Saturday, 1 October 2016

Brand Message Apps

Facebook planning ads on its messenger services, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. FB says that brands will have a good fit with its messenger services and it sees more opportunities for monetisation on this front. On some predictions over 2 billion people will use messenger apps by 2019.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Friday, 30 September 2016

Chasing the Next Billion in India

Tech firms targeting the Next Billion users in India, most of whom are likely to connect to the Internet for the first time via mobile phones.

Earlier this week, at its Made for India event, Google unveiled a bunch of services targeted at the Indian users, reports Times of India. Not only did the company revealed that India was among the very first countries to get the messaging app Allo, it also announced Google Station Wi-Fi platform and new offline feature for Chrome web browser.

Along with these, Google also introduced a new mobile app that it says is 'India-inspired' and 'India-First'. Called YouTube Go, the app is said to be aimed at bringing down mobile data bills. The new video-streaming service adds to the company's long term goal of making internet accessible to the 'Next Billion' users in India and enhancing the Google experience for them. The app is said to have been built from the ground-up keeping Indian users in focus who are more conscious about their data and connectivity.

The app is still to hit the Google Play Store, however, interested users can sign up on the website www.youtubego.com/signup to get notified about the app's availability. The app will be hitting to more early testers gradually over the next few months. The app lets users save videos even in poor connectivity in standard quality. It also gives users control over how much data to consume while watching videos. Users can also preview videos first before downloading them for offline viewing in the app.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

What type of Advertising suits your Startup?

Getting your advertising right to get your product, pricing and positioning right.

Leo Burnett, the founder of the global advertising company once said, 'The sole purpose of business is service, reports Times of India. The sole purpose of advertising is explaining the service which business renders.' But, what if your business cannot afford to explain what it does? Does not advertising mean limiting customer acquisition? Should marketing be an essential part of a startup budget? In a world where even unicorn startups like Flipkart and Snapdeal have not turned profitable, but are spending crores on advertising, it is difficult being a startup that cannot advertise. Yet, that is the hard road most startups have to trudge through.

A road made difficult by several investors losing interest in funding startups, evident by the low number of funding rounds this year. While doomsayers are predicting a startup bust on the lines of the dotcom bust of 1990s, advertising spend by startups is only expected to grow. According to TAM Adex, the startup boom has added 2000 new advertisers this year. So, when Snapdeal announces a Rs 200 crore marketing campaign, how are other startups supposed to behave?

Can it be counterproductive?
While ecommerce companies are intent on grabbing the biggest slice of the market, thus pushing profitability down the priority list, some startups like Chumbak have chosen to grow slowly but steadily. "To not advertise was a conscious strategy. For a long time, our products spoke for themselves, which helped us grow. Word of mouth was sufficient for us as we focussed on turning our stores profitable. Maybe Chumbak would have been bigger if I had spent on advertising, but the question is, would it have been profitable?" asks Vivek Prabhakar, cofounder, Chumbak. It is hard to resist the lure of mass advertising - the chance of reaching millions of consumers at the same time, connecting with them and building a brand recall. However, it could spell disaster if done too soon. Many startups pivot their business model in the initial months or some even after years in operation. Snapdeal itself pivoted from being a deals platform to an ecommerce company two years after its launch.

Spending part of very essential funding on advertising during the initial journey of a startup when the product or the business model has not been proven might not only prove to be a massive waste, but counterproductive. "Initially you are looking to get the first thousand customers on board and not millions. It is not advisable to go for mass advertising because the product has not yet been proven. You could be destroyed in one shot. No startup can recover from a mass failure like that," agrees Saurabh Uboweja, founder and CEO of Brands of Desire. Lack of funds and more importantly, lack of product validation are the reasons many startups skip mass marketing and focus on digital or direct marketing. Digital advertising may still be in the nascent stages, but it surely helps in experimentation and validation of the product during the initial months.

The ROI
This is the very reason that the founders of FindMyStay, a reverse bidding platform for hotels decided to choose direct marketing. Taking the fiasco of Housing.com as a cautionary tale, Khetrapal insists that the startup would rather focus on ensuring adequate inventory before stretching the scale. "Print is an expensive medium and so is television. If you do not have sufficient budget for it, you might as well not spend. It could backfire when we do not have enough hotels on board. Housing.com is a good example of that. We need to grow in a strategic manner and achieve that certain critical mass before we got for ATL (above the line) marketing. One advertisement is not going to give ROI (return on investment)," says Rohit Khetrapal, cofounder of FindMyStay. While limitations like these stop many from investing money on mass advertising, there are some startups who would rather not advertise. "We do not believe in advertising. We are a marketing company ourselves and we want to ensure that our merchants see us a channel that they can rely on. We target customers through digital marketing, yet ninety percent of our traffic comes through referral. Our marketing budget is zero and we prefer to go grow inorganically," shares founder of Crownit, a discovery and cash back startup.

