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Autonomous Mobile Robots: More Diversity Than First Meets the Eye Finds IDTechEx Research

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Autonomous Mobile Robots: More Diversity Than First Meets the Eye Finds IDTechEx Research

Autonomous mobility, in the general public’s eye, is now synonymous with cars. Whilst this might be the largest ultimate prize, it is by no means the only commercial manifestation of this technology. Indeed, as the IDTechEx Research report New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players demonstrates, numerous autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are being commercialized in applications where there is (a) a clear commercial purpose and (b) a more structured and predictable environment.

IDTechEx review this trend below, showing these autonomous mobile robots are automating tasks in areas as diverse as security, retail, warehouses, delivery, agriculture, and the home environment.

Warehouses: e-commerce is on the rise across the world. This requires faster delivery of multi-item packages to customers. Indeed, the push is to cut down delivery times to a point that the key advantages of bricks-and-mortar shops- the instant fulfilment- disappears. Mobile robots are helping here. Grid-based automated robots are very popular today. They operate in robot-only zones, follow printed regularly-spaced QR codes for navigation, and shuttle around special totes to human-staffed picking/packing station. They can regularly enable 300 picks per hour with some reporting even 500 picks per hour in special cases. They also enable more compact warehouses since shelves can be packed close together, given that robots slide underneath them. In this regard, the market has responded strongly to fill the gap when Kiva was taken off the market by Amazon. Today companies around the world, in the US, Europe, India and China, are reporting a rapid rise in installations.

In parallel to this, AMRs are also appearing. They offer more flexible, collaborative and hybrid work arrangements and cut the installation, and work flow modification, times. They are getting increasingly more adept and trust levels are rising to assign them increasingly heavier loads. To read more see the IDTechEx Research report Mobile Robots and Drones in Material Handling and Logistics 2018-2038.

Last mile delivery: The last mile of the delivery chain is its least productive. In contrast to other steps where large payloads traverse fixed routes, here small payloads are delivered to customized destinations. As such, this step represents more than 50% of the total cost. Today, this last step is accomplished by a man-in-a-van, a man-on-a-bike or a man-on-a-motorbike. Autonomous mobile robots now seek to automate this step and thus raise productivity. To this end, we are seeing the emergence of small AMRs. These travel at slow paces, carry small loads, and deliver only in fairly structured spaces with low congestion and/or under close supervision. As such, they offer poor conductivity. The secret, as IDTechEx have said before, however, lies in fleet-level productivity. Autonomy eliminates the driver overhead per vehicle thus enabling cost effective fleet operation. As such, even if individual units are less productive than current modes, the fleets can be more productive and cost competitive. For more visit http://www.IDTechEx.com/mobile.

Agriculture: Already agriculture is the leading adapter of autonomous mobility technology. For years, level-3 and level-4 autonomous tractors equipped with RTKLS GPS technology have been selling on the markets. Now these tractors are tending towards full autonomy. To this end, for several years now, we have seen working semi-commercial prototypes of fully autonomous (level 5) tractors with and without a cab. The technology is ready, but cost of sensor suites is still too high and behavioural resistance towards adoption exists. However, these barriers are only temporary as the march towards higher levels of productivity is unstoppable in the long term, and agriculture has shown that once a new technology is proven it will adopt it.

In parallel the rise of autonomy mobility can lead to a paradigm shift. Here, we can see the rise of fleets of autonomous, small, slow, and lightweight agricultural robots. These too will be less productive than a powerful tractor on an individual unit basis, but in some applications they will prove more productive on a fleet level. This is only made possible because autonomous mobility eliminates the driver overhead per vehicle. See the report Agricultural Robots and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Markets and Players for more.

