27. January 2022 · Comments Off on Top workplace trends 2022 · Categories: Uncategorized

The workplace has experienced unprecedented change since Pandemic measures were introduced in early 2020. Many workers now prefer working from home vs the office, while others have missed the benefits that closer interaction with colleagues can achieve.

Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, suggests that these are the top 10 workplace trends for 2022:

Trend #1: Most companies will adopt a hybrid or remote-first approach

Many companies had hoped to transition to a hybrid model in 2021, but the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant caused most of them to put their office re-opening plans on hold. However, things look more promising for 2022, at least in the U.S. where cases are dropping or staying relatively steady in all but five states.

In fact, research from my company and WeWork found that 79% of the C-Suite will let their employees split their time between corporate offices and remote working if their job allows for it. Organizations that have already announced plans to adopt a hybrid approach include Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Citigroup, and many others. Meanwhile, companies like Twitter, Dropbox, and Amazon are taking a fully remote approach and allowing their corporate employees to work from home indefinitely.

In addition to offering workers more choice over where they work, in 2022 businesses will also allow their people to have greater control over when they work. In my research with WeWork, both employees and the C-suite noted that flexibility, schedule control, and work-life balance were the top benefits of the hybrid model. A few companies, including Kickstarter and Bolt, are even piloting a 4-day workweek to help combat widespread burnout among their workers.

Trend #2: The hybrid model will create a two-tiered workforce

While the hybrid model offers many benefits, it also has its drawbacks. One issue that’s already emerging is that remote workers may not be treated fairly compared to their office counterparts. In fact, new research from my company and Kahoot! confirms a strong bias against remote workers. We discovered that over 6 out of 10 HR leaders say that office employees are more likely to get promoted and receive regular raises, and they’re seen as harder workers and more valuable.

Many CEOs and leaders agree that the hybrid approach could lead to a two-tiered workplace. Sid Sijbrandij, CEO of GitLab, has described the hybrid model as “the worst of both worlds.” Zillow CEO Rich Barton has also expressed his concerns, emphasizing that “We must ensure a level playing field for all team members, regardless of their physical location.” 

In 2022, business leaders will need to focus on overcoming this bias if they want the hybrid model to succeed for their business. A cultural shift will certainly be required, and managers will need to take steps to ensure that all workers are treated equally and feel included. However, our study revealed that best-in-class collaboration technologies can also play a critical role in ensuring a fair workplace for all. 

Trend #3: A strong digital mindset will support ongoing business continuity

Many companies who were unable to find workers during the pandemic turned to automation technologies, and this area will continue to grow as businesses grapple with millions of unfilled jobs. Robots will be widely deployed to clean buildings and handle manufacturing tasks, and AI solutions like chatbots will replace call center workers and other roles.

In 2022, we’ll also see explosive growth in an area called hyper-automation. This approach involves the orchestration of multiple automation technologies, which allows organizations to transition to a more connected and effective automation strategy. Gartner predicts that the worldwide market for hyper-automation technology will reach nearly $600 billion in 2022, and it expects that businesses using this approach will lower their operational costs by 30%.

Of course, technology will also play a key role in the hybrid workplace. Collaboration tools are a given, but we’ll see other technologies emerge as well. For example, over 80% of organizations will adopt cloud-based room systems by 2022. Businesses will also offer tools for when staff goes into the office, for example, apps that support contact tracing, room or desk booking, or a touch-free workplace. We’re even likely to see all-in-one employee management apps come into the spotlight next year, to drive a more seamless experience for workers and leaders alike.

Trend #4: Organizations will fight to attract & retain talent amidst the “great resignation” 

Since April 2021, more than 15 million people have left their jobs in what’s being called the “great resignation. All signs point to the quit rate continuing to accelerate in 2022, and 55% of workplace professionals say they expect employee turnover to increase next year. It’s no surprise, then, that CFOs’ top concern right now is labor availability.

So what will employers do to combat the labor shortage in 2022? Some are starting with the basics — companies like Amazon, Costco, and Walmart have increased their salaries in a bid to attract workers. Others are building out their benefits packages and offering perks like stock options or financial wellness incentives. And many businesses are focusing on upskilling or retraining their existing workforce.

But for most people, perks, and pay won’t be enough. New research from my company and Oracle finds that 88% of workers feel the meaning of “success” has changed, and they’re now prioritizing work-life balance, mental health, and having a meaningful job over a steady paycheck. That’s why in 2022, people will no longer tolerate companies that treat them poorly, and they’ll hold employers to a higher standard than ever before. Employers have no choice but to step up to the plate if they want to attract and retain talent amidst an employee-driven market. 

Trend #5: Leaders will rely on employee input and feedback more than ever before

One issue that the pandemic uncovered is that the voice of some employee groups has long been ignored. These include essential workers and caregivers, and now we’re seeing that remote workers may also be left behind. A global study from my company and UKG drives this point home, finding that 86% of employees feel that people at their organization are not heard fairly or equally.

Companies that don’t seek out or listen to their employees’ feedback may struggle to retain talent, at a time when workforce retention is key. They’ll also be missing out on ideas and innovation that can help drive the bottom line because workers won’t speak up if they feel their input isn’t wanted. That’s why in 2022, leaders will go beyond just listening to their people — they’ll translate insights into action with a focus on improving business outcomes and the employee experience.

