Technology update in the stock market

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The internet has dramatically revolutionised a number of fields, not least of all that of the financial markets. From robo-advisors to bitcoin to online banking to big data and analytics, the possibilities are endless thanks to the advent of new technologies such as AI, automation and the IoT. Simply consider that 10 years ago we were walking into a bank to deposit money while today we can wire a sum of money to an international account with the press of a button. 

Fintech’  or financial technologies is the most rapidly growing field of technology in the world today, and encompasses the technology and innovation that aims to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services.The world of finance, including investment, has been completely and unarguably upended by fintech. And the trading of stocks and shares is no different. 

Many still associate share trading with in-person transactions on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), with all the hustle, bustle and excitement that it entails. But unfortunately for those who prefer a taste of the dramatic, share trading can now be as simple and as inhumane and un-interactive as the tapping of a button on a personal phone. 

While the NYSE still ensures that kind of visual is maintained in the eye of the stockholder, most trading today takes place privately, over computer systems owned by individuals. The trades are transacted via underground fibre-optic networks that carry messages between computer systems at banks and trading firms, into data centres that host a particular exchange’s trading engine. Apps and platforms are, it seems, the new NYSE, and there are several which are proving popular among modern traders.

Why is this, you wonder? Simply because there are typically lower costs associated with online traders, as trade commissions tend to be larger when it comes to in-person investing. For example, if you seek the help of an actual stockbroker, you can expect to pay roughly $30.99 per trade in commission. To make the same investment online, you might spend an average of $8.90. Online brokers are, in general, cheaper, mostly because they don’t have the cover the same overheads as stockbrokers who work in the more physical sense.

When it comes to finding a broker online, E-Trade is perhaps one of the best known online brokerage providers, with three different trade platforms available for users in addition to its market data, quotes, data analysis and other useful information and resources. Best of all., E-Trade offers plenty of commission-free funds. There are also broker platforms Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Vanguard, which has an average expense ratio of just 0.10%. Interactive Brokers is another that is recognised for its low cost but comprehensive service platform. 

Next, there are platforms dedicated entirely to stock market research. From Tradespoon (which offers a 7 day free trial) to StockFetcher.com, Yewno|Edge, TradingView and The Motley Fool Stock Advisor, there is no shortage of online tools and resources for analysing the stock market; assessing a company’s annual report performance, for example, and its annual return on investment (ROI). It’s now possible to access a wide range of stock market analysis tools online, such as stock screeners – which scan the entire market to give you information on average trading volume, price, chart patterns and so forth – charting software, and stock simulators. 

Now onto the platforms and websites that actually allow individuals to sidestep the broker and directly buy shares themselves. Apps like Robinhood Trading have made it easier than ever to access stock market trading, making it accessible to new types of traders with lower amounts of wealth than previous traders. That being said, RobinHood Trading doesn’t give traders access to a full range of investments like mutual funds, but it certainly works great for stocks and ETFs, and it recently added support for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. 

Acorns, however, is the app that is best for complete beginners with no idea how to go about the trading of shares. It describes itself as a site for ‘investing your spare change’, implying that there is no such thing as too small a trade. It’s so easy that once your bank account is linked, Acorns will track your regular spending and “round up” purchases to the nearest dollar, which is then used to make small investments via Acorns. It also automatically builds users a portfolio of stock and bond investments based on a brief questionnaire, helping build users a diverse, broad portfolio in line with their investment goals.

Between the countless apps, websites and downloadable digital tools that help traders invest in shares with more efficiency than ever before possible, it’s no wonder that a growing percentage of the approximate $US5,100,000,000,000 traded daily is traded online. 

How Trade Is Affected by Recent Foreign Policies

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Despite the fact that it hasn’t yet actually happened, ‘Brexit’ is doing all that its supporters hoped it would: it is seriously shaking things up in Europe. Already the economy has slowed right down, people all over Europe are scrambling to gain residency for fear of being kicked out of their country of residence without the correct passport, and the political chaos that has ensued needs no mention. 

Following the 23 June 2016 referendum that asked the British populice the question “should the United Kingdom (UK) remain a member of the European Union (EU), or leave the European Union?”, a mere margin of 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent voted that the UK should leave the EU. And so it was decided that the country would extrapolate itself from the clutches of the club that links some of the world’s strongest nations to one another. 

Everyone – from the IMO, to the Bank of England, to the Confederation of British Industry to Barack Obama – said the change in foreign policy would have major implications on the UK’s economy and on global trade, warning there would be major financial shocks in the near term as well as long-term economic decline. But the nation forged ahead, committing itself to establishing a new trade relationship with EU27 by the end of the two-year window, and as a result hopefully boosting the British economy for the first time in many years. 

The irony of all this, is that the UK decided on Brexit in a bid to fix itself and drag itself out of the stagnant economic situation the rest of Eruope had found itself in – but in reality, uncertainty over the Brexit outcome has simply damaged the UK’s economic growth, seeing it drop from 2.4% in 2015 to 1.5% in 2018. Businesses are shutting up shop and moving their headquarters from the UK to other parts of the EU, and the British pound fell from $1.48 on the day of the referendum to $1.36 the very next day, according to the GBP index and dollar index. But perhaps the most consequential impact of Brexit has been on global trade.

