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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From a commercial bank that focuses on lending to women-owned businesses to a startup that developed electric smart roads that can charge vehicles while driving, check out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Israel – Electric smart roads

Israeli start-up, Electreon Wireless, developed electric smart roads that can charge vehicles while driving, without carrying heavy batteries with limited driving range and a short lifespan. The smart roads feature copper coils about 8cm under the asphalt that are connected to a management unit to transmit wireless energy to receivers under the vehicles. The trial has successfully charged a long-haul truck while driving. Electreon, in collaboration with Tel Aviv’s municipality and the Dan Bus Company, will test a shuttle next from Tel Aviv University to the train station along a 1km electrified road. The Ministry of Energy also announced a 10km commercial project inside Tel Aviv whose first stage will be used to charge buses.

To tackle air pollution and limited petrol resources, electric vehicles will soon become the future form of urban transport worldwide to limit carbon emissions. Electric vehicles with minimal batteries are the most sustainable and cost-effective solution, especially for commercial and heavy-duty vehicles. As a result, cities are revamping their infrastructures, increasing charging points and investing in improving the battery life of electric vehicles to make them more energy-efficient and affordable to encourage people to make the shift. We’re seeing innovation to create smaller batteries with larger capacity, allowing for more passengers and greater efficiency as well as those with a faster charging time to make electric vehicles more appealing to consumers.

Helen Fricker – Trends Manager, EMEA

US – Putting Women First at the Bank

First Women’s Bank, a commercial bank in Chicago with a focus on lending to women-owned businesses, is on track to be the city’s first financial institution start-up in over a decade. First Women’s Bank received conditional approval from the FDIC and has a leadership team of experienced industry professionals, from JPMorgan Chase to the US Small Business Administration. The start-up was born from the founders’ discussion of how women entrepreneurs have much more trouble accessing loans and lending solutions than their male counterparts despite women’s growing share of US small business ownership.

First Women’s Bank is notable for its mission. It’s uncertain if this will boost the confidence of other possible entrants in the market, but it does further emphasize the gaps left by traditional, legacy financial institutions. First Women’s Bank is not just providing new and novel innovation in a slow-moving industry but is actively meeting a known, unmet consumer need, which points to a potential existing market where further product/service education is needed. We know that loyalty in financial services is often driven by convenience, since switching financial institutions can be cumbersome, so there are obstacles ahead for First Women’s Bank. However, its existence and pending popularity have the potential to urge other players to adopt similar services.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Alex Milinazzo – Trends Analyst, US

China – Learn via Satellite

Bilibili has launched a remote sensing satellite to create content for science popularisation. The announcement was part of Bilibili’s Children’s Day campaign and was meant to encourage consumers to retain their child-like curiosity in exploring the world and everything around it. Bilibili’s remote sensing satellite will be in a sun-synchronous orbit more than 500km from the ground and can circle around the Earth 15 times a day. The satellite will obtain photos and videos, which will be used to create educational content about science, humanity, history and public welfare. Within two hours of the announcement, more than 111,000 users subscribed to the new video satellite account on Bilibili.

While it is still a popular video streaming site for subculture fans, Bilibili is rapidly expanding out of its niche to target the entire Gen Z consumer segment with more serious content verticals like lifestyle and technology. This is a strategic move for Bilibili to grow with its main audience, who are now entering adult life and starting to have different concerns compared to when they were still students. The interest of this demographic is becoming wider and more serious. From cooking a meal to absorbing scientific information, this young consumer segment are learning to help them survive in their daily lives.

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

Columbia – Proud to Love

A new campaign from Scotia Bank in Colombia celebrates being proud to love someone regardless of gender or age. The new campaign, Orgullosos de Amar (Proud to Love), celebrates the act of loving others and was launched in Colombia during Pride Month. The campaign aims to represent the entire community by showing photos of couples and individuals of all sexual orientations, ages and complexions.

More private businesses are coming on board to celebrate Pride Month around the world. In the past, only a few specific brands showed their support for Pride, but today, brands operating in all industries are making statements during Pride Month to show their support for a more diverse and inclusive society. Brands are making statements about current social events and injustices. New advertisements and CSR actions are not about targeting a specific group of people but more about showing that societies are connected, with each and every individual representing their community.

Vanessa Rondine – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Thailand – Self-service Starbucks

Starbucks has launched its first self-service vending machine in Bangkok. It offers different drink items, both hot and cold, including the classic latte, cappuccino, Americano, hot chocolate and caramel macchiato among others. Customers also have the option of adding extra shots of espresso or more syrup. The Starbucks vending machine is located inside the AIS eSports Studio at Samyan Mitrtown.

The vastness of the e-sports industry is bringing with it more lucrative opportunities for brands and marketers alike. The launch of the self-service format at an e-sports hub is a good branding opportunity for Starbucks, as gamers are likely to seek coffee drinks to help with mental alertness as they compete. Gaming sessions are still an untapped opportunity in the region, so brands would do well to act fast and identify how they can best serve the needs of gamers without being disruptive to the gaming sequence.

Melanie Nambar – Trends Analyst, Southeast Asia