Let us start the week with the most important tech news we could see unfolding during the past seven days. As usual, we will talk about the most interesting partnerships, and this week, there has been a few including Apple and Goldman Sachs collaborating on BNPL, Bell Canada collaborating with Google Cloud on 5G and AI, KT collaborating with Samsung to become among the first in the world in 5G SA. There has also been an important acquisition by Microsoft. The tech giant decided to buy one of the most promising cybersecurity startups. We will also look at some of the latest funding rounds including Climate X and Blockpit. What else are we going to discuss today? Square launching its DeFi platform, Binance having to give up one of its services, UK consumers’ raising demand for smart home-related appliances, Mastercard upgrading its real-time payments, and an AI breakthrough in protein structure research.
Apple and Goldman Sachs announced they are partnering on creating a new nuy now pay later (BNPL) service. The new offer will let Apple customers pay for the Apple Pay purchases in installments using Goldman Sachs as the lender.
Apple entering the BNPL sector creates a potential competitor for the established players such as Klarna or PayPal.
The new and innovative startup that leverages data and analytics to tackle climate risk, Climate X, has just closed their pre-seed funding. Pale Blue Dot led the round that ended with a $1.5 million funding, joined by Blue Wire Capital, A100x, and Possibilian, among others.
Climate X uses both machine learning and physical risk models to project climate change up to 80 years in the future, calculating how exposure to extreme weather events can impact things such as the value of assets.
Lukky Ahmed, CEO, Climate X, says: “Climate X will unlock data that lets the world predict, prepare and protect against future climate-related risks – transforming the lives of millions of people.”
Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square has announced on Twitter the company will create a new standalone business that will serve as a platform where developers can create DeFi projects. The new business will be led by Mike Brock who has previously proven his skills successfully expanding Square to cryptocurrencies.
“Technology has always been a story of decentralization. From the printing press, to the internet to bitcoin – technology has the power to distribute power to the masses and unleash human potential for good, and I’m convinced this is the next step.,” Brock said.
A new AI program may lead to a huge breakthrough in the field of biotech, as it can predict the structure of protein complexes. The complexes are traditionally known as impossible to decipher and for a long time, researchers have tried to come up with a method that would allow them to predict the protein’s shape easily. “This problem has been around for 50 years; lots of people have broken their head on it,” says John Moult, a structural biologist at the University of Maryland, Shady Grove.
Now, there seems to be a solution. David Baker and Minkyung Baek at the University of Washington, Seattle, and their colleagues presented how their AI program can predict the structure of not only simple proteins but also the complexes of proteins. However, their efforts are not the first in this sphere. An AI company owned by Google, DeepMind released a similar program, AlphaFold2, that really extraordinary thing [predicting] protein structures with atomic accuracy,” according to one of the Critical Assessment of Protein Prediction competition’s organizers.
But for many structural biologists, AlphaFold2 was a not fully developed product but rather a preview of something to come: “Incredibly exciting but also very frustrating,” says David Agard, a structural biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco. Gira Bhabha, a cell and structural biologist at New York University School of Medicine believes that both breakthrough methods to predict the structure are effective. “Both the DeepMind and Baker lab advances are phenomenal and will change how we can use protein structure predictions to advance biology,” she says. A DeepMind spokesperson wrote in an email, “It’s great to see examples such as this where the protein folding community is building on AlphaFold to work towards our shared goal of increasing our understanding of structural biology.”
Another major telecom just announced its public cloud deal, cooperating with Google Cloud. The partnership will combine Bell’s 5G with Google’s AI, cloud, and data analytics capabilities. Thanks to the new deal, Bell will be able to move much of their critical workload to the cloud. The partnership is long-term and plans to focus on cloud solutions for enterprises and consumers next.
“We’re excited to partner with Google Cloud as part of our ongoing digital transformation and take Bell’s 5G network leadership to the next level,” said Bell Canada chief executive Mirko Bibic. “Supporting Bell’s goal to advance how Canadians connect with each other and the world, Google’s proven expertise in cloud and leadership in sustainability will provide our customers with even faster, more reliable access to the best broadband network and communications services in Canada,” Bibic said, in a statement that doesn’t actually tell us a lot.
One of the biggest South Korean telcos, KT, just became one of the first world operators that moved its commercial 5G network to standalone mode. That means the whole network is now using a specific technology instead of adding 5G features on top of legacy infrastructure. In order to move ahead with the development, KT has partnered with Samsung that just released a press release saying “Samsung is proud to play a leading role in placing Korea at the forefront of network technology innovation,” according to Seungil Kim, Head of the Korea bit of the Networks Business at Samsung Electronics.
“Our reliable and flexible 5G SA architecture, powered by our 5G RAN and core, will enable KT to offer its users the next generation of enhanced use cases and mobile experiences. By introducing 5G SA services in Korea, we are taking a meaningful step in 5G journey, and look forward to delivering more transformative experiences to customers and businesses with KT.”
