Written by Andrew Moore, COO, DAV Management
According to a report out in April from Oxford Economics and Amadeus, the global travel industry will see sustained growth of 5.4% per annum until 2023, outpacing expected global GDP of 3.4%. That’s good news as the airline industry remains one of the most competitive, with low margins and, in recent years, reduced airline passengers and rising fuel prices. With economic confidence improving however, there have been predictions of an increase in UK airline passengers of 33 million in 2014 alone. Fuel prices have also started to stablilise (albeit at a higher level). While these are clearly very positive indicators for the industry, moving forward airlines and travel groups must continue to focus on business efficiency and improving the customer experience in order to maximise margins and increase market share.
One particular issue highlighted in the Amadeus report was the importance of mobile technology services right across the airline industry. According to the report, mobile technology will be key to tapping into expected growth and services. The report also pointed out however that today the travel industry has yet to put in place strategies to harness mobile technology effectively. In other words, airlines have some catching up to do.
Mobile device and technology adoption remains explosive. According to IDC, by 2017 total smartphone shipments are expected to approach 1.7 billion units, resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.4% from 2013 to 2017. In 2018, it’s estimated that there will be 4.9 billion mobile users, up from 4.1 billion in 2013. The Amadeus report also forecasts that one in five travel bookings in Europe will be made by mobile phones by 2015. According to another survey, which was conducted across 12 UK and international travel websites in January 2014, mobile web browsing of travel sites grew 42% year-on-year in January 2014 to 38.4% of all traffic. More than one in three visits to travel websites are now from mobile devices.
Today the majority of airlines have dedicated mobile sites. Figures from 8MS show that 76% of the top 50 airlines in the world use a dedicated mobile site. 22% of the top 50 airlines in the world, however, don’t have a mobile website at all.
Of course, a mobile strategy doesn’t begin and end with a mobile website. The real transformative opportunity of mobile is in opening the enterprise to value added and innovative services that can enhance its ability to reach its customers – whether through presence or location based technologies or more. It’s about understanding how best to interact with customers and then driving more value through the opportunities such customer interactions present. Anytime access to mobile is changing consumer behavior and offers a powerful channel for the airline industry to increase service (and hence loyalty) and add revenue.
For example, airlines can harness location services to detect when a customer arrives at the airport and send a greeting message welcoming them to the start of their journey and providing any additional information/alerts that will help to enhance their ‘day of travel’ experience. There’s also the much hyped ability to push retail and other promotions that are available through the airport as they make their way to their flight. Personally I think these need to be very subtle as they could become very tedious for a significant number of travelers. Arguably, the Holy Grail remains supplying the boarding ticket on the mobile device – speeding up the flow of passengers from check in to flight. Essentially, it is about the complete customer journey, from reservation to flight, to arrival and greeting the passenger when they touch down and complete their journey. It should build upon great pre-flight communication and services and provide an overall experience that motivates the passenger to fly with that airline again.
Not only can mobile technology be used effectively to make the travel experience more pleasant and seamless for travelers, it is also a powerful efficiency enabler for staff. American airlines replaced their pilot kitbag, which contained more than 25 pounds of paper based materials and manuals with IPads. This is much lighter and easier to handle for the crew, but more significantly the American Airlines Electronic Flight Bag is saving a minimum of 400,000 gallons of fuel per year???, which translates to an annual saving of $1.2 million. It has also cut down administration time. Pilots used to spend several hours each month manually updating paper manuals. Now, electronic updates only take minutes.
BA also uses tablets to improve service standards. Customer information used to be stored on pages of printouts. Today, flight attendants have access to customer data 24 hours in advance via an IPad, which is constantly updated, right through to flight departure, making customer service more streamlined and efficient. Roving customer service agents are also able to provide a more sophisticated and proactive service on the move and in the air. Final passenger lists, which are generally paper based, are also now operated by tablet, enabling staff to close an aircraft down ready for takeoff, all with the swipe of a finger.
