Global business developments - drone deliveries  

Businesses across the world are increasingly looking to developments in technology that may help streamline their working processes. One area that has been scrutinized with a great deal of interest has been in the field of automated delivery systems. Recent experiments were undertaken in Germany that could indicate a whole new range of possibilities for mail delivery. The potential for this technology in eventually slashing running costs cannot be overstated.
This experiment was performed by a research team from Deutsche Post DHL, the global logistics giant. They carried out a drone delivery by using an unmanned aerial vehicle. The cargo for this unique transfer was a medicine packet weighing approximately three kilograms. The transportation of this simple package was undertaken as part of Deutsche Post's preliminary research into the use of unmanned carriers for the delivery of urgent material.
Researchers were particularly interested in exploring the possibilities for taking mail to areas that, for any number of reasons, were inaccessible to traditional forms of transport. This would obviously be of most benefit to customers living in isolated rural communities, with limited road access, or island-dwelling communities.
The experiment relied on a ‘parcel copter', that was launched across the River Rhine, in Bonn. Cruising to an altitude of 50-metres, it carried its three kilogram cargo for a distance of almost one kilometer.
According to a spokesman from Deutsche Post, Ole Nordhoff: ‘We are at the beginning of the research project'. He was obviously extremely excited at the experiment's successful conclusion, particularly since the ability to transport post this way has the potential to solve a vast range of logistical issues.
Another spokesman for the company underlined the fact that Deutsche Post are now giving serious considering to the use of these unmanned drones, not just for delivery to remote areas, but as a general tool for providing a streamlined service to all customers. Allowing customers to receive items within half an hour or less of purchase would be a revolutionary boost for commerce.
Employing drones for general delivery purposes will remain the stuff of science fiction for some time. But the use of copters to handle urgent deliveries is something that is not only possible, but within the not-too-distant future may well prove to be probable. The use of commercial drones is not widely covered by legislation.
 
Amazon are excited about Prime Air — a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.

 

Manila night market  

The so-called ‘night market', held for almost a quarter of a century in Manila's Tutuban Center, has been a magnet for would-be entrepreneurs, and small business exponents wishing to make an extra few dollars for their families. As well as being a bustling street market where a diverse range of wares are displayed, the area is also popular with the many tourists who visit the Philippines' capital. They drop in to the Tutuban, not just in the hope of coming across bargains or holiday souvenirs, but simply to get a taste of the authentic Filipino atmosphere.
Although the wonders of the night market have been imitated in other Filipino population centers, none come close to reproducing the vivid and colourful background of the original market. There are many reasons for its enduring popularity.
A lot of people in the city lead very busy lives, often ruled by the dictates of the nine-to-five treadmill. When they have finished their daily toil and are contemplating the commute, a lot of the shopping malls are already starting to wind down towards closing time. The night market it perfect in this respect, as it offers hassle-free browsing around the stalls at a time that is very convenient for a lot of city dwellers. The range of products on display is another huge draw. Many locals choose to do a lot of their Christmas shopping here due to the sheer variety of items available, and their relative inexpensiveness compared to goods being offered on supermarket shelves. At any time it is possible to come across stalls hawking toys, fashionable accessories, home furnishings, clothes and electronic gadgets of every conceivable description.
The tenants taking advantage of the competitive rates for setting-up shop come from a wide variety of different backgrounds. T-shirts are always popular in the Philippines, either for adults or kids; and clothes stalls are excellent outlets for local manufacturers to sell their wares. One stall owner stated: ‘The designs are good but not expensive'.
The opportunity to reach a wide cross-section of Filipino residents, as well as visitors, means that many tenants have branched out. They might well have kicked-off their fledgling business enterprises with a solitary stall, but the benefits of expansion are there for all to see. Some tenants quickly find themselves having to open another stall, or stalls, in order to cope with demand. Even the most humble Manila resident can find themselves making a considerable little income from the night market, certainly enough to support a family, as well as giving enough to invest in a few home improvements, or perhaps a modest car.
Another reason cited for the market's popularity with entrepreneurs is the community aspect. People get to know neighbouring stall owners, and can swap ideas and observations about consumer trends. There is also a greater sense of security from thieves amongst the closely-packed stalls, with their owners keeping an eye out for each other.
Manila call center news  

