Let’s look at the most important tech news, as we start the week by covering the biggest headlines in the fintech, biotech, and telecom world. What has been “the” story? A revolutionary biotech therapy that could tackle diseases from Covid-19 to lung cancer. On the fintech front, it has been a total ban on cryptocurrencies in China. When it comes to telecom, Nokia takes the prize with the surprising launch of FP5 that seems to be a major upgrade that can go unnoticed. What else are we reporting on? IBM getting into two big 5G deals, Xilinx And NEC collaborating on 5G radio units, Deutsche Bank finishing its week with a new acquisition, and a huge anti-BNPL protest going through the streets of London. We will also talk about Monneo adding crypto as a possible invoicing option and what made it possible. Sit back and take a look at the newest edition of tech weekly.
Viral Therapy Platform For Covid-19 And Lung Cancer
The biotech company Nano RED has become an important name in the biotechnology sector after its revolutionary pharmaceutical therapy that could help Covid-19 patients, as well as those suffering from lung cancer. The therapy is carried to the lungs by the bloodstream and connects to the proteins on lung cells that the virus is usually on. If the Nano RED treatment targets the same cells that the virus usually latches to, there will be no space for the viral particles and eventually, the immune system will destroy them.
“It’s been a really rewarding journey,” co-founder Dr. Johnathan Ebben said. “I would say that we’re still very much at the beginning of this journey — there’s an awful lot that we still need to do in terms of the work that has to go into the platform that we’re developing.”
“The goal is to prevent infection in the first place, but in individuals who are already affected, it binds to that same receptor and releases these shRNAs which interfere with translation of the SARS-CoV-2 genome,” Ebben added.
Nano RED started working on their treatments long before Covid-19, back in 2015. However, at first, the company was completely focused on pharmaceuticals that tackle lung cancer cells. The shift of focus occurred right after a pandemic struck and Ebben who was then an internal medicine resident experienced first-hand what ICU looked like.
“That triggered a little bit of a paradigm shift from us,” Ebben said. “So we developed a totally separate platform where we took the shell of the virus and reprogramed it, essentially ripping the guts of the virus out so that it’s not infectious anymore and reloading that shell of the virus with a therapy called shRNA.”
On Friday, The People’s Bank of China announced that all crypto-related transactions would become illegal in China from this moment forward, including all services that are offered by offshore exchanges. Thus, all trade services, token issuances, and derivatives for virtual currencies are now illegal in China. The announcement has caused panic among many of the crypto holders in China and Hong Kong. Although the announcement is not fully a surprise, they are now trying to find ways to safeguard their assets.
“Since the announcement less than two hours ago, I have already received over a dozen messages – email, phone and encrypted app – from Chinese crypto holders looking for solutions on how to access and protect their crypto holdings in foreign exchanges and cold wallets,” David Lesperance, a Toronto-based attorney told CNBC on Friday. Lesperance added many of his clients have voiced concerns about their own personal safety.
“They are concerned about themselves personally, as they suspect that the Chinese government is well aware of their prior crypto activities, and they do not want to become the next Jack Ma, like ‘common prosperity’ target,” he said highlighting China has a long history of lashing out against the digital currencies.
“Today’s notice isn’t exactly new, and it isn’t a change in policy,” said Boaz Sobrado, a London-based fintech data analyst. Moreover, the CEO of Growth Partners, Mark Peikin believes that while this may not be new, it is the beginning of long-term pressure on the price of crypto assets.
“Chinese investors, many of whom continued to turn a cold shoulder to the Chinese government’s latest and largest crackdown on cryptocurrency trading the last several months, may no longer remain bellicose,” Peikin told CNBC. “Chinese investors thus far largely skirted the ban by decoupling transactions – using domestic OTC platforms or increasingly of late, offshore outlets, to reach agreement on a trade price, and then using banks or fintech platforms to transfer yuan in the settlement,” Peikin added.
NEC announced that it will use the Xilinx 7nm Versal AI Core in its new generation of radios.
“In the highly competitive 5G base station market, the integration of Xilinx technology within NEC RUs will provide valuable advantages to our customers, who demand highly-capable and feature-rich RUs that deliver the performance needed to scale for nearly any application,” said Kenichi Ito, GM of the 1st Wireless Access Solutions Division at NEC. “The Xilinx Versal AI Core series delivers on its design promise for performance and scalability by using advanced signal-processing for massive MIMO antennas and beamforming.”
“NEC’s new massive MIMO radios using Xilinx’s commercially-proven beamforming capabilities will enable an improved wireless end-user experience as use cases continue to grow and evolve in the future,” said Liam Madden, GM of the Wired and Wireless Group at Xilinx. “The combination of NEC’s leadership in massive MIMO radio design and Xilinx technology will deliver a compelling solution to the ORAN market.”
In the past week, IBM has made two announcements regarding two separate 5G deals in Europe. Last Tuesday, the tech company revealed it is cooperating with Airspan Networks to establish an Open RAN testbed in Germany and France. On Thursday, it followed it up by the fact that Telefonica chose to use its software in deploying its cloud-native 5G core network platform. This may be exciting news to all of those waiting for some shifts in the telecom sector and getting more names into the industry. While everybody is familiar with IBM, they are not a company that is usually connected with anything telecommunication-related. This, many have welcomed the announcement with excitement.
“With IBM, Telefónica is combining the latency and bandwidth advancements of 5G with the customization and intelligence of the cloud: we anticipate the results will be transformative in Europe and beyond,” said Javier Gutierrez, director of the strategy, network, and IT development for Telefónica.
Meanwhile, IBM Global Communications Sector Managing Director Steve Canepa said that IBM was “energized by the opportunity to enable Telefónica and all our clients to modernize their networks and enable new revenue-generating services that deliver tremendous value to consumer and enterprise customers.”
