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.”
BitCoin news back at the top this week after it emerged that Thailand had banned the cryptocurrency…or had it? A local Bitcoin Exchange company had been going through the process of fully registering with Thai authorities. As part of that process the company were called in front of a panel of experts at the Bank of Thailand.
At the conclusion of the meeting senior members of the Foreign Exchange Administration and Policy Department advised that due to lack of existing applicable laws, capital controls and the fact that Bitcoin straddles multiple financial facets the following Bitcoin activities are illegal in Thailand:
Buying any goods or services in exchange for Bitcoins
Selling any goods or services for Bitcoins
Sending Bitcoins to anyone located outside of Thailand
Receiving Bitcoins from anyone located outside of Thailand
Following that announcement the BitCoin world went into a frenzy but it is still far from clear whether or not the activities listed above are legal or if the requesting company have just not been granted a money transmitter license. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks especially if the Bank of Thailand do confirm their postion.
The Dutch Banking regulator (DNB) has approved Amazon Web Services for use in “all facets of Dutch financial operations”. This is huge news, will we now see a raft of banks making infrastructure (and shortly followed by core bank systems) their next commodity? Will we see other countries follow suit? Or will it be a wait and see approach i.e. let the others make mistakes first.
Programmer Sergey Aleynikov has been rearrested for the theft of code from Goldman Sachs. The ex-employee uploaded modified open source code containing his own alterations so that he could unpick the code and release the improvements back into the open source community. He has already been tried and acquitted following an appeal but has now been rearrested and is facing several charges in New York. Michael Lewis has written a brilliant and lengthy article on the story that I can’t recommend highly enough. I have a feeling this might just blow open banks usage of open source and whether they are taking more value than they create, which seems to be their default behaviour.
Serge quickly discovered, to his surprise, that Goldman had a one-way relationship with open source. They took huge amounts of free software off the Web, but they did not return it after he had modified it, even when his modifications were very slight and of general rather than financial use. “Once I took some open-source components, repackaged them to come up with a component that was not even used at Goldman Sachs,” he says. “It was basically a way to make two computers look like one, so if one went down the other could jump in and perform the task.” He described the pleasure of his innovation this way: “It created something out of chaos. When you create something out of chaos, essentially, you reduce the entropy in the world.” He went to his boss, a fellow named Adam Schlesinger, and asked if he could release it back into open source, as was his inclination. “He said it was now Goldman’s property,” recalls Serge. “He was quite tense. When I mentioned it, it was very close to bonus time. And he didn’t want any disturbances.”
In slightly related news I liked this interview with Visa developer, Michael White, I think glimpses into the world of financial systems and their creators are rare things and I am not sure why. Do banks just keep these things secret just for secrets sake? Or to give the perception of infallibility by obscurity?
Westpac New Zealand is running a competition aimed at developers and designers. The Westpac App Challange is looking for app ideas/prototypes that ”make a process, transaction, application or any other common banking activity easier, faster and safe for customers”. The winners will get 10,000 New Zealand Dollars each. Watch the cringe inducing video to get more details. I love these kinds of initiatives but as the video shows these interactions with the real world still feel very awkward.
Isis the US carrier based mobile payments initiative reminded everyone it still existed by announcing they will launch something by the end of the year, honest. I am yet to be convinced that the carriers have anything to offer but further complications in the already byzantine system of payments. I am willing to be proved wrong but I still don’t see why you would move the secure element on a plastic debit/credit card onto virtually the same chip on a SIM card? Sideways move.
OpenTable the restaurant reservation service is looking to embed payments into its app. So not only will you be able to get a great little table by the window you will also be able to pay directly from the app and keep your talking to humans at an absolute minimum. Banks thinking they can continue to own end to end payments journeys must surely see the writing on the wall (not the menu).
The payments Nascar problem shows no signs of being resolved and last week saw another payment option soon to be added to the morass. Mastercard’s MasterPass brings its virtual mobile wallet stylings to the UK. I guess anything that stops me giving away the keys to my house every time I buy is a good thing. Argos, Boots and House of Fraser are all on the launch list.
You can learn more about banking security requirements from this tale of woe than you ever will from a banks own website where they just say ‘Cover your PIN’ and S’hred your documents’ and other such lazy platitudes. I love a good tale of security woe.
Brett King’s Breaking Banks radio show (Every Thursday at 8pm EST) continues to be an interesting series of shows. This weeks episode looked at how people spend and use money and how it is far more simple than saving and avoiding the temptations of daily life. Well worth a listen each week.
I have managed to do this 30 times. That must be enough to have formed a habit by now. Anyway I only managed to write this as a meeting got cancelled which is a bonus (for me, you might have hoped for a week without this pointless curation).
After a week in which the continued focus on Twitter Trolls and their awful sexist/threatening/outright criminal behaviour has been almost as depressing as the UK Home Office taking to social media, it is a wonder anyone uses the Internet at all.
Someone who was forced off the web (and I have mentioned a few times before as a bit of a hero), Kathy Sierra, was back on Twitter and with a new blog as well. She published an amazing first post on the cognitive drain interface designers place on people. it ties in so well with a few things that are really bothering me about banking, especially security related, interfaces. Other things to make my brain smile were a letter from a director at NASA to a nun, a deep web heist, JP Rangaswami on customers and flow, William Heath Robinson, why most innovative companies aren’t and the info ladies in Bangladesh.
This image also caught my eye this week. My first thought was that it is hilarious, my second is that when someone is responsible for destroying art/fun/creativity etc then their face should be on that decision…I would like to see something similar in my place of work.
If your UX asks the user to make choices, for example, even if those choices are both clear and useful, the act of deciding is a cognitive drain. And not just while they’re deciding… even after we choose, an unconscious cognitive background thread is slowly consuming/leaking resources, “Wasthat the right choice?”
Very fortunately though, the space age not only holds out a mirror in which we can see ourselves, it also provides us with the technologies, the challenge, the motivation, and even with the optimism to attack these tasks with confidence. What we learn in our space program, I believe, is fully supporting what Albert Schweitzer had in mind when he said: “I am looking at the future with concern, but with good hope.”
On May 15, 2013, just as HackBB was attempting to reestablish its primacy, a second attack brought the forum to its knees. The attacker was thorough and deceptive in ways even these experienced hackers and criminals hadn’t expected. During the first attack, Boneless had used his admin powers to create other, hidden accounts under his control, then granted them administrator status. It was as if, before leaving, he had dropped a half-dozen secret keys around the property.
In the run up to and during World War One, Robinson became known for a series of drawings in magazines such as The Sketch and The Tatler, poking fun at modern living, carrying normal tasks to ridiculous extremes often using complex or convoluted contraptions — described as “simple devices” — to perform trivial tasks, such as potato peeling,wart removal and pancake making. Very quickly his work became popular, allowing him to command healthy commissions.
The larger the company, the deeper the orthodoxy. Leaders of complex organizations tend to surround themselves with likeminded people, which reinforces their conventional approaches. At every stage in the life of a new idea or initiative, compliance crushes dissent. The Point: According to executives the biggest challenge they face is connecting the dots between departments, regions and other companies which is inhibited by organizational design and control-based rules
As she approaches the village, Sathi rings her bicycle bell and the children come running to meet her, shouting “Hello, hello”. Women emerge from their homes one by one. Sitting in the middle of a beaten-earth yard, Sathi carefully places her laptop on a plastic chair, plugs in headphones and launches a session on Skype. The faces of village men working thousands of kilometres from here appear on the screen.
Have a lovely weekend. Feel free to subscribe to these reads via email or via RSS here or you know, don’t bother. I am happy if you got this far.