As evening falls in Manila and the rush-hour traffic begins to fade, there is an unusual migration occurring in the opposite direction. Hordes of office workers are departing their homes to head into the capital's financial districts to commence work. Welcome to the world of Manila's call centers.
The enthusiastic young men and women who operate in these skyscrapers are known as call center agents, and the majority of their clients live on the other side of the world. This is the reason that their nightshifts are by far their busiest periods. A study undertaken last year discovered that the Philippines employs approximately 600,000 such workers, officially overtaking India as the world's most populous call center operators.
The actual tasks that are performed in these neon-lit buildings cover a diverse range of possibilities. Whether you are an Australian seeking to book a flight, or someone in New York trying to purchase a theatre ticket, or even an irate customer in Western Europe complaining of faults with their washing machine, calling the helpline is much more likely to result in them being routed through to an enthusiastic Filipino than the traditional Indian call center stereotype.
So why have call centers exploded in this way in the Philippines? There are any number of reasons, but perhaps the most obvious one of all are these two: wages are relatively low, ensuring that call center costs are extremely manageable in this part of the world; Filipinos, with their American colonial influence, speak easily-recognizable, international English. This makes them particularly easily understood on the other side of the Pacific, where large numbers of the individuals ringing their lines are doing so from the USA.
There are other reasons for the burgeoning numbers of call centers in the Philippines. Their development followed on from internet telephony – the evolution in this technology meaning that overseas telephone calls were no longer unduly expensive. There is an even more simplistic reason. Filipinos have long taken pride in their traits of being a friendly, charming and approachable people. These characteristics are worth their weight in gold when it comes to having the tools to dealing with large numbers of strangers calling on the telephone on a daily basis.
The industry itself is fast evolving. Despite the fact that there are significant levels of poverty in the country, managers are prepared to invest heavily in the technology, in order that Filipino call centers can find themselves equipped to deal with those in any other part of the world.
According to Raffy David, a director at the Teleserv call center: ‘The Philippines came into this business about ten years ago, around the time of a technological shift to IP telephony'. In other words, this coincided with the likes of free voice services such as Skype, making outsourcing cheap and easy.

 

Manila – IT security news  

Yes the main news is all about the WannaCry global ransomware attack that kicked off on 12 May 2017 encrypting user files till they paid a fee.

In other recent news emanated from the technology sector in Manila – a local software firm had unearthed the existence of a group of cyber criminals. These unsavoury individuals have been conducting espionage via a particularly virulent strain of malicious software. So far this has spread to an estimated 31 countries, with every indication that this tally is set to increase.

The so-called malware has been given the name ‘careto', this being the Spanish name for ‘mask'. The relatively innocuous-sounding component is actually reckoned to be one of the most advanced of its kind, and computer network managers throughout the world have every god reason to be treating the potential threat from this latest online baddie with the utmost attention.
According to one expert, a spokesman from Kaspersky Labs, who was summarizing a report published on its own computer security website: ‘the mask is one of the most advanced threats at the current time. This and several other factors make us believe this could be a state sponsored operation. We observed a high degree of professionalism in the operational procedures of the group behind this attack, including monitoring of their infrastructure, shutdown of the operation, avoiding curious eyes through access rules, using wiping instead of deletion for log files, etcetera. This level of operational security is not normal for cybercriminal groups'.
Exactly who is behind the mask software remains open to speculation. But the list of intended targets is both extensive and diverse. Over 1,000 IP addresses have been infected to date, with that number growing regularly. By far the most infected country has been Morocco with 380-plus instances, or over one-third of the total mask attacks. Other countries that have suffered similarly have been Brazil with 173 infections, the UK with 109, Spain with 61, France with 52, Switzerland 33, Libya 26, and the USA with 22. Those IP addresses that have been affected include websites relating to government institutions, foreign embassies and diplomatic offices, energy companies, research institutions and private equity firms.
Kaspersky went on to underline exactly how dangerous this type of viral infection could be for the respective network infrastructures. ‘For the victims, an infection with careto is disastrous. The malware intercepts all the communication channels and collects the most vital information from the infected system. Detection is extremely difficult because of stealth rootkit capabilities. In addition to built in functionalities, the operators of careto can upload additional modules which can perform any malicious task. Given the nature of the known victims, the impact is potentially very high'.
The mask has been out there since at least 2007, and could well have infected Windows, Apple, Linux and Android operating systems. This also includes the likelihood of having spread to mobile devices.
Given the increasingly complex nature of malware attacks, it goes without saying that computer security organizations must work doubly hard at keeping one step ahead. As has happened on numerous previous occasions, the lure of the substantial remuneration available from Apple or Microsoft might inspire many of these villains to jump ship and become ex-hackers working for the other side?

