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SA Reserve Bank gets behind payment innovation

The South African Reserve Bank has thrown its weight behind local payment industry innovation and development, as the industry braces for a “time of unprecedented change”.

Speaking at the 2016 Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) International Conference, Deputy Governor of The South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Mr. Francois Groepe, said that the industry is entering a new phase in the South African payment and financial regulatory environment, in a time of significant changes to the international regulatory architecture and framework.

The SARB, who has processed payments in the region of R100 trillion in 2016 – three times the GDP of the country – announced that South Africa will have new, far-reaching and overarching, financial sector legislation by the end of 2016. “From a payment system perspective, it will include the introduction of new and more comprehensive regulations as well as expanded oversight and supervision by various regulators,” said Mr. Groepe.

The Deputy Governor declared that the national payment infrastructure is critical and systemically important given the important role it plays within our financial system and the implications of any potential failure for financial stability.

Addressing traditional Financial and Fintech industry leaders, Mr. Groepe stressed the need for cohesion in an effort to bolster an industry under attack from fraudsters. “SARB will interact with all participants in this environment to ensure that the necessary attention and priority is given. Together, we also aim to improve the levels of innovation as well as the safety and soundness of the national payment system and, going forward, also that of all systemically important financial market infrastructures.”

Payment stakeholders welcomed the boost from the country’s top regulator, echoing the need for holistic collaboration and the stimulation of innovation that keeps the customer safe, so that they can benefit from the convenience of technological advancements.

Leading payments provider, PayU, hailed the announcement, saying that the industry in SA is laden with exciting talent pushing for opportunities. Johan Dekker, Head of payments in Africa at PayU EMEA, said, “This is good news for the industry. We see growth in our European and other African markets driven primarily through innovation, facilitated by unity between the industry and regulators.”

The announcement by the SARB coincides with a number of technological innovations that are poised to affect South Africans in the coming months. These have been in operation in various stages in other markets and include biometric authentication and tokenisation.

Samsung Pay’s meteoric growth to 500 million global users in just six months shows the power of paying simply by being authenticated through your unique characteristics.

On Tuesday, PASA announced a new standardised specification to facilitate biometric authentication on payment cards. Working in partnership with Mastercard and Visa, this technology framework is designed to ensure open interoperable solutions in South Africa. The specification enables a range of biometric solutions, from fingerprint verification to palm, voice, iris, or facial biometrics.

Tokenisation – which is the process of replacing sensitive account number data with a unique string of numbers that cannot be used to make transactions – has already hit its straps as the emerging data security standard. Although, like most transformative technologies, it is widely expected to morph into further disruption as it evolves.

“Much of the focus in the industry at the moment is essentially about taking the friction out of the purchase, while keeping it secure, and achieving this as quickly as possible. However, with fast-changing technology and the inevitably more demanding customer, it is important that all checks are in place,” says Johan Dekker.

While the Fintech and Banking industry is providing many exciting opportunities, it should be balanced by efficiency, safety and financial stability considerations. 

Cautioning against over-reliance on the regulator, Mr. Groepe added, ”It is not the role of regulators to hamper innovation, but the SARB is jointly responsible for financial stability, which includes aspects such as cybersecurity, infrastructures, and a safe and efficient financial system. We therefore need to strive towards achieving a healthy balance when we respond to these developments.”

What is evident, though, is the central bank’s commitment. “Executives should no longer ignore the importance of the national payment system and its infrastructure, or the risks and threats (e.g. that of cybersecurity) in this environment. Payment systems and related matters need to be elevated from the back office to the boardroom. This has happened at the SARB and other central banks,” says Mr. Groepe.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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