Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Test of combination drugs to boost the immune system successful

A stack of golden pills
New science promises to make aging a think of the past | Aspioneer

Scientists have been working around the clock in order to unveil the secrets of life. These efforts are being made in an attempt to slow down the natural aging process of human bodies. The experimental combination of new drugs may possibly be the lightning-bolt in the dark. This combination anti-aging drugs have been found to rejuvenate the body’s natural immune system by slowing down the aging progression. These advances in medicine give hope to the middle aged as well as elderly. The tests declare that the drugs might be useful in combating respiratory problems such as flu, influenza, pneumonia and half a dozen other infections that appear as a consequence of growing old.

Hold on: Still under testing

The tests involved a group of 264 volunteers aged 65 and older grouped into sets of four. Three of the groups were given different concentration doses of either RAD001 or BEZ235, two TORC1 inhibitors, and the remaining last set was given low doses of both compounds. After six weeks of administration of these combination drugs, the groups were analyzed for infections after a year. It was observed that all the groups on the medication showed lower frequency (reduction by 40%) of infection rather than the fourth group which was given placebo.

The two drugs used RAD001 and BEZ235 in separate studies have been found to battle cancer and organ transplant rejection. Both the drugs in combination TORCI inhibitor were found to boost the immune system by reviving the linked cellular pathway and various other biological functions. Previously a similar drug, rapamycin, was also discovered which had similar kind of effects on lab mice. But it use was scrapped due to safety concerns.

Aubrey de Grey, an aging researcher at the SENS Research Foundation said that “perhaps the most exciting aspect of the results is that the protection lasted for the duration of the study, namely a year, even though the drug was only given for the first six weeks.”

The finding is a new milestone in the field of anti-aging science. At the same time it still requires in-depth investigation in order to avoid misleading results, verify the safety of the drugs, identify longevity of drugs benefits and understand the mechanism leading to fewer infections. These drugs are especially beneficial to older people who are more susceptible to infections due to weaker immune system who are unable to generate strong responses to administered vaccinations.

Researchers are optimistic that the study will lead to development of new anti-aging treatments. It is possible that further research with this same combination of drugs or similar combinations will lead to a possibility of addressing multiple chronic diseases because these drugs have been shown to affect the process of aging itself,” says Felipe Sierra director of the division of aging biology at the National Institute on Aging. And understand the phenomenon of – growing up. This study is the first step to suggest we may be able to target some of the fundamental pathways contributing to aging to promote healthy aging, including healthy immune function, in older people,” she continued.

The study will be further continued on people falling in age group of over 85 years of age. It is an extremely exciting experiment as it will help in determining what will be the effect of this drug on a group of older people. With further improvement in testing protocols asthma, diabetes or heart failure could be treated with these wonder drugs.

Science: 1, Nature: 0

KitKat’s trademark crisis

    Picture your favourite chocolate treat. The brand, the packaging – and sometimes the shape of it – will no doubt come to mind. This is the idea behind trade marks: that consumers can easily identify products or services they want to buy from a company they recognise. If a brand can demonstrate this recognition, it is known as being “sufficiently distinctive” in the market.

    Trade marks not only protect consumers with quality and consistency, they also provide a significant business advantage. Other companies can’t use these marks because that would confuse customers and possibly cause reputational or financial damage to the original brand.

    Due to the potentially indefinite duration of protection, trade marks can confer significant brand value, so many popular brands have become involved in lengthy court cases when competitors challenge a mark’s validity. As the EU is a global leader in world chocolate production – and consumption – this is no trifling matter for confectionery companies.

    The KitKat crisis

    In July 2018 the more than decade-long legal battle to protect the “four-fingered” shape of Nestlé’s KitKat bar concluded with KitKat losing its appeal against Kvikk Lunsj (owned by Cadbury, now Mondelez) a Norwegian four-fingered chocolate biscuit. KitKat’s EU shape trade mark is annulled, meaning the Kit Kat shape is no longer a valid trade mark across the EU. It is now only valid in member states where Nestlé has made a successful application as a national trade mark.

    Mondelez’ similar four-fingered Kvikk Lunsj which challenged KitKat in court over its shape.

    Some may be surprised to learn that chocolate is a highly litigious subject. A case for Lindt’s gold-foiled chocolate bunnies failed on distinctiveness, and Poundland’s “copycat” Toblerone bar, Twin Peaks, was settled out of court.

    Outside of chocolate, litigation has also arisen from less digestible shapes such as London black cabs and LEGO blocks, in both cases where trade marks on shape were unsuccessfully defended.

    Dispute over shapes is complex in trade mark law. It can be a more straightforward prospect to protect a word as a trade mark – and the KitKat name itself is. Marks like KitKat are inherently distinctive, meaning they’re made up, so only have meaning in relation to that brand. But in the case of shapes, distinctiveness may need to be acquired through commercial use and the average consumer associating the shape with the brand. So with the KitKat shape, the court considered whether the use was proved to acquire distinctiveness.

    Generally, longevity in a mark is helpful with proving aspects of distinctiveness, but both companies have used the shape in their confections for a long time. KitKat began using the shape in 1935, and Kvikk Lunsj two years later in 1937 (although Nestlé only applied for trade mark registration of the shape in the EU in 2002).

