Loving the Auckland Ferry Commute

I once said that I would never commute across the bridge any more for any job. Spending an hour each way from home to work just didn’t make sense, what a total waste of time. Well almost, because I used to listen to podcasts on the way that I might not have made time for otherwise, but I have to say I hated it.

Then with the increase in population and the lack of initiative and imagination from Council, NZTA and Government in creating a decent mass transit system it become an hour and a half each way at peak times and still an hour each way in off peak. When Imersia was a relatively small company, it wasn’t such a problem because I could start work from home and head in the office once the traffic died down, but these days it doesn’t really die down at all.

The book Urban Legend that came out back in ’12 said it all. What would Auckland have been like if they had listened to Robbie? We could have been a phenomenally successful city. But we didn’t and now we have a nice ring system that travels at 10km an hour at peak and the Northern Motorway slows to 8km per hour. I used to feel like hopping out of my car on the motorway, leaving it there and running home.

Heading to Long Bay on the Ferry After Work

Then they managed to give the PC brigade the slip and followed the example of Sydney and put ferry wharf’s into Long Bay, Browns Bay and Takapuna and it was problem solved. Our offices are in the Viaduct and commuting is now a pleasure. I walk down to Long Bay, unless its raining, then I park my car in the ‘Park and Cruise’ just up from the beach. I have a flat white on the ferry and clear my inbox using their WiFi, whilst enjoying our awesome coastline on the way into town.

On the way home, especially in winter, I get to enjoy the beautiful city lights, instead of inhaling diesel fumes on the clogged motorway. I just have to wonder why they didn’t do this years ago. More people get to enjoy our North Shore beaches, the wharf’s are great for fishing and strolling along and there are less cars on the motorways. It cost a hell of a lot less to build too.

 

 

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Production of New Zealand Bank Notes Continues Decline

Cash

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Remember cash? Do you still carry any? In the last few years with eMoney it has almost become non existent. New Zealand was one of the first countries to adopt EFTPOS as a way to reduce the risks and costs around cash management many yeas ago.

With so many people buying everything from groceries to electronics online or on finance, cash has become almost a thing of the past and something Kiwi travellers now find quite novel when we travel overseas.

It has been very interesting for the Government to deal with because in many cases where goods are purchased from overseas, they miss the opportunity to charge GST or other duties when parcels come from overseas in the mail.

New forms of virtual money have appeared and companies like Google, Facebook and Zynga have started creating their own value systems and many new barter organisations have appeared, while the old vanguards such as Bartercard are growing in popularity.

The old system of cash jobs, the grey market is probably the main area still propping up physical currency at all because even money transferred via eWallets through intermediaries such as the Telcos  is still auditable. Out of interest, New Zealand hasn’t minted 5 cent coins since 2004, 20 cent coins since 2008 and the number of bank notes produced has been in decline at a rate of over 10% p.a. since 2010 even though our population has grown dramatically with increased immigration.

It is expected that within another 20 years bank notes and coins will become collectors items and future generations will look at them as an interesting historic item and wonder why anyone ever bothered with them.

My Grocer is Getting Social With Me

Back in the day, when I was a toddler, the grocer was like a family friend. When we went into the supermarket, the butcher would see us coming and set his slicer to thinnest mode and get ready to cut some veal for Wiener schnitzel, just as my mother liked it, he would chew the fat with her and give me a saveloy.

Grocer’s over time became more impersonal and started focusing more on customer acquisition with ads and inserts in newspapers and local rags. Then of course subscriptions to the NZ Herald died down to a trickle and they went to a wireless subscription model, which started with a free Kindle for a 2 year subscription and the local papers are down to 1 per week if you’re in a well populated area.

Impersonal probably isn’t fair because of course I now have a tablet magnet mounted on my fridge which the F&P fridge scanner talks to and that send the order direct to my local Countdown  supermarket for pick up (if I want to touch and feel the fruit or extra little things) or home delivery. The tablet is connected to the home network and lets us watch cooking lessons, checking if we need any of the ingredients to be added to the shopping list, as well as the usual things like streaming music, TV, Skype, internet etc.  just as the other tablets around the house do.