To achieve this, companies will create robust employee feedback programs that leverage technology and incorporate multiple feedback channels. IBM, for example, holds global Innovation Jams that help leaders gather and make sense of the voice of the employee. Meanwhile, Microsoft surveys more than 2,500 employees every day. Put simply, the future of employee voice is so much more than an annual engagement survey. 

Trend #6: Workplace benefits will evolve to better meet employee needs

As companies ramp up their efforts around employee voice, one piece of feedback they’re hearing is that their benefits package needs to evolve — and soon. In fact, the pandemic has forever altered the workplace benefits landscape, with most changes centered around the shift to remote working and a renewed focus on employee well-being.

In 2022, workers will still expect standard benefits like medical coverage and paid leave. However, they’ll also look for mental health support and other offerings that promote their well-being. In addition, employees will put a premium on benefits that support their needs as parents or caregivers, including paid family leave and childcare support. Although legislation is moving through Congress that would give most workers 12 weeks of paid family leave, employers who wish to retain their talent — especially working mothers — would be wise to take action now.

Flexibility is another “must-have” benefit for 2022. In fact, a global EY study finds that 54% of employees would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work. And most people believe this benefit should extend to hourly workers as well: research from my company and MyWorkChoice finds that 88% of employers believe that hourly workers should get the same flexibility as salaried workers.

Trend #7: Employee health and safety will continue to be a top concern

Over the past year and half, companies have used different tactics to address employee burnout and mental health concerns. Some offered mental health days, others provided free or subsidized therapy, and companies like JPMorgan Chase and LinkedIn actually required their staff to take time off. However, KPMG finds that 94% of employees are still stressed — and with COVID-19 far from over, companies must continue to prioritize employees’ mental health in 2022.

But it’s not just mental health that employers should focus on. Research from my company and One Medical discovered that 54% of employees deferred getting medical care due to COVID-19. Not only has this resulted in negative health outcomes, but the leaders we surveyed predict that it will elevate their healthcare costs by 7.5% in 2022. However, 97% of employers are taking steps to reduce costs and improve their healthcare offering, including offering virtual care and care navigation solutions.

When it comes to COVID-19-related safety, in 2022 employers will need to deal with the rollout of booster shots and the implementation of new vaccine requirements. It won’t be easy to navigate these uncharted waters, but smart employers recognize that a commitment to safety will be critical since 42% of workers are worried about returning to the office for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Trend #8: Organizations and employees will prioritize new skills for the remote workplace

There’s no question that the pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to upskill their current workforce, a matter made even more pressing due to the growing talent shortage. In fact, it’s estimated that 40% of workers will require up to six months of reskilling by 2025. If no action is taken, over the next decade the U.S. will likely experience a shortfall in its workforce of up to 12.5 million people

Of course, digital skills will be in high demand. Research from Microsoft projects that 149 million new tech jobs will be created by 2025 as a result of accelerated digitization. However, soft skills will also become much more valuable in the hybrid or remote workplace. These include skills like emotional intelligence, managing dispersed teams, and effective digital communication.

Many companies and workers recognize the need for upskilling or retraining, and 2022 will be a year when we see action. PwC finds that 77% of employees are ready to learn new skills or completely re-train, and 74% see training as a matter of personal responsibility. Meanwhile, organizations like JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and PwC are investing millions or even billions of dollars to upskill their employees and help them adapt to the changing world of work.

Trend #9: Workers will regain control over their careers, and they’ll look to technology for support

Amidst the evolving skills environment, employees are also struggling to navigate the pathway to career growth. A new global study from my company and Oracle finds that 75% of people felt stuck in their professional lives over the past year. But while 83% of workers are ready to make a career change, 76% say they’re facing major obstacles, including a lack of employer support.

What’s novel for 2022 is that people will look to their employers not just for traditional forms of support — they’ll also expect technology-based solutions like AI career advisors. In fact, our survey revealed that 85% of people want technology to help define their future, and 82% say robots can support their career better than humans. That’s because they believe robots are better at giving unbiased recommendations, answering quick questions, and finding jobs that fit their skills. 

Some companies are already paving the way in this space. Last year, Sanofi launched an AI-based tool designed to empower employees to take control of their career development and help management facilitate internal mobility. Similarly, IBM uses AI software to direct its employees to projects and job opportunities within the company. In 2022, we’ll see even more employers get on-board with new technologies to support their people.

Trend #10: Companies will use new tactics to move the needle on ESG issues

Global challenges amplified by COVID-19 have made Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues even more urgent. While tackling these issues is simply the right thing to do, 78% of executives also believe that ESG performance creates organizational value and stronger financial performance. That’s because consumers and job-seekers, especially Gen Z and Millennials, are paying much more attention to how companies respond to issues like climate change and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To help move the needle on these issues, in 2022 a growing number of businesses will link their executive pay to ESG metrics. Apple has already added an ESG “bonus modifier” to its cash incentive program, and at Chipotle, 10% of executives’ annual incentives will be based on achieving the company’s diversity and environmental goals. In fact, Willis Towers Watson finds that 4 in 5 companies are planning to incorporate ESG measures in executive pay plans over the next 3 years. 

However, in 2022 companies will drive even greater accountability and alignment by reporting on the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics, a set of universal disclosures developed by the World Economic Forum. During the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021, the Forum announced that over 50 companies have begun including these metrics in their mainstream reporting materials, including annual reports and sustainability reports.”

Original article taken from Linked In.

