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Nokia Corp. said Wednesday that it has tied up with five Japanese companies in offering next-generation 5G network services to corporate customers.
The Finnish telecommunications giant will build the ultrafast communications networks with Japanese partners, including computer systems company NS Solutions Corp. and telecommunication equipment maker Hitachi Kokusai Electric Inc., mainly for manufacturers.
The tie-up, which also involves trading house Marubeni Corp., communications firm Internet Initiative Japan Inc. and data center operator Equinix Inc., comes as the Japanese government will start taking applications from companies for private 5G licenses later this month.
Demand for 5G networks, which can deliver data transmission speeds around 100 times faster than the current 4G networks, is expected to grow as manufacturers aim to connect devices at factories through 5G networks to boost productivity amid a labor shortage.
Nokia said it has already offered private wireless networks to over 120 corporate customers around the world.
“With spectrum availability now opening up in Japan, Nokia is bringing forth a unique combination of technology, services and partnerships,” John Harrington, head of Nokia Japan, said in a press release.
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Electric vehicles may be the future for the auto industry. And if they are, that may spell the end of many traditional auto jobs.
The problem for the workers is clear: The electric motors that will power those new vehicles have far fewer moving parts than traditional internal combustion engines and the transmissions that go with them.
Building a traditional powertrain is the most labor-intensive part of building a car. Building an electric car requires about 30% less labor than building a traditional gasoline powered car with its engine, fuel system, transmission and other complex parts, according to estimates from Ford and other industry experts.
“The internal combustion engine and transmission are vital parts of automotive manufacturing,” said Brett Smith, director of research at the Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan think tank. “They are ones that are clearly at risk right now. That has everyone concerned.”
The traditional gasoline engine has carefully engineered pistons and fuel-injection systems that differentiate one vehicle’s performance from another. It also also needs a complex transmission to transfer power to the wheels with a series of gears.
An electric motor needs none of that, and works with a fixed, single-gear gearbox that powers the wheels.
Engines power a lot of jobs
So far, the traditional automakers are making so few electric vehicles that there has been little impact on jobs. While GM closed three plants this year, those cost cuts were designed to free up money for research and development on new cars. Mercedes Benz announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs for the same reason last week. And Volkswagen’s Audi announced plans to eliminate 7,500 jobs related to electric vehicles last week as well, which will be phased in over the next six years.
The US Labor Department estimates that there were about 150,000 US jobs just building engines, transmissions and axles at US factories last year. That compares to 235,000 jobs at auto assembly plants, where those engines and transmissions and other parts — from body panels and gas tanks to seats and steering wheels — are brought together to build a car or truck. There are also numerous other parts on a traditional car that aren’t needed in an electric vehicle, including a radiator and exhaust system. That would probably eliminate some jobs, too.
Unions are responding
The unions representing autoworkers are hyper aware of the risk posed by electric vehicles.
IG Metall, the German union for most of that nation’s autoworkers, estimates that 75,000 German jobs building engines and transmissions will be eliminated by 2030. It is calling on the companies and government to help manage the job losses through retirements and retraining.
“The challenge is great, but it has to be overcome if the right conditions are created now,” said Jörg Hofmann, first chairman of the union. “Above all, companies must ensure that employees do not get knocked over by this change.”
Statements from both IG Metall and the United Auto Workers union concede there is little point in trying to stop the growth in electric vehicles. “There is industry consensus that EVs will increase their market share, it is just a matter of how quickly this will happen,” said a white paper prepared by the UAW. The union thinks it can fight any move to transfer work building electric cars to low-cost, low wage suppliers.
“This shift is an opportunity to re-invest in US manufacturing. But this opportunity will be lost if EVs or their components are imported or made by low-road suppliers who underpay workers,” said the union’s paper. “What is needed is a proactive industrial policy that creates high-quality manufacturing jobs making EVs and their components.”
In their most recent contracts with GM and Ford, the UAW got an agreement to keep the automakers from outsourcing work on electric and autonomous driving cars. But those pacts run only for the next four years. Electric vehicles will still probably be a small share of both company’s production during that time, so it was relatively easy to for the companies to agree to keep the work in-house during the life of the contract.
The bigger question is what happens with future contracts when EVs are expected to be a major share of automakers’ production.
