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Your OnePlus phone is about become more useful while charging



Google revealed Ambient Mode for the Google Assistant back at IFA 2019, turning your Android phone or tablet into a smart display of sorts when charging. Your charging phone will display information regarding the weather, your agenda, and more. It can even display your photo albums and an interface for controlling smart home gadgets.

Ambient Mode has landed on a few devices already, and OnePlus has just announced that it’s the latest brand to offer the functionality on its phones.

OnePlus confirmed on its forum that Ambient Mode is coming to the OnePlus 3 and above (including the OnePlus 7T series). You can activate the feature by plugging in your phone to charge, tapping the notification, and going through the steps. But you can also manually activate Ambient Mode by visiting Google App Settings > Assistant > Devices (Phone).

“Please note that this is a staged rollout, which might take up to a week to a full release, your patience will be appreciated,” the company cautioned. So you just have to sit tight if you can’t activate it just yet.

Don’t have a OnePlus phone? Well, Google revealed last year that the feature was coming to SonyXiaomiNokia, and Transsion devices. Furthermore, the search giant previously told Android Authority the feature will be available “anywhere on these devices where Voice Match is supported.”


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What is Next for Digital Transformation in Financial Services?




The following is a guest post by Natalie Myshkina, Strategic Business Development, FSI at Adobe.

Like many industries and businesses right now, financial organizations in banking are finalizing and implementing business continuity/contingency plans as well as enabling all employees to work from home. At the same time, they are diligently working to meet changing client needs and building new ways to serve clients. Beyond the operational actions underway, banks and capital markets need to start developing medium- and longer-term plans to address each element of financial, risk, and regulatory compliance, and create new environments to support the business in fully digital settings.

In late 2019, an Arizent survey commissioned by the Credit Union Journal and American Banker reported that only 30 percent of organizations have a digital first, enterprise-wide strategy and readiness. Other organizations are still in the middle or beginning of the digital transformation of their businesses.

While most organizations have business continuity plans, they have been heavily tested over the last few weeks. I’d like to highlight a few operational steps that are essential to consider now for banks:

  • Transparency and trust
    Continue to adjust a communication plan to quickly liaise with employees, customers, business partners, regulators, investors, and vendors. Keeping close communications with customers and other stakeholders creates the opportunity to strengthen the relationship.
  • Operating model
    Implement a dynamic, scalable, and flexible operating model to ensure business continuity in any scenario. For example, in the case of temporary closures, branches need to quickly train branch employees to provide online help or assist the call center in serving clients.
  • Remote services and capabilities
    Many enterprise organizations have an extensive set of workflow tools, document management tools, document collaboration, and electronic signature solutions in place, but they are not fully utilized. For example, one department in the organization may fully embrace digital documents and electronic signatures, while another department keeps receiving and sending snail mail. The solution here would be to review best practices and tools across the organization, understand the full capabilities of available solutions, and offer them to unit managers to utilize as immediate solutions.
  • Digital project prioritization
    Conduct project prioritization exercises, and speed up projects related to offering digital products and services (client onboarding, product enrollment, etc.) or operational inefficiencies. If possible, speed up time-to-market or release solutions with limited/partial functionality or limited integration points.
  • Organizational culture
    Communicating and fostering the culture that maintains employee morale is becoming extremely important, and it can be done in different forms: through top-down communication and leaders acting as role models, by encouraging grassroots initiatives, by providing platforms for team collaboration, creating virtual watercoolers, etc.
  • Peer communications
    Be in close contact with industry groups for information to get best practices and requests to obtain waivers from regulators if required.

The coronavirus pandemic is already leading to major changes in how customers manage their finances and how financial organizations support their customers. Next we would be seeing activities related to meeting changing client needs due to financial stress, supporting client activities in digital channels, rapid digitalization in commercial and corporate banking, and more.

Here are a few notable areas financial organizations should address:

  • Proactively address new customer needs
    To operate in the new environment, banks would need to rapidly meet different client needs and serve them in ways outside the norm. Scalable solutions to process and approve requests for forbearance, mortgage holidays, deferred loan repayments, etc. would need to be implemented quickly as well as quickly scale up the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) via the SBA program.
  • Branchless banking and self-service options in digital channel
    Due to the temporary closing of branches and reduced ATM availability and usage, the branchless banking or virtual branches idea is becoming more popular. As many interactions move online, expect to see more and more consumers want to use self-service tools on the web and in their mobile devices.
  • Rapid digitalization and digital service accessibility across all customer lifecycles stages
    For many organizations, their digital transformations began with onboarding new clients. But often we see that many other client touchpoints in the customer lifecycle are not fully digitized, and some require manual/paper steps. In the new environment, most of the client-initiated activities would be done on digital platforms. Automation is essential to provide clients with fast service and a consistent experience while keeping cost-effective operating model in place.
  • Expending successful digitalization of customer touchpoints beyond retail banking
    Over the last few years, we have seen substantial efforts and budgets spent on elevating customer experiences and moving clients to digital platforms. This has been done for many reasons, one of them was a demand from a digitally native consumer to have a better experience and the competition coming from neobanks (aka digital-only banks).

