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The new mining industry: Big Data?

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Big Data is affecting companies of all sizes. However, many of them do not know how to properly mine important information it. Microsoft hopes to change this through an art exhibition that demonstrates how Big Data tools can be used to make sense of seemingly meaningless information.

Microsoft South Africa believes that the current South African business environment represents an important growth opportunity for the mining of data for firms seeking a competitive edge.

“Many people are talking about data becoming the new business currency,” says Kelly Husband, Microsoft South Africa’s Data Platform Product Marketing Manager. “Trending terms like Big Data, Internet of Things and Predictive Analytics are all buzz words in the market but the essence of what we are seeing is really the importance of data – existing data, new data, new insights from data, faster insights from data, and predictive analysis from data.”

Microsoft SA, through familiar technology tools such as Excel and SQL, is able to offer an unparalleled experience to businesses unlocking actionable insights with the ingestion and analysis of data.

Companies such as Tracker, a leading vehicle tracking company in South Africa, has been leveraging the data collected through the nodes in their customer database of vehicles to provide insights to organisations such as Navigation companies, Insurance companies, and Emergency Services.

“With the use of already installed vehicle tracking devices, we are able to track the live movements of vehicles around the country, segmenting the data down to the side-streets of the city we can predict traffic issues, map traffic incidents and even help define the state of the roads. The possibilities are endless to help organisations like to improve the quality of our roads or reroute emergency services to help improve emergency response time,” says Wayne De Nobrega CEO of Tracker South Africa.

“The impact that the analysis and understanding of the data on hand can have on business is already redefining the way businesses are operating in the country. Through the analysis and visualisation of the data, we have been able to effect change and impact the way we offer services to our customers and our partners.”

In order to showcase the evolving role of data in business Microsoft South Africa launched an art exhibition last night at the Mr Price Court in Sandton City, which showcases the work of six young artists. Artists were commissioned to create pieces of artwork that illustrated what Big Data means to them as well as the potential it possesses to boost a business’s performance and bottom line.

Through the use of the art exhibition, Microsoft South Africa hopes to educate businesses and consumers about the possibilities that could be unleashed with Big Data, how the information available through analysis has the potential to empower business and the consumer.

The art exhibition, on display at the Mr Price Court in Sandton City, will be open to the public for a two week period as of 19 June.

For the piece entitled Cloud, Kgosietsile Ramorola (20) used a mirror and light to illustrate how Big Data tools can be used to make sense of seemingly meaningless information. “My idea is to use light from the top to get the image that you are looking for. So the mirror works as a Microsoft tool, taking the image or information that’s at an awkward angle and displaying it on the wall in a clearer, bigger and easier to understand way.”

21 year old Njabulo Mziyane explains his train of thought when coming up with his artwork entitled Fly on the wall: “I thought of how much data is used every day and decided to amplify the amount of data, by taking something small and making it seem a lot bigger. With magnification as the tool, it demonstrates how a small amount of data can make a huge difference.”

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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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