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Get a share of solar

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FedGroup has recently launched its shared ownership system where investors receive a physical asset to generate income.

Independent financial services provider FedGroup has launched a shared ownership system as part of its effort to disrupt traditional approaches to wealth creation. Unlike traditional wealth creation approaches, where money is invested, this model involves the ownership of a physical asset to generate income.

The first project under this banner allows members of the public to own one or more solar panels that form part of a larger solar facility, located on the roofs of commercial and industrial buildings. The panels can be purchased on FedGroup’s online platform and are then installed on suitable sites, with the owners receiving a monthly rental income based on the power generated by the panels. FedGroup then collects and pays over the rental income to the panel owners.

The direct ownership network operates on the peer-to-peer model, where the landlords of sites, the providers and installers of the solar panels, and those wishing to own the panels are connected.

“FedGroup is always looking to implement the latest technology to drive down fees and maximise returns for our clients,” says Grant Field, CEO of FedGroup. “Therefore, introducing direct ownership for wealth creation to the South African market is a logical progression in terms of our product offering. Through the use of technology, we are able to actively track the performance of the panels, which translates into money generated for the owner.

“Our pilot project indicates that panel owners can expect to receive an internal rate of return on the purchase price in excess of 11% per annum, over the 20-year lifespan of the project. Because it is a green project, they can also apply for tax benefits, to further boost their returns. At the end of the 20-year term, owners can take physical ownership of the panel, or sell it back at a guaranteed residual value of R1 000.”

While the buyer owns the asset, FedGroup is tasked with the management, maintenance, insurance and optimisation of the panels.

“Because the rental income is calculated according to the performance of the panels, they would produce more on sunny days than on cloudy ones, but the sunny South African climate and our particularly high irradiance levels add to the profitability of this project,” says Field. “The returns are secured through a contract with the building owner to pay a monthly fee, determined by the amount of electricity generated. The money collected from the building owner every month is then distributed to the owners.”

Owners are able to track the performance of their panels online at any time. Because the panels are physically owned, FedGroup will soon be introducing a convenient secondary market to provide liquidity for anyone wishing to sell their solar asset.

The installation of solar panels also has several advantages for building owners, particularly in the case of older buildings, as many of them still bear the legacy of being energy inefficient, having been built at a time when electricity was cheap. Through this initiative, building owners now have an added incentive to retrofit their buildings with energy-efficient technology and turn the unused space on their roofs into profitable assets.

In addition to solar panels, FedGroup is also in the process of bringing other direct ownership opportunities to market.

“Each project is chosen on merit,” says Field. “We chose solar generation as our first project because we recognised the trend towards environmental sustainability in consumers’ purchasing behaviour. In addition, consumers understand solar power generation, making it a suitable product for the introduction of the concept of direct ownership.

“The beauty of the direct ownership model is that it can be applied to an almost limitless array of underlying assets, and we have a number of very exciting projects in the pipeline,” says Field. “While the asset being sold will differ, the model of direct ownership for wealth creation will remain consistent.”

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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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