    A shape may come to mind when identifying the product, but KitKat runs into problems here because the shape is not visible when you pick it up in its wrapper. Since an average consumer must be able to recognise the brand by a clear and precise trade mark, this can present a higher hurdle for the shape.

    An application may be refused or challenged for many reasons, but one creative challenge to the KitKat shape came in the UK courts in 2015, when Cadbury argued that the KitKat shape was all to do with a technical or design issue rather than an identifying brand feature – that is, it was designed to allow consumers to easily break one bar into four smaller parts. So if the four-fingered shape was actually fulfilling a function, it couldn’t be a trade mark.

    The EU angle

    Ultimately, the most recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision came down to sufficient distinctiveness. Companies can apply for a domestic trade mark at their national intellectual property office, but how would sufficient distinctiveness be proved when applying for an EU-wide trade mark? An applicant must show that the mark is commonly recognised throughout the European Union, under the EU Directive 2015/2435.

    The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) granted the KitKat shape mark in 2002 on the basis that KitKat had achieved recognition in ten of the then 15 EU countries. But this newest ECJ decision found that, if the EU coverage is insubstantial or omits a single member state, then the mark hasn’t been proved to have acquired distinctiveness.

    The future

    The ECJ decision in many ways is a pragmatic solution, given the challenge of achieving consumer recognition in 28 individual countries. But current trade mark registrations granted on a similar basis as KitKat may also leave existing EU trade marks open to challenge.

    This may be good news for chocolate lovers looking for variety in their “technically functional” treats, as there will be more opportunity for competitors to enter the market – although Nestlé still has national trade marks in some countries. It is also likely that, given the stakes, Nestlé will refile for their EU KitKat shape trade mark using new criteria that proves EU-wide distinctiveness in line with the framework of this latest decision.

    Shapes, in particular, are a challenge to protect under trade mark law, and recent decisions demonstrate how difficult it can be for a shape to acquire the necessary level of recognition and brand association. New applicants for trade mark protection should perhaps seriously consider creating a mark that is inherently distinctive, rather than a mark that needs to acquire protection through use, like KitKat.The trade mark annulment will surely impact the EUIPO’s consideration of applications for trade mark registration and of trade mark oppositions, as this decision holds that proving distinctive character in a substantial part of the territory is not enough.

    Megan Rae Blakely, Lecturer in law, Lancaster University


    #Kylie on #Forbes: The rules and risks of #Marketing have changed

    Kylie Jenner at the Met Gala
    Kyle Jenner has changed the game when it comes to Branding and Advertising | Aspioneer

    Three years ago who would have thought that Kylie Jenner, a 20-year-old American socialite, would now be heading a cosmetics company that has achieved retail sales of US$420 million. The success of her eponymous brand – Kylie Cosmetics, launched just 18 months ago – exemplifies what can be achieved when social media, including Facebook and Twitter, are used efficiently as a marketing tool. While the brand’s sudden emergence has generated much debate, marketing research in the last decade has studied the consequences of social media on traditional marketing practices and models, and how these have profoundly reshaped marketing.

    Social media and the branding landscape

    Establishing a brand that becomes well-known was once seen as the ultimate goal for any company looking for a significant market share. Brands provide consumers with a reassuring promise, often in terms of high quality, after-sales support or style. Brands are enduring, and consumers – at least traditionally – were introduced to brands by their relatives, social circles or TV and print advertising. The main advantage of this traditional branding approach for companies was to increase consumer loyalty and “willingness to pay” – thus adding a “brand premium”. A notable example is Hèrmes, which has spent 180 years building its iconic brand, and bottom line.

    Kylie Cosmetics’ Twitter logo.

    However, the emergence of social media has profoundly reshaped the role of brands and how they emerge and survive in an increasingly competitive marketing landscape. While social media haven’t diminished the importance of brands – if anything, they’re everywhere on social media – they have changed two important aspects of consumers’ relationship to brands.

    First, branding cycles are much faster than before. From initial discovery to being considered “has been”, brands are confronted to increasingly rapid consumption cycles. Consumers’ desire for brands can rise rapidly, yet vanish within a few months, making intense but brief fads more frequent than ever. Second, consumers can more easily discover new, often niche and alternative, brands. In a context of defiance towards consumerism and mass marketing, brands that look small and honest provide a reassuring feel to consumers. These smaller brands are best exemplified by their founders, which incarnate the brand and its values in a direct way.

    Are the days of long-established, omnipotent brands over?

    As we approach the 2020s, how has branding changed?

    • More than ever, brands have to be personalised and convey emotions, as consumers are looking for ones that display authenticity.
    • Self-branding is also becoming the norm – and the trend of successful celebrities, including Kylie Jenner, successfully launching their brands will increase. Influencers (instagramers, YouTubers…) also work to brand themselves, even as they endorse other brands, increasing cross-selling.
    • Consumers want brands that resonate with themselves and that capture their individuality. This desire can go so far as to incorporate brands into selfies, a trend that can help build brands but also destabilise them.
    • Brand loyalty remains, but is less dominant. Consumers may keep buying, but it can be more as a habit than for the brand itself.

