The ultimate way to move beyond trading latency?

Posted on : 29-03-2019 | By : richard.gale | In : Finance, Uncategorized

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A number of power surges and outages have been experienced in the East Grinstead area of the UK in recent months. Utility companies involved have traced the cause to one of three  high capacity feeds to a Global Investment bank’s data centre facility.

The profits created by the same bank’s London based Propriety Trading group has increased tenfold in the same time.

This bank employs 1% of the world’s best post-doctoral theoretical Physics graduates  to help build its black box trading systems

Could there be a connection? Wild & unconfirmed rumours have been circulating within  the firm that a major breakthrough in removing the problem of latency – the physical limitation the time it takes a signal to transfer down a wire – ultimately governed by of the speed of light.

For years traders have been trying to reduce execution latency to provide competitive advantage in a highly competitive fast moving environment. The focus has moved from seconds to milli and now microsecond savings.

Many Financial Services & technology organisations have attempted to solve this problem through reducing  data hopping, routing, and going as far as placing their hardware physically close to the source of data (such as in an Exchange’s data centre) to minimise latency but no one has solved the issue – yet.

It sounds like this bank may have gone one step further. It is known that at the boundary of the speed of light – physics as we know it -changes (Quantum mechanics is an example where the time/space continuum becomes ‘fuzzy’). Conventional physics states that travelling faster than the speed of light and see into the future would require infinite energy and so is not possible.

Investigation with a number of insiders at the firm has resulted in an amazing and almost unbelievable insight. They have managed to build a device which ‘hovers’ over the present and immediate future – little detail is known about it but it is understood to be based on the previously unproven ‘Alcubierre drive’ principle. This allows the trading system to predict (in reality observe) the next direction in the market providing invaluable trading advantage.

The product is still in test mode as the effects of trading ahead of the data they have already traded against is producing outages in the system as it then tries to correct the error in the future data which again changes the data ad finitum… The prediction model only allows a small glimpse into the immediate future which also limits the window of opportunity for trading.

The power requirements for the equipment are so large that they have had to been moved to the data centre environment where consumption can be more easily hidden (or not as the power outages showed).

If the bank does really crack this problem then they will have the ultimate trading advantage – the ability to see into the future and trade with ‘inside’ knowledge legally. Unless another bank is doing similar in the ‘trading arms race’ then the bank will quickly become dominant and the other banks may go out of business.

The US Congress have apparently discovered some details of this mechanism and are requesting the bank to disclose details of the project. The bank is understandably reluctant to do this as it has spent over $80m developing this and wants to make some return on its investment.

If this system goes into true production mode surely it cannot be long before Financial Regulators outlaw the tool as it will both distort and ultimately destroy the markets.

Of course the project has a codename…. Project Tachyons

No one from the company was available to comment on the accuracy of the claims.

AI Evolution: Survival of the Smartest

Posted on : 21-05-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Innovation, Predictions

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Artificial intelligence is getting very good at identifying things: Let it analyse a million pictures, and it can tell with amazing accuracy which show a child crossing the road. But AI is hopeless at generating images of people or whatever by itself. If it could do that, it would be able to create visions of realistic but synthetic pictures depicting people in various settings, which a self-driving car could use to train itself without ever going out on the road.

The problem is, creating something entirely new requires imaginationand until now that has been a step to far for machine learning.

There is an emerging solution first conceived by  Ian Goodfellow during an academic argument in a bar in 2014… The approach, known as a generative adversarial network, or “GAN”, takes two neural networksthe simplified mathematical models of the human brain that underpin most modern machine learningand pits them against each other to identify flaws and gaps in the others thought model.

Both networks are trained on the same data set. One, known as the generator, is tasked with creating variations on images it’s already seenperhaps a picture of a pedestrian with an extra arm. The second, known as the discriminator, is asked to identify whether the example it sees is like the images it has been trained on or a fake produced by the generatorbasically, is that three-armed person likely to be real?

Over time, the generator can become so good at producing images that the discriminator can’t spot fakes. Essentially, the generator has been taught to recognize, and then create, realistic-looking images of pedestrians.

The technology has become one of the most promising advances in AI in the past decade, able to help machines produce results that fool even humans.

GANs have been put to use creating realistic-sounding speech and photo realistic fake imagery. In one compelling example, researchers from chipmaker Nvidia primed a GAN with celebrity photographs to create hundreds of credible faces of people who don’t exist. Another research group made not-unconvincing fake paintings that look like the works of van Gogh. Pushed further, GANs can reimagine images in different waysmaking a sunny road appear snowy, or turning horses into zebras.

