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Car Tech Company Welcomes Tougher Action On Mobile Phone Use In Cars

The Chief Executive of car technology company Bluesona, Mel Morrison, has welcomed the introduction of tougher action on mobile phone use while driving as an important step in improving safety.

Downpatrick-based Bluesona works with insurance companies to provide a system, LoopMatics, that tackles distraction driving caused by mobile phone calls.

“The changes to The Road Traffic Offenders (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Order 2020 are vital,” said Mr Morrison. “They are a clear signal that mobile phone use while driving is the worst type of distraction for a motorist.”

Under the changes approved the fine for using a handheld mobile phone was increased from £60 to £200 and the number of penalty points increased to six. A second offence will lead to the loss of their licence.

Bluesona’s LoopMatics system tracks the driver’s on road behaviour as well as recording their mobile phone use. It is designed to encourage safer driving by providing feedback to the user on their journey and flagging the times when a mobile is used.

“The Statutory Rules introduced by Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, are an important step forward,” said Mr Morrison. “Hopefully they will indicate to all drivers that it is not legal, and not acceptable to use a mobile when behind the wheel.

“And I particularly welcome the fact that all parties backed Ms Mallon’s changes, and spoke so powerfully in the Assembly chamber.”

From 2017 Bluesona has focused on making driving safer, in partnership with insurance companies. Unlike many of the ‘black box’ style devices they developed LoopMatics uses a simple plug-in to track journeys, acceleration, heavy braking and if these coincide with using a mobile.

During the discussion on the changes to the Road Traffic Offenders Order Ms Mallon said that she had consulted with the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee, Justice Minister, Naomi Long, and PSNI Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, and that all backed the increased penalties.

“The illegal use of a mobile phone while driving is a selfish disregard for the law,” the SDLP MLA said bringing forward her proposals in the chamber. “It poses a serious threat to not just the driver who made the selfish choice but to many other innocent road users. The consequences can be devastating.”

Mr Morrison said that he was conscious when developing LoopMatics it was clear there needed to be more than just a nudge to the way mobile phone use is thought about.

“There needs to be a change of attitude, and a change in behaviour,” he said. “It needs to be based on it becoming the norm to stop using phones when behind the wheel.

“And, I congratulate the Assembly parties and members on passing the changes with no opposition. Too often we forget the role of MLAs in introducing safety measures.”

Under the changes newly qualified drivers who commit the offence will also be banned on their first offence as a result of the increase in penalty points.

Chair of the Assembly Infrastructure Committee, Michelle McIlveen, said: “As we are all aware, the technical advancements in phones have made the device an indispensable addition to our lives.

“However, it is the urge to check messages and respond to the sound of a notification that makes them so dangerous whilst driving.”

The DUP member also said that the committee would support the planned review of mobile phone offences to be carried out in line with the English and Welsh Department for Transport review.

Sinn Féin’s Cathal Boylan reflected on the impact of fatal road accidents.

“It is often said that a single death on a road is one too many,” he said. “We must improve road safety in any way that we can.

“We all know how families and, indeed, communities are affected by a death. It is incumbent on us to try our best to introduce as many measures as possible.”

Ulster Unionist, Roy Beggs, said: “The use of mobile phones has become more and more common. Many people are almost addicted to them. They forget the risks that are involved in being distracted when driving, even by considering the use of such a phone.”

Andrew Muir of the Alliance Party echoed the seriousness of the issue.

“Fifty-six people died on our roads in Northern Ireland last year,” he said. “Nine in 10 road deaths and serious injuries are caused by human error. That is why we must come down hard on those being reckless with the safety of others.”

Mr Morrison said that safety was the ultimate aim of Bluesona and LoopMatics, through its ability to show drivers, in an easy to use interface the habits, especially in terms of mobile phone use that needs to change.

Bluesona is based in Downpatrick and has a centre in Letterkenny. They offer their LoopMatics software to customers through various insurance companies.

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First Beneficiaries of Project Stratum Connected to Next Generation Access Broadband

Economy Minister Diane Dodds meets with Tara Hamill, one of the first beneficiaries of Project Stratum, and Chief Operating Officer for Fibrus Networks Ltd Conor Harrison. Credit: Aaron McCracken

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has welcomed the announcement Fibrus Networks has connected its first customers to Next Generation Access broadband under Project Stratum.

Just three months into the awarding of the Project Stratum contract, the first OLT (Optical Line Termination) in Coalisland, County Tyrone is now live with the first customers connected.

Once completed Project Stratum, the £165million broadband improvement scheme, will radically transform rural broadband connectivity by extending gigabit capable full fibre broadband infrastructure to approximately 76,000 homes and businesses across Northern Ireland.

