#Hashtags are now very important

Hashtags

Use of #Hashtags in Social Media content is becoming increasingly important.  The image above contains the most important #Hashtags that I use in my business and I try and incorporate them in all my Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ content.  #Hashtags are now fully functional and work in a similar manner within Twitter and Google+ , Linkedin doesn’t formally support #Hashtags but does produce twitter content which does.

#Postal #eCommerce #cloud #rfid and #trade are the main subjects that I write about on Social Media.  So I always add the appropriate #Hashtags to any content that I create or comment on.  I also search Google+ and Twitter using these #Hashtags to find the latest and most interesting content in my field.

#postexpo and #meds are two big conferences that I will be participating in this year.

The Mail and Express Delivery Show (#meds) will take place in London on 25th June and I will be chairing the international eCommerce track

eCommerce Track: Taking the effort out of the foreign market
The rest of the world has an appetite for British brands – how retailers can painlessly fulfil this demand working with their delivery partners.

Post Expo 2013 (#postexpo) will take place between 1-3 October in Vienna. I have been asked to speak about:

Adopting the latest tracking technologies in an omni-channel world
The presentation will explain how to exploit some of the latest tracking technologies such as Jiiva, Droptag, Commotive and Starfish CI. There will also be an update on how augmented reality and passive RFID solutions are evolving.

Using these #Hashtags allows me to contact attendees before during and after the events.   Tweeting during an event can be really effective if the organisers have thought about promoting the #Hashtag and making sufficient free WiFi available at the venue.  

#Hashtags are now becoming an important and necessary feature when creating on-line content and there are some hints that they will feature in the recognition of authorship of social content.

Please contact me if you would like to know more  – if there is sufficient interest I would be happy to run a webinar/hangout of the subject.

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Size based pricing

Lil’®A1(DVD) & Lil’®A2(Book) Cardboard Envelopes

Exclusively manufactured by Mainline, the Lil’®envelope brand represents the future of mail-order packaging and has already been chosen by Europe’s largest e-fulfillment companies to replace their need for bubble envelopes to ensure they remain compliant with tariff restrictions of Royal Mail ‘Large Letter’

Sales of this range grew by over 500% in 2009 and 2010 and are expected to do even better in 2011 as blue-chip clients switch from the environmentally unfriendly bubble envelope brands.

Q. Why should I use a Lil’® envelope instead of a bubble envelope? … proven upto 25% faster to pack, greater corner protection, proven to reduce damage in transit/lost packages, 15% cheaper than a Mainline bubble envelope, mailing cost savings, 3 times as many per pallet, compliant with all Royal mail conveying systems & UK letterboxes, more aesthetically pleasing..need we say more !

Q. Why is a Lil’® envelope so green (environmentally)?…we produce the range from a stiff brown material which is derived from recycled post-consumer-waste magazines, newspapers, text books and packaging. The envelopes are 100% recyclable and can then be turned into more Lil’®envelopes. These envelopes do not go into landfill and the carbon footprint of production is zero miles because we print, cut and glue them in our single-site factory.

A Lil’® envelope is best for mailing items upto 23mm depth to comply with ‘large letter’ such as:

• CD / DVD / console games / memory cards
• Paperback books / Calendars / Maps
• Ink cartridges
• Vitamins & supplements
• Photos / Proofs / Certificates

Available in 5 sizes from stock and made-to-order. Please contact our sales team on +44 (0)1480 434848 for further information

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HBN Social Media Content Competition

HBN Social Media Content Competition

Social Media has become a really important part of business life but a lot of people concentrate too much on the media tools and not on the quality of the content.

To emphasise the importance and quality of content – Huntingdonshire Business Network HBN is holding a social media content competition during May. Just add the #HBNcontent hashtag to any social media content and make sure that you post it to one of the HBN social media platforms. Linkedin, Twitter, Google+, Facebook and WordPress

There will be a prize of a “professional press release” and regional promotion for the winner. The competition is open to all Cambridgeshire micro business owners. There will be an HBN member prize and a non-member prize.

The Competition is Sponsored by Delivery Management Ltd and will be judged by Dr Chris Thomas and Richard Wishart.

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Could this be the largest QR code in Cambridge?

Where is it ?  Is it the biggest ?  and what does it offer ?

 

#QRcodes #Cambshour

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The Future of Tracking Technologies

 QR Code

Can you read this QR code?

