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Using Technology to Save Planet Earth

Since today is Earth Day, we thought we would write a blog post on how we can use technology to help save the environment.  It is no secret that humans have contributed a great deal to climate change, animal extinction and deforestation.  It’s time to make a change and we are going to have to use technology to save the planet from ourselves.

Technology is constantly advancing and we are finding new ways all the time to reduce damage to the environment.  Only this month scientists created an enzyme that eats plastic, which is a huge step in the right direction as there are currently 1,000,000 plastic bottles purchased every minute.

The Digital Age

Over the past 10 years or so, we have saw a massive increase in companies using “paperless” systems.  This reduces printing costs and increases workplace efficiency.  Not only has this been beneficial to companies, but it has also been beneficial to the environment.  Less paper means a decrease in the need for trees and as a result reduces deforestation. Going paperless includes storing documents on computers, smartphones and the cloud, as well as sending emails instead of letters.

If you are part of a company looking to go paperless and want to find out different routes you can go down, contact us and we will be happy to help.

Electric Cars

One of the main causes of global warming is car pollution. Vehicles emit carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere causing the temperature to rise.  In the long run, this can result in the melting of the ice caps which would cause the sea level to increase. This will result in the land size of our planet being reduced.  An immediate issue from this is the animals such as polar bears who inhabit the ice caps, but also as the human population continues to increase it will be even more of a problem with less land area.

A solution to this is the use of electric cars.  These are something that have been around for a while now but has only recently became more mainstream through the likes of Tesla.  Electric cars are now more affordable to buy and also has running cost-saving benefits. Moreover we believe electric cars are the future and fuel-driven cars will be a thing of the past.

Smart Homes

One of the biggest uses of energy comes from our own homes. Devices in our homes such as smart thermostats can help you save money and be eco-friendly by only heating your home when necessary.  If this is something that interests you have a look at Hive Active Heating.

Other technologies such as “motion-activated” lighting means that rooms only get lit up when someone is in them (makes sense).  These methods can not only be used at home but also in our workplace office to help benefit the planet greatly.

Renewable Energy

A way we can generate renewable we can reduce the consumption of energy is by installing solar panels on our roofs which will generate energy from the Sun and although the one-off cost can be expensive to get them installed, it will save you money in the long term and you are doing your part in helping the environment.  The government offers a “Feed-In Tariff Scheme” if you get solar panels installed, saving you money on your energy bills. Other sources of renewable energy include wind and hydroelectric power.

There are gyms out there that converts the energy created by the exercise machines to electricity, powering the gym, which is a great step in the right direction and hopefully other gyms will be inspired by this and follow suit.

Drones and Monitoring the Environment

Drones can essentially be used as a security cameras in large environments.  They can be used to patrol areas where poachers frequently hunt endangered animals, protecting the species and preventing extinction.  The government can monitor whether companies follow the environmental regulations by using technology to conduct test simulations of products before they go to market, making sure they are safe before they are released to the planet.

 

Humans are a few years away from sending humans to Mars, with a view to colonise it and be a multi-planetary species.  It is important that we find solutions to our problems before we go and create the same problems all throughout the Universe. It is also crucial that we don’t take Earth for granted as there are no guarantees we will colonise other planets and more importantly, we are not the only living creatures on Earth. Going out into the great unknown and exploring other planets is monumental, but let’s not give up on this one in the process.

 

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Social Media, Business and What’s Next

It is 2018, and we are living in the great era of the internet with so many opportunities we didn’t have 20 years ago. Take advantage of this and be aware about how great it actually is.

