Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is the marine industry ready to adopt technology that will transform bunker buying?
Jean Hervé Jenn, CEO, Inatech

I have just returned from SIBCON in Singapore and having spent most of my time at the event speaking to customers and the press, my answer would be a resounding yes.

Our industry is ready and with the cost pressures facing the business it couldn’t come quickly enough.

But then as a CEO of a software development and IT services company I am guessing you are not surprised by my answer.

So what is the main reason why the marine industry needs to look at implementing technology to help transform bunker buying?

The biggest reason has to be process efficiency.

Economy impacting our business
Like many industries we have been impacted by the downturn in the global economy. A drop in the demand for goods around the world has resulted in a decline in cargoes, which in turn has reduced cargo prices and led to excess shipping capacity. As revenues have declined so fuel costs have risen. It is estimated that the industry spends over $150 billion on fuel each year. This now represents up to 60 per cent of the total cost of a shipping company’s operations.

Time to act
Our industry is at a turning point. With fuel costs rising and margins being squeezed, now is the time to act in order to remain competitive.

An area where you could make a significant saving with minimal investment is through the introduction of technology and process efficiencies in the area of fuel procurement.

Manual processes driving up costs
From my discussions with clients and prospects I have discovered that many shipping and bunkering operators still rely on labour-intensive, outmoded processes and use excel spread sheets and paper-based systems to handle their global bunker purchasing needs.

This reliance on manual processes can lead to vessels bunkering in ports where fuel prices are high rather than alternative ports offering lower prices; can lead to the capacity of the vessel often being underutilised; or result in bunker requests to procure fuel that are not received by traders on time. The outcome of all these scenarios is higher operating costs.

The solution – technology that transforms bunker buying
By automating fuel procurement and introducing technology, operational savings and fuel purchasing can be reduced. Imagine if you are spending several billion dollars a year on bunker buying, the potential to achieve seemingly tiny incremental improvements by implementing smarter and more efficient processes could add millions of dollars directly to your bottom line.

The next step
So the potential benefits of adopting technology are significant, the next step which technology.

That will be in my next blog.

Jean Hervé

Inatech is a global software and IT services company. The New BunkerTECH Shipping Solution and BunkerTECH Bunkering Solution from Inatech provides real-time fuel and bunker procurement solutions with an intelligent approach that stream lines the buying and selling process, reduces costs and enhances performance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tablets threaten existence of the keyboard

The mouse and keyboard may soon become relics of the past, apparently – according to the report iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds, by Gartner.

"During the next five to 10 years, media tablets will instigate change in computing form factors.” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.

The simplicity of multitouch on media tablets has been converting users, and thus affecting the hardware business. Some enterprise applications have already felt the multitouch effect in the development stage as they are only designed to work with a keyboard and mouse.

“Modular designs will enable tablets to take on new functions, becoming the cross-platform controller and brain for hybrid consumer electronics and computers," said McIntyre.

She also pointed out that, for many, touchscreens will be their first pathway to the Internet. And, significantly, “the keyboard on PCs is a major barrier for those who have had no reason or opportunity to become facile with QWERTY."

As for SME’s, a study found that 37 per cent already have tablets in the work place but only five per cent of SME’s think the tablets will replace other devices.

The difference for a large enterprise is that they have to be more structured, whilst most SME’s only use tablets for convenience.

A CIO at a large enterprise would have to consider implementing work tablets when senior staff use their BYOD (bring-your-own-device), to access company applications.

“Employees' own devices are in parallel to the desktops and smartphones that are already given to them by the company. So it begs the question whether CIOs should provision BYOD or provide tablets," said Drury.

“Alternative user interfaces, such as multitouch, are essential for extending the deployment of computing devices into new markets," said McIntyre, and along with Drury, agrees it is only a matter of time until they are more prevalent in the enterprise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Microsoft tool shows how safe browsers really are

Microsoft’s new tool to warn users of out-of-date or insecure browsers has not been welcomed by browser maker Mozilla – not surprising really as it rated Firefox less secure than Internet Explorer 9.

By using data from Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report, and the Anti-Phishing League and Online Trust Alliance - was able to assess how secure the user’s browser is.

Internet Explorer 9 got top marks (four out of four), whilst Firefox 7 was given a low two – below Google Chrome and above IE7.

Considering Firefox 7 is only just a month old, it really is no surprise that Mozilla reacted as strongly as it did. The statement from Johnathan Nightingale, Mozilla’s director of Firefox engineering, cited the phrases, “fiercely proud” and “long track record of leadership on security.”

“We believe that being safe on the web means having a robust browser that defends against malware and phishing includes new technologies to help sites and users secure themselves, and a responsive security team that gets security updates out quickly and reliably," he added.

Mozilla’s and Google support the HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) secure browsing standard and the Do Not Track privacy initiative. Nightingale pointed out Microsoft’s lack of these in its tool.

"Microsoft's site is more notable for the things it fails to include: security technologies such as HSTS, privacy tools such as Do Not Track, and vendor response time when vulnerabilities are discovered."

Do Not track has yet to become an official web standard, but Sir Tim Berners-Lee, web founder, has been pushing for security professionals to input to the W3C’s Do Not Track working group.

