Yesterday it seems Barclays suffered a serious technical problem resulting in the loss of several critical services inluding ATM’s and Online Banking. What caught my eye about this was that well known Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis tweeted about the outage and used a specific hashtag, #BarclaysGlitch.
I'm hearing people struggling to get access to Barclays. Please share how it's going to #barclaysglitch
Martin has a healthy following of around 260 thousand followers and is very influential in the financial services world in the UK. A lot of people started to use the hashtag to talk about the outage. Barclays themselves then also used the hashtag which is what was really interesting (for me anyway).
We are aware of a technical issue, and we are working hard to put things right as soon as possible. #barclaysglitch
I think this was smart work by Barclays. I wonder if we will see journalists/influencers (ugh) looking to brand bank outages in the future? A race to have the hashtag most used in an outage? Will banks themselves try and add unique hashtags to outages? Does anyone normal use the word outage?
A pretty big week in the Fintech world, the launch of latest iPhone (Will it or won’t it have NFC? Will it have a fingerprint scanner? Will it still be ridiculously expensive?) and it was Finovate in New York i.e. the biggest fintech conference in the world. That is where we will start.
Finovate Fall in NYC
For those unaware Finovate is a large conference dedicated to the new and innovative in the world of Fintech. The format is a brutal 7 minutes, no powerpoint i.e. only demo/actual screenshots/words. If you go over time you are cut off, stray too far from the path and you are gonged! Following from afar via Twitter (one day I will get to go / be able to justify the ridiculous ticket price) there were a few companies that people I trust on Twitter were very positive about. mBank an online bank that has been redesigned from the ground up with the help of Accenture and Meniga(seen before but still impressive). TipRanks a way of rating financial analysts on the accuracy of data they publish. Yodlee for their excellent sounding family focused product, Tandem, which allows differing access levels to be set to account information. Identity provider Miicard launched digitally certified bank statements which is a big step on the digital identity ladder. The videos from all the demos should be available by the end of the month (I will link to them when I have them)
This week it is corporate banking megabash, Sibos, which is being held in Dubai this year and is also the home of the excellent Innotribe strand. Follow the #innotribe hashtag to keep tabs on what is going on but expect design, data, platforms, organisational culture etc to be the topics of choice. More on this next week.
iPhone 5S & 5C launch
With much fanfare and it transpired very little secrecy the Cupertino giant officially announced the 5C and 5S variants of the iPhone. From a Fintech point of view every year it is about whether or not NFC will feature in the handsets. The answer was most definitely no. There were no specific payments announcements but there were several pointers to Apples future strategy. The well and truly leaked fingerprint sensor made it’s official appearance in the iPhone 5S. Building the sensor into devices at scale may be the boost biometrics has needed. It is only in the flagship model though so scale may be a way off yet. This article by Peter Nixey lays out why it will be an important part of Apple’s ecosystem. Following the announcement their were a lot of worried people tweeting about the NSA and also the risk of people lopping off fingers during iPhone muggings. Apple assured users the sensor only works with living tissue…no word on the NSA yet though.
More interesting was the quiet launch of iBeacons. A single line on one of the slides used to present, this little device brings new capability to Apple and merchants. These little devices can be installed in stores to give microlocation i.e. tell you exactly where a customers phone is. NFC require very close proximity to enable, less than 4cm, it seems something a bit more tap free is seen as the future by Apple. That will be an interesting change in behaviour for customers so used to a physical exchange to indicate money has changed hands. This article on iBeacon by GigaOm gives a good overview as does this one from Fast Company.
More Beacon News
It was not just Apple launching something with the word Beacon in it, PayPal had a much more public and noisy launch the day before the iPhone launch, which was a stunning coincidence. More microlocation goodness, USB interface for the PayPal variant though meaning it needs a constant power source which could make things a bit trickier for installation in a theft free location. I do wonder how will this microlocation / interaction free method of payment play out with people.
The cyber gang is alleged to have tried to use a “keyboard video mouse” to take control of all the branch’s computers.
Stay safe people.
Mini Bitcoin Roundup
The processing power of the BitCoin mining network reached a key milestone recently, It is now capable of a Petahash of processing every second i.e. 1000 trillion calculations per second. If you want to hear a young man explain what that means in a language you won’t understand while demonstrating some of the most painful camera angle switches I have ever seen you will love this video.
