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This Week In Tech – Vodacom To The Rescue

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2018-05-18
This week in tech news, Vodacom launches a much-needed emergency service SMS system for the deaf community. Plus, more Android P features!
This week in tech news, finally, Vodacom comes to the rescue with an emergency service for deaf and hearing-impaired customers. This initiative is long overdue, and could possibly be the first of it's kind in Africa. Then, robot killers are a lot closer than we think. Today, Boston Dynamics builds an adorable / creepy robotic guard dog which can perform a couple of impressive tricks. Tomorrow, they could enslave us all. And finally, we skim the surface of the upcoming Android P. The new OS is crammed full of new features and functions.
Do you know who has the best data deal in South Africa for 2018? We found out.

Vodacom Launches SOS Service For Deaf Community

Vodacom has launched South Africa’s first SMS service for deaf, hearing and speech-impaired customers. The new initiative is part of what the network provider says is a continued commitment to adding value to the lives of all customers. The new service is long overdue – and Vodacom has finally spotted the glaring gap in the market. Up until now, deaf and hearing-impaired people have been unable to contact the emergency service centre. It could only be accessible via voice calls. Vodacom claims that this is the very first such service in the country. The 082 112 SMS service is only available to Vodacom Prepaid, Contract and Top Up customers. It is 100% free to use. By sending an SMS to the number above, these customers are now able to request emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance services. In order to make use of the function, customers need only register their details. They can do this by also sending an SMS to 082 112. Since 2004, Vodacom’s Specific Needs division has been providing accessible products or services to customers with disabilities, as well as the elderly. This includes:
  • Devices with bigger keypads;
  • Inclusive design smartphones (featuring built-in text-to-speech software for visually impaired customers) and;
  • Device repair priority.
In partnership with the University of Pretoria, it has also developed the HearZA app – which assists in the detection of hearing problems. The division has received numerous accolades, including the Change Agents and Disability Champion Amongst South Africans Award at the Human Rights Summit from the Disability Alliance (SADA). The deaf and hearing community is also able to enter special contracts with Vodacom, which provides them with the SMS and data they require – without the minutes.

Android P – An All-New Operating System

The upcoming, yet-unnamed Android P is the ninth major version of the operating system. Last week, Google rolled out the first publicly available preview of the system – offering a ton of new features which some will love and others will no doubt loathe. Times are changing. Dave Burke of Google said that Android P is based on three fundamental pillars. These are Intelligence, Simplicity and Wellbeing. Here, we’ve only just begun to touch upon what Android users can expect in the new update. There are so many new functions and features that it is definitely worth looking into. From security updates to functionality to intuitive design – Android P is certainly going to be interesting.

Smarter Technology

Under Intelligence, we’ll see new battery technology – allowing the OS to detect which apps you use most frequently and allocate power usage accordingly. Google says that this will result in CPU power savings. Android P will also introduce adaptive brightness, which will allow the OS to learn how you prefer the brightness of your screen and automatically adjust it. With the current Oreo version, the auto-brightness feature already adjusts based on ambient lighting conditions around you. App Actions will also be introduced, and the phone will learn which apps you use at what time of day – and automatically suggest them when appropriate.

Faster, Simpler To Use

One of the biggest changes falls under the Simplicity section – an all-new user interface navigation system for certain phones. Due to the popularity of smartphones with larger screens and slimmer bezels, functionality will be based on screen swipes. Users will now also be able to toggle screen rotation on the fly with a new button.

And Finally, Wellbeing

Google – which, ironically, has just been busted dabbling in controversial Pentagon contracts – said that digital wellbeing and finding balance between the connected and digital worlds is important to the company going forward. Android P will include new Wind Down and Do Not Disturb modes, as well as the ability to limit the amount of time you spend on apps. Wind Down is specifically designed for those who struggle to tear their faces away from their phones when going to bed. After informing Google of the time you go to bed, it will put your phone in Do Not Disturb and Grayscale mode – reducing visual stimuli and distractions.

Boston Dynamics Ready To Sell Robotic Dogs

By show of fleeing in terror, who among you have seen Black Mirror’s Metalhead episode? In said instalment, a woman spends an hour escaping from a relentless robotic guard dog across a stark, post-apocalyptic landscape. That work of science fiction could soon become reality. US engineering and robotics design company, Boston Dynamics, doesn’t just excel at creating viral videos. It’s also pretty good at bringing your worst nightmares to life. The company’s SpotMini is a doglike robot which will be available for purchase next year. The robots will first be made available for commercial use, such as security, and then to the public. SpotMini can open doors – by use of an articulated arm-like appendage on the back – climb stairs and handle objects around the house and office.  The robot is touted to be the quietest robot Boston Dynamics has ever built. Meaning it can also sneak up on you in the dark. Our days are numbered. There’s no word of a price tag just yet. As a culture, we can’t really make up our minds on whether we’re okay with intelligent robots or not.  For every Wall-E, we’ve got a robot that can chase us down. For every C3P0 or R2D2, we’ve got robot dogs which can navigate, escape, resist, improvise and stare directly into our souls.  

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