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Here are 5 ways blockchain can change media

Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt existing business models and enable new ones, and the media industry will be the first to feel the effects, a new report from Deloitte reveals.

The report – titled, Blockchain @ Media: A new Game Changer for the Media Industry? – explores five potential use cases with the aim of triggering thinking on how powerful the blockchain concept can be in and for media.

According to Mark Casey, Global Media & Entertainment and TMT Africa Leader at Deloitte, blockchain – the same technology behind Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies – permits the bypassing of content aggregators, platform providers, and royalty collection associations to a large extent, signalling a shift in market power to the copyright owners.

“While some applications of blockchain technology may still seem far-fetched, payment-focused use cases have already been proved to work. Parts of the media value chain are, therefore, already endangered by new blockchain-based payment and contract options. These can fundamentally reset pricing, advertising, revenue sharing, and royalty payment processes,” says Casey.

In Use Case 1, “New pricing options for paid content”, the Deloitte report details how consumers are increasingly demanding an individual, customised content experience, as evidenced by the success of music and video streaming services.

While transaction costs have made it difficult to market low-priced content items or small bundles competitively and profitably, blockchain-enabled micro-payments can help publishers to monetize this flexibility seeking group of customers.

“With the help of a blockchain, individual articles or other pieces of content could be sold for cent- prices without disproportionate transaction costs,” Casey says.

Use Case 2, “Content bypassing aggregators”, predicts that while ad-based distribution models will remain important in the next decade, the intermediaries between the content creator and the potential advertiser will increasingly find themselves cut out of the equation.

“Based on the blockchain, everyone from leading media houses to small bloggers can easily generate advertising revenues,” explains Neville Hounsom, Director: Strategy & Operations, Deloitte SA, who adds that as blockchains permit an exact tracking of content usage, they also enable a direct allocation of advertising budgets.

“Together with new, blockchain-enabled micro-payments, content creators are able to establish direct relationships with their customers. Artists can market their songs independently of big platform providers wherever they want, since a blockchain permits easy tracking of usage and deduction of the associated payments,” Hounsom says.

Use Case 3, “Distribution of royalty payments”, explores another source of income for content producers and explains how the blockchain can enable a far more equitable distribution of royalty payments.

Today, the distribution of royalty payments builds on multiple contracts between artists, producers, and music publishing houses.

“With the help of a blockchain, the distribution of royalties could become more efficient and transparent. This would include a music directory with the original digital music file –  associated with all relevant identities of people involved in the content creation. It is also possible to store instructions in the form of smart contracts that specify how the artists are to be compensated and how sales proceeds are to be divided among all eligible parties,” says Casey.

Use Case 4, “Secure and transparent C2C sales”, unpacks how blockchain has the potential for content rights owners to enable additional revenue streams by leveraging consumer-to- consumer sales.

While illegal file sharing remains a major problem for media companies, the blockchain has the potential to solve that problem, giving content owners full control and visibility of the consumption and number of uses of individual songs and / or movies.

This could create new business models such as consumer-to-consumer marketing of content. “For example, now a subscriber can access their blockchain content and share it with a friend. The subscription holder will then be charged directly with the fee for the specific content they shared. This permits easy and legal sharing of paid content among users, and forms an additional source of revenue for aggregators and copyright holders,” Casey says.

Use Case 5, “Consumption of paid content without boundaries”, tackles a common consumer complaint: The inability to access the contents they subscribed to when they are in another country or region on business or on holiday.

The report points out that the blockchain has the potential to make digital rights management (DRM) systems obsolete, or at least to reduce their complexity, because every transaction or act of consumption is tracked in the blockchain and directly linked to a user. The payment will be automatically initiated according to the underlying smart contract terms for the content.

In light of these use cases and other potential scenarios, Hounsom advises that media players start considering blockchain-based applications and their potential impact on the whole industry. These include micropayment-based pricing options for paid content, a shift of market power caused by content bypassing aggregators, and an improved distribution of royalty payments.

“To ensure timely and appropriate measures, we recommend an immediate review of the individual consequences for the existing business. In addition, companies should lose no time in identifying applicable blockchain based opportunities as a fundamental component of their future business strategy,” Hounsom says.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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