Enough is Enough

Troy Shull did everything right as he planned for a career as an electrical engineer. He studied the subject in college and earned a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Southern Methodist University. He even notched an MBA from the University of Texas. For more than the next two decades, he was employed in the profession.
Today, he runs a company called Plaid Squirrel that sells plush toy pillows called FuzzyHeads.
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Capturing images, data at Corbis

Big data is making it easier to search the company’s epic volume of pictorial images.

By analyzing reams of metadata, Corbis Corp. is making the creation of magazines, websites, and films easier for the tens of thousands of customers that rely on the company’s extraordinary collection of stock images.

This archive includes more than 100 million photographs and 800,000 video clips, an epic volume of pictorial images. In the days before computers and the Internet, one would need to view these images page-by-page, flipping from one image to the next in a catalog of “landscapes” or “celebrity portraits” to license the best one for, say, a new advertisement.

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Using Data to Change the Way We Rent Cars

Zipcar has established a foothold in the rental car industry by pinpointing when and where people need cars.

New technology is great, unless a company happens to be in an industry that the technology seeks to displace. Then, you either follow suit or run the risk of being tomorrow’s horse and buggy, record store or VHS player.

Such is the case with the rental car industry in the aftermath of commercial car-sharing, represented most prominently by Zipcar, which offers an entirely new way of renting an automobile to get about. Rental car companies initially shrugged off the pipsqueak competitor, until reality set in — for good business reasons.

Phil Shelley, president of Newton Park Partners, says Zipcar is the latest iteration of technology similar to that first used by OnStar, just in a different commercial context.

Phil Shelley, president of Newton Park Partners, says Zipcar is the latest iteration of technology similar to that first used by OnStar, just in a different commercial context.

With Zipcar, a would-be driver downloads the company’s mobile app and taps on the screen to learn where the nearest Zipcar is located, usually just a few blocks away in a big city. The driver books the car online for a couple hours or the whole day, walks to where it is parked, and holds the points the Zipcard app at the windshield. The doors magically unlock and the motorist is off and rolling — gas and insurance included. “It’s a smarter way to get around the city,” the company advertises. “Touch down. Zip off.”

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Wearable Devices Monitor How Salespeople Talk

Improving the way employees communicate with customers is crucial to increased sales. Now there’s wearable technology that can show salespeople how they’re doing.

Sociometric Solutions has developed sensors that are attached to an employee’s ID badge and can measure the length and quality of conversations the salesperson has with retail customers.

The sensors — microphones with real time voice-processing software — don’t record the conversations but analyze the sounds to determine tone of voice, how quickly someone talks and volume modulation (if the speaker is emotive or flat). Another sensor, a motion detector, gauges the employee’s posture to discern closeness to others when speaking as well as fatigue. Proprietary algorithms then interpret the varying data and compare it to sales performance.

For Bank of America’s call center operation, the wearable technology identified a need for closer-knit work groups, which helped increase call-handling productivity by 12 percent and helped reduce turnover from 40 percent to 12 percent.

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Cooling Data Centers Generate New Energy Sources

Several companies are taking the necessary steps to reduce the carbon footprints of their data centers

Cooling servers and other computer equipment account for nearly 40 percent the energy consumed by data centers, according to a recent paper by Emerson Network Power.

Now such companies as KPMG and eBay are looking to convert the exhaust heat from this process into energy, and in doing so, reduce their electricity costs and energy footprints. They are using different me[thods that lead to a similar result: greater energy self-sufficiency.

Data centers — large groups of networked computer servers used for the remote storage, processing and distribution of large amounts of data — are energy gluttons. They’re responsible for more than 2 percent of electricity usage in the United States, according to a report by Villanova University. Another study by The New York Times found that data centers use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear plants.

“For every watt of computer power consumed by a data center, it takes another watt to cool it,” says Dennis Symanski, senior technical leader and data center expert at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

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How The Internet Of Things Is Helping Battle Water Shortages

Just in time to do battle with the worst drought in a generation, Santa Clarita City in California retrofitted its antiquated irrigation controllers, sprinkling water throughout 700 acres of parks, medians and other cityscape and saving more than 180 million gallons of water. The new system incorporated sophisticated sensors and data analytics, using the Internet of Things(IoT) to keep lawns — and municipal goals — green.

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ERM from the Top

Since its founding in 1895, Lincoln Electric has been a top-down driven company. John C. Lincoln launched the business with a capital investment of only $200 and a focus on electric motors. In 1911, Lincoln and his younger brother, James, hit upon the product that would define their future—the world’s first variable-voltage, single-operator, portable welding machine.

Today, Lincoln Electric is a Fortune 1000 company that manufactures welding products, arc welding equipment and robotic welding systems. That original $200 has more than paid off—sales in 2012 were a record $2.9 billion.

When the company’s risk manager, John Hach, saw an opportunity to move Lincoln Electric to an enterprise risk management (ERM) platform, he knew he needed company leaders to champion the project.
This interview is part of a continuing RIMS Q&A series spotlighting ERM practitioners. For more, visit the RIMS Strategic and Enterprise Risk Center at www.RIMS.org/ERM.

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Political Risk and the Supply Chain

Every global risk manager is finely attuned to the weather, given the potentially devastating impact Mother Nature can have on supply chains. But another kind of storm can unravel international operations—one that effects the political climate.

As this year’s events in Ukraine have vividly demonstrated, formerly stable political regimes can quickly falter and fail. Even a staunch ally like Egypt, once a safe destination for tourists, can become a questionable place to do business in an instant. Economic factors like rising interest rates in the United States can also create political and economic havoc in emerging countries that have thus far benefited from record-low borrowing rates.

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Coping with Black Swans

The insurance and reinsurance industries are in business to take bets on risks that can be identified, assessed, prioritized and planned for financially. Disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, massive asbestos-like litigation and even terrorist attacks fit the bill. But what about so-called Black Swan events?

A Black Swan is a disaster or series of cascading disasters that no one saw coming—hence there was no way to identify, assess, prioritize and plan for the impact. The term apocryphally derives from the settlement of Australia by the British, who had seen white swans before but never a black one.

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