Security: The provision of private security is a major business worldwide. In the US alone, 1.1 million are employed in this sector earning around $30k per annum each. AMRs are now seeking to enter into this market as security guards, both for indoor and outdoor applications, such as in data centres, utility and oil/gas centres, solar farms, shopping malls, offices, other forms of commercial property, plants, and so on. These are sensor laden robots. In typical arrangements, they include cameras, two-way audio system thermal sensors, gas sensors, and so on. For outdoor purposes, these security robots are more rugged and can reply on GPS, whereas for indoor they require GPS free autonomy together with sleeker designs. These robots will not fully replace human workers. Instead, they will mainly complement them by automating tedious tasks. As with many other forms of mobile robots, they will change the nature of the job, putting an emphasis on the remote control of fleets. To read more see the report New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players.

Retail: Autonomous mobile robots are beginning to be used in retail environments on the shop floor too. While initially humanoid robots have been used at store entrances, particularly in Japan, to entice people to the store and ask questions, more recently many companies are developing AMRs. Their uses include: mapping the store, monitoring stock levels and offering data analytics to help with product positioning and placement, guiding or walking the customers to their required item, monitoring regulation and health/safety compliance and so on. Today these robots are being employed in apparel stores and supermarkets in very small numbers. These are still very much the early days, but the fact that big supermarket operates are running notable nationwide trials in the US is in itself promising. Here too, if safety is ensured, the long-term march towards high productivity with increased automation in retail environments will be inevitable. For more see New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players.

Home: The home environment has long been a market for autonomous mobile robots. Indeed, they have been around since the early 1990s. Today, they are in the market proliferation phase particularly in Asia markets including China. Indeed, the number of companies is multiplying with many seeking to challenge the dominance of iRobot, the market leader. This market has also entered its commoditization phase, with products often looking similar and competition shifting primarily towards price (although differentiate on features such as suction power remains). Technology wise, these robots are mature. The navigation has largely shifted from random movement to intelligence path planning, and the robot is being given connectivity capabilities to position it as the centre of the emerging smart home ecosystem. In parallel, attention is shifting towards larger-sized autonomous cleaning units aimed at commercial spaces such as hotels and shopping centres, whilst suppliers are doubling their effort to offer wet cleaners, window cleaners, and so on. To read more visit http://www.IDTechEx.com/robotics.

To learn more about emerging AMRs please see the IDTechEx Research report New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players. Here, IDTechEx explain a variety of markets in detail and offer our insights into future market developments including potential for commoditization of the hardware and software as well as the risk of business scene consolidation. The report identifies and profiles all the key companies worldwide working on AMRs. Finally, it offers short-, medium- and long-term market projections in market value and unit numbers.

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Taking control of compliance: how FS institutions can keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape

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Taking control of compliance: how FS institutions can keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape 1

By Charles Southwood, Regional VP – Northern Europe and MEA at Denodo

The wide-spread digital transformation that has swept the financial services (FS) sector in recent years has brought with it a world of possibilities. As traditional financial institutions compete with a fresh wave of challenger banks and fintech startups, innovation is increasing at an unprecedented pace.

Emerging technologies – alongside the ever-evolving concept of online banking – have provided a platform in which the majority of customer interactions now take place in a digital format. The result of this is a never-ending stream of data and digital information. If used correctly, this data can help drive customer experience initiatives and shape wider business strategies, giving organisations a competitive edge.

However, before FS organisations can utilise data-driven insights, they need to ensure that they can adequately protect and secure that data, whilst also complying with mandatory regulatory requirements and governance laws.

The regulation minefield

Regulatory compliance in the FS sector is a complex field to navigate. Whether its potential financial fraud or money laundering, risk comes in many different forms. Due to their very nature – and the type of data that they hold – FS businesses are usually placed under the heaviest of scrutiny when it comes to achieving compliance and data governance, arguably held to a higher standard than those operating in any other industry.

In fact, research undertaken last month discovered that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has had a greater impact on FS organisations than any other sector. Every respondent working in finance reported that the changes made to their organisation’s cyber security strategies in the last three years were, at least to some extent, as a result of the regulation.

