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Smart home is with us

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fridges, TVs and in some cases, full automation, they are becoming more and more realistic, writes RIAAN GRAHAM, Sales Director for Ruckus, sub-Saharan Africa.

In today’s crazy technology age, we are seeing many developments being incorporated into the home from smart fridges, lighting, CCTV cameras, smart TVs and mirrors. In some parts of the world, we are even seeing automation being fully integrated into the home.

Residents are connecting more devices in their home from laptops to smartphones, gaming systems, and other smart home devices. They want a connected home where wireless services link every aspect of their work and play together, and property owners are looking at ways to ensure this is all provided to the home owner.

While full home automation has not been high on the average house hunter’s priority list, things are about to change – just look at the stats.

In 2016, 80 million smart home devices were delivered world-wide – a 64% increase from 2015, according to IHS Markit. What’s more, the global smart home market was valued at around USD $24.10 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD $53.45 billion in 2022, growing at a CAGR of slightly above 14.5% between 2017 and 2022. The Middle East and Africa is also expected to be one of the fastest growing regional markets for smart homes in the coming years, where the major growth drivers include awareness among consumers for energy consumption, on-demand services and rising disposable income. This is changing expectations all round.

Property Developers Have their Work Cut Out for Them 

As a property developer or investor, you invest a lot of resources to provide a great living experience in your multi-dwelling units (MDUs). But whether it’s student housing, luxury apartment complexes, assisted living or other properties, your residents expect more today. They no longer see you as just the landlord, they also want you to be their network service provider. That means supporting a large number of smart devices, demanding video and gaming services, and other high-bandwidth wireless applications. This means making the network experience just as reliable as residents’ water, heat and electricity.

That’s a lot of technical challenges to overcome. But your residents don’t want to hear about how hard it is to provide great Wi-Fi in places with thousands of devices, large indoor/outdoor coverage areas and multi-story buildings. All they know is that the property down the street offers free Wi-Fi. Does yours?

Network access rolled into the rent sounds great to residents. This is becoming a major driving decision for people to determine if they would like to move or stay in their current residence. However, wireless dreams can quickly turn to nightmares – for both residents and the business – if the Wi-Fi isn’t simple, reliable and secure. A resident’s love for Wi-Fi will quickly turn to hate if connecting their devices is a chore, or if they have to constantly provide credentials to log back onto the network. If residents are relying on the property owner for Wi-Fi, it needs to be protecting their sensitive traffic.

As a (property owner) Wi-Fi provider, one should look at the following:

  • To deliver high-performance across hundreds of units and thousands of users – even in environments with mixed indoor/outdoor spaces and varying construction material
  • To deploy access points and wireless solutions that support more simultaneous devices and higher-bandwidth applications, even in challenging residential environments. Patented BeamFlex+ antenna technology adapts for interference and other wireless challenges automatically to provide consistent connections to every device and user
  • To look for simple, secure on-boarding management so that Wi-Fi doesn’t have to be more complicated than any other utility on your property. Find a solution where residents can connect any device, anywhere on the property in seconds, through a branded self-service portal. They can log on once and never have to do anything again. And they can do it all through a platform that protects every connection with the strongest wireless encryption

In the multi-dwelling housing market, amenities are king! This message is consistent across the board within condos, student housing and assisted living management organisations where everyone understands that potential tenants want one thing: amenities. In today’s world, the number one tenant amenity is Wi-Fi. Whether it is a young professional who works from home, a student accessing course content, or senior citizens needing to communicate with health care providers, they all have one thing in common: the need to stay connected.

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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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