From Industrial 4.0 to Finance 4.0


 

MOST people are somewhat aware about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first industrial revolution occurred with the rise of steam power and manufacturing using iron and steel. The second revolution started with the assembly line which allowed specialisation of skills, represented by the Ford motor assembly line at the turn of the 20th century.

The third industrial revolution came with Japanese quality controls and use of telecommunication technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or first called by the Europeans Industry 4.0, is all about the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics and process, creative design and high speed computing capability to revolutionise production, distribution and consumption. Finance is a derivative of the real economy – its purpose is to serve real production. Early finance was all about the finance of trade and governments to engage in war.
It is no coincidence that the first central banks (Sweden and England) were established in the 17th century at the start of the First Industrial Revolution. Industrialisation became much more sophisticated as Finance 2.0 brought the rise of credit and equity markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Industrialisation and colonisation came about at the same time as the globalisation of banks, stocks and bond markets.

Again, with the invention of first the fax machine, then Internet that speeded up information storage and transmission in the 1980s, finance and industry took a quantum leap into the age of information technology. Finance 3.0 was the age of financial derivatives, in which very complex (and highly leveraged) derivatives became so opaque that investors and regulators realised they became what Warren Buffett called “weapons of mass destruction”. Finance 3.0 stalled in 2007 with the Global Financial Crisis and was only propped up with massive central bank intervention in terms of unconventional monetary policy with historically unprecedented interest rates.

We are now on the verge of Finance 4.0 and it may be useful to explore what it really means.

The common definition of Industry 4.0 is the rise of the Internet of Things, in which cloud computing, artificial intelligence and global connectivity means that cyber-physical systems can interact with each other to produce, distribute and trade across the world in a massively distributed system of production.

But what does Finance 4.0 really mean?

What truly differentiates Finance 4.0 from the earlier version is the arrival of Blockchain or distributed ledger technology. The best way to think about the difference is the architecture of the two different systems.

Finance 3.0 and earlier versions were all about a top-down or hierarchical ledger system, like a pyramid, in which trade and settlements between two parties are settled across a higher ledger.

A simple example is payment from Joe in bank A to Jim in bank B is finally settled across the books of the central bank in local currency. But in international trade and payments, the final settlements (at least more than 60%) are settled in US dollar finally across the ledgers of the Federal Reserve bank system.

Finance 3.0 was not perfect and those who wanted to avoid regulation, taxation or any official oversight basically moved trading and transactions off-balance sheet and also off-shore. This was the “shadow banking” system that financial regulators and central banks conveniently blamed on their failure to see or stop the last global financial crisis.

Although technically the shadow banking system is the non-bank financial system, which would include bond, stock and commodity markets, the bulk of illegal, illicit transactions traditionally was done in cash.

Welcome to the technical innovation called cyber-currencies, which was made possible for peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions across a distributed ledger system (commonly known as blockchain). In architectural terms, this is a bottom-up system which technically can avoid any official oversight. Indeed, cyber-currencies or tokens were invented precisely because the users do not trust the official system.

As the populist philosopher Stephen Bannon said, “central banks are in the business of debasing the currency”. Hence, those who want to avoid the debasement of their savings prefer to deal with either cash or cyber-tokens like bitcoin (pic).

What is happening in the rapidly evolving Finance 4.0 is that as the world moves from a unipolar order to a multi-polar world in which other reserve currencies also contend for trade and store of value, the top-down architecture is fusing (or merging) with a bottom-up architecture in which trade, transactions and stores of value are shifting towards the P2P shadow system.

Why this is taking place is not hard to understand. Post-global financial crisis, the amount of financial regulations have tripled in terms of number of rules and complexity on what the official sector can regulate, which is mostly the banking system. It is therefore not surprising that all the innovation, talent and money are moving to outside the banking system into the asset management industry, which is much more lightly regulated.

No talented banker, however dedicated to the values of banking probity, can resist the temptations of working in asset management, away from the heavily regulated environment where he or she is 24×7 under regulatory internal and external oversight.

Another reason why the cyber-P2P business is flourishing is because the official sector is worried that further regulation would hinder innovation. But those who want to increase the complexity of regulation must remember that for every 50 foot wall, someone will invent a 51 foot ladder.

So competition in the 21st century has already moved from the physical and financial space into cyber-space.

