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5 Technology Trends Small Businesses Should Consider in 2019

When it comes to small business, it can be hard to keep up with the trends. Here are some of the big ones to watch this year.
Good small-business owners keep an eye on the future, which means they already need to be thinking about what will be big in 2019.

The new year is shaping up to be transformative for the way we do business, thanks to rapidly improving voice-recognition technology, social media platforms pushing to become integral to marketing and e-commerce efforts, increasing competition for top talent, and a slew of new apps on the horizon.

1. Optimizing your content for voice search.

For years, small businesses have engaged in search-engine-optimization tactics to help their websites or blogs rank higher in Google's search results. And for years, we've been interacting with A.I. assistants like Siri and Alexa to help us learn, shop, and communicate.

Now those two worlds are colliding: Voice search is changing the way users find and Google surfaces content--and it's opening up unique opportunities for small, local businesses to boost their visibility. We've seen many of our small-business customers jump on the voice-search bandwagon.

Here are a few reasons why optimizing for voice search is different, and so important: People are increasingly using their mobile devices and smart speakers to voice search, and when they do, their queries are more conversational and longer than typical typed searches.

2. Using Facebook Messenger as a marketing tool.

Lots of businesses already have their Facebook Business page and have explored Facebook Messenger as a marketing and communications tool, but expect 2019 to be the year this trend explodes.

For all its scandals, Facebook has 1.3 billion monthly users, and that makes it an incredibly large pool from which to draw new customers. You can also use Messenger to facilitate shopping, drive awareness of your brand, and show customers you care: Messenger helps resolve customer issues in less than a minute on average, helping build brand trust among customers.

That last part is especially helpful, and Facebook's work to automate and streamline the customer service experience plays a major role.

3. Selling your products through social media.

The question for small businesses isn't going to be if they'll put their products on social media platforms like Snapchat or Instagram, but which platform they'll focus on.

Shopping on social media is more popular across the board, but Snapchat and IG in particular are vying for brands to start selling their wares directly on their platforms--Snapchat through their Shoppable Snap Ads, Instagram through their Stories.

4. Helping employees pay off their student loans.

It's always a challenge to attract and retain top talent, and that's gotten only more difficult in a fierce job market with low unemployment. How can small and midsize businesses compete? They can offer a benefit that means perhaps the most to young people today: student loan assistance.

Expect businesses in 2019 and beyond to explore teaming up with a repayment provider like Goodly to reduce the overhead costs of helping employees pay off their loans. This could have benefits beyond recruiting, including increased engagement and retention rates at these companies, especially in a competitive job market.

5. Offering customers financing for small-business purchases.

Square came to prominence by helping small-business owners take customer credit cards instead of missing out a sale. Now, with its new Installments service, Square is tackling this issue from the other side: It'll offer consumers forms of short-term lending to help pay for their purchases.

Customers of merchants that use Square will be able to buy products that cost between $250 and $10,000 and pay Square back in fixed monthly payments over a period of 3, 6, or 12 months with an APR ranging from 0 to 24 percent. As of this writing, the system is available in 22 states.

Monthly installments and financing for customers have long been the domain of big businesses. According to Square's own research, 68 percent of consumers said they'd be more likely to consider a small or local business if it offered them financing.

If you own a small or midsize business, jumping on some of these trends now may help you stay ahead of the curve as we progress into 2019. If you do that, you're much more likely to be around to take advantage of the trends in 2020 as well.


Media & communication / Department of Media and Communication
« on: January 20, 2019, 04:49:06 PM »
Department of Media and Communication

Communication is the soul of all human activities. A communicator has to be focused, creative and productive. The Department prepares communication experts who are not only ingenious but exceptional.

We offer a four year undergraduate program in Media and Communication leading to a Bachelor of Social Science degree and a minor program in Media and Communication with a range of interdisciplinary areas such as Journalism, Film-Video and TV Production, Advertising and Development Communication. The curricula is designed to provide you with technical skills, aesthetic sensitivity and creativity and give you a thorough understanding of the contemporary world.

From Autumn, 2010 we have started offering courses for Master's Degree in Media and Communication with specialization in

A. Journalism         B. Film & Television

The Department maintains strong academic linkages with the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts (MCMA) of the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) and Hemline University, USA, alongside other universities in the UK the SIUC has already evaluated the courses and approved credit transfer protocols.


