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You don’t have to make excuses for your old tech

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The next ten years will see the most rapid advances in the history of technology, but sometimes it will be okay to be left behind, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The coming ten years will see technology advance so rapidly, it will sometimes feel like we’ve moved to another planet. That is terrible news for those who already feel they’ve been left behind, or are bewildered by the pace of change since the beginning of the 21st century.

But there is good news. In most cases, no one will force them to embrace new technology. Of course, they will be at a massive disadvantage if they don’t, but in many cases they won’t experience it as a disadvantage – unless friends, family and colleagues try to rub it in their faces.

One of the greatest drawbacks of rapid adoption of new technology in the mainstream market is that those who hold onto the old are often ridiculed and made to feel inadequate. However, there is another way of viewing this behavior by seemingly hip, happening people who regard themselves as being in the know and therefore superior to those who haven’t embraced the new.

Such people are, in fact, in need of validation. Typically, they have spent a large amount of money on new technology. Whether or not the cost was justified is beside the point. The truth is that they feel a need to justify it to everyone else. That, often, is the psychology lurking behind Apple and Samsung users, for example, mocking each other for using the “wrong” technology.

But there is no such thing as wrong technology. If it works for you, that’s what matters. If someone else feels superior to you because of what works for you, the problem clearly lies with them. Feeling superior because of the technology you use is like feeling superior because of the city or town in which you were born. And anyone who feels superior because of an accident of birth is demonstrably a fool.

Just as you shouldn’t have to make excuses about where you were born, you shouldn’t have to make excuses about the technology you use.

For example, you don’t have to make excuses if:

* You use an old BlackBerry or Nokia. It still works, right? It still does everything you want it to do right? That’s the only thing that matters, unless it puts you at a practical disadvantage or is costing you more to use.

* You prefer printed newspaper to online news. It can be shown that someone who reads a newspaper from cover to cover is more informed, with better general knowledge across news, entertainment and sport, than someone who relies only on headlines fed by social media. People who rely on digital news typically filter out everything that does not fit their specific interests, and their range of interests tends to narrow.

* You like paper books instead of e-readers. Guess what? Paper is superior technology here, as a book doesn’t need to be recharged, and lasts for decades after a current e-reader is obsolete. Yes, you have to buy each book separately, but doesn’t it look great on what we one called a “bookshelf”? Most of us have yet to install a Kindle-shelf in our homes.

* You don’t have a solar-powered geyser. South African electricity is  still among the cheapest in the world, and the savings from solar power versus electricy for this purpose seldome results in a return on investment. The reason? The upfront cost of installation and the ongoing cost of regularly replacing batteries is sometimes never recouped during the typical home-ownership lifespan.

* Your family doesn’t have the latest gaming console or tablet. The physical world out there is far more interesting than any digital world – but only if you allow it to be. Those without the latest toys are far more likely to allow it.

These are just a few examples, and some are generalisations. Everything depends on your own circumstances, needs and resources.

The flip side of this reality is that the opportunities represented by technology in the next decade will be massive for those who embrace change. The way we work, play, live, transact, travel, learn, educate, medicate and communicate will be utterly changed.

While it will be  possible to live comfortably in the cracks between the new and the old, the real question is why you would want to do so. You don’t have to justify it to anybody else: just be certain that it is what you want for yourself.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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