If there is one thing I learnt as a former regulator, it is that if the banks are behind the curve in terms of technology, the regulators are even further behind, since they learn mostly from those whom they regulate. But if financial regulators deal with financial innovation through “regulatory sandboxes” where they allow their regulated banks to experiment in sandboxes, they are treating their regulated institutions as kids in an adult game of ruthless technology.

Time for the official sector to make their stand clear or else Finance 4.0 promises to be very different from the orderly world that they are used to imaging. Nothing says this clearer than a recent survey by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, which showed that 54% of institutional investors surveyed and 38% of retail believe that a financial crisis in the next one-three years is likely or very likely.

You have been warned.

– Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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New approaches to people oriented human resource management


People-centric logo: The Chinese character for ‘people’, rén, dominates the entrance to its office.

 

The growing usage of technology can help human resource achieve better performance

IT IS often said that managing people is a combination of art and science. But the increasing dominance of technology in workplaces opens up a new perspective and opportunities in how organisations most valuable resource – its human capital – is being employed.

One of the most obvious changes that can be observed among employers, says Accendo HR Solutions group chief executive officer Sharma KSK Lachu, is the realisation that maintaining the traditional functions of the human resource (HR) department – such as processing payroll and employees’ rosters – is not the way forward to excel in the digital age.

New approaches emphasising efficiencies and talent development are needed to excel in people management, he adds.

“The process of recruiting, retaining and developing talents within organisations has to be changed to meet the expectation of both employers and employees, which in turn could help translate into outstanding performance standards,” he says.

Sharma notes that rich data insights are the best tool to help organisations deliver more engaging content and meet growing customer expectations for highly relevant and targeted information in the workplace. He calls it the democratisation of data and information to help workplaces function more efficiently. This could also help employees lead a more satisfactory work life as functions and responsibilities can be streamlined with the help of data, enabling them to focus on higher-level work.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Today’s workforce is different. There needs to be more incentive for employees to stay on in their jobs.

Citing the example of his own father, who stayed with a single company throughout his entire working life, Sharma says it would be a wonder for organisations today to have employees who would dedicate their entire working life to a single entity without asking much in return.

“He never complains about the lack of a pay raise, promotion or other perks from the management. But today’s working adults, especially the gen-Y and -Z, don’t share such values anymore,” he says.

Accendo relies heavily on technology, data and behavioural sciences in its approach to providing the right HR solutions for its clients to manage their manpower. The consultancy company is currently developing several tools, including artificial intelligence (AI) and HR management systems, for its corporate clients.

However, Accendo, which specialises in services such as talent acquisition, performance management, talent analytic and secession planning, puts the human element on the forefront of how organisations’ HR should function.

Technologies and people form the backbone of Accendo. A walk into its corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire. But a reminder that people comes before technology is apparent in the form of a corporate logo, Rén – the Chinese character for ‘people’ – which dominates the entrance to its office.

Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.
 Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.

New HR challenges

There is a need for a sharper and faster decision-making process, and the HR department has to be equipped to handle this. The aim is to help them to understand and grow their employees. This includes helping people who are pursuing career development opportunities at every age and are working longer than ever before.

Individual business leaders as well as business units should be looking at HR to provide support and strategic advice on everything from upskilling, motivating employees and future workforce planning to managing multiple generations of employees under one roof.

Therefore, specific solutions that are tailor-made and offer personalised learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm.

“Many organisations today still view manpower as a tool to maximise profit. But our mission is to promote a culture where companies develop the talents of their employees to contribute towards the growth of the company.

“We have turned down projects worth millions of ringgit because of the different viewpoint on how to develop and maximise the potential of employees. For us, our clients have to share our values, which is about organisations allowing their employees to own their career. We developed processes that would enable organisations to understand their people, and help develop their skills,” says Sharma.

Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.
Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.

Prior to his return from Sydney, Australia, where he had his start in the HR industry, Sharma was exposed to how technology and data science could help in efficient decision-making processes.

One of his motivations to move back home 10 years ago to start his own business here was partly to prove a point that developing technology-based HR solutions using data science can be done successfully in Malaysia.

Founded in 2009, Accendo is majority-owned by Sharma, while his two other co-founders have minority interests in the company. The company has morphed from being a HR solutions provider to an integrated HR consulting company with their own their technology solutions.

