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  • Advertisers must Embrace New Tech to Reach the Skip Generation

    Mar 24, 2014

    The following article has been taken from Marketing Magazine.

    Advertising has become too linear. That's not a general assertion, it's plain to see. Take TV advertising. Ever since the birth of the 'live pause' function with the launch of Sky+ in 2002, UK viewers have been systematically cutting TV adverts out of their lives.

    Lots of TV services now offer the ability to pause live TV as standard, including the main competitors to Sky+, Freeview+ Virgin’s V+. Even Alan Sugar’s troubled YouView project has recognised that without the ability to pause live TV their offering simply won’t cut the mustard.

    Alongside digital video recorders, on-demand and catch up services and a range of subscription and streaming services, TV viewers have the option to never watch another ad again.

    The ‘skip generation’ of viewers are inadvertently fighting back against traditional advertising through the use of technology. Advertising funds the vast majority of TV content, and if that source of revenue is lost in unwatched ad breaks it could significantly impact the quality of the programming we all watch.


    Viewing habits

    There’s been a seismic shift in viewing habits, and it’s crucial that advertisers ‘catch up’ with their audience. Research released earlier this year by the BBC revealed that a quarter of its viewers are now watching programmes using catch-up services rather than when they originally air. Indeed, the internationally popular Sherlock saw a staggering 3.5 million additional viewers watch the show via the iPlayer or through a recording.

    Advertisers have also had to contend with the massive growth in popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Blinkbox and Lovefilm. Netflix has achieved significant critical and commercial success with its original programming, as shown by the triumphant return of flagship series House of Cards.

    It’s absolutely crucial that advertisers listen to what the audience is increasingly making abundantly clear and find a way to reach their target audience on their own terms. Rather than regarding the growth of new technology and the change in the audiences’ viewing habits as the barrier, advertisers need to embrace the opportunity that new technology provides.

    Advertising doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, intrusive. Brands need to be able to reach their target audience in a contextually relevant, native way that doesn’t break the deal with the audience by intruding upon their viewing experience. While technology enabled viewers to skip ads in the first place, it can now also put brands back in the one place where people are still engaged – in the spotlight of content.

    Emotionally relevant

    Using native in-video techniques, brands can target specific audiences with contextually, geographically and emotionally relevant products and services by digitally integrating them into appropriate content. However, ensuring that each placement meets all three of these criteria requires a balance of technology scale and human contextualisation – a balance that is now establishing a new cutting edge of native, in-video advertising.

    One of the ways in which this sort of native in-video advertising is sometimes labelled is as a "post-production" form of product placement, because that’s the sort of description most people can easily understand and it’s been around for more than 100 years. But this sort of terminology and the methods used to execute it are now at least ten years out of date. The advances that have been made in integrating brands into videos in an entirely natural manner mean that any allusions to product placement are now rather archaic.

    As consumers, we know that we must be advertised to, but historically product placement implementations can often lead to a poor compromise for the audience, the content and for the brand. Going forward the benefit for advertisers is that global television content is now available to native in-video advertising. Audience demographics, desired durations and target context can all be controlled in exactly the same way as any other measurable ad unit and at meaningful scale.

    Boosting advertising revenue can and should work hand-in-hand with an enhanced and uninterrupted viewing experience and technology now affords the ability to do both. The current culture, with its abundance of time-saving technology, promotes a more efficient, faster consumption of content, which has given birth to a generation of consumers that are, for want of a better word, impatient. The MTV generation had vast attention spans compared to today’s connected audiences – people now go out of their way to consume things as quickly as they possibly can. It’s important that ads add value to the content, rather than just get in the way.

  • From war-torn to oil-rich: Middle East and North Africa is a region of logistics contradictions

    Mar 24, 2014
    The following article has been taken from Global Logistics Media.

    It is all too obvious to state that Middle East and North Africa is one of the most difficult regions to assess in terms of logistics investment and services. Huge differences exist between rapidly growing markets serving a global customer base on the one-hand and countries torn apart by war on the other. Generalisations are impossible. 

    Ti’s latest report, Middle East and North Africa Transport and Logistics, offers detailed analysis of this region and the countries with often conflicting economies within it. The report’s author, Thomas Cullen, has developed a unique framework for analysis which divides the region into three diverse categories:

    ‘Growth-zone’ – Comparative political and economic stability, low-medium GDP per head, and young or growing population giving potential for growth through outsourced industrial operations. This includes countries such as Jordan and Morocco.

    ‘Money-zone’ – Smaller populations with high revenue streams but low capital assets outside oil and gas. This includes countries such as Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and others in the Gulf. 

    ‘War-zone’ – A level of political instability inhibits economic growth through social unrest, wars, corruption or mismanagement. This includes Libya, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

    This framework allows the risks and opportunities for investors in transportation and logistics to be methodically reviewed and assessed.

