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Why we find companies creepy

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People feel increasingly polarized by unrest, upheaval and other changes taking place in the world, and more than 60 percent of adults globally say they feel overwhelmed by things happening around them.

Ford’s 2018 Looking Further with Ford Trends Report examines not only the issues dividing the world, but also the coping mechanisms that are emerging as a result.

“We’re clearly living in interesting times,” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford global consumer trends and futuring manager. “Shifting global priorities, rampant political upheaval, and a spotlight on social inequity have upended the status quo and left many disoriented. But out of the chaos and conflict, a new energy and creativity is motivating people like never before. From compassion and guilt to heightened activism, most adults believe their actions have the power to influence positive change.”

As societies cope with the rising demands of urbanization, serious threats to the environment and economic instability, Ford continues its work as a trusted mobility company developing smart transportation solutions for all. Amid concern for world suffering, a widening gap between rich and poor, and worries that  artificial intelligence will do more harm than good, Ford remains committed to the belief that freedom of movement drives human progress—and is designing sustainable, meaningful technologies to help make people’s lives better.

Each year, the company focuses on global trends to understand how consumers are changing, and how companies must respond.

Key insights from Ford’s sixth annual report include:

39 percent of adults say they do not mind sharing their personal information with companies, but 60 percent say they are frustrated by how much of their information has become public

76 percent of adults around the world say they find it creepy when companies know too much about them

52 percent of adults say they believe artificial intelligence will do more harm than good, but 61 percent say they are hopeful about a future of autonomous vehicles

68 percent of adults say they are overwhelmed by suffering in the world today, and 51 percent say they feel guilty for not doing more to make the world better

81 percent of adults say they are concerned about the widening gap between the rich and the poor

73 percent of adults say they should take better care of their emotional well-being

54 percent of adults globally say they feel more stressed out than they did a year ago, and among 18- to 29-year-olds, that number is even higher, at 65 percent

What all this means for 2018 and beyond
This report serves as a blueprint for understanding how key trends are expected to influence consumers and brands in 2018 and beyond. Ford has identified and explored these 10 trends:

The Edge of Reason: Global upheaval is evident in everything from politics to pop culture, and people are responding to these changes in polarized fashion. As divisiveness grows, a sense of being overwhelmed intensifies. Consumers are hungry for inventive ways to cope and adapt.

The Activist Awakening: This culture of polarization means consumers are being jolted out of complacency. Conventional wisdom and expectations are being toppled as individuals debate the change we need.

Minding the Gap: Worldwide, the spotlight is on inequality. Activists and entrepreneurs are experimenting with new ways to improve access to quality education, increase productive employment, close wage gaps, and provide everyone with affordable access to basic living standards and infrastructure.

The Compassionate Conscience: With an omnipresent news cycle, we are more aware than ever of the challenges consumers face around the world. People are becoming more reflective of their roles in society and more focused on how they can be more engaged.

Mending the Mind: Consumers and institutions are realizing that you cannot have a healthy body unless you have a healthy mind. As such, mental health and well-being are moving to the forefront for individuals, governments and companies to address.

Retail Therapy: Many consumers are on an endless hunt for something new and different – seeking material goods or experiences that bring happiness. As services aiming to provide efficiency experiences proliferate, consumers now find they can buy the one thing that was never for sale – time.

Helplessly Exposed: Big Data claims to be able to interpret our behaviors, which in theory should help consumers. But with Big Data can come Big Bias, and once personal information is relinquished, all consumers can do is hope companies use it responsibly.

Technology’s Tipping Point: Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and autonomous technology – long far-fetched notions – are now being incorporated into our daily lives. Worldwide, humans are wondering what the onslaught of intelligent technology will mean for society.

Singled Out: Are marriage and parenthood still the desired norms for happy living? Couples today – with more choices and longer life spans to consider – are rethinking commitment and fulfillment.

Big Plans for Big Cities: By 2050, nearly 75 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. To capitalize on the full potential of cities – ensuring they are happy and healthy places in which to thrive – we must smartly plan for transportation, employment, housing, wellness initiatives and an infrastructure that can accommodate booming populations.

Building a smarter future

With an astounding 87 percent of consumers agreeing cities need better transportation options, Ford is uniquely positioned to provide meaningful solutions for consumers everywhere. As connected, sustainable and autonomous technologies rapidly transform transportation, Ford is committed driving progress that consumers can trust.

“In today’s fast-moving world, consumers have less patience for the frivolous, and they demand greater emphasis on what’s meaningful and impactful,” said Connelly. “This ethos is reflected in the work we do at Ford, and our relentless focus on providing trustworthy solutions that make consumers’ lives better.”

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Meet Aston Martin F1’s incredible moving data centre

The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team faces a great deal more IT challenges than your average enterprise as not many IT teams have to rebuild their data center 21 times each year and get it running it up in a matter of hours. Not many data centers are packed up and transported around the world by air and sea along with 45 tonnes of equipment. Not many IT technicians also have to perform a dual role as pit stop mechanic.

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The trackside garage at an F1 race is a tight working environment and a team of only two IT technicians face pressure from both the factory and trackside staff to get the trackside IT up and running very fast. Yet, despite all these pressures, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing do not have a cloud-led strategy. Instead they have chosen to keep all IT in house.