It's different
While for consumer facing businesses, advertising is an essential which can only be delayed and not ignored; it is a different story for B2B startups. While niche advertising mediums are available for the segment, yet the impact of referrals is far greater and far more desired. Cyber security startup Lucideus, which provided end -to- end security for RBI's recently launched Unified Payments I (UPI) platform, claims to have spent nothing on marketing of its startup. "We have never felt the need to market ourselves. We invested that money into getting the right talent and improving our technology. This is the only reason why a small company like ours can boast of the clientele we have. These days, CEOs and CXOs of big companies are all connected over Whatsapp groups so if you do a good job, you can be assured of getting good clients," explains Saket Modi, cofounder and CEO of Lucideus. The startup counts companies like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Cairn India, Taco Bell, Spice Jet, among its clients.

Then again startups operating in niche segments like fintech have a different need - a need that is difficult to fulfil on a mass advertising platform. Educating consumers on the whys and how's of a fintech product requires more support than what ATL can provide. For instance, Faircent, a peer-to-peer lending startup claims to have been growing at a rate of 30-40% without the support of ATL. "This kind of product requires a lot of education which can only come through content. So from a marketing point of view, we did a lot of earned and owned media. Advertising is the last piece of marketing - you need to get your product, pricing and positioning right first. But, if someone starts a war, we will be part of it," says Rajat Gandhi, founder and CEO of Faircent.


SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Is an IPO exit the right move now

Is an IPO exit the right move now?

A handful of domestic enterprise software companies including Druva Software and Manthan Software Services are exploring plans to list their shares on stock exchanges, signalling the rapid maturing of at least some sections of India's startup industry, reports Times of India. Business process management company Newgen Software Technologies and consumer analytics firm Capillary Technologies are considering public market debuts in 18-24 months, according to multiple sources aware of the companies' plans. "We have received suggestions from a few US banks to publicly list Manthan on Nasdaq," said Atul Jalan, chief executive of business intelligence venture Manthan.

"It has been an agenda on our board meeting discussions for a while now," Jalan said. "The board and investors believe an IPO is a trajectory the company should take." Druva's Chief Technology Officer Milind Borate said the enterprise data protection firm was "marching towards an IPO". While an initial public offering would present the companies' venture capital backers an opportunity to sell their investments and exit, it would also put the firms under greater public scrutiny and pressure to show consistent growth in revenues and profits. Enterprise software firms, unlike several larger and more popular consumer internet companies, are able to weigh public share listings as a viable option both because of their long focus on profitability and the buoyancy in domestic and global equity markets.

The venture capital investors have another potential exit option as well, having begun to see greater inbound strategic interest from global corporations, primarily from the US, for some of their portfolio companies. "An IPO need not be the only exit. The interest from an acquisition standpoint, whether domestic or international, is also on the rise," said Aneesh Reddy, chief executive of Capillary Technologies. "But I also think if you want to run a company independently, over a period of time, you will need to go public and get an exit for investors." Reddy, however, said that Capillary was at least "two-three years away" from listing itself. Druva's Borate, while declining to provide details, said that considering the company's growth it was ready for a public market debut. "We haven't finalised a plan yet, but between choices of getting acquired or public listing, we choose going public," Borate told ET. The Sunnyvale-headquartered firm was valued at about $220 million in 2014 when it raised $25 million in series-D funding, according to market estimates. Druva on Wednesday raised $51million at an undisclosed valuation in series-E funding led by Sequoia Capital. Newgen, according to the sources mentioned above, has held early discussions with merchant banks to gauge the markets in India and the United States.

'HIGH INBOUND INTEREST'
The company's CEO Diwakar Nigam said uncertainties existed in both Indian and foreign equity markets. "While it may not be the right time to go (public) right now, six or nine months down the line would be an ideal time," he said. "For companies that are providing tech solutions to the domestic and US markets, it is a fantastic time to come through." Newgen counts IDG Ventures and private equity firm Ascent Capital among backers, while Capillary's investor table includes Warburg Pincus, Norwest Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital. Manthan's investors include Norwest, Temasek, which is backed by the Singapore government, and Eight Roads Ventures, which was formerly known as Fidelity Growth Partners India. "It is totally accurate to say that the level of inbound interest in higher-quality companies, whether through IPO or an M and A, is pretty high," said Mohit Bhatnagar, managing director of Sequoia Capital. Bhatnagar's buoyancy is understandable, given that Sequoia scored an exit with fourfold returns from the $130-million acquisition of portfolio company Citrus Pay by Naspers-owned PayU this month. This was preceded by a partial exit from another portfolio company, Quick Heal Technologies, when it raised about Rs 450 crore in its IPO in February, making the marquee VC firm one of the most successful risk-capital investors operating in the country. Sequoia manages assets of about $3 billion in India. "Is the market now more accepting? Yes it is, and that too without dropping quality, which is really important. Secondly, the quality of our founders, and the vision that they are painting, is world-class," Bhatnagar said.