The results aren’t always perfect: GANs can conjure up bicycles with two sets of handlebars, say, or faces with eyebrows in the wrong place. But because the images and sounds are often startlingly realistic, some experts believe there’s a sense in which GANs are beginning to understand the underlying structure of the world they see and hear. And that means AI may gain, along with a sense of imagination, a more independent ability to make sense of what it sees in the world. 

This approach is starting to provide programmed machines with something along the lines of imagination. This, in turn, will make them less reliant on human help to differentiate. It will also help blur the lines between what is real and what is fake… And in an age where we are already plagued with ‘fake news’ and doctored pictures are we ready for seemingly real but constructed images and voices….

OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri – The Rise of Voice Control Technology

Posted on : 30-04-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : Consumer behaviour, Finance, FinTech, Innovation, Predictions

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OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri…. All too familiar phrases around the home now, but it was not that long ago that we did not know what a ‘smart phone’ was! Today most people could not live without one. Imagine not being able to check your email, instant message friends or watch a movie whilst on the move.  How long will it be before we no will no longer need a keyboard, instead talking to your computer will be the norm!

The development of voice activated technology in the home will ultimately revolutionise the way we command and control our computers. Google Home has enabled customers to shop with its partners, pay for the transaction and have goods delivered all without the touch of a keyboard. How useful could this be integrated into the office environment? Adding a voice to mundane tasks will enable employees to be more productive and free up time allowing them to manage their workflow and daily tasks more efficiently.

Voice-based systems has grown more powerful with the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based computing power and highly optimised algorithms. Modern speech recognition systems, combined with almost pristine text-to-speech voices that are almost indistinguishable from human speech, are ushering in a new era of voice-driven computing. As the technology improves and people become more accustomed to speaking to their devices, digital assistants will change how we interact with and think about technology.

There are many areas of business where this innovative technology will be most effective. Using voice control in customer service will transform the way businesses interact with their customers and improve the customer experience.

Many banks are in the process of, if they haven’t done so already, of introducing voice biometric technology. Voice control enables quick access to telephone banking without the need to remember a password every time you call or log in. No need to wade through pages of bank account details or direct debits to make your online payments instead a digital assistant makes the payment for you.

Santander has trialled a system that allows customers to make transfers to existing payees on their account by using voice recognition. Customers access the process by speaking into an application on their mobile device.

Insurance companies are also realising the benefits voice control can bring to their customers. HDFC  Insurance, an Indian firm, has announced the launch of its AI enabled chatbot on Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa. It aims to offer a 24/7 customer assistance with instant solutions to customer queries. Thereby creating an enhanced customer service experience, allowing them to get easy access to information about policies, simply with the use of voice commands.

It could also help to streamline the claims process where inefficiencies in claims documentation take up insurers’ time and money. Claims processors spend as much as 50% of their day typing reports and documentation; speech recognition could rapidly reduce the time it takes to complete the process. US company Nuance claims that their Dragon Speech Recognition Solution can enable agents to dictate documents three times faster than typing with up to 99% accuracy. They can use simple voice commands to collapse the process further.

Retailers too are turning to this technology. With competition so tough on the high street retailers are always looking for the ultimate customer experience and many believe that voice control is a great way to achieve this. Imagine a mobile app where you could scan shopping items, then pay using a simple voice command or a selfie as you leave the store. No more queuing at the till.

Luxury department store Liberty is a big advocate of voice control and uses it for their warehouse stock picking. Using headsets and a voice controlled application, a voice controlled app issues commands to a central server about which products should be picked. For retailers voice control is hit on and off the shop floor.

So, how accurate is voice recognition? Accuracy rates are improving all the time with researchers commenting that some systems could be better than human transcription. In 1995 the error rate was 43%, today the major vendors claim an error rate of just 5%.

Security is a major factor users still face with verification requiring two factor authentication with mobile applications. However, as the technology develops there should be less of a need to confirm an individual’s identity before commands can be completed.

As advances are made in artificial intelligence and machine learning the sky will be limit for Alexa and her voice control friends. In future stopping what you are doing and typing in a command or search will start to feel a little strange and old-fashioned.

 

How long will it be before you can pick up your smart phone talk to your bank and ask it to transfer £50 to a friend, probably not as far away prospect as you might think!!

