Will a Robot Take Your Job? It May Just Make Your Job Worse

The robot revolution is always allegedly just around the corner. In the utopian vision, technology emancipates human labor from repetitive, mundane tasks, freeing us to be more productive and take on more fulfilling work. In the dystopian vision, robots come for everyone’s jobs, put millions and millions of people out of work, and throw the economy into chaos.

Such a warning was at the crux of Andrew Yang’s ill-fated presidential campaign, helping propel his case for universal basic income that he argued would become necessary when automation left so many workers out. It’s the argument many corporate executives make whenever there’s a suggestion they might have to raise wages: $15 an hour will just mean machines taking your order at McDonald’s instead of people, they say. It’s an effective scare tactic for some workers.

But we often spend so much time talking about the potential for robots to take our jobs that we fail to look at how they are already changing them — sometimes for the better, but sometimes not. New technologies can give corporations tools for monitoring, managing, and motivating their workforces, sometimes in ways that are harmful. The technology itself might not be innately nefarious, but it makes it easier for companies to maintain tight control on workers and squeeze and exploit them to maximize profits.

“The basic incentives of the system have always been there: employers wanting to maximize the value they get out of their workers while minimizing the cost of labor, the incentive to want to control and monitor and surveil their workers,” said Brian Chen, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). “And if technology allows them to do that more cheaply or more efficiently, well then of course they’re going to use technology to do that.”

Tracking software for remote workers, which saw a bump in sales at the start of the pandemic, can follow every second of a person’s workday in front of the computer. Delivery companies can use motion sensors to track their drivers’ every move, measure extra seconds, and ding drivers for falling short.

Automation hasn’t replaced all the workers in warehouses, but it has made work more intense, even dangerous, and changed how tightly workers are managed. Gig workers can find themselves at the whims of an app’s black-box algorithm that lets workers flood the app to compete with each other at a frantic pace for pay so low that how lucrative any given trip or job is can depend on the tip, leaving workers reliant on the generosity of an anonymous stranger. Worse, gig work means they’re doing their jobs without many typical labor protections.

In these circumstances, the robots aren’t taking jobs, they’re making jobs worse. Companies are automating away autonomy and putting profit-maximizing strategies on digital overdrive, turning work into a space with fewer carrots and more sticks.

A robot boss can do a whole lot more watching

In recent years, Amazon has become the corporate poster child for automation in the name of efficiency — often at the expense of workers. There have been countless reports of unsustainable conditions and expectations at Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Its drivers reportedly have to consent to being watched by artificial intelligence, and warehouse workers who don’t move fast enough can be fired.

Demands are so high that there have been reports of people urinating in bottles to avoid taking a break. The robots aren’t just watching, they’re also picking up some of the work. Sometimes, it’s for the better, but in other cases, they may actually be making work more dangerous as more automation leads to more pressure on workers. One report found that worker injuries were more prevalent in Amazon warehouses with robots than warehouses without them.

“It would have been prohibitively expensive to employ enough managers to time each worker’s every move to a fraction of a second or ride along in every truck, but now it takes maybe one,” Dzieza wrote. “This is why the companies that most aggressively pursue these tactics all take on a similar form: a large pool of poorly paid, easily replaced, often part-time or contract workers at the bottom; a small group of highly paid workers who design the software that manages them at the top.”

A 2018 Gartner survey found that half of large companies were already using some type of nontraditional techniques to keep an eye on their workers, including analyzing their communications, gathering biometric data, and examining how workers are using their workspace. They anticipated that by 2020, 80 percent of large companies would be using such methods. Amid the pandemic, the trend picked up pace as businesses sought more ways to keep tabs on the new waves of workers working from home.

This has all sorts of implications for workers, who lose privacy and autonomy when they’re constantly being watched and directed by technology. Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT, warned that they’re also losing money. “Some of these new digital technologies are not simply replacing workers or creating new tasks or changing other aspects of productivity, but they’re actually monitoring people much more effectively, and that means rents are being shared very differently because of digital technologies,” he said.

He offered up a hypothetical example of a delivery driver who is asked to deliver a certain number of packages in a day. Decades ago, the company might pay the driver more to incentivize them to work a little faster or harder or put in some extra time. But now, they’re constantly being monitored so that the company knows exactly what they’re doing and is looking for ways to save time. Instead of getting a bonus for hitting certain metrics, they’re dinged for spending a few seconds too long here or there.

The problem isn’t technology itself, it’s the managers and corporate structures behind it that look at workers as a cost to be cut instead of as a resource.

“A lot of this boom of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship where venture capital made it very easy for companies to create firms didn’t exactly prioritize the well-being of workers as one of their main considerations,” said Amy Bix, a historian at Iowa State University who focuses on technology. “A lot of what goes on in the structure of these corporations and the development of technology is invisible to most ordinary people, and it’s easy to take advantage of that.”

The future of Uber isn’t driverless cars, it’s drivers

Uber’s destiny was supposed to be driverless.

In 2016, former CEO Travis Kalanick told Bloomberg making an autonomous vehicle was “basically existential” for the company. After a deadly accident with an autonomous Uber vehicle in 2018, current chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi reiterated that the company remained “absolutely committed” to the self-driving cause. But in December 2020 and after investing $1 billion, Uber sold off its self-driving unit. A little over four months later, its main competitor, Lyft, followed suit. Uber says it’s still not giving up on autonomous technology, but the writing on the wall is clear that driverless cars aren’t core to Uber’s business model, at least in the near future.

“Five or 10 years from now, drivers are still going to be a big piece of the mix on a percentage basis [of Uber’s business], and on an absolute basis, they may be an even bigger piece than they are today even with autonomous in the mix because the business should get bigger as both segments get bigger,” said Chris Frank, director of corporate ratings at S&P Global. “In addition, drivers will need to handle more complex conditions like poorly marked roads or inclement weather.”

In other words, they’re going to need workers to make money — workers they would very much like not to classify as such.

Gig economy companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are fighting tooth and nail to make sure the people they enlist to make deliveries or drive people around are not considered their employees. In California last year, such companies dumped $200 million into lobbying to pass Proposition 22, which lets app-based transportation and delivery companies classify their workers as independent contractors and therefore avoid paying for benefits such as sick leave, employer-provided health care, and unemployment. After it passed, a spokesman for the campaign for the ballot measure said it “represents the future of work in an increasingly technologically-driven economy.”

It’s a future of work that might not be pleasant for gig workers. In California, some workers say they’re not getting the benefits companies promised after Prop 22’s passage, such as health care stipends. Companies said that workers would make at least 120 percent of California’s minimum wage, but that’s contemplating the time they spend driving only. Before the ballot initiative was passed, research from the UC Berkeley Labor Center estimated that it would guarantee a minimum wage of just $5.64 per hour.

Companies say they’ve been clear with drivers about how to qualify for the health care stipend, which is available to drivers with more than 15 engaged hours a week (in other words, if you don’t have a job and are waiting around, it doesn’t count). In a statement to Vox, Geoff Vetter, a spokesperson for the Protect App-Based Drivers + Services Coalition, the lobbying group that championed Prop 22, said that 80 percent of drivers work fewer than 20 hours per week and most work less than 10 hours per week, and that many have health insurance through other jobs.

Gig companies have sometimes been cagey about how much their workers make, and they’re often changing their formulas. In 2017, Uber agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $20 million over charges that it misled prospective drivers about how much they could make with the app. The FTC found that Uber claimed some of its drivers made $90,000 in New York and $74,000 in San Francisco, when in reality their median incomes were actually $61,000 and $53,000, respectively. DoorDash caused controversy over a decision to pocket tips and use them to pay delivery workers, which it has since reversed.

Even though Uber is charging customers more for rides in the wake of the pandemic, that’s not directly being passed onto their drivers. According to the Washington Post, Uber changed the way it paid drivers in California soon after Prop 22 passed so that they were no longer paid a proportion of the cost of the ride but instead by time and distance, with different bonuses and incentives based on market and surge pricing. (This is how Uber does it in most states, but it had changed things up during the push to get Prop 22 passed.) Uber’s CEO pushed back on the Post story in a series of tweets, arguing that decoupling driver pay from customer fares had not hurt California drivers and that some are now getting a higher cut from their rides.

In light of a driver shortage, Uber recently announced what it’s billing as a $250 million “driver stimulus” that promises higher earnings to try to get drivers back onto the road. The company acknowledges this initiative is likely temporary once the supply-demand imbalance works itself out. Still, it’s hard not to notice how quickly Uber and Lyft have been able to corner most of the ride-hailing app market and exert control over their drivers and customers.

