A Romanian company has launched Bob Concierge, the first fully automatic smart system of delivery stations that gets goods and services right to the lobby. The system is intended to work as an electronic doorman which provides customers, through the online platform and the mobile application, food and refreshments, cleaning and repair services and many other services. It revolves around the Super Convenience vision by which everything you need is in your hand within 60 seconds.
The system built as a hybrid between a smart locker and a refrigerated cabinet for various foods was launched in 2019 in Bucharest and is present now in over 70 residential and office buildings across the city.
“A few years ago, we realized that there is a need for a system that gets closer than ever to the customer’s doorstep without the customer ever being required to be present when delivery takes place. That’s how the idea of a personal valet came to us, a device that will fulfil all the needs of users, everything from food, cleaning and personal care services” Mihai Girnet, CEO of Bob Concierge told EU Reporter.
Bob Concierge is built to work as a mini-shop, incorporating a refrigerator that maintains a cold temperature for products such as ready meals, desserts, water, milk, juice, beer, wine, snacks delivery compartments, where couriers can leave or pick up a package, and laundry compartments, where service users can leave laundry for cleaning services.
Bob Concierge has implemented "Grab and Go" technology allowing users to open the digital valet refrigerator by scanning the QR code and taking what they need. The product is identified by a multitude of sensors, and the amount charged is withdrawn from the user's account.
The Bob Concierge app also includes access to house maintenance services ready at your disposal such as plumbers, electricians, painters and various other handymen. You can even request various beauty and body care services using the app.
The name “concierge” comes from precisely what this service is intended to do for you – an electronic doorman standing at the entre of residential and office buildings ready to provide you with whatever you need.
“Our goal at Bob Concierge has been to integrate as many services as possible in one single device. That’s why we fitted the machine with compartments where couriers can leave or pick up parcels as well as a laundry compartment where users can leave clothes for the cleaning company to be delivered back washed and ironed,” Girnet told EU Reporter.
Looking forward, the plan is to have over 5,000 smart lockers installed across the country, in Romania’s major cities, and then expand on a regional and international level.
Bob Concierge also made an impact on the local real estate market as these digital valets add increase value and comfort to newly developed office and residential buildings.
“It worth to say that demand for Bob Concierge is organically and constantly coming from real estate developers, many of them believe that the presence of our delivery station provides an evident competitive advantage to the apartment building and can help sale process. There are tens of devices that are to be installed in several large residential complexes under construction in the close future,” Girnet told EU Reporter.
The overall need for goods and services delivered right at your doorstep without even requiring you to be home is a necessity that can only expand. The classic means of delivering goods, requiring you to both be present and assign time to interact with the person making the delivery isn’t feasible from a logistical point of view and will surely become obsolete.
Bob Concierge is the future people are ready to embrace!
Mitigating potential chemical harm with extensive regulations
A business owner whose company utilises a variety of chemicals may find himself frustrated by the extensive government regulation governing everything about the use, storage, and disposal of said chemicals. Regulations can be frustrating. That much we know. But the regulations are put in place to mitigate the harm caused by chemical hazards.
Such regulations vary from one jurisdiction to the other. So do the government agencies that oversee regulatory schemes. Here in the UK, workplace chemicals are largely governed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In the US, there are multiple regulatory bodies with authority, including OSHA and the EPA.
It is ultimately up to business owners to know and understand the regulations that apply to them. This is not always as easy as it sounds. Nonetheless, there is no room for carelessness or ignorance. Chemical spills can damage property, harm wildlife, and endanger employees and guests alike.
UK Chemical Regulations
The last piece of legislation passed in the UK, dealing with chemicals at work is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002. The guidance in that legislation covers a variety of industries including agriculture, motor vehicle repair, cleaning, printing, and more.
In the simplest possible terms, COSHH is legislation that requires business owners to control any and all substances that could be hazardous to human health. Employers are required to do the following, at a bare minimum:
- Learn the health hazards of the respective chemicals.
- Determine the best way to prevent harm to employees.
- Provide adequate control measures.
- Ensure control measures are working properly.
- Educate, inform, and train employees in safe chemical use.
- Ensure employees are using chemicals correctly.
- Monitor employee health, where appropriate.
- Develop a plan for responding to emergencies.
A big part of chemical safety in the workplace is conducting a government-mandated risk assessment. Solutions developed from a comprehensive risk assessment in a chemical-heavy environment would include the procurement of chemical spill kits and refills, along with other mitigation efforts to combat actual spills.
