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Big change coming to payments tech

By CRAIG DUGGAN, Commercial Manager at Transaction Junction

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As we move into 2020, a date which replaced the year 2000 in many science-fiction writers’ quivers, it is worth looking at what kind of change we can expect as their ‘future’ becomes our ‘present’. While it is difficult trying to predict the future, it is also worth remembering that new things are seldom dreamed up and invented on the fly – there is usually a long development road first. Therefore, while this road is certainly becoming shorter, if we consider where we have come from and where we are now, we can begin to infer certain key trends for the near future.

In the e-commerce sector, from both a shopping and a payment point of view, the use of mobile phones for these purposes is only going to go from strength to strength. After all, mobile shopping is already being widely embraced, as it essentially means users have a virtual shopping mall in their pocket.

Mobile devices are unique in that they operate well within the e-commerce model yet work equally well in a brick and mortar retail environment. The use of a phone as a means of making a payment at the till is mostly fuelled by the convenience factor it offers. After all, people often lose wallets, but they take much greater care of their mobiles, as their lives revolve around these devices.

Naturally, as we head further outside the metros, we see less use of this technology, but thanks to the use of QR codes and Near Field Communications (NFC) – what is called ‘tap and go’ technology – consumers in these areas are now becoming more comfortable with this technology. This is partly influenced by the fact that holiday makers have headed into these areas, the demand for it has grown, along with its acceptance.

In fact, the financial services sector and the payments industry need to continue working together to drive this forward. Remember that the retail experience today is driven by the consumer, and these organisations must be prepared to accept whatever payment method the customer wants to use, while at the same time assuring the retailer that they will be paid.

Another trend that will become more visible this year is what we refer to as hyper-personalisation. This is when fintechs are able to leverage the huge amounts of available data related to a consumer, in order to drive insights to help businesses to gain a better understanding of their customers. As more and more data becomes available – from areas like social media, financial transactions and even browser history – this will be coupled to artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to enable a personalised customer engagement that delivers them real-time information.

A classic example is a consumer who fills up at a petrol station. The AI can determine from previous purchases that the consumer loves coffee and can inform them of the specials available at the garage’s own coffee shop. Previously associated mostly with online shopping, 2020 should see this trend entering the omni-channel space.

The Internet of Things (IoT), of course, goes together with the collaboration between fintechs, the banks and the payment facilitators. Together this creates a more powerful entity, as it significantly increases the amount of data that can be leveraged to improve the consumer experience.

Of course, no insight into future trends would be complete without mentioning Blockchain which, although it’s been around for some time, should grow significantly in 2020. We will witness an increasing number of organisations playing around with the technology and learning about it, as from a regulatory viewpoint, there is much interest in what it can offer.

Blockchain is ideal for the delivery of smart contracts, digital payments and even identity management, making it immensely powerful in combating fraud and the efficient use of Blockchain will be at the forefront of creating a far more secure transaction process. Thus, we will see increasing implementations, of this and as it gains momentum, it will move away from being something spoken of in hushed tones – as if it is something only a Bond villain would use – and into the mainstream.

In 2020 retailers will continue to expand the convenient payment services in-store, as an increasing number of common layers are forged between retailers and the financial sector in respect of consumers. Something like airtime, after all, can today be purchased at a retailer, but also via a banking application. This is a service common to both, that is simply offered through different channels.

It is this commonality that is driving the growing collaboration between these entities; a way to ensure the rich layer of experience continues to exist for customers, wherever they are. We are now at the point where there is a focus on making it easier for the consumer to transact, combined with an understanding that the customer is common to both sides. Of course, the leaders here will then be the businesses that are able to distinguish themselves via the richness of their approach and the delivery of an exceptional customer experience.

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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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