“When a new thing like this comes on, there’s huge new consumer benefits, and then over time they are the market, they have less competition except one another, probably they’re a cartel at this point. And then they start doing stuff that’s much nastier,” said David Autor, an economist at MIT.

One of the gig economy’s main selling points to workers is that it offers flexibility and the ability to work when they want. It’s certainly true that an Uber or Lyft driver has much more autonomy on the job than, say, an Amazon warehouse worker. “People drive with Lyft because they prefer the freedom and flexibility to work when, where, and for however long they want,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a statement to Vox.

“They can choose to accept a ride or not, enjoy unlimited upward earning potential, and can decide to take time off from driving whenever they want, for however long they want, without needing to ask a ‘boss’ — all things they can’t do at most traditional jobs.” The spokesperson also noted that most of its drivers work outside of Lyft.

But flexibility doesn’t mean gig companies have no control over their drivers and delivery people. They use all sorts of tricks and incentives to try to push workers in certain directions and manage them, essentially, by algorithm. Uber drivers report being bothered by the constant surveillance, the lack of transparency from the company, and the dehumanization of working with the app. The algorithm doesn’t want to know how your day is, it just wants you to work as efficiently as possible to maximize its profits.

Carlos Ramos, a former Lyft driver in San Diego, described the feeling of being manipulated by the app. He noticed the company must have needed morning drivers because of the incentives structures, but he also often wondered if he was being “punished” if he didn’t do something right.

“Sometimes, if you cancel a bunch of rides in a row or if you don’t take certain rides to certain things, you won’t get any rides. They’ve shadow turned you off,” he said. The secret deprioritization of a worker is something many Lyft and Uber drivers speculate happens. “You also have no way of knowing what’s going on behind there. They have this proprietary knowledge, they have this black box of trade secrets, and those are your secrets you’re telling them,” said Ramos, now an organizer with Gig Workers Rising.

Companies deny that they secretly shut off drivers. “It is in Lyft’s best interests for drivers to have as positive an experience as possible, so we communicate often and work directly with drivers to help them improve their earnings,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “We never ‘shadow ban’ drivers, and actively coach them when they are in danger of being deactivated.”

The future of innovation isn’t inevitable

We often talk about technology and innovation with a language of inevitability. It’s as though whenever wages go up, companies will of course replace workers with robots. Now that the country is turned on to online delivery, it can be made to seem like the grocery industry is on an unavoidable path to gig work. After all, that’s what happened with Albertsons. But that’s not really the case — there’s plenty of human agency in the technological innovation story.

“Technology of course doesn’t have to exploit workers, it doesn’t have to mean robots are coming for all of our jobs,” Chen said. “These are not inevitable outcomes, they are human decisions, and they are almost always made by people who are driven by a profit motive that tends to exploit the poor and working class historically.”

Chase Copridge, a longtime California worker who’s done the gamut of gig jobs — Instacart, DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Uber, and Lyft — is one of the people stuck in that position, the victim of corporate tendencies on technological overdrive. He described seeing delivery offers that pay as little as $2. He turns those jobs down, knowing that it’s not economically worth it for him. But there might be someone else out there who picks it up. “We’re people who desperately need to make ends meet, who are willing to take the bare minimum that these companies are giving out to us,” he said. “People need to understand that these companies thrive off of exploitation.”

Not all decisions around automation are ones that increase productivity or improve really anything except corporate profits. Self-checkout stations may reduce the need for cashiers, but are they really making the shopping experience faster or better? Next time you go to the grocery store and inevitably screw up scanning one of your own items and waiting several minutes for a worker to appear, you tell me.

Despite technological advancements, productivity growth has been on the decline in recent years. “This is the paradox of the last several decades, and especially since 2000, that we had enormous technological changes as we perceive it but measured productivity growth is quite weak,” Autor said. “One reason may be that we’re automating a lot of trivial stuff rather than important stuff. If you compare antibiotics and indoor plumbing and electrification and air travel and telecommunications to DoorDash and smartphones or self-checkout, it may just not be as consequential.”

Acemoglu said that when firms focus so much on automation and monitoring technologies, they might not explore other areas that could be more productive, such as creating new tasks or building out new industries. “Those are the things that I worry have fallen by the wayside in the last several years,” he said. “If your employer is really set on monitoring you really tightly, that biases things against new tasks because those are things that are not easier to monitor.”

It matters what you automate, and not all automation is equally beneficial, not only to workers but also to customers, companies, and the broader economy.

Grappling with how to handle technological advancements and the ways they change people’s lives, including at work, is no easy task. While the robot revolution isn’t taking everyone’s jobs, automation is taking some of them, especially in areas such as manufacturing. And it’s just making work different: A machine may not eliminate a position entirely, but it may turn a more middle-skill job into a low-skill job, bringing lower pay with it. Package delivery jobs used to come with a union, benefits, and stable pay; with the rise of the gig economy, that’s declining. If and when self-driving trucks arrive, there will still be some low-quality jobs needed to complete tasks the robots can’t.

“The issue that we’ve faced in the US economy is that we’ve lost a lot of middle-skill jobs so people are being pushed down into lower categories,” Autor said. “Automation historically has tended to take the most dirty and dangerous and demeaning jobs and hand them over to machines, and that’s been great.

What’s happened in the last bunch of decades is that automation has affected the middle-skill jobs and left the hard, interesting, creative jobs and the hands-on jobs that require a lot of dexterity and flexibility but don’t require a lot of formal skills.”

But again, none of this is inevitable. Companies are able to leverage technology to get the most out of workers because workers often don’t have power to push back, enforce limits, or ask for more. Unionization has seen steep declines in recent decades. America’s labor laws and regulations are designed around full-time work, meaning gig companies don’t have to offer health insurance or help fund unemployment. But the laws could — and many would argue should — be modernized.

“The key thing is it’s not just technology, it’s a question of labor power, both collectively and individually,” Bix said. “There are a lot of possible outcomes, and in the end, technology is a human creation. It’s a product of social priorities and what gets developed and adopted.”

Maybe the robot apocalypse isn’t here yet. Or it is, and many of us aren’t quite recognizing it, in part because we got some of the story wrong. The problem isn’t really the robot, it’s what your boss wants the robot to do.

Source: Will a robot take your job? It may just make your job worse. – Vox

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Critics:

The history of robots has its origins in the ancient world. During the industrial revolution, humans developed the structural engineering capability to control electricity so that machines could be powered with small motors. In the early 20th century, the notion of a humanoid machine was developed.

The first uses of modern robots were in factories as industrial robots. These industrial robots were fixed machines capable of manufacturing tasks which allowed production with less human work. Digitally programmed industrial robots with artificial intelligence have been built since the 2000s.

Concepts of artificial servants and companions date at least as far back as the ancient legends of Cadmus, who is said to have sown dragon teeth that turned into soldiers and Pygmalion whose statue of Galatea came to life. Many ancient mythologies included artificial people, such as the talking mechanical handmaidens (Ancient Greek: Κουραι Χρυσεαι (Kourai Khryseai); “Golden Maidens”) built by the Greek god Hephaestus (Vulcan to the Romans) out of gold.

Reference:

China’s Xtep Closes At New Record On Hillhouse Investment; Ding Clan’s Fortune Tops $2 Bln

Xtep

Shares in China sportswear supplier Xtep ended the week at a new record high today after the company announced investment hook-ups with China private equity firm Hillhouse Capital Management, one of China’s largest private equity firms.

Xtep’s Hong Kong-traded shares rose 5.6% to HK$13.16 today; they’ve more than doubled since mid-May.

Xtep said it would raise HK$500 million from the sale to Hillhouse of bonds that can be converted into its own underlying shares. In addition, subsidiary Xtep Global raised $65 million from Hillhouse from the sale of bonds that can be converted into that unit’s shares. (See announcements here and here.) Funds will help boost sales of Xtep-owned brands.

The doubling of Xtep’s stock price has lifted the fortune of company’s controlling Ding family to $2.3 billion.  Trusts held by chairman Ding Shui Bo, executive director Ding Mei Qing (his sister) and executive director Ding Ming Zhong (his brother) collectively own 1.3 billion shares that were worth $2.2 billion today. Xtep’s annual report doesn’t give a clear down of the ownership split among them. Shui Bo has another 60.7 million shares worth another $103 million.

