Microsoft Modern Keyboard With 'Hidden' Fingerprint Scanner Launched

HIGHLIGHTS

  • New Microsoft Modern Keyboard comes with a fingerprint scanner
  • It has been priced at $129.99 (roughly Rs. 8,500)
  • The fingerprint scanner is embedded inside the right Windows key

Microsoft on Thursday silently unveiled a new keyboard, called the Microsoft Modern Keyboard. Priced at Rs. $129.99 (roughly Rs. 8,500), the new Modern Keyboard is listed as “coming soon” on the company’s US website with no word when the accessory will go on sale. The highlight of the keyboard is that it comes with a fingerprint scanner that just looks like any other key on the keyboard.

“Our vision was to blend the Fingerprint reader into a keyboard, so it would appear to be any other key. We iterated relentlessly to improve each layer, making sure they came together to create a flawless typing experience that felt like any other key,” Microsoft says on the product page of the Modern Keyboard.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard With 'Hidden' Fingerprint Scanner Launched

The keyboard comes with aluminium frame and Microsoft claims it sports “highest quality” and is “virtually indestructible.”

The Modern Keyboard will allow Windows 10 users to enable Windows Hello fingerprint authentication on their devices. The fingerprint scanner has been placed on the second Windows key on the right side of the keyboard, and can be used for signing in to the system or any website using Windows Hello.

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint Scanner will work will Windows 8 and above devices, macOS 10.10.5 and above devices, Android 4.2 and above, and iOS 8 and iOS 9. Users need to make sure that the device should support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher for the Microsoft Modern Keyboard to work. Microsoft will also let users choose between using the Modern Keyboard with wireless/ wired interface.

It comes with dimensions 420.9×112.6×19.3mm and weighs roughly 420 grams. The wireless Microsoft Modern Keyboard runs on two AAA alkaline rechargeable batteries. Microsoft claims a battery life of up to 2 months on full charge. The Redmond giant will be offering one-year limited warranty on the keyboard.

'Marketing Is About Inspiration': CMO Leadership Talk With Telefónica/O2's Nina Bibby

What makes a successful marketing leader? In this interview series, I’m meeting up with leading CMOs to discuss the secrets of marketing leadership: what works, and what doesn’t. This time: Nina Bibby, CMO of Telefonica UK (O2).

Thomas Barta: Hi, Nina. I always like to start off with a simple question: What’s great about being a leader in marketing?

Nina Bibby: At its best, marketing is about inspiration: inspiring customers to choose us, buy from us, stay with us and recommend us. It is also about inspiring colleagues behind our customer offer. We are storytellers. Of course, we need to craft that story and ensure there is a compelling fact base behind that story — but we are storytellers. And marketing leaders need to be chief storytellers, engaging and aligning the entire organization behind delivering our best for the customer. It’s very exciting to inspire your colleagues to get behind an ambition. That’s one of the reasons I love marketing.

Barta: Can you share a story that helped you energize your colleagues?

Bibby: Just after I joined InterContinental Hotels (IHG) as senior VP for Global Brand Management, I was handed the massive task of relaunching Holiday Inn globally — the biggest hospitality relaunch in history in terms of number of hotels, number of countries, etc. I was new to the industry and I was new to the company. So, getting the engagement and the belief from many colleagues was pretty hard. This wasn’t just about engaging people at IHG but also about energizing the many franchisees. The way we engaged people was by retelling the story of Holiday Inn from its inception to the current time. We used many quotes from customers about what they loved about the Holiday Inn brand. Those stories and the link with Holiday Inn’s heritage are what helped us win the hearts and minds of all staff involved.

Barta: What’s marketing’s reputation inside your C-suite?

Bibby: We’ve got a firm seat at the top table. We’re fortunate that marketing has P&L accountability at O2, so we are accountable for revenue and for profit. We’ve got pricing within marketing, products, promotion, of course, insights and analytics — it’s very comprehensive. Both on the Executive Committee and on the Management Board, marketing is present. Equally important, our brand is a great source of pride internally, and the organization feels almost a sense of responsibility to do what is best by that brand. Our former CEO used to say, “We are a brand that runs a business, not a business that runs a brand.” Marketing, brand, and customers are up front and visible, and acknowledged to be the most important drivers of our success.

Barta: How do you manage the tension between what customers want and what your CEO wants?

Bibby: I have a simple mantra: “We have to create value for our customers in order to create value from our customers.” It’s got to be a win–win. At O2, for example, we have a digital loyalty program called Priority, where we give people early access to unforgettable live experiences in rugby, entertainment, or music. The program is one of the reasons people choose us and stay with us. But I’m also clear about the value Priority creates for us. We’ve known exactly the loyalty and churn benefits — and the financial impact. We’re creating value for our customers, and we’re creating value for the business.