Anyway, I was talking about the switch from acquisition to retention, or back to basics, but using modern technology. I was getting frustrated with the construction at our local supermarket, but am now so impressed with the way they have embraced social media in and out of the store with their new studio. Well it looks like a recording studio, but basically it has no window, so that you can talk to the guys while they are running Facebook, Foursquare Check-In Deals and Twitter campaigns with big video projector displays on the wall showing discussions they are having within and outside of the store.

These people are getting to know real customers and having relationships with them, generating loyalty that reminds me of the way grocers used to do it back in the day.

I remember the story that a friend told me many years ago, of how she went to Lincoln North Pak N Save with twin girls who were really hard to manage. The owner John Street went to her, gave her his business card and said to call him personally and he would arrange for someone to entertain the twins while she was shopping.

I spoke to him subsequently, although he didn’t know that I knew them personally and he explained. A loyal customer like her who spends around $150 a week (I know it was a long time ago) is worth more then $23,000 over 3 years. Now if you think about what it costs to get a new customer, an investment in social media, taken from what they used to spend on daily newspaper advertising isn’t much is it?

My Toilet Says I Don’t Drink Enough Water

I remember back in the days when I used to visit Tokyo regularly and the ToTo toilets at the Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku had seat warmers and ‘showers’. It was cool novelty value although I never thought I’d have anything like that myself.

Today many of us live in Smart Homes where M2M communication between appliances is pretty normal. Hard to think back to the day when I thought I was really cool having Cat 1 cable with double jack points throughout my house.

Now we have the smart fridge sending a grocery list to our mobiles, the heat pump notifies us that the temperature in the lounge is only 13 and given that my car GPS telematics system has told the that I am heading in the direction of home, it prompts me to turn the home climate control on to a comfortable 21 degrees.

As to the new toilet, I have a wife who can tell me that I don’t drink enough water and I’m not sure I need the toilet analyzing my urine every time I take a pee. Of course if I had Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes or some other ailment, it might be handy, but otherwise a toilet that does poo analysis is really a bit of a stretch in the motion sensor department.

It started with the smart scales which monitored our weight as we were dieting and gave each of us a weekly graph of our weight and BMI on the iPad diet app, but I thought it was a bit OTT when the toilet started notifying us of our weight as well. Of course it did validate my theory that I weighed more prior to my morning constitutional than after.

I’m just not sure that I really need to be sitting in a business meeting, checking a notification coming through on my iPad telling me that my pregnancy test was negative. I don’t know where my daughters get their sense of humor from, but it seems they have hacked my toilet password.

Surrounded by Screens From Bed to the Stage

I woke up Sunday morning (only just morning it was 11:30AM, the night after an awesome gig I played in town last night) to the melodic song of the Tui and chirrup of the Fantail I had sampled in my front yard on my iPhone last weekend, played through the bedroom surround speakers, all but invisibly mounted in the ceiling corners of my bedroom walls.

I tapped on the bedside touchscreen, programming a flat white coffee to be ready in 20 minutes after I had my shower and selected the Billboard Country Top 100 to start playing in the bathroom, hoping there might be some new songs heading into the Top 10, like ‘If You’re Listening’, which I finally sold to Kelly Clarkson for her latest album. I swiped 23 degrees for the bathroom climate control and headed in for a shave. Hey, its winter and I like to be warm alright?

I could smell the aroma of the fair trade beans from my coffee as I walked into the dining room and flipped on my HoloDesk to check for news and see what my friends were up to this morning, thinking back to what an amazing night I’d had. I loved the HoloDesk, designed by my friend Kevin Andreassand of ICE AV in Auckland, which basically gave me all the benefits of an HD touch screen, but was projected in front of me as a hologram so that it wasn’t in the way of the dining table furniture. It was controlled by voice and hand gestures and one of Dropbox my favourite new tools ( think big boys toys).