The automakers have an incentive to build internal-combustion engines, fuel systems and transmissions at their own factories. The quality of those parts help determine how well a car performs, which helps companies sell cars. And if there were problems needing repair, the warranty costs would fall on the automaker.
But Smith warns the same pressures won’t necessarily apply to electric cars. Electric motors and large lithium batteries don’t add the same value to electric cars as internal-combustion engines do for conventional cars.
That’s why, as they shift production to EVs, there will be a greater incentive for US automakers to outsource electric motors, batteries and other parts to contractors paying lower wages.
“Building engines and powertrains has been a core part of these companies for more than 100 years. It’s something they do better than anyone else,” said Smith. “Does it make sense for GM to build their own electric motors? Not as much sense as it did to make their own internal combustion engines.”
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The world’s first electric commercial during its maiden flight in Richmond, British Columbia Photograph: Jonathan Hayward/AP
The world’s first fully electric commercial aircraft has taken its inaugural test flight, taking off from the Canadian city of Vancouver and flying for 15 minutes.
“This proves that commercial aviation in all-electric form can work,” said Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of Australian engineering firm magniX.
The company designed the plane’s motor and worked in partnership with Harbour Air, which ferries half a million passengers a year between Vancouver, Whistler ski resort and nearby islands and coastal communities.
Ganzarski said the technology would mean significant cost savings for airlines and zero emissions. “This signifies the start of the electric aviation age,” he said.Civil aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions as people increasingly take to the skies, and new technologies have been slow to get off the ground.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has encouraged greater use of efficient biofuel engines and lighter aircraft materials, as well as route optimisation.
The e-plane – a 62-year-old, six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane retrofitted with a 750hp electric motor – was piloted by Greg McDougall, founder and chief executive of Harbour Air. “For me that flight was just like flying a Beaver, but it was a Beaver on electric steroids. I actually had to back off on the power,” he said.
McDougall took the plane on a short loop along the Fraser River near Vancouver international airport in front of around 100 onlookers soon after sunrise. The flight lasted less than 15 minutes, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.
“Our goal is to actually electrify the entire fleet,” said McDougall.
On top of fuel efficiency, the company would save millions in maintenance costs because electric motors require “drastically” less upkeep, Mr McDougall said.
However, Harbour Air will have to wait at least two years before it can begin electrifying its fleet of more than 40 seaplanes.
The e-plane has to be tested further to confirm it is reliable and safe. In addition, the electric motor must be approved and certified by regulators.
In Ottawa, transport minister Marc Garneau said ahead of the maiden flight that he had his “fingers crossed that the electric plane will work well”. If it does, he said: “It could set a trend for more environmentally friendly flying.”
Battery power is also a challenge. An aircraft like the one flown on Tuesday could fly only about 160km on lithium battery power, said Ganzarski. While that’s not far, it’s sufficient for the majority of short-haul flights run by Harbour Air.
“The range now is not where we’d love it to be, but it’s enough to start the revolution,” said Ganzarski, who predicts batteries and electric motors will eventually be developed to power longer flights.
While the world waits, he said cheaper short-haul flights powered by electricity could transform the way people connect and where they work. “If people are willing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 minutes to work?” he said.
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Call it hire power.
On Tuesday, career and job site LinkedIn released its annual “Emerging Jobs” list, which identifies the roles that have seen the largest rate of hiring growth from 2015 through this year. No. 1 on the list: Artificial Intelligence Specialist — typically an engineer, researcher or other specialty that focuses on machine learning and artificial intelligence, figuring out things like where it makes sense to implement AI or building AI systems.
Hiring for this role has been tremendous, growing 74% annually in the past 4 years alone. “AI has infiltrated every industry, and right now the demand for people skilled in AI is outpacing the supply for it,” Guy Berger, the principal economist at LinkedIn, tells MarketWatch. “This is the third year in a row a role related to machine learning or artificial intelligence has topped the list, and we can only expect demand to increase.”
The pay is impressive too, with AI roles often commanding six figures. Jobs site Indeed notes that artificial intelligence engineers in San Francisco, for example, rake in $120,000 to upwards of $160,000. Sometimes AI roles can garner pay of $250,000 or more.