    One powerful trend is for brands to offer an ecosystem of associated products and services that become indispensable to the product itself – think Apple. Creating a powerful consumption habit and a strong ecosystem around products and services are some of the key success factors for a strong 21st-century brand.

    On the other end of the spectrum comes the phenomenon of “unbranded” products. What’s the pitch? Buy a brand that doesn’t make you pay a premium. A classic example of premium pricing is perfume, the price of which mainly comes from marketing (packaging, promotion…). Recently, the company Brandless launched a website where everything sells for US$3. Since the early 1960s, the brand No-Ad – standing for not-advertised – has offered an inexpensive sunscreen product that’s never advertised. This is not a new concept, however, and can be seen as a different take on the dollar/pound shop concept.

    The future of branding for large companies

    Traditional large fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCG) have often reacted by buying emerging brands, a trend that has been described as large corporations swallowing hipster brands. This can be a risky strategy, as FMCG firms can end up paying a hefty premium for such brands, which have often not been completely stabilised. This also casts doubts on why these larger corporations were not able to come up with such brands and products themselves.

    Do these changes mean that David will ultimately beat Goliath and that it’s all doom and gloom for long-established brands and FMCG companies? No, especially as larger firms are become more agile, fostering in-house innovation and launching new brands. They have the ability and leverage to work with influencers, leading to co-branding that can give a more personal feel to long-established brands. FMCG companies are also starting to be more reactive and quickly launch of new products and brands, including ephemeral ones.

    Of course, the power of social media still varies according to the type and maturity of industries in which companies are competing. Whatever the sector, anticipating shifts in demand is key, as shorter consumption cycles mean traditional companies need to be prepared to launch more of these short-lived brands, and drop them should they outlive their usefulness. The new reality of marketing in the era of social media is that while brands can rise faster, they can also fall faster than ever before.

    Benjamin Voyer, L’Oréal Professor of Creativity Marketing, ESCP Europe


    Elon Musk making Tesla private could be a good decision

    A Tesla charger photographed at night
    Going private could be a wise move for Tesla and Elon Musk | Aspioneer

    Elon Musk has announced that he is thinking of taking Tesla private, eight years after the automaker’s initial public offering. The news immediately created a buzz in financial markets and Tesla’s share price soared.

    Musk’s reasoning, outlined in an email to Tesla staff, is that he wants to escape the “wild swings” in stock prices that result from Wall Street speculators. Going private would allow the company to focus on its long-term goals. There’s a big challenge here of finding a funder, but if Musk manages it, taking Tesla private would also help the company boost its brand.

    Going private would also offer Musk and his team much more control over the company’s future vision and daily operations. It will also allow Tesla to control the financial information that gets released to the public and so reduce public scrutiny at times when it is making losses. In doing so, Tesla will follow a number of luxury brands that are still privately owned including Chanel and Rolex.

    Wrong turn

    Since its launch, Tesla has positioned itself as a luxury car brand but this has run into trouble lately. The focus on innovative electric vehicles and self-driving technology put it squarely in the luxury bracket, as most successful luxury brands are known for being unique and innovative. And the pricetag on Tesla’s early models matched this: the Model X was priced above £70,000 and Model S priced above £65,000.

    But then Tesla took a wrong turn. It made a strategic move that is hurting the brand’s value substantially. The new Model 3 is priced in the £30,000 range, which is where most premium cars compete and the economics of the premium market are completely different to the economics of the luxury car market.

    Any luxury goods market thrives on scarcity. Ferrari, for example, keeps its production limited to around 7,000 to 10,000 cars per year. When Tesla had production delays and people had to wait for the Model X and S, customers were supportive because that’s the nature of luxury. Product scarcity increases the value of luxury and that is exactly what happened in the case of Tesla initially.

    The premium car market, where the cheaper Model 3 sits, is not driven by this thinking, however. Buyers expect an abundance of availability. They do not want to wait for a premium product and get agitated when it is not available. This has been reflected in Tesla’s stock price this year.

    From the production side, the margins are low in the premium market, too, so profits depend on high volumes. Hence, when Musk recently boasted on Twitter that Tesla had produced 7,000 cars in seven days, Ford CEO, Steven Armstrong poked fun at it by commenting that Ford produces 7,000 cars every four hours.

    The Model 3 order book shows reservations in the range of half a million cars, with more than 1,800 being added everyday. So, at present production capacity, Tesla will struggle to satisfy consumer demand any time soon. This is potentially highly damaging for a premium car brand and, with lots of competitors in this space, consumers are liable to switch. Not only does this hurt the bottom line, it fuels those that are betting on Tesla to fail (and the large number of short-sellers of Tesla stock has been a particular annoyance for Musk, as he made clear in his recent staff memo).

    Plagued with these short-term financial issues and the negative effect they are having on the Tesla brand, moving private may offer some respite. It will give greater control over the production issues and even offer the chance to play up the virtues of scarcity of production.

