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Vox, Sqwidnet, partner for IoT

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Vox has partnered with local network provider Sqwidnet, to provide individual consumers and enterprise customers with connectivity, data analytics and reporting for Internet of Things (IoT) applications in the near future

ICT and connectivity provider Vox has partnered with local network provider Sqwidnet to provide individual consumers and enterprise customers with connectivity, data analytics and reporting for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

An IoT network consists of three parts: the devices that collect information, the network that connects everything, and the data analytics capabilities that allow companies to turn the volumes of data into actionable business intelligence.

“One of the reasons we partnered with Sqwidnet is that they are the sole Sigfox operator in South Africa. As an international IoT network with a presence in over 30 countries, using Sigfox means that you can use compliant devices on their network across the country and beyond,” says Vox CEO, Jacques du Toit.

Sqwidnet plans to have nationwide IoT network coverage by 2018, allowing for millions of sensors and devices across the country to transmit data to a centralised location for analysis, immediate action, and record keeping.

Vox’s integration and consultancy subsidiary, Braintree, will be used to provide customers with analytical capabilities, reporting, and dashboards to monitor and manage their IoT networks.

While the simpler consumer model will enable individuals to purchase compliant devices and register them via Vox in order to get notifications, enterprise customers stand to benefit from custom built solutions with specialised notifications, reporting, dashboards, workflows, and other advanced features.

IoT market growth

Research by Africa Analysis shows that the IoT market is a growing segment in the local ICT industry, with the South African market being valued at $485-million – accounting for approximately 25% of total revenue in Africa – and projected to grow by 9% per annum by 2022.

One of the main contributors to this growth being a significant decline in the prices of the chips that power these IoT devices, with prices having fallen from over $9 in 2016 to an expected price of 20c by 2018. Usage of narrow-band communication over a low-power wide area network brings down energy consumption on connected devices, further bringing down costs and broadening access to IoT technology.

However, unlike developed countries where there has been a huge focus on smart home and smart city deployments, users in South Africa are looking for cost savings and adding value, and the increasing trend is to leverage IoT applications for agriculture, utilities and manufacturing and industrial processes.

Vox is in discussions with a wide variety of industry players over enterprise IoT applications, with examples including a smart geyser application for the insurance industry that enables remote monitoring and preventative maintenance.

“IoT is going to provide a huge area for growth in South Africa, especially in the area of integration. The network and devices are going to accrue for a small percentage of revenue generated from IoT; the value is in the integration and the analytics that we get out of all the data being collected – and that’s where Vox comes in,” says Du Toit.

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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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