 

Online relationships – texting versus talking  

One long-term debate about relationships in the modern world concerns an age-old question. In the context of online communication, is it better for people looking for partners to text, or to talk? The end results of both means of message transmission are the same, but which is really best when it comes to the desire to make a good impression on someone?
Texting is most certainly a sign of the times. Young people today are used to living in an increasingly homogenized society, where they are far more likely to follow the pack in terms of their musical and other cultural tastes. Social media ensures that there are recommend films and television shows they should be watching because ‘everyone else is'. Fashion icons leap from magazine pages – and for all the taglines about being ‘bold' or ‘energetic' or autonomous', there is a far stronger prevailing desire nor to look too out of place. What this all means for today's singletons is that their attitude to romance is very often far more disposable than their parents' generation.
The celebrated ‘first date' is easily conquered in the world of texting. Where people are using websites or apps to engage with potential partners, a lot of those awkward first questions can be dealt with in the privacy of the home. Where chemistry was once relied upon to inform the decisions about whether or not someone was suitable material for a ‘second date', a series of brief text exchanges can accomplish the same process.
For many youngsters, actually going out on a social engagement with someone who is, to all intents and purposes, a stranger, is simply a bizarre concept. Nowadays social media allows for all sorts of subtle interrogation techniques to be enacted. A Facebook profile reveals a lot about someone's personality, interests, hobbies and friends. This platform also allows for informal get-togethers that can be conducted under the cover of private messages. These exchanges can allow individuals to determine the suitability of potential partners, without the social awkwardness of embarrassing confrontations.
There are a hundred and one reasons why texting is preferable to talking. Some people are socially awkward, through natural shyness, or perhaps some disability. Same sex partnerships can be explored in an avenue that is completely free from the disapproving looks of narrow-minded onlookers.
Using social media, people can be far less inhibited in their interactions. This can lead to truer images of their personalities shining through. In the more traditional notion of blind dates, there can be a tendency to put up a defensive front.

 

Philippines business news - gaming   

According to statements released by three international credit rating agencies recently, the gaming sector in the Philippines will continue to experience a double-digit revenue growth. The main reason for this is the anticipated opening of additional privately-owned casinos in the country. Fitch Ratings, who published its ‘Eye in the Sky Series: Philippines' report, this expansion will continue to be driven along by government-owned Philippine Amusement, and Gaming Corporation's – or Pagcor's – gaming complex Entertainment City.

The report outlined the fact that: ‘The initial results of the first two casinos operated under provisional licenses granted by Pagcor, namely Resorts World Manila and Solaire, are encouraging relative to the investments made. Fitch Ratings expects double digit gaming revenue growth to continue. City of Dreams Manila is unlike anything you have experienced before. Envision a world of exhilarating gaming spaces, world-class dining experiences, 5-Star accommodations, iconic architectural art such as the Fortune Egg and the world's first, DreamPlay. City of Dreams Manila provides exhilarating gaming facilities, international standards of retail, world-class hospitality and other innovative lifestyle and entertainment offerings.
Macau casino giant Melco Crown Entertainment are behind the City of Dreams Manila project. They recently announced that their luxury hotel chain Nobu Hotel will become the second major hotel brand at the casino it is currently building in Pasay City's gaming complex.
Fitch Ratings did underscore their comments with a note of caution, stating that the Filipino gaming growth trajectory beyond 2017 would be much harder to forecast. This was because of the constraints and risks that are liable to be in place once the next wave of Macau projects commence operations.
A spokesman stated: ‘We think it will be difficult for the Philippines to surpass Singapore in terms of gaming revenues - roughly $6 billion - before the end of this decade'.
Nevertheless the Philippines does enjoy a reputation for being a relatively sure gaining market. Several diverse forms of gambling are available to customers, including casino-based games – operated by Pagcor.
At present the main operators who are licensed to operate in Pagcor's Entertainment City. This includes Travellers International Hotel Group, a joint venture between Genting Hong Kong and Alliance Global and Enrique Razon's Bloomberry Resorts Corp, a local Filipino conglomerate.
As well as these gaming enterprises there is also a joint venture between Melco Crown and Henry Sy's Belle Corporation; as well as Kazuo Okada's Tiger Resorts. Pagcor happens to be the key regulator in the Philippines, operating a dozen casinos, a quarter of which are in the capital, Manila.
Recently, the Pagcor chairman and chief executive, Cristino L. Naguiat Junior, stated that Philippines gaming industry was on track to hit its 25 percent growth. This was mainly due to the opening of billionaire Enrique Razon Junior's Solaire Resort.
Philippines business trends – the way forward for   