Barta: Has leading marketing changed from the time when you started to today (if at all)?

Bibby: Because of the ubiquity of digital channels and social media, it’s a more transparent world. As marketers, we have to understand that we’re not going to control all the conversations or all the narratives, and it’s become more challenging for brands to cut through the noise. As we’re a service business, consistency and excellence of the experience is paramount because every interaction is a representative of the brand experience. In fact, everybody who works here is delivering the brand experience, and therefore, I go back to my earlier point that it’s so important to inspire all colleagues. If you can’t inspire your colleagues, you’re not going to be able to inspire your customers. Inspiring colleagues, having them all understand the importance of what we’re trying to do for the customer, making sure everybody’s pointing in the same direction is more vital than ever before.

Ubiquity of digital also brings opportunities, of course, such as the ability to have more personal interactions with customers. I want to create value for customers through every interaction. In order to do that, we use data-driven customer insight to power personalization, ensuring a consistent O2 experience that delivers to customers’ needs.

Credit: Telefonica / O2

Barta: In our research for “The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader,” we’ve learned that successful CMOs don’t just talk about customers — but get their hands dirty and go to the frontline. Do you agree?

Bibby: Absolutely. As a board, we’ve committed that we go to as many of our stores as we can. We talk not just to store leaders but to all the store colleagues or the people in our contact centers. That way, we hear firsthand what customers are saying, what’s working, what’s not working. Last summer, one store manager told me, “How come you do so much research amongst customers, but you don’t do research amongst us?” I thought, “Yeah, that’s a really good point.” We have a permanent panel of customers to test ideas quickly, why not for frontline colleagues. So, we’ve launched the equivalent panel for our retail and contact center staff because they are hearing and seeing what works every single day. Just yesterday, I did store visits in the west of the country again. I think that’s absolutely critical, for marketing leaders to leave the office!

Barta: What’s going to be your biggest future leadership challenge?

Bibby: For me, I guess there’s a couple of things. Leadership was always about having the right team, the right people. The team is number one, two, and three of what I’ve got to get right. This means to make sure we have the right people at the table, that we’re developing them, that we’re coaching them, and let them go to another role when the time is right. Also, the workplace is changing, and therefore, peoples’ expectations are changing, too. Because of digital, we all have the ability to work more flexibly today. In fact, flexible work options are a huge part of what O2 offers. The other challenge on the horizon is the convergence of customer expectations across sectors. Customers expect to receive the same level of service, the same immediacy of fulfillment across their transactions. Why wouldn’t they? We have to continually innovate and re-engineer to ensure we are meeting these expectations.

Barta: Nina, in your organization, what makes you a role model?

Bibby: I’d say I hope I’m a positive role model. First off, I’m a working mother, which is still perhaps too rare on executive committees and boards. I strive to make life work. I love my work. I’m passionate about it; it excites me. Of course, I adore my family, and I’m passionate about them and devoted to them. These are not mutually exclusive things. I’m not trying to balance them. I want to embrace them, and I want my team to see and feel it’s about making life work versus work–life balance. And I think that’s a really important message — getting away from the guilt.

I guess the other thing is customer first. I am always the one who is loudest, strongest, most vocal about “Where’s the customer in this?”

Barta: What’s the most important leadership advice you’d love to give to other people?

Bibby: If you want to get true “engagement,” you’ve got to really invest time. People value your complete attention and focus on them as individuals. It’s about letting people know that you’ll support them. You are only going to grow if you encourage risk-taking. And if you take risks, mistakes will be made. That’s just a fact. Your people need to know you’ve got their back. Mistakes are going to happen, and that’s okay.

My other advice: Let go of your ego. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability, to say, “I’ve been there. This is how I learnt. This is how I grew from that position.”

Barta: Nina, many thanks for your thoughts.

Marketing leadership expert and keynote speaker Thomas Barta is a former McKinsey partner and the author of the new leadership book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader (with Patrick Barwise).

Prefer App Aims to Reinvent the Gig Economy with Client Relationships

The gig economy has given so many more options to professionals looking to provide services, and to businesses and individuals looking to hire skilled professionals. But the process hasn’t always been very personal.

Typically, when someone is looking to hire a professional, they might look for reviews online or even use an app to find the closest service provider. But now, there’s an app that’s aiming to make personal recommendations a bigger part of the process.Prefer App Aims to Reinvent the Gig Economy with Client Relationships

The Prefer App

The app is called Prefer. It’s one part review site and one part social network. Instead of simply searching for a service provider and seeing a one-dimensional ratings scale, you can use the app to connect with people you know and trust and then see their personal recommendations.

