Augmented Reality: The dawn of the virtual world?

Posted by admin on October 02, 2014
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In the past year, developers around the world have started launching applications that use Augmented Reality with the aim to make the virtual world an inherent part of our daily lives. Tarmo Virki reports

Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald signs off his messages with a little joke: “This email might have been written while cycling.” It could be an apology for his spelling, an allusion to the fact he’s Dutch or even a hint at his oddball imagination. Or perhaps, given Lens-Fitzgerald is the head of a company that wants to fuse the virtual and physical worlds, it could be taken literally.

The 39-year old is the founder of one of the hottest prospects in the mobile space, Layar. The Dutch company wants nothing less than to become the platform of choice for the burgeoning new medium of Augmented Reality (AR). Running on smartphones and tablet computers, AR overlays digital information – text, graphics, games – on images of the world around us.

Some executives in the mobile industry think AR will be huge. While revenues from AR alone amount to no more than a few tens of millions of dollars, that number is set to double annually to reach $350 million in 2014, according to New York-based ABI Research. The impact across the broader mobile and computer industry could be much bigger, convincing consumers to use their mobile devices even more than they already do.

Samsung Electronics used Layar as the leading feature of many advertisements for its hit smartphone model Galaxy S, last year’s top iPhone rival, which generated revenues of $5 billion.

In August 2009, when Wired magazine claimed “If you’re not seeing data, you’re not seeing”, AR was still more whimsy than real world. But in the past year, developers around the world have started launching applications that use AR and aim to make the virtual world an inherent part of our daily lives. Tech heavyweights including Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung have noticed and are all developing AR strategies.

Quantum leap
Informed by such sci-fi authors as William Gibson and Vernor Vinge, and Mitsuo Iso’s anime TV series “Denno Coil” (Electronic Brain), Lens-Fitzgerald and a few fellow developers are at the forefront of this potential revolution. Intel’s venture arm Intel Capital invested 10 million euros in Layar in late 2010. “Other guys are about technology, while Layar is about usage, and that’s the unique thing,” says Marcos Battisti, regional director at Intel Capital. Then comes a big – and familiar – ‘but’. “The numbers are very big, it is sticky,” says Battisti. “The key is, how do they monetise it?”

Sitting around enjoying a sandwiches-and-milk lunch with colleagues in the company’s open-plan office in Amsterdam’s former docklands, Lens-Fitzgerald almost sounds like a Silicon Valley script from the late 1990s. Wearing a violet sweater hauled over an untucked shirt which lends him the air of a geeky scruff, he argues that the question of profit, while important, misses the point: “The promise is so big, we do not want to limit ourselves with a business plan.”

Technology analysts Forrester also see potential for AR to become a force that fundamentally changes the way people behave. “In the years to come, it will be a disruptive technology that changes the way consumers interact with their environments,” says Forrester’s analyst Thomas Husson.

One thing is clear: if the hype around AR feels at times like Dotcom Boom 2, then the sequel will be in 3-D, if not in 4-D. Many of the apps so far depend on where you are, and what you see around you and are triggered by your movement within a space. “Location,” tweeted Nokia sales chief Niklas Savander last October, “is the next big thing.”

From helmets to layers
As a technology, AR is not new. Originally associated with the backpacks and helmets that nerds used to carry the equipment for techno games, the fusion of visible reality with computer-generated digital information has been under development for more than a decade. In its simplest everyday form today, you can see it in action in sports TV: in the line superimposed over footage of a race to show where it ends, or the pitch-side advertising banners that can change depending what market you’re watching a game in.

What takes AR onto less familiar ground is the surging popularity of smartphones and tablet PCs. Smartphone sales grew more than 50 per cent last year to 289 million handsets, and tablet sales grew from almost nothing to 55 million, according to research firm Gartner.

That growth, combined with the availability of good-quality location data via Global Positioning System (GPS) and faster data speeds, has opened up a plethora of new possibilities, which so far mostly revolve around ways of delivering information to handhelds as their users move through, look at and listen to the physical world.

“AR is a continuation of the map. It’s at the core of the user interface,” says Michael Halbherr, Nokia’s Chief of Services Products. “I think it’s big.”

For a basic example, take the story of Layar’s first customer: an Amsterdam real estate broker which liked the idea of offering clients a real-life look at the properties on its books. Using Layar’s technology, it built a smartphone app – what the Layar team call a ‘layer’ – to let users access details about apartments for sale in a building just by pointing their smartphones at it. That was in May 2009. “Then all hell broke loose,” says Lens-Fitzgerald.

History made cool
Today, Layar has more than 1 million active monthly users, and its technology – which offers a platform or browser on which people can build their own apps rather than the end-products themselves – has been installed on more than 10 million phones and tablets. So far, its system works only on iPhones, or those that run Google’s Android or Samsung’s bada. A version for Nokia’s Symbian, the largest smartphone operating system, is due out soon. Of the 1,500 layers created so far, popular apps include a virtual Berlin Wall, which tourists can use to see what a neighbourhood looked like when the Wall was still standing; the Beatles tour, which has a nifty 3-D model of the Fab Four crossing Abbey road; and the AR marketplace, eLay.

