We are looking at some of the most interesting news stories that made the headlines during the past seven days. This week, we are discussing the contactless biometric card by Thales, a scorecard solution for SMEs, Revolut’s expansion into the travel sector, Visa’s newest acquisition, two of the biggest emerging economies getting closer to launching their CBDCs, Alphabet’s newest robotics venture, Moderna’s vaccine approval for teens in the EU, Nokia’s two partnerships, and the costs that businesses will face in the European Union if the proposed AI legislation passes through.
Thales EMV released a contactless biometric payment card that facilitates payments for consumers. Fingerprint of the card’s holder is loaded onto it with neither the retailer or the bank gaining access to the biometric data of consumers that are securely stored in the card’s chip. Biometric cards provide customers with an extra layer of security in case of the card being stolen or lost as the card simply becomes useless without the owner’s fingerprint.
Currently, Thales provides the only fully EMV certified biometric card that has now been commercialised in several countries around the globe.
“After a trial of the Thales biometric payment card and its positive outcome, we have now opened the offer to all our customers with confidence. This premium solution addresses several challenges such as convenience, safety and contactless. A simple yet rigorous enrollment process has been set in the branch so the biometric data never leaves the card. This is a key pre-requisite as we take the privacy of our customers’ data very seriously.” Jean-Marie Dragon, Head Of Payments and Cards, BNP Paribas.
“The covid-19 pandemic has pushed the tech sector to develop touchless solutions and has indirectly resulted in higher transaction levels being processed without a second authentication factor. The biometric payment card allows contactless payment for any amount while safeguarding the privacy of this very personal data.” Bertrand Knopf, SVP Banking and Payment Solutions at Thales.
The decision analytics and credit information provider, Creditinfo Group, announced it would be launching a special scorecard solution targeting small and medium-sized enterprises. The new solution aims at helping financial institutions to accurately evaluate the credit assessment of the SME market. The SME scorecard will initially be launched in Kenya and is expected to expand to the other African countries shortly after, before the second-stage goal of implementing it in other global economies.
“SMEs drive innovation and push digitalization forward for many people by providing services to underserved segments of the population and creating job opportunities,” comments Burak Kilicoglu, Director of Global Markets at Creditinfo. “SME scorecards will accelerate access to finance for the benefit of the whole economic ecosystem. At Creditinfo we have access to a wealth of credit bureau data as a starting point, and so are uniquely positioned to offer this solution in global markets.”
Kamau Kunyiha, CEO of Creditinfo CRB Kenya, added, “Kenya is the most dynamic and receptive market for SME lending innovation, demonstrated by the successful adoption of mobile wallets and microloans. We look forward to seeing the economic impact of this new solution as it comes into full effect and we see more capital flowing through the SME economy.”
Revolut decided to expand its services into the travel sector. The fintech is enabling its customers to book hotels and holiday accommodation through the “Stays” app. The service is rolling out only in the UK now as it is the first expansion of the London-based fintech that is not connected to fintech.
“As the world begins to cautiously open up, we know everyone is desperate to get away whenever they can — whether it’s to Margate or Mallorca,” says Marsel Nikaj, Revolut’s head of savings and lifestyle. “We’ve built Stays to make it easy for people to find and book their perfect break in their ideal destination. After 18 months of endless restrictions and lockdowns, we want to give people more and make their money travel further.”
Nikaj added that while the app is starting out as an accommodation booking help, Revolut’s ultimate goal is expanding it to cover flights, car hire, and other features that will facilitate traveling.
Visa has just sealed the deal with Currencycloud and will acquire the platform known for enabling banks and fintech to provide forex services for international payments. The acquisition comes after years of partnership between the two companies, with Visa first starting official cooperation with Currencycloud back in 2019. Later on, Visa participated in Currencycloud’s Series E founding together with BNP Paribas and Siam Commercial Bank.
The Currencycloud cloud-based platform currently serves almost 500 banking and tech clients in more than 180 countries. According to the terms of the acquisition deal with Visa, Currencycloud will continue to operate from its current London headquarters. “The acquisition of Currencycloud is another example of Visa executing on our network of networks strategy to facilitate global money movement,” says Colleen Ostrowski, Visa’s global treasurer. “Consumers and businesses increasingly expect transparency, speed and simplicity when making or receiving international payments. With our acquisition of Currencycloud, we can support our clients and partners to further reduce the pain points of cross-border payments and develop great user experiences for their customers.”
