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MWC: Four technologies stealing the show

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Four key technologies could steal the show at Mobile World Congress, writes REMI DE FOUCHIER, mobile solutions specialist at Gemalto.

We’re at Mobile World Congress (MWC) to hear about cutting edge developments across the increasingly complex and diverse mobile landscape. The theme of this year’s show is The Next Element, so here are the four biggest next elements we’re expecting to see:

  1. Stronger commitments on 5G

We all know that 5G is on its way. Many organisations are working hard to bring the technology to the masses, with the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, committing £740m to its development in the UK last November. While over in the US, AT&T and Verizon have begun trials. But as yet no firm promises regarding full-scale commercial launch have been made by anyone.

We’re expecting this to change at the show, with operators making stronger commitments that truly fulfil the entire promise of 5G. This means a revolutionised network that offers ubiquitous connectivity and network slicing – which allows operators to spin up autonomous, customised, isolated networks on demand for their business partners – not simply further discussion about testing new radio technology, which is just an evolution.

As part of this, we hope to see greater elaboration of use-cases for 5G beyond consumers’ smartphones and enhanced mobile broadband use cases. The improved reliability and ultra low-latency that 5G provides will have a huge impact on a big number of industries and governments and MWC should provide the forum to further the conversation. Security and standardisation will both be critical parts of this discussion, for the market to realize its business potential.

We’ll also see many more structuring partnerships being announced between device manufacturers, IoT players, infrastructure providers, systems integrators and cloud providers as the IoT ecosystem continues to develop with the promise of 5G and the flexibility introduced by this revolutionised, virtualised, sliced network core.

  1. Consumerisation of biometrics  

Last year saw MasterCard introduce “selfie” payments, marking a shift in both corporate and consumer trust in biometrics. We believe that the forthcoming year, starting with some big announcements from payment and hardware organisations at MWC 2017, will see wider consumerisation of biometric solutions. Smartphones will ship with several sources of biometrics, including heart beat detection, iris scanning and veins network mapping. OLED display makers will announce on-screen fingerprint readers as the desire for bezel-free displays on smartphones grows.

And of course, along with the hardware developments, so too must standards follow. We expect FIDO to announce standards, or at least a roadmap for standards, for biometrics on Android devices. It will be interesting to see how easy OEMs make it for developers to access all of these APIs, so that third-party apps can use them without compromising security.

  1. Network-proof connected cars

In recent years MWC has become a showcase for connected car technology and mobility applications, too. Last year’s event was the launch pad for Qualcomm and Mercedes-Benz’ self-driving car, and revenues from the sector are predicted to quadruple in the run up 2020. Both, the technology and new business models are evolving and are transforming the Automotive Industry into what is called New Mobility.

The big theme on New Mobility is to link connected cars with the digital life of the driver or passenger. Car IDs to be linked with the digital IDs of the end user. The Virtual Car Key (VCK) is a first example where the key as part of a digital Car ID will need to be securely stored on the end user mobile device. Opening a car and starting the engine is a crucial element of any comprehensive mobility app.

This year’s MWC is where we’ll start to see applications that will offer and end2end management of the end user ID and its storage into connected car. We will see concepts of further elements of the end user’s ID such as his very personal data plan that can be seamlessly used for infotainment applications in the vehicle. Secured and aimed for providing great user experience.

  1. Improved on-demand connectivity

The IoT ecosystem requires devices – whether for consumers or for industry – to be able to access connectivity on demand. eSIM and Remote SIM Provisioning will be the key to connecting to the cellular network the surge in consumer devices (think fitness trackers, personal drones, VR headsets, smart watches etc), but will also play a key role in enabling the Industrial IoT. For example, imagine a rent-a-car company that wants to switch the connectivity service provider of its entire fleet in one go.

However, this requires interoperability and common standards across devices. Huge progresses have been made in the past months for industrial IoT with multi players testing done by GSMA. Our products and solutions successfully completed these testing demonstrating the strength and depth of our commitment to the development of the M2M and IoT markets.

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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