Here is your latest tech weekly update, providing you a round-up of the most important stories in the fintech, biotech, and telecom sector. This week, we will look at Sweatcoin’s own crypto token, Mastercard’s filling for NFT and Metaverse trademarks, UK businesses losing millions after the SCA rules came into the effect, a new crypto reward credit card in the US, IMF’s report on urgently needed regulations for fast-growing fintechs, the launch of EU’s Digital Finance Platform, Ericsson’s weak Q1 performance due to the US investigation, Samsung’s and VMO2’s joint effort to deploy 4G and 5G sites across the UK, potential TalkTalk acquisition, Emergex’s dengue vaccine, and Pfizer making an offer on the smartphone app that could detect Covid-19 through breathing recordings.
Sweatcoin is an app with over 64 million registered users and the main idea behind it is to let the users earn sweatcoins by recording their daily steps. Once earned, the sweatcoins can either be donated to charity or used for special deals with one of the app’s partners.
Now, Sweatcoin announced it would release its own crypto token that could match 1:1 with the in-app sweatcoin. The users will be able to exchange Sweat tokens into other crypto or leverage other functions such as liquidity provision or staking. Sweat token will be built on Ethereum.
Oleg Fomenko, the co-founder of Sweatcoin, says: “We’re turning movement into a valuable, recognizable currency with Sweat: the token, and for those that are new to the space, it’s a little-to-no-financial-risk option to get on board and gain access to an asset that’s becoming increasingly harder to mint, helping us to achieve the mission of making the world more physically active by unlocking the value of movement.”
Mastercard has filed for 15 trademark applications regarding NFT and metaverse. According to the fillings that were reported by the US trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis, there are a few main applications for Mastercard’s services in the metaverse.
- “Downloadable music files authenticated by non-fungible tokens (NFTs); downloadable multimedia files containing artwork, text, audio, and video authenticated by non-fungible tokens (NFTs);…E-commerce software to allow users to perform electronic business transactions in the metaverse and other virtual worlds”
- “Marketplaces for digital goods and NFT backed media”
- “Processing of virtual credit card, virtual debit card, virtual prepaid card, and virtual payment card transactions in the metaverse… Payment processing services, namely credit card, prepaid card, gift card, and payment card transaction processing services in the metaverse; Providing financial information in the metaverse and other virtual worlds”
- “Events and performances in the metaverse in the fields of finance, cryptocurrency, and NFTs”
- “Online communities for digital assets, NFTs, metaverse and virtual worlds”
Mastercard is not the only one filing for patents in the metaverse, American Express has also filed for a patent on its logo, slogans, and name for a number of services in the metaverse.
Last month, the Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) rules came into the effect and since then, the UK retailers lost £130m in sales due to not being fully compliant with the new regulations. This number was reported by Barclaycard Payments.
The new payment regulations require all online transactions that are higher than £25 to go through two-factor authentication. This new measure aims at tackling online fraud. Since it came into effect, more than 22 000 transactions each day have been declined because of the online businesses not upgrading the payment technology on their web pages accordingly.
Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments, said “One month on from the introduction of mandatory SCA checks, it’s clear that too many businesses are still not compliant and are losing out on millions of pounds in sales as a result.”
“The message to retailers is clear; prioritize SCA compliance, simplify the customer journey and take advantage of the latest payments technologies to avoid losing out on sales and customers,” he added.
One of the best-known crypto exchanges, Gemini, launched a new crypto reward credit card that is available across the United States. Already before the launch, there were more than 500 000 people signed up for the card issued by WebBank, using Mastercard’s network.
The users will be able to earn up to 3% crypto on dining, 2% on groceries, and 1% on any other purchase. Moreover, they can choose to get their reward in one of over 60 cryptocurrencies that Gemini currently supports, including ether, bitcoin or dogecoin.
Pravjit Tiwana, CTO, Gemini, said: “With the Gemini Credit Card, users also have access to a single trusted platform to buy, sell, store, and earn real interest in crypto, and we couldn’t be more excited to make it widely available across the United States.”
In a newly released report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has spoken about the need for regulations for the fast-growing fintechs. IMF highlighted that they currently pose a threat to regulators and banks that are not as technologically advanced.
“This combination of fast growth and the increasing importance of fintech financial services for the functioning of financial intermediation can come with system-wide risks,” say authors Antonio Garcia Pascual and Fabio Natalucci.
They point out that the spillover effect of fintechs puts a large pressure on well-established competitors in the industry, highlighting the US mortgage industry. Pascual and Natalucci claim that fintechs follow a quite aggressive growth strategy. “Competitive pressure from fintech firms significantly hurt the profitability of traditional banks, and this trend is set to continue,” they say.
The report suggests that we urgently need policies that would target fintechs and their traditional counterparts alike. “For neobanks, this means stronger capital, liquidity, and risk-management requirements commensurate with their risks,” said Pascual and Natalucci. “For incumbent banks and other established entities, prudential supervision may need a greater focus on the health of less technologically advanced banks, as their existing business models may be less sustainable over the long term.”
The European Commission launched its Digital Finance Platform which is a part of the ongoing digital finance strategy announced back in 2020. The platform was launched last week and is built to create a dialogue between the key stakeholders in fintech and supervisors.
