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Banks may be nervous about employing wireless systems in a highly secure environment. But the recent introduction of hardware based on new wireless standards has moved the goal-posts in terms of performance and physical security. Perry Correll, Director of Product Marketing, Xirrus from leading high performance networking provider Xirrus tells us why.Correll
In the first three months of 2012 alone, IDC* analysts estimate wireless network revenues grew 13.9%, with the enterprise segment alone jumping by 27.2% compared to the same period the previous year. As connectivity, reliability, security and performance continue to improve, more and more companies are choosing wireless over wired networks.
The burgeoning ‘bring-your-own-device’ (BYOD) trend is driving massive growth in this area. As more mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones enter the workplace; the need for more powerful and robust wireless is critical to business success. Employees expect to have the same performance they’ve experienced on the wire networks. Wireless devices, mobile applications, and cloud-access improve worker productivity when deployed correctly.  When it is not deployed correctly, it creates management issues and productivity for the organisation drop.
As mobile data traffic is forecasted to grow at 92% CAGR between 2010 and 2015**, the challenge will be how to harness this huge demand for mobile data and ensure its safe and efficient use in the highly sensitive banking environment.
Wireless Protocols
The wireless local area network (WLAN) protocol, IEEE 802.11, and associated technologies, such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), allow secure high-speed wireless network access and mobile access to a network infrastructure. Until the recent development and wide adoption of 802.11b, also known as Wi-Fi, in order to obtain high-speed network access to your local area network (LAN) your network needed to be physically connected to the LAN with some type of wiring.

Recent technology developments using 802.11n and 802.11ac protocols have improved wireless even further. Rather than employing 2.4GHz radio frequency, which shares bandwidth with microwave ovens and Bluetooth devices, wireless networks can now also adopt the 5GHz frequency, vastly improving their performance parameters.

By using up to 24 non-overlapping channels, the 5GHz network can provide up to 8 times the bandwidth compared to 2.4GHz three available channels, with much faster speeds and much less potential for interference.

Potentially, in terms of performance and reliability, 5GHz is a game changer. At Xirrus we have experience in installing wireless networks in more than 1,000 locations, ranging from hospitals, schools, businesses, conference centres and of course banks. This has taught us a number of valuable lessons in terms of the capabilities and optimum performance of wireless networks.
It is crucial to plan, and plan early, for any wireless deployment. A recent Gartner report*** shows enterprises deploying iPads will need 300% more Wi-Fi capacity than they currently have to cope with demand, and by 2015 almost 80% of newly installed wireless networks will be obsolete because of a lack of proper planning.

Uptake of the latest wireless technology in the enterprise however has not been rapid.  A number of misconceptions have slowed its progress, including concerns over performance, reliability, security and the health impact of wireless transmission.
The fact is that wireless performance need not be an issue, as long as you recognise that it’s not just about bandwidth, but also about the density of users on the system. The 5GHz transmission mitigates network deterioration by distributing the load across multiple radios, and balancing the load across the network. It leads to a substantial improvement in performance levels compared to legacy systems and creates an environment that is as good as, if not better than wired.

Wireless systems have always been scrutinised because anyone with a network capable device can potentially gain access and compromise security. But in reality, a wireless system has as much physical security as a wired network.

In a wired network, all security is contained within the network and as long as only authorised users have access, then communication is secure. The physical security of the system comes from the walls, doors, guards and receptionists that make up your surroundings.

As it is not possible to contain wireless, providing the virtual environment for secure communication is vital.  Strict authentication and encryption protocols provide a safe data environment.  With as many security controls as wired systems, including VPN, firewalls, user segmentation and certifications, wireless is now as secure as wired. In addition, a Mobile Device Management system can recognise tablet, phone, Blackberry, iPad or any other users depending on their device, and isolate them if identified as a threat.

Encryption protocols.
A major benefit of running 802.11n and 802.11ac networks is the increased security achieved using AES encryption compared to the WEP or TKIP protocols available on legacy network hardware, which often runs on the 802.11ag protocol.  This is a critical consideration for security conscious banks that need to ensure their systems are fool proof.

