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Kodak moment for banks?

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People and businesses will always need banking, but, asks PETER ALKEMA, FNB Business CIO, will they always need banks?

People and businesses will always need banking, but will they always need banks? This question is driving a wave of disruption and new thinking in the industry. Discovery has recently announced plans to enter the local retail banking market; telco and tech companies are making similar moves. Fintech is offering completely new ways of doing business and customers are embracing exponential start-ups who offer frictionless, mobile services. Banks are responding with increased digitisation, new lines of business and highly innovative channels. What’s really happening, how will the banking landscape change and when will it take place?

The reason that non-traditional players are getting into main account banking is because of the customer intimacy and insight that comes with a transactional bank account. It’s the one place that all the money goes into and comes out of; businesses put their main account on all their invoices and many married couples don’t even share one! A home loan or insurance policy is important but still just a monthly debit order that doesn’t generate any behavioural insight about a customer. The relationship is also typically low key; you will only hear from your insurance broker on your birthday and only home loans collections department if you miss a payment.

Some banks have taken advantage of this and created additional stickiness through rewards programmes, improved channels and ecosystems of value-adds. Core transactional platforms are at the heart of a bank’s operations. Regulation and banking license approval ensures that banking platforms are robust and well managed. In addition, financial aspects such as capital adequacy and risk controls such as anti money-laundering mean the requirements for running a bank are significant barriers to entry.

The local banking industry is consistently rated very highly and its world class resilience and regulatory oversight provided a shock absorber for South Africa during the global financial crisis of 2008. Internationally, large banks have relied on these barriers to entry to block new entrants but the rise of fintech and trust-disintermediating technologies such as Blockchain is changing this mindset. Looser regulation in the UK is seeing a wave of banking license applications from start-ups and in the US, firms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are actively launching financial services products.

Arguably much of this activity is still peripheral and the core business of running a large scale bank relies on well established processes. This was true for Kodak in the mid nineties when it employed 140,000 people, sold 85% of the world’s photo paper and was the fourth most valuable brand in the United States. In 2012 it filed for bankruptcy; it got left behind in an industry that was turned upside down by technology and its impact on their customers’ lives and the market. Kodak invented digital photography but they failed to embrace the disruption to their own business model that it caused to the industry. Similarly, the Walkman was the first portable device for listening to recorded music; Sony could have digitised it but Apple’s iPod eventually obliterated it.

In 2000, Blockbuster was the biggest video rental chain in America, and at the time internet startup Netflix offered to run its fledgling online business. Blockbuster turned this down and went bankrupt 10 years later, having failed to move its business from bricks to clicks while Netflix has become a global leader in streaming movies.

South African banks have been very successful at moving processes off of paper, out of physical locations and onto digital channels. FirstRand’s 2016 results indicate that overall electronic volumes increased 13%, while manual volumes grew only 2%. New ways of working are also extending beyond channels to back office operations.

The next decade is likely to be pivotal for the banking industry and it will be driven by the race for the customer and not by the fintech on its own. Digital is just the enabler of new business models built around improved customer centricity that according to Dimension Data’s Digital Advisory is something that banks should avoid just doing, they have to become digital in their thinking, operating models and execution.

Customers expect frictionless processes that are available where they are and not only where the bank is, the transport and accommodation industries have already delivered this with Uber and Airbnb. According to Google, the tipping point to mobile in South Africa happened in 2014 when internet searches from mobile devices exceeded desktops. Millennials don’t stand in queues or fill in forms, they build trust through convenience and they reward customer delight with loyalty and peer group recognition. By 2020 there will be 500 million people in Sub Saharan Africa with connected smartphones; these people will still need banking but it will probably look very different from today.

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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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