Will Robotic Process Automation be responsible for the next generation of technical debt?

Posted on : 28-03-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : FinTech, Innovation, Predictions, Uncategorized

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All hail the great Bill Gates and his immortal words:

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

With the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) wave crashing down all about us and as we all scramble around trying to catch a ride on its efficiency, cost saving and performance optimising goodness, we should take a minute and take heed of Mr Gate’s wise words and remember that poorly designed processes done more efficiently will still be ineffectual. In theory, you’re just getting better at doing things poorly.

Now before we go any further, we should state that we have no doubt about the many benefits of RPA and in our opinion RPA should be taken advantage of and utilised where appropriate.

Now with that said…

RPA lends itself very well to quick fixes and fast savings, which are very tempting to any organisation. However, there are many organisations with years of technical debt built up already through adding quick fixes to fundamental issues in their IT systems. For these organisations, the introduction of RPA (although very fruitful in the short term) will actually add more technological dependencies to the mix. This will increase their technical debt if not maintained effectively. Eventually, this will become unsustainable and very costly to your organisation.

RPA will increase dependencies on other systems, adding subtle complex levels of interoperability, and like any interdependent ecosystem, when one thing alters there is an (often unforeseen) knock-on effect in other areas.

An upgrade that causes a subtle change to a user interface will cause the RPA process to stop working, or worse the process will keep working but do the wrong thing.

Consider this; what happens when an RPA process that has been running for a few years needs updating or changing? Will you still have the inherent expert understanding of this particular process at the human level or has that expertise now been lost?

How will we get around these problems?  Well, as with most IT issues, an overworked and understaffed IT department will create a quick workaround to solve the problem, and then move on to the myriad of other technical issues that need their attention. Hey presto… technical debt.

So, what is the answer? Of course, we need to stay competitive and take advantage of this new blend of technologies. It just needs to be a considered decision, you need to go in with your eyes open and understand the mid and long-term implications.

A big question surrounding RPA is who owns this new technology within organisations? Does it belong to the business side or the IT side and how involved should your CIO or CTO be?

It’s tempting to say that processes are designed by the business side and because RPA is simply going to replace the human element of an already existing process this can all be done by the business side, we don’t need to (or want to) involve the CIO in this decision. However, you wouldn’t hire a new employee into your organisation without HR being involved and the same is true of introducing new tech into your system. True, RPA is designed to sit outside/on top of your networks and systems in which case it shouldn’t interfere with your existing network, but at the very least the CIO and IT department should have an oversight of RPA being introduced into the organisation. They can then be aware of any issues that may occur as a result of any upgrades or changes to the existing system.

Our advice would be that organisations should initially only implement RPA measures that have been considered by both the CIO and the business side to be directly beneficial to the strategic goals of the company.

Following this, you can then perform a proper opportunity assessment to find the optimum portfolio of processes.  Generally, low or medium complexity processes or sub-processes will be the best initial options for RPA, if your assessment shows that the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) savings are worth it of course. Ultimately, you should be looking for the processes with the best return, and simplest delivery.

A final point on software tools and vendors. Like most niche markets of trending technology RPA is awash with companies offering various software tools. You may have heard of some of the bigger and more reputable names like UiPath and Blue Prism. It can be a minefield of offerings, so understanding your needs and selecting an appropriate vendor will be key to making the most of RPA. In order to combat the build-up of technical debt, tools provided by the vendor to enable some of the maintenance and management of the RPA processes is essential.

For advice on how to begin to introduce RPA into your organisation, vendor selection or help conducting a RPA opportunity assessment, or for help reducing your technical debt please email Richard.gale@broadgateconsultants.com.

 

INTERNET 1 – INTERNET OF THINGS 3

Posted on : 28-02-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Cyber Security, data security, IoT

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Each month we will be taking a more in depth look at our Broadgate Predictions for 2018.

Is there anything left which is not internet connected? Two years ago, there were very few people that had any interest in communicating with a lightbulb – apart from flicking a light-switch. Now IoT connected lightbulbs appear be everywhere and the trend will grow and grow. The speed at which this is happening is accelerating and the scope of connected devices is expanding beyond belief. Who would have thought we needed a smart hairbrush!

