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Fitbit adds sleep tool

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Fitbit has released a set of sleep tools to help Fitbit users improve their sleep consistency and overall health.

Sleep plays a critical role in health and wellbeing, from protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, to boosting neurocognitive functions, mental health and longevity. Available today on the free Fitbit app and compatible with all Fitbit devices that track sleep, Fitbit’s new Sleep Schedule feature helps guide you to get a more consistent pattern of sleep with:

  • Personalised sleep goals based on your sleep data to achieve your optimal amount of sleep each night
  • Customised bedtime and wakeup targets to establish sleep consistency
  • Reminders to stay on schedule, and a sleep schedule history to chart your progress

These tools are the first in a series of new sleep features being developed in collaboration with Fitbit’s new panel of leading sleep experts that includes Drs. Michael Grandner at the University of Arizona, Allison Siebern at Stanford University, and Michael Smith at Johns Hopkins University.

The Fitbit app is a vital part of the Fitbit platform – consisting of devices, apps, social and motivational features, advice and personalised coaching – which is continually getting smarter and easier to use with features like automatic sleep tracking and exercise recognition to make tracking your health and fitness effortless. Working in harmony, the Fitbit platform helps people make behavioural changes to be more active, exercise more, eat smarter, track their sleep and manage their weight. While many people understand the benefits and importance of a good night’s sleep for their health, getting enough sleep (7 to 9 hours) and regularly going to bed around the same time each night can be a challenge.

According to Fitbit’s sleep experts, adhering to a consistent sleep routine is one of the most important things people can do to improve their sleep: “If you’re constantly changing your sleep routine, it can have the same effect as giving yourself jetlag because you are continually changing your circadian rhythm, also known as your internal clock, which can negatively impact your health and wellness,” said Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, CBSM. “To improve your physical performance, mental health and cognitive functions, you should aim to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night and be consistent with the times you go to sleep and wake up each day. Fitbit’s new Sleep Schedule tool makes it easier for people to see how much sleep they’re actually getting in order to establish a healthy routine – this has the potential to help millions of people around the world improve their sleep and overall wellbeing, which is really exciting.”

Research has shown that getting enough sleep can also positively impact how much you exercise the next day and is vital to post-training recovery, playing an integral role in the body’s ability to repair itself. Additionally, Fitbit data also shows a correlation between consistent bedtimes and daily active minutes, especially for users who go to bed early each night. Users who sleep an average of 7 to 9 hours nightly also have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who sleep only 3 to 4 hours per night, while those who are overweight or obese (BMI over 25) on average sleep over an hour (70 minutes) less per week than those with a normal BMI (BMI 18.5-25).

“What’s great about the new Fitbit Sleep Schedule feature is that it looks at your sleep data from your Fitbit device you’re wearing day and night, analyses it for patterns and creates a personalised schedule just for you,” said Tim Roberts, Executive Vice President, Interactive at Fitbit. “This is a great example of how we’re providing guidance using Fitbit data to help millions of people develop healthier habits and routines, and is just the first in a series of new sleep features that we’re working on to help our users improve their health through data and coaching.”

Enhanced Sleep Tracking Features 

The new Sleep Schedule features on the Fitbit app will help you meet your sleep goals and maintain a more consistent pattern of sleep through these tools:

  • Sleep Goal: Based on your sleep data from your Fitbit tracker, you can follow the app’s personalised recommendations or set your target number of hours to make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night.
  • Bedtime and Wake Up Targets: Based on your sleep goal and past sleep behaviour from your Fitbit tracker, the app will recommend target bedtime and wake up times. You can customise these based on your personal preferences and schedule.
  • Bedtime and Wake Up Reminders: To help you reach your sleep goal and regularly go to bed and wake up more consistently, you can receive push notification reminders on your smartphone. You can also set a silent wake alarm on your Fitbit tracker based on your wake up target.
  • Sleep Schedule History Chart: Track your sleep consistency over time to determine if you’re meeting your goals or if you need to adjust your sleep schedule.

About Fitbit’s Sleep Experts

Fitbit established a panel of leading sleep experts to provide a wealth of academic expertise as it develops innovative and effective sleep features for its users. Their expertise spans a variety of sleep-related topics including health, chronic diseases and insomnia.

  • Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, CBSM, the director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, is certified in Behavioural Sleep Medicine and focuses his research on how sleep and sleep-related behaviours are related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, neurocognitive functioning, mental health and longevity.
  • Allison Siebern, PhD, CBSM, a consulting assistant professor at Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center and director of the Sleep Health Integrative Program at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina, is board certified in behavioural sleep medicine by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. She has over a decade of clinical and research expertise in the field of sleep, including examining the factors associated with successful treatment outcomes using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi).
  • Michael Smith, PhD, CBSM, is a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Nursing at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Center for Behaviour and Health, founder of Johns Hopkins’ Behavioural Sleep Medicine Program and co-directs the NIH-funded Center for Sleep-Related Symptom Science. His research focuses on the neurobehavioural causes, consequences, and treatments of insomnia and sleep loss with an emphasis on the interface between sleep and pain.

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

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

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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