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Limitless possibilities: Delivering disruption with IoT

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Limitless possibilities: Delivering disruption with IoT 1

By Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye

In the past decade, digital companies like Amazon and Netflix have used data to reinvent products and services in ways no-one imagined possible. Shopping and films were not new concepts, but these companies and many others built hugely successful businesses by disrupting existing industries through connected, personalised, data-driven services.

We are on the brink of a similarly disruptive revolution, as the Internet of Things (IoT) starts doing the same for ‘physical’ businesses – from tennis rackets to coffee machines and industrial machinery – allowing them to offer connected, data-driven, differentiated experiences. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘next Internet’ and IDC predicts that in total there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or “things” by 2025.

Access to this incredibly detailed data on every aspect of how the physical world works will create endless disruptive innovations – from both new and existing companies. This presents limitless opportunities, but also severe threats to companies that wait too long.

A decade ago, many predicted this revolution, but it has taken longer than expected. Despite pockets of innovation, many have struggled to deliver successful IoT projects. We have yet to see the IoT equivalent of Netflix.

There are some obvious reasons for this. Many companies with a long heritage in the physical world find digitisation hard to navigate. Moving from selling units via a capex model to managing a continuously connected, data-driven relationship via an opex model is a big shift – involving new technologies, business processes, skills and management metrics. Concerns about how to do this can cause management paralysis where the outcome is often ‘do nothing and wait’. Arguably a worse approach than trying and failing.

It’s also a culture issue. We don’t like change, it’s difficult and we only do it when we have to. The problem is that when you are the market leader your existing financial metrics often disguise the change that your competitors are implementing in the market. A large installed base of customers will keep generating revenue for a long time and it’s often hard, if not impossible, to recognise the new disruptive business models that are winning the next generation of customers.  But as the old saying goes, you overtake on the corners not the straights, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many digital initiatives not slowed them down. Your business model is being disrupted whether you can see it or not and it’s almost certainly accelerated during 2020.

Another reason is much more basic. Due to the fragmented nature of the Mobile Network industry, where multiple players compete with each other with their proprietary SIMs, the holy grail of ubiquitous global cellular connectivity for each and every device via a single embedded eSIM has not been possible. The reality is no network SIM, even from the largest Tier 1 operators, can deliver more than 90% global coverage, even with extensive roaming arrangements. You don’t want a connected lawn mower which is invisible in 10% of cases, or a connected health monitoring device that misses 10% of emergencies. And to fill that connectivity gap you don’t want to have to use a different operator’s SIM – that just adds complexity, cost and kills the business case. If this connectivity barrier can be removed, then the savings in manufacturing and supply chain costs that can be delivered from moving to single global product SKUs will more than justify the investment in IoT pilots and new product rollouts.  This is the problem that Eseye solves and we are currently doing it for more than 2,000 customers worldwide.

I’ve spoken exclusively to IoT industry leaders from Microsoft Azure, EY, Thales, Relayr, and The Chasm Group, to understand the opportunities that IoT offers for companies to create disruptive products and services, and the lessons they’ve learnt delivering digital transformation and disruption through connected devices.

Dr Miroslaw Ryba, Global IoT Leader at EY, explained that: “Disruptive IoT is about taking the sum of thousands of IoT sensors – say in a factory – and combining data to deliver transformational insights. And that the next, exciting phase, will be a new data economy.

“There is [already] an agreement that the user gives up their data in return for a service. Imagine what will happen once that data expands to real-world activities. It will allow the development of whole new classes of products and services aligned to customer needs.”

Tony Shakib, Global IoT Business Acceleration Leader, at Microsoft Azure believes that we’re at an inflection point where some companies are taking investment in IoT infrastructure seriously, allowing them to capture meaningful data, and integrate it into their workflow management systems. Here they can start delivering, and acting on, real-time insights.

He said: “Gradually we’re crossing from the experimental phase to mass adoption” he explains. “Once we get there, we’ll see real change. Once you start connecting devices and using data intelligently, the amount of innovation you can do becomes exponential.”

When moving from incremental advances to big disruptive IoT-driven transformation, Shakib believes the key is cultural change.

He explained: “Tech is not the bottleneck – devices, security, connectivity, and cloud platforms are all there if you know where to look. The problem is people struggling to understand the art of the possible.”

VP of IoT at Thales, Andreas Haegele, unpacks the points of consideration including, security, connectivity and process when trying to maximise the benefits of IoT.

“Most business models of the past – and many today – are ‘sell and forget’. IoT connects your products, which changes what you offer. It creates an ongoing connection between you and the customer allowing you to deliver ongoing services and collect data which provides valuable insights.

