ISSUE February 2021 www.pcr-online.biz
VENDOR RELATIONS ISSUE #204 February 2021
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CELEBRATING THE LEADING COMPANIES FROM ACROSS THE UK PC AND TECH INDUSTRY
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TheEditor Building bridges
ow that there is light at the end of the tunnel with the mass administration of the Covid-19 vaccination, the tech channel, like the rest of the nation is beginning to look ahead and plot the course of the next few months as we all anticipate the return to some sort of normalcy. For the tech channel the continued commitment to building strong industry partnerships is key to this recovery and so in this issue in our virtual round table with Dave Stevinson, QBS Technology, David Tulip, Network Group & Technology To Go, Mike Buley, exertis and Ben Allcock, TP-Link UK Ltd. we discuss forging strong vendor relationships, maximising business opportunities through industry partnerships and how to maintain the competitive edge in the current challenging business climate. The shift towards a more digitised landscape continues for many, as more companies look to push business online. In our big interview we talk to Exertis’ Vish Chhatralia about the distributors latest digital strategy. GEKKO’s, Daniel Todaro explores how brands can still engage the senses in a socially distanced world, whilst Torben Christiansen at EPOS speaks about what 2021 will sound like and some of the trends we can expect on the audio horizon in our audio tech spotlight. Northamber’s, Tony Price tells us about the five pieces of technology that have shaped his personal and professional life in our Top 5 Tech feature. Ben Fenster, of in-game advertising platform, Anzu.io. talks about bringing brand advertising to in-gaming and e-sports in our content and user interaction interview. Ericsson’s, Vidya Krishnan, tells us about how the company is adopting a learning strategy to support its focus on 5G, IoT, network security and autonomous networks. We also round up some top distributor product picks from surveillance cameras to audio entertainment systems in this month’s sector guides.
Michelle Winny, Editor
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28 Feb 2021 06 Retail analysis: The virtual shopping assistant 10 News: Round up of the latest tech industry headlines 12 Industry Opinions 20 Big Interview: Exertis’ Vish Chhatralia 22 Industry Roundtable 28 GEKKO 30 Audio tech: EPOS’ Torben Christiansen 34 Top 5 Tech: Northamber’s Tony Price 36 Content & User Interaction: Anzu.io’s Ben Fenster 39 Content & User Interaction: nuVa’s Jocelyn Lomer 42 Sector Guides: Distributor top products 48 Life in the Channel: Ericsson’s Vidya Krishnan
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THE VIRTUAL SHOPPING ASSISTANT Engaging with the audience or knowing your customer is a top priority for any sales environment and both in-store and online shopping experiences are no exception. Just as advertising is designed to subliminally appeal to the target market, shoppers should feel that they are being guided through the shopping experience with product offerings both in store and online. But in the wake of recent restrictions imposed by Coronavirus how can retails look to enhance the shopping experience with content and user interaction? Michelle Winny finds out more.
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he British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently found that total year-on-year UK’s retail footfall in 2020 dropped by 43.4%. This comes due to Coronavirus-induced national lockdowns that hoped to stem the spread of the virus, which resulted in the forced closure of nonessential retail destinations. Such low levels of footfall confirm the fears of languishing consumer confidence, both as a result of the ongoing pandemic and the consequential economic fallout. Notably, December’s retail footfall fell by 46.1% in comparison to the year before but was also a 19.3% improvement on November’s footfall, when England went into its second national lockdown. As the third national lockdown went underway, retailers across the UK once again reverted to the government’s strict guidelines in terms of maintaining social distancing in-store and providing hand sanitiser for customers, but few made efforts to revitalise the shopping experience to attract customers amidst the pandemic. With these statistics in mind, CEO of Ubamarket, Will Broome, focusing on the state of the UK’s retail sector and how retailers must transform their operations to get customers back in-store says: “The statistics have made it very clear that whilst the retail sector has experienced a gradual increase in footfall over the past few weeks, consumer confidence is still extremely low- and this is expected to continue as a result of the third lockdown. “It’s great to see that retailers are doing a good job of upholding government guidelines and adhering to social distancing and hygiene measures in-store, but this is simply not enough to inspire customers to risk heading back to the high-street or shopping centre.” Broome believes that in order to entice customers back in-store, retailers must accept that the landscape has completely changed, and hygiene is only one of the concerns: “As a result, the whole shopping experience must be revitalised and transformed, to allow for increased hygiene and safety measures, but also addressing concerns around convenience, personalisation and ease of the consumer experience.” He points out that retail technology is one option which offers a solution to a number of these challenges, “enabling retailers to easily uphold safety guidelines whilst also hyper personalising and improving the convenience,” he notes. Will Broome’s business focus is Ubamarket, a scan, pay & go mobile app solution, designed to simplify in-store shopping, that aims to help retailers offer a streamlined, convenient and hyperpersonalised “select and pay” experience to their
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customers. The solution effectively puts the till in the customer’s hands on their own trusted device. By using the Ubamarket app, shops can offer a range of features to significantly improve the experiential nature of their customers’ shopping experience. Features such as pre-written shopping lists, aisle sat-nav, one-tap in-app payments, exclusive access to personalised deals, automatic loyalty point collection, table delivery, collection points and facial recognition/age verification (for age restricted products) are brought together in one allencompassing app, helping to rebuild consumer confidence in-store by enabling a fully socially distanced experience; whilst simultaneously reducing their shopping time, leaving them with the more enjoyable aspects of the process. Whilst BOON, a startup from Southampton, is employing artificial intelligence technology and psychology research to help online shoppers find the perfect products for themselves or a gift recipient whilst retaining complete control of their data. BOON’s founders, Dylan Grey explains: “Often, as you browse a retailer’s site, your actions are being collected and assigned to your account if you’re logged in, or your computer or phone if you’re not. These actions, such as your clicks and dwell time, are fed into an AI system to predict which products you are most likely to buy and make recommendations to you in the form of product listings, bundle recommendations or basket addons. This all happens behind the scenes. “However, as data privacy regulations become stricter and more shoppers are making use of tracking blockers, we need to find a better way to help people find great products. By using psychology research, we can create engaging, interactive experiences for consumers where they consciously provide a minimal amount of data to receive excellent product recommendations”, he says. BOON uses a new recommendation engine for anonymous data collection, as Grey explains: “BOON’s technology, Spotlight, gives consumers full control of their data. Instead of recording their actions behind the scenes, we create digital shopping assistants that ask the shopper about themselves or a gift recipient. Their responses remain anonymous and are analysed by our AI recommendation engine to pick out the best products for their situation. “We use psychology research to design our questions, so they may not seem directly relatable to specific products. For instance, asking an imagebased question like “Which of these holidays looks
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most relaxing?” helps to establish an accurate picture of the shopper’s values, which in turn allows our AI to generate ever more accurate recommendations. Users can rate or replace their product recommendations, automatically improving the system for each subsequent shopper”, he explains. Speaking about the evolution of the online shopping experience and what customers expect from the experience Grey says: “Customers want an enjoyable experience. An important step towards achieving this is delivering a stress-free experience, which means refining the customer journey from landing through to checkout, delivery and messaging. It’s got to be as simple and enjoyable as the instore experience especially now that many high street stores are shut. “At BOON, we focus on improving product discovery. Conventional product listings can be tedious and overwhelming for shoppers, who often want an alternative way to search or browse. Retailers must offer these additional features, whether that’s through a digital shopping assistant like BOON, image-similarity search or comprehensive and intuitive filters, he adds. Speaking about how online retailers can look to maximise content and user interaction, Grey identifies intuitive, interactive experiences as specific to the retailer’s brand and style: “Taking BOON as an example, retailers can offer their customers a unique experience, designed around the product range and user base. It’s a fun, interactive experience that specifically helps the segment of shoppers, who need help with their product search or are looking for inspiration. Our technology reacts to users as they answer, making sure that the questions they’re asked are relevant. This kind of personalisation can create a far more immersive experience that encourages shoppers to explore the site more and make a purchase. “In addition, creating an online experience that is less solitary can dramatically increase user-generated content, and encourage user interaction. For instance, trying to build communities and focusing on product reviews helps to make shoppers feel at ease and build a connection with the brand”, he adds. Russell Loarridge, Director, ReachFive, provider of the cloud-based customer identity and access management enterprise platform, speaks of his experiences and the current innovations in AI: “In my experience of the retail market over the last 20+ years, the recent innovative use of AI has for the most part been to make sense of the petabytes of data collected per page and click on each visitor. Typically, this has been unsuccessful, as there is no AI system that can guess the underlying reason a person is 8
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on a site, such as shopping for themselves, their grandson, as a competitor etc. Typical uses of AI that have some degree of success have been associated with the back office, looking specifically at stock levels and how to present it to maximise revenues. This is a far cry from using AI to replicate the in-store shop assistant. “Most companies are using anonymous data collection, reference the incessant requests to accept site cookies, which we are all sick of. The fact that browsers are, for the most part, dropping third party cookies, will have a negative impact on a brand’s ability to continue to track and trace an individual consumer. However, if there had been anything sensible done with the information, outside creating advertising revenues for site owners, I might mourn their passing. As it is, I don’t”, says Loarridge. Speaking about the evolving online shopping experience and what customers expect out of the experience now, Loarridge says: “We can expect more first-party request for data. Additionally, brand-marketing executives may have their individual light bulb moments where reliance on the tech to do their job dissolves and they realise that consumers are individuals who are happy to share their personal preferences - IF the brand tells them what they are going to do with the information to make their lives better. Today, that ‘give to get’ transaction is opaque at best and consumers desire for a personalised experience far outstrips brand’s ability to provide one.” Focusing on how online retailers can maximise content and user interaction, Loarridge says: “Online retailers should use the information shared by the consumer to provide a relevant personalised service that drives repeat visits and loyalty.” www.pcr-online.biz
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Exertis lauches new internal diversity initiatives Exertis has launched a new set of diversity and inclusion initiatives. The initiatives are to be driven by a diversity steering group, with representatives from teams and roles in every region the company operates in, aiming to share and learn from best practices across the group. Managers have been provided with a diversity and inclusion toolkit and are committed to delivering a demonstrable contribution towards diversity representation within their area of the business. Vishal Chhatralia, Exertis’ Global Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, says the business is driven by an understanding that diversity makes an organisation stronger: “Where we have more diversity, we see within our organisation that we have better and more non-linear ideas and innovation driving growth. Organisations, irrespective of industry, perform better with greater diversity.”
CompTIA introduces new cybersecurity advisory council CompTIA has formed a new Cybersecurity Advisory Council, comprised of 16 experts from a multitude of disciplines and organisations, that will provide guidance on how technology companies can address pressing cybersecurity issues and threats and implement new practices and protocols to keep their customers safe. “Recent events have underscored the dangerous cyber environment that all of us are operating in,” said Annette Taber, senior vice president for industry outreach and relations at CompTIA. “Combatting these threats requires a collaborative effort that brings together expertise from across the cybersecurity spectrum. We’re pleased to announce today that a number of leading cyber authorities have joined our Cybersecurity Advisory Council.” The council is co-chaired by Tracy Holtz, director of security solutions for Tech Data Corporation, and Kevin McDonald, chief operating officer and chief information security officer at Alvaka Networks. “We recognise the real need to make industry-wide improvements if we are going to defend our companies, customers and industry reputations,” Holtz said. “The council will greatly expand outreach with the primary goal of changing collective behavior to reduce attacks and their associated negative impacts on the channel and their clients.”
Onfido and FundOf enable content creators to monetise their work Onfido has partnered with FundOf, a tool that helps content creators monetise their content on any platform, to verify the identity of its users and build trust through its community of content creators. Using Onfido’s identity verification technology, FundOf provides more assurances that content creators are who they claim to be, making it harder for fraudsters to create fake accounts for money laundering or spreading false information. Before starting to earn in FundOf, users verify their identity by taking a selfie and a photo of their ID. After this 30-second process, they can start receiving donations from followers all over the world, including tips in bitcoin. 10
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Lenovo’s new ThinkBook models
Lenovo’s new ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i and ThinkBook 13x i, ThinkBook 14p Gen 2 and ThinkBook 16p Gen 2 are the latest in the line of ThinkBook laptops. They feature 16:10 aspect ratio displays with Dolby Vision HDR imaging and Dolby Atmos support on select models, TÜV Rheinland Eyesafe Display Certification and the latest generation NVIDIA GeForce graphics on the ThinkBook 16p. ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 has been enhanced in almost every area. Key improvements include: The e-Ink display has increased from 48% screen-to-body (STB) ratio to 68% offering a larger 12-inch usable area and resolution of that top cover display has been increased to match the 2560×1600 resolution of the main display. Performance has been improved with a better refresh rate and the e-Ink User Interface (UI) has been rethought and redesigned to provide a more intuitive access to most used information, now with flexible options to run productivity apps without having to open the lid. www.pcr-online.biz
In-game cookie-less consumer advertising partnership In-game advertising solution specialist, Anzu.io is partnering with Digiseg, a Copenhagen-based company, to bring cookie-free data to in-game advertisers. Ad-blocking is on the rise and third-party cookies are about to become obsolete, making it infinitely harder for advertisers to find and reach the right audiences. Digiseg is prepared for the cookie-less era, gathering information at scale, free of personal data, without tracking people, and outside the scope of GDPR. Anzu’s recent partnership with advertising giant WPP introduces accepted advertising standards, such as ad
viewability, brand lift measurement, fraud detection, and user privacy protection, to the gaming space. The collaboration between Anzu and Digiseg will allow advertisers to continue to target their gaming audience and meet their business goals. Brand advertisers are increasingly including in-game advertising as part of their multifaceted strategies, making precise audience targeting essential. Digiseg is able to segment in-game traffic with the same taxonomy and targeting power as standard sources, identifying real consumer needs based on household characteristics.
