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Ford buys into cloud Pivotal software

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Ford has announced an investment in Pivotal, a big data and cloud-based software platform company to further enhance its software development capabilities and deliver new features to customers more quickly. 

The $182.2 million investment in Pivotal aims to help drive Ford’s transition to an auto and a mobility company. Ford is continuing to focus on and invest in its core business – designing, manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing cars, SUVs, trucks and electrified vehicles. At the same time, the company is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility – its plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

“Expanding our business to be both an auto and mobility company requires leading-edge software expertise to deliver outstanding customer experiences,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “Our investment in Pivotal will help strengthen our ability to deliver these customer experiences at the speed of Silicon Valley, including continually expanding FordPass® – our digital, physical and personal mobility experience platform.”

The major share of Pivotal is owned by storage giant EMC, which was in turn bought by Dell Inc last year to form Dell Technologies – a new brand unveiled at EMC World in Las Vegas this week. GE also has a small share in Pivotal after an investment – a little smaller than Ford’s – made in 2013. Microsoft has also joined as an investor in Pivotal.

Ford recently teamed up with Pivotal to deliver FordPass, an innovative consume experience platform that launched last month. FordPass will offer new customer services, like remote access to vehicles through a smartphone app, and mobility solutions, such as parking and car sharing. Innovating and iterating quickly, Pivotal and Ford IT engineers are working side-by-side to create new consumer experiences for FordPass members.

Building on this existing relationship, Ford plans to accelerate the incorporation of Pivotal’s advanced software development methodologies and technology across the IT, product development, and research and advanced engineering teams. Ford will put Pivotal’s next-generation cloud platform and analytics capabilities to use on the company’s new mobility projects – such as its on-demand Dynamic Shuttle pilot program.

“Today we are at a major inflection point in global business, and Pivotal is at the fulcrum of that change,” said Rob Mee, Pivotal CEO. “We are collaborating with iconic companies like Ford to help transform their businesses with our unique software development methodology and modern cloud platform and analytics tools. We are thrilled to create a deeper partnership with Ford through this investment as we drive its evolution to becoming both an auto and mobility company – reinventing yet again how the world moves.”

Building more software expertise

Pivotal’s advanced software development methodologies and cloud platform complement Ford’s already strong embedded software capability that supports EcoBoost® engines, the SYNC® 3 connectivity system, driver-assist technologies like active park assist and more.

Software plays a growing role in new vehicles as demonstrated by the all-new F-150 that features more than 150 million lines of code, whereas a typical smartphone operating system has approximately 12 million lines. Engineers are capitalizing on software to deliver precise control over aspects of vehicle performance such as engine and transmission calibration to improve fuel economy and for the connectivity experience by giving customers hands-free access to their smartphones through SYNC 3.

In fact, the very success of EcoBoost engine technology can be attributed to software. Software is the secret sauce to the fuel efficiency EcoBoost delivers because it allows engineers to maximize the use of each drop of fuel at a molecular level. Ford has 275 patents on EcoBoost technology and another 200 pending, with a large majority covering aspects of software controls and calibration.

“Investing in Pivotal builds on our current strengths in software development,” said Marcy Klevorn, Ford vice president and CIO, who will join the board of directors at Pivotal. “We plan to quickly add new state-of-the-art software engineering capabilities across the Ford enterprise.”

In addition, Ford and Pivotal plan to open new software labs in strategic locations in both the United States and Europe. The labs will be staffed with software architects, engineers and user experience experts – all using Pivotal’s advanced software development methodology. Ford’s investment in Pivotal is subject to customary regulatory approval.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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