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Something on the Side: Improved accuracy with Apple’s Pencil

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In his overview of the latest tech accessories, SEAN BACHER highlights Apple’s Pencil, Plugz Bluetooth Earbuds, Logitech G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse, Dynamic Virtual Viewer and the BSX LVL fitness tracker.

Apple Pencil

Although pens or pencils for tablets are nothing new, Apple’s pressure sensitive Pencil offers a touch of style to the tablet. It was designed to work specifically with the recently launched iPad Pro, meaning that the iPad’s screen recognises when the Pencil is in use and becomes more sensitive and accurate than when using normal fingers. When the Pencil is in use the screen automatically blocks out any other screen inputs, so users can rest their hands on the display and draw or write much like they would do with an ordinary pen and paper. The Pencil’s battery status is shown on the iPad’s screen and it is charged directly through the tablet’s Thunderbolt port.

Stockists: www.zastore.co.za

Expect to pay: R2 000

 

Plugz Bluetooth Earbuds

As the name suggests, the Plugz Bluetooth Earbuds connect to most Bluetooth phones and tablets. The earbuds include a magnetic control that clips to a shirt or collar, and it can be used to control volume, answer calls or skip tracks. Although these earbuds are advertised as being wireless, they are not entirely so. Running from the left and right earbud are wires that connect to the control unit, so wires will still get caught and earbuds accidentally yanked from ears. Included with the Plugz are three interchangeable ear tips – allowing the listener to find the size that fits his or her ear.

Stockists: www.takealot.com

Expect to pay: R500

 

Logitech G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse

The Logitech G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse is designed to offer long-lasting comfort thanks to its lightweight, ergonomic design. Rubber grips on the left and right sides give gamers added control and the 10g removable weight lets one adjust the mouse’s weight. The G403 mouse has button tensioning that helps keep the left and right buttons primed to click, reducing the force required to click and delivering improved responsiveness. The mouse can be used directly out-of-the-box or, with the included software, users can fully customise lighting, button functions and DPI settings.

Stockists: Most electronics retail outlets nationwide.

Expect to pay: R1 000

 

Dynamic Virtual Viewer

The Dynamic Virtual Viewer is a virtual reality headset that works with most newer smartphones and, unlike other VR headsets, uses a fan to keep the smartphone from overheating during long periods of use. Once it is connected to the phone, users can watch videos in full VR and play VR games. Automatic eye distance and focal adjustment mechanisms are provided to give an optimal viewing experience with little strain on the eyes. The headset also uses anti-misting lenses and offers a headphone jack.

Stockists: www.gammatek.co.za

Expect to pay: R500

 

BSX LVL fitness tracker and hydration monitor

Fitness trackers have got to the point where most of them perform the same functions. However, while the BSX LVL fitness tracker monitors all the usual stuff like steps taken, heart rate and sleep cycles, it goes one further and measures the wearer’s hydration level. It is able to do this because of its near-infrared light or NIRS, which is said to be able to “look” 10 times deeper into the body than the standard green light found on other trackers. This allows it to measure hydration levels in the blood, match them with an athlete’s current activity, and provide an accurate measure of how much fluid should be taken at that time. The BSX LVL tracker launched earlier this month on Kickstarter, and the company says the tracker will be available at the end of this year.

Stockists: Visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lactate-threshold/lvl-the-first-wearable-hydration-monitor for up-to-date information on the product and its progress.

Expect to pay: Although not confirmed yet, BSX says the price will be in the region of R3 000.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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