Is this worth smiling for?

Are you happy when you spend money? I guess the answer depends on what you’re spending the money on but over in China, KFC have just introduced technology which enables a person to pay for their KFC meal with a smile.

Yes, a smile.

Nothing else is needed – no bank card, no phone app. Just a smile.

That’s a pretty advanced system and involves facial recognition technology.

Customers who want to get their dose of fast food at the KFC branch in Hangzhou can leave their cash and cards behind and instead smile at a scanner, press confirm and then hey presto you’ve paid for your meal without moving your hands and you will soon be tucking into your Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Payment is taken from a cash account which has been linked to the person’s face.

China has some of the most advanced facial scanning technology in the world. Collecting images of the public doesn’t need any consent in China and the technology is likely to spread.

For example, it’s been reported that students in several universities in China are now registering by scanning their faces and lecturers will soon be able to track the facial expressions of students to see how well they are following the lectures.

It may be advisable for these students to master the act of hiding those yawns during a boring lecture and instead start to practice for the KFC they’re planning to get after the lecture…

This is how not to do first aid in the office.

Having people trained in the office to undertake first aid is an important health and safety feature.

Organisations can send people to health and safety training or like the organisation in the video below, can get health and safety professionals to provide on site demonstrations.

Now, whilst most demos will be educational and very professional, as the video below shows, this particular demonstration was more like a slapstick comedy film.

A volunteer was asked to pretend that he was injured but unfortunately when the health and safety “professional” came into the demonstration he accidentally knocked over a shelf which then fell onto the “pretend victim” who suddenly became the “real victim”.

Luckily for all concerned nobody was seriously injured and if you want to see a fine slapstick comedy moment demonstration of health and safety then enjoy the video below.

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An awkward mistake.

Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person by mistake? What about posting something on social media which, with hindsight you’d wished you hadn’t?

We all make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world but I’ve got a feeling that Magnús Örn Hákonarson will be remembering his recent mistake for a while to come.

Magnús is in charge of his employer’s social media activities and recently what was supposed to be a private message was posted on his employer’s Facebook page.

Magnus works for The Landsbjargar’s Accident Investigation Company in Iceland and he accidentally posted an invite to a party to all the followers of the company. To add to the excitement, this wasn’t a normal party but was an invite to all the followers to take part in a bondage party with a fetish dress code.

The invitation highlighted the dress code as fetish or alternative and included information about safe words, leather masks and whips. Members of the BDSM society Magnus was a member of were able to buy the tickets for 1,000 ISK (£7) whilst non-members had to pay 3,000 ISK (£21).

As soon as he realised his mistake he removed the party invitation from the company’s Facebook page.

Whether or not his colleagues knew about his hobby is by the by. They certainly do now and the nice thing about it is that his employers realised it was a genuine mistake and have been very supportive.

Given his interest in BDSM he might have been slightly disappointed that he wasn’t punished but instead his employers issued a statement saying “There are many people with different backgrounds and interests within the volunteer group. People are engaged in all kinds of sports and hobbies and the rescue team’s board of directors will not distinguish these interests, as long as they are legal.”

All in all, nothing to beat yourself up about.

OMG – will these hit the shelves?

Procter & Gamble, or P&G as it’s commonly known, is one of the world’s largest companies and has an incredible portfolio of products including Gillette, Head & Shoulders shampoo and Pampers nappies.

The business was set up in 1837 by two gentlemen called, yes you guessed it, Mr Procter and Mr Gamble.

Since then it has grown to become a huge organisation and is now quoted on the New York stock exchange. It has annual sales in excess of $15bn.

A recent trademark application in the US though could indicate that there may well be some new brand names joining their portfolio.

They have made applications for trademarks on household and personal care products for certain “text speak”. Or to be more precise they have filed an application for terms including “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud) and “NBD” (No Big Deal).

The move seems to be an attempt to target the tech savvy millennial generation who have grown up with this tech speak.

It’s not certain yet whether we will see cleaning products called LOL and NBD as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has sought clarifications from P&G and they have until January to respond.

One other interesting term which has been included in the application is “WTF”.

Could we soon be seeing “WTF Cleaner” on supermarket shelves?

Explaining what “WTF” stands for is a bit rude to print here so if you don’t know what it means then one of the quickest ways to find out is to say “WTF” when your boss next asks you to do something.

Grant Thornton fined £4million.

Grant Thornton, the mid-tier accounting firm has been fined £4m and reprimanded by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

So, what did they do wrong?

It was all to do with a lack of independence during audits of Nichols plc (the company that makes the soft drink Vimto) and the University of Salford.