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My Experience With Social Media

When I was 15  I came across a social platform called Twitter. This was back in 2009 when Twitter wasn’t that popular with only 6 million users, compared to today’s 330 million. Using this to my advantage, I recognised that Twitter was only going to get bigger, and invested a lot of time growing a “personal brand”. As a high school student I grew my followers from 0 to 11,000 in the space of 2 years through engagement alone. In 2010, people loved being added to “lists” on Twitter so I used this as the foundation of one of my main social media strategies. I would tweet out to my followers “RT if you are from Scotland and I will add you to a list”. This exposed me to a target audience with hundreds of users retweeting these tweets out to their followers which had a knock-on effect. I stuck to my word, added them to the list, followed them and usually they would follow back. Moreover, this then left me with a filtered list of a target audience that I could engage with regularly to further grow.  I enjoyed it, it was fun to reach milestones. Having that exposure, which doesn’t feel like a lot now, was a lot then and paid off in the end. I still have the account and use it regularly.

I retired from “Twitter growth” in 2012 due to exploring other interests outwith social media and studying Computer Science at University. I continued to try out other platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Pages.

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Now in 2018, owning a company and using social media to grow my business, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned and hopefully it will have some impact on your business too. I’d also like to go into detail later this year and do individual blog posts for each platform, but for now we’ll keep it short and sweet.

Content is Key

Firstly, an important thing to note is that each social platform has its own unique style, so you may push out content to Facebook that you wouldn’t push out to Instagram and vice-versa. Instagram is great for those beautiful shots of architecture and quick to the point statements but don’t get caught up being “fancy”. Post content that your audience will want to engage with and tells a story of who you are as a brand. Post content regularly and if it is Instagram you are growing, use 20 popular hashtags relevant to your post as the first comment – this will reach people outwith your following.

Don’t post to the extend you clog up your followers feed as they may unfollow you as a result. A solution to this would be to post more frequently to your story and one to two times per day to the news feed.

Paid Advertising

There are various options you can explore in the social media game. You can go down the route of putting in sheer elbow grease and growing your following organically and/or you can go down the paid advertising route. Paid advertising is actually a highly recommend road to go down especially if you are selling a product as you may not need followers to get sales. The Cost Per Click for a targeted ad on Facebook is only £0.23 per click which is very cheap. Let’s say your business is selling AC/DC t-shirts at £35 each. You set the target audience to “AC/DC fans in the UK”, and for each potential customer that goes to your product link, it is only costing your company £0.23. Facebook ads are very cheap just now so take advantage of it as it will increase to much greater numbers in the future.

Facebook Competitions and The Risks

I’m sure when scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook you have came across a friend sharing a competition post. From a Facebook Page standpoint, this is a great way to reach a large amount of people and also gain more followers as a result. Facebook have put some rules into place for competitions that I recommend you take a read over. Launching a competition and stating that the user must “share this post” and “like our page” to enter, can result in Facebook banning your account with zero notice and it is unlikely you will get it back. Something to be aware of.

A good kickstart to your competition is to use paid advertising to get the ball rolling.

Follow Limits

Following other users in the hopes they will follow back  and engaging with others is a viable method to grow your social presence, as long as you are producing content they will enjoy. Most social media platforms have limits on how many users you can follow or unfollow per day. This also includes how many photos you can like and how many tweets you can favourite or retweet. These limits change regularly and can be based on factors such as how long you have had the account and how active your account is. Refresh your knowledge of this by doing a google search on these limits every so often to keep updated.

If you go over the limits your account could be banned without notice and it is borderline impossible to get it back if it is an Instagram account as they have one support email that gets around 20,000 emails per day. Again, something to be aware of.

Does it matter how many followers you have?

10 years ago, the answer would have been yes, but these platforms have evolved this then, showing users content based on their recent activity and engagement. Just because you have 1.5 million followers on Instagram does not mean 1.5 million people are seeing your posts.  An easy way to gage this is to look at how many followers a celebrity figure has on Instagram then check one of their videos to see how many views it got. There are other factors that do come into play with followers, especially with Instagram.

