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Toy combines physical with digital world

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Gammatek has launched Tiggly, a range of magnetic accessories and apps that work with most new tablets and are designed to help youngsters learn maths, words and shapes.

Tablet time goes beyond mindless play with a new range of device accessories and apps, by Tiggly, which combine physical and digital play to deliver an intuitive and educational experience for young children. The unique Tiggly range is brought to the fingertips of South African parents by Gammatek.

In the Tiggly range is Tiggly Math Blocks to facilitate learning of basic mathematics concepts in young children aged three to seven; Tiggly Words, designed to help children aged five to eight grasp language concepts, and Tiggly Shapes which helps children aged two to five learn shapes and fundamental geometry concepts. Tiggly products, including the innovative magnetic accessories and downloadable apps, are compatible with all generations of iPad (except iPad 1), iPad Air, and IPad Mini, as well as leading Android devices including Samsung, Kindle and Kurio. The robust, child friendly accessories do not require Bluetooth, Wifi or batteries.

Gammatek’s Zev Cherniak says: “Nowadays, children are exposed to electronic devices from a young age. While there are obvious concerns over the impact of extended screen time on developing brains, there are developmental benefits of controlled use of devices in conjunction with stimulating, educational games. Some can encourage imagination, listening ability, learning sounds and speech. Apps and accessories like Tiggly are designed specifically for children, with age appropriate games that encourage cognitive learning, language and maths skills. Tiggly offers parents great tools for turning screen time into interactive learning experiences that count.”

Tiggly Math Blocks is an ingenious way to introduce early math concepts including counting, addition, subtraction, number lines and number sense with the use of “concrete” counting blocks. These help children to understand the meaning behind numbers and connect this to the quantities they represent. Learning is made fun with funny characters which inspire the idea that maths is an engaging subject they can relate to. Inspired by the traditional Cuisenaire rod used in Montessori schools, Tiggly Math Blocks Learning System has received numerous awards including the prestigious Brain Child Gold Award.

Research conducted by PlayScience Research Lab showed that five year olds who played with Tiggly Math Blocks improved in their early number skills 71% more than children who played with the apps alone.

Each Tiggly Math Blocks box comes with five connected math toys in the form of counting blocks and four math learning games. Three of the four games come in 11 languages.

Tiggly Words focuses on the the most challenging part of learning to read; vowels and phonetics. The learning games help grasp important literacy skills in a playful and exploratory way. Children learn to pronounce and build words. The meaning of words is learnt through visualizations and animations, and later applied in their own language and digital storytelling. Tiggly Words has also received many awards including the National Parenting Publication Gold Award. The Tiggly Words system includes five connected vowel toys and four literacy learning games such as the Sesame Street Alphabet Kitchen.

Tiggly Shapes is the very first interactive tablet learning toy for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Designed by an award winning team of educators and creative engineers, Tiggly Shapes helps children find the fun in learning spatial reasoning, motor skills and language. Tiggly Shapes includes four connected shape toys and four compatible learning apps.

Tiggly is available at leading retail stores including Incredible Connection, iStore, loot.co.za and takealot.com. The recommended retail prices are R799 for Tiggly Math and Tiggly Words and R699 for Tiggly Shapes.

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AI, IoT, and language of bees can save the world

A groundbreaking project is combining artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to learn the language of bees, and save the planet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It is early afternoon and hundreds of bees are returning to a hive somewhere near Reading in England. They are no different to millions of bees anywhere else in the world, bringing the nectar of flowers back to their queen.

But the hive to which they bring their tribute is no ordinary apiary.

Look closer, and one spots a network of wires leading into the structure. They connect up to a cluster of sensors, and run into a box beneath the hive carrying the logo of a company called Arnia: a name synonymous with hive monitoring systems for the past decade. The Arnia sensors monitor colony acoustics, brood temperature, humidity, hive weight, bee counts and weather conditions around the apiary.

On the back of the hive, a second box is emblazoned with the logo of BuzzBox. It is a solar-powered, Wi-Fi device that transmits audio, temperature, and humidity signals, includes a theft alarm, and acts as a mini weather station.

In combination, the cluster of instruments provides an instant picture of the health of the bee hive. But that is only the beginning.

What we are looking at is a beehive connected to the Internet of Things: connected devices and sensors that collect data from the environment and send it into the cloud, where it can be analysed and used to monitor that environment or help improve biodiversity, which in turn improves crop and food production.

