Tag: technology

At Google, some employees use a tool that restricts time spent on e-mail. A senior Apple executive said his wife used a device that sets iPhone and iPad limits for their children. Members of a venture capital firm meditate before phone-free quarterly meetings. Slava Rubin, co-founder of crowdfunding site Indiegogo, has a strict no-screen policy for gatherings and adopted a similar rule for his bedroom.

“Literally, the only electricity we use is one lamp,” he says.

Faced with a deluge of text messages, social media updates, e-mails and other distracting alerts, tech executives, entrepreneurs and rank-and-file workers in Silicon Valley are trying to limit their use of the gadgets and digital services they helped create. The efforts show how the industry is grappling with its own concerns about the attention-sapping effects of the smartphone age. A survey released on Monday by Microsoft, the largest workplace software maker, acknowledged that new digital technology can make businesses less productive.

It definitely took a long time and much misery before I figured out where to draw the line
“It definitely took a long time and much misery before I figured out where to draw the line,” said Joe Hewitt, who led Facebook’s early efforts to put the social network on mobile phones. Hewitt said he used to fall into Internet rabbit holes, debating people online and scrolling through Twitter. Now he mutes all but the few friends on Facebook who share his interest in gardening, and he rarely posts anything outside the occasional Instagram picture of a homegrown fig or artichoke.

Some employees of Google use software called In Box When Ready. Downloadable for the Chrome browser, the program lets people schedule “lockouts” so they can’t access messages during certain periods. It also hides notifications of new e-mails except for specific periods of time, removing the temptation to dive into a growing backlog. The tool also provides feedback about how much time a person is spending writing and reading messages, versus targets they set. “I’m using Inbox When Ready to protect my focus,” the e-mails say below user sign-offs.

At Facebook, wood-working and analogue art-making areas at the headquarters campus give employees the chance to step away from screens. In San Francisco, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, now running the business software company Asana, encourages younger employees to turn off notifications on their phones. Rudin of Indiegogo only checks e-mail during designated times, limiting his messages to quick exchanges. Anything that takes longer he does in person or over the phone.

No notifications
Alexander Ljung, the co-founder of SoundCloud, says he turns off all notifications on his phone outside of a messaging app that few people can reach. Thomas Meyerhoffer, a former Apple industrial designer, also blocks alerts on his phone and moved all apps off his iPhone X home screen. Among friends and colleagues, Meyerhoffer said conversations about the consequences of modern technology are common these days. Google searches for “smartphone addiction” hit an all-time high in January.

“There is an increasing awareness,” said Meyerhoffer, who now designs surfboards and co-founded the door-lock company Latch. “Every single person from every kind of occupation is talking about this.”

There’s a growing body of evidence about the harmful effects of social media and smartphones, particularly on younger people. A recent report by researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Georgia concluded teens who spend more time online are less happy than those who spend time on other activities. Another report by Facebook’s own researchers last year found people who passively scroll through posts felt worse afterwards. A group of pediatric and mental health experts are lobbying Facebook to discontinue its Messenger Kids app. In Paris, schools are banning mobile phones altogether.

Meanwhile, prominent figures in the technology industry are criticising companies like Facebook. Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook executives, have said the product is addictive and harmful to mental health. Apple CEO Tim Cook said he wouldn’t let his nephew on social media. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff compared Facebook to cigarettes.

The warnings are beginning to reach board rooms, too. Apple investors Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, recently asked Apple to study the harmful effects of smartphones on mental health and offer more protections for children. A Facebook shareholder is pushing its board to create a risk committee that will study the potential financial harm to Facebook if its product leads to depression or other mental health problems.

“The technology industry is reaching the point where they will need to put more resources into addressing the negative externalities of their products and services,” says Jonas Kron, senior vice president at Trillium Asset Management, the Facebook investor lobbying for the risk committee.

When the iPhone hit, you couldn’t stop the stream of e-mails because the devices were always on people
As “mindfulness” enters the Silicon Valley lexicon, the urge to unplug is creating new business opportunities. Digital detox retreats where people spend several days without technology are increasingly popular among tech workers, as is meditation. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, recently finished a 10-day silent meditation that strictly prohibits any communication.

Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein, who helped create Facebook’s “like” button, meditates one hour per day. Benioff has mandated that each floor of the Salesforce’s soaring new office tower in San Francisco have a meditation room, “where employees can put their phones into a basket or whatever, and go in to an area where there’s quietness”, he said in 2016. And for those without time for a retreat or access to a dedicated space, apps including Calm and Mindfulness Daily are available.

