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TomTom ramps up navigation

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TomTom has announced enhancements to its traffic service designed to benefit drivers using TomTom personal navigation devices (PNDs) and navigation apps.

The enhancements were announced alongside the company’s announcement of its geo-expansion for traffic services. With the addition of Indonesia and Slovenia, TomTom Traffic is now available in 50 countries globally.

Major enhancements made to TomTom Traffic include Turn-Dependent Jam Information, Dynamic Speed Limit Messages, Weather Influenced Predictions and Road Condition Monitoring after Rain or Snow. The improvements will be rolled-out from April 2016.

Ralf-Peter Schäfer, Head of Traffic at TomTom, said: “At TomTom, we work tirelessly to ensure that we deliver a leading Traffic service. The major enhancements that we’re announcing today will improve the driving experience for people using our award-winning PNDs and apps, as well as drivers who are using a product that is powered by TomTom Traffic through a licensing agreement. We like to keep things simple, so drivers won’t notice many of the new features that are running in the background, but we do believe that they’ll notice that their journeys come with fewer headaches, as well as being faster.”

“Traffic congestion is an issue for many cities around the world”, continues Schäfer, “and those in Indonesia and Slovenia are no different. As well as hitting a major milestone in the roll-out of TomTom Traffic globally, the launch of TomTom Traffic in these two new countries gives their drivers, their automotive industries, and governments, a concrete way to tackle traffic congestion. Our aim is to help drivers get there faster, and support governments to better manage traffic flow.”

Overview of New Features

Turn-Dependent Traffic Information

Congestion at some junctions may only affect drivers taking a certain turn (or travelling straight on). The new enhancement automatically detects the different ‘turn dependent’ traffic situations at junctions and enables the navigation system to only take into account jams specific to the driver’s turn intention on their specific route.

Dynamic Speed Limit Messages

Agencies responsible for managing the road networks deploy roadside or overhead message signs in order to dynamically change the speed limit. This is done to reduce the speed of traffic during busy periods, so that drivers are moving more safely and in a more consistent flow. TomTom Traffic will automatically monitor highways with variable speed signs, and displays them to the driver.

Weather Influenced Predictions

Heavy rain or snowfall can have a significant impact on the speed of traffic. TomTom Traffic will use advanced weather information with other influencing factors (such as severity and tendency)of any existing jams, to further improve the accuracy of the expected lifetime of congestion, and future speeds on the road.

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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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