Will ‘WhatsApping’ money change India’s e-payment market?

WhatsApp, the biggest instant messaging platform in India, is set to launch a payment service later this month. The BBC’s Devina Gupta reports on how this could affect the country’s $400bn (£290bn) mobile wallet market.

WhatsApp is currently testing a beta version of its payment app, which it has rolled out for some Indian users. It will allow users to send and receive money using the popular app.

For a majority of Indians, the phone is the first point of exposure to the internet, and Whatsapp, with more than 200 million users, is a giant in India’s rapidly growing mobile market.

The move has worried Paytm, the country’s largest mobile payment company. Its founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has accused WhatsApp of bypassing crucial payment norms that guarantee security of customers. The government has denied this.

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Paytm is part-owned by Japan’s Softbank and China’s Alibaba and already has about 300 million registered users in the country, with the number of daily transactions touching five million.

It was also one of the biggest beneficiaries of the decision by India’s federal government to cancel 86% of the country’s currency overnight in 2016 as part of anti-corruption measures.

Paytm had said then that it saw a 700% increase in overall traffic and a 300% surge in app downloads.

What does Paytm say?
Paytm has accused Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, of attempting a repeat of Free Basics – Facebook’s internet service app. The service offered free, but limited, internet to those who didn’t have it. It was widely criticised for giving access to only a limited number of websites and India’s telecoms regulator blocked the app on the grounds that it violated net neutrality rules.

 

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India’s telecoms regulator blocked Free Basics for violation of net neutrality rules.

Deepak Abbot, Paytm’s senior vice president, told the BBC that WhatsApp could effectively lock out competing apps. “Facebook tries to dominate the market – they go in with a mindset that they can lock the users in their systems,” he said.

But other players in the market don’t necessarily share Mr Abbot’s opinion, as the scope for mobile wallets in India is still vast. “Currently, the digital payment market penetration is only 5 to 10% percent, so entry of a new player is a big positive,” said Bipin Preet Singh, the founder of Mobikwik, which is another Indian mobile payment system.

He added that domestic companies, like Mobikwik, have large workforces on the ground which help users when payments go wrong. This, he said, is something global companies can’t compete with.

What does WhatsApp payment offer?
WhatsApp uses the Indian Unified Payment Interface or UPI, which is a payment system that allows funds to be transferred directly from a sender’s bank account to the recipient’s account.

Users will have to link their bank account with the app directly.

The real challenge for WhatsApp’s payment feature will be to include services such as movies, travel and restaurants – which Paytm provides.

Is it a threat for Paytm?
Paytm’s strength lies in its ubiquitous presence in India’s mobile payment market – its services are extensively used by citizens and business vendors, including auto rickshaw drivers and tea sellers. And the company recently started regular banking services and could be handling insurance products in the future.

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Vijay Shekhar Gupta, the founder of Paytm, had said Whatsapp’s payment was not secure.

But WhatsApp is flush with funds, and boasts around 230 million users on its chat app. Its beta version tests also show a high rate of user adaptability.

Facebook is yet to comment on WhatsApp’s payment feature, but Paytm has said that it is ready for the competition.

“We will take WhatsApp as another competitor,” Mr Abbot said. “There are 90% of users who are not exposed to the UPI model, so like WhatsApp, we will also be looking to capture that market. It’s such a big market so if you have a good product, you will stand out. We will be happy if there are more larger players.”

What could worry Paytm is what happened to Alibaba, which partly owns the company. After launching Alipay in 2009, the company almost monopolised the payment gateway market. But its fortunes changed when another company, Tencent, merged its chat app with a payment gateway, resulting in Alipay’s market share dropping from 80 to 53%.


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Author; BBC News
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New Hydro-gel Adhesive Seals Moving Tissues Even in the Presence of Blood

 

Researchers at the Wyss Institute have developed a surgical adhesive that can adhere to wet and dynamic surfaces inside the body, including the heart, lung, tendons, cartilage, and bone. Coupled with a novel tough hydrogel, it can undergo huge amounts of deformation without breaking. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University 

A Band-Aid adhesive bandage is an effective way to stop bleeding from skin wounds, but an equally viable option for internal bleeding does not yet exist. Surgical glues are often used inside the body instead of traditional wound-closure techniques such as stitches, staples, and clips, because the glues reduce the patient’s time in the hospital and lower the risk of secondary injury or damage at the wound site. 

An effective surgical glue needs to be strong, flexible, nontoxic, and able to accommodate movement, yet no adhesives currently available have all of those properties. To address that lack, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have developed a new super-strong hydro-gel adhesive inspired by the glue secreted by a common slug that is bio-compatible, flexible, and can stick to dynamically moving tissues even in the presence of blood. 

The hydrogel itself is a hybrid of two different polymers: a seaweed extract called alginate that is used to thicken food, and polyacrylamide, which is the main material in soft contact lenses. When these relatively weak polymers become entangled with each other, they create a molecular network that demonstrates unprecedented toughness and resilience for a hydrogel material — on par with the body’s natural cartilage. When combined with an adhesive layer containing positively charged polymer molecules (chitosan), the resulting hybrid material is able to bind to tissues stronger than any other available adhesive, stretch up to 20 times its initial length, and attach to wet tissue surfaces undergoing dynamic movement (e.g., a beating heart). 

