How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks During Coronavirus Crisis

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By Dan May, commercial Director at ramsac.

The rapid shift in the current coronavirus crisis has led to a significant proportion of office-based employees now working from home remotely, which opens up threats related to expanded network access. While this would present cybersecurity challenges under ordinary circumstances, in the current climate there are additional aspects to consider. Cybercriminals are intentionally targeting people during this trying time, tapping into fear and confusion. Don’t fall victim to such exploitation; find out how to protect yourself from phishing attacks during the coronavirus outbreak.

 

How cybercriminals are exploiting coronavirus

Experts at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – part of GCHQ – have discovered that cyber criminals across the world are using the coronavirus crisis as a means of exploitation, to conduct online scams and malware attacks. Paul Chichester, NCSC Director of Operations commented;

“We know that cyber criminals are opportunistic and will look to exploit people’s fears, and this has undoubtedly been the case with the Coronavirus outbreak.”

Knowing the general public feeling is uncertain and fearful, cybercriminals are using this to design specific attacks that feed into this. This could be by using social media to post links and ads for bogus ‘anti-virus advice’, or sending out emails and ads with false ‘new updates’ and links to unsolicited websites.

To illustrate just how frequent these instances seem to be, cybersecurity firm Check Point have released findings that since January 2020, 4,000 new domains have been registered which are centred on coronavirus. They’ve found that around 3% of these domains are malicious, and an additional 5% are suspicious.

 

Real examples of COVID-19 related cybercrime

Some examples of recent cybercrime activity that’s based on coronavirus has included:

  • Criminals fraudulently sent out emails posing as members of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The emails contained a malicious link and/or attachment, and some asked readers to submit sensitive information.
  • Cybercriminals set up a false website under the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), on which they requested bitcoin donations for funding a coronavirus vaccination.
  • Phishing emails have been sent out in the UK which contain attachments that detail – false – anti-coronavirus advice and defences. The attachments are infected with a malicious virus.

The different kinds of attacks are designed to do various things, from stealing money to stealing information. Examples include:

  • Phishing emails. Cyber criminals invest time in creating emails that look genuine, such as from a health service, bank, or trusted company. The email will request you input personal information, which the criminal can then use for fraudulent activity.
  • Ransomware infections. These can happen when a user clicks on a link, which could either be on an email, website, advert, or social media post. When the link is clicked, a virus is released and the user must pay a monetary ransom fee to recover their data.
  • Sale of goods. Especially relevant at this time, some cybercriminals advertise goods that are either bogus or non-existent. This could be a “medically-trusted anti-COVID-19 mask”, or anti-coronavirus medication.

 

How to recognise and protect yourself against cybercrime

In any sector, businesses that have staff working remotely need to ensure that their employees know what to look out for when it comes to cybercrime. A solid human firewall is essential in order to limit the possibility of cyber criminals’ infiltrating your company’s data. There are various things that staff should know to look out for.

 

Spotting a Phishing Email

Phishing emails can be difficult to spot because they are usually created by experts, and are often excellent reproductions of genuine emails. In the event that an unexpected email arrives in your inbox, carefully check over the format and spelling to identify tell-tale mistakes.

 

Recognising a malicious link

Whether a malicious link was displayed on an email, advert, or website, it should be possible to identify it’s trustworthiness quickly. This is because they will have been put in place in order to obtain personal data, or to request payment for something.

 

Detecting ingenuine products

Many cybercriminals will distribute adverts for products which have bold claims, such as, at the moment, anti-coronavirus medication and equipment. Remember, if it seems to good to be true – it probably is.

The best piece of advice regarding cybercrime during the coronavirus outbreak – and indeed anytime – is to second guess anything you were not expecting. Whether this is a product, service, or information – do your own research to find out if what you are reading is true. Good practice is to seek information and products from a reputable source, such as official government or health service websites.

 

Protecting remote workers from cybercrime

Throughout the current situation, measures put into place to protect the public from COVID-19 include strict social distancing and lockdowns of services. The advice is to work from home if it’s possible, and at this time it is not known how long such measures will last. Because of this, business-owners and managers are advised to plan for the long haul, and assume that the majority of staff who are remote working will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

To protect workers and consequently your business from cybercrime at this time, put the following into place:

  • Supply information to employees about cybercrime during the coronavirus outbreak, including about any ongoing attacks as you hear of them
  • Distribute cybercrime training materials to staff, and/or hold a group webinar to go over some of the key factors
  • If employees will be accessing your servers remotely, make sure their devices are protected with the necessary anti-virus software

The speed with which the coronavirus has spread across the globe in the past months has led to a truly unprecedented period of confusion and uncertainty among individuals and businesses. As a huge proportion of businesses have been negatively affected, it is natural that right now, the owners of these companies will be more concerned with their current bottom line than other areas such as cybercrime. While this is of course a necessity, it is also important to give some consideration to the security of your company data. If cybercriminals do manage to breach your systems, the financial impact of this could mean even further difficulties at an already extremely trying time.

Covid-19: A Third Of Businesses Lack The Tech Infrastructure To Manage Long-Term Remote Working

Working from home

New data reveals that 33 per cent of UK businesses say they lack the technology infrastructure to manage long-term remote working during the Covid-19 crisis.

The poll, commissioned by Leonne International, the global private equity provider, was conducted by independent survey company Censuswide, which questioned 200 senior business decision-makers from large and medium sized companies on the business impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The polling was conducted between Wednesday 18th March and Thursday 19th March after the Chancellor’s announcement of a £330bn package to support businesses cope with the outbreak. 

Due to the global outbreak, the measures that have been introduced to tackle the Covid-19 coronavirus mean that many organisations are having to consider how their employees can work remotely for the first time. With offices closing, millions off workers are now working from home for the foreseeable future.