05. January 2020 · Comments Off on Top 10 emerging technologies in 2020 · Categories: Uncategorized

As we enter a new decade, The Telegraph’s technology writers bring you their predictions for the year ahead.

The smart home becomes unavoidable

Have you tried to buy a TV that doesn’t come with an internet connection recently? Or a Hi-Fi system? This year, expect the same for lightbulbs, alarm systems and thermostats.

The smart home has been a concept for over a decade now, but for much of that time automated lighting, power systems and appliances have been too expensive, bulky and unreliable to attract anyone but the most dedicated technophiles.

That has changed in the last couple of years, as designs have improved and prices have rapidly fallen. Today, smart plugs and bulbs can be bought for less than a tenner, and new houses are being bought with smart home systems already in place. Before long, having a smart home – like having a smartphone – won’t be a matter of choice.

Why? Costs are falling rapidly thanks to economies of scale, home internet connections are getting faster, and major tech companies – in particular Amazon and Google – are investing heavily in the space.

Why not? Smart home security continues to be a nightmare, particularly at the cheaper end of the market. Although consumers have often been willing to sacrifice privacy for convenience, high-profile hacks could make them think twice.

James Titcomb

Our virtual doppelgangers

How many of us have imaged having a doppelganger? Not an evil one that wrecks our relationships and credit scores but a helpful one, who shares our life, pursues our goals and gives us an extra pair of hands to work with.

The number is potentially quite high, which is why we should all be paying attention to automated responses. Google’s “Smart Compose” email suggestions are now common, and may be subtly reshaping how we write.

Predictive text is increasingly bold in interpreting what we “really” want to say. More and more writing tools boast automatic word completion; Google continues to work on artificial intelligence software that handles phone calls on its users’ behalf; a start-up called Scribeless writes AI-generated handwritten letters.

This year this technology will become more capable and independent, evolving ever closer to the fantasy of the helpful double.

Why? For many people, the convenience of streamlining our responses to the tide of emails, texts and calendar invitations that washes over us every day will be too tempting to ignore. 

Why not? Machine learning is hardly perfect, and some AI scientists think it may soon “hit a wall”. Many consumers will be nervous about outsourcing their responses too much, and there will be ethical debate about whether it is a sign of disrespect. Privacy laws may also limit how closely third-party AI can integrate with the online tools we use every day.

Laurence Dodds

Electric SUVs

There was a time when electric cars were all tiny bubble-shaped contraptions, easy to park but better at burnishing your green credentials than actually driving very far. Then Tesla came along, and made them sleek, cool and sexy. The next stage? Practicality. 

Long the scourge of the green lobby, the SUV dominates the US market and is growing in popularity in Europe. Car manufacturers have sold millions of the larger vehicles, particularly with families. But not many of them have gone electric. 

That’s about to change. Tesla already released one electric SUV, the Model X (though some have argued that it’s more of a minivan or a crossover vehicle) and is planning to release another, the Model Y, next year. It has also unveiled the Cybertruck, which is divisively designed but has practical credentials. Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, due to be released next autumn in the US and Europe, is also an SUV. 

Why? Government incentives mean more companies are going down the electric route. Heavy batteries and high development costs mean big, luxury cars will go electric first. 

Why not? Two words: range anxiety. If you buy a rugged, practical car you probably want to drive it further than the supermarket, and you definitely don’t it stuck on the side of the road miles from the nearest charger. 

Olivia Rudgard

Fintech goes beyond the bank

The rising popularity of digital banking apps such as Monzo and Revolut is well-known, but a series of other start-ups are seeking to apply the same template to the rest of finance. 

What about managing your pension through an app? Or your home insurance? How about using open banking to get a mortgage faster? British start-ups are tackling all of these ideas – and investors who missed out on backing the first challenger banks are eagerly funding this next wave of fintech businesses.

Bank customers may not even know that their money is ever touching algorithms developed by start-ups. ComplyAdvantage, one British start-up, has developed compliance technology for big banks to use. And M:QUBE is behind new technology for mortgage brokers.

Why? Challenger banks have shown that customers can overcome the so-called “trust gap” and hand over their bank details to small companies without high street branches. The same technology could now help them to keep the rest of their finances in order.

Why not? Chances are, most people don’t actively monitor their mortgage or pension to see if they’re getting the best deal. It’s all well and good releasing an app which makes everything more efficient, but these start-ups won’t take off if they can’t reach customers and persuade them to sign up.

James Cook

The cryptocurrency comeback

Cryptocurrency is looking a little old now. Bitcoin was launched in 2009, so what is it doing on this list? 

Well, while Bitcoin and Ethereum may have failed to take off, aside from their surge in 2017 driven by speculators and market manipulators, cryptocurrency may finally be about to hit the mainstream.

Libra, Facebook’s digital currency project, is pegged for a launch at some point in 2020. The cryptocurrency, which will run on using blockchain-like technology used on Bitcoin, is expected to feature on Facebook’s apps as a way to send and receive money. 

It could be huge and disruptive. Central banks are even fretting it could threaten the dominance of sovereign currencies, should Facebook release its own Zuck-buck on the world.

Why? Facebook could launch Libra to more than 2bn people in a fell swoop using its combination of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps, potentially bringing online payments to people who are otherwise unbanked.

Why not? Facebook has hardly had a great 2019 and 2020 may be worse still as regulators circle Potential partners have also pulled out of its Libra organisation, weakening its hand.