Use of IoT Devices Surges to 49%

Consequently, in the same way the Internet of Things has transformed our home lives, it has proved to be highly beneficial for organisations speeding up business processes, improving efficiency, service and process management. Gartner predicts the use of IoT devices will have surged to 49% by the end of this year.  As companies race ahead to become more connected in this way, few organisations are pausing to think about the enormous risks they face by embracing this technology. We are allowing these devices to listen, see, control parts of our lives and the data they gather has value both for good and bad reasons. There is no ‘culture of security’ for IoT. Many of the devices are cheaply designed and manufactured with no thought towards security or data privacy. We are allowing these devices into our lives and we don’t really know what they know and who knows what they know.

Devices Poorly Protected

For business the danger is that the adoption of these mobile devices creates an influx of additional entry points into the corporate network, using WiFi or Bluetooth technology creating a major security risk. These devices are poorly protected with little or no security measures applied. It is not always easy or even possible to install anti-virus software on all your IoT devices and there are no common security standards to follow which makes it very difficult for organisations to create an end to end security solution.

Hackers New Target

It is estimated that by 2020 25% of all cyber attacks will be via IoT.  In most cases hackers aren’t targeting the user, instead they use this lack of security loophole as a gateway into an organisations wider corporate network. This scenario was used in the well known Target attack where hackers stole valuable personal customer data by gaining access to the Target store system network via the internet enabled store heating system. Not all attacks are of this scale but it illustrates how easy it is to use these devices to gain unauthorised access to an organisation.

The  “Gold Rush”

The IoT is inherently insecure as the convenience far outweighs the security concerns. The current IoT landscape can be compared to the early days of the internet, when viruses, worms, and email spam plagued users. Many companies raced to join the internet ‘gold rush’ without necessarily considering the importance of internet security. We are now in a world where firms may need to double or treble their IT security budget, just to protect against the threat from wireless light bulbs and thermostats.

These maybe clichéd examples, but there are essential applications that organisations use IoT for, which include managing heating across locations and financial transactions. IoT is also be used in manufacturing, where devices operating in a machine-to-machine (M2M) environment, without underlying security, have the potential to cause major security breaches.

Standardisation

So, we can see that the very technology that can greatly improve the performance of your business is the same technology that if exploited poses a great security threat to your information. It is crucial that steps are taken to tackle this security issue but this is unlikely unless government, industry and consumers work together to drive forward the necessary changes to provide much needed safeguards.

In 2017, the United States proposed a new bill that would introduce standards for IoT devices purchased by the US government. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 would require IoT vendors to ensure the devices can be patched when security updates are available; that the devices do not use hard-coded (unchangeable) passwords; and that devices are free from known vulnerabilities when sold. This is a good start but many people think that legal enforcement of the bill maybe difficult with a great deal of reliance on individual users to adhere to the legislation.

Some industry leaders are also starting to take the issue seriously such as Cisco who are proposing an IoT’s Framework. 

Secure the IoT Revolution

There is no doubt that IoT can revolutionise the way we work, bringing many benefits to the way organisations operate. However, it’s crucial that the security concerns are addressed to prevent them from doing more harm than good.

For 2018, standardisation of IoT devices is a must. It is essential that devices are secure by design, rather than included as an afterthought. The failure of any business to act now to protect themselves is incomprehensible. If they don’t, they are sleep-walking into a security crisis.

Are you ready to take advantage of Robotic Process Automation?

Posted on : 28-02-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Innovation, Uncategorized

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Robotic Process Automation or RPA is growing fast. We were initially sceptical as to how innovative it actually is but are always looking for ways to help our clients (and Broadgate!) work more efficiently.

RPA technology, sometimes called a software robot or ‘bot’, mimics a human worker, logging into applications, entering data, calculating and completing tasks, and logging out.

RPA software isn’t really part of an organisation’s IT infrastructure. It sits above, enabling a company to implement the technology quickly and efficiently without changing the existing infrastructure and systems.

RPA could be seen as a ‘tactical’ approach to solving a business problem. In the long term the ‘bots’ should be replaced by strategic solutions but the advantages of quickly being able to make a process more efficient and remove human error can make immediate efficiency gains. And we all know how long these tactical solutions can remain in place….

The evolution of RPA

Although the term “robotic process automation” can be traced to the early 2000s, it had been developing for a number of years previously. We worked on screen scraping applications in the early ’90s to help turn ‘green screens’ into newly fashionable GUI applications.

RPA evolved from three key technologies: screen scraping (mimicking user interaction), workflow automation and artificial intelligence.

Screen scraping is the process of collecting screen display data from a legacy application so that the data can be displayed by a more modern user interface. The advantages of workflow automation software, which eliminates the need for manual data entry and increases order fulfilment rates, include increased speed, efficiency and accuracy. Lastly, artificial intelligence involves the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intervention and intelligence.