CHANCES OF DOMESTIC LISTING SLIM
However, with many of India's product tech startups catering to markets outside the country, the possibilities of them exploring domestic listing are rather slim. VC investors also point out that in spite of an active IPO market, retail investors are yet to truly understand the fundamental business models of these ventures. "If you look at Nasdaq, the market is mature enough to analyse and factor the potential into the price. I think that kind of maturity still isn't there in the Indian markets," said Mohan Kumar, executive director at Norwest Venture Partners. This year has been positive in terms of IPOs, especially for risk capital-backed companies. According to Venture Intelligence, about a dozen private equity and venture capital-backed companies have raised over $1.3 billion in IPOs between January and September so far. In the same year-ago period, a similar number of companies went public but raised about $621 million from the market.


SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Transmitting Data Through a Human Body

Transmitting Secure Data Through a Human Body

A team of Indian-American engineers has devised a way to send secure passwords through the human body using smartphone fingerprint sensors and laptop touchpads -- rather than over the air where they're vulnerable to hacking, reports Times of India. Sending a password or secret code over airborne radio waves like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth means anyone can eavesdrop, making those transmissions vulnerable to hackers who can attempt to break the encrypted code. Now, computer scientists and electrical engineers from Seattle-based University of Washington have devised a way to send secure passwords through the human body -- using benign, low-frequency transmissions generated by fingerprint sensors and touchpads on consumer devices. "Fingerprint sensors have so far been used as an input device. What is cool is that we've shown for the first time that fingerprint sensors can be re-purposed to send out information that is confined to the body," said senior author Shyam Gollakota, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

These "on-body" transmissions offer a more secure way to transmit authenticating information between devices that touch parts of your body -- such as a smart door lock or wearable medical device -- and a phone or device that confirms your identity by asking you to type in a password. "Let's say I want to open a door using an electronic smart lock," said co-lead author Merhdad Hessar, an electrical engineering doctoral student. "I can touch the doorknob and touch the fingerprint sensor on my phone and transmit my secret credentials through my body to open the door, without leaking that personal information over the air." The research team tested the technique on iPhone and other fingerprint sensors, as well as Lenovo laptop trackpads and the Adafruit capacitive touchpad.

In tests with 10 different subjects, they were able to generate usable on-body transmissions on people of different heights, weights and body types. The system also worked when subjects were in motion -- including while they walked and moved their arms. "We showed that it works in different postures like standing, sitting and sleeping," said co-lead author Vikram Iyer, electrical engineering doctoral student. "We can also get a strong signal throughout your body. The receivers can be anywhere -- on your leg, chest, hands -- and still work." The technology could also be useful for secure key transmissions to medical devices such as glucose monitors or insulin pumps, which seek to confirm someone's identity before sending or sharing data. The new technique was described in a paper presented at the 2016 Association for Computing Machinery's International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2016) in Germany this month.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Idea Competition

Idea Competition

Deep down all of us want to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Sitting in your cubicle, you may wonder how the billionaire in your dreams is still stuck in a mediocre 9-5 life, reports Economic Times. Maybe it is time to move up the line of bosses and be your own boss. Instead to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship and business acumen among people all around the world, IIT Bombay's Eureka! is a contest that fast tracks the journey from an innovative idea to a commercial success.

Most of us are too afraid to try, but what if Elon Musk had been too scared to seek something new? If you have an idea or a startup in its adolescence, the E-Cell at IIT Bombay is providing the one in a million opportunity to take your idea/startup to the next level. Eureka! is a business model competition designed to emulate the process of the growth of an idea towards a full-fledged startup.

Right from acknowledging that your idea has potential, to drafting a B-Model, and pitching in front of a panel of investors - this platform has it all. The competition, which was launched on August 27, is divided into three rounds. The first stage involves the questionnaire round. This includes a series of workshops across major cities in India, which include cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Noida and even Tier II and III cities like Sonipat and Siliguri. 

Participants at these workshops will be encouraged to write and submit their business plans to Eureka! It will be conducted by leading entrepreneurs, IIT/IIM alumnus and investors. Students irrespective of their background - engineering, management or others can be a part of this workshop. The stage also includes the questionnaire submission, after which the semi-finalist for Eureka! will be declared. This would include top 50 entries from the business track, top 25 entries from the social track and top 10 entries each from the special categories. 