Project Stratum is Life Changing

Commenting after speaking to Tara Hamill, one of the first beneficiaries of Project Stratum, the Minister said: “In today’s world we are especially reliant on our broadband services and good connectivity. More and more of our work and leisure time is spent online and if you don’t have access to good broadband this can be a real issue. Speaking to Tara Hamill has underscored the difference Project Stratum can make to peoples lives and how it is bringing tangible benefits to householders.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds meets with Tara Hamill, one of the first beneficiaries of Project Stratum, and Chief Operating Officer for Fibrus Networks Ltd Conor Harrison. Credit: Aaron McCracken

“I know there are many communities, especially in rural areas, which have been waiting a long time for improvements in their broadband speeds. These first connections demonstrate Fibrus Networks have the capability and capacity to deliver full fibre solutions, with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, to many rural premises transforming the broadband connectivity landscape for individuals and businesses across Northern Ireland.”

“I want to congratulate Fibrus Networks on reaching the first significant milestone and I look forward to hearing about their continued deployment in bringing the benefits of Next Generation Access broadband to many more neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland.”

Commitment and Dedication

Chief Operating Officer for Fibrus Networks Ltd Conor Harrison added: “The logistical planning and immediate execution of this work is testament to the commitment and dedication of Fibrus, as well as the skill of our team who are equipped and ready to deliver full fibre broadband to the people of Northern Ireland.”

UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “Access to fast and reliable broadband is a central focus of our mission to build back better. The UK government has invested £150million in Project Stratum to roll out top-of-the-range speeds not just to towns and cities but to rural communities across Northern Ireland. It’s great news for thousands of people and I’m excited to see the first customers plugged in to these game-changing gigabit connections.”

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6 Simple Ways to Supercharge Your Conference Event

People organise events for a variety of reasons: training, networking and bringing people together, to name but a few, and the number of organisers doing so for these grounds has increased in recent years. Choosing the right venue and location are stressful enough, but on top of those concerns there are the challenges of running the right activities and engaging the guests once they come through the doors. 

A soul-destroying event could spell disaster for your brand and company, but have no fear. Below are six simple ways you can supercharge your event and keep the attendees clamouring for more: 

  1. Call In Some Content Producers

Content is huge now, so you need to hire some professional content creators to help with the content marketing of your event. This is a superb way to start telling the story of your event, get potential attendees familiar with your brand and, generally, get them enthusiastic for the event. The content contributes to the overall experience of the event. Of course, you’re creating expectations by doing this, too, so you must be sure to deliver the goods on the day.

  1. Encourage Social Media Use

Social media is another part of the event experience and is a way to generate excitement before the event, during it and after it. An event hashtag is a given, to help promote the event, and that can get the ball rolling, but if you’re the organiser you should keep the momentum going by encouraging discussion on social media. Ask engaging questions or introduce interesting topics, related to the themes of the conference event itself.

  1. Keep Things Simple

Now, your audience won’t be idiots, but you should observe a simple formula to keep them from dozing in their seats. The content should be valuable to them in some way or have a wow factor that makes them sit up and take notice. It should solve a problem, provide an answer to a question or respond to a theory or need. The content should also generate some form of emotion and be something that they want to later share with others at the event and away from it. Professional content producers can help with all of this.

  1. Train Speakers in Engagement Techniques

Public speaking is a skill and it takes no small amount of guts for speakers to get up there and deliver their speech or presentation. No one likes to give a tranquilising speech or stare into the eyes of attendees who are visibly bored and have grown irritable, maybe a touch hungry, too, or both.

None of that has to happen, though, if you train speakers in engagement techniques. This gets the audience more involved. The speaker can ask them questions. They can have breakout sessions. They can run activities or workshops that lend themselves to interaction. Boredom shouldn’t be an issue.

  1. Use audience engagement handsets

Audience engagement system handsets are useful for a simple reason: they include everyone. A lot of events use websites or apps and present polls in which the attendees can take part, but sometimes internet bandwidth issues can disrupt engagement measures like this. A handset offers more reliability and, to a certain extent, equalises attendees because no one has to be tech savvy to use them. Older members may struggle if they were to have to use their mobile phones to participate and would welcome the handsets if this is the case.

  1. Harness the power of analytics

How do you know if a conference is going well? A real time analytics tool can help you gauge it. Implement one of these tools and you can track how attendees are responding to your social media content. You can also have a look at any online feedback forms guests have submitted during the event. This data supplies you with valuable insight which you can use to make changes to the event as it happens or keep in mind when you hold your next event. No longer do you have to hit and hope or look on helpless as an event goes downhill.

A note on presenting at a conference event

If you happen to be one of the brave souls presenting at an event, consider hiring an expert to help you with your presentation visuals. Bullet points do add structure, fair enough, but they can be a bit boring as well, to say the least. 

Meanwhile, there are presentation specialists out there who can design your presentation visuals for you. Shoddy visuals can damage your presentation and your credibility. You want to look like a professional, but poor visuals will let you down. Hiring a PowerPoint pro to give your presentation the TLC it needs to shine and keep your reputation intact.  

Whether you’re running an event to train people, get people networking or just bring people together, you can minimise the stress of the endeavour by implementing the tips above. They’ll help you and your speakers to keep the attendees engaged, making it an enjoyable event for them and a successful one for you.

For more details on how to make your next event truly engaging, be sure to check out

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