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Essential apps for small biz

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SEDA Nelson Mandela Bay ICT incubator (SNII) has identified seven apps that are essential for South African small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“Our team wanted to review and curate a holy-grail of essential apps for start-ups, young businesses and entrepreneurs.  Our mission was to create apps that would increase productivity, offer innovation and boost profitability,” said Scott Zambonini, SNII enterprise development manager.

“Now there is no more excuse for mediocrity. The neat selection of apps takes into account all the unique challenges of new start-ups and small businesses,” he said.

These seven innovations are:

1.   Resource Guru

If you are having difficulty keeping track of your schedules, Resource Gugu is your answer. It is a web-based resource scheduling and calendar tool which specialises in online collaborative software that can be used for employment, project management, events, task management or resource planning. The scheduling software is designed to automate the process of scheduling appointments and staff time. Packages range from R290 per month ($19 a month) to R1 508 ($99).

2.   Headspace

If you are heading for burn-out, you need to breathe and get this app. Stay cool, calm, and collected with Headspace – a meditation app that will strengthen your state of mind.  The first 10 days offer guided mediation sessions free of charge.  The app provides animations explaining how the mind works, and offers tips on how to sit and breathe effectively. You can also track your activity, and set reminders with the app. Once the free trial period is completed, a subscription for more content is available for R107 ($7).

3.   Growth Geeks

As a start-up entrepreneur or small business, you might not yet be in a position to employ staff. So the best option is to hire the tech warrior army of Growth Greeks. Growth Geeks is a marketplace of freelancers specialising in electronic marketing stuff for social, SEO and content.  They are vetted and ranked by other users.

4.  Clear

This task-management app allows you to create and manage separate lists for daily tasks, along with the setting of reminders. We loved the design interface. Users can create several lists and multiple schedules. The price of Clear isR76 ($4.99) for iPhones and R153 ($9.99) for desktops.

5.  Shoeboxed

Finally! Here is an app that helps you to digitize paper.  If you are a hoarder of receipts, notes, lists and business cards, say hi to Shoeboxed, and goodbye to those disorganised piles of paper messing up your desk and piling up in your car, wallet and handbag. Now you can dump them into a digital shoe box.   This app allows you to digitize and store receipts, invoices and business cards in an easily searchable archive. An additional bonus included with the app is a GPS-based mileage tracker.

6.  Basecamp

Basecamp is a really user-friendly project-management app. It has a sleek and intuitive graphic user interface that allows you to invite team members, include file attachments and create checklists as you check on the progress of the task or project.  With Basecamp, you pay per project instead of per user. Plans start at R305 ($20) per month for 10 projects. Multi-tasking mutant entrepreneurs who need more can sign up for unlimited access with no cap on the number of projects for R2284 ($150).

7.  Square

Square Register is a user-friendly point-of-sale system, available in the App Store and Google Play. The app accepts debit and credit cards, EMV chip cards and Android Pay. If you are a small business owner who depends on point-of-sale purchases, but you have a limited budget for payment systems, then plug in a small card-reader to your smartphone or tablet. With this app you can swipe credit cards and process payments just like any established retailer. You don’t have to be connected to the Internet, you can use email or text messages to send receipts, and the system even allows for your generous customers to leave a tip of 15%, 20% or 25%. There is no monthly fee; instead, you’ll pay 2.75% of each transaction, or a little more if you have to manually enter the payment information instead of swiping.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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