The UP24 is the latest fitness tracker from Jawbone and aims to help you “act in the moment and live better”. But can a fitness tracker really make you healthier and happier? I decided to give one a try and find out.
Design and Hardware:
The UP24 has a stylish yet understated design. In fact, most people would probably mistake it for for a bangle or a bracelet instead of a hi-tech fitness tracker. The device is made from a soft rubber which is both comfortable and lightweight, which is good since you need to wear it almost 24/7.
Unlike other fitness trackers like the Nike FuelBand, the UP24 doesn’t have any sort of screen on the device itself. This means that you’ll need to check your phone in order to see any of your fitness data. I actually didn’t miss having a screen on my wrist as it made the UP24 lighter and less obtrusive. I also really liked using the excellent UP app which syncs wirelessly with your band throughout the day.
It should be noted that the arms of the UP24 don’t fasten, clip or lock into place. Instead, the arms of the band kind of just wrap around and hug your wrist. Initially I thought this would cause the band to keep slipping up and down my wrist but thankfully this wasn’t the case. Just make sure you get the right size band for your wrist if you decide to buy one for maximum comfort.
The UP24’s battery life is really impressive. The device only needs to be charged about once a week which is fantastic. When you do charge the device, you’ll need to plug it into a mini headphone jack / USB adaptor. Both the adapter and the headphone jack cover on the device are quite small so you just need to be extra careful not to lose them as I imagine they will both be quite difficult to replace.
The UP App:
The UP app is incredibly well designed and makes it easy to access and keep track of all your fitness data. The UP app primarily focuses on three main areas:
- Measuring how much you move
- Measuring how much and how well you sleep
- And measuring what you eat
In addition to measuring the above, the app also prompts you with recommendations based on your data, offer tips and make recommendations to help you reach your health goals. It’s like having a friendly little gym buddy that is always looking out for you.
The app is very functional, allowing you to easily log exercise sessions and meals and does a great job of visualising your data. If you use other fitness apps like Runkeeper, My Fitness Pal or even, IFTTT, you can even connect them to the UP app to take your training further.
The app also has a social component called ‘My Team’ which allows you to to see the activity of friends who are also using Jawbone devices in your UP news feed. It’s great to see friends activity and be able to encourage each other but a small part of me does feel a bit creepy knowing when my friends are sleeping. Or is it just me?
Speaking of sleep, it’s one area where UP24 stands out. It does a really good job of tracking your sleeping patterns and explaining how they affect your health and overall mood. The app even allows you to set a smart alarm that wakes you up in the morning while you are in a specific part of your sleep cycle so you feel more refreshed and energised.
If you are looking for a fitness band that does more than just count your steps, you should seriously consider the UP24. It has a sleek, comfortable design, excellent battery life and wirelessly syncs all your fitness data with your phone. It makes it easy to track your fitness, your food intake, your sleeping patterns and your overall mood. If you are looking for that extra bit of motivation, the UP24 could just be for you.
- Stylish design
- Excellent battery life
- Awesome app
- Great sleep tracking
- Social integration for friends
- Some might want a screen on their wrist
- Some might prefer a clasp or some way to tighten the band depending on their wrist size
8 out of 10
The UP app is available for Android and iOS. You can find out more information about the app and check device compatibility by clicking below. UP24 devices are compatible with devices running Android 4.3 and later as well as the iPhone 4S, 3rd generation iPads, iPad Minis and 5th generation iPods and newer.
SnapScan is an award-winning and locally-developed app that allows customers and merchants to complete transactions by scanning a QR code on a customer’s smartphone and confirmed with an SMS sent to the merchant. And yesterday, it was officially launched into the South African market by Standard Bank.
Credit needs to be given to both developers FireID and Standard Bank for making SnapScan as open as possible. Whether you are a consumer or a merchant, you don’t need to be a Standard Bank customer to use the service. SnapScan is also completely free for consumers and the only cost to merchants is a 3% fee on each transaction.