Instagram released the “stories” feature off the back of the great response it had on Snapchat. Stories are posts that last for 24 hours and are only seen if a follower clicks on them. This is really great for businesses or public figures as you can add a link to a website on the story, and the follower can easily swipe up to visit. Unfortunately, users can only add links to their stories if they have more than 10,000 followers or are verified. The easiest route to go down here is getting 10,000 followers as Instagram don’t verify accounts unless they have an established brand. This is also as nice motivation to work towards as a milestone.

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Foundr’s Instagram Story Using “Swipe Up” Method

Your account looks more established to potential customers if you have a lot of followers and the more followers you have the more reach you have. But don’t get too tied down to the numbers and focus more on what works for you and your business.

What is after social media? What is the next “Facebook”?

I mentioned early in this article about trying to stay ahead of the curve and getting into a game where there are not a lot of players already. The best tip I can give you from this blog post is to get into voice strategies. There is not a lot of people playing in that space just now but in 10 years time everyone will be playing in that space as it will be what social media is for businesses today. Contact us for more info about how social media and voice can help grow your business and get ahead of the curve.

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Being Chosen as a “Rising Star”

Being a Managing Director of a startup company comes with a lot of responsibilities, these include:

  • Administration and Tax
  • Building and Maintaining Client Relationships
  • Business Growth
  • Acquiring Investment
  • Employing Skilled Individuals
  • Project Manage
  • Building Great Products
  • … and hopefully as a result, Generate Revenue.

When an opportunity presents itself, I have to be sure that it is in my company’s best interests and it positions the company that little bit closer to its goals.

A Great Opportunity

As a University of Strathclyde alumni and SEN supported client, I was approached to apply for the Rising Stars cohort of 2018. I had already heard from many rising stars in the past and their great successes, some of which now have 50 employees. I applied as soon as possible.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been delivering various pitches about my company, it’s values and our suite of products under the Yep brand.

Fast forward two weeks and my company Lawlor Technologies Ltd, was chosen as one of the University of Strathclyde’s “Rising Stars”. This includes a 6 month programme to grow my business as well as £10,000 worth of support. The reach of contacts the University of Strathclyde has is priceless in itself. Moreover, this also includes office space in Glasgow where I’ll be based for the duration of the programme. After meeting my fellow rising stars last week, I am excited to exchange expertise, ideas and knowledge. It will be great environment to be in as an entrepreneur.

We are extremely grateful for this opportunity given by the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network.

The Game Plan

Having secured our first client in December of last year, we are now in a position to actively pursue new clients to build mobile applications for and we are looking forward to taking on our next big project. Being busy with client work, we will be looking at seeking investment for Yep, to hire another developer to prevent it from neglect.

I will be pitching at Strathclyde 100 in May about Lawlor Technologies’ line of products to help tackle youth unemployment. This is an invitation only event, but we will keep you posted about future talks and presentations. Looking forward to doing a recap blog post in 6 months time with hopefully some exciting updates.

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Why Businesses Should Start Thinking About Voice Strategies

Last week we spoke about using voice technology to increase productivity in the workplace, but how can we use it to leverage the attention we receive outside the office. Right now, in 2018, many successful businesses in the world are very invested in their social media strategy, as they should be. It was recorded in 2017 that 71% of internet users have a social media profile. It is very clear that voice technology is becoming more and more prominent in our lives whether it be using it to search or control IoT devices. It has been predicted that within the next decade, having a voice strategy will just be as crucial as having a social media strategy. Does your business have a voice strategy yet?  Let’s explore what that means.

Home Assistants and The Competition for Attention

Let’s say for example you own a chinese restaurant in London and you are currently killing it on various social media platforms. What is going to happen when Joe Bloggs is sitting in his house in 2022, and he says:

“Alexa, what is the best chinese restaurant in London”.

Alexa responds with #1 result.

“Alexa, book me a table for 24 people”.