“Open approaches and standards-based technologies are vital to helping unleash the full potential of 5G and edge computing. That’s why, in collaboration with Airspan, we hope to work to advance emerging use cases that harness Open RAN and bring new value to telecom clients,” said Marisa Viveros, Vice President of Strategy and Offerings, Telecom, Media and Entertainment Industry at IBM.
Four years ago, Nokia announced the launch of its FP4 platform that has placed its in-house silicon above the company’s biggest rivals. Now, they are launching the FP5 that is supposed to be more powerful, efficient, and more secure. The surprising element is that the launch is not being promoted and as compared to the predecessor, it seems like it may go unnoticed.
The upgrades from FP5 are clear as well, with a 75% reduction in power consumption being one of the notable ones. “BT has a long-standing relationship with Nokia, and we are pleased to see that with FP5, Nokia continues to innovate to ensure IP networks have the scale, flexibility, and features to help us stay ahead of escalating demand from our residential, mobile, and business customers,” said Neil McRae, MD, and Chief Architect at BT.
“In particular, we are very happy to see the focus on power optimization as we grow our network, with both BT and Nokia committing to a significant reduction in carbon footprint. In the past 18 months, our lives have been turned upside down, and our reliance on networks has been dramatically increased and reliability for customers is crucially important. With security being ever more important for our customers, seeing Nokia’s approach to building more security features into the platform is fantastic.”
“Of all the things that are surprising about human beings, perhaps the most surprising is our ability to be surprised,” said Federico Guillén, President of Network Infrastructure at Nokia. “Our customers require their networks to be robust, agile, and adaptable enough to handle everything life throws at them – from disruptive security threats to a global pandemic. FP5 is a significant step forward in performance, security, and efficiency and – in combination with our software excellence and investment in network automation and tools – it opens the next chapter in Nokia’s long-standing leadership in IP networking and IP silicon innovation.”
Deutsche Bank has ended the past week by acquiring the German payment startup Better Payment. The acquisition is based on DB’s desire to expand its influence in online payment processing. The payments gateway developed by Better Payment is quite sophisticated and
“Better Payment gives us broader market access in payment processing. Thanks to the know-how of their employees, their existing dealer relationships, and technical solutions, we can accelerate our growth in the German market, which is key to us,” says Kilian Thalhammer, head of merchant solutions at Deutsche Bank. “We will develop additional synergies by integrating the respective products from Deutsche Bank and Better Payments.”
Neither company has spoken out about the financial details.
Last week, we were reporting on a new study showing that the BNPL industry may not be as flawless as the excited customers and investors think. Now, a financial coaching app Claro has decided to lead a huge protest in London, urging the Brits to “Say bye now to Buy Now, Pay Later”. Using the data from the Financial Conduct Authority, Claro has criticized the unregulated nature of the BNPL market, highlighting that millions of customers are risking huge debt. The FCA is currently working on regulating the industry after claiming it poses “significant potential for consumer harm,”
Liz Pagel, SVP, consumer lending, TransUnion, says: “Consumers who may utilize point-of-sale financing are not doing so at the expense of traditional credit. We saw consumers who have applied for POS financing building balances on bank and retail cards and applying for new credit at higher levels than the general credit population.
“These new forms of financing are growing the credit pie – opening up more opportunities for both consumers and lenders.”
Dr. Mark Fenton-O’Creevy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Open University Business School (OUBS), said: “Buy Now Pay Later products, especially when accompanied by an “interest-free” headline offer, can be particularly appealing to cash-strapped consumers. Some BNPL offers are in good faith, with the win-win aim of allowing customers to spread payments affordably whilst increasing sales. However, others amount to worryingly ethically questionable practices.”
“Firstly, some providers are knowingly encouraging impulsive buying behavior, which our research shows significantly increases the chances of experiencing financial distress. The Woolard report highlights a correlation between those with pre-existing mental health concerns and the uptake of unsecured financial products such as BNPL. A combination of an increased chance of financial distress with pre-exposure to mental health challenges is surely an area that leads to significant concern for individuals and society,” he adds. “Secondly, it is far too common for BNPL providers to impose high-interest rates and excessive penalties (above traditional regulated financial credit) when consumers fail to meet payment deadlines. This relies on the well-documented psychological tendency many consumers have to underestimate the difficulty of remembering or meeting payment schedules. As the Woolard report also highlights, BNPL are commonly targeting a younger audience and this may be seen to some as preying on the lack of experience or knowledge of financial products and the impact these can have on not only credit scores but mental wellbeing, if not carefully managed.
Monneo, the IBAN and corporate account provider that is officially regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) just announced that it will include cryptocurrency in invoicing options. This move has been made possible after a partnership with the crypto exchange Coinbase. The new feature will be available for B2B.
Lili Metodieva, Managing Director of Monneo, said: “We are excited to offer corporates an additional method of payment. Monneo will closely monitor the launch and implementation of this new service so that it is secure and reliable for both payers and payees.”
“Increasingly companies in the IT and software sectors issue invoices with the option to settle via cryptocurrency, as well as traditional currency. Through its relationship with Coinbase, Monneo is responding to customer demand and remains at the forefront promoting flexibility in how payments are executed. In its platform, Monneo offers payments in 130+ fiat currencies to which leading cryptocurrencies are now added. Essentially payments in a cryptocurrency are no different from FX payments via fiat currencies. The mechanisms are the same”.
Metodieva continued, “Whatever one’s perspective on cryptocurrency, it is here to stay. Many people see both the value of it and enjoy using it. We believe that by working with Coinbase, Monneo is offering its customers the highest standards in the cryptocurrency market.