Jon Callaghan, founder of True Ventures and former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association’s board of directors, said phones are not allowed in partner gatherings. At the firm’s quarterly meetings, participants meditate at the beginning of every session. He limits phone usage at home and his family has a no-device policy for meals.

Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive involved in the creation of the iPhone, said he experienced the distracting effects of the device almost immediately after its 2007 release. Most employees at the company didn’t use BlackBerry devices or other pre-iPhone smartphones, meaning e-mail was limited to certain times of the day. Messages outside work hours were rare. “When the iPhone hit, you couldn’t stop the stream of e-mails because the devices were always on people,” Fadell says. He thinks companies should block employees from sending and receiving e-mails during non-work hours.

The technology industry needs to own up to the addictive qualities of its creations and add new safeguards that make it easier for people to put away their phones, Fadell said. Apple and Google, owners of the two largest smartphone operating systems, should offer apps that break down smartphone usage — time spent reading and writing texts, in apps such as Facebook, browsing the Web, writing e-mails — similar to how their health apps show steps walked or hours slept each day, Fadell said.

“They have all that data, just give it back to us,” Fadell said. “This isn’t like building a self-driving car, which is 10 000-times harder and costs way more.”

Companies are beginning to get the message. After Jana and CalSTRS demanded action in early January, Apple said it plans new features to give parents more control over how children use its devices. “We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users,” the company said in a statement. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is changing the company’s news feed to reduce mindless scrolling and increase meaningful interactions between friends and family. Google recently ran an ad highlighting the mental health implications of smartphone and social media use.

“These devices absorb so much of kids’ lives and it’s a bit of a challenge to set the boundaries.”

Regardless, many technology industry veterans are taking their own measures. Fadell, whose family has no-screen Sundays, uses a product called Circle that sets online time limits and blocks certain content. The device connects to a Wi-Fi router, making it easier to set restrictions for any device in a household connected to the network. Devices can be disconnected completely during pre-set hours, like bedtime.

“Some families are more concerned about the kind of content they’re exposed to,” said Circle CEO Lance Charlish. “Others may be worried about device time and life balance.” The company has hundreds of thousands of customers and revenue has doubled every year, he added, without being more specific.

One customer is Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, according to an interview he gave last year to journalist and award-winning author Maria Teresa Cometto.

“These devices absorb so much of kids’ lives and it’s a bit of a challenge to set the boundaries,” Maestri told Cometto. His wife decided to use Circle as a means to moderate their children’s iPhones and iPads, according to a write-up of the interview by i-Italy, a magazine about the country and its ties to the US. It’s unclear if the CFO or his wife still use the device. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Rudin, of Indiegogo, said that if all else fails, religion can help. His family observes the Jewish custom of Shabbat every Friday night through Saturday, meaning technology use is restricted. “My wife will turn her phone and any other tech off for 25 hours straight,” he wrote in a weekday e-mail. “I try to do the same, but it’s not always possible :)”

Source: Tech Central
Reported by Adam Satariano and Selina Wang for Bloomberg

The tech reckoning – and other trends for 2018

Technology is driving exponential growth and mind-blowing innovation in all areas of life, all around the world.

The tech reckoning 

Certainly, in recent years there have been concerns about rapid changes to our culture and questions about people’s ability to keep pace with those changes. But we have now lived with this generation of consumer technology long enough to all begin seeing very real downsides.

– Facial recognition and other biometrics amp up already serious privacy concerns

– Facebook and Twitter have failed to earn public trust. They’ve failed to police their platforms, letting cyber thugs in to divide the nation and affect an election. Not to mention an avalanche of extremist and offensive postings still finding their way online, despite claims of corrective action by the tech giants.

– Tech ethicist, Tristan Harris, schooled us on the addictive properties of social media, and how we are being controlled by a steady drip of “likes” and retweets — just enough to keep us hooked.

– Some research has shown that depression in teenagers is skyrocketing due to mobile phone use and social media influence.

– Alexa and Google Home are always listening—during a party, at dinner, or even in an argument with your loved ones! The possibility that voice data can be used in court as evidence is going to be the next big hurdle for these products. Where does your privacy begin and end?