    Going private will also help reestablish Tesla as a luxury brand. This kind of radical is both expected and accepted of luxury brand leaders (take Burberry, for example, which recently destroyed £28m of its clothes and cosmetics to sustain its brand position).

    Taking Tesla private not only elevates the brand in the public consciousness, it also creates a mystique around both the CEO and the brand. Plus, by removing the company finances from the public realm, Musk can better pursue his long-term vision of delivering innovative and futuristic vehicles, rather than meeting the quarterly growth targets that financial markets demand.

    Paurav Shukla, Professor of Marketing, University of Essex

    How Estrella Damm branded to the cosmopolitan crowd?

    A bronze colored brew
    Estrella Damm has become very popular with the cosmopolitan crowd | Aspioneer

    The great film director Stanley Kubrick once wrote about the way in which the line between art and commerce was increasingly blurred: “Some of the most spectacular examples of film art are in the best TV commercials,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1987.

    And the art of branding in today’s saturated market – or so conventional wisdom suggests – is to create value for your brand by linking them with meaningful experiences and using that to manage consumers’ emotions towards the brand.

    Our cultural knowledge of brands is woven into the very fabric of our everyday lives and shapes the choices we make. So, for example, the principle behind Ralph Lauren’s famous quip that “we don’t sell jeans, we sell self-confidence” can be applied to most successful brands.

    Arguably, we subconsciously associate Levis with making us look “cool”, while Nike inspires and empowers us to be “greater” – see, for example, its “Find Your Greatness” campaign. Disney, meanwhile, gives us escapism and fantasy while Apple promises greater community and connection through its technology.

    By investing in these cultural messages over time, brands can strengthen perception of them by consumers as inseparable from these meaningful qualities with which they have become associated. As branding academics and practitioners alike understand, brands flourish or perish on the strength of this relationship.

    Beer is life

    A bottle of Estrella Damm
    A pint of nirvana | Estrella Damm

    Storytelling has always been an important way for brands to establish and maintain this meaningful relationship with consumers. These brand narratives are not about finding logical solutions to complex problems – or indeed about telling potential consumers about how useful or high quality their products are – not directly, anyway. Rather, they are about ingraining or reinforcing the symbolic and cultural value of the brand through their story which aims to create or strengthen a meaningful connection between the brand and consumer.

    The aim is that their customers begin to feel that the brand is inseparable from aspects of their identity.

    Typical of this idea is the 16-minute short film La Vida Neustra (Our Life), promoting the oldest brand in Spain and Catalonia, the Barcelona-based beer, Estrella Damm. The film stars Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage and has been viewed more than 15m times.

    We see protagonist Anton move from Barcelona to Amsterdam for an amazing job opportunity. He leaves behind beautiful girlfriend Cora and his equally handsome best friend Rafa. A year of unrest and indecision later, Anton returns to Barcelona to sign over his boat to Rafa. Of course, he discovers he is still in love with Cora – but of course she and Rafa are now an item.

    Dinklage plays a narrator of sorts, Chad Johnson – a character in the style of Dickens’s ghost of Christmas past, guiding Anton through past memories towards a revelation typical of consumer capitalism; he already had a great life but continued to believe far away hills were greener. Johnson tells him: “But you wanted more.” In the end, Anton “lets go of the anchor”, hands over the key of the boat (the anchor a metaphor to past lives and relationships) to Rafa and Cora and embraces his new life in Amsterdam.

    Clash of stars

    Beneath the somewhat frivolous plot, there is something far more interesting going on from a branding perspective. Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken argued in 1986 that brands become meaningful by investing in culture – signs and symbols that consumers identify as culturally meaningful. The Estrella film marks a concerted effort by the gold star of the Spanish brand from Barcelona to antagonise its fierce rival and market leader in Amsterdam, the red star of Heineken.

    The opening scene of the film depicts the quintessential image of Amsterdam with its beautiful canals and unmistakable Dutch architecture.

    Sense of place: the opening of Estrella’s Amsterdam film.
    Estrella Damm 

    When I first saw this ad with a couple of friends, they said they didn’t know Estrella was Dutch. I said I didn’t think it was either. The beer’s name, Estrella Damm, sounds as if there’s a connection with Amsterdam –but in fact the beer was first brewed in 1876 by August Küntzmann Damm, a recent arrival to Barcelona from the Alsace region of France.

    Sense of belonging

    The film starts with quintessential images of the canals and townhouses of Amsterdam and jumps to the instantly recognisable cityscape of Barcelona and then moves back and forth between the two cities. It ends with Anton blissfully cycling through Amsterdam and hanging out with his new friends having fully embraced his new life and let go of the “anchor” to this past.

    Yet throughout this turbulent time, the only constant, in the wake of disloyal friends, fleeting romances and traded possessions has been Estrella and its symbolic ties to his home city Barcelona.

    The film marks a potentially risky but rewarding strategy by Estrella and potentially other brands to invest in a sense of place that arguably, “belongs” to their rival competitors. As the narrative suggests, despite being in the home of “the Heineken Experience”, Estrella is the beer of choice and acts as a more effective medium with which we can celebrate and give thanks for life, love and beer.