This type of thing could be a big win for those working in the gig economy. If you’re a professional who values building relationships with clients and providing really top-notch service, personal recommendations can be a whole lot more effective than a simple star rating that’s based mostly on the opinions of strangers.

Personal recommendations have always been a big part of how small businesses succeed. But for ages, those referrals have taken place mainly by word of mouth. If an app like Prefer can help businesses and professionals leverage technology to increase the reach of those personal recommendations, it could mean a big boost for the gig economy as a whole.

Currently, the service is only available in New York City. But those interested in using the Prefer app in other cities can sign up to be alerted when it becomes available.

5 Industries Struggling with the Current Economy

Now that the market is strong for many industries, and banks are feeling more generous when it comes to lending, entrepreneurs around the country are considering business startups. However, it’s important to recognize that the market has major ups and downs, and with 90 percent of startups failing, it’s best to avoid a tanking industry. Here are a few things you should know about struggling industries and how to avoid any detrimental experiences.

1. Oil

Oil and gas companies are struggling severely right now. While oil and gas experienced an economic boom at the end of the second quarter in 2014, things have made a turn for the worst. The number of operating oil rigs has diminished significantly, as the price of a barrel of oil has been cut almost in half since June 2014.

Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs as a result of uneven supply and demand. In the United States, oil production has nearly doubled over the last six years. It was booming at the start, but since that time, we can’t keep up with the endless supply of oil that has been drilled.

Though every oil company has taken a direct hit, many have been able to fight the economic downturn by improving their efficiencies.  This involves cutting capital expenditures and reducing debt. By cutting down on any unnecessary expenses and labor costs, these companies have been able to find a productive niche in a difficult economy. This will keep them going until the oil industry improves.

2. Gas Stations

As a direct result of the oil downturn, gas stations are also having a difficult time turning a profit. Gas and diesel prices are among the most competitive in the country, and since gas stations have had to lower their prices significantly to stay competitive, revenues have remained fairly stagnant. Sales have fallen 1.4 percent as gas stations struggle to stay afloat in an economy where oil is at a surplus.

Once again, the best way to fight against this struggle is for gas companies to improve efficiency. Reducing labor costs, improving facilities, and making employees more productive can reduce debt expenditures.

3. Grocery Stores

Though food is an ever-present need, small-chain grocery stores have struggled recently. This is mostly due to the boom of online shopping. Major retailers have begun providing online shopping for groceries, which makes it difficult for the little man to compete. In addition, big box stores often receive products in wholesale quantities, which means that they can offer far better prices than smaller stores.

Independent stores have their work cut out for them when it comes to beating out their larger competitors. In this instance, it’s best for storeowners to take a look at their marketing tactics. What can they offer to consumers that big stores can’t? Focus is generally on better customer service, weekly sales, event sponsorships, and local marketing. Even though large corporations are known for their better prices, smaller companies can be known for their pleasant atmospheres.

4. Metals and Minerals

Companies that specialize in metal-related industries have experienced a slight drop in sales over the last year, indicating that the industry is facing some challenges. The prices have been forecast to drop as much as five percent over the next year, as well. There is a direct correlation between the drop in oil prices and the drop in metalworking. The dollar has also been getting stronger, which has a negative impact on gold, aluminum, copper, and other metals.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done on the business end about the current reduction in metal pricing. This one relies heavily on the economy and its volatility. The one thing that could help would be if the Fed finally raised rates. This would help multiple areas of the economy, as well as debt reduction.

5. Paper Companies

Not only is everything going digital, but the economic movement is also taking a toll on the paper company. As more companies and consumers switch to paperless, paper companies are struggling to keep up.

Honestly, when it comes to paper, the outlook isn’t good. Even though paper is an important part of business processing and likely won’t die out completely, it will become increasingly difficult for paper companies to maintain their sales. The best advice is to take a look at products and services and consider how to augment them.

For example, instead of offering only paper products, companies can offer accessories, like printers and compatible technologies. Some paper companies are even turning to selling digital software in order to enhance their sales when companies decide to reduce their paper use.

The main takeaway from this discussion is that just because an industry is difficult, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. If you understand the ups and downs of the industry, and how the market is currently operating, you’ll better understand how to turn the market around for your benefit. Once you jump into a struggling industry, your ideas for improvement will have free reign.

Moto C Plus With Android 7.0 Nougat Set to Launch in India Soon

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Moto C Plus expected to launch soon in India
  • It highlights a 4000mAh battery
  • The Moto C is priced at Rs. 5,999

After launching the Moto C in India earlier this month, Lenovo brand Moto is gearing up to bring the larger Moto C Plus to the Indian market, according to its latest teaser. Both the phones were first unveiled in May offering entry-level specifications at affordable prices. The Moto C has been priced at Rs. 5,999 in the country, and we’ll know how the Moto C Plus will be priced soon enough.

