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Fitbit unveils new Charge, Flex

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Fitbit this week unveiled two new fitness wristbands, the Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2 with new sleek looks and a more engaging experience designed to motivate users to reach their goal’s.

The following information was supplied by Fitbit:

  • Fitbit Charge 2: The most popular fitness wristband from Fitbit just got better. In addition to PurePulse heart rate tracking, it now features an enhanced exercise experience, new health and fitness tools, the smart notifications you need most, and a new design with a larger display and interchangeable bands that easily let you go from a workout to a night out.
  • Fitbit Flex 2: Fitbit’s ultra-slim, first-ever swim-proof fitness wristband, features a removable tracker that transforms with classic bands, elegant bangles or pendants, allowing you to effortlessly track all-day activity, exercise and sleep in a style that’s all your own.

“Over the past nine years it has been our ability to innovate on both design and utility, and our deep understanding of what consumers want, that has made us the leading global wearable company,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

The newly launched FitBit Charge 2

The newly launched FitBit Charge 2

“Flex quickly became the best-selling tracker on the market as one of the first wearables to successfully merge fitness and fashion; we’ve revolutionised Flex 2 by making it swim-proof and adding more features in a design than is 30% smaller than the original. We broke new ground with Charge HR by making wrist-based heart rate accessible to millions of users around the world, and we’ve done it again with Charge 2, giving users a snapshot of their cardio fitness based on estimated VO2 Max.”

Fitbit, the world’s leading wearables company1, has reimagined Fitbit Charge HR, its most popular fitness wristband that was the first to bring continuous, automatic heart rate to your wrist. With a new, sleek look and an easy-to-read display that is four times larger than its predecessor, Charge 2 brings an experience that is more engaging, motivating and personal to help you reach your goals.

Top features include:

  • Innovations from PurePulse: Continuous heart rate tracking makes it easier to optimise workouts, better track calorie burn, and get a picture of your overall health. Charge 2 advances health and fitness tracking with two new impactful features that are powered by your personal heart rate:
    • Get a snapshot of your cardio fitness level: Automatically find out how fit you are with a personalised cardio fitness level and score, based on your estimated VO2 Max, that are calculated using your user profile, heart rate and exercise data. Plus, get guidance to take action and improve your score over time by increasing exercise frequency, intensity, or by reaching a healthier weight.
  • Relax with guided breathing sessions: Charge 2 offers a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind through personalised deep-breathing sessions called “Relax”. Beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate determine your personalised breathing rate. Two-and five-minute sessions display real-time heart rate visualisations, animations and vibrational cues to help you align each inhale and exhale with the guide, and find moments of calm throughout your day. Research has shown that developing a long-term guided breathing practice can have health benefits including reducing stress and anxiety, and lowering blood pressure.
  • Enhanced fitness experience: Get real-time, actionable exercise stats right on the display so you can make instant adjustments during your workouts and improve over time.
    • Multi-sport modes: Track specific workouts like runs, bike rides, weights, yoga and more, plus get post-exercise summaries and a detailed report of your activity in the Fitbit app.
    • Connected GPS: Links your fitness wristband with the GPS in your smartphone to provide even more precise and actionable real-time stats, like pace and distance when you’re running, while recording a map of your route in the app.
    • Interval workout mode: Guides you in alternating periods of high-intensity exercise and recovery to optimise workouts like circuit training so you can stay focused on your workout.
  • Smarter, easier all-day tracking: Advanced sensors make tracking your whole day effortless by automatically capturing all-day activity and sleep. SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition records everyday activities like walking, running, elliptical, and more with ease. Reminders to Move motivate you to stay active throughout the day.
  • Sleek, new design: The modular design and easy-to-read tap-sensitive display is four-times larger than Charge HR, letting you personalise a look that fits your style with interchangeable bands and clock faces – while keeping you connected with the smart notifications you need most.

“Ever since my days as a competitive athlete, staying healthy and fit has always been a top priority and I’ve built my life around those goals,” said Gabby Reece, athlete, model, mother, fitness leader and Fitbit ambassador.

“Fitbit Charge 2 is unique in that it gives me the tools and guidance for both. I not only have continuous visibility into my heart rate which gives me real insight into my overall health including workouts – but Fitbit built on that even further with access to my cardio fitness level. This new feature provides an estimate of my VO2 Max, which is something I only had access to in a lab during my pro days. But it’s Charge 2’s guided breathing sessions that really resonate with me as one of the most important things I do to improve my health and manage stress.”

