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The launch of Apple Pay may have been the most impactful announcement of any tech firm last year. The tech titan with the Midas touch and customer experience extraordinaire will finally make mobile payments work where so many other have stumbled. I will finally be able to leave my wallet at home and transact anywhere I want with my (ever bigger) smart phone. Great!!

Well, great that is if you are an Apple iPhone user. But if you are like me and roughly 51% of smart phone users in the US, you have no access to Apple Pay because you have an Android phone.

This is a major problem for banks joining Apple Pay. As a bank, you want your mobile services to be available to 100% of your customers. Just imagine providing remote check deposit functionality to only your iPhone users and none to your Android users.

The scale of the problem is even bigger on a global level. According to the research firm IDC, 85% of smart phones shipped globally in the second quarter of 2014 were running Android. And that market share is up considerably from 80% at the end of 2013.

So, where is my Android Pay?

Android is no iOS

Kaushik Roy

Kaushik Roy

You would be hard pressed to find a mobile payment solution that will fill the needs of banks and merchants on the Android ecosystem. The Android platform’s own “open” nature makes it almost impossible for a single wallet to dominate the entire market. Just ask Google! Google Wallet, launched in 2011, has struggled to gain traction after being blocked by most mobile phone operators out there.

The Android open ecosystem provides a level playing field for all players. Banks, merchants, tech companies, mobile operators and OEMs each can develop their own application for payment running on Android. That may make development slower, as no single entity can push a solution for all, but can also generate innovation and exciting user experiences with more players trying different approaches.

The underlying technology is there

Funny thing is that there are actually a lot more Android devices equipped with the same Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that allows for Apple Pay style proximity payments. IHS Research estimates a total of 420 millionNFC-enabled devices to ship in 2014, the great majority of them Android smart phones.

Also, most of the same infrastructure banks are using to enable Apple Pay, the card provisioning and tokenization services could also be used with small modifications to enable Android Pay.

There are also plenty of technology options for banks to store their precious credit card data on the phone. From the same “secure element” chips Apple uses, to new cloud-based storage using a technology called Host Card Emulation (HCE), there are plenty of solutions that banks can rely on. What was missing is a strong motivation to move forward and face the challenges. And once again, Apple provided just that.

What will Android Pay look like?

First of all, there probably won’t be an “Android Pay.” The incredible distribution of power between the players in the Android ecosystem ensures there will be multiple solutions for payments in Android. Google Wallet will be just one of them. But the ones that seem to have the most to gain from Android’s openness are the ones that already have apps in my phone.

Today I already have dozens of apps in my phone. These keep being updated with new functionality. Why couldn’t I just get an update on my banking app and have payment functionalityadded in the same way check deposit was added? Why not add payment functionality to my Home Depot or Macy’s app instead of having to sign-up for a brand new app?

Your App is your Wallet

These apps with payment capability will revolutionize the concept of a “wallet.” A branded app with payment capability will become about a lot more than just payment, it will be all about consumer engagement and loyalty. After all, what is the most successful mobile wallet of all times? The Starbucks App.

On October 31st Starbucks revealed that it handles 16% of its U.S. sales through its mobile app. That represents over US$ 1.3 Billion in transactions via its own mobile app.

But more than that, Starbucks turned their app into a priceless repeat use channel of communication with consumers. Starbucks leveraged this customer touchpoint to integrate loyalty and offers into the same mobile app to create an excellent all-around consumer experience.

Banks and merchants realize that the Android ecosystem provides an opportunity for them to duplicate Starbucks’ mobile app experience. By powering their apps to become wallets they can manage their brand and user experience from beginning to end and create loyalty with consumers through their own mobile apps.

Bottom line? Android Pay will look like the apps you already have on your phone —only now these apps will be able to pay anywhere you go.

About the Author
Kaushik Roy is the SVP of Product at Sequent. Kaushik brings two decades of experience in defining and delivering large-scale enterprise software applications. He is also the co-author of several patents for mobile payments, NFC and process management technologies


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Car sector seeks more UK government support as output tumbles



Car sector seeks more UK government support as output tumbles 2

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak should use next week’s budget statement to help boost the car industry’s competitiveness, a trade industry body said on Friday, as production tumbled to its lowest January level since 2009.

Sunak is due to detail how he will further support the economy amid COVID-19 restrictions on March 3.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the furlough scheme that protects jobs should be extended, more support for training was needed and manufacturing investment should be encouraged through reform of the business rates tax.

“Next week’s budget is the chancellor’s (finance minister) opportunity to boost the industry by introducing measures that will support competitiveness, jobs and livelihoods,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.

“We need to secure our medium to long-term future by creating the conditions that will attract battery gigafactory investment and transform the supply chain.”