Additionally, 41 per cent said they plan to increase their IT and tech investment in the coming weeks to cope with the new remote working structure during isolation. This could be because 26 per cent say they lack the digital skills in-house in order to manage widespread and long-term remote working for staff.

Almost half, (47 per cent) agree that there should be more collaboration between the global business community to fortunate a plan of action in order to tackle the disruption caused by the coronavirus.

There is a concern around entering offices and public workspaces with 35 per cent of business leaders who agree they feel afraid to enter their place of work due to fear of infection. Because of this, 37 per cent say they will be working from home for the foreseeable future, which reaffirms this concern.

Worryingly, nearly one third (28 per cent) said they now were actively planning to make redundancies to survive the crisis, with 72 per cent against. Also, over half of large and medium sized businesses (55 per cent) expect a substantial revenue drop this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Tech expert Sridhar Iyengar, MD of Zoho Europe, comments:

“The Covid-19 crisis poses an existential threat to many businesses, with a significant number of companies completely unprepared for the sudden shift towards 100% remote working. With this in mind, it is vital that technology providers work together to offer free IT support and advice to those who need it, in an effort to protect jobs, livelihoods and the wider economy.

With many businesses scrambling to introduce virtual meetings, manage projects online and provide essential daily briefings for employees, the tech industry has a moral obligation to step in and offer resources to help companies to adapt to this new way of working. The next few months are going to be tough, with millions of people worried about their jobs, health and their family’s future. It’s up to the IT industry to rise to this challenge, take and action and do everything possible to provide comfort and support during this difficult period.”

Jonathan Young, CIO, FDM Group, a FTSE 250 company, comments:

“This threat has already forced many companies to fully integrate flexible working technology into business continuity plans. Whilst the sudden shift to complete remote working will be a shock for many, it’s vital to recognise that many organisations can operate without a formal office space. Despite millions of workers remaining isolated at home for the foreseeable future and juggling family commitments, workers still want to get online and do their jobs as efficiently as possible. It’s critical that businesses leaders take action to address these demands, bringing together digital talent from across the business to ensure every member of staff has access to online support and systems to continue operating as normal. Key to this effort is that senior management set the right example, using these online tools and platforms and ensuring that every member of staff follows suit and stays safe during this challenging time.”

Michael Haston, CEO, Leonne International adds:

“These are tough times for businesses, with the Coronavirus wreaking havoc and forcing thousands of companies to enforce mandatory remote working policies. It’s critical that companies are given the necessary financial support to respond to this threat, enabling businesses to invest in technology to ensure every worker can perform to the best of their ability, remotely.”

Supporting The Growth Of Technology Firms

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By Dominic Buch, co-founder and managing partner, Caple

Tech firms are at the heart of the UK economy, underpinning many other sectors including manufacturing, finance, marketing and healthcare. We have the third-largest digital technology sector in the world, generating £184bn in turnover in 2018, according to government statistics. 

Thousands small- and medium-sized businesses contribute to that sector, developing state-of-art capabilities and innovations that help other firms and industries grow. Yet despite all they do to help others, some of these small and ambitious firms find it difficult to access the right growth finance.


What’s the issue?  

Based on the amount of funding that goes to some tech firms, some commentators might argue that the tech sector attracts all the funding it needs. Certainly, this may seem true when considering that venture capital investment in the UK sector reached £6.3bn in 2018, more than any other European country.

But, while such third-party equity funding might be right for many start-ups and scale-ups, for other tech SMEs it is not the best route. Part of the challenge is that many of these firms find it difficult to access lending from their bank.This is because banks prefer to lend against collateral, usually tangible assets such as property or machinery. As a result, the availability of secured lending is limited by the availability of collateral within a business.

However, many successful tech businesses are growing by developing intangible assets such as intellectual property, data, or networks. Tech SMEs can therefore quickly reach the limit of bank finance. It is at this point where many tech business owners have to consider issuing equity to raise funds or agree to personal guarantees.

But very often business owners do not want to issue equity and dilute ownership to fund growth.  Instead, they would prefer to raise money through long-term debt, if they could. So, the lack of access to genuinely unsecured lending is a critical barrier to growth for SMEs in the sector.


What’s the solution?

Many growing SMEs need this unsecured lending to grow, often in loan sizes of £500,000 to £5m.  The businesses looking for loans of this size are too big for peer-to-peer platforms and usually too small for specialist banks and debt funds. They are profitable and cash generative but have no hard assets to offer to lenders as security.

Caple is the first in the UK to offer long-term, fully-unsecured lending, based on the future cash flows of the SME.  We do not require collateral or personal guarantees as security.

The loans also work alongside existing bank lending or invoice discounting.  This means firms can have access to more funding overall than they would get from their bank alone, while also maintaining their existing bank relationship.


How do we help?

Proving the appetite for unsecured lending in the tech sector, we have recently completed several deals with innovative UK firms.

For instance, we recently supported iPLATO, the UK health tech company, to access a multimillion-pound eight-year unsecured loan.  

iPLATO, which simplifies access to healthcare for millions of people with its “myGP” platform and app, will use the loan to invest in its technology and marketing. This will enable it to grow in the UK and to launch internationally.  The business will also develop new products and services to enhance the experience for patients, doctors and the NHS.

As Martin Rowden, CFO of iPLATO, summarised: “We aim to transform healthcare by making it easier for patients to better organise their and their family’s healthcare.  To do so, we need funding that reflects our ambitions.  While equity funding was a possible option, it was expensive, failed to match our vision, and we did not want to dilute our ownership.” 

In all of our deals, business owners are keen to access funding to drive the growth of their business.  But they want to do so in a way that means they retain control. 

When small but growing tech firms contribute so much to the UK economy, we need to help them secure the finance they need to scale-up. We can do this without pushing them towards diluting equity and losing control. 

