Apple looking to buy cobalt directly from miners

Apple in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom.

The iPhone maker is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries.

The talks show that the tech giant is keen to ensure that cobalt supplies for its iPhone and iPad batteries will be sufficient, with the rapid growth in battery demand for electric vehicles threatens to create a shortage of the raw material. About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones.

Apple is seeking contracts to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for five years or longer, according to one of the people, declining to be named as the discussions are confidential. Apple’s first discussions on cobalt deals with miners were over a year ago, and it may end up deciding not to go ahead with any deal, another person said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg late last year named Apple among several companies the miner was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.

Securing supplies
The move means Apple will find itself in competition with carmakers and battery producers to lock up cobalt supplies. Companies from BMW AG and Volkswagen AG to Samsung SDI Co. are racing to sign multi-year cobalt contracts deals to ensure they have sufficient supplies of the metal to meet ambitious targets for electric vehicle production.

So far no major deals have been announced, although BMW’s head of procurement told Germany daily FAZ in early February that it was close to securing a 10-year supply deal.

Cobalt is an essential ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for smartphones. While smartphones use around eight grams of refined cobalt, the battery for an electric car requires over 1,000 times more. Apple has around 1.3 billion existing devices, while Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has been bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles.

The price of the metal has more than tripled in the past 18 months to trade at more than $80,000 a metric ton. Two-thirds of supplies come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there has never been a peaceful transition of power and child labor is still used in parts of the mining industry.

In recent years Apple has stepped up its engagement with cobalt suppliers after the origin of the metal in its supply chain came under scrutiny from human rights groups. In a report in early 2016, Amnesty International alleged that Apple and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Chinese suppliers were buying cobalt from mines that rely on child labor.

Last year Apple published a list of the companies that supply the cobalt used in its batteries for the first time, and said it would not let cobalt from small-scale mines in Congo into its supply chain until it could verify that the “appropriate protections” were in place.

Source: Bloomberg / MyBroadband

Social media is part of the modern fabric of interaction, with some reports suggesting that 66% of users spend time checking social media accounts while at work.

Industry tracker Mediakix suggests that popular platforms YouTube and Facebook consume one hour 15 minutes per day.

But when you leave your company, who owns your Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or even Gmail account? Legal experts in SA say the law is not clear.

“This is a grey area, and it would really depend on a thorough investigation of the history, purpose and origin of the social media account in question,” Pamela Stein, head of Employment Law at Webber Wentzel told Fin24.

“In order to demonstrate ownership, the employer would have to show that the social media account was clearly created for the purposes of promoting the growth of the business, and that this growth was achieved by social media activity generated during company time.”

Personal information

She added that factors over the ownership of a social media account would depend on whether the account had been created as part of the employment contract, or for the purpose of growing the organisation’s profile.

Unlike a company cellphone, computer or car, a social media account does not only exist on a mobile device, and the law assigns protections of personal information, as described in the Protection of Personal Information Act, which forbids unwanted sharing and exploitation of personal information.

“You have rights over your identity. However, if there was a clause in the contract of employment saying any personal account created during their employment is the property of the employer – perhaps the employer would have rights to it,” specialist technology attorney Russel Luck told Fin24, though he was careful to agree that the matter is not a settled one under South African law.

“If these accounts were set up so the employee could engage with the public as an extension of his work services, then perhaps the employer would have rights over it. Even more so if the email address used to verify the social media account is a work email, not personal one,” he added.

This reflects a US case in which Phonedog sued former employee Noah Kravitz over marketing on his Twitter account. The company alleged that 17 000 Twitter followers Kravitz had amassed was a customer list and demanded damages of $340 000.

A News24 survey revealed that 53% of social media users accessed the platforms while at while at work, and 3% said they would like to, but were not allowed.

Personal logins demand

Stein said that in SA, an employer seeking to claim a social media account would have to show just cause.

“Firstly, the employer would have to establish a basis for such a claim, and then sue the employee in the appropriate court depending on the cause of action.

“The employer could seek an order prohibiting the employee from any further use of the social media account and requiring the employee to take all reasonable steps to return the social media account to them.

