Let’s take a look at the latest tech weekly update, featuring the most important headlines in the fintech, biotech, regtech, and telecom sectors. This week, we will look at the Digital Markets Act’s delay, the Vatican’s NFT and Metaverse ambitions, the new blockchain executive order that was just signed in California, a large increase in customer cryptocurrency ownership in the United Kingdom, and real-time payments trial by the Fed, Citi’s launch of SEPA payments, European Commission’s charges against Apple, New York regulator’s advice for crypto companies, Vodafone’s innovative digital hub project, and an FDA clearance for Strados Labs.
The EU Commission announced that the Digital Markets Act has been delayed and will come into force in 2023. The initial plan was for the act to become effective at one point this year. “The DMA will enter into force next spring and we are getting ready for enforcement as soon as the first notifications come in,” said Commission EVP Margrethe Vestager.
Vestager highlighted that the act is delayed due to the preparation process and all it entails.
“It’s about setting up new structures within the Commission, pooling resources from DG Comp [Directorate-General for Competition] and Connects [Directorate-General for Communications] based on relevant experience. It’s about hiring staff. It’s about preparing the IT systems. It’s about drafting further legal texts on procedures or notification forms. Our teams are currently busy with all these preparations and we’re aiming to come forward with the new structures very soon,” she said.
The EU approved DMA in March of this year. Eventually, the act is aiming at keeping big techs more in line with the EU regulations.
“For that next chapter, close cooperation with competition authorities, both inside and outside the EU will be crucial,” Vestager claimed. “This is irrespective of whether they apply traditional enforcement tools or have developed their own specific regulatory instruments, like the German digital regulation. Close cooperation will be necessary because we will not be short of work and we will not be short of novel services or practices to look at. And the efforts needed at a global scale are enormous. So we will need to work together more than ever.”
Those companies that are not compliant with the DMA regulations will face fines that reach up to 10% of their worldwide annual turnover. If the company continues to breach the regulations, the penalty may be doubled. As Vestager warned, “It goes without saying that the more we, as an international competition community, are able to harmonize our approach, the less opportunity there will be for global tech giants to exploit enforcement gaps between our jurisdictions.”
The metaverse seems to be the new hype around the globe and the latest big name to join in on the craze is the state of the Vatican. The Vatican announced they would be entering metaverse in collaboration with a tech company called Sensorium that they have a public-private partnership. Sensorium will support the Vatican in creating an NFT-gallery that could be accessed through VR and desktop. The works that could be accessed include those by Michelangelo, Raphael, Salvador Dalí, Wassily Kandinsky, Vincent van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso.
The organization behind Vatican’s Metaverse and NFTs plans is Humanity 2.0, a Vatican-affiliated non-profit. Father Philip Larrey, chairman of Humanity 2.0 commented: “We look forward to working with Sensorium to explore ways to democratize art, making it more widely available to people around the world regardless of their socio-economic and geographical limitations. The partnership with Sensorium brings this goal a step further and equips us with the latest tech solutions.”
California state governor, Gavin Newsom, has just signed an executive order that aims at creating a more transparent environment for Web 3.0 companies.
According to the newly signed order, which is in line with the digital asset executive order that President Biden signed at the beginning of the year, the state of California will start creating a regulatory environment for the deployment of blockchain technology.
Governor Newsom said: “Too often government lags behind technological advancements, so we’re getting ahead of the curve on this, laying the foundation to allow for consumers and business to thrive.”
Dee Myers, a senior advisor to Newsom and director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, also commented on the new order in his conversation with AP news. told AP “There’s also a lot of unknowns in the industry and so that’s another reason we want to engage early,” he said.
The order has seven key priorities and is the next step after the extensive California Blockchain Working Group research that was released back in the summer of 2020, examining the risks and benefits of blockchain.
“It is critical that we engage early with industry and start learning the pros and cons of innovative technology early,” said Amy Tong, secretary of California’s Government Operations Agency. “We can take the next steps towards getting ahead of the curve and harnessing the potential of these tools to make government better.”
According to the new research from Conibase and Qualtrics, 33% of all UK consumers have purchased cryptocurrency at some point, marking a big increase since October 2021 when the number was at 29%.
Moreover, the survey shows that as much as 64% of the customers want to buy more crypto, and 23% plan to diversify their portfolios. The current numbers show that the only country with more cryptocurrency ownership in Europe is the Netherlands, currently at 47%. With its 33%, the UK is ahead of Spain, Italy, and Germany which have their customer cryptocurrency ownership levels at 26%, 25%, and 24% respectively.
Unsurprisingly, Bitcoin and Ethereum are still attracting the customers the most, with DOGE and Binance Coin also gathering a fair portion of people’s interest.