Seven Ways To Cultivate Innovation And Creativity In Business

Even the most creative of business minds hit a wall at one point or another. The creative juices stop flowing, and it all just comes to a head. Taking the time you need to get away and reignite that internal flame can help you get yourself back in the mindset needed to come up with those innovative ideas once again and make thing happen at your business.

Taking time off work typically comes with various health benefits, including lower blood pressure and improved emotional levels. So, the next time the temperature starts to heat up in your office, and you just can’t focus your mind on the task at hand, give your body a much-deserved break from it all, and you’ll return more inspired and ready to create.

Below, seven women members of Young Entrepreneur Council provide several ways that you can cultivate creativity and innovation after hitting a brick wall. Here is what they recommend:


1. Take A Vacation

If I'm blocked and unable to find creativity, it's often because I'm overwhelmed and exhausted, so I find the best thing I can do is take a break and go on a short vacation. Sometimes, even a weekend away can be enough to get me unplugged and re-ignited. Habit is the enemy of creativity, so being mired in the day-to-day activities involved in running a business is the greatest thief of innovation. Taking a break, and coming back with a fresh mind can do wonders to getting new ideas. In addition, I always spend time reading different books and staying connected with some of the latest innovations in order to challenge myself to think outside of the box.  Exposure to ideas combined with a fresh, relaxed mind can easily lead to creativity. - Marcela De Vivo, Mulligan Funding.

2. Go To Conferences

Industry conferences are a great resource for recharging and inspiration. It's a place where you can meet other like-minded entrepreneurs, hear exciting talks from other leaders and network with other businesses. Some cool conferences are GROWCO, the National Association of Women Business Owners' conference, Women in Leadership, Startupfest, SXSW, to name just a few. I find that I always leave the conferences with a renewed sense of energy and excitement toward getting back to work. - Sunny Bonnell, Motto

3. Read, Read, Read

If you're feeling stuck, pick up a book or newspaper! I fill my spare time reading books on business topics for a relevant perspective, and fiction to get my creative wheels turning. In PR, your favorite newspaper or magazine can also serve as a great source of inspiration. When we're particularly challenged by a media angle for one of our clients, I like to pick up a major publication and take a close look at the story that jumps out at me most. I like to think, "how could I work my client's narrative into this story, even if it doesn't relate to them at all?" That's a fun and creative exercise that helps me connect dots that aren't immediately there. And, it's always great to hear a client say, "I never thought of it that way." - Lindsay Mullen, Prosper Strategies

4. Speak To Leaders

I've noticed that every time I hit a brick wall or too many wrong things are getting in the way, I speak to other leaders who have walked down the path before me and have seen success with it. They have a better idea of what success should look like and they are able to direct me with their guidance. Recently, I hired a video team to help my business create more visual content. The team tried to get by without any contracts and just a single fixed payment after the video was recorded. This created friction on both ends and almost opened a can of worms for operations. I spoke with a leader who gave me a process to avoid misguided expectations and how to mitigate expectations stemming from frictional circumstances. - Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing

5. Brainstorm With Colleagues

First, I always encourage collaboration with my employees. Whenever one of them is stuck on something, they go on a 15-30 minute "brainstorm walk" with at least one other co-worker. This lets them step away from the computer, get some fresh air, light exercise, and gets the juices flowing. It's a great middle ground between a refreshing break and thinking critically. We tend to have the most creative ideas while on these walks. Also, once a week, we cater lunch for the team, and discuss a work-related topic or brainstorm how to overcome a roadblock. In this instance, everyone researches creative campaigns and ideas that companies have done before, and then we come up with our own creative strategy. - Kelley Weaver, Melrose PR

6. Stay Close To Suppliers And Consumers

Staying close to the consumer and the supplier always provides feedback and inspiration. We source moringa from Nicaragua, Ghana and Haiti, so it’s important for me to travel at least once a year to connect directly to our suppliers. I recently took a trip to West Africa and was completely inspired by the farms I visited and the people I met there. Similarly, connecting to the end consumer is also important. I was at Costco last weekend for a roadshow passing out samples, and it was incredibly informative to have one-on-one conversations with customers. You get instant feedback and can ask lots of questions. - Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli Inc.

