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How tech is transforming three traditional industry sectors

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When it comes to tech transformation, you only need to look at what the smart investors are funding to see that it’s not just the dynamic, emerging sectors such as fintech that are benefiting. Investors such as Tom Chapman, co-founder of MatchesFashion; Sanjeev Krishnan of S2G Ventures, and Donald Lucas of Lucas Venture Group are focusing on the traditional industries too.

While we’ve all been watching the dynamic, and often consumer-facing, end of the tech market, activity is growing at a rapid pace in some of our most traditional sectors. Here are just three that are coming up on the rails by using tech to power the next generation of companies.

1. Logistics and shipping

Established industries don’t come much more traditional than shipping or as profitable as freight forwarding, a sector worth some $2 trillion at the last count. Freight forwarding companies ensure the smooth movement of goods around the globe but, up until recently, the industry has not seen anything like the kind of tech transformation you would witness elsewhere.

This year that’s set to change. A number of new tech businesses have sprung up to service the sector, dragging it into the 21st Century. Possibly the most high-profile is San Francisco-based startup Flexport, which in February received another $1bn in investment taking its valuation to a whopping $3.2bn. Started just five years ago, it now employs more than 1,000 people from 11 offices worldwide and is building warehousing facilities at many major ports. Flexport has seen such stratospheric growth because it understands the industry’s biggest problems and has got the tech right.

For the first time, Flexport has created a holistic cloud-based software platform that connects all the parties together in one place: importers, exporters, shipping carriers, truckers, airlines, plus the customs agencies and ports, allowing real-time interaction and document transfer. This might not seem so groundbreaking but in freight forwarding, where to date mountains of paper documents have been the norm, it really is.

2. Agriculture and food

Farming is another sector that’s slowly being transformed by tech innovations. For the last few years we’ve seen a big growth in agtech, fueled by a rapid rise in investment on the back of concerns about food security and environmental regulation. In fact, last year agtech deal activity hiked 11 per cent year-on-year worldwide; according to agtech funder Sanjeev Krishnan: “We have never seen the tectonic plates shifting as much as they are now, from the farm gate to the fridge.”

If there is one company that encapsulates the ethos and innovation of the new agtech revolution it’s Farmwise. Based out of San Francisco, Farmwise aims to solve some core issues in farming: the elimination of weeds and the need to optimise the amount of crops grown on a farmer’s land and the need to reduce the use of harmful pesticides.

Founded in 2016, Farmwise is just about to launch its first generation automated weeding system. The vehicle provides information about the crops in real time, giving farmers a more accurate early warning system and pointing to areas that need their attention. But more than this, using a combination of AI and robotics, the onboard tech captures images of each plant, analyses the data and identifies whether it’s friend or foe. Then it removes the weeds, even around individual crops. In time it’s hoped that this tech will drastically reduce the need to spray chemicals on the land and increase the productivity of each individual field.

3. Construction and housebuilding

Regarded by many as the last tech-free bastion, the building industry is highly traditional and up until recently was resistive to change. But over the last couple of years we’ve seen a growing number of startups coming on stream determined to transform this determinedly old-school sector.

One company focused on the building industry that has hit the headlines is Katerra, a startup focused on increasing collaboration, productivity and speeding up the construction process using tech. Driving them forward is the challenge we all face: creating more and cheaper housing as global populations boom. It’s a company with big ideas and big ambitions that has attracted high-profile investors.

Katerra is set to transform the sector because they are creating a one-stop building shop. They handle everything: architecture and design, specification, construction and fit-out, all powered by a heavy use of the latest tech including AI, robotics, apps and customer software interfaces. If there was ever a company that demonstrated the future for traditional industries, its Katerra. As Katerra Chairman and co-founder Michael Marks says: “Progress won’t come with incremental measures, we are pursuing transformational change on a massive scale.”

Today, tech is driving every industry sector, transforming everything, including where we live, how we’ll ship goods and what we will eat. The next five years will see traditional industries play catch up and you can bet the results for us all will be startling.

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Tech

The Benefits of 3D Scanning in Prototyping

3D Design

The ability to take an object and reverse-engineer it to create an identical copy of it without the schematics of the design has changed the way industry does business.

The technology that enables people to perform this process is called 3D scanning or 3D modeling and it is used in various industries, including manufacturing, VR, healthcare.

By taking multiple snapshots of a real-world object from various angles, 3D scanners can reproduce a virtual model of that object, which can then be viewed from all angles using software such as CAD. These models can then be sent to a 3D printer, now available for purchase commercially, to produce a replica of the scanned object.