– The big five – Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple – (FAMGA) have grown beyond all expectations and are coming under increasing scrutiny for all manner of business, political, and social practices. Coming face to face with a world they didn’t intend to create, Silicon Valley has created its own retreat — disconnected from the billions of “users” they court — in order to reflect on what they wrought.

What this means for business

According to Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer, trust has imploded, reaching an all-time low. Their latest report shows that “85% lack full belief in the system, this belief increases vulnerability to fear and further distrust.”

This is the climate we are in now. Brands, business, boards should take note that this sort of disillusion bleeds over into multiple categories putting loyalty, revenue and brand image at risk.

Retail singularity

The gravitational pull of Amazon continues to challenge all of retail as they struggle to innovate and morph to keep their businesses and customers from being swallowed into the void.

– Just when e-commerce looks to be the only channel, “Spending growth at mom-and-pop businesses has outpaced that of the big chains in the past 2 years”

– “Companies using print catalogs, cut through email clutter social-media saturation to help differentiate brands, sustain existing customers”

– Stores are finding new life as community spaces with live events attracting “Millennials focused on connection and community”

– Bricks and mortar are re-emerging from the black hole of e-commerce. Bonobos and Warby Parker opened physical stores over the last year and now Everlane has just announced 2 new stores. CEO Michael Preysman said “Our customers tell us all the time that they want to touch a product before they buy it. We realized we need to have stores if we’re going to grow on a national and global scale.”

– Technology continues to create amazing in-store experiences for shoppers with VR and AR.

– AI is helping us find the right clothing for every size. Among the many new developments is Start Today USA with their ZOZOSUIT that captures 15,000 measurements so you can confidently order the right size and fit from ZOZO.

– Those dash buttons will probably change into auto-replenishment, subscription services will become even more valuable as they get to know each customer better, and hotels are going to be IoT showrooms answering our every need at a mere mention.

– Micro-leases are the new legal offering that will fill empty spaces with new startups, seasonal, or experiential offerings.

What this means for business

As if Amazon weren’t threat enough, the industry-blurring mega-mergers of Amazon/Whole Foods and CVS/Aetna has more than retailers paying attention. Every big brand should be thinking about how they can be the business that responds to the entire consumer journey — or risk being eaten up by a business that will.

One thing to remember about change is that even though technology is the new shiny thing, people are still your audience and their need for personal attention, products just for them, fun sensorial experiences, confidence in their purchases and authentic community will never, ever go away. Those retailers that can keep innovating around those evergreen consumer desires will eventually win out.

By Mary Meehan for Forbes 

Plan ahead or miss out on 2018’s tech trends

Technology is disrupting the world in ways we’ve never seen before, in nearly every industry – and it will irrevocably change the world of work in the future.

That was the overriding message from a recent Business Day Dialogue, held in partnership with Dimension Data and Cisco, on technology trends in 2018 and beyond.

The biggest challenge facing organisations today is the burden of old technology and capability, said Stephen Green, chief technology officer at Dimension Data Middle East and Africa. Companies that have been around for 10 years or more need to digitise their systems or risk being left behind.

Peter Prowse, vice-president of strategic partnerships at Dimension Data, said legacy infrastructure had to be prepared for the journey ahead. Established companies will shore up their technological infrastructure in the years ahead to help them adapt to an unpredictable market.

He said organisations had to plot a route beyond the digital infrastructure horizon. The first step is to implement programmable infrastructure. “More organisations will be considering networking and security requirements in the development phase and programming their applications to take advantage of software-defined infrastructure.”

The second step involves understanding the platform economy. “In the year ahead, businesses will start to recognise the true potential of the platform economy, the impact it will have on their operating models and the changes they will need to make, including digital front-ends and a higher level of risk,” said Prowse.

Third comes a shift in focus from technologies to services architecture. “Hybrid IT is now generally accepted as the model of the future. However, many organisations are far from having the technology in place, so we expect to see businesses future-proofing or upgrading their business architecture.”

In an era of digital disruption, Prowse added, speed trumps cost. Companies are aware of the risk of failing to adapt fast enough and will therefore choose the technology they can use the fastest.

Last, there will be a surge in interest in software-defined wide area networks, with wireless technologies, networks and wireless-enabled processes expected to leap ahead.

More trends to consider
Other trends in technology that will affect businesses are artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, and virtual and augmented learning, all of which will deliver compelling and complementary outcomes, said Green.