Acer updates Predator Triton and Helios series Acer has updated and refreshed several of its gaming notebooks including its Predator Triton 300 SE, Predator Helios 300 and Acer Nitro 5. The Predator Triton 300 SE and Acer Nitro 5 notebooks have been updated to include new 11th Gen Intel Core H35-series processors for ultraportable gaming, while the Predator Triton 300 SE and Predator Helios 300 have been refreshed with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series Laptop GPUs—plus a suite of upgrades such as increased display refresh rates and better cooling technology across the board. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series Laptop GPUs, powered by the NVIDIA Ampere architecture, increase energy efficiency by up to 2x, accelerate performance dramatically and introduce third-generation Max-Q technologies for thin and lightweight designs. GeForce RTX 30 Series Laptop GPUs deliver stunning ray-traced gaming experiences in Cyberpunk 2077 and other top titles, and enable creators to produce incredible content using hundreds of GPU-accelerated apps.
Acer’s Nitro and Aspire notebooks Acer’s new Nitro 5 gaming notebooks, plus its new Aspire 5 and 7 notebooks, powered by AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Mobile Processors are now available. With up to 8 cores of processing power, they combine low-power high-bandwidth memory with low power consumption and up to double the data rates achieved by the previous generation of RAM, making them ideal for the new Nitro and Aspire notebooks. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series Laptop GPUs, powered by the NVIDIA Ampere architecture, increase energy efficiency by up to 2x, accelerate performance dramatically and introduce third-generation Max-Q technologies for thin and lightweight designs. GeForce RTX 30 Series Laptop GPUs deliver stunning ray-traced gaming experiences in Cyberpunk 2077 and other top titles and enable creators to produce incredible content using hundreds of GPU-accelerated apps. www.pcr-online.biz
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The benefits of automation go far beyond productivity and workplace efficiencies Richard Eglon, Marketing Director at Agilitas explains how to the use automation to streamline your business.
ike big data, digital transformation, and Artificial Intelligence, automation has become a buzzword that we see routinely mentioned in countless articles, to the point where it is easy to take for granted the numerous possibilities it is able to unlock. However, even with automation projects now being earmarked to streamline so many operations, for some businesses, streamlined automation is still seen as an unattainable reality. Some corporate giants have made a success of implementing significant automation processes, but at the same time, there are others with dedicated departments and sizable budgets that can’t get their automation aspirations to be anything more than a pipedream. Smaller businesses are often ideally placed to incorporate automationled initiatives, but they simply don’t know where to start. However, with time and patience, the use of automation is massively beneficial to any business. Organisations seeking automation need to be realistic with their goals and resist the temptation to implement everything at once. Instead of focusing on the full picture, it is much better to break the job down into actionable and achievable parts. Increasing automation at Agilitas has meant spending more time improving processes proactively and enhancing the traditional reactive service desk environment. Automation capability is making the company much more intrinsic to its customers, and with the help of MORSE, Agilitas’ intelligent inventory management software platform, the company can integrate its customers’ systems, which is of huge benefit to a software-enabled hardware services business. Agilitas currently has six full-time developers working on customer system integration projects and this number is increasing, with automation driving its international ‘SMART logistics’ services to provide ‘planning-as-a-service’ to optimise availability of product. This also means customers reduce their CAPEX spend on products and move to a more agile OPEX/On Demand model. Using EDI and API integration between company systems and those of its customers has enabled Agilitas to transact a higher throughput of service calls as it has eliminated human intervention, such as call handling. This means when a request comes in from
the customer for a replacement technology spare, the request is automatically directed through the system to the most relevant logistics hub nearest to the customer site, allowing the part to arrive within agreed SLA. In some areas, this process is so efficient that the time from customer request to the spare part being picked and ready for delivery is less than 15 minutes.
“One thing that seems certain, is that if it can be automated, it will be.”
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Can anyone do it?
Automation may be a complex topic, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Yes, data volume makes an investment in automation easier to justify, and you may need some help to understand certain aspects. There are experienced professionals available in the market who can help make it easier to achieve. Contrary to what many people believe, automation is not trying to replace human jobs with ‘robots’. In fact, in a time when employees are thinking more about their workplace fulfilment levels, the technology can free them from tedious and repetitive administration tasks and allow their time to be refocused on projects that make better use of their skills. This not only boosts productivity but also engagement with just a few changes. When it comes down to it, automation processes save time and allow resources to be diverted elsewhere, therefore making companies more agile and requiring less staff simply administering routine tasks. However, the benefits of automation go far beyond staff productivity and workplace efficiencies, and have the potential to become a huge part of a firm’s scale-up strategy and enable businesses to grow quickly. Increased efficiency, productivity and lower costs all translate to healthier profit margins for businesses small and large, facilitating hyper-growth. How automation transforms the economy on a larger scale remains to be seen, but the future inevitably holds a lot more for automatic ways of working. What this really means for businesses, workers and consumers will be the subject of much debate going forward, especially in the current economic climate where automation would be advantageous. One thing that seems certain, is that if it can be automated, it will be. www.pcr-online.biz
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Why channel partners should embrace 5G now Kathy Quashie, Head of Indirect Business, Vodafone UK, discusses the 5G journey and the role partners have to play in maximising the available capability
here are two versions of 5G. The one we have now – consistently fast data speeds, to a growing range of consumer devices, across more and more towns and cities, reaching more people every day. And the one we could have in the future. The one that has the potential to deliver widespread change across UK industries. To make this a reality, partners have a fundamental role to play in helping more businesses understand 5G, and showing them how they can leverage it to deliver real impact – from driving efficiencies to improving customer service. That’s why right now is the perfect time for channel partners to embrace 5G.
The 5G opportunity
Vodafone launched 5G more than a year ago, when we switched on 5G in seven UK cities. Since then, we’ve added 5G to 57 more places in the UK and massively expanded coverage in those initial seven launch cities. The roll-out of Vodafone’s 5G network is bringing next-generation connectivity across the UK with the latest devices, offering much faster upload and download speeds than 4G – no matter the file size. This enables enhanced access to PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, videos and images. As well as the 5G mobile private network (MPN) we’re building with Ford at its electric car factory in Essex, we’re also building 5G MPNs for Centrica at one of its gas plants too. Furthermore, at Coventry University, we have built the first ‘standalone’ 5G network to facilitate interactive virtual teaching. It is the first time that 5G standalone technology has been used commercially in the UK. As we can see from these early 5G examples, the opportunity with the new technology is real. And channel partners will be able to offer customers new and wide-reaching solutions with real use cases to back up the visions. The evidence is mounting that 5G will enable businesses to work more quickly and efficiently, while increasing productivity and reducing costs. With the promise of transformative and innovative applications, it is clear that 5G presents a tremendous opportunity to re-engage existing customers, and break into new areas. There’s excitement in our industry, and in the vertical sectors that we increasingly serve. There’s a buzz, and partners are embracing the opportunity more and more. 14
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The risk of losing out on 5G
A report, commissioned by Vodafone, has found that upgrading the UK’s mobile infrastructure to 5G could be worth as much as £158billion to the economy over the next ten years, providing a much-needed financial boost to the country as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. The value of 5G and the changes that it can bring are, I believe, only heightened by the challenging times that we’re in. Connectivity is more important than ever, and the demand upon connections is greater than ever too. That, coupled with an accelerated desire for change and revolution, will drive 5G business cases at great speed. In this ‘connected’ landscape, businesses are looking for smarter ways to deliver a better customer experience and be more responsive to their customers’ needs. At the same time, they are having to evolve how they connect their own employees. Customers need to be at the forefront of their industries or risk being left behind. The same is true for all of us. We have to be able to provide the connectivity services that meet new demands, and that inspire new ways of working. Because if we don’t, we risk losing out to competitors who are able to offer 5G-enabled services. So, what can channel partners do now to ensure they remain ahead of the competition? Quite simply: they should start looking to build revenue streams with 5G, now. And to do that, they should be educating and inspiring customers of the technology’s many benefits. To address soaring expectations around fast connectivity today, channel partners need to be showing the impact that 5G can have, while also reminding people that there are simple ways to get started. 5G is not just MPNs and bespoke technology installations – all that’s needed to get started is a 5G-ready device and a 5G router. There isn’t even a need to swap a SIM! It is important for customers to be working with a partner who can adapt to the changing landscape, and help them on the 5G journey – perhaps starting small to show the reality, and then using market-leading early deployments to show the potential for their sector. Because, ultimately, it will be those channel partners who are fastest to embrace 5G and adapt to the change in demand that will gain the competitive advantage in 2021 and beyond. www.pcr-online.biz
The great content migration Steve Miller-Jones, VP edge computing and solutions architecture at Limelight Networks, outlines what he expects to see trending in 2021 including real-time streaming, 5G migration and content security
020 was a dramatic year for OTT content providers and content delivery networks (CDNs). The shift to online living and remote working resulted in a massive surge in demand for content – from streaming services, to online gaming and video conferencing solutions. Yet, despite the strain, the CDNs remained robust when it mattered most. As new content platforms go live, the priority won’t just be to deliver content – but to ensure the user experience is as innovative, low-latency and engaging as possible. The content we like to consume is changing. COVID-19 didn’t start the trend, but it has accelerated it. People – especially younger generations – are gravitating towards short-form content and realtime, data-intensive OTT services. They are beginning to expect more interactive experiences from their content, and that means larger data volumes and more pressure to reduce latency. The next generation of viewers won’t just consume real-time content, more and more they’ll interact with it. One area where this will be really prevalent is live sports. As sporting events returned to our screens this summer, several broadcasters experimented with new virtual offerings to make the real-time streaming experience more engaging. This experimentation will only increase in 2021. We can expect gambling integration and personalised services that provide alternative commentaries, live audio feeds from the referee’s mic, and crowd sounds for an authentic stadium experience. We will also see more features focused on social streaming, allowing friends to watch together. These features might be short-lived, but those that really engage audiences will remain and change how live streaming experiences are defined. We’re not there yet, but we’re approaching a model where the user controls the content experience for themselves. This of course will require real-time distribution of data from service providers. What this means is much more data delivered in a shorter window of time. This is especially true given growing demand for 4K content streaming. Efficient delivery of content will continue to be critical to the viewing experience, so providers will look for the best and most efficient standards and formats for the job. For example, techniques like Content Aware Encoding can create high quality video with lower overheads, helping keep costs under control.
5G will help content migrate to the edge
The continued rollout of 5G micro stations and antennas will www.pcr-online.biz
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bring forward the opportunity for bandwidth improvements. Most consumer devices on the market are still heavily 4G-dependent however, so the improvement will not be immediate. But in time, we’ll start to see consumer devices come out that can properly capitalise on the 5G spectrum. When this happens, consumers will be able to enjoy the higher bandwidth that 5G promises. The steady uptake of 5G devices will create greater opportunities for more data-rich experiences. There will also likely be an explosion in the amount of data generated by devices connected to the 5G network. This gives rise to the need to process that data closer to the end user, to deliver strong performance and an individualised experience while also reducing the costs of centralised processing. 5G creates more capacity at the network edge to deliver quality, data-intensive content experiences. However, capitalising on its potential will depend on close collaboration between telecommunications providers and CDNs. Telcos will need to consider where in the network to place the capacity to distribute content and process data most effectively. This will be important where users are demanding radically different kinds of content and using new data rich services. Fortunately, CDNs can enable them to determine the best network locations to service this demand. COVID-19 has created a fertile environment for cybercriminals. Lockdown didn’t just inspire a spate of ransomware attacks on remote workers, it fuelled attacks on business continuity and service infrastructure. DDoS attacks continue to be one of the most popular tools for hackers. While security priorities used to be confined to the protection of data, the scope will extend to the security of content services, intellectual property and streaming infrastructure in 2021. More steps will be taken to protect the infrastructure responsible for content creation. DDoS protection and perimeter security will receive greater investment, alongside new access control and user authentication measures. Zero trust between systems will become the default setting for many organisations to ensure content can’t be compromised from without or within. We’ll also see companies take steps to reduce the pirating of their content and identify illegal credential sharing by users. Techniques like forensic watermarking will be used to stop pirates from copying and distributing content illegally. CDNs will play an important role in identifying credential sharing, allowing publishers to confidently make decisions like blocking or banning the offending users easily.” February 2021 | 15
Electronic real-time payments as mandatory EU standard Valantic Financial Services Automation Head of Payment’s, Sertac Cetiner describes the approaching EU regulations that will affect real-time payments and how banks can find solutions for the technical challenges?
ast and secure cashless payment via mobile banking on smartphones has long been on the agenda of the European Union. Other payment providers such as PayPal have set a trend: Electronic payment in real time is an easy and comfortable payment method that will soon prevail at the point of sale. In the long term, real-time payments are likely to replace card payments. With instant payments, consumers can use real-time payments for transferring money within only a few seconds to the recipient’s bank account. The European commission aims for a full enforcement of a standard until the end of 2021. An EU strategy paper, which was published in September 2020 builds the basis for this. In addition, cashless payment is given a strong boost due to the Corona pandemic – a completely contact-free payment method at the cash desks in super markets and stores would outclass traditional card payments with PIN or signature. It is actually considered – and that is why banks should deal with this matter – to enforce an obligation for providing instant payments. Some Eastern European banks are already one step ahead and have prepared for the future by implementing appropriate software: Valantic Financial Services Automation is part of the technology company Valantic and with its focus on financial software it has equipped first banks in Eastern Europe with real-time payment systems and provided a possibility for digital payment requests called Request-to-Pay. Now several banks support nationwide realtime payments within less than five seconds. With payment requests sent from the recipient to the payer, instant payments can easily be initiated at the point of sale. For this purpose, valantic’s modular real-time payment hub has been modified and provided with gateways to the respectively existing system environment.