Beyond that the mere exiting of the UK from the EU set a global precedent for countries leaving trade agreements (TAs), meaning that in future the exit process may become more difficult, Brexit might even have had such an impact that it will discourage the future creation of TAs. This is because they will likely become more costly to negotiate and perhaps less valuable once established due to reduced flexibility or insufficient integration. 

On the ground though, moving to an EU free trade deal and establishing new free trade agreements with the US, Australia and New Zealand following Brexit has an estimated negative impact on the UK economy of 1.4% – equivalent to £28 billion or £1,000 per household. By eliminating Britain’s tariff-free trade status with the other EU members, it will raise the cost of exports, in turn hurting UK exporters as their prices would therefore jump up in price, making them less affordable to EU buyers. The weaker pound, however, will negate some of the impact. Despite knowing all this the British government has nonetheless forged ahead, claiming free trade is the best way to increase exports, investment and support local businesses. 

Some other sad and potentially difficult outcomes of Brexit for the British people are that tariffs will also increase the cost of imports into the UK – one third of which come from the EU – creating inflation and lower standards for UK residents. Many UK companies could also lose the opportunity to bid on public contracts in EU countries, an ill-considered aspect of Brexit by the UK government and one that could cost the UK workforce billions in the long run. Banking is another area which will be hit hard by the change in foriegn policy, which is significant when one considers that British banks lend nearly $1.4 trillion annually to EU companies and governments, and most financial activities taking place in Europe are either directly or indirectly performed out of London.

It’s not all negative, though. In the long-term,the UK could certainly benefit from greater non-EU specific trade, by reducing barriers bilaterally with countries like Australia and New Zealand. New trade and investment agreements with these non-EU partners have the power to open the UK market to enhanced overseas competition, while simultaneously allowing the UK to focus more on areas of strength, such as services. There is no argument that Australia is well positioned to redefine its trade and investment relationship with its motherland, so it is therefore likely Australia as well as the UK will benefit from Brexit in the area of trade.

The thing is, countries that are open to international trade tend to grow faster, innovate, are more productive and enjoy higher incomes than those that do not. Open trade also benefits lower-income households by giving consumers access to more affordable goods, and services. Has the UK shot itself in the foot by voting yes for Brexit? The answer – for the time being – is yes, it has hurt the UK economy. But hopefully in the long-run, having a future relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation will save the UK.

Navigating high speed internet providers’ spectrum of services

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In the United States, there are approximately 2675 internet service providers (ISPs) providing various types of internet services categorized based on the means through which data is transferred.  The state of New York currently has 41 internet providers, and it is the 4th most connected state amongst the others. In most states, consumers are able to access to a variety of types of internet services, including DSL, cable, fiber and satellite-based internet services, each of those has its own defining features. Hence, confusion often arises when it comes to choosing one from these internet services, the process of which can be made simpler by understanding how the Internet works and how these services differ from one to another. Spectrum is the second largest internet provider in the United States. Spectrum is accessible to approximately 102.7 million people and provides both cable and fibre internet services. Its tiered pricing system is easy to understand, and it is what makes them stand out from the other competitors. They utilize a hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network to deliver wired broadband services. 

The Internet is a massive network of interconnected devices for data transmission purposes by means of the use of various types of wires, cables and antennas, alongside other types of devices forming part of the overall network infrastructure. Most computers come with built-in TCP/IP network capability. TCP/IP, which is Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol in full, is the language of the Internet. Comprising of four distinct layers, it is a set of standardized rules that enable TCP/IP-enabled computers on a network to communicate. Software programs interact with the application layer, the first layer, on which one can find numerous application protocols, including SMTP, FTP, HTTP and so forth. Different programs communicate with different application protocols, depending on the purposes of the programs. 

On the second layer, known as the transport layer, data sent from the first layer is divided into packets and these packets are delivered to the third layer, called the Internet Layer. On this layer, the assigned Internet Protocol (IP) gets the packets from the second layer and adds virtual address information, which is the IP addresses of the sender and receiver. The packets are then sent to the fourth layer. The fourth layer is the network interface layer that gets the packets, called datagrams on this layer, and deliver them over the network. Between two computers, the speed of datagram sending and receiving is affected by two factors, bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth is the maximum number of bits that can be transferred per unit time. Whereas, latency is the amount of time it requires for a datagram to travel from the source to the destination. Theoretically, the size of a TCP datagram is approximately 64 bytes. 

Currently, consumers in the U.S. are able to choose from a number of kinds of internet services, ranging from DSL to satellite-based services, with each of these available types having its own pros and cons. DSL stands for digital subscriber line and is a type of connection that transfers data through a telephone network via a telephone cable consisting of twisted-pair copper wires. It is the most famous connection globally. However, it has a low bandwidth with a high latency, offering download speeds in the range of 5 to 35 Mbps, with the upload speeds being in the 1 to 10 Mbps range. The main advantage of this connection type is that it is often the cheapest internet service in comparison with the others. 