It has since recorded an impressive growth rate and is now considering strategic partnership with either a financial or strategic investor as it seeks to scale up its operations internationally and fund its technology research and development.

Sharma says it is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries, as this region could benefit from data science.

As the profile and success of Accendo increase, the company has been attracting potential investors and is receiving an average of about one investor approach per month. It has held talks with one potential strategic investor but has not reached any agreement as yet, he says.

Accendo, however, will only consider an investor who shares the company’s values, in which human capital is considered as an asset to be developed and not as a commodity to be used in achieving corporate financial goals, Sharma adds.

A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg
A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg

It has not seriously engaged with any party currently, but will do so if the right strategic or financial investor comes along.

The timing of a potential listing will also depend on the company’s capital requirements. Sharma says the company has been preparing for a possible listing by 2020, including making sure its financial reporting standards and company’s organisation structures are in line with that of a public company.

The majority of the company’s tech talents are local, but the company will not shy away from hiring foreign talents if necessary. Accendo currently has around 35 full-time staff members, but this will grow to over 50 by year-end as the company plans to hire more AI and other tech-related personnel, says Sharma.

Accendo is expected to record more than RM20mil of revenue this year. It has recorded an annual growth rate of 40% to 45% since it restructured its business model four years ago.

Its corporate clients include some of the most recognisable brand names in the market such as Astro

image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png
, Maybank, KPMG, Nestlé, Bursa Malaysia and other financial institutions and large multinational corporations in Malaysia.

In the longer term, Sharma says Accendo aims to be the platform for all things related to work technologies and solutions, from HR staffing technologies to meeting specific needs and reinventing performance in the workplace for optimum efficacy and maximum success. – by C. H.Goh, The Star
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VR gaming gears up for the mainstream


A group of gamers wearing VR headsets at Zero Latency Singapore. The VR arcade in Singapore is the latest to pop up around the world as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream. — AFP

Arcades seek to take virtual reality gaming mainstream

 

SINGAPORE: Gamers wearing headsets and wielding rifles adorned with flashing lights battle a horde of zombies, letting out the occasional terrified shriek.

The virtual reality arcade in Singapore is part of a wave of such venues being opened as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream.

The buzz around virtual reality (VR) gaming has seen Taiwan-based HTC, Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus VR battling to woo consumers with a range of headgear.

But it has been slow to really take off, partly due to the hefty price of top-end headsets, beginning at around US$350 (RM1,362), and the challenges in setting up complex VR systems at home.
But VR arcades, which have been springing up around the world, particularly in Asia, are now giving people the chance to try it out more easily and for a fraction of the price.

“Given the complications of at-home, PC-based VR systems, pay-per-use, location-based entertainment venues can fill the gap,” said Bryan Ma, from International Data Corporation (IDC), a consumer technology market research firm, in a recent note on the industry.

Several VR gaming companies have made forays into Singapore, seeing the ultra-modern, affluent city-state that is home to hordes of expatriates as a good fit.

The zombie fight-out was taking place at a centre where participants stalked a room with a black floor and walls.

“I did paintball before, it’s quite fun… but I think the whole scene is much more interesting here,” said Jack Backx, a 55-year-old from the Netherlands, who was playing with colleagues from the oil and gas industry on a work day out.

The location is run by VR gaming group Zero Latency, which started in Australia and has expanded to nine countries. It uses “free-roam” virtual reality – where gamers move around in large spaces and are not tethered to computers with cables.

It’s not all intense, shoot-’em-ups – VR group Virtual Room has an outlet in Singapore that transports gamers to scenarios in the prehistoric period, a medieval castle, ancient Egypt and even a lunar landing.

Asia leads the way

VR arcades have been springing up in other places. China was an early hotbed for virtual reality gaming although the industry has struggled in recent times, while they can also be found in countries across the region including Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Many key industry milestones over the past two years have been in Asia but arcades have appeared elsewhere – London’s first one opened last year while there are also some in the United States.

Consumer spending on virtual reality hardware, software and services is expected to more than double from US$2.2bil (RM8.56bil) in 2017, to US$4.5bil (RM17.51bil) this year, according to gaming intelligence provider SuperData Research.

For the best-quality experience, it can be relatively expensive – a session in Singapore costs Sg$59 (RM175).

“The equipment here is not cheap,” said Simon Ogilvie, executive director of Tomorrow Entertainment, which runs the Zero Latency franchise in Singapore.