Introduction

Customers now all expect all their letters and parcels to be tracked.  Tracking information has become a recognised part of the basic product – it is no longer a priced add on.  In many cases information can be more important than the physical product itself. For postal operators life has just got a whole lot more complicated and old tracking system infrastructure is not designed for sophisticated users who require new postal services and want to access these services through Apps and Social Media.

Tracking technology does not exist in isolation. There is a critical dependency on validated addressing data.  The work of the Global Addressing Data Association (GADA) is vital in this regard. An incorrectly addressed item will be misrouted and will fail – resulting in an operational service failure. Most existing international tracking systems disregard address validation. It is missing from most cross-border parcel and mail services.  This causes considerable rectification costs, service failures and customer dissatisfaction. In many cases the national address validation databases don’t exist or are not shared.

Mass serialisation is a major theme today as other sectors start to move towards individual item identification.  In the 1990’s I designed a postal system that barcode labeled over 1 million uniquely identified parcels every day. Postal expertise in mass serialisation was significant but we are not keeping up with the latest thinking in this field.

There are some big questions for a postal or express operator. What is the optimum tracking point logic and how do we get tracking to drive effective itemised billing, customer service and operational performance?  “Pay for Performance” is now expected by large customers and this requires dynamic, well-designed and fully integrated tracking systems.

Completely new business models are appearing

A new Harry Potter book was launched in Germany last year.  It was available for on-line purchase at midnight in Germany – a copy of the book had been prepositioned in every Pakstation automated box system. These pieces of street furniture are located within a couple of miles of every potential recipient in the country.  So each book was available for immediate collection at the time of ordering. The cost of providing the service is also really low.

In the UK “multi-carrier” systems like Metapack are being used by all the leading eCommerce vendors.  An eCommerce customer can choose a delivery service and a price when they order on line.  The parcel will then be despatched from the warehouse with the correct carrier documentation. Delivery performance of different carriers is being directly compared. The danger is that carriers are being reduced to a commodity service and are finding it very difficult to add value.

Hybrid Mail, Reverse Logistics, Downstream Access and Ad Hoc services are increasingly being handled outside the main distribution networks as core tracking systems and physical networks are poorly designed to cope with these types of products.

Organising for Change

Radically new products and tracking technologies will require considerable business change. Many organisations are struggling with dramatically “out of date” technologies and standards. The system standard for exchanging tracking information between international posts is now over 20 years old.  Global identifier standards exist but are not being complied with. Most international express operators are still using bespoke “non-standard” item identifiers.

Most senior postal executives think that they are in a “grid-lock” and can’t move but this is not the case.  New solutions can be added on a “plug and play” basis and the resulting solutions will definitely be cheaper and more flexible. The added management benefit could be extreme “real-time” visibility of the entire operation.

The Italian Post have a very good high visibility model and companies like Traak IT can provide Complex Event Processing models (CEP) with “real-time” pictorial representations.  The trick is to turn large volumes of tracking data into meaningful and highly valuable business information.

Tracking is no longer just the domain of just one internal department. Marketing must promote a technology augmented product. Sales must recognise the technology as the touch point for both Senders and Recipients. In many cases the customer experience is delivered though automated facilities. Operations depend on tracking information to drive sortation and realise operational efficiencies. The management of delivery fleets and the calculation of performance bonuses are also really important. Finance increasingly depends on sophisticated “Pay for Performance” schemes for customer billing. Tracking systems are the single most important source of information for the Customer Service department.

When it comes to International business the “knitting” has an extra degree of difficulty.  Integration of delivery partners, airlines and customs clearance into your business model in a completely seamless manner is very complex but it can be done.  Adoption of modern and open technical standards is also absolutely vital for this process to work effectively.

You must also keep a close eye on other industry sectors to see what they are doing to make sure that your business solutions are compatible.  Pharma, Healthcare, Packaging and Defence for example.  Not much point providing an express parcel service and then not being able to meet the stated requirements and mandates of the Pharma industry.

So where should responsibility for tracking technologies sit within a modern postal or express logistics operation?  A highly capable and trusted “Innovation Director” sitting alongside the CEO with a strong mandate from the other functional directors – it really is that important!  I have seen this approach adopted in leading postal organisations and it has delivered widespread innovation.