While AES creates a more secure network, it does increase the required encryption power to the core network. Since 802.11n supports approximately six times the data throughput of 802.11ag, there will be a need to encrypt around six times as much traffic. Many existing back-end controllers can’t handle this increase in encryption and some vendors have reported an 80% drop in throughput capacity when upgrading to the latest systems.

To achieve a high-performance network capable of replacing wired switches, a multi-radio, 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi network will provide the best results. The overall network must be appropriately designed, from the supporting wired network, to wireless device placement, to the Radio Frequency design. Stations should be capable of operating at 5GHz to take full advantage of 802.11 functionality and achieve maximum performance.

Health and Safety
A number of studies into the harmful effects of wireless radiation have raised concerns about their deployment in the working environment. The WHO / International Agency for Research in Cancer classified RF electromagnetic fields as ‘possibly carcinogenic’.

But this report’s primary focus was on the potential impact of cell phones to the side of the head due to pressing the phone against the ear for long periods of time, not on Wi-Fi emissions. Phones generally generate significantly stronger radio energy (up to 20 times more) than 802.11 Wi-Fi devices. Cell-phones are normally in direct contact with the users, while Wi-Fi devices are typically separated from the user.

The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) has reasserted its position that RF emissions do not pose a public health risk and is safe to use in the workplace.

The new wave of wireless devices points the way towards a Wi-Fi future.  In general, between 75% and 90% of an organisation’s employees will require mobile connections, and use three or more devices over a cloud-based infrastructure to access these applications.

In short, traditional wireless arrays are failing in the face of an onslaught of devices and application usage. 

With a properly designed 802.11 Wi-Fi network however, IT managers now have the ability to deploy wireless networks that can replace wired networks. With all the correct procedures in place, wireless networks can deliver similar end-user experience but with all the flexibility, security and mobility benefits that wireless brings.

*IDC Press Release – May 2012
**Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2010-2015
***Gartner Report: Tim Zimmerman, October 2011


Study: 1 in 10 fintechs’ main priority for 2021 is survival



Study: 1 in 10 fintechs’ main priority for 2021 is survival 1
  • FinTech Connect reveals that many fintechs simply want to survive the next year
  • 44% of fintechs are focused on optimising business processes to improve efficiencies
  • Over a third said they had launched new services addressing new demands

FinTech Connect, the trade show that connects the global fintech ecosystem, today revealed the priority for one in ten fintech firms over the next year is survival. The findings from FinTech Connect’s FinTech State of Play Benchmarking Report, which is based on a survey of 144 fintech professionals, explores the biggest industry issues of 2020 and looks forward to what 2021 has in store.

Impact of Covid-19

As remote working and living remains a priority to keep customers safe, fintechs have adapted their offerings. Although a number of other sectors including hospitality and travel have suffered as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, fintechs remain confident that business will survive and even thrive.

  • 40% said Covid-19 had accelerated their digital transformation model
  • 36% said they had launched new services addressing new demand
  • 34% said their growth had accelerated as a result of the pandemic
  • 65% said that the remote working had driven innovation

The Wake of Wirecard

Despite the Wirecard scandal prompting industry soul searching and a review of regulation and governance practices, 83% of fintechs said the collapse had no impact on their own business. However, when fintechs are asked about the wider impact on the industry:

  • 59% said it will result in overcorrection from regulatory bodies
  • 42% said it will result in declining trust from customers
  • 25% said it will lead to declining investment into the sector

Brexit Uncertainty

Despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, fintechs remain confident in their ability to manage Brexit:

  • 40% of respondents believe London will remain the European capital of fintech after Brexit
  • 30% of fintechs admit they haven’t made significant headway preparing for Brexit

“The spread of COVID-19 has brought the sector’s profitability and long-term business model sustainability into sharp focus—to a point where I believe the path to profitable scale for challenger banks has been structurally altered. But it is not at all to write off the sector,” said Abhijit Akerkar, Non-Executive Director, TBC Bank Group PLC. “Challenger banks have several long-term advantages—they are native to the digital arena, with more efficient cost structures, organizational agility, and, most importantly, higher customer loyalty. These advantages will help challenger banks weather the storm.”

