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At a time of more focus than ever on the protection of children, the digital world becomes ever more dangerous. Two devices could help change that, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It is deeply ironic that, the more options parents have for keeping their children safe through the use of technology, the more vulnerable their children become.

It doesn’t help that many kids are more tech-savvy than their parents, but that is more of an excuse than a reason for parents to abdicate responsibility for their children’s digital lives.  The real issue is that the seemingly simple process of finding the right phone for a child – in terms of budget, style and capabilities – has become absurdly complex.

And then, once a phone is handed to the child, the parent is usually clueless about how to set it up, how to limit activities and types of access, and how to configure parental control functions.

The solution lies in stylish devices that are designed for children without detracting from their experience and even self-image.

Two gadgets launched in South Africa in the last two weeks address exactly these questions.

KidTech: Huawei P8 Lite adapted for children

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The first, from a new South African company called KidTech, sensibly uses an existing phone, but adapts it extensively for children’s use. The base phone is a Huawei P8 Lite, a stylish, mid-range handset that has already been successful in South Africa for the past two years.

A 2017 edition, released last year, brings the phone up to date for current apps, while the KidTech adaptation makes it relevant, safe and fun for children. It is provided on a Telkom Mobile contract, and comes with parental controls that sort out these deceptively complex tasks:

  • blocks harmful websites and apps;
  • protects children from cyber-bullying and sexually-inappropriate behaviour;
  • allows parents to control when and how the cellphone is used;
  • tracks kids’ whereabouts at any time;
  • sends alerts when the user leaves a designated area, like home or school.

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“The idea came from witnessing arguments about cellphones between kids who want cellphones and parents who are worried about their kids being exposed to all the negatives that cellphones can introduce,” says Antony Seeff, CEO of KidTech.

The company is a subsidiary of the cellphone account management company, Tariffic, and was started by its executive team.

“KidTech has selected a suite of apps which have been pre-installed and pre-configured to ensure that parents need not worry about their kids online,” says Seeff.  “One app helps parents identify if their kids are being the victims of cyberbullying by monitoring all WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger messages and alerting parents the moment certain bullying keywords are used.”

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Nic Botes, KidTech co-founder, says the software is pivotal in preventing bullying and sexually-inappropriate conversations. And it goes further than conversations.

“Photos taken on the phone are also backed up and shared with parents, so they can identify any worrying behaviour before its too late,” says Botes.

KidTech also drew on Tariffic’s 12-year track record and expertise in identifying ideal contracts for specific needs. Usually geared to companies trying to make their staff accounts more cost-effective, Tariffic’s system was used to identify the perfect cellphone contract for kids.

The R249-a-month top-up contract comes with 1GB of data and free WhatsApp use.  Parents can also top up the account with prepaid airtime or data, allowing tight control of bills.

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“The stories that we’re hearing about what young kids are getting up to on their cellphones are frightening”, says Toma Batev, a  KidTech co-founders. “There are many reports of kids under 10 sending nude photos of themselves, and becoming suicidal after being cyber-bullied online. Parents need to be able to protect their children from these dangers.

“Not giving children phones is not a realistic answer. Rather give them the right phones with the correct safeguards and protections.”

Aside from the customised phone, KidTech has has also created a website, http://www.ismychildbeingcyberbullied.co.za, to help with the wider cyber-bullying problem.

* Visit www.kidtech.co.za for more information

Connected MoveTime Family Watch MT30

TCL-MOVETIME-Family-Watch-MT30

Ensuring the safety of children is also the motivation behind a new smartwatch designed for younger kids. The MoveTime  Family Watch MT30 was created by TCL Communication, the company that also produces Alcatel and BlackBerry phones.

It is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip, developed to allow any manufacturer to make small wearable devices. It takes forward Qualcomm’s own vision for the Snapdragon Wear platform, geared to a “new generation of wearable devices designed just for kids”, as the chipmaker put it.

Qualcomm, which announced the platform last year, explained the motivation: “These 3G or 4G LTE connected kid smartwatches can empower a child with a sense of independence, while giving mom and dad some peace of mind with an always-connected device that provides an age appropriate user experience.”

Devices based on the platform were exhibited by Qualcomm at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in January, making it all the more surprising that the first gadgets based on the platform have already arrived in South Africa.

Says Ernst Wittmann, TCL’s regional manager for Southern and East Africa, “TCL’s Movetime Family Watch MT30 combines the robust technology of Snapdragon Wear 2100 with TCL’s design and manufacturing expertise to deliver a connected rich and fun experience for kids and peace of mind for parents, It offers seamless connectivity and reliable safety features to help parents monitor their children’s safety in a fun, feature filled watch.”