Changing The Way People Shop With A-Commerce

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Changing The Way People Shop With A-Commerce

EyeKandy Limited is a global leader in the innovation, curation and deployment of Augmented Reality Experiences for Commerce. Earlier this year, the firm found success in CV’s 2019 Marketing, PR & Design Awards where they were selected as 2019’s Most Innovative AR Shopping Platform: Point and Place. On the back of this win, we profiled the firm to gain a deeper insight into the innovative solutions the company consistently provides to their clients.

Since their inception in 2016, EyeKandy Limited have been producing effective digital assets online and in-store for their diverse client base.

In 2017, EyeKandy designed a ground-breaking platform that has transformed the way in which we shop. The ‘Point & Place’ Augmented Reality Shopping Platform has been adopted by hundreds of retailers, in fifteen native, in over forty countries and leads the way in omni-channel AR Shopping for Retailers and Brands.

In addition to Point & Place, EyeKandy Limited also produce stunning videos for their clients. From the beginning of the creative production process, the team at EyeKandy Limited will work closely with their client, to ensure that their strategy is thoroughly conceptualised and aligned to both their desired impact and target audience.

With vast knowledge and experience using a variety of end delivery formats, EyeKandy Limited are able to design an asset pack which goes above and beyond the expectations of their clients.

Enabling the firm to deliver these tailored services, and produce a high-quality product, is the experienced, creative and
passionate team at EyeKandy Limited. When a project gets to the post production stage, the firm’s talented team of post effects artists are able to deliver striking graphic overlays, title layers, edits and grades that produce the high quality output that their clients expect.

The end result? A finished product which has been crafted to meet the all the requirements which have been set by their clients. In addition to this, the firm will also advise on the suitable formats for different end delivery methods and provide them to the client when requested.

Looking ahead to what the future holds for the firm, the team at EyeKandy Limited will continue to provide an impeccable service, ensuring that they not only fulfil the requirements which have been set by their clients, but they also surpass their expectations. Moving forward, the EyeKandy Limited team hope to further expand both the business and the services they offer, especially following their success in Corporate Vision’s 2019 Marketing, PR & Design Awards where they were righteously awarded the accolade 2019’s Most Innovative AR Shopping Platform: Point and Place.

Growing Globally

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Growing Globally

Elements Global Services is an award-winning HR technology and services company that provides employment solutions across 135+ countries. Headquartered in Barcelona with a global network of offices and employees delivering innovative solutions, discover why this firm is already established as 2020’s most outstanding global Employer of Record/HR Outsourcing company.

From Belgium to Brazil, Jamaica to Japan, and Sweden to South Africa, companies operating in the modern world have it easier than ever before to scale internationally. Technology and advancements in communication have allowed companies to have offices in major cities across the world but despite that growth, it hasn’t become any easier to grow a global business. It’s a daunting prospect for companies starting their international expansion as there’s a lack of reliable guidance and insight. That is where Elements enters the fray.

Covering everything from payroll, benefits, HR to local compliance, visa and mobility issues, Elements provides its clients with innovative tools and resources to support global reach. Additionally, Elements represents the very best of what a HR technology firm should be.

Throughout 2019, the company’s workforce grew three-fold to more than 100 employees following a significant increase in demand for its services, solutions, and expertise. Now already firmly established as one of the most outstanding global Employer of Record and HR Outsourcing companies in 2020, Elements continues to serve business leaders, CFOs, Human Resources leaders, and other strategic decision-makers. These individuals are the beating heart of a company’s expansion, and
Elements strives to support them in every aspect of planning their international growth.

Using a single Human Resources Information System, the firm can connect clients directly to global HR platforms for domestic and international employees who needs services such as booking leave or retaining important HR documents with secure online access. That way, the clients are in full compliance with tax regulations and can maintain strong connections with remote employees. One of the unique solutions that Elements brings to the table is their Direct Employer of Record solution, which helps companies expand, onboard, manage and pay employees across the world.

By partnering with an Employer of Record, a business can onboard, manage and pay their employees in almost any country without delay, while remaining in full compliance of all labour or tax laws. Elements uses their Direct EOR solution to pay employees worldwide, minimizing the risk for their partner company. So, how exactly does this work? The Direct EOR has its own entities in many countries and uses those entities to establish all the fundamental basics that a business would require. The EOR then “employs” the staff members directly to handle international payroll, HR laws, taxes and compliance requirements. The business, or client, retains control of its employees and their day-to-day tasks, but with minimal risk.

On paper, Elements is the legal employer of the client’s workforce. Elements also handles all the administrative responsibilities related to employment, like writing contracts, hiring and onboarding staff, as well as handling local benefits. The client is still responsible for daily management of activities and company direction but no longer has to spend valuable time creating legal business entities to legally hire staff, which solves a big challenge for most employers in mitigating major risks.

This approach allows businesses to have new employees working in as little as six weeks wherever they are in the world. Typically, it takes months to set up a new subsidiary, but Elements helps their clients save up to 94% of the time it would normally take to enter a new market.

The time and costs associated with setting up and managing a company in a new country are prohibitive and distract a client from their core business. By Growing Globally partnering with Elements, clients have one partner who does it all for them at a fraction of the time and cost.

With other models, there is usually a chain of different partners across the world, which isn’t optimal for the employee – when there is an issue, an employee will need to wait for these partners to relay details of the issue before resolving it. Often there’s a delay because of time-zones and local business hours. This is where Elements’ Direct Employer of Record model is unique as it removes chain and delays by ensuring their placed employees have a single point of contact who can take care of their issues – wherever they are, 24/7.

Operating offices in a country that is not where the headquarters are located can be tricky. Rather than trudge through the waves of regulations, requirements, fees and other red tape, clients can consider Elements as their only global partner. Through their Employer of Record services, plethora of supporting offerings, and operation across 135+ countries, clients can rely on Elements to be the partner of choice when it comes to establishing an international presence that is fully regulation compliant.