UK Lead Exposure
Though lead is not technically a chemical substance, it is included in the HSE's chemical guidance. Working with lead safely is covered by the Control of Lead at Work Regulations (CLAW) 2002. Like COSHH, CLAW requires employers to prevent harm to employees and visitors caused by lead exposure.
Wherever possible, employees and guests should be kept from lead exposure completely. Where this is not possible, exposure should be controlled so that it is kept at a minimum. Employers are required to:
- Review appropriate work processes.
- Utilise proper access controls.
- Maintain all such controls in good working order.
- Maintain proper records pertaining to lead exposure.
- Consult with medical professionals about medical surveillance.
Lead is dangerous to human beings in multiple forms. In a work environment, people are often exposed to it by way of dust, vapour, or fumes. Lead exposure can cause an immediate reaction in some people, but it is the long-term effects of lead absorption that cause the worst problems.
Chemical Safety Data Sheets
In the UK, all chemicals classified as 'dangerous to supply' are sold to customers with Chemical Safety Data Sheets (SDS) attached. As a business owner purchasing such chemicals, it would be your responsibility to read and fully understand the data sheets so that you can properly assess any risk to your employees and visitors.
An SDS provides lots of valuable information. For example:
- Hazards – A datasheet will explain, in detail, the particular hazards associated with that chemical.
- Storage and Handling – A datasheet will explain how to safely store and handle the chemical.
- Emergency Measures – A datasheet will explain what emergency measures are necessary should the chemical leak or spill.
As you can see, UK regulators have put the SDS scheme in place to help business owners truly understand the dangers of the chemicals they utilise. It takes some additional effort on the part of manufacturers and distributors to create and distribute the datasheets. It also requires effort on the part of the business owner and his employees to read and understand the information. But in the end, knowledge is power. Knowing all the finer details regarding a dangerous chemical can mean the difference between preventing harm and letting it occur.
Chemical Fires and Explosions
Some chemicals are dangerous because exposure to them can lead to long-term health problems. Others are dangerous because of the potential to burn or explode. Such flammable chemicals pose a danger not only to business owners and their employees, but also to the owners and employees of neighbouring businesses.
Chemicals at risk of fire and explosion are covered by several different regulatory schemes, among them being the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. The regulations put the onus on employers and self-employed business owners to protect everyone they come in contact with from danger.
This particular piece of legislation is a bit tricky in how it defines dangerous substances. A dangerous substance is any substance that could combust or explode if not properly controlled. If a substance could combust or explode as the result of corroding metal, it is considered dangerous as well. Business owners are required to:
- Learn about the dangerous substances they use and the risks of such substances.
- Put control measures in place to mitigate risk.
- Develop plans and procedures to deal with emergencies.
- Inform and train employees in proper procedures for controlling such substances.
- Identify and classify any workplace areas where the risk of ignition exists.
Dangerous substances could be the most troublesome workplace chemicals of all because of their volatility. It goes without saying that business owners cannot take any risk with them.
It should be apparent from the information in this post that the UK takes workplace chemicals seriously. So do most other jurisdictions. The main point of all of this is to be a reminder that government regulations exist in order to mitigate risk as much as possible. Some workplace chemicals are just too dangerous to store, handle, and use carelessly. Regulations are designed to make sure that this does not happen.
After lockdowns devastated UK real estate sector, could Covid clauses protect homebuyers and sellers?
After months of playing down the prospect of an extension to the stamp tax holiday for property sales of up to £500,000, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak ultimately opted for a bold new set of stimulus measures for the British housing sector in the 2021 budget unveiled earlier this month. In addition to a three month extension to the stamp tax holiday, originally meant to expire 31 March but now running until the end of June, followed by an additional three months of exemptions on some sales to ensure a “smooth transition back to normal,” the Chancellor is now also rolling out a mortgage guarantee for home loans at 5% deposit.
Survey findings from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggest the measures come not a moment too soon. Though the housing sector showed strong numbers after lockdown measures were lifted last May, pushing the market to a six-year high, UK lenders all but ensured the recovery would not last by restricting access to mortgages. Coming out of the first lockdown, British banks reduced fixed-rate two and five-year mortgage deals at 95% Loan to Value (LTV) down from 105 to just 15 – with record high repayment fees attached.