Moto India tweeted a brief video on Monday suggesting that the launch of the Moto C Plus is at hand. The company is yet to specify the exact date and timing of the launch. The Moto C Plus looks similar to the Moto C in terms of design, but differs slightly when it comes to some internal specifications.

For starters, the Moto C Plus runs on Android Nougat and sports a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display. It is powered by a 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6737 quad-core Cortex-A53 SoC paired with 1GB or 2GB of RAM. You also get 16GB of inbuilt storage, which is expandable via a microSD slot (up to 32GB).

Moto C Plus With Android 7.0 Nougat Set to Launch in India Soon

In terms of optics, the Moto C Plus features an 8-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture, 1.12 micron pixels, autofocus, 71-degree field of view and an LED flash. It also gets a 2-megapixel front-facing camera similar to the Moto C. The smartphone houses a 4000mAh battery that is much larger than the 2350mAh battery inside the Moto C. The former measures 144×72.3×10 mm and weighs 162 grams.

Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, 3.5mm headphone jack, FM and 3G connectivity. Much like the case with the Moto C, the Moto C Plus is also expected to get a 4G VoLTE variant and dual-SIM card slots in India. Given these specifications, you can expect the Moto C Plus to be priced pretty close to the Moto C when it launches.

Motorola Moto C Plus

Motorola Moto C Plus

Rs. 8,300
Buy
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS

Display

5.00-inch

Processor

1.3GHz quad-core

Front Camera

2-megapixel

Resolution

720×1280 pixels

RAM

2GB

OS

Android 7.0

Storage

16GB

Rear Camera

8-megapixel

Battery Capacity

4000mAh

BUY AT
  • Motorola Moto C Plus
    Rs. 8,300

Intex FitRist Cardio With Heart Rate Sensor Launched at Rs. 1,499

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The fitness tracker can also display message and call notifications
  • Intex FitRist Cardio is available to buy exclusively via Amazon India
  • Activity tracking band is compatible with both Android and iOS phones

Intex on Wednesday unveiled a new version of its FitRist activity tracker, called FitRist Cardio. Adding heart rate tracking to the fitness band’s capabilities, Intex has made the FitRist Cardio available to buy exclusively via Amazon India in Black colour variant, with a price of Rs. 1,499. At its price, it takes on the Xiaomi Mi Band 2, which was launched at Rs. 1,999 last year with a heart rate sensor and OLED display.

The Intex FitRist Cardio fitness band sports a 2.18cm OLED display with a 96×32 pixels resolution, and it weighs about 26 grams. The company boasts of Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity on the activity tracker, with which it connects to Android (v4.4 and above) and iOS (v7.0 and above) smartphones. It can also receive OTA updates via a connected smartphone. The FitRist Cardio bears a 80mAh battery that’s rated to deliver up to 7 days of battery life. It is water resistant, and features a heart rate sensor, sleep monitor, hydration alarm, and a step/ calorie counter.Intex FitRist Cardio With Heart Rate Sensor Launched at Rs. 1,499

The company adds that the FitRist Cardio can provide Facebook, WhatsApp, and SMS message notifications. On Android phones, the fitness tracker will display incoming calls with caller ID, however, on iPhone models, the band will display the call icon if the contact is stored on the phone, and will display the phone number if the contact isn’t stored. The Intex FitRist Cardio also has an ‘anti-lost’ function that will help locate the fitness band if it gets lost.

Finally, Intex is also boasting of a couple of other features on the FitRist Cardio. Users can control their smartphone’s playlist with the MP3 control feature, while a remote shutter feature lets users control the camera of their connected smartphones to remotely click pictures.

Commenting on the launch,. Nidhi Markanday, Director & Business Head, Intex Technologies, said, “Since our entry into the wearable segment in 2015, with iRist Smart watch and FitRist band, Intex has been well received by the market and to enrich our bouquet of offerings, Intex FitRist Cardio has been designed to fulfil the needs and become a one-stop solution for those who take their fitness seriously.”

Xiaomi Mi Band Maker Huami Launches Amazfit Health Band With Built-in ECG Chip

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Amazfit fitness brand has been launched at CNY 699
  • The fitness tracker has been launched in China
  • It comes with an inbuilt chip that tracks ECG data

Huami, the company that makes the Mi Band in collaboration with Xiaomi, has unveiled a new fitness tracker under its Amazfit branding. The all-new Amazfit Health Band fitness tracker has been launched at CNY 699 (approximately Rs. 6,500) in China, and will be going on sale in Deep Black, Rose Gold and Sapphire Blue colours.

