Archive for January 2018

Your Latest IT News Update

HP Worldwide Recall of ‘Fire Hazard’ Laptop Batteries

HP has announced that it is launching a worldwide voluntary safety recall and replacement program for certain notebook computer and mobile workstation batteries over safety concerns.

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Amazon’s ‘No Checkout’ Grocery Store Opens

Amazon has opened a revolutionary checkout-free, bricks-and-mortar grocery store called ‘Amazon Go’ in Seattle, after more than a year of testing.

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WhatsApp For Business Launches in UK

The new business-focused version of WhatsApp for Android is now available for download in the UK.

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10% of Cryptocurrency ICOs Are Stolen

A report by Ernst & Young has highlighted the fact that 10% of all funds raised through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are stolen by hackers using techniques such as Phishing.

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Nominet To Walk Away From Own Charitable Trust

Questions about Nominet Trust’s direction and accountability have led to Nominet announcing that it is withdrawing from its own charitable foundation that it set up over a decade ago.

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Tech Tip – Windows 10 – Create Multiple Desktops

If your work involves having different jobs that need different sets of apps, or if you need to have lots of different things open and you only have one monitor, you may find that it helps to create multiple desktops.

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HP Worldwide Recall of ‘Fire Hazard’ Laptop Batteries

HP has announced that it is launching a worldwide voluntary safety recall and replacement program for certain notebook computer and mobile workstation batteries over safety concerns.

Fire Hazard

The reason given for the recall is that the batteries, including those for the ProBook, ZBook, x360, Pavilion and Envy, is that HP says they have the potential to overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to customers.

The fire hazard risk appears to have been reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) which identified eight cases of the batteries overheating, melting, or charring. There has also been a report of one person suffering a first-degree burn from the battery, and three others suffering damage to property totalling $4,500

How Big Is The Problem?

The CPSC estimates that as many as 50,000 units sold in the U.S. are at risk, and possibly, a further 3,000 more units sold in Canada.

Which Batteries?

HP says that the affected batteries were shipped with specific HP Probook 64x (G2 and G3), HP ProBook 65x (G2 and G3), HP x360 310 G2, HP ENVY m6, HP Pavilion x360, HP 11 notebook computers and HP ZBook (17 G3, 17 G4, and Studio G3) mobile workstations sold worldwide from December 2015 through December 2017. This includes those sold as accessories or provided as replacements through HP or an authorized HP Service Provider.

HP has provided a list of the notebook product names for batteries that may be affected at the foot of this page on its website: https://batteryprogram687.ext.hp.com/en-US/Home/ProgramSummary

How to Check Your Battery

On the same web page, HP has provided a downloadable HP Validation Utility which will check whether the battery is in your notebook is affected. The utility will also verify the battery as being one of HP’s, and this means that HP will be able to send a free replacement battery.

What If You Can’t Get To The Battery?

HP have stated that in cases where the battery is internal to the system, and isn’t customer replaceable, they will provide a “free battery replacement services” for each verified, affected battery validated on their HP Battery Recall website. This will mean that the battery will be replaced by an authorized technician at no cost to the customer.

Battery Safety Mode

In the light of the news about fire risk, if customers need to continue using their notebook, HP says that they can do so by enabling the Battery Safety Mode by connecting the notebook to an HP power adaptor.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The reports of people suffering burns and property being damaged are alarming, and the immediate advice for businesses with HP notebook computers and mobile workstations is to batteries go to the HP Battery Recall website https://batteryprogram687.ext.hp.com/ to check if their battery is affected, learn about the BIOS update that contains the Battery Safety Mode feature, and to order a free battery and battery replacement services, if eligible.

In times where mobile devices are becoming ever more popular and powerful, and globalisation means that products can be widely shipped in large numbers before a problem is identified, stories such as these are becoming all-too-common. For example, there was the case of the Galaxy Note 7 phone recall due to explosive batteries, and last august, 10,000 Galaxy Note 4 batteries were recalled for risk of overheating. In the case of HP, they appear to have acted quickly, and to have provided adequate help and advice to customers. This story is also, therefore, a reminder of the importance of a having Disaster Recovery Plans in place.

