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The New Social Contract: Building Trust in the Smart Home

Energy, Innovation, Technology
smart_home_technology

The promise of the smart home movement is enormous, not least in its potential to facilitate a shift away from centralised energy market models and empower homeowners to take control of their energy usage. But, as we heard during the launch of the Smart Lives report at Edelman during London Technology Week, the shift to decentralised or even distributed models won’t be plain sailing.

The promise of the smart home movement is enormous, not least in its potential to facilitate a shift away from centralised energy market models and empower homeowners to take control of their energy usage. But, as we heard during the launch of the Smart Lives report at Edelman during London Technology Week, the shift to decentralised or even distributed models won’t be plain sailing.

The Smart Lives team at Goldsmiths and the Energy Saving Trust undertook an in-depth behavioural trial of smart home technologies to uncover how people engage with smart technologies, providing insights into how consumers discover and experience smart home innovation.

The team found that harnessing the power of smart home technologies for meaningful impact in individual lives is about more than having access to available and affordable technologies. It also requires recognition that consumer behaviour doesn’t always tally with goals and intentions.

Simply giving someone a smart device won’t necessarily mean that they engage with it. It will depend on how they relate with the information they get from it. And while the future of smart technology is headed toward remote automation, consumer trust in the technology and how companies use data is still a long way off. And this is where communications can play a particularly vital role.

According to Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer, the general public contend that the current pace of development and change in UK business and industry is too fast by a 2-1 margin. And some home tech developers are already recognising this. As Tim Cantle-Jones, CEO, FutureEnergy, says in the report: “The benefits of why consumers should invest money and time needs to be more creatively addressed in the market.”

One of the key dynamics of the smart cities movement has been to listen to the needs of citizens and to build organically from the bottom up. At the home level, too, consumers need to be consulted from the start: firstly to identify which aspects of their home lives can be configured and secondly to build trust.

The Smart Lives report cites the impending UK smart meter roll out as a case in point: “If the Government is targeting 2020 for a smart meter in every UK home, the technology rollout needs to be complemented by a campaign to explain, inform and educate.”

Smart engagement requires both technical and social evolution. Households must have the collective willingness, skill-set and resources to engage with smart technologies at a level that makes sense for them.

Our capacity to build smart environments actually has little do with technology; if the community isn’t willing to engage, smart will never become a reality. We need to first create a framework through which people can make decisions. Borrowing from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, building trust in smart home technologies will ultimately require a renewed social contract.

Written by: Eleanor Best, Account Manager at Edelman

Generation E

Corporate Reputation, Energy
Formula_E_Racing_Car

As the dust settles on the UK’s first ever Formula E race, now is as good a time as any to reflect on what electric racing cars might mean for us as consumers. The reality will probably be more significant than we think.

As the dust settles on the UK’s first ever Formula E race, now is as good a time as any to reflect on what electric racing cars might mean for us as consumers. The reality will probably be more significant than we think.

Conceived in 2012, Formula E is the highest class of competition for electrically powered, single-seater racing cars in the world. The most recent race, the last in a 10-stop series which has travelled from Monte Carlo to Miami and Beijing to Berlin, saw a fleet of lean, green electric machines scudding around the Battersea Park circuit at up to 140mph.

However, for local residents (myself included), you wouldn’t have known. The sound emitted by such vehicles is only 80 decibels (dB) – compared with 70 dB for a normal car, 90 dB for a bus and 130 dB for an old V10 Formula One car.

Of course, for those who hanker after the searing falsetto of petrol-powered Formula One cars, it is this deafening lack of noise which only confirms their decision to shun Formula E. They view it as a watered-down form of motorsport, one that will never be able to compete with the success of Formula 1, a series which accrued $1.7 billion in revenue in 2014.

However, examples of progression in other motorsport events indicate that such a view may well be short-lived. The Isle of Man TT is one such example, a motorcycle road race founded at the start of the 20th century, widely regarded as the most dangerous and exciting festival of speed on the planet.

