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Build a better you in 2018

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With most new year’s resolutions including words like “weight” and “fit”, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at a few sites, devices and apps that go beyond activity bands to boost our self-image.

Activity bands like the Fitbit and Garmin fitness trackers have become standard tools on the wrists of people with aspirations to more well-being, greater fitness, and lesser bulk.

The problem with these devices, however, is that the motivation quickly vanishes and, by February 1, New Year’s resolutions have come home to die.

One suggestion is to overhaul not only one’s fitness routine, but one’s entire consciousness routine. This is not a suggestion to ignore diets and treadmills, but to take a different approach.

For example, by investing in a new kind of scale that measures more than just weight, and having it in a location where it can never be ignored, it makes one that much more conscious of monitoring the body.

By investing in a fitness app that can be adapted into a fine-tuned coach that guides you in the activities you enjoy, you move away from the current smartphone fitness focus on what happens only on the activity band.

Finally, to make change more personal, one needs an overhaul that goes beyond the physical. Getting involved in a cause is a natural route, but not one that comes naturally. This guide concludes, then, on a website that takes you by the hand and connects you or your company to a cause.

We start with those smart scales:

Salter MiBody Bluetooth Analyser Scale

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Salter has been making scales for more than 250 years, and keeps pushing the boundaries. The first bathroom scale dates back to the 1820s, and its taken less than two centuries for Salter to evolve it into the Smart Scale. Or, more specifically, the MiBody scale.

It uses something called Bio Impedence Analysis technology to measure not only weight, but also the body mass index (BMI). It does this by sending a tiny (and safe) electrical impulse through the body to determine fat from lean tissue. This, in turn, provides an accurate measure of body fat, body water, and muscle mass, along with BMI and weight.

The MiBody operates as a conventional scale as well, but comes into its own when connected to a smartphone using the MiBody app. Up to four separate profiles can be stored on the scale, allowing family members to track themselves individually.

Two MiBody models encapsulate the options beautifully: The smaller MiBody 9159 is a sleek, black pad that enhances the décor of any modern bathroom; and the larger MiBody 9154, a large white gadget that comes with adjustable carpet feet for use in any room or on uneven surfaces. The former costs R849 and the latter R999.

* The scales can be purchased online from Accessory Lab here.

Aaptiv fitness coaching app

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Most activity bands and sports earphones pair up with apps that include coaching features. However, the best bands are not always paired with the best apps. In many cases, users opt for a third party app that combines expert coaching with the monitoring features of an existing device.

One of the best of these apps, Aaptiv, charges a subscription fee, but in return provides audio-based fitness classes and challenges by expert trainers. Workouts range from elliptical, cardio and strength to stretching and meditation – and are paired with music playlists for taking the experience further.

Aaptiv is a little more than two years old, but already has more than 2 500 classes available, with15 active trainers creating up to 50 new classes every week. Workout classes are geared to beginner, intermediate, or advanced users, who can interact with trainers through an Aaptiv Facebook community.

It’s like having a personal trainer at gym, but at a fraction of the cost. The dollar pricing is $9.99 a month or $99.99 for a year, but specials keep popping up. The one-month free trial is recommended before paying over those dollars.

* Download Aaptiv from the Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Forgood

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Rekindle your soul at Forgood, a home-grown online platform “that connects passionate people with needy organisations”. It is described as “a social market place where skills, goods, services and information can easily be offered and asked for”, with the site acting as the matchmaker for good causes.

Says CEO Andy Hadfield: “We believe that you can change your community and world for good. No longer do you have to wonder where to start or how to begin. By connecting online at forgood you can find ways to make a difference in your area and in line with your interests.”

Forgood is also geared towards companies’ employee volunteer programmes, allowing businesses of any size to get a CSI initiatove off the ground. A companies are then able to track, incentivise and report on their community engagement. Forgood also provides support to train, motivate and keep staff engaged.

According to Hadfield, 9 000 corporate employees registered on client volunteering programmes through the site last year, completing 13 000 actions – either in the form of volunteer work or donations.

As the organisation puts it, “Take the action offline and see your real world impact.”

* Rekindle your soul here.

 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Samsung clears the table with new monitor

For those who like minimalism and tidy desks, Samsung’s new Space Monitor may just do the trick, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The latest trends of narrow-bezels and minimalist designs have transcended smartphones, spilling into other designs, like laptops and monitors. 

The new Space Monitor line by Samsung follows in this new design “tradition”. The company has moved the monitor off the desk – by clipping it onto the edge of the desk.

It can be put into three configurations: completely upright, where it sits a bit high but completely off the desk; half-way to the desk, where it is a bit lower to put some papers or files underneath the display; and flat on the desk, where it is at its lowest.