The hives are integrated into the World Bee Project, a global honey bee monitoring initiative. Its mission is to “inform and implement actions to improve pollinator habitats, create more sustainable ecosystems, and improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods by establishing a globally-coordinated monitoring programme for honeybees and eventually for key pollinator groups”.

The World Bee Project is working with database software leader Oracle to transmit massive volume of data collected from its hives into the Oracle Cloud. Here it is combined with numerous other data sources, from weather patterns to pollen counts across the ecosystem in which the bees collect the nectar they turn into honey. Then, artificial intelligence software – with the assistance of human analysts – is used to interpret the behaviour of the hive, and patterns of flight, and from there assess the ecosystem.

Click here to read more about how the Internet of Things is used to interpret the language of bees.

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Download speeds ramp up in SA

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All four South African mobile network operators have improved their average download speed experience by at least 1 Mbps in the past six months.

This is one of the main findings in the latest South Africa Mobile Network Experience report by Opensignal, the mobile analytics company. It has analysed the mobile experience in the country, updating a study last conducted in February 2019. While a quick look at its South Africa awards table suggests not much has changed since the last report, it’s far from stagnating. 

Opensignal reports the following improvements across its measurements:

  • MTN remains the leader in our 4G Availability measurements, with a score of 83.6%. But the other three operators are all now within 2 percentage points of the 80% milestone — with Telkom’s users seeing the biggest increase of over 8 points.
  • All four operators improved their Download Speed Experience scores by at least 1 Mbps. But growth in our Upload Speed Experience scores has stagnated, with only winner Vodacom seeing an incremental increase.
  • MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Video Experience award, and both have increased their scores in the past six months, putting them on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings. Cell C also increased its score to tip over into a Good ranking (55-65).
  • MTN scored over 90% in 4G Availability in two of South Africa’s biggest cities and was just shy of this milestone in the others. Meanwhile, MTN and Vodacom have now passed the 20 Mbps mark in Download Speed Experience in three cities each.

A quick look at the awards table would suggest not much has changed in South Africa since the last report in February. MTN won the 4G Availability award again, Vodacom kept hold of the medals for Upload Speed and Latency Experience, while the two operators tied for Download Speed and Video Experience just as they did six months ago.

But far from stagnating, we’re seeing improvements across most of the measurements. All four of South Africa’s national operators — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — are now closing in on 80% 4G Availability nationally, while at the urban level, MTN has passed the 90% mark in two cities. And in Download Speed Experience, our users on all four operators’ networks saw their scores increase at least 8%.

In this report, Open Signal has analyzed the scores for all four national operators across all their metrics over the 90 days from the start of May 2019, including South Africa’s five biggest cities — Cape Town, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and Tshwane.

MTN has been top of Open Signal’s South African 4G Availability leaderboard for a couple of years now, and the operator remains dominant with a winning score over 4 percentage points ahead of its rivals. But it was users on Telkom’s network who saw the most impressive boost in 4G Availability, as its score jumped by well over 8 percentage points.

This leap has put Telkom into a three-way draw for second place with Cell C and Vodacom, who both saw their scores increase by at least 3 percentage points.

While MTN is the only operator to have passed 80% in national 4G Availability, the other three players are all less than 2 percentage points away from this milestone. Based on the current rate of improvement, Open Signal fully expects to see all four operators pass the 80% mark in its next report — which will provide testament to the rapid maturing of the South African mobile market.

MTN and Vodacom remain neck-and-neck in the Video Experience analysis, with both operators scoring 65 (out of 100). And the two rivals both saw their scores rise by around 3 points since our last report, meaning the two continue to share our Video Experience award. Cell C and Telkom remain in third and fourth place, but both saw larger increases — of 5 and 4 points respectively — to narrow the gap on the leaders.

The increase in MTN and Vodacom’s Video Experience scores means the two operators are on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings in this metric — with the users on their networks enjoying fast loading video times and almost non-existent stalling, even at higher resolutions. By comparison, Cell C’s score earned it a Good rating (55-65), while Telkom remains in Fair (40-55) territory — meaning users watching video on Telkom’s network, in particular, will likely struggle with longer load times and frequent stuttering, even at lower resolutions.

In terms of 4G-only Video Experience, Cell C’s score has increased enough to tip it over into a Very Good rating — now featuring three operators achieving 4G network scores with a Very Good ranking. And as 4G Availability continues to increase, the overall Video Experience scores will continue to climb, making mobile video viewing more of a viable proposition across all networks. And in a country where fixed-line broadband connections are relatively rare and the large majority of South Africans only connect to the internet via cellular, this improvement has the potential to transform people’s lives.

Read more from Open Signal’s report here.

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