“In addition, all social media sites allow users to report breaches et cetera and once such an order is obtained the social media platform could be notified and requested to assist.”

However, Luck argued that for a local company to demand personal logins to social media accounts would be a contravention of South African law.

“On the other side of the coin, SA law does follow international trends that you don’t need to give your employer your login details to your personal Facebook account – ie it’s unlawful to force an employee to do this.

“Where employers are making employment, promotion, dismissal or labour decisions based on access (or lack of access) to the personal Facebook account of an employee it would amount to unfair discrimination.”

Source: Fin24

A cyberattack caused the Internet disruptions during the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony on Friday night, Olympic officials and security experts said.

Jihye Lee, a spokesman for the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, confirmed Sunday that “the technology issues experienced Friday night were caused by a cyberattack.”

Mr. Lee did not elaborate on the cause but said that the attack had been quickly addressed and that systems had been stabilized by Sunday.

The cyberattack took out internet access and telecasts, grounded broadcasters’ drones, shut down the Pyeongchang 2018 website, and prevented spectators from printing out reservations and attending the ceremony, which resulted in an unusually high number of empty seats.

Security experts said they had uncovered evidence that the attack had been in the works since late last year. It was directed at the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee and incorporated code that was specifically designed to disrupt the Games or perhaps even send a political message.

“This attacker had no intention of leaving the machine usable,” a team of researchers at Cisco’s Talos threat intelligence division wrote in an analysis Monday. “The purpose of this malware is to perform destruction of the host” and “leave the computer system offline.”

In an interview, Talos researchers noted that there was a nuance to the attack that they had not seen before: Even though the hackers clearly demonstrated that they had the ability to destroy victims’ computers, they stopped short of doing so. They erased only backup files on Windows machines and left open the possibility that responders could still reboot the computers and fix the damage.

“Why did they pull their punch?” asked Craig Williams, a senior technical leader at Talos. “Presumably, it’s making some political message” that they could have done far worse, he said.

Talos’s findings matched those of other internet security companies, like CrowdStrike, which determined on Monday that the attacks had been in the works since at least December. Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike, said his team had discovered time stamps that showed the destructive payload that hit the opening ceremony was constructed on Dec. 27 at 11:39 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time — which converts to 6:39 a.m. Eastern Time, 2:39 p.m. in Moscow and 8:39 p.m. in South Korea.

Attackers clearly had a target in mind: The word Pyeongchang2018.com was hard-coded into their payload, as was a set of stolen credentials belonging to Pyeongchang Olympic officials. Those stolen credentials allowed attackers to spread their malware throughout the computer networks that support the Winter Games on Friday, just as the opening ceremony was timed to begin.

Security companies would not say definitively who was behind the attack, but some digital crumbs led to a familiar culprit: Fancy Bear, the Russian hacking group with ties to Russian intelligence services. Fancy Bear was determined to be the more brazen of the two Russian hacking groups behind an attack on the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Beginning in November, CrowdStrike’s intelligence team witnessed Fancy Bear attacks that stole credentials from an international sports organization, Mr. Meyers said. He declined to identify the victim but suggested that the credential thefts were similar to the ones that hackers would have needed before their opening ceremony attack.

On Wednesday, two days before the ceremony, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an apparent attempt to pre-empt any accusations of Russian cyberattacks on the Games. In a statement, released in English, German and Russian, the agency accused Western governments, press and information security companies of waging an “information war” accusing Russia of “alleged cyber interference” and “planning to attack the ideals of the Olympic movement.”

This was not the first Olympic opening ceremony that was a target for hackers. In the lead-up to the 2012 London Games, investigators uncovered attack tools and the blueprints to the Olympic stadium’s building management systems on a hacker’s computer.

It appeared that hackers planned to take out the power to the stadium, said Oliver Hoare, who led cybersecurity matters for the London Games. But officials successfully prevented an attack.

By Nicole Perlroth for The New York Times

PC distributor Mustek is assisting the City of Johannesburg (COJ) in a case where the city paid R6-million for 500 desktop computers to a service provider but the PCs were never delivered to the municipality.