The next round is the business model round where online mentoring will be provided to the semi-finalist, followed by a one-on-one mentoring session at IIT Bombay and the final B-Model submission. By the beginning of 2017, the finalist will be declared, which would include top eight in the business track, top five in social track and top five in each of the special awards category. 

The event will finally culminate with the Pitching Round where each participant will present their idea to the judging panel and winners will be declared and awarded during the E-Summit to be held in IIT Bombay on January 28-29, 2017. Over the 17 years of its existence, Eureka! has grown from a competition in which 50 teams competed for Rs 50,000, to a competition which sees over 8000 entries competing for prizes worth Rs 50 lakh at stake with excellent networking opportunities in India and the Silicon Valley.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Improving your chances of success

Improving your chances of success

Economic Times gives tips for success: Success is never easy and sustained winning at your career over a 30 to 40 year span is incredibly hard

Hack — an uncommon but clever technique to solve problems or create a favourable position. Success is never easy and sustained winning at your career over a 30 to 40 year span is incredibly hard. However, the most successful people seem to get there effortlessly every time. What's common to them is neither genetics nor luck but a set of common habits that create the momentum and circumstances for the dice to be loaded in their favour. You too can take responsibility for your success and achieve massive outcomes by making these small changes in your life that most people ignore. 

Kill the 'snooze' button
'Mind over mattress,' says Robin Sharma, life coach and author. A study says most top executives wake up daily between 4 am and 6 am. Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his day at 4.30 am and is in the gym by 5 am. The extra time you gain in the morning gives you an unfair head start over the rest of the world. You can choose to invest in your health and longevity through exercise, plan out your day to remain in control, spend time with your family or simply complete a few tasks before other people wake up. You will learn to go to sleep early, thus swapping an hour or two of non-productive tiredness for the early morning energy and lack of distraction. One hour every work day morning adds up to a 250 hour advantage or 6 extra working weeks in a year. Your evenings make your career: Quite simply, what you do with the time under your control is what determines where you will end up in life. Thus what you choose to do after work matters more than what you do at office where you have little choice. Instead of TV or social media, invest in yourself. Self-made billionaires like Warren Buffet, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey are all voracious readers, reading more than two hours a day as opposed to the average person's 20 minutes. Connect and catch up with people after work to create stronger bonds and grow your network. Do an online course and get certified. The hours invested add up quickly and pay rich dividends. 

First-half hack: 
Stack up your to-do list towards the first half of the day and reserve the second half for meeting people, following up on projects and tackling emergencies. Very successful sales people kick-start their day by making the toughest call first. By getting the most important tasks done when you are fresh builds up tremendous momentum for the entire day. Postponing heavy thinking or problem solving for the second half, when the team is distracted or tired, rarely works out. 

The four-hour game:
Replace four hours of watching cricket over weekends with a game of your own. Choose a skill that you would like to acquire but are never able to find time for. Start writing that book you always wanted to. Learn android programming because you want to be an app developer. As you find enjoyment in learning and growth you will look for opportunities to display and apply your new found skills during the work week. Four hours per weekend adds five working weeks to a year. 

Five minute rule:
 If a task takes five minutes or less, do it now. Else feel free to postpone it. If you remembered a pending follow-up sales call, do it immediately. Successful people are incredibly prompt with responses to requests. They learn to dash off an email while the request is fresh. Avoiding small tasks increases your mental overhead and your to-do list. Getting them out of the way eliminates nagging feelings that prevent you from focusing on big projects. 

When in doubt say 'Yes':
Successful people simply find themselves in the right place at the right time. They get there by saying 'Yes' more often than they say 'No' when an opportunity comes up. Volunteer for projects and activities even when the payoff is uncertain. As you become more accepting of half chances that come your way, your success rate takes off. Even where there is no payoff, you become a person to whom people say Yes when you need help. 

Schedule fun:
Treat your recreation time with importance. Schedule fun for your free time. Successful entrepreneurs and professionals either have a hobby they fall back on or know which activities energise them. If you love movies, schedule one a week. Block your calendar for playing football with friends. Make a family outing compulsory for Sundays. Your fun time relieves your stress and brings back joy and happiness that keeps you going through the week. 

Daily gratitude:
Look out for what is working well and express gratitude every day. When you look out for what is good in your family and team and praise someone daily, you boost their energy levels. Acknowledging others mentally relaxes you and increases their success rate which benefits you too. Counting your own blessings and expressing gratitude keeps you grounded and puts your troubles in perspective. 

OFFICE HACKS

The 'Write' Way  
Carry a notebook to meetings. Note down tasks, ideas, responsibilities and deadlines. This improves concentration and listening skills. You never miss out on responsibilities and have a written reference for the future. 