Matthew Field

Biological machine learning

Is biology a technology? The somewhat counterintuitive answer is, of course. The cells in our bodies may not come with silicon chips but in many cases they combine to far more graceful, efficient and powerful effect than any computer. 

No wonder, then that biotechnology is a boom area. While mother nature has already come up with countless molecules that can cure disease, and man has identified them and called them medicines, there are billions of molecular variables that might have a beneficial effect.

The problem has been working out which. But now that machine learning is able to crunch through the vast possibilities, however, the era of “generative biology” is upon us.

Why? The field is perfectly placed to benefit from the extraordinary rise in machine learning capabilities. Google’s Deepmind has developed AlphaFold, an algorithm dedicated to protein structure, opening a path to creating bespoke proteins with bespoke therapeutic functions lies open.   

Why Not? Machine learning always appears barely applicable to many scientific fields – until it isn’t. The great leap forward could arrive tomorrow, or in a decade.

Harry de Quetteville

The smart speaker backlash

Smart speakers have been around for years, so are hardly a new trend. But they are one to watch this year not because they’re likely to be a major seller. They’re one to watch because the opposite may be true and 2020 could bring with it a backlash against smart speakers.

It is thought that around one in five homes across the UK have a smart speaker now. That’s just under 6 million households. 

But, according to a recent study, around 41pc of people who own a smart speaker are worried about their privacy with the devices, amid fears they are passively listening. Such concerns have only spiralled over the last year on reports that workers are being given access to voice clips to help improve tech firms’ systems.

We may have already brought smart speakers into our homes – but this year we may be taking them out again.

Why? Data privacy is a major hot topic in Europe at the moment. Politicians across the spectrum have voiced concern over whether users’ privacy is at risk. It’s likely such concerns will seep through to the public, prompting people to stop using their smart speakers. 

Why not? Smart speakers are undeniably useful. People may be concerned about privacy – but for some people, they’d rather have an easier life. 

Hannah Boland

Solid-state batteries

It was a tough year for Britain’s electric vehicles industry. Dyson’s electric vehicle project was scrapped, while the UK was snubbed by Tesla boss Elon Musk, who opted for Germany instead as his site for a European gigafactory.

But at the start of a decade that is expected to see a surge in electric vehicles, innovation in battery technologies will be taken up a gear. 

In particular, one form of battery technology expected to see greater attention is solid-state. Compared to lithium-ion, the current standard being used in electric vehicles, solid-state cuts out the flammability risk of current batteries while potentially offering a greater range.

Dyson’s £1bn set aside for electric vehicles will now be pumped into its battery research facility – which has already received £1bn of investment. Meanwhile universities up and down the country are aiming to take solid-state batteries out of the lab and into people’s cars. 

Why? To encourage mass adoption of electric vehicles, the vehicles themselves will need to prove that they can meet people’s expectations on the safety front and help them get over the bump of range anxiety. 

Why not? Lithium-ion batteries are already being mass-produced with new factories popping up across the world. Economies of scale may just dictate that lithium-ion remains the kingmaker. 

Hasan Chowdhury

The new Dr Google

Google has made some impressive leaps in artificial intelligence, from improvements in its driverless cars to building an assistant for disabled people. But it is the application of machine learning in medical research that has to be its most remarkable achievement this year. 

Chief executive Sundar Pichai announced this year that Google researchers were able to spot lung cancer a year before a doctor. It has also been working on improving symptoms for diabetics, detecting kidney failure and improving skin cancer diagnosis, all by training algorithms on pictures or X-rays. 

These sorts of life-changing technologies could begin to have an impact on British patients as soon as next year. 

Why? In September, Google absorbed the health division of DeepMind, its British artificial intelligence subsidiary which has already begun applying its research. The company is not one to move slowly, so expect it to start pushing forward as quickly as possible.

Why not? Public concerns may put the brakes on any British projects. When Google announced it would be absorbing DeepMind in September, there was widespread concern over whether Google could be trusted with patient data.

Margi Murphy

The next round of the video game console wars

The booming £110bn gaming market continues to grow and, while half of its revenues are made up by mobile gaming, the traditional blockbuster hardware battle is alive and well.

In 2020, Microsoft will release its next-generation Xbox -headlined by the Series X to go head-to-head with Sony’s PlayStation 5. While in many ways this will seem like the traditional console war – with the two gaming behemoths squaring up on teraflops of power, load-time busting SSD drives and exclusive line-ups-  there is also the potential for disruption from other quarters.

Interest in cloud streaming services – allowing users to play blockbuster games on phones and tablets without dedicated hardware – may heat up as the more established players come to the fore. Microsoft will launch its own Project Xcloud to face-off against Google’s Stadia, while PlayStation’s Now is likely to be beefed up in time for the PS5.

Quite how much impact cloud gaming can have in the face of shiny new hardware remains to be seen, but the biggest change could come from publishers committing to Netflix style subscription services rather than players buying individual games for £50 a pop.

Why? Simply put, it is time for a new round of hardware. The current Xbox One and PS4 will be celebrating their seventh birthday by the time their successors arrive, with dedicated gamers hungry for more advanced hardware.

Why not? The popularity of cloud gaming is harder to predict. Google Stadia launched to a lukewarm reception, but Xcloud is likely to be a more robust offering. It seems inevitable that streaming will eventually be the future for video games, but our bet is on dedicated hardware to remain king for a while yet.

