Use Machine Learning to Produce Higher Value

Facebook uses machine learning (ML) for face recognition, Apple uses it to make Siri sound more human, and Google minimizes energy use at data centers with the help of ML. Machine learning is a trendy element of artificial intelligence that is being successfully used in many industries. Regardless of the industry your business operates in, consider using ML to improve productivity and receive higher ROI.

 

What is machine learning?

In traditional computer science we need to explain the task we wish to accomplish to the computer. For example, if we plan on creating a tool that calculates salaries, then we need to write a program that translates to the computer how to perform each operation in a language that it understands. This limitation hinders innovation because the machine cannot find and fix problems on its own, which can require much more energy from a development team.

Machine learning could simplify this process by a lot, as it involves “teaching” computers to learn on their own. This is done via an algorithm which educates computers to perform a task without having the developer explicitly code “instructions” in the program. In the supervised learning technique, the processor studies previous examples in order to run a machine learning algorithm. The more data is processed, the more accurate the algorithm becomes.

 

Case studies

The Royal Bank of Scotland has launched Luvo earlier this year. It is a bot that can answer customers’ questions and perform money transfers. It uses machine learning to provide customers with continuously better responses over time. McKinsey points out that some European banks that use machine learning techniques saw a 10% increase in sales of new products, 20% increase in cash collections, and a 20% decline in churn.

Dataminr transforms tweets into actionable signals for stock traders. It classifies them based on location, relevancy, and ranks them by their levels of urgency. An alert sent to a trader even a couple of minutes earlier can result in a significant profit.

SailThru learns customers’ interests and purchase behaviors. It predicts when a customer will make a purchase. For its client, The Clymb, it increased the total email revenue by 71%. It also collected data from all digital channels. This predicted top buyers’ next actions, and identified marketing trends.

A startup from London helps its customers generate reports. The company’s technology can scan text documents and establish relationships between concepts. It has increased workers’ productivity by 25% and saved 40 hours of engineers’ work per month.

Machine learning is not limited to the aforementioned case studies. It can be used in fraud detection, cybersecurity, search, manufacturing, medicine, robotics, personalization, and other industries. To implement machine learning technologies, one needs a strategy and a deep understanding of a company’s KPI’s.

If you plan to use ML in your business, define your criteria of success. It is not enough to know what your customers are about to do; the most important thing is to understand some of the reasons behind their behavior.

 

The Fintech Transformation is Determined by Enthusiasts

There are around 4,000 registered fintech-related companies globally and their number keeps growing.

The fintech transformation stimulates the appearance of new payment providers, peer-to-peer lenders, innovative crowdfunding and trading platforms. According to Fortune magazine, $19 billion were invested into finance startups in 2015, which is a significant increase from $2 billion in 2010. These companies are changing the future of finance.

Fintech vs. Traditional Banking

Banks did not face any competition for centuries, which removed their stimulus to innovate and be transparent. Traditional banks have usually out-of-date, yet well-established IT infrastructures. This is an additional deterrent for incumbents to implementing new technologies, adapting to new customer demands and providing clients with the apps they expect to have.

Banks do not change quickly. Their established reputations force them to consider and reconsider lots of issues before moving one inch forward. If clients’ funds, or worse, their personal data (!) gets lost due to a new system, serious consequences will follow.

Even though the fintech transformation is happening quickly, banks are trying to adjust as well. Some of them are running accelerators such as the Barclays TechStars, others are opening separate divisions, for example Citigroup established its own Fintech unit. Thanks to this department that is focused on rapid prototyping, Citi plans to release a mobile-banking app with a cool facial recognition feature by the fourth quarter of 2016.

Fintechs are making it really easy and cheap to:

1. Transfer money;
2. Keep one informed about all account updates across devices;
3. Make better financial decisions through analytics, accounting, budgeting, prediction, and decision-making software.

Forbes gathered a list of the most successful fintech startups of 2015. It contains companies that deal with trading and investing, lending, payments, personal finance, currency exchange, you name it! They all stand out thanks to their brand new idea or approach that brings value to their clients. Here are some of the fintech areas in which you can open a startup:

1. B2B payments;
2. Mobile apps development for the unbanked and underbanked population;
3. Creation of social media platforms with integrated financial options;
4. Sales platforms for fintech products, etc.

It is today’s digital customers and their high expectations who push the fintech transformation on, while the trends toward the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality will only spur innovation in finance. One must only identify the areas which have been neglected and find a niche where more value can be brought. Can you think of some other areas which you feel could use a healthy dose of disruption?

How to Make Money in the Blockchain Business?

Blockchain business is getting more attention than bitcoin and that is because blockchain can be used in a multitude of areas. By being an early adopter of the technology one can make good money out of the blockchain business.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a shared database technology – a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, or contracts. The ledger is not stored in one place, on the contrary, it is stored on a network made up of thousands of nodes (computers) from around the world. Blockchain keeps track of every transaction, which gets recorded in “blocks”. These blocks provide proof of who owns what at any given point in time. Each node on the network must approve a transaction before it is recorded in a new block and added to all previous blocks, forming a “chain” of computer code. If one node does not approve the transaction, it does not take place. This makes it virtually impossible for anyone to interfere with the system unnoticed. Security makes the blockchain so appealing for many businesses.

Since all transactions are seen by everyone in the network, transparency is another appealing feature of blockchain. Blockchain allows for faster transactions that are not processed manually, which leads to efficiency and thus lower costs.

No wonder why banks such as Barclays, J.P. Morgan, UBS, Citi, Societe Generale and others are investing in the development of decentralized ledgers.

Where can it be used?