The industry faces huge challenges.

China offers a cautionary tale – according to IDC, VR arcades have struggled there after expanding too quickly.

There have also been warnings that improvements in home-based technology may eventually lead to VR gaming centres suffering the same fate as traditional arcades that were once filled with Pac-Man and Street Fighter machines.

“The rise and fall of coin-operated videogame arcades in the 1980s suggests that such VR arcades may eventually fade in relevance as home-based computing power and prices fall within mass consumer reach,” said the note from IDC’s Ma.

Rebecca Assice, who runs Virtual Room in Singapore, said one challenge was getting people interested in the first place as many still did not know about the arcades.

“VR is still a really new industry,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know this sort of activity exists.” — AFP

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What parents need to know about VR ?


The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.

 

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. —Dreamstime/TNS
EVERYONE who’s tried it agrees: virtual reality is mind-blowing. Once you strap on that headset, you truly believe you’re strolling on a Parisian street, careening on a roller coaster, or immersed in the human body exploring the inner workings of the oesophagus.

But for all its coolness – and its potential uses, from education to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR affects kids. Common sense Media’s new report, Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of stanford University’s virtual Human Interaction Lab, offers a first-of-its-kind overview of the expanding uses for the technology and its potential effects on kids.

Now that VR devices from inexpensive viewers to game consoles to full-scale gaming arcades are finally here – with lots more coming soon – it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to manage VR when it comes knocking at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other media can give you the sense of “being there” – what’s called psychological presence – but not to the extent that VR can. This unique ability is what makes it so important to understand more about the short- and long-term effects of the technology on kids. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

Even though we don’t yet have all the answers to how vR affects kids, we know enough to consider some pros and cons. And whether kids are using vR through a mobile device like Google Cardboard, on a console like the Playstation vR, on a fully tricked-out desktop rig like the Oculus Rift, or at a mall arcade, these guidelines can help you keep any vR experience your kids have safe and fun.

Pay attention to age ratings. Check the recommended age on the headset package and don’t let younger kids use products designed for older kids. The minimum age isn’t based on medical proof of adverse effects on the brain and vision, but it’s the manufacturer’s best guess as to who the product is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Because the vR game experience can be more intense than that of regular games, it’s even more important to check reviews to make sure the gameplay, the content and the subject matter are appropriate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few precautions: Once you have the goggles on, orient yourself to the room by touching the walls; stick to short sessions until you know how you’re affected by vR; stay seated if possible; move furniture out of the way; and have a second person as a spotter.

Pay attention to feelings – both physical and emotional. If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about experiences. since vR feels so real, it’s an excellent time to talk through what your kid has experienced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the differences are between vR and regular games, and how vR helps you connect to other people’s experiences by putting you in someone else’s shoes.

Find opportunities; avoid pitfalls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic experiences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of vR that exposes kids to things they wouldn’t normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country.

Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements – including eye movements – could store that data for purposes that haven’t yet been invented. — Common sense Media/Tribune news service.

Star2 Technology  by Caroline Knorr

Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

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 BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin

Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating…

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin


Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating fake degrees to being able to track the origin of organic products, blockchain is proving to be a reliable solution in trust.

The underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ethereum is blockchain.

Creating trust in transactions Varanasi: Blockchain can be used to store verified documents so that users don’t have to keep validating important documents every time it’s submitted to a new party.

While blockchain was confined to finanin cial tech the early days, many organisations are starting to employ it in other industries because the technology is highly secure and even allows for transparency.

This encourages trust and in some cases even eliminates the need for a third party to validate the data, making it valuable to many organisations.

WITH fake doctorates and degrees becoming increasingly common, how are employers and graduates to find an efficient way to bridge the gap in trust?

According to Dr Mohamed Ariff Ameedeen, from University Malaysia Pahang (UMP), the solution could lie with blockchain technology.

As director of IBM’s Centre of excellence, which has been based in the university since 2012, he is continuously exploring novel uses for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency.

he said one of the early ideas the team was working on was a secure database that would prevent students from hacking to change their grades.

however, his team then decided to solve a more pressing issue affecting universities – fake degrees.

Mohamed Ariff said some universities are already integrating QR codes into graduates’ certificates to help validate credentials. however, even QR codes are now easily tampered with.