Contact-less payment was already a growth model before the Covid-19 pandemic: Since 2016 cashless and contact-free payment via giro card was possible and can be seen as a preliminary stage to mobile banking via smartphone. According to the National Association of German Cooperative Banks (BVR = Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken), a leader in German banking, the number of transactions via giro card has increased by up to 20 per cent per year. Analogous to the payments 16
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sector, bank-internal IT departments have experienced a paradigm shift. Automation and real-time processes, with a high cross-linking degree of the systems are not an option but a must-have. The path leads to a smart economy – the finance industry has to adopt new courses as well in order to meet customer expectations and market requirements with technological solutions such as instant payment and Request-to-Pay. Consumers have more trust in banks than in FinTechs and tech companies such as Google or Apple: This opinion is shared by 93 per cent of the respondents within a study by MX Technologies Inc. in the US (“The Ultimate Guide to the Future of Banking“). Banks should take this opportunity to maintain the long-term relation with its customer base. According to the study, whose results can certainly be transferred to Europe, more than 80 per cent of the surveyed people use mobile banking offers on a weekly basis. This technology is familiar and can easily be extended by Request-toPay or instant payment via the local bank. Only three per cent of the respondents see a chance in traditional bank branches. Banking will become a payment cloud – with high security standards and trust, but less personal presence in people’s lives. The future world of banking will, to a large extent, be digital and, together with the planned standards of the EU commission, a strong competition for all alternative payment service providers. The useful side effect: For banking services regulated by the EU, sensitive data regarding buying behaviour remain in Europe and are subject to European data protection. Whereas cash is still allowed in retail, payment service providers (PSP), and banks as well, should be obligated to offer real-time services – if necessary by law. After the expiry of the transition period for the provision of “SEPA Instant Credit Transfers“ in November this year, Brussels plans to check how many PSP and bank accounts are already available for instant payments. If the result does not meet the commission’s expectations, a draft law for the compulsory participation in the SCT Instant Scheme will be submitted by the end of 2021 in order to oblige payment providers to process instant payments. For banks, it is both an opportunity and an obligation: The promotion of the own digitisation strategy can and must be accelerated in order to respond to the real-time aspect and provide customers with the desired banking of the future. www.pcr-online.biz
Unlocking MSP Efficiency Through Service Automation Mike Wardell, CEO, Giacom, and Brian Hamel, CEO, Nuvolex, explain why advanced service automation and security both need to be at the forefront of any MSP’s cloud services delivery model
he world has seen three years’ worth of cloud adoption occur over the last six months. As a result, a majority of Managed Service Providers (MSP) have had to rapidly evolve their business models to ensure that they can support a cloud-first customer base and do so in a cost effective and secure manner. However, the ability to do this while also supporting their end users and a variety of cloud applications, all while providing a high quality service is proving to be quite a challenge. Historically, MSPs have had access to well-established tool sets that allow them to manage their existing customers’ on-premises hardware and software, as well as end user mobile devices – think RMM. Unfortunately, these tools are not built to support this new class of cloud-based applications. Because of this, an MSP’s transition to reselling cloud services to its customers is not that straightforward. This is causing many MSPs to completely rethink how they‘re going to deliver cloud-managed services to their customer base. Covid-19 was the catalyst to a massive global shift across all organisations to a remote workforce, and subsequently, a much more aggressive pace of SaaS adoption. The problem is that this shift happened so quickly that many MSPs were not fully prepared to heavily transition their existing on-premises services delivery model to this new cloud centric services delivery model. They required immediate administrative attention and support. Management of the Microsoft product suite was initially designed around the needs of the Enterprise – i.e. IT professionals managing hundreds or thousands of users in one organisation. As such, Microsoft does not provide a single Microsoft 365/Azure administration console for the MSP community to easily manage Microsoft 365 and Azure across their end customers. This resulting administrative inefficiency has overwhelmed most MSP Service Desks. Consequently, it has slowed down service remediation, which has caused senior IT staff to be on the receiving end of too many Microsoft cloud service escalations. In addition, it has also eroded MSP service margins by taking more time to complete common administrative tasks. This problem still exists today in a majority of MSPs. The reality is, management of the Microsoft product suite also extends to IT professionals supporting the channel, where they need to manage multi-tenants for several clients. With cloud-managed services being the new business model for the MSP, how can one build and scale a profitable cloud services business while providing a secure environment for its customers’ data? The key is adopting a cloud management platform that combines extensive service automation and advanced security policies – think Cloud RMM. Such a platform must have multi-tenant management capabilities at its core. This ‘single pane of glass’ administration console must allow for concurrent administration across all MSP end customers as well as
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the entire Microsoft cloud stack. In addition, the solution must enable MSPs to heavily automate the remediation of the most commonly recurring cloud service requests. More importantly, speedy remediation of these daily Microsoft 365 and Azure administrative tasks must occur at the service desk, removing the need for advanced knowledge of cloud administration portals and PowerShell scripting. Finally, such a solution must also include advanced Role Based Access Control (RBAC) capabilities.
Protecting Customer Data
Beyond inefficient administration that exists with the various Microsoft 365 administration portals, there are major security gaps as well. Today, every customer that an MSP service desk manages requires the MSP to hand out global administrator credentials to each service desk administrator. This must be done to administer any customer’s Microsoft 365 and Azure account. Beyond that, if the customer has users still residing in an on-premises AD environment, then AD access credentials must also be passed on to the Service Desk administrator staff. Both processes provide unlimited access to customer data, presenting a significant security flaw within each MSP. In 2019, over one-third of all security breaches were caused by insider threats – which could include exploiting administrator access to customer login credentials. To protect against such threats, MSPs must implement a cloud management solution that not only offers extensive service automation, but also includes advanced RBAC capabilities. In doing so, MSPs are then able to restrict the access rights of any individual service desk administrator at a granular level. This gives MSPs the ability to have full administrative control over their entire IT organisation, ensuring that each administrator has access only to the tenants, users, and cloud administrative functions specific to their role. MSPs cannot continue to hand out global administrator and AD administrator credentials to each IT administrator if they make protection of customer data a high priority. Those unfettered access rights must be preserved for the most senior IT administrators on the MSP staff. As MSPs transition to a cloud managed services business model, efficient and secure administration is imperative to the quality and efficiency of cloud services delivery. To provide a premium cloud service delivery to customers MSPs must look to implement a cloud management solution that heavily automates provisioning, de-provisioning and daily administration across all Microsoft cloud workloads. Additionally, they must find a solution that also increases their security posture, in order to properly protect customer data. The MSPs that fail to put in place the proper tools and procedures that include extensive service automation and advanced security will get left behind. February 2021 | 17
Epsilon has appointed Warren Aw as its Managing Director, AsiaPacific to lead its commercial strategy in the region. Aw joins Epsilon from Colt Technology Services where he was Country Director – Service Provider, Enterprise & Capital Markets, Sales. Aw brings more than 20 years of experience in sales in Asia to Epsilon’s senior management team, where he will help to develop and execute the company’s commercial plans and drive profitable growth in APAC. He will support Michel Robert, Chief Executive Officer at Epsilon, and other members of the management team outside of Singapore including Simon Waller, Regional Sales Director, to ensure that there is a consistent level of communication and alignment between all of the functions in Singapore, London and Sofia. Aw will also work closely with the leaders of shared functions (HR, Finance and Marketing) and business units (Data, Voice and Colocation) to ensure productive levels of engagement and clear objectives to drive the results for APAC.
Tech Data has appointed Mark Stewart as Independent Retail Channel Manager. He takes immediate responsibility for leading the team and building strong partnerships with retail customers of all sizes. Stewart spent the last five years as SMB Sales Manager and joined Tech Data ten years ago. He will lead a dedicated team that provides focused support and account management, ensuring that independent retailers take full advantage of the specialist services available from Tech Data. Stewart said: “I’m excited to be moving into this rapidly-growing area of our business. We have such a lot to offer and over the next few months we will be looking to strengthen our relationships and extend our services to more independent retailers and webstores.” 18 | February 2021
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This month’s movers and shakers in the tech industry...
Commvault has appointed John Tavares as Vice President, Global Channel and Alliances. In his new role, Tavares will be responsible for overseeing the growth of Commvault’s Global Partner Organisation and strengthening the company’s relationships with partners worldwide. Tavares joins Commvault from Dell EMC, where he worked in a variety of sales leadership roles, first for EMC and continuing through the merger with Dell, for the last 25 years. During his tenure with Dell EMC, Tavares grew the company’s data centre business encompassing software, hardware, and services, built a world-class sales team, and increased revenue year-over-year. “I am excited to bring my long-standing sales expertise to Commvault and aid the company in continuing to grow its reputation for providing trusted enterprise-grade data management solutions across the global channel,“ said Tavares. “The Global Partner Organisation has done some amazing things, especially during such uncertain times this past year. I look forward to building on this momentum and creating long-lasting partnerships that will truly benefit our customers.”
Softcat has appointed Louise Fellows as its new Public Sector Director. Following Ant Cowen’s recent move to Sales Director, Fellows will assume leadership of the company’s public sector team from January 2021. Ant Cowen says: “We are delighted to welcome Louise Fellows into the Softcat family. Louise brings with her a wealth of public sector knowledge and experience that will further enhance the business moving forward. Louise will be a fantastic asset to our team and will help us continue the strong sales, culture and success in public sector whilst bringing innovation and experience to the sales leadership team.” Louise Fellows adds: “I am excited to be joining Softcat at a time when its public sector business is going from strength to strength and I am looking forward to helping develop, support and drive the future growth of the public sector division.” www.pcr-online.biz
advertorial by QBS Software
Time to double down on remote and online cyber threat From delivery scams to ransomware, get ready for another year of malicious attacks at home and work
aspersky threat intelligence detected 360,000 new malicious files every day on average last year, including a growing share of Trojan type worms that can steal or destroy information on a computer or mobile device. Behind this statistic is an array of different attacks - from delivery payment scams and phishing for online banking details, to backdoor attacks and ransomware. “During the year, 10.18% of Internet user computers worldwide experienced at least one malware-class attack,” Kaspersky confirms, in its annual security bulletin. Delivery payment scams are increasingly common, for example. These often begin with a phishing attempt by email that spoofs a request from a courier or delivery service. “According to the notification, an order could not be delivered because of an incorrect address, extra charges for unforeseen expenses, or some other vaguely plausible reason,” Kaspersky says. The request typically looks like a real message, with the recipient asked to pay a small sum to guarantee delivery. Many people can be tempted to simply click and pay or even supply personal information such as card or banking details. According to Kaspersky, insisting on best practices on deliveries and installing a reliable, regularly updated Internet security solution such as Kaspersky Total Security, or Kaspersky Internet Security, are the best ways to keep safe. Top tips on staying safe online Cybercriminals are seeking to take advantage of the fact that people are spending more time online, often at home whether working or relaxing, and the coming year will likely look a little different as pandemic restrictions continue in many parts of the world. The best ways to keep safe online and across all the computers and smartphones either at home or work aren’t just about technology - they include staying informed of the latest threats and tactics used by cyber criminals. * Read up on common tricks such as social engineering. Attackers often use deceptive messaging to trick you into opening a malicious document or link. (For the latest information, Kaspersky’s Daily Blog and Securelist can be great places to start).
