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Soluna launches world’s first private, utility-scale blockchain infrastructure company; retains strategy and technology advisory group New Alchemy

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Soluna launches world’s first private, utility-scale blockchain infrastructure company; retains strategy and technology advisory group New Alchemy

Soluna is building a wind-powered blockchain computing infrastructure in Morocco

SEATTLE – Soluna Technologies, Ltd., the company powering the blockchain-economy with low-cost renewable energy, has retained New Alchemy, a leading advisory group in the blockchain and tokenization industry.

Soluna is launching its own utility-scale blockchain computing facility, integrated with its own renewable energy resources, to meet growing cryptocurrency mining and other blockchain network demands and requirements.

Seattle-based New Alchemy has extensive expertise in helping businesses create and launch blockchain projects, new tokens and crypto projects. New Alchemy’s tokenization services include smart contract development, project management, and token game theory.

Soluna plans to develop its own 900-megawatt, 37,000-acre wind-powered power plant site in the Kingdom of Morocco—in one of the world’s windiest regions. The site will be combined with the company’s private computing facilities to power the blockchain in a more eco-friendly and sustainable way.

“Our vision is to power the blockchain with clean, renewable energy that we own and control,” says John Belizaire, CEO of Soluna. “Soluna will address the growing demand for energy to power today’s growing blockchain networks, and will create the world’s first ‘service node,’ providing high-density computing for future blockchain networks.”

The rapid growth in cryptocurrency mining is placing demands on global energy resources. According to Digiconomist, as of June 2018, Bitcoin mining uses 71 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, equivalent to almost 10% of China’s annual energy usage, representing an unsustainable growth in demand on the world’s energy resources. This has led cryptocurrency miners to turn to inexpensive and environmentally damaging fossil fuels. In response, Soluna has set out to be the world’s first utility-scale blockchain infrastructure company powered by its own private renewable energy sources.

Soluna’s technology focuses on:

  • Vertical integration: By developing renewable energy power plants dedicated to on-site, high-density computing, Soluna’s groundbreaking approach will bring vertical integration to the blockchain ecosystem. Its energy systems and computing facilities will be self-contained, distributed, scalable, and flexible.
  • Wind-powered renewable energy: Soluna’s flagship site covers 37,000-acres in southern Morocco with over 900 Megawatts of wind power potential.  It is a Class I wind site, where wind speeds reach over 22 miles per hour, making it one of the highest quality wind sites in the world. In November 2016, the King of Morocco announced the kingdom’s mission to produce over 52% of its electricity through green power by 2030 and create over 6,000 Megawatts of renewable projects by 2020. By design, Soluna’s wind farm will be an off-grid operation, with the plan to integrate it with the grid.  Soluna expects the high-voltage transmission lines to reach the site by mid-2019. If it is not connected to the grid, Soluna’s site will be one of the largest off-grid mining operations. 
  • Utility-scale computing operations: Soluna’s agile, flexible computing facilities will power the coming wave of blockchain technologies, networks, and distributed applications. Soluna will provide green, renewable, low-cost computing power for the evolving needs of the blockchain ecosystem and compliant with the local regulations, whether that be cryptocurrency mining, distributed graphics rendering, file storage, machine learning, AI-related computations, or other services. 

“A host of industries stand to be radically transformed using blockchain technology, and Soluna is positioning itself as an innovative leader in vertical integration within that ecosystem,” said Theron Andrews, New Alchemy’s Vice President of Client Marketing. “By providing on-site, high-density computing resources, Soluna is also addressing corresponding power demands with clean, utility-scale energy generation.”

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InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry

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InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry 1

By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder

If the last nine months have made anything clear, it is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed both buying and driving habits for UK motorists. The latest Tempcover research has revealed that online-only used car sales had increased fifteen-fold during the pandemic among 2,000 survey respondents.

Before lockdown, just 4% of used car sales were fully-digital. The vast majority of those surveyed opted for either a physical purchase (50%) or a digitally-assisted purchase (45%), relying on a combination of digital tools and an in person viewing or road test before buying.

While car sales overall are down on last year’s figures*, one in six (17%) of those surveyed had bought a used car during lockdown, with two thirds (64%) relying on a fully-digital purchase journey. Digitally-assisted purchases counted for one in five (20%) used car sales, while in person sales fell to just 15% – no surprise considering the ongoing social distancing measures.