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The monitor sits on a weighted hinge at the edge of the desk, providing sturdy adjustment to its various height configurations. It also swivels on a hinge at the point where the arm connects to the display. This provides precise viewing angle adjustment, which is great for showing something on screen to someone who is standing.

Apart from form factor, there are some neat goodies packed into the box. It comes with a two-pin power adapter, with no adapter box on the midpoint between the plug and the monitor, and a single cable that carries HDMI-Y and power to prevent tangling. 

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However, it’s slightly disappointing that there isn’t a Mini Display Port and power cable “in one cable” option for Mac and newer graphics card users, who will have to run two cables down the back of the screen. Even worse, the display doesn’t have a USB Type-C display input; a missed opportunity to connect a Samsung device to the panel.

A redeeming point is the stunning, Samsung-quality panel, which features a 4K UHD resolution. The colours are sharp and the viewing angles are good. However, this display is missing something: Pantone or Adobe RGB colour certification, as well as IPS technology. 

The display’s response rate comes in at 4ms, slightly below average for displays in this price range. 

These negatives aside, this display has a very specific purpose. It’s for those who want to create desk space in a few seconds, while not having to rearrange the room. 

Final verdict: This display is not for gamers nor for graphic designers. It is for those who need big displays but frequently need to clear their desks.

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Can mobile fix education?

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By Ernst Wittmann, global account director for MEA and country manager for Southern Africa, at TCL Communications

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live and work, and it can be expected to rapidly change the ways in which children learn as smartphones and tablets become more widely accepted at primary and high schools. By putting a powerful computer in every learner’s schoolbag or pocket, smartphones could play an important role in improving educational outcomes in a country where so many schools are under-resourced.

Here are some ways that mobile technology will reshape education in the years to come:

Organisation and productivity

For many adults, the real benefit of a smartphone comes from simple applications like messaging, calendaring and email. The same goes for schoolchildren, many of whom will get the most value from basic apps like sending a WhatApp message to friends to check on the homework for the day, keeping track of their extramural calendar, or photographing the teacher’s notes from the blackboard or whiteboard. One study of young people’s mobile phone use in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa confirmed that many of them got the most value from using their phones to complete mundane tasks.

Interactivity

One of the major benefits smartphones can bring to the classroom is boosting learners’ engagement with educational materials through rich media and interactivity. For example, apps like Mathletics use gamification to get children excited about doing mathematics—they turn learning into a game, with rewards for practicing and hitting milestones. Or teachers can set up a simple poll using an app like Poll Everywhere to ask the children in a class what they think about a character’s motivation in their English set-work book.

Personalisation

Mobile technology opens the doors to more personalised and flexible ways to teach and learn, making more space for children to work in their own style and at their own pace. Not very child learns in the same way or excels at the same tasks and subjects – the benefit of mobile phones is that they can plug the gaps for children seeking extra enrichment or those that need some additional help with classroom work.

For example, teachers can provide recommended educational materials for children who are racing in ahead of their peers in some of their subjects. Or they can suggest relevant games for children who learn better through practical application of ideas than by listening to a teacher and taking notes. 

In future, we can expect to see teachers, perhaps aided by algorithms and artificial intelligence, make use of analytics to track how students engage with educational content on their mobile devices and use these insights to create more powerful learning experiences. 

Access

South Africa has a shortage of teachers in key subjects such as mathematics and science, which disproportionately affects learners in poor and rural areas. According to a statement in 2017 from the Department of Basic Education, it has more than 5,000 underqualified or unqualified teachers working around the country. Though technology cannot substitute for a qualified teacher, it can supplement human teaching in remote or poor areas where teachers are not available or not qualified to teach certain subjects. Video learning and videoconferencing sessions offer the next best thing where a math or physical science teacher is not physically present in the classroom.

Information

Knowledge is power and the Internet is the world’s biggest repository of knowledge. Schoolchildren can access information and expertise about every subject under the sun from their smartphones – whether they are reading the news on a portal, watching documentaries on YouTube, downloading electronic books, using apps to improve their language skills, or simply Googling facts and figures for a school project.

Take a mobile-first approach

Technology has a powerful role to play in the South African school of the future, but there are some key success factors schools must bear in mind as they bring mobile devices into the classroom:

  • Use appropriate technology—in South Africa, that means taking a mobile-first approach and using the smartphones many children already know and use.
  • Thinking about challenges such as security – put in place the cyber and physical security needed to keep phones and data safe and secure.
  • Ensuring teachers and children alike are trained to make the most of the tech – teachers need to take an active role in curating content and guiding schoolchildren’s use of their devices. To get that right, they will need training and access to reliable tech support.

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