Find The Wheel
Don't waste time reinventing the wheel. Turn in high quality work while saving hours and days in doing it. Whenever you start a new task, look for the optimum way from someone who has done it before. 

Recap 
After a meeting, ask the person receiving instructions to summarise what was understood. By repeating and over communicating, you eliminate costly misunderstandings. By synthesising what was said, you engage your mind with the problem. 

One Last Time
Before submitting your work or sending email, double check for mistakes and language. If it is a critical task, have another pair of eyes go over it. If you are working on an excel or code, build checksums and automated unit testing mechanisms. 

Cooperate
Whenever you get a chance, lend a helping hand to team mates with deadlines and tasks. Mid and late stage career progressions is dependent on your ability to work with people. As you build bonds, you also receive support. 

Reminder System
For deadlines, put in a calendar reminder to follow up mid-way and closer to end of task. This helps everyone monitor progress and make corrections or add resources before an incomplete project becomes a crisis.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Cybersecurity Collaboration

Cybersecurity collaboration

With the aim to exchange information and best practices on cybersecurity, the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), a premier body on cybersecurity, on Saturday launched its first global chapter in Singapore, reports Times of India. The DSCI Singapore chapter will help build linkages with various stakeholders in the government, industry and academia and establish channels of collaboration on policy deliberation, industry development and capacity building on security privacy and cybercrime investigation, among others.

"Cybersecurity is a global issue and needs attention of all stakeholders. It is essential that countries become partners to address this issue collaboratively," said Vijay Thakur Singh, high commissioner to Singapore, in a statement. "In the light of recent affirmative steps by both the countries on the issue of cybersecurity, these initiatives reinforce the vital role played by global thought leaders like DSCI in bringing the stakeholders together to address this common issue," Singh added.

The Singapore chapter will help the community bridge cybersecurity skills gap between India and Singapore and explore opportunities for developing niche capabilities in cybersecurity product space. "The formation of this chapter will be instrumental in building strong linkages between India and Singapore in the area of cybersecurity. We are working with governments across the globe to charter the way forward to address the issues in the cyberspace, including the cross border data flows, internet governance, privacy and others," noted Rama Vedashree, CEO, DSCI. DSCI has created a network of over 4,000 security and privacy professionals in India with 12 chapters operating successfully in different cities.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Employee Engagement: HR Disruption

Employee Engagement: HR Disruption

Times of India publishes an article by Shakun Khanna: Within two days of the launch of Pokemon Go, Nintendo's shares surged a quarter and $7.5 billion was added to its valuation. In India alone, the app has been downloaded over 100 million times, 50 million in Singapore and boasts 9.55 million total daily US users. Pokemon Go has well and truly taken the world by storm. Seemingly overnight the World has woken up to multiple people challenges, ranging from security issues, compliance, manpower availability, lack of competitive strategies, inability to capture new opportunities etc. It has also added to the HR's complex responsibility of creating a 'Future Ready, Competitive Organisation'. The advent of the virtual creatures reiterates the importance of the following messages for the HR community:

People engagement continues to be the single most potent driver of business results: When people are engaged with a product, service or for that matter the game in this case, they put in unprecedented amounts of effort to achieve their goals. Be it customers or employees. HR's biggest challenge is then, creating a culture of engagement for employees of the digital tribe. HR needs to reinvent the secret Razz Berry recipe to drive engagement.

Technology has evolved into both the creator and the destructor of business challenges: Technological disruptions are creating competition from unthinkable directions. Who would have imagined that Pokemon Go could pose a threat to Whatsapp, Twitter or even Tinder when it comes to customer engagement? Virtually augmented creatures seem to be more appealing than dating real humans, this is interesting as well as scary. On the other hand. the marriage of new age technology with our childhood favorite Pokemon has given it a new lease on life and a new childhood to us. HR needs to be able to handle this mammoth invasion of technology in the world that we work in.

Lifespan of roles, competencies and skill sets is diminishing: Within a few days of the launch of Pokemon Go, a new job 'Pokemon Go Coach' emerged, with an hourly rate of $20. Of course, it will be a career with a very short shelf life. In order to enable organizations to consistently deliver and succeed, HR will need to be able to create ecosystems that can multiply unknown competencies and skills at a rapid pace. The next goal to achieve will be then to ensure that such role holders deliver their peak performance in a very short span of time and move on to acquire the newer competencies.

Time to think of talent 'Lure Modules' and 'Incubators'.
Social and mobile are the new survival imperatives for the 400 year old corporate world: While mobility and social connections remain the instinctive needs of the human race, they have adopted completely different meaning today. HR needs to ensure that the contemporary workforce is fully enabled from mobility and social perspectives. Employees today need to be able to catch-up on work from anywhere, at any time - as much as they need to catch the Pokemon. 

