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Fitbit launches Ionic

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Fitbit has announced its first smartwatch – the Fitbit Ionic.  The Ionic will be available in select South African stores mid October 2017, at R5,499 and is available in three colours – silver gray, smoke gray and burnt orange.

In addition, accessories will be available in a black and charcoal or cobalt and lime two-toned breathable Sport Band, as well as a hand-crafted and perforated Horween leather strap in cognac or midnight blue.

A health and fitness first platform, Ionic offers a highly personalised experience not previously seen in other smartwatches. Ionic builds on Fitbit’s health and fitness expertise with a new relative SpO2 sensor, making it possible to track deeper health insights like sleep apnea in the future, industry-leading GPS tracking, on-device dynamic workouts, improved heart rate tracking, and water resistance up to 50 meters. Plus, smart features like contactless payments, on-board music, smart notifications, and a variety of popular apps and clock faces available in the Fitbit App Gallery. Ionic also has all the core features our users love from Fitbit like 4+ day battery life, automatic activity and sleep tracking, and cross-platform compatibility. Ionic will be available at select local retailers from mid October 2017, with a new Fitbit Ionic adidas special edition device coming in 2018. The Fitbit app software development kit (SDK) will be open to developers in September 2017.

“Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker. Since then, we have become the leading global wearables brand, setting the pace of innovation in the category and establishing the largest social fitness network that helps millions of people around the world be healthier,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “With Ionic, we will deliver what consumers have not yet seen in a smartwatch – a health and fitness first platform that combines the power of personalization and deeper insights with our most advanced technology to date, unlocking opportunities for unprecedented health tracking capabilities in the future.”

Ionic follows a long line of innovative and popular Fitbit products that redefined how we learn about and manage our health, and even helped save lives. Ionic continues to deliver on this promise by offering more personalized insights and guidance, coupled with an engaging experience and sleek design, to help drive meaningful behavior change and better health outcomes.

Everything you need, all in one device

From beginners to experienced athletes, Fitbit’s most advanced device to date offers personal, actionable guidance to motivate you to reach your goals – all while keeping you connected with apps and notifications.

  • Personal trainer with Fitbit Coach: Access dynamic, on-device workouts that adapt based on feedback you provide on your wrist, or listen to expert-designed running and walking Audio Coaching sessions (available 2018) to increase endurance, speed and form on your schedule.
  • Running companion: Automatically track your run with the new Run Detect feature that kicks in GPS tracking – just step out the door and go; see real-time pace and distance; auto-pause to grab some water or take a breather and automatically resume when you start running.
  • New swim exercise mode: With water resistance up to 50 meters and industry-leading lap counting, use Ionic in the pool and see your real-time laps, exercise duration and calories burned for pool swims.
  • Industry-leading GPS: The unique design and integrated antenna inside Ionic provide a stronger connection to GPS and GLONASS satellites, delivering industry-leading GPS performance. Leave your phone behind and see pace and distance right on your wrist, as well as record elevation climbed, split times, and a map of your walk, run or ride in the Fitbit app.
  • Improved heart rate technology: Ionic has enhanced PurePulse® heart rate tracking with greater accuracy during exercises like cycling, intervals and running; better measure calorie burn, see real-time heart rate zones to optimize intensity, and track resting heart rate 24/7.
  • New sensor technology: The introduction of a relative SpO2 sensor for estimating blood oxygen levels opens the potential for tracking important new indicators about your health, such as sleep apnea.
  • Motivation through music: Leave your phone at home and find the motivation to jumpstart your workout by storing and playing more than 300 songs on device (2.5 GB of storage). Connect Ionic to any Bluetooth device of your choosing. Make payments using Fitbit Pay™: Leave your wallet and phone at home and effortlessly pay for items right from your device, wherever contactless payments are accepted. Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe, with more countries and banks planned soon.
  • Smart notifications you need most: With extended smartphone notifications, receive call, text and calendar alerts, as well as notifications from apps on your smartphone like Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Slack, Snapchat and more.
  • Multi-day battery life: With 4+ days battery life on a single charge (10 hours with GPS or playing music), Ionic will outlast any activity you do during the day and still track your sleep all night.

In addition to these new features, Ionic has everything you love about Fitbit – automatically track your steps, calories, floors climbed and sleep stages, see your cardio fitness level (estimated VO2 Max), maintain moments of calm and more.