Is your restaurant going to be Alexa’s response because you have 18,000 social media followers and have an established brand? No – it will return whoever’s business has took advantage of rising to the top of alexa’s rankings. It’s a competition for attention. Think of it like being the number one search result on Google. So as well as having a social media and an SEO strategy, now is a really great time to start looking into a voice strategy as this is very ahead of the curve. Whoever is closest to the customer – wins.

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The Value of Podcasts

One of the things people value most is time. Podcasts are a great way for people to listen to interesting topics and discussions while multitasking and doing other things. Sure, blog posts are great for engaging with social platforms and increasing SEO rankings but this “sound” space is also a great place to be in right now. Home assistants such as Alexa and Google Home are giving podcasts a great platform to be played on more than ever. Spotify and iTunes are our best recommendation of getting your podcast out there as these are compatible with home assistants and are widely used on smartphones.

Perhaps create a podcast around your weekly blog posts going into further detail and bringing on guests to discuss.

There are several ways podcasts can be valuable to your business. Firstly growing a weekly base of listeners means you can put small adverts into the start or end of you podcast such as “check out our latest book on amazon” or whatever you wish to promote. Moreover it goes without saying that having a podcast will also create brand awareness and can attract a whole new type of audience.

Wouldn’t it be great to say to customers, “We are in the top 100 tech podcasts in the world”, for example. This demonstrates the value your business has in your industry. Moreover other more established podcasters may want you on their show as a guest where you can talk about your business to their podcast subscribers giving you low cost advertising.

“Alexa, play a podcast about technology.”

 

If you want some more information on how voice strategies can improve your business, get in touch! At Lawlor Technologies specialise in building Alexa skills for businesses and for the consumer.

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Using Alexa in Your Workplace

Over past few years, voice technologies have grown into home assistants. How will this tie into the way that we work? Will home assistants soon become work assistants? The answer is – they already have. In November 2017, Amazon announced ‘Alexa for Business’. This is a service that allows businesses to bring Alexa into the workplace at scale.

Voice and Visual

When home assistants were initially released, it was only about voice. Since then, new devices have been launched such as the Amazon Echo Show. The Echo Show has everything you get with the other echo devices in terms of Alexa, but with an added screen. In the workplace, such a device would be great for multitasking and video calls. The ability to ask Alexa a question and it displaying Google search results on a screen at your desk is particularly useful if you have no hands free. Depending on how fast you type, some may argue it would be quicker to use your keyboard.

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There are two device types Alexa for Business uses:

  1. Shared Devices
  2. Personal Devices
Shared Devices

These are the devices you would commonly find in a meeting room, lunch room or shared space area. This would be useful for joining a meeting via a video conference by saying “Alexa, start meeting”. This will turn on appropriate equipment such as microphones, webcams aswell as joining the conference call. Moreover, custom skills can be created to allow employees to ask Alexa which meeting rooms are available.

Personal Devices

Imagine you are in work, it’s Monday morning and you have one million and one things to do. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal assistant to pick up some of these tasks? Personal devices can make calls for you, check your schedule, send messages on your behalf and many other useful tricks.

Voice will be a huge part of the workplace in the not so distant future.

At Lawlor Technologies we specialise in building custom Alexa Skills for innovative businesses looking to increase the productivity of workplace tasks, through voice. Contact us if such a service interests you and we will provide more info.

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The Future of Jobs & AI

You may have seen Artificial Intelligence portrayed on the big screen over the past decade, in films such as iRobot, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Transendence and it always ends up with them trying to take over the world, but is this really our future? One of the main concerns we have as a society is machines replacing us in our day-to-day jobs.

In recent news, an AI robot named Sophie has been granted citizenship and wants to have a family and a career:

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What is Artificial Intelligence?

Humans and animals have Natural Intelligence (NI) as we have biological neural networks in our brains – this is what makes us “intelligent beings”. On the other hand, machines are able to have “Artificial Intelligence” (AI), with the ability to make decisions.  Machines have various advantages over humans in terms of ability, these include:

  • Works 24/7 – no need to sleep
  • Accuracy – machines are very accurate with no human error
  • Speed – a doctor is able to diagnose a patient one at a time, AI would be able to diagnose millions at the same time

With this being said, humans also have advantages over machines. The ability to be creative and innovative cannot be determined by algorithms. Break throughs such as the invention of hip hop require our creative and out of the box thinking.