Award-Winning Digital Transformation Solutions

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Award-Winning Digital Transformation Solutions

Ospyn is a leading software vendor offering digital transformation to enterprises of various sectors through its Ospyn Docs platform. We profiled the firm and caught up with Prasadu and Kishore who revealed more about Ospyn and how they became the digital transformation solution of the year in India for 2019.

Established in 2009 by Prasadu Varghese and Kishore Kumar, Ospyn was created with a vision to become a digital transformation partner for enterprises by offering BPM, ECM and document management solutions for business process automation. Over a span of 10 years, Ospyn has evolved into a major player across 12 industries with 80 plus customers in India, Middle East and Africa.

For enterprises that are tethered with disconnected operations, paper-based processes and fragmented workflows, Ospyn acts as the digital transformation partner, bringing agility and automation across each of their operations, as Kishore explains.

“At Ospyn, our enterprise content management platform Ospyn Docs and BPM solutions are live across 12 verticals, enabling enterprises to manage their content, business processes, workflows and internal operations in one platform, thereby offering real time visibility, instant collaboration and quicker end results. With a decades’ presence in the industry, we take pride in streamlining operations and enabling enhanced customer experience for 80+ enterprise clients.”

Currently, Ospyn’s file flow solution is live across 60+ government departments, enabling them to go digital by automating their file processing and approvals. This particular solution helps to manage file-flow, inward processing, collaboration, archival, search, document management and also dispatch. In addition to this, the solution also eases the traditional processes with automated workflows and digital repository.

When discussing the various solutions the firm offers, Prasadu informed us about the clients Ospyn delivers, both their exceptional services and personalized services.

“We offer B2B solutions where our clients vary from government departments to high-tech digital enterprises. The approach to each client differs based on their requirements, people and business processes.

“For instance, we help our government sector clients to overcome their irrational barriers; both in terms of change resistance and technological ignorance by offering handholding and multiple training sessions to support their people transformation and process digitalization. Whereas for process oriented institutions and enterprises, we identify the bottlenecks in their business operations that are error prone and implement intelligent process management solution to streamline those industry specific operations.”

Enabling the firm to deliver this level of service, is the experienced and committed team which forms the foundation of Ospyn. Having established a strong internal culture, Kishore is keen to highlight the significant role the team plays in the overall success of the firm.

“It is no secret that our employees play a major role in bringing innovation to our core platform. Most of our senior tech giants are with us from the inception of the firm, and still continue to enrich our platform with advanced technologies and evolution as we expand the business.”

Since their inception a decade ago, Ospyn has established a strong client base in India and has recently entered the markets of Middle East and Africa. The firm’s content management platform has attracted most of their major customers and has earned them various business partners, system integrators, data centre service providers across the globe.

From the very beginning, the uniqueness and flexibility to fulfil the outgrowing requirements of clients has been a key point in defining the credibility of Ospyn’s products. Bringing the interview to a close, Prasadu signs off by revealing how Ospyn’s solutions have already established themselves a place in the market, as well as the plans the firm have in place to help them expand in the years to come.

“By replacing the prominent solutions offered by top players in the market, our platform has earned an identity of its own. With artificial intelligence and robotic processes, our platform is currently being enriched with advanced functionalities for an enhanced user experience. Going forward, we are in the pursuit of entering into European and American markets.”

The Impact Of Smart Technology On Driving?

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The Impact Of Smart Technology On Driving?

Technology continues to have a major impact on our everyday lives, with new innovations constantly being introduced to make life ‘simpler’.  All industries strive to innovate, not least the automotive industry that in recent years has seen the introduction of dash-cams, key finders and in-car Bluetooth systems.

But, what might be next on the agenda for car tech?  These predictions below from Audi dealership Vindis offer some interesting insight:


Self-driving cars

For a long time, we’ve been envisioning a world in which cars will be able to drive around by themselves. This idea once seemed futuristic and farfetched, but the tech is now being developed and tested by leading automotive companies such as Audi. Similar to the idea behind inter-car communication, self-driving cars are set to reduce the risk of human error on the road. The result? A safer and more reliable way to travel. The Google Self-Driving Car project was initiated in 2009 and has since been rebranded as Waymo. After ordering a Waymo on an app, a self-driving car will pick you up and take you where you need to be — a journey which promises to be both extremely safe and very comfortable. The idea behind Waymo is that you can ‘ride with confidence’ and these vehicles have been branded as ‘the most experienced drivers’. Embracing self-driving cars feels like taking a leap of faith, but in the next few years, this tech is likely to feel much more common place.


AR dashboard displays

Augmented reality dashboards will soon provide all the information you could possibly need to enhance your driving experience. Giving your dashboard a video-game aesthetic, AR displays will show any information you need to know about the car itself. They will also give you other vital information about the road, such as how quickly you’re approaching another car, and how best to avoid collisions. 


Inter-car communication

Cars that are hooked up to the internet are now fairly standard in the automotive world. Soon however, these internet-enabled cars will have the ability to communicate with one another, transforming our driving experience. Communication between cars will help prevent collisions, with precision that human error has never before allowed us to achieve. Before a collision can occur, the car-to-car communication system will foresee the accident and alert the driver to the potential consequences. They will then be able to react quickly and avoid catastrophe.

The world’s leading car manufacturers are currently using this technology to develop fully autonomous models. Which leads us on to our next smart technology…


3D gesture technology

Imagine changing gears or winding down your car windows with a simple wave of your hand. Like magic, you will soon be able to control many elements of your vehicle with mere gestures. As well as being futuristic and fun, this tech is set to make driving easier and safer. Instead of jabbing at buttons on the radio, or being tempted to reach out for your phone, you will soon be able to point at the screen of your infotainment system to accept an incoming call — a simple solution that means you’ll never have to take your eyes off the road.


