It is September and the start of a new academic year. For those who finished their A-levels, there were some fairly sizeable decisions to make. University? Gap year? Career path? And if university is the answer, then which degree?
Education, education, education
Unless you’re a promising doctor or vet with a clear vocational path ahead of you, deciding which degree to do can be a daunting process. It certainly was for me: I was set on going to university, but enjoyed so many subjects, meaning narrowing the choice down to just the one course, which I would be expected to study for three years, was hard!
For budding PR professionals, the news that Bournemouth University is planning to stop running its public relations course may have thrown a curve-ball, and followed similar moves by the University of West London and Edinburgh Napier University last year.
On the other hand, the University of Salford in Greater Manchester decided to launch a combined public relations and journalism degree. This prompted a question within me: what advice would I give to an aspiring PR executive faced with the tough task of choosing a university degree?
The requirements of the PR industry
The truth is, degrees in PR are not necessarily a prerequisite for joining our beloved industry. We don’t deny that a degree in PR will equip students with the skills needed for the job, but it’s certainly not the only degree to do so.
The PR industry is wonderfully diverse. Every day we find ourselves writing, designing and managing; forging relationships and building on existing ones; undertaking research, pitching our client’s news, taking part in creative brainstorms; developing strategies and putting together budget proposals; organising events, and updating social media platforms. Want me to go on? I can!
The point is, a degree at university is valuable, but the discipline is less important. At Babel, my colleagues and I have a cornucopia of degrees between us: Politics, Modern History, Broadcast Journalism, English Literature and English Language, American Studies and Law, to name a few.
Our time at university teaches us valuable life lessons, including building confidence, the ability to write long-form copy and put forward a strong argument, and effective time management. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that according to the latest State of the Profession figures, just 17% of PR practitioners have degrees in PR or comms.
So, if you think public relations is a career you’d like to consider, no matter what subject you choose to study, use your three years at university to develop the skills that PR agencies value in graduate recruits. This includes working to deadlines, the ability to write persuasively on different subject matters, and the confidence to pick up the phone and pitch client news. Who knows, one day very soon you could be picking up the phone to pitch yourself to a prospective employer!
Babel, an established technology PR and integrated communications agency with a strong presence in the UK, Europe and US, is hiring graduates to join our PR team in London. If you have recently graduated – or are deciding which degree you should go for – please visit our careers page for more information on what we’re looking for.
Writing about technological advances in the agriculture industry and precision farming is a guilty – and not-so-secret – pleasure of mine. Coming from farming heritage, I am always very excited to see how technology can be harnessed to boost efficiency in the production of food for the general populace, and how new innovations in the sector will help shape farming in the 21st Century.
The agriculture technology (‘agritech’, or ‘agtech’) sector itself is fast becoming a key area of interest for investors across the globe, covering a broad remit, from growth through to harvest, processing, and even distribution. Essentially, the main premise of integrating technological innovations into agriculture is so farmers can grow more food for an increasing population, whilst minimising damage to the environment. But just what sort of technological advancements are leading the way?
In June this year, the Hands-Free Hectare (HFH) project, run by renowned agriculture university Harper Adams, and Precision Decisions, won the BBC’s ‘Future Food Award’. This exciting project saw the world’s first hectare sown with seed, tended to and harvested solely by remote-control robots and vehicles.
The two-year project has completed one full crop rotation (spring barley was planted and harvested in the Autumn of 2017) and is now on its way to producing the first ‘ hands-free’ beer! The same hectare has also been drilled with winter wheat, which will be harvested this summer.
Using smaller-than-usual autonomous tractors (the size you’re more likely to see on a golf course) and lasers, the automotive robots scan a two-metre circumference around themselves for safety. If anyone, or anything, enters within two metres of the driverless tractor, it will trip a kill-switch.
The tractors themselves are turned into robots through integration with drone hardware, electrical components and a motor in the steering wheel. What’s more, the lighter vehicles (with no drivers) minimise soil compaction which can be a serious – and unnecessary – form of soil degradation that can result in increased soil erosion and decreased crop production.