Others see the potential of AR and location-sensitive computing, and are working on projects that could help – or hurt – Layar’s ambitions. A multitude of AR apps are currently under development for different handheld platforms. As was the case with the Web, AR backers aim to make the infrastructure platform-agnostic.

That means that even if AR might be used as a weapon in the battle for market share among handhelds in the short term, the longer war will be less about hardware than the quality of content.

REO gets Battersea project nod

Posted by admin on March 02, 2014
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Battersea power station has long been an iconic part of the London skyline. Yet since its decommission, the building has provided headaches for property developers looking to maximise its potential. Real Estate Opportunities is coming close to making progress…

Debt-laden property company Real Estate Opportunities has won a key red-tape battle in its quest to develop London’s Battersea Power Station, but has yet to finance the £5.5 billion project.

REO director Rob Tincknell recently said the company still has to find a financial partner for the 10.1 million square-feet development, and pass several other potential planning hurdles, after the project won planning consent from Wandsworth Council.

“We are hopeful of having somebody [a finance partner] tied up for the earlier part of next year,” Tincknell said, adding REO was looking for a 50/50 partner for the project, either with an individual or a consortium. He said REO had already spoken with many potential investors from around the globe, including sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, wealthy families and property companies. Tincknell declined to name the would-be investors, or give their location.

“All of those potential investment parties have been anxiously awaiting the planning consent, and we are confident that is now in a form that will allow them to go to the next stage, get more stuck in to due diligence,” Tincknell said.

However, the reincarnation of Europe’s largest brick building as a residential, retail and office development has yet to be signed off by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government.

“At the moment we’re forecasting a start [date for work on the development] in 2012 and completion in 2026,” Tincknell said in the conference call.

You really can find paradise now

Posted by admin on August 01, 2013
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If you would like to buy some land in Eustatia Island you will need a lot of money. Play Canadian online slots to earn the money and get yourself a piece of paradise.

For the past 10 years, this 26-acre private estate on Eustatia Island in the BVI has been exclusively rented to wealthy individuals by request. Now, this spectacular, low-impact, island property is available for rental to a broader clientele

The reef-enclosed 30-acre island – situated near the North Sound of Virgin Gorda – includes three soft white sand beaches, gardens and mountain top viewing and lounging area with awe- inspiring, 360 degree vistas of pristine islands and open sea. Eustatia has one of the largest coconut palm plantations in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and is a naturally preserved habitat for a wide variety of birds, flowers, cacti, and succulents. The volcanic island can be explored along the carefully planned hiking trails while a gentle walk along the beaches and shoreline routinely produces a cornucopia of seashells, conch shells, sea glass, and coral. It is one of only a few private island properties available for rent in the Caribbean, and only one of three in the BVI.

The island shores are also home to rays, starfish, sea turtles, and a variety of reef fish. The calm waters off the beach are ideal for swimming and snorkeling expeditions over coral reefs around the island.

Free to roam
The rental provides exclusive use of the entire estate, which encompasses all but four leased acres on the western tip of the island and is inclusive of gourmet meals and watersports equipment. The estate is designed to luxuriously accommodate up to ten guests; six in the hilltop three-bedroom Villa Far Niente with pool and hot tub, and four in the two-bedroom beachfront Casa de Playa. Villa Far Niente offers spectacular 360 degree views, sunsets and sunrises, while Casa de Playa is located right on the beach a few feet away from the shoreline. A professional and discreet hospitality staff including personal chef address any guest needs.

Sustainability is a priority for the owner and it goes beyond the careful selection of furnishings from recycled or sustainable wood species from around the world: Eustatia is 100% powered by solar energy and the water supply is collected rain water filtered and purified for use throughout the island. Water from sinks and showers is recycled to irrigate the tropical gardens and dual water flush toilets help reduce consumption. An organic, on-site sewage treatment process helps further recycle water into the landscaping.

“This island rental opportunity is truly unique,” said Edward Childs of Smiths Gore, one of the BVI’s leading real estate agents, and representatives for the island. “Most islands in the Caribbean operate as small resorts whereas on Eustatia you have the island almost entirely to yourself.”

Abramovich to invest in historic Russian Island

Posted by admin on May 03, 2013
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Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich will invest $400 million in building offices and houses on an artificial island in the Russian city of St Petersburg, authorities announced in November.

The owner of Chelsea football club will build a multi-function complex covering 100,000 square metres on the triangular artificial island of New Holland, which was created in 1720 and now sits abandoned and covered in rubble.