And when it comes to arranging insurance for their recently-purchased vehicle, our survey participants displayed an equal balance between telephone and online as the preferred method (48% each). Nearly a third of those (28%) said they wait up to ten minutes for their policy to be confirmed, and a further 22% wait as long as 20 minutes to get cover.

The switch to digital insurance, driven by InsurTech

In the midst of rapid and significant market changes, many traditional insurers have lacked the agility and flexibility to adapt accordingly. InsurTech can provide immense value in bridging that gap, as the digital solutions are entirely scalable, with the flexibility to substantially increase in size and across multiple geographies, with minimal disruption.

Alan Inskip

Alan Inskip

The ongoing decline of physical transactions in the motor retail industry is a perfect example of how InsurTech is adding value. Several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, are already streamlining their online purchase process by offering temporary driveaway insurance policies to cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days, as part of the purchase journey.

The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends.

For the dealers, this technology means more efficient stock clearance times and greater profitability. For the buyers, it takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot, and provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car, while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. An added benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.

While there is a chance these trends will reverse to some extent post pandemic, it is clear that the consumer appetite for digital purchase and consumption is here to stay, and InsurTech will continue to lead the way in making motor insurance more easily-accessible across digital platforms, while offering consumers the best value for money.

* https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-8615851/Used-car-sales-halved-lockdown-brakes-1m-motor-transactions.html

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Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud

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Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud 2

By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino

The public cloud is the most significant enabler in a generation. It’s causing a massive shift in how businesses are operating and tearing apart previous business models.

Amid challenging economic times, it’s inevitable that spending within IT is dropping. However, the cloud is the only segment that is still growing. The public cloud is increasingly becoming a central element of enterprise IT.

Contino asked 250 IT decision-makers at enterprise companies across Europe, USA and APAC within companies of over 5,000 employees about their views on the state of the public cloud within their organisation at the beginning of 2020.  Nearly all of them (99%) saw a significant technical benefit compared with on-premises.

Here are some other ways public cloud is being used by enterprises:

  1. Widely, albeit not yet business wide.

A whopping 77% of enterprises are using the public cloud in some capacity. Overall, 50% of businesses are utilising a hybrid cloud, 22% single private cloud, 20% multi-cloud, 7% single public cloud and only 1% are using only on-premises.

But only 13% of businesses have a fully-fledged public cloud program. The largest set of respondents (42%) have multiple apps/projects deployed in the cloud. 24% were still working on initial proofs-of-concept, and 18% were in the planning stages.

83% of respondents said they want to grow their cloud program. Almost half (48%) do wish to grow, but with caution, while 36% want to move as quickly as possible.

Only 4% plan to revert to on-premises but are in no rush to do so.

  1. To enhance security and compliance versus on-premises, although these are still also seen as barriers to adoption.

A massive 64% of respondents stated they find this more secure than on-premises, and only 7% see it to be less secure. 72% found it easier to stay compliant with business data in the cloud versus only 4% who found it harder.  However, 48% cited that their biggest barrier for not using the cloud was security, and 37% stated the need to remain compliant was the most prevalent blocker.

Other challenges also posed a barrier: a lack of skills, the cost to purchase and cloud-native operating models not working with existing investments made up 29-32% of responses.

19% stated that lack of leadership buy-in is the biggest barrier, reflecting that a significant number of IT departments have a need for this solution but have not been provided with the support to do so. However, relatively speaking, this was one of the least-cited barriers.

  1. For improved efficiency, scalability and agility, but vendor lock-in is still a major concern.

The top three cited technical benefits of public cloud were better efficiency, agility and scalability versus on-premises. However, 63% of IT professionals were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much’ afraid of the commitment that can come with investing in the cloud. This is another major barrier that is preventing businesses from ​migrating to the cloud.

Only 23% are not afraid of being locked in and a meagre 5% have no fear at all. However, the fact that 77% of businesses are using the cloud shows any risk of being locked in is outweighed by the benefits of the cloud.

  1. To align IT with the business.

This is by far the most cited business benefit of the public cloud. 100% of those surveyed witnessed varied business benefits versus on-premises. Other major benefits include the ability to focus on new revenues (43%), accelerated time-to-market (43%), and increased ROI (40%).

  1. To accelerate innovation and increases cost-effectiveness.

Innovating in the cloud was quicker for 81% of respondents. What’s more, not one person surveyed said the cloud slowed down their innovation. 79% have saved money with the cloud and only 5% have found it more of an expense than on-premises.

