The summer of 2018 will be remembered for many reasons in the UK. Most people will recall the heat and the heady, emotional days of England’s World Cup campaign. But, simultaneously to the international tournament, a much younger football team on the other side of the world were facing a far more serious plight which also captured the nation’s attention.
As it transpired, neither the English, nor the eventually victorious French, were the most discussed football team this summer. The mantel instead fell to the Wild Boars’ junior team of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. The story of the teammates trapped in the Tham Luang caves gripped international media for the best part of three weeks as the world watched on, hoping and praying that the boys would be rescued safely.
At one point when the rescue efforts were looking particularly desperate, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, ordered engineers from two of his companies to design a “kid-sized” submarine to help the rescue effort. Initially this seemed like a selfless act which drew parallels between Musk and the fictional Tony Stark, aka Ironman.
But, what happened next was not a slip-up Ironman would have made. The Thai authorities actually declined Musk’s offer to help as they did not feel his contribution would be suitable for this rescue mission. Instead, they went ahead with their own plan and successfully rescued the boys; thanks in no small part to 63-year-old Britain, Vernon Unsworth.
Expat Unsworth, who is also based in the Chiang Rai province, was the first foreign rescuer on the scene. Proving himself invaluable, with a knowledge of the Tham Luang cave system where the boys were trapped, Unsworth played a vital role in freeing the boys.
However, not everyone was a fan. A few poorly chosen jibes at the expense of Musk’s attempt to join the search and rescue mission did not go down very well: Unsworth branded the Tesla boss’ efforts to offer help as a “PR stunt” and mocked him, saying he could “stick the submarine where it hurts.”
Unsworth’s comments may have been unnecessary, but Musk’s exaggerated response will go down in the annals as one of the great social media meltdowns. On July 15th, Musk went on a bizarre Twitter rant, referring to Unsworth as a sex offender, whilst simultaneously questioning how involved the Brit had actually been in the rescue efforts. You could almost hear the wails of the Tesla board as their CEO lashed out at Unsworth, his pride dented. Overt aggression is not a trait investors or board members typically want from their CEO.
The incident led to Unsworth suing Musk for defamation of character in both the US and UK court systems. But despite this, Musk’s erratic behaviour on Twitter continued.
In August, Musk tweeted that he was looking at taking Tesla private and had “funding secured.” The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) then filed a lawsuit against Musk due to the fact that he didn’t have funding secured at all, and was in fact misleading investors.
Every time Musk tweets about a topic best avoided, he not only damages his own reputation, but also causes a PR crisis his companies. Tesla investors have been pleading with him to show restraint, as every outlandish post he makes knocks value off their shares. People want to continue supporting the forward-thinking automotive company, but at times the enigmatic Musk makes it very difficult.
Tesla is quite a rare commodity in the sense it is a corporation ‘doing good’: the more people drive electric cars, the better it will be for the environment we all live in. The sad truth is however, the more Musk is attracted to the world of outspoken celebrity, the more Tesla will likely suffer. Some successful tech companies have thrived in part due to the personalities of their narcissistic leaders, for example, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. But as a general rule of thumb, it is possible for the world to see too much personality from captains of industry.
Social media provides a platform for athletes, film stars, presidents and CEOs alike to be more relatable. The general public gets a previously unseen snapshot into the world of the rich and famous. There’s no question that a lot of people find Musk both interesting and inspiring. He has achieved an incredible amount in his 47 years, with his contribution to Tesla being a jewel in the crown alongside his foray into space travel.
But Musk’s relationship with social media raises many interesting PR questions. Should CEOs of listed companies be left to run their own social media pages? Do the benefits of social media outweigh the costly consequences of a senior spokesperson putting their foot in the proverbial? What can be done to avert the most modern of PR crises, the social media controversy?
With so much at stake, it might be best for Musk to take a moment to reflect, before he reaches for his smartphone to share his unedited opinions with the world.
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Last year I wrote a blog around mobile connectivity at Glastonbury and described it as being ‘pretty good’, but how easy is it to stay connected at other events? As we race through summer 2018 I am back with another hot take on how well my phone functioned in a selection of the UK’s finest fields. Strap in!
Gala – 5* festival, 5* connectivity
Gala describes itself as an ‘independent South London day festival celebrating the best of local music, food & drink’ with a focus on house and disco music. It has proven to be a highly successful festival in its three years of existence; initially based in Brockwell Park, the festival moved to Peckham Rye Park for this summer’s edition.