But what will the agritech sector look like in five, ten and 15 years’ time? When it comes to innovations like the HFH project, repeatability and scalability are very important factors. One hectare is around two and half acres, and with the average UK farm coming in at around 57 hectares (141 acres), that’s a big leap for one robotic tractor. For a company to be truly successful, it needs to be able to keep up with the supply and demand.
Another potential challenge is the complete automation of any supply chain, without human intervention. This particular project was successfully completed without one person stepping foot within the field’s boundary. However, human judgement was still required for growth analysis, as there isn’t currently any technology that can accurately tell what growth stage crop is at. Perhaps artificial intelligence or machine learning can one day help, but for this project, a radio-controlled vehicle was utilised to collect a crop sample for analysis back at the farm.
Automation in farming will, without a doubt, become a large part of agriculture’s future – just as it has in other industries. We’re a far cry from horse-drawn contraptions and hand-hoeing, and with universities like Harper Adams leading the way in pioneering new innovations, I for one am very excited to see what’s next for the future of farming!
Babel PR can support agritech companies. For more information, please get in touch.
In the UK, it may seem like we’re spoilt when it comes to shopping. Many towns still have beautiful cobbled streets with boutique shops, there are out-of-town superstores serving our every need, and outlets open late to enable us to shop long after the working day has finished.
The birth of ecommerce
Whether it’s having grocery shopping delivered directly to your door at a convenient time or finding new outfit for the lowest price possible, there isn’t much that can’t be bought faster and cheaper over the internet. As a result, consumers are shopping online in their droves, instead of heading to stores. This is particularly true of younger generations: according to UPS, millennials now make over half of their purchases online, contributing to the £13.8 billion e-commerce turnover in the UK last year.
The cost of retail
However, there a number of other factors making it harder for those retailers with a bricks-and-mortar presence. First: Brexit – a term we just cannot escape at the moment – could spell a hike in the cost of importing products from Europe. Second: the cost of renting prime commercial real-estate, which is rising beyond the reach of some retailers.
Finally: us. It was reported in April this year that the UK’s year-long pay squeeze finally came to an end, with wages finally overtaking price rises. Despite this, consumer sentiment is slow to change, meaning many of us will continue to shop – and spend – with caution.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Instead, we should remain optimistic and take lessons from those retailers which are making the most of both bricks-and-mortar and digital channels. Things like click-and-collect services, a seamless web-to-store customer journey, and in-store technology, as well as creative use of expensive commercial real estate, can provide great means of re-engaging with consumers and enhancing the shopping experience.
In addition, with the growth in the popularity of ‘sharing’ content across social media, an integrated social strategy should be part of all retail PR and marketing roadmaps, keeping customers engaged and incentivised to visit high street stores.
Last October, TopShop, for example, launched a collaborative immersive experience with cult-TV show Stranger Things, which was heavily publicised on social channels, with the hashtag #TopshopTopmanxStrangerThings trending across Twitter. John Lewis meanwhile has offered visitors the opportunity to take a break from shopping at its Oxford Street flagship store to enjoy training courses, eye tests, a nail and brow bar and pop-up masterclasses, encouraging people to swap shopping on their smartphones with paying a visit to store in person.
Yes, there are some challenges ahead, but with flexibility, an open mind, a dash of creativity and a desire to understand the modern-day consumer, retailers can reinvent and reinvigorate the customer experience. Long live the high street!
Find out how we apply our retail tech and ecommerce PR expertise and technology to get retailers noticed.
Have you been on holiday in Europe in the past year? If so, did you remember to keep your data roaming on?
Since 15 June 2017, mobile subscribers in EU countries have been able to ‘Roam Like at Home’ thanks to new EU rules covering data services, voice calls and SMS within its 28 member states. A great result for the social media-loving millennials, families staying in touch with holidaying loved ones, and conscientious workers on business trips.
For operators too, the boom in travellers roaming abroad has resulted in a shift in dynamics. The loss of revenue generated by roamers – combined with that derived from identifying and monetising ‘silent roamers’ (who would previously have turned their phone off when abroad, or relied on Wi-Fi only), by selling them tailored roaming bundles – has created an entirely new environment.
