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This is how Pokemon Go is aligned to health goals

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Pokemon Go game has finally been launched in South Africa – offering possibilities in terms of encouraging fitness, particularly among the youth, as players take to walking or running in an effort to “catch em all”, writes DEBBIE VALENTINI of Agility Health.

The game uses a player’s physical location to reveal hidden Pokemons, which are animated fantasy animal characters, on the game’s map interface. Even before the game’s official release in South Africa, scores of players could already be seen walking around searching for nearby characters.

Pokemon Go’s potential for encouraging physical activity has piqued the interest of Zurreal, the health, wellbeing and financial services partner to all Resolution Health Medical Scheme members. At Zurreal we are all about rewarding members for healthy behaviours, and we support any development that may promote exercise.

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Pokemon Go is a case in point because catching the game’s characters during daily workout activities, such as walking, running or even cycling, can make getting and staying in shape much more fun.

People have been making the most of their lunch breaks by going in search of Pokemon, and even a short, brisk lunchtime walk can contribute to fitness – especially when it becomes a regular part of one’s routine. Furthermore, incorporating regular exercise into your day can improve concentration and refocus the mind for improved productivity in the workplace.

One aspect of the game, which incorporates augmented reality technology, is that certain real-world locations serve as digital “Pokestops”, where players can collect bonus items that make the game easier.

One of the items that can be picked up is an egg that hatches after a player has walked a distance of 2km, 5km or 10km, revealing another character to be added to the player’s collection. Pokemon eggs are a great way to reward yourself if you have goals to cover a particular distance in your morning cardiac exercise.

Incubate a 5km egg at the start of your run, and you can be assured that you will be rewarded with a surprise Pokemon for your efforts at the end of it. Even better, the eggs with longer distance goals typically give better quality Pokemon.

As Zurreal, we appreciate the importance of rewards, but we know that people are sometimes tempted to ruin their healthy gains by rewarding themselves with unhealthy food treats or expensive luxuries when they meet their daily fitness goals. It should be remembered, however, that this could add feelings of guilt or stress, and counteract the benefits of the exercise.

The Zurreal Platinum rewards programme gives members up to R13 400 in cash back each year to incentivise regular exercise, taking care of their health, and participating in outdoor sporting events. These rewards are tallied up quarterly, and so Pokemon Go is a perfect complement to the Zurreal programme as it offers instant gratification.

Not only are players getting more exercise, Pokemon Go appears to be creating more opportunities for players to socialise in the real world. It may be something of a stereotype, but some young people who identify as gamers may be more comfortable interacting online than ‘irl’ – that is a gaming language acronym for ‘in real life’.

Pokemon Go players can load Pokemon ‘lures’ at Pokestops and everyone in the vicinity can benefit from these. For half an hour, more Pokemon spawn at that location than usual and players flock to these areas.

Real-world locations that are game attractions appear to be bringing Pokemon fans together, where they can connect with peers and discuss the game, strategies and other points of common interest. It is easy to spot fellow players and the game is an obvious conversation-starter, making social interaction less stressful for reserved individuals.

We would, however, like to remind players to exercise due caution and consider ‘stranger danger’ when engaging with any new acquaintances or before rushing off to a Pokestop that is ‘luring’ Pokemon.

We have heard reports in other countries of criminals using these digital lures to catch victims rather than Pokemon. Criminals may set lures at Pokestops in poorly lit, lonely areas, for example, and attack unsuspecting fans that show up to catch the Pokemon characters. Remember that the mobile phones the game is played on often have significant value, which makes this an attractive scheme for criminals.

It is important that players make smart decisions and stay vigilant to avoid becoming a target. By following a few simple safety tips and avoiding ‘stranger danger’, the game can be safe and fun while simultaneously encouraging fitness.

Tips for staying safe while playing Pokemon Go:

  • Never visit Pokestops after dark, in poorly lit or unsecure areas. Rather stick to busy, well-lit areas and do not go alone.
  • Do not exchange personal information with strangers
  • Do not leave open, public areas with a stranger to go somewhere else – staying in well populated locations can make is more difficult for criminals to target you.
  • Do not provide lifts to anyone you just met.
  • Remember that all the normal rules apply to making new friends while playing Pokemon Go. Although it can feel like you share a deep connection through your love of the game, fellow players may have more sinister motives, such as trying to “catch” you or your valuables.
  • If a situation feels unsafe – trust your instincts and leave. If you are alone, call a family member or nearby friend, let them know where you are and that you feel unsafe. Tell them where you are planning to go and how you are planning to get there. Head for the nearest busy public place, and if the stranger is not following you, head home or to another safe locate.

* Debbie Valentini, GM of Marketing, Communications and Rewards at Agility Health

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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