In terms of mobile connectivity, I have no complaints. Calls, WhatsApp messages and texts were all easy enough to send and receive which meant it was easy to coordinate with friends throughout the day-long festival.
In many ways, one day festivals are the events when you want your phone to work the most. Realistically, you will be on the festival site for six or seven hours at the absolute longest, therefore, if you lose your friends early on, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that you could be on your own all day.
Not only was Gala a five-star festival in terms of music, I would also give it five-stars for mobile connectivity. It was helped by the fact that as a fairly heavily populated area, it generally has a good cellular network. On top of that, Gala remains a relatively small festival, meaning that there is less mobile activity to create a strain on the network. But regardless, whatever it was, it worked and I’ll be there next year.
Citadel – 4* festival, 0* connectivity
Unfortunately, Citadel was the worst of the bunch for me. The festival took place in Gunnersbury Park in Hounslow on a baking hot Sunday in July. Headlined by the Aussie powerhouses, Tame Impala, the festival itself was pretty big. The days leading up to Citadel were pretty hectic in Gunnersbury Park with Lovebox taking place on the Friday and Saturday.
Citadel and Lovebox are big festivals, attracting hundreds of thousands of festival-goers through their gates over the course of the weekend. The vast majority of these people, many of whom are millennials, famed for their social media appetite, will be wanting to use their phones to upload videos and images to platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and the like. Venues and festivals generally encourage people to upload images and videos which tag the event, as essentially it is free PR and marketing which can create a very useful buzz. There was no hope of this at Citadel.
I could not even send or receive a WhatsApp message or text from the moment I entered the festival site, let alone upload a photo to social media.
Temporary phone masts are very expensive, but I can’t help but feel that certain large festival organisers are cutting corners by not investing in back-up technology. When attending a festival in a major UK city, I think it is reasonable to expect good quality phone signal. Over the course of the day at Citadel, I saw a lot of people aimlessly running around trying to find friends, which is no fun at all when you’re only at an event so briefly.
Wilderness – 5* festival, 1* connectivity (but it didn’t matter)
My third and final music festival of the summer was Wilderness. Wilderness is described as ‘the multi-award winning four-day festival of live music, theatre, arts and the outdoors’ based in the Cotswolds.
It was the most fun I’ve had at a UK festival outside of Glastonbury. Chic and Nile Rodgers were the musical highlight, but it’s the insanely picturesque location which makes Wilderness so great. Washing away the hangover with a dip in the stunning lake will make it hard to go back to other festivals.
Onto the important bit. Connectivity! Or the lack thereof. The majority of people’s phones seemed to be out of commission for the whole time we were on the site (with the exception of O2 customers). This is less of a big deal when at a weekend-long festival as you can always meet up back at the campsite. It is inconvenient, but you get used to it. You just have to be more disciplined at assigning meeting spots and times.
My conclusion is that having no mobile signal when you’re stranded in paradise is far easier to put up with than when you are just spending one afternoon in West London…
Until next year!
Amazon has finally taken the long-anticipated step into the world of live football streaming in the UK and bought the rights to show 20 Premier League matches from 2019 for three years. This is a move that will no doubt worry Sky and BT a great deal. Now Amazon has a foothold in the sports broadcast market, its presence is likely grow.
What was the deal?
Amazon won the final Premier League package which consists of a round of ten midweek games in December followed by a further 10 games on Boxing Day. Four of the other packages were won by Sky, whilst the other two were won by BT. The deal will likely be worth approximately £90 million, which will have been a discounted rate.
What does it mean for football?
For the Premier League and football in the UK, Amazon’s move has created a tricky situation. It is financially beneficial to the league, even at the discounted rate, although some are worried it might be detrimental to the fan experience.
The Board will have been very happy that anyone took the final unsold package off their hands as it has been up in the air since February. Many fans feel put out by this deal – if you want to watch every game at home, you will need to spend more than ever and pay for Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime.
The yearly total for all three sports packages will cost a staggering £1061.76 – to give you a sense of perspective, the cheapest average season ticket is at Huddersfield Town and costs around £100. At the other end of the spectrum is a season ticket at Arsenal – the cheapest of which costs £891, almost £200 cheaper than the combined cost of Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime.
One worry for fans is what this will do to the live experience at stadiums. As the quality of live sports broadcast increases, will people continue to spend time, effort and money to travel to grounds to watch matches?
