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The hidden costs of working from home

Adnan Kayyali

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costs of working from home

Remote work is fast becoming the norm for many companies and across industries. This new trend seems to be favored by everyone across the board, but recent surveys have revealed the extra hidden costs of working from home that some people were not aware of or even ready for.

Nearly six out of ten employers say that one the major benefits of working from home are the cost savings, but the long-term telecommuting experiment could come out of the employee’s pocket.

Due to about 50% of the UK’s population working from home, come winter, energy costs per household are going to skyrocket. Radiators, heaters, boilers and air conditioners will be on throughout the day. The collective costs for working households is about £2 billion per year in the UK, or about £107 yearly per household.

Many companies have either turned the other cheek on such extra costs of working from home, or even imposed pay cuts for company facilities no longer in use. Facebook said that employees who choose to work from home and moved to cheaper living areas to work may face a pay cut.

As remote work continues, many people who used to depend on office equipment, now have to depend on their own personal tools. Some are simply not ready to bear the extra costs for supplies such as printers, ink, stationary or even office furniture.

“I think employers, they’re silent. The silence implies that the expectation is that we as employees will figure it out at home,” said Elizabeth Patton, Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “It’s interesting that we fell into this idea that this is normal, that we should take up this cost.”

Under present laws, costs of working from home are compensated, but only makes up about one-third of the power bill costs projected.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in media and communication. Technology enthusiast and free-lance writer. Favorite hobby: 3D modeling.

MedTech

Can the NHS COVID-19 app infringe police work?

Mounir Jamil

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NHS COVID-19 App

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has confirmed officers are being told not to install the NHS COVID-19 app on their work smartphones.

The NHS COVID-19 app detects when users have been around or in close proximity to someone that has Coronavirus. 

Some of the officers have also been told they may not even need to obey self-isolation notifications and alerts that are generated by the app when they use it on their personal phones. Instead, Lancashire Constabulary advised staff to use the force’s own COVID-19 helpline.

News agencies in London such as the BBC have contacted the North-West England force after finding out through sources that the advice had been issued for security reasons. 

The source in question also said that officers were told not to carry their personal phones while on duty if they had previously activated the app. This applies to staff that are working in back-office positions as well public-facing roles.

In a statement, the NPCC confirmed that work-phone policy is common among all forces and that they are currently undergoing an urgent review of the matter. 

A spokesperson for council said that “police forces use a variety of mobile devices with different system restrictions”. He added, “It is important that we have confidence that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country, and it is for this reason that we have recommended that officers and staff download the app to their personal, as opposed to work devices, rather than any suggestion of security implications.”

The NPCC might drop the policy as soon as early next week. The NHS COVID-19 app launched last Thursday and has since been downloaded more than 12 million times.

NPCC had previously voiced concerns about officers sharing information with human contact tracers on the field as it might compromise undercover work and several other sensitive operations. 

However, since the NHS COVID-19 app is designed to keep people’s identities anonymous, this shouldn’t be a problem in this case. 

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MedTech

New software enables labs to deliver same-day Coronavirus test results

Adnan Kayyali

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covid test results

Las Vegas software company, GoMeyra has announced plans for a new technology that will speed up COVID-19 testing, promising same day Coronavirus test results. Using Cloud-based technology, the company claims their solution will bypass the need for manual input. This will cut the overall time it takes to assess samples and decrease the possibility of human error.

Using the information management systems LIMS, labs using the software triple the testing capacity, allowing professionals to deliver same-day Coronavirus test results. With the integrated use of mobile apps, people can be informed of their results via text, and act accordingly.

The social, economic, and public health implications of having such a speedy testing method would be a game changer amid the pandemic. Faster testing would allow people to resume with daily life sooner; attend school, go back to the workplace or even travel in one day as opposed to longer.

“Now this is in cloud-based. Once arrived, results are uploaded into the system. Medical director could be anywhere anytime they can be able to prove results and immediately release those results. Otherwise you have to wait to process the results overnight. The next morning, the medical director shows up, goes through it and releases the results,” Jaswant Tony, founder and CEO of GoMeyra, told 8News.

Most of the world has accepted that we will be living with COVID-19 for some time to come. Many speculate the pandemic to stretch on well into 2021. As such, new mass testing methods that integrate multiple information management tools and efficiently deliver Coronavirus test results are much needed. GoMeyra LIMS is just the system, and we will probably see more tools like this being used by labs around the world as we continue to adapt to COVID-19.

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MedTech

COVID-19 prompts retail innovation

Mounir Jamil

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Retail Innovations

The pandemic has had an extremely influential impact on the way we shop. With a period characterized by lockdown restrictions, mandatory quarantine, curfews, and the closure of many retail stores across the country, the retail industry was left hanging in the balance.