In a statement, COJ mayor Herman Mashaba says he was informed that the city paid R6 million for 500 desktop computers that were ordered by the Group Information Communication Technology (GICT) department in 2014 but they were never delivered.

Opposition party the Democratic Alliance took over COJ from the ANC in August 2016. Mashaba, who took over the reins from the ANC’s Parks Tau, has publicly announced he intends to rid the city of corruption, which he blames on the previous administration.

Tip-off

According to Mashaba, the Group Forensic and Investigation Service (GFIS) received a tip-off from a member of the public who is closely linked to the service provider, saying that while she was working at the company, the city placed an order for 500 desktop computers.

It’s not clear which desktop PCs the city purchased but at retailer Incredible Connection, they range from R5 000 to R18 000. In the R6 million deal, the city paid R12 000 per computer.

Mashaba explains the computers were paid for with the assistance of officials working for the city but never reached the city.

The service provider, which is based in the south of Johannesburg, provides office supplies such as desktop computers, laptops, printer cartridges and toners, to name a few, he says.

A search and seizure operation was conducted this week by the members of the Hawks and officials from GFIS at the offices of the service provider.

Mashaba explains that about 37 computers worth R750 000 belonging to the city were seized during a joint operation.

He explains it is alleged that after winning the tender to supply the computers, the service provider placed an order with PC distributor Mustek to do the city’s imaging on the computers.

This was standard procedure, says Mashaba. “But with this batch, it is alleged that when he received it from Mustek, the service provider and his specialists in the information technology filed to remove the city’s imaging. Serial numbers of the seized computers were removed.”

In a statement sent to ITWeb, Mustek says: “In terms of Mustek’s distribution model, Mustek on-sells its products to its approved dealers, who then on-sell to end-users and public sector customers.

“Accordingly, we cannot comment on what transpired between the service provider and the City of Johannesburg. However, we are assisting the City of Johannesburg with their investigation of this matter.”

Preliminary investigations
It is alleged that most of the computers were sold to other clients and the 37 seized were used by the service provider’s staff members, Mashaba says.

He points out that preliminary investigations into the matter revealed that a city official was paid R1 million by the service provider for securing the deal for it. The city official allegedly took one official working for the service provider to a shop in the south which sells building material and spent R30 000 as a token of appreciation to the official, he adds.

“I was also informed that the service provider colludes with one of our officials who steals printer cartridges from our stores and sells them to the service provider who then sells it back to the city. When the team arrived at the property, they found one employee removing serial numbers from the boxes of the cartridges which had names of other municipalities and government departments.”

The team also established that the service provider illegally connected electricity supply to the property. City Power officials were called in and they removed the meter.

“The GFIS is currently conducting a number of investigations into contracts entered with ICT suppliers. I want to eliminate corrupt elements throughout the city, including investigating illicit deals and contracts that were secured by the previous administration and this includes our technology space,” concludes Mashaba.

By Admire Moyo for ITWeb 

They may not have the cachet of entrepreneurs, or geek chic of developers, but data protection officers are suddenly the hottest properties in technology.

When Jen Brown got her first certification for information privacy in 2006, few companies were looking for people qualified to manage the legal and ethical issues related to handling customer data.

But now it’s 2018, companies across the globe are scrambling to comply with a European law that represents the biggest shake-up of personal data privacy rules since the birth of the internet – and Brown’s inbox is being besieged by recruiters.

“I got into security before anyone cared about it, and I had a hard time finding a job,” said the 46-year-old, who is the data protection officer (DPO) of analytics start-up Sumo Logic in Redwood City near San Francisco.

“Suddenly, people are sitting up and taking notice.”

Brown is among a hitherto rare breed of workers who are becoming sought-after commodities in the global tech industry ahead of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May.

The law is intended to give European citizens more control over their online information and applies to all firms that do business with Europeans. It requires that all companies whose core activities include substantial monitoring or processing of personal data hire a DPO. And finding DPOs is not easy.

