Energy & Environment Public Affairs U.K

UK Energy Consumers Brace For Hefty Energy Bills Despite Falling Gas Prices

As supply issues have been exacerbated worldwide by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the wholesale price of imported oil and natural gas had spiralled upward. 

According to The Guardian, the current energy crisis in the UK stemming from the Ukraine conflict cost the equivalent of £1,000 for every adult.

But now, even though the wholesale gas prices in the UK have started to drop, Britain’s energy cost is not decreasing sooner—residents won’t see the benefits until the second quarter of the year, reported The Conversation

Energy Costs Showing No Sign to Decrease Sooner

Inflated wholesale prices cause residents to encounter hikes to their energy bills. 

Wholesale energy prices have started decreasing from their peaks in summer 2022, but a substantial lag is expected before these feed through to consumers.

Now, with falling wholesale prices, the new Ofgem price cap is yet to be announced.

The energy experts predict the energy price cap to see a sharp fall by the second half of the year when the plunging gas prices will be able to impact the hedging strategies and season-ahead contracts.

It means that the benefits of decreasing gas prices won’t be felt sooner.

Ofgem is about to announce the price cap for the second quarter of the year this February.

Cornwall Insight forecasts the UK’s energy price cap to slip from its present record-high rate of £4,279/year to £3,294/year in April and to £2,200 from for the next six months.

Even though it would be a sharp decline from current levels, the price is still very high—Ofgem cap was between £1,000-£1,200/year before the Ukraine conflict made fossil gas costs reach record highs.

However, setting an Ofgem price cap is the process that ensures an energy supplier can recoup their costs; it doesn’t essentially cap the consumers’ bills. 

Based on the estimations, energy experts anticipate the energy bill to soar from the current amount of £2,500/year to an average of £3,000/year or above from April 2023 for the following 12 months. 

It will be much higher than the forecasted price cap of £2200/year from July. 

Prices are capped by whichever is the lower—Ofgem price cap or Energy Price Guarantee (EPG). It means, the residential energy bills are expected to decrease from the second half of the year since the price cap will fall below EPG by then.

However, even if energy prices drop as anticipated, they will still be around 70% higher than in winter 2021/22.

What Can Be Done Now?

With energy prices continuing to soar, plans must be rendered to help consumers ease the energy cost. 

As the UK faces soaring inflation and increased cost of living, residents are encouraged to keep their energy demand reasonably in check. 

Experts advise UK residents to turn down the flow temperature on their boilers to 60°C or below to knock about £160 off their annual energy bills.

Again, for households looking to reduce their energy waste while also supporting their energy bills, servicing boilers annually by leveraging an affordable and reliable service like Mulgas Boiler Care Specialists is a sensible decision. 

Maintaining boiler service check-ups ensures homeowners are running their heating systems efficiently, and it can also help lower their energy bills. 

Britain’s over-reliance on fossil gas has been a leading cause behind its soaring energy bills. With that said, emphasis must be placed on increasing renewable power generation to curb the reliance on fossil fuels significantly. 

Renewable energy generation can help the UK hit the Net-Zero goal by 2050 while also boosting its energy security and knocking off a substantial amount from the household bill.

Wrapping Up

Until July, consumers will see little benefits of falling gas prices. However, proper steps should be taken to lower energy consumption.

Computers & Software News & Current Affairs Technology Telecom U.K

DDoS Attack on NATO Websites Affects Turkey-Syria Rescue Efforts

On the 12th of February 2023, some of NATO’s websites were temporarily disrupted due to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The group that claimed responsibility for carrying out these attacks is Killnet, a Russian hacktivist group.

Apparently, the group had announced its intention to carry out such an attack in its encrypted channel on messaging service Telegram. It also appears to have been soliciting donations in the form of cryptocurrency to fund its activities.

According to the report by Computer Weekly, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg assured reporters that the alliance had put together additional defence measures. 