Tom Hoggi

24. June 2019 · Comments Off on 5G and the rise of robotics · Categories: Uncategorized

By Susan Fourtane…Disruptive technology trends will accelerate and transform many industries at a rapid pace throughout the year. They will shape the world and the future and will be present on the horizon of business owners and investors alike. 

The intelligent digital mesh is going to include interconnected humans, robots, devices, content, and services all driven by digital transformation. Disruptive technology trends are going to propel the future where technology innovation leaders must evolve and change at the same pace of the trends they must embrace. Or, they could be left behind and suffer mass extinction.

Perhaps the obvious technology to watch closely in 2019 –before we can move on to anything else– will be 5G. 5G is a necessary technology. Without 5G technology, none of the technologies mentioned below would be possible. Autonomous vehicles, drones, the Internet of Things, and supercomputers could not be possible without 5G networks.  

5G technology is going to improve processing speeds by more than 10 times in 2019. This is the technology that can make possible, for instance, the much expected remote surgery in rural areas.

Artificial Intelligence surgery might sound too futuristic to some. However, robot surgeons powered by AI are bringing new innovations and accuracy to the operating room.  

1. Machine Learning will advance Artificial Intelligence (AI)  AI cars will drive us home.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations will continue to bring scientific breakthroughs, in part, thanks to the vast amounts of data that new technologies have been collecting and is now available. 

In 2019, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will be embedded in the business platform creating and enabling smart business operations. 

In the Artificial Intelligence space, China is going to leave the U.S. behind, emerging as a leader in AI developments and applications.

Advances in Machine Learning technology and algorithm training will result in new and more advanced AI. Autonomous vehicles and robotics are the two industries that will see the most rapid developments during 2019. 

In 2019, there is going to be a convergence of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning in business applications. As AI and learning technologies get to work together in order to reach better results, AI will have greater accuracy at all levels. 

So far, humans have only developed Narrow Artificial Intelligence. A superior AI, though, is in the future of mankind. How far should humans go with AI development is still a subject of controversy. Is this really going to be mankind’s last invention? 

2. Quantum Computing (Supercomputing)

Quantum Computing, still an emerging technology, is one of the most fascinating things researchers, organizations, and governments have been working on in this century so far. The race toward building the first fully-functional, fully-working quantum computer (also called supercomputer) is on.

With its impressive computational power quantum computers will most like be a cloud service in the near future rather than on-premise machines. IBM is already offering cloud-based quantum computing services. 

The first quantum computer is going to have a significant advantage over the others. In 2019, the competence to achieve supercomputer supremacy will intensify. As a consequence, the last mile in the race will remain mostly secretive, for obvious reasons.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality for automotive engineering design/ Image: Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

Advances in Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR), all of which can be summarized in R+, will continue to be at the forefront of attention during 2019 with some fascinating new practical applications for industries.

R+, which once was only found in video gaming has been quickly advancing to become a useful tool in industries such as engineering design, manufacturing, healthcare, space exploration, and many others. 

In 2019, Virtual Reality is going to open up to innovative industrial applications that will change how people work and collaborate across geographies. 

Augmented Reality has been rising in the Virtual Reality’s shadow for the past year. But in 2019, AR is set to grow exponentially. 

4. Global Internet of Things (IoT) security breach

Anything connected becomes vulnerable. 

Hackers never sleep. Everyone in the cybersecurity industry knows that. As long as you connect something to the Internet it immediately becomes vulnerable.

In the past years, we have seen how hackers have turned to unsecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices to create an extensive botnet which then they could use to push enough traffic to take down Dyn, the DNS provider. As a way to refresh your memory, here is how the DDoS attack using IoT devices happened in 2016.

A quick look at the news tells us that not much has been learned. However, the great number of security breaches occurred during 2018 should serve as an alert of what can happen at a global scale in 2019 if organizations don’t take the necessary precautions. 

Analyst firm Gartner forecasts that 20.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by 2020. And with the rise of autonomous things –I will call this the Internet of Autonomous Things (IoAT)– there is a good chance that many of these things will show a certain level of weak security. 

In 2019, it will be paramount for IoT manufacturers and all of their supply chain to dramatically increase the security in all the products that come out to market. It can be a connected refrigerator, a robot, a drone, a vehicle, or a health tracker.

Manufacturers must implement a level of security that keeps hackers at bay. Otherwise, there is a good chance we are going to witness a global IoT security breach in 2019. 

5. Blockchain technology

In 2019, for the delight of organizations, Blockchain is going to bring the first enterprise applications in active use. The most innovative corporations will start using Blockchain as a way to improve collaboration.  

Blockchain in 2019 comes out cryptocurrency transaction and becomes an integral part of the business platform. Blockchain enables transactional transparency across a variety of business functions. In 2019, Blockchain will be present in many industries at the core of business innovation. Article by Susan Fourtane: https://interestingengineering.com/intelligent-connectivity-how-5g-is-boosting-ai-iot-and-self-driving-cars

11. April 2018 · Comments Off on What is blockchain? by Marisa Garcia · Categories: Uncategorized

In its 2018 Emerging Tech in Travel report, Sabre unravels the mysteries of blockchain, explains how it works, what it means for society, and how it may be relevant to travel. Sabre explains blockchain in a nutshell:  “At its core, a blockchain is a concept for a particular kind of database. Going back a step further, a database is just a means for storing a collection of digital information, usually in away it can be easily be updated and searched. Information within a database can be any kind of value—birthdates, property records, biometric information, taxes, healthcare records, etc.—anything.