More than 28,000 will be needed in Europe and U.S. and as many as 75,000 around the globe as a result of GDPR, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) estimates. The organization said it did not previously track DPO figures because, prior to GDPR, Germany and the Philippines were the only countries it was aware of with mandatory DPO laws.

DPO job listings in Britain on the Indeed job search site have increased by more than 700 percent over the past 18 months, from 12.7 listings per every 1 million in April 2016 to 102.7 listings per 1 million in December.

The need for DPOs is expected to be particularly high in any data-rich industries, such as tech, digital marketing, finance, healthcare and retail. Uber, Twitter (TWTR.N), Airbnb, Cloudflare and Experian (EXPN.L) are advertising for a DPO, online job advertisements show. Microsoft (MSFT.O), Facebook (FB.O), Salesforce.com and Slack are also currently working to fill the position, the companies told Reuters.

“I would say that I get between eight and 10 calls a week about a role (from recruiters),” said Marc French, DPO of Massachusetts email management company Mimecast. “Come Jan. 1 the phone calls increased exponentially because everybody realized, ‘Oh my god, GDPR is only five months away.’”

GDPR requires that DPOs assist their companies on data audits for compliance with privacy laws, train employees on data privacy and serve as the point of contact for European regulators. Other provisions of the law require that companies make personal information available to customers on request, or delete it entirely in some cases, and report any data breaches within 72 hours.

On a typical day, French said he monitors for any guidance updates for GDPR, meets with Mimecast’s engineering teams to discuss privacy in new product features, reviews the marketing team’s data usage requests, works on privacy policy revisions and conducts one or two calls with clients to discuss the company’s position on GDPR and privacy.

“Given that we’re trying to march to the deadline, I would say that 65 percent of my time is focused on GDPR right now,” said French, who is also a senior vice president of Mimecast.

The demand for DPOs has sparked renewed interest in data privacy training, said Sam Pfeifle, content director of the IAPP, which introduced a GDPR Ready program last year for aspiring DPOs.

“We already sold out all of our GDPR training through the first six months of 2018,” said Pfeifle, adding that the IAPP saw a surge in new memberships in 2017, from 24,000 to 36,000.

Those companies who have DPOs, meanwhile, are braced for poaching.

Many of those firms reside in Germany, which has long required that most companies that process data designate DPOs. They include Simplaex, a Berlin ad-targeting startup.

“Everyone is looking for a DPO,” said Simplaex CEO Jeffry van Ede. “I need to have some cash ready for when someone tries to take mine so I can keep him.”

Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Pravin Char for Reuters

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

Top 10 richest people in cryptocurrency

Forbes has released its list of the richest people in the cryptocurrency community.

The net worth of those on the rich list is denoted in range estimates based on estimated cryptocurrency holdings, post-tax profits from cryptocurrency trades, and stakes in cryptocurrency-related businesses.

The net worth estimates reflect the estimated holdings of the rich list as of 19 January 2018.

Forbes acknowledged that it may have missed certain major cryptocurrency holders due to the obfuscated nature of blockchain transactions.

The top 10 richest people in cryptocurrency, according to Forbes, are below:

Source: MyBroadband 

COOs and supply chain management are feeling the brunt of an accelerating business environment further complicated by increasing customer demands for efficiency, personalisation, and convenience. Slow manual processes based on inconsistent information across functional areas spell death for modern supply chain management, with an inability to adapt in real time to changing demands leading to sub-par customer service and potential attrition.

To address these risks, companies are increasingly looking to digitise their supply chains by implementing a cloud-based digital platform that optimises traditional ERP processes while integrating new exponential technologies.

Cloud-based platforms that enable real-time decision making based on accurate big data – generated through traditional processes as well as the growing prevalence of sensors – and predictive analytics powered by machine learning is changing the way companies approach supply chain management. Accenture predicts that the SaaS for supply chain management market will reach US$4.4-billion in 2018, driven by a need to simplify and optimise today’s complex global supply chain networks.