As the first sips of coffee soothed my vocal chords which I had hammered last night with some raucous blues, I went to the fridge touchscreen and got it to sync with the pantry, placing an automatic grocery order with Countdown to be delivered that afternoon between 3 and 5. I was staying in today.

I’d planned last night’s gig for over a month and on the way in to the club last night I had quickly car Skyped my friends (the heads up display switched off the video when I put the car in gear) Andres Roots (in London recording a new album) and Charly Nice ( at his home studio in virtual Düsseldorf) who were going to be playing with me remotely, one of the benefits of the UFB project that finally brought high-speed internet into NZ. They were going to be joining me for the finally at about 12:30AM NZ time, gentlemanly hours for musos who played late and got up late.

I’d sent them links to the songs I had on the proposed set list and we had agreed on enough tracks so that we could build on the mood of the audience on the night and indulge ourselves as well, after all we’re musos. They came back with suggestions and some arrangement ideas and I synced them with my band tablets and put them up on Dropbox for the rest of the band to check out.

When I got to the club, I got out the music stand tablets, checked that the WiFi network was working and synced a copy to the sound engineer so that he could see the set lists and watch the music and lyrics we selected as we went through the night, including when the international guests would be joining us. I got my guitars out, caught up with the rest of the band, we ran sound checks and then did a sound check with Andres and Charly who were going to appear life-size on plasma screens with us.

I connected my guitars to the tablet on the stand in front of me with WiFi and using more of Andreassand’s IceAV technology, selected the virtual amps and effects I wanted, dragging them together with finger motions and syncing them to the pedal box at my feet.

Relaxing before the gig, we sent music videos to each other to check out, reminiscent of back in the day when people used to text each other in the same room, used our iPhones to order some light food and drinks from the bar and shot the breeze as you do.

I guess this has become a bit of a blog about the gig, rather than the screens, but I guess we take these things for granted today. Anyway this is my blog and I’ll tell it how it is:) So the highlight of the night for me was the last track.

I got out my Gibson Firebird XV (Looks very similar to the one to the left which I captured at the Memphis factory back in 2012) tapped on the touch screen at the top of the body telling it I wanted Open A tuning and selected a phat Marshall tube amp model, got out my original Tex Morton slide that came with my Tex Morton original guitar and had an amazing slide jam with Andres in London, with Charly playing some mean honking sax from his home in Düsseldorf. That Little Red Rooster crowed like all of its Christmas’ had come at once. 

The UFB meant that there was no lag in the music even though we were playing with guys who were on the other side of the world, it was amazing. As far as the audience were concerned they wouldn’t have known that we weren’t all in the same room and of course Andres and Charly were able to see and hear everything as of they were right there on the stage with us as it was all mic’d and video cameras were beaming it all back to them.

I was buzzing as I drove home, tapped the car entertainment system to play back the last set of the gig, through the in-car 7 speaker surround system, which had been recorded and instantly uploaded to my Spotify station, then tapped into my home controller to put the electric blanket and climate control on for when I got home at around 3AM, tired and satisfied. It had been a great night.

Westfield Kills Two Birds with One Stone with EV Charging at Malls

Westfield has stemmed the tide of decreasing shoppers in malls this winter by providing dozens of Electric Vehicle charging stations at shopping malls around New Zealand and Australia. Over the last couple of years many people have been buying electric vehicles, but have found that the range of up to 160km, which wasn’t too bad during summer, reduced dramatically with the use of air conditioning and window heating to warm the car in winter.

This reduced range combined with a continuing decrease in the frequency of people going to shopping malls provided the impetus for Westfield to come up with a new loyalty program for shoppers combined with a mobile application.

Effectively by using their mobile loyalty app, shoppers are rewarded with credits they can use of various purchases, one of which can be redeemed by parking at one of the EV charging stations at the mall. This not only encourages people to visit the mall, but also to stay longer, whilst electric car owners make sure that their car is fully charged before they leave the mall. The application lets loyalty shoppers know when there is a car park available and guides them to it. It also alerts them when the car is fully charged.