LinkedIn isn’t the only company to highlight an AI specialty role as a job to watch. Indeed’s annual list of the “25 best jobs of 2019” named machine learning engineer as No. 1, citing a 344% increase in job postings in the past few years and an annual base salaries of $146,000, among other perks.
So what’s behind this rapid growth in AI jobs? Berger says that “almost everyone” is hiring for these roles from the obvious (tech and automotive) to the more surprising (higher education and sports).
And these offer a real opportunity even for people who aren’t currently in AI: “We’re in an extremely tight labor market so companies are really looking to hire whoever can get the job done,” says Berger — who notes that learning skills like TensorFlow and Python, as well as diving into machine learning and natural language processing, could help you land the role. You can often take these kinds of classes as certificate programs from local universities, coding schools and more.
Rounding out the top 5 jobs on LinkedIn’s emerging jobs report are robotics engineers (40% annual hiring growth), data scientist (37%), full stack engineer (35%) and site reliability engineer (34%). “While many of these jobs are tech roles, they’re not necessarily in the tech industry. Every company has had to embrace tech at some level and we’re seeing that reflected in these high-growth jobs,” adds Berger.
But interestingly, there are also a number of client-facing roles that are experiencing rapid hiring growth, such as customer success specialist and sales development representative. Many roles like this “are heavily reliant on relationships, so being skilled in things like communication, problem-solving and collaboration are key,” Berger notes, adding that for these kinds of gigs companies “will rely on people skills that can’t be automated, successfully complementing new technologies.”
LinkedIn’s Top 10 Emerging Jobs 1. Artificial Intelligence Specialist 2. Robotics Engineer 3. Data Scientist 4. Full Stack Engineer 5. Site Reliability Engineer 6. Customer Success Specialist 7. Sales Development Representative 8. Data Engineer 9. Behavioral Health Technician 10. Cyber Security Specialist
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The death of Elaine Herzberg, the woman hit by a self-driving Uber car in Tempe, Ariz in March, was an awful tragedy. Uber and other major players such as Toyota and AI-chip maker Nvidia were right to suspend tests of self-driving vehicles on public roads until a full investigation of the accident was completed. But Herzberg’s death was not a reason for the autonomous driving community to go into a bunker, but exactly the opposite. The mammoth challenge of making autonomous travel safe requires thousands of points of decentralized innovation by lots of companies instead of a few points of innovation by centralized big-auto/tech.
In particular, we need more developers to get busy addressing the innumerable corners of a market that’s expected to reach $800 billion by 2035. Technology history shows us that many groundbreaking technologies — the PC, the browser, the smart phone — don’t really change the world until developers figure out ways to make them useful in the real world. Not only do developers dream up applications of that technology — say, Oracle’s database, Amazon’s online store, or the millions of iOS apps — but they increase utilization of the technology by getting it into more peoples’ hands. All major technological disruptions have spawned periods of exuberant invention. The more companies scrap to win even the most localized or specialized use cases — say, self-driving pizza delivery carts for college campuses — the more actual people will try actual services, and the faster those services will improve and those use cases will develop.
Yet somehow the prevailing mood about autonomous transportation is that this technology is not mature enough to support a vibrant ecosystem of financially-successful developers. We seem to be stuck in a kind of holding pattern with well-funded giants dominating the headlines. However, my own belief is that no amount of in-house vertical development by Google, Detroit and other giants will create this industry for us. Rather, you’ll probably get a ride home from the office from some local self-driving taxi service, or have the groceries delivered by whatever delivery bot service has the contract with your local grocer. If a centralized model was the answer, why haven’t Google, Uber and others expanded beyond a handful of cities?
Now is in fact a great time for developers to step on the gas pedal. Incredible progress has been made in building the technological infrastructure on which a vibrant developer ecosystem can bloom. Again, consider history. The PC was a curiosity until Microsoft and Intel delivered their operating software and microprocessors to market — and more importantly, created the platforms that allowed everyone from Compaq and Dell to Lotus 1–2–3 and Quicken to easily build on their “Wintel” standard. The Internet boom couldn’t have happened without faster modems, fiber-optic networks and the near ubiquity of the home PC. You get the point.