Currently, the platform consists of two key pillars. The first serves as an observatory and includes a Fintech map, a list of events, and a place for users to share the research material. The second pillar is designed as an access point to supervisors that can direct the users to relevant information about innovation hubs, regulatory sandboxes, and licensing requirements. The EC plans to expand the platform in 2023.
Verena Ross, chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority said, “In phase 2 the Platform will host a Data Hub to be used by the industry and supervisory authorities to enhance their toolkit and their capacities in testing innovations. We look forward to working on the Data Hub with the Commission and making the Digital Platform a tool that will be recognized and used by FinTech in Europe.”
Ericsson In Trouble After Weak Q1 Earnings Report And US Investigation
It looks like one of the biggest European telecoms is struggling, based on its recent Q1 earnings report, as well as the current share price that keeps sliding down. The major reasons for Ericsson’s weak performance is the probation placed by the US after a corruption investigation and the Iraq scandal.
“We are currently engaging with the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the breach notices it issued relating to the Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” said Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm. “The resolution of these matters could result in a range of actions by DOJ, and may likely include additional monetary payments, the magnitude of which cannot at this time be reliably estimated.
“As this process is ongoing, we remain limited in what we can say about the historical events covered in the Iraq investigation and our ongoing engagement on the matter. We are fully committed to cooperating with the DOJ and our work to further strengthen our Ethics and Compliance program, controls, and our culture remains a top priority. It was actually our improved compliance program that allowed us to identify the misconduct in Iraq that started at least back in 2011.”
Samsung and VMO2 have jointly deployed new 4G and 5G sites across the UK, after a series of lab tests and field trials last year and at the beginning of this year. The test showed that there is interoperability between VMO2’s 2G, 3G, and 4G networks and Samsung’s newest 4G and 5G solutions.
“Samsung is excited to extend our network collaboration with Virgin Media O2 in the U.K., advancing from lab trials to now delivering 4G and 5G in commercial networks out in the field,” said Francis BJ Chun, President, and CEO, Samsung Electronics UK. “We look forward to playing a major part in the diversification of the network equipment supply chain in the U.K. market.”
“We are pleased to build on our previous collaboration with Samsung, delivering another 5G milestone in our push to developing Open RAN technologies,” said Jeanie York, CTO at VMO2. “We will continue our collaborative efforts with Samsung to explore the possibilities of 5G and push the technology further to deliver superior end-user experiences for our customers.”
There are conversations about a potential acquisition of TalkTalk in a deal valued at £3 billion. Vodafone and Sky both seem to have thrown their hat into the ring. While the potential offer has been speculated about for weeks, there have been no formal offers made as of now. According to an article in FT, Vodafone has considered a deal with TalkTalk several times before but has never closed it due to questions regarding the value of the business.
“Both TalkTalk and Vodafone are in a precarious position,” Paolo Pescatore, Analyst at PP Foresight, told Telecoms.com. “Strategically they complement each other as TalkTalk is stronger in fixed-line and Vodafone in mobile. A marriage of convenience makes sense given the rapidly converged landscape but both cater to different market segments.”
“Convergence remains an Achilles heel for both as adoption among their respective bases has been lacklustre. Ultimately scale is key and with this, in mind, a move to merge could make sense. There are few strategic moves left in the UK. However, Vodafone will need to move quickly to avoid losing further ground as it has done in Italy and Spain,” he added. Any move by Sky will consolidate its position in fixed-line and pose a greater threat to BT.”
The British biotech, Emergex Vaccines, is getting ready to report clinical data on its dengue vaccines. The data is showing the detailed test of Emergex’s T-cell adaptive, synthetic vaccine platform through which immune cells can destroy pathogen-producing cells. Athanasios Papadopoulos, M.D., chief medical officer at Emergex, said, “The 52 participants enrolled in the naNO-dengue and naNO-COVID phase I trials represent a significant milestone for the Company, and I remain optimistic for when the data from these studies is unblinded. Both of these vaccines are a direct result of Emergex’ work to advance its CD8+ T cell Adaptive Vaccine platform to address a diversity of viral and bacterial disease threats,” Papadopoulos said in a statement.
Pfizer is looking at the Australian ResApp Health app that could help diagnose a range of respiratory issues through a smartphone app. ResApp Health uses ML algorithms to analyze the recording of a sick person’s coughing and breathing sounds to determine the scope of a possible respiratory disease.
Through its Australian subsidiary, Pfizer proposed an acquisition deal worth $74.2 million. Separately, they want to work with ResApp to develop an app meant to catch Covid-19 cases. The R&D collaboration would entail a A$3 million upfront licensing fee, as well as an additional amount based on the recruitment of patients into clinical trials.
In March of this year, ResApp Health released that the smartphone app can detect Covid-19 cases with a 8% false-negative rate based on a study of 741 patients in the U.S and India.
“The sheer scale of this global pandemic and the likely evolution to an endemic disease means we need more scalable diagnostic tools that can balance our current over-reliance on rapid antigen and PCR tests,” said Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Australia’s Deakin University and a member of ResApp’s COVID-19 scientific advisory board.