FinancialBuzz.com News Commentary
According to data published by Grand View Research, the global artificial intelligence market size is projected to reach $35.87 billion by 2025, while growing at a CAGR of 57.2 percent. The report indicates that rapid improvements in fast information storage capacity, high computing power, and parallelization are some of the factors that are contributing to the rapid innovations of robotics and artificial intelligence technology. AI becomes prominent in end-use industries such as automotive and healthcare. In addition, there is strong demand for understanding and analyzing visual contents and gaining meaningful insights, which is also expected to provide strength to the market over the forecast period. Internet of Things Inc. (OTC: INOTF), Gopher Protocol Inc. (OTC: GOPH), Remark Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: MARK), Veritone, Inc. (NASDAQ: VERI), ShiftPixy, Inc. (NASDAQ: PIXY)
A report by the McKinsey Global Institute surveyed companies about their use of AI. Their findings show that only few companies have incorporated AI into their value chains at scale, as most of companies that had awareness of AI technologies are still in experimental or pilot phases. Out of the 3,073 respondents, only 20 percent said they had adopted one or more AI-related technology at scale or in a core part of their business. Ten percent reported adopting more than two technologies, and only 9 percent reported adopting machine learning. Some industry experts are more optimistic. Elon Musk wrote in a comment on Edge.org that, “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast-it is growing at a pace close to exponential.”
Internet of Things Inc. (OTC: INOTF) also listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker (TSX-V: ITT). Last week the company announced breaking news that, “Is pleased to provide a corporate update detailing its recently accomplished milestones and current growth initiatives. Appointment of President & COO – IoT Inc. recently announced the appointment of James Sutcliffe as President & COO. Mr. Sutcliffe will oversee operations, investee companies and merger & acquisition opportunities.
Mr. Sutcliffe brings more than 20 years’ experience in global operational and financial leadership. Earlier in his career, he was as a key member of a management team that grew a Fortune 150 Tier 1 automotive supplier’s Asian operations ten-fold. During this time, Mr. Sutcliffe held senior corporate development, finance and executive management roles. Spearheading entry into new markets in Asia, he was instrumental in guiding start-ups and acquisitions in China, India and Korea.
Mr. Sutcliffe commented, “IoT Inc. is at a critical inflection point given its growth opportunities in Asia and North America. I am excited to leverage my relationships and operating experience as the company pursues very compelling and complementary accretive acquisitions.”
Corporate Repositioning: The Company has developed a new website designed to encourage investor signups and inbound business opportunities and enhanced marketing collateral including a new corporate presentation. In addition, IoT Inc. has signed up to participate in investor focused conferences over the next few months to raise awareness. This corporate repositioning reflects the new strategic vision of the Company and will serve as the foundation to expand its strategic plan to acquire and operate growth-ready technology companies.
Equity Financing: After the original public announcement of a private placement financing in December 2017, the Company closed an over-subscribed funding round of $2,300,000. This working capital provides a sufficient runway to continue execution of its long-term corporate growth strategy and to pursue strategic acquisitions.
Portfolio Company Updates: Weather Telematics Inc. The Company announced that it has entered into a letter of agreement to acquire Weather Telematics Inc. (“WTX Inc.” or “Weather Telematics”), a data science company offering real-time advanced AI-based predictive road condition weather analytics for safer, connected and autonomous transportation. For further details read the May 14, 2018 press release. Weather Telematics recently announced a partnership with Teletrac Navman, a global software-as-a-service provider that leverages location-based technology for GPS tracking solutions, to provide dynamic weather data including a real-time view of hazardous road conditions to the DIRECTOR® fleet management platform.
New Hope IoT Intl. Inc. (or the “JV”) – Management is pleased with the progress that continues to be made with factory automation initiatives as IoT Inc. expands its presence in Greater China. The JV continues to make headway with artificial intelligence in China and pending the closing of WTX Inc., the Company will look to leverage their unique data and technology by integrating it into its manufacturing process optimization platform to turn traditional manufacturing operations into smart industrial IoT enabled facilities.
BLOCKStrain Technology Corp.(“BLOCKStrain”) – The Company made a strategic investment in BLOCKStrain Technology Corp. (TSX-V: DNAX). BLOCKStrain delivers a secure and immutable blockchain platform to establish global certainty for cannabis strains and their ownership. BLOCKStrain closed a non-brokered private placement raising gross proceeds of $10,500,000, and also completed its go public transaction earlier this week. Based on yesterday’s closing price of BLOCKStrain, IoT Inc’s position in the company is worth more than 250% of its original investment. The Company is in discussions with BLOCKStrain and is evaluating how to deploy and leverage its strategic technology applications into the BLOCKStrain ecosystem.
