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Blockchain is Helping Provide Peace of Mind for Businesses, Entrepreneurs, and Innovators

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Blockchain is Helping Provide Peace of Mind for Businesses, Entrepreneurs, and Innovators

Much like the internet, blockchain is considered a disruptive technology – in the best way possible! And just as the internet became the new norm, blockchain will too. In the last several years, more and more businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors have embraced the fact that blockchain technology is here to stay.

It’s shaping industries because it benefits just about every single business model out there, no matter how basic or complicated. It streamlines processes, protects ideas, and enables improved efficiencies and collaborations at minimal costs.

So, what exactly is blockchain and why is it so important? Blockchain is a decentralized distributed ledger that backs and supports cryptocurrencies. It records information from every transaction onto a block. That block is then attached to the existing line of a chain that is connected to initial transaction. Because the technology is decentralized, the need for a middleman is eliminated, as there is no single authority to authenticate a transaction, essentially doing away with any mistrust. Any change in the network is directly notified to the users connected to that blockchain network, providing full transparency.

To help put the efficiencies of blockchain into perspective, consider that the network has been setup to check itself every ten minutes, conducting a self-audit reconciliation. With an unmatched level of security and trusted timestamping, naturally, time is freed up for other vital tasks such as research and development.

With the verification process blockchain provides, it removes intermediary validation and establishes trust without using a centralized authority. This means that blockchain has the potential of becoming one of the most important financial services innovations of the 21st century. Remember, blockchain is the revolutionary technology behind cryptocurrencies, starting with Bitcoin to Ethereum and on to nearly 1,000 others!

Additionally, the blockchain is open to all members of the network. By sharing all information, businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors can be assured that the chain streamlines resources and processes, resulting in improvements in existing data flows. Blockchain technology, by the nature of its shared structure, automatically resolves any disputes, ensuring a safe and secure environment to conduct business between all parties.

Blockchain is increasing business opportunities and reshaping the operations and outlooks. It is innovating the technology that touches upon every industry that can be imagined, from the government to healthcare to manufacturing. Again, think about the inception of the internet, specifically Google Docs, which enables users to have access to any shared documents, monitoring and editing in real time. A shared ledger is the beginning of a decentralized system.

So once the capabilities of blockchain are understood, it makes perfect sense that both emerging and well-established businesses, that are serious about longevity and operating efficiently, are already exploring how it works and how they can utilize the technology. It has been suggested by many industry experts that firms that do not consider blockchain within their processes, are at “risk of falling behind competitors.”

Leading multi-million dollar companies, banks, real estate, financial institutions, and organizations have taken notice of blockchain technology. Walmart is the newest example, recently receiving a blockchain-based patent to track package contents, environmental conditions, location, and other details. Their main goal being to create greater security in the shipping packaging that the items are shipped in. The Commonwealth Bank, Wells Fargo, and Brighann used the Skuchain Brackets technology, a blockchain system developed specifically for collaborative commerce and enterprise-grade operations. IBM, Nestle, and Unilever have all joined in an effort to reduce food contamination. Amazon has moved to launch AWS blockchain templates that give users pre-set frameworks, enabling them to create projects for their businesses with each. And the list continues to grow!

Why? Because blockchain followed the basic entrepreneurial formula for solving an inherent problem, and in the vast majority of cases, that is security and protection. When the basic mission of any business is gaining and retaining user confidence, it only makes sense to implement blockchain technology.

A great example of blockchain improving long standing processes is the current USPTO patent process. Any entrepreneur or inventor would agree that it is a dreadful experience in its current state. Just filing a patent application, which includes government filing fees and fees paid to a registered patent practitioner to prepare and file the application, can run into the thousands of dollars. Next is what you could call a “vetting” process where all patents undergo prosecution where the merits of a patent are often argued before the USPTO. This can cost thousands of dollars and at the end of the day, it still doesn’t protect your idea.

One of the biggest issues is that your patent is not protected throughout the pending process. If someone has the same idea and receives their patent before you, there is nothing you can do except for starting over from square one. Oh, and if your patent is challenged, oftentimes cases are settled at no small expense. And once you get past all those hurdles, don’t forget that maintenance fees are due to the USPTO every few years after a patent is granted, and failure to pay them may result in a loss of patent protection.

That is just a quick synopsis of what the majority of entrepreneurs and inventors have to endure to make their vision come to life. There is no way around it, right? Actually, the immutable nature of blockchain technology may be a perfect solution for this. Loci provides entrepreneurs and inventors with an easier way to discover the novelty of your ideas, a secure home for your ideas on the blockchain, and an exclusive marketplace for the sale of your intellectual property.

With the help of blockchain, Loci utilizes LOCIsearch , a tool that presents the opportunity for entrepreneurs to participate in IP pools made up of several related patents that are available for purchase during the patent process. The mere act of searching for a patent will timestamp your idea on the blockchain, and provide you with the right to exclusively patent your idea for a year. LOCIsearch creates a marketplace that allows for the exchange of ideas between entrepreneurs and companies, or investors seeking to develop them for their own advancement and goals. However, the most beneficial aspect is that you have peace of mind knowing your idea is protected while you can continue your research, at a fraction of the cost of USPTO!