Taking it one step further, the UMP team created a system called Valid8, a QR code linked to a student profile secured by blockchain, which contains the student’s name, photo, title of degree and the year it was awarded.

This made tampering with the QR code pointless, as it only acted as a key to the information on the blockchain.

“even if someone used another person’s QR code, the data would clearly show it was not the person’s name or photo connected to the certificate,” he said.

he added that all the info placed on the blockchain is already publicly available so it would not compromise the students’ privacy.

Mohamed Ariff said making the data trustworthy meant time savings – as employers don’t have to contact the university to verify the certificate, they can be quicker in deciding if they should hire the job applicant.

So far, UMP has run a pilot programme with Valid8 by issuing supplementary certificates to 180 graduates from the industrial Management Faculty.

Mohamed Ariff said it took a couple of days to configure the blockchain node and a few more days to input the 180 students’ data.

“Although entering the information is relatively straightforward, migrating 15 years of old data (of earlier graduates) that includes more than just the initial four data points is going to take a bit longer,” he said.

The full-scale test for Valid8 will be the students graduating at the year-end convocation, estimated to be around 2,000.

To make the student profiles more useful, Mohamed Ariff said the team is planning to add more information such as grades, attendance, courses and maybe even disciplinary records.

“The beauty of blockchain is that it can grow with time and track a student’s academic life. imagine how much data it would have if a profile was set up for students when they entered kindergarten,” he said.

To encourage such a situation, UMP is open to collaborating with other universities that wanted to adopt blockchain for student iDs.

however, eduValue founder Barry Ew Yong warned that even a secured system has an obvious point of failure – human error.

he added that once errors entered the system there is a chance that it will be perpetuated. “Technology does not increase trust. Systems increase trust, though technology can be a useful tool to do so,” he said.

Like with UMP’s Valid8, the quality assurance startup has adopted blockchain to secure graduate certificates, using the technology to store a softcopy of the degree.

The company serves around 30 private schools, mostly tertiary schools offering up to Masters. Founded in Singapore in December 2012, it only just started employing blockchain.

he said the company uses a two stage system to ensure that only qualified students would be given certificates.

in the first stage it will help set up the standard by which students will be evaluated in order for them to graduate, and the approval process will be audited – schools found lacking will be struck off the system.

in the second stage it will vet all data being uploaded to the platform.

For UMP this is just a start – it’s also testing a blockchain based e-wallet called Xchain that students, lecturers, staff and vendors would eventually use for all transactions in UMP.

Beyond the security benefits, Mohamed Ariff said the open-nature of blockchain’s shared ledger meant the spending patterns could be analysed, making the university a giant data pool.

“With a population of 13,000 users, there’s a lot of potential data. And as a university, we love data,” he said.

Xchain is still in beta as the team is waiting to get Bank Negara to issue it an e-wallet license.

Mohamed Ariff concluded that blockchain is promising, especially for the education field, which relies on data that is open to peer review while also being trustworthy and tamper-evident.

ACADEMICIAN hu Dong, who advises Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Zero Bay incubator, said the supply chain industry could see huge advantages by having a more efficient and transparent data manto agement system.

Blockchain can be used track a product’s origin and determine if the materials were sourced as claimed, which is invaluable to sectors such as organic farming and ethical diamond mining. Also, by tracking the product’s trail along each stop on the supply chain, should an issue arise that requires a product to be recalled, the company could zero in on where the fault occurred.

For example, if a company found that the computer it’s making has a faulty hard drive, it would be able to identify which one of its factories was responsible. it then only needs to recall the computers that originated from the affected factory instead of all its products.

This would save cost as the recall will be smaller

and speed up the process which could help limit damage to the company’s reputation.

Dong, who was in Malaysia for a conference by blockchain incubator WeMerge, said the highlight of blockchain is accountability and transparency so it would create a higher degree of trust, which makes it great for smart contracts.

A smart contract can digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the performance of a contract without the need for third parties. And if executed via blockchain, the transactions are trackable and irreversible.

He said smart contracts could ensure factories, for instance, get paid faster, as the payment can be released once the contract is verified through the blockchain instead of waiting for a third-party to process it.

Startup Eximchain, which has raised US$20mil (rM78.41mil) in funding to continue developing blockchain solutions, is offering Smart Contracts.

Its solution allows banks to verify the validity of orders and provide the necessary financing; and the transaction history can be used by suppliers to prove their reliability to buyers and rating institutions. For banker turned blockchain technologist Bobby Varanasi, limiting the technology’s application to Bitcoin is just shortsighted.