Another type of connection is known as a cable connection. It transmits data through a cable television network via a coaxial copper cable. This connection is faster than DSL and highly reliable, with a higher bandwidth and lower latency. However, it sometimes slows down during peak hours due to the arrangement of its network infrastructure and is generally more expensive than a DSL connection. In terms of a wired internet connection, a fiber optic connection is the fastest and a relatively new type of internet connection. Having the highest bandwidth and lowest latency, it transfers data through a fiber optic network, offering download and upload speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. However, it is comparatively the most expensive alternative. 

In areas where wired connections are unavailable, connecting to the Internet is possible through a satellite connection. Data is transferred from one computer wirelessly through the connected satellite dish to the provider’s satellite spacecraft, and the signal then bounces back from the satellite spacecraft to the provider’s satellite dish. However, with the lowest bandwidth and highest latency, it is considered as the slowest and most unreliable internet connection, and the maximum bandwidth that it can achieve is only around 25 Mbps. 

The fiber optic internet is currently the fastest internet service available. However, cable connections are still widely used by Americans due to their affordability and performance. When choosing an internet service provider, it is necessary to ascertain your budget constraints, speed requirements and connection reliability expectations. Considering these factors during the selection process will help you opt for one that you will not regret in future. 

Can restaurants survive the era of delivery services?

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The food and beverage industry that spans the globe is one that has quite an impact in so many different ways. This is an industry that has been important from the very beginning, and it is an industry that will continue to be important going into the future. The latest evolution of the food and beverage industry, however, is arguably one of the most important to date. This is an evolution that has been around for a few years now, but is still effectively kicking into high gear.

Even (and especially) today, the food and beverage industry is in a current state of transition. Now that we live in the beginnings of the digital era, where modern marvels like the Internet and ecommerce reign supreme, it is inevitable that these modern marvels start making their impact in the world around us and the industries that make up the global society. With the Internet and ecommerce comes the influence in industries like the food and beverage industry that are geared towards transforming to realign with the way the world is moving.

For the food and beverage industry specifically, the rise of the delivery service has been the overarching answer to establishing and successfully achieving that realignment. So, the question remains: can restaurants and other establishments within the food and beverage industry survive the era of delivery services? This is a question that no matter which way you approach it, can literally have an answer that is split in half. And that is essentially exactly what has happened in this instance. The appeal of sharing an experience is the heart and soul of the food and beverage industry. So much so, in fact, that through every evolution in the industry, this has always remained the core contributing factor. Now, that core is remaining true but is beginning to be forced into a kind of collaboration where sharing the experience is more about convenience than it is about the experience itself.

That is why delivery services like Uber and Deliveroo has grown so fast; they provide a solution that allows diners to have the optimal convenience and efficiency of enjoying the meal they want, without having to have the commitment of going out of their way to get dressed up and travel to a selected destination to have that experience.

From the change in consumer habits to delivery apps, there is a digital transformation going on in the food and beverage industry that is certainly powered forward by consumers’ growing demand for convenience and efficiency above the experience of going to a venue. This is the new norm in the food and beverage industry. It is an intriguing paradox, because while restaurants and cafes and the like are indeed getting more business through these delivery services, they are also missing the opportunity to provide their customers the full experience of the venue ambience, atmosphere, great customer service and interaction with others.

To properly understand one side of the argument, it is important to understand both sides. On the one hand, there are those who firmly believe that the rise of the delivery service field in the food and beverage industry means that restaurants and the like will inevitably begin to fade away. With convenience comes the realisation that this is easier, and this is the power of the delivery service field. So the point of this argument is: adapt or die. On the other hand, however, are individuals who believe that a mix service (delivery and on-site) and collaborative efforts that are more fairly sectioned out are the answer to the survival of restaurants and other food and beverage institutions. In this argument, brick and mortar and online delivery will co-exist.

It is interesting, because the delivery service field has not necessarily taken work away from restaurants and the like, but it has definitely taken a significant cut of their margins on the argument that is has brought new business. Realistically, no side of the argument is entirely right and no side of the argument is entirely wrong. In addition, this whole argument support itself of the fact that the app delivery businesses are running on a loss in the attempt to capture market share. Whether these businesses will be able to sustain itself with the revenue it produces, and where all parties are winning, is yet to be seen.

Regardless of what side of the argument one stand, the recommendation is always to embrace change and make the best of it. If people are going online to order food, why not setup a catering software with your own online ordering website? If most people are ordering online why not operate a catering kitchen (also known as Dark Kitchen) and save on expensive retail rent? In other words, with the current changes in the food industry new opportunities will arise. So why not use this momentum to re-evaluate, adapt and take advantage of the digital era?

The food and beverage industry is one of the most enduring and inspiring industries. Throughout the decades, this is an industry that has proven time and again exactly how necessary and special it is. There have been many great evolutions in food and beverages, and each of them have come hand in hand with their own unique impacts. The current evolution sweeping throughout the global food and beverage industry is one of the most powerful ones. The digital era has brought with it innovations like the Internet and ecommerce. In the food and beverage industry, this newly emerging era has also introduced the delivery service and ability for food businesses without a physical establishment to sell online. At this point in time, it is difficult to accurately determine if restaurants and the like will adapt and survive or even grown through the opportunities generated by the current digital transformation. Time will tell.

