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The phone that changes lives

It’s not going to take on the smartphone giants, but the new CAT phone is more likely to change lives, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When emergency responders arrived on the scene of a recent car accident along the Garden Route in the southern Cape, they found an unconscious man in the vehicle. But something about the belongings strewn about suggested there must have been more occupants.

A search of the bushes along the road, using flashlights, didn’t produce results. Then a team member used a Cat S60 smartphone, initiating its thermal imaging camera. Almost immediately, they found two “heat signatures”, which led them to two people who had been thrown out of the vehicle. They were in a serious and critical condition, but could be treated while there was still time. 

“The thermal imaging camera is a life saver for us and has become a must have after it helped save lives and property,” says Gee Swart, team leader at EDR International, a disaster risk reduction and response agency.

The team also use their Cat S60s to take emergency calls, dispatching resources through cellular calls and Push-to-talk (PTT), a two-way radio-type calling function. These were all bonuses; the main reason they were using the phone was for its rugged design and durability in harsh environments.

“The ruggedness and durability are like no other device I’ve used before,” says Swart. “I’ve used it on fire lines where it can be 60 degrees plus. I’ve used it in sub-zero temperatures and it performed brilliantly. It’s been dropped more times than I can remember and it has survived direct sprays from fire hoses.” 

It is rare to come across such enthusiasm for a handset. Yet, Cat phones are almost unknown among consumers. They are built by the Bullitt Group, under license from industrial and construction vehicle maker Caterpillar. 

When the first handsets emerged with that brand, it competed with a wide variety of devices in what became known as the rugged phone category. A heavy focus on durability in extreme situations and specialised requirements in those situations eventually set it apart. The thermal camera on the Cat S60 cemented its reputation, and it was regarded as the ultimate rugged phone.

Now, the new Cat S61 takes reputational leadership of the segment further. It arrived in South Africa this month, to the cheers of emergency workers, game rangers, security officers and construction workers. It refines the design of the S60, with a full rubber back, improved thermal camera, air quality sensor, and a laser assisted distance sensor. A ridge used on the S60 to house additional technology is now a design feature, referred to as a sharkfin, further differentiating the phone.

The distance sensor is intended to be an estimation tool, and is ideal for measuring rooms, buildings and spaces for renovation, repairs, furnishing, and alterations. But it may well produce new approaches and even business models once it becomes widely used.

“Two years ago, we didn’t know how people were going to use the thermal camera,” said Pete Cunningham, vice president and senior product head at Bullitt He is also the mind behind the Cat S60 and S61 phones and their features. “We didn’t invent the thermal camera, but we were the first to put it in a smartphone.  We knew the obvious things. But, for example, we didn’t know how and to what extent it would be used in agriculture. 

“We didn’t expect highly specialised uses like roofers checking if beams are rotten because they can detect higher water content. As a result when UK local authorities are called in to repair a leaking roof, instead of going into a property and replacing a whole roof, they only need to replace a segment of roof.”

Speaking during a visit to South Africa last week, Cunningham said one of his favourite examples of unexpected uses was in animal husbandry.

“Earlier this year a farmer in England, Rob Hodgkins, was out delivering lambs, and he was using the thermal camera because the heat map lets you see inflammation in animals, when one area generates more heat than another. In the past, he had used thermal imaging cameras, which cost thousands of pounds, to help find and identify hypothermic lambs.

“The snow had come late this year, and lambs were being born while the snow was thick on the ground. He learned of a lamb that had become separated from its mother at night, due to a dog scaring the sheep, and raced to the scene. Using the thermal camera on his phone, he found the creature in total darkness.”

In South Africa, the Cat S60 brought instant success to policeman Stoffel Holtzhausen, who bought it when he heard about the thermal imaging feature. Within one week of purchasing it, he used it to catch two dangerous criminals who had escaped custody.

He often drops the phone while holding down criminals, and it has fallen out of his pocket while he was riding a police motorcycle. Yet, it remains completely usable. This kind of experience delivers a level of customer satisfaction that marketing can’t buy. 

Word of such successes spreads fast, and South Africa is consistently Cat’s second or third biggest market in the world, with Germany showing the highest sales. The Cat S60 is expected to have sold half-a-million units when it reaches the end of its marketing life.

