By Arta Sylejmani, Digital Banking Strategy at Gemalto
Living in the digital age impacts almost all areas of our lives. So much so, that we’ve inadvertently created multiple online identities, in sharing logins, passwords and private information, for all the services we use. In many ways this has exposed one of the last remaining frontiers of the ‘analog’ world – in how we verify who we are.
Across Europe and beyond, we are still for the most part, reliant upon paper-based ID documents to authenticate our identity. Whether this is in airport security, paying taxes, applying for a loan or getting served alcohol. This creates a disconnect between the seamless and convenient nature of operating in a digital world, and the cumbersome process of proving your identity through uploading scans or sending off your paper-based ID.
To address this challenge, governments, private organisations and financial institutions are exploring digital identities. Digital identities include unique, verifiable information about an individual including biometric, biographic and behavioural data. This data can be verified remotely over digital channels, and in turn, unlock access to banking, government benefits, healthcare, education and other ID dependent services. Digital identities can be issued through a national or local government or even a third party, and use a combination of biometric data, passwords and smart devices to confirm your identity.
Let’s explore just how much value the onset of digital identities can create for both individual citizens and the industries deploying them.
Recognising the wider economic benefits
According to a recent McKinsey report, digital identities could unlock an economic value equivalent of 3 to 13 percent of GDP by 2030. While this is of course dependent upon significant levels of usage, there is nothing to suggest that these estimates are not reachable. With the correct infrastructure, digital IDs can provide a flexible, robust solution that can be used in a variety of industries.
The most direct use-cases are in banking services with Norway and Belgium already providing tangible examples of successful mobile schemes. BankID, for instance, is used by all Norwegian banks and provides secure, verified transactions, easy online on-boarding of new customers as well as automated digital signatures for the approval of online documents and notifications. Its mobile solution is used a staggering 3.5 times per week by customers and has fundamentally changed how the public interacts with online financial services.
Similarly, Belgium’s Itsme mobile solution has been supported by four leading Belgium banks and three of the country’s biggest telecoms operators. Thanks to its ease of use, security and flexibility, it attracted more than 350,000 users in its first year of operation. And now, as it eclipses two years in existence, it is reaching the one million customer milestone.
Bringing security, convenience and financial inclusion to individuals
Digital identities can also bring great economic benefits by driving financial inclusion. According to the World Bank’s ID4D database, there are approximately 1billion individuals without a legal form of identification, and just under 3.5billion with some form of ID but no recognisable digital trail. This means that over half of the world’s population is either unable or has no means to access critical online services and participate in the digital economy. For those in this bracket, the result is often societal marginalisation as they are unable to enjoy the same security and convenience benefits afforded by the connected world.
Digital identities provide a robust solution to this problem. They can create economic and social value for excluded communities by providing secure, yet flexible access to previously unattainable goods and services. Unlike paper-based ID documents, they are under the protection of a third-party, usually a bank, and can be used to unlock digital benefits in real-time.
Importantly, third parties, such as banks or government services, can use an individual’s digital ID to streamline access to public services and drive service innovation across the private sector. In this scenario, digital identities can be used by authorised government or banking institutions to verify ID requests without having to disclose the individual’s personal data. As the process is automated, individuals can benefit from instant access to financial services, improved passage to employment, streamlined government services and significant savings in time and effort. In real-world use cases, this translates as secure digital payments, digital tax filing, online voting, automatic school enrolment, automated background verification and efficient payroll services.
Using digital identities beyond banking and public services
However, it’s not just in banking and public services that digital IDs are primed for deployment. In travel and agriculture, electronic identity authentication has an opportunity to make significant progress.
Starting with travel and tourism, the sector is under increased pressure because of the growing number of travellers; this compounds risk and security requirements as well as infrastructure capacity limits. These pressures hinder a secure and seamless cross-border traveller journey and cause various pain points for governments, businesses and travellers. The integration of digital identities into the passenger experience could enable governments, in partnership with industry leaders and organisations, to conduct pre-vetting risk assessment and security procedures to enhance the seamless flow of travellers through borders. Security officials can then redirect attention and resources to identifying threats, as opposed to passenger processing, making the entire experience much safer and convenient.
