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VR LEADER MATTERPORT LAUNCHES THE WORLD’S LARGEST VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) LIBRARY OF REAL WORLD PLACES

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Over 250,000 Spaces Instantly Published in VR for Free with MatterportCoreVR; Release Represents Over £3.8m GBP in Value

Immersive technology company Matterport has today announced the launch of CoreVR, a simple option to add VR support to any Matterport 3D Space, creating the fastest, easiest, and least expensive end-to-end system for delivering a VR experience of a real-world place. This announcement represents a major leap forward for the VR ecosystem as it makes the world’s largest library of 3D Spaces immediately available to everyone, and offers an easy and highly scalable way to capture more real-world places in 3D and then share those spaces in VR.

Matterport, which acquired London-based 360 virtual tour company Virtual Walk through in June 2016, has by far the largest collection of digital 3D versions of real-world places, and this library of 3D Spaces has been experienced by consumers over 75 million times.

Matterport Creates the World’s Largest Library of VR Experiences of Real-World Places

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With the launch of CoreVR, Matterport has enabled the CoreVR option for over 250,000 existing Matterport 3D Spaces free of charge and will continue to enable the CoreVR option for free for any 3D Space created through 2016. This release represents over £3.8M GBP (approx.) of VR content delivered into the developing VR ecosystem and vastly increases the amount of VR content available to the world. For those 3D Spaces with the free CoreVR option, CoreVR will remain available for as long as the content is hosted on Matterport. After 2016, content publishers can simply select the CoreVR option for only £14.50 GBP (approx.) per new 3D space.  With the CoreVR feature integrated directly into Matterport Showcase, users can transition quickly from the Web to VR.

“Like any new platform, VR needs content to grow, and with the new CoreVR option, Matterport delivers a huge library of real-world VR content and the most effective and scalable option to allow anyone to create a VR experience of a space,” said Bill Brown, CEO of Matterport. “Matterport is excited to bring this capability to its thousands of camera owners and to millions of consumers visiting Matterport Spaces.  We believe in the power of VR to help us achieve our vision of giving people the power to experience any place at any time.”

Matterport quickly established itself as leader in immersive media with its Pro 3D camera and cloud service because of its simplicity of capture and the automated and seamless end-to-end system for creating and distributing immersive interactive 3D and VR Spaces. Matterport’s system is used by thousands of camera operators in more than 75 countries across several industries, including residential and commercial real estate, apartment rentals, vacation rentals, hotels, business listings, architecture, and construction.

Virtual reality is quickly becoming mainstream. No longer limited to gamers and early adopters, the VR industry is projected to generate £3.5 GBP billion (approx.) in revenue in 2017, garner 171 million users by 2018, and become a £27 GBP billion (approx.) industry by 2025.

CoreVR will be accessible initially through Matterport apps for Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR (Powered by Oculus), with support for additional VR platforms in the future. As part of the release, Matterport’s VR app now comes with an example gallery of 150 real world places for you to visit in VR.  The remaining places are accessible in VR via 3D Showcase.

In conjunction with today’s announcement, many of Matterport’s customers and partners are also incorporating VR as part of their business initiatives. These customers represent a wide variety of industries including residential and commercial real estate, apartment rentals, vacation rentals, hotels, business listings, event venues, architecture, construction, and entertainment and news media.

Realtor.com is a leading online real estate destination operated by News Corp subsidiary Move, Inc.

“We’re excited to enable consumers and our professional customers to capitalize on emerging opportunities in online real estate made possible by innovations in visualization such as Matterport’sCoreVR. The improvement in time and cost of implementing VR will drive a significant increase in its use in real estate marketing in the years ahead.”  — Ryan O’Hara, CEO, Move, Inc.

CoStar (Apartments.com), a commercial real estate information and marketing provider.

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“Our core mission is to bring innovation to the real estate industry. With this technology we can enhance the buying experience for renters so that they can engage and interact more in the search for their next home. Partnering with Matterport on this forward-thinking VR technology allows Apartments.com to continue to supply our community advertisers with the ability to attract true, valuable leads.”  — Fred Saint, President, Apartments.com.