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* Keep all software patched and updated, including your operating system and mobile devices. Fraudsters and other cybercriminals often target known vulnerabilities. * Adopt security solutions that can send both known and asyet-undetected threats packing. Choose the best solution for your needs -- such as Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security. * Back up all your data regularly. Make extra copies of important information and store these separately, for example by backing up to portable hard drives or SSDs that can be disconnected from your computer network to keep them inaccessible. * In addition, the right channel partners -- such as QBS Software - will always be on hand to assist with any queries or special requirements in the ever-changing world of cybersecurity. Partner up to fight online threat Teaming up with distribution experts in software like QBS, with extensive knowledge on more than 9000 publishers from large corporate solutions to small-to-medium business needs and consumer software, means retailers and resellers will always have access to personalised support and marketing assistance. Kaspersky’s Nikolay Pankov warns ransomware is on the rise for example. The potential for bumper profits from ransomware has led cybercriminals to behave ever more brashly. “One day they position themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods by investing in charity, the next they fund an ad campaign to further harass victims,” Pankov says. Individuals and firms alike need cybersecurity that’s a step ahead with AI-driven protection against hackers and cyberthreats, including the latest viruses, malware, ransomware and spyware - all while allowing resellers to make margin, with programmes and promotions available to maximise sell-through. February 2021 | 19
PCR talks to Exertis’ Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, Vish Chhatralia about its latest digital strategy What does your role as Chief Digital and Marketing Officer involve?
I’ve been at Exertis just over a year now and I’m responsible for devising and implementing our digital strategy – focusing on customer experience, marketing, digital services and operational efficiencies to drive frictionless trade and expansion of digital technologies across our organisation. This digital transformation will allow us to make better, quicker, real-time decisions based on data: understanding and anticipating the market better than ever before and driving more value for our customers. Ninety-per-cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years and becoming a more data-driven digital business allows us to become more creative in our thinking, more precise in our execution and more customerfocused in everything we do. This involves every aspect of the business: how we go to market, how customers trade and the data we use to make better decisions, as well as helping all of our people become more digitally literate. All of this will make us a digitally fit organisation and help us to win. 20
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How do you define ‘digital transformation’?
We believe we have an exciting opportunity, which gives us the chance to be of genuine value to society. Digital is a powerful way of making that happen, helping us evolve the way we go to market, and the way we use data to make real-time intelligent decisions. It’s all about leveraging digital technology to enhance all aspects of our business and how we do things. The digital transformation has of course been well under way for many years, but 2020 and Covid-19 has drastically accelerated the movement of many consumer’s behaviour online. This presents challenges to our industry, but it’s also a huge opportunity to drive new innovations and efficiencies, as well as working with our customers and through our large portfolio of value-add services, helping them to adapt to live in the more digital-first, post-crisis world. Our recently launched Cloud Services Proposition is just one example of this. Digital gaming is another. The more we can use data to decide how we are going to deliver value, the more successful we will be.
thebiginterview What does Exertis’ digital transformation journey look like?
Exertis has grown a lot over the last few years and driving digital innovation and transformation globally is a key strategy. This is a very much a real team effort across the business, and we have lots of super-dynamic people driving it right across the business. This aspect is key: we’re building a digital business, not just a digital function. We’re starting to do some really exceptional digital marketing, with powerful digital propositions like our Cloud proposition and Ztorm (to name just two). We’re also starting to use data in more powerful ways, as well as working on recruitment and development to drive a more digitally literate talent base and culture. We launched Exertis Cloud at the end of last year and this is an important part of the company’s wider digital journey, focusing on customer experience, innovative marketing and digital services to drive trade, as well as the expansion of digital services across the organisation. We also executed a major migration for the business onto SAP, which also helps in giving us better access to the data on how we can drive value for customers. The bigger goal is a fit and agile culture: fast decision-making informed by data; people working cross-functionally, and above all, a business culture that constantly puts the customer at the heart of decision making.
truly innovate and exchange ideas. Where we have more diversity, we see within our organisation that we have better and more nonlinear ideas and innovation, which in turn drives growth.
Tell me more about Exertis’ new D&I initiatives?
The new initiatives have been introduced to ensure we design a working environment that is inclusive and diverse. The initiatives are to be driven by a diversity steering group, with representatives from teams and roles in every region we operate in, aiming to share and learn from best practices across the group. Managers have been provided with a diversity and inclusion toolkit and are committed to delivering a demonstrable contribution towards diversity representation within their area of the business. As a business, we’ve made two big strides, one is recruitment: senior roles have been recruited with a greater focus on bringing in new members from diverse backgrounds, with increases in female talent and talent from ethnic backgrounds. Second is our ‘always on’ education and communication programme focused on the importance of diversity and what we can do as an organisation to better understand and encourage diversity in recruitment, everyday operations and as a leader. We are in unprecedented times and the pace of change will only continue to get faster. In these times it will be those that are able to see and empathise with their customers’ needs who will win. We must continue to build a diverse organisation, which matches the diversity of those customers and partners who we serve. We believe we have the opportunity to bring technology and innovation to the market which really helps people, businesses and society to grow and progress. It’s also, simply, the right thing to do.
“We believe we have an exciting opportunity, which gives us the chance to be of genuine value to society.”
Why is the shift to digital so important?
It’s central to the way society is changing. Every year more data is created than ever before, and the speed at which the culture moves – with new companies appearing and successfully establishing themselves in the market quicker than ever – is digitally driven and requires digital expertise to understand and respond to it. The biggest reason the digital shift is important is because it allows us to put the customer at the heart of everything, through insight and data. Innovation and disruption are happening at breakneck pace, and we are working in an environment where only the fast-paced and customer-obsessed will win.
Does digital transformation affect the culture of a business, and if so, how do you manage change for employees?
Digital transformation affects all aspects of our business and it’s really important for all employees to be on board. Exertis has a progressive culture, and our people really are at the forefront of our business. We’ve recently implemented a new set of diversity and inclusion initiatives as the business is driven by an understanding that diversity makes an organisation stronger. Diversity also means diversity of thought: more diverse and inclusive organisations are in a position to allow all their people to www.pcr-online.biz
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Do you think that all things digital will continue growing after Covid?
The picture for the channel is positive overall and the trend towards all things digital will continue. Customers preferences will have changed: working styles have become more flexible, and many of these factors will not return to the way they were pre-Covid. In this new landscape, Cloud and unified communications (UC) are major growth opportunities. Looking forward, there may be more emphasis on moving computing off-premise to the cloud, and businesses preserving cashflow by opting to pay monthly for the cloud server space they use or deciding to rent or lease devices such as smartphones. Whatever way our partners want to adapt to this shifting landscape, we will be there offering meaningful solutions to help them do it. Gaming will also continue to be a great success story. The gradual shift of consumers’ buying habits into the digital space has been massively accelerated by the pandemic. By embracing that change fully and providing services and tools that help our partners and customers to embrace it too, we can grow, add value to our customers, and win. February 2021 | 21
Finding the piece that fits In a virtual roundtable PCR talks to Dave Stevinson, Group CEO, QBS Technology, David Tulip, Managing Director of Network Group & Technology To Go, Mike Buley, Chief Sales Officer at exertis and Ben Allcock, Commercial Director, TP-Link UK Ltd. about forging strong vendor relationships, maximising business opportunities through industry partnerships and how to maintain the competitive edge in the current challenging business climate. 22
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e are all missing a good industry together, as this is of course when some of the greatest ideas and best business is done. In PCR’s virtual roundtable with key industry veterans including the likes of tech channel distributor, QBS Technology, Network Group, dealer service and tech channel distributors, exertis and TP-Link here is some of what came up in the discussion:
What’s the key to success within the tech industry?
Dave Stevinson: “Without a shadow of doubt the tech sector is very hot right now with some huge valuations especially on Nasdaq. The key to success is to be the dominant operator in a clearly defined niche. Relating this back to the tech channel – I would determine exactly where you intend to compete in the industry and then specifically how you are going to win. It is a genuinely tough industry with astronomically huge prizes for success!” David Tulip: “The most successful tech companies see greatest results when working openly and honestly. In the MSP space this is largely about customer service – having open conversations with customers and adding value through their role as trusted advisors; ultimately, its about forming and www.pcr-online.biz
maintaining trusted relationships throughout the entire supply chain - with vendors, suppliers and customers.” Mike Buley: “The tech industry is constantly evolving and adapting, whether that means new products coming to market to enhance consumers’ experiences at home, or products that enable working from home during the pandemic. “The key to success is ensuring that your business is continually growing and adapting with the industry, ultimately ensuring you’re giving your customers what they want and adding value wherever possible. “It’s undeniable that the shift to online spending is on the increase, and retailers need to keep up in order to stay profitable.” Ben Allcock: “Success comes back to the 80/20 rule. You need to nurture long term relationships built on mutual trust and respect. It’s important to keep a close eye on the ever shifting economic and technology landscape to understand how your customer needs are changing. At the end of the day people buy from people which means successful businesses need excellent customer service and a culture of continuous improvement to build mutually profitable and lasting relationships.”
How can companies not just survive but thrive?
Dave Stevinson: “There are many ways – First I would say pick a market which is big enough to matter but small enough to have relevance in it. Understand the barriers to entry, drivers of growth, market idiosyncrasies and when in it - listen hard to the stakeholders to create value in the eyes of the customer. In my business we focus on delivering a fast reliable and responsive service with software and services to solve the business problems for our clients’ clients.” David Tulip: “With the impact of Covid-19 and shift to ‘work-fromhome’, it’s fair to say there’s never been a more challenging time for tech providers, coping with not only increased demand, but also with increased expectation. Services and packages have changed overnight, with MSPs previously supporting one site with 10-users suddenly supporting ten sites, each with individual users with varying infrastructure. Operationally, the ‘new normal’ becomes increasingly complex, simultaneously supporting in-office personnel and a remote workforce. “In order to continue to grow and meet market demand, it’s important to have good relationships with your vendor partners and maximise all that they have to offer – there is a vast amount of help and support available to businesses in the current lockdown/ health pandemic – from advise and training to financial assistance and help making any necessary investments in your business. I’d also recommend tuning into peer groups to stay current on new ideas, share best practice and access preferential pricing.” Pictured from top: Dave Stevinson, David Tulip, Mike Buley, Ben Alcock www.pcr-online.biz
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Mike Buley: “In order to be successful, companies need to ensure they are putting their customers at the centre of their business model. It’s so important to be proud of the service, support and value that you offer your customers and understanding customer needs is at the core of this. “Offering great service will ensure business thrives and that February 2021 | 23
“We expect that digital transformation and automation will continue to be huge opportunities into 2021 and companies need to be onboard with this shift.”
customers come back time and time again. Sometimes things will go wrong but it’s how you go about fixing things that’s important. “That’s why we’re more focused than ever on our people. Since adding value and providing world-class service and support are more important than ever, it’s vital that we support and empower our people to nurture and develop those relationships with customers they truly understand. “We expect that digital transformation and automation will continue to be huge opportunities into 2021 and companies need to be onboard with this shift.” Ben Allcock: “2020 tested the most agile organisations. The macro environment shifted and continues to change rapidly, we found that an empowered and committed team enabled individuals to come up with innovative solutions so we were able to respond quickly and take advantage of market opportunities.”
we’re fully committed to investing time and training into our people. “Our culture is so important, and we have recently implemented diversity and inclusivity initiatives, because we recognise that diversity makes an organisation stronger. A diverse workforce with equal representation supports the development of an excellent, progressive company culture. “The health and wellbeing of our people is also more important than ever, and we encourage open conversations around mental and physical health. For any company to succeed you need thriving employees, there is no doubt that focusing on employee health and wellness contributes heavily to an individual’s overall engagement and performance within the company.”
What’s the key to differentiation?
Dave Stevinson : “The key is to engineer the product and/or marketing to have certain attributes that a defined niche is willing to choose over one’s competition. Yet it is easy to differentiate – but being better is better!” David Tulip: “I think this is largely about understanding your customers and being present to support them. You may know what services you provide but what does VALUE really mean to your customers? What are their real needs? When we connect with customers on an emotional and human level, we can understand their needs and move with them and the market. It also allows us to recognise when relationships need to change and deepen – for example, back in March when there was a sudden reliance on MSPs for core IT support, clients were also looking for best practice ideas and tips on remote working. Those who fared best acted with integrity and demonstrated empathy with customers. We’d encourage MSPs to be proactive, maintain open lines of communication, and above all be human and strive to do the right thing.” Mike Buley: “Again, our key differentiator is our people. We have a 200-strong retail team here at Exertis and 24
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Ben Allcock: “During uncertain times customers will naturally favour organisations where they have had a positive experience. Offering great customer service and building a customer first culture throughout the organisation enables the organisation as a whole to focus on efficiency and delivering flexible solutions that customers really want.”
How has the channel evolved over recent months/years?