He also said, “The majority of Nato [sic] websites are functioning as normal. Some Nato websites are still experiencing availability issues, but our technical teams are working to restore full access.

Since it appears that NATO’s classified networks were not affected, it’s likely that the attack was to disrupt the search and rescue mission in Syria and Turkey. That’s because reports suggest the networks affected are used by NATO’s strategic airlift capabilities (SAC).

SAC found that, during one of its search and rescue missions in south-eastern Turkey, it was unable to communicate with one of the C-17s in flight due to the disruption in service. Fortunately, it managed to stay in contact throughout even though communications were down.

A Well-Timed Cyber Attack

This is not Killnet’s first attack. It has been responsible for other DDoS attacks, with healthcare taking a lot of damage.

It is interesting to note that the DDoS attack on the NATO websites took place on a Sunday. Weekend and holiday attacks have become a trend, with cybercriminals relying on the skeleton security crew and lack of staff to hide the breach for longer.

DigitalXRAID discussed this phenomenon in a recent article about its 24/7 SOC service. From delivery companies (Yodel) to insurance companies (AON), no one is safe from weekend-timed attacks.

The reason why cybercriminals attack over the weekend or during holidays is, as I said earlier, due to the lack of personnel. 

The later an attack is detected, the more time the threat actors have to go deeper into the network. They can gather more information and, potentially use the information found to carry out more attacks.

For that reason, quick detection is imperative. Note that the NATO websites attack was detected really quickly and they still had some availability issues. If they hadn’t detected the attack quickly enough, the recovery time could potentially have been longer.

Ongoing Detection for Better Protection

According to DigitalXRAID, having a 24/7 Security Operations Centre (SOC) can make all the difference when threat actors attack. Your SOC would constantly monitor for any suspicious activity, catching cyberattacks before they become cyber incidents.

However, the problem is that most companies can’t afford to hire an in-house SOC team. In fact, if (ISC)2 is to be believed, the cybersecurity profession needs to grow by 3.4 million people in order to close the workforce gap.

In that case, it might be worth outsourcing your cybersecurity to experts who have the expertise and resources to give you better security from cyber threats.

Companies like DigitalXRAID could help keep your business safe from online threats, whether it is your ongoing services or cloud migration.

Have a think. See if you want to invest in ongoing cybersecurity for your business.

Business Energy & Environment Lifestyle Living U.K

First British Interior Design Collective Achieves B Corp Certification

Accouter Group of Companies, home to Accouter, has recently been announced as Britain’s first B Corp certified interior design collective, reported Elliman Insider

AGC believes that the team’s commitment to meeting the “highest standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency” on a spectrum of social and environmental issues has brought the company this prestigious recognition.

“We are proud to be the first British Interior Design Collective to join this community of change-makers, alongside a global movement of people using their business as a force for good,” said Stella Gittins, cofounder of Accouter Group of Companies. “B Corp is a holistic approach for us. It shapes our culture and encourages us to acknowledge our business impact and act. Most importantly, it gives us a framework for continuous improvement, so that every day, we become a little bit prouder of what we do.”

What Is B Corp Certification?

B Corp is a private certification awarded to for-profit companies that can demonstrate their deep commitment to using business as a ‘force for good’—whether via community outreach, taking sustainability initiatives, or implementing equitable economic practices.

Since 2007, this highly prestigious certification has been awarded by B Lab to enterprises that meet the ‘social and environmental performance’ standards. 

B Lab is a non-profit organisation helping to build a sustainable global economy that will benefit people, the environment, and the world. 

AGC Hails B Corp Status

AGC achieved the highly coveted B Corp status in early 2023.

The company has been evaluated rigorously based on the B Impact assessment criteria. The company scored 83.3, whereas the median score for a business to pass the assessment process is 50.9. 

When more than 22 million pieces of furniture are disposed of in the UK each year, AGC is unwaveringly committed to balancing purpose with profit by championing environment-friendly materials and long-lasting manufacturing processes.