The background to the issue involves Eric Healey. Mr Healey was a former senior partner of Grant Thornton who was engaged by them to provide services under a consultancy agreement. This in itself wasn’t a problem but what was a problem was that he joined the audit committees of both Nichols plc and the University of Salford at the same time.

The FRC highlighted that this created serious familiarity and self-interest threats which resulted in the loss of independence during eight audits over a period of four years.

Putting it another way, Grant Thornton were paying a consultant who at the same time was in a senior position within the audit committee of two clients. There were clear independence issues.

The FRC said that “The standards were breached on a number of occasions over a long period and in a significant way; given the nature of the risks posed, the breaches required the resignation of Grant Thornton as auditors of both Nichols and the University but as set out in the particulars, they did not in fact so resign but signed off on all of the audits with unqualified opinions.

The firm obtained audit fees in respect of the audits totalling approximately £560,000 in circumstances where it has admitted it should not have undertaken the relevant audit engagements and that doing so constituted misconduct.”

Grant Thornton’s fine of £4m was discounted for settlement to £3m and Mr Healey was given a 5-year ban together with a fine of £200,000 which was discounted for settlement to £150,000 (discounted for settlement in effect means that they agreed with matters and paid the fine within a set time period of time).

Grant Thornton issued a statement which said “Grant Thornton has reached a settlement agreement with our regulators on this matter, which relates to audits dating up to eight years ago. Whilst the focus of the investigation was not on our technical competence in carrying out either of these audit assignments, the matter of ethical conduct and independence is equally of critical importance in ensuring the quality of our work and it is regrettable that we fell short of the standards expected of us on this occasion.

As we have since made significant investments in our people and processes and remain committed to continuous improvement in this regard, we are confident that such a situation should not arise in the future.”

Full details of the case can be found here.

Something to crow about…

At the time of writing the Puy du Fou historical theme park in France has got over 12,000 TripAdvisor reviews and a 5 star rating. It’s clearly a very successful theme park and it’s the second most visited theme park in France behind Disneyland Paris.

The staff at the theme park no doubt work very hard to keep it running smoothly but they are about to be joined by 6 new colleagues who are very different.

The new colleagues will be working hard as well but they are different in that they won’t receive a salary and they won’t have fixed working hours.

Oh, and they are different in that they are crows.

Yes, the 6 “new joiners” are birds.

These aren’t just any birds though. They are birds who have been trained to pick up cigarette ends and other small pieces of rubbish. In exchange for dropping this rubbish in a specially designed rubbish box they will receive a small bit of bird food as a reward.

Nicolas de Villiers of the Puy du Fou park was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying “The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean” but also to show that “nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment”.

A very nice initiative by the park and certainly something to crow about…

PwC, a Bishop and a thief…

What do you do if you work for PwC and you’re due to be promoted to a partner in October?

Well, if you’re Max Livingstone-Learmonth the answer is to catch a suspected handbag thief.

Now, this in itself is admirable but Mr Livingstone-Learmonth did it in style as he was actually dressed as a bishop.

“A future partner of PwC dressed as a bishop?” I hear you ask.

Although it may sound strange that he was dressed as a bishop, he was in fact in fancy dress as he was part of a charity world record attempt for the longest non-stop relay.

He was running as part of the I Move London Relay. This involved 2,500 runners taking it in turns to carry a relay baton over a combined distance of 4,000 miles by running 10km and 5km loops continuously over 30 days and nights in central London.

Mr Livingstone-Learmonth was part of the team of runners and according to London’s Evening Standard newspaper, he saw a woman chasing a man who had reportedly taken her bag. He then sprinted 100 metres to her rescue and caught up with the thief keeping him pinned to the wall until the police arrived.

He told the newspaper that “I’m not religious but it does feel a bit like divine intervention that I was there”.

He went on to explain that “A guy shouted, ‘stop that man’, and it was just pure instinct to run after him. I caught up to him and pinned him to a wall with my crosier.”

“I said, ‘It’s not your day if you’ve been run down by a bishop’,” he added.

So, well done to the future partner but one thing is even more impressive – during the struggle he kept hold of the relay baton. If he had dropped it the Guinness World Record attempt would have been jeopardised as it would not have been a complete relay.

Nice work Mr Livingstone-Learmonth.

Apple is bigger than these countries…

The latest quarterly results of Apple have just been released and they are pretty impressive.

The tech giant’s revenue increased by 17% when compared to the corresponding quarter last year. It was a new record of $53.3bn.

Profit was also up by nearly a third to $11.5bn.

Interestingly, the number of units they sold was below expectations but they sold more of their higher value phones (i.e. the iPhone X) than anticipated so their profits beat analysts’ expectations (an interesting example of a sales mix variance for those of you who like your variances).