While a select few airlines are leading the way, it’s clear that the majority of airlines still have work to do to capitalise on mobile technology as part of their drive to improve the customer experience and make internal processes more efficient. Harnessing the power of mobile technology to deliver industrial strength applications that can streamline an airline’s business and enhance service levels is now a reality. And, more importantly, customers are increasingly expecting it.
How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line
An investment in green AI enables financial services firms to align people, profit, and planet
By Nick Dale, EVP business development, Verne Global
Green investing is widely regarded as a mega trend, with chief executive Larry Fink of BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, stating, “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects … awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”
The recent seismic shift in public opinion about climate change has not only increased attention on the sustainability and societal impact of investing in a company, it’s also influencing the decisions being made in finance industry boardrooms overall, whether that’s implementing innovative business models or adopting new partnerships and technologies. However, as business leaders strive to make green choices, many are unaware of the hidden environmental costs of the technologies they are employing.
AI in the finance industry
The use of AI has become ubiquitous across industry sectors, and is now an integral part of the technologies being used in financial services, from optimising asset portfolios and underwriting loans to assessing risks.
AI is especially beneficial for things like quantitative trading, which uses large data sets to identify patterns that can then inform strategic trades. AI’s machine learning models can analyse vast and complex data and make predictions accordingly. But AI models are not only data-hungry, they are power hungry.
Supercomputers train and test mountains of data for AI models, and can run 24-hours a day, for hours, days, or even weeks. These applications consume huge amounts of energy, and as AI technology continues to grow and develop, the computations behind it are also increasing in size and complexity. The carbon emissions from training a single AI model for language translation is roughly equivalent to 125 round-trip flights from New York to Beijing (AI Now 2019 Report).
The carbon cost of AI becomes even higher when you factor in the energy required to keep the computing equipment housed in data centres cool – overheating can impact performance and damage equipment. As a result, in a conventional data centre, at least 40% of all energy consumed goes towards cooling.
But sustainable AI is possible if financial services organisations take positive steps to minimise its environmental impact.
Minimising AI’s carbon footprint
Location, location, location
Many tech giants are committing to reducing their carbon footprint, with Amazon pledging to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024, and Google investing in data centres in Nordic countries specifically for better energy efficiency.
This is because in the Nordics, data centres are largely powered by renewable energy sources. Iceland, in particular, uses 100% renewable hydroelectric and geothermal power – with no nuclear power sources – and is connected to a reliable power grid. These renewable energy sources are much less harmful to the environment because, unlike fossil fuels, they don’t cause pollution and don’t generate greenhouse gases. Not to mention, renewable energy is based on natural resources that can be replenished within an average human lifetime, as compared to fossil fuels, which can take thousands—or even millions—of years to replace.
Over 80% of compute doesn’t need to be near the end-user, and in those situations, choosing data centre locations in cool climates has a significant impact on carbon emissions. AI compute can be located in places like Iceland, which can utilise all-year-round, free cooling due to its temperate climate.
Data centres that are located in hot climates, like Arizona in the US, require high-powered cooling systems in operation around the clock. With average high temperatures of 40° Celsius in the summer, these data centres can use up to 4 million gallons of water a day to absorb heat through evaporation into cooling towers. Consequently, when location doesn’t hamper performance or accessibility, housing AI compute in data centres with natural cooling is a no-brainer.
Energy efficient and cost-effective
Many in the financial sector have traditionally viewed sustainability as a trade-off between profit and planet, but when it comes to green AI, financial services firms can have it both ways. By housing the servers that train AI models in data centres powered by renewable energy sources, businesses can substantially reduce energy expenses and benefit from long-term, fixed pricing.
And when renewable energy sources are combined with year-round, cool climates, the energy demands and costs of AI can be dramatically reduced. AI is here to stay, but by making the right choices, companies in the finance sector can still drive profitability whilst making real and measurable progress on sustainability.