Someone has tried to put in real world context i.e. the physical requirements if that was in one data center. Apparently you would need 100,000 of the highest performing mining server, The ASCIMiner ($3,500 each), around 21 MW of power for the machines and the cooling required. It is a lot. Either way what these big numbers mean is the network is growing much faster than anticipated. Still a long, long way to go until all 21 million coins are mined though.
and lastly I enjoyed this long read on Cypherpunks, Bitcoin & Satoshi Nakamoto. A lot of focus on privacy, which Bitcoin is feared for today even though it is not private i.e. transactions and users can be traced. The battle for this will be the key axis on which the success of Bitcoin hinges. Too much provacy and governements will squash it, not enough and will the interest in it remain?
Mobile payments in the UK is sahping up to be a big battle between Vocalink’s Zapp and Barclays Pingit. Pingit has a head start of 18 months, Vocalink has the backing of the other big banks in the form of a joint effort to build a mobile databse for payments but does that backing translate to Zapp? Who will win? Either way Zapp annouced they had partenered with World Pay which certainly adds some clout to their standing. Early days but an interesting battle is emerging.
7 day switching came into effect today in the UK. This measn all major banks must now switch customers over to new organisations inside 7 days. Any financial losses incurred as a failure by the transferring organisation will be covered by them. HM Treasury, like the hipsters they are, have produced an infographic (more a listographic that takes around 7 days to scroll) to explain it in nice simple terms. More importantly will anyone care if all the banks look the same?
The most humourous tweet with the most tenuos link to Fintech this week was this beauty about Capital One’s head of customer service
Well I hope my handful of readers are never gonna give me up. All the links, and more, that I used this week can be found in this handy list. Feel free to follow my FinTechBot on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest Fintech news.
I spent a lot of time out of the office last week so this round up is as much for me than for the other handful of people who actually read it. Let’s have a butchers at what went on…
The ‘cryptocurrency that could’ continues to provide fascinating stories. Last week the California Legislator passed a money transmitter reform bill. The bill aims to make it easier for payments startups to navigate the regulatory burdens of the US’ strictest state but also the home to Silicon Valley. Will it pave the way for more disruption? Will the Governor sign it into law? Assembly member and author of the law, Roger Dickinson said,
“Technological innovation within the money-transmission and payments industry has skyrocketed in the last few years, yet California’s regulatory framework has lagged behind, [...] Providing clarity to existing companies and new start-ups on licensing requirements will ensure a vibrant money transmission market place that is fair for business while protecting consumers.”
Meanwhile the UK there has been sightings of Bitcoins at Number 10 as the Government seeks to understand a bit more about this disruptive little 4 year old. It seems the main concern from the Government is the anonymity of the currency, which in turn is causing the banks to steer clear due to tough regulations especially around international remittances. Can Bitcoin be shoehorned into existing UK regulations?
“The Bitcoin protocol still has huge potential for anonymity,” says Sarah Meiklejohn, who led the research project, “but the way that people are using it is not achieving anonymity at all.”
Forbes tested the anonymity of Bitcoin by purchasing some illegal drugs (‘it’s for research man’) and promptly being busted, not by the police but by researcher Sarah Meiklejohn mentioned above. The Bitcoin client received an upgrade last week to 0.8.4 to improve security for users
GigaOm took a look a the opportunity that international remittances do present for Bitcoin startups as banks close their doors on many schemes, the present a massive need to be filled. The cost of sending money averages at 8.85% according to the article. How much can these new companies shave off that? And can they crack the regulatory requirements to make it happen? Classic innovators dilemma conditions, large organisation exit a risky business and smaller ones come in and make it work for less…then scale upwards. To be continued I am sure.
“To date, online payments infrastructure in most of these countries, including Ireland, has been dominated by lumbering incumbent banks. Accepting internet payments involved weeks of setup, reams of paperwork, and bureaucratic approval processes.”
In better news PayPal launched a new app which had some very innovative features as well as redesigned experience throughout. Features such as order ahead i.e. submit an order while standing in line at a coffee shop, They have also built credit into the app allowing you to apply for finance for those bigger purchases. It all builds on their desire to be seen more as an instore payment provider rather than just an online one. A big challenge.
A new variant of evil looking and sounding banking malware is in the wild. HesperBot (HesterBot named after exRBS chairman would have been a more amusing name) is similar to the infamous Zeus malware and is starting to be seen across Europe. It does the usual awful things like stealing logon data but also seems to be targeting a number of mobile platforms i.e. Symbian, Blackberry and Android.