Any postal operator that has been forced to streamline its resources over recent years is unlikely to have relevant technology expertise of the new tracking technologies in-house.  It is therefore absolutely vital that the company adopts an Open Innovation model to move their strategy forward. That means engaging with non-traditional technology vendors, forming collaborations and joint ventures with specialist “knowledge based” micro businesses and stepping completely outside traditional procurement and tendering. Proof of concept trials start to become the important project milestone – not the tendering.

Unique Identification

In general postal products fall into 2 very broad categories.

  • Traditional tracked products where each item carries a serialised identity number embedded in a linear barcode. The number can be used for a track and trace enquiry but generally the barcodes are bespoke and cannot be used by a customer.
  • Letter products will normally be associated with a simple identifier which is derived from delivery point information. Normally this is captured by scanning the address image from the piece and then validating it against large Postal Address databases. You will probably have seen this information encoded on the piece as a long linear 2 state barcode or a series of phosphor dots.  Generally these codes are only used by sorting machines and are not even used by in-house customer service.

To start becoming useful a standardised and serialised item identifier must be used universally.  The standard that I would recommend is the ISO License Plate which guarantees absolute global uniqueness – not just in the postal world but in all industry sectors.  The Department of Defense and NATO IUD uses ISO License Plate standards for part identification and this is 100% compatible with the ISO Licence Plate standard managed by the UPU.

What is also really important is that the Item Identification number and its representation in an Auto ID technology should be kept completely separate. So a parcel could have an address label containing a barcode and an RFID tag.  The same unique serial number would be in both the Barcode and the RFID tag. So you need to choose the best Auto ID solutions for your business application – but always with an embedded ISO licence plate number.

Care must be taken to align internal services with customer products?  – Thus avoiding parcel and mail products becoming commoditised and the problems of mass customisation. Both of which can mean disaster for a postal organisation.  Augmented Mail and Parcel products also need to incorporate payment, electronic services and trust.

Choosing the Technology

Organisations need to understand what tracking technologies or combinations of technologies are most appropriate and how do you link physical tracked products with Social Media, Advanced Mobile Payments and Delivery Box solutions.

Barcodes including linear barcodes, smart two-dimensional codes and QR codes can be used with smartphones or tablets. To read the barcode you use the built in camera in the phone.

Near Field Communication (NFC) which is currently used on Payment Cards (like Barclaycard) or Travel Cards (like Oyster) is now being built into smart phones.  Google Wallet allows you to pay direct from your phone.  The NFC technology being built into phones can also be used for parcel tracking, Proof of Posting and Proof of Delivery. The reading distance is 2-3 cm.

Passive RFID can read though packages and unlike a Barcode doesn’t need to be line of site. Read distance is around 4m but is increasing to around 15m.  Indicative cost of this technology is 10 cents per tag.

Active RFID tags contain a battery that they use for transmission. The range was 1km but new versions of the standard are now reading to 3 km.  Price of a standardised tag is typically around $10.

Sensors linked to RFID tags can support multiple technology standards and business opportunities. CAEN has developed a passive RFID tag with a programmable temperature sensor.  If a pre-set temperature range is exceeded a replacement package can be sent.  There is a press to test function and full temperature logging.  Temperature Information is sent whenever the package passes a reader.

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) can track postal networks in real time. Premises, vehicles, rollcages and Collection Boxes can be managed in real time.  Post Denmark has made a national deployment of a Commotive WSN network.  Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) can be used to very accurately locate equipment or assets in three dimensions.

Printed RFID uses “dot matrix” style printers to spray on electronic components.  The tag will cost about 1 cent.  The postal industry depends heavily on the printing industry and adoption of printed RFID technologies will benefit both sectors.

I have described the Tagging that can be used.  Barcodes or RFID tags are only the tip of the iceberg. Readers, field optimisation, purpose built middleware and communication options are also required. Posts can innovate and use advanced technology to strip out significant costs.

Conclusion

The two dimensional barcode pictured at the top of this chapter was included as a simple user challenge.  Did you manage to read the code and understand the result that you got?  It is a “Quick Response” QR Code that when photographed by a smart phone or tablet will provide my Google+ Social Media profile.  The profile contains my name and a validated address. A letter or parcel with just this QR code on it could be delivered to me. No address would need to be written on the item.

If you would like some help in understanding QR Code technology and the opportunities I would highly recommend “QR Codes for the creative business person” by Dr. Chris Thomas. (ISBN 978-0-9562649-9-2)  I helped Chris write the book and it contains a lot of postal examples. Last year USPS ran a discount campaign for direct mailers that raised the use of QR codes on commercial mailings from 3% to 33.9%.