Successful Data Collection Begins with Intended Use, Security and Reputable Hosts

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Each year technology advances making life easier for businesses and consumers. As technology continues to grow, it becomes an inseparable part of life. Changing the way people live their life, even undertaking mundane, routine tasks like going into a bank or purchasing a coffee relies on a complex web of interconnected transactions taking place on a multitude of devices and points of presence. In the old days, the cumbersome paper trail was the only way to keep records and interact with customers. Even basic tasks like queuing for your bank teller would entail signing your name on paper, waiting to be called up to the desk, explaining the purpose of your visit and then being able to receive the service. This paper trail has been uploaded, where these manual processes took manual intervention and time, it all now happens in the cloud, on your device on some other device or is automated in many ways. Still, this data needs to be collected for optimisation and improvement. Allowing a customer to get to the point of service of quicker, and hopefully, with greater satisfaction. Some areas of technology like mobile data collection helps to alleviate wait times.

The ubiquity and access that consumers have to mobile devices is a small example of how huge amounts of data can be collected. This fact of our modern age has catalyzed data collection has significantly changed the way consumers and businesses store information; how much is stored; for what purposes and how the public perceive the importance of their digital footprint. It is of utmost importance to choose wisely in trusted providers when it comes to web hosting service that store, manage and serve applications, digital environments and data.

With the ability to mass store and recall information on-demand, it becomes easier to use the data to inform key business decisions. That is, as long as it’s efficiently stored and organized at point of ingest. Nowadays, when walking into some stores, customers can type their name out into a tablet and this helps to directly send the information to store associates. When it comes to rewards cards, retailers can just type in a phone number, and customer information is pulled so they associated can input necessary rewards or update any changed information.

Instead of writing information down, now it can be inputted and stored on your smartphone. Often this data if handed off to data organisation tool like that’s synced across a multitude of device. The always on device also send out location, logs your times at a location and types of activity. Big data companies use this information to calculate store footfall, waiting times, sift through data on commonly asked questions about the place of business. This is all to ensure that the customer has access to the right service, at the right time without interruption.

In the back-office, data collection helps to save time and the environment. Many offices now run paperless. Instead of putting paper in employee mailboxes, or recording unshareable notes or insights, employees from management to sales clerk can access a stream of constantly updated information regarding their operational practices and any important incentives. Reducing the need of paper, ink and office supplies has a significant impact on an organisation’s carbon footprint and opens up the gates to unfettered collaboration and total transparency: inviting colleagues to work together and have oversight of shared folders, documents and processes. In most agile organisations, all this information is stored in the cloud and now links have replaced post it notes. We share ideas through messages using embedded links to our complete thoughts and works.

A large concern used to be space to hold paper files. Now filing cabinets have turned into digital documents filed in folders within folders. All of these files may still be stored and organized in a similar manner as filing cabinets, it just takes up hard drive and cloud space rather than a room full of gray and beige metal cabinets.

Our treatment of data has not changed. The method we utilise to store and organise it has. The fact that this can be served up on-demand and at lightning speeds has now enabled businesses, small and large to act on this information very quickly. Utilizing this data collection at, for example retail locations, users can answer questions to provide feedback to the retailer about their service experience or reason for stopping by. It allows businesses to maintain customer care information. By asking for a location information (as many apps and online services now do), retail marketers can see where customers are located and from there develop marketing campaigns targeted in certain regions or demographics.

Mobile apps have strength to reach large global audiences bringing the human experience to an interactive global communication process. By requesting survey information from app users, it again allows marketers to further understand their audience. Marketing used to be something as simple as telling consumers about a product and making it seem appealing. However, with as advanced as marketing technology has become with data collection and interpretation, it now becomes something that is more of a social science than anything else. By reviewing the scientific data collected in what audiences want, marketers can determine appropriate, targeted, messaging and content backed up by unarguable data in application interaction, surveyed content and explicit feedback.

Data collection is a mutually beneficial relationship between the user and the creators. By learning more about the application users, marketing managers, creative teams, and app creators are able to provide a more efficient and user-friendly product. This is an effective communication process between the app sender and user receiver.

A growing concern and awareness apparent in the zeitgeist of our time is how much data is collected, is that data sensitive information and how is that used. This seems to be especially pertinent to those against profiting off of sharing this information especially when consent has not been explicitly granted. In addition to this, with the rise of ever more sophisticated public security breaches, tech users (which is not effectively everyone) are becoming increasingly aware that harmful hackers may potentially gain access to their data information and use it against them for identity theft or something similarly harmful. To eliminate this worry, it’s important for companies that want to utilize data collection to maintain continual heightened security. As technology advances, the security embedded in it should be equally advanced. By providing and promising customer protection, it allows consumers to become trustworthy and reliant on the businesses who collect their data. The effort of the app creators to maintain heightened security will enhance their credibility and positive brand awareness.