Survey of IT decision makers exposes the increased pressures IT organisations face amidst covid-19
Independent Survey Uncovers the Limitations Traditional IT Infrastructure Imposes, Exacerbated by a Remote Workforce
Nebulon, Inc.®, the pioneer of Cloud-Defined Storage, released today the results of an independent survey completed by IT decision makers at 500 companies in the IT, financial services, manufacturing, retail, distribution and transport industries across the UK, US, Germany and France. Conducted in June of this year, the survey exposes the biggest challenges enterprises face in transforming their on-premises application storage environments, which have only been exacerbated during this COVID-19 era. While IT organisations cite multiple restrictions, the survey reveals limited infrastructure automation and high CAPEX as the most significant challenges for those deploying enterprise storage array technology, forcing them to re-examine IT spending and operations even more so than usual amidst the pandemic.
While increasing automation and reducing costs may seem like mainstream initiatives for any large organisation, the pandemic and resulting workforce restrictions mandate significant progress in days or weeks, versus months or quarters. The results of the survey, undertaken by Vanson Bourne, further reinforce this as respondents also highlighted their on-premises application storage environments are difficult to maintain, and reveal that they lacked the in-house expertise necessary to manage them. Even more disconcerting, respondents indicate that their traditional external storage arrays are not suited to handle new workloads, including containers and NoSQL databases. This is unsurprising as modern workloads have been architected for local versus shared storage resources.
British IT decision makers specifically ranked “expensive” highest, with 57% making this one of their top three challenges, followed by “time consuming to maintain” (50%) and “difficult to automate at scale” (49%). Respondents from smaller organisations (1,000-2,999 employees) were more likely to mark “lack of in-house expertise” highly compared to larger organisations (3,000+employees) (59% compared to 31%) while these larger companies were more likely to consider cost a top challenge (61% compared to 35%).
“The impact of the pandemic is forcing CIOs worldwide to reconsider their operations,” said Siamak Nazari, Co-Founder and CEO of Nebulon, Inc. “Reducing costs through server-based storage alternatives without the restrictions of hyperconverged infrastructure, and reducing operating cost pressure through cloud-based management of the application storage infrastructure are crucial initiatives for IT organisations looking to survive this new normal.”
For companies with a growing class of mission-critical data that cannot or should not move to the public cloud, Cloud-Defined Storage is an alternative to expensive storage arrays, offering enterprises a cloud-managed, server-based approach for mission-critical storage. By combining a cloud-based control plane, called Nebulon ON, with server-based storage that is powered by the Nebulon Services Processing Unit (SPU), Nebulon enables organisations to reduce cost for enterprise storage by up to half without compromising on enterprise data services. This is made possible by Nebulon’s unique architecture that makes use of commodity SSDs in industry standard servers, Ethernet in favour of Fibre Channel, and by eliminating operational complexities by moving management to Nebulon ON with an as-a-service model.
Nebulon ON uses AI to analyse application workloads during operations, provides actionable recommendations for IT organisations and provides a single API endpoint that greatly streamlines automation at-scale. Customisable application templates, tailored for customer’s application clusters, eliminate the guesswork in configuring infrastructure and produce repeatable, reliable infrastructure services for modern, mission-critical workloads. With the architectural and operational simplicity of Cloud-Defined Storage, application owners gain a self-service infrastructure provisioning that is unmatched with existing on-premises storage solutions.
“IT organisations have been seeking a cost-effective alternative to external storage arrays for years,” said Nazari. “With our Cloud-Defined Storage offering, they finally have the opportunity to reduce costs while also deploying a self-service solution for application owners that also reduces the operational burden.”
Are you ‘prescribing’ the right security solution to your merchants?