As posts streamline and downsize there is a real skills gap and lack of expertise in this whole area. Open Innovation and clever vendor pricing models need to be adopted by posts – maybe for the first time.  We are now in an era of scare capital. The “pay for use” models that are common for “with driver technology” must be extended into other areas. These revenue models need to be aligned to valid customer metrics.

If you are looking for an Innovation Director to drive forward this type of innovation in your own business – I am available.

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3D printing to revolutionize US economy

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Extract from President Obama’s State of the Union address:

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.

So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.

And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/12/transcript-obama-state-union-speech/#ixzz2KoZcrwDm

So Mr Cable – we want one in Cambridge (Cambridgeshire not Boston) as well – before the USA

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New Cheap Device to Track your Lost Bike

cycles in cambridge

A small piece of electronic equipment combined with thousands of post offices and postal vehicles can, within a short time track, lost or stolen cars. The Danish company, Commotive A/S, is behind the development of the patented Diims device, which is expected to be a daily commodity within a few years.

Your car, your bike, your scooter, your lawn mower or other beloved assets can now be tracked for less than 60€. A new electronic device called Diims, 4 cm in diameter and 10 mm thick, can be tracked all over Denmark by the vehicles and post offices of the national postal operator, POST DANMARK. – Diims is a cheap and brand new way to track lost items. The technology is simple and effective and can easily be hidden in your most used and valuable assets. We ensure that you can always keep an eye on the geo-position of your assets, says Niels Bjøl, sales director of Commotive.

The small Diims device emits an electronic radio signal which will be received by a dense network of antennas installed in postal vehicles and buildings. The coverage of the postal vehicles is nationwide and the lost asset needs just to be within a range of 10-200 m from the antenna network (e.g. a postal vehicle) to be registered. Shortly after, the owner will be able to check the position online on the Diims website or on his smartphone app.

A lot of Diims devices are already in use. One of the happy Diims owners is Rasmus Bergholt, who earlier this year got his car stolen. Fortunately, he had installed a Diims device in his car just two weeks before and was therefore able to track his car online on the Diims web system – I was positively surprised to see how precisely the Diims system was able to provide me an exact address.

With the police, we headed directly for the location where my car was parked, tells Rasmus Bergholt and continues: – My car could have been anywhere, but only because of the Diims system I was able to find my car again.

Not only was Rasmus Bergholt’s car back at its usual address after a few days, but the police also got important leads in a much larger case of car theft. Thieves might face an uncertain future:

Everybody should install a Diims device in their most valuable assets. Not only because it makes tracking easier, but because it also creates uncertainty amongst potential thieves whether a small tracking device is hidden somewhere. Moreover, we hope that all citizens buying stolen goods will reconsider their buying behaviour in the future, says Niels Bjøl from Commotive.

A certain number of companies and organisations are already using the Diims device. One example is the German group ABUS, leading manufacturer of bike accessories, who in cooperation with Commotive has built in the Diims tracking device in some of its bike accessories enabling easy tracking of the bike. Moreover, police and insurance companies are showing great interest in this new technology, which can be
applied within various product segments, like bikes, cars, scooters, motor bikes, garden machinery and boat equipment.

Diims has its own website, where you can watch the video introduction, find your nearest distributor, check the installation manual and much more. Click on http://www.diims.com

About Diims

Diims-productDiims is a small, weather proof tracking unit of 4 cm in diameter which can easily be hidden in a car, a bike, a scooter or similar equipment. The unit makes use of the national postal operator, POST DANMARK’s nationwide antenna system by emitting a radio signal which is captured by the postal operator’s vehicles and buildings and afterwards transferred to an online system. The battery of the Diims device lasts two years, and the owner of Diims will be notified by mail when it is time for battery change. Compared with other tracking systems the unit price of Diims is only 54€ incl. battery, subscription fee is 1.5€ per month. Diims has been developed by Commotive A/S and is available for purchase among selected distributors and webshops.

See the video introduction on http://www.diims.com

About Commotive A/S

Commotive A/S was founded in 2006 and is specialised in data capture systems for the postal industry. The technology of Commotive has already been implemented successfully within the postal industry, where POST DANMARK in 2010 installed several thousands electronic devices in buildings, vans, street mail boxes
and trucks as part of its process improvement project.

Read more on http://www.commotive.com

For further information, please contact:
 Niels Bjøl, sales director, mail address: nib@commotive.com

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