The Huami Amazfit Health Barnd fitness tracker can be expected to soon go on sale in other markets as Huami has its presence in several western markets including the US.

The Amazfit Health Band comes with all standard features seen in any fitness band. It can record movement and sleep while can monitor heart rate with a PPG photoelectric sensor. The Amazfit Health band also comes with an inbuilt chip that can record ECG data. It is one of the highlight features of the Amazfit Health Band.

Xiaomi Mi Band Maker Huami Launches Amazfit Health Band With Built-in ECG Chip

The band features an OLED display measuring 0.42-inch and can connect to smartphones. The band sports aluminium body and stainless steel casing which measures 19mm in width and weigh only 10 grams.

The Amazfit Health band comes with a 95mAh battery and is said to have battery life of up to 7 days while takes roughly 2.5 hours to fully charge. The Amazfit Health band also comes with IP67 certification which means it can survive in water if submerged up to a metre for around 30 minutes. The China launch was first reported by PhoneRadar.

Last year, Huami in collaboration with Xiaomi launched the first smartwatch, the Amazfit smartwatch in China. It was priced at CNY 799 (roughly Rs. 8,100).

Step Up Your Online Marketing Efforts with These 10 Tips

Today’s businesses need an online marketing strategy to succeed. While every business’s strategy may look a bit different, there are some common threads that hold most of those successful strategies together.

Members of the small business community have plenty of tips to share when it comes to successfully marketing businesses online. Check out their top tips below.

Make Your Way with Social Media

Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to determine the strategy that is going to work best for your business, as Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media discusses here. And Strella elaborated on these suggestions in a conversation in BizSugar community here.

Super Charge Your Local Search Results

Even for local businesses, online marketing can make a huge difference. Local search, for example, can help to bring new faces to your store, restaurant or other local business. To make the most of your local search marketing, check out this Inc article by Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell.

Think About These Things for Your Website’s Social Sharing Features

Letting customers or followers do some of your online marketing for you can really help out and save you time. But you need to make sharing your content easy for them. So in this article at the Social Media Week, Larry Alton suggests some things you should think about when incorporating social sharing buttons into your website.

Keep Up with Marketing Technology Trends

Thanks to technology, online marketing is constantly changing. That means that you need to keep up with the new trends in order to stay relevant to tech savvy consumers. This article at Docurated by Angela Stringfellow includes some marketing technology trends that are poised to re-shape the world of marketing.

Grow Your Website Traffic

Content creation can be a key part of your online marketing strategy. But you need to build traffic in order for your content to be effective. This post on the official dlvr.it blog by Bill Flitter includes a playbook for growing traffic to your content.

Expect These Things When Joining Social Media

As a small business owner, the idea of joining various social media sites and regularly using them as part of your online marketing plan can seem daunting. But if you know what to expect, the process can be a bit easier. Here on NutsPR, Corina Manea shares some things you should expect when joining social media as a small business owner.

Use These Best Practices for Twitter Polls

Twitter’s polling feature can help you to gain insights and interaction from your followers on the platform. And the microblogging site has now revealed some of the best practices that people should use when running polls, which Matt Southern covers in this Search Engine Journal article. BizSugar members also chime in with their own thoughts here.

Consider Starting Your Own Podcast

Lots of businesses have websites and social media accounts. But starting your own podcast can really help you to stand out in today’s business world. Here, Ileane Smith shares some of the benefits that businesses could realize through starting a podcast.

Create a Content Anchor

When creating content for an online audience, the length and quality of your content can make a big difference in how many people see and interact with it. In this post on Blogger Sidekick, Will Blunt discusses the concept of a content anchor and how it could help your online marketing strategy.

Use Influencer Marketing That Works

Influencer marketing is a relatively new concept to a lot of businesses. But it can really jumpstart your online marketing efforts if used correctly. Here, Ann Smarty discusses how small businesses can use influencer marketing in a way that should work both now and in the future.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:  sbtips@gmail.com.

The luxurious lifestyle of the cladding firm couple: Boss who sold materials which covered deadly tower block lives with his secretary wife in a £1 million mansion

Her husband, who entered the curtain-walling business straight from university, has boasted of 25 years of ‘practical experience’ on Harley Facades’s website.

Mr and Mrs Bailey were director and secretary of Harley Curtain Wall, which went bust in 2015, owing creditors £1million, according to reports.

A customer demanded £428,000 for disputed work and the company owed £1.18million in total. But it was later bought for £24,900 by Harley Facades Ltd, Mr Bailey’s other firm, which according to its latest accounts has £151,000 in the bank and made £299,000 profit last year.

