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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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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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