Studies of the hydrogel adhesive demonstrated that it is capable of withstanding three times the amount of tension that disrupts the best current medical adhesives, maintaining its stability and adhesion when implanted into rats for two weeks, and sealing a hole in a pig heart that was subjected to tens of thousands of cycles of pumping. Additionally, it caused no tissue damage or adhesions to surrounding tissues when applied to liver hemorrhages in mice. 

The hydro-gel adhesive has numerous potential applications in the medical field, either as a patch that can be cut to desired size and applied to tissues such as bone, cartilage, tendon, or pleura, or as an injectable solution for deeper injuries. It can also be used to attach medical devices to their target structures, such as an actuator to support heart function. While the current iteration is designed to be a permanent structure, it could be made to biodegrade over time as the body heals. 


Here at Dollar Destruction, we endeavour to bring to you the latest, most important news from around the globe. We scan the web looking for the most valuable content and dish it right up for you! The content of this article was provided by the source referenced. Dollar Destruction does not endorse and is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy, quality, advertising, products or other materials on this page. As always, we encourage you to perform your own research! 

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Author;   Lindsay Brownell
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Trump blocks Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm on security grounds

US President Donald Trump has blocked a planned takeover of chipmaker Qualcomm by Singapore-based rival Broadcom on grounds of national security.

His order cited “credible evidence” that the proposed $140bn (£100bn) deal “threatens to impair the national security of the US”.

There were concerns the takeover could have led to China pulling ahead in the development of 5G wireless technology.

The deal would have been the biggest technology sector takeover on record.

A takeover of Qualcomm by Broadcom would have created the world’s third-largest maker of microchips, behind Intel and Samsung.

The chipmaking sector is in a race to develop chips for the latest 5G wireless technology and Qualcomm is considered to be a leader in this field, followed by Broadcom and China’s telecoms giant Huawei.

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Analysts say Qualcomm is highly regarded for its commitment to research and development (R&D), particularly in the field of 5G technology. Huawei is equally committed to R&D in the area.

However, Broadcom is better known for selling assets and growing through acquisitions, and deemed to be weaker on R&D.

With this in mind, analysts have said a deal between Qualcomm and Broadcom could have given Huawei the chance to take over the top spot in years to come – a situation US politicians wanted to prevent given their ongoing security concerns around Chinese telecom firms doing business with US carriers.

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Others have said Mr Trump’s decision was more about competitiveness than security concerns.

“Given the current political climate in the US and other regions around the world, everyone is taking a more conservative view on mergers and acquisitions and protecting their own domains,” said Mario Morales, vice president of enabling technologies and semiconductors at global research firm IDC.

“We are all at the start of a race, and you have 5G as a crown jewel that everyone wants to participate in – and every region is racing towards that,” he told the BBC.

“Semiconductor technology and companies like Qualcomm will be an important weapon in that 5G arms race [and] the US like other nations and regions want to be first.”


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Google and ZSL set up AI to detect poachers

 

Teaming up with conservationists and teaching algorithms to identify species is just one ways machine learning is evolving. 

Google is working with researchers from the Zoological Society of London to help detect poachers and recognise animals through artificial intelligence. 

Usually millions of images captured by heat and motion triggered cameras would have to be manually processed, with a person sifting through the files and recording the animals observed. 

But that role is being handed over to Google’s algorithm, which has been specially trained for the task. 

Put simply, machine learning is a practical application of artificial intelligence (AI). 

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Google’s algorithm has been taught to recognise one animal from another based on previous examples. Around a million and a half images were used to develop and train this particular model. 

Once this dataset has been processed, the algorithm can encounter new images and recognise the animals featured. 

“Machine learning has the potential to really speed up our analysis of these images to help species identification,” says Sophie Maxwell, Conservation Technology Lead at ZSL. 

“It also helps us to detect poachers in the field. We can download the algorithms to sit on the cameras themselves, so that they can detect humans in the images in real time and raise alerts of those in protected areas so that we can respond to these threats.” 

But there is a catch to all this. Machine Learning faces a challenge that humans do not. Subtle variations are able to trick even the most sophisticated algorithms into mistaking one image for another. 

These are known as “adversarial examples.” In December a team from MIT fooled Google’s algorithm into thinking that a photo of skiers was a dog. Such a mistake wouldn’t have been made by a human under the same conditions. 

But the accuracy level looks set to improve over time according to Matt McNeil, Head of Google Cloud Customer Engineering. 

“As you start creating more extensive models which are trained on much larger datasets they start becoming much more resilient to changes in pixels. Being able to be more accurate really.” 

“I think there is an aspect which is simply related to the quantity and the depth of training.” 

And both the quantity and depth of such training will need to be much greater if the public are to trust AI in other areas like driver-less cars – it’s no good if your car misinterprets a stop sign as a lollipop. 


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Why Blockchain Will Survive, Even If Bitcoin Doesn’t.