Dave Stevinson: “There has been more consolidation, the big resellers have got very big and the value of distribution has reached an all time high. Delivery platforms are becoming more critical than ever before with the surge www.pcr-online.biz
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in RPA. It is important to recall that almost every tech company has benefitted hugely from the surge in demand for product, software and services due to remote working and lockdown.” David Tulip: “I think we’ve seen an extreme acceleration of digital transformation, with plans advancing by ~5 years in a matter of just months. Businesses that saw remote working as impossible or only of limited use before, have had to engage with it, dragging them into the 21st century—and they’ve seen that the technology does work. ‘Work-from-anywhere’ is now no longer a future possibility or a temporary solution, but a working practice that will likely become permanent. “With work-from-home and digital education at the fore, we’re seeing a shift in the way tech happens e.g. from on-premise to cloud based security, from phone systems to PC/mobile calls. And with the explosion of cloud adoption comes the challenge of cybersecurity and accelerating cyber-attacks…MSPs will certainly have their work cut out in 2021.” Mike Buley: “Since Covid-19 hit, we have seen a solidifying of working from home practices and a huge and transformational shift to online. Exertis saw an increased level of demand for essential IT equipment
during lockdown. We played a critical role in supplying consumer goods to UK businesses and customers, so people were well equipped to stay safe, socially distance and work from home. “We are a significant part of the UK’s supply chain, and this meant we were supporting online businesses which remained fully operational, and helping to keep the economy moving, whilst fully complying with government initiatives and regulation. “Over the last year, we’ve evolved our bundle
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propositions and drop ship services as our priority is to continuously deliver innovative solution-led services for partners.” Ben Allcock: “In lots of ways but fundamentally speed, efficiency and customer expectations. We’ve all witnessed the transition of on-line buying behaviour throughout the supply chain in recent years, the pandemic has sped this up exponentially and forced businesses to adapt. Return on capital and stock management is more important than ever so again speed, efficiency and good customer service will be vital over the coming months/years.”
What key steps should be considered when establishing new tech partnerships within the channel?
Dave Stevinson: “Focus on where the growth will be. That involves looking down the field, taking bold steps to anticipate the future and acting on it.” David Tulip: “There is more choice today than ever before, and finding the right partners and support can be a minefield – with any business defining decision, I would look for a shared alignment of values and culture… when these things marry up, the chances of having a collaborative relationship for the long haul, rather than a transactional one is far greater. “In the MSP space, businesses are being asked to do more, be more transparent, and provide service faster despite increasing complexity. Those considering making investments in their businesses to better scale and meet business outcomes should take a strategic and comprehensive approach, with the aim of shaping deeper partnerships. “Don’t underestimate the benefit of peer support when considering partnerships for the future. The benefits of engaging in a community of like-minded individuals can be immeasurable – collaboration, shared experiences, developmental tools and new opportunities - there really is strength in numbers.” Ben Allcock: “Last year has revolutionised the world of work. It has forced a massive shift to remote working and home working. Along-side massive efficiencies, it has also highlighted technological issues relating to bandwidth and managing the demand on home networks. There is no question that hybrid working practices are here to stay which means organisations need to be thinking about the policies, procedures and technology required to maximise the new working landscape that puts SaaS, video conferencing and home working firmly on the map.”
Here are some of the most interesting stats and facts from the tech channel…
Mobile gaming is on track to surpass $120 billion in consumer spend in 2021, according to a new report by App Annie, which will capture 1.5x of the overall gaming market. 2020 accelerated mobile adoption as consumers used their mobile devices to connect, work, learn, play and escape despite COVID-19 restricting their way of life. Consumers spent $143 billion on mobile apps in 2020, an increase of 20% from 2019. Top markets driving this spend included China, United States, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
A survey by MobileIron found that 86% of respondents scanned a QR code over the course of the previous year and over half (54%) reported an increase in the use of such codes since the pandemic began. Respondents felt most secure using QR codes at restaurants or bars (46%) and retailers (38%). Two-thirds (67%) believe that the technology makes life easier in a touchless world and over half (58%) wish to see it used more broadly in the future. In just the area of discount coupons, an estimated 1.7 billion coupons using QR codes were scanned globally in 2017, and that number is expected to increase by a factor of three to 5.3 billion by 2022. In just four years, from 2014 to 2018, the use of QR codes on consumer product packaging in Korea and Japan increased by 83%. Over 2 in 5 (41%) of SME leaders responsible for IT say their mental health has been negatively affected by the impact of the pandemic on their business. This comes as over a third (33%) of SME leaders in the IT sector said their business confidence for 2021 was low, new research by the Small Business Charter, for the Small Business Leadership Programme has found. Almost half (42%) of SME leaders in the IT sector said they were concerned about redundancies in their business going into 2021. There is increasing concern for SME leaders’ mental health as COVID-19 restrictions continue throughout England. 41% of SME leaders responsible for IT are concerned about their negative mental health, with SME leaders in the sector citing low business confidence (33%) and concern about going into administration (47%) in 2021 as key worries. www.pcr-online.biz
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Just 6% of British shoppers are planning to buy business suits in 2021, found a new survey conducted by Brightpearl, on Covid’s impact on spending. Just 8% of shoppers had made a ‘big ticket’ purchase since the initial lockdown (March 2020) such as a car. Only one in 20 consumers (5%) are looking to buy luxury apparel such as designer handbags over the next twelve months. Just 6% are looking to spend on luxury watches, jewellery and fine art in the same timeframe. Overall, luxury spending is likely to be down by 24% in 2021.
Prolifics Testing has found that Swedes (92%) are most likely to contact the police if they fall victim to online identify theft. In second position, 86% of Dutch citizens would notify the police if they were a target of online identity theft. Among the other European countries where 80% or more citizens would alert the police if a victim of online identity theft includes Finland (83%), Denmark (81%) and Spain (80%), respectively ranking third, fourth and fifth. UK is in twelfth place, as 68% of Brits would get in touch with the police if they fall prey to online identity theft. February 2021 |
A little bit of creative thinking GEKKO’s managing director, Daniel Todaro explores how brands can still engage the senses in a socially distanced world
he ability to engage all the senses has been an integral part of building brands for the past hundred years, particularly considered ones. Yet the separating nature of the pandemic and the rise of ecommerce means they are in danger of losing their ability to engage all the senses. In a world of stay at home measures, social distancing and reduced browsing opportunities, brands need a new approach to content and user interaction.
The immersive Considered Purchase experience
Considered purchases from brands have always succeeded through their ability to provide an immersive experience for consumers. From wonderful content, an alluring product display and beautiful fixtures, all set in welcoming locations. Of course complemented by the soothing voice of a sales expert who provides a customer with their full-undivided attention. It is a magic formula that helps make a premium price tag seem justified, enhancing a brand’s reputation and the customer journey. So in a world of social distancing, how can brands adapt and still create memorable customer experiences leading 28
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to sales; particularly in a world where our opportunities to physically touch and engage with brands have been so reduced? A customer has to be taken on a journey, their imagination needs to be fired up and enough interest and excitement should be created to inspire them to make a purchase.
The trusted voice of an expert
Key to this is ‘voice’: Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success. Having an advisor who truly understands the product and can close a sale is key, even if this is on the phone in a world of dramatically reduced football. We have also identified a clear pandemic trend of ‘shopping with purpose’ when retail is allowed to open. People are looking to make less trips but ensure they have something to show for it. Therefore, a human expert who has the empathy to respond to a customer’s specific needs should be deployed to maximum effect. This is something that cannot be replicated with product information on a website. With these advisors the key advocate for the brand - the process of training these experts needs to be thought through. www.pcr-online.biz
Advising the Advisors
The way to engage these advisors needs to be reimagined and adhering to Covid secure protocols. Brands should focus on reaching these experts through virtual methods. Without the ability to deliver a message face to face, they need to make the experience as immersive and engaging as possible. Training should be gamified and linked to rich online content from their websites. In a single week during the UK’s second lockdown, Gekko engaged with 1,476 participants from a major retailer, all done virtually, covering six unique brands across different categories. The online sessions were created with the audience in mind and covering an average of 24 products the retailer needed to know about. This approach meant we could actually reach more people than we could ever have in person. It activated an army of advocates to help close vital sales. Engaging, fun and energetic content and interaction that made the difference on this occasion, which successfully went on to see record sales on considered purchases.
limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. In a ‘purpose-driven’ world, we’ve been able to see increases of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale. There is a golden opportunity for brands to engage all the senses with a shopper determined to make a purchase.
A new vision for brands
Imprinting a memory
To complement the advisor, the visual experience is more important than ever when browsing opportunities may be reduced due to hygiene measures. Ensure you are able to bring a product to life visually with great lighting, an appealing display and clearly labeled offers. Once they have been enticed in, keep it straightforward, clean, stand back, encourage play (in a Covid secure manner) and keep a great conversation going using open questions to find out more about the customer’s likes and dislikes and needs. When it does come to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the
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Finally, brands should ensure they leave a strong imprint on the ‘memory’. The reality is people are far more likely to remember a bad experience with a brand, so ensure you minimise any opportunity for negative feedback. Don’t leave a poor display or have missing product information. Ensure the product is always demo or display ready. No customer should leave disappointed. Even if it isn’t in stock, the advisor should be able to order it online with the customer able to click and collect or have it posted out. Particularly given the customer’s likely desire to minimise further trips. Similarly, the customer journey shouldn’t end at the point of agreeing the sale. Their hand should be held (metaphorically not literally in today’s world), until the transaction. Advisors should also be on hand to answer any follow up questions about the use of the product once taken home. Often these questions only spring to a customer’s mind after the actual sale has been agreed. The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the glue that binds a customer to a brand for the long term. This is much harder to achieve online and crucially never as memorable for a customer in a price-driven environment with far more fickle brand loyalty. Being forced to do things differently and really focus on new creative ways to engage customers is no bad thing. Those that are able to do this effectively and engage all the senses will see the benefit when the good times return. February 2021 | 29
Hearing is believing PCR talks to Torben Christiansen, Director of Technology at EPOS to find out what 2021 will sound like and some of the trends we can expect on the audio horizon
he face of audio tech is evolving, and we’re witnessing remarkable changes – from the rise of voice assistants and AI embedded into audio equipment, to wireless earbuds with biometric capabilities. Torben Christiansen, Director of Technology at EPOS – a premium audio brand highlights the trends set to shape 2021 and beyond.
Please could you start by telling me a bit about EPOS?
Based on leading and advanced technologies, EPOS is a Danish founded company delivering high-end audio and video solutions for business professionals and the gaming community, with design, technology and performance as paramount parameters. EPOS was established in November 2019 as a result of the decision to let the business segments of the joint venture – known as Sennheiser Communications – between Sennheiser electronic
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GmbH & Co. KG and Demant A/S evolve into different set-ups. EPOS is part of the Demant Group – audio and hearing technology group. It builds on more than 115 years of experience of working with innovation and sound. The EPOS headquarters are in Copenhagen, Denmark with the company operating in a global market with offices and partners in more than 30 countries.
Focusing on audio devices what new solutions do you see on the horizon? Although wireless solutions have been common for some time, there is no doubt that we’re heading towards a true wireless future in enterprise with products across the board. Consumers now expect the same convenience they experience with everyday technology in the workplace. Over the next year and beyond, we can anticipate greater cross functionality with professional and lifestyle audio devices.
However, the major challenge for enterprise products will come down to quality – what might work for listening to a podcast won’t suit individual’s professional needs. While there has been great progress, the technology standard needed to facilitate enterprise requirements is still in its infancy. For instance, when it comes to quality of voice pick up, if we consider the true wireless market today, you might find that 99% of the available products, ‘voice pick up’ technology is adequate but far from perfect. Big tech and audio players have their sights set on addressing this gap because they understand that for businesses; the 0.5% of what you miss during a call becomes 100% of your concern. Beyond establishing cross-functionality, voice pick-up technologies will become an increasingly important part of their next big bet – services by voice, which by nature, necessitate quality.
How is the audio market set to grow over the coming year, what changes are you seeing?
Over the last few months a clear opportunity for education has emerged - businesses simply do not have extensive knowledge of the audio solutions available for the workplace. For 20% of organisations EPOS surveyed who have decreased spending in audio equipment over the last two years, this decrease in investment is rationalised by the expectation that staff will either bring their own devices or use their devices’ in-built audio. While this might be functional it risks quality and activates a myriad of negative audio experiences employees report daily, including background noise, interference and poor quality. All of which ultimately can impact bottom line. This is largely because many companies are yet to fully realise and recognise the benefits that effective audio collaboration technology brings to day-to-day working life. It not only enhances performance, but also improves employee wellbeing, which is quickly becoming a key differentiator for job seekers. While it might be tempting to choose cheaper collaboration tools at a time where budgets are constrained, this can be a false economy – causing a reduction in efficiency and productivity, and potentially needing to be replaced quickly. Opting for solutions that are digitally advanced – using features such as proactive noise cancellation or artificial intelligence for enhanced voice pick up - help employees to feel more connected and heard, www.pcr-online.biz
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Torben Christiansen, Director of Technology at EPOS and this is particularly important in a time where the workforce is so dispersed.