“There are many different ways to set up a database, each optimized for different use cases. Some databases are set up for search efficiency, some for extreme data privacy, some for redundancy, and on and on. Functionally, a database is a kind of tool, and not every tool is right for every job.

A blockchain is a new kind of database—effectively a whole new kind of tool to put in the toolbox of information storage solutions. In a world that previously held just hammers and screwdrivers, a blockchain is a wrench. It has functionality that no other database tool can offer, making new kinds of jobs possible.”

“Just because blockchain is a new and buzzworthy technology doesn’t mean its utility is universal. For certain kinds of information storage, blockchain may be superior to traditional databases, but in many cases, blockchain may not be the best tool for the job.”


Blockchain is not cryptocurrency. It enables cryptocurrency transactions. But the rise and fall and rise and fall of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, Ripple and others, has been a big headline grabber in 2018. This new currency is still confounding many and attracting scrutiny from regulators.

Here are some highlights from Sabre on the state of cryptocurrency (with a caveat from Sabre that they are only highlights and not a complete picture of this changing landscape):

  • Most—but not all—countries will require registration to use cryptocurrencies (no anonymity allowed).
  • Cryptocurrency exchanges will become increasingly regulated and will likely require insurance and backing of funds held by investors, becoming more similar to traditional banks.
  • Most countries will forbid using credit cards to purchase cryptocurrencies as a way of protecting consumers who might go into severe debt if cryptocurrencies crashed in value.
  • Most countries will tax cryptocurrency gains in ways similar to other investments.
  • Virtually all countries will allow participation in blockchain networks and the resultant cryptocurrency mining assets that may accrue (even if those assets can’t be spent for now).

Scarcity is good

In an effort to explain why blockchain matters and avoid the hype and buzziness surrounding it, Sabre picks on the concept of scarcity versus ubiquity of data. While most data management systems offer no valuation on the data stored in various fields—until it all becomes a muddy tangle of increasingly dense information—blockchain helps select the relevance of data and marks the datapoint that have the greatest credibility, distributing these reliable data points to fill and strengthen gaps and weak points in the chain of information. It identifies a single source of truth, and disperses that.

“Over the last several decades, we’ve increasingly come to think of digital information as cheap and infinitely replicable. Once something is digitized into 1s and 0s the cost to copy it has come close to zero: documents, songs, images. It costs a user nothing to send an email or to CC: an email to a hundred people. If a million people want a copy of the same song or image, the asset never runs out. This replicability places digital objects in contrast to physical objects, as each physical object takes up space and has a cost.

“The most exciting feature of blockchain is the true scarcity it brings to the digital world. Values stored on a blockchain cannot be copied, they can only be transferred from one owner to another. A value on the blockchain can be any asset that can be represented digitally: a monetary unit, a deed, a vote, an image, an airline ticket, a hotel room, a biometric identity, etc.”

Building trust

Along with scarcity, blockchain offers shared oversight and permanence of data transactions, which supports the creditability of the information distributed between systems. Some key excerpts from the Sabre report explain why this matters:

“The fact that anyone can see the full record of transactions helps provide oversight and transparency around data use. Even in private applications of blockchain, where participation is limited, the fact that a group of peers have full access to the data means fraud is reduced. The shared oversight provided by blockchain is usually referred to as a distributed ledger or distributed database. Regardless of the term, it means many different parties in difference places have copies of the entire blockchain record.

“Anytime a value is transferred, there is a permanent record made of the transaction. It is very difficult to undo a transaction.

“In tech parlance, the permanence of blockchain is referred to as “immutability.” Immutability simply means that a transaction cannot be reversed, an edit cannot happen unless it is recorded officially in the blockchain. Blockchain achieves this immutability by using previous blocks as the mathematical basis for creating each successive block—a process called hashing.”

The scarcity, oversight and permanence of record make blockchain useful for sensitive travel transactions of information which could benefit from a reliably encrypted form of information exchange. It’s trust. That’s why we’re all talking about it.

“Biometric identity is one of the most powerful proposed use cases for blockchain. Using a blockchain to store encrypted records of a person’s various biometric identifiers—their voice, fingerprints, hand geometry, iris pattern, facial model, gait, etc. Having an unforgeable, permanent source for matching biometric data would be incredibly powerful. It could eliminate the need for passports, driver’s licenses and other forms of identification, finally giving rise to true trusted presence—that someone is who they say they are and can prove it.”

Pants on fire

It’s exciting stuff, but as SITA also determined following its trial of blockchain exchange for flight data (another useful application in travel) there are risks involved which still need to be addressed. For one, manipulation of the base data feeding the chain—not entirely impossible—could lead to the dispersal of fraudulent information. If a trusted server which supplies information is compromised, then the single source of truth could quickly become the genesis of a lie.

There are other risks, as Sabre points out:

“A comprehensive biometric record would need to be completely secure—completely trusted—to gain broad adoption. The liability issues around protecting that much personal data are significant, and gaining consumer trust to opt-in to a central source for biometric data could be challenging because of fears over privacy.”

And here’s one to pin to the corkboard:

“Blockchains don’t eliminate the need for trust. Instead, they shift where the trust is placed and how it’s distributed.”

The benefits of the possible applications for blockchain make studying ways to minimize the risks worthwhile. The key point is that blockchain is not something to be adopted blindly, and requires a firm strategy for implementation. Also, enlist expert help when doing so.

