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Fitbit feels Alta’s pulse

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Fitbit has launched the Alta HR, claimed to be the world’s slimmest fitness wristband. It features a continual heart rate monitor, step counter and sleep monitor with silent alarm.

Fitbit has introduced Fitbit Alta HR and new advances in sleep tracking, which it says will provide users with insights and guidance in the Fitbit app to make more informed decisions about their health and stay motivated to reach their wellness goals in style.

“Alta HR and these powerful new sleep features demonstrate our continued focus on evolving our innovative technology to deliver deeper, more actionable insights to help our users improve their health,” says James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “The miniaturisation of our PurePulse heart rate technology opens up exciting opportunities for future generations of devices and new form factors. Our advances in sleep will provide millions of users around the globe accessibility to invaluable insights that previously could be obtained only through expensive lab tests.”

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Fitbit provided the following information:

  • Fitbit Alta HR is the world’s slimmest wrist-based, continuous heart rate tracking device combining the benefits of PurePulse heart rate technology, automatic exercise recognition, sleep tracking, battery life of up to seven days and smart notifications in a slim, versatile design that is easily customized to fit your style. Alta HR is available in retail from April 2017.
  • Sleep Stages utilizes heart rate variability to estimate the amount of time you spend in light, deep and REM sleep, as well as time awake each night, to better understand your sleep quality.
  • Sleep Insights uses the whole of your Fitbit data to provide personalized guidance on how to improve your sleep for better overall health.

Heart Rate and Style in a Sleek Design

Fitbit was able to bring PurePulse, the feature requested most by Fitbit Alta users, to Alta HR by developing a one-of-a-kind chip that reduced the size and number of components needed, achieving a 25% slimmer design than Fitbit Charge 2. The result is a stylish device that offers all-day, continuous heart rate tracking, making it easier for you to make more informed decisions about your health:

  • Better measure calorie burn all day, including during non-step based exercise like yoga and spinning, to help you stay on track toward your health and weight goals by tracking calories in versus burned.
  • See real-time heart zones on your wrist and exercise summaries in the Fitbit app to work out at the right intensity for your health and fitness goals.
  • View resting heart rate on-device and trends in the Fitbit app, and compare it to your activity to see how consistent exercise can improve your heart health over time. A decrease in resting heart rate is a key indicator of cardiovascular health; changes up or down may indicate illness or other issues.

Sleep Better

Fitbit is also introducing two dynamic sleep tools – Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights – that provide deeper insight into your sleep quality and guidance on how to improve, building on its popular sleep features that have empowered millions of people to track their sleep since 2012. Along with diet and exercise, sleep is a key factor in overall health, but most people have very little insight into it. Good sleep plays a critical role in your health and overall wellbeing, from protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, to boosting neurocognitive functions, mental health and longevity.[iii]

Sleep Stages, powered by PurePulse, uses accelerometer data and heart rate variability (the changes in time between beats), plus Fitbit’s proven algorithms to more accurately estimate how long you spend in light, deep and REM sleep stages, as well as time awake, each night:

  • Light Sleep (including sleep stages N1 and N2) occurs throughout the night and is important for memory, learning and letting your body recover from the day; for most people that’s 50-60% of your night.
  • Deep Sleep (sleep stage N3) promotes a healthy immune system and muscle growth and repair; for most people that’s 10-25% of your night (depending on your age).
  • REM Sleep is when most dreaming occurs and is important for mental recovery and memory formation; for most people that’s 20-25% of your night.[vi] Most REM sleep comes at the end of the night, and is often the stage to be cut short when your sleep duration decreases.
  • Awake periods (between 10-30 times) are a normal part of your sleep cycle each night.

Everyone’s sleep cycle is different, but by better knowing your sleep quality and patterns, and realizing the impact they have on your day, you can make lifestyle changes that can help improve your sleep over time – such as diet, exercise, winding down before bed and keeping a consistent sleep schedule. For example, if you wake up feeling exhausted each morning, despite seemingly getting enough sleep, you may not be getting sufficient deep sleep.