By Sandra Higgins, Chief Marketing Officer at Sysnet Global Solutions, draws parallels between taking multivitamins for the body to keeping small businesses ‘healthy’ using an all-in-one security solution
When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, eating the right food, taking regular exercise, and maintaining a positive mindset are key. However, despite these best intentions and practices, you still might not get all the nutrients your body needs to ensure it is working as effectively as possible. To combat this, a doctor might suggest taking a daily multivitamin as an insurance policy, to guarantee the body gets all the minerals and vitamins it needs, avoiding any shortfalls. Makes sense, right?
This same logic can be applied to businesses and the importance of cybersecurity and compliance solutions, especially in the current climate and the risks associated with remote working. Like a doctor prescribing a multivitamin to help their patients’ minds and bodies function effectively, in the same way, acquirers can offer security ‘prescriptions’ to help merchants keep on top of business health. The prescription is then deployed by a security software provider, much like a pharmacy would, dispensing the multivitamin of data security services and tools to help keep businesses in good health.
Just what the doctor ordered
With a wide variety of data security and compliance solutions available, like the streams of vitamins you see on pharmacy shelves, smaller businesses can often become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available tools and may forego sourcing their business ‘medication’ altogether.
Taking the stress out of trying to understand what the business needs, it’s an acquirer’s responsibility to prescribe one solution that allows merchants to stay security fit and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed at the choice available. That way, merchants don’t end up buying the wrong solutions or supplementary add-ons at additional cost, that they don’t actually need.
The benefits of an all-in-one solution
Like with medicine, merchants need to know the long-term benefits of prescriptions before administering it, and with an all-in-one solution, the benefits are vast. In addition to easy compliance with payments standards such as PCI DSS and access to security tools that are appropriate to business set-up, other benefits of all-in-one security solutions include;
- Increased energy levels. With business security taken care of, business owners will have more time to focus on what matters, giving them more energy to run other areas of the business.
- Reduced fatigue. If a business has to work hard to manage its security levels, or its owner is losing sleep over not managing it at all, resulting in overdrive just to perform simple tasks, being compliant with regulations, like the PCI DSS standard, becomes much harder.
- Long-term healthy lifestyle. By taking an all-in-one security solution, businesses will become ‘compliance and security fit’. Everything will run more efficiently, without security issues slowing things down and preventing a business from moving forward.
- Improved mood. Certain studies have shown that a daily multivitamin has positive effects on a person’s mood and emotional well-being. Not having to think so much about security and compliance lifts a burden and has the same effect – business owner don’t feel guilty about not paying it enough attention and there’s no need to worry about breaches or facing fees from not being PCI compliant.
- Reduced stress and anxiety. Similar to having an improved mood, by simply attending to security matters, businesses will have one less thing to worry about.
Strength in numbers
Not only is there a multitude of long-term benefits attached to having a fully managed data security solution prescribed by acquirers, allowing businesses to be faster, simpler and more profitable, it also means that costs are kept low. Many people buy vitamins in bulk to help share the cost with family or close friends. By buying security tools at scale, costs are kept down for merchants. This means that when a business is weighing up their budgets, they can be sure their compliance and security cost is entirely affordable.
When buying a multivitamin, customers will likely buy from a reputable brand so that you can rely on the quality and effectiveness of the daily dose, as reputable multivitamin providers undergo meticulous analysis and rigorous quality controls during the manufacturing process. In the same vein, humans wouldn’t want a substandard multivitamin for their own body, so businesses wouldn’t expect this from an acquirer’s prescription.
Easy to consume
Multivitamins can provide patients with numerous health benefits but the biggest benefit of all is having these solutions in one place. It makes it easier to ensure the body gets all it needs to stay healthy. It is the same thing for businesses. Taking a security ‘multivitamin’ will greatly take the stress out of addressing compliance and security, and provide a business with more time to focus on other pressing tasks. If small businesses, in particular, can get into the habit of taking a regular multivitamin, a straightforward all-in-one solution, to address compliance and security at their business, they will be more open to trying other things too that may lead to an evolution of the business.
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