“Whether we look forwards or backwards, Covid-19 is defining a new status-quo for the industry. From regulation to innovation to funding and culture, it is impossible to step out of the shadow cast by the pandemic,” Laurence Coldicott, Content Director, FinTech Connect “In response, fintech’s are prioritising digital transformation to meet customers where they are, and improving operational processes to ensure they are as efficient as possible.”

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How to Build an AI Strategy that Works



How to Build an AI Strategy that Works 2

By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino

Six steps to boosting digital transformation through AI

In the age of artificial intelligence, the way we interact with brands and go about our work and daily lives has changed. No longer blithe buzzwords, AI tools and algorithms are solving real business problems, streamlining operations, boosting productivity, improving customer experience, and creating opportunities for advantage in a competitive marketplace.

However, many businesses struggle to unlock the full benefits that come with its adoption across the whole organisation. Making the most of AI requires a strategic focus, alignment with the specific operating model of the business, and a plan to implement it in a way that delivers real value.

Not all AI strategies are equal. To be successful, businesses need to set out how the technology will achieve objectives and identify the specific assets and case uses that will set them apart from competitors. The process of creating and delivering a successful AI strategy includes the following six essential elements that will help to bake in business success.

  1. Start with your vision and objective

One slip-up companies often make when developing an AI strategy is a failure to match the vision to the execution. Almost inevitably, this results in disjointed and complicated AI programmes that can take years to consolidate. Choosing an AI solution based on defined business objectives established at the start of a project reduces the risk of delay and failure.

As with any project or initiative, it’s crucial to align your corporate strategy with measurable goals and objectives to guide your AI deployment. Once a strategy is set and proven, its much quicker and easier to roll it out across divisions and product teams, maximising its benefits.

  1. Build a multi-disciplinary team 

AI is not an island. Multi-disciplinary teams are best placed to assess how the AI strategy can optimally serve their individual needs. Insights and inputs from web design, R&D and engineering will together ensure your plan hits objectives for key internal stakeholders.

It’s also important to recognise that with the best will and effort, the strategy might not be the perfect one first time around. Being prepared to iterate and flex the approach is a significant success factor. By fostering a culture of experimentation, your team will locate the right AI assets to form your unique competitive edge.

  1. Be selective about the problems you fix first

Selecting ‘lighthouse’ projects based on their overall goals and importance, size, likely duration, and data quality allow you to demonstrate the tangible benefits in a relatively short space of time. Not all problems can be fixed by AI, of course. But by identifying and addressing issues quickly and effectively, you can create beacons of AI capability that inspire others across the organisation.

Lighthouse projects should aim to be delivered in under eight weeks, instead of eight months. They will provide an immediate and tangible benefit for the business and your customers to be replicated elsewhere. These small wins sow the seeds of transformation that swell from the ground up, empowering small teams to grow in competency, autonomy and relatedness.

  1. Put the customer first, and measure accordingly

Customer-centricity is one of the most popular topics among today’s business leaders. Traditionally, businesses were much more product-centric than customer-centric. Somebody built products and then customers were found. Now, the customer is, and should be, at the heart of everything businesses do.

By taking a customer-centric approach, you will find that business drivers determine many technology decisions.  When creating your AI strategy, create customer centric KPIs that align with the overall corporate objectives and continually measure product execution backwards through the value chain.

  1. Share skills and expertise at scale through an ‘AI community of practice’

The journey to business-wide AI adoption is iterative and continuous. Upon successful completion of a product, the team should evolve into what’s known as an ‘AI community of practice’, which will foster AI innovation and upskill future AI teams.

