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Why Blockchain matters

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With Blockchain creating waves in the banking industry, business transformation solutions provider, Ovations, is looking into who it will affect the most as well as the opportunities it presents for the market as a whole.

Blockchain is the open, secure and distributed database that powers the more infamous cryptocurrency BitCoin. Craig Leppan, Director of Business Development at Ovations says that Blockchain is in short a public ledger of transactions and can best be described as a massive distributed Google spreadsheet, on which participating users are constantly looking to add entries about a consistent set of transactions, but that can’t be tampered with, even by its administrator.

Its reputation for being disruptive is hinged on its ability to create cryptocurrencies, particularly due to the anonymous nature of the participants behind the transactions. While popular thinking is that it is just for building payment systems, Leppan says that there are a host of non-currency applications that can be built making use of the open nature of the Blockchain system.

“The cryptography and security behind it are complex, but the key thing is that the ‘spreadsheet’ is copied and held by all users working with it. What this means is that no one owns it but they all contribute to the updates. No one user can bring it down or add to it unilaterally, it’s a consensus system built on creating new rows in the spreadsheet or “blocks” necessary in the on-going “chain” of transactions,” says Leppan.

The Trust Machine

It was recently described in a cover story of the Economist magazine as the “Trust Machine”, an apt term for the underlying value that the Blockchain system provides. However, in this descriptor lies the threat it poses to third parties that are currently providing the self same services.

“Several banking and card associations may view Blockchain as an attack on the central nature of their clearing and settlement operations. The bigger concerns also come from Reserve Banks who see it as breaking the financial controls of cross border payments, and this has led to many banks staying clear of embracing it,” adds Leppan.

Trusted Third Parties

Trusted third parties come in many shapes and forms, and not just as financial Institutions. In fact a Deeds Office, Shares and Trading desks, as well as anyone who holds a record of ownership on your behalf qualifies. Generally, a third party will be guarding their central private ledgers of users’ transactions and the fees associated with providing that service.

The Blockchain system allows the open and distributed nature of the Internet to take the place of those third parties, allowing the participants and the shared ownership of the “block” to determine when value or records have changed between parties.

Designed to solve the problem of digital cash, the underlying deterministic properties of the chain and the transfer of records between participants, means that the applications it can be used for are far broader than just payments and currencies.

“Blockchain is today being used in a myriad of interesting applications, as it is able to guarantee digital ownership as well as transfer content without the duplication of the content associated with Internet sharing. The more we embrace the openness of new technologies like Blockchain, the bigger the business opportunity for all, but for many companies they still need to get past the traditional concept of data ownership,” ends Leppan.

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Jaguar drives dictionary definition

Jaguar is calling for the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries to update their online definition of the word ‘car’

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Jaguar is spearheading a campaign for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Oxford Dictionaries (OxfordDictionaries.com) to change their official online definitions of the word ‘car’.

The I-PACE, Jaguar’s all-electric performance SUV, is the 2019 World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year. However, strictly speaking, the zero-emission vehicle isn’t defined as a car.

The OED, the principal historical dictionary of the English language, defines a ‘car’ in its online dictionary as: ‘a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use’.

Whereas the current definition of a ‘car’ on Oxford Dictionaries.com, a collection of dictionary websites produced by Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishing house of the University of Oxford, is: ‘A road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.’

To remedy the situation, Jaguar has submitted a formal application to the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com to have the definitions updated to include additional powertrains, including electric vehicles (EV).

David Browne, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, said: “A lot of time and thought is put into the name of any new vehicle or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated. We are therefore inviting the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update its online classification to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) towards more sustainable powertrains.”

The Oxford English Dictionary is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.

Jaguar unveiled the I-PACE, its first all-electric vehicle, last year to deliver sustainable sports car performance, next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) technology and five-seat SUV practicality.

Featuring a state-of-the-art 90kWh lithium-ion battery, two Jaguar-designed motors and a bespoke aluminium structure, the I-PACE is capable of 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and a range of up to 470km (WLTP).

While both the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries review the application, Jaguar is encouraging people to get behind the campaign by asking how the word ‘car’ should be defined. Contact Jaguar on TwitterFacebook and Instagram using #RedefineTheCar with your thoughts.

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How Internet blocks visually impaired

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Picture: Amelie-Benoist / Getty Images

A pervasive “digital divide” inhibits blind people from accessing the Internet, according to a study conducted by Nucleus Research for Deque Systems, an accessibility software company specialising in digital equality. This results in visits to websites being abandoned, further resulting in a missed market opportunity for the websites in question.

The study, which conducted in-depth interviews with 73 U.S. adults who are blind or have severe visual impairments, revealed that two-thirds of the Internet transactions initiated by people with vision impairments end in abandonment because the websites they visit aren’t accessible enough. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they regularly call a site’s customer service to report inaccessibility and have no choice but to visit another, more accessible site to make the transaction.

The Nucleus study also scanned hundreds of websites in the e-commerce, news and information and government categories and found that 70 percent had certain “critical blockers” that rendered them inaccessible to visually impaired users.

“Besides the moral dilemma and legal risk, businesses with inaccessible websites are missing a huge revenue opportunity by ignoring an untapped market,” says Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems. “Among internet retailers specifically, two-thirds of the top ten online retailers had serious accessibility issues, meaning they are leaving $6.9 billion in potential North American e-commerce revenues on the table.”

Web accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities to independently gather information, complete transactions, or communicate on the Internet. Most visually impaired Internet users rely on assistive technologies like screen readers or screen magnifiers to render sites perceivable and operable. However, these assistive technologies require that websites be built with accessibility in mind and optimized to interface with assistive technology, in order to convey information in an accurate and understandable manner.

Critical accessibility blockers can vary across industries. In e-commerce, problems include issues like missing form and button labels (thereby making forms or the “checkout” button invisible without context). Amazon, Best Buy and Target were found to be accessibility leaders in this space. Additionally, the study found:

  • Eight out of ten news sites had significant accessibility issues.
  • Seven out of ten blind persons reported being unable to access information and services through government websites, including Medicare’s site.
  • Fewer than one in three websites have clear contact information or instructions for blind persons to seek help if they encounter accessibility issues, meaning many have low levels of success in reporting and solving these problems.

“A focus on accessibility needs to be a core part of the website design and development process,” continues Kumar. “Considering accessibility as early as the conception phase, and proactively building and testing sites for accessibility as they move towards production, is significantly more effective than remediating it later, helping organizations save significant time and resources while avoiding unnecessary customer grievances.”

To download the report, visit: https://accessibility.deque.com/nucleus-accessibility-research-2019

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