These are pretty big figures and even more impressive when you think that they are only the quarterly results.

The stock market reacted favourably and their share price has risen. This has resulted in a significant market capitalisation for the company.

At the time of writing this, their market capitalisation (or in simple terms, their valuation) is above $1 trillion and they are the first company to reach such an impressive valuation.

$1 trillion is a big figure and writing it out in full makes it seem even bigger – $1,000,000,000,000 – but it got me thinking about how the valuation of Apple compares to the GDP of individual countries.

In simple terms, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the value of all goods and services a country makes in a time period.

The World Bank have released the 2017 annual rankings of over 200 economies and the 30 largest countries on the list are shown below.

As you can see, Apple’s valuation is only beaten by the GDP of 16 countries. All the other countries have a smaller GDP than the value of Apple.

1 United States – $19,390bn
2 China – $12,237bn
3 Japan – $4,872bn
4 Germany – $3,677bn
5 United Kingdom – $2,622bn
6 India – $2,597bn
7 France – $2,582bn
8 Brazil – $2,055bn
9 Italy – $1,934bn
10 Canada – $1,653bn
11 Russian – $1,577bn
12 Korea, Rep. – $1,530bn
13 Australia – $1,323bn
14 Spain – $1,311bn
15 Mexico – $1,149bn
16 Indonesia – $1,015bn

APPLE – $1,000bn

17 Turkey – $851bn
18 Netherlands – $826bn
19 Saudi Arabia – $683bn
20 Switzerland – $678bn
21 Argentina – $637bn
22 Sweden – $538bn
23 Poland – $524bn
24 Belgium – $492bn
25 Thailand – $455bn
26 Iran – $439bn
27 Austria – $416bn
28 Norway – $398bn
29 UAE – $382bn
30 Nigeria – $375bn

In case other companies are looking on jealously that Apple have a valuation higher than most countries, they could always set their sights on beating the GDP of number 200 on the World Bank rankings – Tuvalu in the South Pacific has a GDP of $40 million.

Put the kettle on (or maybe not?)

Tea and coffee have been around for a long, long time. Many a person has grabbed a strong coffee to keep them going over a long day in the office or a long night studying.

Coffee is said to originate from East Africa where legend has it that a 9th century Ethiopian goat herder by the name of Starbucks Kaldi noticed that after his goats had ate some coffee beans they started bouncing around like teenagers at the local disco.

This started the journey of coffee and associated caffeine hits so loved by students around the world.

Tea however is often seen as a healthier option but the tea industry is facing several challenges at the moment. In particular, the 16 to 34 age group in the UK are changing their drinking habits.

Only 1 in 6 people in this age group now drink 5 or more cups of tea a day.

People in the 55 to 64 age group on the other hand drink twice as much tea.

And the reason for the reduction in drinking tea amongst the younger population?

A number of reasons have been put forward. These include the fact that the younger generation feel that black tea could stain their teeth. It is also felt to be unhealthy given the amount of caffeine black tea contains.

It’s not all bad news for the tea industry though as the younger generation are drinking more green teas and fruit teas. Green tea is claimed to enhance brain function and sales are up by 39% over the last two years.

The increase in green tea sales though has failed to stop the fall in overall tea sales as the combined market in tea was down 5%.

Maybe the famous quote “Keep calm and drink tea” should be changed to say “Keep calm and drink green tea”…

Gentlemen, you’ve got 55 seconds to beat your best…

One of life’s great mysteries for men when they are at a bar or club is why women always seem to go to the ladies “powder room” in groups.

There could soon be an equally mysterious occurrence that women will puzzle over and that is why men will soon disappear to the “gents” together during a social evening out.

Well, it won’t be to adjust their makeup or to catch up on the local gossip.

No, if UK company Captive Media has anything to do with it the visits to the toilet by men could soon be a great marketing opportunity.

It’s been estimated that on a night out a man spends on average 55 seconds relieving himself each time he visits the urinals in the gents (if you ever saw a person with a clipboard and a stopwatch behind you at the urinals now you know why…)

In the eyes of Captive Media this represents a great advertising opportunity as rather than staring blankly at the wall in front of you (or telling the person with the clipboard and stopwatch to go away) they have developed a urinal-based games console which allows men to, how can we say it but aim and shoot at targets with their “stream”.

The games are mixed with adverts and include for example a downhill skiing game which is controlled by your “stream”.

It remains to be seen what products will be advertised in this way but one thing for sure ladies is that if your boyfriend or husband returns from the gents whilst you’re out together on a social evening and he says that he’s just beaten his personal best then you know what it refers to.