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Automatic exercise recognition comes to Fitbit

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Fitbit has introduced automatic exercise recognition and enhancements to heart rate tracking on the Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge.

“At Fitbit we’re always working on innovative features that are easy to use and make tracking health and fitness a fun, motivational experience,” said Tim Roberts, VP of Interactive at Fitbit. “Our users find exercise in all parts of their day, including activities like short walks with the dog or a bike commute to work. These new features allow them to focus on their exercise, giving them credit for their most active moments and letting the technology do the work to automatically track progress toward their fitness goals.”

Fitbit provided the following information:

Record Workouts Automatically with SmartTrack 

SmartTrack provides a smarter, easier way to track workouts and see how efforts accumulate to reaching fitness goals. SmartTrack automatically recognises select exercises and records them in the Fitbit app, giving users credit for their most active moments, so they are more informed to be able to reach their goals:

  • Automatic exercise recognition – SmartTrack automatically recognises continuous movement when wearing Fitbit Charge HR or Fitbit Surge. It identifies the type of activity and records it in the Fitbit app along with an exercise summary, including duration, calories burned and heart rate stats. SmartTrack is capable of identifying a wide variety of activities, including elliptical, outdoor biking, running, walking, and general categories of aerobic workouts (i.e., Zumba, cardio-kickboxing and other dance classes) and sports (i.e., tennis, basketball and soccer).
  • Personalised settings – Because everyone’s definition of exercise is different, users can select the types of activities they want recognised as exercise and adjust how long they must be moving before an activity is recorded in the Fitbit app. By default, activities are automatically recognised when users have been active for at least 15 minutes.

Enhanced Real-Time Heart Rate Tracking During Workouts 

Fitbit’s proprietary PurePulse heart rate technology has been updated to provide users with an even better heart rate tracking experience during and after high-intensity workouts like boot camp and Zumba. The update is activated when using Exercise Mode on Fitbit Charge HR and multi-sport modes on Fitbit Surge. PurePulse optical technology provides users with continuous, automatic wrist-based heart rate tracking including resting heart rate and heart rate trends over time – without the need for an uncomfortable chest strap.

Fitbit is dedicated to developing the most consistently accurate wrist-based activity trackers on the market. This software update improves upon an already positive heart rate tracking offering.

Stay Motivated with Weekly Exercise Goals

The American Heart Association and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an average of 30 minutes of exercise each day, five days per week to improve health. While most people are aware of the benefits of being more active and exercising more, these activities can be time consuming and difficult to achieve.

Available for free to all Fitbit device and app users, exercise goals are tracked on a daily basis with a weekly goal set for the number of days they plan to exercise. Exercise goals encourage people to embrace a more consistent workout routine in order to achieve their fitness goals. Exercise Goals can be personalised by choosing the number of target exercise days per week and the types of activities that will count toward their goals. Progress toward goals is displayed within the Fitbit app.

To receive credit toward an exercise goal, Fitbit device users can:

  • Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge: Use SmartTrack or track an activity using Exercise Mode, multi-sport modes or MobileRun; or log an exercise in the Fitbit app.
  • Fitbit Charge: Track an activity using Exercise Mode, MobileRun, or log an exercise in the Fitbit app.
  • Fitbit Flex, Fitbit One, Fitbit Zip: Track an activity using MobileRun or log an exercise in the Fitbit app.

Availability 

The SmartTrack and PurePulse software updates are free and available globally to all Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge users today. Exercise Goals are also available globally to all users of the free Fitbit app for iOS and Windows, with Android coming soon. These innovative features will also be available on all new Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge trackers.

Also, just in time for the holidays, Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge are available in new blue and tangerine colours, with the Fitbit Charge HR also available in teal – arriving in South Africa soon.

For more information on Fitbit products and services, please visit www.fitbit.com.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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