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Fitbit debuts the Alta

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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Now IBM’s Watson joins IoT revolution in agriculture

Global expansion of the Watson Decision Platform taps into AI, weather and IoT data to boost production

IBM has announced the global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, with AI technology tailored for new crops and specific regions to help feed a growing population. For the first time, IBM is providing a global agriculture solution that combines predictive technology with data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, and IoT data to help give farmers around the world greater insights about planning, ploughing, planting, spraying and harvesting.

By 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people without an increase in arable land [1]. IBM is combining power weather data – including historical, current and forecast data and weather prediction models from The Weather Company – with crop models to help improve yield forecast accuracy, generate value, and increase both farm production and profitability.

Roric Paulman, owner/operator of Paulman Farms in Southwest Nebraska, said: “As a farmer, the wild card is always weather. IBM overlays weather details with my own data and historical information to help me apply, verify, and make decisions. For example, our farm is in a highly restricted water basin, so the ability to better anticipate rain not only saves me money but also helps me save precious natural resources.”

New crop models include corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, barley, sugar cane and potato, with more coming soon. These models will now be available in the Africa, U.S. Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as new markets across Europe and Australia.

Kristen Lauria, general manager of Watson Media and Weather Solutions at IBM, said: “These days farmers don’t just farm food, they also cultivate data – from drones flying over fields to smart irrigation systems, and IoT sensors affixed to combines, seeders, sprayers and other equipment. Most of the time, this data is left on the vine — never analysed or used to derive insights. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture aims to change that by offering tools and solutions to help growers make more informed decisions about their crops.” 

The average farm generates an estimated 500,000 data points per day, which will grow to 4 million data points by 2036 [2]. Applying AI and analysis to aggregated field, machine and environmental data can help improve shared insights between growers and enterprises across the agriculture ecosystem. With a better view of the fields, growers can see what’s working on certain farms and share best practices with other farmers. The platform assesses data in an electronic field record to identify and communicate crop management patterns and insights. Enterprise businesses such as food companies, grain processors, or produce distributors can then work with farmers to leverage those insights. It helps track crop yield as well as the environmental, weather and plant biologic conditions that go into a good or bad yield, such as irrigation management, pest and disease risk analysis and cohort analysis for comparing similar subsets of fields.

The result isn’t just more productive farmers. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture could help a livestock company eliminate a certain mold or fungus from feed supply grains or help identify the best crop irrigation practices for farmers to use in drought-stricken areas like California. It could help deliver the perfect French fry for a fast food chain that needs longer – not fatter – potatoes from its network of growers. Or it could help a beer distributor produce a more affordable premium beer by growing higher quality barley that meets the standard required to become malting barley.

Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is built on IBM PAIRS Geoscope from IBM Research, which quickly processes massive, complex geospatial and time-based datasets collected by satellites, drones, aerial flights, millions of IoT sensors and weather models. It crunches large, complex data and creates insights quickly and easily so farmers and food companies can focus on growing crops for global communities.

IBM and The Weather Company help the agriculture industry find value in weather insights. IBM Research collaborates with start up Hello Tractor to integrate The Weather Company data, remote sensing data (e.g., satellite), and IoT data from tractors. IBM also works with crop nutrition leader Yara to include hyperlocal weather forecasts in its digital platform for real-time recommendations, tailored to specific fields or crops. IBM acquired The Weather Company in 2016 and has since been helping clients better understand and mitigate the cost of weather on their businesses. The global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is the latest innovation in IBM’s efforts to make weather a more predictable business consideration. Also just announced, Weather Signals is a new AI-based tool that merges The Weather Company data with a company’s own operations data to reveal how minor fluctuations in weather affects business.

The combination of rich weather forecast data from The Weather Company and IBM’s AI and Cloud technologies is designed to provide a unique capability, which is being leveraged by agriculture, energy and utility companies, airlines, retailers and many others to make informed business decisions.

[1] The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”

[2] Business Insider Intelligence, 2016 report: https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-agriculture-2016-10


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What if Amazon used AI to take on factories?