Today, armchair football fans can enjoy 4K Ultra HD, instant analysis and more camera angles than ever before. From the club crests on player shirts to the native 4K animations, you can pick out all manner of detail in the Premier League coverage. You can enjoy a fantastic amount of analyis and punditry with ex-professional players. Then there’s the use of AR: data-driven graphics displayed in monitors or incorporated into the studio as part of a virtual set are great ways to make TV punditry more engaging.
What does it mean for TV in the UK?
Whenever Amazon stakes its claim to something, you know it will be thinking of the long game. This move will be something of an experiment – this package was designed with the internet giants in mind but only Amazon was willing to nail its colours to the mast. It would appear that Netflix, Apple, Facebook and Google were uninterested in this opportunity at this time.
The trend of the population moving towards streaming sites as the main way of consuming video content has been well publicised over the last few years – 11% more shows were streamed in 2017 on iPlayer than they were the previous year, for example. Live sport has until now be the last outpost for traditional broadcasters. However, with Amazon moving into this market – and perhaps other OTT providers in the future – could this mark the beginning of the end for the likes of Sky?
Virtually at the game
As it stands, virtual reality (VR) is looking to be the bankable future of entertainment technology. The cost of developing this type of technology requires a huge budget – Amazon are one of the few companies which would not only be able to advance VR tech, but also have the business model in place to roll it out on a large scale.
At some point, we will reach a point where we will be able to put on a VR headset and enjoy the football even when we are not at home, through a 5G connection. A high-quality service will mean more camera angles, more football for your money and theoretically a more life-like experience than ever before. This could mean that the experience feels more immersive than if you were actually at the game – more features, a better view and it may well reach a point when fans can actually sense the noise and atmosphere. Clubs across Britain will be eager to make sure attendance and atmosphere are something that can be maintained despite the unrelenting progress of technology in the hands of the likes of Amazon.
The rise of internet streaming platforms has been troublesome for traditional broadcasters for years, but now we are entering an era when the likes of Sky and BT are going to have to fight fiercely to not lose market share to the tech giants. Stay tuned.
I love a bit of futuristic tech in a film, from the hoverboard in Back to the Future to the lightsabres in Star Wars; it’s the iconic gadgets that make these movies so memorable. As a specialist technology PR agency – and a rather cultured bunch – I tested the Babel office’s knowledge of gadgetry in cinema and asked them to pick their favourites.
PASIV – Inception
Consultant Ed’s opted for this dream-sharing machine, otherwise known as the Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device (PASIV). Using fictional compound Somnacin, PASIV allows users to consciously experience an individual’s dream world, uninhibited by natural laws. In the film, characters can defy gravity, alter physics and essentially design fit-for-purpose environments and scenarios. It’s a fascinating concept. Unfortunately, in real life I find people talking about their dreams far less fascinating, so I’m not sure I share Ed’s enthusiasm.
Body suit – Iron Man
There’s a good reason the eccentric billionaire playboy Tony Stark chose to don this armoured cocoon (and why Consultant Declan chose it as his favourite piece of on-screen tech). The suit is heavily armoured, yet still lightweight enough to fly at high speed and comes with an array of powerful weapons. Favourite features include the repulsor beams which can be fired from the palms of the wearer’s hands. Perhaps a step too far for Declan though, who “probably wouldn’t take on major criminals/aliens/Gods: I’d just use it to fly around and skip traffic…”
Swaine Adeney Brigg Chestnut umbrella – Kingsman films
Sophie, Campaign Manager, has chosen a gadget that’s a modern style classic. Carried by Colin Firth himself in Kingsman, not only is this British-crafted umbrella super-handy in rainy London, but it’s also a bullet-proof shield with a pistol in the handle (should you get into a tricky situation). In one scene, Colin employs the umbrella’s hook to lob a beer glass at thugs, which is how I like to imagine Sophie would use it.
Laser knife – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Head honcho of Babel’s Cardiff office, Campaign Manager, and all-round culinary wunderkind, Ben Cole, has unsurprisingly gone for a kitchen gadget. This nifty number toasts bread and cuts it – AT THE SAME TIME!! Not only would this save any wheat-based-breakfast eater time in the morning, it’s also the type of gadget that as a child I thought, (and hoped) that l’d be using by 2018.
Remote controlled BMW – Tomorrow Never Dies
Campaign Manager Jen has opted for what is arguably one of the worst Bond cars, featured in arguably one of the worst Bond films. Trading the iconic Aston Martin for a BMW is borderline sacrilege. In saying that, the car does facilitate yet another life-saving escape, with 007 using his Ericsson mobile phone to remotely-control the bullet-dodging vehicle whilst lying on the backseat.
