Rafael Picoli Makes His Mark with Alternative Rock Band Urban Escape

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Growing up in Brazil, Rafael Picoli always had a passion for the guitar. Starting with a love for classic metal bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Megadeth, he decided to start learning the guitar and never looked back.

Today, the acclaimed musician is lead guitarist in the alternative rock band Urban Escape and is busy in the studio working on a series of three EPs to showcase the band’s unique sound.

“We are planning to release three EPs before releasing the full album,” Picoli said. “The songs from those EPs are going to be the songs for the final album as well, and it will be called Urban Escape – the same name of the band.”

In announcing the three new EPs, Picoli is making his mark with Urban Escape, featuring a slew of his songs and musical sensibilities that lie in classic and grunge rock along with a hard dose of heavy metal.

“We are working with the five-time Grammy Award-winning producer Lamps (Lampadinha), who is accompanying us throughout this process and will be recording all of our material,” he said. “Best song we’re doing is probably a song called ‘Mary Lee.’ It’s about a girl that was the crush of the lead singer of the band, Eric Urban. It has a very cool chord progression with some great lyrics.

 Another major song in the EP will be “Alone,” which blends dark lyrics with hard rock and a melodic sound reminiscent of the Beatles and other classic rock bands he grew up listening.

Born in Monte Azul Paulista, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, Picoli loved playing video games as a child and became enthralled with the game Guitar Hero which allows players to play a guitar shaped controller. But when the game abruptly stopped production, Picoli took up a real guitar to explore his own musical leanings.

After years of playing in local clubs with a number of bands he earned a scholarship at the prestigious Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and soon he traveled to the U.S. and became one of its standout students. Soon after graduation, he would meet some fellow Brazil expatriates to form Urban Escape and develop the band’s unique alternative rock sound.

But even as he began working with his new band, he was already in demand as a guitarist with a number of artists including Sonder City, Joe Abujamra, Kasia Lins, Julian Martel, Inessa, as well as acclaimed artist Larissa Basilio, among others.

“Playing live is one of my favorite things ever. It’s great to see the response from the public to the songs you have worked on. Also, you have a different energy when playing live that you don’t get anywhere else,” he said. “Playing in a recording studio you have to care more about smaller details and make sure everything sounds perfect, as in playing live, playing with attitude is more important than playing perfect.”

Meanwhile, as Urban Escape prepares to go into the studio, Picoli is looking forward for the band’s tour in support of the EPs. To learn more, follow Rafael Picoli on Instagram at  www.Instagram.com/rafaelpicoli or on Facebook www.Facebook.com/rafael.picoli.1.


The post Rafael Picoli Makes His Mark with Alternative Rock Band Urban Escape appeared first on Lightning Releases.

Saving the planet with Digital Farming, our discussion with Tobias Menne (Head Digital Farming, Bayer)

Digital farming matters. Why? Because farmers are tasked with feeding a growing world population – expected to reach 10 billion by 2057, according to the U.N. – while dealing with the consequences of climate change. To achieve that, they need to embrace the digitization of agriculture

I recently sat down with Tobias Menne, Head of Digital Farming at Bayer, to discuss this important topic within modern agronomics. In the final blog of this two-part series, we discuss the immense potential of digital farming. What can and will it change?


The end of information asymmetry

In the previous blog, we defined digital farming as the gathering, combining, and sharing of relevant and scalable data to optimize and transform agronomics. The immense amounts of data offer insight, understanding, and quick learnings. This way it can help to battle global food and climate challenges.

Tobias elaborates: “What digital farming offers is insight into what is happening on the field. To understand whether or not a certain weed or disease is a threat to the crop. And all this information is available through smartphones, at a very low price point.”

Digital farming is particularly revolutionary for farmers in Africa and South East Asia, where over 80% of farmers are small holders. Tobias: “These farmers not only gain a lot because they generally are further away from agronomic optimum compared to larger farms in the West. They mostly benefit because digital technology removes the information asymmetry that currently plagues them.”

Take the Himalaya, for instance. Because of limited biology training and a lack of qualified people in rural areas, farmers are often unaware of the types of weeds that grow on their fields. Thanks to digital farming, this is changing rapidly.

Farming with confidence

Digitalization transforms decision-making practices in agronomics. “In the past, farmers invested heavily in labor or crop protection to improve their agronomic situation”, Tobias explains. “They still need to do that. The difference, however, is that now they can be really sure that what they are doing is the right thing. So rather than increasing investments, they simply make smarter decisions. This is why digitization is so powerful.”

“Farmers will be able to embrace new technology much more confidently than in the past. And they can better deal with new weather phenomena and new situations. Because they profit from the learnings of other farmers around them.”