In more examples of questionable naming,Yodlee has announced its new platform ACE (Active Commerce Exchange). The platform aims to be a one stop shop for financial applications that developers and institutions can integrate with and even sell on. Smart thinking from Yodlee who are billing it as a way for banks to innovate faster, “ACE means banks can iterate and innovate like Google.” whatever that means
There have been a number of glitches recently in US trading systems causing problems with the NASDAQ. This article by Simone Foxman in Quartz asks whether the 13 exchanges in the US is too many (or is 13 just an unlucky number?)
Dan Roosegaarde discusses technology prototypes for interactive road surfaces that display conditions such as freezing temperature or can charge electric vehicles, he also demonstrates fabric that reacts to excitement levels in humans, making it more transparent. He is working on a prototype for a bankers suit made of the material to demonstrate how ethically a banker is behaving. Transparency in action.
The German Ministry of Finance has issued an official statement recognizing Bitcoin as “Rechnungseinheiten,” a legal designation that translates to “units of account”. This type of money is also referred to as “artificial currency” or “side payments.”
Interesting to see how this affects the attitudes of other countries in the EU and the wider world. Regulation however is still doing its best to keep BitCoin exchanges and banks in line. The latest to feel it wrath are the exchange Tradehill, which announced it was pausing trading;
We have recently made the decision to temporarily suspend trading on the Tradehill platform, due to banking and regulatory issues. This decision has not been made lightly and we regret having to take such action. However, we embrace the silver lining of our situation and plan to take this opportunity to upgrade, improve, and polish our trading platform.
The Internet Archive Federal Credit Union (yes it is a real thing) pulled the plug on its BitCoin friendly accounts (I assume they have archived them). They opened the accounts with a cry of “These are not drug dealers, money launderers, or whatever. These are average folks,” they closed the accounts with the slightly less chipper ”Until we have further clarity, we are unable to service some of our corporate members.”
“You could tell the folks there were certainly concerned about the potential use of Bitcoin for illicit purposes,” said Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, who attended the meeting. “What the Bitcoin Foundation tried to stress is that Bitcoin is less useful for those purposes than other centralized virtual currencies. I think that got through, but the feeling from regulators wasn’t, ‘Oh boy, all of our concerns have been laid to rest now, and thank you for coming.’”
In less serious/regulatory news. RoboCoin, a sort of BitCoin ATM that allows you to exchange it into others currencies has gone on pre order for just just 20,000 dollars.
Coinchat is an Internet Chatroom (remember those) where you smart talking could earn you cash. Effectively paying people to use the site they have got around 8,000 users. The money comes from the sites advertising and is paid in mBTC (micro Bitcoin fragments). This slicing and dicing of Bitcoin into miniscule fragments really is paving the way for true micropayments on the web.
The Yorkshire Bank (a bank which should be the greatest bank in the world but probably isn’t) announced a ‘cloud based shared service alliance‘ with HP. This is an interesting move which sees the Yorkshire Bank move into the bank as a platform territory. They already provide services for some smaller building societies will this new platform draw in a new breed of banking company?
FNB in Africa have launched a cash free cash machine. This seems to go against everything the ATM is there to provide but you can get the next best thing to cash, a little piece of paper that you can take to approved retailers and they give you cash in return. The ATMs are cashless for safety reasons and they also provide access to online services.
As new services atart appearing in the ATM channel, specifically those involving mobiles and the withdrawal of cash then the hackers and scammers are not far behind. Banks are starting to see an increase in SIM swap fraud. Cloning a persons SIM to receive their incoming text messages i.e. one time passwords for emergency cash withdrawal from ATMs.
It seems that the new mobile card reader is the new mobile POS. Every man and his dog in the US seems to be launching one of these offerings and the latest to try is Shopify. They have announced they will be offering a full POS service. The full package they are offering includes an iPad and mobile card readers as well. Selling payments and POS in one tightly integrated bundle (the payments processing is providing by Stripe I believe). Looks like a nice package. Interested to see if these kind of offers make it to the UK.
Transport For London have issued a consultation for going cashless on buses. Technology FTW at first glance but then what do you do about those millions of pesky tourists and visitors each year? Share your thoughts
Another day and another case of PayPal freezing the funds of a legitimate cause / project. This time it was IndieGogo funded project GlassUp which aims to build a competitor to Google’s Glass. They raised over 100,000 dollars but then PayPal froze the funds (since unfrozen). There have been lots of cases of this kind of behaviour but maybe this will be the last. PayPal announced that they were looking to put customers first.