    The report’s author Thomas Cullen commented, ‘From Dubai to Beirut, Saudi Arabia to Tunisia, Syria to Oman the Middle East and North Africa is dynamic but very volatile. The bad news often obscures the good but the opportunities for logistics providers in the region are even greater than its difficulties.’

    Global hubs: the Middle East as a global logistics pivot
    From one perspective the region is hugely exciting in its potential for logistics growth. Dubai in particular has been spectacularly successful in its ability to restructure the global airfreight market around key hubs in the region. The Gulf in general is now a key player in air transport due to the smaller states investing so heavily in new aircraft and airports. To a lesser extent this is true about sea freight as well. The port of Jebel Ali in Dubai is obviously successful as a trans-shipment port but there have also sprung up a string of other, sizeable ports in the region that are not only attempting to grab part of the strong demand for hubs on the China-Europe route, but also traffic around the Indian Ocean and beyond. 

    Yet sea freight – and above all container freight – is being used in a revolutionary way beyond just transhipment. A number of developments in both North Africa and Saudi Arabia have attempted to grasp the opportunity that a container port offers to gain entry to global supply chains. The ‘Tangiers Med’ development in Morocco facilitates the establishment of a large car assembly facility, able to both import components and export finished vehicles quickly and cheaply. Saudi Arabia is trying to build large developments on both the Red Sea and Gulf coasts that will utilise the country’s gas resources to develop energy intensive business such as down-stream chemical and plastics production or aluminium fabrication for automotive assembly.  

    Road freight and logistics opportunities to catch up
    Yet the reliance on ports also indicates that the region is lagging in terms of other aspects of logistics. North Africa has a road network of variable quality with the region also suffering from inadequate rail freight, despite the potential new projects on the Arabian peninsula. The result of this is the poor development of logistics services such as contract logistics. Again the situation varies greatly between Dubai and other economies; the provision of logistics for consumer goods, for example in key markets such as Egypt, is meagre. Logistics property is rarely of size and capability required to support contemporary best practice whilst the road freight sector is also insufficiently developed. 

    This suggests major opportunities. Transport Intelligence’s analysis implies a growth for contract logistics across the region of in excess of 7% in 2014 but this disguises major qualitative changes in the market. The demand for production-orientated logistics is likely to grow at an enormous rate, if for no other reason than present demand is low. Similarly the latent demand for logistics in the retail sector is substantial, with market dysfunction retarding growth. Better roads and a recognition by governments of the importance of logistics suggests that markets may open up to the possibility of a much deeper presence by global LSPs as well as the more sophisticated local players. 

    What cannot be ignored is that oil and gas still dominates many of these economies. The direct impact of these resources has an enormous effect on the region’s logistics markets. The infrastructure is vast, as is the markets for services such as shipping. It also has the indirect effect of driving demand for air services in many locations; it is also the force behind the development of the growth of the chemical sector in these economies. The effect is to skew logistics provision towards heavy industrial, capital intensive operations. 

    War: Is this an impenetrable barrier to growth?
    The other major characteristic of the Middle East and North Africa is its political instability which many investors will see as an impenetrable barrier to growth. Syria is tearing itself apart with the risk of embroiling its neighbours; Iraq appears to be falling back into anarchy and the security situation in the Arab Spring countries is bleak. 

    The instability conceals substantial opportunities. For example Iraq retains a thriving oil logistics sector in the north of the country where there is still some semblance of stability; Egypt has a vibrant middle class and Syria/Lebanon were once thriving logistics hubs in their own right. Iran is another case of an economy desperate for logistics investment and services but which remains incapable of accessing them for political reasons. And it is not just war that is a problem. Many of the region’s largest economies are struggling to emerge from dysfunctional economies characterised by corruption, weak institutions and barriers to entry which make logistics markets less than rational. Whether Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria or Morocco will grasp their potential as economies is shaped by these political questions. 

    About the Middle East and North Africa Transport and Logistics Report
    Ti’s latest report, Middle East and North Africa Transport and Logistics, contains analysis of each individual country within the region plus regional logistics market sizings, 39 logistics provider profiles as well as exploration and insight into the infrastructure of the region and vertical sectors present such as the oil and gas, LNG, automotive, FMCG and others.

    This report, available at a cost of £1295.00 can be purchased by contacting Leon Morris, E: lmorris@transportintelligence.com or call +44 (0) 7903 548 579
  • 3D Model Links Facial Features and DNA

    Mar 24, 2014
    The following article has been taken from Forensicmag.

    DNA can already tell us the sex and ancestry of unknown individuals, but now an international team of researchers is beginning to connect genetics with facial features, degrees of femininity and racial admixture.
     