7. Get A Hobby

After coaching 100 women for 100 hours (since January 1, 2018!) I am reminded even more how many people do NOT have a hobby! If all you are doing is digging into your career deeper and deeper, you are not allowing your brain time to rest and recover from all of the creativity! Know how people say they get their best ideas in the shower? That's why you need to let your brain connect with something else for the sake of creativity. If you are constantly taxing yourself with being an idea machine, you're going to get fatigued -- and your ideas and creativity will suffer. Find something that has NOTHING to do with work -- crochet, run, bake, draw, dance -- and recharge! - Jen Brown, The Engaging Educator


Art, Design and Lifestyle / BANKSIDE BRILLIANCE
« on: January 20, 2019, 04:24:33 PM »

hen a brand new 22nd floor bankside penthouse was introduced to Hill House Interiors as a blank canvas, they felt duty bound to deliver a scheme as stunning as the 360 degree views enjoyed from this exceptional 4 bedroom duplex home.

Relishing the challenge, the talented multi-award winning team took a detailed brief from the clients and created interiors worthy of this iconic landmark building, famous for its dramatic glass pitched roofs.

The clients, a professional couple with global business interests, gave Hill House a detailed brief, confidently underlining their love of strong colour, particularly red, their passion for the exotic wild tiger, and their need of a few quirky surprises to entertain guests as they explore the main reception areas of their fabulous new London home.

Stepping out from the glass-walled lift directly into the apartment entrance hall, their fondness for the eclectic is immediately apparent – giant full height mirrors to the right reflect the deep padded scarlet leather panels on the opposite wall. Incongruously, porcelain hands peep out from the padding, which as well as creating the requested surprise element, also have a practical use, and the entire area is sparklingly lit by a dozen suspended Swarovski crystal pendant lights.

Helen Bygraves, co-founder of Hill House Interiors, explains; “The couple saw something similar in an interiors magazine and loved it, so we set about creating a version especially suited to the hall’s proportions. The hands are actually coat pegs for the use of visiting guests!”

In the vast open plan double height living room, more drama awaits; stretching across two walls are hand carved metal panels featuring a vibrant jungle scene, complete with prowling tigers. Soaring to the ceiling of the upper internal gallery, the framed and lit bronze artwork creates the ultimate show stopping backdrop to this impressive living space.

Dividing this wonderfully gargantuan room into comfortable sitting areas started with the placement of a large Hill House designed ebony lacquered full height cabinet, which separated two distinctly different zones. One side houses a Planicka gel fireplace and overhead, a built-in wide screen TV. Relaxed viewing of both screen and flickering flames is enjoyed from a tailored L-shaped ivory sofa, bordering a boldly-coloured splash-patterned rug.  A circular lighting installation with Olympian overtones throws a soft overhead glow on this scene stealing room setting.

The reverse side of the cabinet incorporates some essential entertainment features and also provides dramatic focal points. In prime position is the cocktail bar, where a sleek, cosmic black granite counter tops a back lit dragon-stone panel. Standing by, a pair of luxe and supremely comfortable bar stools, from Hill House’s own collection, await guests wishing to sip their aperitifs whilst enjoying unparalleled views of the London skyline. Above the bar is a second wide screen TV ,  bordered by spotlit alcove shelving – the  perfect home for rare malts or post dinner ‘digestifs’. A temperature controlled humidor for the Havanas and two wine chillers are deftly tucked out of view beneath the bar.

Facing the bar in prime position under the soaring glass pitched roof is a magnificent red lacquered baby grand piano, hand finished by the highly respected family-owned Edelweiss company. An adjacent lounging space with an alabaster low seated, curved edge sofa and pair of deeply buttoned cylindrical armchairs sit atop another showstopping rug, featuring the clients’ favourite big cat, the tiger, securely inset and surrounded by handsome oak wood flooring.

Fine dining is definitely on the clients’ menu in this property, with their super-sized one off table, crafted out of a rare piece of  recycled sugar wood, the open fissures inlaid with a contemporary pewter toned resin with transparent glass inlay, and accompanied by twelve upholstered red velvet dining chairs. The tableau is completed with a unique Sharon Marston contemporary coral and silver chandelier.

Jenny Weiss, co-founder of Hill House Interiors, comments; “The chandelier was custom made, each strand measured to a specific length to line up with the ascending height of the overhead lofty glass ceiling. Each strand was hung separately to ensure a sleek and perfectly level finish above the table.”

