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Xiaomi band rebounds

Xiaomi returns with its third fitness tracker, adding waterproofing and a touchscreen writes BRYAN TURNER.

Xiaomi, the premium Chinese technology brand, has been increasing in popularity as a smartphone of choice, due to its combination of high-quality products and low purchase price. Its range of smart products includes everything from smartphones to smart home devices.

Its Mi Band fitness tracker line has offered step-counting, sleep-tracking and heart rate monitoring. The Mi Band 3, however, is a major overhaul, adding 5 ATM waterproofing (5 atmospheres of water pressure), a much larger screen and a responsive touchscreen. The Mi Band looks and feels like fitness trackers from Fitbit and Garmin, but costs far less. At a glance, people have mistaken it for a Fitbit, due to the form factor and whitish-blue OLED screen. 

The overall design of the screen is really something to appreciate, as it groups and outlines what users want to know by vertical swipes between categories (watch, fitness, heart rate, weather, notifications and more apps) and horizontal swipes within categories (in fitness: steps, distance, calories burned and battery). The sunken circle is intuitive, and acts like a home button when pressed, taking the user back to the watch face, and a function button when long-pressed. 

Apps within the Mi Band 3 are fairly standard compared to other fitness trackers, like quickly checking distance walked and three custom watch faces. A great differentiator is the notification feature, which pushes notifications from the paired phone and shows the last five items when swiping through to that section. Another great feature is “Find device”, which makes the phone ring if it is misplaced. A stopwatch is included in the “More apps” section, which is useful in quick workout situations where the phone is not available.

The materials used in the Mi Band 3’s strap are hypoallergenic and suitable for all skin types. The TPU plastic is also soft and sweat-resistant, making this one of the best bands for fitness activities. The only drawbacks are that TPU plastic wears down fairly quickly over time, as the oil from one’s skin can break down the plastic; and there is only one size of the Mi Band strap in the box, which is not ideal for those with larger wrists. That said, replacement straps range in price from R10 to R250 on GearBest, depending on whether the replacement is plastic, silicone, metal or another type of special design.

The Mi Band’s app has a minimalist layout, focusing on steps in a large circle and outlines sleep and heart rate below it in a graph. This, in conjunction with the design of the Mi Band 3, delivers a premium user experience. This data is also not garden-walled to the app, unlike other fitness tracking solutions, as it easily integrates with services like Google Fit and Apple Health. In the Mi Band’s device section, alarms can be set, notifications can be customised on an app basis, the Mi Band can be triggered to vibrate if lost, and the weather location can be set.

What is truly amazing is the firmware update frequency, which brings in stability updates and even new major features. A recent firmware update introduced a major feature to lower the Mi Band’s screen brightness at night, to save battery and reduce eyestrain. Another recent update added a smoother, easier-to-read font for notifications and checking the weather. These firmware optimising updates even pushed the battery life of the Mi Band to 23 days of light notifications and a few workouts. 

At R400, there is no similarly priced alternative for the Mi Band 3 at the quality it offers, coming in at five times cheaper than the Fitbit Charge 2. Compared to the Fitbits and Garmins, the main trade-offs are the brand name, the reliable tech support and the social challenges. Overall, the Mi Band 3 is fitness tracker that acts more like a smartwatch at a price point where nothing competes with it.

The Mi Band 3 can be bought from GearBest for under R400 during the GearBest September sale. Click here for more information.

 

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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