Iceland's Reykjavik Tops Index for Green City Getaways

4/24/2018 0 Comments

Iceland’s small, snowy capital, Reykjavik, has been crowned the greenest
city for travelers, with the most green space per head of 50 cities surveyed, a travel agency said Tuesday.

Auckland in New Zealand came in second, followed by the Slovakian capital Bratislava and Sweden’s Gothenburg, with Sydney in Australia taking fifth place in the Green Cities Index published by TravelBird, a Dutch online holiday provider.

“Many popular city destinations around the world have made significant strides towards both preserving and manufacturing green spaces,” Fiona Vanderbroeck, chief traveler officer at TravelBird, said in a statement. “We aim to inspire travelers to see city trips differently — inviting them to connect with nature whilst also enjoying the vibrancy, culture and liveliness they look for in a city.”

The United Nations estimates that by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world will live in urban areas and has called for a radical rethink of urban planning.
Green spaces cool down cities, encourage physical activity and can provide stress relief, increase social interaction and improve mental well-being, the World Health Organization says.

The index analyzed mapping data from 50 popular city break destinations, evaluating the types and number of green spaces such as parks, golf courses, meadows, vineyards and farms. It found that coastal Reykjavik, home to about 120,000 people, has 410 square meters (4,413 square feet) of
greenery per inhabitant, boosted by its large national parks.

At the other end

Tokyo was the least green city, followed by Turkey’s Istanbul, Athens in Greece, Lyon in France and Chile’s Santiago, all with less than 8 square meters of greenery per resident.

Edinburgh ranked the greenest city in Britain, and Washington D.C., and Los Angeles came tops in the United States.

Cities are taking steps to improve their green credentials — banning diesel vehicles, using zero-emission buses and setting tougher air pollution limits — to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

It's Getting Lonely at Quota Club

4/24/2018 0 Comments

Sales people and their managers should be celebrating the economic gains of the last few years but for many of them the gains may be illusory.

There’s evidence that these will not be remembered as the good old days in selling, suggests a new report from CSO Insights, “Running Up the Down Escalator.”

Overhiring or Underusing Tech?

Sixty-three percent of sales reps made quota in 2012, but five years later — despite an improving economy — that number dropped to 53 percent, according to CSO Insights’ continuing research, which stretches over more than two decades. A variety of factors account for the drop. One nugget from the report:

“Buyers are getting better at buying faster than sellers are getting better at selling. This creates downward momentum: Standing still (trying to maintain the status quo) is actually moving backwards. Successful companies are running up the buy/sell escalator fast enough to counteract the forces (buyer expectations, new competitors, etc.) that are combining to pull them down.”

In other words, some companies are just better at selling, and in prior years that logic made some sense. However, companies are still making their numbers, which suggests to me that they may have overhired sales talent, which is puzzling.

A traditional sales manager plugs bodies into territory to ensure that no opportunity is ignored. That was once understandable. Today, we have so much technology to plan territories, guide sales people, suggest next best actions, and which targets to go after given the time left in the quarter, that it stretches the mind to think that much is falling through the cracks.

In short, all the sales tools that have come on line in the last two decades should have enabled everyone to do more with less.

If so, then the clear conclusion I draw is that organizations have been overhiring or underusing the technology — but the question is why?

Trust Equals Deals

Perhaps, and this is just a hunch, although we have lots of sales tools today, we’re still planning and managing territories by hand: estimating the number of target companies and dividing them up; keeping notes in our phones or scraps of paper; relying on memory to call someone back. It’s a long list.

Maybe a better analysis is that according to the data, nearly half the companies surveyed (48.4 percent) had mediocre sales processes while another 24.8 percent had chaotic ones.

CSO has identified four levels of sales process: Random, Informal, Formal and Dynamic. Nearly 75 percent of sales organizations don’t get out of the first three process categories.

CSO also has identified five types of sales organizations as they present to the marketplace. From low to high: Approved Vendor, Preferred Supplier, Solutions Consultant, Strategic Contributor, and Trusted Partner. The higher you go in the hierarchy, the better things get. Trusted Partners have earned a place at the decision table; they discuss bigger deals, and those deals close faster.

It’s the trusted partners — with dynamic processes — that make the deals, while the others are working very hard hustling to bring in some revenue — any revenue. Of course, this is an oversimplification, but aspiring to the combination of process optimization and becoming a trusted vendor have been around longer than SFA.