Spending on sportswear in China has picked up amid a continuing economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Xtep, whose rivals include Anta and Nike, said in April first-quarter sales had a mid-50% increase compared with a year earlier. Nike has faced backlash in China after a statement in March expressed concern about alleged forced labor practices its Xinjiang region.

Hillhouse is led by billionaire Zhang Lei, who is worth $3 billion today on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List.

See related story:

Hong Kong Is Gaining On The U.S. As An Alternative For Tech Listings

@rflannerychina

Send me a secure tip.

I’m a senior editor and the Shanghai bureau chief of Forbes magazine. Now in my 20th year at Forbes, I compile the Forbes China Rich List. I was previously a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Taipei and Shanghai and for the Asian Wall Street Journal in Taipei. I’m a Massachusetts native, fluent Mandarin speaker, and hold degrees from the University of Vermont and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Source: China’s Xtep Closes At New Record On Hillhouse Investment; Ding Clan’s Fortune Tops $2 Bln

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Critics:

Xtep International Holdings Limited (SEHK stock code: 1368) is a Chinese manufacturing company of sports equipment based in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong.[2] Established in 2001, the company was listed on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on 3 June 2008.[3]

Xtep engages mainly in the design, development, manufacturing, sales, marketing and brand management of sports equipment, including footwear, apparel, and accessories. Xtep is a leading professional sports brand with an extensive distribution network of over 6,300 stores covering 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the PRC and overseas.

In 2019, Xtep has further diversified its brand portfolio which now includes four internationally brands, namely K-Swiss, Palladium, Saucony and Merrell. Xtep is a constituent of the MSCI China Small Cap Index, Hang Seng Composite Index Series and Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect.

In August 2019, Xtep signed on famous Asian basketball player Jeremy Lin as spokesperson, marking its foray into the basketball business realm. Xtep also unveiled its “Basketball Product Co-Creation Plan” to come up with basketball products via product co-creation.

After previously supplying then-Premier League side Birmingham City and La Liga side Villarreal in 2010 and 2014 respectively, Xtep left the major football scene in 2017 and focused on other sports, mainly in running. In mid-2018, Xtep returned again to the football scene by signing a contract with Saudi Professional League side Al-Shabab ahead of the 2018–19 season in a reported three-year contract. On 13 October 2019, Egyptian Premier League side Al Ittihad Alexandria announced Xtep as their new official kit supplier until 2022, replacing German company Uhlsport.

References

  1. “الاتحاد السكندري يُعلن عن الزى الجديد .. و يتعاقد حصرياً مع شركة سعودية للملابس الرياضية” [Al Ittihad Alexandria reveals new kits for the 2019–20 as they announce new deal with Chinese-Saudi Arabian company Xtep]. Al Ittihad Alexandria Club official website. 13 October 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  1. Xtep 2019 Interim Report [2019-08-21]
  2. XTEP INT’L Forms JV to Run Merrell, Saucony Brands – AASTOCKS [2019-03-04]
  3. Xtep buys E-Land Footwear to develop series – The Standard [2019-05-03]
  4. Xtep expands its sportswear portfolio into basketball shoes and apparel, signing on star Jeremy Lin as brand spokesman – South China Morning Post [2019-08-09]

The Wacky Meditation Tool That Serial Entrepreneur Rob Dyrdek Swears

Rob Dyrdek takes a measured approach to his daily activities. The serial entrepreneur and venture studio founder, who happens to also host MTV’s hit show Ridiculousnessa comedy show featuring famous guests like Kylie Jenner–says he schedules out nearly every minute of every day on his calendar, with the goal of maximizing his time and energy.

To wit, Dyrdek organizes his calendar by categories and subcategories, like time with his wife or kids, hitting the gym, brain training, and work. He also wakes up every day and rates from 0 to 10 how he slept, how motivated he feels, and how he felt about various aspects of the previous day, like his life, work, and health. All of this data gets scraped together and aggregated into dashboards, using a program that he paid someone to build.

With that insight, he says, you can move things out of your life you don’t like doing and focus on what makes you happy. “It’s all about how much can you automate and systematize in your existence in order to really live as light as possible,” he says.

What else helps? A little dome time. At 6:30 a.m. almost every day Dyrdek says he spends about 20 minutes time in a Somadome, a large meditation pod that uses colors and binaural beats that play through a headphone (essentially sound therapy) set to help you relax. You climb in, pull down the door, and then choose ambient noise or a specific meditation session like “love” or “heal.”

Dyrdek discovered the pod in January 2018, when a friend told him about it, and his children’s health specialist offered to connect him with the company’s CEO, Sarah Attia. At that time, Dyrdek was unsure of how to tackle a meditation practice, despite the long list of potential benefits. “It just was so ominous a mountain that I wasn’t ready to climb,” he says. “As soon as I wake up, I go. So it’s hard for me to even think, how am I ever going to get myself into a meditative state.”

The Somadome, along with Dyrdek’s other life optimization techniques, he says, makes it easier–especially when meditation has become so useful for helping him reach his goals. In 2018, Dyrdek was negotiating a TV deal for Ridiculousness and was hoping to bolster an eventual sale of his production company, Superjacket Productions, by maximizing the number of episodes slated for the show. During the negotiations, he would sit in his Somadome and visualize how it would feel to stand on stage and say, “Welcome to Season 30.”

He landed on a deal with an “unprecedented” 500-episode order that would mean he’d finish the show in season 30. “So I can’t tell you that the dome did it, but I had clarity,” he says, adding that entrepreneurs often underestimate the extent to which mental precision can help them both design their lives and evolve their businesses. In late 2019, Thrill One Sports & Entertainment acquired Dyrdek’s portfolio companies Superjacket Productions and Street League Skateboarding.

For Dyrdek, the best part about the Somadome is the various features that make difficult things, like remaining calm and clear about what you want out of life and meditating consistently, easy. He paid $25,000 for the device when he bought it and says he’s used it almost daily since. “It’s paid for itself a thousand fold,” he says. A smaller and less expensive version–about $4,000–will soon become available to consumers, according to the company.

By Gabrielle Bienasz

Source: The Wacky Meditation Tool That Serial Entrepreneur Rob Dyrdek Swears By | Inc.com

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View on turning pages Spa Business headlines 04 Jun 2021

Rosewood planning fourth Asaya wellness destination in Mexico City for 2024

Expanding its strong footprint in Mexico, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has been appointed by real estate development firm Grupo Sordo Madaleno to operate Rosewood Mexico City, a new hotel expected to open in 2024 in the Polanco district. More>>   03 Jun 2021

Jumeirah spends £100m revamping The Carlton Tower hotel with three-storey spa and health club

Global hospitality group the Jumeirah Group has reopened the 186-room The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, in the heart of London’s fashionable Knightsbridge area following an 18-month closure for refurbishment. More>>   03 Jun 2021

Ritz-Carlton Maldives opens with luxury overwater spa sanctuary designed by Kerry Hill Architects

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has opened its first Maldives resort with a tranquil overwater spa inspired by its natural surroundings, including the elements of swirling water and ocean breezes. More>>

02 Jun 2021

Patrick Huey and Lynne McNees share top highlights from ISPA summit

Throughout the pandemic, the International Spa Association (ISPA) has championed the strength of the spa community and strived to support, inform and inspire the industry as it grapples with the new challenges of operating in a COVID-19 landscape. More>> 02 Jun 2021

Major international business leaders spearhead initiative striving for better workplace mental health

A coalition of global organisations and business leaders from BP, BHP, Clifford Chance, Deloitte, HSBC, Salesforce, Unilever and WPP have launched an international initiative to advocate for and accelerate positive global change for mental health in the workplace. More>>   01 Jun 2021

Davines enters new era following leadership reshuffle and reports stable 2020 results

Arnaud Goullin will join hair and skincare brand Davines Group in the role of global skincare division general manager, effective immediately. More>> 01 Jun 2021

Tibetan medicine specialist joins Velaa Private Island’s visiting practitioner series

Luxury resort and spa Velaa Private Island in the Maldives is welcoming back guests with a programme of visiting wellness practitioners to guide them on journeys of personal discovery. More>>   28 May 2021

Lake Garda’s newest spa draws inspiration from nature, Celtic mythology and minimalism

A new five-star hotel and spa named Eala has opened in the Italian town of Limone sul Garda. Set back into a cliff face, the new destination gazes out across the iconic Lake Garda. More>> 27 May 2021

