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Fitbit debuts the Alta

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Fitbit has introduced the Fitbit Alta – a slim fitness wristband that can be personalised, while advanced health and fitness features improve tracking workouts and deliver positive motivation to keep users moving. 

Fitbit Alta is designed with a satin finish, stainless steel body and features a line of stylish interchangeable bands in multiple popular colours and premium materials. In addition to automatically tracking all-day activity, exercise and sleep, it’s equipped with Reminders to Move, nudging users to stay active throughout the day for better health, while providing visual feedback on progress and keeping users connected with smart notifications on a slender display.

The Alta seems to make up for the lack of elegance in the FIbit Blaze smartwatch, which was announced in January to a chorus of disapproval.

Fitbit Alta will be available in South Africa from April 2016, joining the Blaze in the local market.

“Fitbit Alta will turn heads as our most fashionable device yet. The attractive, versatile design of this new fitness tracker fits seamlessly into daily life – from the gym to the office to a night out,” said James Park, CEO and Co-Founder of Fitbit. “Alta features the everyday tracking Fitbit is known for, along with innovative and purpose-built features that push users to do more. Paired with our large, engaged global social community, Alta is an exciting product for everyday users who are looking for a simple way to stay motivated and connected, that also fits with their personal style.”

Fitbit provided the following information:

Fitbit Alta delivers all the most important activity stats you expect from Fitbit right on your wrist, along with new features deliberately designed to make health and fitness tracking easier and more motivating:

  • Reminders to Move help you stay active and reduce stationary time. Research shows that your metabolism can slow down after prolonged sitting and sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Moving for a few minutes every hour can help you keep your metabolism up and help reduce the negative impacts of sitting. Using short, positive prompts, Fitbit Alta will encourage you to meet a mini-step goal of 250 steps each hour (approximately 2-3 minutes of walking), and will congratulate you when you achieve the goal. These prompts can be personalised to your schedule and can easily be put on “Do Not Disturb” during long meetings or appointments, ensuring that you only get reminders when wanted.
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition provides a smarter, easier way to track workouts and see how exercise fits into your daily activity, giving you credit toward your weekly goals. It automatically recognises and records continuous movement activities including walking, running, outdoor biking, elliptical, as well as general categories of aerobic workouts (such as dance classes and cardio-kickboxing) and sports (including basketball, soccer and tennis).
  • Weekly exercise goals in the Fitbit app encourage you to find and embrace a more consistent fitness routine that works for you. These goals are tracked and displayed in the app on a daily basis, with a weekly goal for the number of days you plan to exercise to help keep you accountable. Weekly goals can easily be personalised to your fitness routine, allowing you to choose your target number of exercise days and the SmartTrack activities you want to count toward your goals.
  • All-day activity and automatic sleep tracking give you the foundational real-time health and fitness stats you need to track your progress, stay motivated and keep informed to reach your goals. View your step count, distance, calories burned, active minutes and the time on the easy-to-read OLED tap display, and use the Fitbit app to learn how long and how well you’re sleeping, plus set silent, vibrating alarms.

Versatile to Fit Your Style

Fitbit Alta lets you easily customise the slim, distinctive tracker to fit your personal style and create the perfect accessory for every occasion – day or night:

  • Sleek, modular design features a satin finish, stainless steel tracker with a custom, quick-release feature that allows you to wear Fitbit Alta as your favourite accessory at work and then swap your band instantly for a workout-friendly wristband. Available at launch in silver stainless steel, the tracker will also soon be available in a stunning, shiny gold stainless steel.
  • Stylish interchangeable accessory bands designed with attractive, premium materials including classic fitness wristbands, soft, premium hide leather bracelets with a beautiful natural grain, and a luxurious, hand-polished silver bangle – engineered to ensure all-day comfort, giving you the freedom to find the look that feels like you.
  • Easy-to-read, vibrant OLED tap display shows your activity stats and the time, which can be personalised using a variety of portrait or landscape clock face options. The tap display gives you quick and easy access to your all day stats and notifications.

“Whether I’m working or playing, my lifestyle keeps me in constant motion. Fitbit Alta helps me fit fitness into my busy life and looks great no matter what I’m doing, with swappable bands that let me match my style,” said Julianne Hough, dancer, singer, actress and Fitbit Ambassador. “Staying active is at the core of my lifestyle and having a fitness tracker helps keep me motivated and mindful of my health.”

Stay Connected to Maximise Your Day 

Fitbit Alta was designed to allow you to live your daily life without distraction, giving you the tools and motivation you need to take action and make the most of every day.

  • Stay connected with the smart notifications you need. Using Bluetooth® Smart connectivity, Fitbit Alta delivers call, text and calendar notifications right on your wrist when your phone is nearby through on-screen messages and a gentle vibrating alert.
  • Long battery life of up to 5 days[4] on a single charge lets you live your life, track your activity all day and your sleep all night, with the assurance you won’t lose a step.
  • Compatible with more than 200 Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices and computers so you can access your stats and motivational interactive tools to set goals, see your progress, and cheer or challenge friends, family and co-workers.

Pricing & Availability

Fitbit Alta will be available in South Africa from April 2016. At launch, Alta will be available in a black, blue, teal or plum high-performance fitness band with a satin finish, silver stainless steel tracker; shiny gold stainless steel tracker option coming soon. The following accessories will also be available at launch:

  • Classic fitness bands available in black, blue, teal and plum
  • Luxe soft, premium hide leather bands available in graphite and blush pink; camel coming soon
  • Luxe hand-polished stainless steel silver bangle coming this summer and shiny gold bangle coming later this year

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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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