It’s hard to get to those lofty places. Reps who are new in their jobs know they have to produce or perish, and the churn results in bad habits — like using a random or informal sales process and not being too picky about what products customers buy as long as they buy something.

Perhaps this results in too many sales reps chasing too few opportunities. Or maybe it just results in sales rep churn with the result that territories have new people running them all the time making the same rookie mistakes over and over. Whatever the analysis this all suggests that some attention paid to how people sell and how we support them might pay real dividends.

My Two Bits

One of the great things about CSO Insights is that it has been collecting the same data each year for a long time. The Sales Relationship Process Matrix has been around for a long time too, and while the percentages move a bit from year to year, I have not seen an appreciable change in the distribution over time.

I wish there were more data. Things I’d like to know:

  • How has sales headcount varied over the last 5 years as quota attainment has tanked?

  • What’s the average time in position for sales people?

  • Of the 53 percent of people who make or exceed quota, are they attaining more or less as a percentage of goal than the 63 percent five years ago?

Bottom line, sales is a GIGO business: garbage in, garbage out. Most of all, it’s a process — and if you aren’t attending to the fine points of your process, then you are losing more often than you should.

My hypothesis is that the people who make quota today have been killing their numbers by bigger margins than they were five years ago. To change that dynamic, we don’t need less software — but we do need to spend some time learning how to optimally use it, and we also need to think hard about why we still allow random, or even informal, sales processes to exist in our businesses.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there.

Email Denis.

Google closed Nougat certification in March, all new Play Certified devices must launch with Oreo

4/24/2018 0 Comments

A lot of attention has been put on Google’s device certification process in light of recent news that the company would begin blocking uncertified devices from accessing Google Play apps and services. This effort was likely intended to prevent companies from pre-loading Google’s apps without meeting the requirements to be a Google Mobile Services (GMS) partner, as this has traditionally led to poor user and developer experience if Android APIs aren’t consistent. GMS partners that launch new devices must make sure that their devices meet the requirements in the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) so that those devices can pass the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) for a particular version of Android. A little-known fact is that Google actually stops certifying new devices for a particular version of Android after some time, and at the end of March, the company closed down Android Nougat certification. This means that all new Google Play Certified devices must launch with at least Android Oreo on board.

Closing off certification for older versions of Android is standard practice for Google. For instance, Google closed off certification for new devices launching with Android Marshmallow end of January 2017, 5 months after the public release of Android 7.0 Nougat. In contrast, the closing of certification for new Nougat devices comes 7 months after the public release of Android 8.0 Oreo. That’s why we’re seeing so many new Android devices, including many budget devices, be released with the latest version of Android. And since Google will reportedly no longer certify any new Nougat devices, that means that we can expect a plethora of devices launching with Project Treble support since that is one of Google’s requirements for any device launching with Android Oreo.

There is one very important aspect to consider, however. Manufacturers of Android devices can certify new Android devices in private before launching them publicly. That means it’s possible for a device to have already been certified for Android Nougat before the end of March, so even if it pops up on the public list of Certified Android devices that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll launch with Oreo on board. This is unlikely to occur with most devices, though.

Of the nearly 16,000 devices that are Play Certified, a small fraction of them are on the Oreo release. The number is sure to grow in the coming few months thanks to Google’s requirements. For those devices that are still launching with Android Nougat, they’re most likely not going to be Certified Android devices, which means you’ll have to use a workaround in order to access the Google Play Store.

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A Home Robot Could Be Amazon's Next Gamble

4/24/2018 0 Comments

By John P. Mello Jr.
Apr 24, 2018 9:51 AM PT

Amazon plans to bring a home robot to market as early as 2019.

Codenamed “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of home and family, the project is several years old, but hiring for it recently has ramped up with an eye toward placing prototypes in employees’ homes by the end of the year, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing people familiar with the plans.

The robot could be a mobile smart speaker, Bloomberg’s sources speculated. Some versions of the product apparently have cameras and computer vision software that allow them to travel through a home like a self-driving car.

A homebot could be Amazon’s way of boosting its position in the home technology market, where it already has a strong lineup of products.

“Amazon doesn’t really have a strong position in mobile, so it has been doubling down in home technology,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

A Better Alexa

A robot assistant would give Amazon a further edge over rivals such as Google in the connected home space, said Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research.