According to the latest news from two of the largest emerging economies, India and Nigeria, both countries are coming closer to launching their central bank digital currencies (CBDCs)
In a recent speech, Reserve Bank of India deputy governor Shri T Rabi Sanker said “perhaps the time for CBDCs is nigh”, adding that the bank is “working towards a phased implementation strategy”. While India has been majorly focused on electronic payments, Sanker pointed out there are many advantages that CBDCs hold over the electronic payments. “Imagine a UPI system where CBDC is transacted instead of bank balances, as if cash is handed over – the need for interbank settlement disappears. CBDCs would also potentially enable a more real-time and cost-effective globalization of payment systems,” he said. As the special committee already submitted their recommendation for launching a CBDC in India, the RBI is currently working on planning the implementation. Sanker claimed the Reserve Bank of India is currently in the process of exploring whether they should stick to retail payments only or opt for wholesale as well. The RBI also needs to figure out whether they will prefer a token based or account based CBDC option.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s formation technology director, Rakiya Mohammed, announced an official date for the launch of the digital naira, Nigeria’s CBDC. According to his statement, Nigeria will start the pilot on the 1st of October, just a few months away from now. The press reports claim that the digital naira pilot will use the Hyperledger fabric blockchain.
On Friday, Alphabet announced it is launching a new robotics software company, as the tech giant wants to make industrial robots in a cheaper and easier way. The software called Intrinsic will provide automation robots more flexibility, allowing a bigger number of smaller businesses to purchase and use the robot without the need for complex and time-consuming training. To illustrate, a task that usually takes hundreds of hours to program can now take two hours, thanks to Alphabet’s software training. “None of this is realistic or affordable to automate today,” Wendy Tan-White, Intrinsic’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post. “And there are millions of other examples like this in businesses around the world.”
On Friday, the European Medicines Agency authorized the use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for children the age 12 to 17. The Moderna vaccine is currently awaiting the same authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration.
After a study that enrolled over 3700 children, the EU regulator concluded the antibody response is similar to that observed among adults. That makes Moderna the second vaccine approved for children in the European Union after Pfizer received that approval a couple of months ago.
Nokia and the tech consulting company CGI will collaborate on launching a 5G lab in London. CGI already has an “innovation center” in central London and it will use the Nokia kit to showcase its 5G zone.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nokia to create our 5G lab in London,” said Ian Dunbar, VP for Communications and Media at CGI. “5G private networks will be transformative to UK businesses looking to build back better so we’re pleased to be bringing it to life through our relationship with Nokia.
“CGI is a leader in IT and business consulting services, so we’re delighted to be leveraging our combined expertise to shine a light on the power and potential of 5G private wireless,” said Phil Siveter, CEO for UK&I at Nokia. “This is a new and exciting partnership for both organizations and is built on years of industry knowledge and experience. It is a significant milestone as we look to turn the 5G private wireless potential into a reality for the UK market.”
Another success for Nokia this past week has been the result of its partnership with the UK operator group Vodafone. The two companies are building an Anomaly Detection Service that can spot whether a mobile cell area is showing some strange behavior that does not follow the pattern.
“We are building an automated and programmable network that can respond quickly to our customers’ needs,” said Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh. “As we extend 5G across Europe, it is important to match the speed and responsiveness of this new technology with a great service. With machine learning, we can ensure a consistently high-quality performance that is as smart as the technology behind it.”
The whole service will run on Google Cloud.
“This first commercial deployment of Anomaly Detection Service with Vodafone on Google Cloud provides a great boost to customer service,” said Raghav Sahgal, President of Cloud and Network Services at Nokia. “It not only addresses the critical need to quickly detect and remedy anomalies impacting network performance using machine learning-based algorithms, but it also highlights Nokia’s technology leadership and the deep technical expertise of Nokia Bell Labs.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Nokia and Vodafone to deliver a data and AI-driven solution that scales quickly and leverages automation to increase cost efficiency and ensures seamless customer experiences across Europe,” said Amol Phadke, MD, Telecom Industry Solutions, Google Cloud. “As behaviours change and the data needed for analysis increases in velocity, volume, and complexity, automation and a cloud-based data platform are now key in making fast and informed decisions.”
The Artificial Intelligence Act that was recently proposed in the European Union, aiming to regulate the use of AI across the member states can be a very costly endeavor. According to the report by the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Data Innovation, the EU can look at a $36 billion costs over the next 5 years.
The Center for Data Innovation has also referred to the proposed act as the “world’s most restrictive regulation of AI,” arguing European businesses will spend billions of euros due to the “compliance burdens”. “It will not only limit AI development and use in Europe but impose significant costs on EU businesses and consumers,” the report says.
The Center for Data Innovation furtherly estimates that for a small or mid-sized busines that has a turnover of approximately 10 million euros, the compliance costs could be as high as 400 000 euros when deploying a high-risk AI system that has already been specified by the European Commission. “That designation sweeps in a broad swath of potential applications — from critical infrastructure to educational and vocational training — subjecting them to a battery of requirements before companies can bring them to market,” the center said.
“The Commission has repeatedly asserted that the draft AI legislation will support growth and innovation in Europe’s digital economy, but a realistic economic analysis suggests that argument is disingenuous at best,” said Ben Mueller, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report.
“The rosy outlook is largely based on opinions and shibboleths rather than logic and market data,” Mueller added.
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