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How Technology is Pumping up Business in 2021: 3D Offices, 4G on the Moon, Gamification of Everything, and 6 More Hot Trends

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Gamification of Everything

Research firm Wunderman Thompson Intelligence has released its 2021 trends report.

The report contains 100 predictions about how technology will affect different areas of life and business: culture, commerce, sports (for example, how the best online sports betting apps will change), and others. We have selected the most interesting of them – let’s see how the world has changed and will change this year.

A Revolution in the Gaming Industry and the Rise of Cloud Gaming

The consumer gaming industry is growing rapidly – the market is expected to reach $198 billion by 2024, and that’s not including sales of augmented and virtual reality hardware. Digital games are beginning to be used at events and concerts as an element of audience engagement. Traditional gaming spaces are turning into places where people can gather and communicate remotely, including solving business issues.

For example, Unconventional launched in 2020 as a virtual event space with 3D participant avatars and game worlds, and it now has 50,000 users. It is widely used, from business meetings to birthday parties. Since offline events are inaccessible because of the pandemic, people have developed a demand for online events that involve unique user experiences they previously had in games.

Games could change the world over the next decade and become the dominant technology platforms as social media used to be.

Meanwhile, big companies are betting on cloud gaming. For example, Facebook has added cloud games to its gaming platform, and China’s Tencent (the developer of the messenger WeChat) has teamed up with telecommunications company Huawei to develop its own cloud gaming platform.

Tech companies are investing in cloud-based streaming games because they are the future: It is more convenient for users to access the game on-demand and from any device. Companies save on deploying their own infrastructure to host gaming applications.

Virtual Sports and Gamified Fitness

In 2020, due to the pandemic, many sports competitions were cancelled and live sports events disappeared, which led to the convergence of real and virtual sports with cybersports.

For example, racers were already using simulators to train, now brands are entering the market with solutions for virtual races in which amateurs can participate. Aston Martin released a $76,300 AMR-C01 racing simulator in September.

Zwift, an online cycling and running training platform, held the first Tour de France international cycling race in virtual mode. Professional and amateur athletes participated. Athletes competed for prizes, while amateurs were able to compare their strengths with the professionals by competing with them on the same courses.

And Adidas released a smart sneaker insole that records physical data while playing real soccer: the number and strength of kicks, running speed, and so on. These stats can be uploaded to the EA Sports FIFA Mobile game and compare your results with other players.

In 2021, this trend will continue and traditional sports will continue to merge with virtual sports.

Fitness, too, is moving from the real world to the virtual. In April 2020, Oculus and Within released a new VR fitness app, Supernatural. It provides users with personalized virtual workouts surrounded by stunning scenery.

The Future of Mixed Reality

Mixed Reality (MR) is the union of virtual and real worlds. Virtual objects are added to the world around you that look like the real world. For example, a virtual painting on a real wall in a room is a mixed reality.

Adaptability and ease of use have made mixed reality a new trend in the gaming industry. Virtual reality (VR) equipment is expensive and cumbersome, and augmented reality (AR) is dependent on mobile devices. According to Mordor Intelligence, the mixed reality market was valued at $382.6 million in 2019 and will grow further.

In October 2020, Nintendo released a new game called Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. Participants in the game compete on remote-controlled cars inside their homes, interacting with elements of the virtual and real worlds.

Indian telecommunications giant Reliance Jio announced Jio Glass mixed reality glasses, and Facebook and Google have already invested in the company. Judging by the patents filed, a similar device will soon be released by Apple.

Mixed reality is an attractive solution for enhancing the user experience. It may soon be used in most entertainment spaces and events.

Contactless Air Travel

Airlines and airports are adopting contactless ways to interact with passengers wherever possible. They’re aiming for passengers to use mobile apps instead of publicly available touchpads and contact airport staff. This avoids queues and crowds.

For example, more companies have begun sending advance notice of flight delays or cancellations, introduced contactless check-in and luggage tag printing, and implemented meal pre-ordering and online payment. And some airports are introducing a system that allows boarding passes to be scanned at a distance of more than 1.5 meters.