There are no other costs for merchants to register and start using SnapScan which makes it extremely attractive to both formal and informal merchants. In South Africa, this addresses a real problem for smaller merchants who may not be able to afford the cost of setting up a POS machine combined with interrupted or unreliable connectivity.
Signing up as a merchant can be done on the SnapScan website and is quick and easy. Hopefully more and more merchants do so as the success of the service will ultimately depend on whether it catches on with local merchants.
The service has already signed on a number of merchants at local craft markets such as Neighbour Goods. This is great news for merchants as well as customers like me. From personal experience, I always run out of cash at these types of places and spend more time bumbling about like a cash-less idiot than I do enjoying craft beer and Balkan Burgers.
FireID has worked hard to make the service and the app as simple and as easy to use as possible. Once you download the app, you add the details of your credit or debit card, enter your name and you are good to go. To make a payment, all you have to do is:
- Scan a merchant’s QR code at their point of sale
- Type in the transaction amount
- Enter your unique SnapScan PIN
I tested the service by paying for some Coffee at Motherland and the whole process took less than 30 seconds. It was weird not paying with actual money or a card but it was one of those magical moments when you feel like you are living in a futuristic science fiction movie.
The app also has a Find Merchant feature that let’s you search for nearby places that use SnapScan. This feature has a lot of potential, especially once more merchants sign on. In addition to being a payment app, it could also help you find new interesting places and provide merchants with an additional way to attract customers.
SnapScan is a well-designed, simple and easy to use service for both consumers and merchants. The service has a lot of potential and the developers have already hinted at some exciting future plans, including being able to use SnapScan for online payments. It’s great to see something like SnapScan developed locally. Let’s hope local merchants and consumers take advantage of it.
- Locally developed
- Great platform for merchants and consumers
- Use it no matter where you bank
- Simple, slick and easy to use
- Makes you feel like you are living in the future
- May take some time for more merchants to sign up
8 out of 10
Find out more about SnapScan and / or become a SnapScan merchant at www.getsnapscan.com and download the SnapScan app for your smartphone.
by Adam Skikne
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton tells the true story of Twitter’s four co-founders (Ev Williams, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey) who transformed a small side project at a failing start up into to a multi-billion dollar company that literally changed the world. Basically, the book is to Twitter what The Accidental Billionaires (the book that The Social Network is based on) is to Facebook.
And it’s awesome (#justsaying).
One of the most interesting things in the book is that the idea for Twitter didn’t just come from one person. Each of Twitter’s co-founders helped shape Twitter in their own way. Jack Dorsey came up with the initial idea about creating a product around status updates. Ev Williams wanted to provide people with a tool to express themselves and used his own money to finance the business. Noah Glass championed the idea and came up with the name for Twitter. And Biz Stone? Well Biz just generally rocked, eventually sticking up for his best friend by telling the Board of Directors at Twitter to go fuck themselves when they fired Ev Williams as CEO of the company.
Like I said, the book really is awesome.
Each of the Twitter co-founders had their own vision for what Twitter should be. This ultimately led to a number of power struggles for the control of the company – mainly between Noah Glass, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey. These power struggles are really what is at the heart of the book with each one being fueled by Twitter’s staggering growth and the need for the company to become profitable for investors.
In the book, Bilton points out that no one could have predicted Twitter’s success or have had the experience to cope with the chaos that would come along with it. Nevertheless, Hatching Twitter is a fascinating look at how the politics within a business changed the lives of four friends. It’s a book that is not only incredibly well researched but also well written. I would recommend it to anyone interested in business or tech.
by Adam Skikne
Tech experts have predicted that smart watches are going to be the breakout product categories of 2014. The first smart watches are now available to consumers with the next generation being shown off at CES 2014. But what is it like to use a smart watch, what should they do and should you buy one? I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Sony SmartWatch 2 to review.