    Commercial and corporate banks were behind this trend partially because the lack of these drivers and the complexity of the processes. In the new reality, we would be seeing a lot of rapid digitalization of customer-facing and internal activities in commercial/corporate banking and capital markets.
  • Data use, extraction and manipulation
    Going forward, the ability to extract and process data from multiple documents will be essential to manage risks and to create cost-conscious processes. Immediately, we could see requests for solutions to process documents to feed systems assessing portfolio health in stressed markets, or complete search thought legal documents.
  • Adaption of cloud solutions
    As financial services organizations have been behind the curve in the cloud solution adaption, this situation will trigger a revisit of internal policies and expedite further cloud adoption for both client-facing and internal solutions to improve efficiencies, eliminating the need for a larger security and maintenance staff, and creating cost-effective, scalable environments.

During these trying times, banks can best serve their clients by delivering products and services for business continuity today while working on business resilience for the future. Industry experts predict that the current situation will accelerate the digital transformation in the industry over the a short period of time. That time starts now.

Photo by Twixes on Unsplash


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Apple Silicon Chips to Bring Mac Computers Into iPhone Ecosystem




Apple said Monday it would build its own chips to power its Mac computers to create a “common architecture” that allows the devices to run the same apps as those on the iPhone and iPad.

The news came at the annual Apple developer conference — a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic — where the tech giant announced a series of product updates including details of its upcoming iOS 14 software powering its popular handsets.

The new “Apple silicon” initiative ends a longstanding partnership with chipmaker Intel and enables the computers to run the same apps as those on iPhones.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the move represents “a huge leap forward for the Mac,” which would get a more powerful and energy-efficient system that operates more like Apple’s mobile devices.

Cook said the first of the new Mac computers will be shipping by the end of the year and that the change would help lead to “a common architecture for all of our products.”

This means developers can more easily create services which can run across the range of Apple products and devices, the company said.

“Apple has made an important point that by designing their own silicon it has helped them keep pushing performance in ways merchant silicon vendors can’t,” said Ben Bajarin, analyst at Creative Strategies.

New look on iPhone
Apple also offered a first look at its iOS 14 for the iPhone which gives a new look to its home screen and allows users to more easily manage their apps.

The new operating system will organise apps into a cleaner “app library” with the most frequently used ones prominently featured.

The update “transforms the most iconic elements of the iPhone experience, starting with the biggest update we’ve ever made to the home screen,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.

Apple said the software would include a “digital car key” allowing the iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start a car. The virtual key for compatible car models can be shared using messages, or disabled if a device is lost.

Apple said iOS 14 would also include a translate feature for 11 languages powered by its Siri digital assistant and allow for “app clips” or fragments of apps that can be quickly downloaded and used for transactions at partner merchants and services.

A revamped Apple Maps app will for the first time include directions for bicycles, a feature which has been available for years on Google Maps.

Updated software for the Apple Watch, known as watchOS7, will include a series of health and fitness features including improved sleep tracking and automatic handwashing detection to help users clean their hands for the 20 seconds recommended by health officials to help prevent virus spreading.

Apple announced its upcoming Mac operating system will be known as “Big Sur” with more immersive features and improved privacy.

The updated iPadOS14 will add new features for the Apple Pencil which can be used on the tablets.


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How to raise women’s interest in tech; a long-term approach




When talking about African women in tech who inspire young female tech enthusiasts, Funke Opeke’s name definitely gets mentioned.

Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne, a communications services company, has been active in the space for more than a decade, assiduously solving West Africa’s connectivity problem.

But if there are to be more Opekes, the list of women in tech needs to grow, quickly. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening yet.

Case in point, in 2018, Techpoint Africa, in partnership with a digital artist, Nihinlola AyoOluwa, published a compilation of individuals who revolutionised Nigeria’s tech industry. Of the ten that were profiled, only two were women. And this is not surprising.Advertisement

Funke Opeke, CEO, MainOne

It can be inferred from this result that at the time, women had only 20% active representation in tech, and there are other reports lending credence to this.

According to the McKinsey’s Women Matter Africa report (PDF), in 2016, only 5% of tech company CEOs were women, while 29% of senior managers were women. The report also revealed that only 36% of promotions in organisations go to women in Africa.

Although a TechCabal report on Nigerian Women in Tech showed that the percentage of women participants in tech is increasing by the year, the current number is a far cry from what is possible.

In an alternate world, more women should be CEOs of giant tech firms and they should get credit for their exploits, but this isn’t the reality. Perhaps, there is a logical explanation for this.