Our client BICS, a global wholesale carrier for voice, mobile data and capacity services, is just one industry player that’s been affected. In January this year, BICS reported a near-doubling of global LTE roaming traffic. Furthermore, it found a staggering 800% increase in LTE data roaming traffic in the EU compared with 2016, driven largely by the EU’s regulation on roaming charges in June 2017. The company’s recent research came at a perfect time, and its findings should better inform telcos’ future plans, help them to optimise roaming, and demonstrate the benefits of global connectivity.
This doesn’t really come as a surprise given the popularity of data-intensive mobile applications, content streaming, and social media platforms. I for one, was once a self-confessed silent roamer, constantly hopping from one Wi-Fi service to the next whenever I was in Europe, so I really appreciate the ease with which I’m not able to upload photos and videos instantly onto Instagram, or ‘check in’ to a location on Facebook.
However, it is worth remembering there are still countries in very close proximity to the EU which do not fall into the Roam Like at Home rules. Switzerland, Montenegro, Belarus, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are all within a stone’s throw from neighbouring EU countries but are not covered by the ruling. So tread carefully, read your contract’s small print and if in doubt contact your mobile operator before travelling to these countries. It’s still possible to experience a ‘bill shock’ for using your monthly bundle in these non-Roam Like at Home countries – not a pleasant welcome back for any holidaymaker!
We – in the UK – could be on the brink of losing our European privileges as we move closer to quitting the EU’s digital single market. Scaremongering media who love a Brexit-themed story, have suggested that post-March 2019 roaming charges will re-apply, but I think (and hope!) this will be unlikely. Although it’s too soon to say how Brexit will impact roamers, the UK’s main operators have all previously stated that they will not restore roaming charges, and instead will find new ways to monetise their services.
So, encourage your family and friends to remain ‘on’, and to take advantage of the Roam Like at Home perk when travelling to Europe this summer.
This year, Babel has entered space in a big way. I am of course speaking metaphorically (not ‘meteorphorically’!). Conversations about space have dominated the office recently during our very successful PR campaign with an in-orbit servicing client, and so I thought it was about time to put word to screen on the subject.
Space itself has always fascinated me. The inaccessibility of it, combined with the possibility of the unknown, allows for creative geniuses to speculate upon ‘what is out there.’ Popular culture has tried to provide answers and some of the biggest names in TV and film have been made through space-inspired fiction, from E.T., Star Wars and Star Trek, to Gravity, Elysium and Avatar.
The space industry recently came to the fore for the public as media consciousness was awoken to Elon Musk, the man behind PayPal, Tesla and Space X, launching the most powerful rocket currently in operation: the Falcon Heavy. Musk’s knack for captivating the public delivered: he launched his own red Tesla Roadster into space to the soundtrack of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, playing on repeat; a well-thought out PR stunt.
But it’s not just Elon Musk who has put space on the map. Last week we sadly lost one of the most inspiring figures of his generation, Stephen Hawking. Despite having the life-altering motor neurone disease, Hawking became the world’s most recognisable scientist, unlocking the secrets of space and the mysteries of gravity.
It is a combination of the above that inspired me to write this blog. The media is quick to instil fear about humans over-populating the planet, and it may have good reason: even Hawking believed we only had around 100 years to make the move to space or risk extinction. Elysium, the aforementioned film, depicts a world in which the rich start new lives aboard a man-made planet, and in another example of media reflecting reality, tech billionaire Musk has plans to colonise Mars in order to preserve our species.
So just how close are we to merging science fiction with reality?
I believe we’re closer than we think. It wasn’t too long ago that driverless cars were only a figment of our imagination, and now we’re staring a robot-infested reality in the face as we hear AI and connected car updates on a daily basis.
When it comes to space, personally I prefer my feet on the ground and the smell of fresh air (questionable at times being based in London, I know). Besides, all that space gear and breathing apparatus you’d have to wear looks cumbersome. Yet Babel’s further exploration into the space industry – a sector which includes some of the most forward-thinking people in the world – means I can’t help but be fascinated. After all, Stephen Hawking famously said: “remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”.
However, while Babel hasn’t got any plans to open a new office on Mars anytime soon, if the stars align and Space X approaches us with a one-way ticket, who knows? Watch this space!
