The internet of things will bring makers closer to customers

IN “CAPITAL”, Karl Marx presented some striking thoughts about the nature of everyday products, which he called commodities. A commodity ought to be “a very trivial thing”, he argued, and “easily understood”. But in fact it is the opposite: “a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” In primitive societies people fetishise religious objects, imagining that they are living beings that can enter into relations with each other and with human beings. In capitalist societies they do the same thing with commodities.

Today the queerness of many products is material rather than metaphysical. Stuffed with sensors and microchips, ever more of them really can communicate, via the “internet of things”, with each other and with human beings. Even such mundane things as fizzy drinks and washing powder are set to become “smart”, as their makers attach sensors to their packaging that can detect when the product is being used, and that can communicate with smartphones when scanned. Gartner, a research firm, predicts that the number of wirelessly connected products in existence (not including smartphones…Continue reading

via Business and finance http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21678748-old-form-capitalism-based-built-obsolescence-giving-way-new-one-which?fsrc=rss

The internet of things will bring makers closer to customers

Reports of the death of the business traveller are greatly exaggerated

FOR well over a century, people have predicted that technology will make business travel obsolete. In 1889 Jules Verne imagined that the “phonotelephote”—“the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires”—would replace overseas meetings. In the 21st century far-flung communication is no longer science fiction. Yet far from stowing their strollers, putting away their passports and signing in to Skype, the corporate world’s “road warriors” are clocking up more miles than ever.

According to a report by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), firms around the world will spend a record $1.25 trillion this year on sending employees on work trips. This largely reflects growing business confidence. In the downturn following the global financial crisis, suspending foreign jaunts was a quick way to cut costs. Now, firms are looking to grow, by sending staff out to hunt for deals.

Reports of the death of the business traveller are greatly exaggerated

The Paris climate-change conference needs to be more ambitious

In December talks in Paris involving more than 200 countries may result in a new agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In the months leading up to the conference, The Economist will be publishing guest columns by experts on the economic issues involved. Here, Thomas Sterner of the Univesity of Gothenburg argues that countries attending the Paris talks will need to be more ambitious than they have so far.

WHEN world leaders went to the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, it was with a sense of great optimism that it might result in meaningful progress toward global climate and development goals. Those ambitions quickly proved unrealistic. But sentiment now seems to have moved too far in the other direction. As the climate change conference scheduled to take place in December in Paris draws nearer, the goals being set for the conference are far too modest rather than too ambitious.

Remember the photo with Angela Merkel, Germany’s…Continue reading

via Business and finance http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2015/11/cutting-carbon-emissions?fsrc=rss

The Paris climate-change conference needs to be more ambitious

British Airways is the least fuel-efficient transatlantic carrier

ON AVERAGE, a nonstop transatlantic flight and back spews out about a tonne of CO2 emissions per passenger. But that figure hides a big spread in the fuel efficiency measures of different airlines.

A new study of the 20 biggest transatlantic carriers by the International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that there was a 51% difference between the fuel efficiency of the best-performing airline, Norwegian Air Shuttle, and the worst, British Airways (BA). Norwegian, on average, flies at 40 passenger-kilometres per litre of jet fuel (pax-km/l, see table). One reason for its impressive performance is that it predominately runs a fleet of modern, efficient Boeing 787-8s. Norwegian only began flying the transatlantic route in 2013. The planes it uses are, on average, also only two years old. Its high pax-km/l is also down to the fact that it squeezes in more passengers. Its planes typically have no business-class seats, and are <a…Continue reading

via Business and finance http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2015/11/fuelish-endeavour?fsrc=rss

British Airways is the least fuel-efficient transatlantic carrier

Marriott’s deal to buy Starwood makes it the world’s biggest hotelier

THE $12.2 billion deal in which Marriott, an American hotelier, will buy a rival, Starwood, follows months of rumours about the bid target, whose brands include Westin and Sheraton. In April Starwood’s slow growth, at a time when other chains are doing well, prompted it to start exploring “strategic and financial alternatives”. Marriott’s acquisition, announced on November 16th, will make it the world’s biggest hotelier: it will manage more than one million rooms, about 50% more than its closest rival, Hilton.

The deal comes at a heady time for hotels. Eight years ago Blackstone, a private-equity firm, bought Hilton for $26 billion. The company’s value plunged during the recession, but the hotel industry’s recovery has since made the deal one of private equity’s most profitable on record. In America revenue per available room (RevPAR, revenue divided by rooms available in a given period), has risen for the past five years, according to STR, a data firm. PwC, a consultant, expects occupancy rates this year to reach their highest level since 1981. The question is not whether a slowdown will occur—it will—but for how long hotel…Continue reading

via Business and finance http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21678723-giant-hotelier-about-become-behemoth-industrys-largest-deal-2007?fsrc=rss

Marriott’s deal to buy Starwood makes it the world’s biggest hotelier

Governments do not know the best way to save the Amazon rainforest. And that needs to change

In December talks in Paris involving more than 200 countries may result in a new agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In the months leading up to the conference, The Economist will be publishing guest columns by experts on the economic issues involved. In this post, several economists from the TSE, INRA, University of Toronto and University of Pennsylvania argue that more evidence-based policy making is needed in the battle against deforestation.

IT IS widely agreed that worldwide deforestation is bad for the environment. It is responsible for about 10% of climate-change emissions and leads to massive reductions in biodiversity. The shrinkage of the Amazonian rainforest—the most well-known example of deforestation—reached a peak of 2.8 million hectares in 2004, an area almost the size of Belgium.

How can we protect forests? One option is direct regulation: in other words the placement of restrictions on road building or the establishment of protected areas. Another option is to impose a fine or tax on forest clearing. Governments can also pay landowners to conserve their forest under a “payment for ecosystem services” (PES) contract. It might even be possible to let forest owners trade-avoided emissions on a worldwide carbon market, so that forest owners are paid by those burning fossil fuels to…Continue reading

via Business and finance http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2015/11/economics-deforestation?fsrc=rss

Governments do not know the best way to save the Amazon rainforest. And that needs to change