Audi take on Tesla

Using a cool $12.5 billion, German automobile experts Audi plan to spend the next 5 years concentrating on their electric mobility and self-driving car portfolio.  This investment looks set to prepare its business for the technologies that will shape the future of the industry.  Indeed, they hope to motor their way to the forefront of the autonomous car market.

Early 2019 will see the first wave of spending when the company will start to make advances in digitalisation and autonomous driving, as well as the electrification of new cars.

Audi will launch a number of electric vehicles in the coming years, with the brand proposing to offer approximately 20 different models of electric cars by 2025.  This level of ambition does not come cheap, however. Audi expects its total spend for the period up to 2023 to amount to £35.6bn.

They also plan to plough money into the company infrastructure.  Investments will also be made in property, plants and equipment as the company plans to increase its efforts into research and development.

Bram Schot, temporary chairman of Audi’s management board can be quoted as saying:

“This planning round bears a clear signature: we are taking a very systematic approach to electric mobility and will be much more focused in future”.  He goes on to say that Audi are “consistently prioritising our resources for future-oriented products and services that are highly attractive and relevant to the market.”

These latest plans will see the company competing against some of the biggest names in the car space.  Electric car experts, Tesla, have been making considerable progress in the production of its lower-tier Model 3 vehicle amid reports that they are producing 1000 vehicles in a day.  More traditional car manufacturers are making similar headway. BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes are all among those drawing up plans to increase their focus toward electric vehicles.

Tech Giants fall from the top of Glassdoors’ “most desirable” listings.

Ask any job hunter where they would most love to work, and you’d expect Tech giants Google and friends to come out on top. While that may have been true a few years ago, recent data published from Glassdoor this week suggests otherwise.

Glassdoor have published their list of the best companies to work for in 2019, the results of which are based on both anonymous feedback and reviews from employees.  Users are asked to rank their workplace based a number of variables. Among them; job satisfaction, career opportunities, compensation and benefits, culture and values, senior management and work-life balance.

Last year, Silicon Valley Google topped the rankings.  This year, however, their fortunes have taken a significant tumble.  Google have taken a slide down to number thirteen, while Apple (who featured at number 9 last year) come in at number 43 in the latest rankings.  Most dramatically and perhaps as a result of their recent bad press, social media heavyweights Facebook have fallen out of the top 50 entirely for 2019.

It is not a huge surprise that Glassdoor have reported this drop in favour.  Bad press has been shown to significantly affect the morale of a workforce. Google and Facebook have both suffered heavy public scrutiny following both internal and external scandals.  Thousands of Google staff members staged a global walkout over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the start of November.  Meanwhile, Facebook has been criticised for inappropriate data sharing, playing a role in the manipulation of elections, and hiring PR companies to dig up dirt on its critics.

Not all tech companies have suffered this fall from grace, however.  Microsoft shot up the list from 24th to 11th, while software firms SAP and Salesforce both sailed into the top flight.

It’s not all bad news, however.  Although the big tech companies may have lost their positions at the very top of the list, they still scored well above the overall average score awarded by the 830,000 employers on Glassdoor.  The average is 3.4. Google, for example, scored a 4.4 average.

You may be wondering who topped the UK rankings?  This title goes to Anglian Water. Workers there praised the “proud, passionate” workforce and “positive culture”.  There have also been some significant new entries to the list. Management consultants Bain & Company, home retailers IKEA, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and restaurant chain Wagamama all feature this year.  For a full list of how the UK rankings played out click on our link here!     

Alphabet to test drone delivery service in 2019.

It has been announced this week that Alphabet, the parent company of Google will be testing its drone delivery service in Finland next year.  

The company have already pioneered flights, however.  To date, Wing claims its drones have made 55,000 journeys in Australia; successfully delivering lightweight items such as medicine, coffee and household goods.

Helsinki has been named as the destination of choice for the Wing trials, which will see the aircraft deliver packages weighing up to 1.5kg (3.3lbs) within minutes of an order being placed.  The Finnish capital was chosen for the trials due to the forward-thinking nature of the people.  A Wing spokesperson commented that the nation was “renowned for being early-adopters of new technologies”.  The move to trial in Europe follows that of their Silicon Valley neighbours, Amazon.  They have set up their Prime Air drone delivery development centre here in Cambridge; an industry leading UK tech hub which has enjoyed huge growth and acclaim.

Drone development has been high on the agenda of the tech giants for some time.  Both Wing and Amazon have been developing drone delivery services over recent years, but so far have not been able to launch a successful product.

Amazon, in particular, can be identified as one which has a historic relationship with drone development efforts.  Back in 2013, Bezos predicted his company’s Prime Air delivery service would launch within five years.

Five years on?   Its service is still in development stages.

If these drone delivery services are to be viable, Google, Amazon et al must show that their drones are both safe and reliable.  Something which these trials hope to demonstrate. Wing is of the belief that drone delivery is “safer, faster and more environmentally friendly than ground delivery”.

Critics have also questioned whether the public will want noisy drones delivering goods in towns and cities.

With all these big names getting in on the act, the skies look set to get pretty crowded, pretty quickly!  Companies including Uber and Alibaba are also testing drone delivery technology. We will watch to see how these trials work out with interest.

Lloyds to use core banking technology from Google-inspired UK FinTech.

The digital revolution is forcing change in the financial world.  In light of this, one particular High street bank is undergoing a major transformation programme. It has been reported this week that Lloyds are exploring a move toward the use of cloud based core banking technology.  Not only that; it appears that they are looking toward a UK based Fintech to provide the solution.

Thought Machine were launched in 2014 and in that time have built a cloud-based banking infrastructure, known as Vault. Since Vault was launched in 2016, it has been able to offer a real-time, high-volume architecture; one that is able to handle billions of transactions a day.  It is also able to boast cryptographic security via a private centralised ledger. In addition, it has smart contracts capabilities, enabling banks to launch new products quickly.  In this instance, it would appear that time really IS money…smart contracts allow customers and banks to sign off self-executing, highly personalised agreements in minutes.

Customer satisfaction is at the forefront of the minds of those leading the transformation.  Zak Mian, group director of transformation at Lloyds Banking Group, is reported to have said:

“A key part of our recently launched three-year strategic plan is applying technology innovation to meet our customers’ evolving needs. I am really excited to work with IBM and the Thought Machine team to explore ways to simplify and enhance our IT architecture and helping on our journey to make banking easy and simple for customers.”

The customer is King and as such we are more demanding than ever before.  New and exciting startups are offering to manage our money faster, cheaper and more securely…the big companies have had to scale up to keep up!

It is hoped that such cloud-based technologies could be a possible means of overcoming the reliance on legacy core banking infrastructure.  Outdated and in some cases ineffectual, these need to be replaced for the emerging digital landscape. Over recent months there have been countless scenarios which have, in some cases, quite literally left customers stranded.  Restricted access to online banking, missing payments and more have all highlighted the need for big names to get in line with customer expectation and requirements.  

The world of finance has had to embrace Fintech.  

Perhaps in the direct demonstration of this, Lloyds are not the only organisation to look toward other options.  App-based challenger bank Atom are also exploring the technology of Thought Bank. It too recently said that it is putting its future products and services on Thought Machine’s Vault.

Such transformation does not happen overnight.  Decision makers and implementation strategists must evolve their thinking and understanding of the product in line with the available tech.  Let’s hope that a move toward more progressive technology allows for a more streamlined and agile service.

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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