We’re now awash in “crypto” hype—cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and fundraising efforts like initial coin offerings. For every venture capitalist or technical expert, there’s a half-dozen hype men and fly-by-night startups making the entire space look like a 21st-century version of the Amsterdam tulip mania.

All that noise has obscured the bona fide efforts involving the underlying technology, blockchain. Of all the manifestations of crypto, it’s the most seemingly mundane applications of blockchain that could lead to the biggest and most concrete changes in all of our lives.

These applications can’t be found on a coin exchange, and they aren’t going to turn anyone into an overnight billionaire. But they could bring much-needed change to some of the world’s most critical, if unsexy, industries. This means new ways of transferring real estate titles, managing cargo on shipping vessels, mapping the origins of conflict materials, guaranteeing the safety of the food we eat and more. Using blockchain, you could prove that a particular diamond on sale in a Milan boutique came from a particular mine in Russia.

What is blockchain? It’s essentially a secure database, or ledger, spread across multiple computers. Everybody has the same record of all transactions, so tampering with one instance of it is pointless. “Crypto” describes the cryptography that underlies it, which allows agents to securely interact—transfer assets, for example—while also guaranteeing that once a transaction has been made, the blockchain remains an immutable record of it.

Blockchain has the power to transform all these industries for three reasons. First, it’s genuinely well-suited to transactions that require trust and a permanent record. Second, blockchain typically requires the cooperation of many different parties. In cases where it’s implemented as open source software, it avoids the collective-action problem—the disincentives that prevent individuals from adopting something that would benefit them collectively—that occurs when a single company tries to push, and benefit from, a new standard.

The third reason is that hype I mentioned. The current excitement around cryptocurrency gives blockchain the visibility to attract developers and encourage adoption. Companies that have taken an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude toward back-office processes and logistics IT might be ready to spend big on updating those systems when they hear the buzzword “blockchain.”

In this way, blockchain resembles another buzzword, “the cloud.” While detractors argued that the cloud was just “someone else’s computer,” it gave many industries new business processes, new ways to charge for services, disruptive startups and new divisions within existing companies and an ecosystem of supporting technologies. Blockchain has the same potential.

Take logistics. Already, 1.1 million items sold or on sale at Walmart are on a blockchain—including chicken and almond milk—helping the company trace their journey from manufacturer to store shelf. Global shipping giant Maersk uses the same technology from IBM to track shipping containers, making it faster and easier to transfer them and get them through customs.

While these projects are still a fraction of the overall tracking that goes on at these giants, they are expanding rapidly both within the organizations and across their industries. Other companies using blockchain technology to track goods include Kroger, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Unilever, with many more yet to be announced, says Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of platforms and blockchain at IBM.

Everledger, a company started in April 2014 with the intention of creating a blockchain-based registry of every certified diamond in the world, already has 2.2 million diamonds in its registry. It’s adding about 100,000 diamonds a month, says Leanne Kemp, chief executive and founder.

By recording 40 different measures of each stone, including “physically unclone-able features,” Everledger is able to trace the journey of a stone from when it’s pulled from the earth to the day it’s purchased by a consumer. Every participant in that chain, from the miner to the cutter to the retailer, maintains a node—with a complete copy of the database—in the Everledger blockchain network.

 

CartaSense is an eight-year-old Tel Aviv company that puts internet-connected sensors on freight pallets and uses analytics to determine when goods may be delayed or damaged. CartaSense customers, rather than physically handing off scanned and signed paper documents, use a blockchain database on which freight companies can record every stage of the journey of a package, pallet or shipping container. Kuehne + Nagel, one of the world’s largest freight companies, is one of CartaSense’s clients.

Blockchain is being implemented first within companies and centralized governments that can move quickly on new technologies.

Dubai, for example, has declared its intent to make itself the “first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020.” That could streamline things in real estate, says Stephen McKeon, an associate professor of finance at the University of Oregon who studies blockchain. By moving the central record of all real-estate transactions onto a blockchain, Dubai could make it faster and easier to transfer property titles.

Because such “smart contracts” on a blockchain are code, they can contain rules about how they can be modified or transferred. In this way, blockchain could become a way to transfer the obligation of enforcement from bureaucrats to computers. For example, to prevent fraud, titles could be transferable only to certain accounts, or might transfer only after another condition, such as the transfer of funds in escrow, is met.

It’s too early to say whether blockchain, as both a technology and a movement, has the power to overcome issues that thwarted generations of software engineers. The most justifiable skepticism is that blockchain is incremental rather than revolutionary. In some cases, it isn’t much more than a marketing term imposed on systems that hardly differ from existing databases. (There’s a healthy debate about what blockchain even means, and even companies like CartaSense call their system a “blockchain-like technology.”)

But if it works, it has the potential to be a fundamental enabling technology, the way new standards for transmitting data across networks led to the internet. More concretely, it could someday underlie everything from how we vote to who we connect with online to what we buy.


Here at Dollar Destruction, we endeavour to bring to you the latest, most important news from around the globe. We scan the web looking for the most valuable content and dish it right up for you! The content of this article was provided by the source referenced. Dollar Destruction does not endorse and is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy, quality, advertising, products or other materials on this page. As always, we encourage you to perform your own research!

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Author: Christopher Mims
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