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Big moment for women in tech

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The Start-Up Tel Aviv South Africa competition this year provides a life-changing experience for women tech entrepreneurs. In its third year, the competition offers the immense benefit of traveling to Israel for a week of meetings, workshops and networking opportunities with some of the world’s leading tech and start-up experts. The winner will spend five-days, all-expenses paid, in a start-up experience in the heart of Tel Aviv in September 2016, during the innovative DLD Festival.

South African entrepreneurs can benefit immensely from the lessons of Israeli start-ups, with the country known as a start-up nation, and ranking third in the world, behind only Silicon Valley and New York CIty, as a hub of start-up activity. This competition aims to create networks between businesses and to deepen relationships for the benefit of South African start-ups.

The 2015 winners, Where Is My Transport and Funda Technology, both have become successful and sustainable tech companies and benefited greatly from the opportunity afforded by the competition.

Where Is My Transport is described as a “platform for smart urban transport in the emerging regions of the globe. Integrating formal and informal transport. Connecting cities, operators, and commuters for a sustainable, efficient transport system.”  The company operates in Southern Africa and is determined to turn commuter data into a system that serves cities and users alike.

“Start Up Tel Aviv and the DLD Innovation Festival were an excellent opportunity to showcase our technology and connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs and innovators,” says Devin de Vries, founder of Where Is My Transport. “The network of like-minded, enthusiastic founders and innovators that it brought together has been a valuable source of insight, encouragement, and connections to start-up communities worldwide.

“Aside from contact with VCs and investors, the event also provided an unique opportunity to receive feedback from investors on an international level and to hear pitches from various corners of the globe. Such feedback and insight is especially valuable coming from such a diverse community.”

A second 2015 winner, Funda Technology, is a 100% black owned educational technology company with 30% female ownership. It develops and provides ICT-powered learning material for education and learning environment.

“Attending the DLD festival was an incredible experience, and the exposure to young, bright and like minded professionals was an invaluable experience as it helped me re-focus our business goals,” says founder Kennedy Kitheka. “Seeing first hand what the start-up community in Israel has managed to achieve with the challenges the country has faced over the past few years has been a true inspiration and has motivated us to be more positive and assertive in achieving our goals.

“I was also introduced to investors, media personalities and entrepreneurs who contributed to how I could steer my business in a direction to have a successful exit in a few years. The conversations and introduction to leading entrepreneurs and investors helped me understand this and contributed significantly to the future growth we have achieved.”

The 2016 version of the competition is open to all South African women who are the founders or senior managers of any company in the hi-tech field that is in early stage seed funding. This year the competition has a particular focus on women tech leaders and aims to reward innovation and entrepreneurship in the hi-tech sector.

Within the team of internationally respected judges are some formidable and respected South African women, including Noluthando Gosa, former Investment Analyst and a longstanding member of a number of professional organisations like the Institute of Directors of South Africa, Business Women’s Association of SA (Gauteng), and the Black Business Council; Tanya Kovarsky, PR and Communications Lead of Core Group and an award-winning parenting blogger with more than 12 years of experience in magazine and newspaper journalism; and Hillary Joffe, one of South Africa’s most talented financial journalists.

The panel of judges also includes Toby Shapshak, described by GQ as “the most high-profile technology journalist in the country” and one of South Africa’s top 30 men in media and Editor-in-Chief of Stuff Magazine, and Arthur Goldstuck, award-winning writer, analyst and technology commentator and head of the World Wide Worx.

The prize winner will travel to the DLD Festival in Tel Aviv to participate in lectures, workshops and meetings with leading Israeli investors and professionals. The winning startup experience takes place during the DLD Festival week (www.dldtelaviv.com), Israel’s largest international hi-tech gathering, featuring hundreds of start ups, VCs, angel investors and leading multinationals.

The South African winner will have the opportunity to meet the coolest and smartest companies, techies, investors, designers, artists, scientists, and cultural drivers from Israel and abroad.

* Closing date for entries is 3 June 2016. For more information and to enter, visit http://startuptelavivsouthafrica.com/

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Homemation creates comfort through smart homes

Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER

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The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.

But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?

We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.

“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”

The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.

“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”

Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.

“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”

Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.

 “Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”

We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.

“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”

“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”

•    For more information, visit https://www.homemation.co.za/

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Face App grabs SA attention

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South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app. 

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana. 

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture. 

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40 

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