JLL, a financial and professional services firm that specializes in commercial real estate services and investment management

“JLL is on a mission to uncover breakthrough technologies that give our clients and employees the innovative tools they need to stay ahead in a rapidly transforming industry. We see enormous opportunity to elevate the property marketing experience using a variety of technologies, and Matterport has been an integral part of marketing our properties in 3D. The addition of CoreVR will further strengthen the experience for our clients, keeping JLL at the forefront of the industry in its advanced use of technology.” —Jill Kouri, Chief Marketing Officer, JLL Americas

Strutt and Parker, the UK’s largest independent property partnership

“Matterport brings us the opportunity to produce a physical space in very high quality VR. Creating a 360-degree model not only shows what a property looks like but also gives our clients a sense of volume and flow. It is a great way of connecting our clients to a property. Our agents travel worldwide with headsets loaded with properties from our residential and commercial businesses. VR models of the open-plan living spaces at Television Centre in White City, formally the home of the BBC, have given our potential buyers in Dubai first hand immersive experiences. VR is a great step forward in this rapidly moving sector, it allows us to enhance our personal service across all our offerings.”- Kevin Powell, Head of Digital Marketing, Strutt and Parker

Sotheby’s International Realty, a global luxury real estate brand founded in 1976

“Affiliated sales associates of the Sotheby’s International Realty brand have been using Matterport 3D Spaces with great success in attracting buyers and even expediting the real estate transaction. The marketing expertise that we provide to our agents is second to none, and we fully intend to embrace MatterportCoreVR to provide an even more extraordinary experience.” — John Passerini, Global Vice President of Interactive Marketing, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC

Vacasa, the tech-enabled vacation management company with operations in the U.S.; Europe; Central and South America, will now enable its customers to view more than 3,000 properties through VR.

“With the addition of MatterportCoreVR, our customers are able to experience any of our unique vacation homes across the U.S. We continue to be impressed with the simplicity and affordability in which we’ll be able to offer not only a 3D experience but also one in VR with just one scan of the Matterport 3D Pro Camera.” — Eric Breon, Founder & CEO, Vacasa

Lodgis, a French real estate agency specializing in furnished apartment rentals in Paris.

“Our use of Matterport 3D Spaces has cemented our leadership position as the

go-to property rental and sales service in France, and we view the MatterportCoreVR experience as an extension of our progressive technological strategy. With two-thirds of our clientele based internationally, VR is an innovative tool that will help them identify the right property to rent or buy.” — Fabrice Petit, CEO, Lodgis

Mansion Global, a premier digital destination connecting the world’s affluent real estate buyers with prestige properties across the globe.

“We are excited to be at the forefront of the global VR transformation for real estate news and listings. Partnering with Matterport on this initiative helps break down geographical boundaries by offering our readers the opportunity to tour properties they are interested in from the convenience of their home or office.”  — Mae Cheng, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Mansion Global

HouseLens, the largest Matterport service provider, servicing 40 of the top 50 real estate markets in the US.

 “CoreVR fits perfectly with our identity as an innovative company, and with our mission to make the newest visual marketing technology accessible to every agent. We’re excited to deliver this advanced VR experience to HouseLens customers – it’s a definite competitive edge for their listings.” — Andrew Crefeld, Founder/CEO, HouseLens

Download the “Matterport VR Showcase” to view a collection of VR-enabled content now:

Headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, Matterport is an immersive media technology company that delivers an end-to-end system for creating and distributing immersive 3D and virtual reality (VR) versions of real-world spaces on Web, mobile devices, and VR headsets. The Matterport Pro Camera and Cloud Services make it quick and easy to turn real-world places into immersive virtual experiences.  To learn more about Matterport and CoreVR, visit: www.matterport.com/virtual-reality.

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Lockdown 2.0 – Here’s how to be the best-looking person in the virtual room

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By Jeff Carlson, author of The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar 4 and Take Control of Your Digital Photos

suggests “the product you’re creating is not the camera, the lens or a webcam’s clever industrial design. It’s the subject, you, which is just on e part of the entire image they see. You want that image to convey quality, not convenience.”

Technology experts at Reincubate saw an opportunity in the rise of remote-working video calls and developed the app, Camo, to improve the video quality of our webcam calls. As part of this, they consulted the digital photography expert and author, Jeff Carlson, to reveal how we can look our best online. 

It’s clear by now that COVID-19 has normalised remote working, but as part of this the importance of video calls has risen exponentially. While we’re all used to seeing the more casual sides of our colleagues (t-shirt and shorts, anyone?), poor webcam quality is slightly less forgivable.

But how can we improve how we look on video? We consulted Jeff Carlson for some top tips– here is what he had to say.

  1. Improve the picture quality of your call

The better your camera, the higher quality your webcam calls will be. Most webcams (as well as currently being hard to get hold of and expensive), are subpar. A DSLR setup will give you the best picture, but will cost $1,500+. You can also use your iPhone’s amazing camera as a webcam, using the new app from Reincubate, Camo.

