Five Innovations that Will Change Our Lives Over the Next Five Years

IBM has unveiled its second annual list of five innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The list is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that could make these innovations possible.  IBM says our lives will change through technology innovations in the following ways:

It will be easy for you to be green and save money doing it: A range of “smart energy” technologies will make it easier for you to manage your personal “carbon footprint”. As data begins to run through our electrical wires, dishwashers, air conditioners, house lights, and more will be connected directly to a “smart” electric grid, making it possible to turn them on and off using your cell phone or any Web browser. In addition to alerting you about leaving appliances on when they could be off to conserve energy, technology will also provide you with up-to-date reports of electrical usage, so you can monitor how much you are spending and how much energy you are putting out, just like you can track your cell phone minute usage today. Intelligent energy grids will also enable utilities to provide you with the option to use green energy sources, like solar and wind, to fuel your home, and innovations in solar and wind technology will bring cost-efficient options to a utility near you.

The way you drive will be completely different:  In the next five years, a coming wave of connectivity between cars and the road is going to change the way you drive, help keep you safe, and even keep you out of traffic jams. Technology is poised to keep traffic moving, cut pollution, curb accidents, and make it easier for you to get from point A to B, without the stress. The cities you live in will find a cure for congestion using intelligent traffic systems that can make real-time adjustments to traffic lights and divert traffic to alternate routes with ease. Your car will have driver-assist technologies that will make it possible for automobiles to communicate with each other and with sensors along the road — allowing them to behave as if they have ‘reflexes’ so they can take preventive actions under dangerous conditions. Your car will automatically tell you where traffic is jammed up and find you an alternative route to take.

You are what you eat, so you will know what you eat:  We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, but with foods being sourced across international borders, the need to ‘know exactly what you eat’ has never been so important. In the next five years, new technology systems will enable you to know the exact source and make-up of the products you buy and consume. Advancements in computer software and wireless radio sensor technologies will give you access to much more detailed information about the food you are buying and eating. You will know everything from the climate and soil the food was grown in, to the pesticides and pollution it was exposed to, to the energy consumed to create the product, to the temperature and air quality of the shipping containers it traveled through on the way to your dinner table. Advanced sensor and tracing systems will tell you what you eat, before you eat it.

Your cell phone will be your wallet, your ticket broker, your concierge, your bank, your shopping buddy, and more:  In the next five years, your mobile phone will be a trusted guide to shopping, banking, touring a new city, and more. New technology will allow you to snap a picture of someone wearing an outfit you want and will automatically search the web to find the designer and the nearest shops that carry that outfit. You can then see what that outfit would look like on your personal avatar – a 3-D representation of you – right on your phone, and ask your friends, in different locations, to check it out online and give their opinion. Your phone will also guide you through visiting a city. When you turn on your phone in a city you are visiting, it automatically provides you with local entertainment options, activities, and dining options that match your preferences, and then make reservations and purchases tickets for you – like a personal concierge.

Doctors will get enhanced “super-senses” to better diagnose and treat you: In the next five years, your doctor will be able to see, hear and understand your medical records in entirely new ways. In effect, doctor’s will gain superpowers – technologies will allow them to gain x-ray like vision to view medical images; super sensitive hearing to find tiniest audio clue in your heart beat; and ways to organize information in the same way they treat a patient. An avatar – a 3D representation of your body – will allow doctors to visualize your medical records in an entirely new way, so they can click with the computer mouse on a particular part of the avatar, to trigger a search of your medical records and retrieve information relevant to that part of your body, instead of leafing through pages of notes. The computer will automatically compare those visual and audio clues to thousands or hundreds of thousands of other patient records, and be able to be much more precise in diagnosing and also treating you, based on people with similar issues and makeup.

Let it snow!

From all of us at Wanobe to all of you, the very best wishes for you and your
family!

Have a really happy holiday. And for 2012, we wish you a brilliant
year full of fun, success, happiness, health, love, sunshine, deep snow and
all you wish for.

Thanks for all you have done for us this year as contributors and investors!

May your sledge runners glide perfectly!

The Government must do more to tackle late payment

A group of leading organisations have joined together to urge the Government to tackle the growing problem of late payment in order to help small firms survive, grow and drive economic recovery.

The industry bodies, including those representing UK-based suppliers, have written to the Business Minister, Mark Prisk, to call for a plan of action to address late payment, which decimates small firms’ cash flow.