    Patrick Lonergan, Lecturer in Marketing and Communications, Nottingham Trent University

    Blockchain can change healthcare for the better

    A hexagon pattern representing Blockchain | Aspioneer
    Blockchain can greatly contribute towards healthcare services | Aspioneer

    Until now the best known application of Blockchain technology is Bitcoin cryptocurrency  and digital payment systems. Its immense success is making people see its applications in various sectors like accounting, advertising, managing smart contracts, financial services and now in healthcare. Especially, the current healthcare system has been often found to be inadequate in managing health records of patient. Currently, patient medical history is found scattered between doctors, medical offices, hospitals, pharmacies, therapists and insurance companies. Sometimes scattered on various devices and sometimes in computers in a workplace separated by different cabinets. That information is often not updated or shared between and within these service providers. This makes it hard for one to access a patient’s relevant and complete electronic information during critical times.

    A picture of a Medical Record | Aspioneer
    Medical record access and modification can be simplified using Blockchain | Aspioneer

    An Alternate: Secure Blockchain system

    An word cloud of Blockchain | Aspioneer
    Blockchain can have great synergy with healthcare | Aspioneer

    Blockchain  based systems can act as a network of secure ledger i.e. write-once-read-only digital record. Years of patient’s record can be stored over the internet which is easily available on most devices. Patients or any service provider can reach the information anytime from anywhere in the real-time and update the same. Each interaction (store, update, exchange, view or renew information) made by a legit participant is stored with their identities. As a result, providers can be sure that they have the complete historical picture of a patient’s medical history, how it has changed over time and who made these changes. At the same time any kind of human error while revising the data can also be easily traced down and corrected. Again unless validated by all users no record can be deleted or altered. Thus committing any kind of cybercrime or malicious practice becomes extremely hard.

    Future of Blockchain in Healthcare

    Beyond the hype, let’s see the realistic applications of Blockchain in healthcare:

    1. Managing patients’ record- lab results, tests, drug allergies, episodes of severe ailment etc for delivering better health care.
    2. By looking into patients records healthcare organisations and pharmaceutical companies can monitor supply chains. Companies can track the journey of raw materials, compounds or components from the source to company facilities to the consumer or patient.
    3. Since the data is available in a secure and digital way, the cost and burden related with collection and maintenance of it by traditional ways will be greatly reduced.
    4. Blockchain based systems may also be used to freely make available data on threatening pathogens, analyze outbreaks or new infections.
    5. Blockchain based systems can be used for collecting data collected from IoT devices (Internet of Things) or monitoring systems.
    6. Blockchain can contribute in filing and processing of medical claims related to patient diagnoses and medication based on the treatment done.
    7. It can also help in medical research by marking collaboration between the researchers and research participants in various innovative fields.
    8. It can be used to prove the integrity of clinical research results.
    9. Blockchain can act as a proof of drug authenticity by asking med companies to register their products in private system.

    Clearly, Blockchain has a lot of untapped potential in the field of healthcare. However it success will depend on how willing healthcare organizations are in order to create the required technical infrastructure needed for its application.

    The four significant business benefits of AIOps

    A digital photo of Question Marks waiting to be discovered
    AIOps platforms use smart, self-learning algorithms backed by machine learning (ML) to automate mundane IT tasks | Aspioneer

    With the aggressive onset of digital transformation, global organizations are finding themselves with an increasingly complex set of data to manage and process. This translates to organizations spending a huge amount of time, manual effort, and money on processing such large volumes of data.

    IT operations (ITOps) is now at the sharp end of this transformation, where IT teams have to wade through a sea of complex data sets to drive and sustain their business. However, due to the dynamic nature of business applications, distributed architecture, and services, there’s been a visible increase in data loads over the last few years. Having said that, there should be a way for ITOps teams to keep up with business trends, demands, and aggressive digitization of IT infrastructure.

    The paradigm shift: Artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps)

    Coined by Gartner, AIOps platforms use smart, self-learning algorithms backed by machine learning (ML) to automate mundane IT tasks. Not only that, they also identify and preempt any possible incidents via behavioral and historical data analysis. AIOps also leverages big data analytics for cognitive analysis of data. In other words, it helps derive meaningful relationships from data for intelligible and comprehensive processing.

    This integration with AI means ITOps teams are capable of real-time data correlation, continuous cause and effect analysis, normalizing multi-dimensional data, prioritizing incidents based on severity, and building predefined response plans to mitigate future events. This ability to derive actionable insights from raw data with zero false positives can help build a responsive ITOps infrastructure.

    Business benefits of AIOps

    The advent of AIOps platforms brings with it four important business benefits: cohesive agility, efficient data processing, faster digital transformation, and better decision-making.

    1. Cohesive agility

    It goes without saying that data is scattered across business verticals; AIOps helps build a cohesive connection between these verticals through algorithms based on ML, while staying agile. Accumulating and processing this scattered data requires almost zero manual effort, as automated algorithms will do their due diligence. In other words, AIOps establishes meaningful connections from siloed data to deliver intelligent and actionable business insights. This way, business teams can always work at their own pace, while staying connected with each other.

