Planet Business: Smog, smart beds and barbecue boosts

What’s happening in Vegas, China, France and Limerick, plus the ‘happiest man on the planet’

In numbers: Licensed to grill


Estimated revenue boost that Fáilte Ireland says Limerick will receive later this year when it puts on its apron, sets the table and prepares the salads for the World BBQ Association World Championship.


Number of teams from across the globe that will compete at the world’s largest international barbecue competition in October. Limerick was said to have “beaten off stiff competition” from Rome – hopefully, not with a hot meat fork.



Number of hotel bed-nights the three-day event is expected to generate, as Michelin-starred chefs and backyard enthusiasts alike descend upon the city for some hot dogs and maybe the odd steak.

Image of the week: Smog-trotting

Millions of people in China have begun 2017 in the grip of the latest "airpocalypse" as levels of toxic smog from coal-burning power stations and steel manufacturing plants soared and then went right off the charts. In Beijing, the concentration of the pollution climbed to 24 times the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation, while flights to several cities were cancelled. For many Chinese people, used to a succession of "red alerts" and "amber alerts", life carries on: Here, mask-wearers take part in a social dance at a park in Fuyang in central China's Anhui province. Those who can afford to escape high pollution levels by holidaying overseas, meanwhile, are known as "smog refugees".

Photograph: Chinatopix via AP

The lexicon: Le droit à la déconnexion

The "right to disconnect" from after hours work emails has come into effect in France as part of a union-led bid to prevent employees becoming subject to "a kind of electronic leash – like a dog", as socialist MP Benoit Hamon memorably put it. The new law, introduced by labour minister Myriam El Khomri, follows a report that warned about the health impact of "info-obesity", with fears that the "always-on" work culture is contributing to high levels of anxiety and sleeplessness that frankly makes that 11pm email from your boss utterly counter

productive. The French won’t be immune from such messages, however, as in practice companies will still be able to send emails and texts at whatever hour they like. Larger firms will simply be obliged to negotiate and draw up a charter of good conduct so that everybody knows where they stand. There’s always a catch.

Getting to know: Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian (33), co-founder and executive chairman of popular social news website Reddit, is the "happiest man on the planet", or so he declared recently on – where else? – Reddit in response to a poem posted by Serena Williams. The reason? He is destined to become the future Mr Williams following his engagement to the tennis star, having whisked her off to Rome shortly before the new year and got down on one knee (or so her poem revealed). The entrepreneur and his Reddit co-founder and former university roommate Steve Huffman sold the company to Condé Nast for $20 million a decade ago when both were just 23, and Ohanian later admitted he thinks they sold up too early. Lucky for him, then, that following Maria Sharapova's fall from grace, trophy magnet Williams is now the world's highest paid female athlete.

The list: Vegas gadget-fest

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is taking place this week in Las Vegas, city of sin, wedding chapels and devices of varying battery life. But what can the tech-watchers who are flocking to the Nevada desert find on display at this year's event?

1. Aristotle: Mattel, of Barbie fame, has built a pretentiously named digital home assistant that can read Greek philosophy and other bedtime stories to babies and young children.

2. Kuri: A cute “robot nanny” created by Bosch-backed Mayfield Robotics, Kuri can “check on pets while you’re away”. Bring on the Cat v Kuri videos.

3. The “Hair Coach”: The Kérastase-branded connected hairbrush, “powered by Withings”, tells users via a microphone how to best brush their hair, while an app issues updates on its condition. Finally, it’s the judgmental hairbrush we all want.

4. Smart beds: Billed as “the bed, reborn”, the 360 Smart Bed by Sleep Number is “designed to keep you and your partner endlessly comfortable” and can get him/her to stop snoring, apparently.

5. Smart canes: A French company called Dring has created a “smart cane” designed to detect falls or lower than usual levels of activity and auto-send alerts to nominated carers. Related note: If all this tech makes you feel old, then it might be time to buy some smart slippers.