To make matters even more confusing, the goalpost for 100% compliance is continually moving. In fact, between 2008 and 2016, there was a 500% increase in regulatory changes in developed markets. So even when organisations think they are on the right track, they cannot afford to become complacent. The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), the requirements for central clearing and the second Payment Service Directive (PSD2), are just some examples of the regulations that have forced significant changes on the banking environment in recent years.

Keeping a handle on this legal minefield is only made more challenging by the fact that many FS organisations are juggling an unimaginable amount of data. This data is often complex and of poor quality. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured, it is stored in many different places – whether that’s in data lakes, on premise or in multi-cloud environments. FS organisations can find it extremely difficult just to find out exactly what information they are storing, let alone ensure that they are meeting the many requirements laid out by industry regulations.

A secret weapon

Modern technologies, such as data virtualisation, can help FS organisations to get a handle on their data – regardless of where it is stored or what format it is in. Through a single logical view of all data across an organisation, it boosts visibility and real-time availability of data. This means that governance, security and compliance can be centralised, vastly improving control and removing the need for repeatedly moving and copying the data around the enterprise. This can have an immediate impact in terms of enabling FS organisations to avoid data proliferation and ‘shadow’ IT.

In addition to this, when a new regulation is put in place, data virtualisation provides a way to easily find and access that data, so FS organisations can respond – without having to worry about alternative versions of that data – and ensures that they remain compliant from the offset. This level of control can be reflected even down to the finest details. For example, it is possible to set up access to governance rules through which operators can easily select who has access to what information across the organisation. They can alter settings for sharing, removing silos, masking and filtering through defined, role-based data access. In terms of governance, this feature is essential, ensuring that only those who have the correct permissions to access sensitive information are able to do so.

Compliance is a requirement that will be there forever. In fact, its role is only likely to increase as law catches up with technological advancement and the regulatory landscape continues to change. For FS organisations, failure to meet the latest legal requirements could be devastating. The monetary fines – although substantial – come second to the potential reputation damage associated with non-compliance. It could be the difference between an organisation surviving and failing in today’s climate.

No one knows what is around the corner. Whilst some companies may think they are ahead of the compliance game today, that could all change with the introduction of a new regulation tomorrow. The best way to ensure future compliance is to get a handle on your data. By providing total visibility, data virtualisation is helping organisations to gain back control and win the war for compliance.

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TCI: A time of critical importance

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TCI: A time of critical importance 2

By Fabrice Desnos, head of Northern Europe Region, Euler Hermes, the world’s leading trade credit insurer, outlines the importance of less publicised measures for the journey ahead.

After months of lockdown, Europe is shifting towards rebuilding economies and resuming trade. Amongst the multibillion-euro stimulus packages provided by governments to businesses to help them resume their engines of growth, the cooperation between the state and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters has perhaps missed the headlines. However, this cooperation will be vital when navigating the uncertain road ahead.

Covid-19 has created a global economic crisis of unprecedented scale and speed. Consequently, we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of support from national governments. Far-reaching fiscal intervention, job retention and business interruption loan schemes are providing a lifeline for businesses that have suffered reductions in turnovers to support national lockdowns.

However, it’s becoming clear the worst is still to come. The unintended consequence of government support measures is delaying the inevitable fallout in trade and commerce. Euler Hermes is already seeing increase in claims for late payments and expects this trend to accelerate as government support measures are progressively removed.

The Covid-19 crisis will have long lasting and sometimes irreversible effects on a number of sectors. It has accelerated transformations that were already underway and had radically changed the landscape for a number of businesses. This means we are seeing a growing number of “zombie” companies, currently under life support, but whose business models are no longer adapted for the post-crisis world. All factors which add up to what is best described as a corporate insolvency “time bomb”.