An excellent litmus test of how business is evolving in the Philippines is to consider call centers. The Philippines now has the greatest number of individuals involved in this key 21st century industry anywhere in the planet. Examining how managers are balancing the increase in demand with the need to continually improve the customer service their businesses offer is key to understanding business developments.
The way call center staff interact with their customers is now based on taking on-board a host of factors that are now prevalent in the contemporary world, such as the fact contact is just as likely to be made via social media outlets, web browsers or tablets as by telephone. Coping with variations in customer demand is causing call centers to undergo a dramatic shift.
One of the fundamental ways in which managers Philippines call centers are now acting differently than they did as recently as two or three years ago is in the degree of outsourcing. This has given rise to a phenomenon known as ‘business process outsourcing' (BPO), providing a service that, on the surface looks and acts like a call center, while actually being something altogether more complex. A BPO outlet will certainly satisfy customer demand as its ‘raison d'etre'. But in doing so it employs a diverse arsenal of tools and traits. It will include finance, accounting and human resources specialities; even, where required, a degree of paralegal work. For many onlookers, this is where the future lies for customer service.
In this respect it is worth considering the experience of India. Currently the Philippines employs far more call center agents than its distant Asian neighbor. However, India has a higher percentage of employees who work in BPO outlets. As time moves on, more and more of these agents are moving away from ‘traditional call center' type activities, and taking positions within BPO organizations which offer non-voice based work. This demands higher skills levels, as well as being more lucrative.
By considering the revenue potential of BPO compared to call centers, business leaders in the Philippines can see the obvious benefits to the economy. India's total revenue from BPO in 2010 was $70 billion, compared with the Philippines total of a mere $9 billion.

 

Philippines call centers – increased help  

Avaya are the communications development company currently providing assistance to major Philippines call center operators, such as Teleserv. Amongst the services they are promoting is the ‘Click to Chat' facility. This is available to customers in real-time, accessible via their browsers. If there's anything they don't understand on the screen, or that they are hearing in the introductory telephone spiel, then they therefore have the option to get this sorted on the spot. This will also explain how to navigate to the most appropriate area.
The benefits of having this service at the customers' fingertips are immense. One of the commonest gripes amongst customers is the fact that while they are engaged in a phone call, if there is something they don't understand they must wait until there is an appropriate point for seeking assistance or clarification. During this time the original purpose of their call can slip by the wayside.
Click to Chat couldn't be simper. All the customer has to do is to input the query into a box, click the appropriate button, and then wait a short while to read the agent's reply. As well as this facility, Avaya have been developing video-based help products to empower their customers like never before.
One example cited was the case of a major client – a printer company – who were the reason for a high volume of call center traffic (principally from customers wishing to find out how to replace a particular cartridge). When this was realized, Avaya have commissioned a short film that focuses on the correct way to deal with this issue.
So rather than spending a deal of time on the phone with a call center agent, trying to explain a situation while a customer tried his best to follow the oral instructions, a video could be dispatched. In this way the problem was ticked-off at the agent's end in seconds, rather than much longer periods of time. The saving in terms of man hours has been considerable.
For the customer, there is also the sense of being a valued client, since receiving a video is a much more personalized commitment than having an agent offer a series of suggestions down a phone line. Practically, it is not always easy for a customer to hear instructions, and then enact them, especially if there are a series of steps to be followed. A video allows for a far more logical and less time-consuming step-by-step process to be enacted.

