Thursday. 31/1/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Community

Boom or bust?

The arrival of Amazon’s second HQ in NYC is proving unpopular as the community is likely to pay a high price.

It was the subject of much hype up and down the US as cities, both big and small, prostrated themselves before Amazon as the firm sought a location for its second headquarters. In November, New York and North Virginia were jointly awarded the prize – but the controversy continues. Yesterday demonstrators gathered as members of NYC’s council held a hearing on the Amazon project slated for Long Island City, Queens, proving that the arrival of the technology giant may be more poisoned chalice than boon. The reason? Other plans have been shelved in order to accommodate Amazon, including two new schools, while property prices are also likely to rise. Meanwhile Amazon has sent an open letter to residents in a bid to win them over. With new Democrat favourite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voicing her concern about the project, the issue threatens to overshadow mayor Bill De Blasio’s second term.

Aviation

Only human

Lufthansa’s digital improvements are set to take off but let’s hope the personal touch doesn’t get left at the gate.

German airline Lufthansa has long been an innovator in aviation – from cabin design to logistics management it flies the flag for efficiency. Its newest push is to pioneer in a capability that’s less tangible than pillow ergonomics or freight capacity: the digital space. This week Lufthansa announced the opening of an innovation hub in Singapore that it hopes will lead to technology partnerships in the region, which in turn could improve its digital service. The race to aid a customer’s on-board and off-board experience (and brand perception in the process) via digital services such as apps or tie-ups with online booking agents, is currently raging among international airlines. There’s plenty of innovation happening (and money being spent) in this sector but the downside is that streamlining customer services can lead passengers to less face-time with real staff. We hope that the German national carrier’s quest for improvement in the online space doesn’t come at an offline cost.

Image: Getty Images

Politics

Hands off

Canada is hoping to stave off foreign meddling in its upcoming election – but if there is interference, voters will know.

The prospect of foreign interference looms large for Canada’s 2019 federal election. But Canadians will head to the polls knowing whether the election has been compromised – at least that’s the plan. The federal government is compiling a team of national-security advisers and ministers to evaluate potential threats to the election. If they find anything fishy they’ll be legally obliged to alert the public – and the country’s politicians won’t be able to stop them. The goal? To avoid a predicament such as the one in the US, where former FBI director James Comey failed to reveal that there was an investigation into possible links between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign. It’s a saga that Canada would certainly like to avoid.

Image: Getty Images

Industry

Drive a hard bargain

Renault could ease the pressure on its carmakers’ alliance if it were willing to let Nissan take the wheel.

Renault’s incoming chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is due to have his first meeting with Nissan chief Hiroto Saikawa today in the Netherlands, along with delegates from Mitsubishi. Both have expressed an intention to strengthen the alliance between the three carmakers but the meeting is likely to be an awkward one. There is a fundamental disagreement about the alliance’s joint direction: Nissan wants more independence from the French carmaker while Renault is looking for greater control. Adding to the pressure between the two is the ongoing incarceration in Japan of former alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn for allegedly misreporting his earnings. To make the alliance work, Renault will have to concede some autonomy to Nissan and better distinguish between control and co-operation.

Plumen

The Entrepreneurs

Nicolas Roope and Michael-George Hemus are the co-founders of London-based designer lighting company Plumen. While coming from very different backgrounds, the two shared a vision for what a design-first brand could become and set out to solve the problem of how to get consumers to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. Learning the industry in a meticulous long game and with beautiful design at the core of the brand, they created the world’s first designer efficient light bulb: the Plumen 001.

Helsinki: The Monocle Travel Guide

Saunas are at the heart of Finnish culture. To celebrate the launch of our latest book, Monocle Films selects the hottest places to work up a sweat.

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