While in agriculture, digital identities can boost financial inclusion and support supply-chain traceability and delivery of goods. For example, a comprehensive, government recognised digital ID service can help smallholder farmers formally register land and livestock, protect their assets, and access mobile, financial, and other services that allow them to work, sell and spend income formally.
Growing demand for ethical and organic produce has meant that smallholder farmers are increasingly asked to disclose the origin of their produce, especially when attempting to enter larger markets. This level of traceability relies on the ability to track produce back to a single farm of origin. In the case of smallholder farmers, this often means tracing back to a single farmer, which can be greatly supported by the use of a unique ID.
Achievable only through trust
Clearly, the value that digital identities can bring to both individuals and industries could fundamentally improve how society interacts through digital. Yet, these benefits are only achievable if it is built upon a trusted ecosystem containing all digital identity participants. It’s critical that whoever controls the verifiable data, be it banks, telco providers, government services or institutions, adopts secure yet scalable infrastructure solutions to protect the information as it travels from one party to the next.
This infrastructure requires the creation of a ‘trust loop’; the process of continuous service enrolment, application, authentication and approval that creates a loop of trust between the consumer, the service provider and other third parties. To work, this needs to be underpinned by the most advanced digital and biometric authentication technology to ensure all parties involved can trust the data that’s being shared. Without trust, the ecosystem will crumble and the digital identity opportunity ahead of us will never materialise.
How robotic technology will disrupt the manufacturing industry
By Marga Hoek, author of The Trillion Dollar Shift
Robotics technology has the potential to disrupt industries across all sectors – but its impact on the manufacturing industry will be transformative. Not only can robots increase productivity, efficiency and profit margins but adopting this tech for good will be a key way for the manufacturing industry to transition to a more sustainable future.
Driving productivity & efficiency
Manufacturing processes are faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective when humans and robots work together. Studies show that idle time is reduced by 85% when people work collaboratively with a human-aware robot, rather than in an all-human team. Modern robotic automation is key to reshaping production processes to become more efficient and reliable. They deliver significant benefits for companies and investment is often recouped within just 18 months.
Robots in manufacturing can allow businesses to monitor the production lines from anywhere and pinpoint issues quickly, allowing for production to continue smoothly and efficiently, ensuring companies surpass consumers’ expectations of supply chain speed and reliability. Intelligent industrial service robots are an upcoming industrial tool that will amplify manufacturing capabilities and allow businesses to safely operate faster, in places humans could never go, and with cognitive and physical capabilities not yet imagined.
Transitioning to a sustainable future
Robots are a vital way to reduce pollution and emissions from manufacturing operations. For starters, they reduce our reliance on larger vehicles and machines that are harmful to the planet. Robots’ ability to be extremely accurate and minimize errors is also hugely important in sustainability efforts to reduce waste. Robots also aid businesses in their energy-saving process because they do not require as much energy to operate as humans do. Where humans need facilities with sufficient lighting and heat, robots can work under cold and dark conditions. This drastically reduces the amount of energy used in the manufacturing production process. It is estimated that for every 1C reduced in factory heat levels, there is a potential saving of up to 8%. In addition, up to 20% of energy savings can be reached if the plant turns off any unnecessary lighting.
Case Study: GE
Tech giant GE is a brilliant example of how robotics technology can both boost the bottom line and sustainability.
GE is at the forefront of robotics manufacturing technology. Their value proposition is tightly tied to productivity in field service and manufacturing and offers potential cost savings within operations. While delivering industrial-grade service robotic systems that enable automation, productivity and safety for GE and its customers, the company works closely with GE business units, GE customers and strategic partners across the globe to envision, shape and build intelligent robotic technologies from idea to commercialization.
GE’s recent $125 million investment project at its Decatur refrigerator plant boosted production capacity, added new “smart” technology and increased the site’s workforce. This includes auto guided vehicles, or AGVs, that move materials through the assembly process and more than 50 robots that perform heavy lifting operations and repetitive tasks.
