We are back with the weekly tech news update, featuring the most important fintech, telecom, and biotech updates from the past seven days. We are looking at the EU Parliament’s decision to vote against the bitcoin ban, the holographic payment terminals, a country-wide AML Pilot in Estonia, increase of contactless transactions in the UK, Bank of Canada partnering with MIT on CBDC, HSBC’s venture into the metaverse, Ericsson’s network slicing app, Amazon’s acquisition of MGM getting the surprising green light from the European Commission, 5G smartphones overtaking the sales of 4G smartphones in a symbolic milestone, and the massive sequenced genome project in the US getting its first large milestone.
Last week, European Parliament has voted against the rule that would have practically be a bitcoin ban in the EU due to the high energy consumption used in mining. The economic and monetary affairs committee voted 30-23 against the proposal.
While this particular proposal has been rejected, the committee decided that EC should include mining of crypto in the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities in order to reduce the carbon footprint by 2025.
Several 7-Eleven stores in Japan are piloting a holographic payment terminal where the customers can make their contactless payments at self-checkout. The system has been developed by Toshiba and forms the touchscreen interface illusion. The displays have Neonode’s Touch Sensor Modules, providing the ability to interact with the virtual touchscreens in the air.
Urban Forssell, CEO of Neonod, says: “Our technology is simplifying and enhancing the customer experience and making the interaction with the underlying device or system safer, more hygienic, and more convenient to use.”
The holographic payment terminals will only accept cashless payments such as QR codes, e-money cards and credit cards.
Ten banks in Estonia took part in a nation-wide AML pilot that prevented up to €3 million in financial crime. The “AML Bridge” was founded by an Estonian regtech startup and was supported by the Financial Supervision and Resolution Authority (FSA), Data Protection Inspectorate (DPI), and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIO). The banks participating were
Swedbank, SEB, Luminor, LHV, Bigbank, Citadele, OP Bank, Coop, TBB, and Inbank.
In the course of the trial, the AML cases were solved even in three minutes. The average time of resolution was roughly a quarter.
According to Andres Kitter, head of LHV UK: “Salv’s AML Bridge significantly improved the exchange of information between the banks and helped us quickly stop many fraud and money laundering attempts. Now, LHV and other banks that participated in the pilot are discussing options to include more financial and non-financial institutions; and even the Financial Intelligence Unit, an Estonian regulator.”
Olavi Lepp, CEO of Swedbank Estonia, commented: “Banks know what the problems are and Salv worked out how to really solve them. The AML Bridge tool is not just useful to stop money laundering and terrorist financing; it’s also been useful in fraud prevention.”
Currently, with the hefty sanctions on Russia and some of the wealthiest Russian individuals, the urgency in targeting potential money laundering is higher than ever before. Taavi Tamkivi, co-founder and CEO of Salv, states: “The role that sanctions play fundamentally changed when Russia invaded Ukraine. For many, sanctions have been an obligation to stay compliant, and it has sometimes been hard for companies to see the real impact of the sanctions. This mindset has clearly shifted.”
“We see it from our already existing AML platform customers, who we are helping with sanctions screening, but it is also clearly visible that the interest from new companies, also non-regulated ones, has increased in the coming weeks. This is not only due to their compliance duty – everyone wants to have an impact and do more to help end this war,” he added.
“We witness that banks want to do more than the bare minimum required by law and use the AML crime fighters community to oversee the sanctioned entities and people better. We are working with banks and other stakeholders in the industry to see what more Salv can do to step up the sanctions screening and have a tangible impact on stopping the funds that may support the war effort through the financial system.”
After the successful trial in the Baltics, the AML Bridge plans to expand to other European countries, targeting Poland, Sweden, and Germany next.
“It takes time to build a countrywide Bridge like we did in Estonia and get the various stakeholders from banking, regulators and data privacy on board. In addition to the countrywide solution, Bridge is also expanding organically through the Estonian network,” Tamkivi explained. He added that the expansion is already underway in certain aspects though. For instance, if the Estonian financial institution wants to add German institutions into the network in order to share some intelligence, it would not require a huge nationwide operation and could be implemented on case by case basis. Moreover, as Tamkivi explains, the regulators across the world, not only in Europe, are showing their interest in the solution.
As the contactless payments limit in the UK has been raised to £100, this type of transaction has soared across Britain. At the end of last year, the UK has bumped the limit up from £45 to £100. Now, the data shows it quickly increased the volume and number of contactless transactions. After the first month of a new limit, the average spend per contactless payment went up from £11.86 to £15.30. Moreover, last year, 13.1 billion of such transactions were made in the UK alone which account for 415 transactions each second.
Lee Hopley, director of economic insight and research at UK Finance, says: “These figures show the continued popularity of contactless payments, as well as the fact people are making higher-value payments. From October last year, the new £100 limit was rolled out and it gives customers greater choice about how they pay for things like their weekly shop or a tank of fuel.”
Last week, The Bank of Canada announced it will partner with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on CBDC research. Under the agreement, MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) will start the research project that will last 12 months and will explore “how advanced technologies could affect the potential design of a CBDC.”