Amazon’s ‘No Checkout’ Grocery Store Opens

Amazon has opened a revolutionary checkout-free, bricks-and-mortar grocery store called ‘Amazon Go’ in Seattle, after more than a year of testing.

How Can It Have No Checkouts?

The Amazon Go store uses infra-red ceiling-mounted cameras and electronic sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves (which have weight sensors), and what they put back. Some items carry visual dot code, which acts like a bar code, to help the cameras to identify them.

The system uses a deep learning element so that it can differentiate between customers as they move around the store and between similar looking items for sale. The items for sale are added to the customers’ Amazon Go account as they pick them up, and items are deleted from the account if they put back on the shelves. An electronic receipt is issued as the customer exits the store.

Cash is not needed as customers are billed to the card that Amazon has on file. The ‘grab and go’ concept of the Amazon Go “just walk out” store means that it has no checkout operators or self-service tills because the whole process is automated.

As yet, there is no information about how accurate the system is, and there have only been some reports of minor teething problems.

Super-Convenient

The fact that Amazon Go appears to have eradicated the challenges of long queues which can deter shoppers, and removed the challenge of human error and other messages and authorisation processes that can disrupt self-service tills, could mean that the new store concept poses a real challenge to other retailers.

Whole Foods

Amazon began challenging grocery retailers in the US such as Wal-Mart in the bricks-and-mortar world last summer when it bought Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7, with industry insiders saying that it would be a long and costly process for Amazon to revolutionize grocery delivery the way they revolutionized online retailing. Before groceries, Amazon moved into brick-and-mortar retailing with the opening of bookshop in Seattle in 2015 – there are now 13 in the US, plus dozens of pop-up outlets.

Amazon launched its ‘Amazon Fresh’ grocery delivery service in the UK back in 2016, and reports indicate that it is 25% cheaper to use Amazon Fresh than shopping in traditional supermarkets.

What Does This Mean For Your Businesses?

The strengths and reach of Amazon has meant that it has spent the last 3 years diversifying and challenging more businesses in more markets. The scaling up of its parcel delivery, plus drone and robot deliveries, Amazon Fresh, its purchase of Whole Foods, and its opening of its Amazon Business online trade counter have seen more (small and large) businesses facing a tough new competitor. It is also worth noting that Amazon has a presence and therefore a potential instant grocery ordering system in many homes in the UK in the form of the Amazon Echo, thereby giving them a further advantage over the traditional big supermarkets.

For the big supermarkets here in the UK, although Amazon Go won’t challenge profits directly now (Amazon Go is one store in Seattle at the moment), the fact that it exists, it works, it appears to address key customer concerns (no queues), and its in the hands of a company with the scale, reach, and brand awareness to expand it is a worry and another challenge to the big grocery retailers.

On the plus side, if the technology could be replicated, it could serve as a blueprint for something that could be copied by the big supermarkets in some key locations.

Some commentators have pointed out that, while Amazon is not yet making large amounts of money (in big player terms) from its retail stores, they are helping to raise brand awareness and to promote Amazon’s Prime membership scheme.

WhatsApp For Business Launches in UK

The new business-focused version of WhatsApp for Android is now available for download in the UK.

Small Business Needs

The new WhatsApp Business is can be downloaded for free at Google Play, and is specifically aimed at the needs of small businesses, which account for 99.3% of all private sector businesses in the UK (FSB).

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has said that it wants people to use WhatsApp to connect with small businesses, and that the new ‘WhatsApp Business’ will make it easier for companies to connect with customers, and offers a more convenient way for the 1.3 billion WhatsApp users to chat with businesses.

Why Launch WhatsApp Business?

Since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $22 billion the company has been looking for ways to monetize the app which, although was developed for use by individuals, is now being widely used by people in business, and in large and small organizations as a collaboration tool for staff.

This move by WhatsApp is also designed to gain a march on rivals in what has become a battle for the attention of consumers by messaging apps including Apple’s iMessage, Facebook’s Messenger, Kik, Slack for business, and others.

What Can It Do?