Companies are also thinking about places on the plane where you can’t do completely without touching, such as restrooms and in-flight entertainment systems. There aren’t any innovations yet, but designers are trying to rethink these approaches and keep the number of touches to a minimum.

Technology Conquers Space

The leading technology brands are beginning to explore space. NASA and Nokia are planning to deploy a 4G network on the Moon. This will improve data transmission and help astronauts control moonwalkers, navigate in space, and broadcast video in real-time.

Cloud technology is also moving beyond our planet. Analysts predict that by the end of the decade, total revenue from space-related cloud services could be about $15 billion. New cloud computing services can be deployed using low-orbit spacecraft and traditional satellites.

Virtual Offices Instead of Real Offices

Remote working is becoming the norm. Many companies are rethinking this work format, offering new and unusual solutions.

For example, Dropbox announced that it is now becoming virtual-first, meaning that it is primarily focused on virtual workspaces and is abandoning its real offices. This is unusual because the company signed the largest lease in San Francisco history in 2017, and will now rent out the space itself.

Other companies are creating virtual offices where employees can walk around familiar spaces, attend meetings and just gather for coffee and conversation.

In April 2020, Sine Wave Entertainment launched Breakroom, a virtual world product for remote workplaces that provides 3D offices for companies such as Virgin Group and Torque Esports. Italian energy company Enel gathers employees as avatars in virtual meeting rooms using a combination of augmented and virtual reality technology.

Experts believe that the time of large offline offices is a thing of the past, the time of distributed work is coming.

The Virtualization of Stores Continues

Digital fashion and virtual closets are one of the trends gaining popularity. For example, digital virtualization allows fashion houses to showcase their collections, and brands can create virtual spaces with unique designs.

Virtual fashion house The Fabricant creates unique designs that exist only digitally. Using 3D modelling, they design outfits for customer avatars that can only be worn in digital environments such as games or social media.

Also, the pandemic has led to fewer visitors at car dealerships, so innovative companies are changing the car-buying process by making it easier to choose online.

Buyers of Volkswagen Australia can visit a virtual showroom where they can see how a car would look in different conditions, open and close doors, interact with the interior and, of course, make a purchase. Ford has launched a similar AR service, which allows you to explore the new F-150 car in augmented reality: see it inside and outside, assess how it would look in a parking lot near your home.

Retail continues the transition to online, offering a personalized experience for shoppers who prefer digital technology. Live Commerce is an online sales model where influencers showcase items for sale in real-time. The format has been popular in Asian markets for several years and is now experiencing a global boom. This format now sells everything from doorbells to makeup products.

In June 2020, Canadian e-commerce platform Livescale announced a partnership with Shopify, a popular e-commerce platform in North America. According to Livescale, the number of business inquiries has increased fivefold since March 2020.

The Emergence of Stores Without Shoppers

Retailers are shifting to a store format without shoppers. Such outlets are being served by online retailers. In September 2020, Whole Foods Market opened a store in New York City that is closed to the public. It is for delivery and pickup only. Walmart is repurposing four of its U.S. stores for e-commerce. Other chains are adopting similar solutions.

Those retailers who are still serving customers are challenged by people’s desire to limit contact when they buy. That’s why contactless technology will be developed to simplify the choice of goods.

For example, cosmetics stores already offer customers virtual makeup: mirrors allow them to “try on” lipstick, and artificial intelligence will help pick out shadows that best match the shade of the buyer’s skin.

Developments in Delivery Technology and Electric Transportation

Thanks to the growth of e-commerce in 2020, the delivery industry has also seen rapid growth. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, the growth in e-commerce demand will lead to a 36% increase in delivery vehicles in the world’s 100 largest cities by 2030.

