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Rise of biometrics in business

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The need for ever-improving customer service, higher levels of speed and efficiency, as well as the limitless financial and reputational risks that go along with online financial services, banks, insurers and other financial service providers are embracing biometrics like never before.

Biometrics may at the outset seem like a space-age, technology driven discipline, but using unique physical characteristics as identifying features is nothing new. Artefacts discovered in ancient Babylon and China have been uncovered bearing handprints and fingerprints that scholars believe were used for everything from business to criminal prosecution. Technology, and a greater understanding of what makes humans unique on a biological and behavioural level, have accelerated and expanded the biometric field to practically limitless applications in the modern business landscape.

From the fingerprint scanners that we use to get into the office every day, to the nifty facial recognition features being used to unlock smartphones, biometrics has been sneaking stealthily into our lives for years. But in an age where so much of our daily lives is carried out remotely and online, threats of cybercrime and fraud are driving a new wave of biometric controls that are being layered over our personal and professional online functions, with surprising urgency and a vast array of innovative techniques.

It’s safe to say that digital banking has surpassed real-world banking in much of the developed world. Thanks to the need for ever-improving customer service, ever higher levels of speed and efficiency, as well as the limitless financial and reputational risks that go along with online financial services, banks, insurers and other financial service providers are embracing biometrics like never before to gain the competitive edge over their peers.

“In the financial services sector in particular, we are bound to see more and more biometrics being made use of in unobtrusive and creative ways over the next few years,” said Davina Myburgh, Director of Core Credit for TransUnion Africa. “We live in a mobile age, and people are understandably less and less eager to go into their bank branch unnecessarily. And since customer service and digital security are two of the biggest opportunities for both consumer and commercial banks to differentiate themselves from the competition, the race is on to incorporate biometrics in meaningful and original ways.”

From established, old-world techniques such as fingerprint recognition, to more advanced applications like voice recognition and iris scanning, the reliability of these technologies is growing in leaps and bounds – but it’s not quite foolproof. Not yet, anyway. Myburgh explained:

“A burn or scar could make fingerprint identification difficult, while a cold could affect our ability to use voice identification. Even the unique patterns of our irises have been known to change over time. The real power of biometrics is not in its ability to completely replace the identifiers we rely on today, but to add an extra layer of security and convenience to transactions without affecting speed, efficiency, or the customer experience.”

Balancing this trade-off between security and user-experience will divide the winners from the losers in the coming years, and biometric measures are helping organisations around the world to add new levels of excellence to both. As we continue to see ever-more creative developments in this field, it’s becoming clear that biometric technologies are no longer a gimmick, but are part and parcel of the merge we are seeing between the real world and the digital, contributing to a more seamless transition for both organisations and individual consumers.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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