Fitbit has enhanced its iconic and industry-defining tracker, Fitbit Flex, into an ultra-slim, swim-proof fitness wristband that can transform to fit your personal style with a variety of stylish new accessories. With smarter exercise features, Flex 2 effortlessly tracks your fitness and provides friendly motivation to help you stay active throughout your day.

Top features include:

  • Ultra-slim, minimalist design: Now 30% smaller, Flex 2 features a removable tracker and interchangeable slim, classic fitness bands in seven colours that are perfect for every day, hitting the gym or going for a swim.
  • Premium accessory options: Transform and customise Flex 2 in a variety of Fitbit-designed bracelets and pendants to best suit your style or activity. Choose from a range of luxe, premium mirror-finish bangles in silver stainless steel, and 22k-plated gold or rose gold stainless steel, or elegant lariat-style necklaces in silver stainless steel or 22k-plated gold stainless steel for an elevated look that fits seamlessly into your everyday life – from the office to a night out.
  • Swim-proof and automatic swim tracking: As Fitbit’s first swim-proof wristband, Flex 2 is water resistant up to 50 meters, whether you’re in the shower, pool or ocean, and automatically tracks your pool swims including laps, duration, and calories burned in the Fitbit App.
  • Effortless and automatic: Track your most important health and fitness stats, plus:
    • SmartTrack automatic exercise tracking recognises select workouts (walks, runs, rides, elliptical, sports, aerobic workouts, and now swims).
    • Reminders to Move help you stay active with friendly reminders to reach mini hourly step goals and reduce stationary time.
    • Personalised weekly exercise goals to help you embrace a consistent routine and stay motivated.
  • Smarter: A simple LED display uses colour-coded lights to show progress toward your daily goal, and keeps you connected with call and text notifications.

“Whether I’m working out, taking a class, rehearsing or running errands I want a device that is small, yet stylish, that I can match to whatever I’m wearing,” said Julianne Hough, dancer, singer, actress and Fitbit Ambassador. “Fitbit Flex 2 helps keep me motivated to hit my health and fitness goals and it’s even swim-proof, so I can truly get credit for everything I do in my day.”

Pricing and Availability

Charge 2 and Flex 2 will be available globally at major retailers in September and October, respectively. Pricing below is recommended retail pricing; pricing at retailers may vary.

  • Fitbit Charge 2 (R2,999.00) tracker with a classic fitness band in black, blue, plum or teal
    • Classic fitness accessory bands in four colours – sold separately
    • Luxe premium leather accessory bands in blush pink, brown, and indigo – sold separately
    • Special edition series in gunmetal and rose gold  – sold separately
  • Fitbit Flex 2 (R1,899.00) tracker with a classic fitness band in black, lavender, magenta or navy
    • Classic fitness accessory bands in seven on-trend shades of black, blush pink, grey, lavender, magenta, navy and yellow – sold separately
    • Bangle accessory in gold, rose gold and silver stainless steel – sold separately
    • Pendant accessory in gold and silver stainless steel – sold separately

Charge 2 and Flex 2 will be available in South Africa in selected colours at major retailers in September and October, respectively. Retail pricing and launch dates for accessory bands, special edition series and other accessories noted above from Fitbit will be confirmed at a later date.

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Project prepares Africa’s youth for the future

A partnership between the African Union and VMware is hoped to give new impetus to preparing Africa’s youth for the future, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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VMware’s Everline Wangu Kamau-Migwi and African Union Commissioner Sara Anyang Agbo at VMworld in Barcelona. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

The woman in the regal red dress and gold turban cuts a dramatic figure as she sweeps through the halls of the Fira Gan Via expo centre in Barcelona, Spain. She stands out in sharp contrast to thousands of hipsters in hoodies and businessmen in dark suits thronging the halls. But she is on a mission that will bring true relevance to the work of many of these conference delegates

She is Sara Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for HR, Science & Technology at the African Union Commission. Agbor is at the VMworld cloud conference to sign a memorandum of understanding with the event hosts, VMware. They are formalising a shared commitment to developing the next generation of digital leaders in Africa in a project called Virtualise Africa.

When Agbor began her career as as a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon in the early 2000s, the last thing she worried about was technological infrastructure. But fast forward a decade and a half, and she talks of little else.

Agbor is passionate about preparing Africa’s youth for the future. Her focus is still on education, but she discusses it in terms far removed from her PhD in English literature.

“Nelson Mandela said it very well, that education is the greatest weapon that can transform the world, but what kind of education are we talking about?” she poses the question after signing the memorandum. 