The co-founder of Thynkblynk Technologies, along with partner Parag Jain, have developed ChainTrail, a “trust platform” for storing verified documents, including education certificates, medical records and contracts.

By using ChainTrail, you don’t have to keep verifying a document each time it’s presented to a new party.

However, Varanasi said the company was not in the business of certification and that the onus was on the data provider, be it a university or bank, to ensure that the data is correct.

“A lie, once committed to blockchain, would become an immutable one,” said Jain, referring to how data can only be added but not modified on a blockchain.

To mitigate such risks, ChainTrail vets customers by validating their credentials and ensuring that they are authorised to represent stakeholders.

For instance, it would verify that a lecturer is from the university he or she claims to represent.

It also offers templates for agreements such as contracts and term sheets.

“In today’s world, lack of trust is increasingly permeating the world of trade, both politically and financially… blockchain as a tech has finally presented an opportunity to create trust amongst a variety of parties that transact with each other,” said Varanasi.

Chain of trust:

 

Built for cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain is being used in innovative ways in a number of industries.

  

Basics of blockchain

LIKE a lot of complex technologies, blockchain is easier to understand once you break it down.

A blockchain is made up of a block of “transaction data” which is why it’s also called a ledger. Each block also has a hash – a string of numbers which uniquely identifies the block.

And similar to how a person has their parent’s names added to theirs, a block features a portion of the preceding block’s hash.

Put in terms of family lines, it’s like how you could tell that Amir bin Ali is the son of Ali bin Abu, who is in turn the son of Abu bin Bakar, and so on.

Basically, the hash “chains” the blocks together, by affirming their place in relation to the blocks before and after, hence the term blockchain.

Security in numbers

A key feature of blockchain is security. Blockchain runs on the paraphrased adage that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

So rather than making it tamper-proof, blockchain is tamper-evident – this is done by making a copy of the blockchain available to all members of the network, which is why blockchain is sometimes referred to as a public ledger.

As members of the network all have a copy of the same blockchain, if anyone’s chain is compromised by a hacker, it would look different from others.

If you have ever tried to organise a movie night with an extended group of friends on a WhatsApp group, you’ll get the idea.

Say, you want to watch Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and get the ball rolling by choosing the day and cinema, and then ask whoever that’s interested to add their names to the list.

The original message can’t be altered as it has been sent to the group. Instead everyone adds to the data by including their names and maybe a request for a specific timeslot. This concept is called “persistence”, wherein the older data cannot be retroactively altered.

Though a cheeky friend could change the date to try to troll the group, he wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that earlier messages will show a different date. This is what makes a public ledger like the blockchain tamper-evident.

Blockchain transaction

The blockchain is stored on computers, also known as nodes, that are connected via a peer-to-peer network.

Related posts:

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?


According to Wikipedia, a blockchain,[1][2][3] originally block chain,[4][5] is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.[1][6]

Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block,[6] a timestamp and transaction data.[7] By design, a blockchain is inherently resistant to modification of the data. It is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way”.[8]

For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer
network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks.
Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered
retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which
requires collusion of the network majority.
Blockchains are secure by design and are an example of a distributed computing system with high Byzantine fault tolerance. Decentralized consensus has therefore been achieved with a blockchain.[9]

This makes blockchains potentially suitable for the recording of events, medical records,[10][11] and other records management activities, such as identity management,[12][13][14] transaction processing, documenting provenance, food traceability[15] or voting.[16]

Blockchain was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 for use in the cryptocurrency bitcoin, as its public transaction ledger.[1]


See more: . Blockchain – Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block

Uses and apllications : 
 

Blockchain technology can be integrated into multiple areas. The primary
use of blockchains today is as a distributed ledger for cryptocurrencies, most notably bitcoin.[65] 

While a few central banks, in countries such as China, United States, Sweden, Singapore, South Africa and England are studying issuance of a Central Bank Issued Cryptocurrency (CICC), none have done so thus far.[65]

 

The Big Four

Each of the Big Four accounting firms is testing blockchain technologies in various formats. Ernst & Young has provided cryptocurrency wallets to all (Swiss) employees,[79] has installed a bitcoin ATM in their office in Switzerland, and accepts bitcoin as payment for all its consulting services.[80] Marcel Stalder, CEO of Ernst & Young Switzerland,  stated, “We don’t only want to talk about digitalization, but also actively drive this process together with our employees and our clients. It is important to us that everybody gets on board and prepares themselves for the revolution set to take place in the business world through blockchains, [to] smart contracts and digital currencies.”[80]

PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG have taken a different path from Ernst & Young and are all testing private blockchains.[80]

 

Why enterprises should care about blockchain

If you are in business or government or interact with businesses or government (that should be all of you), blockchain technologies will impact you in a profound way.

