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Fitbit Versa comes to SA

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Earlier this week, Fitbit announced the Versa smartwatch – the company’s lightest smartwatch to date, featuring a battery life of up to four days and cross platform capability.

Fitbit this week launched the new Versa smartwarch globally, including in South Africa. The Versa is available at Makro, Incredible Connection, Dion Wired, Dis-Chem, Totalsports, Due South, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cape Union Mart and Takealot for R3 199. It is Fitbit’s lightest metal smartwatch yet, featuring advanced health and fitness features, more than four days battery life, and cross platform compatibility.  

Beginning in May, these new Fitbit features will be available:  

  • Quick replies: Android mobile device users can respond to messages on the go using Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Ionic  smartwatches, and create and send up to five custom pre-populated quick replies of 60 characters or less to text messages and messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
  • Female health tracking: Available to all adult users who identify as female in the Fitbit app to track their menstrual cycle and symptoms. Versa and Ionic users will also be able to view female health tracking information on-device. 

“We’re thrilled for consumers around the world to experience Versa, a beautifully designed smartwatch for all with advanced health and fitness features, access to our large global social network and smart features people find most useful at an approachable price,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “We believe Versa is a smartwatch that will have mass appeal, attracting new audiences and helping us capture a previously untapped segment of users in this growing wearables category.”

Fitbit provided the following information:

Powered by Fitbit OS 2.0, Versa makes your daily and weekly health and fitness data even more accessible on the go with a redesigned dashboard, which delivers action-oriented motivational messages, tips and tricks, and support to help you stay on track to reach your goals. Advanced health and fitness features include personalised on-device workouts with Fitbit Coach, enhanced 24/7 PurePulse® heart rate tracking, 15+ exercise modes plus automatic SmartTrack™ swim tracking with water resistance up to 50 meters, and automatic sleep stages tracking.

“The new features of the Versa will provide consumers with a lifestyle companion that caters to fitness needs and overall well-being support,” said Vincent Lamoureux, Director of New Markets of Fitbit. “It is designed to focus on fitness in addition to aspects relating to health, which will help consumers lead a holistic, healthful lifestyle. This is why we believe the Versa is the smartwatch for all.”  

In addition to new quick replies for Android users, Versa has the smart features you need including: app, calendar, call and text smartphone notifications; access to Fitbit’s growing App Gallery, now with more than 700 popular brand, developer and Fitbit Labs apps, and customisable clock faces; and on-device music for more motivation with access to Deezer, and personal music playlists. All of these features come with 4+ days battery life,iii and, like all Fitbit devices, Versa is compatible across Android, iOS and Windows devices. 

Pricing and availability 

Fitbit Versa is available today at global retail partner stores worldwide. The device is also available for sale at Fitbit.com and major online retailers for R3,199 (ZAR) in black with a black aluminum case, gray with a silver aluminum case, or peach with a rose gold aluminum case; accessories range from R499 – R1499 (ZAR). Fitbit Versa Special Edition is available for R3,699 (ZAR) in a lavender woven band with rose gold aluminum case or charcoal woven band with graphite aluminum case, each with an extra black classic band. 

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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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