What solutions has EPOS worked on?
Today’s workforce demands audio that enhances the working experience to ensure we deliver results. AI is increasingly become a part of this, from integrated voice assistants to adaptive audio. AI technology has been the foundation of our newest flagship headset, the ADAPT 660. Our research and development team created EPOS AI, a tiny yet powerful network that we’ve established using deep learning. This being a subset of machine learning in which artificial neural networks, algorithms inspired by the human brain, learn from large amounts of data similar to how we learn from experience. The deep learning algorithm performs a task repeatedly, each time altering it a little to improve the outcome. Using this technique allows EPOS AI to distinguish human voices from other external sounds. Now, whether you’re in a busy café, in a car, or just a loud open-plan office, EPOS AI and the adaptive noise reduction technology we’ve developed continuously optimises the pick-up of the user’s voice helping them to be heard February 2021 | 31
clearly. Coupled with the ADAPT 660’s active noise cancelling technology, this dampens noise from surroundings into the users’ ears allowing them to focus on work without interference.
What have been the biggest challenges this year and which technologies have become most essential in addressing them?
When we think of collaboration tools, you might first think of Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. But, underpinning all these functions is, of course, the audio experience. Businesses are going through a challenging time, with many companies seeing a negative impact as a result of the current health landscape, but if they want to meet the challenge and thrive, they need to recognise that working with good quality communications solutions is one of the critical investments you really need to make to stay competitive. What’s also apparent is that smart investments in technology solutions and equipment carries with it a degree of future proofing both in terms of your investments but also their appeal to younger, more tech savvy employees. We know that younger users have a greater awareness of communication points. No two individuals are the same so why should we blanket collaboration tools? For instance, for hard-core performance, you might need bigger ear cups for noise cancelling; others will prefer lightweight headsets. Getting the right audio equipment for the individual user and task is key to getting better results from your employees.
How is augmented reality tech evolving in the audio industry?
New tech is giving us more control over how we experience reality. For instance, Augmented reality (AR) technologies allow users to alter what they see, hear and even feel. Hearables, for example, adjust ambient audio frequency levels and block out urban sounds. As interest in AR/VR (virtual reality) continues to grow so too will consumer curiosity. In 2021 and beyond the integration of smart features will be normalised in headphones. As an extension of this, the capabilities of AR hearables will grow in sophistication, with features like real-time translation. Live translation is becoming highly attractive to consumers. In 2017, 71% of global consumers were interested in the concept of using earphones that translate languages. Based on this interest, Foresight Factory estimates that by 2030, 20% of global consumers will have used this technology and overall interest will increase to 77% globally. These voice driven features all rely on high quality voice/speech pickup. Clear speech and reliable audio will be fundamental to trustworthy translations going forward.
How is voice tech accelerating over video tech?
Research from the Foresight Factory reveals that it’s here to stay with 60% of global Generation Z are using voice notes in messaging apps in 2020, and 75% of German Gen Zs. In today’s changing world, voice notes offer an antidote to the fear that emails, texts and instant messaging rob conversations of emotional nuance. Bringing emotional to the digital. With so much time spent looking at screens or watching videos, at work and at home, screen usage is increasingly leading to visual fatigue. Individuals globally are looking for less screen time and audio 32
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offers a solution that is not only convenient but also personal. We are set to become increasingly accustomed to voice notes and will continue to associate voices with authenticity and intimacy. There are also obvious convenience elements to consider - voice notes can be created on the go and facilitate multitasking.
Can you tell me a bit more about virtual voice assistants?
The impetus behind the shift towards voice user interfaces is due to changed user demands. There is more awareness and a higher level of comfort to use voice to communicate demonstrated specifically by millennial consumers. We have seen a huge uptake in voice assistants use recently, having transitioned from quirky apps to the mainstream, moving from mobile devices and smart speakers to almost any device you can now think of. According to ComScore, next year 50% of all online searches will be performed with voice search. Voice has become synonymous with convenience as well as a more intimate and authentic consumer interaction. The Foresight Factory found that 36% of US consumers already own or have access to a smart home assistant. Smart assistants will become a gatekeeper to entertainment. Entertainment brands must consider the role of smart assistants in the consumer path to engagement – particularly in the discovery phase. Beyond entertainment, 2021 will be marked by the entry of voice assistants in enterprise.
How are wearable and hearable devices impacting user health and wellbeing?
For some time, there has been talk of wearable and hearable devices with heart rate monitoring capabilities. At EPOS, we understand that beyond specific biometric tools like heart rate monitors we can focus on what sound tells us instead. In theory, audio has the potential to provide us with several insights about the user, including breathing, speech and movement patterns. While biometric sensors go some of the way, there are still untapped ways of making sense of what audio is already telling us. In the future we might see an increase in EEG brain measurement of the auditory system where audio solutions are able to sense and measure individual voices within a conversation and focus on who is talking to enhance the listener experience. In responding to this, the audio device might be able to intervene to adjust levels of volume to enable one person to appear louder than the other. Another component of future wellbeing, which we believe will become increasingly important in 2021 and beyond centers around the impact of sound on our emotional and physical wellbeing. If a person is exposed to interruptive sounds - “bad audio” - this can lead to a build-up of stress over time. Disruptive sounds can cause ‘micro-frustrations’, which, when experienced daily, can contribute to a bigger and more concerning impact on our overall wellbeing. Our EPOS research shows that 95% of today’s workforce admits that their concentration and efficiency at work has suffered due to audio setbacks, resulting in an emotional impact with 35% reporting feelings of annoyance due to bad audio. As we continue to work from home, there’ll be an increased awareness of the impact disruptive audio can have on our emotional wellbeing and force businesses to earmark spend on high quality audio solutions for their employees. www.pcr-online.biz
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Top 5 Tech Northamber’s Tony Price Northamber’s Director of Solutions, Tony Price tells PCR what the five pieces of technology are that have shaped his personal and professional life.
CAR PHONE & BRICK
At the very beginning of my career, when I was young and fresh, I started as an Operations Assistant for a private air charter company. I was basically on call and had to respond quickly when flights were needed to be booked last minute. So, I had one of the first car phones that was fixed in the car and then this huge “brick” for when I was out of the car, so I could receive calls out of normal office hours to arrange flights for emergency transplants!
How many people remember when the Internet was a new thing? Actually the timing was perfect, as I owe a lot to the Internet throughout my career. At the time I was asked to start a company called WStore that was the first B2B online reseller in the UK. We built most of our systems on the web, giving us real time content and easier configuration and purchasing. In hindsight that was a good call, it gave us competitive advantage and stood us in good stead for our future growth and development.
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Top 5 Tech
There are many benefits to having a Fitbit and a few disadvantages too! As well as tracking how few steps I have taken today, I can also measure my heart rate during exercise, with calories burned and consumed (not sure I like this one) and it even tracks my sleeping pattern. But for me the most important tool is the Fitbit scales, which automatically records and stores my weight! I call mine the FatButt!
This is one of the biggest changes in tech for me. It’s simple to use, it’s secure, it helps to prevent fraud and it’s easy to integrate into my life. I no longer have to carry a wallet around with me, just my phone with cardholder attached (just in case the retailer does not accept apple pay or contactless payments). I just hope I don’t lose my phone!
WATCHGUARD FIREWALL & WAP For both my professional and personal life, having a WatchGuard Firewall (available from Northamber) and two wireless access points while working from home has given me many advantages. My network is more secure and I have better coverage across the house, compared to the standard router provided by my broadband supplier. However, as a parent, the best advantage it offers is that I can set up separate SSID networks. So I have one for my wife & I, one for guests and then I have one for each of my kids, who are at different ages. So it allows me to control content for each of them or just to turn it off if the need calls for it.
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February 2021 | 35
Content & User Interaction
The game is on! Ben Fenster, Co-Founder and CPO of in-game advertising platform, Anzu.io. talks to PCR about bringing brand advertising to in-gaming and e-sports
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Content & User Interaction
Could you please tell me a bit more about the company?
When we founded Anzu in 2017, our key question was: how can we bridge the gap between brands and game developers in an industry that holds so much potential? We wanted to develop a scalable business and tech solution. There was a tremendous new audience of gamers to tap into, but brands couldn’t access them because of a lack of scalable AdTech offerings. Developers faced the problem of hard-coded ad technology that made it difficult and time-consuming to integrate ads into the game content. And by installing ad blockers, gamers were telling the industry very clearly that they didn’t like how ads were being presented in their games.
“We have consciously built a flexible, fullstack solution that offers innovation in the in-game space.” Anzu has solved this by building a scalable, cross-platform advertising technology that fulfills game developer, advertiser, and gamer needs. Our solution introduces dynamically updated, blended in-game ads in existing IAB-recognised formats directly to the gameplay in a non-intrusive way that respects the game experience. Available across all platforms, Anzu has introduced programmatic in-game advertising to PC and console gaming, two premium platforms that, until now, have not been accessible to advertisers, although they looked attractive from the reach and inventory perspective. Anzu’s ease-of-use and compatibility with the current advertising standards, as well as support for all major game engines, makes it easy for advertisers to run campaigns. Anzu has partnered with trusted AdTech vendors to introduce ad viewability, fraud detection, data enrichment, and brand lift measurement across platforms in-game. Now, advertisers have access to a scalable technology that gives them confidence in the media value and data, empowering them to make informed decisions. www.pcr-online.biz
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Could you tell me a bit more about in-game advertising?
We have consciously built a flexible, full-stack solution that offers innovation in the in-game space. Our core asset is our battle-tested, secure SDK, which is available across platforms and supports all major game engines, including Unity, Cocos, Unreal Engine, CryEngine, and proprietary engines. Another significant product is a patent-pending 3D ad tracker that allows tracking and measurement of ads in real-time. As I mentioned, our in-game advertising technology deploys ads directly into the gameplay. Ads are blended into the games through a basic integration that allows us to access the game’s engine textures, physics, and geometry. While textures are updated to present the ad content, physics and geometry are used to measure ad visibility. Our blended ads are designed in a way that they deliver high performance with a small footprint. Initially designed to suit AAA titles, we’ve now built a multi-platform tech that is easily supported on new platforms and engines.
Why is cookieless consumer data a benefit to consumers?
Throughout the digital landscape, users are becoming increasingly concerned about their privacy and this is certainly true for the gaming industry, as players have become more mature. Until now, third-party cookies have been a major way marketers collect information about their audiences. But cookies identify the individual and track his or her behaviour in an invasive manner. For example, if you’ve ever clicked on a Facebook ad and then felt that highly-targeted ads are subsequently chasing you all across the Internet, that’s due to cookies and cookie-synching technologies. In today’s privacyfirst environment, cookies are a real problem, which is why they are being phased out. Although cookies are an effective way to get results in performance-based campaigns, moving to cookieless targeting based on estimated location, platform, content context, and statistical demographics data will provide relevant and localised ads to users without them feeling like their privacy is being invaded or that they are being chased by ads based on online activity. Cookieless consumer data provides a real advantage to consumers. February 2021 | 37
Content & User Interaction
What are the benefits of Anzu and Digiseg’s partnership?
The partnership will allow advertisers to reach the right gaming audiences without tracking individual user online activity. Again, this benefits the user by protecting his or her privacy and creating a more pleasant, less intrusive, advertising experience. More specifically, Digiseg is one of the only targeting solutions already prepared for the cookie-less era, gathering information at scale, free of personal data, without tracking people, and outside the scope of GDPR. Digiseg is able to segment in-game traffic with the same taxonomy and targeting power as standard sources, identifying real consumer needs based on household characteristics. Advertisers who want to target gamers need to be able to understand this audience with great precision in order to make informed decisions. The addition of Digiseg’s audience targeting technology to Anzu’s platform allows us to continue to set standards and protect consumer privacy.
What are the current in-game advertising developments and trends?
One of the biggest trends is that mobile gaming is driving the growth of the gaming industry, accounting for more than 50% of the annual revenue. According to one recent report, marketers saw the cost of acquiring a mobile player drop by 66% in 2020, but the cost of acquiring a paying user increase by 24% - which means that, moving forward, game developers will need to focus more on monetising through in-game advertising. Another important development in 2020 was the out-of-thebox partnerships that emerged between brands and gaming due to COVID. With entertainment, sports, hospitality, and other industries ravaged, gaming became a way for brands, entertainers and athletes/teams to reach their audiences at home. Great examples of this are the Travis Scott concert within Fortnite that reached over 12 million live in-game and various brands that have created interactive experiences within the game Animal Crossing. I expect we will see even more of this in 2021. While this was less about blended in-game advertising, it strengthened gaming as an extremely valuable media channel.
How is content and user interaction being used to attract the target audience?
Anzu’s advanced contextual targeting allows brands to interact with their target audiences in authentic and personalised ways. First, they can target audiences based on statistical data or firstparty data entered by the user, such as age group, geo, interests, hobbies, etc. Any banner can be used and content can be adjusted based on interest (in case this data is shared with us by the game developer). Second, brands can interact with players based on an in-game action that serves as a trigger. For example, when a player scores a goal in a soccer game, a branded congratulatory banner can be displayed.