Some conservationists oppose reconstruction on the island, where the Bolsheviks broadcast the October Revolution of 1917 to the world, and where the chemist and creator of the periodic table of elements, Dmitry Mendeleev, had a laboratory.

St Petersburg vice governor Igor Metelsky told reporters that the $400 million being ploughed into the development would come from Abramovich’s investment vehicle Millhouse.

Offices, museums, art galleries, private housing and a hotel are all planned for the island, said Millhouse’s spokesman John Mann, adding that it would take seven years to build.

Mann said the island’s neoclassical brick arch, built by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe towards the end of the 18th century, would be renovated. But Lyudmila Semykina from the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments opposed the plans. “This is a protected area. Federal law dictates that the land should be used for historical-cultural purposes, and not for commercial real estate,” she said.Read More

Investing in fine wine: A beginner’s guide

Posted by admin on December 22, 2012
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Recent times have seen worldwide investors adopting a cautious approach to investment. This isn’t surprising given the global economic situation, and although we’re starting to see signs of recovery it’s still not clear where to get the best investment return. Or is it?

While the property and stock markets have been highly volatile, the value of fine wine has been much less susceptible to changes in the economy. So why is this? Put simply, fine wine is an investment subject to an extreme example of supply and demand. Each vintage is subject to strict limits of production, and as the wine is drunk it becomes increasingly rare. Increased demand for fine wine from the emerging markets is the final golden factor in this equation.

If all this isn’t enough to entice you then here are a couple of other interesting facts to convince the cautious investor. The 100 Fine Wine Index has soared by 27 per cent this year. The index, which represents the 100 most sought-after fine wines, is also up a whopping 47 per cent since the end of 2008.

Best investment?
So which wines should you invest in? For the novice investor, there is only Bordeaux. While other regions produce superb wines, it is the established international market of Bordeaux that is important – all other wine categories combined only make-up around 10 per cent of the investment market, and are best left to the sophisticated investor. Travellers will tell you of the marvellous wines available from around the world; yes good wine is produced everywhere, and they are all lovely to drink – but this is about investment. So Bordeaux it is, but which ones?

The best examples are known as the ‘first growths’. They are Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, and Haut Brion. These chateaux form the backbone of all good wine portfolios, along with a good representation of other great wines.

In the world of fine wines, points, or, ‘Parker points’ to be exact, (named after Robert Parker, a celebrated American wine critic) are the main way of assessing whether a wine is of investment grade. Parker’s point system (which he popularised with his friend Victor Morgenroth) was designed to counter confusing or inflated ratings. The scale, now widely adopted, ranks wine on a scale from 50 to 100 points based upon colour, appearance, aroma, bouquet, flavour, finish, and overall quality level or potential. As you would expect, the 98-100 point wines are regarded as the very best and it’s not just the top chateaux that produce these, it is perfectly possible to get superb marks from second growth vintages, and prices to match.

In first
As well as bottled wine, another purchasing option is en primeur. Think of this as buying the wine at an earlier stage, i.e. while it is still in the barrel. En primeur is usually delivered in the spring/summer of the third year after harvesting, thus the 2006 vintage was delivered in the early part of 2009. Historically en primeur wines provide some of the best value, as the price reflects the fact that the product is not yet available. Some markets, notably Asia and Russia, have resisted the idea of buying wine that does not yet exist in bottled form, creating the opportunity to buy a product before it becomes highly sought after.

Investing in wines makes good business sense. So does playing casino games at an Australian casino online. You could win tons of cash prizes.

It’s a basic rule of investment that diversification is the most important factor in achieving long-term growth, so a balanced collection of wine should have a range of vintages, with variety in both the chateaux and the years of production. Look to include examples of ‘trophy wines’ from the best years, plus some excellent second growths together with an element of en primeur.

The next step
So you’ve decided that fine wine investment is for you, what to do next?

New entrants to this market should build a relationship with an established wine merchant. European Fine Wines care passionately about wine and would be delighted to introduce you to this exciting market.

Whether you are a new or experienced wine buyer, here is a list of some of the basics you should look for:

To start with, use a bonded warehouse. There is a level of reassurance that a bonded warehouse is regulated and must satisfy stringent criteria.

Open a private account. Your wine must be kept in an account that is exclusively in your name; there is the risk that wine kept in a merchant account could be considered their property and not yours.

Obtain a condition report, it will confirm that the wine is in an Original Wooden Case (known as OWC), which is an important part of the provenance; look for transit stickers, you don’t want wine that has travelled around the world; the report will also cover whether the labels and caps are in good condition and that the evaporation rate is consistent with the vintage.

Investment grade wine must be stored in the right environment. The warehouse should provide facilities appropriate for the long-term storage of fine wine. Check that they use climate control to ensure the optimum temperature and humidity levels.

Make sure you are insured. The storage charge will often include insurance cover for the replacement value of your wine – review this each year to ensure that you have the appropriate level of cover.