However, in these moments of adversity, retailers began shifting their attention to technology to alleviate some of the problems presented by COVID-19. 

Inside Telecom breaks down some of the most influential and powerful retail innovations that are being deployed today to take the online shopping experience to the next level. 

During the most stringent lockdown measures, the e-commerce scene witnessed an unprecedented boom with shoppers flocking to online stores and platforms to buy goods they could not purchase physically.

Even now, with most of these restrictions alleviated and the majority of brick-and-mortar retail stores having reopened, fears about contamination and infection still loom in peoples’ minds.

Shop owners are eager to gain their customers trust by implementing retail innovations to manage the current risks; customers are also keen on shopping again in an environment that is safe, confident, and hygienic. 

Scan, Pay & Go

Scan, Pay & Go is the name commonly given to technology that allows shoppers to use their smartphones to scan the goods they want to buy as they move around a store, usually via a dedicated app, before paying for them and leaving the store. No queueing or checkout required.

Interests have peaked regarding the Scan, Pay & Go technology a bit before the pandemic spread globally. Even a few supermarket chains have conducted trials for this technology. Now, however, interests have peaked, and the value of this solution has been demonstrated by the pandemic. 

The ability to reduce queues and improve flows around the physical store will directly correlate with fewer chances of shoppers coming in close contact and potentially spreading the virus. 

Smart digital signage 

Markings and stickers placed on the floors of retail stores are a common way to enforce social distancing guidelines and manage the flow of shoppers throughout the store. However, they are a fairly one-dimensional solution. 

Some retailers are now beginning to embrace a more high-tech solution to manage in-store footfall: digital signage.

Samsung Electronics UK has recently partnered up with Quividi, an audience and campaign intelligence platform specializing in digital signage. The goal of the partnership is to create the “next-generation” solution that will keep shoppers safe in-store while they are shopping. 

Samsung will be creating the digital signboard, powered by Quividi’s analytics solutions that work on optimizing in-store safety and security and ultimately help retailers better manage social distancing. 

By making the most out of data capturing devices, such as CCTVs, etc., this technology has the ability of tallying how many customers are in a given store and can also detect if they are wearing a mask or not

In addition to that (and here’s where it gets all 1984) this tech has the ability to utilize thermal scanning to help identify shoppers with a high temperature who might be unaware they have the virus.

The data is analyzed, and the system decides which messages are displayed on the signs via real time triggers and conditional scheduling. 

With privacy and security issues being a pressing concern for several users, retailers need to implement the digital signages in a strategic way to prevent customers from feeling uncomfortable. Retailers have the opportunity to gain valuable insights about foot traffic and customer flow through the data they collect and can in turn use this data to improve store layout and product placing. The signs also offer an additional revenue stream, by displaying adverts and promotional content along with informational messages.

Click-and-collect method 

The pandemic has matured the click-and-collect system, a typically overlooked means of obtaining online orders into a prominent method for reducing in-person contact and decreasing time spent getting online orders. 

The novel click-and-collect experience is currently being tested at several stores, with extensive data and customer feedback being observed to better understand demand. 

While the online boom brought by the pandemic might seem like good news for retailers and a valid opportunity for digital transformation, it has also impacted several retailers’ profit margins due to the increased cost of delivery and logistics. 

By offering click-and-collect, retailers can cut these costs without missing any benefits that online channels have to offer. 

QR codes make a comeback 

QR codes are currently going through a renaissance at the moment in certain sectors like healthcare and hospitality and are being redefined as an effective means of accessing information, tracking movements, and activating virtual experiences. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see QR codes as part of the latest retail innovations being deployed in stores and shops. 

QR codes are already well established in digitally advanced countries like China and serve as effective contactless payment method. This usage of QR codes is making its way to the west, where PayPal in the U.S has partnered with Venmo and are rolling out a QR code payment technology across all 8,200 CVS pharmacies all over the country. 

The QR codes will give CVS Pharmacy customers the option of paying for their purchases with stored debit or credit cards, bank accounts, their PayPal balance, PayPal Credit, Venmo balance or Venmo Rewards – as long as they have an account with PayPal or Venmo.

QR codes have also proved their value outside of facilitating payments by acting as a practical means to share business contact info. WhatsApp recently revealed a feature that allows WhatsApp business to create and share QR codes, that when scanned, will initiate a direct WhatsApp chat with the business in question. 

The current pandemic has set the stage for QR codes to take off as a flexible means of conducting transactions. With other advantages such as incorporating discount vouchers, loyalty programs and even virtual storefronts. 

While the current pandemic has brought forward numerous challenges for the retail sector, it has also inspired new retail innovations that can be used for enhanced, safer shopping experiences. 

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