A Coinbase spokesperson commented on the research saying: “The UK continues to be a leading European hub of crypto investment with a growing proportion of people engaging with these assets. Recent survey work suggests that the adoption trend may continue, with many sharing ambitions to expand the size and diversification of their portfolios.
“However, it is clear that there is more work to be done around boosting understanding and awareness of these assets,” he highlighted. “Cryptocurrencies provide a way for investors to diversify their portfolios and earn yield. However, to support the growth of this market, more must be done to help support these individuals to make the right decisions.”
The Federal Reserve just started onboarding pilot participants for a real-time payment trial, as they are preparing for the 2023 launch. Several organizations have connected and managed to deliver messages using the pilot version already and more will be onboarded in the next couple of months.
The end-to-end testing is planned for the end of this year. Nick Stanescu, the SVP at the business executive of the FedNow Service, says: “Though much work remains, this progress sets the stage for thousands of financial institutions to be up and running with instant payments in the near future, including those that work with third-party payment providers.”
Last week, Citi launched Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) instant payments across Europe, enabling real-time payments across the EU countries.
Mark McNulty, EMEA head of payments and receivables at Treasury and Trade Solutions, at Citi, comments: “Clients will be able to transact instantly with the immediate settlement of funds. This capability can support new business models and ensure our clients can operate effectively in an increasingly real-time 24/7 digital economy.”
The European Commission has slapped Apple with a charge for restricting access to the NFC chip technology that allows Apple users to make payments. The investigation into Apple’s practices was initiated back in 2020, and Apple’s restrictions on the NFC chip technology were among the things that EC was looking closer into.
Currently, only the Apply Pay service enables people to access the “tap and go” NFC technology and according to EC’s statement of objections that came last week, the company has abused its dominant status in the mobile wallets market.
EC’s EVP, Margrethe Vestager, said “We preliminarily found that Apple may have restricted competition, to the benefit of its own solution Apple Pay. If confirmed, such conduct would be illegal under our competition rules.” Vestager added that Apple’s statements highlighting they cannot provide the access to NFC due to security concerns “cannot be justified”.
Apple will now be able to respond to EC’s statement of objections. However, ultimately, the company could face a hefty fine reaching billions of euros. When commenting on the recent developments, Apple said it plans to “continue to engage with the commission to ensure European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a safe and secure environment”.
A senior New York State regulator urged the crypto firms to utilize blockchain analytics in order to protect themselves against suspicious activities and financial risk. Adrienne Harris, the New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent said, “Blockchain analytics tools provide companies with an efficient, data-driven way to conduct customer due diligence, transaction monitoring, and sanctions screening, among other things, which are all critical elements of our virtual currency regulation.”
“We expect regulated entities to utilize best practices to uphold the safety and soundness of the virtual currency market and to protect consumers,” she added.
Additionally, the regulator highlighted that crypto companies that are regulated by the State of New York should form adequate control measures, ensure the processes and policies are documented in a transparent way, and use the information about the customers and potential customers to understand and mitigate the risk.
Vodafone announced it is working on a new pan-European cloud software project together with Google Cloud and Cardinality.IO. The project is called United Performance Management (UPM) and will leverage AI to analyze as many as eight billion points of data each day. Due to the real-time insights that the UPM would bring, Vodafone will be able to significantly simplify its core operations, with the help of the Google Cloud and Cardinality.IO AI tools.
Although there is no specific information about the stage of UPM and a full rollout timeline, Vodafone announced that UPM is already the reason behind a 70% reduction in major IT and network incidents. In the long-term, UPM’s generated insights are meant to support the prioritization of network upgrades by traffic patterns analysis and the identification of high-demand areas. According to Vodafone, UPM will replace more than 100 separate tools that the company is currently using and will be running on Vodafone’s own servers across Europe.
“As the needs of our 300 million-plus mobile customers evolve so will our network using this new platform,” said Johan Wibergh, CTO of Vodafone. “It is a global data hub that gives us a real-time view of what is happening anywhere on our network, uses our global scale to manage traffic growth cheaper and more efficiently as customer data consumption grows by around 40% per year, and supports the full automation of our network by 2025.”
Strados Labs, a medtech company that specializes in smart sensors, and leveraging ML and proprietary algorithms for early detection of respiratory disease worsening, just received its FDA 510K clearance for the home use of its RESP product. The regulatory nod for home use of RESP is a huge milestone, as their first product will now be used for Remote Patient Monitoring. Strados Labs Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mitchell Glass said, “This 510(k) clearance expands the use of RESP® to include home care of more than 5 million patients who are discharged from the hospital or ED each year with a primary diagnosis of asthma, COPD or Heart Failure. More than 30 million patient visits each year can be improved, or avoided entirely, by adding real-time remote auscultation to the tools of the caregiver who has ready access to the patient’s RESP® archive for comparison.”