“Amazon Echo already has a lead over Google Home in terms of ownership, according to consumer surveys and market share data, and Amazon’s Echo Show and Echo Dot enjoy a visual edge over Google Home devices,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“We could see this product evolve the Alexa experience from one consisting of a virtual assistant into a physical assistant,” Weinswig added.

What’s more, Amazon’s investments in artificial intelligence could come into play with a robotic product.

“Those investments could be leveraged very well with an advanced robot,” Reticle’s Rubin told TechNewsWorld.

“Alexa can provide a range of commands to objects in the home, but those objects can’t fulfill tasks the way a robot can,” he said. “It could sort groceries, answer the door, fetch a drink from the fridge, or fold the laundry.”

Privacy Concerns

An in-home robot would make the Alexa voice system an even more seamless experience, said Jack O’Leary, senior analyst at PlanetRetail RNG.

“Amazon wants Alexa to be ubiquitous, intertwined with as many aspects of the consumer’s life as possible,” he told TechNewsWorld. “A mobile robot equipped with Alexa capabilities will allow for total home coverage more easily to users, making it so they don’t have to install and coordinate individual Alexa devices in every room.”

Amazon’s desire to be ubiquitous, though, may give some consumers pause. There might be resistance to letting a robotic extension of Amazon wander around their houses.

“The market has growing concerns around privacy with recent data scandals involving other tech companies.” O’Leary cautioned.

“Alexa and related devices are an opt-in system where users engage with the platform to the level they are most comfortable with, which somewhat alleviates that concern,” he continued.

“Despite this, I do think some people’s concerns around what a device like this robot means for privacy and data collection in the home will be inhibiting to its adoption by some users,” said O’Leary, “but definitely not enough to hold it back from success in the market.”

Home Robots

Home robots have been around for decades but without much success. A notable exception is Roomba, by iRobot, which performs a single function: vacuuming. It has sold more than 20 million units since 2002.

iRobot’s stock sank 8.6 percent after news broke of Amazon’s robot plans, Bloomberg reported.

Robot vacuum cleaners represent a thin market sliver, according to Parks Associates. They can be found in just 5-6 percent of broadband households.

“It’s not a breakout product, but it’s far and ahead the most commonly adopted robotic assistant,” Parks Research Analyst Dina Abdelrazik told TechNewsWorld.

However, at 11-12 percent, the number of broadband households that owned both a robot cleaner and a smart speaker was slightly higher than the number that owned a robot cleaner alone, Parks also found.

“There’s definitely an overlap in the market there,” Parks analyst Kristen Hanich told TechNewsWorld, “that Amazon may be going after.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter

since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the

Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government

Security News
. Email John.

EPA Proposes to Bar Use of Confidential Data in Rulemaking

4/24/2018 0 Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new rule Tuesday that would stop it from relying on scientific research underpinned by confidential data in its making of regulations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt billed the measure as a way to boost transparency for the benefit of the industries his agency regulates. But scientists and former EPA officials worry it will hamstring the agency’s ability to protect public health by putting key medical and industry data off limits.

“The science that we use is going to be transparent, it’s going to be reproducible,” Pruitt told a gathering at the EPA.

“It’s going to be able to be analyzed by those in the marketplace, and those that watch what we do can make informed decisions about whether we’ve drawn the proper conclusions or not,” said Pruitt, who has been pursuing President Donald Trump’s mission to ease the regulatory burden on business.

The EPA has for decades relied on scientific research that is rooted in confidential medical and industry data as a basis for its air, water and chemicals rules. While it publishes enormous amounts of research and data to the public, the confidential material is held back.

Business interests have argued the practice is tantamount to writing laws behind closed doors and unfairly prevents them from vetting the research underpinning the EPA’s often costly regulatory requirements. They argue that if the data cannot be published, the rules should not be adopted.

But ex-EPA officials say the practice is vital.

“Other government agencies also use studies like these to develop policy and regulations, and to buttress and defend rules against legal challenges. They are, in fact, essential to making sound public policy,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Janet McCabe, former assistant administrator for air and water, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times last month.

The new policy would be based on proposed legislation spearheaded by the chairman of the House Science Committee, Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who denies mainstream climate change science.

Emails obtained through a public records request last week showed that Smith or his staff met with Pruitt’s staff in recent months to craft the policy. Those emails also showed that Pruitt’s staff grappled with the possibility the policy would complicate things for the chemicals industry, which submits reams of confidential data to EPA regulatory programs.