The TT is judged on the highest average speed a rider can hit during a lap of the 37.3 mile course – in 1920, this was 56 mph; in 2015, it was 132 mph. However, at this event, where the cause of the petrolhead is stronger than anywhere else, a storm has been brewing (quietly) in the form of the TT Zero race, first introduced back in 2010.

Not at all dissimilar to the concept of Formula E which seeks to achieve zero-emission racing, the Zero race has catalysed the development of pioneering technology which before long will be available to consumers.

Colin Whittamore, the UK General Manager for Team Mugen – a company who started competing in 2012 with an average in the high 80s mph, before setting a new Zero lap record of 119.3 mph in 2015 – believes the progress made in electric motorsport will be revolutionary. “It’s just a matter of when. Electric vehicles, cars, bikes will be the future,” he said recently.

Sir Richard Branson agrees. Speaking at the Battersea Park event last Sunday he said, “I think four or five years from now you’ll find Formula E overtaking Formula One in terms of number of people [watching] and more and more, as time goes on, clean energy businesses are going to power ahead of other businesses.”

At this point (when most readers are probably wondering if this has turned into a dedicated motorsport blog) it is important to highlight the impact Formula 1 has had on the world outside the racetrack.

Firstly, that the modern cars ordinary people purchase today feature anti-lock brakes, traction control and multi-function steering wheels, all hand-me-downs from Formula One. What’s more, the race series has also inspired progress above and beyond the automotive industry. Mercedes, for example, shares information on aerodynamics with NASA and BAE. While McLaren is known to offer its data analysis techniques to oil and gas firms to assist their search for new global energy resources.

With Formula E, however, the potential for technical crossover is larger still.

Emission-free charging of the race cars has already been established thanks to British company Aquafuel Research Ltd, via portable generators that run on glycerine as an alternative to bio-diesel.

To charge all twenty cars simultaneously over an hour, these generators produce roughly 850kW – about the same amount of electricity that would be used by 2000 UK households over the same period. In a few years’ time, these same generators could well appear on the streets of green cities around the world, powering electric bikes, vehicles and public utilities.

In essence, these changes are occurring everywhere.

While the media may quite rightly try to convince us otherwise, there are positive steps being taken to reduce humanity’s footprint on the planet. Formula E is just one small part of the puzzle, but a very welcome part indeed.

Image by Motori Italia (Flickr: Formula E: Video E Highlights del GP!) [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr Creative Commons

Written by: Charlie Binder, Senior Account Executive at Edelman

Sharing Economy Divided: Why I side with the taxi drivers

Government Affairs, Innovation, Technology
taxi_drivers_shared_economy

Today’s digital transformation has the potential to move us from high-tech, to a ‘higher tech’. Like never before, technology can have a truly profound impact on our lives, and as tech communicators we have the opportunity to ensure it does.

I side with the taxi drivers not because I condone violent protest, and neither because I believe Uber is wrong. In fact, I believe Uber is a system that is very right. But the brilliance of this system also explains the rage of the French taxi drivers. Their rage is against a machine that offers significantly lower fares by turning anyone with a car into their competitor. According to Business Insider, the machine pays its drivers less than the minimum wage, has only reached a fraction of its potential and is growing incredibly fast.

Uber is a disruptive force unleashed on a population of French workers who survive on an annual income of €33k/£23k per year (against an average of €38k/£26k). The foundations of this disruption lie in the Sharing Economy, a model that Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General) observes has spread across sectors including food, fashion and consumer electronics. In a report he commissioned, ‘Unlocking the Sharing Economy’, author Debbie Wosskow offers insights and ideas on how the UK can embrace this new opportunity.

Wosskow makes many sound recommendations, but one thing that struck me is a potential disproportionate weighting between traditional and sharing economics. For example, in looking at the impact of regulation in the ‘property sharing’ market (ala AirBnB), she notes how someone renting out a spare room a few nights a year should not be subject to the same level of regulation as a business renting out 100 rooms all year-round. That sounds fair in practice.

However, as is the case with the taxi versus Uber drivers, the hotel owner and landlord are not competing against one another. The 100 room hotel is competing against a system that offers thousands of rooms from any building in the vicinity, and at a fraction of the price.