Cher’s high-tech closet – Clueless
Consultant Pippa has chosen this tech-powered closet, which allows Cher to browse through all clothes and put outfits together on her computer, and for the selected items to be retrieved and rotated from her wardrobe. You can arguably do something similar today, on a smartphone, in higher quality. But Cher’s chunky mid-90s desktop, its clunky low-res graphics, and that yellow chequered suit it recommends, elevates this piece of tech to the level of vintage haute-couture.
Spinner – Blade Runner
I loved every piece of futuristic tech on show in both the original and the remake of Blade Runner. However, my favourite has to be the rough-and-ready Peugeot which Ryan Gosling gets the chance to get behind the wheel of in the recent film update. It flies, it has a high-powered computer, and it perfectly suits the desolate dystopian aesthetic of the film.
Do you agree with the team’s choices, or are there some even better, more futuristic, or weird and wonderful pieces of technology you’ve seen on screen? Join in the conversation and Tweet us @BabelPR.
We live in an age where technology is pushing boundaries quicker than humans previously thought possible. From the dawn of fingerprint boarding passes, to banks trialing retina scanning for security; we are increasingly moving towards a world that sci-fi writers have dreamed about for decades.
However, what we are starting to see is that human interaction and physical movement are being replaced. Technological inventions in the 21st century may be evolving to give us a more convenient lifestyle, but this is at the risk of making us lazy.
As we enter August, the British holiday season, it seems like an ideal moment to pause and reflect. Here is a list of my top four lazy technological culprits:
If there is one household object that seems to be so great due to its simplicity, it is the humble bed. It’s a place of refuge and retreat after the best or worst of days. Always there and always constant. Considering we spend an average of 229,961 hours in bed across our lifetimes (approximately a third of our lives), we should probably be open to the idea of how we can improve our sleeping conditions.
The Sleep Number 360 Bed remembers your “comfort settings”, (presumably most people opt for flat and soft) as well as having your feet warmed while you sleep. This can all be controlled from an app on your phone. The 360 also auto-props up your partner’s head when they start snoring, and deflates the mattress slightly if you shift position in the middle of the night. Although it is all very clever, it does feel a touch unnecessary. Then again, those who have a partner who snores may disagree.
Perhaps my favourite invention has to come from Japanese company Denso. This group of bona fide geniuses have invented a pair of vacuum cleaning shoes. That’s right Dyson, the jig is up. The Denso chaps are going to make it possible for us to stroll round our living rooms whilst simultaneously cleaning the decks. To be honest, I’m not totally sold on the aesthetic of the shoe. It looks like a hybrid of what your recently divorced uncle Barry might wear to a wedding, crossed with Inspector Gadget’s brogue of choice.
Do you have a lawn? In fact, do you own up to an acre of land? But you’re not too keen on leaving the house? Thankfully the good people at Honda have your back. The Miimo, powered by 24-volt batteries, is a robotic lawn mower combining sensors with an advanced timer to perfectly cut the grass within a well-defined area.
“It’s unreal,” said salesman Kevin Sutter, who sells the Miimo at Nault’s Powersports in Manchester, N.H. “It’s spectacular.” I hear you Kev.
FINALLY THE WEARABLE CHAIR IS HERE! Speaking as a lazy man, this will be a complete game changer. Put it on at the start of the day and you can leave the house knowing that you will not want for a seat at any point. This actually is a very clever invention as it has been designed for helping those who have jobs which involve them being on their feet for long periods (such as engineers). To go from standing to seated, all you have to do is bend your knees and adjust the braces at the back.
Speaking from the perspective of a lazy person who sits at a desk all day, I can only think of how much of a game changer it will be for trips to John Lewis.
Glastonbury has yet again been and gone, seemingly in the blink of an eye. Around 175,000 people descended on Worthy Farm from Wednesday 21st July this year for what many consider to be the greatest show on earth. Such a large crowd of people in any one location predictably brings with it a whole host of challenges around logistics, staffing, facilities, and not to mention mobile phone coverage for the steep rise in devices in Somerset.
Attendees have different ideas about how to address the personal mobile phone challenge. Renowned for being stolen, lost or broken, some festival goers simply don’t trust themselves with smartphones anymore so instead choose to resurrect old flip phones or Nokia 3310s for the weekend. However, there is also a vast number of people who persevere, relying on their smartphones as not only a means to make calls and texts, but also for data services such as WhatsApp.