Jeff’s comments “The iPhone’s camera system features dedicated coprocessors for evaluating and adjusting the image in real time. Apple has put a tremendous amount of work into its imaging software as a way to compensate for the necessarily small camera sensors. Although it all works in service of creating stills and video, you get the same benefits when using the iPhone as a webcam.”

Aidan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Reincubate explains why the team created Camo, “Earlier this year our team moved to working remotely, and in video calls everyone looked pretty bad, irrespective of whether they were on built-in Mac webcams or third-party ones. Thus began my journey to build Camo: an iPhone has one of the world’s best cameras in it, so could we make it work as a webcam? Category-leading webcams are noticeably worse than an iPhone 7. This makes sense: six weeks of Apple’s R&D spend tops Logitech’s annual gross revenue.”

  1. Place your camera at eye level

A video call will never quite be the same as a face-to-face conversation, but bringing your camera up to eye level is a good place to start. That can involve putting your laptop on a stand or pile of books, mounting a webcam to the top of your display screen, or even using a tripod to get the perfect position.

Jeff points out, “If the camera is looking down on you, you’ll appear minimized in the frame; if it’s looking up, you’re inviting people to focus on your chin, neck, or nostrils. Most important, positioning the camera off your eye level is a distraction. Look them in the eye, even if they’re miles or continents away.

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Low camera placement from a MacBook

  1. Make the most of natural lighting

Be aware of the lighting in the room and move yourself to face natural lighting if you can. Positioning the camera so any natural light is behind you takes the light away from your face, which can make it harder to see and read expressions on a call.

Jeff Carlson’s top tip: “If the light from outside is too harsh, diffuse it and create softer shadows by tacking up a white sheet or a stand-alone diffuser over the window.” 

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Backlit against a window Facing natural light

  1. Use supplementary lighting like ring lights

The downside to natural lighting is that you’re at the mercy of the elements: if it’s too bright you’ll have the sun in your eyes, if it’s too dark you won’t be well lit.

Jeff recommends adding supplementary lighting if you’re looking to really enhance your video calls. After all, it looks like remote working will be carrying on for quite some time.

“The light can be just as easy as a household or inexpensive work light. Angle the light so it’s bouncing off a wall or the ceiling, depending on your work area, which, again, diffuses the light and makes it more flattering.

Or, for a little money, use a softbox or a shoot-through umbrella with daylight bulbs (5500K temperature), or if space is tight, LED panels. Larger lights are better for distributing illumination– don’t be afraid to get them in close to you. Placement depends on the look you’re going after; start by positioning one at a 45-degree angle in front and to the side of you, which lights most of your face while retaining nice shadow detail.” 

In some cases, a ring light may work best. LEDs are arranged in a circle, with space in the middle to put the camera’s lens and get direct illumination from the direction of the camera.

  1. Centre yourself in the frame

Make sure you’re getting the right angle and that you’re using the frame effectively.

“You should aim for people to see your head and part of your torso, not all the space between your hair and the ceiling. Leave a little space above your head so it’s not cut off, but not enough that someone’s eyes are going to drift there.”

  1. Be mindful of your backdrop

It’s not always easy to get the quiet space needed for video calls when working from home, but try as best you can to remove anything too distracting from your background.

“Get rid of clutter or anything that’s distracting or unprofessional, because you can bet that will be the second thing the viewers notice after they see you. (The Twitter account @RateMySkypeRoom is an amusing ongoing commentary on the environments people on television are connecting from.)”

A busy background as seen by a webcam

  1. Make the most of virtual backgrounds

If you’re really struggling with finding a background that looks professional, try using a virtual background.

Jeff suggests: “Some apps can identify your presence in the scene and create a live mask that enables you to use an entirely different image to cover the background. While it’s a fun feature, the quality of the masking is still rudimentary, even with a green screen background that makes this sort of keying more accurate.”

  1. Be aware of your audio settings

Our laptop webcams, cameras, and mobile phones all include microphones, but if it’s at all possible, use a separate microphone instead.

“That can be an inexpensive lavalier mic, a USB microphone, or a set of iPhone earbuds. You can also get wireless lavalier models if you’re moving around during a call, such as presenting at a whiteboard in the camera’s field of view.

The idea is to get the microphone closer to your mouth so it’s recording what you say, not other sounds or echoes in the room. If you type during meetings, mount the mic on an arm instead of resting it on the same surface as your keyboard.”

