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Put the You in Unified

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Unified communications have failed to deliver as enterprises struggle to break down the barriers between disparate systems, and workers struggle to make themselves heard due to disjointed processes. Avaya’s DANNY DREW explains a better way.

Much like Mark Twain, reports of the death of the unified communications (UC) market have been greatly exaggerated: Gartner is predicting that the UC market will grow from$40.2 billion in 2016 to $42.4 billion by 2019, as companies continue to invest in digital transformation initiatives.

True, the bulky hardware solutions that have sat in offices – often in disparate systems with little or no connectivity to each other, a video conferencing system here, a telephony system there – are disappearing, as enterprises look for ways of adapting to new technology trends.  In a recent survey of IT managers, business owners, employees and users, Avaya found that the ideal UC experience should include many capabilities necessary to support next-generation business.

A key issue was the need to integrate UC functionality into existing collaboration tools and third-party apps – and ideally, directly within a browser for easier use and greater interoperability. Another desire was for greater compatibility:  users are looking for “360-degree” mobility, independent from the device used. Finally, people were looking for a quick response capacity across the organization– the capability to make informed decisions that accelerate operations and positively impact customer experience.

The problem with too many existing UC systems is that they fail to deliver on the unified part – as long as companies struggle to break the barriers between non-heterogeneous systems, the UC experience will remain unfortunately a dream. While the goal is to maximize productivity, if employees aren’t able to complete their work where, when and how they want, UC solutions will fail to deliver. The multitude of real-time and non-real-time communications methods used by workers typically require disruptive processes, with workers forced to leave business applications to communicate.

Avaya has realized that the UC experience will never be what a company expects, if it doesn’t meet these human needs – the individuals that are ultimately at the heart of the digital transformation process. The true UC experience adapts to how people work; it doesn’t make them change how they work.

The Avaya Equinox solution, now already available, answers all these questions. A platform that includes all the functionality of voice communications, video conferencing, and collaboration into a single platform that can also enclose and add third-party systems and platforms, we believe Equinox is finally fulfilling the long-sought promise of UC.

Equinox not only delivers greater autonomy to companies – it gives their workers the freedom to decide how to work better. The result is not just a new UC platform – it puts the person at the center of digital transformation.

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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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