The past week has not been the best for Apple. The tech giant was accused to disrupt the competition in the music streaming industry by the European Commission that agreed with earlier complaints by Spotify. It has also not been a good week for crypto investors in Turkey, as the country added crypto trading platforms to the terrorism financing regulation list. Luckily, other tech news from the past week is more optimistic. There were a few interesting partnerships including Mastercard and Gemini about to launch a crypto rewards credit card and Coinbase and Paypal that will allow the Coinbase customers to buy crypto. Apart from that, the central bank is speeding their work on CBDCs, China ramps up the regulations for financial fraud, and the UK MPs warn the government about not repeating the regulatory fiasco of Wirecard. We will also touch on some of the most important startup announcements of the past week, including the NFT platform DeFine Art releasing its new and improved version, Barclays eyeing a $900 million growth opportunity in payments, Paragon launching a fully customizable trading platform, and more.
Mastercard and Gemini, a U.S. crypto exchange, announced they will launch the first credit card rewarding customers on purchases using cryptocurrencies.
Already from this summer, the card users will receive as much as 3% in bitcoin and other digital currencies on their purchases. The digital currency will be deposited in a Gemini account of the cardholder and the card itself will be issued by the digital lender Web bank.
This is another in a series of stories that shows how the financial giants are boosting their crypto engagements. Already back in February, Mastercard said it is planning to support some of the cryptocurrencies on its network.
“As consumers go about spending in various acceptance locations, now they get a chance to earn reward in the form of crypto,” Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard’s head of digital assets and blockchain products & partnerships, said.
Currently, the card will only be available in the United States.
Central banks around the world started intensively researching and testing digital currencies, moving more away from the traditional coins and banknotes and towards their digital equivalents.
Having a large number of potential economic and financial repercussions, access to the CBDCs is so far restricted to financial institutions only.
Despite the risks connected to the CBDCs, central banks are still more than interested in this possibility. As bitcoin and other digital assets are gaining in value and becoming more and more prevalent, people fear losing control over the supply of money.
The CBDCs are likely to vary across countries, it could look like anything from a mobile token to a pre-paid card. While some of the currencies that are currently tested use blockchain, others do not. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced that the digital yuan will not be relying on the blockchain while another currency tested, Swedish e-krona is based on blockchain and resembles bitcoin more than the digital yuan.
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On Friday, the EU regulators agreed with Spotify, accusing Apple of distorting the music streaming market competition. The case is still in the preliminary phase. However, if the anti-competitive charges are confirmed, Apple will most likely end up with a hefty time.
This is the first time that the EU has officially accused Apple of anti-competitive practices.
Now the amount of the potential fine goes as high as $27 billion (10% of Apple’s global turnover).
The case first started in 2019, after Spotify complained that Apple restricted rivals to Apple Music, its own music streaming platform, on iPhones. Then came later complaints, regarding Apple forcing the developers to use its own in-app payment systems.
The EU competition enforcer, in its so-called statement of objections setting out the charge, said the issue related to Apple’s restrictive rules for its App Store that force developers to use its own in-app payment system and prevent them from informing users of other purchasing options.
“They (app developers) depend on Apple App Store as a gatekeeper to access users of Apple’s iPhones and iPads,” European Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said. “This significant market power cannot go unchecked as the conditions of access to the Apple App Store are key for the success of app developers,”
Vestager added additional authorities are also looking at the case.
“We have contact with other jurisdictions doing similar cases, that could be the Dutch, the Australians, the Americans,”
Apple strongly disagreed with the Commissions accusations.
“Spotify has become the largest music subscription service in the world, and we’re proud of the role we played in that,” the tech giant said in the released statement, “They want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that. The Commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition.”
Spotify has also commented on the news, calling EU decision as “a critical step toward holding Apple accountable for its anticompetitive behavior, ensuring meaningful choice for all consumers and a level playing field for app developers.”
On Saturday, a presidential decree was published in Turkey. The decree announced that the government has added cryptocurrency trading platforms to a list of companies that are covered by the anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulation.
The rule will take an immediate effect and cover all crypto asset service providers.
Since Saturday, new anti-fraud rules that are particularly strict on financial scams are now effective in China. After the reports by the Chinese banking regulators showing the number of financial scams is increasing and that the criminals find out more and more sophisticated methods on how to not get caught, the regulator called for a tougher crackdown.
Just last year, China detected more than 7500 financial scams, a 27% increase from 2019.
“Previously, you asked victims to go to court. Now, victims can bring officials to court for the negligence of duty,” said the official, who is not authorized to speak to the media.
As the rules come into the effect, it will be up to the local officials to detect and end the investment scams at an early stage.
The newest AI research, co-authored by Margrét Bjarnadóttir at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business focuses on AI and how humans can partner with the machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence solutions to create an equitable workforce. In the research that has been awarded the Best White Paper award at the 2021 Wharton Analytics Conference, the authors explore the analytics tools in the human resources sector and offer solutions to the challenges that have been observed in the past.
So far, the attempts to integrate the HR process with AI have not yielded spectacular results. Even Amazon discontinued its AI recruiting tool in 2018 after it was confirmed the tool discriminated against female applicants.