    1. Efficient data processing

    The need for AIOps stems from the very fact that it’s extremely daunting for humans to process large volumes of data. However, AIOps, owing to its smart algorithms powered by ML and big data, can masterfully derive cognitive insights from raw data sets. AIOps mitigates the risk of operational fatigue and maintenance issues, reducing metrics like the Mean Time to Detect and the Mean Time to Repair by about half. This intrinsic capability to process data at lightning speed will certainly pave the way for automating mundane and repetitive tasks, saving ITOps teams a considerable amount of time and effort.

    1. Faster digital transformation

    If digital transformation is all about innovation through new technologies, then AIOps compliments that change. Courtesy of AIOps, advanced algorithms aid in detecting, and more impressively, reacting to events in real-time, providing organizations with greater control over their business applications and IT infrastructure. In other words, ITOps teams can bid goodbye to those late night emergency calls, because AIOps has got IT covered.

    1. Data-driven business decisions

    AIOps leverages advanced algorithms that employ ML techniques, such as pattern matching, predictive analysis, historical data analysis, and causal analysis. As a result, AIOps solutions deliver purely data-driven automated responses to all incidents, with zero false positives. This not only helps eliminate human error and data noise, but also builds a strong base for preemptive and responsive IT infrastructure. From a business point of view, this strategy yields a surplus ROI with minimal effort.

    Embrace the change

    Data has become the lifeline of ITOps. The complexity of IT infrastructure data, however, is increasing along with its significance, while the human capacity to comprehend this data remains the same. On the bright side, AIOps helps build a scalable ITOps strategy to foresee and preempt any possible issues in the future. An intuitively responsive IT infrastructure puts enterprises at the forefront of a tech revolution, and AIOps definitely aids in this transformation.

    From providing real-time insight about potential security incidents, to using predictive analysis to offer preemptive solutions to users’ problems, and providing conversational assistance for efficient management of help desk requests, AI continues to prove its worth in ITOps.

    Why manufacturing is essential for economic growth?

    An assembly line of cars | Aspioneer
    Manufacturing is important for economic growth | Aspioneer

    According to new IMF research, countries need no longer rely on manufacturing for productivity growth. The IMF is not the first to take a jab at so-called manufacturing “fetishism”. Famous economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Christina Romer have also done so in recent years.

    In fact, you can trace the skepticism of pro-manufacturing theories to 1976, when the sociologist Daniel Bell published The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. Bell argued that the wealth of future societies would rely less on the production of goods and more on the provision of services.

    In some ways, it’s right that countries should look more to services for driving economic development. Some services are more easily traded and have greater potential for productivity growth than before. This holds true especially for services that are highly digitalized, like Netflix, Spotify, and other business-related services.

    But talk of the post-industrial society is mostly hype without evidence. Here are five reasons to be skeptical of those who say that factories are dinosaurs.

    1. Economic development has (almost never) happened without industrialisation

    Throughout the history of capitalism, practically all countries that have transformed their economies from low to high income have done so through a process of industrialization. The West’s gradual establishment as world economic hegemon – starting with the industrial revolution in the UK in the late 18th century – was also a process of establishing itself as the world’s manufacturing hegemon. In 1750, Europe, North America and Japan constituted only 27% of manufacturing production in the world. But by 1900, those regions made up 90% of world manufacturing production.

    The globe of Earth | Aspioneer
    Economic growth and industrialization have gone hand in hand | Aspioneer

    Some would say that this statistic is unimportant because the traditional path of economic growth through industrialization has changed. This is actually not true. Since World War II, only a few small countries exceptionally rich in oil (like Brunei, Kuwait, Quatar) or very small financial havens (like Monaco and Lichtenstein) have achieved sustainable standards of living without developing their manufacturing sector. This is why the terms “industrialized country” and “developed country” are still used interchangeably.

    2. Manufacturing drives productivity growth and innovation

    The reason for the strong relationship between industrialisation and economic development is that the manufacturing sector is the driver of productivity growth. This, in turn, is the lifeblood of technological development.

    Economies of scale (reduced cost per unit that arise from increased production) are more easily achieved in the manufacturing sector than in the service sector. This is because manufacturing activities lend themselves more easily to mechanisation and chemical processing.

    And let’s not forget that productivity growth in other sectors of the economy are a result of innovations in the manufacturing sector. The world’s most productive farms are heavy users of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and agricultural machinery. And the world’s most productive service firms rely on top computer technology, transport equipment and, in some instances, mechanized warehouses.

    A system of gears | Aspioneer
    Manufacturing drives innovation | Aspioneer

    The importance of the manufacturing sector for a country’s overall infrastructure for innovation cannot be highlighted enough. Even in advanced countries, where manufacturing production is supposed to be on the decline, the bulk of innovation happens in the manufacturing sector. In the US, firms associated mainly with industrial production still employ 64% of all scientists and engineers.

    3. Manufacturing helps services

    Every economic activity stimulates another economic activity. So, just as manufacturing stimulates the provision of services, services stimulate manufacturing production. But evidence shows that manufacturing has a stronger “multiplier effect” than services.

