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How to harness the IoT to track your assets

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As more devices become connected, businesses are exploring the opportunity to harness the IoT to protect and track their assets – everything from livestock to plant equipment, but this will need more than just a device, writes REINHARDT VAN ROOYEN, Innovation Strategist at Jasco.

At present, business IoT deployments focus on monitoring, measuring and control, but new use cases are being developed all the time as companies begin to IoT-enable legacy devices and systems alongside new environments. Asset tracking has long been vital to organisations and IoT provides a welcome new way to enhance the efficiency of these systems.

IoT-enablement can mitigate and minimise tangible losses such as theft and vandalism, but can also help address the intangible losses companies experience when assets are not fully or properly utilised. This makes IoT a very compelling value proposition for a wide variety of applications.

*   Right now, IoT devices are being used in the agricultural sector to monitor the health of calving cows, alerting farmers just before they give birth. This has led to a large reduction in complications in calving and increased the number of successful births.

*   IoT devices are also being dropped into shipping packages or containers, alerting the package owner to its location and providing information on its status.

*   In vehicle tracking, IoT devices now monitor driver behaviour, alerting fleet managers via the cloud of speeding or other transgressions. This information influences driver behaviour, reducing risk.

*   For critical or high value assets, a properly designed IoT solution can provide a deterrent to theft, offer critical information about the actual event for investigative purposes, and offer options for recovery after the fact. The data will also enable companies to compile risk profiles for different types of assets in different scenarios, allowing them to change the way they operate to minimise their exposure to the risk factors.

The technology can be easy to apply. Tracking devices come in a large range of configurations, ranging from small battery-operated devices that can be attached or integrated into an asset, or built directly into the asset. Each deployment can be customized to the operating requirements of the asset. This includes the granularity of the information gathered or transmitted, how often updates are sent and what actions to take when an alert is triggered. The IoT device communicates via one or more networks, ranging from low-power, low-range local networks to low-power Wide Area and Cellular networks. However, a successful deployment will depend on more than just the performance of the technology – to be useful and to provide immediate value, IoT data needs to be integrated into existing systems.

This means that companies should look for an IoT solution, not just a device. It is recommended that a partner IoT with experience assists to identify and provide the technology and integration skills needed, helping to you design, deploy, maintain and customise your solution.

The flexibility of the technology means companies can start small, deploying a few IoT devices on valuable assets, and then expand the rollout as the benefits are realised. In fact, organisations will find that IoT enablement keeps giving back in unexpected ways – the power that IoT unlocks is greatly increased when the data from a device is linked to other systems, such as an inventory management or route optimisation system.

As IoT grows, there is significant opportunity to perform better risk management and increase operating efficiencies. Now is the time to explore this technology. I believe that companies that start now, will position themselves well to gain advantage in their industry sectors.

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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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