Tracking sleep patterns could also help identify variations that can be indicative of other issues. For example, it has been shown that irregularities in sleep patterns could be a sign of a sleep condition that should be discussed with a doctor.

“From helping maintain a healthy immune system, to preserving your cognitive functions and managing a healthy weight, your sleep – or lack of – plays a critical role,” said Dr. Allison Siebern, Stanford University and Fitbit Advisory Panel Sleep Expert. “Fitbit’s new sleep features use a scientific-based approach to show your sleep patterns over time, and provide you with validated, actionable guidance to help you make changes in your daily routine to achieve greater quality sleep – and in turn improve your overall health. Given the comfort and accessibility of this product, it’s one of the most valuable and useful sleep tracking solutions available to consumers outside of a sleep lab.”

Developed with Fitbit’s panel of sleep experts over the last two years, Sleep Stages makes information previously only accessible through a sleep lab accessible to millions of consumers, while Sleep Insights offers personalized guidance to help improve your sleep. The panel brings a wealth of academic expertise across a variety of sleep-related areas, including health, chronic disease and insomnia:

  • Dr. Michael Grandner, director, Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona;
  • Dr. Allison Siebern, consulting assistant professor, Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, and director, Sleep Health Integrative Program at Fayetteville VA Medical Center; and
  • Dr. Michael T. Smith, Jr., professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Nursing, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Fitbit conducted rigorous testing of the ability of its devices, including Alta HR, to estimate sleep stages in adults. These results validating Fitbit’s new Sleep Stages feature have been accepted for presentation at SLEEP 2017, the leading meeting for sleep scientists and clinicians.

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Sleep Insights – using Fitbit data gained from over 3 billion nights of logged sleep, which is equivalent to 2.5 million years, Fitbit is uniquely positioned to deliver powerful sleep insights that provide actionable guidance and coaching to help you improve the quality of your sleep and, in turn, your overall health. Some examples include:

  • Understand the connections between your sleep, exercise, diet, weight and heart rate:
    • “There seems to be a strong correlation between your sleep and your runs. The last 10 weeknight logs show that you had 20 mins more restful sleep on days you ran vs. days you didn’t.”
    • “A lack of sleep can increase your hunger hormones. So if you’re looking to lose weight, make sure you’re logging enough ZZZs.”
  • Receive personalized guidance and insights based on your Fitbit data to help you stick to an ideal schedule and get the best sleep quality:
    • “You slept an average of 9hrs 30min this weekend, which is substantially higher than your weekday sleep duration of 5hrs 40min. That swing may be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep during the week.”
    • “Great job going to bed at a consistent time during the week. Being consistent means going to bed within a 30-minute time window every day of the week. People with a consistent bedtime like yourself get up to 40 minutes more sleep per night than those with low sleep consistency.”

Stay Motivated

In addition to the advanced health and fitness tracking experience PurePulse brings to Alta HR, popular features and notifications keep you connected and motivated to reach your goals:

  • All day, automatic tracking of your most important stats (heart rate, steps, distance, calorie burn, active minutes) day and night, powered by battery life of up to seven days.[xi]
  • SmartTrack™ automatic exercise tracking records activities like walking, running, cycling, elliptical, sports and aerobic workouts in the Fitbit app, giving you credit toward your weekly exercise goals.
  • Reminders to Move help you stay active throughout the day, and reducing sedentary time can play a significant role in the prevention of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.[xii]
  • Call, text and calendar notifications keep you connected so you can focus on your day.[xiii]
  • Connect with one of the largest social fitness networks in the world through the new Community tab in the Fitbit app to find support and inspiration on your path to better health and fitness.

Availability 

Alta HR will be available early April 2017

Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights will be available globally in April 2017:

  • Sleep Stages will work with Alta HR, Blaze and Charge 2 devices via the Fitbit app on Android, iOS and Windows, and on Fitbit.com in the online dashboard.
  • Sleep Insights will be available with all Fitbit devices that track sleep via the Fitbit app.

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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