Braingrid Corp. (“Braingrid”) – In December 2015, IoT Inc. acquired an 8.33% minority equity position in Braingrid for $500,000. Braingrid recently closed a $2,500,000 equity financing and continues to work on its public listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange. Braingrid intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes, such as continuing expansion of its R&D department as well as furthering the execution of its long-term roadmap. Management expects that Braingrid’s go-public transaction will be accretive to IoT Inc.
New Opportunities – IoT Inc. looks to capitalize on new opportunities when they fit the Company’s core investment criteria. There are occasionally new legislation and regulatory guidelines that open new markets, particularly the recent Supreme Court of the United States ruling that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), an act that largely outlawed sports betting outside of Nevada. This change in legislation effectively clears a path for the legalization of sports betting in the United States. Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates a regulated United States sports betting market could generate $6.03 billion in annual revenue by 2023. Additionally, the Canadian Gaming Association estimates that Canadians are wagering approximately $10 billion annually through illegal bookmaking operations in Canada, and more than $4 billion through offshore online sports gambling websites, meaning that many people are betting through illegal and nefarious channels. As a result of these regulatory changes, IoT Inc. has formed a strategy to capitalize on the opportunity to develop, commercialize and monetize an AI-based platform using the Company’s innovative technologies within the sports wagering marketplace.
About Internet of Things Inc. – Internet of Things Inc. is a strategic investor in growth-ready companies with innovative technology solutions. The Company creates value through its portfolio companies’ expertise in the IoT, AI and Blockchain solutions, by turning data into actionable intelligence to drive more efficiency into organizations. The Company has a joint venture partnership, New Hope IoT Intl Inc., with New Hope Data Technology Co. Ltd. Internet of Things Inc. also has strategic investments in Braingrid Corp. and Blockstrain Technology Corp. and has its headquarters in Toronto, Canada.”
Gopher Protocol Inc. (OTCQB: GOPH) is a development-stage company which consider itself Native IoT creator, developing Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence enabled mobile technology. Recently, the company announced that it is developing a new web interface for Avant!, its Artificial Intelligence Platform. Avant! is Gopher’s software that incorporates artificial intelligence, which it intends to use to control its GEO MESH system when fully developed. It is based on mathematical algorithms in the domain of machine, deep learning. Avant! uses natural language processing and cognitive computing to identify data objects during our MESH communication. When fully developed, it is intended to be used to control the system’s nodes, that may be used in a wide variety of applications, for example, navigating a self-driving car. It is expected that Avant! will have the ability to harness vast amounts of data and computing power, learning GEO conditions, analyzing the data and making decisions in real time.
Remark Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: MARK) primarily focuses on the development and deployment of artificial-intelligence-based solutions for businesses and software developers in many industries. Additionally, the company owns and operates digital media properties that deliver relevant, dynamic content. On March 5, 2018, the company announced that they are partnering to deploy Remark’s KanKan data intelligence and AI technologies in approximately 11,000 7-Eleven stores that CP ALL operates throughout Thailand. Remark and CP ALL will hold a press conference (the details of which appear below) on March 6, 2018, in Bangkok to launch the partnership. The Remark/CP ALL partnership will utilize KanKan’s AI-based facial recognition and behavior analysis technologies to provide enhanced customer support, business analysis, employee management and security in CP ALL’s 7-Eleven stores in Thailand, which generate more than $14 billion in revenue. KanKan’s technologies can monitor product levels on store shelves, suggest products and services to customers, provide real-time operations performance and competitor analysis, check in and check out employees, identify unauthorized personnel, and assess crowd size and crowd flow for safety, among myriad other services
Veritone, Inc. (NASDAQ: VERI) is a leading artificial intelligence company that has developed aiWARE, an AWS-certified platform offering orchestrated cognitive computing to transform and analyze structured and unstructured data for clients in a variety of markets, including media and entertainment, legal, compliance and government. On April 11, 2018, the company announced that its aiWARE™ platform has set the standard for how enterprises and institutions can effectively and profitably engage with AI. The open and extensible platform allows clients to configure cognitive capabilities based on organizational needs – prioritizing accuracy, speed, and cost while enhancing workflows. The recent introduction of the aiWARE real-time framework, coupled with the platform’s ever-growing ecosystem of 185 cognitive engines and applications, enables users to unlock new insights and economic value from virtually any type of data.
ShiftPixy, Inc. (NASDAQ: PIXY) is a disruptive human capital management platform, revolutionizing employment in the Gig Economy by delivering a next-gen mobile engagement technology to help businesses with shift-based employees navigate regulatory mandates, minimize administrative burdens and better connect with a ready-for-hire workforce. On March 27, 2018, the company has leveraged the powerful Watson’s artificial intelligence engine across its platform to achieve an active and personal user experience. ShiftPixy’s current mobile gateway app uses Watson to power its entire employee enrollment process.
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ECB launches small climate-change unit to lead Lagarde’s green push
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)
What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation
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.
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.
Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021
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.
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.
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.
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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