Amazon’s flagship hair salon arrives in London complete with augmented reality technology

Tech giant Amazon has expanded its presence in the world of beauty and opened its first bricks and mortar hairdressers – named Amazon Salon – in London’s lively Spitalfields Market. More>> More news>> Product news Powered by spa-kit.net HydraFacial expands pop-up store concept with new Dubai and London locations

from spa-kit.net

Advanced aesthetic technology company HydraFacial has opened two pop-up locations in Dubai and London following a new initiative spearheaded by Lauren Clarke from the HydraFacial EMEA marketing team.
More>>   Cypriot spa set to debut world-exclusive Augustinus Bader spa treatments

from spa-kit.net

Part of the Cypriot family-owned hotel group Thanos Hotels & Resorts, Anassa resort will be the first hotel in the world to welcome Augustinus Bader at its Thalassa Spa.
More>>   Lemi introduces Bellaria – a new treatment table designed for outdoor use

Uber, Facebook, Instagram and Other Apps That are Slowly Killing Your Smartphone

Uber, Facebook, Instagram and other apps that are slowly killing your smartphone

What is the first thing you do when you launch a new smartphone ? Download all the apps you need, of course. After a few hours (or days) downloading applications, your entry menu ends up covered in colorful squares, giving you the satisfaction that you have everything: apps for social networks, transport, dating, online commerce, for video conferencing and fitness, for name the most popular.

However, recent research found that many of them are slowly killing your smartphone. The pCloud company, which offers cloud storage services, conducted a study to discover which applications are most demanding for our mobile devices.

The research looked at 100 of the most popular apps based on three criteria: the features each app uses (such as location or camera), the battery consumption, and whether dark mode is available. Thus they found which of these not only drain the battery of our phone, they also occupy the most memory and make it slower.

These are the apps classified as ‘smartphone killers’

According to the study, the Fitbit and Verizon apps turned out to be the biggest ‘smartphone killers. Both allow 14 of the 16 available functions to run in the background, including the four most demanding: camera, location, microphone and WiFi connection. This earned them the highest score in the study: 92.31%.

Of the 20 most demanding applications for mobile battery, 6 are social networks . Facebook , Instagram , Snapchat , Youtube , WhatsApp, and LinkedIn allow 11 functions to run in the background, such as photos, WiFi, location, and microphone. Of these, only IG allows dark mode to save up to 30% battery, just like Twitter , which did not enter the top 20.

Dating apps Tinder , Bumble and Grinder account for 15% of the top 20 most demanding apps. On average, they allow 11 functions to run in the background and none have a dark mode.

In terms of the amount of memory they require, travel and transportation apps dominated the list. The United Airlines app is the one that consumes the most storage on the phone, as it requires 437.8 MB of space. Lyft follows with 325.1 MB and then Uber , which occupies 299.6 MB.

Among the video conferencing apps, Microsoft Teams is the one that consumes the most memory, occupying 232.2 MB of space. In comparison, Zoom only requires 82.1 MB and Skype 111.2 MB.

The 20 apps that wear out your phone the most

The top 20 of the most demanding applications, based on the functions they execute and all the activity they generate, was as follows:

  1. Fitbit – 92%
  2. Verizon – 92%
  3. Uber – 87%
  4. Skype – 87%
  5. Facebook – 82%
  6. AirB & B – 82%
  7. BIGO LIVE – 82%
  8. Instagram – 79%
  9. Tinder – 77%
  10. Bumble – 77%
  11. Snapchat – 77%
  12. WhatsApp – 77%
  13. Zoom – 77%
  14. YouTube – 77%
  15. Booking – 77%
  16. Amazon – 77%
  17. Telegram – 77%
  18. Grinder – 72%
  19. Likke – 72%
  20. LinkedIn – 72%

Among the 50 applications that kill the battery and memory of the phone are also Twitter (no. 25), Shazam (30), Shein (31), Spotify (32), Pinterest (37), Amazon Prime (38), Netflix (40), TikTok (41), Duolingo (44) and Uber Eats (50).

If you are already considering doing a general cleaning of apps, you can consult the complete list here .

By: Entrepreneur en Español / Entrepreneur Staff

Source: Uber, Facebook, Instagram and other apps that are slowly killing your smartphone

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Our smartphones have become such an integral part of our lives that we can’t imagine life without it. Just like any object, phones are also subjected to wear and tear as well as our mishandling. Here are some things that you should stop if you want to prolong your phone’s life.

Draining your phone’s battery
Most smartphones have lithium-ion batteries with limited life cycles. If you’re constantly draining your phone to 1% before charging, it reduces the battery’s life cycles.

Exposing your phone to drastic temperatures
We understand that your phone can’t be left in your bag or pocket all the time. However, don’t leave it out in temperatures below 0 and above 35 degrees celsius as permanent damages may be done to the handset.

Maxing out your storage
Your phone needs extra storage space in order for the operating system to continue functioning. Maxing out your storage causes your phone to lag or crash. Avoid this by backing up your phone’s content regularly to either your computer or cloud storage.

Leaving your phone in the shower
Doesn’t a nice hot shower feels good at the end of the day? Not so much for your phone. Steam can seep into your phone and condense into water, which may short circuit the hardware.

Constantly dropping your phone
No matter how good the protective casing your phone is in, dropping it constantly will affect its internal hardware. Be thankful if it’s just a cracked screen; more often than not, the damages are more serious than that.

Too many background apps
Is it really necessary to keep Candy Crush, Facebook, Instagram, Calendar and Whatsapp all opened at the same time? This causes your phone to dedicate extra RAM to these apps and drains your battery.

Not turning your phone off
Like humans, your phone also needs a break once in a while. Leaving it on 24/7 can shorten the lifespan of the battery and decrease its performance.

Overnight charging
Most smartphones are clever enough to cut off the power supply to the battery once it’s fully charged. However, lithium-ion batteries don’t fare well against high heats. When you leave your phone plugged in overnight, especially with the casing on, overheating can occur and decrease the battery life.

Relying on cellular data
If you’re only using 3G/4G for internet connectivity, think again. Connecting to Wi-Fi consumes less energy than data network which helps make your battery lasts longer.

Cleaning your phone with household products
There’s a reason why cleaning agents exist specifically for phones. The chemicals in your household bleach or detergent can damage the protective layer often found on your phone’s screen.

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Millions of Electric Cars are Coming What Happens To All The Dead Batteries

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The battery pack of a Tesla Model S is a feat of intricate engineering. Thousands of cylindrical cells with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions. But when the battery comes to the end of its life, its green benefits fade.

If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals. And recycling the battery can be a hazardous business, warns materials scientist Dana Thompson of the University of Leicester. Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fume.

That’s just one of the many problems confronting researchers, including Thompson, who are trying to tackle an emerging problem: how to recycle the millions of electric vehicle (EV) batteries that manufacturers expect to produce over the next few decades. Current EV batteries “are really not designed to be recycled,” says Thompson, a research fellow at the Faraday Institution, a research center focused on battery issues in the United Kingdom.

That wasn’t much of a problem when EVs were rare. But now the technology is taking off. Several carmakers have said they plan to phase out combustion engines within a few decades, and industry analysts predict at least 145 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, up from just 11 million last year. “People are starting to realize this is an issue,” Thompson says.

Governments are inching toward requiring some level of recycling. In 2018, China imposed new rules aimed at promoting the reuse of EV battery components. The European Union is expected to finalize its first requirements this year. In the United States, the federal government has yet to advance recycling mandates, but several states, including California—the nation’s largest car market—are exploring setting their own rules.

Complying won’t be easy. Batteries differ widely in chemistry and construction, which makes it difficult to create efficient recycling systems. And the cells are often held together with tough glues that make them difficult to take apart. That has contributed to an economic obstacle: It’s often cheaper for batterymakers to buy freshly mined metals than to use recycled materials.

Better recycling methods would not only prevent pollution, researchers note, but also help governments boost their economic and national security by increasing supplies of key battery metals that are controlled by one or a few nations. “On the one side, [disposing of EV batteries] is a waste management problem. And on the other side, it’s an opportunity for producing a sustainable secondary stream of critical materials,” says Gavin Harper, a University of Birmingham researcher who studies EV policy issues.

To jump-start recycling, governments and industry are putting money into an array of research initiatives. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has pumped some $15 million into a ReCell Center to coordinate studies by scientists in academia, industry, and at government laboratories. The United Kingdom has backed the ReLiB project, a multi-institution effort. As the EV industry ramps up, the need for progress is becoming urgent, says Linda Gaines, who works on battery recycling at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. “The sooner we can get everything moving,” she says, “the better.