The value proposition is clear: studies by the Boston Consulting Group find that leaders in digital supply chain management enjoy increases in product availability of up to 10%, more than 25% faster response times to changes in market demand, and 40%-110% higher operating margins.

The exponential technologies driving supply chain innovation
Big data matched with real-time predictive analytics is enabling large-scale scenario analysis to give COOs the power to conduct accurate demand forecasting, capacity planning, and advanced procurement with a focus on collaborative optimisation.

With the adoption of sensor technology in every facet of the supply chain and the availability of reliable all-time localisation through GPS, GSM and Galileo-based positioning gives COOs greater data regarding stock opening, temperature, humidity, and more, allowing greater optimisation of existing processes.

Automation through advanced machine learning algorithms that leverage process and sensor data is gradually leading to near-perfect accuracy in process decision making as human judgement is augmented and, in some cases, replaced. By automating supply chain procurement processes through best practice machine learning, COOs and supply chain managers can eliminate opportunities for error and ensure effective event and risk management based on expert systems.

However, the job of the COO and his supply chain management support to lead the organisation into this exponential future is complicated by the need to manage the implications of digital transformation while simultaneously innovating the underlying business model.

The digital transformation imperative
Digitising the supply chain enables companies to integrate, embed intelligence, and visualise all supply chain processes from supplier to customer. This opens the door to live inventory management through a redesigned data model that finally provides true transparency on inventory flows. Placing a digital core at the centre of all supply chain management processes further enables expansive “what-if” and scenario planning to identify opportunities for meeting potential market demand with high levels of service at low cost.

Manufacturing costs are also reduced as detailed constrained planning and scheduling enables agility within the supply chain and optimises the efficient use of capacity.

A traditional ERP simply cannot keep pace with the rate of change and the need to innovate and optimise quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively. Delivery commitments based on outdated data leading to cancelled or delayed orders; inaccurate order prioritisation resulting in unfulfilled strategic customer orders; and difficulties with addressing last-minute rescheduling by priority customers are only a few of the risks companies face when relying on an outdated technology platform for supply chain decision-making.

The business outcomes of digitising the supply chain
With exponential technologies such as IoT, big data, predictive analytics and machine learning integrated to the SAP S/4HANA digital platform, COOs and supply chain management can leverage rule-based allocation check in a single system to ensure the needs of strategic customers are always met. Up-to-date inventory management ensures realistic fulfilment commitments and real-time order confirmations, with advanced segmentation techniques driving business profitability in unprecedented ways.

The business outcomes can be transformative: reducing days of inventory by 10-12%, reducing revenue loss by 10-15%, cutting total logistics costs by 10-12%, and reducing supply chain planning costs by up to 5%. Critically, digitising the supply chain enables companies to run simpler and shift focus more toward innovation – both in terms of improving existing processes as well as developing entirely new business models and revenue streams.
But with a recent Forrester Business Technographic Survey showing only 27% of supply chain management professionals and 22% of logistics and distribution personnel using or planning to use big data analytics, the real question is: will COOs rise to the challenge of digitising their supply chain in time to adapt to an exponential world?

By Mehmood Khan, chief operating officer at SAP Africa

No, the debate over the risks of cell phone radiation isn’t over yet. The US National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program has published details of draft studies which suggest that normal cell phone radiation levels aren’t harmful to humans. The research subjected rats to very high levels of RF radiation at 2G and 3G cellular frequencies, and produced results where there was no clear pattern of harm even at the exaggerated radiation levels.

In one study, some male rats subjected to the radiation did develop cancer tumors around their hearts. But the female rats didn’t, and neither sex suffered symptoms in another study. And then there’s the truly odd data. Both newborn rats and their mothers had reduced weight but grew to normal sizes, and exposed rats lived longer than those that hadn’t. And these are at exposure rates that are “much higher” than the current cell phone safety standard, the Food and Drug Administration said.

In its comments on the study, the FDA stressed that the study didn’t translate neatly to typical human experiences beyond the exposure levels. Rats are clearly much smaller than humans, so they’re enduring that intense radiation across their entire bodies where a human might only deal with those levels near their ears or thighs. This didn’t include 4G frequencies, either, so any risk that was there might not have been present with an LTE connection.