These disparate technologies will come together in the year ahead to create useful business applications. AI will drive voice-enabled virtual assistants in the workplace and everyday tasks will be automated, reducing costs and speeding up processes.

Smart buildings will evolve into smart workplaces, and increasingly employees will ask to bring their own devices and apps to work. “Businesses will have to rethink their value proposition,” said Green.

Cybersecurity will continue to be a threat. Companies will start investing in technologies aimed at gaining the upper hand against cybercriminals, including using blockchain innovatively.

During a panel discussion, moderated by Aki Anastasiou, on how technology would affect the future, Tiso Blackstar Group head of digital Lisa MacLeod explained how technology had disrupted the media industry and the steps the company was taking to transform digitally.

She spoke about the challenges posed to business as a result of a lack of digital and development skills in South Africa, as well as the country’s high data costs, which she said entrenched inequalities in our society.

“South Africa has the most expensive data costs on the African continent, which is a huge issue,” MacLeod said.

Commenting on a local shortage of IT skills, Garsen Naidu, head of channel at Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa, said there was a looming global shortage of cybersecurity specialists. He added that South African curricula had to be adapted to teach relevant skills, including teaching children to code from a young age.

Technology offers huge possibilities for the future, and it is how we use those opportunities that is critical, he said.

Giving a millennial’s perspective on technological disruption, Arye Kellman, founder of influencer marketing agency TILT, said millennials did not call it disruption or technology – to them, it was merely the way everything worked.

Source: Business Day https://www.businesslive.co.za

Bill Gates is building his own city

Bill Gates is set to build a new “smart city” with a population of almost 200 000 people.

Belmont Partners, an investment firm run by the Microsoft co-founder has invested $80 million (£61 million) in the project, which will be “forward-thinking” and have “cutting-edge” technologies at its core.

It has purchased 24 800 acres of land, which will be used for schools, housing, offices and commercial and retail space.

Gates’ futuristic city will be built in southwestern Arizona, and will be called Belmont.

It will have 80,000 residential units, says Belmont Partners, which will give it a population of around 182,000.

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” said Belmont Partners, reports KPNX.

“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model.”

Google to create its own neighbourhood with weather management systems

It isn’t yet know when construction will begin, but Gates’ vision appears to echo that of Google, which is set to create Quayside, its own high-tech community, in Toronto.

Quayside will feature flexible buildings that can be completely reconfigured at speed, and Google will even attempt to “mitigate” the weather, to encourage people to spend more time outside.

It’s described as “the world’s first neighbourhood built from the internet up”, and Google hopes to turn it into “a blueprint for the 21st-century urban neighbourhood”.

By Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent 

One year after Donald Trump was elected president, stocks are at record highs.

While Trump frequently claims that the former caused the latter, the technology industry might beg to differ.

Tech giants Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are the five top contributors to the S&P 500’s advance in 2017, accounting for 28% of the index’s gain, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

That’s over $1 trillion of increased market value from five companies.

Facebook is the top performer in the group, up 57 percent this year as of Monday, followed by Apple at 52 percent. The lowest of the five is Alphabet, up 32 percent, still well ahead of the S&P 500’s 16 percent gain.

A war of words
Trump has never had a particularly friendly relationship with tech.

During the campaign, as Hillary Clinton was staffing her digital team with people from Google, Facebook and Twitter, Trump was attacking Apple for manufacturing abroad and accusing Amazon of somehow using The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, to keep the e-commerce giant’s taxes low.

Now imagine if Trump had followed through on his promise to go after Amazon for, as he claimed, not paying its fair share of taxes. Or if he’d somehow forced Apple to start manufacturing in the United States.

More broadly, remember when Trump promised to levy a 45 percent tariff on products made in China? Apple and Microsoft manufacture devices there, and Amazon counts on Chinese sellers for a disproportionate number of products sold on its marketplace.

Tech has also taken public stances against many Trump proposals.

Since Trump took office, tech companies have adamantly opposed his immigration restrictions, whether the travel ban or his move to end protections for people who were brought to the country illegally as kids.

In July, Google and Amazon were among companies to participate in an online protest against the Trump administration’s effort to unwind net neutrality rules that force large internet providers like CNBC owner Comcast and AT&T to treat all content equally.

Tech leaders have spoken out against Trump’s order to ban transgender people from serving in the military, and they criticized the president in August for suggesting that “many sides” were to blame after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent.