Benefits of RPA

Robotic process automation technology can help organisations on their digital transformation stories by:

  • Creating cost savings for manual and repetitive tasks
  • Enabling employees to be more productive
  • Enabling better customer service
  • Ensuring business operations and processes comply with regulations and standards
  • Allowing processes to be completed much more rapidly
  • Providing improved efficiency by digitising and auditing processes

Applications of RPA

Some of the applications of RPA include:

  • Financial services: Companies in the financial services industry can use RPA for foreign exchange payments, automating account openings and closings, managing audit requests and processing insurance claims.
  • Customer service: RPA can help companies offer better customer service by automating call centre tasks, including verifying e-signatures, uploading scanned documents and verifying information for automatic approvals or rejections.
  • Accounting: Organisations can use RPA for general accounting, operational accounting, transactional reporting and budgeting.
  • Supply Chain:  RPA can be used for procurement, automating order processing and payments, monitoring inventory levels and tracking shipments.
  • Healthcare: Medical organizations can use RPA for handling patient records, claims, customer support, account management, billing, reporting and analytics.
  • Human resources: RPA can automate HR tasks, including onboarding and offboarding, updating employee information and timesheet submission processes.

 

What’s so different from regular automation?

What distinguishes RPA from traditional IT automation is the ability of the RPA software to be aware and adapt to changing circumstances, exceptions and new situations.
Once RPA software has been trained to capture and interpret the actions of specific processes in existing software applications, it can then manipulate data, trigger responses, initiate new actions and communicate with other systems autonomously.
RPA software is particularly useful for organisations that have many different and complicated systems that need to interact together fluidly.
For instance, if an electronic form from a Compliance system (such as know your customer) is missing a postcode, traditional automation software would flag the form as having an exception and an employee would handle the exception by looking up the correct postcode and entering it on the form. Once the form is complete, the employee might send it on to Compliance so the information can be entered into the approved customer system.
With RPA technology, however, software that has the ability to adapt, self-learn and self-correct would handle the exception and interact with the payroll system without human assistance.

What to look for in RPA software

When enterprise leaders look for RPA technologies, they should consider a number of things, including:

  • Simplicity: Organisations should look for products that are simple enough that any employee in the business can build and use them to handle various kinds of work, including collecting data and turning content into information that enables leaders to make the best business decisions.
  • Speed: Enterprises should be able to design and test new robotic processes in a few hours or less, as well as optimise the bots to work quickly.
  • Reliability: As companies launch robots to automate hundreds or even thousands of tasks, they should look for tools with built-in monitoring and analytics that enable them to monitor the health of their systems.
  • Intelligence: The best RPA tools can support simple task-based activities, read and write to any data source, and take advantage of more advanced learning to further improve automation.
  • Scalability: Organisations shouldn’t select RPA software that requires them to deploy software robots to desktops or virtualised environments. They should look for RPA platforms that can be centrally managed and scale massively.
  • Enterprise-class: Companies should look for tools that are built from the ground up for enterprise-grade scalability, reliability and manageability.

Prerequisites for robotic process automation

  1. Are you able to describe the work? This doesn’t mean your documentation exists or is current. The task could be described by recording a user performing their work on a computer including how they handle exceptions.
  2. Is the work rules-based rather than subjective? Robots need to be prepared (aka, taught, trained, configured) to perform specific actions on your systems. Current technology is insufficient for a robot to determine on its own what to when faced with a new situation.
  3. Is the work performed electronically? It doesn’t matter how many different applications are required or whether they are in-house, cloud-based, Citrix, desktop or mainframe.
  4. Is the required data structured (or could it be structured)? If not, you may be able to utilise an OCR and/or cognitive application capable of structuring the file.  Alternatively, you could have people enter the data into a structured format.

Disqualifiers for robotic process automation use cases​​

  1. Process stability. If your organisation keeps changing the process (e.g., responding to competitive factors or new sources of information), then it may not be the right time to automate it. Despite investing resources to stabilise the current activity, you may end up with too much maintenance to keep your automation aligned to business needs.
  2. Target applications suitability. Some applications are harder for robots to use than others. It’s a fact that vendors don’t really like to highlight in the sales process. Starting with an especially challenging target application could delay the whole program, cause fatigue in leadership and put your credibility at risk. If you have to do it, make sure that you build in an accurate view of the time required.

