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Mobile security aims at the globetrotter

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The first step in securing any transaction made from a mobile device, especially when traveling lies in the device’s software, writes AJAY BHALLA, President for Enterprise Security at Mastercard,

Thanks to advances in technology, the travel experience – compared to only a few years ago – is faster, simpler and more convenient. We book airline tickets, hotel stays, and call an Uber quickly and easily with a simple click on websites or in apps, paying with credit or debit cards. And, once on the road, we use our mobiles to check-in, access boarding passes, and receive updates on any changes to our plans.

Indeed, thanks to improved network coverage, more affordable data roaming options, and the proliferation of free Wi-Fi, travelers are increasingly tapping into the power of their smartphones wherever they are in the world. In fact, research indicates that 80 percent of travelers now use their smartphone while overseas.

With more connected devices, travelers are becoming an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals, raising the chances of them being affected by fraud. This heightened risk, paired with research finding 77 percent of cardholders extremely concerned with false declines when traveling, demonstrates the need of having systems in place that can enable secure payments and ensure a safe travel experience. The key to the success of these systems lie in our phones.

This means that mobile phones can unlock unexpected benefits for digital payments. One benefit is the digital wallet, which simplifies the digital payment landscape both domestically and internationally. Digital wallets are a one-stop payment source, which enables consumers to shop whether online, in app and now in-store with contactless in multiple countries. Behind the scenes, smartphones can now also use location information to verify user identity to ensure a smoother travel experience.

For example, few things can be as irritating as stepping off a plane in a foreign country and having a card payment declined because you forgot to notify the bank of your travel plans. While the bank is attempting to manage fraud, a blocked transaction at a critical moment and in an unfamiliar place is not just an inconvenience, it can feel like a lifeline being cut. However, new technology allows mobile phones to verify your location, reducing the chances of your card being falsely declined.

The advantages are not confined to the consumer. These and other technologies are helping banks and retailers avoid lost business and dented consumer confidence.

Studies indicate that one in four cardholders never use a card again if it is falsely declined, while one in four use it less. To put the current situation into perspective, in the U.S., the value of false declines per year recently hit $118 billion – more than 13 times the total amount lost annually to actual card fraud ($9 billion), research from Javelin shows.

So, it’s crucial that security measures are wielded accurately so that payments are not only safer but smarter, too. This also means that using multiple layers of security is paramount.

Further solutions enable banks, retailers and travelers to exchange vital purchasing information which is used to evaluate the risk of a current transaction. By considering transaction risk levels and consumer behavior patterns, the chances of a card being falsely declined is reduced regardless of location.

Together with location alerts from mobile phones, these tools provide card issuers with greater insight and control, to ensure the right decision are made and improve the travel experience.

Meanwhile, mobile technologies are also helping consumers take greater oversight of their spending while abroad. Smartphones can deliver real-time alerts so travelers can set spending limits and turn on and off credit or debit at certain merchants or within certain geographies.

It’s clear that we are now only just scratching the surface of the possibilities the smartphones can unlock for a generation on the move. And as we continue to see advances in geolocation technologies and biometrics, digital transactions will continue to become safer, simpler and more convenient wherever we are, every time we make a payment.

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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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