By ANTONY BOURNE, IFS Global Industry Director for Manufacturing

Amazon recently announced record profits of $3.03bn, breaking its own record for the third consecutive time. However, Amazon appears to be at a crossroads as to where it heads next. Beyond pouring additional energy into Amazon Prime, many have wondered whether the company may decide to enter an entirely new sector such as manufacturing to drive future growth, after all, it seems a logical step for the company with its finger in so many pies.

At this point, it is unclear whether Amazon would truly ‘get its hands dirty’ by manufacturing its own products on a grand scale. But what if it did? It’s worth exploring this reality. What if Amazon did decide to move into manufacturing, a sector dominated by traditional firms and one that is yet to see an explosive tech rival enter? After all, many similarly positioned tech giants have stuck to providing data analytics services or consulting to these firms rather than genuinely engaging with and analysing manufacturing techniques directly.

If Amazon did factories

If Amazon decided to take a step into manufacturing, it is likely that they could use the Echo range as a template of what AI can achieve. In recent years,Amazon gained expertise on the way to designing its Echo home speaker range that features Alexa, an artificial intelligence and IoT-based digital assistant.Amazon could replicate a similar form with the deployment of AI and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to create an autonomously-run smart manufacturing plant. Such a plant could feature IIoT sensors to enable the machinery to be run remotely and self-aware; managing external inputs and outputs such as supply deliveries and the shipping of finished goods. Just-in-time logistics would remove the need for warehousing while other machines could be placed in charge of maintenance using AI and remote access. Through this, Amazon could radically reduce the need for human labour and interaction in manufacturing as the use of AI, IIoT and data analytics will leave only the human role for monitoring and strategic evaluation. Amazon has been using autonomous robots in their logistics and distribution centres since 2017. As demonstrated with the Echo range, this technology is available now, with the full capabilities of Blockchain and 5G soon to be realised and allowing an exponentially-increased amount of data to be received, processed and communicated.

Manufacturing with knowledge

Theorising what Amazon’s manufacturing debut would look like provides a stark learning opportunity for traditional manufacturers. After all, wheneverAmazon has entered the fray in other traditional industries such as retail and logistics, the sector has never remained the same again. The key takeaway for manufacturers is that now is the time to start leveraging the sort of technologies and approaches to data management that Amazon is already doing in its current operations. When thinking about how to implement AI and new technologies in existing environments, specific end-business goals and targets must be considered, or else the end result will fail to live up to the most optimistic of expectations. As with any target and goal, the more targeted your objectives, the more competitive and transformative your results. Once specific targets and deliverables have been considered, the resources and methods of implementation must also be considered. As Amazon did with early automation of their distribution and logistics centres, manufacturers need to implement change gradually and be focused on achieving small and incremental results that will generate wider momentum and the appetite to lead more expansive changes.

In implementing newer technologies, manufacturers need to bear in mind two fundamental aspects of implementation: software and hardware solutions. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which is increasingly bolstered by AI, will enable manufacturers to leverage the data from connected IoT devices, sensors, and automated systems from the factory floor and the wider business. ERP software will be the key to making strategic decisions and executing routine operational tasks more efficiently. This will allow manufacturers to keep on top of trends and deliver real-time forecasting and spot any potential problems before they impact the wider business.

As for the hardware, stock management drones and sensor-embedded hardware will be the eyes through which manufacturers view the impact emerging technologies bring to their operations. Unlike manual stock audits and counting, drones with AI capabilities can monitor stock intelligently around production so that operations are not disrupted or halted. Manufacturers will be able to see what is working, what is going wrong, and where there is potential for further improvement and change.

Knowledge for manufacturing

For many traditional manufacturers, they may see Amazon as a looming threat, and smart-factory technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a far off utopia. However, 2019 presents a perfect opportunity for manufacturers themselves to really determine how the tech giants and emerging technologies will affect the industry. Technologies such as AI and IoT are available today; and the full benefits of these technologies will only deepen as they are implemented alongside the maturing of other emerging technologies such as 5G and Blockchain in the next 3-5 years. Manufacturers need to analyse the needs which these technologies can address and produce a proper plan on how to gradually implement these technologies to address specific targets and deliverables. AI-based software and hardware solutions will fundamentally revolutionise manufacturing, yet for 2019, manufacturers just have to be willing to make the first steps in modernisation.

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