“Whether I’m trying to stay in shape during the off-season or train for the playoffs, tracking my activity and health on and off the court is crucial to my success,” said Harrison Barnes, Fitbit Ambassador, Olympic gold medalist and star forward for the Dallas Mavericks. “With Ionic, I can see my heart rate zones in real-time so I can gauge how hard I’m pushing myself during a workout, and track my sleep each night to make sure I’m rested and recovered so I’m at my best on the court the next day.”

Fitbit + adidas

Fitbit is partnering with adidas to deliver a Fitbit Ionic special edition device and training programs in 2018. This relationship will leverage adidas’ robust performance program expertise with Fitbit data and insights from millions of global users to help athletes of all levels perform better, play better and feel better.

Make Ionic your own

Ionic runs on Fitbit OS, the company’s new operating system for smartwatches that will be regularly updated to add new user experiences. This includes the launch of the Fitbit App Gallery, where you can select the apps and clock faces that appeal to you so you’re always armed with the information you want most, in a way that reflects your own personal needs and style.

The App Gallery offers a range of health and fitness apps from Fitbit like Exercise, Fitbit Coach, Relax, Timer and more, as well as popular apps that are designed to make life easier and more convenient when you’re on the go. Each app is designed specifically for Ionic so you don’t have to download an accompanying mobile app or have your smartphone nearby. Leading partner apps available on Fitbit Ionic at launch include:

  • Strava, the leading social network for millions of athletes at all levels, makes it easy to get inspired, stay motivated, track activities and analyze your performance data for your runs, bike rides and swims. Using the exclusive Matched Runs feature, you can benchmark yourself against past performances on your most common routes – right on your wrist.
  • Weather, powered by global leader AccuWeather, gives you real-time weather predictions with Superior Accuracy from your three favorite locations. Get personalized forecast information with your exact location, so you can better plan your workout or weekend.
  • The App Gallery will continue to expand with more popular apps expected this Spring, as well as clock faces created by our developer community.

Developer tools and benefits

If you’re interested in building for the Fitbit App Gallery, you will be able to use the SDK, including our Web-based developer environment Fitbit Studio, starting in September 2017. In developing apps and clock faces for Ionic, you will have access to sensors on the device and the opportunity for your content to be available to all Ionic and future Fitbit smartwatch users. We have built upon the Pebble platform to provide these industry-leading developer benefits and tools:

  • Fast development: Open platform based on standard technologies using JavaScript and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) offers a quick, easy way to build apps and feature-rich, beautiful clock faces on the Web.
  • Choose who you develop for: Skip the review process and create apps or clock faces just for friends and family, or submit for approval to be included in the curated Gallery.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: Develop one app and reach Fitbit’s large, global community of users across Android, iOS and Windows platforms.
  • Open platform for health partners: The SDK creates an easy way for enterprise health companies to encourage better health outcomes by utilizing Fitbit devices and access to its sensors to build customized wellness programs for their customers.
  • Future opportunities: The built-in NFC chip opens the opportunity to develop apps that provide keyless and cardless access to buildings, hotels, sporting venues and transportation in the future.

Fitbit’s strongest and lightest GPS watch

  • As Fitbit’s first device designed fully in-house, Ionic features new processes and materials that improve weight, fit, durability, breathability and daily wear – resulting in an extremely lightweight, ergonomic design comfortable enough to wear all day and night.
  • Our most advanced design: Utilizing nano-molding technology, the unibody watchcase allows it to double as the Bluetooth and GPS antenna. This construction creates a stronger GPS signal that works in busy cities or on remote trails.
  • Built to last: Ionic is built to be more durable with new materials, new bands and more extensive testing than ever before.
  • Easy to read display: A color, spherical glass touchscreen with crisp graphics and amplified brightness of up to 1,000 nits lets you read your stats wherever you are – in bright sunlight or a low-lit room.
  • Trending styles and accessories: Ionic comes in a range of styles and colours with interchangeable Classic, Sport and Horween leather accessories so it can seamlessly transition from work to a workout or a night out.

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.

“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”

“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”

Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.

A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.

“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”

Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
HP Inc. 23.7% 27.6%
Lenovo 19.8% 21.5%
Dell 16.3% 16.7%
ASUS 8.7% 9.4%
Acer Group 5.9% 4.1%
Others 25.7% 20.7%

Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
Samsung 20.5% 18.9%
Huawei 11.2% 15.8%
Lenovo 12.7% 9.8%
Apple 9.1% 8.8%
Alcatel 2.9% 5.0%
Others 43.5% 41.7%

“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”

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Gazer cyber-spies exposed

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ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.

ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.

Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.

ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.

The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:

  • Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
  • Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
  • A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
  • The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.

Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.

In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.

Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.

All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.

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