The effects of the crisis are already visible. In the second quarter of 2020, 147 large companies (those with a turnover above €50 million) failed; up from 77 in the first quarter, and compared to 163 for the whole of the first half of 2019. Retail, services, energy and automotive were the most impacted sectors this year, with the hotspots in retail and services in Western Europe and North America, energy in North America, and automotive in Western Europe

We expect this trend to accelerate and predict a +35% rise in corporate insolvencies globally by the end of 2021. European economies will be among the hardest hit. For example, Spain (+41%) and Italy (+27%) will see the most significant increases – alongside the UK (+43%), which will also feel the impact of Brexit – compared to France (+25%) or Germany (+12%).

Companies are restarting trade, often providing open credit to their clients. However, there can be no credit if there is no confidence. It is increasingly difficult for companies to identify which of their clients will emerge from the crisis from those that won’t, and whether or when they will be paid. In the immediate post-lockdown period, without visibility and confidence, the risk was that inter-company credit could evaporate, placing an additional liquidity strain on the companies that depend on it. This, in turn, would significantly put at risk the speed and extent of the economic recovery.

In recent months, Euler Hermes has co-operated with government agencies, trade associations and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters to create state support for intercompany trade, notably in France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. All with the same goal: to allow companies to trade with each other in confidence.

By providing additional reinsurance capacity to the trade credit insurers, governments help them continue to provide cover to their clients at pre-crisis levels.

The beneficiaries are the thousands of businesses – clients of credit insurers and their buyers – that depend upon intercompany trade as a source of financing. Over 70% of Euler Hermes policyholders are SMEs, which are the lifeblood of our economies and major providers of jobs. These agreements are not without costs or constraints for the insurers, but the industry has chosen to place the interests of its clients and of the economy ahead of other considerations, mindful of the important role credit insurance and inter-company trade will play in the recovery.

Taking the UK as an example, trade credit insurers provide cover for more than £171billion of intercompany transactions, covering 13,000 suppliers and 650,000 buyers. The government has put in place a temporary scheme of £10billion to enable trade credit insurers, including Euler Hermes, to continue supporting businesses at risk due to the impact of coronavirus. This landmark agreement represents an important alliance between the public and private sectors to support trade and prevent the domino effect that payment defaults can create within critical supply chains.

But, as with all of the other government support measures, these schemes will not exist in the long term. It is already time for credit insurers and their clients to plan ahead, and prepare for a new normal in which the level and cost of credit risk will be heightened and where identifying the right counterparts, diversifying and insuring credit risk will be of paramount importance for businesses.

Trade credit insurance plays an understated role in the economy but is critical to its health. In normal circumstances, it tends to go unnoticed because it is doing its job. Government support schemes helped maintain confidence between companies and their customers in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.

However, as government support measures are progressively removed, this crisis will have a lasting impact. Accelerating transformations, leading to an increasing number of company restructurings and, in all likelihood, increasing the level of credit risk. To succeed in the post-crisis environment, bbusinesses have to move fast from resilience to adaptation. They have to adopt bold measures to protect their businesses against future crises (or another wave of this pandemic), minimize risk, and drive future growth. By maintaining trust to trade, with or without government support, credit insurance will have an increasing role to play in this.

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What Does the FinCEN File Leak Tell Us?

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What Does the FinCEN File Leak Tell Us? 3

By Ted Sausen, Subject Matter Expert, NICE Actimize

On September 20, 2020, just four days after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a much-anticipated Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the financial industry was shaken and their stock prices saw significant declines when the markets opened on Monday. So what caused this? Buzzfeed News in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released what is now being tagged the FinCEN files. These files and summarized reports describe over 200,000 transactions with a total over $2 trillion USD that has been reported to FinCEN as being suspicious in nature from the time periods 1999 to 2017. Buzzfeed obtained over 2,100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and over 2,600 confidential documents financial institutions had filed with FinCEN over that span of time.