People much smarter than me who have studied blockchain deeply say this is like the internet before Marc Andreessen co-invented the browser. Then, we had no idea that the world would change as radically as it has. The world will change radically again, and no one can predict how.

However, let’s take a glimpse into the future at what people are working on now, so you get just an inkling of what’s possible.

IBM is putting a lot of wood behind the blockchain arrow and aggressively going after business. One example is a project with Walmart to track food shipments. Let’s use the example of mangos. Why is this important and how does the blockchain fit in?

This food-tracking application is important because Walmart wants to have all the information it can about the mangos it’s buying. Armed with this information, Walmart can do many valuable things:

  • Verification: Verify that the mangos that claim to be organic are actually organic (ensures quality)
    Tracking: Track the mangos as they travel from the farm to the store, so they know where they are and when they will arrive (reduces cost)
  • Ensure quality: Ensure that if they need to be refrigerated within 40 and 50 degrees to ensure freshness, that they were refrigerated correctly during shipment (ensures quality
  • Recall management: Know exactly which mangos should be taken off the shelves if there’s a problem with the food (both ensures quality and reduces cost)
  • Automation: Reduce human interaction required between the farmer, distributors, brokers and the buyer (reduce cost)

But where does the blockchain fit in? Here’s how a blockchain-enabled mango-buying transaction works better than a process without the blockchain.

VERIFICATION

It turns out that people eat more food that has been labeled “organic” than is farmed. That’s because there is fraud in some claims as to whether or not something is organic and those things can make their way into shipments unbeknownst to the buyer. Now, the mangos get labeled at the source, by a trusted entity that deems them organic. That information is then recorded on the blockchain, and that information cannot be changed. The “proof of organic” is now locked in and Walmart now fully trusts its mangos are organic. That makes it very difficult to fraudulently sell you mangos that are not organic.

TRACKING

Walmart is great at removing costs from their supply chain – maybe the best in the world. Now, they can build in a delivery price guarantee into the system, without human intervention. It works like this. Using a smart contract (code that represents an agreement) Walmart can say they will pay a certain amount for mangos that show up on the shipping dock within a specific shipment window. And, they can do that without having to create paperwork representing a different price for a late shipment. The payment to the late shipper gets changed automatically, based on the code in the smart contract.

ENSURE QUALITY

If the refrigerator truck in which the mangos are being shipped has a malfunction, the mangos could go bad. The shipper might not realize there’s a problem, and Walmart might not realize there’s a problem, but the consumer will be very unhappy. If the transportation company has thermometers on their truck continually report the temperature of the truck during transport, then Walmart will know that the mangos are fresh when they arrive, ensuring high quality. And, this is done automatically on the blockchain due to a trusted source of information (the thermometers) communicating with the smart contract that has set the temperature parameters.

RECALL MANAGEMENT

Sometimes mangos need to be recalled for one reason or another. Without the blockchain, Walmart might have to remove many thousands of mangos to ensure no customer gets a bad one. With the blockchain, Walmart now knows exactly what mangos need to be taken off the shelf. This ensures the bad mangos are removed. Yes, other technologies exist today that can do something similar as it’s related to tracking mangos. However, what the blockchain does is provide a higher level of confidence that fraud did not occur at some point along the way to protect the entity that enabled bad mangos to happen in the first place.

AUTOMATION

Today, a lot of intermediate transactions can exist in a transportation process. For example, transactions between the farmer and the broker; between the broker and the shipper; between the shipper and Walmart. These transactions usually require people to approve or deny some aspect of the movement of products. Through smart contracts, a lot of these approvals can be automated and sped up by removing people from the equation. This both reduces costs and speeds up the process.

Of course, this is only one example of an application that can transform an industry. Many, many other applications are being built to address very different use cases. I recommend you start to become educated on what is going on so you can get ahead of the curve.