Data in the Cloud has contributed in its own way towards disappearance, 52% of Fortune 500 companies since 2000: The unprecedented power that Cloud Computing is bringing to enterprises is the new corporate might. Enabling the enterprises to deliver on ground will need real-time HR insights that are actionable, perceptive, predictive and above all flawlessly prescriptive. And most HR teams do not seem to have such 'Talent Pokedex'.

So, what is it that the HR community needs to do?
HR's capabilities need to be exceptionally agile to deliver solutions for business challenges that have not yet emerged. This would call for 'Transformation' of not only the HR systems and processes but the entire HR Mindset. The reactive approach of HR needs to evolve into 'Proactive and Procreative' mindset that enables organisations to prepare for not only the real challenges, but also virtual and augmented challenges. It is time to move beyond the fighting with the 'Art of HR' to leveraging the arsenal of technology, data and analytics.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Regtech: Risky Business

Regtech: Risky Business

Times of India reports that the Hong Kong securities regulator is due next month to kick-off a pilot "fintech" project as part of a broader plan to improve the way the watchdog monitors and detects systemic risk, according to a public tender document and individuals familiar with the plans. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) will team-up with a sample group of 20 banks and an external technology firm to overhaul the way it uses financial data, according to the tender document seeking a third party to help the SFC run the project.

Fintech describes a new wave of financial technology firms that are poised to shake-up the global financial services industry. Regulators and banks are increasingly using these new technologies, such as artificial intelligence or data analytics, to address new regulations and better manage risk - an emerging phenomenon dubbed "regtech". The SFC hopes to more intelligently analyse the data it gathers from financial firms and the market to spot risks such as product mis-selling or fraud. "The goal is to make use of the fast evolution of fintech and regtech globally to complement the SFC's daily work and existing processes," it adds. 

Regulators globally are stepping-up efforts to identify systemic risks, but many are struggling to effectively analyse the growing volume of data they are gathering. "The SFC has problems around different data sources, different formats, different time-intervals. They spend a lot of time capturing and aggregating data when they'd much rather spend time deriving insight from the data," said one individual with knowledge of the project. The United Kingdom's Financial Conduct Authority has also been promoting the development of "regtech" to help address a range of regulatory challenges, including data management as well as combating money laundering and cyber risk.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Friday, 23 September 2016

Augmented Reality and Private Property Rights

Augmented reality and games like Pokemon Go have created a debate on the law over private property rights and virtual rights over private property. Can a property owner claim virtual rights over his/her property just like other easements or as, e.g. governments claim airspace over their territory?

Times of India reports that within one week in July the Sydney suburb of Rhodes was transformed from a quiet neighbourhood to what resident Joyce Wong described as a "place of carnage" with hundreds of people wandering around like "zombies". "The car hooting noise was incessant, on weekends you felt like you were under siege and the rubbish and litter all over the public areas was terrible," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email from her home in the Australian city. The reason for the constant disturbance? Pokemon Go, the latest craze in augmented reality. The game took the world by storm this summer as animated creatures began appearing in the most unexpected places - all through the lens of a smartphone.

The global popularity of the game and other video games that put digital "characters" into real places - from private homes to shops, parks and even monuments and museums - has fuelled debate on land rights, the legal boundaries of private property, and what constitutes trespass. Experts say the inter-section between virtual reality and property law is not clear and nobody really knows what the rights of property owners are when digital characters or structures appear on their land. "A lot of people are convinced that because they own their property, they ought to be able to control the virtual space," said Brian Wassom, a lawyer at Michigan's Warner Norcross & Judd LLP with expertise in augmented reality. "I think they're going to come to the answer which I have come to, which is: no, you can't," he said in a phone interview. He said land rights only apply when there has been something or someone physically present on the property.

However, this distinction is becoming blurred as more and more examples of the power the digital world can hold over specific geographical spots emerge. Pokestops - For example in the United States certain properties have ended up as default locations for millions of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, a computer's public address, leading to a myriad of problems including unwanted visitors and police searches. Meanwhile, the placing of Pokestops - places where players collect virtual Pokeballs to help them move forward in the game - has fuelled consternation when they appeared in some surprising spots, including Washington's Holocaust museum, New York's Sept. 11 memorial and a Cambodian genocide museum.

Following its initial launch in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand on July 6, Pokemon Go was rolled out further afield and downloaded more than 500 million times. While not the first augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, developed by US software firm Niantic Inc, is the most popular to date, raising more questions about how virtual games impact property rights. What happens when games based around virtual violence like Grand Theft Auto are launched in similar formats? If the technology becomes more widely available, could individuals begin leaving messages on your house? These questions are yet to be answered, and Boon Sheridan, from Massachusetts, has another. This summer, Sheridan's home in a converted church in the northern US state also became a Pokemon Go gym. He wrote on Twitter in July: "Does having a gym layered on my house enhance or detract from my home's value?" "I just realized all the people walking or driving up, lingering, then moving on could easily make this place look like a dealer's house," he commented.