Before data collection, it is crucial that companies are transparent in providing a consent agreement. Some companies are not so transparent in their terms and agreements and this could cause an upset later on when consumers did not initially want their data to be collected. It’s also important to be transparent in what data is actually collected. By being fully transparent, customers and application managers are able to have a professional understanding of what is expected and collected from both parties.

Data collection is meant to be helpful, not harmful. If done properly, data insights can benefit service users and service providers. It’s important to maintain updated communication between the creators and platform users. As data collection becomes the major way companies collect customer information, learning how to benefit all stakeholders will be key to the success of the creator and enhanced experience of the user.

New Pew Study Reports Student Debt Repayments Needs to Be Easier

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Eighty percent of Americans want the federal government to make it easier to repay student loans.  

This statistic is from a new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It conducted a telephone poll this past August, interviewing more than 1,000 people about their opinions on student loans.

It’s important to note, the study only referred to federal student loans and not any additional personal loan or line of credit students may take out.

Many students searching out the answer to what is a personal line of credit know they may have to supplement student loans when their financing falls short. But Pew turns its spotlight away from these personal products to shine a light on the student debt crisis.

Now a record $1.6 trillion, the debt crises has gotten its fair share of ink at the nation’s biggest online news outlets — from the New York Times and the Washington Post to CBS News and CNN. It even hogs much of talking points in the 2020 Democratic debates unfolding this fall. 

And now, thanks to Pew, the average American can share their opinion, too. As it turns out, the country has a complicated relationship with student debt.

Repaying Loans is a Challenge

Although it’s possible to strike debt clean from your record, most people recognize it’s not the easiest thing to do. 

A whopping 89 percent of respondents said they agree borrowers have a hard time paying back their student loans. 

The average graduate owes roughly $30,000, which puts the average monthly payment of a standard repayment plan somewhere between $304 and $333

Picking away at debt in these sized installments means it will take you roughly 10 years to pay off what you owe. 

Of course, this $300 is on top of any personal line of credit payment, rent, and utilities you may have. 

A decade of balancing your books this way may be a hardship. And for some 7 million borrowers in default, it’s impossible. 

Student Loans Are a Drain on the Economy.

Pew reports 69 percent of respondents agree that borrowers who struggle to repay their debt have a greater impact on the economy. 

And they have good reason to believe this. 

More than 45 million people shoulder a collective $1.6 trillion debt load. This means nearly a little over 13 percent of the population share a significant financial burden. 

If they aren’t in default, they’re funneling a lot of each paycheck into their monthly repayments, along with other bills that keep their household running. 

Basic things like covering rent, a line of credit balance, and utilities become the priority

Less dire spending, like unnecessary yet fun services and products that help boost the economy, are put on the backburner. 

They’re also postponing major milestones that may have a greater impact on the economy later on. Unlike generations before them, millennials are waiting to start a family, putting off homeownership, and failing to save up for retirement. 

Federal Government Needs to Step Up

It may come as no surprise then that many of the those surveyed — or 58 percent — strongly agree the federal government needs to take action. They believe the government should make it easier to pay off student debt.

What Does Federal Action Look Like?

What the poll fails to make clear is how these survey participants expect the government to address this problem. 

Is it something like Bernie Sander’s plan to cancel all $1.6 trillion of debt by taxing the top 0.1 percent of Americans? 

Or is it something closer to Elizabeth Warren’s sliding scale of relief, which promises to forgive up to $50,000 of debt for those households earning less than $100,000?

Or perhaps, it involves much less progressive proposals, like Joe Biden’s bid for income-driven repayment plans or Julio Castro’s time-based forgiveness.

The answer to this question may have to wait until July 2020, when the Democratic Presidential Nominee takes the stage at the National Convention. 

And of course, let’s not forget the results of the November election, when the country chooses between another Trump government and a fresh start. 

While the Democrats debate canceling the debt, the GOP has moved in the other direction. During Trump’s presidency, his administration has loosened restrictions on loans, put sharp limits on repayment options, and ended loan subsidies and forgiveness programs. 

Next year proves a momentous year for the future of student loans and the economy. Time will tell how and if American concerns over the debt crisis will impact how they mark their ballots. 

However they vote, Pew proves that student loan debt and the repayment system weighs heavily on the minds of most Americans. If it does the same to yours, vote carefully. Find where the nearest polling station is to campus, and make sure you’re registered.

The Rise of Ghost Restaurants and Kitchens

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Ghost restaurants, sounding intriguing, is a new foodservice concept that has been trending in the US.  With the number of Americans who have chosen to order food by means of delivery services instead of dining in increasing rapidly to an extent that the current restaurants sometimes have trouble filling the demand, more and more family-operated restaurants are being re-modelled to benefit from this growing popularity of ordering out. Concurrently, more restaurants chains are turning to ghost kitchens, virtual kitchens, ghost restaurants or virtual restaurants in response to such highly-sought services. Restaurants failing under these never-seen-before categories are tailored to offer take-out only mostly without storefronts and dining areas. Customers often order dishes from these types of restaurants via food delivery applications offering a variety of foods by different restaurants and have the food delivered to their specified locations.