Glenn Gow

By Glenn Gow is the Marketing Partner at Clear Ventures, a CEO Coach, Board Member and Advisor, and a Blockchain Strategist.

 

Is bitcoin a scam?

Is bitcoin a Ponzi scheme?

Is bitcoin one humongous scam or Ponzi scheme? Before I answer that question, let’s look at the four typical characteristics of a Ponzi scheme.

First of all, there must be a promoter for the scheme. It may be a single individual or a corporation.

The key point here is that there is a single party promoting (and thus benefiting from) the scheme. The second characteristic is the promised return.

To attract gullible investors the scheme will promise unrealistic sky-high returns. The saying “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” always applies in this scenario.

The third characteristic pertains to the investment’s liquidity, which simply means how easy it is to get out once you are in. The promoter will tend to discourage investors from cashing out using and will do so using one or more of these three approaches.

The stick approach is where the investor loses a portion of his investment if he withdraws early.

Conversely the carrot approach entices the investor to stay in by promising even higher returns the longer he keeps the funds invested.

Finally the “too-good-not-to-share” approach requires the investor to find a new investor to take over his investment. In short, he needs to look for new fools to buy him out.

Yes, the Ponzi scheme’s liquidity is at the mercy of the promoter’s whim and fancy.

Thus we come to the fourth characteristic. Ponzi schemes require a constant flow of new investors (read: new money) to fund the payout to early investors.

Before the promoter vanishes into thin air, a small number of EARLY investors DO actually get to cash out and enjoy the ridiculous returns. This is done intentionally by the promoter to “instill” confidence in the scheme as these early investors will help to bring in new investors.

Let’s apply these four characteristics to Bitcoin. The decentralised nature of bitcoin means that there is never a single party promoting bitcoin.

One may argue that there are plenty of people promoting the virtues of bitcoin.

However these are all unrelated parties, akin to different investment advisers promoting the virtues of gold as an investment.

What about returns?

Yes, bitcoin has provided spectacular profits to some investors in the past year.

However these profits were never promised in the first place. In fact people have lost money trading bitcoins, in spite its meteoric rise. This is due to the extreme volatility of the price.

Does bitcoin have sufficient liquidity that is, can you get out? All the recent headlines about regulators and banks freezing the accounts of crypto-related transactions have given the impression that it is hard-to-get-out once you are in.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. The decentralised nature means that there are so many alternatives for selling bitcoins, although not all are convenient.

Finally, are bitcoin investors who are late to the party effectively funding the early investors’ profits?

On that note, bitcoin may sound similar to a Ponzi scheme.

Then again the same can be said of investors who entered the markets at the peak of the dotCom bubble or the housing bubble.

This is a zero-sum game.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the existence of numerous proven scams out there that uses or references Bitcoin.

To counter that point, note that these scams never actually put money into bitcoin, merely hitching a ride on the bitcoin bandwagon and hype.

Prior to the emergence of cryptocurrencies, Ponzi schemes already existed. These schemes claim to use special techniques to generate spectacular profits from various asset classes such as commodities or real estate. Do you hear anyone labelling real estate as a Ponzi?

That said, I must make the point clear that one can easily lose a fortune putting hard earned money into either bitcoins or a Ponzi scheme. Nevertheless, bitcoin is not a scam or Ponzi scheme, as outlined by the points above.

Source: The Star, by Chong Jin Yoong, CFA, is a financial markets trainer and consultant.

Readers can learn more about whole bitcoin and cryptocurrency saga at a talk organised by The Star on Feb 10 entitled “Bitcoin: Dive in or stay away?”

Related Links:

Bitcoin’s Big Wipeout Erased $46 Billion of Value Last … – Bloomberg

Watch Video: https://www.bloomberg.com/api/embed/iframe?id=34657db7-8c2d-4e0c-9cb2-bae2ead43f65

Bitcoin: Dive In or Stay Away – Events by Star Media Group

 

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Bitcoin creator mystery, who is the Face Behind the Bitcoin?

Who created Bitcoin? How? Why? The long search may not be over 

On Mcoin, Bitcoin and points of investment 

Bitcoin, cryptocurrency rising, money talks, mining boom sputters 

Bitcoin, digital currencies rally, caution prevails; virtual currency in property 

Bitcoin is not money, judges rules in victory for backers

 

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