Despite the uncertainties, all hope is not lost since the past decade has seen more women performing exceptionally in the industry.

However, controversies around gender inequality in the workplace and how it discourages women from thriving still exist.

Deep-seated issues

Going by this school of thought, there is a high tendency for women to be invisible within an organisation — a situation that may have resulted from some gender stereotypes. And female founders and CEOs seem to mostly be at the receiving end.

According to TechCabal‘s report, 55.6% of founders under review attested to the fact that most of the challenges they face are gender-based, especially when it comes to funding.Advertisement

“The difficulty of raising capital is one of the biggest hurdles female entrepreneurs across Nigeria and Africa face. It is six times harder to secure funding than it is for our male counterparts due to cultural and societal barriers that limit a woman’s access to financial capital and this is despite research showing that women deliver more revenue growth, financial efficiency and value in the long-term than male-led businesses,” Funmi Adewara, founder/ CEO, MobiHealth, stated in the report.

Ironically, it is a different story with intermediate and lower-level participants in tech — developers and students studying STEM courses.

According to the report, despite the male dominance at these two levels, the challenges women face do not revolve around gender-bias. For instance, both genders deal with low pay and have to compete for jobs.

In recent years, steps taken to fix the issue of underrepresentation of women in tech, globally, have been focused on students studying STEM courses in high schools and colleges.

Although this may not immediately be the solution to the problem, it is only a matter of time before results are visible. By the time interest is piqued at the basic level, only a little effort would be needed to replicate it among developers and high-profile players.

Way out: Gender dynamism

As is the case for many, there exists the need to assume some typical identity roles based on gender from a young age, and this is primarily influenced by the family.

Is it possible to ignore the fact that this may have contributed greatly to the low interest currently being experienced?

Stephanie Obi, a Nigerian tech entrepreneur and coach, shared the story of how her mum went against stereotypes to help her develop an interest in technology at a very young age.

“I had access to a computer at a very young age, which my mum bought for me. And that’s what inspired me to study computer science. It intrigued me and I decided to learn more about it.”

This lone gesture may have formed the bedrock for her career objectives — creating an appetite to adopt tech solutions, training women on how to develop and adopt tech tools to promote their businesses, and overall, become digitally literate.

“I had exposure to technology, and because of this, I always see tech as an enabler and it has helped with my career,” Obi adds.

Nkemdilim Begho, founder/CEO, Future Software Resources Limited, an IT solution company, also holds a similar opinion.

“The change must start at home and be encouraged in schools and extracurricular activities, which is already happening.”

Obi opines that girls’ disinterest in tech cannot be separated from how it has been presented as something difficult, which they are unfit for. She calls it “a branding problem.”

Begho’s view is that “society positions STEM as something that is exclusive to boys, which is why very few women venture into STEM-related careers. This is not just a function of our educational system, it starts at home where mothers leave everything technology to their husbands or sons. This unavoidably influences how young girls see technology and their role or relationship with it.”

Apparently, there are statistics supporting Begho’s view.

According to the report, the research, which covered students studying computer science, computer engineering, electrical/electronic engineering, and mathematics at the University of Lagos, revealed that women are scantily represented in these departments, sometimes as low as 19%.

However, it appears this may be the case only with public institutions. Obi and another female software engineer responding to Techpoint Africa, aver that there was a fair representation at their different private institutions.

Even then, having a successful run at the tertiary level does not guarantee a smooth run in the real world.

A female electrical/electronic engineering graduate shared how she was excluded from certain tasks because of gender discrimination during an internship.

How to break the cycle

Obi thinks if tech is not demystified for some older women who had no interest, in a few years, it will be replicated in their female wards, and the cycle will continue.

“One of the ways to solve this problem is by showcasing more women making use of tech. It is true they don’t have enough female role models, but if we have more tech-enabled mothers, we will have tech-savvy girls.”

While explaining how she’s been able to draw many women to tech, she speaks of making them realise how it increases their productivity.

“Make them understand that they should learn technology for the sake of something. Tie technology to what is important to them, and you’ll get their interests.”

If anything fuelled Obi’s interest in tech, it was the realisation that she could get tasks done easily with it.

“Although I knew about tech, I had other interests in the fashion business. But when I had a problem in the business, the only way I could think about solving it was to use tech. This came easily because I had a tech background.”

These industry players have stressed how literally focusing on the bias and non-inclusion within corporate organisations and tech companies may not solve the female-inclusion problem in a male-dominated space as much as dealing with it at the foundational level will.

“Tech is amazing and fun, embrace it. It’s also the single field that is relevant today and will remain relevant for the foreseeable future. So the question is, ‘Do you want to actively participate in the economy or not?’ Today there really is no reason why women should not participate in tech,” Begho concludes.


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