Design and Hardware:
The design of the Sony SmartWatch 2 is quite impressive. With its square face, rounded corners and chamfered edges, the Sony SmartWatch 2 is a sleek device with a premium feel. It was definitely noticed when it was on my wrist and the majority of people who saw it became quite curious when they found out that it was a smart watch. So basically you can safely wear it in public without worrying if you look like an idiot.
Perhaps the most important feature of the SmartWatch 2 is its screen. And while the screen is bigger and brighter than the one found in the original Sony SmartWatch, I did wish it had a slightly higher resolution. Despite this, the SmartWatch 2’s screen is usable in most lighting conditions (including outdoors in bright sunlight) and manages to always stay on while conserving battery.
Battery life on the SmartWatch 2 is another plus. When I first unboxed the SmartWatch 2, its battery was about 65% full but still lasted me a good three days before needing to be recharged. The SmartWatch 2 charges via a micro USB cable which is quite convenient. It should be noted that the SmartWatch 2 is also water resistant. So if you ever wanted to check Twitter while you’re in the shower, this is the device for you.
Setting up the SmartWatch 2 is relatively simple as it pairs with any Android phone running Jellybean and above through NFC or Bluetooth. Unfortunately the Smart Watch 2 is not compatible with iOS devices. Once the devices have been paired, you are prompted to download the Sony Smart Connect app on your phone. The app allows you to find, link and control a number of other apps that have been specifically designed for the SmartWatch 2.
Through the Smart Connect app, the SmartWatch 2 can be linked to your phonebook, dialer, music player, SMS messages, Twitter, Facebook and various fitness apps like Endomondo and Runtastic. There are roughly 300 additional apps that you can be downloaded for the SmartWatch 2. The majority of these apps are lightweight and free but there are a few apps that offer very similar functionality. Still, these apps add additional functionality to the SmartWatch 2.
Using the SmartWatch 2:
The experience of using the SmartWatch 2 will vary based on your expectations of what a smart watch should do. Smart watches are set to become an increasingly important product category in the next few years but it is still a product category that needs to be better defined by device manufacturers.
The interface of the SmartWatch 2 should be familiar to anyone who has used an Android phone. You can swipe through installed apps and the SmartWatch 2 even has the standard back, home and options buttons found on most Android devices.
The SmartWatch 2 primarily acts as second screen that allows you to view notifications on your wrist and perform basic tasks like controlling your music without the need for taking your smartphone out of your pocket. The notifications that pop up on your wrist can make it easier to spend less time looking at your phone, which is good. However, it’s very easy to become inundated with notifications depending on which services you link with the SmartWatch 2. Messages and social media updates can be problematic but the settings for these apps can also be tweaked to improve the experience.
There are a few snags. The SmartWatch 2 does well with text based notifications but struggles with updates or emails that are image heavy. Your wrist will ring when you get a phone call but you can’t answer the call or speak into the watch. These are not faults per se but maybe just missed opportunities. I have no doubt that these features and capabilities will be included in either future iterations of the Sony SmartWatch. You can already find them in competing products like the Samsung Galaxy Gear but at a slightly higher price point.
The smart watch is a product category that currently doesn’t have mainstream appeal but this is will likely change over the next year or so. If you are an early adopter or love the idea of smart watches, then the Sony SmartWatch 2 is a definite contender. It is well designed, compatible with a wide range of Android phones and is supported by a number of specially designed third party apps.
On the spectrum of available smart watches that are currently available, I would say that the SmartWatch 2 fits in between the Pebble and the Samsung Galaxy Gear in terms of price, battery life, device compatibility, build quality and apps. If you are in the market for a smartwatch, I would recommend that you look into these three products and see which one suits you best based on your individual needs.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
I got my Sony SmartWatch 2 review unit from the fine folk at the Orange Online store. They stock the Sony SmartWatch 2 (available from R1995.00) as well as the Pebble Smartwatch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. If you enjoyed the review or are in the market for a smart watch, feel free to visit them at http://store.orange.com/za/p_orange_home.aspx
by Adam Skikne
Age of Context is a new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel that is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the future of technology, social media, digital and business. The book details how companies are using the convergence of five key forces (mobile, social media, data, sensors and location) to create a new wave of smarter products and services.