There’s no doubting the influence of 3D printing, particularly on the manufacturing industry. The positives include greater scope for creativity in design, less material wastage, the faster process from design to product, the plastic is lighter yet stronger than metals, and it’s cheaper.

In this article, we delve a bit deeper into three areas of business 3D scanning can benefit companies prototypes and products.

Saves Time

Designing new parts, or replacements can be a long process that requires the knowledge and time of an expert such as an engineer who will need to hand-draw the design or design it from scratch using specialized software. With 3D scanning technology, however, the design process can be simplified immensely.

Reputable 3D scanners, such as the Artec Eva, use advanced technology to ensure that every inch of the object that is being scanned is accounted for on the design. Capturing up to 16 frames a second, the scanner also automatically provides the precise dimensions of the object. The designer can then alter the virtual design to better suit their needs without the need to tamper with the original object. What makes the Artec Eva stand out from the rest is its portable design, which allows for quick, high-resolution 3D scanning for almost unlimited applications.

More Flexibility in Designs

Having a scan of an object during the design phase of a prototype allows the designer greater flexibility in their design from the start as they have the power to edit and make improvements on their system quickly and easily without the need to build multiple physical prototypes. This can save a company both time and money during the design and testing phase of a prototype.

Designs can be Shared Globally

When a product is in the design stage, it is not uncommon to see it being shipped around the world for testing before it enters mass production. With 3D scanning technology, a design can be shared with anyone who has the software to read it, and it can be physically reproduced through 3D printing technology anywhere in the world. This means that a design can be accurately reproduced to its exact specifications without the need for expensive and time-consuming shipping at design shops around the world with just a copy of the 3D file.

When combined with 3D printing, 3D scanning technology has the potential to change the way people design and produce new products as well as make industries more streamlined and cost-efficient.

However, some would say there is still some way to go before 3D printing is ubiquitous in manufacturing and design, particularly with new entrants. The printers are cost-prohibitive for startups struggling with funding. The reliance on plastic doesn’t sit well with everyone, and there’s the ongoing impact it has on jobs. However, there will always be teething problems with new tech, including the displacement of workers.

What do you do with your production staff? Watch this space, new industries will appear with 3D printing, and there will be new jobs.

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Innovation

How To Grab Attention On Video Conference Calls

woman on phone

We are in the age of ‘COVID-19’, and our lives will never be the same again. We’ll be working from home more often and using video conferencing for meetings with colleagues, management and customers. In-person meetings allow for verbal and non-verbal cues. Body language can play a significant role in negotiation, for example.

Changes in body language or small facial expressions can provide observers, i.e. the meeting attendees messages on how to respond to get the right outcome. If you’re someone who uses non-verbal cues to sway discussion in your favour, then video-conferencing is a challenge. So how can we get what we need from these online meetings using what we have at hand, i.e. the small visuals of meeting attendees?

In this article, we provide tips on how you can get your points across, even when the other attendees are more extroverted than you.

Use The Camera

Focus on the camera and what it can do for you. There is a temptation to stare at your screen and the other attendees in the meeting. Get past this action as soon as you can. Allow yourself a few minutes to view all the other participants then turn your attention to the meeting’s contents.

Active listening is required and if it helps you to remember what is being discussed – take notes. To assist this action further say which participant explained the point, for example, Attendee John (Manager): “we will now always work from home two days a week”.

When you’re talking stare into the camera and not at the attendees faces on your screen. While this is very unnatural, and at first, you’ll think you’re rude or ill-mannered by not looking at the attendees like you would if you were in an in-person meeting. However, looking deeply into the camera not only focuses you on what you’re saying, but you also won’t get distracted with attendees non-verbal distractions.

Mastering the skills for video conferencing productivity will take practice. The multi-tasking of taking notes while actively listening and remembering to optimise the time spent looking into the camera will be your juggling act!

What you’re working against is human nature and the obsession we have with ourself. Dale Carnegie says if we’re not thinking about a project, we’re thinking about ourselves. A lot of time is spent and indeed wasted thinking about how we feel, what we want, and what other people think of us, so you can see what you’re up against to master video conference meetings as an active participant or meeting lead.

Use Your Voice

Understanding the basics of human nature can be gained from studying neuroscience or neurolinguistic programming. Introverts are less likely to sit tall or speak up than extroverts; however, they can practice doing both, and without the non-verbal cues getting in the way, video conferencing is a great levelling feature.

When you’re on a video call, always speak louder than your usual speaking voice. Plus use your voice to express yourself through using pitch, high and low, vary it to keep your audience engaged. For extroverts, they are experts in changing tone and adding volume to grab attention and express themselves. Introverts will also master this skill in the knowledge that they are in the room with the meeting attendees and that no one is spending much time thinking about them!

