There are currently between 2.9 million and 5.8 million unique users actively using a cryptocurrency wallet, according to a study performed by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. Despite the accelerating scale of adoption and hype, Deutsche Bank deems cryptocurrencies as risky investments in its recent report, while extending its circle of trust to the underlying technology – blockchain.
Pick #1. Cryptocurrencies and blockchains – their importance in the future – Report by Deutsche Bank
We rank cryptocurrencies as a risky investment because recent price increases are in part based on speculation. Volatility is very high and reached 80%; the whole sector is generally unregulated.
A benefit only arises because of their use as a medium of exchange for transactions. On one hand, their value rises as their use as a medium of exchange becomes more popular; on the other hand, cryptocurrencies are supported by their issue limitation compared to rising demand.
In some countries, the first certificates and funds based on cryptocurrencies have been launched. Also, CME Group plans to introduce future contracts. The government in Dubai officially announced their own cryptocurrency called emCash, which is used for government transactions but also for daily payments. After Japan allowed Bitcoins as a legal payment method, they also allowed eleven companies to trade Bitcoins.
We expect that the blockchain will change the business model of companies in a sustained way. Blockchain technology enables a faster and cheaper exchange of assets and financial products between individuals without an intermediate, which reduces the asymmetry of information between the individuals.
About 63% of the managers from German banks expect a change in their business model in the next 10 years because of blockchain technologies. About 29% of the respondents expect financial advantages, while 50% of the respondents stayed neutral towards blockchains. But 76% of the respondents will plan to implement the blockchain in their business model after they have seen a successful implementation by other market participants.
Pick #2. Wireless technology without batteries? This startup is powering IoT devices – using air!
If you have something electric, you would need to power it with some source of energy. It can be a battery, electricity, fuel, or renewable sources of energy like sun, wind or water. Air certainly does not figure in the list, but Jeeva Wireless does just that. Equipped with antennas, this chip reflects and absorbs (or backscatters) existing radio waves and TV signals, transforming them into both a source of power and a communication medium. Unlike wireless setups available in the market today, it does not generate its own signals and simply leverages existing ones – making it ridiculously power-efficient in the process.
“Two objects equipped with this chip can interact with each other by harvesting ambient TV and cellular transmissions. In fact, Jeeva will be developing an extremely cheap connectivity solution using a flexible sticker form factor which can easily be integrated into everyday objects, thus enabling the vision of ubiquitous connectivity,” says Vamsi Talla, Co-founder & CTO of Seattle-based startup, Jeeva Wireless.
These sensors can be inserted into anything, anywhere at very low costs. Moreover, since these devices have no batteries, they last indefinitely and require no maintenance at all, potentially enabling smart cities.
Pick #3. UnionPay takes mobile payment services fight to Alibaba and Tencent with integrated app
China UnionPay has created an integrated mobile app that facilitates nearly all mainland banks to expand mobile payment services, spurring a strong fightback against third-party payment services backed by Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings.
“Before the digital era, all payments went through the UnionPay system with banks and UnionPay splitting the transaction fees paid by merchants. But Alipay and Tenpay have bypassed UnionPay, connecting consumers and banks directly.” – Ba Shusong, Chief Economist at the China Banking Association. As a result, UnionPay has had to find a new role in the digital payments era.
The efforts include a partnership with JD.com in August, which recognized Chinabank Payments, the payment app backed by JD. This was the first time UnionPay had given access to an internet company’s third-party payments system.
“The QuickPass app, created under the guidance of the central bank, is a unified platform that utilizes all resources by commercial banks to offer users access to mobile payment.” – UnionPay
The facial recognition technology used in payment is in the works. The app could be linked to more than one bank account by different banks with all of their mobile payment services accepted and conducted via the platform.
Pick #4. Spotlight: Malaysia sees mobile commerce boom as mobile payments become widely available
There are 42.8 million mobile phone subscriptions in Malaysia currently. Meanwhile, smartphone penetration stands at 70% and it is expected to increase.
Two major Chinese online payment companies – Alipay and WeChat Pay – making their ways into Malaysia e-payment segment could potentially double the online transactions.
There is also great potential for WeChat Pay, which will be unveiled in Malaysia next year, as it has 20 million WeChat holders in Malaysia and 600 million active users in China. Earlier this year, Alipay, a unit of Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, has inked agreements with Malaysian banks for the rollout of its service this year.
Pick #5. AI in storytelling: Machines as co-creators
A team of MIT scientists taught an AI to get emotional over movies. The researchers, which collaborated on this project with McKinsey, used machine learning to analyze thousands of videos including movies, TV shows and short films found on Vimeo, shared Silicon Valley correspondent Janko Roettgers.
“We developed machine-learning models that rely on deep neural networks to ‘watch’ small slices of video—movies, TV, and short online features—and estimate their positive or negative emotional content by the second.”
Just by analyzing the visual elements of a movie, the algorithms could detect where the tear jerkers would be, and how the overall emotional arc of a story would develop. Researchers also used a control group of human volunteers to map out their response to some of the movies analyzed by computers and then used that data to refine their models.