Stock reporting. The major warehouses offer the ability to view your stock online, but will otherwise send you an annual stock report showing your holding.

Be prepared to invest over the medium to long-term – 3-5 years and upwards. Be suspicious of any investment that claims to offer substantial short-term returns.

Pay with a credit card. As with all major purchases, there is significant protection afforded to credit card transactions.

This is a market that can be both rewarding and interesting. Do your research, and above all have fun.

SAXO BANK: Providing maximum flexibility through multi-asset trading platforms

Posted by admin on September 15, 2012
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Saxo Bank has positioned itself as a leading player in online trading thanks to its superior client service, competitive pricing and its focus on developing industry-leading trading platforms. The New Europe speaks to Lars Seier Christensen about the financial crisis, winning awards and white label business

TNE: The Saxo Bank website describes your services as that of the ‘facilitator’. Explain in more detail what you mean by this?

Lars Seier Christensen: We see our world consisting of three primary segments. At one end of the spectrum, we find liquidity, meaning product providers, such as investment banks, exchanges and others that deliver high quality liquidity that we integrate into the platform. At the other end of the spectrum, distribution, meaning banks, brokers and other financial institutions that have well established client franchises that they want to provide the best products to. In between, facilitation, where companies like Saxo Bank seeks to link the two other areas. This is truly a win-win-win; liquidity providers can reach client segments through us that would otherwise be difficult to access efficiently, and the distribution channels gain easy access to both technology and superior products for the benefit of their clients, helping them build their business without inventing the wheel. Saxo Bank – as facilitators of this link between products and clients – benefit from the superior reach that thousands of financial institutions all over the world achieve in local markets where they have a strong franchise.

Our integrated platforms, SaxoWeb Trader, SaxoTrader and SaxoMobileTrader, as well as Saxo-E*Trade Broker enable clients to trade in exchange-traded securities or derivative contracts by routing the orders directly to the markets and relevant exchanges. This is done via one of Saxo Bank’s liquidity and infrastructure partners. Saxo Bank may also act as a client counterpart for products that are traded over-the-counter. The liquidity and infrastructure partners of Saxo Bank are large financial institutions. By entering into an active cooperation with these institutions, Saxo Bank has ensured access to a one-stop trade execution, settlement and custody offering.

TNE: How has the nature of the FX market changed since the financial crisis? Has this had an effect on Saxo Bank’s role within the online trading platform?

LSC: The aftermath of the financial crisis was all about an unwinding of JPY-funded, and to a lesser extent, USD-funded carry trades. This deleveraging saw a huge boost to the USD and JPY while it appeared that the financial world was headed into the abyss in late 2008 and early 2009. But as the world economy has recovered, the market is feeling increasingly comfortable with putting back on the carry trade – mostly using the USD as the funding currency due to the woeful recovery process in the U.S. and a U.S. Federal Reserve that appears bent on keeping its interest rate at zero and even printing money and doing whatever else it takes to generate inflation, regardless of what this means for the country’s currency.

On this theme, funds are so rapidly leaving the U.S. and rushing into emerging market economies and radically boosting the exchange rates in those Emerging Market countries that the term ‘currency wars’ has gained increasing cachet. These countries are afraid that their increasingly strong currencies will wreck their export-driven economies. The tensions created by this war of so-called competitive devaluation are defining global relations at present as currencies have become a central issue in world politics. I think it’s safe to say that the stakes in the currency market are more important than ever. This of course makes our core business of facilitating FX traders more relevant than ever. Another important aspect of the crisis has been an increasing investor demand for competitive pricing, transparency and self-empowerment in trading, all trends that our business model is designed to meet.

TNE: A recent FX survey by the Bank for International Settlements shows the currency market trading at record levels this year. What are the inherent properties of the currency market that have made robust during the recent financial crisis?

LSC: Because currency issues are increasingly at the centre of the macroeconomic trends moving markets at the moment, and because the currency market offers generally deep and around the clock liquidity, fund managers are likely finding that currency trades are an excellent way to express a market view in this climate. Also, the USD is an enormously important reserve currency in a steep downtrend, and any strongly trending market will attract a tremendous following from funds that invest in secular trends. There are risks here, however, as the currency focus has become so overwhelming ahead of the anticipated move into further quantitative easing from the U.S. Federal Reserve that one can almost speak of an Everything Up vs. the USD trade, and signs are that all pro-risk assets are moving higher in lockstep with the U.S. dollar’s decline.

This could create extreme volatility because there is no diversification potential when everything is moving together. With everyone in the same trade, new developments that create doubt about the efficacy of the trade, for example, if China slows, or if he U.S. Federal Reserve’s new quantitative easing measures prove far more modest than anticipated, it could create near panic as everyone tries to exit the sure-thing-trade at the same time.