All such tools designed to check the safety of our browsers should, perhaps, meet a universal code that all companies are happy with. Or is that just wishful thinking?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Confidence lost in Blackberry after 60% look to switch

Not surprisingly, Blackberry may have fallen foul of its customers following the far reaching and never ending outages of recent weeks.

According to research by shopping comparison site Kelkoo, almost two-thirds of Blackberry customers are thinking about switching to an iPhone. One thousand Blackberry customers were interviewed - 62 per cent admitted they would prefer the Apple device over other brands.

Research in Motion (RIM) has already been criticised for its slow response to the outage, with customers left wondering what was going on.

Mike Lazaridis, RIM founder, apologised but many believed it was too little too late with customers affected across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas., a rival comparison site, backs up Kelkoo's findings with an almost identical amount of users considering a change in handset.

However, those considering a switch to iPhone may want to be cautious. One editor found her device wiped of all files and contacts. The solution to this would be to back everything up onto a PC prior to attempting an update – and not to rely on iTunes as in this case it failed.

The iCloud is Apple’s new online storage system but apparently, this is not yet firing on all cylinders.

Even so, it is not surprising Blackberry users are looking to the iPhone. So far, an outage on such a scale has not plagued Apple, and as a market leader, it is the obvious choice.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Amazon challenges tablet market

The Amazon Kindle Fire launched at the end of September, and could be about to throw the tablet market into confusion – according to YouGov, an online research firm.

YouGov predicted that tablet devices should plummet in price to match the Kindle Fire. In fact the price of $199 could mean that Amazon can cut up its competitors and make it a two horse race between itself and Apple.

"Apple is far and away the current UK market leader in terms of brand awareness, preference and price," said Russell Feldman, Associate Director for Technology and Telecoms Consulting. The Apple iPad is priced at $499.

The lower price of the Kindle Fire, and features make it viable to compete with Apple – along with the strength of the Amazon brand.

"What's more, it has the potential to be a major game-changer, given the depth of Amazon's downloadable content as well as its burgeoning application store - something that has underpinned consumers' loyalty to Apple over other tablets running an Android OS." Said Russell Feldman, Associate Director at YouGov.

The out-dated HP TouchPad sells between £89 and £115 – showing consumers are attracted by a good deal. The Kindle Fire, whilst boasting many a tablet temptation, some reports say it is still very much a shop window for Amazon.

Apple, as a premium product, should have no need to lower prices, but what about Android tablets? Can they price themselves between the Fire and the iPad? Or is the question – will they?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Samsung requests ban on iPhone 4S

Samsung confirmed in the Tomorrow blog that it is filing a preliminary injunction order against Apple in Paris and Milan.

The company want the new iPhone 4S banned from sale in the respective countries due to the legal dispute between Apple and Samsung growing ever more acrimonious.

The argument is over alleged patent infringements relating to wireless telecoms technology.

"The infringed technology is essential to the reliable functioning of telecom networks and devices, and Samsung believes that Apple's violation [is] too severe and that the iPhone 4S should be barred from sales," Samsung said.

The technology giant clearly has reached a limit and believes Apple have had a ‘free ride’ on their technology for long enough.

The battle between these two global leaders is not a new one – they are several legal disputes going on around the globe. One such issue is over sales of Samsung’s Galaxy tab across the US, Australia and the European Union.

Apple recently rejected a settlement offer from Samsung in relation to the Galaxy tab in Australia (the dispute is down to the apparent similarity between Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and the iPad).

Samsung was desperate to get the device on the market for Christmas – Apple did not play ball. Steven Burley, Apple’s lawyer, told the court that they were there to prevent the Galaxy Tab launch, and, “maintain the status quo”.

Samsung then demanded to see the upcoming iPhone 5 and iPad 3 designs – rumour had it that, like Samsung, the company would be launching with a larger screen and near field communication capabilities. These requests were denied. And as we know – the iPhone 5 became the iPhone 4S (for now at least).

The twist to all of this is that Samsung provides components for Apple’s products – i.e. screens for iPhones and iPads. So isn’t this animosity all rather unnecessary?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tributes paid to a tech genius

The world of technology lost one of its greatest last week. Steve Jobs died from the pancreatic cancer he had been battling for almost a decade - he was only 56.

Bill Gates paid tribute to his friend on Twitter, "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with Steve, it's been an insanely great honour. I will miss Steve immensely."

As Obama described him as “among the greatest of American innovators,” it was fitting that his industry peers wrote tributes via social networking sites, along with hundreds of thousands of admirers from around the world.

Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO earlier this year, with Tim Cook replacing him. At the time Jobs comment was telling, "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

A statement from Apple’s board said that Jobs had “saved” Apple, and made it what it is today. He became synonymous with the company as reflected in the shares following his resignation.

Apple’s shares fell by 5.13% - a dip that did not worry analysts but reflected the strength of Jobs for the market, and how he was seen as a lynch pin for the company.

HP CEP Meg Whitman, sums up the presence of Jobs and how he was regarded round the world. "Steve Jobs was an iconic entrepreneur and businessman whose impact on technology was felt beyond Silicon Valley. He will be remembered for the innovation he brought to market and the inspiration he brought to the world."

Undoubtedly, Steve Jobs, a “visionary leader,” and “iconic legend,” will never be forgotten. Life for Apple, post-Jobs, will be an interesting road to follow.