“We’re talking about the education that can lead to the future of work. It is no longer about us having degrees in history and degrees in English, etcetera. It is no longer important for kids to go to school, just for the sake of going to school and having certificates. It is very important for them to go to school that will give them jobs so that they can become job creators, rather than job seekers.”

To that end, VMware will work with the African Union to bring to the continent the VMware IT Academy, a network of educational institutions that provides students with access to learning certification opportunities and hands-on lab experiences with VMware technologies.

Delegates to VMworld in Barcelona pick up new skills. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

VMware is the world’s leading developer of software for managing data centres and businesses’ adoption of cloud computing, generally referred to as virtualisation. It is a strategic partner of cloud giants like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Oracle, which are all setting up data centres in South Africa, and creating thousands of jobs across the continent. As such, VMware technology skills and certification represent a direct path into careers that are tailor-made for the digital revolution sweeping the world.

Everline Wangu Kamau-Migwi, channel lead for VMware in East Africa, responsible for setting up the VMware IT Academy in the region, says that the agreement is an outcome of the company’s quest to use “technology as a force for good”.

“We asked how we as VMware can play a role in bridging the digital skills in in the African continent,” she says. “Hence Virtualise Africa was born, with a key mandate around education. We’ve partnered with learning institutions, starting with universities, a little over 30 in Africa, where we are now giving them material, learning resources, and labs, and they’re able to access this using a methodology called ‘train the trainer’. 

“It focuses on the faculty, on the staff, for sustainability of the program within the learning institutions. Appreciating the fact that VMware virtualisation is the core of cloud computing, this is a technology that is well-appreciated across Africa. But we find that we are not moving at the pace we need to, especially in the adoption of emerging technologies, because we don’t have those skills.

“VMware also has a huge ecosystem with both a partner and customer ecosystem. So we looked at how we can leverage this ecosystem and ensure that those students who are graduating are able to innovate, are employable, and can be enterprising while doing that.”

Globally, around 550 institutions are part of the programme, with the University of South Africa the first in this country coming on board. VMware also supplies licenses to several thousand institutions around the world to teach the curriculum with its products and solutions. 

Enter the African Union. It has 55 member states, and the bulk of their populations are youths.

“We call it a demographic asset,” says Agbor. “But this demographic asset can also be a demographic liability or a demographic time bomb, if we did not put in place the right resources to capture the mind of the African youth. Over 200 million African youth are unemployed. Many have certificates, but they do not have a job.

“As a result, there is no dream, there is no hope. So now they migrate, looking for the European dream, the Canadian dream or the American dream. But there is an African dream.” 

Read more about the AU’s agenda for 2063.

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Beware biometrics, and other digital dangers

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Traditional passwords nowadays are a weak point as data leaks happen quite often. More and more companies decide to change the approach and adopt biometrics. However, no one is immune to identity theft and there already have been several actual cases of losing biometric data.

To raise awareness on the topic and show that such data requires strong security regulations, cybersecurity company Kaspersky has distinguished several dangers of unsecured biometric data:

  1. Stranger-danger. In order to set face or touch recognition, the system usually requires one sample of a finger or a face. Hence, it is possible for a user to fail authorisation due to lighting conditions or such changes in their appearance as glasses, beards, make-up or aging. On the contrary, it allows cybercriminals to steal this sample and use it according to their malicious aims.
  2. A password for a lifetime. It is not a problem to change a password consisting of numbers and letters, but once you lose your biometric data you lose it forever. The problem with touch recognition can partially be solved by leaving only 2-4 fingerprints, leaving others for emergency cases, but it is still not safe enough.
  3. A digital locker. Existing «digital lockers» rely on cloud-based help – biometric matching usually happens on the server side. If successful, the server provides the decryption key to the client. That increases a risk of a massive data leak – a server hack might lead to the compromising of biometric data.
  4. Biometrics in real life. There are two cases when an ordinary person can encounter biometric authentication. Firstly, banks try to adopt palm scans on ATMs as well as voice authentication on phone-based service desks. Secondly, individual electronic devices use touch and face recognition. However, biometric security is not yet fully developed and there are such constraints as CPU power, sensor price and physical dimensions, so some users have to sacrifice system robustness – some devices can be fooled by a wet paper with fingerprints generated using an ordinary printer or gelatin cast.

To secure biometric data, Kaspersky has recommended:

  • employing stringent security measures against breaches of traditional logins;
  • for businesses it is needed to improve ATM design so as to prevent the installation of skimmers or establishing control over the security of ATM hardware and software. 

As for biometric identification technology in general, Kaspersky has recommended that, for now, it should be  using it as a secondary protection method that complements other security measures, but does not replace them completely.

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