The watch has a colourful touchscreen, which makes it both enjoyable and easy for young children to use. Aside from playing built-in games, it allows them to add friends through Bluetooth, and to send them emoji icons and messages.

While instant text messaging is not possible on the device, it allows parents and children to exchange voice messages and to make calls. Eight pre-determined numbers can be set on the watch, and the child can make and receive voice calls, using just this device, to and from those numbers. Calls to and from strangers are, therefore, not possible.

The MT30 promises two days of battery life on a single charge, and it is IP67 rated for water resistance up to one metre deep. It is also dust-proof, making it a great playground companion.

GPS functionality allows for location features, which provide parents with instant indoor and outdoor positioning via an app on their own phones, as well as geofencing, meaning they are alerted when the child leaves designated areas. A prominent SOS button allows the child to call for help in an emergency simply by pressing the button – and parents can then also locate the child instantly.

Startlingly, the watch is also a productivity gadget: it provides to-do lists, with reminder functions, both to ensure kids do chores and homework, and remember events or appointments. It also helps teach kids time management.

The MoveTime Family Watch is available on contract at R149 per month, including a SIM card in the watch, or R2699 as a prepaid purchase.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Car buyers to start abandoning fuel-power by 2025

Car buyers in the United States and Europe expect electric vehicles to become a viable alternative to fuel-powered cars in the next five years.

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A new report outlining consumer expectations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and their viability as replacements for traditional fuel-powered cars or internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles suggests a massive shift beginning in 2025.

The conclusion emerges from a report by human behaviour and analytics firm Escalent, entitled The Future of BEV: How to Capture the Hearts and Minds of Consumers. It reveals the intent of many consumers in the United States and Europe to abandon ICE vehicles altogether, citing the improved infrastructure and range of BEVs.

The Future of BEV gives auto and mobility manufacturers a strategic view of the benefits of their products in the eyes of consumers and highlights the areas of opportunity for automakers to push the innovation boundaries of BEVs to spur broad adoption of the technology.

“While most buyers don’t plan to choose BEVs over gasoline-powered cars within the next five years, consumers have told us there is a clear intention to take BEVs seriously in the five years that follow,” says Mark Carpenter, joint managing director of Escalent’s UK office. “However, manufacturers will need to tap into the emotional value of BEVs rather than just the rational and functional aspects to seize on that intent and inspire broader consumer adoption.”

The study demonstrates a significant shift in consumers’ expectations that BEVs will become viable alternatives to—and competitors with—ICE vehicles over the coming decade. Though 70% of Americans plan to buy a gasoline-powered car within the next year, just 37% expect to make that same purchase in five to ten years. Similarly, while 50% of European consumers favour buying vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel in the near-term, that figure drops to just 23% in five to ten years.

At the same time, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic see BEV adoption rising to 36% in Europe and 16% in the US, with respondents also indicating intent to purchase hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars.

Infrastructure clearly continues to be one of the biggest barriers to adoption. While some work is being done in Europe as well as in the US, the data show there is a significant need for some players to take ownership if manufacturers want to move the needle on BEV adoption.

US and European consumers have stark differences in opinion as to which entities they believe are primarily responsible for providing BEV charging stations. American consumers consider carmakers (45%) the primary party responsible, followed by fuel companies, local government/transport authorities, and the national government in fourth. On the other hand, European consumers view the national government (29%) as the primary party responsible for providing BEV infrastructure, followed by carmakers, local government/transport authorities and fuel companies.

For a full copy of the report, visit https://landing.escalent.co/download-the-future-of-bev.

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New cell phone to help with dementia and memory loss

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A new cell phone that takes simplicity to the extreme is designed to address the unique needs of people with dementia and other forms of memory loss. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone, developed by RAZ Mobility, a provider of mobile assistive technology, was launched this week. The handset is also well-suited for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s dementia, with one in ten people over the age of 65 diagnosed with the disease. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase rapidly as the proportion of the population 65 and older increases. The American Psychiatric Association reports that approximately one percent of the population has an intellectual disability.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone consists of one primary screen, and one screen only. It is always on and includes pictures and names of up to six contacts and a button to call 911. That’s it! There are no applications or settings to cause confusion. No notifications or operating system updates. No distractions. Users can simply tap and hold the picture of the person they wish to call.

Caregivers manage the RAZ Memory Cell Phone through a simple online portal. The portal is used to create and edit the contacts, track the location of the phone/user and select certain options, such as the option to restrict incoming calls to people in the user’s contacts, thereby avoiding unwanted calls such as predatory robocalls.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone can now be ordered at https://www.razmobility.com/solutions/memory-cellphone/.

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