“Climate change makes farm life more daring and more challenging. That requires much better information on how to farm, what actions to take. Due to climate change we see weeds entering new territories. We already observe the migration of insects, for instance. Digitalization enables us to learn quicker, to combat those new developments.”

In other words: digital farming allows adaptable farming. Farmers can anticipate new situations better and faster. A true necessity in this time of climate change.

Save the planet

Because farmers can farm with more confidence, they are also able to grow a greater variety of crops. This will increase global biodiversity.

“Farming is often criticized for its perceived low level of biodiversity”, Tobias says. “You see a lot of corn and soy, and not a lot of variation within those crops. Industrial farming is so homogeneous because farmers wanted to reduce their complexity of decision making. If we start to trust systems for good agronomic decision making, adding crops and increasing functional biodiversity will no longer drive up the complexity of farms.”

This means that niche crops like cassava, quinoa, and buckwheat will become more widespread. And that, in turn, means we will find more diverse products in our local shops.

Digital farming can decrease the negative impact of farming tremendously. Next to improved biodiversity and water quality, the use of fewer crop protection products is beneficial for the environment. Tobias gives an example:

“I’m excited about smart sprayers. In the near future, these will go over the field and identify each weed with their camera. Their nozzles only open when they detect certain weeds. This will not only reduce the amount of product used per square meter, it also allows for species of rare weeds to be preserved.”

Trust me, I’m a farmer

As consumers we want to have food that is healthy for us, that has not impacted the environment in any negative way, that ideally was grown in our vicinity, and that is tasty. More importantly: we want to trust the information farmers, distributors, and retailers provide about our food. Through transparency digitalization can increase or rebuild that trust.

“I would love to buy the fresh produce”, Tobias says, “knowing that I am contributing to a healthy community in the areas where it was grown. At the moment I have little opportunity to do so. Sure, I can buy Fair Trade coffee or bananas, but for other products this is really challenging. I believe we can use digital farming to create more transparency on where food comes from and how it empowers the community that produce it.”

By reducing the impact farming has on the environment – in fact contributing to a healthy ecosystem – and offering insight into the food production chain, digital farming can have a positive impact on consumers’ perception of food and food production.

Open innovation

Generating data is the backbone of digital farming. But its true power lies in sharing data. Tobias: “At Bayer we decided to donate the data we generate with our scouting app via a live stream to Quantified Planet, a Swedish data GNO and an exclusive partner of the Habitat Free Program of the U.N. Through Quantified Planet we make the data available for public research on new farming practices in general and the sustainability of farming in particular.”

“The great thing about open innovation is that things happen with the data that you never thought possible. One university approached us and asked for all the pictures of items that had not been identified by the algorithm. A very unique request. What can you do with that “useless” data? They replied: we are convinced that through crowd sourcing we will identify unknown species and previously unclassified species.”

“This is the power of open innovation. Many people work at Bayer, but the majority of mankind is actually not working for us. Data that we see as worthless can be very valuable to somebody else. That is the tremendous innovation power that we are tapping into.”

Presales Transformation for the digital world: Agile Delivery, Agile Sales, what about Presales?

In this VUCA world, traditional ways of engaging with the client are no longer relevant. Presales plays a central role in educating, inspiring, and architecting the digital transformation journey for clients. A more agile, flexible, and non-linear approach is required. Capgemini has transformed not only its delivery and sales, but more importantly its presales, in order to cater to discrete manufacturers in the context of the Fast Digital 4 Discrete Industries initiative.

If agile is the way for project delivery, how can sales and presales lag? Agile, continuous delivery has become the norm in the software industry. Increasingly, even packaged solutions are delivered in an agile way. The barriers between software development and operations have fallen due to DevOps. In the multi-model IT world, speed and agility are key.

Sales are also becoming agile in their own way.  As the model evolves toward more co-creation and continuous engagement with the client, sales increasingly play a consultant role – a feat they cannot achieve on their own. This is where presales have always played their part. Presales need to get their act together in this emerging scenario. Agile sales need agile pre-sales and solutions.

Proactive and early engagement with the client, followed by continuous involvement through the entire journey – from discovery and explore/design to scale-up and execution – is the name of the game these days as solution providers sales/presales teams engage with the business directly. The business is under pressure to evolve quickly, hence the need for hyper-responsiveness and hyper- collaboration.

So, in keeping with the agile paradigm of sales, the actions of pre-sales also need to be choreographed:

Account-based sales – presales need to form teams with sales to engage with the customer continuously. Without having an ear to the ground, deep intimate knowledge of customers’ needs and motivations cannot be fathomed.

Advisory capability – presales and solution architects need to scale up to advise customers on innovation, strategy enablement, architecture, and roadmaps.

Innovation community – presales need to form extended relationships and collaborative communities internally and externally – an ecosystem of experts and startups that can be mobilized quickly in response to client needs.