Typically, a virtual or ghost restaurant operates just like the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant in the sense that foods are prepared once customers order them. A famous family-owned pizzeria in the US looks like a typical conventional restaurant with red chairs in the dining area and a black-and-white checkered floor. However, in the kitchen, the cooking crew prepares food for four later-established restaurants owned by the same business owner. These four restaurants do not have their own separate, physical spaces, and all the dishes that these restaurants offer are prepared in the same old kitchen and delivered via a third-party application while the pizzeria continues to serve their gourmet pizza to patrons that walk through the door. The owner set up the four restaurants, in a matter of weeks, earlier this year to make sure his business was ahead of this increasing trend. In addition to this operational remodeling by a family-owned business, a variety of major fast-food chains have also started to operate towards this growing trend on varying business models.  

Wendy’s has become the latest fast-food chain to bring up establishing their own ghost kitchens in the US by the end of this year in high food-delivery-demand areas without dining areas or storefronts as well as in areas in which the chain has yet to emerge due to high real-estate costs or other constraints. However, Wendy’s is not the only fast-food chain that is turning to setting up ghost kitchens to increase delivery sales by capitalizing on the increasing demand without having to fork out a large sum of money. 

Other major chains, such as the Halal Guys, Chick-fil-A and Sweetgreen have also started venturing into this trending market. However, instead of establishing their own ghost kitchens, they have partnered with a shared-ghost-kitchen provider, Kitchen United, to offer delivery from shared commercial kitchens. United Kitchen is a start-up that offers kitchen commissaries for restaurants that are planning to enter into the well-performing market by means of delivery or take-out only. This newly-established company has been backed by $50 million in funding from Google and other investors and currently has two locations in Chicago, Pasadena and California respectively. The company has formulated an expansion plan to set up 40 more shared commercial kitchens across the US. 

In addition to United Kitchen, Reef, which is a rebranded company that focuses on providing ghost kitchens, is operating on a different business model.  In lieu of only offering shared commercial kitchens like Kitchen United does to restaurants, Reef operates similar to a restaurant group, leasing ghost kitchens, in the form of trailers, to small restaurant owners while also offering cooks and workers on a fee basis to restaurateurs seeking for additional manpower. Reef places its shared commercial kitchens on the parking lots that the company owns. Currently, one of its parking areas is being occupied by three kitchen trailers leased to eleven different ghost restaurants. 

According to a food industry advisor, this online food ordering market is worth $26.8 billion, which is the fastest-growing source in relation to restaurant sales in the US. Digital orders are increasing approximately 20% each year despite only accounting for 5% of all restaurant orders. Setting up traditional restaurants generally involve high upfront investments and substantial overhead and operating costs. During their operation, these restaurants are also exposed to a higher level of competition. Approximately 26% of independent restaurants fail to survive in their first year. However, ghost restaurants or kitchens do not requirement substantial upfront investments and overhead costs, which in turn results in affordability for consumers. However, the only downside for consumers is that detailed reviews for ghost kitchen or restaurants are limited as most food delivery services only allow their users to rate restaurants with respect to their food quality by means of using a star-rating system. 

Taking into consideration these benefits and the growing demand for food delivery services, ghost restaurants and kitchens have become increasingly popular. Americans are getting more and more choices as the food delivery market undergoes rapid expansion, the extent of which is yet to be known. As the market evolves, these services are expected to become increasingly affordable and convenient for consumers. Given that most food delivery applications have yet to allow their users to upload reviews, consumers wanting to include wine as part of their food orders can check out the wine ratings by Sokolin before proceeding with the purchase.

Blurred Lines: When HIPAA, HITECH, FinReg and Medical Financing Collide

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In the Internet Age, the medical lending industry has changed greatly due to the proliferation of financial technology, which increased safety and security of both transactions and patient information. Companies are disrupting a multibillion-dollar industry by allowing patients to obtain funding for their care providers and treatments of choice, including cosmetic surgery financing, which is one of the top requests from prospective patients. They also work to educate patients on their rights and responsibilities under the law, and ensure patients have access to all the legal and financial information they need to make suitable decisions about their healthcare. 

However, the ever-changing nature of technology and the often-precarious regulatory landscape means patient-facing providers often occupy a treacherous middle ground between patient privacy, effective healthcare and oversight regulation. The lines are often confusing or contradictory, forcing these companies to think six moves ahead of current regulation to help ensure they stay current on the regulations impacting their niche market without sacrificing patient care. 

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, was created to meet the challenges of maintaining patients’ rights to privacy and confidentiality concerning their healthcare in the burgeoning Internet age. One of the key exemptions in HIPAA affected the financial sector in Section 1179, which reads:

To the extent that an entity is engaged in the activities of a financial institution, or is engaged in authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring or collecting payments for a financial institution, then the HIPAA statute and the accompanying rules do not apply.