Organisational impacts of RPA

Though automation software is expected to replace up to 120 million full-time employees worldwide by 2024, many high-quality jobs will be created for those who maintain and improve RPA software.

When software robots do replace people in the enterprise, managers need to be responsible for ensuring that business outcomes are achieved and new governance policies are met.

Robotic process automation technology also requires that the CIO take more of a leadership role and assume accountability for the business outcomes and the risks of deploying RPA tools.

Additionally, the COO, CIO and HR, as well as the relevant executive who owns the process being automated, should all work toward ensuring the availability of an enterprise-grade, secure platform for controlling and operating bots across systems.

Where the robotic process automation market is heading

One report expects the RPA market to reach $5 billion by 2024. The increased adoption of RPA technologies by organisations to enhance their capabilities and performance and boost cost savings will reportedly drive the growth of the robotic process automation market most during that time.

We are excited that the mix of technologies and domain business expertise will enable this growth and we are focusing on growing our skills in this area.

UberEATS – A tax on Hipsters

Posted on : 28-09-2017 | By : richard.gale | In : App, Consumer behaviour, General News, Hipster, Innovation, Uber, UberEATS

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It was Friday night, we’d all had a long week and so family decision to order a fish and chip supper seemed the right thing to do. I called in the order with the local chippie and popped down the road to pick it up.

 

All was well, the place was warm, buzzing with people and the sight and smells of frying fish. Then I noticed one of the guys packaging up food, printing off labels and placing it to the side of the counter. Then it got really strange, men with enormous beards, checked shirts wandered into the shop looking intently at their phones, walked to the counter, picked up a package, placed it in their shoulder bags and walked straight out again without a word to anyone. The shop guys didn’t even look up.  Had we been invaded by a gang of hungry, kleptomaniac lumberjacks I wondered…

 

I had to ask the guys. No. They said. The fish bar has signed up with UberEATS and they now have a whole new set of customers. They used the UberEATS app to order and then used their phone to find and pick up. Now I thought UberEATS was all about delivery but the guys said a lot of people picked up too on the way back from the station.

 

All seemed pretty logical and I was thinking about yet another use of tech to make our lives easier until one of the guys told me they have a different price list for Uber. It’s about 30% more expensive to cover Uber’s take and, because there is no mechanism to NOT do this, they have to charge for small items like ketchup etc (otherwise no one could order them…).

 

This really got me thinking, I get the convenience angle but is it REALLY worth an extra third on your meal just so you don’t have to pick up the phone? Are there other areas where this is the case and what’s the reasoning behind it?

 

I believe it’s the disconnect between the purchasing and the paying which enables this model to succeed. Once this is broken then the cost of buying becomes less important. It first really began with credit and credit cards where you could buy things you couldn’t afford but now I think the distance has become even greater.

 

I don’t like to use Uber myself but each month money comes out of my card for Uber journeys by various other members of the family. They effectively have a free, on demand, always available transport system whilst I have various amounts of random expenses. I get the convenience factor – out in town on a rainy evening and it’s great to know a clean car with a friendly driver is close by – but for most other journeys then a quick call to our local minicab firm ensures the same service, often at a better price and we’re supporting a local business too.

 

Once I started to think about time value vs. cost aspects of this then the new model started to break down. But pretty quickly, the scale, the tech and service plus the obscuring of costs outweigh any pricing concerns.  As these disruptive concepts grow into the mainstream, Uber and other disrupters still need to learn how to operate within the existing rules. Maybe….

Digital out of Home – a growth and innovation market

Posted on : 28-09-2017 | By : jo.rose | In : Cloud, Innovation, IoT

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The acceleration of growth in the digital out of home market (DOOH) is impressive. As providers switch from traditional mediums to digital based technologies and with creative technological advances, such as programmatic and Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), it is an exciting time for the sector. Indeed, in 2016 the market was valued at USD 12.52 billion and is forecast to grow to over USD 26 billion by 2023.

According to William Eccleshare, chairman and chief executive of DOOH media provider Clear Channel International;

Globally, press has collapsed, TV is static and radio has declined. Outdoor though has been growing steadily

This growth naturally brings opportunities for the large incumbents (such as Clear Channel) as well as new startups, but at the same time there are challenges to switch existing inventory to the new distribution mediums, transform legacy systems and business process, as well as the requirements to design scalable and secure digital networks.