    In France, for example, 29% of the manufacturing workforce contributes indirectly to the production of non-manufacturing output. Only 13% of the services workforce contributes indirectly to the production of non-services output.

    In Singapore, every 100 new manufacturing jobs are associated with 27 new services jobs. By contrast, every 100 new services jobs are associated with only three more manufacturing jobs.

    4. The manufacturing sector is larger than you think

    Not only do many services depend on a manufacturing core, some of them are also by their very nature linked to manufacturing. These most importantly include industrial R&D, innovation, product design, and other engineering-related services.

    One could make a strong case for having such services counted as manufacturing in the national accounts, which is currently not the case. A study published by the Brookings Institution think tank shows the importance of scrutinising the way we count production activities. The authors of the study calculated the size of the entire US manufacturing value chain, and found that in 2010, manufacturing, narrowly defined, employed 11.5m workers in the US, but broadly defined, it employed 32.9m workers.

    5. The fourth industrial revolution is not stealing manufacturing jobs

    With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution – technological breakthroughs associated with things like artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and 3D printing – there is a growing fear that manufacturing will become less reliant on human labour. But this fear is not borne out by evidence.

    The share of current jobs in OECD countries that stand at risk of automation is only 6-12%. In developing countries, this number is found to be even lower, at 2-8%. And keep in mind that these studies only talk about the risk of automation. So far, 3D printing and robotics have had a negligible impact on labour markets in most countries.

    Even if we assume the doomsday scenario of 3D printers and robots stealing most of our jobs, we don’t know if the manufacturing sector will experience larger job losses than the service or agricultural sector. For example, a recent McKinsey report shows that transport and warehousing services are among the most automatable activities, and that sorting of agricultural products is 100% automatable at this point.

    So, while it is true that some services are increasingly contributing to economy-wide productivity growth, these services cannot thrive without a vibrant manufacturing sector. Governments in high-income countries shouldn’t let their factories rot away, and governments in developing countries are wrong to think that they can skip the industrialisation phase. Manufacturing still matters, a lot.

    Jostein Hauge, Research Associate, University of Cambridge


    Virtual Reality could be a game changer for supply chains

    A woman trying a VR headset | Aspioneer
    VR could significantly improve supply chains

    Previously, VR technology has been used mostly in video games, amusement activities and 3D cinema. With technological improvements, availability of more affordable VR headsets and advances in innovation, new trends have come up. VR technology is progressively being adopted in supply chain management in processes like product and process design, virtual collaboration, experience-based learning and improving efficiency, safety, productivity.

    What is VR?

    Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, 3D, computer-generated interactive environment involving a experience totally different from physical reality. The user can incorporate visual and auditory inputs through aids such as goggles, simple head-mounted displays and 3 dimensional images. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to “look around” the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features or items. Virtual reality has thus found applications in primary education, military simulation, astronaut training, flight simulators and driver training. Many large companies are now pouring capital for incorporation of VR technology in their business operations.

    The case for VR in businesses

    Skyline of Singapore | Aspioneer
    Virtual reality will form the basis of the new future | Aspioneer

    Businesses have already started taking advantage of VR to give an immersive digital experience to users. Organisation  such as

    • Volkswagen uses MARTA, a service manual that helps in completing a repair job using reality technology.
    • Marxent’s- Marxent Visual Commerce application powered by reality helps customers to choose paint, flooring, plumbing fixtures, appliances etc and then visualise the entire 3D object and then experience the entire space virtually.
    • DHL improved its warehouse efficiency by using reality in order picking through scene recognition of space. This helped in choosing the right size packages and placing them on the unloading site well before physically touching them.
    • Houston based Training Centre of Air Conditioning and Heating along with Brown Technical Media built eLearning products and full technician course to train mass number of trainees in virtual HVAC lab.
    • Yihaodian, China’s online grocery business allowed customers to shop and browse their virtual stores. Used with smart analytics, insights provided by AR and VR into a customer’s buying interests and likelihood of purchase makes it possible to pre-empt a sale and mobilise the supply chain accordingly. 
    • JAL uses Hololens to educate its trainee mechanics using 3D holographics in real world.
    • Uniqlo Magic Mirror allows customers to predict how a garment, in different colours, would look on them without changing it several times.
    • Canada’s British Columbia through its ‘Wild Within’ gives a virtual sightseer tour to promote tourism. The ‘Oculus‘ Rift VR headset and Taclim VR boots from ‘Cerevo‘ amplifies the whole experience.
    • Audi allows customers to use VR headset to configure their new Audi and experience their cars virtually, in real time. The technology is developed by ZeroLight, a technology company based in Great Britain.