The launch in the UK (and, US, Indonesia, Italy and Mexico at the same time) is part of the wider worldwide rollout. According to WhatsApp, 80% of small businesses already using the App in India and Brazil say WhatsApp helps them both communicate with customers and grow their business today (Morning Consult study figures).

Features

Features of App include:

  • Business Profiles: to help companies to provide useful information to customers e.g. business description, email or store addresses, and website.
  • Smart Messaging Tools: to enable companies to respond quickly with answers to frequently asked questions, also greeting messages to introduce customers to the business, and away messages that let them know you’re busy.
  • Messaging Statistics: simple metrics like the number of messages read to see what’s working, and to give businesses a way of measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of the app.
  • WhatsApp Web: to enable the sending and receiving of messages with WhatsApp Business on the desktop.
  • Account Type: so that customers will know that they’re talking to a business because it is listed as a Business Account. This can become a Confirmed Account later (similar feature to Twitter’s verification process), and once confirmed, the account phone number will match the business phone number.
  • WhatsApp allows users to send photos, it has end-to-end encryption security – which is an important feature for businesses, allows for easy document sharing (up to 100 MB), and allows for seamless syncing of your chats to your computer so that you can chat on whatever device is most convenient.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Since many business people (and more importantly, their customers) were using WhatsApp for general communication anyway, it makes sense for Facebook to develop a version that is focused more specifically on small businesses. Clearly, this is a very large market in countries across the world, and it will, of course, present opportunities for monetisation and probably advertising using the Facebook-owned network in future.

From the perspective of businesses, WhatsApp provides a lot of powerful, useful, and cost saving features for a handy free app, and with speed and versatility of communications being an important factor in getting the business in today’s environment, WhatsApp Business is likely to prove popular.

WhatsApp Business offers businesses / brands the potential for building a relationship with their customers on a 1:1 level. The huge user base of the app, its speed and reliability, and the verification system of the business version could provide new opportunities for businesses that are able to harness it in a value-adding and engaging way.

There are many possible applications for WhatsApp Business e.g., KLM’s use the app for flight confirmations and updates, brands using the app on competitions, and WhatsApp Business could work well in industries such as hospitality. WhatsApp could be a perfect way to enable customers to book a hotel room, get customer support, and even access an on-site member of staff such as a concierge. Retail brands could use the app for many purposes in addition to just shipping confirmations.

Many tech and business commentators are saying that 1:1 messaging is the future of personalized commerce and post-purchase customer service, and WhatsApp Business is well positioned enough, and widely used enough to provide opportunities for businesses worldwide to improve their communication and relationship marketing.

10% of Cryptocurrency ICOs Are Stolen

A report by Ernst & Young has highlighted the fact that 10% of all funds raised through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are stolen by hackers using techniques such as Phishing.

What Is An ICO?

An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a controversial way of start-up companies raising money / crowd funding to e.g. build new technology platforms or to fund businesses that use crypto currencies (also called tokens), and the underlying blockchain technology. The tokens only become functional units of currency if / when the ICO’s funding goal is met, and the project finally launches.

The controversy about ICOs centres around the fact that, although it is a innovative new source of venture finding, some commentators view ICO projects as unregulated securities that allow their founders to raise an unjustified amounts of capital, and that valuations of ICO tokens may be driven too much by the fear of missing out and, therefore, seem to result in investors rushing to put money into projects that ignore some important market fundamentals, such as project development.

$400 Million Stolen

After analysing more than 372 ICOs, Ernst & Young has reported that approximately $400 million of the total $3.7 billion funds raised to date has been stolen by hackers. The most widely used technique to steal the digital cryptocurrency funds was found to be Phishing, resulting in the theft of $1.5 million in ICO proceeds per month.

ICOs are an opportunity for scammers because they are able to take advantage of the promise of people making a huge return from relatively low investment.

As well as scammers taking money, the study also found that underlying software code in some projects contains hidden investment terms that have not been disclosed, or that contradict previous disclosures e.g. saying there will be no further issuance of a cryptocurrency, while the code may leave that option open.