But apart from the rhetoric, little has actually changed in Washington since Trump took office. And for tech companies, that’s just fine.

Tech has ‘optimized the rules of globalization’
Kate Mitchell, a partner at venture capital firm Scale Venture Partners, said that if Trump did follow through with protectionist trade policies that made it harder for big American companies to grow, the Trump stock rally would disappear in a hurry.

She predicts that U.S. leaders would lose ground to Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent, the world’s sixth and seventh most-valuable tech companies.

“If we have a trade war so that Amazon, Apple and everybody else is being discriminated against globally because we’re being so protectionist, Alibaba and Tencent will say, ‘Move on over,'” Mitchell said. “They are very interested in taking share away.”

After attacking Apple several times during the campaign, Trump told The Wall Street Journal in July that CEO Tim Cook plans to build three plants in the U.S. But there’s no evidence that Cook made such a promise, and it would cost Apple a fortune to move iPhone production from China, home to the world’s best manufacturing technology for
consumer electronics.

“You cannot manufacture smartphones at scale in the United States,” said Denny Fish, who invests in tech stocks at Janus Henderson, where he helps manage $4.7 billion. “There’s rhetoric from the president, but it’s not based in reality in terms of what you could actually do.”

Fish, who owns shares of each of the five biggest tech companies, said he hasn’t changed his view on the industry since Trump became president, “because the reality is that not much is happening.”

In fact, while Trump has touted an “America first” message of economic nationalism, the companies most benefiting during the Trump era are the identical brands that flourished the most under his predecessor. They’re winning from the same trade policies that have existed for decades.

“You look at companies like Microsoft, they’ve pretty much optimized the rules of globalization for 30 years,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of BMO Wealth Management, which oversees $70 billion in assets. Despite Trump’s campaign pledges, “there are a ton of entrenched interests saying we want things to stay the same,” he said.

Taxes represent one area where Trump and tech have been on the same page. Heading into the election, Trump’s tax repatriation proposal called for allowing companies to bring back the huge sums of cash they hold overseas and pay a one-time tax of just 10 percent, as opposed to the corporate tax rate of as high as 35 percent.

The tax plan that the Trump administration has proposed includes an unspecified repatriation benefit and a corporate tax rate of 20 percent. But those changes haven’t happened yet, and it’s not clear if he’s got the votes in Congress to pass the bill.

A political crackdown?
Otherwise, tech investors like Fish are happy with the status quo. As a stakeholder in Alphabet and Facebook, Fish said he is watching to see if any new regulations emerge that could thwart the growth of the dominant digital advertising companies.

New data protection rules go into effect next year in Europe that can limit how those companies use personal data in targeting ads. The U.S. has yet to take similar steps, but Fish said there could be some political pressure on these platforms as it becomes more evident how online ads and fake news were created and manipulated by foreign actors ahead of the presidential election.

“If anything were to change their ability to monetize in the same way, that’s where we would be more concerned,” Fish said.

He was quick to point out that for now, “We don’t see that.”

Ari Levi and Josh Lipton for CNBC

Mining asteroids in space

For most, an area much smaller than the surface of the planet Earth is considered home. For many, Earth is their favourite planet- as I once heard an astronaut say at an astrobiology conference. But for those few who feel a curiosity, an affinity and indeed a sense of belonging with that overwhelming majority of what is beyond, Earth is but a pale blue dot in a universe of starstuff waiting to be known.

Our increasingly complex use of natural resources is making a strong call for fast-tracked exploration and mining in space. At the turn of the last century, fewer than a dozen materials were in wide use, among them wood, brick, iron, copper, gold, silver, and a few plastics. In contrast, a single modern computer chip uses more than 60 different elements of varying scarcity. Increased societal demand and insufficient recycling of rare resources is putting pressure on local supply chains, which in future could slow down growth and expansion as demand outstrips supply. Most importantly, there is only so much stress our unique biosphere here on Earth can take- all living systems share the same set of finite resources, while human population and associated material needs grows exponentially.
Asteroid mining has been heralded as one of the world’s first multi-trillion dollar industries with the potential to transform the global economy in the 21st century. One near-Earth asteroid that caught the eye of astronomers and prospectors, Anteros, is so packed with rare minerals that it has been valued at $5.57tn, or more than twice the GDP of the entire African continent.