Non-linear and flexible engagement process – to be truly agile, we cannot expect clients to follow the usual rigid sales/presales process of the provider. Rather, we need to align with the clients’ buying process. We need to inspire organizational stakeholders, innovate new business models, and implement new and disruptive technologies. This is what we did at Capgemini to devise an engagement approach to help discrete manufacturing companies on their transformation journey. This can take days and weeks rather than months and years. The emphasis is on exploration, rapid design and experimentation, and scale-up.

There could be several iterations in this process, leading the customer to directly execute the project without going through a formal procurement process.

The choice is clear, engagement processes and presales need to transform either as a spontaneous ad-hoc response to client demands and market pressures or as a coordinated action by the organizations. In other words, you can either take the journey, or fall by the wayside.

A brother's love is showcased in new American Family Insurance video

How far would you go to help make someone’s dream a reality? In a new video and digital ads from American Family Insurance, a brother, Larry, fulfills his ill sister’s dreams by embarking on a road trip to visit places on her bucket list, and then shares them with her. The video and accompanying 15- and 30-second digital ads will be released in conjunction with National Brothers Day, May 24.

The video illustrates that the protection and support from American Family ultimately provides the freedom to go out and pursue your dream, or even someone else’s. In Larry’s case, he is devoted to protecting the dreams of his sister, no matter how difficult, and the joy that comes with that journey.

The video affirms how American Family provides the protection and support that allows people to champion dreams. The support and involvement Larry provides to his sister is representative of the support and protection American Family provides for its customers’ dreams.

Watch the “Road Trip” 30-second spot to see how Larry takes his sister’s dreams into his own hands.

Learn more on amfam.com.

National Brothers Day is designated each May 24 to celebrate and honor the brothers in our lives, or those who are like brothers to us. #BrothersDay

American Family worked with BBDO, New York, to create the new video.

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About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 311 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Web www.amfam.com; Facebook www.facebook.com/amfam; Twitter www.twitter.com/amfam.

American Family Insurance urges support, collaboration for autonomous vehicles

Calling the development of autonomous vehicles possibly “the most consequential transportation issue of our time,” American Family Vice President of Strategy Sam Geraci today addressed a congressional panel about the impacts of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the future of insurance.

Geraci was one of several speakers testifying before the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. The subcommittee will examine the insurance ramifications of AVs, including how insurance – including pricing, coverage and claims resolution – will likely change as autonomous vehicles become more prevalent.

While questions and challenges on the widespread use of autonomous vehicles remain, the potential benefits are enormous and worth pursuing in collaboration between insurers, auto manufacturers, government and consumers, Geraci said.

Autonomous vehicles can positively impact the environment. They can lead to increased mobility for people who are physically unable to drive. And, they have tremendous potential to save lives and prevent injuries.

“American Family fully supports Automated Driving System (ADS) innovation,” Geraci said, “and we are among the organizations to support ADS work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering and the Wisconsin Automated Proving Grounds. This work will benefit our policyholders, our communities and our environment.”

“The insurance industry is committed to supporting the development and deployment of vehicles that will lead to safer roads,” he said. “While we are incredibly optimistic about the promise of the technology to reduce fatalities and improve the safety of our nation’s roadways, recent accidents with AVs have clearly underscored the need to better understand autonomous vehicle safety.”

Geraci raised other topics needing further research:

  • Consumer and insurance company access to data from autonomous vehicles – as the vehicles are in development and when they are in use on the road – to strengthen insurers’ ability to accurately price and underwrite products, and resolve claims.
  • Insurance requirements for drivers, or operators, of autonomous vehicles. American Family and the insurance industry believe state laws requiring minimum levels of insurance should remain for operators of autonomous vehicles in any situation when the operator is able to take control of the vehicle in any respect. Financial responsibility standards should also be developed for AV manufacturers to cover losses caused by vehicle software malfunction.
  • The evolution of insurance to address the likelihood of fleets of AVs used by ridesharing services needing expanded commercial insurance coverages.
  • Cybersecurity safeguards for autonomous vehicle systems, and insurance to protect consumers in hacking or breach situations.

American Family’s advocacy for autonomous vehicles is not limited to the federal level. Allie McGuire-Korte, an employee specializing in AV research, has testified before the Wisconsin Governor’s Steering Committee on Autonomous Vehicles, and has also worked with the Property and Casualty Advisory Council of the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance on this topic.

“Ultimately, the insurance industry supports the development of AV technology and should be a partner to technology companies, vehicle manufacturers, and regulators to promote safety on our roads,” Geraci said.

Read Sam Geraci’s entire testimony. 


About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 311 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Web www.amfam.com; Facebook www.facebook.com/amfam; Twitter www.twitter.com/amfam.