Challenges To Reaching Targets For ICOs

The Ernst & Young research that volume of ICOs has been slowing since late 2017, with less than 25% reaching their target in November 2017, compared with 90% in June. Recent ICOs have faced challenges to reaching their targets, a drop in quality i.e. more low quality projects with higher fundraising goals are being presented, and issues from earlier projects are now being highlighted.

Crypto-based investment of choice is therefore waning, organizers and contributors are now facing increased regulatory scrutiny, and they are, therefore, now under pressure more prove the longer-term potential of their product or service to an increasingly sceptical audience.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

A drop in the value of popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin (its value has fallen 12% over 24 hours), added to warnings about investing in cryptocurrencies from the chairman of UBS and warnings by billionaire investor Warren Buffett (who said he would never invest in cryptocurrency), and news reports of scams such as a fake sale con for instant messenger service Telegram to unsuspecting would-be investors have all served as warnings about the risks of cryptocurrencies and of ICOs.

This latest Ernst & Young research has only served to cement that message to businesses and investors, and some commentators now think that ICOs could soon disappear altogether as a viable fundraising option, unless they can address the issue of security urgently and effectively.

Nominet To Walk Away From Own Charitable Trust

Questions about ‘Nominet Trust’s direction and accountability have led to Nominet announcing that it is withdrawing from its own charitable foundation that it set up over a decade ago.

What Is Nominet Trust?

Nominet Trust is the charitable foundation that was set up by Nominet, the UK’s domain-name registry, as a way of dealing with the excess revenue from registrations of .uk domain names.

What’s Gone Wrong?

An email sent by Nominet CEO Russell Haworth cites problems with the Trusts “grant-giving, single funder model” which was set up in 2008, as being at the heart of the reason for Nominet wanting to walk away from its own Trust.

It has been reported, however, that some members of the Trust became concerned that, rather than using the money from .uk to find good causes, money may have been used to fund unrelated business expansions, including into loss-making ventures.

There was also concern after Nominet raised its prices by 50% for reasons that were unclear to many, and that contacts Nominet had signed to run dozens of new domain registries, may have been won by offering below-market rates,
Resignations.

The announcement of the move away from the Trust by Nominet was accompanied by the resignation of the chair of trustees Natalie Campbell, and by two of its directors, former Nominet board member Nora Nanayakkara, and Jemima Rellie.

Trouble At The Top?

There appears to have been a history of trouble at the top at Nominet with previous CEO, Lesley Cowley, reportedly giving the board members more power over the funds.

Some commentators have noted that the arrival of new Chief Executive Russell Haworth, a former acquisition and venture specialist with no experience of the domain name registry market, brought more of a shift from non-profit with a strong public benefit remit to a profit-seeking investment vehicle.

Mr Haworth’s arrival in 2015 also coincided with resignation of the entire Nominet Trust team, including the chief executive, chair, several trustees, and most of its senior staff.

It has also been noted that under Haworth’s leadership, the organization appeared to ignore the recommendations of an independent study into its governance that would have given members a greater say in Nominet’s direction.

What Now?

Nominet’s CEO has stated that the Nominet Trust should now be free to attract other investors in order to fulfil its social tech ambitions, which means that the Trust will become a separate entity with a new name, and with different governance and funding structures. The Trust is reported to be in a healthy financial position and is continuing running its programmes.
Nominet is still willing to be involved as a member of the Trust during the transition period.

It is thought that the new version of the Nominet Trust will be led by new Chair Bill Liao, who joined our Board back in 2014. It is reported that Mr Liao has the full support of Trustees Sebastien Lahtinen, Beth Murray and Hannah Keartland.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It seems that a change in CEO, the focus way Nominet now does business, and most probably the culture (after resignations) and power shifts, and led to questions which, in turn led to the registry and its Trust going their separate ways.

Nominet was set up as a non-profit, public-interest, government-designed operator of the UK’s internet registry, and the Trust was set up to make use of money for good, charitable causes. It is important in organisational structures of this kind that accountability and transparency are maintained, and that the original charitable focus of Trusts is protected by members who have enough power.