What new ways are content producers looking to monetise content?
There is a major trend, especially with Millennials and GenZ’ers, 38
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to demand authentic advertising experiences from the brands they interact with, both in person and online. In-game advertising in general and Anzu in particular enables brands to give players those types of authentic ad experiences within games. Blended ads enhance the gaming experience by adding realism to the game and by allowing gamers to play organically, without interruption. With Anzu, game studios and brands can respect gamers and give them those authentic experiences while still monetising games and meeting their revenue goals.
What dangers or pitfalls does in-game advertising create?
In general, in-game advertising does not create any new dangers or pitfalls. Quite the opposite! I believe that blended in-game advertising avoids the common pitfalls and dangers of standard 2D ads common in games today, which usually interrupt the gameplay and annoy users, cannibalise in-app purchases, introduce risks to virtual game economy, etc. Even more than that, in-game advertising actually creates opportunities with its higher levels of brand safety, lower levels of ad fraud, and lack of user-generated content.
“In general, in-game advertising does not create any new dangers or pitfalls. Quite the opposite!” What future trends can we expect to see with in-game advertising?
In-game advertising, with its native nature, has an opportunity to offer the best advertising experience with personalised content messaging to make this space stronger. I believe we will see a move towards consolidation as the industry adopts digital ad performance that focuses more on quality over quantity. This will place more value on the metrics of ad viewability and measurability, and ad platforms will have to be ready to make their offerings relevant. I expect to see in-game advertising becoming common in console platforms that never allowed ads before and in AAA game titles that never showed ads before. And I also expect to see increasing adoption of in-game advertising by leading ad exchanges and SSPs that will form dedicated exchanges for the new ad category. www.pcr-online.biz
Content & User Interaction
A touch of reality nuVa Enterprises, is a leading human machine collaborative interface, but just what does that mean? PCR talks to nuVa’s Chief Executive Jocelyn Lomer to find out more Please could you tell me a bit more about nuVa Enterprises?
nuVa Enterprises is a human machine collaborative interface, which resembles a real face-to-face virtual meeting solution. The nuVa concept is based on research from the multi-national defence industry, sponsored by Doctoral research at Cambridge University and collaborations with MIT USA, King’s College London and Surrey University. This research looks much further than the use of ‘desktop style’ virtual meeting software, as it focuses on the sociology and psychology behind the way people interact with each other at meetings.
What projects is the company currently involved in?
Showing our feelings and emotions is a natural form of communication, and we must be able to replicate this through virtual meeting software and not restrict collaborative capabilities as most media do. The reason that well known desktop video collaboration tools cause “Zoom fatigue” is due to the lack of understanding that these media have in regard to the way the human mind works, and actually how much ‘cognitive effort’ is used when working with the ‘desktop’ type collaboration software. nuVa Enterprises is involved in improving the human-machine interface, with the main focus being to emulate a natural round table meeting. Taking this one step further, we are currently working on interfacing the current nuVa experience through Augmented Reality.
What are the latest tech trends in this area?
There is a huge amount of research that has been carried out into Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, with the latter appearing in different forms. Augmented Reality uses holographic tools such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, which works in a similar way to a pilot’s head up display, where an individual can see dials and reality simultaneously during meetings with colleagues. In a similar way, we have created technology, which allows a nuVa collaborator to see a hologram and all relevant virtual meeting contexts simultaneously at all ends. Virtual Reality has the effect of disrupting senses, which can, in some cases, cause nausea and other forms of illness. We prefer to use Augmented Reality holographic presentations whilst examining the real world simultaneously - for us, this is the way forward. www.pcr-online.biz
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What products does the company offer?
Our software can be used and delivered over a number of platforms, particularly video monitors and touch screens. Typically for customers, we recommend a maximum of 65” screens, as this creates a fully collaborative virtual meeting and ensures that users are able to make the most out of the uses of the technology that we provide. nuVa is also being delivered as full SaaS for download all over the world, which will be ready by the end of June this year.
What markets do these products find application in?
Our product is designed for deep collaboration. The fundamental principle is this: everybody wishes to see as much relevant context as possible when studying a particular issue. Many researchers believe that the human mind processes images 60,000 times faster than written text, which is supported by the idea behind nuVa Enterprises and the way its technology operates. nuVa can share any applications in broad context, allowing collaboration at the speed of thought. As a result, we have seen great success in a number of key industries, including: Design Engineering, Fashion, Manufacturing, Architecture, Construction, Media, Security and Health.
How has COVID-19 changed the way we rely on tech?
2020 was a difficult year for many people and businesses, and we have seen many businesses grapple with tools that can help them navigate home working in the best possible way. Virtual meetings are a prime example, and we have seen this increase in popularity in recent months. As employees and businesses choose to adopt a more hybrid approach for working, collaboration will be more accessible for those working across international borders. Once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it is likely that many workplaces will resort to hybrid working, giving employees the option of either working from home or in the office - but this cannot be achieved without the right tech. nuVa introduces new, innovative ways of working which may have seemed impossible before. We believe that the hybrid model has great potential for the future of many industries.
How do you see tech influencing our lives post pandemic?
The most important thing in relation to communication media is creating the ‘natural meeting’ environment. nuVa is the closest possible medium to a natural, face-to-face meeting and through this, delivers remote innovation and competitive advantage. February 2021 | 39
New PCR awards 2021:
Catch up with colleagues industry bash! What: The PCR Awards will be back for 2021. The theme: Catch up with tech channel partners, colleagues and friends: A long awaited and much needed networking opportunity and chance to celebrate the industry’s greatest achievers. Category entries are now open! So don’t miss this golden opportunity to submit your nominations now. To find out more on how to enter visit: https://www.pcr-awards.com/how-it-works/ Deadline for entries: Friday 5th March To enter the awards or register for updates visit: https://www.pcr-awards.com/
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Why: The event will celebrate the industry’s retailers, resellers, distributors, channel service providers and vendors that have made the biggest impact on the channel over the past year. PCR’s 2020 event saw a revamp to the look and feel of the awards, with a new logo and style. But for 2021 we are planning to bring you an unmissable event with an exciting line-up that we will reveal in due course. Last year we brought you a few new awards and again this year you will also see a few new categories now added to highlight the changing tech and IT channel landscape. When: All will be revealed soon so stay tuned!
CATEGORIES INCLUDE: VENDOR CATEGORY: • Security software vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Security hardware vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Smart home vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Networking vendor of the year • Business peripherals vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Business monitors vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • PC Vendor of the Year GAMING VENDOR CATEGORY: – NEW for 2021 • Gaming peripherals vendor of the year • Gaming monitors vendor of the year RETAILER CATEGORY: • Gaming retailer of the year – NEW for 2021 • Repairs services of the year – NEW for 2021 • System builder of the year • Online retailer of the year • Independent retailer of the year RESELLER CATEGORY: • SMB reseller of the year • Corporate VAR of the year • MSP specialist of the year DISTRIBUTION CATEGORY: • Software and services distributor of the year • Hardware distributor of the year • Consumer electronics distributor of the year CHANNEL SERVICES CATEGORY: • Dealer services of the year • Marketing and PR agency of the year PCR COMPANY OF THE YEAR
For Sponsorship opportunities please contact: Sarah Goldhawk Sales Manager - magazine/website advertising, event partnership PCR firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t miss this legendary event that continues as the pinnacle of the tech channel’s social calendar www.pcr-online.biz
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Distributor Top Products With the latest Wi-Fi Bulb, Security Camera and system to game play enhancing devices, PCR rounds up some top distributor product picks
The TCP Smart Wi-Fi Bulb “The TCP Smart Wi-Fi Bulb connects directly to your home wi-fi. All that’s required is a smartphone loaded with the free TCP-Smart App for communication with the device to begin. The TCP Smart Wi-Fi Bulb features voice control – via Alexa or Google Assistant – as well as your chosen schedule of set times and daily routines, such as morning wake ups and cosy evenings. You can create the ambience of your choosing via the bulb’s palette of 16 million colours and dim the light as required via its built-in brightness control – so there’s no dimmer required.” Specs: Wi-Fi enabled, TCP-Smart App, Alexa and Google Assistant compatible, automatic scheduling, 16 million colours Contact: Exertis
Swann Wire-Free Battery Security Camera “This Wireless entry-level smart security camera, is quick and easy to set up and use, boasting True Detect heat and motion sensing. This ensures you get reliable alerts – as well as infrared night vision that allows you to see in the dark up to 8 metres from the camera, plus, a long-lasting battery life. This new camera delivers crystal-clear 1080p images and can be used equally effectively indoors and outdoors. It features a robust, weatherproof design with an IP65 rating.” Specs: Wireless camera, Heat and motion sensing, Incident Alerts, Infrared night vision, Long-lasting battery Contact: Exertis
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Swann 4K Enforcer Kit “Swann 4K Enforcer Kit home security system, requires professional installation. It includes an 8-Channel NVR wired security system with four Bullet and two Dome Enforcer cameras as well as patent-pending red and blue flashing lights. This feature-rich system offers 4K video, Night2Day colour night vison, True Detect heat and motion-sensing, two-way talk, face recognition, vehicle detection, free recording, and the ability to integrate with other products in the Swann Security family via the app. This kit is the best in class for analytics, processing speed, face recognition and image quality. Its patent-pending crime deterrent technology means that whenever a camera senses heat, movement and/or people, it triggers red and blue flashing lights, bright spotlights, sirens, push notifications, two-way talk and 4K video recording, locally and to the cloud.” Specs: 8-Channel NVR, four Bullet and two Dome Enforcer cameras, red and blue flashing lights, 4K video, Night2Day colour night vison, True Detect heat and motion-sensing, two-way talk, face recognition, vehicle detection, free recording Contact: Exertis
Xbox Series X “The Xbox Series X is the fastest Microsoft console to date. Delivering games in true 4K (at a rate of up to 120 frames per second), games both look better and play better. AMD’s Zen 2 and RNDA architecture create true-to-life lighting while shadows and reflections are created with DirectX ray tracing. Not only have the consoles been upgraded, the Xbox Wireless Controller has an elegant new design, for a comfortable grip and top performance. The next-gen Microsoft console is also compatible with existing Xbox One peripherals.” Specs: 4K (at a rate of up to 120 frames per second), AMD’s Zen 2 and RNDA architecture, DirectX ray tracing, Compatible with existing Xbox One peripherals Contact: Exertis
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ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO gaming keyboard “Delivering precision and high performance from the first keystroke to the millionth, the award-winning ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO mechanical gaming keyboard is built for speed. Featuring ROCCAT-developed Titan Switches, key strokes are swift and precise, and advanced anti-ghosting technology ensures that each key stroke is registered so that every tactical manoeuvre will be translated from keyboard to game. The Vulcan 120’s keys are individually configured with long-life LEDs, capable of displaying 16.8 million colours in a mix of lighting configurations.” Specs: ROCCAT-developed Titan Switches, Advanced antighosting technology, 120’s keys, long-life LEDs, 16.8 million colours Contact: Exertis
Sonos Arc “Complete with Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Arc brings home entertainment to life. The Sonos Arc uses upward-firing speakers to deliver an immersive, 3D surround sound and crisp, clear audio. With a sleek design, the Arc is a great accompaniment to larger flat screen televisions and can be either positioned on a TV stand or wall mounted. The Sonos Arc can be controlled with a remote, the Sonos app, Apple Airplay 2 or via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.” Specs: Dolby Atmos, upward-firing speakers, Ideal for larger flat screens, Wall or stand mounted, Remote controllable, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible Contact: Exertis
Nuraphones “Nuraphones learn and adapt to the wearer’s unique hearing profile. This creates the perfect sound and delivers crisp audio quality. Wearers of Nura’s innovative headphones can tune in and out of ambient sound – deciding between next-gen noise cancellation or the ‘social mode’, letting in surrounding noise. The new Nuraphone gaming microphone is the perfect addition to adapt the headphones for an immersive gaming experience, both for PC gaming, consoles and mobile.” Specs: Wearer adaptable, Tune in and out of ambient sound, Noise cancellation, Social mode, Gaming microphone Contact: Exertis
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Poly Sync 20 “The Poly Sync 20 is a compact, sleek, portable USB, Bluetooth-enabled speakerphone, perfect for today’s hybrid worker. A remarkable sounding three-in-one device; personal speakerphone, music speaker and a phone charger. Full duplex crystal clear audio is guaranteed, unlike the audio on a laptop or smartphone. The Sync 20 integrates with Zoom, Teams, Siri and Google voice assistant to enable users to easily collaborate from anywhere. Intelligent microphones identify individual voices, while a futuristic design differentiates the Sync 20 from conventional ‘puck’ speakers. At just 360g and with 20 hours of battery life, it’s built for life on the move, too.” Specs: USB, Bluetooth-enabled 20-hour battery life, Multi-microphone array with noise and echo reduction and full duplex audio, 40mm high-performance music speaker, including a bass reflex system, One-touch or voice-activated calls with Zoom and Microsoft Teams plus Siri and Google voice assistant integration, Charges your smartphone. Contact: Poly