Global innovators reaching for the stars
Leaders in the aerospace industry including Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, among others, are making strides towards initiating an off-Earth economy, and the extraction of resources in space is an essential step towards this future. While bringing asteroid resources back home will contribute to the cost-effectiveness of initial missions, the real potential of asteroid mining is in realising humanity’s next great ambition: the exploration and settlement of space. In combination with technologies such as 3D printing, resources extracted from asteroids can be used to create tools, machines, and even habitats, making crewed space exploration and the establishment of the first extra-terrestrial research settlements feasible.
The most important resource for space exploration is water, which aside from its uses in life support and food cultivation also can be broken up into its constituent parts – hydrogen and oxygen – to create rocket fuel and breathable air. This is an essential step to extending the range of crewed space travel: water currently costs around $50m per tonne to launch into space, so finding and extracting water found in space will essentially turn asteroids into fuel stops for crewed space missions.

A new way of prospecting
In a collaboration with MineRP, SAP Africa participated in a series of co-innovation projects that sought to integrate technical and business planning processes in the mining industry. By broadly grouping the industry into two domains – the science of mining and the business of mining – we jointly developed solutions that overcome the disconnect between technical and financial planning by enabling companies to run fully simulated financing and technical planning scenarios.

We focused on the SHEPHERD asteroid retrieval conceptualisation, a leading contender in terms of mission design which focuses on encapsulating each asteroid for resource utilisation extraction, which is essential for providing protection from loose rubble and dust, capturing volatiles from icy objects, and enabling the use of reactive gasses in processing the asteroid material. Spectral analysis of metals extracted can provide a real-time profit estimate, powered by SAP’s digital core and supported by advanced real-time analytics. By looking at criteria such as the estimated content – type, grade and volume – of an asteroid, as well as the feasibility of its extraction plan and the energy required to enter or exit Earth’s orbit, mining prospectors can make accurate predictions of profitability to ensure no efforts are wasted.

Space mining – and traditional mining – are similarly at a crossroads. Without proper and accurate modelling and simulation, both industries will fail to attract the investment they need to sustain and grow. But by bringing together the science and business of mining through the use of technology, the mining industry can continue to innovate and support humanity’s greatest ambitions.

By Dr Adriana Marais, Head of Innovation at SAP Africa

Offices would be much better places to work if they were more like cars.

“New car models are often embedded with technologies that make driving easier, safer and more fun.

“Sensors tell drivers if there is a truck in their blind spot or if they are about to back into another car when parking. Some cars allow drivers to safely take their hands off the wheel. Increasingly, more will be Wi-Fi enabled. The car doesn’t just provide transportation anymore—it actually helps people be better drivers,“ says Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office.

“So why can’t we embed technology in the office to help people feel, work and think better?

“A lot more people will drive a smart car to go to work in a dumb office. But this simply has to change and it will change.”

People used to think that technology would make offices obsolete—but the opposite is happening. Technology will be embedded in offices so it actually helps people work better and makes the workplace even more relevant.

“It will help people cope with the sense of overwhelm they often feel as work has intensified and the pace of change has accelerated. It will also help organisations design the kinds of spaces that workers love to work in versus have to work in.
Technology will be embedded in offices so it actually helps people work better and makes the workplace even more relevant.”

Work is fundamentally more complex than ever before. Workers who used to be assigned to a single project team now find themselves juggling multiple teams and tasks, constantly switching from one set of tasks to another, transitioning from one work mode to the next and orchestrating their way through a maze of meetings. The constant focus-shifting wastes time and drains energy.

When it comes to technology workers are already familiar with such mobile phones, laptops and Wi-Fi, this has had the impact of freeing employees who used to be tethered to their desks.

“It’s liberating—people have more choices about where and how to work.”

But it has also caused information overload as data has multiplied exponentially. And increasing globalisation brings new ideas and team members from all over the world.

“For example, video-conferencing makes collaboration across time zones easier. But it also means that you can’t just book one conference room for a meeting—now you need to book multiple spaces for your global team’s video call. So collaboration improved, but meeting scheduling got more complicated.

Think about a conference room that can alert you before the meeting ends, to make sure you wrap up what you need to accomplish before the next group stands impatiently outside the door, waiting for you to get moving.

“What if it could also recognise you and bring up notes from your last team meeting and adjust the lighting to the levels you prefer?

“And what if offices had a data stream that knew which rooms are always busy and which rooms no one seems to like. With this information, organisations can better understand what’s working and what’s isn’t.”