Rydon's CEO Robert Bond (pictured with his wife at a classic car event) said last night the work 'met all required building regulations' and was signed off by the council's building control

Rydon's CEO Robert Bond dressed as a clown

Rydon’s CEO Robert Bond (pictured with his wife at a classic car event, and right as a clown on Facebook) said last night the work ‘met all required building regulations’ and was signed off by the council’s building control

The Rydon CEO has an Aston Martin with a private 'Bond' number plate pictured here next to the family's silver Porsche

The Rydon CEO has an Aston Martin with a private ‘Bond’ number plate pictured here next to the family’s silver Porsche

The 27-storey Grenfell building, which was built in 1974 but refurbished last year, has an average of six flats per floor was reclad in a £10m refurbishment completed last year

The 27-storey Grenfell building, which was built in 1974 but refurbished last year, has an average of six flats per floor was reclad in a £10m refurbishment completed last year

Belinda Bailey, pictured on a ski trip, has served as secretary for her husband's cladding company

Belinda Bailey, pictured on a ski trip, has served as secretary for her husband’s cladding company

Their mansion has three buildings with a large, covered swimming pool attached to the main house. Four cars including a Land Rover and a Porsche were parked outside

Their mansion has three buildings with a large, covered swimming pool attached to the main house. Four cars including a Land Rover and a Porsche were parked outside

Harley Facades congratulated themselves on the work they had done at Grenfell on their Facebook page

Harley Facades congratulated themselves on the work they had done at Grenfell on their Facebook page

This aerial photo taken hours after the fire ripped through the tower block shows the devastating scale of the inferno

This aerial photo taken hours after the fire ripped through the tower block shows the devastating scale of the inferno

Burning debris falls from a massive fire that raged in a high-rise apartment building in London and killed at least 17

Burning debris falls from a massive fire that raged in a high-rise apartment building in London and killed at least 17

The company, which installed but did not manufacture the panels at Grenfell Tower, said in a statement they were a ‘commonly used product in the refurbishment industry’.

Mr Bailey, 58, said on Wednesday night: ‘This is an incredibly tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the residents and their families who have suffered such a personal loss. We will fully support and co-operate with the investigations into this fire.

‘At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.’ He was unavailable for further comment yesterday, apparently holed up in his country retreat.

His mansion has three buildings with a large, covered swimming pool attached to the main house. The village of Crowborough is also home to a string of celebrities.

Mr Bailey enjoys skiing and motorsports. He has three sons, twins aged 27 and a 23-year-old.

Away from work, Mrs Bailey appears to own a number of cats and belongs to a breeder’s group on Facebook. Photographs from her profile show her enjoying holidays by the sea and in the Alps. Grenfell Tower was clad last year as part of an £8.6million refurbishment by builders Rydon, whose boss has insisted its work ‘met all required building controls’.

The charred debris likely from Grenfell's cladding lies on grass below the tower  

The charred debris likely from Grenfell’s cladding lies on grass below the tower

A children's play area is filled with debris directly under Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate 

A children’s play area is filled with debris directly under Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate

Cladding is a material attached to a building's frame to create an outer wall (shown in this graphic). The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, shown between the first two layers

Cladding is a material attached to a building’s frame to create an outer wall (shown in this graphic). The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, shown between the first two layers

Councils turned to cladding to meet standards set by Blair government scheme

Cladding became popular as councils sought to meet insulation standards laid out under the Blair Government’s £22billion Decent Homes Programme, which ran from 2000 to 2010.

The programme’s rules dictated that homes should have efficient heating and effective insulation, modern facilities and be in a good state of repair.

For high-rise council blocks, local authorities were faced with either knocking them down, meaning they would have to find or build homes elsewhere, or refurbishing them.

The latter option was much cheaper, despite the millions of pounds then pumped into the scheme.

In London alone, it is believed more than £820million in public funds were paid to contractors to make alterations.

Local authorities turned to cladding the outside of old council house stock, including tower blocks, in a bid to improve the buildings’ appearance and the improve so-called ‘thermal efficiency’ ratings.

A press release by a cladding firm from the time stated: ‘Over-cladding existing homes to improve their energy efficiency as well as aesthetics is proving the solution of choice for local authorities in their bid to meet Decent Homes standards.’

The statement gave examples in Bristol and Lanarkshire where cladding had been used to meet the terms of the programme.

A architect was quoted at the time saying: ‘The main priorities were to eliminate water ingress, improve the thermal efficiency of the blocks, and enhance the physical appearance of the external envelope.’