Full integration with phones and smart watches

We have already seen a huge integration between our cars and our smart gadgets, and this trend is set to continue. Recent innovations have seen car manufacturers such as Hyundai, pair up with the Android Wear app which allows users to complete a number of commands from your smart watch. From your watch you can start your engine remotely, lock your car’s doors, sound your horn, and turn the headlights on and off.

What’s more, built-in integration with apps is set to become more commonplace with new car models. Many models now integrate popular apps into the infotainment system, making it look just like the usual screen on your phone.


Automated parking systems

Finally, for those who are tired of searching for a parking space to riskily squeeze into, let us introduce automated parking systems. Parktronic systems that allow cars to find parking spaces and navigate to them already exist, but with new infrastructure around automated parking systems forecasted, the future looks bright for those who hate parking. This infrastructure will allow passengers to drop off the car at the entrance to a garage, allowing it to venture off and find its own parking space. And when you’re ready to be reunited with your wheels? A simple tap on an app will signal to your car that it’s time to journey back to the drop-off point.

Some of these innovations may seem straight out of science fiction, but every day we are inching nearer to a world in which smart technology drives cars by itself. It may take some getting used to, but our future roads are set to be safer than ever!

3D Print Perfection

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3D Print Perfection

3D printing is still a relatively new field, opening the doors of possibility when it comes to the production of prototype parts or small runs for a niche market. Based out of London, 3DPRINTUK is at the forefront of SLS 3D printing, providing a service unparalleled in the United Kingdom. After eight years of business, we profiled this company to find out more.

Established in 2011 by founder Nick Allen, 3DPRINTUK has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. Able to handle every part of the process from CAD to finishing, the talented team has explored the potential of SLS 3D printing technology. Since opening their doors, 3DPRINTUK has produced items as varied as a CAT Scan for artist Dave Farman, a glider for James May and the trophies for the Men’s and Women’s Hockey World League Finals 2015. Some would argue that the potential for 3D printing is virtually endless, but to even begin to start looking into its possibilities, you need someone who knows what they’re doing.

The appeal of 3D printing comes from its ability to produce precisely calibrated parts without the need for expensive tooling or big runs. Instead of the use of moulds or subtracting material to produce a final product, 3D printing works by taking a digital version of an object, slicing it into thin horizontal sections and laying material down layer by layer. It is only recently that the machines used to generate these creations have reached a price that allows for commercial, or even home use.

3DPRINTUK uses top end machines that provide a fine finish on their products. Using a print bed of white Nylon powder, a laser melts certain parts of the print bed, ‘colouring in’ the areas to be printed. The bed drops by 0.1mm and is recoated with the powder for another print layer. This is what sets 3DPRINTUK above the rest, providing a smoother finish as the laser blends layers together, reducing the lines that are found on cheaper machines. The result is a strong, durable product, ready for a waiting client.

As so many types of 3D printing abound, from SLA to DLP to FDM, it’s easy to try and offer them all, allowing a variety of services to be undertaken. What has made 3DPRINTUK such a success is the specialisation in one sector of the industry. In focusing on the mastery of SLS technology, the team now know its strengths and weaknesses intimately, allowing them to push boundaries that other companies wouldn’t consider.

3DPRINTUK work with any client who has a requirement for small parts, ranging from students to artists to engineering companies. A minimum order of £40 means that the market leading technology that 3DPRINTUK provide is available and accessible to everyone.

Although the majority of clients are engineering companies who can’t afford their own in-house SLS machine, you can find oneoff clients for specific purposes such as Dave Farman, who’s request for a set of accurate rib cage and lungs was turned down by other companies but accepted and printed quickly at 3DPRINTUK. For some, producing items through 3DPRINTUK has meant a 70% saving, especially when the cost of injection moulding can be incredibly expensive.

The flexibility and potential of by 3D printing has made it incredibly popular amongst students looking to experiment with 3D design. These clients are often pushing for a quick turnaround, done as cheaply as possible. 3DPRINTUK offers a generous 20% off discount to students, as well as free advice on designs to help print as efficiently as possible.

Many companies take advantage of 3DPRINTUK’s ability to produce small production runs of bespoke products. With no setup fees or mould costs, 3D printing is able to act as a viable alternative to injection
moulding with the ability to order as many or as few items as required. Altering designs, such as personalisation for individual clients, costs as much as producing identical products giving 3D printing a significant advantage. The lack of tooling means that lead time is incredibly fast, with the current record being 6,500 parts produced in 24 hours, each identical to the prototype model.

Clips, mounts and fastenings are the parts best suited to batch production runs. The nylon used in SLS printing is strong, making it perfect for small fastenings and fixtures. Being small parts, it is possible to place these in and around other parts in builds that are made allowing for swift production. Tooling these parts would be difficult to justify on a low production run, making 3D printing the ideal, and most appropriate, solution.

While 3DPRINTUK is now well established within the industry, the company relied heavily on its website and tradeshows in the early days when it was getting started. Convincing clients that their particular brand of manufacture wasn’t just a gimmick, but a powerful tool in the design arsenal was a major challenge. Attending these shows allowed potential clients to see products in the flesh and assess the quality of the parts for themselves. A slowly transforming market that has become more informed about the nature of 3D printing has encouraged many companies to explore how to use this technology for themselves.

Of course, in selling the possibilities of 3D printing, it is possible that the media has overhyped its abilities. While theoretically able to create anything using this technology, with projects using complete mechanisms that have been 3D printed garnering media attention, the team at 3DPRINTUK advocate the use of appropriate materials for the job. Such mechanisms can use gears and steel rods for a fraction of the cost of 3D printing. This practical and economically minded approach is intrinsic to the attitude of the company, with Director Nick Allen founding the company in order to provide a friendly and trustworthy face to the industry. This has meant using his, and his team’s, experience in product design to ensure an expert eye remains on projects, suggesting alternatives if requested and appropriate.