That being said, for most individual traders, currency markets offer a low cost, high liquidity investment opportunity, where the active traders can get much more leverage and efficiency than in most other markets. This is still only known by a small segment of private investors, and the growth expectations are therefore as strong as ever – probably only one in a hundred investors are familiar with FX as an investment opportunity. This creates a great opportunity, but also an educational responsibility for firms like Saxo Bank – two things that actually go well hand in hand as education is today one of the major sales channels in our business.

TNE: Are fund managers now beginning to recognise a new potency in the currency markets?

LSC: Actually, during the financial crisis, it was proven that the currency market, like all other markets, was under severe strain, as liquidity became almost non-existent at times. Someone who wanted to get out of a long South African Rand position in October of 2008, for example, quickly discovered that there were no buyers in size because the generalised panic meant all of the flow was heading out of the country and everyone else wanted to sell for a time as well.

However, the central banks’ efforts to provide liquidity and swap facilities quickly re-established an orderly currency market after those scary couple of months in late 2008, and now the assumption is that market liquidity in currencies will never experience the kind of desperate times we saw during the panic deleveraging months. Still, the risk of extreme policy measures in an environment of ‘currency wars’ is always a background threat that is out there in the coming months, so market participants should be careful about getting too complacent believing that extreme volatility is impossible, especially now that it appears that speculative fervour in the USD is approaching new heights.

TNE: In 2009 Saxo were awarded FX Week’s Best Bank for FX for Investors for the fourth year running as well as numerous awards in Euromoney’s FX poll. What sets Saxo apart in the FX market?

LSC: It’s easy. The platforms. A lot of clients are looking for new opportunities, new ways of handling their portfolios, more transparency, better products, pricing and services and that is where Saxo Bank really stands out. I also think that while Saxo Bank might be a leader when it comes to online banking, our advantage is also the fact that we combine technology with human interaction. This is why we continue to widen our geographical footprint.

TNE: An award-winning part of Saxo Bank’s success has come via white label business. Expand on this aspect of the bank’s service?

LSC: White labelling is a major part of our business although the retail business and Saxo Asset Management are growing faster at the moment. We launched our first white label solution in 2001 with a visionary Portuguese securities dealer with 150 years of market experience. I think the reason our white label business became so successful is that many financial institutions, not least since the financial crisis, have realised that it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of money and try to build your own trading platform when you can get an award-winning platform like SaxoTrader, and therefore benefit from a decade of white label experience. I don’t think anyone out there matches us in actual, practical experience of implementing white label solutions.

In the many years of working with world leading financial institutions that apply Saxo Bank’s technology, such as Citi, America’s largest financial services company, we now have a solid track record of experience in assisting white label clients in expanding their business through using our platform. Our technology provides the platform that enables us to develop long term, scalable solutions and build mutually successful business relationships.

The combination of forces – our deep understanding and experience with technology and liquidity, combined with the white label institutions strong client franchise – is very powerful and truly a win-win situation. Obviously, there is no assurance that an unlawful or unethical act by clients would not have a negative effect on Saxo Bank’s reputation or otherwise have a material adverse effect on the bank’s financial results but we have procedures in place to manage the risk associated with white label clients.

Views from the zenith of market knowledge

Posted by admin on June 04, 2012
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Saxo Bank is a global leader in online trading. Their integrated platforms enable clients to trade by routing orders directly to the markets via the bank’s liquidity and infrastructure partners…

The driving force behind Saxo’s market-leading service is the bank’s team of analysts, who have a knowledge and understanding of the current economic climate that is second to none. Each year Saxo Bank release their Outrageous Predictions analysis. Based on the philosophy’s black swan theory, Outrageous Predictions aims to predict extreme circumstances that may impact the global markets in the year ahead (see www.saxobank.com for some fascinating reading). The New Europe caught up with Saxo Bank’s Chief Equity Strategist Christian Tegllund Blaabjerg, and Consulting FX Strategist John Judson Hardy, with some questions of our own regarding challenges facing the international markets.

Outlook for the euro?
The euro endured a tumultuous 2010 beset by the problems of Greece and later Ireland, as well as market dissatisfaction with the performance of a number of other key member states. We asked John Judson Hardy, what he thought the year had in store for the single currency.

“It is clear that the eurozone is headed for a very critical test for its survival – a test we believe it will eventually fail in the long run, but not before EU politicians and ECB make a significant effort to keep the various nations in political and monetary union. Any effort, regardless of the form it takes (enlargement of the rescue fund and/or some new powers granted to the ECB that make possible new, unsterilised quantitative easing), will have negative implications for the currency. There are also reasonable odds that one or more of the nations on the eurozone periphery will default. Such a default would throw the already highly leveraged European banking system into disarray, with a massive need for public backing of banks and all of the negative implications a banking crisis would have on the currency and economic growth. Such a move would also see an explosion in debt spreads on contagion fears – fears that the ECB and EU political leadership would have a very hard time putting a lid on. The euro is headed for the fight of its life. The only solace is that some investors might find that the world is already very pessimistic on the eurozone’s prospects, therefore the currency might become a safer harbour rather than some of the most pro-risk currencies in 2011 – if risk aversion becomes a theme.”