Output in January fell by 27% year-on-year to 86,052 vehicles, hit by factors including dealership closures during a latest COVID-19 lockdown, international supply chain problems and the change in trading terms with the European Union.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by William Schomberg)

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Exclusive: Portugal sees green hydrogen output by end-2022, $12 billion in investment lined up



Exclusive: Portugal sees green hydrogen output by end-2022, $12 billion in investment lined up 3

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal will start producing green hydrogen by the end of 2022 and already has private investment worth around 10 billion euros ($12 billion) lined up for eight projects that are expected to move forward, Environment Minister Joao Matos Fernandes said.

He told Reuters in a telephone interview there were also several “pre-contracts for the purchase and assembly of electrolysers” to produce the zero-carbon fuel made by electrolysis out of water using renewable wind and solar energy.

Such hydrogen is more expensive to extract than the heavily polluting conventional method of using heat and chemical reactions to release hydrogen from coal or natural gas, known as brown and grey hydrogen respectively.

Hydrogen is now mostly used in the oil refining industry and to produce ammonia fertilisers, but sectors such as steelmaking, transportation and chemicals are beginning to develop large-scale hydrogen applications to gradually replace fossil fuels as countries try to reduce pollution.

The European Commission has mapped out a plan to scale up green hydrogen projects across polluting sectors to meet a net zero emissions goal by 2050 and become a leader in a market analysts expect to be worth $1.2 trillion by that date.

“By the end of 2022, there will certainly be green hydrogen production in Portugal,” Matos Fernandes said. “Green hydrogen will, over time, allow Portugal to completely change its paradigm and become an energy exporting country.”

He said seven groups had submitted applications under Europe’s IPCEI scheme for common-interest projects to make part of a planned export-oriented “hydrogen cluster” near the port of Sines, from where hydrogen could be shipped to Rotterdam. Total investment there is estimated at some 7 billion euros.

A consortium including Portugal’s main utility EDP, oil company Galp, world’s largest wind turbine maker Vestas, among others, is behind one of the projects.

In Estarreja in north Portugal, local firm Bondalti Chemicals aims to invest 2.4 billion euros in a hydrogen plant.

Altogether, these envisage an installed capacity of over 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Matos Fernandes said Portugal was also negotiating with Spain the construction of a pipeline for renewable gases, including hydrogen, from Sines to France, crossing Spain.


Spain and Portugal also want to develop an ambitious cross-border lithium project taking advantage of the geographical proximity of their lithium deposits and aiming to cover the entire value chain from mining to refining, cell and battery manufacturing to battery recycling, he said.

Portugal is already a large producer of low-grade lithium mainly for the ceramics industry, but is preparing to make higher-grade metal used in electric car batteries.

A much-awaited licensing tender for lithium-bearing areas that has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic should take place by the year-end, Matos Fernandes said.

He promised the tender would address environmental concerns by local communities and there would be no lithium mining “at any cost”.

The minister also said Portugal would use its six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union to finalise a landmark law that would make the bloc’s climate targets irreversible and speed up emissions cuts this decade, expecting it to be approved in the first half of 2021.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip and David Evans)


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Under fire in EU, AstraZeneca CEO says ‘hopefully’ will meet vaccine supply goals



Under fire in EU, AstraZeneca CEO says 'hopefully' will meet vaccine supply goals 4

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot said on Thursday he hoped to meet the European Union’s expectations on the number of COVID-19 vaccines the company can deliver to the bloc in the second quarter, after big cuts in the first three months of the year.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has been under fire in the EU for its delayed supplies of shots to the 27-nation bloc, which ordered 300 million doses by the end of June.

“We are working 24/7 to improve delivery and hopefully catch up to the expectations for Q2,” Soriot told EU lawmakers in a public hearing.

Under its contract with the EU, the company has committed to delivering 180 million doses in the second quarter.

Soriot did not mention the 180 million target, but said he was confident the company will be able to increase production in the second quarter using factories outside the EU that had no production problems, including in the United States.

He confirmed the company was trying to get 40 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the EU by the end of March, which is less than half the amount it promised for the quarter in its contract.

The EU, which has fallen far behind the United States and former member Britain in vaccinating its public, has repeatedly urged the firm to deliver more.

Lower-than-expected yields – the amount of vaccine that can be produced from base ingredients – at its factories hurt output in the first three months.

Asked about supplies to Britain, which relies on the same factories used by the EU, Soriot said the former EU member with a population of around 66 million was smaller, and noted that most doses produced in the EU were used to serve the EU which has a population of about 450 million.

Executives from rival drugmakers that have developed or are testing COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna Inc and CureVac NV were also part of the panel.

But most questions were directed at Soriot amid anger that the company has failed to deliver promised vaccine quantities to the bloc on schedule.

Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said the company has experienced fluctuations as the U.S. biotech group ramps up output of its COVID-19 vaccine.

He said usually a company would stockpile product ahead of a launch, but it is shipping every dose it makes, leaving it without any spare inventory.

His comments came a day after the company increased its output target for this year and 2022 as it invests in additional manufacturing capacity.

(Reporting by Josephine Mason in London and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Susan Fenton, Bill Berkrot and Keith Weir)


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