Well, much of the infrastructure that is essential to build a company around autonomous driving now exists, or will soon enough. Some examples:
Cars — None of the big car companies have chosen to focus on building an autonomous car platform that developers can tweak for their particular needs — but they aren’t stopping developers from doing it themselves. And companies such as AutonomouStuff are there to help. Like a prime contractor, the rapidly growing company cobbles together the right hardware and software to create a custom autonomous vehicle, whether it be a golf-cart or an 18-wheeler cab.
Sensors — Thanks to fierce competition over the past decade, companies led by Velodyne LiDAR have driven down the price of high-quality LiDAR sensors from $75,000 to less than $4,000. Now, they’re working on smaller, much cheaper solid-state versions of the spinning, laser-packed gizmos that sit atop today’s autonomous vehicles. There have been similar advances in other sensors required to make autonomous cars safer than human drivers, such as cameras that can see at night and radars that can perceive the world in far greater detail.
Mapping — As our name suggests, this is our passion. Our goal is to be the open, developer-friendly alternative to giants such as Uber, General Motors and Google’s Waymo, which have been developing maps for their own use. A quick elevator pitch: To drive safely, autonomous cars need to have an on-board 3D map that identifies everything in their vicinity — from buildings and trees to street signs, painted crosswalks and temporary construction barriers. It’s a massive, never-ending project (you can’t just create the map once. It needs to be periodically updated to account for new streets, new potholes and new buildings). We don’t believe any company can or should spend massive amounts of money on mapping, in hopes of providing a safer experience only for its own customers. Better to create one, best representation of the drivable world to which everyone can contribute. To this end, we’ve contracted with freelance “cartographers” who drive the streets with map-capturing technology affixed to their vehicles.
AI-based Simulation — It’s not enough for autonomous cars to have a 3D map of the world, and sensors to keep them safely within their lane and a safe distance from the car in front. They also need to have the smarts to deal with the endless array of unique edge cases that occur on any trip — say, what to do when there’s a squirrel in the crosswalk but a mother with a baby carriage on the curb. While machine learning can be used to train computers to make split-second decisions, we can’t have them learning at the expense of real squirrels and babies. Fortunately, a number of companies have developed a broad range of simulation systems, where virtual autonomous cars can learn far faster than would be possible in the real world. Earlier this year, Nvidia announced Drive Constellation, a powerful system that gives customers with the budget to rent lots of Nvidia servers the ability to drive a virtual car down the equivalent of every road in the U.S. in the course of two days. Then there are start-ups such as RightHook Inc., which offers a lower-cost system that a developer can run on anything from their laptop to the on-board computer in a prototype autonomous car.
Some bold entrepreneurs are already making use of this available infrastructure to get started, creating new use cases that will no doubt have the snowball effect of enticing more new entrants. Here are some examples.
BoxBot — Around 20 billion packages will be delivered in the U.S. this year. This two-year-old company is among those developing driverless delivery vehicles. Its smart-car sized vehicle is designed for local deliveries that don’t require huge cargo space or fast speeds, such as delivering grocery orders.
Voyage — Autonomous driving within a retirement community has its own set of unique conditions — lots of residents that no longer feel comfortable behind the wheel but want the convenience of a car, and aren’t in too much of a hurry. Voyage has outfitted a few vehicles to serve one community in San Jose and will begin serving a sprawling community in Florida by the end of the year.
May Mobility — Solving the “last mile” problem is a transportation dilemma that even cities with vast public transit networks are grappling with amid shifting demographics and increased urbanization. May Mobility is a Detroit-based startup that has introduced a micro-transit service to address this problem. It uses six-passenger electric vehicles that steer themselves autonomously through traffic on carefully mapped, closed loops.
Peloton Technology — This firm’s niche is helping commercial trucking companies reduce gas expenses and increase safety through platooning — or having trucks drive in two-truck convoys, where the second truck uses advanced cruise control to stay close enough to draft off the lead truck while always maintaining a safe distance.
Of course, we still need the Googles, Teslas, Ubers and GMs to continue honing their technologies to ensure the level of perfection this application requires. When lives can be lost in the space of a few milliseconds, there’s no room for crashing operating systems, buggy applications or spotty network connectivity. But this is also true: the longer technology entrepreneurs wait to enter the autonomous transportation business, the longer it will take for this transformative technology to be woven into the fabric of modern life.