Regulation & emerging markets
So what of the stress tests introduced under new regulation to expose structural weakness in the European banking system? Will they serve their function? John Judson Hardy continues: “The stress tests are widely considered far too lenient and don’t show the true scale of risks to the European banking system, which is actually far more leveraged than that of the U.S. Also, in the eurozone, the ECB does not have the kind of powers that the Federal Reserve does, so in an outright panic, it will be even harder pressed to get ahead of the curve and stop the kinds of problems with short-term funding that quickly see the system grinding to a halt. Unless it is backed with additional public funds.”

We raised The Independent’s surprising report that the two best performing stock markets of 2010 were Sri Lanka and Mongolia and asked Christian Tegllund Blaabjerg for his thoughts on market trends for 2011:  “For 2011 we have ranked the regions across the world. First in line in terms of the best price return from the equity markets are emerging markets, second the U.S. and third Europe and fourth Japan. [The placing of] Japan could surprise to the upside, but that is a whole different story.

This year equity markets are not going to be driven by earnings growth (like last year), but P/E expansion. This is due to the fact that valuations are currently depressingly low compared to the level of real interests.

So once the investors for real starts have confidence in the recovery (which we will expect will happen in 2011) equity prices will move higher and earnings growth will remain slow.

Emerging markets will for many years be the leader in equity markets simply due to the fact GDP growth in this region will far outpace the GDP growth in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

Since there is a strong correlation between sales growth and GDP growth, companies exposed to this region either as foreign companies investing in emerging markets or domestic companies exposed to their home markets, will outperform most other companies.”

Wireless Maingate: The M2M Pioneers

Posted by admin on November 21, 2011
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By working with chosen vertical partners Wireless Maingate have gained a level of knowledge crucial in all aspect of key customer business. Wireless Maingate know what you need to know, right now…

Wireless Maingate is one of the leading independent M2M service providers in the world and have, during 13 years of focused work within the field, become an outstanding partner for all its existing customers.

This has also changed the way Wireless Maingate views the M2M world. By being in the foreground of innovation and delivery capabilities, Wireless Maingate has become involved in several large-scale projects where the definition of M2M will change.

“We are no longer talking about products online and ‘how’ to do it, we are more focusing on the value it brings and ‘why’ enterprise should do it. By understanding the ‘why’ we can implement and measure the value for our customers. Obviously we understand the ‘how’, but that is part of our core business anyway,” says Baard Eilertsen, CEO at Wireless Maingate.

“We could never do this unless we had very deep knowledge about our customers’ business and the value chain of their business segments. It has taken many years to gain this knowledge but we see that it is paying off. The specific knowledge we currently have has actually given us several contracts within our customers’ strategy development and implementation of such. That is the ultimate proof that we have focused on the right things – how to improve our customers’ business,” continues Eilertsen.

Case study: E.ON Sweden
The project for E.ON Sweden started in the beginning of 2010 focusing on, ‘finding the best solution to gain real-time analysis of energy consumption and create an awareness of consumption behaviour.’

Wireless Maingate and E.ON shared a 50/50 cost based project and by July 2010 the first pilot was up and running with all top executives within E.ON Sweden monitoring progress.

The solution is one of a kind and is a combination of core knowledge between Wireless Maingate and E.ON. “We have taken the absolute best of both worlds, added a few technological elements, and developed our own product where we couldn’t one from a suitable third party. We then assembled it into an end-to-end service for all E.ON customers. The challenge has been to measure energy usage and present the readings in real-time through several medias. The medias used are: in-house display, an iPhone app and on E.ON customer WEB, all in real-time,” says Eilertsen.

The product launch was at the beginning of December and currently 20,000 customers have an opportunity to be the first to start using the solution.

What Wireless Maingate expects of the solution is to gain the awareness of consumer behaviour and to understand how their energy consumption could be more efficient. It’ll also enable them to understand how consumers can act to lower their energy dependence and save money.

Road map
“It is all about understanding what energy is and how it is used. We know that electricity prices are rapidly increasing while at the same time our need for electricity is also increasing – leading to increased living costs. At the same time utilities providers, like E.ON, see that there is a need to improve their dialogue with the end-consumer to gain a better understanding of how consumption can be more efficient in the smart grid technologies of the future. Wireless Maingate has taken the first step in creating this for both the consumer and for E.ON,” says Eilertsen.

The first step is taken, but the solution is currently divided into eight releases within the development road map.

“Wireless Maingate and E.ON understand that we could not develop and release a product that will solve all future issues within energy efficiency, so what we did was agree on where to start and then start planning a road map approach in developing the solution in the coming years. This is also part of engaging the E.ON customers in the development planning ensuring a high rate of active customers to interact with. The solution is built in such a way that we can add services during the process. Furthermore, with the Apps technology, we also have access to the update services of iTunes to spread more advanced services. The ultimate goal is the Smart Energy Home where we all can remotely monitor and control our domestic environments and usage of energy,” says Eilertsen.