“Sabre Labs is one of many groups at Sabre experimenting with and considering the broader impacts blockchain may have on every aspect of the travel ecosystem. Today’s keyword is ‘experiment.’ The functionality supported by platforms like Sabre’s Global Distribution System (GDS) is essential to global travel; its efficacy, reliability and security are the result of decades of work and development. Looking at ways to augment GDS content with blockchain solutions is an area of current exploration.

“Blockchain has the potential to change existing business models, but it’s too early to say how much maturity and exploration is necessary in the blockchain ecosystem to assure an effective, reliable and—most importantly—secure system for sensitive information.”

Let’s face it, Blockchain is complicated. It’s a big concept to wrap your head around. It can support new and more secure transactions. It can lead to a massive strain on the world’s electrical grid as too many people speculate in a new form of money. It can ensure a single source of truth on data. It can be manipulated into a mass dissemination of lies. It’s a technology to watch. It will change the future, but we should not trust the future blindly or rush into it.

Article by Marisa Garcia, tnooz

16. September 2014 · Comments Off on Dream Merchants: the future of hotels · Categories: Uncategorized

Bianca VillaEvery Saturday night, no matter where they are in the world, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin check into a hotel for a weekend escape, as you can do when you’re among Hollywood’s richest couples. Forget the mini-bar and thread-count sheets, though. To judge the hotel’s quality, they ask themselves questions such as: “Is this place evocative for us?”; “Do we feel transported from our own reality?”

That might sound like a rather self-indulgent, Luhrmann-esque take on TripAdvisor, where hotels are usually judged by more pedestrian criteria such as “sleep quality” and “location”.

But, believe or not, Luhrmann and Martin, in their own way, are on to something here. When it comes to recreational accommodation, visitor expectations are rapidly changing.

In the 1980s and ’90s, with the rise of “boutique hotels”, travellers learned to appreciate style and design as part of the package.

Read More at the Sydney Morning Herald:


07. March 2014 · Comments Off on Chain hotels, versus Independent hotels: pros and cons examined · Categories: Uncategorized

By Alex Cabanas

comosamuiIn recent years, the topic of “brand versus independent” has become increasingly popular. Every industry conference has a panel titled the same, numerous articles – and blogs – are being written on the topic by every publication, HotelNewsNow recently launched a newsletter dedicated to independent hotels, the inaugural Independent Lodging Congress took place in Philadelphia in late 2013 focused on gathering the owners and operators of independent hotels, and if that were not enough, numerous high profile “de-flagging” lawsuits have certainly highlighted the topic.

While it is hard to attribute the peaking interest on this topic to only a few things, clearly owners are questioning the cost/benefit of a chain affiliation, internet distribution and marketing have dramatically leveled the playing field over the past 10 years, customer loyalty is not what it used to be and consumer preferences are certainly evolving.

Despite all of the hype and attention, very little has been written on this topic from the perspective of an independent operator. Clearly, independent operators are a little biased on the topic, but they are also overly discounted by many because of years of bias in the financing community and media in favor of chains. So, here’s some perspective to consider through the eyes of an operator of independent hotels.

First, a few points of clarity to set the right mind frame:

  1. Let’s focus on upper-upscale and luxury segments. Based solely on the prevalence of independent brands in the two upper chain scales, it makes sense to think mostly about these types of properties.
  2. Let’s use the word “chain” not “brand”, when describing the major hotel brands such as Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood, Wyndham, Intercontinental, Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. These are the major “chains” that are of a size and scale to warrant a term of their own. The reality is that every hotel name is a “brand”. Benchmark is also a brand – we just don’t put our name on the hotel like many other larger independent operators like Destination Hotels & Resorts and Noble House. And smaller name brands such as Kimpton, Loews and Omni with a few dozen hotels and resorts don’t really qualify as a “chain” based on size, compared to the major hotel chains.
  3. Let’s understand that the word “independent” is not really a fair representation in all cases. Because most publications use the word “independent” and seem to conjure up images of a single General Manager and his or her team trying to run a property all alone with no management company support. While that still happens in our industry the fact is that there are a number of very well established independently branded management companies. Therefore, generic comparisons between “chain” and “independent” don’t really do justice to the capabilities offered by third party managers specializing in smaller brands and independents.

Now that we are of right mind, some thoughts to share on various topics that are typically included in the “chain versus independent” debate – again, from the independent operators perspective.

Larger third-party operators have support systems and “standards” too, but we are willing and able to customize by property

Independent operators should not be discounted by a generic assumption that we don’t have support systems and standards. Now, do we all have specific product and design standards like a chain – no. But that can also be a liberating fact. We do have support systems, best practices and policies and procedures across all disciplines. In fact, the flexibility and customized approach of an independent or smaller brand, with a system of procedures and policies is arguably more effective versus the chains that run everything by a manual and don’t customize by property. Especially given today’s growing consumer preference towards unique experiences and products where authenticity trumps “standardization”.

Location, product, service, experience, distribution and then “brand”, in that order!

In any hotel market, a hotel is either stealing demand from the competition or inducing new demand – a simple way to look at it. So a hotel’s location, product, service, experience, distribution (sales & marketing) capabilities are all valuable in positioning the property for success. If you think of these factors agnostic to the hotel name, you get a true sense of the property’s inherent ability to succeed – regardless of the brand name on the building. At that point the appropriate question becomes what is the incremental benefit of the name compared to the incremental cost of that name. Since most chain affiliations are more expensive than independent, the hurdle of incremental performance is higher. That is not to suggest the benefits of a chain are not worth it sometimes – but the value add is not always worth it.