Caution - Lawyer Wassom said the test for whether a potential litigant has a case against a game creator at the moment seems clear: there needs to be proof of physical harm done to them or their property. They then need to be able to link that action directly to the company that created the game.
In this sense, Niantic has been careful. At the beginning of each game Pokemon Go instructs players not to trespass on private property, which means while a player who trespasses could potentially be prosecuted, the company itself can't, said Wassom. Written requests to Niantic for comment went unanswered. Niantic was spun off from Google Inc. in 2015 in partnership with Nintendo and its partly owned Pokemon Company. Wassom said laws usually lag behind technological developments making it hard to predict the outcome of cases.

With the quest to catch rare Pokemon characters causing stampedes from the Taiwanese capital Taipei to New York's Central Park, Wassom said public parks and the police needed to take more responsibility. "I'm surprised that people haven't taken more action against the police departments or public park managers - the people responsible for managing the properties that (they) are complaining about." Back in Sydney, Wong said she wrote to her local council complaining about the disturbance, saying some players had jumped fences to trespass on private property. Nothing came of her efforts. Eventually, after the local community in Rhodes mobilized through a Facebook group and began petitioning Niantic for change, the Pokestops were removed without explanation or warning.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Poker Face: Emotion Recognition Tehcnology

MIT researchers have developed new technology that can detect someone's emotions using wireless signals. This tech might have potential commercial applications in for use in business negotiations, interviews or audience reaction for market research purposes. Such emotion detection technology could be incorporated into a smartphone possibly. Perhaps could be such tech could be used in Poker games?

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Bypass the 'Buy Box' on Online Marketplaces

Online marketplace manipulation. Customers should maybe bypass the 'Buy Box' or suggestions thrown up by online marketplaces and look at what else is on offer.

Times of India reports that online shopping portal Amazon's algorithms make customers pay more for popular products giving prominence to items that benefit the retail giant, a study by ProPublica said. ProPublica on Tuesday said it reviewed 250 frequently purchased products over several weeks to see what all were chosen to appear in the highly-prized 'buy box' that pops up first as a suggested purchase.

Amazon that bills itself as the "Earth's most customer-centric company", not only sells products directly itself, but also allows other retailers to sell their own products through its platform. This means that the same product could be offered by dozens of vendors at different prices and with different shipping costs.

When customers search for and click on a product, the Amazon algorithm chooses one vendor's offer to put in the buy box. Having product in this buy box offers a major advantage for the retailer -- as most customers end up adding it to the cart and buying it. ProPublica found that almost three-quarters of the time Amazon would place its own products or those from companies that pay Amazon to fulfil orders into the buy box -- even though they might not always be the cheapest.

If a customer bought everything recommended by Amazon's buy box they would end up paying 20% more than if the same products was bought at the lowest price on the platform, the study said. Amazon, however, offers a tool to allow customers to compare product prices by producing a list that ranks sellers of the same item by "price and shipping". Although even there, the company gives itself an advantage by omitting the shipping costs for its own products.

This would mean the rankings were accurate for Amazon Prime members, who get unlimited 'free' shipping for $99 per year, but for anyone else the ranking is misleading. Amazon insists that its algorithm chooses products to go into the buy box based on a range of factors -- including customer service and free delivery.
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Amazon founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Jeff Bezos had said in 2007 that it uses "very objective customer-centred algorithms" to automatically award the buy box to the lowest priced seller, which is clearly no longer the case. At least 94% of sellers who won the buy box placement without having the cheapest listing were either sold by Amazon itself or companies paying Amazon. The companies that do not pay Amazon hefty fees (between 10-20% of sales) to fulfil orders, find themselves sidelined.

ProPublica concluded that it shows how hidden algorithms govern online interaction from Google search results to Facebook news feeds.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Legal Judgments differ whether Bitcoin real money or not

Is Bitcoin money or not? A Judge in Florida ruled earlier this year that Bitcoin is not real money - see Licence to Print Money, Cryptically Speaking

But now, Times of India reports that Bitcoin qualifies as money, a federal judge ruled on Monday, in a decision linked to a criminal case over hacking attacks against JPMorgan Chase and other companies. US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan rejected a bid by Anthony Murgio to dismiss two charges related to his alleged operation of Coin.mx, which prosecutors have called an unlicensed bitcoin exchange. Murgio had argued that bitcoin did not qualify as "funds" under the federal law prohibiting the operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses.