The reality is, it comes down to what is more cost efficient for businesses.

Universal Basic Income

Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, is backing the idea of Universal Basic Income. Due to the vast wealth that will be created by artificial intelligence, Universal Basic income would mean splitting this wealth amongst the public providing a safety net incase of job loss. As a result everyone will receive monthly income. Not only would this provide a fair solution, it also provides hope for those in poverty.

We at Lawlor Technologies support this idea.

Adapt to Survive

It is predicted that in 2060, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence which is a scary thought. There has been much debate about the creation of AI and the dangers that will come with it.

Elon Musk, the man who is taking humans to Mars and is trying to save the environment through his electric car company Tesla, has a new venture. His latest company Neuralink has been created to prevent machines surpassing human intelligence, by upgrading the human brain through the use of technology.

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Elon believes that future of humanity depends on us merging with technology.

Applying for a Job and AI

On the other side of the coin, the application process for jobs will also change in the dawn of AI in the workplace. As Artificial Intelligence gets better, employers may wish to choose AI to short-list potential candidates by examining CVs. For example, if a job is available and 1,000 people apply, rather than someone going through each application, AI will review candidate resumé’s and rule out those unsuccessful, only selecting the best for the interview process.

Will my job be replaced with Artificial Intelligence?

No time soon! Artificial Intelligence still has a bit to go before it is replacing us in the workplace and is very expensive to build artificial systems at the moment.  Eventually Artificial Intelligence will be more accessible to businesses and only then will businesses see a cost effective solution. Moreover, there are some jobs in the world that may never be replaced with AI. These include health care, looking after the elderly, law enforcement and management.

 

While we should be cautious of how AI may affect us, it’s important to note the huge benefits it will provide to the human race as surpassing human intelligence will mean major breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Do you believe Artificial Intelligence is a good thing or a bad thing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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How a Mobile App Can Grow Your Business

Mobile apps have been around for many years now and they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. As of 2018, there has been a recorded 2.8 billion people worldwide who have a smartphone and 180 billion apps have been downloaded on the Apple App Store alone. These numbers are continuing to grow with no signs of slowing down, with an expected 352.9 billion app downloads by 2021.

There are two approaches a business can take when it comes to mobile apps. The first approach is to have a mobile app that employees of the company use to increase efficiency such as easily recording data or a tool that allows employees to complete day-to-day tasks. This is an enterprise application. The second approach falls into the scenario where the business wants the app to be downloaded by customers such as a booking or ecommerce app. This is a consumer application. These different approaches are taken depending on what the business needs are.

Reducing Costs with an Enterprise Application

Over the past decade, many businesses worldwide have made the transition into going paperless through the use of technology. Tasks that require an employee to fill out a form as part of a daily task can be made much more efficient by doing it on an app. Two factors that come into play here are the reduction of printer costs and the ability to automate tasks.  Carrying out tasks such as sending the data to the appropriate person or database and producing a report, can all be done behind the scenes on the application thus giving the employee more time to concentrate on other tasks.

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Such mobile apps work particularly well for a business when an employee has to leave the office to go on-site to carry out their work. Having a tool on your phone that sends data back to your main office instantly is one of the great advantages of mobile apps for remote use.

Brand Growth and Sales using a Consumer Application

There are many ways to expand your brand on the internet and a mobile app changes your marketing game through the use of the words “download our app”. Within the app users could be able to send their friends referral links, increasing both app downloads and brand awareness.

Whether you sell products or a service, a mobile app can be a great way to manage that. Perhaps you already have a website that deals with it, but you plan on taking it into current technology trends with a mobile app. Although the result may be an increase in sale growth, the most important aspect is gathering data from users. Being able to track how many users are searching or buying a particular product can allow you to adjust your sales strategies around this.