Rydon boss Robert Bond lives in the circled £2million mansion with swimming pool on a private estate in Orpington, Kent

Rydon boss Robert Bond lives in the circled £2million mansion with swimming pool on a private estate in Orpington, Kent

The construction boss and his wife Tina (pictured) appear to enjoy sailing and exotic holidays around the world

The construction boss and his wife Tina (pictured) appear to enjoy sailing and exotic holidays around the world

Grenfell Tower before the refurbishment

Grenfell Tower after the refurbishment with the cladding

Grenfell Tower before the refurbishment (left) in 2011 and with the new cladding (right)

Chief executive Robert Bond said the work was signed off by the council’s building control officials.

Mr Bond, who has four daughters in their 20s, lives in a £2million mansion on a private estate in Orpington, Kent.

He is believed to own an Aston Martin with a ‘Bond’ number plate. A silver convertible Porsche was parked outside his home yesterday.

His wife Tina answered the door of the property when asked for comment and if her husband was home. She said, ‘Thank you and goodbye’, before closing the door.

The married couple appear to share a love for classic sports cars and have posed together in front of a silver Ferrari.

Mrs Bond’s Facebook account shows the family enjoy a luxury lifestyle, including holidaying on a yacht. One photograph showed her and her daughters posing in bikinis in crystal-clear waters on an exotic holiday to a destination apparently in south-east Asia.

Left, the fire ages through several floors of the Grenfell Tower, centre, the inferno rips through the building towards the top floors and right, firefighters attempt to battle the flames on Wednesday morning

Cladding company has covered six other blocks in panels ‘that went up like a matchstick’ in London ALONE

Fears are growing for hundreds of families living in tower blocks after it was revealed the firm which supplied the panels at the centre of the west London inferno has also carried out similar work across the capital.

Grenfell Tower was equipped with overcladding by East Sussex-based company Harley Facades Limited in a contract valued at £2.6 million.

It has since come to light that the firm has used a similar aluminium composite material (ACM) to clad several high rises and public buildings throughout the UK, raising fears for the safety of thousands of other residents.

Ferrier Point (pictured), a 23-storey block with 115 flats in Newham, east London, was clad in an aluminium composite material in 2015

Four 23-storey tower blocks in Camden, north London were refurbished with the cladding at a cost of £16million

Ferrier Point  left), a 23-storey block with 115 flats in Newham, east London, was clad in an aluminium composite material in 2015. Four 23-storey tower blocks in Camden, north London (pictured right) were refurbished with the cladding at a cost of £16million

Castlemaine Tower, a 23-storey block in Battersea, south London, was clad and refurbished by the firm in 2014

Clements Court in Hounslow, west London

Castlemaine Tower (pictured left), a 23-storey block in Battersea, south London, was clad and refurbished by the firm in 2014, as was Clements Court (right) in Hounslow, west London

Four 23-storey tower blocks in Camden, north London were refurbished with the cladding at a cost of £16million, as was Ferrier Point, a 23-storey block with 115 flats in Newham, east London, in 2015.

Six tower blocks in Harrow, northwest London, were given the rainproof cladding when it was refurbished in 2015 in a contract worth £3.5million, as was the 13-storey Merit House, home to 114 flats in Barnet, north London.

Castlemaine Tower, a 23-storey block in Battersea, south London, was clad and refurbished by the firm in 2014, as was Clements Court in Hounslow, west London.

The material is set to be at the centre of an investigation into fire safety after witnesses claimed it ‘went up like a matchstick’, helping spreading the fire from the fourth floor to the roof in just 15 minutes.

Six tower blocks in Harrow, northwest London, were given the rainproof cladding when it was refurbished in 2015 in a contract worth £3.5million

The 13-storey Merit House, home to 114 flats in Barnet, north London

Six tower blocks in Harrow, northwest London (left), were given the rainproof cladding when it was refurbished in 2015 in a contract worth £3.5million, as was the 13-storey Merit House (shown right), home to 114 flats in Barnet, north London

Pictured: The new plastic cladding hangs charred and melted underneath the windows of the Grenfell tower in west London

Pictured: The new plastic cladding hangs charred and melted underneath the windows of the Grenfell tower in west London

The £8.6million refurbishment by Rydon and the cladding by Harley Facades will be key issues at the public inquiry into the blaze. Westminster City Council said Harley Facades also supplied cladding for its Little Venice Estate.

But a spokesman said: ‘There is no reason to believe the type of cladding is the same as that used at Grenfell Tower.

‘Having today reviewed all records we are reassured that the cladding fully complies with all fire and safety requirements and underwent stringent checks before being certified by Building Control. However, as a precaution, we have instructed independent specialists to carry out urgent checks.’