As with all industries, the DOOH ecosystem is shifting to cloud based platforms to allow for businesses to both flex with demand and also deploy campaigns to audiences on a global basis. These platforms are capable of processing increasingly large and complex data used in the delivery of more targeted audience driven products, which are more cost effective and allows for better integration with external systems. Indeed, as the internet of things (IoT) gathers pace, this data requirement and inter-connectivity will continue to grow at pace.

Let’s look at some of the trends in a bit more detail

Programmatic: Firstly, there’s a lot of talk about programmatic advertising and it’s major influence in the overall DOOH market. The programmatic advertising platform is an online auction where media buyers specify their targeting requirements, such as audience demographics, time of day and location, as well as their budgetary constraints. In itself this isn’t particularly innovative, with other markets such as retail auctions and financial services offering for many years. What it will do though is put pressure on the players (and margins) current value chain, from advertising creative to distribution. It will also provide further pressures on the incumbents who carry more legacy technical debt.

Data is everything: whilst (within reason) signs themselves remain static, the data regarding audiences and how they interact with their environment does not. It constantly changes based on numerous factors, from the time of day, to the weather and external new events etc. With over 75% of UK consumers owning a smartphone, and checking that c.80 times a day, harnessing and correlating this data as consumers go about their daily lives creates value. This plays naturally into the hands of the tech companies and mobile providers who have access to resource, networks and expertise to exploit this value. Here the providers of the digital infrastructure have a real challenge to maintain a foothold and become an integral part of the chain rather than a consumer of more and more costly data.

User Experience enrichment: DOOH is providing more opportunities than ever to touch, interact and engage with valuable consumers; helping to bring brands to life in creative and digitally disruptive ways. In todays “Experience Economy”, it is estimated that 65% of 18-34 year olds are more fulfilled by live experience than possessions. Digital advertising is already interactive in a lot of senses, through simple NFC, QR codes, facial recognition, context awareness etc. and we expect further innovations in a connected context to develop at pace.

Augmented Reality: the first big AR sensation was Pokemon Go. Within a week of its launch last year more than 28 million people a day walking around town and staring at their screens to catch a Pokemon (much to the bewilderment of many onlookers). Now technology partner and advertisers are rightly excited about the potential. Tim Cook recently said of AR that it presented;

broad mainstream applicability across education, entertainment interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven’t even thought of

Beacon connectivity: to facilitate the consumer personalisation journey and communication, beacons are becoming more prevalent through the DOOH infrastructure with presence in taxis, retailers, buses, billboards, kiosks etc. We see this further with Google’s Eddystone beacons to create proximity-based experiences for consumers as an open beacon format for both Android and iOS. These developments have shifted the trend towards a creation of a new channel of personalisation based on precision of time, location and so context based digital advertising.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in DOOH innovation with great potential for media tech disruption, but with some significant risks for traditional players, some of which will struggle to shift their operating model and compete.

 

 

Cloud computing. Where does the responsibility for security lie?

Posted on : 31-10-2016 | By : michael.wells | In : Uncategorized

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It is rare for a firm these days, NOT to have a cloud strategy. Whether it be software as a service, a platform or infrastructure. Our clients’ views have changed radically over the last few years from a ‘no cloud’ to fully embracing on-demand computing services. One of the main previous challenges was that organisations did not feel their data was secure in the ‘cloud’, it was outside their control and so felt the likelihood of loss/breaches were heightened. Now a comment we often hear is ‘these guys can do security better than us’ they are Google with a security team of thousands!

Are companies becoming too complacent? Yes – Microsoft does have a great security model, It protects the datacentres, infrastructure and platforms extremely well. But… it does not protect your data. This is still your responsibility and we are identifying a gap between responsibilities of the cloud provider and the client.

One of the biggest cyber security risks facing business today is the loss of data and cloud services face similar challenges. A cloud environment is subject to the same risks as the traditional corporate network. In fact, cloud providers are more attractive targets for the hackers due to the vast volumes of data they hold in a sometimes all too easily accessible environment. Cloud providers do, of course, claim to offer a secure environment, and a high level of security for the aspects of the cloud service they take responsibility for. It is the customer’s responsibility to ensure that their data is protected. Business often assumes that by outsourcing their data to a third-party cloud service provider that the security has been covered, but business should never assume this to be the case.  Every business must accept that they are ultimately responsible for their date where ever it is stored.

