Zone’s Ricky Wallace handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Big rewards for big Macs
Following a successful trial earlier this year, fast food giant McDonald’s has rolled out a brand-new loyalty scheme across the UK this week. MyMcDonald’s Rewards — an app-based loyalty programme allows customers to earn points from their orders which can then be exchanged for items from the menu.
Not only will customers earn 100 points for every £1 they spend but every new sign-up can also claim a free Cheeseburger or Vegetable Deluxe, as well as 1,500 bonus points on their first order.
Given the current cost of living crisis, it’s a well-timed initiative but for those feeling generous, McDonald’s is also giving customers the option to donate their points to BBC’s Children in Need instead.
2. Google and Oracle struggled to stay cool
Like much of the country, we were trying to stay cool this week as the UK experienced its highest temperatures on record. Tech giants Google and Oracle also suffered, as cooling systems failures at their London data centres caused outages.
Data centres are built with many back-ups, including plenty of cooling capacity so the failures at big, well-resourced, companies like Google will have come as a surprise. But the issues at both companies were resolved swiftly.
Climate scientists are warning that extreme heat will become more frequent in the future and additional cooling means additional electricity consumption, which in turn can mean increased carbon emissions. Technology companies are therefore looking at greener cooling systems that consume less power.
3. It’s Apollo ‘Go’ for self-driving cars
Baidu — the Chinese tech company — has unveiled its new self-driving vehicle in its taxi service, Apollo Go. According to the company, the Apollo RT6, has the road skills of a driver with 20 years’ experience, although autonomous cars currently still require a safety driver’s presence under Chinese regulation.
Nicknamed ‘robo-taxis’, Baidu has been running the service on a trial basis in 10 cities across China, including Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing since 2020. In that time, it has provided more than one million rides.
And the ambition is to cut costs. “We are moving towards a future where taking a robo-taxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today,” says co-founder and chief executive Robin Li. Each of the new models would cost 250,000 yuan (£31,000) — much less than previous models in the fleet — so the company is hoping to deploy tens of thousands of automated vehicles across China in the future.
4. New online marketplace for Superdrug
Superdrug is gearing up to launch its new online marketplace in September and has so far signed up over 200 brands. From start-ups to premium brands, the new platform will focus on growing trends like homegrown, female-founded, sustainable and inclusive new brands, according to the company.
“We have a long track record of supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses and promoting diversity and inclusion within the industry,” Superdrug ecommerce director Matt Walburn said.
The marketplace will be integrated onto Superdrug’s existing website, providing customers with a “smooth journey” for purchasing products and strengthening their accessible health and beauty offering.
5. A female founder’s journey to success
Zone was joined by Anne Boden, Starling Bank’s founder and CEO this week at our latest Book Club event where she revealed how she broke through bureaucracy, tackled prejudice, and shook up the banking industry.
In association with Penguin Business and Campaign magazine, the event provided a whistle-stop tour of Anne’s book, Banking on It, which gives a warts-and-all account of how she succeeded in setting up Starling Bank — named Best British Bank at the British Bank Awards for the past four years.
“I spent 30-odd years working in big banks around the world. You name the bank, I’d worked there, in very senior executive positions. Then one day, I decided it was time for the next thing. And I said to myself, ‘I’m starting a bank.’ The words were a shock, even to me. The book is that story, of a mid-50s, seasoned business executive starting again from scratch, to build a bank,” says Anne.