    "By jointly modeling sex, genomic ancestry and genotype, the independent effects of particular alleles on facial features can be uncovered," the researchers state in PLOS Genetics. They add that "by simultaneously modeling facial shape variation as a function of sex and genomic ancestry along with genetic markers in craniofacial candidate genes, the effects of sex and ancestry can be removed from the model thereby providing the ability to extract the effects of individual genes."
     
    In essence, by including sex and racial admixture, researchers can learn about how certain genes and their variations influence the shape of the face and its features.
     
    "We use DNA to match to an individual or identify an individual, but you can get so much more from DNA," says Mark Shriver, professor of anthropology, Penn State. "Currently we can't go from DNA to a face or from a face to DNA, but it should be possible."
     
    The researchers looked at both actual physical face shape and genetic markers of face shape. They then validated their study by asking individuals to look at faces and determine four things. Is this face male or female? How feminine is it? What proportion of this person is West African? What group would you put this person in, Black African or African-American; White, European or European-American; or Mixed?
     
    To look at the physical face shape, the researchers used populations of mixed West African and European ancestry from the U.S., Brazil and Cape Verde. They placed a grid on 3-D images of the faces of the subjects and measured the spatial coordinates of the grid points. They then used statistical methods to determine the relationship between the variation in the faces and the effects of sex, genomic ancestry and genes that affect the shape of the head and face.
     
    To identify these genes, the researchers looked at known genetic mutations that cause facial and cranial deformation because these genes in their normal variations might also affect the face and head. For example, one gene affects the lips, another changes the shape and configuration of the bones around the eyes, and another influences the shape of the mid face and skull.
     
    "Probably only 5 percent of genes show a difference between populations," says Shriver. "We are using different populations because they have had different environments and different social environments."
     
    The researchers look at the face because it is the most visible part of humans, and characteristics are likely to be influenced by selection. The environment, the local temperatures, rainfall, elevation or other factors in the surroundings may influence certain physical features. Other facial characteristics may be influenced by sexual selection, a recognized or unrecognized preference for a certain look. This changes from group to group and may have no influence on survivability but are instead related to mate choice and contest competition. Both forms of selection will concentrate certain variations in geological areas over time. By looking at groups of mixed ancestry, the researchers can more easily identify the different variations.
     
    "The environment and social environment are major driving factors in changing a whole set of genes that make up how a person looks," says Peter Claes, postdoctoral researcher, research expert in morphometrics, Medical Imaging Research Center, KU Leuven, Belgium and first author on the paper.
     
    Eventually, the researchers think that they might approximate the image of a parent from the DNA of children or better visualize some of Homo sapiens' ancestors by looking at DNA. On a more practical level, law enforcement groups might be able to create a "mug shot" from DNA to identify both victims and criminals. These predictive models fashioned from DNA would be forensically useful
  • Award of €11m ICT public service contract creates 15 new jobs

    Mar 24, 2014

    The following article has been taken from procurement.ie

    Brian Hayes, T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works, (13th March 2014) announced the award, following an EU tendering process, of an €11m public service ICT Consumables contract to Datapac Ltd.

    The new two year contract, with an option to extend a further 12 months, will allow Datapac to grow its business and create 15 new jobs.  New contract prices are on average 35% lower than the last contract. Public sector buyers will also receive further discounts of 5% for ordering online and 3% for online and electronic payments.

    This is the first contract put in place by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). The OGP, commencing operations this year, is tasked with delivering on an ambitious programme of procurement reform with savings target of up to €500m over 3 years.

    At the launch, Minister Hayes noted, “the award of this contract to Datapac, a wholly Irish owned SME, is a perfect example of an Irish SME successfully competing for government business. We want to see more SMEs competing for larger State contracts – both at home and abroad.  SMEs success at this level is key to securing a sustainable and durable recovery for Ireland.”

    Patrick Kickham, Datapac director, said, “we are delighted to play our part in helping Government achieve sustainable cost savings and improved operational efficiency. This contract allows us to grow Datapac further, adding up to fifteen new people to the team over the next two years, and making further investments in our business and technology portfolio.  Datapac have invested significant time, energy and capital to enhance our service delivery capabilities, including an online ordering system that is second-to-none in Ireland.”

    Speaking about the launch, Government Chief Procurement Officer Paul Quinn stressed that, “Our goal is to make it easier for business to engage with public procurement while at the same time driving improved value for money for the taxpayer.  The Office of Government Procurement is committed to ensuring that SMEs are fully engaged in the new model. We will bring consistency to how the public service procures. There will be greater standardisation of tendering documentation and contractual terms.  These improvements will reduce tendering costs and risks and reduce barriers to public procurement by SMEs.