Following the success of last week’s blog, we’ve collated a few more of Babel’s tech must-haves for Part II of our tech wish list. Santa, if you can hear us:
Dan: “This Christmas I’d like a Google Home speaker, for two reasons: one, I am lazy, and two, I am a big fan of the technology.
“As a true millennial, I do not own a radio, so one of the main appeals of Google Home is being able to turn on the radio by saying ‘Morning Google, could you turn on Radio 6 please and let me know if it’s going to rain today?’
“Arguably, I could just buy a radio and an umbrella, but where would be the fun in that?”
Sophie: “I’m not usually one for over ear headphones but I recently tried Bowers & Wilkins’ latest noise cancelling wireless headphones and I have to say they’re pretty groovy. With built-in sensors, they react cleverly to your behaviour. If you remove the headphones, they’ll pause the music and only play it again once you’ve put them back on your ears, entering stand-by mode in the meantime to save battery (not that you’d need it with a 22-hour battery life!)
“The headphones also have different modes, activated depending on where you are. These include a flight mode that blocks out all noise, and city mode for reducing outside sounds whilst keeping you aware of your surroundings. There’s even an office mode that limits background chatter but allows you to tune into neighbouring discussions if needed (there’d be no excuse for me ignoring other Babelites in the office!)
“At a whopping £329, I’m really hoping I am on Santa’s ‘nice’ list this Christmas!”
Katie: “As a long-suffering Southern Rail commuter, for Christmas I would love my very own autonomous vehicle – although Santa would have to really work his magic here as they’re still a couple of years from the tarmac!
“Instead of being driven round the bend by train delays and cancellations, I could be driven in style by my shiny new car. My new commute would be far from exhausting, and I’d have a wheely good time on my journey into our central London office each morning…”
Ed: “Quite frankly, I’m getting ‘snowboard’ of being put to shame by French youngsters whizzing past me on the slopes. Santa, could you ‘Alp’ me rediscover the fearlessness of my youth and prevent me from injuring myself by bringing me a Poc Spine VPD 2.0 Airbag Vest for Christmas this year? If you could throw in a skiing holiday so I can actually go next year too, that would be hugely ‘apres-ciated’.”
It certainly looks like Santa’s got his work cut out for Babel this year!
‘Tis the season to make wish lists. But, depending on the industry in which you work, you may feel pretty over Christmas before it’s even begun. In the PR industry, Christmas hits in July, with journalists keen to get the scoop on seasonal product launches five months ahead of game. Things then ramp up as we head towards Black Friday and Cyber Monday, all the way through to Christmas itself.
That being said, I am a huge fan of the holiday season, and I thought a week into advent (yes, I have been opening a small cardboard door every morning) it would be interesting to see what my colleagues would be asking Santa for this year – tech related of course!
Jen: “Why the long face you ask? Well, I miss my horse a lot, so for Christmas, I would like PetChatz. Installed in my horse’s stable, I would be able to have a two-way conversation with my gee-gee from my smartphone. I could tell her I love her before I hit the hay every night, and – straight from the horse’s mouth – I would be able to hear what she has to neigh!”
Ben: “No longer will there be whining in my house about wine temperature (first world problems, am I right?) with this multi-temperature Liebherr Vinador wine cabinet. I can have my whites at a warmer than ‘fridge’ temperature, and my reds at a cooler than ‘oven’ temperature. Such fun to be had, albeit unhealthy fun, not only for my wallet, but my liver as well! I can’t afford the £4000 price tag, so Santa, if you’re listening, please drop this down my chimney this year.”
Holly: “Practical, safe and snazzy, I’d love to find this Lumos bike helmet under the Christmas tree this year, so I can be illuminated like a Christmas tree for the rest of next year. Integrated lights for brake and turn signals can be controlled wirelessly with a handlebar-mounted remote; an ingenious innovation or an annoying distraction? All I know is that London’s roads are a dark and dangerous place, and flashy lights are for helmets and bikes, not just for Christmas.”