EagleEye Mini “The EagleEye Mini allows you to carry enterprise-grade HD video in your pocket. Designed for personal and small room environments, the webcam is ideal for working at home, on the move or joining a meeting from an office space. The hybrid worker gains a high-quality video experience, with vivid colour, clear detail, backlight compensation and autofocus. The ability to integrate seamlessly with Poly headsets, deskphones and speakerphones ensures high-performance audio too.” Specs: 1080p HD video with anti-flicker compensation and autofocus, electronic pan and tilt, and 4x zoom, Plug-and-play USB connectivity, Integrated privacy shutter and mute/unmute LED indicator, Bluetooth pairing for Bluetooth speakers, Flexible mounting options. Contact: Poly
Vision VFM-DSB Monitor Desk Stand “The VFM-DSB (Vision flat-panel mount – desk stand) takes the popular desk post mount and replaces the clamp with an attractive flat base. It fits any monitor, which has 75 x 75mm or 100 x 100mm rear mounting holes. Quick and easy to set-up, clips on the arm secure cables, which can be routed along the mount. Slide the arm up and down the post, then lock off at the required height. The ultra-flexible design gives -45°~45° of tilt adjustment, and -90°~90° of swivel range and can be easily rotated from landscape to portrait style.” Specs: Free-standing desk stand for displays up to 32”, Full adjustment: height, rotation, swivel, Optional laptop shelf, Quick-release VESA plate, Thumbscrews for fast assembly Contact: Exertis
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ElecHive Portable Super Power Station The ElecHive 2200 Super Power Station is a game-changer in the world of generators! Its powerful battery can provide 2,200W of power output, just like a standard wall socket! And it packs a massive 2,500Wh capacity, which means all your devices will stay powered for hours and hours, so you’ll never be stranded without power. Even with all of these features, it only weighs 34 pounds and is as small as a basketball. The integrated Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2) — NMC battery pack makes the size of the battery pack much smaller and lighter. Instead of joining 300 individual 18650 batteries together like a traditional power station, the ElecHive 2200 only has six batteries and connections between them. This system greatly reduces the risk of potential accidents to occur. Additionally, it is also much smaller than a traditional power station. For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/elechive/x#/
VAVA Portable SSD Touch The VAVA Portable Solid-State Drive (SSD) Touch provides fingerprint security with 540MB/s transfer speed in a palmsized package. Using - AES 256-bit hardware advanced encryption technology, it keeps your data secure and unbreachable. The fingerprint reader adds an extra biometric layer of security to data on the drive. Unlock using fingerprint authentication or user-generated passwords. The VAVA SSD Touch features an LED light that glows when the device is in use. The light blinks blue during data transfer and red when an error occurs, so you know what your device is up to at a glance. Transfer 10GB of data in just 20 seconds with the ultra fast speeds of the USB 3.1 Gen2 VAVA SSD Touch. Featuring read/write speeds of up to 540/480MB/s, it’s 4.9x faster than standard hard disk drive (HDD). For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/vava-ssd-touch/x#/
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CarDongle: USB Car PC Computer Dongle for Vehicles Free up your phone and upgrade your car entertainment with CarDongle’s powerful 2.0Ghz Octa Core A53 CPU with up to 4GB RAM + 64GB Rom. It runs off Android 9.0 Operating System and features Bluetooth 5.0 & WiFi. It has a MicroSD Card Slot (up to 128gb) with GPS Antenna. It supports any vehicle or stereo with Android Auto and as it is simple USB Plug-n-Play - no expensive installations are required. You can side-load apps such as FB, tiktok, GPS, social media, etc. and It can be firmware upgraded. It features in-built microphone, standalone operation phone only needed for hotspot (iPhones also work). Install online streaming apps, GPS, and social media. Enjoy the CarDongle via your vehicle’s LCD screen. For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/cardongle/x#/
With so much talent in the channel, it can be difficult to sift out the freshest gear and potential tech giants of tomorrow. Stay ahead of the curve with PCR’s Crowdfunding Corner…
Omni Off-Grid The Omni Off-Grid is a portable power station with off-grid communication. It has been designed to charge from as many options as possible and can even directly connect to your solar panels. The Omni Connect Module comes with 4 Omni Connect devices and can be used independently from the Omni Off-Grid Station. Voice and text messages transmitted through Omni Connect use LoRa, which allows you to send and receive messages using little power at very long range. Omni Connect doesn’t require 4g, wifi, or cloud so offers a private communication channel. For each Omni Connect device in use, the range of the community mesh expands. All devices operate on the same frequency, so everyone within range can act as relays for others. Your smartphone handles the encryption and decryption, using 128 bit AES and the devices it relays through can’t decrypt the message. For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/omni-off-grid/x#/ www.pcr-online.biz
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Life in the channel Ericssonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Vidya Krishnan Ericssonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chief Learning Officer, Vidya Krishnan, on how Ericsson is adopting a learning strategy to support its focus on 5G, IoT, network security and autonomous networks 48
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Ericsson, a leader in mobile broadband infrastructure, and telecom carrier network equipment provider is increasingly focusing on building its services around 5G, IoT, network security and autonomous networks. However, this all requires its tech teams to be equipped with the latest cutting-edge skills, as a result it is working with Pluralsight’s online skills platform, which has supported Ericsson in creating a culture of learning, and achieving business goals, as Vidya Krishnan explains: Please tell me a bit more about yourself and your current role at Ericsson? I am Ericsson’s Chief Learning Officer, heading Global Learning and Development. My background is a blend of engineering and teaching. My career spans 25 years, starting as a camp counselor throughout high school, then as a networks electrical engineer and a business-learning leader. My love of teaching comes from seeing the positive power of people sharing skills and learning together. I am so grateful for my background as an engineer. I love learning how things operate together within a network, and that work always underscored the value of learning. Working on 2G, 3G and 4G network designs and deployments, I found it energising, that team-based skill building helped us care for our customers more effectively. My team’s role is to drive our learning and development mission, building future critical skills at Ericsson. We want to create the conditions for our people to change themselves, by reinventing skillsets and mindsets in ways that create value for customers, employees, and society. Our workforce knows that we can become whatever we need to win. At Ericsson, we believe that technology for good is a powerful enabler of people and progress, and has a huge role to play in learning, as an equalizer, amplifier, and simplifier digital access to L&D must be equitable and inclusive for it to be effective and empowering. What steps has Ericsson taken towards building a culture of learning? Ericsson’s culture and leadership transformation journey is called Ericsson on the Move. This means zero tolerance for zero learning, and recognising that we have to help people be movers when it comes to growing their skills, expanding their experiences, and contributing to others. We make learning easy, we make learning a habit that matters, and we make learning drive profitable business. Our ecosystem is the key to making learning easy, personalised, and intelligent – giving learners exactly what they need, when they need it, so that the learning can find the learner, rather than the other way around. Our strategic partnerships with Pluralsight, Degreed, and more are important parts of making that happen. Our culture system is all about making learning matter, and we believe a learning culture demands a teaching culture. At Ericsson, a growth mindset entails growing the skills of other people along with your own, through great teaching and experiential learning. We reframe learning as an investment rather than a cost, demanding co-ownership beyond consumption, and clearly aligned to our prioritised business areas of growth. www.pcr-online.biz
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What are Ericsson’s biggest business goals and priorities, and how has upskilling helped to reach them? Our business goals are about creating value through networks, managed services, digital services, and emerging technology to empower an intelligent, sustainable, and connected world. Our solutions and expertise enable us to play a lead role in the ecosystem of operators, businesses, and decision-makers who together can make 5G fully successful as a global innovation platform for consumers and enterprise, one that touches every corner of our world and every sector of the economy. A cornerstone of this strategy is global skill and scale. There is a critical and clear need to strategically invest in the growth of our people to propel the growth of our company in the decade ahead. Our pursuit of market and technology leadership requires strategic investment in learning and development for our people, customers, and society in critical business areas. Correspondingly, our focus on building critical skills recognises that upskilling and reskilling is a strategic business investment to drive value creation and profitable growth. As an example, our digital services teams are intense users of Pluralsight in the pursuit of relentless software excellence. Are there any specific tools or resources you recommend other companies try out when focusing on L&D? Our approach has been to design based on the foundations and conditions we want to have (speed, scale, accountability), and how they should result from how we combine tools, culture, practices, programs, business, and people. No matter how powerful the platform or tool, people fundamentally learn from and with other people, so that is a constant lens we bring to learning solutions and tools. We are more focused now on experiential learning and intensifying how we design and leverage it. Most people including the people in learning and development - say they learn and develop most on the job, when learning with and from other people, when working on projects or problems that really matter to them. We also see effective skill development when people are given an opportunity to deepen a passion or build on a strength they already have. Therefore, experiential learning requires that our tools and platforms help people to be ‘on the move’ to see, try, match with, and take on assignments and projects that allow them both to develop new skills and showcase the skills they already have. Can businesses use data to assess the impacts of their investments in upskilling? How? Learning is like oxygen, vital but invisible, and analytics and data can make it visible. Analytics have the power to visualise skills progression, use sensing and inference to predict skill shift needs, and then prove how and where skill shift has - or has not - occurred as needed. Analytics allows a personabased understanding of our people’s learning habits, so that our ecosystem can be more personalised in connecting people to possibilities. This is the most critical area in which we ourselves need to upskill, to leverage analytics and data to make ROL (return on learning) concrete and relevant. Here again, the work with Pluralsight to quantify and assess February 2021 | 49
Interview skill capability is an important facet to making our ecosystem more intelligent and empathetic in connecting skills to work. Have you managed to ensure there is alignment between L&D teams and technology teams? L&D IS a technology team! So, recognising that identity and what it demands in our operating rhythm, skill sets, and interaction is critical for us. We partner as ONE team with our IT, R&D, business and market areas, and we know that our platforms, interworking, and technology roadmap is a powerful glue that binds our people experience together. We have a disciplined operating cadence by which we share and synchronize on experiments and pilots, reflect on what we see in other industries that inspires us, and collaborate on roadmaps underscored by fact-based decision-making. Nothing is quite so powerful as technology for large-scale behavioural change, and ultimately our aspirations for skill come down to behaviour and will, so prioritising and constantly progressing on technology alignment is everything to us.
“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” How can employees who commit to lifelong learning be rewarded? Success and fulfillment are the sweetest rewards that happen when people get to harmonize three things: their signature talents (T), opportunities (O) to create value, and their chosen purpose or passions (P). We want our lifelong learners and teachers to see that their skills profile can signal their growth, credentials, experiences, interests, and contributions, in a way that unlocks that T-O-P, by connecting them to opportunity, investment, and talent differentiation. Why will upskilling be so important to the future of work, in your opinion? Peter Drucker, the renowned author and educator, said: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Today, the future is in flux – the pandemic has intensified the upheaval. The World Economic Forum predicts more than 50% of workforces will have to reskill nearly half of their critical skills over the next five years for businesses to stay competitive and viable. These emerging skills, however, are often hard to recognise at first. Companies that thrive amid such uncertain futures will therefore need to 50
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go beyond reskilling to empower belonging, resilience, and reinvention in their workforce. Otherwise the future of work won’t work. Those who continue to act with yesterday’s logic in failing to prioritise these outcomes will fall behind, because they will be outlearned by the competition. Has upskilling helped Ericsson to embrace new technology and adapt during the pandemic? How? The pandemic has acted as an accelerator for us digitally, and has deepened our commitment to our priorities. Digital access and reliable, secure digital communication is unquestionably now recognised everywhere as a fundamental human right. Our global and now mostly-remote workforce has continued to prioritise learning during lockdown to ensure we can continue to deliver well for our customers and one another. We have many of our people on the front lines doing heroic and essential work to keep our networks running. We have learned, experimented, and experienced new ways of digital collaboration and skillbuilding, and accelerated our work with immersive learning using mixed reality. We are deepening our commitment to care and productivity so that teams can improve how we use our digital infrastructure, so that we can get more done even as we take back time through better collaboration and skill-building practices. Has upskilling helped to boost employee morale during the pandemic? This pandemic has taken an incalculable toll, and I am inspired at the resilience of our people to care for our customers, our teams, and all those who need us through these difficult times. All of us struggle right now to find the time and mental space to make upskilling the priority it is, but I see how people are so committed to making it happen nonetheless, and in fact a very special morale boost comes from being able to lean on our teams and colleagues to help us prioritise it together in the flow of our work. We know that is the key to learning our way into a better and brighter future. www.pcr-online.biz
CELEBRATING THE LEADING COMPANIES FROM ACROSS THE UK PC AND TECH INDUSTRY
DEADLINE EXTENDED: FRIDAY 5TH MARCH WWW.PCR-AWARDS.COM PCR Awards 2021 House ad v3.indd 1
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