“This proves that we are very much in the foreground of innovation and that our knowledge is used at the absolute peak of current M2M optimisation. It is also why Wireless Maingate is now moving into a new arena and defining a new position for the company where machine-to-human technology will be the main focus.

“Another reason is that we see that all major operators in the world are now launching their M2M strategies and while we see that they are trying to create a trustworthy market message we take our 13 years of experience and customer understanding to the next level. We may make machines communicate, but importantly we make sure that we have a human element central to our thinking and development. Because without the human interface we will never be able to create real value,” says Eilertsen.

Paradigm shift
In general there is a slow but ongoing paradigm shift of industrial enterprise business models. The need and value of always having access to accurate information is challenging the way large manufacturing companies handle information from their devices.

“Maingate aim to close the gap,” says Patrick Isacson, Senior VP Industry of Maingate. “We consider M2M to be an infrastructure of information. There are so many operators out there today offering the theoretical opportunity to connect. Customers don’t need that – they need information.

“We don’t talk technique – we talk functions. We don’t talk know-how – we talk know-why. We don’t talk total cost of ownership – we talk total value of function. We have a crystal clear vision of the purpose of data, wherever and however it is produced, Maingate will bring the information in a proper way – and make it useful.”

Leading operators on the M2M market forecast 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The current market growth is over 20 per cent. “M2M is the single most important application for industrial remote data handling and the second most important way of handling information next to internet,” Patrick continues. “By constantly pushing the boundaries of interaction and by humanising machines, Maingate will have an important and influential position within this field of development.”

The intimate and beautiful power of fine jewellery

Posted by admin on September 23, 2011
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Europe has centres; Paris for fashion, London for finance, Ibiza for nightlife, Vienna for music, Zurich for banking. And cities have their centres, too. In London, the centre for jewellery is Hatton Garden, home of specialist jeweller Patrick Wyatt

Hatton Garden was originally the site of a bishop’s palace, chapel and grounds. In 1576 at the instruction of Elizabeth I, the land was ceded to one of her favourites, Christopher Hatton. Hatton became Lord Chancellor in 1587, and the area subsequently adopted his name. In the 17th century, Hatton’s garden was overbuilt with workshops and houses. Medieval London had areas dedicated to specific trades and Hatton Garden became the centre for London’s jewellery specialists. Four centuries later it still has an international reputation as a world centre for jewellers and fine jewellery.

Nearly 300 of the businesses in Hatton Garden are in the jewellery industry and over 1000 of Britain’s finest jewellers, cutters, polishers, gold and silversmiths, gem dealers, craftspeople and designers are based there. It’s also the home of Patrick Wyatt, a sought-after designer with the contacts and know-how to get any item of jewellery made quickly, professionally, and beautifully. Patrick works only on commission from his customers; people who want a unique piece of jewellery. With generations of expertise available just outside his office door, Patrick Wyatt can get jewellery manufactured quickly and competitively, at prices that high street retailers find impossible to match.

More than a job
Jewellery is not only Patrick’s profession; it’s also his passion. When he talks about jewellery, he sparkles. “Great jewellery means more than just what the eye sees. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when news broke of archaeologists uncovering Neanderthal jewellery, pre-dating our arrival on earth by 10 millennia. It’s proof that jewellery has always been intensely important to societies and individuals. It confers status and marks respect. Status is obvious – think of the royal jewels, or jewellery worn by film stars. Respect is less tangible, an eternity ring given from a father to a mother on the birth of a child, for example.”

“Jewellery is the most intimate gift that can be given between friends, family, partners, lovers. It’s a way of saying things that many of us hesitate to put into words. That’s at the heart of my philosophy. If a gift is intimate, it must be personal. The relationship between two individuals is unique. Any symbol of that relationship should also be unique. That is why I believe that the care taken in designing and making a piece honours the intimacy of the personal relationship.”

Patrick doesn’t just talk a good game, he makes great jewellery too, as the few pieces shown on this page demonstrate. Each item is a one-off, custom-made for a particular client. The designs result from meetings with his customers, where the main topic is not precious metals, gemstones or settings, but who the jewellery will be worn by. His clients are global; people visiting London find time to fit a visit to his offices into their schedules. For them, the time taken is worth it.

Wind, rain or shine, be in control

Posted by admin on February 16, 2011
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“Financial statements are awash with comments blaming the weather for poor performance. In the past, statements such as these were accepted as part of doing business, however, blaming poor results on weather is no longer an excuse accepted by stakeholders.” Bill Windle, WRMA president, Sheraton Krakow, 16/09/10

The 11th Weather Risk Management Association (WRMA) AGM took place in the historic city of Krakow, Poland, from 15-17 September 2010. Hosted and co-organised by Consus, the meeting offered a valuable opportunity for WRMA members and representatives of related industry sectors to come together and asses the role weather risk management has to play within the global economic cycle.