Leading off through wide glass doors from either side of this spectacular living space are two substantial triangular roof terraces, lined with elegant opaque white planter. These softly light up as dusk falls, throwing a gentle glow on the built-in barbeque and elegant Italian white lacquered penthouse furniture, cushioned in the clients’ favoured flame hues.


Life Science / Life Sciences and Agriculture
« on: January 20, 2019, 04:06:55 PM »
Life Sciences and Agriculture

General Life Sciences and Agriculture topics:
Animal Behavior
Animal Cognition
Animal Communication
Bigfoot (Sasquatch)
Biology History
Cognitive Neuroscience
Cognitive Science
Endangered Species
History of Gardening
Human-Animal Relationship
Intelligent Design
Marine Biology
Morphology in Science
Natural Selection
Origin of Life
Philosophy of Biology
Teaching Biology


Renewable Energy / Trend in renewable energy use in Bangladesh
« on: January 20, 2019, 03:53:32 PM »
Trend in renewable energy use in Bangladesh

In the ancient Mediterranean, there was a famous city called Syracuse. Legend has it that when the Roman ships were attacking the place in 212 BC, one of the most gifted children of the city, named Archimedes, decided to take on the Romans-- not by sword but in the mind game.
Archimedes-- a scientific genius who later became famous for his 'Eureka' story, allegedly arranged a group of soldiers who would held flat plate mirrors in an almost hemispherical position to form a large concave mirror.
This 'burning glass of Archimides' which allegedly composed of 24 mirrors, conveyed the rays of the sun into a common focus and produced an extraordinary degree of heat which set fire to Roman ships.
While it is a tragedy that one of the first cases of solar energy application remains tied with warfare, the story also serves as a reminder that when used in an intelligent manner, the power of the sun (or any natural force for that matter) has the potential of doing the impossible.
For the most part of its history, human civilization has been dependent largely on renewable energy sources. It is only during the 19th century that non renewable sources became predominant.
However, now with the growing global concern that all nonrenewable sources have limited reserve and can have detrimental effect on the environment, human society is now once again looking back to the eternal forces of Mother Nature -- sun, wind or water to meet their energy demand.
According to the latest report of global energy think tank REN21, renewable energy comprised 19.3 percent of total global energy consumption back in 2015, with much of the growth coming from the developing world.
Bangladesh, with more than 4 million units of Solar Home System, has been termed as the largest SHS market worldwide by the same report.
Bangladesh's success with SHS actually proves a point about the prospect of renewable energy or more specifically solar energy in the country.
Despite the country's recent success in increasing power generation capacity, almost 40 million people are deprived of electricity. While energy demand is increasing day by day with rapid urbanisation, mechanisation and industrialisation, supply remains largely dependent on the declining domestic reserve and import.
The country's urban and rural areas alike are also becoming highly vulnerable to growing air, water and soil pollution due to over dependence and inefficient use of such conventional fossil fuels.
Such a situation calls for increased exploration of alternative energy sources including sources that are clean and renewable. Renewable energy currently constitutes only 2.89 per cent of the country's electricity generation mix. However, the government's Renewable Energy Policy obligates the share of renewable energy to be 10 per cent by 2020.
Among all forms of renewable energy sources-- solar energy apparently has the brightest prospect in Bangladesh. The country's tropical climate allows it to receive adequate sunshine throughout the year, which makes it an ideal breeding ground for solar powered schemes. The country's success with Solar Home Systems already acts a test case in this regard. Going forward, however, the key in tapping further potentials of solar energy will be to explore new avenues of utilising this resource.
Currently, only 216.75 MW of electricity in the country comes from solar energy sources, which is 48.1 per cent of the total renewable energy generation capacity of the country. Notably, the figure is still outnumbered by hydro power which has a generation capacity of 230 MW.
The government, however, has already set a target of increasing the renewable energy generation capacity to 2896.68 MW by 2021, more than half of which (1470 MW) is expected to come from solar power by that time. This means that the country has to increase its generation capacity of solar power by almost seven times in next four years.
Wind power, which is currently at an experimental stage, is expected to contribute 1153 MW by the same time period. The contribution of hydro power, on the other hand, would remain static at 236 MW during the same period.
This means that solar and wind energy-- and more particularly solar energy schemes need to follow a robust and dynamic growth pattern in the coming years to materialise the country's renewable energy goals.