“However, there are other factors to consider, namely around process and security. Eseye, for example, offers out-of-the-box connectivity which you can embed in an IoT device and it just works, there is no need for setting up new networks, security protocols, certification with mobile network operators (MNOs), etc. IoT needs security to be embedded from the start as security is very hard to retrofit. There must be a unique identity for every device so they can be managed during their lifetime. And you need to make sure software updates can only be accepted by trusted sources.

“Also, built-in connectivity is central to IoT. Each device needs to consider the right type for them, but I expect most will use cellular eventually, since it removes many roadblocks to uptake. If devices over-complicated connectivity, that’s a major turn off for customers who expect seamless, convenient experiences.”

While Peter Van der Fluit, Principal at Chasm Group, said: “Any company that currently makes or operates a physical product needs to be thinking about IoT. If you don’t connect your product to create a differentiated offer, someone else will.

“To be successful in embracing IoT, or any disruptive technology, companies should divide their business into four ‘Zones’ – an approach established by Geoffrey Moore in his book Zone to Win. Two of these Zones focus on innovation, and two on the core business. Each needs a different leadership style, culture, financing and governance.”

With so much disruption and change thrust upon companies, business models are inevitably going to evolve. Josef Brunner, CEO at Relayr, explained to me how IoT is disrupting business models, forever.

Josef said: “IoT is creating whole new ways of thinking for those who manufacture products, enabling them to change how they sell in a way that works better for them and their customers. This is often talked about as moving from selling products to selling services. We’d go further and say that at its best, IoT is about selling outcomes. Rather than charging an hourly or monthly subscription, the manufacturer can sell the value that is delivered.”

But there are pitfalls to be avoided when switching to a model that sells outcomes. Josef explains: “The main mistake companies make is to think of IoT as a technology project, looking at what tech is available and working out where to deploy it. Instead, they should start with the business problem.

Start by looking at what assets you have, and how they could be used to deliver a better experience for customers. Put the customer need at the centre of that offer. Then look at how tech can enable it.”

The inventors of the internet could never have predicted Uber and Netflix. Likewise, we can only guess at what IoT entrepreneurs will come up with once they have access to data from trillions of devices capturing rich data on every aspect of our lives and businesses. But it’s likely to be an even bigger wave of innovation than the first version of the internet unleashed. There really are no limits.

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Everything you need to know about APIs for business

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Everything you need to know about APIs for business 2

By Omar Javaid, president, Vonage API Platform, Vonage 

If your work brings you into close proximity with technology, chances are that you’ve come across APIs. Like many of the tech acronyms we hear –  DNS, VOIP, SaaS – APIs fall into a category of terms that most of us would consider best left to the IT department. However, APIs are a vital tool for any tech-enabled business, and a basic understanding of them at management level can help to drive sales, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the user experience.

Although they seem daunting, getting to grips with APIs is surprisingly straightforward. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and can be simply defined as a software tool used to control programmes. Essentially, APIs create sets of rules that allow applications to communicate with each other – they are the part of the server that receives requests and sends responses. Today, when data is transferred between a pair (or more) of programs or applications, an API normally makes it happen.

To give a real-world example: when a user types Instagram’s URL into their browser and hits the Return key, a request is subsequently transmitted to Instagram’s remote servers. That browser then processes the response code it receives and displays the page. For the browser, Instagram’s server is an API – allowing it to communicate and relay information back to you without interruption or delay.

The job of the API is to simplify the complex data exchanged between these servers, and to make the interaction as seamless as possible for the end user. Considering that the vast majority of our business and personal lives now take place virtually, any solution that optimises the online experience is extremely valuable.

Using APIs to improve the customer experience 

One of the core benefits of APIs is that they enable businesses to free themselves from the time consuming and costly process of developing in-house software to power a single core application. Instead, developers can outsource certain tasks to remote “off-the-shelf” APIs, saving time, money, and allowing resources to be channeled elsewhere. These add-on services allow businesses to offer a more complete, one-stop solution to customers, whilst streamlining the process to optimise user experience.

Omar Javaid

Omar Javaid

Although we may not always realise it, APIs are playing a vital silent role in almost every purchase and interaction we have online. Take booking a holiday for example. As we browse comparison sights, APIs are working furiously behind the scene to aggregate information from airline databases, hotel websites, and excursion providers. The API performs the back and forth needed to retrieve the information, whilst we are able to sit back and view all of the results on the same page. Simplifying this process enables travel comparison websites to make the search for holidays quick and easy, and encourages customers to stay on the site by offering all that they need in one easy to consume package.

APIs also allow smaller businesses to utilise tools provided by some of the world’s largest and most successful companies. Google’s Calendar API for example could be used within a beauty salon website to enable customers to book and schedule treatment reminders, whilst Apple’s weather tool could be plugged-in to an events company website to give customers real-time weather updates. While the API’s developer does retain ultimate control over how the API is used, there are still countless ways to integrate these tools to benefit your business and improve the functionality of your website.