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Power-hungry industrial groups are securing renewable power at competitive costs. (Image credit: Teppakorn)
Denmark’s Orsted has signed a 100 MW power purchase agreement (PPA) with German chemical group Covestro for its planned 900 MW Borkum Riffgrund 3 offshore wind farm, Orsted announced December 4.
The 10-year contract with Covestro represents the largest world’s largest corporate offshore wind PPA and the first long-term renewable PPA with a major German chemical company, Orsted said.
The world’s leading offshore developer, Orsted plans to increase its installed capacity from 5.6 GW to 15 GW by 2025.
Due online in 2025, Borkum Riffgrund 3 will be located next to Orsted’s operational Borkum Riffgrund 1 and 2 facilities and will receive no subsidies.
Low-costs will be achieved through technology advancements, good site conditions, and the elimination of grid connection costs in the German regulatory framework, Orsted said.
Orsted is set to become the first developer to use 12 MW turbines after selecting to use GE’s Haliade-X turbines for its 120 MW skipjack project in Maryland, U.S.
“Our agreement with Covestro is the first tangible step to secure stable revenues for part of the power generated by Borkum Riffgrund 3,” Martin Neubert, Executive Vice President and CEO of Orsted Offshore, said.
Orsted, Nexans agree US offshore cable deal
French cable supplier Nexans has signed a framework agreement with Denmark’s Orsted to supply up to 1,000 km of subsea high-voltage export cables for Orsted’s offshore wind farms in North America, Nexans announced December 3.
The first delivery of the cables is expected by 2022 and the agreement covers supply until 2027, Nexans said.
Nexans is building the first U.S. manufacturing facility dedicated to subsea high-voltage cables. The French group is also investing in a new state-of-the-art cable-laying vessel with a 10,000-ton capacity.
Orsted is expanding fast in the U.S. offshore wind market and recently won large projects in New York and New Jersey.
Vestas signs 600 MW of US turbine contracts
Denmark’s Vestas has signed over 600 MW of new U.S. onshore wind turbine contracts in three separate deals announced by the company November 27-December 2.
All three wind farms are scheduled to be commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2020 and most of the turbines will be of capacity 2 MW or 2.2 MW, the company said.
U.S. wind installations are surging as developers race to meet production tax credit (PTC) deadlines. The 10-year PTC is set at $23/MWh for projects completed by 2020, then falls by 20% per year. U.S. installations are forecast to peak at around 13 GW in 2020 and fall to around 6 GW in 2021-2028, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), gathered from multiple forecasters.
For one project, Vestas signed an order for 269 MW of turbines, consisting of 2 MW, 2.2 MW and 4.2 MW models, it said. The deal includes a 10-year service agreement.
For another wind farm, Vestas received an order for 183 MW of turbines and also signed a 10-year service agreement.
Vestas secured a separate order for 149 MW turbines, along with a “multi-year” service agreement, it said.
In 2018, GE reclaimed the top spot for turbine manufacturers in the U.S., installing 40% of wind turbines by capacity, compared with 38% for Vestas. Nordex USA held 11% of the market and Siemens Gamesa held 8%.
Vestas is the leading global turbine supplier. In 2018, Vestas installed 10.1 GW of onshore wind capacity, increasing its share of the global market from 16% to 22%, BloombergNEF (BNEF) said in a report published in February.
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The Japanese energy heavyweight sees LNG as the right fuel at the right time for developing Asian economies
Japan’s Jera hit a significant milestone in its journey to becoming the country’s largest integrated energy player in April this year when it completed the acquisition of the fuel receiving, storage, and gas transmission businesses and the thermal power generation assets of its two parent companies, utilities Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) and Chubu Electric.
It was only as recently as late 2014 that Tepco and Chubu signed the memorandum of understanding that foresaw Jera’s creation, and early 2015 when the joint venture agreement was formalised. Since then, Jera has progressively assumed responsibility for its parents’ new business development; their existing fuel transportation and fuel trading businesses; and their existing fuel and overseas power businesses including upstream assets, sales and purchase agreements, and overseas power generation and energy infrastructure businesses.
But the deals that really made the wider energy world sit up and take notice were Jera’s 2017 acquisition of the coal trading business of London-based EdF Trading, followed by the completion of a merger of the two firms’ LNG optimisation and trading activities into the Jera Global Markets joint venture, also in April this year.