As such, after a rush of real estate activity followed the first two months of lockdown and prompted predictions of a real estate recovery in the second half of last year, a dropoff over the first two months of 2021 demonstrated the need for realistic expectations in a pandemic-era economy. RICS found a 29% drop in buyer enquiries in January and a further (if more moderate) 9% decline in February, with surveyors seeing fewer properties going on the market. In sharp contrast to last year’s post-lockdown optimism, many housing market analysts predicted a bearish 2021 before Sunak’s latest announcements – even as real estate agents like Savills reacted to the new budget with fresh predictions of booming prices to come.
Above all else, the outsized impact of Sunak’s interventions on an unstable housing sector points to the important role the UK government has played in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on homebuyers and sellers over the past year. That reality is feeding calls for expanded government action, beyond mortgage schemes and tax holidays, to stabilise the real estate sector and support the individuals trying to take part in it – particularly in England, where the unique ‘property chain’ structure of transactions has left many families in difficult financial straits.
As Beth Rudolf of the UK Conveyancing Association told EuReporter: “Government should have mandated improvements to the home moving process so that transactions would not take 22 weeks on average. They have everything at their fingertips with [the] regulation of property agents, Law Commission reports on leasehold, and the solutions developed by the Home Buying and Selling Group set up to support the Ministry, but unfortunately there appears to be a belief in certain parts of Government that mandatory regulation is not the answer. We believe that is exactly what is required, because voluntary delivery of change by solicitors and estate agents will not go anywhere near far enough.”
One of the most effective potential measures for buttressing the housing market in the midst of an unpredictable health crisis could be the ‘Covid clauses’ recommended by real estate professionals after the pandemic disrupted thousands of transactions last year. With Covid-19 exposing fundamental flaws with the property chain system, could such clauses offer the Government a first step on the path to more fundamental industry reform?
Repeated shocks to buyers and sellers dampen demand
The Chancellor’s about-face on the original 31 March deadline for the waiver of stamp duty reflects a shift in the Government’s own view of its responsibilities. While the original break led to an increase in house purchases in the latter half of 2020, families attempting to buy in the first weeks of this year faced what the BBC calls “a race to beat the tax deadline,” as the government-driven surge in demand produced delays among surveyors, estate agents, and other real estate professionals. Despite the risk posed to hundreds of thousands of transactions at the ‘cliff’s edge’, and an intense campaign by homebuyers and real estate associations to secure an extension, the Chancellor had repeatedly refused to push back the deadline before the extension finally became part of the new budget.
The experience of the stamp tax holiday, and of the homebuyers who stood to lose tens of thousands of pounds if they failed to complete their purchases before its expiry, echoed the traumatic experiences of thousands of prospective homebuyers and sellers caught up in the first lockdown just under a year ago. As a result of the initial 2020 lockdown, during which the real estate sector was forcibly closed alongside the rest of the economy, a survey by Butterfield found three in ten would-be buyers who had secured ‘mortgages-in-principle’ (MIP) had the rug pulled out from under their feet, losing their exchange deposit as a result of the shutdown coming into effect after the exchange of housing contracts.
The unique nature of the real estate market in England, structured on the basis of ‘chains’ linking together multiple transactions, makes English homebuyers and sellers particularly susceptible to the impact of shocks such as Covid. Buyers who find themselves in the middle of a broken chain, in which their own buyer is no longer able to complete a purchase, are not entitled to recoup the deposit they owe the seller in their further transaction. As one mortgage broker explained to the Times: “[Deposit] agreements in principle are not legally binding. You would hope that in most cases the sellers would be sympathetic and release the other party from the contract at little or no cost, but contractually they are not obliged to do that.”
Standardising the Covid clause to protect both buyers and sellers
Even before the start of the pandemic, the cause of one in five property purchase failures was a break in the chain. In 2017, the phenomenon cost homeowners over £500 million a year in unrecovered conveyancing, valuation, brokerage, and survey costs, while also leaving sellers with properties that were harder to sell. Covid-linked lockdowns have increased these risks, with Butterfield finding more than half of buyers surveyed found themselves trapped mid-chain as a result of lockdown. Fully four out of ten buyers were forced to withdraw from their purchase after their offer had been accepted.
While ministers face calls to address the ‘property chain’ system, an interim measure may well be for the UK government to standardise and mandate ‘Covid-19 clauses’ developed as a collaboration between the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government and the Home Buying and Selling Group. While the applicability of such clauses is limited to certain circumstances directly linked to the pandemic, the lived experience of the past year demonstrates its potential beneficial impact on the financial and emotional well-being of thousands of prospective homebuyers. The sector itself has also welcomed the clause, with Beth Rudolf calling it “a great idea, delivered very quickly to support the industry and consumers.”