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Another ‘new normal’? Five challenges CTOs will face in 2021

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Another ‘new normal’? Five challenges CTOs will face in 2021 3

By Amit Dattani, Director of Technology at Conosco

We’re one year into the new decade, and arguably technology has guided the 2020’s so far. Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), responsible for taking ownership across IT networks, have faced new challenges as they spearhead the rapid adoption of a number of digital services.

CTOs have a lot on their plate. Many are responsible for managing production workflow, defining technology roadmaps and budgeting the cost of technology. However for smaller businesses, CTOs will also be responsible for leading the cybersecurity strategy, and defining the data protection guidelines.

We’re at an exciting time for innovation in the UK, and CTO’s need to provide sound technical leadership to the board and to employees. What challenges will CTOs need to overcome in their IT strategy for 2021?

1- Data compliance

After a number of GDPR lawsuits, there is growing concern over the state of business’ data handling. And post-Brexit, the ‘new normal’ will change again for data management and CTOs. GDPR will no longer be binding in the UK after 1 January 2021, leading to new data laws being introduced. Fear not – the UK government has said it intends to incorporate GDPR into UK data protection laws, but it’s still incredibly likely there will be tweaks and amendments to it.

The number of data privacy cases will likely continue to increase, but with every case brings further clarity to other businesses learning lessons about data protection. CTOs need to consider who will be responsible for the flow of personal data, reviewing information and ensuring that the correct processes are in place for business continuity and disaster recovery.

2 – Changing mindsets on data

Data is not the devil – but CTO’s already know that. Their customers and others in the leadership team, however, may not be comfortable with that thinking. The demand for data as a product is through the roof, providing value-added digital transformations and acting as a virtual decision-maker.

The growing complexity of the nation’s habits and desires means that data has had to fast track the growth of knowledge. Data removes the ‘intuition’ that senior decision makers have to go on, and instead validates the course of action you choose for your business.

CTOs need to ensure they have transparent processes in place about the status of their data integrity. Be open about the processes, and what you use your customer and employee data for. And for the leadership team, it will become harder and harder to avoid the benefits of using Big Data – such as improved operational efficiency, greater transparency into costs, and smarter decision making.

3 –  CFOs will try to claw back early 2020 investments

Technology has proved it’s the beating heart of business continuity during these unusual times. But Gartner’s IT spending report found that budgets were down 6.5% overall in Europe.

One of the things on top of all Chief Financial Officers (CFO) priority lists is to reduce any overspend and improve budgeting. Cuts to IT aren’t because leaders need convincing of the importance of technology – it’s a priority.

But due to the increased spending on short-term fixes to enable businesses to work from home in the first ‘new normal’ of 2020, many businesses are scrutinising any extra investments to claw back some of the overspend. It will be a case of proving why it is crucial for businesses to gain an innovation edge and speed up digital transformation.

Especially for public companies – their share prices can increase or decrease value just by public perception – which is definitely something which board members care about. Consider looking into better tools, services and solutions which can allow for better budget use and a deeper understanding into the benefits your investments are making to your company.

4 – Tackling the talent shortage

Another main challenge of CTOs is a lack of knowledge by employees on new technologies, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning. A 2020 PwC survey finds that 74 percent of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills. A company is only as good as its people, but when the purse strings have tightened, there may be less scope for hiring externally, and instead you turn to upskilling.

Outsourcing talent can help you to keep innovating, get you on your feet and provide a better service. But continuing to innovate must mean that you have the skills to align with new projects that are in the pipeline. You should be prioritising time on training, but you can also bring in skill sets by working with targeted recruiters and external partners.

5 – Delayed technical debt

After the shift to an almost-fully virtual world in March, many companies faced new challenges that they needed quick fixes for in the race to appeal to the market.

But while quick solutions can generate business sales, if you only focus on the ‘essentials’ at the time and not the full picture, you risk facing vulnerabilities. For example, if you prioritise your employees need to work from home, but don’t invest in data management and security planning such as a VPN, issues will eventually begin to surface.

Opting for cloud and SaaS solutions will remove the issue of foresight, and avoid your team being faced with the decision between the urgent and the important. CTOs will need to have their fingers on not just the technology, but also the timing of their investments.

To avoid technical debt, ensure good policies and governance are in place for all technology under the CTO remit. This could include a regular analysis of your strategy to ensure overall architecture is needed. This limits technology creep, which leads to technical debt. You should also add technical debt into your agile development cycles – e.g. every sprint must have 10% tech debt work, or every 5th sprint is a ‘bug bash.’

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