The transactions have left Jera with a portfolio that include interests in five upstream assets, LNG procurement from 17 countries, an optimisation and trading team with a global scale befitting a 35mn t/yr LNG portfolio, 18 LNG carriers, stakes in eight Japanese receiving terminals and 26 thermal power plants with capacity (including stations under construction) of 67GW.
Outside its home market, as of the end of last year, the firm had stakes in 25 thermal generation projects across 10 countries with capacity, again including plants under construction, of 9GW. And Hendrik Gordenker, a Jera senior corporate vice president, tells Petroleum Economist that it plans to further increase its regional footprint, particularly in gas-to-power, leveraging both Japan’s and its own depth of LNG experience.
Further work on internal integration and LNG optimisation is planned, while the company is also considering going public.
Why is Jera targeting gas-to-power projects in Asia?
Gordenker: Jera believes that LNG and associated gas-to-power projects can really meet Asia’s strong and growing demand for energy. There is a need for solutions that are as clean as we can practically make them.
LNG plus gas-to-power is just the kind of solution that will work well as Asia increasingly urbanizes. In urban areas—where there are concentrations of people and economic activity—being able to bring energy in quickly, cleanly and competitively is important.
Jera is able to provide a full value chain solution from providing the LNG and receiving facilities to regasification, power generation and send-out. But we are also conscious that, in different countries and markets, sometimes there is need to be only part of that chain. Jera is interested in participating where we can create value and solutions for local economies.
Strategically, it will be a good thing for Asia to have additional LNG demand points. If we can create a wider Asian LNG market, that will increase opportunities for optimisation and for establishing a more liquid, transparent traded market. And this will add to energy security in the region. It offers benefits for existing LNG consumers and for new ones.
Can we ensure developing Asian countries opt for LNG and gas-to-power over less environmentally friendly alternatives?
Gordenker: There is no one solution that can solve all the problems, but there are many cases in Asia where a combination of LNG and gas-to-power solution is a good choice, especially in the near-term.
Japan’s experience of having LNG as an important part of the energy mix has been very positive. I started coming to Japan in the 1970s and the air in urban areas was not clean. And there were growing needs for power and for greater energy security.
Japan was able to solve these problems using a number of tools, an important one of which was LNG. It is relatively clean, it is secure, and I think, as we go forward, its flexibility will also become increasingly important.
An LNG project can be developed a lot faster than a coal project. The upfront capital investment is less and the depreciation period is shorter. You can depreciate gas-to-power plants in 20 years; coal more like 30-40.
Using LNG plus gas-to-power brings in generation capacity quick. Then, after 20 years, it gives you the flexibility to move on to a newer technology that may come along. In addition to that, just in terms of operation, coal is better suited as a baseload power source, offering less flexibility than gas-fired power, which can be ramped up and down much more rapidly and over a much wider output band.
Gas can respond to demand variations and, in particular, to the introduction of variable renewable power supply. In Japan, gas-fired power is the back-up that provides grid stability, supporting the introduction of intermittent renewable generation. So, we see LNG and gas-to-power as a companion to introducing renewable and other new energy sources. That flexibility has huge value.
Is the global LNG market properly geared up to respond to demand-side flexibility?
Gordenker: Flexibility was certainly not a feature of the early years of the LNG business. LNG was produced in particular locations and exported from point to point under quite inflexible contracts. But, at the time, those constraints were needed to underpin the development of those early projects.
LNG is now a proven business. It is also a business with a wider global market—there are many participants and could be even more in the future. This market really enables much greater flexibility in LNG contracting arrangements. By that, I mean flexibility of destination—having few or no destination restrictions—and flexibility in terms of different contract durations—from spot to short-term to medium-term to long-term.
There is also more scope to have volume flexibility, and for greater variety of pricing bases. For sellers and buyers, we are all operating in a much larger market that can absorb greater variations.
Flexibility is also important in that it allows industry participants to optimise their operations. At Jera, this is very important to what we do. We have an optimisation group based in Singapore who every day look at how we can leverage our position and deliver LNG more competitively, more reliably, and with more flexibility to meet customer needs.