Sarah: “When winter comes, you can rule out playing any tennis – icy courts make for Bambi-like players struggling to keep on their feet! So how do I keep fit when I hate the gym and my work schedule is unpredictable? Santa, perhaps you could leave a Gymbot under the Christmas tree for me this year? My very own robot personal trainer, waiting for me when I get home, would motivate me to keep fit and maybe even encourage me to eat more healthily. Think of all those 2018 resolutions I could accomplish with support! Now I know they’re not technically available in shops yet, but perhaps one of your elves could get cracking with making one just for me?”
Lloyd: “Indulging in a sirloin is not a rare occurrence for me, but my culinary talents leave something to be desired. To avoid butchering any further prime cuts, I’m asking for a Cinder Smart Grill this year, in order to ‘meat’ all of my sautéing needs and avoid any further griddle pan ‘misteaks’!”
Keep your eyes peeled for part two of ‘All I want for Christmas…is tech’, next week!
With the ability to save lives, improve quality of life outcomes and better the overall patient experience, the healthtech industry holds huge potential to the shape of the world as we know it. A vast sector spanning medtech, bio tech, wearables and cloud databases, we’re continually seeing new and innovative applications emerge to address the health challenges faced today.
From mHealth to wearables, there are now apps utilising AI-enabled chatbots to answer medical questions at all hours of the day, 3D printing of bespoke braces and orthotics for children with cerebral palsy, and even social network platforms for health. Technology now offers patients an alternative to waiting for a doctor’s appointment and Googling symptoms with scary prognoses, and can provide personalised aftercare to aid recovery.
Backing the rejuvenation of the healthtech industry are a number of crowdsourcing fundraisers, as well as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is behind the digitalhealth.london accelerator scheme. This first-of-its-kind programme is helping 32 companies design technology solutions for the NHS, aiming to speed up the adoption of innovation at scale, and ensure that the maximum number of patients benefit from emerging new tech.
The IoT driving efficiency
The Internet of Things (IoT) is also making its way into the healthcare industry, connecting everything from hospital beds to handheld devices. It is very easy to recognise the value of a doctor being able to show a patient their X-ray results on a tablet immediately following a procedure. The efficiency helps to minimise delays and reduce the time patients spend waiting for results.
A successful healthcare system relies on a quick diagnosis followed by rapid administration of the accurate care required – be it drugs, a surgical procedure, physiotherapy or psychotherapy. There is no doubt that a connected world enhanced by technology speeds up this process, but what about securing and protecting it?
Heightened need for security
The digital transformation of any sector throws various spanners into the works. A connected environment enables the free-flow of information, but when this is jeopardised (either through a cyber hack or a malfunction), the whole network can be affected. Earlier this year, the NHS suffered a huge ransomware cyber-attack. Attacks of this scale illustrate just how important securing a network is, and if more devices were connected to infected computers, just how far could a security breach go?
Innovation powering transformation
But that is enough negativity. Technology is constantly improving the way healthcare organisations deliver high-quality patient care. We’ve seen exoskeletons bring freedom and movement to disabled people and robotic surgery eliminate the geographical challenge of having a surgeon at the hospital.
As innovation and invention continue to transform industries, we can all look forward to reaping the benefits of a secure, connected and technologically advanced health sector.
I have to be honest. When I first heard the phrase ‘fashtech’, my mind immediately went to wearables – namely Apple’s watch. And so, with little to no background in haute couture fashion, this week I attended day three of London’s Fashion Tech Festival, celebrating smart materials.
In the technology industry, we’re big fans of connected accessories such as Fitbits and wireless headphones. We’re well-versed in ‘smart’, and our day jobs revolve around promoting gadgets and gizmos that are streamlining and enhancing our lives. So how, and where, does fashion technology – shortened to fashtech – fit in?
“But what is fashtech, Jen?” I hear you ask. Wearable technology like the iWatch and smart glasses were developed as applications of existing technology (e.g. iPhone to iWatch).With fashtech, it’s the reverse: the fashion is designed and the tech then created to fit the garment.
At the event Ryan Genz and Francesca Rosella, co-founders of CuteCircuit, described how fashion, along with rock ’n’ roll, is a means of self-expression. Therefore, by harnessing the power of an iridescent lighting display to reflect a specific mood, or opting for digitally printed textiles, fashtech can transform the wearer in new ways. As the team behind one of Time Magazine’s 2006 Best Inventions of the Year, The Hug Shirt™, I am inclined to see their view.