Just as technology in today’s cars is improving the driving experience, tomorrow’s office will harness the power of emerging technologies.

“It will allow people to more easily navigate the complexity of work as well as help organisations create better work experiences for individuals and teams” Andrews concluded.

Till 1995, paper as a commodity was called white gold. But this gold has lost its sheen. In the 1960s, economists predicted that paper would face a shortage in India when its per capita consumption of about 2 kg catches up with the global average of around 35 kg.

To be fair, in 1973 the country witnessed an unprecedented paper boom. Financial institutions liberally doled out loans to all paper mills without looking into their viability. More than 320 mini paper mills and about a dozen big paper mills started operations since 1976 and after 1980 all these new mills started closing operations systematically.

Wrong forecast
Recently, Ballarpur Industries accounting for almost 35 per cent of the Indian paper market shut down citing financial constraints and adverse market conditions. Just a year ago Sirpur Paper Mills, a leading producer also shut its mill citing adverse market conditions.

Thus the pundits’ forecast turned out to be mere bluff, like the Malthusian theory of population which predicted famine for an increasing population in geometric progression. Robert Malthus did not figure technology in food production.

In the case of paper, computers and telecommunications greatly displaced the use of paper. A compact disc of 700 MB can store matter than can be printed in 60 reams of paper (double demy) of 60 gsm equivalent to one tonne of writing /printing paper.

This means, India’s 2 million tonnes of writing and printing paper production can be stored in some 1350 hard drives of 1 TB, which can be kept inside a small shop of 1,000 sq feet. One can understand the economics behind this. Also, one can think in terms of easy retrievability of data from computers, or discs, when compared to hard copy retrieval from paper board files.

Almost all government departments, regulatory bodies negotiable instruments, bank transfers, and so on have switched to electronic data keeping thanks to itseasy retrievability, accessibility, speed and safety. Therefore, there can be no speakable growth rate in paper in future.

In 1990s, the production of paper in the US in writing and printing grade was around 90 million tonnes which has dipped to around 60 million tonnes; it is continuing to decline.

The US government which used to be a leading consumer of paper is now storing data in metallic tapes and computers. This substitutes consumption of around 33 million tonnes of paper. This is the position for all governments worldwide.

Most of the demand prediction in India was based on the increase in the income levels of the lower and middle level income group. As this populace graduates towards the upper income level, a fresh demand would be created especially through education. This under normal circumstances was true especially for a country like India where 36.4 per cent of the population was living below-subsistence levels.

Electronic invasion
Income level did increase as predicted and a good percentage of our population graduated to upper income levels. But consumption of paper didn’t go up as expected. The electronic media invaded. Children are now using smartphones and computers for learning.

A greater section of the younger generation, including the eligible working population, has now turned to electronic medium. Thus the anticipated demand for paper did not materialise.

The book publishing industry too had been greatly affected; though the reading habit has greatly increased, readers now use laptops and mobile platforms for reading, which offers them great convenience in terms of bookmarking and revisiting passages.

In the office segment the effect is profound. All files are now stored on internet-based (cloud) applications from Google, Apple, etc.. Demat of shares and downloading of public limited company balance sheets in company websites, electronic telephone bills, e-ticketing, all have impacted paper consumption.

What vanished in the meantime was manifold paper, manila pink cover paper, duplicating paper, bond paper, ledger paper, account book paper, share application paper, policy bond paper and so on. Only copier grade paper mainly used in taking print outs from electronic printers is in use. That is in short a shift in consumption pattern that happened due to technology.

Also, a sea change has taken place in the way pulp is made. Added by advancement in chemical engineering in gumming fibres, most nations use ash content or saw dust in their pulp for very good quality paper thus substituting precious long fibre coniferous trees. Time magazine is printed in six-colours on paper using 35 per cent ash content on advanced printing machines.

The road ahead
In the paper manufacturing process, the advancement in high-speed machinery consuming optimum energy and controlled by electronic sensors, resulted in immense cost reduction for paper mills. Also, the latest technology would help them to conform to green emission/pollutions norms.

In about 15 years, consumption for writing and printing grade paper would have declined tremendously. As a standing reference, one can note that big photo film companies such as Kodak or Konica had to shut down their production of photo films when smartphones arrived.

