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Enter the Blockchain era

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LEE NAIK, MD of Accenture Digital for South Africa believes the next era in banking will be Blockchain, as among other things it allows faster and more secure transactions, comprehensive audit trails and greatly reduced costs.

An internet of finance. The renaissance of money. If the previous decade was the age of mobile banking, the next looks set to be the era of Blockchain. No other technology has more potential to change the very face of how banking takes place.

People get tangled in the technical side of what Blockchain is – skip to 29:00 of this podcast for a fantastic explanation from Stuff editor Craig Wilson – so I want to rather focus on the incredible implications of this technology.

Currently, our model for managing the flow of money is antiquated. Transactions take place across multiple payment engines that all need central brokerage, which takes time, incurs cost and introduces needless complexity. As a decentralised ledger of transactions, Blockchain introduces a standardised framework for transactions rather than the individual payment ‘language’ of each bank.

Just how much of a game-changer is this? Just think of the Tower of Babel. Taking place in a time where everyone spoke the same language, humanity came to an agreement to build what was effectively an Old Testament version of the Burj Khalifa. God, realising what was about to happen, said a few holy words and caused the builders to suddenly speak a multitude of extremely confusing languages so they couldn’t cooperate properly.

The story shows the power of having a single unified language. A real life example would be the use of Sanskrit throughout the ancient world. Blockchain shows the same promise by offering a lingua franca for transactions across different banks and nations.

This is what makes the technology such a game changer. As a vehicle for universal, transparent communication, Blockchain’s potential for innovation is huge. Just like the Babel story, it allows us to reach right up to the heavens.

A world shaped by Blockchain

What does this mean for the business world? At the moment, no-one’s entirely sure, although it’s sure to be disruptive. Blockchain’s decentralisation and community-based assurance means it allows for faster and more secure transactions, comprehensive audit trails and greatly reduced costs, among other things. I’m incredibly excited about the potential applications across all industries.

Banks take note: Blockchain is effectively borderless, potentially enabling instant money transfers from any location. With Africa standing out as one of the largest and fastest-growing remittance markets in the world, Blockchain could potentially free up billions in costly brokerage fees. Numerous start-ups and some large banks are already testing out Bitcoin and other Wallet services in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Then there is the possibility for smart assets to drastically change models of ownership. Blockchain currencies like Ethereum and Ripple could allow for the risk-free exchange of real-world assets in a single transaction. Imagine being able to enter into an instant smart bond that pays for itself and has a risk-free interest rate.

It’s not just banks that will feel the effects either. A Blockchain-based energy network for example could effectively allow consumers to bypass traditional utilities providers and enjoy ‘peer-to-peer’ electricity. Need some energy? Who needs a service provider when you have a neighbour with solar panels willing to sell.

And that’s just a tiny sampling of potential use cases – there’s the possibility of specialty lending, tamper-proof digital record-keeping, transparent e-voting and much, much more. Here’s what I believe enterprises should be doing in order to sniff these out.

Just do it

Not every application is necessarily suited for distributed ledgers. There’s just one way to find out – by jumping into the sandbox and playing around with the toys available. Dedicate some resources to testing out possible use cases and developing potential proofs-of-concept. Partner with FinTech companies and start-ups who already have some Blockchain knowledge and set up a space for experimentation, free of the pressure of short-term monetisation.

Join the community

The best way of keeping ahead of the Blockchain curve is to become part of the conversation. There’s a thriving cryptocurrency community out there that covers every industry and talking point. Immerse yourself in the discussions and you’ll be up to date on what the evangelists, sceptics and early adopters are really thinking.

Start having the conversation

One of the biggest obstacles to mainstream Blockchain adoption is that of regulation. Similar to Uber, which faces regulatory roadblocks in many of the countries it launches in, Blockchain players will also have an uphill battle to fight. In Africa especially, legislation tends to be somewhat silent on the basics of IT systems. Similarly, there needs to be an understanding among your own staff on what Blockchain is, how to use it effectively and what exactly it can do. Start preparing the narrative now so that the educational foundation is there when the time comes to launch distributed ledger applications into operation.

Go for glory

Blockchain isn’t going to become mainstream overnight, but many companies – from small start-ups to major financial institutions – are already testing use cases in an attempt to be first to market. It’s tempting to either try outrace the competition or sit back and wait until use cases are fairly established to swoop in as a best in class alternative. But why not both? It’s always preferable to be a disruptive force, but this calls for a strategy that is as bold as it is structured. Start with what your customer wants, utilising existing use cases – other organisations’ as well as your own – as tools to build experiences that go above and beyond.

Have you begun to explore the possibilities for Blockchain in your enterprise? How far along is your industry in the adoption of cryptocurrencies?

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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Five key biometric facts

Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.

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How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.

Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…

  • The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
  • The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person.  A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
  • Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
  • Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers.  An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past.  Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
  • Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.

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