According to experts, Canada has been looking at government-issued digital currencies for several years now. However, the official stance of the Bank of Canada remains that “no decision has been made on whether to introduce a CBDC in Canada.”
In October of last year, Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Timothy Lane revealed that the national bank was starting to plan around for a hypothetical launch of CBDC but highlighted there is not “a compelling need under current circumstances” to issue one right now.
HSBC became the latest financial institution that decided to buy virtual land in Metaverse. The institution has recently acquired its virtual real estate in The Sandbox and plans to use it for connecting with esports and gaming fans.
Suresh Balaji, chief marketing officer, Asia-Pacific, HSBC, says: “The metaverse is how people will experience Web3, the next generation of the Internet — using immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and extended reality.
“At HSBC, we see great potential to create new experiences through emerging platforms, opening up a world of opportunity for our current and future customers and for the communities we serve,” he explained. “Through our partnership with The Sandbox, we are making our foray into the metaverse, allowing us to create innovative brand experiences for new and existing customers. We’re excited to be working with our sports partners, brand ambassadors, and Animoca Brands to co-create experiences that are educational, inclusive, and accessible.”
HSBC is far from the only big institution that ventures into the metaverse. Siam Commercial Bank, JPMorgan, and American Express have also started to explore possibilities in the metaverse. Sebastien Borget, COO and co-founder of The Sandbox, says: “We believe this is the beginning of a broader adoption of Web3 and the metaverse by institutions driving brand experiences and engagement within this new ecosystem.”
Ericsson together with a Hong Kong operator SmarTone has revealed a new network slicing app that boosts the speed of both 4G and 5G connection. Hence, the usual poor network when trying to stream a movie or attend a video meeting in a busy location will no longer be an issue. The network slicing app would allow them to form a high-throughput network slice that ensures a high-quality connection.
“We understand that customers may occasionally need to boost their mobile data connectivity when they are in business-critical or important social-networking situations. Thanks to this new innovative application, our network is now capable of offering our customers the possibility to boost connectivity in an easy-to-use mobile app, allowing them to always stay on top of things, as well as enjoy the best network experience on SmarTone’s network,” said Stephan Chau, SmarTone’s CTO, in a statement.
“Ericsson Dynamic End-user Boost instantly maximizes your content and user experience in a dynamic way that has not been possible before. If you are downloading or uploading a file on the go, need to run a videoconference, interacting with a business application, or having a gaming session from your mobile, it just works without any hassle,” said Martin Zander, head of One Network Solutions at Ericsson.
After months of speculation about the antitrust authorities would have problems with Amazon’s bid on MGM, the European Commission has surprisingly given Amazon unconditional approval, stating the acquisition ‘would raise no competition concerns in the European Economic Area.’
In a release by the European Commission, they claim that “The Commission found that the overlaps between Amazon and MGM are limited. The parties are primarily active in different parts of the AV content value chain and where both parties are active, their combined market shares are low.”
“The Commission concluded that the addition of MGM’s content into Amazon’s Prime Video offer would not have a significant impact on Amazon’s position as a provider of marketplace services. The Commission, therefore, concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns on any of the markets examined in the EEA and cleared the case unconditionally.”
According to Counterpoint Research, we reached the point of 5G smartphones overtaking the 4G smartphones worldwide, measured by the sales globally. China, North America, and Western Europe were the biggest drivers of that development, with China undoubtedly having the highest 5G penetration at 84%, followed by North America and Europe scoring 73% and 76% respectively. In both North America and Western Europe, Apple represents the biggest share of 5G smartphones.
“After Apple shifted to 5G in October 2020 with the iPhone 12 Series, North America and Western Europe saw a natural increase in the sales penetration of 5G smartphones,” the press release states. “These regions are expected to continue contributing substantially to 5G sales globally, as even without offering competitive specs, there is an immense and ongoing demand for a 5G upgrade within the iOS user base. This demand is also fuelled by iPhone users who are ready for new devices after years of holding on to their older iPhones. For many, holding periods are nearing four years, the average replacement cycle for iPhones.”
Back in 2015, the National Institutes of Health launched the All of Us research project. The project had one main objective: building a large database of the fully sequenced genomes of 1 million Americans at least. The sequenced genomes of individuals from different backgrounds could be used to improve drug development, clinical trials, and diagnostic.
Since then, almost 660,000 people volunteered to participate in the project and roughly 50% of those have already completed the steps needed for the scientists to access all the necessary health records, as well as donated blood, saliva, and urine samples and completed health surveys required. Last week, the researchers working on the project revealed that their database has now 10% of the final goal ready.
“There is a unique depth and dimensionality to the All of Us platform that sets it apart from other resources in the field. It’s also designed with team science in mind, allowing researchers to explore topics in an open and collaborative way,” said Gail Jarvik, M.D., Ph.D., a principal investigator at one of the program’s sequencing centers at the University of Washington.
“As the Researcher Workbench matures, it will create nearly endless possibilities for discovery to understand the role of genes and variants, as well as many other factors that combine to affect health and disease,” Jarvik said.