It’s not the size of your pipeline that matters, it’s how you use it

So many articles and comments are made about the “distribution” and “reservation systems” of the chains, and there is no question they have large distribution networks. Unfortunately the question of distribution efficacy and incremental contribution is rarely asked. For example, Marriott may have very strong demand sources in the Atlanta market, but is that demand driven specifically by the Marriott family of brands enough to fill the myriad of supply Marriott has in the Atlanta market. A hard question to answer and one that is usually never asked. The generic assumption is big pipeline must mean big impact. And what happens when Marriott introduces a new brand like Autograph or AC – does the demand for Marriott product grow enough to support it?

Now, independent operators clearly can’t claim broader distribution compared to the chains – but we don’t really care or try to match them. We only care about the distribution we need to fill our one, may two or at most a handful of hotels in a given market. So do we need millions of loyalty program members – no! We only need and only market to what is needed for that hotel – and we only spend the owner’s money for that hotel. An independent hotel marketing budget is targeted and focused at impacting that one hotel, compared to a chain environment where substantial dollars are focused on promoting the chain.

Lastly, in today’s world of electronic distribution, what do the words “reservation system” mean these days – surely not many are calling the 1-800 number for a room.

The value of loyalty and points is not what it used to be

The most influential part of the chain is the loyalty program and there is no denying its presence and influence. But the question that should be asked is..how much demand is truly driven by the consumer’s desire for points and/or chain loyalty? And is that incremental demand enough to justify the incremental cost of a flag? These are not easy questions to answer but here are some relevant quotes about the condition of loyalty programs today:

  • “At least five major lodging groups have announced a devaluation of their respective frequent guest programs in January or February [2012]. And the cuts aren’t trivial. The value of many of our hotel points stashes have taken a significant blow”
  • “The best-case scenario is that hotel loyalty programs as they are constituted today have either little or no impact on travelers’ purchase decisions, and, worst case, these programs drive undesirable brand-switching behavior.”
  • “Hotel brands and owners that choose to instead build differentiated loyalty programs and a customer experience that anticipates and integrates priority customers’ personalized needs have the potential to capture incremental market share, as indicated by these facts:
    • Roughly 30 percent, on average, of hotel loyalty members are “at risk” of switching their preferred brand
    • Nearly 50 percent, on average, of hotel loyalty members’ annual hotel spend is not with their preferred brand

The above certainly brings into question just how much demand is truly driven by loyalty programs – especially as the very proprietors of those programs are devaluing them. And to the extent that they do drive incremental demand, independent operators now have several plug and play options such as Stash Hotel Rewards and iPrefer to evaluate at a lower cost.

Don’t be a lazy underwriter – give the independent brand model an equal chance

The fact is that many lenders and investors simply prefer chains. The old adage of “nobody gets fired for hiring IBM” drives a lot of decisions. For those willing to dig in a little deeper, the value proposition is worth it – lower management fees, more flexible contract terms, more nimble operations, typically unencumbered upon sale and more flexible sale options. So for you lenders out there reading this blog post, give us a chance and give us the audience. You won’t be disappointed.

After all of this, you can easily assume that this blog post is an anti-chain rant. That is not the goal. The goal is to level the underwriting playing field and dissipate the clear bias towards chains based on generic statements about “distribution” and “loyalty programs” and “standards”, rather than digging into how the industry has evolved, how consumer preferences have dramatically changed, and how independent third party operators have grown and been able to compete – proof positive competition, not dreaming.

Every professional independent operator can show numerous case studies that prove our ability to perform equal to or better than the chains. And at the end of the day, performance speaks for itself in all cases – “chain” and “independent”. And equally important is for any operator or brand or chain to act in the best interest of each owner every step of the way.

About the author

Alex Cabañas is President and Chief Executive Officer of Benchmark Hospitality International. Heleads the company’s global growth initiatives, including the continued expansion of its portfolio of award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference centers. Alex was previously president of business development and finance for Benchmark. During his tenure in this role, the company added 20 properties to its management portfolio and expanded into the Caribbean. The company also acquired MTM Luxury Lodging, which led to the launch of the hospitality industry’s newest luxury brand, Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels.

Alex Cabañas joined Benchmark Hospitality International in January 2006. Prior to joining Benchmark, he worked for The Boston Consulting Group from 2000 through 2005. Alex earned his MBA at Harvard Business School and holds a BBA and MS in Finance from Texas A&M University.

Benchmark Hospitality International is a leader in the management and marketing of independent resorts, conference centers, hotels The independent company, launched in 1980, is a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers. Benchmark Hospitality is a worldwide organization operating properties in major metropolitan and resort destinations. Benchmark’s international headquarters is located in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. The company’s northeast regional office is in New Jersey, with international offices in Tokyo, Japan. For the location of Benchmark’s properties and additional information, visit www.benchmarkhospitality.com.

This article was first published by Jim Butler of the Global Hospitality Group Hotel Lawyers, authors of the Hotel Law Blog.


13. February 2013 · Comments Off on The challenges of Sustainable Tourism · Categories: Uncategorized

Can tourism can be sustainable and profitable as well? While some destinations have established long-term strategies to protect the environment and local living standards, others have increased tourist arrivals for financial gain, but to the detriment of medium and long-term sustainability.

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