Backgrounds

What is in the background when you’re on a video conference call? Take care to have a bland background, so your frame is not the meeting’s distraction! Ideally use a plain white wall for your background. If that’s not possible, make sure the shelves behind you have only the objects you don’t mind your work colleagues and customers viewing, i.e. do not place intimate or personal items on the shelves that will end up being the topic of discussion.

Visual Appearance

Even though you’re working remotely and most often from your home, avoid wearing your leisure apparel. Your appearance should be what your colleagues would expect to see if they were sitting next to or opposite you in a meeting room. Once again, the objective with your appearance is to avoid being the distraction.

Summary

If you’ve been reluctant to use video conferencing, these tips will boost your confidence to use the technology without distraction.

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Tech

Best Proxies for Pricing Intelligence

data

Everybody wants to be profitable in business. So how do you go about that when you’re in a competitive space? Well, if you have an idea what your competitors are offering, won’t it give you an edge when you offer better pricing?

When you gather data from a website, it is usually for a purpose. While you are at it, you could experience challenges if you’re not doing it the right way. Proxies give you headway as said before.

With proxies in full motion, you extract data endlessly – data, in this case, is pricing on a competitor’s website.

You make a lot of profit if your pricing structure is better – that gives you an edge.

What is a Proxy?

A proxy offers you some form of protection while you surf the internet. In a layman’s term, it is the “middleman” between you and the internet. For every request that goes through the proxy, your IP address is hidden; only that of the proxy is in the open when you connect to a website.

Proxies come in different types including SSL proxies, also known as HTTPS proxies.

  • Residential proxies
  • Datacenter proxies

Residential Proxies

These proxies are from Internet Service Providers (ISP) and assigned to homeowners with a real IP address – and represented by a physical location. One of their perks is their high level of anonymity.

What are Datacenter Proxies?

Datacenter proxies are popular, and many people are using them every day. When you think of a proxy, it is a data center that likely comes to mind. Moreover, you may not even know the specifics of how these proxies go about delivering their jobs; they do not come from the internet service provider.

There are other types of proxies – but this time, in terms of the number of users. They can be shared, semi-dedicated, or private proxies.

Shared Proxies

Many individuals usually share these proxies. The downsides are that they offer lower performance and speed.

Private Proxies

These are proxies meant for one individual. They perform better than shared proxies and offer higher speed.

Semi-dedicated Proxies

These proxies are neither shared nor dedicated – they’re in between the both of them. The number of users is usually between 2 or 3.

In today’s business environment, web scraping is gaining popularity. It is a way to get head in your competitive space by leveraging extracted data at your disposal.

Companies understand the importance of price intelligence – and they will go the extra mile to use it to their advantage.

To this end, price scraping has become more prevalent than ever. A strategic pricing model takes into account what your competitors are offering, and you can outdo them by offering something better.

What is Web Scraping and why Proxies for Price Intelligence?

Web scraping is the process of collecting data from a website for specific purposes – price intelligence, market research, and more. That is usually possible by using bots to gather the desired information

When you scrape e-commerce websites like Amazon, you will be restricted if you flood the server with so many requests from one single IP address within a short period.

To get around this snag – it is simple. Proxies will do the magic.

If you scrape the e-commerce with an array of IP addresses – with each request coming from a unique IP – then you’re on track. If you want to scrape for prices on a competitor website with severally proxies, your activity will be successful. You can then use the data for price intelligence.

Actionable Insight for a Competitive Edge

The original growth hack of web scraping is leveraged by the big and mighty like the Fortune 500 for what purpose? They want to be competitive on pricing and be in the know while measuring customer sentiment.

With access to information on your competitor, you can grow, and with an advantage in your niche field. Take, for instance, businesses use this data to predict future demand, adjust their strategies, and adhere to best practices in the industry.

In other words, web scraping provides your business with an effective pricing strategy, which is in response to real-time demand. You get actionable insight for your business, and it can help you shape your decisions going forward.

Best Proxies for Price intelligence

With your data acquisition team doing what they know best, you can retrieve public data. However, proxies become an essential tool for this process.

Essentially, it boils down to choosing the best there is. Two main types of proxies exist in the market – data center and residential proxies

They both have their benefits and downsides.

Residential proxies are real IPs, so it is difficult to associate them with any ban – they seem more like a better option out there. However, they have a low response rate.

On the other hand, the datacenter may incur the wrath of the website owner because they can be easily detected. However, their fast response rate makes up for this downside.

Choosing the right proxies for price intelligence cannot be stressed any further. You can stay ahead; all you need is to do the needful.

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