“We see tremendously high satisfaction rates,” says Cunningham. “No less than 88% of users say they would recommend us to friends and family, and 89% indicate they are very likely to buy a Cat phone again in future. You have to make a conscious decision to buy one of these products. You’re going against the mainstream. We have a community and they’re very engaged with us.”

The result, in recent years, has been rapid growth. In the first five years after its founding in 2009, Bullitt numbered only 25 full-time staff. Since Cunningham joined in 2014, the team has grown almost ten-fold, and will reach 250 by the end of this year.

“We talk intensively to our customers. Over the last two years we surveyed over 50 000 Cat users. Data and feedback from those conversations drive how we shape the portfolio for the future. The S61 came about because of survey data from our users. For example, customers told us they were disappointed in camera performance, so we used that to guide us to improve it. 

“Now you can use cool technology to enhance images. So if a plumber is taking a photo in low light of a part number under the sink, the software in the phone recognizes text in the photo and enhances the image quality for reading text.”

Cunnignham enthuses about the numerous tests done to push the limits of the phone’s durability, from putting it in tumble dryers to using it in the sea. An underwater mode, now standard in Cat phones, allows the power button to be used to switch between video and still images.

From capturing action under the sea to tracking poachers in game reserves, from tracing hot water pipes behind walls to hanging curtains, it is a phone that is changing working lives. Not to mention saving lives.

CAT S61 specs:

Display: 5.2” Full HD (1920 x 1080), IPS, auto switch support and wet-finger / glove-on working technology; Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Storage: 64 GB ROM
Memory: 4 GB RAM (Expandable via microSD card)
Processor: Qualcomm SD630 Octacore 2.2GHz
Operating system: Google Android Oreo (with upgrade to P, the next version of Android)
Audio: FM Radio, Music Player
Video Recording: 3840 × 2160 at 30 fps Video Playback: 3840 × 2160 at 30 fps
Maximum Downlink Data Rate: 600Mbps
Maximum Uplink Data Rate: 150Mbps
Side: Power key, volume (up/down), programmable key
Sensors: Thermal camera (FLIR); Indoor Air Quality Sensor (humidity & temperature); E-compass; Proximity Sensor; Ambient Light Sensor; Accelerometer; Gyroscope; Location; Barometer.
Dimensions: 150 x 76 x 13mmRugged features: Ingress Protection (IP68) – sand, dust and dirt resistant, waterproof up to 3m for 60 minutes; Drop Tested up to 1.8m onto concrete ; Military spec 810G; Thermal Shock – handles low to high temperature differences from -30°C to 65°C for up to 24hours; resistant to vibration – category 4; Resistant to humidity and salt mist
Main camera: 16MP autofocus with PDAF, Dual LED flash Thermal: FLIR Lepton
Front camera: 8MP fixed focus
Battery capacity: 4500mAh, Quick charge 4.0
Other: Audio Jack, Bluetooth, NFC, USB Type C, USB-OTG, Nano SIM, GPS

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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As selfie cameras rise, so must selfie etiquette

Selfies were once a sign of narcissism or self-obsession. Now they are the new normal, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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You can blame Oxford Dictionaries for making the “selfie” respectable. After all, being named Word of the Year, as it was in 2013, does tend to soften some of the self-consciousness in this most self-conscious of actions.

Once seen as a symbol of narcissism and self-obsession, it is now the new normal, to the extent that most smartphones are sold on the basis of the front camera. Or, as that feature is now almost universally named by manufacturers, the “selfie camera”.

I was one of the hold-outs, having a near-allergy to the selfie. I still resist, but succumb more often than I would like. The reason for continued resistance is that it remains a big leap from the word becoming respectable to the action itself shedding its narcissistic image. 

For most, it’s already happened, and for that you can blame Ellen DeGeneres. She  choreographed the most famous group selfie yet at the 2014 Oscars, when she roped a bunch of actors into a group selfie, using the then-new Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. Her tweet of the photo became what was then the most retweeted posting ever on Twitter, and was estimated to have been worth a million dollars in marketing value to Samsung.