‘We do listen’ says boss of company which manages Grenfell Tower

Maintenance firm responsible for Grenfell paid £11M by taxpayer

The company responsible for the safety and maintenance of the block of flats which turned into a raging inferno and killed at least 17 people was paid £11million last year from taxpayer’s money.

Grenfell Tower is owned by the borough council in Kensington and Chelsea, but the management of the building is the responsibility of an independent company – Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).

Speaking to Nina Hossain on ITV News London the company’s boss Robert Black said: ‘We are in complete shock and condolences for what’s happened today. Our thoughtS are with everybody that is currently affected and still affected.’

Robert Black (left) who is Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation’s Chief Executive and in charge of the management of Grenfell Tower and Andrew Goldman from Rydon Construction who appeared on TV this morning admitting he did not know the exact details of the materials used in the revamp of the block of flars

The doomed block of flats underwent a £10million refurbishment which were completed in May last year which was overseen by Rydon Construction.

After a day of finger-pointing and revelations residents had spent years lobbying over safety concerns, a massive investigation has been launched and experts are predicting it could lead to a prosecution.

Those in the firing line are the council, who own the property and send people to live there, KCTMO who are responsible for maintaining Grefnell Tower and Rydon who installed cladding as part of their refurbishment.

The Health and Safety Executive, the police and the fire service are now expected to launch a large-scale investigation and Rachel Adamson, Head of Regulatory Law at Stephensons law firm, said for an incident of this size it is very likely they will be considering criminal charges.

Residents say they told former KCMOT worker Siobhan Rumble (right) of their safety concerns, but claim their warnings were overlooked in the building that is owned by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, whose Chief Executive is pictured left

She told MailOnline: ‘Corporate manslaughter charges are often quite difficult to prove as they relate to the controlling mind of the business.

‘If an individual is thought to have been negligent, a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence may be considered.

‘There are a range of other potential charges, such as breach of fire regulations or breach of health and safety regulations, these are the tiers down from manslaughter.’

Investigators are expected to look at how recent renovation work was carried out, whether Construction Regulations have been adhered to, and what fire safety precautions were in place.

More than one resident has claimed that there was no central fire alarm system for the tower block – or it had failed – and only smoke alarms in individual flats were working.

There are also claims that there that there was no central sprinkler system – or it was also not working properly during the fire.

Others have claimed that the new cladding encasing the block added during last year’s £10million refurbishment by Rydon Construction caught alight ‘like a matchstick’.

Checks are to be carried out on tower blocks going through similar refurbishment to Grenfell Tower, policing and fire minister Nick Hurd has said.

 

Google Pushes Virtual Reality Harder With New Phones From Partners

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Huawei announced two phones that will work with Daydream View
  • Asus ZenFone AR will support both Daydream and Google’s Tango
  • Google has stressed that the programs do not overlap for now

Alphabet Inc’s Google quickened the pace of its push into virtual and augmented reality this week as its hardware partners announced new devices featuring the company’s technology at the CES electronics show in Las Vegas.

Google has been trying to position the vast network of smartphones running its Android operating system for virtual and augmented reality, known as VR and AR, fields that many in the technology industry say are poised to go mainstream after years of niche appeal.

Chinese manufacturer Huaweiannounced on Thursday that two of its phones will soon work with Daydream View, a VR headset released last year by Google. Meanwhile, Taiwanese manufacturer AsusTek Computer Inc announced that its ZenFone AR will support both Daydream and Google’s Tango software for AR, in which computer-generated content is overlaid on the real world.

While the announcements expand the line-up of participating phones, Google still has much to do to take its technology to the masses, said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research, noting that Samsung Electronics Co, the largest Android manufacturer, has yet to sign on.

Google Pushes Virtual Reality Harder With New Phones From Partners

“Google’s ecosystem for both AR and VR is in the very early days,” he said.

As growth in the global smartphone market shows signs of slowing, some manufacturers are voicing optimism that AR and VR will revive consumer enthusiasm.

“This is the next wave of technology that is really going to get consumers excited about smartphones,” Erik Hermanson, Asus’s head of marketing for mobile products, said at the show.

 

But mainstream consumer interest in the technology remains largely unproven. Apps might be expected to stimulate demand, but until Google’s technology is available on a wider range of phones, it will be tough to persuade developers to build for the platform, analysts said.

“We are waiting for app developers to really use the platform for what it’s for,” Amit Singh, a vice president for VR at Google, told reporters.

In addition to supporting Daydream, Huawei said that it is exploring opportunities for Tango with Google. The Asus phone became the first to support both technologies.

Google has stressed that the programs do not overlap for now, but by pursuing both, the company can position itself for success regardless of whether AR or VR becomes a mainstream hit.

“By having options for both, they can cover the full potential market,” said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.