Now, recyclers primarily target metals in the cathode, such as cobalt and nickel, that fetch high prices. (Lithium and graphite are too cheap for recycling to be economical.) But because of the small quantities, the metals are like needles in a haystack: hard to find and recover.

To extract those needles, recyclers rely on two techniques, known as pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy. The more common is pyrometallurgy, in which recyclers first mechanically shred the cell and then burn it, leaving a charred mass of plastic, metals, and glues. At that point, they can use several methods to extract the metals, including further burning. “Pyromet is essentially treating the battery as if it were an ore” straight from a mine, Gaines says. Hydrometallurgy, in contrast, involves dunking battery materials in pools of acid, producing a metal-laden soup. Sometimes the two methods are combined.

Each has advantages and downsides. Pyrometallurgy, for example, doesn’t require the recycler to know the battery’s design or composition, or even whether it is completely discharged, in order to move ahead safely. But it is energy intensive. Hydrometallurgy can extract materials not easily obtained through burning, but it can involve chemicals that pose health risks.

And recovering the desired elements from the chemical soup can be difficult, although researchers are experimenting with compounds that promise to dissolve certain battery metals but leave others in a solid form, making them easier to recover. For example, Thompson has identified one candidate, a mixture of acids and bases called a deep eutectic solvent, that dissolves everything but nickel.

Both processes produce extensive waste and emit greenhouse gases, studies have found. And the business model can be shaky: Most operations depend on selling recovered cobalt to stay in business, but batterymakers are trying to shift away from that relatively expensive metal. If that happens, recyclers could be left trying to sell piles of “dirt,” says materials scientist Rebecca Ciez of Purdue University.

The ideal is direct recycling, which would keep the cathode mixture intact. That’s attractive to batterymakers because recycled cathodes wouldn’t require heavy processing, Gaines notes (although manufacturers might still have to revitalize cathodes by adding small amounts of lithium). “So if you’re thinking circular economy, [direct recycling] is a smaller circle than pyromet or hydromet.”

In direct recycling, workers would first vacuum away the electrolyte and shred battery cells. Then, they would remove binders with heat or solvents, and use a flotation technique to separate anode and cathode materials. At this point, the cathode material resembles baby powder.

So far, direct recycling experiments have only focused on single cells and yielded just tens of grams of cathode powders. But researchers at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory have built economic models showing the technique could, if scaled up under the right conditions, be viable in the future.

To realize direct recycling, however, batterymakers, recyclers, and researchers need to sort out a host of issues. One is making sure manufacturers label their batteries, so recyclers know what kind of cell they are dealing with—and whether the cathode metals have any value. Given the rapidly changing battery market, Gaines notes, cathodes manufactured today might not be able to find a future buyer. Recyclers would be “recovering a dinosaur. No one will want the product.”

Another challenge is efficiently cracking open EV batteries. Nissan’s rectangular Leaf battery module can take 2 hours to dismantle. Tesla’s cells are unique not only for their cylindrical shape, but also for the almost indestructible polyurethane cement that holds them together.

Engineers might be able to build robots that could speed battery disassembly, but sticky issues remain even after you get inside the cell, researchers note. That’s because more glues are used to hold the anodes, cathodes, and other components in place. One solvent that recyclers use to dissolve cathode binders is so toxic that the European Union has introduced restrictions on its use, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined last year that it poses an “unreasonable risk” to workers.“In terms of economics, you’ve got to disassemble … [and] if you want to disassemble, then you’ve got to get rid of glues,” says Andrew Abbott, a chemist at the University of Leicester and Thompson’s adviser.

To ease the process, Thompson and other researchers are urging EV- and batterymakers to start designing their products with recycling in mind. The ideal battery, Abbott says, would be like a Christmas cracker, a U.K. holiday gift that pops open when the recipient pulls at each end, revealing candy or a message. As an example, he points to the Blade Battery, a lithium ferrophosphate battery released last year by BYD, a Chinese EV-maker. Its pack does away with the module component, instead storing flat cells directly inside. The cells can be removed easily by hand, without fighting with wires and glues.

The Blade Battery emerged after China in 2018 began to make EV manufacturers responsible for ensuring batteries are recycled. The country now recycles more lithium-ion batteries than the rest of the world combined, using mostly pyro- and hydrometallurgical methods.

Nations moving to adopt similar policies face some thorny questions. One, Thompson says, is who should bear primary responsibility for making recycling happen. “Is it my responsibility because I bought [an EV] or is it the manufacturer’s responsibility because they made it and they’re selling it?” In the European Union, one answer could come later this year, when officials release the continent’s first rule. And next year a panel of experts created by the state of California is expected to weigh in with recommendations that could have a big influence over any U.S. policy.

Recycling researchers, meanwhile, say effective battery recycling will require more than just technological advances. The high cost of transporting combustible items long distances or across borders can discourage recycling. As a result, placing recycling centers in the right places could have a “massive impact,” Harper says. “But there’s going to be a real challenge in systems integration and bringing all these different bits of research together.”

There’s little time to waste, Abbott says. “What you don’t want is 10 years’ worth of production of a cell that is absolutely impossible to pull apart,” he says. “It’s not happening yet—but people are shouting and worried it will happen.

By Ian Morse

Source: Millions of electric cars are coming. What happens to all the dead batteries? | Science | AAAS

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References

Best, Paul (19 November 2020). “GM doubles down on commitment to electric vehicles, increases spending to $27B”. FOXBusiness. Retrieved 20 November 2020.

Tech Stocks Tumble After ‘Sudden’ Trading Slump—Here’s Why Experts Are Worried The Weakness Could Continue

Trading On The Floor Of NYSE While Stocks, Commodities Tumble As China Strikes Back

After a Monday rally that pushed stocks near record highs, the market is falling Tuesday as investors sell off the buzzy technology stocks that led a massive pandemic rally, and analysts are concerned the market could be topping out as the broader economy picks back up, forcing the government to ease up on its unprecedented relief measures.

Key Facts

Shortly after the market open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 70 points, or 0.2%, to 34,042 points, and the S&P 500 shed 0.5%, while tech-heavy Nasdaq, which has largely underperformed this year despite reaching a new peak last month, tumbled 1.1%.

A slew of mega-cap tech firms are pushing the market down Tuesday, with Tesla, Apple and Facebook down close to 1.5% apiece after a “sudden” slump in pre-market trading around 7:30 a.m. EDT, Vital Knowledge Media Founder Adam Crisafulli said in a morning note.

Pointing to lackluster responses to big-teach earnings that smashed expectations (including Apple falling 0.1% after a blowout report Wednesday), Crisafulli said the “main problem” in the market is ongoing weakness in tech, as investors continue to sell off shares after “chasing” the sector’s massive rally last year.

Though it beat expectations with its late-Monday earnings report, shares of fertilizer-maker Mosaic are heading up losses in the S&P, sinking more than 7%, after the company posted net income of $157 million on revenue of $2.3 billion—and a slew of accounting losses that pushed earnings down by $77 million.

Even apparel-maker Under Armour, which hiked its full-year outlook Tuesday morning thanks to resurgent consumer demand, is falling 4% after a better-than-expected earnings report, as analysts laser in on a $9 million settlement with the SEcurities and Exchange Commision over misleading accounting practices.

Crucial Quote

“Investors didn’t pay much attention to the sell-in-May adage yesterday, but with stocks hovering around all-time highs, the market is starting to look as if it might be topping,” Oanda Analyst Sophie Griffiths said in a morning note, adding that “lackluster trading” should be expected after the recently rally. “Given the particularly strong run-up from November to April, investors could begin to see this as a good time to reduce exposure.”

What To Watch For

The monthly jobs report comes out Friday, and economists are expecting that the labor market added a staggering 1 million jobs last month. Crisafulli says that the Federal Reserve is “very likely” to change its messaging if the Friday report is “anywhere close” to consensus estimates, and if recent market reactions are any indication, investors will likely be spooked if the Fed starts to indicate it may ease up on its unprecedented economic support.

Surprising Fact

Shares of crypto exchange Coinbase, which has been trading publicly for less than one month, are down 2% Tuesday, pushing the stock down 15% from a high less than two weeks ago. The company’s market capitalization—of roughly $55 billion—is now just about half of what it was at its peak.