The Consumer Electronics Show was held in January 2021, where companies showcased their new developments in delivery:

  • Skyward and UPS Flight Forward organized drone delivery.
  • Cenntro Automotive Group unveiled the CityPorter electric vehicle, which is designed to drive around town and deliver goods to customers.
  • General Motors has launched a new business line for delivery, BrightDrop. It is an entire ecosystem of electric vehicles, through which companies can reduce costs and be more environmentally friendly. The first customer is FedEx Delivery Service, which will get BrightDrop EV600 electric vans in late 2021.
  • FedEx Express CEO Richard Smith said the pandemic has greatly accelerated e-commerce and door-to-door delivery. He believes the sector will continue to grow and by 2023, 100 million parcels a day will be delivered to U.S. residences. Before the pandemic, that growth was projected only by 2026.

There is other evidence that the electric transportation market will grow. For example, in January 2020, the British company Arrival received an order for 10,000 electric vehicles from UPS, and also hopes to receive an $85 million investment from Hyundai to develop production. And in December 2020, U.S.-based Canoo published plans for an “all-electric multi-purpose delivery vehicle,” expected to be released in 2023.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Still on Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis

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Nigeria's electricity crisis

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Similar to history, which according to historians, is an unending dialogue between the present and the past through a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts to assist the anxious enquirer improving the present and future based on a clearer understanding of the mistakes and achievements of the past, the conversion on electricity power supply challenge in the country has like history, become neither unending nor abating.

Essentially, the first half of this recurring circle was captured recently in my piece titled FG’s Assurance on Generation of 25,000MW Electricity, as it explains why Nigerians are no longer comfortable with assurances from the federal government, the present piece which qualifies as the beginning of something new was elicited as a response to a declaration by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesperson.

Shehu, who spoke in an interview on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, among other things stated; that President Muhammadu Buhari has greatly improved electricity generation in the country, he concluded.

Let’s face the fact; he spoke convincingly with actual authority that flows from the position that he occupies. However, the only difference here is that, unlike history, his run on fact, particularly his fervent belief that the outlook of the nation’s electricity remains good, in the face of the current epileptic power supply and unjustifiable high tariff regime in the country, has not in any way advanced our conversation on or assisted the nation’s quest to find a quick solution to its electricity/energy crisis.

Let’s face the fact; it is true that the 2005 Power Reform Act (EPSR, ACT of 2005), which provided for the privatization of the power sector did not go far before President Olusegun Obasanjo administration left office in 2007. Yes, it is also true in parts that the present frustration in the sector was further fed by the reality that the current federal government as noted by Garba Shehu during the interview, inherited reckless privatization of the power sector done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration (the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010), Despite the validity of these claims, yet, Shehu’s analytics for reasons did not go without opposition.

First, enough evidence supports the fact that no administration in the country, not even the present Muhammadu Buhari led federal government can boast of clean hands when it comes to Nigeria’s electricity crisis.

Without going into analysis to establish how culpable each of these administrations appears in this case, one point, in my view, that mustn’t be overlooked when discussing the power/electricity crisis in Nigeria is that the challenge has nothing to do with privatization. It is neither fuelled by the desire to fashion an authentic roadmap for restoring the health and vitality of the sector nor is it the function of the current effort to bring about a new tariff regime.

Rather, it’s simply and squarely a conceptual problem of what successive federal government has been doing which has never been in the best interest of the people, the nation and the sector.

Very fundamental of the challenge is the operation of the obsolete grid system, an arrangement where the power generated in the country is pooled/assembled or channelled to a control/switch centre before it is finally distributed to consumers across the nation.

Aside from qualifying as a clumsy arrangement and operated in an environment laced with outmoded transmission lines and facilities that cannot hold supplies over time, the practice itself, going by what industry watchers are saying, is not only out-fashioned, old-schooled but visibly runs contrary to the global vision/model which presently favours decentralization of energy generation and distribution.

In my view, energy/power centralization has never assisted the socio-economic development of any nation desirous of making headway industrially.

There exist yet another frustration, this time around fuelled by painful consciousness that instead of acting as energy sector regulator, successive administrations’ for yet to be identified reasons choose to function in the nation’s power sector as both ‘ captain and coach’,- owning shares in Gencos, Discos and TCN.

This state of affairs occurred in spite of part breaking studies that suggest that the private sector is likely to better understand the location and nature of market failures/bottlenecks/barriers that inhabit the energy sector.