AWS has been quoted as saying “we are not the owners or custodians of the data; we just supply the resources. We don’t control how customer data is protected, customers do”

The bottom line for any enterprise looking to move to a cloud technology model is that they must undertake extensive due diligence to understand the risks they are facing by adopting this model and how the engagement of a third-party supplier to provide this service will exacerbate the risk.  In simple terms storing data in the cloud is the same as storing your data on someone else’s computer.

So, what are the biggest threats facing cloud service users?

User Error: Cloud applications are excellent for file sharing amongst multiple users. Research shows that 23% of files in cloud apps are broadly shared and 12% of those contain sensitive information. Without adequate security controls in place which track with whom, how and when a file and content are shared users are unable to track where their data is travelling and to whom.  This makes it easier for data to be lost by accident or for hackers to intercept without being noticed.

Hackers Attack: Hackers force attacks and use malware to break into cloud application accounts. In the first 6 months of 2016, 37% of abnormal cloud application activity indicated attempts to take over cloud accounts and 63% of abnormal cloud activity indicated attempts to steal data.

There are steps business can take to increase the security of their data in the cloud:

  • Encryption and key management- Data should be encrypted when it travels back and forth over the internet and when it is hosted in the cloud provider’s environment.
  • Identity and Access Management – Cloud providers are user innovative multi factor authentication technology.
  • Monitoring and reporting – What access controls have been set on your cloud environment. Do these breach internal controls? E.G. has someone ‘shared to public’ a Office365 SharePoint directory so exposing confidential data to the world?

Security firms are waking up to the gap in responsibilities. For example, PaloAlto now utilises tools to analyse your O365 environment for security discrepancies allowing a higher degree of monitoring and control.

As cloud computing becomes more popular, it will become the target of more malicious attacks. No single environment is safe and every infrastructure must be controlled with set policies in place.

 

 

5 Minutes with Isabella De Michelis Di Slonghello, founder and CEO of Hi Pulse

Posted on : 28-06-2016 | By : richard.gale | In : 5 Minutes With, Featured Startup, Innovation

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Isabella De Michelis Di Slonghello, CEO and founder of Hi Pulse, a fintech firm focusing on privacy preferences management. Isabella previously was Vice President for Technology Strategy at Qualcomm.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I’m a Mum on duty and an entrepreneur launching a new technology business. It’s a real challenge to match and deliver on both fronts. As (at High Pulse) we are in the development phase of the product and it’s an internet service, which will boost consumers privacy, I have taken a lot of inspiration in talking to my children when we designed the requirements. Not surprisingly, they returned very constructive feedback showing they are fully aware of the internet economics and of the so called free-internet model functioning. They are 9 and 13 years old. So I take this as a good sign of maturity of how younger generation are looking at the internet: a wonderful experience on condition to remember what the rules of the game are.

For several years you have worked in Government Affairs… the EU is now taking major steps to strengthen data protection, such as the GDPR – what changes should we expect in the next couple of years? In your opinion, is GDPR sufficient?

I consider the adoption of GDPR a pivotal step in the construction of the digital world of the future. Many are the challenges to its implementation, however the goals set forth in the Regulation are achievable and companies shall start immediately looking into what the new requirements set. I hope other jurisdictions in the world will get inspired from the GDPR. I sense that some players in the market may feel uncomfortable with some of the provisions and in particular, with those which relates to “enforcement”. However, a strong enforcement scheme is what will trigger a much more solid and consumer friendly environment and this is really highly welcome.

Based on your experience as Vice President and Managing Director at Qualcomm Europe and VP Technology Policy Strategy (EMEA) at Qualcomm Technologies, what advice would you offer to women aspiring to leadership positions within the IT/tech industries?

Leadership positions are always open for women who want to take on opportunities in IT/tech as in every other industry. But it requires a high level of commitment, a great dose of energy and the openness to understand that finding a mentor and building your own network of influence are as important steps as distinguishing yourself by skills like executing, partnering and communicating.

In your opinion, how can we get more girls into IT?

It’s a public policy imperative. Computer science programming should become a basic competence from elementary schools onward and be taught to boys and girls at the same time. There would be lot more girls in IT if coding would be treated for what it is – a basic learning tool like, maths and physics.

Which tech innovations/trends are you the most excited about?

Bringing internet connectivity to the next 4 bn people in the world is one of the greatest objectives which I would like to see realized in coming years. Technology innovation in that space has lot of potential. Applications in personalized health have also strong potential. I expect big data to be a big contributor to future trends and financial technology to really take a boost in coming years.