The expansion project, announced in June 2018, allowed GE Appliances to increase production to meet growing demand for its freezer-refrigerators, which are top-rated in the industry for both quality and reliability. The expansion created 255 jobs, bringing total employment at the plant to 1,300. The project boosts production capacity by 25 % and ensures early compliance with 2022 refrigerant changes, making the Alabama plant a super site for GE. GE Appliances said Industry 4.0 technology additions at the Decatur facility include data visualization, 3-D scanning, rapid prototyping and other smart automation that provides the operations team with real-time data to make better and faster decisions.
Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
Utilizing robotics technology within the manufacturing industry can help to meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for a healthier planet, to be met by 2030:
SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing: Collaborating with people, service robots work with shoulder-to-shoulder and over long distances, to fulfil dull, dirty and dangerous work.
SDG 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth: Presenting new growth opportunities for businesses and creating new jobs at manufacturing plants
SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure: Manufacturing value proposition of robotics ties tightly to productivity and brings potential cost savings into those operations.
SDG 12 – Responsible Production & Consumption: Providing a new and rich data source for companies to produce products responsibly
Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business, international speaker and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, in hardback and e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com
RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about.
By Rory Gray, Vice President of Sales at leading software automation firm, UiPath, explains what role Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can play in improving the efficiency of finance and banking departments.
Pre-coronavirus, the finance and banking industries were already facing a myriad of challenges. Now, this myriad is quickly becoming ever more complicated. There is increasing pressure to react to declining business health, be flexible to changing customer behaviour and to adapt to evolving workforce dynamics.
Unfortunately, for these teams, improving agility is easier said than done. Many processes involve legacy systems, paper-based documents and unstructured data. These processes are time-consuming and mundane, leaving finance and banking professionals hard-pressed to fit in client-centric and strategic work.
Take processing invoices. The way it’s done hasn’t changed for years in many organisations. It often involves a member or members of the finance team receiving the invoice by mail or email, approving it manually, printing, signing and submitting it to Accounts Payable. An AP Clerk then has to pick it up, read it, verify the approvals, extract the data and input it into to the accounting package. This all takes time and costs money. What’s more, it’s dull and prone to errors. People don’t want to spend their days doing it.
Imagine if processes such as invoicing, but also loan processing, credit card disputes and many more, could be automated. Finance and banking teams would spend much less time copying, pasting and printing and could refocus on business health and transformation.
RPA is the key to finding more time in the day
Robotic Process Automation or RPA, is software that can work just like a human. It can use AI capabilities to read and interpret data from both physical and digital documents. It can extract the necessary information and it can transfer this to multiple IT applications. It’s a software robot – or digital assistant.
For finance and banking professionals, RPA could help them break free from the time constraints caused by inefficient and complex legacy operations by passing rule-based repetitive tasks to software robots. This saves time and money – and allows people to focus on the tasks that can make a difference to the business.
RPA can help carry the burden of compliance
With data extracted, processed and formatted by software robots, employees will also no longer have to carry the full and heavy burden of compliance.
However accurate we aim to be, the reality is that processing data is always open to mistakes. This is exacerbated by ever shifting market regulations. Software robots, however, are programmed by finance and banking professionals to strictly follow the same steps every time and thus do not fall victim to the same blunders as all humans inevitably do.
Of course, many regulatory compliance functions will often need to involve some human validation or decision making. While the robots work around the clock without fatigue to complete tasks, professionals can still intervene if there is an inaccuracy that requires the personal touch or a loop in the workflow where a decision is needed. Therefore, time-consuming compliance tasks can be passed to software robots, but humans ultimately remain in control.
This in turn provides better risk management and compliance, higher accuracy, better cycle times and improved throughput.
RPA in practice
This may all sound very futuristic, but in practice, many firms are already using RPA to free up employee time, improve compliance and save money.
For example, a leading smart infrastructure solutions firm we work with has created a software robot affectionately named Archie, which has taken over the responsibility for processing all invoices.