Tangent

In the face of booming consumer demand lifting imports, the international trade widened to a record high of $74.4 billion in March, up $3.9 billion from February, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. March exports jumped 6.6% month over month to $200 billion. Reflecting the pandemic recovery, the goods and services deficit increased $83.2 billion, or 64%, year to date, compared to the same period in 2020.

Further Reading

Dow Jumps 300 Points As Stocks Kick Off Worst Six Months Of The Year (Forbes)

Here’s Why Experts Think The Stock Market Could Rip Higher As Stocks Test New Highs (Forbes)

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com.

Source: Tech Stocks Tumble After ‘Sudden’ Trading Slump—Here’s Why Experts Are Worried The Weakness Could Continue

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Manufacturing And The Intelligent Edge: What, Why, And How

robot in car factory

Industrial manufacturers tend to be conservative when implementing new technologies, a stance which has historically made sense. They typically want to ensure that they maximize the functional life expectancy of their equipment in order to extract the maximum value, with some equipment in use for 5, 15, or even 30+ years. In addition, the equipment they use is often highly specialized and purpose-built, which can make it very expensive. This combination of pressures makes companies reticent to introduce changes until they’ve squeezed every last drop of value from their system.

But as technology evolves, this conservative mindset appears to be shifting. Manufacturers are starting to embrace digital transformation and intelligent systems because they are realizing what a new approach, and new technologies, can really do for them. This development could be called the “Teslafication” of modern manufacturing.

Tesla has demonstrated the benefits of using technology to collect customer feedback, understand their needs, adapt their offerings, and deliver updates to improve the customer experience — all very quickly. Personalization and the ability to adapt quickly to your customers’ needs are becoming more valuable in all sectors, and manufacturing companies don’t want to be left behind.

So how are companies making this shift? We asked industrial manufacturing leaders in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States how they are adopting their facilities to meet modern demand. These are the top five things these industrial leaders are doing to get ahead of the curve.

Maximizing bang for buck

Understanding the return on investment (ROI) is always important, but just focusing on equipment cost and longevity isn’t enough, which became clear when we looked at which technologies are being deployed and why. We first determined the key initiatives our research subjects were most engaged in (optimizing the supply chain, innovation, enhanced time-critical control, remote control/operations, and optimizing non-time-critical control, in that order).

We then sought to understand which technologies they were deploying now and which they expected to deploy in the future. Not every technology applied directly to each initiative, so the ranking was determined by the number of times selected per the number of times presented. The top technologies were:

 

  • 5/5 Analytics
  • 4/4 Artificial intelligence
  • 4/4 Autonomous/collaborative robotics
  • 4/4 Machine/equipment diagnostics
  • 4/5 Digital twins

 

Clearly, the ability to gather and process intelligence from your systems is a good place to start when selecting technologies.

Choosing their connectivity carefully

There is a lot of buzz about 5G these days, and considering some of the features 5G will provide, it’s easy to understand the enthusiasm. With ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, and enhanced security, a 5G-based intelligent edge has the potential to provide the infrastructure for a fleet of modern, connected industrial robots that can deliver flexibility and agility that legacy equipment could never achieve. When we asked survey respondents about connectivity preferences, 5G was the clear choice above other options such as Private LTE and Wi-Fi 6.

The rollout of 5G wireless technology, with its strong focus on machine-type communications and support for the industrial internet of things (IIoT), is expected to have an outsized impact on automation and control applications. Unprecedented reliability and very low latency add to the basic potential of industrial 5G in manufacturing, even though the main technology building blocks and implementation challenges haven’t been fully resolved.

For example, one concern is the difficulty of ensuring that 5G will work inside buildings where signal drop can be significant. But for every problem identified, solutions are being quickly developed. Some interesting “in-building 5G” solutions are emerging that use small cell millimeter wave (mmWave) technology and combine the ultra-wideband of 5G with private multi-access edge computing (MEC) and a private network core. These solutions are being deployed in office facilities now and will look to deploy in other settings where robots may live, such as manufacturing facilities, fulfillment warehouses, and so on.

Optimizing for their technology

Our respondents told us what they think are the most important measures for the technologies overall, and #1 was security. We have yet to see a survey that doesn’t rank security as the most important factor for just about any category. Connectivity ranked a close second (see the preceding section), followed by high availability. So: secure it, connect it, and keep it running. Pretty straightforward. After these basics, the next priorities are bandwidth, as those connected machines are going to need to collect and process a ton of data; scalability, to allow them to adapt to the ebb and flow of processing needs; and low latency, in order to keep those machines responsive.

Put the pedal down and don’t let up

More than 70% of our survey respondents are engaged in all five of the process improvement initiatives listed earlier. Their transition is happening now; it’s already begun. But fully reaping the benefits of a highly available, ultra-low-latency intelligent edge is going to come in phases over the next five years.

Since 5G is the most anticipated technology and people seem to have the highest expectations for it, we inquired about current level of adoption and upcoming timelines. Thirty-six percent of respondents are “adopters” who plan to use 5G in the very near future as a connectivity solution across the programs they are implementing; 35% fall into the “tester” category and expect to use 5G on a handful of technologies; and 29% don’t intend to use 5G across their technologies at all in the near term.

Of those respondents who see 5G in their future, 50% say they expect to adopt 5G-enabled technologies within the next 12 months, 60% in the next two years, and a full 81% expect to adopt 5G within the next five years. The fact that such a high percentage of this typically conservative crowd expects to adopt this new technology so quickly suggests the degree to which they are looking to accelerate their digital transformation.

Preparation is the key to success

It’s one thing to anticipate a fully automated factory with connected autonomous robots driving increased production and lower cost; it’s another thing to actually implement one. There are considerable barriers. Of the leaders we spoke with, 35% understand the need to upgrade or re-engineer legacy systems, while 33% identified their companies as lacking internal skills or knowledge. Business leaders need to invest in both areas in order to succeed. Re-engineering of tools, processes, and people drives the need to start planning sooner than later — the barriers are surmountable with proper planning.

In contrast, the barriers that ranked lowest in the survey — i.e. they were least likely to be perceived as barriers — included “none of our competitors seem to be using these technologies” at 18%, which tells us that competitors are using these technologies, so it is not the case that they are seen as risky due to being unknown quantities. “Too high a risk” came in at 17%, so fear is not an obstacle. And, actually, 12% selected “None of the above” (no barriers expected).

It’s happening now

Technology advancements in manufacturing are happening now and building up a new intelligent edge. Manufacturing leaders are aware of this shift and are taking steps now down the path of digital transformation. They know it’s just a matter of how much and how soon more technology will be deployed in order to fully realize the benefits.

CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER

As Chief Technology Officer at Wind River, Paul Miller is responsible for the company’s technology strategy. With nearly three decades of telecommunications and advanced technology leadership at both large companies and successful startups, he is currently focused on Wind River’s edge virtualization and AI solutions, including Wind River’s market-leading 5G Cloud offering based on StarlingX.

Prior to joining Wind River, he was the Chief Technology Officer of GENBAND. He has led the architecture and development of various switching, IMS, IP media, call control and web applications solutions employed by multiple tier-one operators worldwide. His last eight years have been focused on OpenStack, SDN, and NFV automation technology, and include operation of a multi-site, multi-cloud infrastructure, multiple Tier one CSP VNF deployments as well as a significant NFV patent history. His contributions throughout his career have enabled many communications service providers worldwide to create new revenue streams, while dramatically reducing operating costs.

Source: Manufacturing And The Intelligent Edge: What, Why, And How

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How to Reduce Tech-Related Stress for Customers and Employees

How to Reduce Tech-Related Stress for Customers and Employees

Your ability to become a successful company of the future depends on developing a cultural mindset that is focused on creating value for the people inside and outside the organization. The myth that technology drives digital transformation has been an ongoing fairy tale because while technology is an important factor, there is another element to the equation that creates a strong dependency on the first — the people.

Technology in most ways has a positive effect on business operations, especially in the automation of admin processes that come with communication with customers. While artificial intelligence is getting to know your customers by analyzing their wants and needs, it also means collecting huge amounts of customer insights. Some other digital tools such as chatbots are being used to interact with customers instead of a customer service agent and in some exceptional cases, this works just fine.

The belief that these digital tools can improve customer engagement like a miracle is just an illusion however, despite offering an effective and efficient way to speak to large audiences. The reality is that these technologies are greatly designed to replicate some sort of friendliness but are simply not able to offer the much-needed level of human connection customers need.

Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for businesses and has aggressively fast forwarded digital adoptions in working practices that most companies were not ready to take on. They were forced to send employees home who had to deal with the implementation and usage of new digital tools, something that should have progressively happened years ago.

According to research carried out by Mckinsey, it would have taken businesses more than a year to implement the level of remote working that was enforced as a result of the crisis. Despite the advantages of the nature of these digital technologies, the sudden change led to huge gaps of acceptance among the workforce and this is because employees have different needs, challenges and technical proficiency.

Employees and customers are often slow to adapt to new ways of doing things so now it’s time to ask yourself: What can I do to reduce the tech stress of my customers and employees and make their lives easier? I suggest two main things to consider:

1. Focus on the people.

Digitalization has many different positive aspects, but the more digital your business becomes the less human touch it can provide. Customers today expect more human interactions and less automated interactions. The role of new tech should make the life of your employees easier and ultimately highly complement their tasks so that they can focus on the emotional side of customer relationships.

The rush for easily monetizable consumer automated interactions makes it clear for customers that a brand is not authentically engaging with them. A Harvard Business Review study shows that companies are becoming increasingly impersonal by automating as many customer touchpoints as possible. In a highly digitalised world the human factor in customer experience gives your business a distinct competitive edge. The latest technology gets prioritised too often over authentic customer engagement.

First and foremost you should create an authentic and trusted customer relationship and then with the consent of your customers, use the technology available (predictive analytics and machine learning) to personalise the interactions with them. Not the other way around.

2. Reassess your digital initiatives.

As you’ve been experimenting with a huge number of virtual operations and interactions since before the pandemic started, you now have the opportunity to assess which technologies are extremely needed and which are not. The world of business is changing, some things will go back to previous ways, while others will remain changed forever.

You might think that using many different business tools to automate and improve processes will skyrocket productivity. However, switching between too many apps has some side effects such as lower productivity, higher costs and lack of collaboration in teams, to name a few. Developing a digital state of mind requires you to engage, educate and provide continuous support to your employees.

Low employee stress levels and making sure their experience remains positive throughout are as important as deciding which new technology to adopt. Digital transformation should have your people at the core because your people will be those who will make a successful transformation happen.

As I’m writing my book on customer-centricity, I find it imperative that companies find the right balance between the use of technology and human interactions. The challenge of the future is not whether artificial intelligence will replace people’s jobs but rather how to create a business culture in which technology and employees are able to walk hand-in-hand to provide human-driven customer experiences.

Ilenia Vidili

 

By: Ilenia Vidili / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

 

Source: How to Reduce Tech-Related Stress for Customers and Employees

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Japan Is Innovating Mobility As A Service And Creating A $61 Billion Market

Japanese trains are famous for cleanliness and punctuality. If a bullet train is five minutes late, it’s national news. Railway companies also operate large station shopping complexes and have played a major role in the growth of Japanese cities. But their bottom line is overshadowed by shrinking ridership due to the declining population. To compensate, they’re trying to address passenger concerns about the coronavirus while making it easier for tourists, women and elderly people to get around. That’s where a uniquely Japanese effort to promote mobility as a service (MaaS) comes in.

Made-in-Japan mobility

MaaS is sometimes thought of as on-demand transport such as ride-hailing services or vehicle sharing, but it’s more than that. According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, MaaS is a system of search, reservation, payment, etc. that optimally combines multiple public transportation and other travel services in response to the travel needs of each local resident or traveler on a trip-by-trip basis. It is an important means that contributes to improving the convenience of travel and solving local issues by coordinating with non-transport services at destinations such as tourism and medical care.

The ministry is promoting MaaS, leveraging Japan’s transportation expertise, including the ability to move millions of people every day around large cities like Tokyo quickly, efficiently and on time, to further improve mobility in Japan. Public and private interest in MaaS in Japan has sparked expectations of major growth: in 2019, Yano Research Institute forecast the domestic MaaS market will hit 6.3 trillion yen ($61 billion) in 2030, up from 84.5 billion yen ($813 million) in 2018 and growing 44.1% annually from 2016.

In 2019, the Japanese government began to work on MaaS policies in earnest. They emphasize the need for data sharing to build standardized MaaS rules and platforms. They also stress the need to realize efficient mobility services by connecting a variety of mobility mode and infrastructure data, wider implementation of cashless payments and subscriptions with destination service-related data. In addition, they focus on new services provided by new types of vehicles. These include AI-equipped vehicles for on-demand transportation, electric small mobility vehicles, and self-driving mobility services. Japan is using this approach to cultivate its own spin on the concept, known as Japan MaaS.

“Japan differs from the West in that its public transit systems are predominantly run by the private sector,” says Tsuchida Hiromichi, director of the ministry’s Mobility Service Promotion Division. “This means different players can work together to make MaaS as efficient as possible.”

In a regional approach to promoting MaaS, the ministry is working with local governments and private-sector companies. The aim is both to improve transportation options for local residents, especially elderly people in rural areas, and to make it easier for foreign visitors to get around to parts of the country that are off the beaten path for travelers.

MaaS is already taking root in different regions of Japan, says Tsuchida. In Fukuoka City and Kitakyushu City, Toyota Motor and Nishi-Nippon Railroad (Nishitetsu) launched a multi-modal smartphone mobility service called “my route” that lets users plan an outing by inputting a destination and then selecting from different routes and means of travel, including walking, buses, trains and taxis. The app has payment services as well as destination information such as restaurants and cafes. It entered full service last year, and joins a nascent MaaS infrastructure in Japan including popular apps that help commuters navigate complex transit networks in big cities.  

“Japan has many transportation players, with competition resulting in better services,” says Tsuchida. “That’s why transportation in Japan is punctual and safe and has broad coverage. Each of these aspects is sophisticated in and of itself but by combining them, MaaS in Japan has great potential.”

Creating a MaaS market

Hidaka Yosuke worked as a train driver, conductor and maintenance specialist for 12 years before he decided to become an entrepreneur by setting up his own company dedicated to rethinking transportation. Established in 2018, MaaS Tech Japan creates solutions that maximize the value of MaaS for companies and governments. It compiles big data on transport and payments and develops white label apps for MaaS.

“As a train driver, I worked in rural areas with many old people facing mobility challenges,” says Hidaka, who drove trains on the 575-km Tohoku Main Line and other JR East lines before becoming CEO of MaaS Tech Japan. “I became convinced that the rapidly aging society is not a problem that one company alone can solve.”

MaaS Tech Japan is a data integrator collaborating with transportation players to provide mobility solutions. It works with private companies and local governments including the prefectures of Tokyo and Hiroshima as well as Kamishihoro Town, Hokkaido and Kaga City, Ishikawa. It combines various kinds of data related to hundreds of providers such as rail and taxi operators, and conducts simulations on passenger flows to show clients how their transportation needs can best be served.

For instance, it has cooperated with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to suggest ways of easing congestion on mass transit systems to mitigate spread of the coronavirus. It has also proposed ways in which Kaga City can use mobility solutions to help elderly people get around and to help tourists discover lesser-known attractions such as its hot springs. Aside from local governments, MaaS Tech Japan is partnering with the state-backed New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Microsoft Japan, Tokio Marine Nichido and other players eager to promote MaaS.

The startup is also looking to incorporate MaaS solutions involving autonomous vehicles, energy savings and smart cities.

man sitting in office chair

“Aside from the challenges of aging populations and coronavirus, we want to help tackle climate change and the need to decarbonize the economy because this is all part of the smart city,” says Hidaka. “We want to work with businesses, consumers and governments because collaboration is the key to a solution for mobility. We aim to make a strong contribution in this area.”

Note: All Japanese names in this article are given in the traditional Japanese order, with surname first.

To learn more about MaaS Tech Japan, click here (website in Japanese).

To learn more about MaaS policy by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, click here (website in Japanese).

Japan

Japan

Japan is changing. The country is at the forefront of demographic change that is expected to affect countries around the world. Japan regards this not as an onus but as a bonus for growth. To overcome this challenge, industry, academia and government have been moving forward to produce powerful and innovative solutions. The ongoing economic policy program known as Abenomics is helping give rise to new ecosystems for startups, in addition to open innovation and business partnerships. The Japan Voice series explores this new landscape of challenge and opportunity through interviews with Japanese and expatriate innovators who are powering a revitalized economy. For more information on the Japanese Government innovations and technologies, please visit https://www.japan.go.jp/technology/.