A spokesperson for Westfield New Zealand said that already in the last 2 months they had seen significant use of the charging stations and many retailers, particularly fashion and the food halls and cafes have seen a regrowth in trade.

Event Cinemas have also announced that they are going to trial a number of EV chargers in selected movie theatres in Australia in conjunction with their CINE BUZZ loyalty program. Each time a CINE BUZZ member has purchased 5 movie tickets they will be entitled to a full car charge for free.

Remember Borders Book Stores?

Who’s next?

I was so excited when Borders arrived in New Zealand. I used to love going to the Borders stores on trips to the USA. There were frequently book signings, bands and recording artists, like the BB King autobiography launch in Chicago. You could read books in the cafe and no one would look at you as if to say don’t smudge that page, cause you’re buying it. People in the different departments knew about their topics and loved books and sharing their knowledge.

I walked past the site of the old Westfield Albany Borders store site yesterday, it had changed to Whitcoulls brand in 2012. A year later they were back in a much smaller site, obviously the sales volume didn’t cover the cost of such a big site. They had tried to embrace eBooks for a while, but selling expensive readers and not making it simple for your average reader to get books for them just further demolished their traditional business.

Meanwhile some of the smaller owner operator stores followed the example of retailers such as Pages & Pages in Australia, by installing eBook Kiosks in store back at the end of 2011.

In recent years eBook kiosks have arrived all over the place. They are in convenience stores, magazine stores, libraries, airports and train stations. They all come with their own WiFi network and are very user friendly.

Many combine loyalty and the profiling that we continue to enjoy from Amazon, giving us recommendations on what we may enjoy reading and the instructions are simple enough for most people to step through.

If you’re heading for a flight or will have time to read the book within 21 days you don’t even have to buy them any more. International libraries mean that pretty much any book you could want to read can be available to you on demand.

Personally a favorite feature for me is the international eBook gift registry system. I remember a couple of years ago when I was having a browse at the kiosk at Schiphol Airport on the way back from a location based marketing conference in Amsterdam and saw that my wife had prepaid for copy of the second in the new Stephen King Joyland series for me to read on the flight home. Just as well she doesn’t read King books though or I might never get her into an amusement park again!

The other thing I love about these kiosks is we now get books released all over the world at the same time, which was one of the reasons I used to buy my books from Amazon, I didn’t want to wait 2-3 months after the official US launch of King books before the publishers launched the new best seller here in New Zealand to coincide with Fathers’ Day.

Anyway, RIP Borders, you left too soon. It’s a shame you stopped innovating. You didn’t need to go under, you just needed to be smarter than the rest which you used to be. It’s funny how industries work so hard to create a self fulfilling prophesy that they can blame when things go wrong.

The cool thing is that people haven’t stopped reading. If anything they are reading more than ever and smart writers and publishers are doing very well:)

The Super Debate in New Zealand

The debate over retirement age and superannuation just got interesting in New Zealand and in ways I certainly didn’t expect. Treasury increased the age of eligibility for the old age pension from 65 to 67 back in 2013 and now they want to scale it up every year to the age of 70, claiming that the burden is now too high for tax payers with average life expectancy in New Zealand for men and women combined now reaching 84 and almost 40% expected to reach 100.

Holidays may be out for seniors who don’t keep working

A large percentage of seniors actually want to work and recent job sharing programs have proven very popular with many working 2-3 days a week. A survey recently established that not only did people want to keep working in order to maintain their lifestyles, but they enjoyed keeping their minds active and the social contact that comes with employment.

Many businesses have said that they value the experience and the work ethic of the baby boomers, even more so as there are less graduates coming out of New Zealand universities and it takes a number of years before they become financially productive to their companies.

On the other hand there is now a backlash from the new generation of young job seekers claiming that the grey generation is stealing their jobs and forcing them onto unemployment benefits, or to move to better paying jobs in the mines in Australia or the fracking operations in North America.