The group, which is supporting the Government’s new ‘Finance Fitness’ campaign, believes any plan to encourage better payment practices should include the following measures:

  • Confirm that the EU Late Payment Directive making 30-day payment terms mandatory, in the absence of any specified/agreed payment terms, is being brought forward to 2012 as originally stated and ensure any new legislation prevents suppliers being coerced into agreeing to vary payment terms against their will
  • Given that small businesses suffer serious cash flow problems as a result of late payment from large customers and public sector bodies, impacting their ability to pay their own suppliers, ensure that the Directive is implemented in a flexible way to account for this ‘domino effect’.
  • Clamp down on large companies taking ‘prompt payment discounts’ and imposing retrospective changes to payment terms and conditions that are not contractually agreed.
  • Pledge to continue with the UK’s public sector 10-day and 5-day payment initiatives, and ensure they are embraced by more local public sector bodies across the country and that prompt public sector payment is passed on down the supply chain. Indeed, to give added surety to those in the supply chain, the requirement in central Government contracts for contractors to pay their sub-contractors within 30 days should be extended right across the public sector.
  • As part of this, introduce a national league of local authority payers including incentives to encourage councils to perform.
  • Strengthen the Prompt Payment Code, including requesting businesses to sign up to the Code – exploring ways of making it an ‘opt out’ rather than an ‘opt in’ arrangement – and calling for examples of where it has been breached.
  • Require FTSE companies to report more detailed information on their payment times.
  • Use the public procurement process to promote best practice, assessing evidence of prompt payment via Pre-Qualifying Questionnaires (PQQs) and avoiding using businesses with over 250 employees if they are notoriously bad payers.
  • Under the principle of more open data, work towards a culture of more transparency and standardisation of financial information for firms and financial organisations, including credit rating agencies, in order to help small businesses better establish their creditworthiness and properly assess the payment credentials of companies with which they consider trading.
  • Allow the Groceries Code Adjudicator to impose financial penalties on retailers who are found guilty of treating their suppliers unfairly.
  • Consider ways of encouraging and supporting more suppliers to pursue interest on late payments under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.

A full list of the organisations backing the late payment campaign, and which have signed the letter to the Government, is:

Graydon UK Ltd; Lloyds TSB Bank Plc; the Asian Business Federation, the Brewing, Food and Beverage Industry Suppliers Association; the British Home Enhancement Trade Association; the British Printing Industries Federation; the Business Woman’s Network; the Federation of Master Builders; the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers and the Forum of Private Business.

Backers also include the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; the Association of International Accountants; the Institute of Credit Management; PCG – the Voice of Freelancing; the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers; the National Farmers’ Union; the National Pig Association and the Tenant Farmers Association.

New data from Graydon UK, a credit reference agency, shows that 76% of respondents believe the Government is not doing enough to protect UK businesses from late payment.

This is despite 51% reporting that the problem has become worse during the past year, 45% that it could threaten their ability to invest in their businesses and 20% that it could prevent them from continuing trading.

In addition, recent research from the payment body Bacs shows that late payment to small businesses, mainly originating from large companies at the head of supply chains across a broad range of sectors, has hit an all-time high.

The company’s figures show small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now owed a total of £33.6 billion in outstanding invoice payments – a rise of 10% in the last 12 months and the highest figure since records began in September 2007.

This is backed by recent research from the information company Experian, which found that late payment among UK firms of all sizes increased by almost a day on average during July, August and September 2011, compared to the April to June period.

Yet the same figures show the UK’s smallest businesses – those with one or two employees – managed to limit their late payment of bills to just half a day, representing the lowest rise during the period.

Further, with the use of credit checks more than doubling since last year in response to increasing late payment, a survey from Experian and the Institute of Credit Management (ICM) has found that small firms are more than twice as likely to suffer as a result of significant variations in credit scores.

“There is mounting pressure on the Government to crack down on the growing corporate late payment culture, which is already a huge problem for small businesses and is in danger of becoming endemic,” said Phil Orford, Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business.

“Late payment and enforced retrospective changes to payment terms and conditions force firms out of business, plain and simple. It is time to tackle the problem once and for all so that prompt payment becomes the norm, unless there are good, justifiable reasons otherwise.

“In addition to the actions we want ministers to take, we recognise there are proactive steps available to business owners, including implementing proper credit management and credit checking procedures, but there is clearly a culture of fear when it comes to naming and shaming large late payers.

“We are also urging anyone subjected to this kind of treatment to tell us about it – we’re not afraid to take these companies on.”

12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012

Life is tough, but most businesses are not staring into the abyss. And for the brave hearted there are always opportunities for entrepreneurs to deliver on changing consumer needs.  One of the world’s leading trend firms, trendwatching.com scans the globe for emerging consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business innovations and sends out a free monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 business professionals in 180+ countries. At wanobe we’re happy to bring you an overview of trendwatching.com’s 12 must-know consumer trends (in random order) for you to run with in the next 12 months.