Although businesses and charities need strong leadership, too much power at the top, and power and focus wasted on internal struggles can cause problems for the health of an organisation. As it stands, Nominet has a stable annual revenue of £30m, and the Trust (and the good causes it gives to) have benefitted from £44m since 2008. The hope is, therefore, that the change will mean stability restored to the Trust and that any problems with direction and accountability can be investigated and put right.

Tech Tip – Windows 10 – Create Multiple Desktops

If your work involves having different jobs that need different sets of apps, or if you need to have lots of different things open and you only have one monitor, you may find that it helps to create multiple desktops.

To create multiple desktops:

  • Click on the task view button next to the search bar on the taskbar.
  • Go to the button at the bottom-right corner of your screen labelled ‘+ New desktop.’
  • Click on this to create a new desktop.
  • To switch between desktops, click on the task view button and then, click on either of the thumbnails at the foot of the screen.

Your Latest IT News Update

Licence Plate Recognition-A Million Mistakes a Day!

Concerns over the possible misreading of hundreds of thousands of vehicle licence plates each day have led to calls for statutory regulation of the UK’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system.

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Ford Doubles Investment in Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Co has announced its plans to more than double its previously announced target of $4.5 billion investment in electric cars to $11 billion by 2022, and the company is aiming to have 40 mainstream, hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model line-up.

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OnePlus Accused Of Credit Card Fraud

Chinese Android Phone company OnePlus is at the centre of a storm of complaints after many customers said that their credit cards had been used for fraudulent transactions after they purchased products from the OnePlus web store.

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New macOS Too Secure?

The new security called ‘System ‘Integrity Protection’ (SIP) behind macOS High Sierra is proving so secure that it appears to be stopping users from being able to delete (third-party) apps with ease.

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New Law Tackles Digital Ticket Touts

The UK Government has announced that cyber touts caught using specialised software called ‘bots’ to purchase tickets in bulk for re-sale at inflated prices on secondary websites, could soon face unlimited fines.

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Tech Tip – Windows 10: “Print” Documents Straight To PDF

Windows 10 finally lets you “print” documents to PDF, which means that you no longer need to install a third-party app to save a web page or document for use offline.

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Licence Plate Recognition -1 Million Mistakes a Day!

Concerns over the possible misreading of hundreds of thousands of vehicle licence plates each day have led to calls for statutory regulation of the UK’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system.

Over 1 Million Mistakes Per Day!

The ANPR system uses 9,000 ANPR cameras, to record and store up to 30 million vehicle records each year. Unfortunately, it is also reported to be recording a staggering (up to) 1.2 million false readings of number plates every day! That’s the equivalent to over 400 million incorrect readings each year!

The implication is that innocent motorists may be wrongly accused and punished for a variety of motoring offences, and that real offenders may be escaping punishment. This has led to calls for statutory regulation of the camera system.

Police In the Dark

Not only does The National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) accept data from all police ANPR systems, without carrying out any checks on the effectiveness of those systems, but it is also believed that Police currently have no meaningful data on the accuracy of ANPR, or on the contribution surveillance cameras make to tackling crime.

Also Cyber Attack Risk

Not only is it unclear what contribution the camera system could be making to cutting crime, but it has also been revealed that some systems could be at risk from cyber attack, thereby possibly allowing data to be changed, making it impossible to use as evidence anyway.

A recent example in the U.S. left over half of the surveillance cameras covering the city of Washington’s public spaces unable to record footage for three days, until experts were able to remove ransomware from the recording devices.

Facial Recognition Camera Concerns

There are growing concerns too, particularly where data protection and privacy are concerned, about the increased use of facial recognition cameras to identify suspects by matching camera images against 19 million custody images held by police. For example, Leicestershire Constabulary faced criticism after using automatic facial recognition at the Download concert in 2015, in Donnington Park, and the Metropolitan Police used similar technology during last year’s Notting Hill Carnival to match images of people with photographs stored on its Electronic Wanted and Missing Systems (EWMS).

