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.
Top Tools to Help Logistic Professionals
Transporting goods and produce through a shipping fleet can be a too complicated job, particularly if you find yourself managing a large convoy of vehicles. Not only do operational managers in logistical businesses need to organize their drivers, but they also need to manage stock and ensure that deliveries meet their deadlines.
That’s a lot to do, but thankfully in the modern-day, there’s a lot of new technology that can help make this line of work a lot easier to organize and control. With the technology ranging from computer software to devices installed into a vehicle, here are some of the top tools that are helping logistic professionals.
The ability to track an entire fleet through GPS and other measures has made the administrative side of logistics far simpler for drivers and managers. Instead of filling out information such as hours driven manually, these tracking devices do it all automatically, providing an effortless and accurate way to store this data.
These tracking devices, such as the Azuga GPS can also monitor the route that drivers are taking and empower observers to know if the drivers are taking the most effective route. Plus tracking devices can help them plan to be more efficient in getting their goods from one point to another.
The GPS can also be used to measure the quality of a trucker’s driving, being able to pick up on excessive acceleration, hard braking, or hard turning. Knowing that they’re being monitored can deter drivers from bad practices, making them better and more effective.
Stock Management Software
As well as managing vehicles, logistical companies also have to manage and keep tabs of the different types of stock these vehicles are transporting. One of the best ways these businesses track their stock is to record them in various stages of their transportation process through the use of barcodes and barcode scanners.
Doing this provides up-to-date information on where the stuff is and in what stage it’s in. One of the best tools for scanning barcodes is the Scandit mobile app, due to its ability to be used on both Android and iOS devices and how it’s able to scan hard-to-reach or battered barcodes with ease.
Co-Pilot Directions App
When driving large vehicles, sometimes using traditional GPS systems might not be the best option, as a lot of them won’t be able to account for roads where trucks might not be able to travel through, which can lead to decreased efficiency. To combat this, there is the co-pilot mobile app which offers robust and accurate mapping and direct routing.
This app is particularly good as it goes above and beyond with additional algorithms that can help truckers avoid heavy traffic and other obstacles so that they can get to their destination quickly and efficiently. It also takes into account the truck’s height and width so that it knows which tunnels, roads, and bridges it can drive through, on, or under. Tools such as this allow logistical companies to increase their productivity, allowing them to take on a higher volume of contracts which can increase profit.
Technology is available to help your logistics business perform to the very best of your ability. It can transform simple processes and streamline more complicated tasks, giving you more time and capacity to deal with more pressing issues.
Someone could say that to ignore the multitude of benefits the technology can bring to your business is to set yourself up to fail, especially in today’s tech-driven world. Take advantage now of the apps and tracking systems ready for you to implement and see how you can go from strength to strength in your company.
The Benefits of 3D Scanning in Prototyping
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.
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.
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.
How To Grab Attention On Video Conference Calls
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!
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.
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.
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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