The book is literally fascinating and should get you excited about how technology is going to change our lives in the near future. Here are a few key trends that we can look forward to once we enter the Age of Context:
The Rise of Wearable Devices
Wearable devices such as Google Glass and the Nike Fuelband are one of the biggest trends within the tech industry at the moment. Scoble was one of the first people to receive a pair of Google Glass outside of Google and is incredibly bullish about the future of these types of devices.
While it is still early days for wearables, Scoble and Israel argue that these devices will only get smaller, cheaper and more powerful over time. In fact, the wearable market is expected to grow to an estimated $50 billion in the next 3-5 years.
While smartphones are currently our primary mobile device, it will soon be normal to carry around multiple mobile devices with numerous smart sensors. While we may scoff at the current iteration of a device like Google Glass, younger generations will embrace them and may not be able to live without them as contextual technology creeps into more areas of our daily lives.
Pin Point Marketing
The problem with marketing and advertising today is that is creates more noise than signal. In the near future, companies will be able to use contextual technology to create right-time experiences based on a consumer’s needs, what they are doing and what they are going to do next. Companies are already experimenting with contextual marketing through a combination of online monitoring, social CRM and geo-fencing.
Business will become “Uber-ised”. Products and services will come to you when you need them. When you don’t, they will disappear as your context changes.
Another interesting company worth mentioning is Shopperception. The company creates 3D sensors for shopping aisles that measure what consumers look at, what they touch and what they place in their trolleys. These sensors will give merchants unprecedented data and real-time analytics of what happens at the ‘point of touch’ in stores.
According to Scoble and Israel, the cars will be as much of a contextual device as a smartphone, only a lot bigger. The entire auto industry is focused on using sensors to improve safety and security of drivers.
Google, Tesla and Audi are just a few of the companies that are working on self-driving cars that help people save time and money, as well as dramatically reduce the number of accidents on roads. As Marc Andreessen says: “People are so bad at driving cars that computers don’t need to be that good to be much better.”
But there are a number of other interesting ideas in this field. Tesla has developed an alarm system that only unlocks the vehicle for recognised drivers. OnStar is a vehicle tracking company that disables the gas pedal of a vehicle once it has been reported stolen. GM is investigating a sensor that can detect if drivers are falling asleep at the wheel Another company is developing wristbands to monitor a driver’s alcohol levels in order to prevent them from driving drunk.
Health in the Age of Context
Health care is another industry that is set to be transformed by contextual technology. Health care encompasses two elements: prevention and treatment, and there are a number of examples of how technology is being used to treat and prevent illness.
Researchers are already testing pills containing smart sensors. Once consumed, a patient’s condition can be tracked and monitored. If a patient’s condition changes, both the patient and the doctor can be instantly notified. This might sound like science fiction, but these pills could come to market as early as 2015 or 2016.
There are a number of examples of how data, sensors and location are currently being used in medicine. One study crowd sourced the location of asthma attacks to identify asthma hotspots. Smart masks have been created help create heat maps that measure air quality. A bra has been created that is able to detect the early stages of breast cancer.
Scoble and Israel predict that, unlike in science fiction, humans won’t become part of computers but computers will become part of humans. The two authors have also met with company’s developing the next generation of smart prosthetics as well as bionic suits designed to help paraplegics to walk.
The Connected Human:
The pair also write about Personal Contextual Assistants (PCA’s) like Siri and Google Now. Scoble and Israel believe that these PCA’s will evolve into anticipatory systems for every aspect of our lives thanks to the Internet of Things. According to the authors, there will be 3.5 billion networked products by 2015.