“Our 5G SA service will be an important step in unlocking the full potential of 5G and it will bring new value to our customers,” said Youngsoo Seo, Director of the Network Research Technology Unit at KT. “As a digital platform company, KT will continue to make efforts to help drive Korea’s Digital New Deal and ensure our customers enjoy the best experiences and opportunities that 5G has to offer.”
The UK has lately registered a decline in interest for smart home-related technology. However, according to the newest Smart Home Study UK that was published this week, it seems the Covid-19 pandemic has managed to rejuvenate that sector of the market. The research was conducted by GfK and included 1000 UK adults.
“Looking at the jump in claimed ownership of smart TVs this year, I suggest two factors are at play. First is the undoubted increase in sales of smart TVs that we’ve tracked during the lockdowns while people were stuck at home,” said Trevor Godman, key account director at GfK.“But I also believe that people’s increased use of streaming services during this period also made more people aware of the TV’s smart functionality,” he said.
Apart from the Smart TVs that are currently the most popular part of the smart home appliances, GfK also observed a big growth in areas such as smart kitchen appliances, doorbells, and personal care devices.
“With nearly a quarter of UK consumers now having at least four smart home devices in their homes – not counting smartphones, laptops, and tablets – the interoperability of these products is becoming increasingly important,” said Godman. “This is something that manufacturers and service providers must address to maintain momentum in creating smarter homes.”
We follow up on the Binance story as one of the largest crypto exchanges can not catch a break. Hong Kong financial watchdog became the last in a series of regulators that scrutinized the company. They were particularly concerned about the “stock tokens” offer of the crypto exchange. Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) pointed out that offering stock tokens without authorization is an offense in Hong Kong. “Any person who contravenes a relevant provision may be prosecuted and, if convicted, subject to criminal sanctions,” the SFC said.
Following the move, Binance announced on Friday it had stopped selling digital tokens that are linked to stocks. “Effective immediately, stock tokens are unavailable for purchase on Binance.com,” the exchange said on its website. The users that currently hold stock tokens can sell them or choose to hold them over the next three months. Having said that, after mid-October, these positions will no longer be available for closing or purchase.
“We believe that shifting our commercial focus to other product offerings will better serve our users, and we are committed to making this transition as straightforward as possible for those affected,” a Binance spokesperson said.
Among the global cybercrime threat and an increasing amount of highly sophisticated ransomware cyber attacks, the tech giants and governments alike try to find ways to make the operations as secure as possible. On Monday, Microsoft announced it will be acquiring the cybersecurity company RiskIQ to support that mission and facilitate the cybersecurity responsibilities that companies are facing.
Microsoft (MSFT) said the new addition to its portfolio will help its customers in terms of addressing risks. RiskIQ’s software gives companies the chance to monitor their entire networks including operations running on various cloud providers. Then, threat intelligence research helps businesses in mitigating any risk that may occur.
“We couldn’t be more excited to join forces to enable the global community to defend against the rising tide of cyberattacks,” RiskIQ Founder and CEO Elias Manousos said in a blog post-Monday. Before being acquired by Microsoft, RiskIQ has raised over $80 million from investors, serving 30% of the Fortune 500 and 6000 organizations globally.
Blockpit, a fintech startup that specializes in developing legally compliant and audited tax reports for the treatment of crypto assets just announced the closing of its Series A funding. The startup managed to raise $10 million. Founded back in 2017, Blockpit created software called Cryptotax that automatically calculates taxes from crypto-assets and activities such as staking, DeFi, mining, and margin trading.
Blockpit CEO and co-founder Florian Wimmer said, “In addition to the monetary boost, the expertise, as well as international network of the investors in various areas, will result in new market access and numerous opportunities for commercial partnerships. This will massively accelerate the further development of our products as well as our expansion to new countries”.
Pascal Bouvier, the Managing Partner of MiddleGame Ventures, commented on the investment: “We are delighted to partner with Blockpit. We firmly believe in the future of digital assets. As these digital assets are more and more accepted by investors of all stripes and colors, retail and corporate or institutional, taxation and accounting considerations will become increasingly more important to master. Blockpit is at the nexus of these trends and has a bright future ahead of itself.”
Mastercard has just launched the real-time payment gateway, PayPort+. The gateway was developed by Form3 and is already available with two UK financial institutions. The initial version of the gateway, PayPort was launched back in 2016. It offers financial institutions of all sizes connection to the UK Faster Payments Network. The upgraded version will include flexible connectivity options such as MQ, Restful APIs, and Microservices.
“Now more than ever, people and businesses need to be able to rely on the payments network for speed, convenience, and security – not just in the UK but around the world,” Gregor Dobbie, CEO of Mastercard subsidiary Vocalink, says. “The launch of our next generation PayPort+ service, which we built in collaboration with Form3, is a part of our multi-rail strategy to enhance payment flows for our customers and modernize payments for everyone.”