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Kid’s stuff

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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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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

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

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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