Pre-Covid, the 400,000 invoices received by the firm each year were dealt with manually. With Archie this is now fully automated freeing up on average 11 minutes per invoice of time which employees can now use to focus on value-adding activities. It also means that no employee needs to come into the office to process the invoice, nor does any paper need to be passed around the team. Thus helping to keep the workforce safe.
With all this extra time, finance and banking departments can focus on adapting to and thriving in the current crisis. Moving away from data processing and towards advisory roles where they can best use their strategic skills.
Consequently, businesses will benefit during the pandemic and beyond and employees could see their roles shifting away from the mundane and towards tasks that keep them on their toes. A rare win-win in a difficult time.
WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired
WeWALK, the smart cane designed for people who are blind or with low vision which is now in use across 37 markets, has joined Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility programme to accelerate WeWALK’s capability by developing and validating a human behaviour model for visually impaired users and creating a Voice Assistant designed for the visually impaired, providing the right mobility information when needed and allowing for even greater control of the WeWALK mobility experience.
Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility $25 million 5-year programme is aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capability for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities. Through grants, technology, and AI expertise, the program aims to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions and build on recent advancements in Microsoft Cognitive Services to help developers create intelligent apps that can see, hear, speak, understand and interpret people’s needs.
WeWALK’s new Voice Assistant will be released later in 2020 and will have immediate usability benefits, improving the user’s confidence as they mobilise. The assistant will be built on clearly derived requirements and natural usage patterns and the challenge that WeWALK is seeking to overcome is to make the assistant truly ‘smart’ and dynamic, where it will effectively categorize and deliver on the user’s commands in a host of different environments.
WeWALK’s human behaviour model is due for release in 2021 and is of significant importance as currently there are no accurate models for how a person who is blind moves and how their mobility holistically evolves, especially after receiving orientation and mobility training. As a result, healthcare, government, and mobility trainers cannot effectively track how a person who is blind mobilizes and whether or not intervention has had benefit. By using WeWALK’s built-in IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors, including the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass, as well as data collected from a connected smartphone, the model can be implemented and expanded organically through daily usage. The first stage will be rigorous data collection and user testing, followed by data manipulation and classification to ensure that optimum reliability and system usability can be achieved.
Commenting upon WeWALK’s entry into the program Jean Marc Feghali, R&D Lead at WeWALK. “By working on these two objectives, WeWALK can set the standard for visually impaired mobility for both the individual user and the organisations that support them. We are now rigorously collecting mobility data with novel experimentation, validating our work by continuously engaging our users to ensure an exceptional product powered by Microsoft’s best. Being a part of the Microsoft family truly excites us, bringing us closer to mobility trainers, researchers, and the global visually impaired community.”
Mary Bellard, principal innovation architect lead at Microsoft adds “At Microsoft, we believe AI solutions built thoughtfully by and with the disability community have incredible potential to offer meaningful independence in people’s daily lives. That’s why we’re thrilled to support WeWALK on this important assistive tool that stands to empower the millions of people around the world who use a white cane.”
With the power of Microsoft AI, WeWALK’s impact will be wide-reaching explains Kürşat Ceylan, WeWALK’s co-founder & CPO “As a blind person from birth, I know that it is very important to get the right habits of using a cane from a young age. It is amazing to see how WeWALK can enhance this aspect of our lives with high tech, making training and orientation more effective. I believe that the smart cane will be a symbol for the fully independent journey people who are blind or with low vision.”
Selected as one of the best inventions of 2019 by TIME Magazine, WeWALK is a member of YGA Ventures, which is an ecosystem of impact entrepreneurs. The team envisions WeWALK as a platform for continuous and collaborative development, putting it at the forefront of cutting-edge assistive technologies. This is exemplified through WeWALK’s collaboration with Microsoft, where WeWALK participated in Microsoft’s 2019 AI for Good in the UK.
The WeWALK smart cane is currently available on the market and can be purchased on the company website www.wewalk.io. The free WeWALK mobile app which provides various features such as VIP friendly navigation and public transport tracking capabilities is also available for immediate download on both iOS and Android devices.
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