It was also argued elsewhere that the government capacity to design and execute an appropriate resolution of identified market failure/bottlenecks is the sector is often always laced with controversy.

From this  ‘unrelenting’  failures/failings on the part of policymakers to define the business of power generation and distribution in the country and lack of clear strategy for penetrating it profitably, or allow conventional market forces to determine electricity tariff regimes in ways that will lead to the realization of economic rights of the investors while expanding fundamental freedoms and choices of the individual consumers; and with government, unwillingness to follow swiftly, the ‘changing needs of time’, which of course are the sufficient ingredients of foresighted decision making and condition that every leader desirous of success must constantly fulfil, it obvious that the nation’s handlers have finally left the survival of the sector to chance.

As we know, anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance

Again, it is weak regulations and untidy oversight such as these, that largely promotes a situation where according to a commentator, an electricity consumer buys pole, cables, meter and contributes money to buy or replace the community transformer; and, as soon as that is done, they automatically become the Disco property and the electricity distribution companies will, without taking the meter reading, send outrageous estimated bills he/she never consumed.

That is not the only apprehension. There exists also some unforgivable abuse of trust within the sector.

The first that comes to mind is the recent report that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has begun the investigation of N14.7 billion proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).

The committee is acting on an audit query in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December 2019.’

Before the dust raised by the above worrying/worrisome development could settle, another was up. This time around has to do with a new awareness of how TCN, DISCO’s Inefficiencies Caused Electricity Generating Companies to about N120.25 billion to stranded power which averaged 2,448.50 megawatts every month in 2021.

According to industry data cited by Business Standards, an average of N13 billion was lost every month by generating companies. This is the total monetary value of the volume of electricity generated by generating companies but which unfortunately could not get to consumers either due to infrastructural problems or because they were rejected by distribution companies for fear of not being able to recover the money from consumers.

What the above development tells us is that it is a difficult venture to implement meaningful changes when institutions are the cause of the problems in the first place.

It also suggests that engineering prosperity without confronting the root cause of the problem and the politics that keeps them in place is unlikely to bear fruit as the institutional structure that creates market failure will also prevent the implementation of interventions.

To catalyse the process of serving the sector, we must recognize that what we need today, perhaps, is not a new theory, concept or framework, but people who can think strategically with a balanced perspective.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Advancement, Money, Transcendence and Vanity

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Money truck going over a cliff

By Nneka Okumazie

The progress that a country makes does not depend on what some individuals can afford. That an individual can have something or afford it does not mean that the happiness the individual now has would become useful to development.

There are countries in the world with people whose priority is to be able to afford high-end things. The acceptance of their society is about that – not about making it, or how it was made, or how to make extraordinary things that people would want, in future.

Money is the global standard of success, but the availability of money is not the eradication of problems. Most developing countries in the world with complex problems have internal and external revenues, with people of means, but low to zero probability of solving their own problems.

Money is its own pet, necessary for continuous tend. Those who have it live for it and are its subject, those who don’t, want and serve for it. There is normalcy to continue to make money, but many people, decades and decades ago, who did, and lived for it, rarely transcended its shackles.

They are gone. Their time and pleasures are gone. What it was to be what they were is forgotten. Their conflicts, bias, strife and competition are all past. Many left without leaving lessons. There is no difference between some of those who had now forgotten, and others who didn’t, also forgotten.

In a world where sudden death is possible, money should not be this important. Knowing that void can become of anyone should make the total war for advantage to money or resources less important. Time passage also, is a lesson, as some fade off, after being in the centre stage for years.

Money should have been a tool mostly adapted to progress, not as the meaning of life. The loss that the place of money is, to life, is unquantifiable. There are people who have things and that is all for them. Pride, arrogance, discrimination and irritation are tosses of money.

The preeminence of capitalism paved way for intense use of technology, contributing in part to unprecedented loneliness, dissatisfaction and gross sadness. Money is the centre of most technology contents, to make or to show, drawing those trying to make or looking to show.