In my opinion, the Sharing Economy is (rightly so) disproportionate by design. It is a digitally-led transformation that will ultimately offer an unimaginable scale of resource to business and society. The system will achieve this by drawing upon the capabilities of practically everyone and everything on the planet – at anytime. In doing so it has and will continue to address a series of economic constraints ranging from rising costs to decreasing productivity, wasted resources and a 40 hour week. It is fluid, efficient and effective.

In a few short years, this fluidity has made AirBnB a serious threat to established hotel chains. Indeed, there is a pragmatic beauty in the way a machine can transform time and resources into value. Although, the Sharing Economy represents far more than early digital transformations where Information Technology (IT) made conventional industry and institutional models more effective. This is about IT rewiring the underlying system of all these organisations.

As this digital pragmatism rewires more sectors, the social impact of the decaying, outmoded systems that underpin them should not be underestimated. Within such systems are people who would never have anticipated the changes afoot let alone realised how much it could affect their lives. Critics may argue that, as with other economic shifts of the past, this is about short-term pain for long-term gain, and new jobs do eventually emerge.

But surely if the changes are better planned and communicated, the pain can be significantly lessened if not removed entirely.

Today’s digital transformation has the potential to move us from high-tech, to a ‘higher tech’. Like never before, technology can have a truly profound impact on our lives, and as tech communicators we have the opportunity to ensure it does. This is why we must side with the taxi drivers, hotel workers and anyone else who feels disenfranchised by technology driven revolutions such as the Sharing Economy.

After all, the term ‘Sharing’ implies togetherness, which means no individual or group can be cast aside in this new economic opportunity.

Image by: paula french / Shutterstock.com

Written by: Satyen Dayal, Director at Edelman

A Historic Decision
By Richard Edelman

Culture
Equality_Edelman_Equal

Edelman President and CEO Richard Edelman on the United States Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. Edelman proudly joined 400 other companies in signing an amicus brief to the Court in support of equality.

The United States Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality is a profound turn in the American culture wars. Edelman proudly joined 400 other companies in signing an amicus brief to the Court in support of equality. We also worked with Lambda Legal, the largest national LGBT legal organization to promote their mission in the fight for marriage equality.

Within hours of the historic decision Lambda Legal sent our team a note titled “A First:”

“Lambda has never gotten a victory out with the speed and muscle that we did with today’s historic win.  I know we’ll have a million misses today but on the day of our movements biggest advance, each of you and Edelman made sure the work of so many Lambda activists and advocates over the years was recognized.”

But the decision is only the beginning for business, in both the workplace and the consumer marketplace.

I was very pleased by the strong reaction by among others Salesforce, Microsoft, Hilton Worldwide, Pepsico, the NBA, Edelman and Eli Lilly to the proposed legislation in the State of Indiana that would have allowed retailers to discriminate against LGBT customers. But the need is well beyond public affairs and lobbying. We need to promote equality in the workplace. At Edelman, we have implemented Edelman Equal as a means of pushing forward with a diverse and empowered employee base. It is an employee affinity group that advocates on behalf of LGBT employees, it supports business objectives of our client base, and it builds community across our 65 offices. This is following in the successful footsteps of our GWEN initiative, which focuses on gender. The Out Now Global LGBT2020 study makes the business case for diversity and inclusion finding that U.S. business could save $9 billion a year if organizations were more effective at implementing diversity and inclusion policies for LGBT staff.

We are helping our clients reach into the LGBT community, whose spending power is estimated to be $884 billion in the U.S. alone.

As a family business, Edelman wants to push forward on social issues that matter. We took an early leadership stance on mental health and tolerance because of my mother’s depression. My father’s friendship with Rev. Jesse Jackson got us into civil rights. My brother John carries the torch now through the Edelman Foundation, our sustainability commitment and volunteer PR for dozens of local organizations. I am proud of the leadership displayed by Ben Boyd, president of our practices, sectors and offerings, on the LGBT issue.

This article originally appeared on Richard Edelman’s 6A.M. Blog.
Image by Rich Renomeron

Written by: Richard Edelman, President and CEO at Edelman

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