With the impact of the volcanic eruption in Iceland still at the forefront of business minds, the proceedings commenced with a presentation by tephrachronologist Dr. Simon Blockley from Royal Holloway, University of London. Whilst weather risk deals primarily in more commonplace seasonal variances, an extreme event such as the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull provided a stark reminder of how specific market sectors can be laid to ruin by natural occurrences.

Why be exposed to risk?
Managing a company and the risks it is exposed to, induces varying levels of boardroom caution that create a foundation for old habits, and a wariness of embracing new practices. Stuart Brown of Swiss RE focussed on this wariness when it comes to the shortage of companies protecting themselves against weather risk.“ Companies protect themselves against price risk, and property damage risk, and something falling on somebody and being sued risk. What’s so special about weather risk that people want to keep it?!” he asked. Addressing attendees from the energy sector Brown asserted, “When your demand is driven by the weather, (then) weather protection, equals demand protection”.

This was a major question being asked at the 11th WRMA AGM: Why aren’t more companies protecting themselves against weather risk?

In his opening speech WRMA president Bill Windle investigated how across a range of trading platforms, banks and fund managers will seek to mitigate against all kinds risks within the currency markets but leave themselves open to weather risk exposure. “Managers, economists, politicians…pay close attention to the monetary policy, but are we sure that a 25 basis point drop of the repo rate by the ECB has a bigger effect on the economy than a 1°C change of the average temperature over a certain period?”, he asked.

Windle sought to outline how the weather is volatile, and that the risk it poses to market demands cannot be eliminated, “But we can financially manage its impacts,” he explained. Companies need protection against the volumetric risk caused by the weather. The temperature in the winter will determine how much natural gas an energy company sells, the level of rainfall throughout the summer will influence the gate receipts at Euro Disney. “One can buy its desired weather,” Windle continued, “If you want it to be cold during the winter financially, products are available, to financially ensure that it is cold.”

All about liquidity
Director of the weather risk management department at Consus Juliusz Pres sought in his address to expand in more detail on Bill Windle’s analysis of why more companies should nail down their weather risk, especially as they are quick to mitigate against other risks in the economic cycle.

“It’s all about liquidity. Liquidity is more important than profit. A company can survive for a long time without profit, it cannot survive if it’s not liquid,” Pres remarked when highlighting exactly why a company would buy into a weather risk management contract. These contracts are designed to provide a company with liquidity. Pres added that the contracts on offer from Consus “secured the economic value of the company.”

Research by the Consus team has demonstrated how banks are far more likely to take a credit risk with a company if their risk exposure is mitigated. Therefore any ongoing projects are far less likely to stall, as capital is available in the form of liquidity. The well won’t run dry if the risk is properly managed. A company can continue to move forward despite profits temporarily take a back seat. Even if a contract is deemed expensive it usually makes more sense than no contract at all, “I have the mathematical formula’s to prove this, but I won’t bore you,” Pres reassured the audience.

An ideal partner
Companies that apply to Consus are partnered all the way from an initial assessment period all way through to settlement. The team will analyse the company and assess the level of financial risk they are exposed to due to changes in the weather. The parameters are established by ascertaining which climatic event – wind, precipitation, temperature, snowfall, frost etc – determines the level of loss. “In the energy sector 90 per cent is the temperature. That is the important index,” Pres observes. Consus take the historic data of weather in a specific area, for example, from a meteorological station near Warsaw, and builds a model for the forthcoming year to determine the weather’s impact on the company’s financial result. Pres simplified how the contracts worked, “It works on an index. It was 8°C lower than expected, so you receive x amount based on that. That’s it!”

Pres then moved onto highlight an interesting aspect of the nature of the weather contract. It is the most transparent market available. “You cannot create a speculative bubble for the weather market…as you can with other markets”. The data that settlements are made upon is objective and can be verified independently. Weather contracts come without the threat of a moral risk, “You can’t move around heating up thermostats so they give false data.” Pres concluded.

The Consus Group
Consus started business as an emissions trading company, offering consultation on green investment legislation and the management of profits with instruments such as the green certificate, a line of work which is still central to their continuing success. But they are now using this in-depth knowledge of the energy trading market to follow into weather derivatives. Consus are therefore ideally positioned to acts as consultants and educate energy companies as to the products available to mitigate the volumetric risk they are exposed to by the weather.

Fitting finale
The final keynote presentation was by former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Lech Walesa. Walesa highlighted responsibility that we all have to maintain integrity in the search for economic stability. “We are merchants and, not warriors,” he reminded attendees. “Europe and the world no longer contain borders and we must agree on the traffic rules on the global economic roads”.