Similar such leaks have occurred previously, such as the Panama Papers in 2016 where over 11 million documents containing personal financial information on over 200,000 entities that belonged to a Panamanian law firm. This was followed up a year and a half later by the Paradise Papers in 2017. This leak contained even more documents and contained the names of more than 120,000 persons and entities. There are three factors that make the FinCEN Files leak significantly different than those mentioned. First, they are highly confidential documents leaked from a government agency. Secondly, they weren’t leaked from a single source. The leaked documents came from nearly 90 financial institutions facilitating financial transactions in more than 150 countries. Lastly, some high-profile names were released in this leak; however, the focus of this leak centered more around the transactions themselves and the financial institutions involved, not necessarily the names of individuals involved.

FinCEN Files and the Impact

What does this mean for the financial institutions? As mentioned above, many experienced a negative impact to their stocks. The next biggest impact is their reputation. Leaders of the highlighted institutions do not enjoy having potential shortcomings in their operations be exposed, nor do customers of those institutions appreciate seeing the institution managing their funds being published adversely in the media.

Where did the financial institutions go wrong? Based on the information, it is actually hard to say where they went wrong, or even ‘if’ they went wrong. Financial institutions are obligated to monitor transactional activity, both inbound and outbound, for suspicious or unusual behavior, especially those that could appear to be illicit activities related to money laundering. If such behavior is identified, the financial institution is required to complete a Suspicious Activity Report, or a SAR, and file it with FinCEN. The SAR contains all relevant information such as the parties involved, transaction(s), account(s), and details describing why the activity is deemed to be suspicious. In some cases, financial institutions will file a SAR if there is no direct suspicion; however, there also was not a logical explanation found either.

So what deems certain activities to be suspicious and how do financial institutions detect them? Most financial institutions have sophisticated solutions in place that monitor transactions over a period of time, and determine typical behavioral patterns for that client, and that client compared to their peers. If any activity falls disproportionately beyond those norms, the financial institution is notified, and an investigation is conducted. Because of the nature of this detection, incorporating multiple transactions, and comparing it to historical “norms”, it is very difficult to stop a transaction related to money laundering real-time. It is not uncommon for a transaction or series of transactions to occur and later be identified as suspicious, and a SAR is filed after the transaction has been completed.

FinCEN Files: Who’s at Fault?

Going back to my original question, was there any wrong doing? In this case, they were doing exactly what they were required to do. When suspicion was identified, SARs were filed. There are two things that are important to note. Suspicion does not equate to guilt, and individual financial institutions have a very limited view as to the overall flow of funds. They have visibility of where funds are coming from, or where they are going to; however, they don’t have an overall picture of the original source, or the final destination. The area where financial institutions may have fault is if multiple suspicions or probable guilt is found, but they fail to take appropriate action. According to Buzzfeed News, instances of transactions to or from sanctioned parties occurred, and known suspicious activity was allowed to continue after it was discovered.

Moving Forward

How do we do better? First and foremost, FinCEN needs to identify the source of the leak and fix it immediately. This is very sensitive data. Even within a financial institution, this information is only exposed to individuals with a high-level clearance on a need-to-know basis. This leak may result in relationship strains with some of the banks’ customers. Some people already have a fear of being watched or tracked, and releasing publicly that all these reports are being filed from financial institutions to the federal government won’t make that any better – especially if their financial institution was highlighted as one of those filing the most reports. Next, there has been more discussion around real-time AML. Many experts are still working on defining what that truly means, especially when some activities deal with multiple transactions over a period of time; however, there is definitely a place for certain money laundering transactions to be held in real time.

Lastly, the ability to share information between financial institutions more easily will go a long way in fighting financial crime overall. For those of you who are AML professionals, you may be thinking we already have such a mechanism in place with 314b. However, the feedback I have received is that it does not do an adequate job. It’s voluntary and getting responses to requests can be a challenge. Financial institutions need a consortium to effectively communicate with each other, while being able to exchange critical data needed for financial institutions to see the complete picture of financial transactions and all associated activities. That, combined with some type of feedback loop from law enforcement indicating which SARs are “useful” versus which are either “inadequate” or “unnecessary” will allow institutions to focus on those where criminal activity is really occurring.

We will continue to post updates as we learn more.

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