The reason for this is performance. F1 is arguably the ultimate performance sport. A walk round the team’s factory in Milton Keynes, England, makes it abundantly clear that the whole organization is hell bent on maximizing performance. 700 staff at the factory are all essentially dedicated to the creation of just two cars. The level of detail that is demanded in reaching peak performance is truly mind blowing. For example, one machine with a robotic arm that checks the dimensions of the components built at the factory is able to measure accuracy to a scale 10 times thinner than a human hair.

This quest for maximum performance, however, is hampered at every turn by the stringent rules from the F1 governing body – the FIA. Teams face restrictions on testing and technology usage in order to prevent the sport becoming an arms race. So, for example, pre-season track testing is limited to only 8 days. Furthermore, wind tunnel testing is only allowed with 60% scale models and wind tunnel-usage is balanced with the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, essentially a virtual wind tunnel. Teams that overuse one, lose time with the other.

In order to maximize performance within uniquely difficult logistical and regulatory conditions, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team has had to deploy a very powerful and agile IT estate.

According to Neil Bailey, Head of IT Infrastructure, Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, their legacy trackside infrastructure was “creaking”. Before choosing hyperconverged infrastructure, their “traditional IT had reached its limits”, says Bailey. “When things reach their limits they break, just like a car,” adds Bailey.

The team’s biggest emphasis for switching to HPE’s hyperconverged infrastructure, SimpliVity, was performance. Now, with “the extra performance of SimpliVity, it means it doesn’t get to its limits,” says Bailey. HPE SimpliVity has helped reduce space, has optimized processing power and brought more agility.

One of the first and most important use cases they switched to hyperconverged infrastructure was post-processing trackside data. During a race weekend each car is typically fitted with over 100 sensors providing key data on things like tyre temperature and downforce multiple times per second. Processing this data and acting on the insights is key to driving performance improvements. With their legacy infrastructure, Bailey says they were “losing valuable track time during free practice waiting for data processing to take place.” Since switching to HPE SimpliVity, data processing has dropped from being more than 15 minutes to less than 5 minutes. Overall, the team has seen a 79% performance boost compared to the legacy architecture. This has allowed for real time race strategy analysis and has improved race strategy decision making.

Data insights helps the team stay one step ahead, as race strategy decisions are data driven. For example, real time tyre temperature data helps the team judge tyre wear and make pit stop decisions. Real time access to tyre data helped the team to victory at the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix as the Aston Martin Red Bull cars pitted ahead of the rest of the field and Daniel Ricciardo swept to a memorable victory.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is also well suited to the “hostile” trackside environment, according to Bailey. With hyperconverged infrastructure, only two racks are needed at each race of which SimpliVity only takes up about 20% of the space, thus freeing up key space in very restricted trackside garages. Furthermore, with the team limited to 60 staff at each race, only two of Bailey’s team can travel. The reduction in equipment and closer integration of HPE SimpliVity means engineers can get the trackside data center up and running quickly and allow trackside staff to start work as soon as they arrive.

Since seeing the notable performance gains from using hyperconverged infrastructure for trackside data processing, the team has also transitioned some of the factory’s IT estate over to HPE SimpliVity. This includes: Aerodynamic metrics, ERP system, SQL server, exchange server and the team’s software house, the Team Foundation Server.

As well as seeing huge performance benefits, HPE SimpliVity has significantly impacted the work patterns of Bailey’s team of just ten. According to Bailey, the biggest operational win from hyperconverged infrastructure is “freeing up engineers’ time from focusing on ‘business as usual’ to innovation.” Traditional IT took up too much of the engineers’ time monitoring systems and just keeping things running. Now with HPE SimpliVity, Bailey’s team can “give the business more and quicker” and “be more creative with how they use technology.”

Hyperconverged infrastructure has given Aston Martin Red Bull Racing the speed, scalability and agility they require without any need to turn to the cloud. It allows them to deliver more and more resources to trackside staff in an increasingly responsive manner. However, even with all these performance gains, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing has been able to reduce IT costs. So, the users are happy, the finance director is happy and the IT team are happy because their jobs are easier. Hyperconvergence is clearly the right choice for the unique challenges of Formula 1 racing.

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Body-tracking tech moves to assembly line

Technology typically used by the world’s top sport stars to raise their game, or ensure their signature skills are accurately replicated in leading video games, is now being used on an auto assembly line.

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Employees at Ford’s Valencia Engine Assembly Plant, in Spain, are using a special suit equipped with advanced body tracking technology. The pilot system, created by Ford and the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, has involved 70 employees in 21 work areas. 

Player motion technology usually records how athletes sprint or turn, enabling sport coaches or game developers to unlock the potential of sport stars in the real world or on screen. Ford is using it to design less physically stressful workstations for enhanced manufacturing quality.

“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, production area manager, Ford Valencia Engine Assembly Plant. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”

Engineers took inspiration from a suit they saw at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement and then applied it to their workplace, where production of the  new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-litre EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.

The skin-tight suit consists of 15 tiny movement tracking light sensors connected to a wireless detection unit. The system tracks how the person moves at work, highlighting head, neck, shoulder and limb movements. Movement is recorded by four specialised motion-tracking cameras – similar to those usually paired with computer game consoles – placed near the worker and captured as a 3D skeletal character animation of the user.

Specially trained ergonomists then use the data to help employees align their posture correctly. Measurements captured by the system, such as an employee’s height or arm length, are used to design workstations, so they better fit employees. 

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