Communications APIs

The recent Covid-19 pandemic in particular has highlighted the value of an API class that normally receives little attention; communication APIs.

Today, companies are boosting spending on unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), along with video conferencing, collaboration, and voice technology solutions given the exponential growth in home and remote working as a result. Where face-to-face contact is limited by necessity, businesses need to be able to communicate with employees and customers in ways which are secure, simple, and cost-effective.

Given how rapidly the technology landscape changes, APIs are the clear solution to avoiding the expense of developing tools from scratch, in addition to harnessing the power of the advanced features offered by established API providers.

Using them, businesses are able to adapt to suit changing customer preferences; for example offering an online chatbot to handle customer queries, or by using multi-channel messaging to connect with customers via WhatsApp or Messenger. These tools are not only useful, but can also allow you to gain intelligence into a customer’s preferences and habits – both useful marketing gauges.

On the other hand, comms APIs can also help to address problems that may crop up internally within organisations and workforces. There are APIs which allow callers to automatically sync calendars, meaning that meetings will only be scheduled when all parties can attend. There are also APIs for timezone conversion, permissions requests, and for video link calls and messaging. With the work from home trend continuing for the foreseeable future, investing in these areas is critical if businesses want to keep delivering at the highest levels.

Considering all of the above, it’s clear that we can expect to see the adoption of APIs continue. Developers are constantly working to create increasingly sophisticated products, and many have moved towards exclusively building and hosting APIs, rather than building the apps themselves – creating a so called “API Economy” of sorts.

This focus on creating the best possible APIs has allowed smaller businesses to harness the collective expertise of the world’s largest and most successful companies, and the chance to use these tools represents a fantastic opportunity for growth. The reach of APIs extends far beyond the IT department, and with a basic understanding, they can be used by senior management and leadership teams to optimise all areas of the business – not bad for three small letters.

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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Rightly Celebrated or Over-Rated?

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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Rightly Celebrated or Over-Rated? 3

By Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers the attention given to unexplained wealth orders – and emphasises that they can be challenged.

There is little doubt that many sectors of the media – and their readers – enjoy a story that involves an unexplained wealth order (UWO). They do, after all, have many of the ingredients that many look for in a good tale: allegations of wrongdoing on a large scale, someone being made to hand over assets worth more than most people will earn in a lifetime and the sense that justice has been seen to be done.

In the latest UWO, which was widely covered in the media last week, Leeds businessman Mansoor Mahmood Hussain was compelled to hand over property worth just short of £10M, after being accused of acting as a money launderer. He has been ordered to surrender the assets because the National Crime Agency (NCA) believed his wealth was the proceeds of crime, and so considered him a suitable target for a UWO.

Introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, UWOs give law enforcement agencies powers to require persons to explain how they came to possess their assets, and to show that their wealth has come from legitimate sources. A UWO can be sought without any civil or criminal proceedings having begun. There is no need for the subject of a UWO to have been convicted of an offence or to have had a civil law judgement against them. Agencies can apply to the High Court for a UWO against any property valued at over £50,000, if the person owning it is reasonably suspected of being involved in serious crime (or connected to a person who is) and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person’s lawfully-obtained income would be insufficient to allow that person to obtain that property.

Like Zamira Hajiyeva before him, Mansoor Hussain’s inability to provide a credible, innocent explanation for his wealth has cost him – and generated headlines. Hajiyeva may be best known for somehow racking up £16M of expenditure at Harrods. But this only became known when she was the first person to be the subject of UWOs. The NCA expected her to explain how she had bought a £11.5M Knightsbridge house and a £10.5M golf course in Ascot, bearing in mind her husband is the former head of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, had a salary of no more than $70,000 and was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Earlier this year, she lost her appeal against the UWOs, thus enabling the media to re-run her story and giving the NCA the chance to make approving noises about UWOs being a valuable tool in tackling illicit finance.

But before there is a rush to applaud UWOs, it should be said that the NCA’s relationship with them has been a chequered one, to say the least. Since becoming available to the NCA, the agency’s success rate with UWOs has been patchy. This is despite the standard of proof for UWOs being significantly lower than that required in criminal cases. Last year saw the NCA granted three UWOs for London property valued at £80M. Yet less than a year later, these UWOs were discharged, with a judge criticising the NCA’s “unreliable’’ assumptions and “artificial and flawed’’ reasoning. The Court of Appeal then refused the agency permission to appeal this decision.

While a UWO is a tool that enables law enforcement agencies to seize assets they believe are the proceeds of crime without anyone ever being convicted, it does not yet appear to have become the great weapon against illicit wealth that many would have hoped. Of the four cases begun since UWOs were introduced, two are still being contested. Mansoor Hussain’s case is the first time a UWO has successfully led to the recovery of assets from an individual.