2020 looks to follow much the same pattern as 2019, with incredible growth expected for 3DPRINTUK. The current plan is to increase capacity for printing with more machines and the introduction of more automation into the workflow. The company is also looking to introduce new materials beyond the nylon that has been the heart of the business since its inception. These new materials will complement, not replace, what is already available. As the company continues to grow, with 3D printing becoming more popular by the day, the challenge is to stand out amongst a sea of other companies and the rapidly lowering price of home 3D printing.

As a provider of SLS 3D printed parts for eight years, and printing nearly two million parts in that time, it would be fair to call 3DPRINTUK one of the most experienced companies using this technology in the country. With outstanding quality as a minimum, the level of service that 3DPRINTUK give their clients is exceptional. In the rare event of a problem with a part, this company will go out of its way to find the solution that works for their clients. This is what has allowed them to build up such an impressive reputation as a first-class provider of 3D printing in the UK, trusted by their clients to excel every time.

Cryptocurrency Champions

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Could there ever be an alternative to credit cards? Through PumaPay, there might be. With the aim of disrupting the entire payments landscape, PumaPay have developed a whole suite of products for the benefit of merchants and customers utilising cryptocurrency. With the potential to revolutionise an entire industry, we took a closer look at this company to find out more.

As the first comprehensive crypto payment solution for businesses, PumaPay combines the flexibility and ease of credit cards with the myriad advantages of blockchain technology. Dedicated to working out innovative solutions to the use of blockchain technology, this company has gone from strength to strength over the last year, working as a disruptive payment solution. It is now pushing the boundaries of what their new flexible billing model can handle on the blockchain, perusing a better payment solution that is robust, scalable and secure.

The biggest innovation provided by PumaPay is in their PullPayment Protocol. Reversing the monetary transaction, it offers merchants the ability to “pull” funds from customers’ PumaPay wallet. These billing mechanisms are common in daily life, but were not possible through the blockchain like direct debits and recurring payments. Enabling this ability opens up new possibilities for the company, with the PullPayment Protocol’s versatility meaning that businesses can define their billing model as they wish and adapt to any business logic.

The success of PumaPay lies in the flexibility of their model. Blockchain transactions are
final, immutable and maximise value to the business and the customer. With zero volatility and 100% liquidity, businesses are able to receive their proceeds directly to their bank account, without the liquidation hassles usually associated with crypto exchanges. All these advantages have led to over 100 successful brands turning to PumaPay to handle their payments. These companies are known to PumaPay as members of their ecosystem and include wix.com, MojoHost and Rent24.

Despite garnering the attention of such high-profile users for their systems, the biggest challenge facing PumaPay currently is the adoption of crypto payments by everyday consumers. Those using their credit cards, and other variations such as online payment methods, need to see cryptocurrency as a viable alternative that is simple and straightforward to use. Similarly, the lack of regulation in this new technology has proven to be increasingly more problematic. As more investors and companies look into cryptocurrencies, the more need there is for a consistent framework for businesses to work under. This will guide the way in which the technology evolves. Fortunately, the use of cryptocurrency has attracted the attention of several banks and FinTech companies around the globe. It proves that blockchain technology has a viable future that can, and should, be explored.

To make the most of this future development, PumaPay is committed to developing a blockchain-based cryptocurrency system that serves the evolving needs of individuals and businesses. Currently, this is being done through the various components of the protocol it runs on. This means updates for its suite of products, so they are fit for an evolving purpose. Currently, there are plans to update the Business Console and the Wallet App further, to include more supported coins, additional advanced billing models that will be supported by the wallet on release. We are constantly working on new ideas and additions to the protocol and endeavour to release some of
these additions and enhancements over the coming months.

It’s clear that blockchain technology has yet to completely capture the public zeitgeist, but it has gained a great deal of support from businesses. As those who have invested in cryptocurrency work to establish the rules of the market, PumaPay works to provide a solution that will benefit merchants and businesses alike, acting as a true replacement to the credit card in the minds of the public. It’s this way of thinking which ensures that when attention turns to cryptocurrency, PumaPay will be at the forefront of any future developments within the industry.

The Rise of Fintech

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There was a time when important financial transactions, like taking out a loan or insurance, required you to dress smartly and make an appointment to meet a fellow human being in an airless room with uncomfortable chairs. The collision of technology and big data changed all of that with fintech.

Fintech companies, typically start-ups offering disruptive new ways to manage finance, are now a multi-million- pound industry.  The millennial generation, wedded to their mobile phones as they are, were enthusiastic early adopters of fintech, happy to rebalance their student loan online rather than traipse to an inconvenient meeting, but it’s not just convenience that has fuelled the rise of fintech, it’s the transformative power of entirely new and better ways of managing money.

A significant fintech development has been the way in which small businesses can access funding which would be denied to them were they to pursue traditional routes. ‘Funding Circle’ is one of many peer to peer marketplaces which connects businesses looking for finance with people and organisations which have money to lend.  This fintech success story has seen 54,000 UK businesses borrow £5.8 billion since 2010, leading to the creation of over 78,000 jobs.

Traditional financial institutions have had no choice but to adopt fintech practices either by hooking up with a fintech company or evolving their own services.  Most of us will have encountered a robo financial advisor and will have been pleasantly surprised at how swift and straightforward an online loan application has become.  Despite their adoption of fintech the traditional brick and mortar institutions often find it hard to compete with innovation nimble fintech start-ups.  WorldRemit is one of a host of online money transfer services which is faster, cheaper and easier than a traditional bank.