In 2012, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, was passed, tightening restrictions and regulations for companies dealing partially or wholly in patient healthcare, as well as enhancing the obligation of these companies to ensure the protection of the individual consumer information generated by same to the maximum possible extent. Under HITECH, the exemptions in HIPAA for financial-side companies providing payment or funding to healthcare-side entities for individual patient treatments were tightened almost into nonexistence. This meant finance companies which had previously relied on the Section 1179 exemption no longer had that cushion between HIPAA requirements and their daily operations, and incurred the same obligations toward private medical information as healthcare providers, medical staff and support personnel.  

However, government officials and advisory panels have often noted technology is far outstripping the ability to regulate it. Legislation intended to safeguard consumers from the unknown consequences of updated technology is frequently obsolete before it’s ever deployed due to the rapid pace of innovation. Because regulation tends to lag years behind emerging tech, regulators find themselves in a binary position of either being forced to embrace reckless action which risks stifling competition and innovation without having adequate access to the information required to make informed policy decisions, or a paralytic scheme in which nothing is regulated to the detriment of the consumer. These issues are only magnified by conflicting or competing legislation which spans multiple disciplines, such as the healthcare credit industry.

The educational sector has produced a blizzard of white papers, policy analyses and speculatory pieces concerning this paradox between the rapid pace of innovation and the relative crawl at which regulation can consider new technology and privacy paradigms. Scholars in the fields of law, medicine, public policy and technology have all considered how their fields are intertwined and what may come next, and the inescapable consensus is that regardless of what it will be or what it will look like, policymakers will almost certainly not be ready.

Healthcare lending companies and brokerages live in the battleground between these disciplines. They also exist in a state of constant government and civilian watchdog scrutiny as they navigate a spaghetti bowl of regulations and statutes which contradict, negate and enhance each other, often in unexpected ways. As a result, they have adopted ongoing patient confidentiality and protection protocols which meet or exceed the existing regulatory requirements and often go far beyond them, in a bid to ensure they are and remain compliant with evolving regulation for years to come. For patients, this means they can shop with confidence, knowing whatever regulatory hurdles may come in the future, their information will be protected.

The Importance of Seeking the Right Talent for a Job

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Companies understand that a great vision is useless without the necessary skills to achieve it

Employers, whether they like it or not, understand that the degree of success of their companies revolve around the quality of employees they have. Co-founder and former CEO of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs, once said, “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”

In that sense, the job market is a candidate-driven one, which 90% of recruiters believe. However, over 50% of employers and candidates believe the current labor market is employer-driven. This is because according to statistics, one job ad receives, on average 250 applications. Employers believe they “still have the opportunity to pick from a pool of potential employees,” and are, therefore, in the driver’s seat. However, recruiters and hiring managers see that “Candidates are in higher demand. There are more open positions than qualified, interested and motivated candidates to fill them.”

In particular, sifting through hundreds of resumes, recruiters and hiring managers are despondent, unable to find suitable candidates with required qualifications to fill open positions. This factor as well as a frustratingly lengthy hiring process prevents netting in good candidates.

Even as recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes, they are confounded by the negatives that make it difficult for them to consider the job-seekers as potentially viable candidates. For instance, according to the recruiting website CareerBuilder, 34% of hiring managers seek quantifiable results on a resume. According to a recent survey by a recruiting website, there are specific significant reasons for recruiters to dismiss applicants as unviable. 84% of them find as unacceptable,  impersonal applications, which do not mention the hiring manager’s name, while 57% believe a Thank You note after the interview is essential. 54% of hiring managers want to see customized resumes and 45% disapprove if there is no cover letter.

Above all, social media is having a significant impact on how hiring managers and recruiters view job applicants. In the U.S. alone, there are 30,000 job search websites. Even as job applicants are able to apply for any and every job they see online, company hiring managers are equally able to gauge online if the applicants are indeed suitable, and have the skills they say they do. Social media presence, therefore, has become increasingly important in the hiring process. Recent surveys show that  3 in 10 employers have someone dedicated to solely getting the scoop on applicants’ online persona. Surveys aimed at job applicants indicate that the applicants are aware recruiters and hiring managers look up their social media profiles, specifically on LinkedIn. As global organizational consulting firm, Korn Ferry found, about 40% of U.S. companies have outsourced most of the hiring process  in their organizations to Recruitment Process Outsourcers (RPOs) or outside recruiting companies, who, in turn, often use subcontractors, generally in India and the Philippines.

When companies try to find their own candidates without the help of recruiters, they find they are almost immediately overwhelmed. With only 35% of applicants being actually qualified for the jobs they apply to, one job advertisement may attract hundreds of applicants, many of them unsuitable. However, the volume of resumes makes it hard if not impossible for hiring managers to consider each application in detail. In fact, the average time spent by recruiters looking at a resume is 5 to 7 seconds. This is actually unfair to all because, with this cursory method of weeding out the unsuitable, the really worthwhile candidates may get weeded out as well.

This is where the importance of recruiters can be seen, for they are able to devote time for in-depth  reading and analysis of resumes, for that is their job.And so, they are able to zero in on essential skills through skills matrix templates.

Thus, it is critical to identify the candidates with the skills needed for the position without too much delay, for, companies can easily miss out on the best candidates by not giving the necessary time to skills each one brings. Furthermore, if the volume of resumes delay hiring managers in reaching out to qualified candidates, they may lose them altogether to competition.