“We know there is cynicism around the topic of sustainability for businesses, which is why it was important for us to achieve our B Corp. B Corp separates the green-washers from the good-doers. It shows people that those that really want to make a change, are making a change and that they are willing to operate in a way that puts people and the planet first, and profit second. For companies like us, the priority is to meet the highest social and environmental standards, and do so with authenticity, transparency, and full accountability,” said Alec Watt, CEO of Accouter Group of Companies.

As part of its effort to better demonstrate its adherence to B Corp standards, the company has formed an internal team headed by a dedicated B-keeper. The team is responsible for ensuring that the improvement goals of the company closely align with its working culture. 

“Our enthusiastic B Corp team worked together to identify all our processes to ensure we are practising what we preach when it comes to responsible business practices. We now have a village of internal people rooting for change, which makes us a powerful force towards achieving better things as a business. We wanted to come together and step up, and we’re proud to have done exactly that,” stated Gittins.

Partnering with Walpole, AGC helps the British luxury industry lower its carbon footprint and environmental impact for a more sustainable future.

What’s Next?

Joining the B Corp force is only the beginning, according to AGC. AGC is committed to ensuring their improvements are ever-evolving by helping build a more inclusive, sustainable economy. 

With B Corp certification, the company is aiming to build a global movement for ensuring sustainable development, curbing inequality, and concocting job opportunities with purpose and dignity.

Computers & Software Marketing & Sales Technology U.K U.S

A Sneak Peek at the Digital Marketing Trends of 2023

I came across this article on Top Marketing Trends in 2023 by CMSWire. As an SEO content writer, I was definitely interested in what it said. I was even more curious as I’d seen another article in Forbes on the same topic.

The Geek in me wanted to compare the trends these two articles thought would be strong in 2023.

The writer in me wanted to arm myself with industry knowledge—be a more effective content writer and all that.

The me-the-person will read anything and this was as good reading material as any, so…

Anyway, here’s the information, distilled for you by intelligence that is not artificial.

Top Marketing Trends 2023

According to the article, here are the top trends of 2023:

Social Media and Influencer Marketing to Grow

According to HubSpot’s Marketing Strategy and Trends Report, around 25% of marketers use influencer marketing. This form of marketing currently seems to have the highest ROI. 

So much so, it’s expected to grow in 2023, with 17% of marketers planning to try it out for the first time this year. And, of the marketers who are already using this form of marketing, 89% are expected to increase their budgets!

Of course, not everyone agrees with this. Some marketers believe that it’s not influencer marketing that sells but social media marketing. And, influencers are simply harnessing the power of social media.

According to them, content creators who focus on social media will achieve growth, rather than influencers specifically.

Local Search Still Dominates

With the rise of mobile device use, search is slowly becoming more local. If I’m driving and want to grab a bite to eat, it’s easier to look for places in the vicinity. 

With more people browsing the interwebz on their phones instead of a desktop, it’s only logical for local search to become more important in 2023.

So, if you want your technology and software business to be found locally, get yourself an IT marketing company (like Geeky Tech) to help you.

AI-Generated Content to Invade Webpages

I know I have been going on and on about ChatGPT—how it is being used to create malware and how it is going to change SEO—but it’s hard not to. It’s the hot news of the year.

However, it’s not the only AI content generation tool—it’s just the most popular. And, for better or worse, it seems like AI-generated content is here to stay. 

Content generation is a huge part of digital marketing. With AI writing or creating images and videos, marketers will be able to generate vast quantities of content really quickly.

This will mean that, with robotic content saturating the world wide web, original content might find it difficult to stand out.

At the same time, it will create a demand for content marketers who can harness the power of AI to create top-quality content.

Audio-Visual Content Consumption Rises

Social media marketers already knew that posts with images or videos get more engagement. However, now digital marketers are also noticing a rise in the demand for audio and video content.

And, it’s not just audio clips and short videos that are being voraciously viewed. Audiences are also devouring live-streamed content and podcasts.