Although, a UWO can be seen as effective in certain situations, it will often be considered the most (and perhaps only) viable option when a prosecution has failed or when the authorities do not believe there is enough evidence for a realistic chance of a conviction.

When being faced with an UWO it should be remembered that whilst agreeing to settle and hand over property is not an admission of guilt, anyone facing a UWO must consider carefully how they respond to the authorities. It is vitally important to take the right advice. Deciding how to proceed when assets worth millions are at stake can be the biggest decision a person ever has to make.

In such circumstances it will often be the case that an intelligent, robustly-argued challenge to a UWO – and, in particular, to the allegations being made by the law enforcement agency seeking the UWO – will bring success. But that success will depend on knowing precisely how to respond – and who to turn to – if and when you become the intended target of a UWO.

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How Siloed Data Leaves Financial Institutions Open to Fraud

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How Siloed Data Leaves Financial Institutions Open to Fraud 4

By Stephany Lapierre, CEO Tealbook

Reducing the risk of fraud is a top priority for all financial institutions since fraud is responsible for massive profit loss, as well as the degradation of an institution’s integrity and brand.

In trying to prevent fraud, most executives look to protect themselves from the outside in, implementing layers of security and launching reactive measures. However, in order to truly protect your organization from fraud, it’s imperative to begin by looking at your existing internal structures. The most critical and often overlooked area to assess is how your organization obtains, enriches, and distributes data.

Streamlining and scrubbing your data can increase profitability without adding to resource spend. Having good data allows you to complete your due diligence on vendors and external entities your organization regularly deals with. It favorably adjusts your efficiency ratio and reduces risk by eliminating redundancies, conflicting information, and information gaps. In addition, it allows smaller teams to operate with increased scale and effectiveness. In turn, this leads to a more effective vendor vetting process and less room for error in payment information verification.

Conversely, poorly managed data is confusing and deceiving and can play an unfortunate role in giving fraudulent access to outside parties through internal miscommunications. For example, updates could be made in one system and not another, and suddenly different departments are working with different data sets like payment information or legal formation documents that regulators look for in audits, and no one knows what is true or accurate. This effect snowballs over time, creating massive holes in the integrity of the data, creating unnecessary risk exposure and audit failures.

All of these vulnerabilities can serve as the foundation for developing a risk management protocol that may be rendered useless if it is based on poor data. It is  impossible to properly vet vendors and suppliers or verify payment information if the data is unreliable.

By investing in a solid Data Foundation, you’ll see an increase in the success of your risk management and fraud prevention measures. In many instances, you won’t need to add more steps or resources, just power your existing systems with clean, agile, and accurate data to see improved efficiency.

Here’s a closer look at the most common vulnerabilities within a typical financial institution’s data ecosystem:

Fragmented Organization Structure

As organizations grow and scale, it’s inevitable that different subsections will become isolated from one another and begin different processes for data management. Poorly managed systems can exacerbate this lack of communication and threaten data integrity.

It may not seem like cause for concern if a few different arms of an organization aren’t completely in sync. However, in the financial space, this issue rarely applies to just one or two organizational divides. For example, a prominent US-based financial institution boasts over 90 business units, all of which need to be synergized in order to prevent inaccurate data, redundancies, and problems with regulatory information gathering. This siloed information is, unfortunately, a common practice that needs to be addressed.

Unmanaged Proprietary Systems

In an attempt to serve data in a highly specialized way, many institutions have explored developing proprietary data systems for internal use. However, because of factors like employee turnover or an inability to keep up with data integrity best practices, these legacy systems quickly become obsolete and unmanaged. Their custom nature also renders them inflexible and unable to integrate with other solutions.

When trying to work around an unmanaged system, different branches of an institution may turn to different solutions. When work is being done across different platforms, this reduces visibility and increases risk for inaccuracies, which leads to poor decisions, costly rework, and potentially fraud.

If your organization is reliant on a proprietary system, consider if that system is functional and scalable. If it’s not, you may want to look into a flexible data management system that can work with other technologies.

 Disparate Information Across Systems

Mergers, acquisitions, and growth also lead to using and implementing many different ERP solutions and antiquated legacy software that are forced to communicate with each other using painful manual efforts. A major problem arises from the fact that these systems operate across numerous lines of businesses, all with different siloed data. By having so many siloed systems that could be compromised with harmful data, these disparate data sources leave banks and other financial institutions exposed to unnecessary risk.

Different departments have different needs, so it makes sense that they would use different solutions, but it’s important that those solutions pull from a single source of truth in order to prevent the types of data inaccuracies that lead to vulnerabilities.

Final Thoughts

Closing the holes in your data integrity is the most proactive way a financial institution can defend against fraud. As hackers get increasingly creative and aggressive, it becomes even more critical that organizations have a trusted Data Foundation to base their decisions on. This can be achieved by ensuring that siloed systems are powered by consistent and accurate data from a single reliable source.

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