And that process of optimisation will improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the industry overall. It will help promote LNG’s expansion of its introduction into new markets.
Looking at the future for Jera specifically, is an initial public offering (IPO) an option?
Gordenker: Jera has been formed in a number of steps whereby shareholders allowed us to take control of parts of their existing businesses, and the last step—step three as we call it—occurred in April when we took over the domestic conventional power generation businesses of our shareholders. At this step three, our shareholders gave us the mandate to begin considering an IPO. Preparing for an IPO is a process that will, however, take some time.
We are a fairly young company, but we are certainly looking at [an IPO]. Our first priority right now, sas we have just taken on some pretty large businesses from our shareholders, is to integrate those existing operations and to develop further our own business.
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A shopping avatar robot is shown to the press by ANA Holdings Inc in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: KYODO
Japanese airline ANA Holdings Inc opened Thursday what it says is the world’s first store where customers can shop remotely through an avatar robot.
Several stick-shaped robots standing 1.5 meters tall will be in the “avatar-in store” through Dec 24 in a shopping mall in Tokyo’s Nihombashi district, in collaboration with major department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd.
Customers using computers can control the robot called “newme” from anywhere in the country and shop for items in the gift store as if they were there.
The robot has a tablet-sized monitor on top of its body that displays the customer’s facial expressions in real time, and moves around the store on wheels.
Online registration is required to use the service, said ANA, which plans to introduce as many as 1,000 avatar robots in Japan, including 100 in the Nihombashi business and commercial district next year in time for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
ANA is hoping to develop avatar technologies as a potential pillar of its future revenues, planning to use them to offer new services such as nursing care.
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Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
Japan Inc.’s jobs-for-life system, which for decades has brought stagnant wages and crimped corporate mobility, is withering away.
The latest evidence comes from food company Ajinomoto Co., which said Friday it is seeking to eliminate 100 jobs through manager buyouts as the seasoning maker seeks to recover from three straight years of declining operating profit. Ajinomoto got its start more than 100 years ago after its founder Kikunae Ikeda discovered monosodium glutamate and named its associated taste, umami.
Japanese companies have been chipping away at the concept of lifetime employment as economic growth stalls. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said changing the way Japan works is one of the biggest challenges in reviving the economy, and the lack of worker mobility is one reason economists say labor-market reform is badly needed.
Many Japanese companies have traditionally retained a wage system based on age, but managers who earn high salaries have been criticized for not working as much as they earn. In May, Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said it was getting harder for companies to retain lifetime employment.
Tokyo-based Ajinomoto said in a statement that as it reorganizes in an effort to sustain growth, “there may be some managers who would like to demonstrate their expertise and strengths outside of the Ajinomoto Group.” The company said eligible employees include all managers age 50 or older as of June 30, and it will provide support services to those who take the buyout.
The company will release the impact on its earnings outlook after it determines the number of applicants. Earlier this month, Ajinomoto cut its full-year outlook after posting a second-quarter loss.
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Partnership to drive performance with intelligent automation
McLaren Racing and Automation Anywhere, a global leader in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) today announced a Formula 1 partnership that will integrate artificially intelligent software robots (bots) into the team’s race operations.
The multi-year technology partnership, beginning at the start of the 2020 Formula 1 season, will deploy Automation Anywhere’s intelligent digital workforce in a competitive motorsport environment. The technology – digital workers that work side-by-side with people to perform repetitive and manual tasks – will help streamline McLaren’s business processes and empower the race operations team to improve efficiencies, reduce errors and speed up decision making.
“We’re delighted to welcome Automation Anywhere into the McLaren Racing family and the world of Formula 1, for the first time,” said Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing. “To perform in this sport, we need to be at the forefront of technological advancements and empower our people to apply their thought and focus to chasing marginal gains on track. Automation Anywhere’s sophisticated technology will help us do this, and we’re looking forward to working together in the coming seasons.”
“McLaren Racing operates in a competitive environment dominated by fine margins, where seconds can have a major impact,” said Riadh Dridi, Chief Marketing Officer, Automation Anywhere. “We are excited to help McLaren make faster decisions by automating processes across the team’s race operations.”
As part of the partnership, Automation Anywhere’s brand will be represented on the MCL35 race car, the race suits of the team’s race drivers, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, and on race operation equipment.