Another point to note, people no longer want perfectly produced videos. TikTok seems to have created a demand for user-created videos that aren’t professionally edited.

Social Accountability Is a Factor Now

It’s been a growing trend but will continue to play a role for marketers in 2023. Consumers want to align with brands that share the same values as them. In fact, 50% of Gen-Zers and nearly 41% of millennials prefer to patronise businesses that support social causes.

Gamification Wins

Audiences visiting websites are more likely to stay if there are interactive elements to keep them engaged.

Plus, it makes a great talking point, which helps in word-of-mouth marketing!

So, there you have it; the marketing of 2023. These are points you’d need to keep in mind when planning the marketing strategy for your IT company.

Business Finance Financial Market Technology U.S

Kroger and Albertsons Zero in on Store Divestitures Amid Deal Review

The Kroger Co. and Albertsons Companies Inc are still on track to divest 250 to 300 stores as part of their effort to dispel antitrust issues regarding their proposed merger plan.

The stores slated for sale are valued at USD 1B or above, and are located all across different regions of the US—such as Chicago, Phoenix, Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest—reported Reuters, citing unnamed sources.

Kroger-Albertsons Cos. Merger Deal

In a move to reshape the U.S. supermarket landscape, Kroger and Albertsons Cos.—The US’s two biggest grocery store chains—announced plans to join forces in mid-October.

The retailers hope that this merger, if approved by regulators, would help create a corporate behemoth generating around $200 billion in sales per year.

Combined, Kroger and Albertsons Cos. would operate around 5,000 stores across the country.

Reasons Behind the Divestiture

The retailers have decided to prepare for the store divestiture as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reassessing Kroger’s proposed USD $24.6B investment in Albertsons Cos. 

Since the retailers declared the merger strategy, there has been a flurry of movements from American consumer advocates and lawmakers against it. 

They are pressuring the FTC to hit the brakes on the deal, or at least hold it for some time, over concerns that this merger, if executed, could cause significant hikes in grocery prices amid the current spiralling inflation rates.

While declaring their merger, the retailers stated that the plan was to sell around 100 to 375 stores to win regulatory approval faster. However, Kroger mentioned that up to 650 stores could be divested.

As per the agreement, if the deal falls apart over antitrust issues, Kroger would be required to pay Albertsons Cos. $600M as a breakup fee to walk away from the contract.

The retailers are trying to sound out long-sought buyers for their stores and address the antitrust issue of FTC over their merging. 

Both Kroger and Albertsons Cos. expect these stores to be spun off into a subsidiary dubbed SpinCo by Albertsons Cos. or directly acquired by competitor supermarkets trying to extend their footprint in the USA. 

FTC to Monitor the Financial Viability of the Stores Divested

FTC will closely monitor any sale of the stores coming from this divestment, reported Reuters, citing antitrust experts at FTC. 

The current FTC chair Lina Khan marked the failed AlbertsonsCos./Safeway settlement behind FTC’s scepticism about the Kroger-Albertsons deal. 

The result: The agency is strictly scrutinising the potential impact of the Kroger–Albertsons merger deal.

Navigating Divestiture Challenges to Success

Brian Concklin, an antitrust expert and partner at global law firm Clifford Chance has advised Kroger and Albertsons Cos. to ensure that the stores they have decided to divest can act as formidable players in the industry. Thus the retailers can keep the FTC from blocking their merger deal.

“The Albertsons-Safeway deal will loom large over how these assets are viewed and how the FTC evaluates whether these divestiture packages being offered are viable,” commented Brian Concklin.

As a complex process, divestiture requires a coordinated effort to be successful.

For any dynamic enterprise looking to maximise the transaction value while divesting its business, investing in a consulting service like Fission Consulting is a sensible decision.

Such a high-end service streamlines the process while significantly reducing business disruptions.

Wrapping up

Kroger and Albertsons Cos. hope their plan to spin off the stores as part of the merger deal will help overcome challenges while paving the way to get FTC approval. 