  • Ireland has the potential for leading biofuel revolution

    Mar 24, 2014

    The following extract has been taken from Environment & Energy Management.


    Work being undertaken at NUI Galway has great potential for clean-energy production, a leading expert in bioenergy and biorefining has told a bioenergy conference in Dublin.

    The expert in question is Bart Bonsall, technology leader at Ireland’s Technology Centre for Biorefining and Bioenergy. He spoke at the 13th annual IrBEA National Bioenergy Conference in Dublin.

    The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Biomethane for transport: a technical and regulatory framework’ and focuses on Ireland’s bioenergy strategy to meet its European 2020 targets.

    Bonsall highlighted [pdf, 1.86MB ]work being undertaken at NUI Galway as one of the best examples of how increased study, experimentation and implantation of the scientific advances in biofuels can lead a revolution to power public transport across the entire continent.

    “Using the advanced high-rate, low-temperature anaerobic digestion technology for dilute waste waters developed by Prof Vincent O’Flaherty and the enzyme-based technology patented by Dr Maria Tuohy and their NUI Galway research groups gives Ireland an advantage in producing biogas more quickly,” Bonsall said.

    “On the vehicle side, biogas/compressed natural gas vehicles are widely used in German, Austrian, Italian and Swedish truck and bus fleets. The opportunity is there for Ireland to create real jobs in indigenous bioenergy enterprise in two to five years, if we build the right commercial and regulatory framework for biomethane for fleet transport,” he added.

    The centre led by Bonsall is one of the leading clean-tech organisations in Ireland and is co-hosted by three Irish universities, NUI Galway, University of Limerick and University College Dublin.

    As part of its remit, the centre develops key research programmes and innovative commercial applications for a sustainable and competitive bio-based economy in partnership with its industry members.

    Source: envirocentre.ie

  • Roles & Responsibilities

    Mar 24, 2014

    The following article has been taken from The Project Management Hunt and was written by Dave Gordon.

    My wife and I recently traveled to Seattle for a wedding. Our daughter-in-law was the matron of honor, and our granddaughter was one of the flower girls. Since Abbie is only two and a half years old, this was her first wedding. Fortunately, there was another flower girl, who went first and modeled the appropriate behavior. She walked the length of the aisle, scattering rose petals along the way. Abbie followed for a few steps, and then stopped to look at the rose petals on the floor. Being OCD (like her Dad), she started picking them up and putting them in her basket. Not quite what Mom had expected when she gave her the job, but the audience loved it.

     

    Roles and Responsibilities

     

    For many people, being assigned to work on a project is a novelty. They have regular jobs, where they have well-understood, routine practices and procedures. However, their additional project duties may not be clear to them. When in doubt, they may default to the behaviors that have made them successful in their regular job (like cleaning up the floor after play). This default may not be beneficial to the project, especially for tasks in the critical path. Consequently, it is important to make the responsibilities, procedures, and project relationships clear for the people assigned to each role, especially if they’ve never worked on a similar project. There are several tools available for clarifying roles and responsibilities:

    Project Organization Chart
     – A simple hierarchical diagram of the reporting relationships can usually answer most questions, especially on a cross-functional team.

    Role Description
     – Many project charters or project human resource management plans have a narrative description of the duties and responsibilities of each role. This can prevent confusion over who is responsible for what activities.

    RACI Chart
     – A table listing the work packages or deliverables, identifying who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed for each, usually adds enough structure for most teams to establish a well-understood workflow.

    Samples and Templates
     – Many “new” tasks are best understood by looking at the result of a previously completed task, or a fill-in-the-blanks form. This is especially true for work packages resulting in a document deliverable.

     

    Minimizing Overlap of Responsibilities

     

    A primary goal of planning for the human resources aspects of a project should be to ensure all tasks are covered, exactly once. If two people are responsible for the same task, there is a reasonable chance that neither of them will do it. Use the RACI chart to fine-tune who participates in the production of each project deliverable. Ensure that all work assignments are unambiguous, and all participants understand how the work in progress will be handed off. Work with the team to define cues, and follow up on transitions from one person or group to the next. And don’t forget to note completion – I like Kanban boards, because they make work in queue, in progress, and completed visible to the workers.

    Coaching

     

    Of course, nothing beats coaching. Whether it comes from the project manager or another experienced team member, a bit of guidance can go a long way. Any task performed for the first time naturally raises questions, before, during, and after. I regularly work on SaaS or software implementation projects with people who will only replace their enterprise software once or twice in their career, so the coaching is less about developing skills than it is about getting them through the assigned task.

    Effectively communicating roles and responsibilities can make the project a positive experience for the entire team, while ensuring the timeliness and quality of the deliverables. It takes a bit more care in planning, but it makes execution go much more smoothly.