In the world of rapid AI product iterations, best practices and automation are more relevant than ever. Data science is about repeatable experimentation and measured results. Suppose your AI processes can’t be repeated, and production is being done manually. In that case, data science has been reduced to a data hobby.

  1. Don’t fear failure: deploying AI is a continuous journey 

The formula for successful enterprise-wide AI adoption is nurture the idea, plan, prove, improve and then scale. Mistakes will be made, and lessons learned. This is a completely normal – and valuable – part of the process.

Lighthouse projects need to be proven to work, processes need to be streamlined and teams need to upskill. Businesses need a culture of learning and continuous improvement with people at the centre, through shorter cycles, to drive real transformation.

An experimental culture and continuous improvement, through shorter cycles, can drive real transformation. A successful AI strategy acts as a continually evolving roadmap across the different business functions (people, processes and technology) to ensure your chosen solutions are working towards your business objectives. In short, let your business goals guide your AI transformation, not the other way around.

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Iron Mountain releases 7-steps to ensure digitisation delivers long-term benefits



Iron Mountain releases 7-steps to ensure digitisation delivers long-term benefits 3

Iron Mountain has released practical guidance to help businesses future-proof their digital journeys. The guidance is part of new research that found that 57% of European enterprise plan to revert new digital processes back to manual solutions post-pandemic.

The research revealed that 93% of respondents have accelerated digitisation during COVID-19 and 86% believe this gives them a competitive edge. However, the majority (57%) fear these changes will be short-lived and their companies will revert to original means of access post-pandemic.

“With 80% still reliant on physical data to do their job, now is a critical time to implement more robust, digital methods of accessing physical storage,” said Stuart Bernard, VP of Digital Solutions at Iron Mountain. “Doing so can enhance efficiency and deliver ROI by unlocking new value in stored data through the use of technology to mine, review and extract insight.”

Why revert?

When COVID-19 hit, companies had to think fast and adapt. Digital solutions were often taken as off-the-shelf, quick fixes – rarely the most economical or effective. But they are delivering benefits – those surveyed reported productivity gains (27%), saving time (20%), enhancing data quality (13%) and cutting costs (12%).

So what now?

The Iron Mountain study includes guidance for how to turn quick-fixes into sustained, long-term solutions. The seven-steps are designed to help businesses future-proof their digital journeys and maximize value from physical storage:

1)     Gather insights: The COVID-19 pandemic allowed organisations to test and learn. Companies should ensure these insights are fed into developing more robust solutions.

2)     Use governance as intelligence: Information governance and compliance are fundamental to data handling. But frameworks aren’t just a set of rules, they hold valuable insights that can be turned into actionable intelligence. Explore your framework to extract learnings.

3)     Understand your risk profile: A key early step is to analyse where you are most vulnerable. With data in motion and people working remotely, which records are at risk? What could be moved into the cloud? Are your vendors resilient?

4)     Focus where you will achieve greatest impact: To prioritise successfully, you need to know where you will achieve the largest impact. This involves looking beyond initial set-up costs towards the holistic benefits of digitisation, including reducing time spent on manual scanning, and the risk of compliance violations.

5)     Reach out and collaborate: We are all in this together. Your IT, security, compliance and facility management teams are all facing the same challenges. Ensure you collaborate across functions to develop robust, integrated solutions.

6)     Find a provider who can relate to your digital journey: For companies that still rely heavily on analogue solutions, digitisation can be daunting and risky. It pays to find a vendor who has been on the same journey, understands your paper processes and can guide you through the digital world.

7)     Prioritise and evolve communication and training programmes: To reap the full rewards from any digitisation initiative, thorough and continuous communication and training is critical. Encouragingly, our survey found that 81% of data handlers have received training to work digitally which is an excellent step in the right direction, but consider teams beyond data handling to truly succeed.

The research was commissioned by Iron Mountain in collaboration with Censuswide. It surveyed 1,000 data handlers among the EMEA region. It found that the departments that have digitised more due to COVID-19 include IT support (40%), customer relationship management (36%), and team resource planning (34%).

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