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CES: Discover smart homes that keep you healthy

There is a large intersection between health tech and smart homes at CES in Las Vegas this week. BRYAN TURNER explores the home tech that can keep us healthy.



Health tech has been a major theme at this week’s CES 2020 in Las Vegas, where there have been many innovative – and unexpected – offshoots in the sector. This week, we covered the explosion of femtech (technology for female health); today we uncover another hidden gem of the future: smart home health tech.

When SmartEnergy surveyed 5000 people late last year about smart home technologies and their perceptions, they came up with a surprise finding: 34,6% of respondents said they like smart home tech for the “cool” factor, which is much higher than saving money on electricity, at 20%, and improving security, at 16%.

Let’s look at how cool it got at CES. 

Vayyar Imaging, a leader in imaging and object mapping technology, is showcasing Vayyar Home, a device that detects when one is standing, sitting for too long, or even if someone has fallen in a household. It has integrated another of its products, Walabot Home fall detection, to make this possible.

The device is seen as a non-invasive form of health tracking, that does not require wearables or buttons to track health. Best of all: it works without a camera so users don’t have to worry about being watched or recorded, as with smart speakers.

Vayyar Home’s health features include monitoring activity, sleep and breathing, sending an alarm in case an anomaly is detected. It also works when users aren’t home, by monitoring for intruders.

Its intelligent sensors monitor location, posture, and vital signs, enabling behavioural monitoring such as time spent at rest, in and out of bed, nocturnal roaming, and restroom visits. Trends are detected. This allows for pre-emptive predictions of health conditions like urinary tract infections (UTI), dementia, and disorders like sleep apnea, and psychological ailments like loneliness.

“Our fall detection product is protecting thousands of seniors every day, but that’s only the beginning,” says Ofer Familier, general manager of Vayyar Home. “Now, we can turn any room into a smart room, caring for people inside out. Vayyar Home is like living with a doctor and a security guard rolled into one.”

Vayyar can be found at booth #41161 at the Sands Expo at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 in Las Vegas

Visit the next page to read about virtual caretakers, nano gas monitoring solutions, and a foldable treadmill.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER



Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER



From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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