But the judge, like her colleague Jed Rakoff in an unrelated 2014 case, said the virtual currency met that definition. "Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term," Nathan wrote. "Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment." The decision did not address six other criminal counts that Murgio faces, Nathan wrote. Lawyers for Murgio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Problems with proprietary hardware

Problems with proprietary hardware and software

BBC News reports "Large numbers of HP printer owners found their printers stopped recognising unofficial printer ink cartridges on 13 September. Dutch printer ink vendor 123inkt said it had received more than 1,000 complaints in one day. HP said that during its last firmware update, settings had been changed so HP printers would communicate with only HP-chipped cartridges. It also said some devices already had the functionality built-in. 123inkt said it did not believe that a firmware update had been issued since March 2016, suggesting the change had been pre-programmed to roll out this month. HP said such updates were rolled out "periodically" but did not comment on the timing of the last instalment."

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Monday, 19 September 2016

Apps are now the preferred method for communication and content

Google wants to compete with WhatsApp and Hike in mobile communication and content with its new apps. Smartphones are now used not so much for dialing and making calls as before but for chatting and sharing content using apps. Apps are now the preferred method for communication and sharing content.

Google announced the Duo video calling app and Allo chat app at its I/O developer conference back in May this year. Last month, the company officially launched Duo, which crossed 10 million downloads in just a month. Now, the company has confirmed that it will be launching Allo soon as well. Speaking to Gadgets Now, Google confirmed that it will be launching Allo chatting app for all users on September 21.

For those unaware, Allo is a standalone messaging app which comes with a built-in search engine. It has Google Assistant integration and uses the phone number as the primary user identification method. Users can also link their Google account to the app. Allo has various emojis and custom stickers, catering to different users based on their region. One of the important features is the aforementioned built-in search, which allows users to initiate Google searches by just typing @google followed by the search query. This means that users don't have to leave the chat window for searching information relevant to the current conversation.

Is a VR headset on the cards for Apple?

Is a VR and/or AR headset on the cards for Apple?

Times of India reports that Apple continues hiring augmented and virtual reality experts, an area which the company's CEO Tim Cook has been referring to all year, a media report said. Apple has hired two experts -- Zeyu Li, who had worked at augmented reality (AR) startup Magic Leap and Yury Petrov, who had worked with Oculus VR, Facebook's virtual reality(VR) platform.

Virtual reality "probably has a lower commercial interest over time" and that "augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far" technology website The Verge quoted Cook as saying. Apple will continue to invest in augmented and virtual reality research and the company already has hundreds of people working on AR and VR, with an aim to eventually build some kind of headset, the report added.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lord of the Apps: Super Apps

Taking a line from Lord of the Rings: One App to Rule them All.

India's top apps are on the journey to become super apps, a model proven successful by neighbour China's WeChat and Alipay, reports Economic Times. From payment solution provider Paytm to personal assistance app Helpchat, Indian startups are now experimenting the one-fit-for-all approach to click with India's low budget and low-memory smartphone market. 

Super apps or apps that provide multiple use cases such as cab booking, bill payment, food ordering, flight booking are integrated in a single app that hosts various portals providing these services. "Based on our learnings from China, we foresee Indians adopting more new use-cases on the same app. We've noticed early signs of that already, and are actively working to add more new use-cases on the Paytm app," said Sudhanshu Gupta, vice-president at Paytm. Paytm, like its partner app, Alipay the payment service from Ant Financial, an affiliate of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has also evolved from a payment service provider to a utility super app. It's also about users being comfortable in transacting through a familiar app, said Gupta. 

A new service provider integrated with a super app holds better chance of acquiring a customer through a channel the consumer already trusts. As India continues to be one of the fastest growing smartphone markets, it is still dominated by value-for-money handsets -phones that are generally low on memory. "While apps compete with media files for phone memory, a super app like Helpchat can help users save around 500 MB of space since users don't need to download multiple apps to get things done," said Ankur Singla, founder, Helpchat. 

Also, with a single super app hosting different apps, users need not update apps, each time there's a new update pushed on to the app, helping save MBs data per month on an average. These super apps can also help Indian consumers solve working their way through patchy internet bandwidth. "We have optimised the interactions such that there is minimal usage of heavy elements in the conversations," said Sachin Jaiswal, founder of Ratan Tata-backed chat commerce platform Niki.ai. For example, while booking a cab on Niki, the app doesn't load maps in the beginning, which takes up a chunk of network bandwidth thus making the cab booking process slower on a traditional cab hailing app. Almost all user transactions on Niki are done over a chat platform, doing away with the need to download data heavy files. Niki.ai that currently offers utility and bill payments, mobile recharges, cab bookings, bus booking and food ordering through its partners has a light-weight app. Meanwhile, businesses are also starting to see value in integrating with these super apps.

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