Though blockchain is still relatively new and complex, it is here to stay and will continue to evolve, bridge gaps, and restore fundamental trust. There is now an opportunity for better idea protection, saving money, and improved time management, all thanks to blockchain technology.

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ECB launches small climate-change unit to lead Lagarde’s green push

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ECB launches small climate-change unit to lead Lagarde's green push 1

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank is setting up a small team dedicated to climate change to spearhead its efforts to help the transition to a greener economy in the euro zone, ECB President Christine Lagarde said on Monday.

Lagarde has made the environment a priority since taking the helm at the ECB, taking a number of steps to include climate considerations in the central bank’s work as the euro zone’s banking watchdog and main financial institution.

She is now creating a team of around 10 ECB employees, reporting directly to her, to set the central bank’s agenda on climate-related topics.

“The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves,” Lagarde said in a speech.

She said that climate change belonged in the ECB’s remit as it could affect inflation and obstruct the flow of credit to the economy.

The ECB said earlier on Monday it would invest some of its own funds, which total 20.8 billion euros ($25.3 billion) and include capital paid in by euro zone countries, reserves and provisions, in a green bond fund run by the Bank for International Settlement.

More significantly, ECB policymakers are also debating what role climate considerations should play in the institution’s multi-trillion euro bond-buying programme.

So far the ECB has bought corporate bonds based on their outstanding amounts but Lagarde has said the bank might have to consider a more active approach to correct the market’s failure to price in climate risk.

“Our strategy review enables us to consider more deeply how we can continue to protect our mandate in the face of (climate) risks and, at the same time, strengthen the resilience of monetary policy and our balance sheet,” Lagarde said.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Francesco Canepa and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation

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What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation 2

By Lee Jones, Director of Sales – Grocery, QSR and Selected Accounts for Northern Europe at Ingenico, a Worldline brand

The pandemic has reinforced the need for businesses to undergo digital transformation, which is pivotal in the digital economy. In 2020, we saw the shift to online and cashless payments accelerated as a result of increased social distancing and nationwide restrictions.

The biggest challenge on all businesses into 2021 will be how they continue to adapt and react to the ever changing new normal we are all experiencing. In this context, what should we expect this year and beyond, in terms of developments across key sectors, including transport, parking and electric vehicle (EV) charging?

Mobility as a service (MaaS) and the future of transportation

Social distancing and lockdown measures have brought about a real change in public habits when it comes to transportation. In the last three months alone, we have seen commuter journeys across the globe reduce by at least 70%, while longer-distance travel has fallen by up to 90%. With it, cash withdrawals for payment has drastically reduced by 60%.

Technological advancements, alongside open payments, have unlocked new possibilities across multiple industries and will continue to have a strong impact. Furthermore, travellers are expecting more as part of their basic service. Tap and pay is one of the biggest evolutions in consumer payments. Bringing ease and simplicity to everyday tasks, consumers have welcomed this development to the transport journey. In-app payments are also on the rise, offering customers the ability to plan ahead and remain assured that they have everything they need, in one place, for every leg of their journey. Many local transport networks now have their own apps with integrated timetables, payments, and ticket download capabilities. These capabilities are being enabled by smaller more portable terminals for transport staff, and self-scanning ticketing devices are streamlining the process even further.

Lee Jones

Lee Jones

Ultimately, the end goal for many transport providers is MaaS – providing an easy and frictionless all-encompassing transport system that guides consumers through the whole journey, no matter what mode of travel they choose. Additionally, payment will remain the key orchestrator that will drive further developments in the transportation and MaaS ecosystems in 2021. What remains critical is balancing the need for a fast and convenient payment with safety and data privacy in order to deliver superior customer experiences.

The EV charging market and the accelerating pace of change  

The EV charging market is moving quickly and represents a large opportunity for payments in the future. EVs are gradually becoming more popular, with registrations for EVs overtaking those of their diesel counterparts for the first time in European history this year. What’s more, forecasts indicate that by 2030, there will be almost 42 million public charging points deployed worldwide, as compared with 520,000 registered in 2019.

Our experience and expertise in this industry have enabled us to better understand but also address the challenges and complexities of fuel and EV payments. The current alternating current (AC) based chargers are set to be replaced by their direct charging (DC) counterparts, but merchants must still be able to guarantee payment for the charging provider. Power always needs to be converted from AC to DC when charging an electric vehicle, the technical difference between AC charging and DC charging is whether the power gets converted outside or inside the vehicle.

By offering innovative payment solutions to this market segment, we enable service operators to incorporate payments smoothly into their omnichannel customer experience that also allows businesses to easily develop acceptance and provide a unique omnichannel strategy for EV charging payments. From proximity to online payments, it will support businesses by offering a unique hardware solution optimized for PSD2 and SCA. It will manage both near field communication (NFC) cards and payments from cards/smartphones, as well as a single interface to manage all payments, after sales support and receipt with both ePortal and eReceipts.