This new clause, developed with governmental input, is still far from mandatory or universal in real estate contracts, raising the question of whether the Government should be undertaking an effort to promote or even mandate the use of such clauses through the end of the current crisis. Grassroots efforts such as the Campaign for Covid Relief for UK Homebuyers and Sellers (CCR-UK), for example, are urging Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and the Government to extend “public protection and support” to impacted buyers and sellers by making the ‘Covid clause’ legally mandatory and valid as of the start of the first lockdown last March.
Parliamentary action to expand the remit of these clauses, or to retroactively extend their protections to the thousands of individuals who have already been impacted by painful (but necessary) public health decisions, could also offer the government a more realistic short-term route to delivering concrete action in response to the real estate crisis – while restoring public confidence in the stability of the housing sector and laying the groundwork for broader reform over the months ahead.
All the same, industry leaders such as Rudolf caution that the road to long-term reform will extend far beyond the pandemic. Among the many issues demanding regulatory change: the lack of a mandate for “the upfront provision of information at listing including leasehold, rentcharge, and authority information,” the absence of a requirement for buyers to “prove they can afford the property through a certificate confirming their lender’s decision in principle or source of funds” and for sellers to demonstrate their relationship to the property “to avoid seller impersonation fraud,” and the need for “regulation of property agents and digitisation of the Land Registry, both in terms of applications and machine readable deeds.”
If and when the UK addresses these regulatory shortcomings, industry representatives insist that “once an offer is accepted, the parties can transact on related transactions knowing that everything will go through” – in short, that both buyers and sellers will enjoy a level of certainty that has been sorely lacking from the market since the start of the pandemic.
Apple struggles with antitrust investigation into complaints of inequitable terms on App developers
Regarding the procedure Apple follows for operating the iOS App store, the company has stumbled upon yet another antitrust investigation in Europe. According to CMA, Competition and Markets Authority of the United Kingdom, the research has been initiated because of some developers’ complaints alleging the company for inequitable terms. At the same time, Apple’s steps in the digital sector are also responsible for this investigation.
Now, the investigation conducted by CMA will judge whether Apple has created a dominant position concerning the distribution of apps on iOS powered devices in the United Kingdom’s market or not. Adding more to it, a CMA press release asserted that the investigation would also identify whether the company has endeavored to impose any anti-competitive or unfair terms on developers. Hence, whether users are being forced to have a limited choice or pay a higher amount when purchasing the add-ons and apps or not.
However, mentioning that it’s just the initial stage of the investigation, the press release has also stated that whether the company has broken the law or not isn’t decided yet.
The Chief Executive of CMA, Andrea Coscelli, has made a separate statement. He stated that millions of people utilize iOS applications to do multiple tasks like ordering a takeaway, playing games, or checking the weather report every day. Hence, the complaints asserting that Apple is forcing iniquitous terms, based on its market position and impeding the competition and choices, which in turn, compelling the customers to dwell within pricey and limited options, needs to be thoroughly analyzed.
However, gamblers who love to wager on online casino games don’t need to be cautious about this tug of war through their phones. Most of the online casinos are very present in the Apple App Store while having their existence in Android-powered phones are well. And, players who are accustomed to mobile gambling experience know that these casinos offer nothing but excellence. If you need something as proof, check out a brand new online casino drenched in magnetizing gambling options and rewarding bonus offers.
While in response to the antitrust investigation initiated by CMA, Apple has been vocal through a statement that Apple’s spokesperson sent to the media. In that statement, Apple has mentioned that Apple had been incepted to be a trusted and safe place for the users to download any app they prefer from the app store while being a prolific business opportunity for app developers from all across the world. Only within the United Kingdom, the economy of iOS applications is empowering thousands of employees with jobs. With a unique and functional idea, developers can reach all Apple users around the world.
Moreover, the statement uttered that the company keeps its belief in the concept of competitive markets fertile for constructive ideas. The Apple app store has been performing the role of a machine of success for app developers. The company has maintained a rigorous standard applied for all the developers working with the company. The company is also attentive towards proffering adequate security for customers against illegitimate data collection and malware. However, Apple is looking forward to lending a hand to the investigation showcasing how its security, privacy, and content guidelines have placed their App Store as one of the most trustworthy marketplaces for both app developers and users.
When Apple noticed to keep up their optimism and CMA would also continue their investigation to find out the truth, the iOS application marketplace would surely continue to be a fair and legitimate sphere for users, keeping the developers pleased.
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