When it was said that all is vanity, there is a point where the money for the sake of it, is included. Progress, real useful advancement carries more meaning than money for things, status or class.

Lack of money is what can make people brand others danger or stranger. The thing about network or connection is not about integrity or purpose, but mostly about who has money or who is close to it.

There are lots of talks about the end of the world, but the world has long driven over the cliff with money as the one true throne everyone bows before.  Those who should have understood more about the risks of money supremacy are blinded by it. Those who understand nothing about its emptiness are controlled by it. The position of money in the world is greater than all people, nation, government, work, school, knowledge, all. Money may be the main, unbreakable hex.

[Psalm 144:4, Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.]

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Germ Traps in the Kitchen

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SweepSouth germ traps in the Kitchen

From fridges to coffee makers, these are 5 germ traps in your kitchen.

We all want our homes to feel sparkly clean, but there are some areas that may not be making it onto your household chores list.

Aisha Pandor, whose on-demand home services company SweepSouth helps people to keep their homes spotless, lists the places we often forget to clean.

In a study by global health organisation NSF International looking at where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, three of the top five germ hot spots were in the kitchen – which leads to the first area that needs a good clean.

The back of your fridge

Topping the list of places in the home that rarely gets cleaned is the back of the fridge – that’s the exterior back, not inside! The coils located there work to cool the air down, but they can’t do so efficiently if they’re coated with grime. To reach the coils, Aisha advises you to unplug your fridge, pull it away from the wall and gently brush off any dirt and dust on the coils.

Do this annually and it will help you save on power costs. A fridge is one of the top energy-using appliances in the home, and simply cleaning its exterior coils can reduce the amount of energy it uses by up to 30%. Remember to leave space between your fridge and the wall once you’ve pushed it back into position, to allow air to freely circulate.

Backsplashes

Tiled backsplashes are often overlooked during cleaning, but they’re notorious for attracting grease and grime. That grease acts as a magnet for dust and dirt, says Aisha — not exactly the type of environment where you want to be preparing food.

To clean backsplashes using natural products, mix two cups of distilled white vinegar with a cup of water and 15 drops of eucalyptus oil. Dab a cloth into the mixture and rub over the tiles to clean. You can use this cleaning mixture on any shiny non-porous surface, like sinks, too.

Ovens and hobs

At the very heart of the kitchen’s food preparation, ovens are prime real estate for germs. Clean the interior regularly, and line the bottom with foil to catch any drips and spills. When the foil becomes grimy, simply peel off and throw it away.

It’s not just the inside that needs cleaning, though — stove knobs are in the top 10 for common places where germs hide. To clean, remove the knobs and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well, allow to dry, and reinstall. On a gas hob, dismantle the gas rings and clean separately in hot soapy water.

Can opener

Chances are that you seldom take a close look at your can opener, yet it’s surprising how grimy this kitchen aid can become. Can openers can harbour bacteria like salmonella and e.Coli, and should be washed after every use to clean the gears and cutting wheel.

Dry thoroughly to prevent rust. If there’s a build-up of dirty residue in your can opener’s wheel, Aisha has a nifty trick to clean it: simply clamp the wheels onto a piece of dry paper towel and turn the handle to get rid of any gunk.

Coffee maker cleanse

Coffee machines’ water tanks or reservoirs usually have lids to stop dust, dirt and insects from getting in. However, a study by a health organisation, NSF International, of where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, showed that coffee machine water tanks are the fifth most germ-ridden place in the house.

A tank’s moist, dark, location is a prime place for germs and bacteria to grow. In fact, the study discovered that 50% of households had yeast and mould in their coffee maker water tanks, and one in 10 had traces of coliform, a bacteria found in animal and human faeces that can cause gastrointestinal upset and flu-like symptoms. If you regularly make coffee, Aisha advises that you rinse the water reservoir regularly — if not daily, at least every week.

While experts do say we need some exposure to germs to help build strong immune systems, we need to limit being around germs that cause serious illnesses, says Aisha. By cleaning the above areas regularly, you’ll help keep your kitchen more hygienic and safer.

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