner. Only three steps are required: a quick KYC onboarding, adding the recipient; shopping for goods and groceries, and finally making payment.

At the moment, Malaicha.com is available for same-day collection and free delivery in the following areas: Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo and Gweru.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the Malaicha.com website here for downloading instructions

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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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