“We’re tweaking our risk models to catch more sharks and less dolphins,” PayPal’s senior director of global initiatives Anuj Nayar
One of Square’s co-founders Jim McKelvey is starting a fintech accelerator called SixThirty. With his learnings from Square and his new found contacts in the financial industry he aims to help new companies avoid some of the hassles Square have faced.
“We could have saved 18 months if we had access to SixThirty when we were launching Square,” McKelvey says.
Their seems to be new fintech accelerators popping up all over the place and I am hearing rumours about a large player in the space looking to set one up in London soon. Very interesting to see what impact this focus on fintech Sillicon Valley has at the moment. Can they get through the armour of the traditional financial institutions and start to truly change banking?
How about a bespoke magazine rack based on a graph of data from the Italian financial crisis in 2011?
And finally here is a story about payments via hugs and touch from back in May that I must have missed due to the arrival of my second son. Thankfully the very smart Dan Williams posted a link to it last week so I got chance to see it. It is work which Dan’s Pervasive Media studio was involved in producing and looked at payments and how they could become embedded in objects and how that could affect our relationship with payments. The strive for all digital everywhere is clearly eroded human interactions especially around touch. This work by Heidi Hinder looks to change all that. Brilliant stuff. Read the research report and watch the video below.
Today is Thursday (when I wrote this it was). Tomorrow (today) I go on holiday to France. It has been a pretty crap week (my car got hit by a crane, machine not bird, it is a long dull stressful story) and I can’t wait to get away. Nevermind all that have some auto posted reads. Six lovely posts on a diverse range of topics including the dangers of simplification, praise of play, downsides to corporate accelerators, flat pack futurism, creative perspective and why undercover police officers should not use social media.
In More work for Mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowan illustrates how less work and more free time through mechanization has never been the case. In manufacturing, the machine ethic is adopted in order to compress work with the aim of increased productivity, rather than allowing the employees to leave earlier each day. It’s entirely logical that if we adopt the same ethic in domestic spaces, the result remains constant: our expectations just keep pace with the current reality. Simplification does not lead to leisure credit, it allows for more work to be completed in a similar timeframe. Ultimately this exerts a productivity pressure upon humans as they try to keep pace with the machines, a phenomenon that James Gleick characterizes as ‘hurry sickness.’
The pursuit of the pure, free, play is the true driving force behind the games, art, story, and experimental technology worlds I encounter in my daily work. Intelligent people simply will not spend significant chunks of their lives working on difficult problems unless they are motivated, and motivation is the art of remaining excited. What’s more exciting than the universe at your fingertips? Creative play is the excitement of infinite possibility.
What I tell people is that accelerators created by corporations or funds have a tendency to create “silos”. They often have one location where participants move into on day one of a program, work for months, and finally emerge on Demo Day with brilliant presentations. They normally bring in a group of professionals as mentors, with a tendency to create “our” group of mentors as opposed to “your” group of mentors. Through their affiliation with, say, a big media company, they claim to bring in exclusive benefits from their respective backer – with the keyword here being “exclusive”.
‘The next market shift could come from using our devices as doorways into tomorrow’s Digital World.’ … OK, so it’s a woolly metaphor. Carry on.
‘If you think digital is cool today, you don’t know the meaning of cool’ LAY IT ON ME, DADDY-O; THIS HEPCAT’S HOT TO TROT FOR TEH FUTUREZ LOL (If there is a meaning of cool beyond the one that refers to relative temperature, middle-aged men talking like they think teenagers talk is its antithesis.)
It takes a certain amount of courage, thinking out loud. And is best done in a safe and nurturing environment. Creative Departments and design studios used to be such places, where you could say and do just about anything creatively speaking, without fear of ridicule or judgement. It has to be this way, or you will just close up like a clamshell. It’s like trying to have sex, with your mum listening outside the bedroom door. Can’t be done. Then some bright spark had the idea of setting everyone up in competition. It became a contest. A race. Winner gets to keep his job.
On April 20, MacAuley spotted “Missy” at a protest outside of the World Bank and snapped a photograph of her (above left). Meanwhile, Light and Canavan dug up evidence that Rizzi was a police officer, including a photograph posted on yfrog of Rizzi pointing out a typo on a piece of mail addressed to the “DC Metropolation [sic] Police Department.” Rizzi’s finger partially covers up the address line, but it appears to read “Director, Intelligence Branch.”