As it was originally designed for bitcoin, blockchain can be primarily used in the financial sector to make money transfers. The technology is used in trading platforms. For example, platform is based on the blockchain.

It is used by companies in the file sharing industry. Storj is a blockchain based cloud storage where one can rent a drive for a competitive price.

The health industry can benefit as well. Pharmaceutical companies could tag drugs with identification numbers on a blockchain, to track goods through the supply chain and cut theft and counterfeiting. Block Verify has recently completed the first stage of a pilot programme to test its system on pharmaceuticals produced by a Swiss manufacturer.

Painters and interpreters can use the technology to verify art pieces and to prevent piracy.

More importantly, distributed ledgers can be used by governmental institutions. The Estonian government is using a form of blockchain technology for the system known as Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI). Its aim is to provide digital signature-based authentication for electronic data. It allows citizens to verify their records in governmental databases. KSI has helped launch the E-business register and e-tax, which have contributed to the reduction of queues and stress levels, and to the acceleration and automation of processes.

These examples demonstrate how blockchain technology can be used efficiently on a large scale.

Who can earn money out of a blockchain business and how?

There are currently five categories of people who are making money for working in the blockchain business:

  1. Software developers and architects who specialize in cryptocurrencies and decentralized ledgers.
  2. Blockchain experts who offer their consultancy services to businesses.
  3. Project/Product managers who can develop and execute a distributed ledger technology strategy and coordinate the resources.
  4. Fintech content creators who have a deep understanding of the industry and can shed light on the current situation and its probable evolution.
  5. Blockchain interns who are learning about the field are the future of tomorrow’s blockchain business.

Considering that big players in the financial market are interested in the blockchain technology, it is going to mature in the future. Once institutions reach a point where they have created proprietary decentralized ledgers they will want to connect with other organizations. This creates new business opportunities to design connecting solutions among institutions that are not using the same distributed ledger. The blockchain business will need more professionals who can facilitate its development, because it has a tremendous potential to spread to a wide range of industries.

Did we miss anything? Do you have other ideas on how to use blockchain for profit?

How to Use Mobile Banking Apps Securely?

While the amount of people who are using secure mobile banking apps increases every year, customers of online banking set themselves up for security threats, frauds, and other forms of cybercrime when using their smartphone.
According to a 2014 Deloitte report cited by Tripwire, 61% of people who do not use mobile banking apps said that security is their primary concern. So how big are the chances that someone can break into your bank account really?

In 2014 a malware called Svpeng has been detected in the U.S., the U.K, Switzerland, Germany, Russia and India. In the States the malware blocked the user’s phone and asked for $200 to unlock the smartphone. Once Svpeng got into the phone it began to look for applications from a range of financial institutions. The Trojan did not steal money or credentials, but rather it looked as if it was gathering statistics on mobile banking apps usage.

In Australia and New Zealand, a malware called Android/Spy.Agent.SI has been detected on Android devices this year. This time, the malicious software was able to steal a person’s bank details and even knew how to bypass 2-step authentication procedures. With all information in hand, fraudsters could easily transfer funds to a different account. Most importantly, the malware had not come from Google Play. The user would have had to deliberately install the application from other sources online, which means that security options had been changed by the phone owner so that applications from unknown sources could be installed. The takeaway: Don’t root your device and then install banking apps on it!

It is useful to know that iOS or Android smartphones don’t allow users to make admin-level modifications natively. Additionally, a verified market is available for downloading applications such as the App Store or Google Play. Mobile banking apps should also be secured by SSL security technology . Many large companies put their applications through source code obfuscation. This means that it will be more difficult for an intruder to figure out the source code.

Even though a lot of security features are currently in place in many apps, mobile banking applications still have security challenges that must be tackled. Security is one of the main concerns for financial institutions. People who wish to use mobile banking also need to keep security in mind. Finally, here are some useful security tips:

1. Don’t use mobile banking apps on a rooted or jailbroken device
2. Don’t download apps that did not undergo a vetting process (by either the App Store or Google Play)
3. Use secure Wi-Fi connections whenever possible
4. Put a password on your smartphone.

By following these recommendations, you will minimize security risks and diminish the odds of falling prey to cybercrime.

Quality. What Does It Mean for IT Outsourcing?

Often touted as a given by outsourcing and nearshoring companies from Eastern Europe and beyond, quality should define the relationship between developer and partner/client.

Each client wants to be sure that the company they choose as their partner is legitimate and trustworthy. But how does one define quality? More importantly, how does one assess which firm has a better claim at being “the best software development company”? The answer is never straightforward, but there are general guidelines that can help when selecting a high qualitative outsourcing or nearshoring partner. Below, I discuss three sources of quality you should consider when seeking a partner: experience, reputation, and team.

Experience.

First, one should always look at the company’s experience. Qualitative past activities are usually an indicator of future success. Furthermore, the industry in which each outsourcing company specializes is important (e.g., a bank, a leasing company, or an insurance firm will feel most confident when they see financial industry experience on a company’s public profile).

Reputation.

Qualitative deliverables usually correlate with a high level of reputation, especially in the software development field. Good references, happy clients, and happy employees point to a decisively good reputation for the entire company. These are also an indicator of consistency. A Google search will quickly bring up any red flags regarding the company’s reputation.

Quality Team.

Another critical indicator of the quality provided by the company is the ranking of its team. These days, one can easily use LinkedIn to verify the level of expertise that the partner’s team possesses. You can weigh the potential value generated by the individual team members. Highly experienced and certified developers will always produce high quality software.

Of course there is no magic formula when selecting a new partner, but keeping in mind these general tips will help you separate quality from the general noise. A healthy dose of caution will never hurt when seeking your long-term partner in software development.

This article is part of a series.