At Lawlor Technologies we specialise in designing and developing mobile apps for businesses whether it be consumer or enterprise based. Get in touch if you plan on taking a step into the mobile app world in 2018 and we will take it from there.

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Future Talk: Voice Recognition

On The Right Path

Voice recognition has been here for many years, but only recently have we begun seeing huge improvements to this technology through Alexa, Google and Siri. These assistants are helping out with a range of tasks such as controlling smart home devices and telling us how long it will take to get to work based on current traffic. Moreover they link into search engines to answer questions you may have.

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Buying With Voice

When you want to buy something from Amazon, you can say “Alexa, buy shampoo”, and it will return “amazon’s choice” of shampoo. Not the least expensive shampoo, not necessarily the best shampoo, but “amazon’s choice”. It is essentially making the purchasing decision for you which is very interesting because whoever supplies this product, has a competitive gain over other brands. If you work in the industry of selling products on Amazon, now would be a great time to look into how amazon uses Alexa to order products.

Although this is currently not our main method of shopping, it may be how we do all our shopping in the future as home assistant devices get more and more popular.

Goodbye Physical Keyboard

Physical keyboards will phase out as voice recognition evolves and gets better at understanding us. We have already seen the physical keyboard phase out in mobile phones, replaced with the touch screen keyboard.

With this being said, just because we can take notes on our smart phone, doesn’t mean we have stopped using written notes, it can depend on what works better for different tasks. An example of a use for keyboards at the peak of voice technology would be computer programming. Programming can contain complex code with various styling, not so easy to convey using voice alone, but as technology evolves so will how we program.

As well as keyboards, television remotes will no longer be needed and in time televisions will phase out with the rise of virtual reality.

Talking to Our Cars

With companies like Tesla and Google creating self-driving cars, we can expect voice recognition integrated within them from day one. You will get in your car, tell the car where you want to go and it will take you there. Your car will essentially be your own personal taxi. Want to change route?  … “take the next right”. This also allows us to stay in control of the car incase of emergency.

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The future is bright with the rise of voice technologies and will add value to our lives, increasing productivity in our day-to-day lives.

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Using Technology to Help Tackle Youth Unemployment

In today’s society, it is a well known fact that it is difficult for young adults to gain employment, especially when they don’t have a lot of work experience. Statistics from the House of Commons states that in the UK, 587,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in August-October 2016. This is an improvement from 2015, with a decrease of 38,000 but there are still a huge number of young adults going without employment. The frustraition of not having the oppertunity to aquire this experience is a huge problem many people face. This is where career help services can offer help and guide these young adults on the correct path to employment, whether that is improving their experience through volunteer work or simply connecting them to the right contacts. Although this is a step in the right direction in reducing youth unemployment, it is worthwhile to note that it can sometimes be a lengthy process. During this transition into the workplace, many young adults get knocked back interview after interview and this can affect one’s confidence while tearing down the motivation needed to keep pushing forward. It was announced in December 2016 that half of Glasgow’s job centres are set to close in 2017 due to cut backs, which reflects that there is need for a cost effective solution.

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Reaching out to a young generation through the use of technology is key in such a scenario. Working closely with a career’s help service in Scotland, we have came up with a solution that helps these young adults transition into the workplace smoother and also supply a cost efficient solution for the employment help services. Using motivational techniques within the app such as gamification allows users to remain encouraged and feel rewarded by unlocking various achievements. Not only does the achievements offer an uplift to the user but are only unlocked when a user progresses such as identifying their skills and interests, thus building great CV content in the process. Moreover I truely believe that we can accomplish more if we are having fun and as a result lowering the probability of giving up in the search for employment. Watch the explainer video below for more information:

‘Yep’ will be rolled out towards the end of 2017 and will be made available for career help services to use.