Surveillance Camera Commissioner Says…

The England and Wales Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Tony Porter, has said that he is yet to be convinced that an assertion that national ANPR meets performance standards holds water.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although there may be valid concerns about inaccuracies in the ANPR system and the impact these could have on businesses and individuals, other surveillance cameras can play an important role for business security monitoring systems. Used responsibly and only for the intended purpose, they can add value, and provide a low cost, cost saving, and vital way to maintain security.

Camera surveillance generally is now an almost unnoticed part of daily life in what, according to Big Brother Watch, is now the most surveilled western democracy, where there is now an estimated 6 million+ surveillance cameras. The worry among some of those being watched is that privacy and security are at risk, the fact that we are being watched constantly by unknown parties (and our images potentially stored and shared) is sinister, mistakes can be made with the responsibility being placed on the victim to clear their name and prove inaccuracy, regulations are not adequate, and that many cameras are operated by businesses, and quasi-government organisations.

For many people, an argument that ‘if you’re doing nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about’ is not a valid argument because it simply gives a green light to the further erosion of rights without considering the consequences, and occasionally we all do something wrong (but perhaps not intentionally) which is more likely to be caught on camera than ever before, and the punishment may not feel as though it fits the crime with the inflexibility of some camera-based systems and their operators.

The introduction of GDPR will also have implications for what images from surveillance cameras are stored, where and how securely they are stored. For example, GDPR could apply to stored facial images of individuals.

Ford Doubles Investment in Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Co has announced its plans to more than double its previously announced target of $4.5 billion investment in electric cars to $11 billion by 2022, and the company is aiming to have 40 mainstream, hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model line-up.

Cost Cuts To Create Investment

Ford’s Chief Executive Jim Hackett is reported as saying that the capital investment for the major move to electric / hybrid car manufacture will be created by slashing a massive $14 billion in costs over the next five years.

Why?

The shift towards investment in electrification is being driven by pressure from regulators in China, Europe and California to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and plans by China, India, France and the United Kingdom to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

Ford’s move is also being driven by pressure from the success of Tesla in creating electric sedans and SUVs that resulted in a large number of orders, causing it to surpass Ford in terms of market capitalization, thereby positioning Tesla as the second-largest auto company in the U.S. after General Motors. Tesla also proved to other car manufacturers that large-scale demand exists in the market.

A large amount of the pressure driving Ford’s move, of course, also comes from the move by its bigger competitors into electrification. For example :

  • GM announced last year it would add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global line-up by 2023.
  • Volkswagen said in November it would spend $40 billion on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022.
  • Toyota is working towards creating breakthrough battery technology in the first half of the 2020s with a view to cutting the potential cost of making electric cars.
  • Mercedes-Benz plans to electrify its entire portfolio by 2022 (50 electric and hybrid models).
  • Jaguar Land Rover plans to electrify its entire vehicle line-up by 2020.
  • Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi plan to release 12 all-electric models by 2022.
  • Volvo plans to electrify all its vehicles by 2019.

Thinking Big

Ford hopes that its ‘think big’ on electric cars strategy which arrived with its new chairman Jim Hackett (previously in charge self-driving car subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility) will enable it to accelerate global development of electric vehicles, make quicker decisions, and gain ground on the competition.

Which Cars?

Whereas motor show presentations currently indicate many other manufacturers appear to be currently focusing on electric trucks and SUVs, Ford has been clear that it plans to electrify all of its iconic and popular vehicles, 40 electric vehicles by 2022, with 16 fully electric vehicles and the rest plug-in hybrids.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The move to electrification by car manufacturers has been coming for some time, pushed by international pollution / emission targets, and pulled by consumer demand and the promise of new opportunities. For businesses, costs as well as performance and reliability are important, and as long as electric vehicles deliver on all three, then the move to electrification is good news.

Although the move to electrification will have implications for vehicle-related businesses e.g. fuel suppliers, garages and parts suppliers, it will also create new markets and new opportunities. For example, Ford’s own ‘Team Edison’ is looking for strategic partnerships with other companies, including suppliers, in some markets.

Electrification of vehicles on a large scale will also bring exciting and potentially cost-saving driverless vehicle opportunities for many businesses.

There are, of course, the obvious environmental benefits that we can all enjoy in the future with cleaner air.