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IFA 2015: Withings gets Spotify’s wake-up call

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Withings has announced a partnership with Spotify to offer its Aura users a wake up and sleep experience. Aura is the first connected alarm clock compatible with Spotify Connect, that  allows  access  to  its  catalogue  of  over  30 million songs.

For  an  even  more  personalised experience,  Withings  is developing  a  system  of recommendation  to  their users based  on playlists  effectiveness  on  waking  and  falling asleep. Also,  Aura will  now  be  available  on  two devices:  the  new Aura Connected  Alarm Clock  and  the  Aura  Total  Sleep System,  adding  a sleep sensor to the bedside device to analyse one’s sleep cycles.

According to a sleep study conducted by Withings, 73% of UK respondents say a bad wake up can have a very negative effect on their day. To help start the day, energised users are gradually woken up with the blue melatonin light and Spotify music. The light helps to make users more alert and the music can be chosen and selected from any of the Spotify playlists.

Users with the sleep sensor, which focuses on understanding personal patterns such as body movements, breathing cycles and heart rate, can choose to trust the Aura to wake them up at the most beneficial time of their sleep cycle.

The Withing Aura is the perfect bedside companion when it comes to sleep, mixing the benefits of light therapy and sleep‐dedicated playlists from Spotify. To fall asleep in the best conditions, Aura combines the benefits of light therapy and music specifically designed for sleep. The red light scattered by the Aura is the only light not inhibiting melatonin secretion, and thus helps the user to fall asleep gradually. Colourful noises, nature sounds or relaxing music, as many playlists as Spotify adds to its library available from Aura to sleep on a progressive program of 20 minutes. Some coloured noises are known to have a real impact on sleep, such as pink noise regulating the brain waves and optimising sleep.

Spotify  provides  users  with  the  best  music  for  every  moment  and  to  compliment this, Withings  has  created  a dedicated Spotify account (available  here:  Withings),  which suggests the best music to wake up and to fall asleep to. This  is  only  a  first step,  Withings will eventually provide  a  recommendation  system  directly  available  in  the  Health Mate application.  Suggestions will combine  the  user’s  musical  tastes  and  the  efficiency  of given  music  in  helping similar users fall asleep or get out of bed, based on aggregated data from Aura Sleep Sensors worldwide.

Cedric  Hutchings  from  Withings  says:  “By  combining  environmental  sensors,  light therapy and our partnership with Spotify we can help  people  get  the  better  start  they deserve  and  attack  the  day  energised  after a  sound night’s sleep.”

A new range of Smart Alarm Clocks. 

The Aura range now has two products: Aura Connected Alarm Clock and Total Sleep System.

Aura Connected Alarm Clock 

‐ Aura Alarm clock

‐ Wake up and sleep Programs

‐ Environmental parameters of the room

‐ Spotify Service and web radios

‐ RRP: £149.95

‐ Available on Amazon and www.withings.com

Aura Total Sleep System

‐ Aura alarm clock + sensor

‐ Wake up and sleep Programs

‐ Environmental parameters of the room

‐ Sleep Sensor analysing nights

‐ Spotify Service and web radios

‐ RRP: £249.95

‐ Available on www.withings.com and partners

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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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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