Fintech is also transforming the way in which we spend our money.  The Soldo prepaid credit card is one of a number of prepaid cards which are increasingly being used by businesses.  Money is loaded onto a card and that is all that can be spent, making it an excellent tool for budgeting. Businesses are increasingly using the cards as a means of handling employee expenses.  Specific amounts can be allocated to staff with no danger of overspending and if the card is stolen or lost it can be frozen without having to freeze the whole account.  The card is not linked to a bank account so it is far safer to use online, it carries no information which a hacker can use to trace back to an account.  Most significantly, from a business perspective, a ‘payment control dashboard’ enables employers to monitor where and how much is spent as it happens.

How To Boost Millennial Employee Satisfaction

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By 2020, government estimates reveal that Millennials- an exclusive club of 1.8bn born between 1981 and 1996– will comprise 50% of the workforce. With disparities emerging from what graduates want from work, how they want to be managed, how they regard their manager’s performance, their future career prospects, and much more, here is a guide on how to boost millennial employee satisfaction.

Who are millennials? (aka Generation Y)

Millennials are an exclusive club of 1.8bn born between 1981 and 1996 – accounting for almost quarter of the world’s population. By 2020, government estimates reveal that they’ll comprise 50% of the workforce, a figure expected to rise to 75% by 2025.

These statistics may be staggering to some, but all to familiar to others. Propelled by an unprecedented growth in higher education, around 230,000 millennials now join the labour force annually.

The continuous influx of Generation Y workers presents both challenges and opportunities for employers and organisations, the former of which were highlighted in ILM’s 2011 survey which discovered a distinct lack of understanding between graduates and established management.

But with millennials set to make up such a large portion of the workforce in the not-too-distant future, what can you do to bridge the generational gap? Staff Treats, the employee benefits platform, have researched and collated the best ways to engage your millennial employees.

Make Corporate Social Responsibility A Priority

Michael Bush, the CEO at The Best Workplaces for Millennials, claims that ‘giving Millennials jobs with purpose and meaning drives them to give their best at work, benefitting the company as a whole.’

And the statistics from research into Millennials in the workplace back him up, with millennials >22 times more likely to want to stay for the long haul at a company with a high-trust culture, compared to Gen Xers who’re 16 times more likely, and Baby Boomers who’re just 13 times more likely.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, however, Millennial workers take particular issue with employers prioritising their bottom line above employees, society and the environment – an unethical triad that results in reduced employee loyalty. The statistics underpinning such views are damning.

Less than half (48%) of respondents believe corporations behave ethically, while just 47% feel that business leaders make valuable contributions to society. This trend culminates with most millennials worldwide agreeing with the statement that most companies ‘have no ambition beyond wanting to make money.’

What do these views mean for your business? Well, more than 43% of millennials envision leaving their jobs within two years, while just 28% see themselves staying beyond five years.

Adopting corporate social responsibility as a core part of your business plan, whether that’s through contribution to a chosen charity, taking an environmentally friendly approach to business processes, or doing something else to make a difference to society, can improve Millennial engagement significantly, and therefore strengthen loyalty.

Be More Digital 

Born during a period of rapid technological change and advancement, Millennials are first-generation ‘digital natives’ who feel at home on the internet. As a result, they’re more likely to use high-end technologies in their personal lives, and their views on productive IT strategies and use of personal devices in the workplace present considerable opportunities for employers.

So, what does ‘being more digital’ mean for your business? 

 

A 2011 Cisco survey revealed that 56% of college students globally would decline a job offer if the company banned access to social media. Similarly, recent research by Hays Recruitment revealed staff morale and employee engagement nosedives in workplaces that enforce social media bans.

With this in mind, it’s more worthwhile to consider how companies can utilise social media as a work tool. Networking between employees, clients and potential clients is a key use, while many millennials reject traditional CVs in favour of ‘personal brands’ or CV-style social profiles. Therefore, an insistence on traditional media could restrict employer access to key talent pools.

And if you’re worried about your IT systems and social media channels becoming a hive of slacking activity, fear not. Over half (53%) of the millennial workforce outside of IT departments said their first thought when encountering a digital issue would be to search for an answer on the internet.  This figure dropped to 41% with non-millennials, highlighting the stark generational differences between digital natives and those belonging to preceding generations.

Encourage Learning and Mentoring

Stubborn; headstrong. Two sides of the same coin, and two ways in which millennials are often described. Nevertheless, like all new entrants to the workforce, they need guidance to refine their ideas, polish new notions, and ultimately realise their ambitions.

‘A Millennial mindset around careers is emerging,’ was a pertinent concluding remark from Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision. Millennials typically plan for the long-haul and seek work that’ll bolster their future job prospects. But their needs aren’t being met. Despite 44% of Millennials claiming they’d be more engaged at work by meeting with their manager regularly, just 21% meet with their manager on a weekly basis. Therefore, it’s imperative that companies consider implementing tailored mentoring schemes to satisfy half of their workforce. And fast.

It’d be wise to introduce such schemes early in a graduate’s career as it’ll initially smooth the transition from academia to the workplace, while providing hope from the outset that their employer truly values their continued development.

In practical terms, companies could look to organise reciprocal mentoring (tapping into the penchant for instant feedback) whereby junior employees are paired with colleagues one or two managements levels above. This would facilitate access to a wealth of advice and experience, while affording senior employees valuable insights into the perspectives and mental processes of the most significant segment of their workforce.

Use A Wider Range Of Individualised Employee Perks

Potentially above all else, it’s thought that Millennials want to be treated as individuals, not grouped together with each other, or with any other generation for that matter. But how can you develop an approach to workplace perks that caters for Millennials at the same time as it does Baby Boomers? The answer is individualisation.

Giving employees a modicum of control over the perks they receive can result in higher levels of engagement. After all, compensation is ultimately what they’re there for, so compensating them in a way that makes sense to them, and not the generation that preceded them, isn’t exactly a radical idea.

Research has shown that up to 70% of Millennials want flexible working as an option, compared to just 47% of people over 55. This highlights the disparity between what a Millennial wants and what might be traditionally on offer as an ‘employee benefit’.