Cashless options for parking payments

The ‘new normal’ is now partly defined by a shift in consumer preference for cashless, contactless and mobile or embedded payments. These are now the preferred payment choices when it comes to completing the check-in and check-out process. They are a time-saver and a more seamless way to pay.

Drivers are more self-reliant and empowered than ever before, having adopted technologies that work to make their life increasingly efficient. COVID-19 has given rise to both ePayment and omnichannel solutions gaining in popularity. This has been due to ticketless access control based on license plate recognition or the tap-in/tap-out experience, as well as embedded payments or mobile solutions for street parking.

These smart solutions help consider parking services more broadly as a part of overall mobility or shopping experience. Therefore, operators must rapidly adapt and scale new operational practices; accept electronic payment, update new contactless limits, introduce additional payments means, refund the user or even to reflect changing customer expectations to keep pace.

2021: the journey ahead

This year,  we expect to see an even greater shift towards a cashless society across these key sectors, making the buying experience quicker and more convenient overall.

As a result, merchants and operators must make the consumer experience their top priority as trends shift towards simplicity and convenience, ensuring online and mobile payments processes are as secure as possible.

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Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021

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Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021 3

By Paul McCreadie, Partner at ECI Partners, the leading growth-focused mid-market private equity firm

Despite 2020 being an enormously disruptive year for businesses, our latest Growth Index research reveals that almost three quarters (74%) of mid-market financial services companies remained resilient throughout the pandemic.

This is positive news, especially when taking into account the economic disruption that financial services firms have had to go through since the crisis began. No doubt 2021 will also hold its own challenges – as well as opportunities – for firms in this sector.

Challenges outlook

Unsurprisingly, the biggest short-term concern for financial firms for the year ahead involved changing pandemic guidance, with 42% citing this as a top concern. With the UK currently experiencing a third lockdown many financial services businesses will have already had to adapt to rapidly changing guidance, even since being surveyed.

Businesses will also be considering the need to invest in working from home operations, and there may be uncertainty over re-opening offices on a permanent basis.  According to the research 30% of financial services firms are planning to adopt remote working on a permanent basis, so decisions need to be made now about whether they invest more in enabling staff to do this, or in their current office premises.

Due to Brexit, UK financial services firms are no longer able to passport their services into Europe, which may cause problems, particularly in the next 12 months as the Brexit deal is ironed out and the agreement is put into practice. Despite this, Brexit was only cited by 24% of financial firms as a short-term concern. While it’s comforting to see that UK financial firms aren’t hugely concerned about Brexit at this juncture, it is going to be vital for the ongoing success of the industry that the UK is able to get straightforward access to Europe and operate there without issue, otherwise we may see these concern levels rise.

Looking ahead to longer-term concerns for financial services businesses, the top concern was global economic downturn, of which 40% of firms cited this as a worry when looking beyond 2021.

Investing and adopting tech

Traditionally, the financial services sector has been slow to adopt digital transformation. Issues with legacy systems, coupled with often large amounts of data and a reluctance to undertake potentially risky change processes, have meant many firms are behind the curve when it comes to technology adoption. It’s therefore promising to see that so much has changed over the last year, with 45% of financial services firms having invested in AI and machine learning technology – making it the top sector to have invested in this space over the last 12 months.

One business that exemplifies the benefits of investing in machine learning is Avantia, the technology-enabled insurance provider behind HomeProtect. The business has undergone a large tech transformation in the last few years, investing in an underlying machine learning platform and an in-house data science team, which provides them with capabilities to return a quote to over 98% of applicants in under one second. This tech investment has allowed them to become more scalable, provide a more stable platform, improve customer service and consequently, grow significantly.

This demonstrates how this kind of tech can help businesses to leverage tech in order to offer a better customer experience, and retain and grow market share through winning new customers. This resilience should combat some of the concerns that firms will face in the next year.

Additionally, half (51%) of financial services firms have invested in cybersecurity tech over the last year, which allows them to protect the platforms on which they operate and ensure ongoing provision of solutions to their customers.

International resilience

Clearly, there is a benefit of international revenues and profits on business resilience. In practice, this meant that businesses that weren’t internationally diversified in 2020 struggled more during the pandemic. In fact, the businesses considered to be the least resilient through the 2020 crisis were three times more likely to only operate domestically.

Perhaps an attribute towards financial services firms’ resilience in 2020, therefore, was the fact that 53% already had a presence in Europe throughout 2020 and 38% had a presence in North America. This internationalisation gave them an advantage that allowed them to weather the many storms of 2020.

Looking at how to capitalise on this throughout the rest of 2021, half (51%) of are planning overseas growth in Europe over the next 12 months, and 43% in North America. Further plans to expand internationally is not only a good sign for growth, but should further increase resilience within the sector.

Conclusion

While there are many concerns, the fact that financial services businesses are investing in technology like AI and machine learning, as well as still planning to grow internationally, means that they are providing themselves with the best chances of dealing with any upcoming challenges effectively.

In order to maintain their growth and resilience throughout the next 12 months, it’s imperative that they continue to put their customers first, invest in technology and remain on the front foot of digital change.

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