    How supply chains can utilize VR

    A truck representing field of logistics | Aspioneer
    VR can change logistics across the board | Aspioneer

    In the age of globalization, supply chain management has become a vital part of many businesses and is essential to any company’s success. Intelligent supply chain management has the power to boost customer service, reduce operating costs and improve the financial standing of a company. While these are a part of the whole ecosystem, modern supply change management encompasses the strategic alignment of end-to-end business processes to realize market and economic value, as well as giving a firm the competitive advantage over their business rivals. Adoption of VR applications depending on company’s operational needs can thus be applied in following ways

    • VR can be used in design organisation in an establishment allowing engineers, architects and designers to view multiple designs immediately on the spot which would save time and thus boost supply chains.
    • It can contribute towards improving the general understanding of how workhouse machinery work, in order to give first-hand experience to workers rather than traditional classroom education or video tools.
    • VR can help in complete 3D visualization, of an operational site for instance, which is difficult to comprehend on a 2D screen. This would facilitate in analysis and rapid decision making. This will improve efficiency and prevent any delays in supply chain operations.
    • VR can be used to keep employees prepared for safety-critical environmental situations within an industry say during manufacturing, maintenance or operational hazards. Examples for citation like increased oil level or complete failure of a machine. Using of a VR headset that integrates a virtual view of the facility with real-time data from operational systems, technicians can assess the extent of the problem before they physically visit the site. This can significantly reduce the time required to complete the maintenance, and more importantly, ensure that technicians are better equipped before performing the work.
    • VR technology can be used instantly and at same time by multiple employees to understand a virtual space of the industry without even being physically present there. The common virtual platform created would help speed up interactions, reduce cost but also give manufacturers and suppliers further insight earlier in product and process development, especially important across distributed supply networks.
    • VR can be used to superimpose important information directly onto the windshield of a motor vehicle. VR can aid in navigation by giving information about alternate routes, blocked roads and traffic hitches. Also the goods kept on the back can be supervised by checking the virtual images on the windscreen without being physically present there. At the time of delivery customers picture stored in company database can be verified to the receiver by using facial recognition technology. This would ensure secure delivery rather than conventional method where identity is checked using ID’s or signature which can be easily forged. Again packages can be encoded with scan able codes for drivers and receiver. Which would give information such as package weight, contents, handling and stalking instructions.

    At Aspioneer, we believe these some of many ways of VR can be implemented to enhance their supply chain experience. Businesses who wish to remain ahead of their competitors can put VR technology into practice, depending on their operational needs, to significantly improve their supply chains.

    While FCC rolls back India gives strong ‘net neutrality’ laws

    Net neutrality banner in front of a traffic light | Aspioneer
    While FCC rolls back India gives strong 'net neutrality' laws | Aspioneer

    The Department of telecommunication (DoT) has finally agreed to the new open and fair net neutrality rules for India. The move forbids Internet Service Providers from blocking, discriminating or interfering, slowing down or giving partiality to any data/services/apps with some exceptions. The new set of rules is in accordance with the inputs given by TRAI and will come in effect almost immediately.

    This has been seen as a very progressive policy in comparison to Federal Communications Commission (FCC), US allowing stripped-down internet access. Such policies allows influential organizations like AT&T and Verizon  an unfair advantage over local startups. Nikhil Pahwa, co-founder of India’s Save the Internet campaign said “Unlike the US, where the FCC has gone back and is essentially opposing net neutrality, India has now the strongest net neutrality regulations in the world,” he added.

    ‘Specialized Services’ and ‘Critical IoT services’ exmepted

    A digital graphic with the words IoT | Aspioneer
    Critical services are to be exempted under TRAI’s rules | Aspioneer

    As recommended by TRAI, services such as remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, internet calling, online television and enterprise-wired networks created through leased lines are exempted from the net neutrality regulations. Services that fall in any of the categories like ‘Specialized Services’ or ‘Critical IoT‘ whom TRAI boss R.S Sharma describes as “certain services were quality of service is essential” are also exempted. The new rules allow these providers to ignore net neutrality in case of emergencies, security threats or to manage high traffic across the network.

    As the Wire reports, “The Telecom Commission today approved net neutrality as recommended by TRAI. Now the licence agreements (with service providers) will be immediately amended and will be subject to principles of net neutrality,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan told reporters. However, any violation by Internet service providers or telecom operators could lead to getting their operators license canceled.

    While the move has been supported by the Cellular Operation Association of India (COAI), it has expressed some concerns over traffic prioritisation and 5G innovation.

    “Where the net neutrality recommendations are concerned, we have already expressed our support on issues pertaining to non-discriminatory use of the Internet, including no blocking, no throttling and adoption of same service-same rules. That said, we reiterate our earlier position that a light touch regulatory approach should be adopted so that innovation such as 5G-enabled applications are not hampered by the Net Neutrality rules,” Rajan S Mathews, director general, COAI, said in a statement “Now that the commission has approved the recommendations, which are before the Cabinet for approval, we hope that the Cabinet will consider the concerns raised by the industry so that the Net Neutrality rules that are adopted in India benefit the consumers, incentivise innovation and adoption of new technologies, and enable the seamless spread of state of the art networks and service,” he finished.

    At Aspioneer, we believe net neutrality will make the internet great with easy, unrestricted access and stocked with freely available information, regardless of the content provider. This will help both new as well as established companies by creating a fair and balanced market place. It will give mutual freedom to every individual, to choose from complete unrestricted and non-discriminatory services rather than the restricted net version provided by internet service providers. It will encourage both competition and innovation thus help in overall economic growth nationwide.