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Prime Minister’s Office of Japan

Through innovation, Japan is offering solutions to various challenges that the world faces. Watch the “INNOVATION JAPAN” series and get inspired. Innovation Japan https://www.japan.go.jp/technology/in… _______________ Prime Minister’s Office of Japan YouTube Channel is operated by the Government of Japan. □JapanGov https://www.japan.go.jp/https://www.facebook.com/JapanGov/https://twitter.com/japangov/ □Prime Minister’s Office of Japan and His Cabinet http://japan.kantei.go.jp/index.htmlhttps://www.facebook.com/Japan.PMOhttps://twitter.com/JPN_PMO

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With Russia’s Help, China Becomes Plastics Making Power In Pandemic

After giving up on recycling — American recycling that is — China is still in love with the plastics biz. In fact. their companies are becoming dominant in all things plastic, one of the most important supply chains in the world.

In other words, it will be yet another segment in global business that the world will need Chinese companies to get supply.

The pandemic has helped the petrochemicals industry make up for losses in oil and gas demand. Plastics are tied to the fossil fuels industry. Stay-at-home orders throughout the U.S. and Europe has led to more take-out food orders and a lot of that is being placed in plastic containers.

I’d like to highlight one thing though: China’s Sinopec is the behemoth in this space, and although you can buy into Sinopec on the U.S. stock market, if the incoming Biden Administration makes good on a Trump order to delist Chinese companies that are not compliant with the financial audit rules under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, then Sinopec will probably leave the NYSE.

According to industry consultant Wood Mackenzie, petrochemicals will account for more than a third of global oil demand growth to 2030 and nearly half through 2050.

The growth in both plastics consumption and production is mostly coming from Asia where economies are catching up with the western levels of plastics consumption, and becoming a source for plastics exports to the U.S. and Europe.

Within Asia of course, China is the powerhouse. Last year Exxon Mobil XOM -4.8% began constructing its $10 billion petrochemical complex in Huizhou, China.

Russia Joins China, Wants To Be ‘Indispensible’

Russia’s petrochemical giant Sibur is also locked into China, mainly through a Sinopec partnership. The two companies began work on one of the world’s largest polymer plants for plastics making last August, spending $11 billion on the Amur Gas Chemical Complex in Russia.

The two sides are intimately connected in the global plastics biz.

“Amur is a milestone in the cooperation between Sinopec and Sibur,” Zhang Yuzhuo, chairman of Sinopec, says in a press statement, calling it a “model for Sino-Russian energy cooperation.”

The entire industry, while not exactly the sexy and green industry the Davos crowd is promoting heavily in the Western world, is seen by China and still-emerging markets like Russia — as a development tool for regions far away from the big city hubs of Moscow or Shanghai. This is as much about job creation as it is pumping out plastic molds and the ethylene needed to make it.

Russia recently introduced negative excise tax on LPG and ethane used in petrochemicals which was a meaty financial bone thrown to Sinopec and Sibur’s Amur project, among others in the Russian far east. 

The Sibur Russia angle has gained momentum recently due to the ramp up in production from the new ZapSib Siberian facility last year. They make polyethylene and 500 thousand tons of polypropylene there; all must-have ingredients for plastics manufacturers.

Their relationship with Chinese investors, buyers and counterparties was one of the main reasons to even build that manufacturing plant in the first place, and is something the Moscow market likes to give as one of the best reasons to be bullish about a rumored initial public offering for Sibur.

Sibur has said in press statements that they expect “another jump in scale” of plastics chemicals output with the addition of the Sinopec project, Amur.

“Sibur has long built relationships with Chinese clients, partners, and investors and Sinopec has been our strategic partner since 2013,” says Dmitry Konov, Chairman of the Management Board for Sibur. Konov told Reuters recently that there was no timeline for any IPO in the Moscow Exchange. Moscow was home to one of the top four largest IPOs last year, shipping firm Sovcomflot.

Konov said their logistical advantages in the far east, near China, and competitive pricing for its polymers means they will “scale up these relationships to further expand the delivery of high-quality petrochemicals from Siberia to China.”

VTB Capital, a Russian investment bank, says those projects would allow Russia to become one of the world’s top four producers of ethylene by 2030. Russia wants to position itself as the indispensable partner to China in this space, much in the way that China has positioned itself as the key source for numerous key inputs, whether its cobalt used in electric vehicle car batteries, or solar panels now expected to criss-cross the U.S. in the Biden Administration.

Due to the pandemic, China has been focused on industries of the future alongside those needed to get itself, and its trading partners, out of the pandemic rut — those polypropylene Olive Garden to go containers might not come from China, but the plastics that made it sure might.

China remains the place for growth in this space, too. Plastics-use patterns and penetration are rising. Figure the Asians are a good 10 to 20 years behind the U.S. in terms of plastics use. They’re gaining fast.

China As Plastics Demand Driver

Plastics aren’t made from tree bark, that’s for sure. It comes from fossil fuels and non-organic chemical compounds that make the stuff designed to last hundreds of years.

And China now accounts for roughly 40% of the demand for the chemicals used in making it, an increase of just 20% in 2005. 

China’s ethylene demand grew by 8.6% between 2014-17 while global demand grew by only half that. 

Looking out five years, Deutsche Bank industry analysts said in a November 25 report that China will account for over half of global consumption growth for ethylene (to which Sibur and Russia are happy as their go-to for now). 

China has 50% self-sufficiency in ethylene and derivative products – the domestic desire to expand capacities and increase self-sufficiency remains high. Russia is a solution. But Sinopec will invest domestically, as will the big Western multinationals who are frowned upon doing similar work back home. Exxon is case in point.

China was a relatively late entrant to the global petrochemical industry, but that does not mean much. They ramp up, and rev up fast due to state subsidies and state-owned companies’ ability to obtain raw materials and pass them along downstream for pennies on the dollar. These are loss leaders, but China doesn’t care about that stuff. They are looking to produce plastics for the locals, and for the export markets, especially U.S. and Europe, which are increasingly disinterested in anything fossil fuels related, at least on paper. 

In the 1990s, the Chinese petrochemical industry was significantly smaller than the U.S. In 1995, China’s ethylene capacity totaled 3% of global capacity. In comparison, Japan had 9% of global ethylene capacity and Korea had 5% of global capacity. Ethylene is naturally occurring.

During the 2000s, China’s petrochemical industry grew substantially driven by government support and strong demand from government-directed infrastructure spending, a burgeoning middle class with rising disposable incomes, expanding residential construction and exports of course.

Between 2004 and 2012, China’s ethylene capacity — the flammable gas used to make ethanol for cars, fruit ripeners, and — more importantly, plastics — doubled to 11 million tons per year. Within 25 years, China’s capacity has moved from 3% of global to 16% of global. Who thinks they’re going to slow that down? Need plastic? China will have it. For now, Russia has the chemicals. China might just gain on that next. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

Kenneth Rapoza

Kenneth Rapoza

I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.

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Business Casual

📚 Get your free copy of “Poorly Made in China” from Audible, in addition to a free 30-day trial! → https://amzn.to/3dkzN9T (Note: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases). China has been the leader of the recycling industry for over 30 years, importing materials more than any country in the world and making billions of dollars in the process. But recently, the Chinese government took a tougher stance on recycling, effectively disrupting the global recycling industry. More importantly, China’s decision has caused major problems for many Western countries, since they were the ones exporting millions of tons of recyclable waste to China. ⭑

Subscribe to Business Casual → http://gobc.tv/sub ⭑ Enjoyed the vid? Hit the like button! 📚 If you enjoyed this video about #China and want to learn even more, we also recommend you read the book “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade Kindle” by Adam Minter 👉 https://amzn.to/2M4wY0z (note: as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases). Your support makes our content possible! ❤️ Follow us on: ► Twitter → http://gobc.tv/twtr ► Instagram → https://gobc.tv/ig ► Facebook → http://gobc.tv/fb ► LinkedIn → https://gobc.tv/linkedin ► Reddit → https://gobc.tv/reddit ► Medium → https://gobc.tv/medium ⬇️Exclusive Sponsor Offers (Only For BC Fans) ⬇️ ✪ Sign-up for Acorns! 👉 https://gobc.tv/acorns ✪ Skillshare (get 2 months free) 👉http://gobc.tv/skillshare ✪ Try DollarShaveClub (just $5!) 👉http://dollarshaveclub.com/bc ✪ Try Blinkist free for 7 days! 👉https://gobc.tv/readblinkist

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