Complicating the hiring process is the contemporary way of drawing talent to a company.  Human Resources Departments of organizations post-World War II, were heavily into analyzing jobs, and determining the tasks for those jobs, then conducting a job evaluation to determine how a particular job fitted into the company’s organizational chart, then determining remuneration for the position in relation to other jobs in the organization. When the job was posted and applicants applied, they sorted out applications through skills tests, reference tests and personality and  IQ tests. It is significant that most non-entry level positions in those earlier times, were filled by promoting from within, and training the employees accordingly.

However, in the current job market, most non-entry level positions are also filled from the outside, with the hired employees already possessing the necessary skills and experience to hit the road running. As census data shows, many people who accept new jobs today, are not even seeking one. Someone simply approaches them and lure them into a new position. Also, many employers today advertise positions they are not looking to fill, which probably don’t even exist. Through this strategy, they hope to find possible candidates for future needs, or to find candidates for hiring in a different context.

The focus is finding extraordinary talent. As American author and business management consultant put it astutely, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

Ripe For Disruption By AI: The Fashion Industry

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Artificial intelligence. These two words – also often referred to by the acronym AI – have been ingrained into the vernacular of every 21st century businessperson, every millenial, every remotely technological person on planet earth today. AI technology has potential for application across a vast number of fields, including agriculture, healthcare, energy and mining, IT, manufacturing and intellectual property, but there is one particular area where we are only beginning to see the rumblings of disruption brought about by AI. The fashion world.

It currently sits as one of the world’s largest industries, representing around 4 percent of global gross domestic profit (GDP) and estimated to be worth about three trillion dollars in value as of 2018. Not only that, but fashion remains one of the past decade’s rare economic success stories, growing at roughly 5.5 percent annually, according to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index. The fashion industry would in fact be the world’s seventh-largest economy if ranked alongside individual countries’ GDP. The market value and the opportunities this presents are simply enormous. It’s no wonder then, that we are beginning to see signs that people are putting some serious thought into how artificial intelligence can pump new life into the industry. From enhancing design, aiding creativity, making the manufacturing process more efficient than ever, to helping with the retail side of things and enhancing customer support after purchase, we are certainly beginning to see the ripple effect of AI’s application in other industries as it begins to shape the future of fashion.

With respect to customer service, AI certainly has the power to redefine how fashion businesses engage and interact with their customers. Perhaps the most value AI offers business owners is the ability to gain rich customer insight through datasets, dynamic pricing and AI-led customer relationship management. Any business owner be it of a small, medium or large enterprise can benefit from the latter, in fact. Take an online boutique selling modest dresses for women, for example. Using AI technology, it could have chatbots interact with potential customers online to gather data and generate responses based on cues provided by the customer. Not only does this collect meaningful information about what customers want but at the same time it gives immediate answers to customers, ensuring a satisfactory buying experience for them. Tommy Hilfiger is just one example of a bigger brand name already doing this, with bots managing conversations with live people and tailoring response content to their interests.

But the online store isn’t the only place where the shopping experience can be revolutionised by AI: inside the physical store, AI-derived data can also inform layout choices and in-store experience. Using tools like automatic customer recognition, digital mirrors that allow customers to compare different colour and style combinations, and AI-enabled technology to improve inventory management, the in-store experience can become a whole lot less confusing and a lot more streamlined for everyone involved. Inventory management is perhaps a key area where AI has visible benefits for retail outlets. AI-enabled technology and programs can forecast anticipated trends, detect where items are running low in stock and automatically reorder those items, and ease the burden of the entire inventory process by automating everything. 

One non-retail brand playing with the idea of  AI-enabled digital mirrors is Facebook. It’s latest feature, Fashion++, uses a deep image-generation network to make customised suggestions for peoples’ outfits using algorithms that focus on small improvements to existing outfits. With suggestions including add a belt, tuck in shirt and pair with a black and gold bag, the feature has the power to put even the most unlikely fashionistas on the right track. 

Throughout the design and manufacturing process, AI technology can help retailers predict upcoming trends and future consumer preferences by analysing data floating around the internet and using algorithms to determine which looks or styles are getting the most hits. This particular application is a gamechanger for those in the fashion industry, with demand projections fuelled by AI able to reduce forecasting errors by up to 50 percent. Throughout manufacturing processes, AI technologies can improve the efficiency and quality of manufacturing, through detecting errors in finished textiles and generally automating the process wherever possible, allowing humans to focus on any higher value decision-making that needs doing. Following this, supply chain tracking and inventory management can also be revolutionised through AI, with AI already being used to manage and optimize supply chains, reduce shipping costs and minimise transit time. 

2019 has been deemed ‘the year of awakening’ for the fashion world by worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which earlier this year released a statement saying “The ones that will succeed will have come to terms with the fact that in the new paradigm taking shape around them, some of the old rules simply don’t work”. Industry foresight shows that regardless of size and segment, players of the fashion world now need to be nimble, think digital-first, and achieve ever-faster speed to market. It looks as though now would be a very good time for fashion retailers to jump aboard the AI bandwagon, in that case…