Generally speaking, phone signal is pretty good at Glastonbury. Last year, network operator EE constructed the UK’s largest and most powerful temporary 4G network, which involved temporary base stations and an additional 2.6GHz high capacity spectrum. At this year’s festival, EE went one step further. For the first time ever, a permanent mast was erected offering coverage not only to the festival, but also to long-suffering local residents whose own mobile coverage inevitably suffers during the course of the long weekend.
For the fifth year running, EE was Glastonbury’s official technology and communications partner. The operator had predicted that 40 terabytes of data would be used during the festival – equivalent to 400 million selfies uploaded to Instagram. This is no surprise given Glastonbury 2017 was set to be the most socially shared music event of the year. The increasing trend of social networks, messaging apps, and live video streaming means the amount of data being consumed is rising year-on-year. Festival goers are more data hungry than ever.
For EE customers, mobile phones work well across the board with the exception of the Pyramid Stage. For instance, when watching (ohhh) Jeremy Corbyn (to the tune of Seven Nation Army), making phone calls worked, but mobile users found data coverage was limited. Then again, the Labour leader had drawn the biggest crowd since the Rolling Stones headlined that stage in 2013.
The partnership between EE, the largest mobile network operator in the UK and Glastonbury shows the lengths event organisers are willing to go to, to ensure that revelers can stay connected at all costs. Smartphones are integral to modern life; social media effectively becomes free advertising. It has therefore been vital to ensure cellular service is not an afterthought.
For a festival the size of Glastonbury, the importance of having a phone that works for communications cannot be overstated, and provisions have certainly been made. Next year is a fallow year for Worthy Farm, a year off for both festival goers and the Eavis family, who’ll have time to reflect on next steps for connectivity. But when 2019 comes around, I will be looking forward to returning, and hopefully being able to send a WhatsApp message from the Pyramid Stage!
Drones are an ever present part of the news today. Recently it has felt like the majority of articles being written have portrayed these airborne robots as negative tools. When they’re not narrowly missing collisions with aeroplanes, drones (so we’re told) are being used to traffic drugs into prisons.
The authorities seem to be fearful of the Wild West element of this fairly new technology. The industry at present is largely unregulated, as legislation slowly plays catch-up with the technology. There are no restrictions on personal use, meaning anyone is able to purchase and fly a drone. Commercially though, drones are more regulated, as any individual operating one must have a license and be over 18.
Privacy is another issue in discussion. Today, people seem to more wary of ‘Big Brother’ than ever before. Last year the FBI Director, James Comey, stated, “I think people ought to take responsibility for their own safety and security,” by covering their own webcams as a way to protect themselves from hackers.
This element of self-responsibility is taken away when other people’s personal drones are equipped with cameras. Drones can allow individuals to have power over other people in a way that is worryingly hard to police. The number of incidents in the UK involving drones reported to police forces has increased more than twelve-fold over the past two years. Amongst the complaints were snooping neighbours and fears around burglary ‘scoping’ exercises.
These negative headlines are in contrast to the huge investments companies such as Amazon are making in the technology. In the near future, drones could change the way we have items delivered to our homes. Looking further ahead, we could reach a stage where we see drones transform the worlds of agriculture, engineering and conservation, to name but three.
Another interesting use case of drones involves bringing wireless internet access to the developing world. This concept was highlighted when Facebook acquired the solar-drone company Titan Aerospace and launched the Aquila. The Aquila has now completed its first test flight which is a significant step in its potentially revolutionary mission. What is the mission? To design, build, and launch a high-altitude solar-powered plane, which one day could be part of an international fleet of aircraft delivering internet access to the world.
On a grand scale, this technology could connect communities and individuals in developing regions, which had previously been unable to access the internet. For one thing, this would change the way children are educated across the globe. Developed nations would also benefit, as there are still many rural communities in regions such as North America which suffer from poor internet provision. The possibilities would be endless.
So what is the verdict on drones? Well for better or worse, they have the potential to change the world. Governments are still trying to work out the regulatory headache of how drone use can be policed, but with the backing of companies such as Amazon and Facebook, it is safe to say that drones are here to stay.
The National Crime Agency recently announced the average age of hackers dropped from 24 to 17 last year and 2015 was a truly bumper year for teen cybercrime. The days of graffiti, staying out and underage drinking being the worst a 14 year old can throw at their parents are gone. Instead we have a new generation of adolescents that, having evolved from that vegetative state in front of Call of Duty, are now clued up cyber criminals capable of hacking major mobile networks. Read More