There is no point in Indian paper manufacturers blaming cheaper imports. Countries such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, which have stronger currencies and better technologies, export to India. A focus on further cost reduction by implementing latest technologies would be a better option rather than to expect price increase through demand growth. For example, the ability to make copier grade paper in 40 gsm instead of the present 70 gsm should be the focus. The existing paper mills would survive only if they try to improve their pulping and paper machine technology instead of blindly adding capacity. However, packing grade paper such as kraft and duplex board may witness steady marginal growth due to rejection of plastics.

By TS Viswanathan, MD of Subramaniam Brothers, for www.thehindubusinessline.com

The workplace is changing and becoming more digital, fast-paced and dynamic than ever before. In this new, tech-driven atmosphere where there’s constant demand for increased speed and efficiency, are we losing sight of what the entire profession of human resources was founded on: people?

The fact is that we are only at the beginning of the digital economy’s exponential growth – automation and artificial intelligence will affect every aspect of human life, and therefore, the workplace as well.

As technology takes over increasingly complex tasks, new forms of human-technology interaction will emerge, and industry and society will have to evolve to accommodate that relationship. We have to work to blend the best of technology with the best of human abilities. There are certain things that technology will not be able to replace and those are the things we should start focusing on putting back into HR.

All humans have basic needs. We need to feel appreciated, valued and a sense of belonging. Face-to-face interaction provides the emotive qualities that we need in order to feel heard, respected and valued. E-mails, texts, virtual environments and automated responses can result in a misconnection. Customer satisfaction is not based solely on response time; relationships and experiences are crucial.

Here are a few suggestions on how to find the right balance between technology and human abilities:

• Leverage technology to connect – connecting does not always have to be done in person – virtual meetings are our most common form of interaction. I challenge you to turn on your video camera the next time you are connecting with a colleague. We want to feel noticed, and using video functions can help to make a meeting feel more personal.

• Make automated services personal – when accessing an automated service, the interface should utilise technology to have interactive videos to guide employees through a request. Lengthy descriptions on how to utilise a tool are time consuming to read and leave the requester feeling incapable of completing a request. Having a friendly face pop-up to walk you through a process would provide real-time guidance and would bring the system to life – the perfect blend of human and technology.

• Constant personal connections – personal connections allow you to have a pulse of the people and organisation. When analysing key data, trends emerge enabling you to build proactive solutions. It is up to us to bring the analysis to personal contacts to continue the investment in people and ensure we implement the proposed solutions.

• Engage with technology – create an environment that inspires employees to make your business their career, by engaging the right talent across your workforce – and make sure they succeed. With technology you can streamline and standardise your HR processes, get new hires up to speed quickly, and reward your employees in an instant. This enables you to attract and care for your most important resource, the human one.

The technology evolution is only beginning. It is our job to stay on top of the trends and find the right balance to combine the best of technology with the best of human abilities.

Nearly three of every five back-to-school shoppers this year expect to purchase some type of technology item, be it a smartphone, tablet, portable memory drive, calculator or headphones, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

That figure (59%) is a full 12% higher than consumers who said the same thing last year, according to the CTA. All told, consumers are expected to spend $18.5 billion on back-to-school tech products this year (up 6.5% over last year).

“This growth in tech spend is a reflection of tech becoming a frequently used medium for learning and commonplace in schools across the country,” says Janvier Depeazer, senior research analyst for CTA.

“At this point, tech is being used for teaching all different ages, and for many older students it’s becoming a required need for success in high school and college.”

Among the top items shoppers are expecting to purchase are portable memory sticks (71% of consumers expect to purchase them), basic calculators (55%), headphones (52%) and laptops (44%).

“Compared to last year, the top anticipated back-to-school tech purchase remained the same as portable memory, and the top five tech items remain the same but the order differs,” Depeazer says.

Other expected purchases include carrying or protective cases (48%), software (39%) and product subscriptions (22%).

Nearly all (95%) of BTS shoppers plan to visit brick-and-mortar stores to make these purchases, including mass retailers (88%), office supply stores (56%) and department stores (47%). Only 36% plan to visit a consumer technology store, according to the organization.

“Generally, a tech purchase decision that involves more research may result in an in-store purchase after a chance to interact/demo the product and ask questions to salespeople,” Depeazer says.

Even so, nearly half (49%) of shoppers will also hit online retailers including online-only retailers (80%), retailer Web sites (69%) and auction Web sites (35%).

By Aaron Baar for www.mediapost.com

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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