  1. Be wary of video app add-ons

Video apps like Zoom include a ‘Touch up your appearance’ option in the Video settings. This applies a skin-smoothing filter to your face, but more often than not, the end result looks artificially blurry instead of smooth.

“Zoom also includes settings for suppressing persistent and intermittent background noise, and echo cancellation. They’re all set to Auto by default, but you can choose how aggressive or not the feature is.”

  1. Be the best looking person in the virtual room

What’s important to remember about video calls at this point in time is that most people are new to what is, really, personal broadcasting. That means you can easily get an edge, just by adopting a few suggestions in this article. When your video and audio quality improves, people will take notice.

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Bringing finance into the 21st Century – How COVID and collaboration are catalysing digital transformation

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By Keith Phillips, CEO of TISATech

If just six or seven months ago someone had told you that in a matter of weeks people around the world would be locked down in their homes, trying to navigate modern work systems from a prehistoric laptop, bickering with family over who’s hogging the Wi-Fi, migrating online to manage all financial services digitally, all while washing their hands every five minutes in fear of a global pandemic… You’d think they had lost their mind. But this very quickly became the reality for huge swathes of the world and we’re about to go through that all over again as the UK government has asked that those who can work from home should.

Unsurprisingly, statistics show that lockdown restrictions introduced by the UK government in March, led to a sharp increase in people adopting digital services. Banks encouraged its customers to log onto online banking, as they limited (and eventually halted) services at branches. This forced many customers online as their primary means of managing personal finances for the first time.

If anyone had doubts before, the Covid-19 pandemic proved to us the importance of well-functioning, effective digital financial services platforms, for both financial institutions and the people using them.

But with this sudden mass online migration, it’s become clear that traditional banks have struggled to keep up with servicing clients virtually. Legacy banking systems have always stilted the digitisation of financial services, but the pandemic thrust this issue into the limelight. Fintech firms, which focus intently on digital and mobile services, knew it was only a matter of time before financial institutions’ reliance was to increase at an unprecedented rate.

For years, fintechs have been called upon by traditional players to find solutions to problems borne from those clunky legacy systems, like manual completion of account changes and money transfers. Now it is the demand for these services to be online coupled with the need for financial services firms to cut costs, since Covid-19 hit the economy.

Covid-19 has catalysed the urgent need to bring digital transformation to a wider pool of financial services businesses. Customers now have even higher expectations of larger institutions, demanding that they keep up with what the younger and more nimble challengers have to offer. Industry leaders realise that they must transform their businesses as soon as possible, by streamlining and digitising operations to compete and, ultimately, improve services for their customers.

The race for digital acceleration began far before the recent pandemic – in fact, following the 2008 financial crisis is likely more accurate. Since the credit crunch, there has been a wave of new fintech firms, full of young, bright techies looking to be the next big thing. Fintechs have marketed themselves hard at big conferences and expos or by hosting ‘hackathons’, trying to prove themselves as the fastest, most innovative or the most vital to the future of the industry.

However, even during this period where accelerating innovation in online financial services and legacy systems is crucial, the conditions brought about by the pandemic have not been conducive to this much-needed transformation.

The second issue, which again was clear far before the pandemic, is that fact that no matter how nimble or clever the fintechs’ solutions are, it is still hard to implement the solutions seamlessly, as the sector is highly fragmented with banks using extremely outdated systems populated with vast amounts of data.

With the significance of the pandemic becoming more and more clear, and the need for better digital products and services becoming more crucial to financial services firms and consumers by the day, the industry has finally come together to provide a solution.

The TISAtech project was launched last month by The Investing and Saving Alliance (TISA), a membership organisation in the UK with more than 200 leading financial institutions as members. TISA asked The Disruption House, a specialist benchmarking and data analytics business, to create a clearing house platform for the industry to help it more effectively integrate new financial technology. The project aims to enhance products and services while reducing friction and ultimately lowering costs which are passed on to the customers.

With nearly 4,000 fintechs from around the world participating, it will be the world’s largest marketplace dedicated to Open Finance, Savings, and Investment.

Not only will it provide a ‘matchmaking’ service between financial institutions an fintechs, it will also host a sandbox environment. Financial institutions can pose real problems with real data and the fintechs are given the space to race to the bottom – to find the most constructive, cost-effective solution.

Yes, there are other marketplaces, but they all seem to struggle to achieve a return on investment. There is a genuine need for the ‘Trivago’ of financial technology – a one stop shop, run by an independent body, which can do more than just matchmaking. It needs to go above and beyond to encompass the sandboxing, assessments, profiling of fintechs to separate the wheat from the chaff, and provide a space for true collaboration.