“We wanted to look at the question of: How can we do better? How can we build toward these more equitable workplaces?” says Bjarnadóttir, associate professor of management sciences and statistics at Maryland Smith. “We can’t simply translate the analytical approaches that we use in accounting or operations over to the HR department. What is critically different, is that in contrast to, say, determining the stock levels of jeans or which ketchup brand to put on sale, the decisions that are supported in the HR department can have an instrumental impact on employees lives; who gets hired, who receives a promotion, or who is identified as a promising employee.”
DeFine Art, the Asia-focused decentralized NFT platform has become hugely successful after its launch, connecting the NFT artists and customers, which leads to sales of over 400 ETH so far.
Now, DeFine Art has released its 2.0 version, improving the user experience and expanding several features on the platform. The ERC-1555 support is now available, as well as a Fixed Swap function that allows the customers to buy and sell NFTs at a fixed price.
Crypto News: RockItCoin Hits 1000 Crytpo ATM Milestone
RockIt Coin, the biggest Bitcoin ATM provider has announced they have installed their thousandth Crypto ATM in Seattle, WA.
RockItCoin’s ATMs allow easy, walk-up access and fast conversion of cash into cryptocurrencies. They also support online transactions in the following cryptocurrencies; Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Litecoin (LTC). In addition, for anyone wanting to buy/sell over $10,000, RockItCoinp offers a highly personalized OTC service.
“Our strategic plan to give access to cryptocurrencies to as many people as possible is bearing fruit. This 1,000th installation is but one milestone in our path to over 2,000 by the end of 2021,” said Michael Dalesandro, Founder, and CEO of RockItCoin. “RockItCoin’s Crypto ATMs are the safest and easiest choice for anyone seeking to turn cash into Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Increasingly, average consumers can now find and access a RockItCoin Crypto ATM close to where they live and work with 24/7 personal customer support.”
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A FinTech startup, ParagonEX, announced today it will be launching a fully customizable trading platform that will provide its broken clients with options to customize every detail of the platform’s look and feel. Thus, the platform will not only create a distinct brand identity but cater to the profile and mix of the end-users as well.
Broken are able to choose between elements such as charts, news, asset views, signals, crowd sentiment, and an alert panel, customizing it to the clients’ needs to create a unique trading experience.
ParagonEX CEO, Simon Duggan said: “With a limited number of platform providers, brokers are beginning to look very similar to one another, creating difficulties not only in maintaining a clear brand identity but also in providing different end-users with different trading experiences. It is clear that with micro segmenting and targeting, brokers would need to display diverse elements to clients, and ParagonEX stepped up to the plate by creating this”.
Several British MPs have warned the government must avoid the mistakes that were previously made by hte German regulators dealing with Wirecard.
In a “Wirecard: When fintech goes rogue” report, the MPs are analyzing how the UK could avoid a similar scandal. The German financial watchdog was the subject of massive controversies and critique after its defense of Wirecard.
“Regulators need to be fleet of foot enough to anticipate the issues that arise as firms scale and must have the specialist knowledge to understand how these new types of institutions work,” Karen Bradley MP, says.
During the analyst conference focusing on Barclays’ Q1 results, the CEO of the bank, Jes Staley, announced that the payments sectors are a key growth opportunity, with the market worth
£900 million in the next three years, because of the BNPL market or merchant acquiring.
Currently, the payment sector accounts for 8% of Barclays’ total income.
Back in November, Barclays’ entered the BNPL sector, partnering with Amazon in Germany, with the initiative soon to be extended to the UK.
“This will grow our presence in e-commerce in two of the largest markets in Europe,” says Staley. “Our partnership with Amazon reflects our growing focus on payments.”
Although Barclays’ has had some great successes in the past year, Staley points out there is a long way in front of them.
“Perhaps the most important investment Barclays will make in the next five years is to connect our small business banking and our merchant acquiring a business, particularly as it relates to e-commerce.”
In the meantime, the bank is focusing on Barclays Cubed, a program connecting merchants and customers.
“A merchant is able to connect with a consumer digitally by offering a discount via their Barclays mobile banking app. That consumer can then make a purchase on the merchant’s website and, if they choose to, we can instantly approve them to pay for their shopping using installments,” Staley says. “Finally, the digital receipt and the loyalty points are automatically added to their Barclays wallet.”
Coinbase launched the option allowing their U.S. customers to use their PayPal account to buy bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.
The whole process could not be easier. Customers simply select the crypto they wish to purchase, choose PayPal as the payment method, and are then taken to the PayPal login screen that lets them select a debit or credit card. The purchases can be made in up to $25 000 a day.
“We’re looking forward to meeting you where you already spend, pay, spend, and save, and enabling more options with brands you already use. Simplicity and ease of use are core tenets of Coinbase and we are committed to delivering on this promise, “
The features are expected to be launched in other countries within the next few months.
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Solvvy, a next-generation chatbot and automation solution recorded triple-digit growth in the number of instant customer resolutions delivered in 2020.
“The growing use of online services driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way consumers engage with businesses,” said Mahesh Ram, CEO of Solvvy. “Automation with intelligent personalization is the only way businesses can cost-effectively manage increasing volumes and scale their support operations. As a result, we’re seeing skyrocketing demand for Solvvy’s next-gen chatbot solution. We have proven AI and Natural Language Understanding technology at our core which allows for quick implementation and immediately demonstrable results.”
Currently, Solvvy is managing millions of conversations and questions each month, serving customers such as Calm, HelloFresh, and Under Armour.