The home will be just one of the spaces that will be transformed by contextual devices. Houses will soon be fitted with smart windows that can change properties based on weather conditions – thereby eliminating the need for blinds and saving energy costs by up to 25℅. Smart glass and smart mirrors will soon come with facial recognition so you’ll be able to check the weather and read your messages while you brush your teeth.
The Cost of Context
The Age of Context promises to improve our lives in a number of ways, but these benefits will come at the cost of personal privacy. The extent we allow contextual technology into our lives will depend on our own comfort levels. Trust will become an increasingly important factor in the relationship between companies and consumers as we tackle issues relating to who owns our data, who can access our data and how our data can be used.
But once we find that balance, there is no doubt that the Age of Context will be an exciting time.
In The New Digital Age, Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, look to the future and try to predict what implications technology will have on a world that is becoming increasingly connected. The New Digital Age was one of the books I was most looking forward to reading this year and I enjoyed it immensely. If you are interested in technology in any way, this book is a must read. Here are just a few predictions from The New Digital Age:
The Next 5 Billion
In the next decade, 5 billion new people will join the Internet. Many of the people will be from the developing world and will be accessing the Internet for the first time from cheap smartphones. The impact of this shift will be huge, with the majority of the world’s population having gone from having no access to unfiltered information to accessing all of the world’s information in the palm of their hands. All in one generation.
But this shift will not take place in a vacuum. While the majority of the developing world will come online for the first time, the developed world will benefit from a number of new innovations; including self-driving cars, photo-realistic 3D holograms and robots. Let’s not forget the robots.
In the words of the authors: “Everyone will benefit from connectivity, but not equally”
For nations, governments, people and governments, it is becoming increasingly clear that we live in two worlds. One physical and one virtual. But while people are embracing the digital world, governments are still trying to find (in their opinion) the best way to regulate it.
Regulation may change from country to country which may lead to a “balkanization” of the Internet, allowing each country to filter and control what information is accessible online. This would most certainly suck and not be a good thing.
News and Journalism
Due to an increase in connectivity, the ability to “break news” will be left to luck and chance. To demonstrate this point, the authors refer to one unwitting civilian in Abbottabad Pakistan who unknowingly live-tweeted the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But while some new digital platforms like Twitter will break news, people will still refer to traditional media organisations for commentary and analysis.
It should be noted that many of the next five billion people who will join the Internet live in impoverished, censored and unsafe conditions. But despite this, safer reporting backed by encryption and wider reach due to advances in connectivity will help expose corruption and wrong doing.
The Future of Conflict
While technology will help improve the world, it will also make it more dangerous. Cyber attacks and incidents of hacking are on the rise and we may soon see conflicts from the digital world spill over into the physical world.
Connectivity will make it easier for terrorist groups to recruit and train members, but by being online, their activities will also be easier to track. Once again, one of the things that tipped off the U.S. Government to Osama Bin Laden’s location was that his compound was completely disconnected from the outside world.
Another interesting potential trend is that rebels may begin virtual kidnappings, as stealing people’s online identities may be more lucrative and less risky than actual kidnappings. Additionally, advances in technology may also lead to the world’s first “smart” rebel movements who will aim to topple regimes through virtual means.
According to the authors, warfare will also become automated. Robots and drones will increasingly be used in combat operations in order to help minimise combat deaths, civilian casualties and collateral damage. While the use of drones in warfare is currently being debated, a report published by Wired in 2012 stated that drones now account for 31%percent of all military aircraft—up from 5% in 2005.
Overall, the authors believe that more connectivity will ultimately be a good thing. Here is one final quote from the book to give you something to think about while we approach the new digital age:
“Every two days we create as much digital content as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003—that’s about five exabytes of information, with only two billion people out of a possible seven billion online. How many new ideas, new perspectives and new creations will truly global technological inclusion produce, and how much more quickly will their impact be felt? The arrival of more people in the virtual world is good for them, and it’s good for us. The collective benefit of sharing human knowledge and creativity grows at an exponential rate.”