The pandemic has taught us that we are more effective if we work together. We need mass support and collaboration to find solutions to problems. Businesses and industries are no different. If fintechs and financial institutions can work together, there is a real chance that we can start to lessen the economic hit for many businesses and consumers by lowering costs and streamlining better services and products. And even if it is just making it that little bit easier to manage personal finances from home when fighting with your children for the Wi-Fi, we are making a difference.

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What to Know Before You Expand Across Borders

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By Sean King, Director of International Tax at McGuire Sponsel

The American retail giant, Target Corporation, has a market cap of $64 billion and access to seemingly limitless resources and advisors. So, when the company engaged in its first global expansion, how could anything possibly go wrong?

Less than two years after opening its first Canadian store in 2013, Target shut down all133 Canadian locations and terminated more than 17,000 Canadian employees.

Expansion of an operation to another country can create unique challenges that may impact the financial viability of the entire enterprise. If Target Corporation can colossally fail in its expansion to Canada, how might Mom ‘N’ Pop LLC fare when expanding into Switzerland, Singapore, or Australia?

Successful global expansion requires an understanding of multilayered taxes, regulatory hurdles, employment laws, and cultural nuances. Fortunately, with the right guidance, global expansion can be both possible and profitable for businesses of any size.

Permanent establishment

Any company with global ambitions must first consider whether the company’s expansion outside of the U.S. will give rise to a taxable presence in the local country. In the cross-border context, a “permanent establishment” can be created in a local country when the enterprise reaches a certain level of activity, which is problematic because it exposes the U.S. multinational to taxation in the foreign country.

Foreign entity incorporation

To avoid permanent establishment risk, many U.S. multinationals choose to operate overseas through a formal corporate subsidiary, which reduces the company’s foreign income tax exposure, though it may result in an additional level of foreign income tax on the subsidiary’s earnings. In most jurisdictions, multinationals can operate their business in the foreign country as a branch, a pass through (e.g., partnership,) or a corporation.

As a branch, the U.S. multinational does not create a subsidiary in the foreign country. It holds assets, employees, and bank accounts under its own name. With a pass through, the U.S. multinational creates a separate entity in the foreign country that is treated as a partnership under the tax law of the foreign country but not necessarily as a partnership under U.S. tax law.

U.S. multinationals can also create corporate subsidiaries in the foreign country treated as corporations under the tax law of both the foreign country and the U.S., with possibly two levels of income taxation in the foreign country plus U.S. income taxation of earnings repatriated to the U.S. as dividends.

Check-the-box planning

Under U.S. entity classification rules, certain types of entities can “check the box” to elect their classification to be taxed as a corporation with two levels of tax, a partnership with pass-through taxation, or even be disregarded for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The check the box election allows U.S. multinationals to engage in more effective global tax planning.

Toll charges, transfer pricing and treaties

When establishing a foreign corporate subsidiary, the U.S. multinational will likely need to transfer certain assets to the new entity to make it fully operational. However, in many cases, the U.S. multinational cannot perform the transfer without recognizing taxable income. In the international context, the IRS imposes certain outbound “toll charges” on the transfer of appreciated property to a foreign entity, which are usually provided for in IRC Section 367 and subject to various exceptions and nuances.

Instead, the U.S. multinational may prefer to license intellectual property to the foreign subsidiary for a fee rather than transfer the property outright. However, licensing requires the company and foreign subsidiary to adhere to transfer pricing rules, as dictated by IRC Section 482. The U.S. multinational and the foreign subsidiary must interact in an arms-length manner regarding pricing and economic terms. Furthermore, any such arrangement may attract withholding taxes when royalties are paid across a border.

Are you GILTI?

Certain U.S. multinationals opt to focus on deferring the income recognition at the U.S. level. In doing so, they simply leave overseas profits overseas and delay repatriating any of the earnings to the U.S.

Despite the general merits of this form of planning, U.S. multinationals will be subject to certain IRS anti-deferral mechanisms, commonly known as “Subpart F” and GILTI. Essentially, U.S. shareholders of certain foreign corporations are forced to recognize their pro rata share of certain types of income generated by these foreign entities at the time the income is earned instead of waiting until the foreign entity formally repatriates the income to the U.S.

The end goal

Essentially, all effective international tax planning boils down to treasury management. Effective and early tax planning can properly allow a company to better achieve its initial goal: profitability.

If global expansion is on the horizon for your company, consult a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

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