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Why those teeny bottles of hotel shampoo might become obsolete

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The folks in charge at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax identified the best way to tackle single-use plastics at the business years ago. They got rid of those little plastic bottles in the bathrooms. 

“Those are the small plastic containers the shampoo, the mouthwash, the conditioner, the hand cream, any number of things that our guests will expect to have for their room while they stay with us,” said general manager Scott Travis.

The problem was finding a replacement that guests would accept as offering the same level of class, comfort and convenience.

The hotel solved the problem by providing amenities in bulk, allowing shampoo and conditioner to be squeezed from reusable and refillable pumps in the shower.

Travis wasn’t at the helm when the change was made at the Prince George, but he heard about the response.

“To be honest, the staff took a bit of grief in the beginning because a lot of people didn’t think it was high-end enough,” he said. “They weren’t prepared to leave behind the comforts of home and they wanted an individual shampoo and an individual container.” 

Going bulk costs more

The hotel stuck to its new policy even though Travis said the plastic bottles are so inexpensive it actually makes less sense economically to go bulk. 

“The per-unit price is something we’ve taken against our bigger-bottle per-unit price,” he said.

“So, when you add up what is used from the big bottle, plus what’s left over, it actually costs us more than if we went with a smaller-serve individual package.”

The hotel donates anything left in a bulk container after the guest departs to a local women’s shelter.  

Alt Hotels provides shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in bulk containers that can be refilled. (Submitted by Group Germain)

The hotel industry is wrestling with environmental issues at least partly driven by customer demand. People want to know that the hotels where they are staying are making efforts to reduce waste.

Single-use plastics are but one part of a much broader equation, which includes reducing energy, using less water and diverting anything that might be headed to a landfill. 

More hotels drop use of amenity bottles

The Alt Hotels, with locations in Halifax and St. John’s, are part of the Group Germain, which has 17 locations across Canada. They also found it a challenge to move to bulk amenities in the bathrooms of their hotels. 

“A lot of people were wondering why,” said Marie Pier Germain, the operations director.

The Alt Hotel chain, which operates a hotel at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, introduced refillable bottles 10 years ago. (Alt Hotels)

“People like to take away things and bring it back home. They take the shampoo bottle with them. When the shampoo bottle is screwed on the wall, it’s hard to leave with it.”

Alt Hotels introduced refillable bottles 10 years ago, she said.

“We actually had to challenge our suppliers. They weren’t ready to embark on this journey with us. So we produced a bottle that was made just for us and we produced the stand that was just for the bottle. We incurred a lot of costs.” 

When the Germain Group launched a new hotel in Montreal, the company went so far as to work with an entrepreneur to design the soap that goes in the bottle.

“That was part of creating the brand, part of the design process,” said Germain. “In the end, you can’t take the bottle, but if you like it, you can buy the bigger version and go home with it. The quality is actually superior to other products we would’ve thought of using originally.” 

Leftovers shipped to developing countries

The Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Bedford, N.S., has partnered with an organization called Clean The World. It takes partly used bars of soap, as well as those small amenity bottles, and ships them to developing nations where lack of hygiene can lead to chronic disease and high rates of infant mortality. 

“We save those after a guest leaves, collect them up,” said general manager Kathy Perrier.

“Clean The World picks them up at the hotel, they recycle them, and they create hygiene kits. They go to countries in need.”

In 2018, the hotel gave 1,178 bars of soap and more than 60 kilograms of bottled toiletry items to Clean The World.

The partnership is only a temporary solution for the hotel.

By the end of 2019, all InterContinental Group (IHG) Hotels in Canada, which includes the Holiday Inn brand, will move to the bulk amenities in bathrooms.

“It will be definitely a learning curve,” says Perrier. “It’s been rolling out in the United States in the hotels, and it’s coming here by the end of next year.” 

Plastic straws in hotel restaurants on the way out

The Holiday Inn also offers a free breakfast to its guests. Single-use plastic is a big concern in food service in hotels, as it is in restaurants in general. 

“We’re currently still using disposable product,” says Perrier, about the take-out plates they use in their restaurant.

Plastic drinking straws are being eliminated in the restaurants at some hotel chains. (Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock)

“But we’ve converted from Styrofoam to more of a paper, compostable product. That’s, obviously, operationally very important to our guests and important to us. We’re not wasting as much as we used to on a day-to-day basis.”

IHG hotels plan to remove plastic straws from their restaurants worldwide by the end of 2019. Marriott plans to remove straws from its restaurants by July 2019, while Alt Hotels have already done away with them.

“It’s such a quick win, I don’t understand why we’re still talking about straws,” says Germain. “That being said, we still have some challenges.” 

She mentions the self-serve food containers guests can use to heat food in a microwave at Alt Hotels’ on-site food service locations.

“What is available on the market now, that is [the biodegradable container] we would like to use, doesn’t go in the microwave.”

Plastic water bottles less available as room amenity

The Alt Hotels did away with plastic water bottles in rooms years ago.

“We have them available for purchase, but we don’t put them in guest rooms anymore. We have a water jar available for guests with water at the front desk. It’s available in the lobby at all times.” 

Travis suggests that any hotel offering a free breakfast should be using as much real ceramic as possible to save money on anything disposable.

“Hotels have spent a tremendous amount of money on paper supplies, whether that’s doilies for your room or straws or different ways to serve your food,” he said.

“Everybody’s looking to utilize less of those, and components that can be reused.  Every day you’re serving breakfast for sometimes a couple hundred people, you want to be using stuff that’s going to be washed as opposed to be thrown into a garbage.”

Some guests grumble at changes 

Germain said some changes made for the environment go hand in hand with economic savings, but, for some people, luxury is part of the hotel experience and they won’t be satisfied with what they might consider to be less for their money.

“Some guests want the service, and want to be pampered,” she said.

“When you spend a lot of money to go to the hotel and to have a great service, this is the experience you’re looking for. It’s not up to us to the make decisions for the guests, but we have to provide the flexibility for our guests to make these decisions on their own.” 

Travis also sees the demand for comfort and luxury, but says it’s actually customer pressure forcing the hotel industry to get on board with changes. 

“I would like to suggest that we’ve educated some of our guests, but the reality is a lot of our guests have educated us,” he said.

“I think the feedback has softened because everybody’s more concerned about the environment than they were five or 10 years ago.” 

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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