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Digital payments making a massive impact

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A new UN study has revealed that Alipay and WeChat Pay enabled US$2.9 trillion in Chinese digital payments in 2016, representing a 20-fold increase in the past four years.

The data shows that digital payments, using existing platforms and networks, provide access to a wider range of digital financial services, expanding financial inclusion and economic opportunity throughout China and neighboring countries.

The new report by the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance, Social Networks, E-Commerce Platforms and the Growth of Digital Payment Ecosystems in China – What It Means for Other Countries, contains key lessons to help other countries include more people in the economy by transitioning from cash to digital payments. This shift could increase GDP across developing economies by 6 percent by 2025, adding US$3.7 trillion and 95 million jobs, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.

“Social networks and e-commerce platforms are growing in every economy, whether large or small,” says Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director at the Better Than Cash Alliance. “In China, digital payments are thriving from these channels, bringing millions of people into the economy. This matters because we know that when people – especially women – gain access to financial services, they are able to save, build assets, weather financial shocks, and have a better chance to improve their lives.” 

“Widening access to financial services has always been at the heart of Ant Financial’s mission and we are proud to 

have empowered more people to save, invest and gain access to capital. There is a quiet revolution underway and we know, firsthand, that our services are making a real difference to hundreds of millions of consumers. But, as this groundbreaking UN report highlights, this revolution is only just beginning. We see tremendous potential 

to bring many more people into the financial system, in China and markets around the world,” says Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial Services Group, which operates Alipay.

Key findings from the report:

·       More people have opportunities to save and invest. Platforms such as Alibaba’s Yu’e bao make investing money into diverse sets of financial products more accessible for low-income populations. These products allows them to invest the money left on digital accounts, leading incrementally to long-term savings. From 2013 to 2016, Yu’e bao has grown to manage US$117 billion and is now serving over 152 million customers.

·       Digital finance helps dramatically increase access to capital for small merchants. As of September 2016, a total of RMB 740 billion (US$107.3 billion) had been lent on the Alipay platform to over 4.11 million small and micro enterprises and entrepreneurs.

·       Big data generated through these platforms helps to build credit-scoring history and boost access to credit, particularly for low-income financially-excluded populations. For example, Sesame Credit offers an alternative creditworthiness assessment by examining the credit history, financial behavior, contractual capacity, identity, and social networks of users.

The study also found both Alipay and WeChat are expanding beyond China and investing in major fintech and payments providers. They are joined by other major communication platforms, utilizing existing social networks and e-commerce platforms to drive digital payments and financial inclusion. The report found opportunities especially strong in countries with a high smartphone uptake and collaboration between the private and public sectors:

·       In South Africa, 78 percent of all internet traffic takes place over mobile channels – one of the highest rates in the world. However, despite the continued growth of adoption rates, only 15 percent of South Africans reported making a purchase on a mobile phone in the preceding month when surveyed in 2016.

·       In India, both Ant Financial and Tencent have bought into the Indian mobile payments market, which is enjoying rapid growth under new regulation. Ant Financial and Alibaba have  invested up to $900 million in PayTM, as well as sharing staff and technical expertise. The result: PayTM has grown from 5 million to around 200 million users in just the last few years.

·       Indonesia was the fastest-growing m-commerce market in the world in 2016, expanding 155 percent from January 2016 to January 2017. Some of this growth may be due to the release in 2015 of BBM Pay’s Instant Mobile Payments. The popular BBM chat app has over 55 million users in Indonesia and continues to develop.

·       In South America, markets have the infrastructure necessary to build payment ecosystems similar to those seen in China. Fifty-nine percent of the South American population uses social media, and 52 percent connect with social media over their mobile phone. Yet the digital payments space remains fractured, and no payments provider has linked their service to these platforms in a significant way, or vice versa.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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