On a wider scale, employee benefits are becoming a more talked about topic, with truly engaging employee benefits packages being offered as an outsourced service by companies for a monthly rate.

There’s also been an increase in the popularity of EAPs, or Employee Assistance Programs, that focus on providing employees with access to resources and people who can help them through some of the harder parts of life, such as legal issues, mental health concerns, and wellness in general.

These developments in the landscape of employee benefits provide employers with more options than ever before to individualise their benefits offering, allowing everyone in the workplace to choose the benefits that work best for them.

Five Tech Trends That Will Change Workplace Collaboration In 2020

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With new, disruptive technologies continuing to transform all aspects of the workplace, collaboration and visualisation technology company Barco ClickShare predicts the key trends that will change our meeting room culture this year.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic change in the workplace; amongst the workforce, in our workstyle, and in our workspace. And this revolution is only set to accelerate, with technology continuing to be a hugely disruptive force to the everyday meeting experience.

This is according to global technology firm, Barco ClickShare, which has revealed five of the most prominent trends set to impact collaboration in the workplace in 2020. The company has developed unique insights into the key drivers of change to the workplace environment in 2020 and beyond, thanks in large to its recently commissioned pan-European study, which looked specifically at the future of communication for the “modern day” workforce.

The past few years have seen an explosion of meeting room technology. The survey highlights the fact that most (72%) respondents agree that meetings have drastically improved from five years ago. But it also emphasises that emerging technology will continue to dramatically disrupt the ‘typical’ meeting experience. Analysing this landscape of changeability, Barco ClickShare has highlighted five trends which stand out as those which will dominate in 2020. These include:  

1)    The end of the generational divide

The generational divide we’ve seen previously with corporate technology is rapidly disappearing. 74% of people of all ages are now confident with technology, with 86% stating that they prefer meetings that embrace technology. 2020 will finally see the end of the stereotype of the “technophobic older generation” as new technologies play an increasing role in workplace communication and collaboration for all employees, from Generation Z to Baby Boomers. Organisations need to factor this in when developing workplace technology strategies and ensure they communicate to employees in a clear and consistent way.

2)    Video and AI technologies to become the standard

The futuristic vision of corporate environments controlled by interconnected Internet of Things devices is becoming the reality for many large corporations, and Barco ClickShare’s research suggests white-collar professionals think this is only going to accelerate. Of the 1,509 employees we surveyed:

·         Over three quarters (77%) stated that video will be standard in meetings within the next three years

·         83% want to see voice recognition in meetings within the next two years.

·         81% want video filters (like those available on apps like Instagram) to feature in meetings within the next two years.

·         Nearly a third (30%) want to see the use of hand gestures to control technology in meeting rooms, with 80% of those wanting it in the next two years.

Employees now expect technology in the workplace to keep pace with the consumer technology they are used to. Organisations need to keep pace with change and establish intuitive, experience-enhancing solutions that will wow their workforce, or face disengagement and impacted productivity.

3)    Employees want a new reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) solutions have not yet found their way into most corporate meeting rooms. But according to Barco ClickShare’s study, many employees can see significant potential for these technologies in the day-to-day workplace and want to see investment in their use. Most in-demand is the ability to use AR technology to overlay information onto visual content in real-time – bringing the technology which made apps like Pokémon Go so popular, into the office environment – something which 65% of respondents would like to see introduced. In a commercial sense, this could enable, for example, an architect to literally bring their plans to life in a meeting, augmenting a computer-generated building, long before the first foundation has been laid. Utilising VR technology to meet via interactive virtual spaces was also a popular idea, with 81% of employees expecting this to be made available in the next three years. The technology is still nascent, but organisations should be thinking about what they could bring to the workplace in future – the future’s closer than they might think.

4)    Remote working will continue to proliferate

The number of remote workers has increased 115% over the course of the last decade, and this trend is set to continue to accelerate in 2020. According to Barco ClickShare’s research, over half (53%) of meetings currently involve attendees who join remotely, with three quarters (74%) of those surveyed stating that they predict an increase in remote attendee-only meetings over the next three years. For remote collaboration to succeed, participants must still be able to interact with each other in the same way as they would in a face-to-face scenario. Organisations will have their work cut out for them when it comes to implementing the correct IT infrastructure. This will be vital to ensuring they have the correct technology in place to allow employees to collaborate efficiently and effectively from wherever they are.

5)    Prepare for a Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM) future

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) market has exploded, set to hit almost $637 billion by 2022. Now, we are entering the next phase of the BYOD trend, where employees will expect to not only join meetings from their personal devices, but host them using their personally preferred conferencing solution, rather than their organisation’s ‘official’ corporate service. The rise of Bring Your Own Meeting his is reflected in the responses of Barco ClickShare’s survey participants – 71% of whom stated they can already choose which conferencing solutions they use in meetings. Allowing workers to choose their own conferencing solution, as well as bring their own device, will allow organisations to better address the different dimensions of an effective digital workplace strategy, enabling an increasingly diverse workforce, from intern to contractor, to collaborate and contribute just as much as regular employees.    


Lieven Bertier, Segment Director, Workplace, Barco ClickShare:

“Barco ClickShare is witnessing first-hand how technological trends like VR, AR and voice recognition are transforming the AV and meeting room technology industry. In this regard, we are uniquely positioned to offer insight into the changing landscape of the meeting room experience, where technology is bringing the promise of better and smarter collaboration in meeting room and conferencing scenarios.

“Our findings are clear. Technology has already enhanced the meeting room experience and will continue to revolutionise meetings in the future. This pace of change is only set to accelerate this year. Corporations should act now to ensure their meeting room equipment is capable of sustaining changing employee expectations and demands and, therefore, increasing productivity, collaboration and the overall workplace experience.”