1. RED CARPET
In 2012, all shapes, sizes and sectors of business, if not entire cities and nations, will roll out the red carpet for the new emperors; showering Chinese visitors and customers with tailored services, perks, attention and respect. (Including examples from Hilton, Starwood and Harrods.) More >>>

2. DIY HEALTH
Expect to see consumers take advantage of new technologies to discreetly and continuously track, manage and be alerted to any changes in their personal health. (Including examples from Jawbone, Ford and Lifelens.) More >>>

3. DEALER-CHIC
In 2012, consumers will continue to hunt for deals and discounts, but do so with relish if not pride. Deals are now about more than just saving money: it’s the thrill, the pursuit, the control, and the perceived smartness, and the status. (Including examples from American Express, Nokitum and Daitan.) More >>>

4. ECO-CYCOLOGY
Brands will increasingly take back all of their products for recycling, and do so responsibly and innovatively. (Including examples from Dell, Nike and Garnier.) More >>>

5. CASH-LESS
Will coins and notes completely disappear in 2012? No. But a cashless future is (finally) upon us, as major players such as MasterCard and Google work to build a whole new eco-system of payments, rewards and offers around new mobile technologies. (Including examples from Google, PayPal and Square.) More >>>

6. BOTTOM OF THE URBAN PYRAMID

The majority of consumerism is urban, yet in much of the world city life is chaotic, cramped and often none too pleasant. Nevertheless, the creativity and vibrancy of these aspiring consumers means that the opportunities for brands which cater to the them are unprecedented. (Including examples from PepsiCo, NCR and Aakash.) More >>>

7. IDLE SOURCING
Making it downright simple (or effortless) for consumers to contribute will be more popular than ever in 2012. Unlocked by the spread of ever smarter sensors in mobile phones, people will be able and (more) willing to broadcast information about where and what they are doing, to help improve products and services. (Including examples from Street Bump and Waze.) More >>>

8. FLAWSOME
Why to consumers, brands that behave more humanly, including exposing their flaws, will be awesome. More >>>

9. SCREEN CULTURE
Thanks to the continued explosion of touchscreen smartphones, tablets, and the ‘cloud’, 2012 will see a SCREEN CULTURE that is not only more pervasive, but more personal, more immersive and more interactive than ever. (Including examples from Sky, 8ta and Huawei.) More >>>

10. RECOMMERCE
It’s never been easier for savvy consumers to resell or trade in past purchases, and unlock the value in their current possessions. In 2012, ‘trading in’ is the new buying. (Including examples from Decathlon, Amazon and Levi’s.) More >>>

11. EMERGING MATURIALISM
While cultural differences continue to shape consumer desires, middle-class and/or younger consumers in (almost) every market will embrace brands that push the boundaries. Expect frank, risqué or non-corporate products, services and campaigns from emerging markets to be on the rise in 2012. (Including examples from Diesel, Johnson & Johnson and Sanitol.)More >>>

12. POINT & KNOW
Consumers are used to being able to find out just about anything that’s online or text-based, but 2012 will see instant visual information gratification brought into the real and visual world with objects and even people. (Including examples from Starbucks, eBay and Amazon.)More >>>

View all 12 full trend descriptions, including examples of brands from around the world already making the most of these trends at www.trendwatching.com/briefing

European Professional Services hit hard by bad debt

Accountants, lawyers and recruiters are suffering most in the current economic downturn in Europe, writing off three times than companies in the utilities sector, for example.

A survey of almost 6,000 businesses across Europe by credit management services groupIntrum Justitia shows significant differences in how industry sectors are hit by bad debt and late payments. Businesses in professional services on average have to write off 4.5 percent of all transactions whilst businesses in utilities only write off 1.5 percent. Intrum Justitia believes the situation will worsen in 2012, but that there are protective measures to be made by businesses, measures essential to boosting Europe, according to Intrum’s EPI 2011 Industry White Paper.

Our survey indicates that things will start turning worse before they turn for the better. Professional Services are often first hit by client budget cuts, which means they serve as a warning of what may lie ahead. Unfortunately, history tells us that other Industries are to show significantly higher bad debt next year,” says Intrum Justitia CEO, Lars Wollung.

Professional Services also see the largest increase in write offs from the previous year, up 12.5 percent. Transportation write offs are also increasing fast, 9.5 percent up from previous year, although from a rather modest level. Real Estate see write offs decreasing significantly, with over 5 percent.

”Although the picture painted in our report may seem grim there are measures companies can take to protect themselves. There is a lot that can be done to help the businesses in boosting Europe. We see that businesses that know their customers and implement efficient credit policies get paid earlier and have to write off a smaller percentage off sales, comments Lars Wollung.”