Ironically, it was Samsung’s up-and-coming challenger, Huawei, that came up with a new word for this type of selfie: the “groufie”. Thanks to an 8 Megapixel front camera on the new Huawei Ascend P7 camera that year which took the highest quality selfies – and groufies – possible on a smartphone at the time.

It didn’t end there, and selfies and groufies have morphed into variations like selfscapes (selfie in a landscape), skyfies (selfies from the air, using remote controlled devices) and jerkies (selfies to make an idiot out of yourself). I invented all of those on the fly, so it’s easy to imagine a new word emerging for every type of selfie.

Continue reading about selfie improvements through the years.

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Mickey’s 90th for SA

Disney Africa announced the local launch of the Mickey the True Original campaign, joining the global festivities honouring 9 decades of Mickey Mouse, his heritage, personality and status as a pop-culture icon.

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As 18 November 2018 marks 90 years since his first appearance in Steamboat Willie in November 1928, a series of world-wide celebrations will be taking place this year and South Africa is no different.

The campaign will come to life with engaging content and events that embrace Mickey’s impact on the past, present and future. The local festivities kick off in earnest this month, leading up to Mickey’s 90th anniversary on 18 November 2018 and beyond:

  • An exclusive local design project where ten highly talented South African artists will apply their own inspiration and artistic interpretation on 6-foot Mickey Mouse statues.
  • Once revealed to the public, the statues will form part of the Mickey the True Original South African Exhibition, inspired by Mickey’s status as a ‘true original’ and his global impact on popular culture. The exhibition will travel to 3 cities and delight fans and families alike as they journey with Mickey over the years. Featuring 4 sections highlighting Mickey’s innovation, his evolution, influence on fashion and also pop culture, the exhibition is in collaboration with Samsung and Edgars, and will visit:

o   Sandton City, Centre Court: 28 September – 14 October

o   Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Expo Explore Court: 19 October – 11 November

o   Canal Walk Shopping Centre. Centre Court: 16 November – 26 November

  • Samsung continues their collaboration with Disney as they honour Mickey’s 90th anniversary nationally at all Samsung and Edgars Stores. Entitled Unlocking the Imagination, fans are encouraged to visit these stores, take a selfie with a giant Mickey plush toy using their Samsung Galaxy Note9 and stand a chance to win not only a giant Mickey plush, but also an international family trip. Visit www.Samsung.com for more information
  • Mickey’s 90th Spectacular, a two-hour prime-time special, will be screened on M-Net 101 later this year. The elegant affair will feature star-studded musical performances, moving tributes and never-before-seen short films. Superstars from music, film and television will join the birthday fun for the internationally beloved character.
  • In addition, look out for special programming on Mickey’s birthday (18 November) across Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303), Disney XD (DStv, Channel 304) and Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309).
  • In retailers, Edgars will be stocking a complete collection of trendy fashion, accessories and footwear for the whole family, inspired entirely by Mickey Mouse.
  • Mickey will be the central theme of an in-store campaign nationwide this November and December, with brand new products, apparel, toys, as well as titles from Disney Publishing Worldwide, including books, arts & crafts and comics
  • Discovery Vitality and Disney are celebrating healthy, happy families this festive season by offering helpful and exciting tips and tricks on how to eat nutritious, yet delicious, foods, all inspired by Mickey. There’s also a trip to Disneyland Paris up for grabs. Log on to www.discovery.co.za/vitality for information.
  • And much more – check the press for updates

“Binding generations together more than any other animated character, Mickey Mouse is the “True Original” who reminds people of all ages of the benefits of laughter, optimism and hope,” says Christine Service, Senior Vice President and Country Manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa. “With his universal appeal and ability to emotionally connect with generations all over the world, no other character quite occupies a similar space in the hearts and minds of a global fan base and we are thrilled to be sharing these local festivities.”

Mickey’s birthday is celebrated in honour of the release of his first theatrical film, Steamboat Willie, on 18th November 1928, at the Colony Theatre in New York City. Since then, he has starred in more than 100 cartoons and can currently be seen on Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303) in the Mickey Mouse cartoon series and on Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309) in Mickey and the Roadster Racers.

South African fans are encouraged to share their Mickey Mouse moments on social media using the hashtag#Mickey90Africa.

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