We’ve seen the digital transformation of industries such as sport, healthcare and transport. Now, with the help of fashtech, a hearing impaired audience can ‘feel’ music through a sensory innovation: The Sound Shirt – another of CuteCircuit’s marvellous creations.
Maria Butkovic, co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella and Women of Wearables, also spoke at the event. Her informative insight into the creation of smart products highlighted the innovation and creativity breathing life into the fashtech industry. One key takeaway was the thought that went into hiding her smart umbrella’s connectivity beacon and battery. The supporting technology in fashion mustn’t be obvious to the user. The more ingenious the creation, the less you’ll be able to see any wiring, battery packs or beacons.
So going forward, will we eventually be able to rid ourselves of handheld devices? Replace our mobiles with outfits and wearables that not only serve to clothe us, but also connect us to each other and the world around us? Or will fashtech remain reserved for statement-makers like Katy Perry at the 2010 Met gala Ball, keen to stand out from the crowd?
From what I have seen, I believe there is huge potential with fashtech. However, collaboration is going to be needed to push innovations out of the realms of ‘haute couture’ and into more pragmatic, mainstream solutions for healthcare, sport and safety. This will not only help to justify the cost of expensive hardware and software, but will propel fashtech into a bigger market, gaining it that all important traction and recognition.
As long sustainability is considered in the longevity of each design (after all, I don’t condone filling landfills with unwanted clobber!), fashtech is certainly an exciting and creative industry and I can’t wait to see what the next invention will be!
I am a fan of technology; after all, I work in the tech PR industry and I am constantly surrounded by gadget this and software that. I’m constantly trying to convince my grandparents of the latest tech updates and I watch – completely mesmerised – as it transforms the world in which we live. Every year we witness new inventions, both on a large scale in the business world, right down to individual handheld gadgets, and look on as humanity upgrades itself one byte at a time.
However, I can’t help asking myself whether technology has gone too far in pervading every aspect of society and life. I explored this very question earlier in the year via the form of poetry, as I posited what will happen when my co-workers are replaced by robots. But what really made me recently stop and consider things a bit more clearly was an article I read this summer about the unveiling of a new equine monorail…
Ponder that thought for a moment. You didn’t mishear me. Equine monorail. You know, those transport systems they have at theme parks like Disneyland. But for horses…
The monorail, set to ‘revolutionise’ the training of racehorses, is a kilometre-and-a-half-long system, which has cost over £40 million to develop and has ‘cabins’ with space for up to a dozen horses. The wallet behind its invention belongs to Turkish industrialist Mehmet Kurt, leading to the monorail’s name, ‘Kurtsystem’.
Why would Kurt every consider ploughing eye watering amounts of money into a machine like this, I hear you ask? It’s because human error in training is decidedly the cause of too many injuries to racehorses each year. Anybody in the business of rearing a racehorse will be able to tell you how delicate these creatures are. Kurt believes that his Kurtsystem will enhance the physical development of young horses in the early stages of the training process, as well as have a role in the rehabilitation of injured horses.
Whilst I agree that the wellbeing of racehorses is absolutely paramount in the racing industry, I can’t quite get my head around how an automated machine can be better for them than a jockey – when ultimately it is the jockey who will race them.
This is just one example of how technology encroaches into all aspects of work and life. It’s mindboggling. Technological applications and their benefits for animals will always be a topic for debate, because animals are not able to voice their opinions about technology interference in their lives. Humans make the choice to buy gadgets; that’s the exciting part of the world we live in. What’s the last tech gizmo you absolutely hungered for and subsequently bought? Now imagine someone else making that decision for you, and you have no say what and how that technology will be used. That’s the case for animals.
The jury is still out for me on the Kurtsystem. I can’t deny that technology is truly incredible and can achieve things greater than humanly possible. Nor can I deny that Kurt is most likely to have his racehorses’ best interests at heart. However, every so often, I think we should stop and take stock of things that work well without tech intervention. Like face to face conversations, human interaction with animals, and admiration of Mother Nature’s creations. Those are things that money just can’t buy.