“We believe we have a clear path to achieve regulatory approval with divestitures,” said Gary Millerchip, Chief Financial Officer at Kroger in a Bloomberg news.

Computers & Software Technology

Why Data Strategy and Management Is the Most Important Step Toward Automation With AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been in the news a lot recently. ChatGPT, the chatbot, has become part of many conversations. 

And, it might seem like a gimmick—AI that has been “fed” data to see how it responds. However, real-time AI has many more uses than just answering questions.

One of the uses that you might have heard about is self-driving cars. The AI is programmed to monitor the road and propel the vehicle safely. To do so, it takes in information from sensors that monitor the road, speed limit, location, and more. 

It, then, uses this information to make split-second decisions to navigate the car through the traffic.

Similarly, AI can be used to improve safety and operational efficiency in airports, detect fraud in online banking transactions, provide patients with better care in hospitals and much more. 

According to this article about Unlocking the Power of AI With a Real-Time Data Strategy on, AI can do all that and more.

However, to do so, ”data ecosystems need to excel at handling fast-moving streams of events, operational data, and machine learning models to leverage insights and automate decision-making.

The Importance of Real-Time Data

In order for AI to make real-time decisions, it needs real-time data. Using the example of AI in self-driving vehicles again, the computer has to constantly get a flow of information for it to make decisions.

A person needs to have all the evidence before they can make an informed decision. AI is no different. 

Like a person, AI needs some input to determine the output.

Unlike a person, however, AI can handle vast quantities of input in a second and still be able to process it quickly. That, in turn, means that AI can be used to detect fraudulent transactions, make product recommendations, and optimise just-in-time business processes in real-time.

Automation Is the Driving Force

Businesses are looking to leverage AI and enable automation. We are living in a world where data capturing is the easy part. Our phones are gathering information about us and our lives. We can have medical information tracked through wearables. Every online interaction we have is providing someone with some information about us.

Data gathering is not the problem here.

The problem is ensuring data quality so that AI can make better real-time decisions—because high-quality data can help Machine Learning (ML) models deliver better outcomes.

So, if we wanted to accelerate automation, we’d need to look at data management and strategy differently.

In order to be more data-driven, you would need to develop a holistic vision for your business. Information cannot be siloed within various ecosystems. It needs to be integrated so it can be analysed. Only then will it be able to help you make a change.

Instead of trying to fit new methodologies into your legacy software applications, you need to invest in “data and model governance, discovery, observability, and profiling.

Powering Functional ML Models With Data

So, what’s a machine learning model?

An ML model is a software program within which the AI goes through relevant datasets to identify patterns. It will then use this information to train itself to make decisions. 

Once the model is trained, it can be deployed to determine the best course of action based on data input.

As you can see, since the model uses pre-existing data to teach itself, it’s important that the ML processes and data are integrated to get the most out of them.

And, ML models use data for everything—from building to training to deploying. You could say that data is the fuel required to power ML models. The two need to be aligned for you to get the maximum benefit from either of them.

Managing Data Strategy and Storage For AI Consumption

For AI to make real-time decisions, it needs the parallel support of ML process flow and data flow. Real-time AI needs the following from its data ecosystem:

  • A real-time data ingestion platform
  • A real-time operational data store
  • The ingestion platform and data store working together to reduce the data complexity
  • Change Data Capture (CDC) that returns high-velocity events back into the data stream or analytics platforms
  • An enterprise data ecosystem that optimises data flow in both directions

In order for AI to make real-time decisions quickly and accurately, you need ML models that exchange data at high speeds. It’s difficult to build such an ecosystem within your organisation, so a cloud-native approach might be best for you.

Cloud-native is great for scaling your operations, is reliable, and helps portability across deployments.

Of course, you would need a data strategy that would help you optimise your data and how you use it. Fortunately, experts like Agile Solutions should be able to help you prioritise and plan a data strategy that meets your business’s objectives.

A strong strategy would be able to help you automate your processes with the help of AI.