Things aren’t entirely set in stone yet. There will need to be finished studies with outside reviews that might interpret the findings differently or prompt follow-ups. However, the early data illustrates exactly why there’s no firm proclamation on the safety of cell phones. Lab tests can only tell you so much, and long-term tests tend to provide ambiguous, incomplete results. These latest studies mostly imply that there’s no obvious short-term effect.

By Jon Fingas for Engadget

British man in Bitcoin heist

Armed robbers broke into the family home of a city financier turned Bitcoin trader and forced him to transfer the digital currency at gunpoint, in what is believed to be the first heist of its kind in the UK.

Four robbers in balaclavas forced their way into the home of Danny Aston, 30, who runs a digital currency trading firm, before reportedly tying up a woman and forcing Mr Aston to transfer an unknown quantity of the cryptocurrency.

Mr Aston lives in the picturesque village of Moulsford in South Oxfordshire, where episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed, in a rented four-bedroom converted barn estimated to be worth at least £700,000 on a private drive.

Police were called at around 9.40am on Monday to attend the home after raiders are reported to have entered the property by kicking down the door.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the men tied up a woman and kept a baby outside in a pram while forcing Mr Aston to transfer the Bitcoin. The value of a single Bitcoin is now around £8,000.

A neighbour confirmed on Sunday the property where the violent burglary took place, but said that Mr Aston and a woman believed to be his partner left Moulsford on Monday to stay with relatives and have not returned.

They said: “I was not here at the time, but I know the couple have left and are staying with relatives, they haven’t been back since.

“We are all obviously a bit shaken up, even though a few days have passed now. It is not what you expect to happen around here.”

Mr Aston – who lives with his 31-year-old business partner Amy Jay, according to the latest Companies House records – previously worked at Trayport, a London-based financial software company that operates a platform for trading energy commodities.

In June 2017, he established his own digital currency firm just before Bitcoin’s huge surge in value in July, according to Companies House.

Both Mr Aston and Ms Jay are listed online as directors of Aston Digital Currencies Ltd, and a company called Butler Hosting, which specialises in “data processing, hosting and related activities”.

A user named Danny Aston has previously been active on trading site Poloniex, which allows users to trade and store digital currency.

A local resident described the victim of the attack as well-known, but suggested that the small village community had been left dazed by the news.

“Everyone is shocked I think,” he said. “We think we live in a safer space, and then this happens and everyone gets scared.”

The village of Moulsford is home to two schools and a girl from Cranford House Prepatory School described how the students were told to get to safety as the armed robbery happened nearby.

She said: “We were all told to get down on the floor and stay in the middle of the schoolroom. All the curtains were closed and the doors locked. No-one knew what was going on but it was scary to say the least.”

Bitcoin is a digital currency that allows users to trade anonymously and securely across the internet without regulation or a central bank

It is understood that although Bitcoin’s secrecy will make the theft in Moulsford much more difficult for the police to investigate, there is a chance that the stolen currency will appear on the market as thieves try to exchange it into conventional money.

In the last 12 months, Bitcoin’s value has risen over 1000 per cent. It hit an all-time high on 17th December, when it was worth over £13,500.

A police spokesman said: “Thames Valley Police is investigating an aggravated burglary which occurred at a property in Moulsford on Monday.

“Officers were called at about 9.40am to a report that offenders had entered a residential property off Reading Road and threatened the occupants. No one was seriously injured during the incident.

“An investigation into the incident is underway and officers attended nearby Moulsford School as a precautionary measure. It is not believed there was a threat to anyone at the school.

“Officers are particularly interested in speaking to anyone travelling through the village on the A329 Reading Road between 7.30am and 10.30am on Monday who has Dashcam footage or anyone with mobile phone footage.

“People in the local community may notice an increased presence of officers in the area while our enquiries are ongoing. The investigation is in its early stages however initial enquiries suggest this may be a targeted incident.

“No arrests have been made at this stage.”

By Tony Diver for The Telegraph 

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