 

Philippines call centers and labor costs  
Speaking of reasons for the current buoyant state of the Filipino call center market, Teleserv's Raffy David explained the benefits of low labor costs. He said that his company now had the leeway to devote capital to new technologies – something they had been investing in for the best part of a decade in any case.
Apparently someone manning the phonelines at his organization earns around $4,800 per annum, so a substantial portion of the money saved in paying operator salaries can be ploughed directly into investing in the new technologies that are all geared towards improving the customer experience. He underlined this attitude: ‘It's all about enhancing the customer's experience. We want to give them a fast, efficient and highly personalised service.'
Another interesting point to note is the fact that Teleserv staff do a lot more than simply manning phone lines – even if these are frequently queuing with eager caller queries. Call centers are now dealing with increasingly frequent levels of enquiry that arrive via email. To deal with this phenomenon, call centers are now developing systems hat allow emails to be filtered. In this way, common subjects can be batched together, which enable any one agent to deal with multiple enquiries efficiently.
An all-pervasive aspect of 21st century mass communication is, of course, social media, and this too has had a significant effect on call center traffic. Because more and more customers are taking the opportunity to make direct content via Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, the call center organizations have had to respond to enable them to meet this increasing need.
At Teleserv, another innovation is a system that brackets all social media into one easily manageable folder. All staff can have instant access to enquiries coming into the center, no matter through which channel they actually arrive. Keeping on top of all this sometimes means that some outsourcing of responsibility is required. Teleserv employ third parties, such as Avaya, who have a proven track record in providing solutions to telecommunication issues.
Edgar Doctolero of Avaya Philippines stated that customer service had to step up to the plate when it came to dealing with the increasing demands of social media. ‘Especially now, with so many people using social media, businesses have to be very careful that their service is good. It's so easy for people to post opinions - either good or bad - on Facebook or Twitter, and their message can go viral really quickly. Imagine the impact that can have on a contact center?'
Philippines employment news  
Hot topics in Manila just now include the trends affecting call center employment. For some time now the Philippines have been at the epicenter of a technological revolution when it comes to satisfying customer demand by imposing a layer of dedicated help staff. However, analysts are commenting on the increasing evidence of a seismic shift in this sector of the labor market.
The voice-based services that have been the mainstay of call centers in Manila and elsewhere in this part of the far East are being replaced. The paradox is, that although this evolution in the ways call centers deal with customer demand is aimed at providing greater customer satisfaction at a cheaper rate, it will require more staff training, and increased investment in the appropriate hardware.
Head of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, Jojo Uligan, underlined what the new, holistic approach to customer services, or ‘business process outsourcing' (BPO), would mean for the future of the Philippines technology-driven workforce. His projections indicate that the nation is set to more than double its number of BPO employees, rising to around 1.3 million by 2016. This represents a climb of over 100%.
Uligan has been working with the Manila government to ensure that the Philippines' often fragile infrastructure is robust enough to absorb such an acute expansion. The fact is that the shift from voice-based technologies to a more generic approach, which would through a host of services into the mix – including accounting and human resources – is happening all over. While Manila and Cebu are certainly the traditional hubs for call center activity, the same factors are having an impact throughout the country.
Philippines has a relatively high unemployment rate, and call center jobs are particularly sought-after because they are continually in demand, and are also considered to be amongst the better-paid for workers at the lower end of the specialized skill scale. The Filipino government recognizes this, and is therefore offering extra incentives to BPO's who are considering setting up here, such as fast-tracked working permits, tax breaks and other perks. Government officials also published the ‘Philippine Digital Strategy' last year, specifically aimed at promoting the benefits of modern communication networks.
The benefits of harnessing the potential of BPO's are there for all to see, and its gratifying to know the government are listening to the advice they have been receiving for some time. Because under-employment is an issue in these islands, the jobs that can be provided by BPO's are most welcome. The one thing employers will be keeping an eye out for is the fact that western governments, especially Barack Obama's administration in the USA, are becoming increasingly committed to reduce job outsourcing and bring jobs back to local employers. So while the emphasis must be on providing value for money, this can't be done at the expense of excellent service.
  
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