The government has already identified or piloted some potential schemes where there are immense scopes for experimenting with renewable energy. Solar park, solar mini grid, solar irrigation, solar powered boating system, solar rooftop system and commercial solar charging stations are the few piloted initiatives which are likely to become success stories in the coming years.
The first step in large scale community based usage of solar power is solar mini grids. The advantage of a solar mini-grid is that it can meet higher energy demands and can boost business activities in rural areas. According to SREDA, a total of 11 solar mini grids with a cumulative capacity of 2.19 MW has been installed in the country while 15 more such projects are under implementation with a cumulative capacity of 3.17 MW.
Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which is a pioneer in financing the SHS revolution in the country, has already installed 9 such projects while 20 more are in the pipeline. IDCOl has a target of financing 50 such projects by 2018 and 500 of the same by 2025.
Apart from reaching the off-grid population in remote areas, solar energy also has the potentials to contribute to the national grid in the form of grid-tied solar parks. It is notable that the government has recently signed four Power Purchasing Agreements with various firms to set up solar parks which is likely to be operational within 18 months and are expected to add 302 MW of electricity. In addition, Letter of Intents (LoIs) have been signed with some more firms which are expected to add 528 MWs to the national grids when they come into operation.
However, as solar parks usually require substantial amounts of space, acquiring the required land for setting up such parks remain a major concern. According to experts, it requires 3 acres of land for a solar park to generate 1 MW of electricity. This can be a headache for a land hungry country like Bangladesh. However, there is ample unutilised government owned land including the unused land owned by the railway department that can be effectively utilized for the development of solar parks.
The government has a target to replace these diesel operated pumps by solar irrigation systems.
As per the records of SREDA, a total of 771 solar irrigation systems are in operation in the country. However, the target is to bring this number to one hundred thousand by 2025 which sounds ambitious but realistic. Nevertheless, it is notable that given the nature of agricultural activities in our country, actual irrigation works are required for only three to four months of a year. This means that thousands of solar irrigation systems are likely to remain idle for the rest of the year. New techniques should be evolved to use these solar pumps for some other purposes within the agricultural cycle so that they can be used year-round.
The government has set a target of increasing the wind power generation capacity to 1153 MW by 2021. However, this seems a bit ambitious as the usage of wind energy in Bangladesh is still at an experimental stage. However, the coastal areas and some border areas of the country which receive relatively strong wind flow may have some potential in this regard. SREDA has taken the initiative to carry out wind resource mapping in nine areas of the country. The report of this study is expected to come out next year and is likely to shed some light on the potentials of wind energy in the country.
One of the biggest technical concerns when it comes to solar energy is the issue of efficiency. Currently, the average solar cells available in the market have an efficiency level of 17 per cent. Researches are being carried out globally to increase the efficiency level of solar cells. Recently, it has been reported that researchers in Japan had set a new record for the efficiency of mass-produced solar panels, bringing the efficiency level of their solar panels to 26 per cent.
Since, renewable energy is an emerging arena, a lot of new research and development is taking place within this field globally. The government, therefore, should encourage and incentivize further knowledge sharing and technology transfer from the outside world when it comes to renewable energy including solar energy. Incentives should also be given for the domestic manufacturing of solar panels or for the importing of relevant parts and equipment.
It is also notable that currently conventional banks are not much interested in financing renewable energy initiatives. According to the latest figures of Bangladesh Bank, a total of Tk. 12149.52 million was channelled in direct green financing activities by the banks during the first quarter of this year. Only 4.77 per cent of this amount was made available to renewable energy.
Apparently, there is a lack of incentive for the banks in financing renewable energy or any green banking schemes. To address this situation, the central bank can introduce the system of rating and awarding based on the banks' involvement in green financing. There can also be preferential access to funds for banks that would channel a substantial amount of their loans into green banking. Central bank should also effectively monitor whether the banks are actively complying with the relevant regulatory provisions in this regard.
The impact of an increased renewable energy generation capacity can be manifold on a country like Bangladesh. Renewable energy sources, especially solar power, can help decrease its dependency on imported fossil fuels and reduce the pressure on grid electricity.

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